Chapter Ten: Arrival
His own emotions had gotten the best of him for the first time in a while. Not since he had lost his former way of life did Kentarou ever get his emotions to overwhelm rational thought.
He wanted to help her, protect her, but she wanted to keep them safe.
Ken-nii, watch out!!
Why was it so reminiscent of that time so many years ago?
“Kentarou, please, wake up!” Sakana’s voice rang quietly in his ears.
His mind was reluctant to respond but unfortunately his body did the exact opposite. Kentarou uttered out a groan to the constant shaking one hand had insistently set on his right shoulder.
“Oi, get up, Mano-chan,” filtered in Shion’s voice.
The bandit groggily opened his eyes only to shut them tightly as the morning rays hit him full force. His head felt as if he got hit by a sledgehammer.
“Call me that again and you’ll regret having ever heard that name, Shion,” he muttered as he slung an arm over his eyes to further block the sunlight.
Shion chucked somewhere next to him, ceasing to shake his friend awake. “And good morning to you, too, sunshine.”
“What happened, Kentarou?” Sakana asked him, sensing that he wasn’t in the best of moods at the moment. “All I remember before falling asleep was feeling an intense aura surrounding me…”
“…It was Rydia,” he replied after a pause, forcing his eyes to open and sat up.
Sakana was surprised. “What?”
“She cast a sleep spell?” Shion stated at the same time.
“…Yeah,” Kentarou muttered.
Sakana contemplated for a moment before looking back up. There were various times in her life where she had felt the force of a Sleep spell but never one as strong as the one last night. Actually, it didn’t even feel like one.
Please…just let me go.
Kentarou looked away from them, not wanting to mention any details of what happened between Rydia and him. The sweet taste of her lips still lingered on his.
“I don’t know.”
Shion, literally able to read his friend’s reactions inside and out, was tempted to ask what had happened between them after he and Sakana succumbed to Rydia’s spell. Yet he also had a feeling that this wouldn’t go well with Sakana who was fairly close to the both of them. So, he stood up.
“So all the more reason we should get out of here and go after her,” he announced, looking at his friend in a serious manner. “By the looks of it, you must’ve caught her before she cast a different spell, right?”
Kentarou frowned at his words as he got up, trying to remember what exactly had happened before he was forced to fall asleep. He remembered Rydia’s eyes widening in horror at whatever spell fell upon him, so it clearly wasn’t her. At least, he thought so.
“Something like that,” he said, dusting off the snow that seemed to have piled on top of his pants and hair. Maybe that was why he heard Sakana panicking; it had apparently snowed a little overnight. He made a note to himself to change into his spare clothes before leaving.
“She couldn’t have gone far if it was just last night.” He held back a sneeze. “We should go back to Lilandre and see if she’s still there.”
“Would they…tell us?” Sakana hesitated. “I mean…with all the trouble that Shion caused the other day…”
Kentarou cast a wary glance at his friend who smiled sheepishly and shook his head. The bandit sighed, not wanting to know what conspired on the night he went to speak to Rydia although he had a pretty good idea with some of the whispers and rumors that formed by the townspeople the next day. He ran a hand through the dark, damp locks – a subtle nervous habit he had that very few took notice in. He had to find her.
“Maybe go back to the innkeeper and ask her or something,” he answered. He frowned again as the image of Rydia’s face, her mismatched eyes brimmed with tears, flashed across his mind. “There’s something going on…that attack wasn’t just an attack…”
He began to walk away from them, heading back to the temple and lost in thought. Shion and Sakana watched him go without a word before the rogue broke the silence with a soft chuckle.
“Take any measures to get what you want, huh?” he murmured.
Sakana looked at Shion, confused. “What?”
Shion mentally cursed to himself at speaking his thoughts out loud. He smiled, shaking his head. “No, nothing.”
“You’re awfully cheerful about this…”
“In situations like this, I think you have to be,” he turned to the sky faerie with a serious look in his eyes. “It’s not good to keep it all bottled in.”
She blinked at his words. Somehow, though they were subtle, his words hit her through the core of her heart. She looked away, contemplating on them. Shion observed her for a moment before placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
“Let’s get packing and go find Rydia, right?”
A small smile curled on her lips as she closed her eyes and nodded. “Yes, you’re right.”
~~~Lilandre, a few hours later ~~~
It did not take long for the trio to make their way back to the small town. What Rydia had told them was true: it did only take about half a day or less to go between Lilandre and her home. They trekked their way down the snow filled path without incident and the town itself looked as if no blizzard had passed through it the week before; much of the snow had already melted by the time they arrived.
Little conversation sprung among the three: Kentarou too lost in thought to say much of anything and Sakana was not much of a conversationalist in the first place. This left Shion with nothing to do and nobody to talk to except control his klynx. He glanced at Kentarou again whose eyes were searching for the inn.
Man, such a difference when she’s not here…he mused.
“There’s a lot more people here than before…” Sakana murmured underneath her hood.
“Ah, Lilandre’s always a lively place,” Shion commented.
“How do you know, idiot?” Kentarou retorted. “You’ve only been here twice.”
“Three times, wise ass,” Shion corrected. “Blank took us here before.”
“You’ve been here before?” Sakana asked, now curious as to why this was never mentioned before.
Kentarou frowned at his friend’s response, obviously not recalling their boss having taken the two to Lilandre earlier in their short lives. Shion decided to elaborate.
“Yeah, long time ago,” Shion said and then looked at his friend. “This was before you joined the troupe, don’t you remember? Gally was still barely able to walk and you were complainin’ at how heavy she was ‘cuz you had to carry her most of the time. Your old man wanted you to get something here; that’s why Blank decided to take you down to Lilandre. I just decided to tag along for the heck of it.”
Kentarou’s amber eyes widened at the memory. So that’s why I… “Oh yeah.”
“Gally?” Sakana repeated the unfamiliar name.
“…My sister,” the bandit explained hesitantly.
The sky faerie noted the pang of sadness flickering in his eyes before disappearing as it had never appeared. Shion apparently took no notice of it, explaining to her a little bit more.
“You mean your baby sister. Man, she was a spunky lil brat. Could wrap you around her little fingers like that.”
“Yeah, she did,” Kentarou quickly added before spotting the familiar banner of the inn they had stayed at. “There it is.”
As he hastily made his way over to the building on his klynx, Sakana looked at Shion for any more explanation when the rogue shook his head and sighed. He followed Kentarou and she followed, thinking back to their small bit of conversation.
Then it hit her. They were talking about Kentarou’s sister in the past tense, not the present…which mean that either she was older, or she was dead.
Ryuuho watched again for what it seemed like the hundredth time at the image projected on the globe.
Beautiful, was his first thought as he watched the lime-haired girl’s projection smile back into his eyes. Perfection.
He had never seen someone so perfect in every way, so animated in their movements, so honest in their expression. A growing desire burned within the half vampire to capture the young sorceress for his own, but it conflicted with the goals that his master wanted him to do. He held a great debt to Orion for bringing him out of near starvation and for the power he was now capable of wielding over time. The half vampire was perplexed at this odd emotion he was experiencing, and it seemed to occur more often as he continued to see the amber-eyed mortal and her together.
Ryuuho’s lips formed into a thin line as he thought about the amber-eyed man. He was indeed a mortal to be reckoned with – much stronger than he initially assumed to be. Even if they were a dying race, a Melbane was not someone to be dealt lightly with. Ryuuho did not fear the Melbane’s ability – Kentarou’s magic looked only to be a small flame compared to his – but he had to be extremely careful. What little use he made of his magic, the bandit countered it with the knowledge he held.
In order to get what he had to fulfill, the half vampire had to think slowly and carefully. He had the time to do so, and he would make use of it.
Waving one pale hand over the globe, Rydia’s image faded and a new face took her place. The stranger wore a dark cloak over his head with very little, if any, features peaking out.
“You summoned me, Lord Ryuuho?” a deep yet hoarse voice scraped out beneath the hood.
“Yes,” the half vampire replied, his crimson eyes glancing at the figure. “Have you found her yet?”
“…Ever since Zaiken’s attack, she has been difficult to find,” the hooded figure carefully replied. “It is if she has disappeared from existence.”
“If she did, then our Master would cease to exist as well,” Ryuuho coolly retorted back. He paused, contemplating on an idea that sprung at him at that moment. “Never mind searching for the sorceress. I’m sure her ‘friends’ will find her. The scrolls Odin left behind stated about the whereabouts of Feuille Pinnacle. Locate the city in the meantime: that place was not a legend.”
“As you wish.”
“And if you meet the two mortals and the fae, notify me immediately.”
The projection faded, leaving Ryuuho back to his own thoughts and to the most recent image of Rydia imprinted in his head. He unintentionally let his lips curl into a feral smile as his master’s plans were going as planned as well as his own. There would be time for him to claim her.
~~~Back at Lilandre…~~~
“I’m not quite sure where she went…” the blue-eyed brunette told Shion in a soft voice, although her actions clearly displayed her lie.
Shion had been left to handle the interrogation since he was well adept to getting his way, especially with women. However his charm didn’t seem to be working at the moment, which frustrated the rogue a little bit.
“But she did come here, didn’t she? I’m sure, being a close friend of hers and all, that she would tell you where she went,” he gently prodded. “Rydia might be in danger: we need to know where she went to be able to help her.”
The young innkeeper strayed away from his alluring eyes to the counter. She wasn’t much of a liar, she knew that, but she had promised the young sorceress to not say anything about her departure to the other travelers that accompanied her. Yet she also couldn’t help but think that they might have been the reason why Rydia left.
So the innkeeper said, “How would I know that it’s not you putting her in danger?”
While quickly thinking of what to say, Kentarou took over, replying in a quiet yet direct voice, “Has she ever tried to protect you from something or someone when you wanted to do the same thing to her?”
The innkeeper looked up in surprise, meeting Kentarou’s eyes behind Shion, as if he had hit a vital spot in her defense. They continued to stare each other down before the innkeeper looked away again.
“She said she was going to Kamikaze Junction to travel to the other continent,” she softly replied. “She wanted to know where Feuille Pinnacle is.”
“Feuille Pinnacle?” the trio echoed.
“You mean that place where the summoners used to live?” Shion asked. “I thought that place was buried during a battle that took place sixteen years ago. Nobody’s been able to find it since then.”
The innkeeper nodded in agreement. “That’s what I thought too, but Rydia seemed adamant that it was on the other continent somewhere. She looked…preoccupied with something.”
Probably about us, Kentarou thought. “Kamikaze Junction, huh. That’s about five days from here.”
“Man, she’s going straight into danger if she goes there,” Shion added. “Their rep’s sickening.”
“’Rep’?” Sakana inquired.
“Reputation,” Kentarou explained to her. “Kamikaze’s a place for a lot of outlaws to camp at. It’s also the only cheap outlet to get to the other continent across from this one, but since it’s so shady, not a lot of travel goes through there.”
Sakana’s eyes widened at his description. “She went…”
“Thanks for telling us,” Kentarou said to the innkeeper although deep inside he was just as worried as Sakana. “We’ll come back again with Rydia.”
“I didn’t do it because I wanted to,” the innkeeper replied. “The three of you still look very odd…” She paused to look at each person in the eye. “But your eyes don’t lie. You do want to help her. Everyone in town has heard of Lord Odin’s death. He was such a nice man….Please protect her. We don’t want to lose another person we know.”
The trio smiled back at her.
“We’ll do that,” Kentarou promised her.
First she was held captive and tortured, and now she was forced to heal her enemies from their physical wounds. Schala inwardly allowed a bitter smile at the irony of it all. Although she was still bound by chains to seal the majority of her powers, some of them had been taken off and she was taken out of the room she had dismally called home for the past few months. The angel was able to breathe normally now, relishing in the few luxuries that she was given as well as more opportunities to get back and notify Hyne.
“How is his condition?” Raiden inquired behind her.
Another luxury was that she was given more chances to restore her friend’s memory while under his watch.
“He’s lost a great amount of blood from the wound,” she answered as the soft glow of the Cure spell continued to engulf Zaiken’s body. “Luckily, though, much of the bleeding has stopped. It’s as if he was cut by a sword and burned at the same time.”
“The boy who injured him is Melbane,” Raiden told her. “A very skilled one at that.”
Schala paused in her musings, a bit surprised. “Melbane?”
“Yes, a survivor.”
So the writings may be true after all… the angel thought as she continued to heal the slumbering Zaiken.
“Rydia hasn’t been found since Zaiken, has she?” she mused out loud. The demon merely arched a curious eyebrow.
“…No, she hasn’t,” he slowly replied.
“Is that why I’ve been released from prison? You think I can find her?”
Raiden inwardly frowned at her answer, although his face remained passive. “You are linked to her by blood –“
“And you know where she is heading to,” she cut him off. “The very place you destroyed, Raiden.”
~~~Kamikaze Junction, five days later ~~~
Kamikaze Junction was originally established as a train station by the sea that could connect between the two main continents of Archangel’s Kingdom: the somewhat rural Adelia and the more prosperous and technologically advanced Belgaté. Many people passed through the station during its early years, providing a stable economy to its founders – the engineers who formed and created the station – and expanded the establishment from a train station to a decent sized town. The city had a fairly open policy for immigration, which allowed many races to migrate to the booming town and opened up a variety of jobs.
Then the war between the two continents took place and the town declined in wealth for a number of years. The people who once inhabited the town left and many outlaws and other criminals found the area a good place to hide out after the war ended. Since neither continent gained much of anything, Kamikaze Junction was left in the jurisdiction of the outlaws. Most travelers who wanted to travel to the other continent of Belgaté now went to another town that was designated as the neutral zone between the continents.
Yet passing through the unruly town was less expensive than the neutral zone, although it meant going through an area where the law didn’t exist nor could it be imposed on its people. The paved streets were harshly neglected and random bits of trash littered them. The buildings themselves weren’t in any better condition and those that tried displayed prostitutes in the windows and balconies, crooning and enticing any stranger and visitorthat passed by. Children unattended ran through the town in ragged clothes, either escaping from getting caught of stealing food or just acting as carefree as most children were in their naivety. Men armed with swords or other kinds of weaponry laughed together in their drunken states or wearily eyed anybody who looked to steal their property no matter how useless it might seem to others. Dried blood stained some parts of the ground or the people, which was a constant reminder at how volatile Kamikaze Junction was.
In Sakana’s eyes, it looked and felt like Blank’s troupe intensified and more chaotic. She wondered to herself why Rydia could come to this town thinking that she would be unscathed. Unintentionally, she inched closer to the two men in front of her as they continued to walk on. They had to leave their klynxes on the outskirts of town, hidden and resting in an abandoned home, lest have them stolen along with their supplies that they bought in Lilandre.
“Damn, this place got worse since the last time,” Shion commented.
“It gets worse every year, idiot. Been so cooped up in that village’s made you a bit blind,” Kentarou said.
The rogue let out a light laugh when a voice above them called out, “Hey, cutie, wanna have some fun?”
The trio glanced up at the prostitute in the balcony of a building nearby wearing something that Sakana wouldn’t even relate to as clothes. Shion amiably waved back at the woman with a smile on his face as they continued to walk past.
“No thanks, hon. Maybe next time.”
“You turning down an offer?” Kentarou remarked in disbelief. “The world’s frozen over.”
“I have my times. B’sides, she wasn’t my type and we got more important matters to do.”
“Shion’s got tastes? Amazing.”
“And what about you?”
That shut his friend up, and Shion grinned in triumph. Sakana glanced back and forth between the two, confused, but she decided not to ask what the rogue meant.
Instead, she asked, “Um…where exactly are we going?”
“There’s a tavern here that’s a typical hangout for locals and travelers alike,” Shion replied. “The train schedules are only posted there so Rydia probably stopped by inside to know where to go.” He paused, glancing at Kentarou. “Hopefully it’s still there.”
“Yeah it is,” Kentarou muttered. “That place is never gonna close down unless someone wants to throw a match and blow the place up.”
Sakana expressed surprised at the comment. “A normal mortal can do that?”
Her companions glanced at her before looking at each other and then burst out laughing. Sakana blushed and frowned at the same time, wondering that they were laughing about.
“Alcohol’s flammable, Sakana,” Shion explained with a grin. “That place’s legendary when it comes to its stores of the stuff and in all kinds, too.”
Her mouth shaped into a small “o” in understanding. She heard stories from other fae who accidentally encountered mortals who would go into these “taverns” and come out hours later, if at all, drunk to the point of passing out. Sometimes one would still be carrying a bottle of alcohol and one hand and light the bottle with a match. Other times, from the fire fae, they would run across the liquid and light it – causing their poor, drunk victims to panic and run in terror – out of boredom or just to ward the mortals off of their realm.
However, having never been inside of a tavern before, the sky faerie wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
“Just stay close to us and keep your hood on,” Kentarou warned her as they stopped in front of a rather shabby building that was even shabbier than the rest in town. A wooden sign reading “Kamikaze Tavern” with a cactus, the town’s mascot, hung askew above them.
Sakana silently nodded, pulling the hood lower to her eyes as they entered. Whatever commotion going on inside had stopped upon their entrance, wary eyes glancing at the trio for a moment before the customers went on to their own business. A robust woman with blonde hair and green eyes wearing a matching green dress that dangerously exposed her porcelain legs and cleavage guided them to a booth in the corner, saying something to them along the lines of getting their orders as she left and sauntered back to the other customers – particularly one group of men that was predominantly rowdy on the other side of the tavern where most of the free tables sat. In the middle of the tavern was a bar with a few stools. Inside stood a balding old man, presumably the bartender, idly cleaning the dirty mugs with an equally filthy dish rag. He didn’t seem to mind the noise or anything else that didn’t come his way.
Kentarou glanced at the train schedule on the wall above them while Shion began explaining to Sakana the variety of alcoholic beverages on the tavern’s menu. The faerie listened intently, wide-eyed at the assortment.
Hm…there’s a train for Beranda? Kentarou contemplated as his eyes narrowed in a mixture of suspicion and surprise. I think that’s close to the Eskanther Plains…
Something about the name of the city seemed to draw the bandit in, wondering to himself if the plains nearby led to the location of the lost village of summoners. He remembered someone telling him in the past that the village was on a coast somewhere on the other continent, acting as a bridge between the two land masses before it was supposedly destroyed sixteen years ago.
The rush of wind from the door opening broke Kentarou out of his thoughts. A young man entered, glaring at the customers who went to stare at his entrance, and made his way to the bar. The others looked away just as they did with Sakana, Shion, and Kentarou, but the two men noticed that some had a look of fear in their eyes. They were once again distracted by their sultry waitress who sauntered back to their table, asking for orders.
“Two Molotov cocktails,” Shion said to her with a charming smile, knowing that Kentarou didn’t particularly care what he had as long as it was something to drink. “And…” he turned to Sakana, waiting for her answer.
“Just a glass of water is fine, thank you,” she quietly replied.
After jotting down something on the notepad she held, the waitress went away. She sashayed her hips to and fro to attract the attention of the other men in the tables around them except for the young man at the bar who was in the process of dousing down an alcoholic beverage in one gulp. Shion noted that the young man wore a fairly odd outfit compared to the rest of the town; the clothes looked fairly new, though a bit ruffled. He wore a loose, long-sleeved beige shirt that was tucked in by a wide maroon belt and black pants. Heavy, chocolate-stained boots covered his feet. A tan pouch hung loosely around his waist, perfect bait to steal but nobody seemed to dare take a look at it. All seemed to be in perfect condition, even his long, slender, and incredibly feminine face with the exception of his choppy black hair looking like it had been haphazardly cut by a knife and a long, deep scar that ran at the corner of his left eye and trailed down to the corner of his upper left lip. Black, ragged, cutoff gloves wrapped his hands, indicating to Shion that the young man – who looked no older than eighteen or so – was probably a skilled close hand-to-hand fighter.
He’s kinda small, though…he added, wondering why some of the other men seemed scared at his entrance and glare. Maybe fast.
“So, any idea where to go next?” Sakana asked Kentarou, tearing Shion’s observation away from the young man at the bar who was undeterred by the seductive waitress.
“Beranda, maybe,” Kentarou answered.
“Wait, you aren’t thinking of going to see that psychic that fanatic told us in Caster, are you?” Shion questioned, arching a curious eyebrow.
“No, but the Eskanther Plains are nearby, aren’t they?” He paused. “Didn’t Blank say something about those plains before?”
Their small conversation was interrupted by a loud, clear voice coming from the bar. “Hey, old man, give me another.”
The old bartender behind it finished cleaning yet another grimy mug when he sighed.
“First gimme the payment, Phoenix,” he told the young man. “There’s been one too many times where you’ve cheated me on your drinks.”
A coin was immediately tossed by the young man Phoenix which the bartender caught without difficulty and poured him another drink. As Phoenix was about to douse it down, the waitress leaned over his shoulder, draping a lanky arm over his chest and pressing her own busty one against his back. Phoenix tensed in reaction, glancing back at the blonde with his deadly emerald gaze.
“Hey, Phoe,” she whispered in his ear. “I heard that you nailed Rickshaw the other day real bad.”
“Uh, yeah,” he curtly replied, shrugging her off of him and took a large sip of his drink.
Undaunted, the waitress continued to try to gain Phoenix’s attention. She wrapped an arm around his, trying to look directly at him in which he deliberately looked away. It was clear that he didn’t want her hanging onto him.
“You’re a strong man, then.”
One man from the large group on the other side bellowed out a hearty laugh at the waitress’ repeated attempts, catching their attention. He was a heavy built, balding man in his mid-forties, surrounded by his comrades who shared his amusement.
“It’s no use trying to get Phoenix’s attention, Daphne,” he said to her. “You’re never gonna get what you want.”
Phoenix continued to drink as Daphne, still one arm wrapped around Phoenix’s, stared back at the group of men that she entertained just a couple of minutes earlier.
“And why’s that, Rodney?” she asked him and then turned to Phoenix who chose to ignore the conversation. “You’re just shy, aren’t you, Phoe?”
“Yeah, and your precious Phoe is a she,” Rodney revealed his amusement.
The arm Daphne had around Phoenix loosened, her face filled with shock. Phoenix sharply turned in Rodney’s direction then, glaring at him just as she did when she came in. The older man just smirked.
“What’s the matter, ‘Phoe’?” he mocked. “Didn’t want your damn girliness to come out in front of the whole town?”
Phoenix set her mug down, shook free from Daphne’s loose grip, and swiveled her chair around to face him. She crossed her arms, mirroring his smile.
“No, but what are you trying to say?” Her smile widened. “Jealous that the whore is hitting on another woman insteadin your fat, ugly face?”
Rodney’s beady black eyes flared at her taunt. “What?”
The old bartender came up to Phoenix, leaning his hobbled frame closer to the counter. “Now, Phoenix, don’t –“
“Shut up, old man. I don’t want to hear any of your crap of wreakin’ your damn shitty tavern because of starting a fight,” Phoenix sharply cut him off. “B’sides, these jackasses have had enough of their share harassing you.”
Some of the other men at the other tables also seemed to stand from their seats, seething in anger. However, the young woman wasn’t swayed by their numbers as Daphne ran behind the counter to hide with the bartender.
Beginning to panic at the upcoming fight, Sakana whispered frantically at Kentarou and Shion, “What are we going to do?”
Her companions seemed to be enraptured by the tension. It took Shion a moment to reply back, “Nothing.”
“It’s not our business,” Kentarou added as he leaned back against the booth.
“But what if –“
“Even if we did try to get out, those guys would just bring us into the fight anyway, Sakana,” he pointed out. “We’re in a corner in a booth, not a table, so hopefully we should be okay. Just sit down tight and watch.”
The sky faerie inwardly sighed, wondering to herself why most mortal men seemed to love to get into fights when influenced by alcohol…
“What, you guys wanna fight?” Phoenix asked them, glancing around the tavern at each man standing. Her smile never faded. “Forgetting what I did to your friend Rickshaw, huh?”
“That was pure luck,” Rodney indignantly replied. “You’re outnumbered here. B’sides, Rickshaw was taking you easy since you’re a woman after all.”
She arched an eyebrow, intrigued, as she freed her arms to her sides. “Oh? It seems to me that you’re afraid of getting your sorry asses whooped by a woman who’s stronger than you.”
Unable to handle her mockery much longer, Rodney lunged at the fighter who easily stepped out of his range. She snapped an arm across the back of his neck, rendering him unconscious and sending him slamming into the bar. A few more men tried their luck to catch her off guard, but she easily evaded them and retaliated with a few roundhouse kicks of her own. It wasn’t long until nearly the entire population inhabiting the tavern became involved in the brawl and Phoenix was at the center of it all. The bartender and Daphne crouched in terror as various mugs and tables were being cracked into pieces.
And all the while, a sky faerie stared in shock and two men watched in quiet contemplation.
“She’s good,” Kentarou commented. “A little off, but good.”
“Hmm…” Shion agreed with a small smile on his face.
Kentarou glanced at his friend, eyes narrowing. He knew that look. “Oi, don’t you even –“
“Think she’d want to join us?” Shion finished for him, which wasn’t the complete answer that Kentarou was looking for.
“What?” Sakana expressed surprise. “We’ve already –“
“I know the two of you can feel it better than I can,” Shion took his eyes away from the fight and glanced back at them. “I barely know some water spells but I can definitely feel that we’re being watched. It’s like if whatever’s after Rydia’s trying to use us to get to her.”
Kentarou sighed and Sakana looked away, knowing that Shion was right.
“You think we need more people than just us,” Kentarou murmured.
“She’s not refined yet, but she’s still pretty good, don’t you think?”
Kentarou sighed and looked up at the ceiling. “Man, I’m thirsty.”
Shion glanced at Sakana who nodded. The rogue stood, heading towards the counter as the fight was coming to an end. The front of the tavern was literally tattered into pieces with men sprawled about unconscious across the broken mass of chairs, tables, and glass mugs. Phoenix had pretty much wiped out much of the tavern’s inhabitants except for two whom she quickly dispatched with a kick to the ribsat one and a punch to the gut at the other. The fighter herself only suffered some minor wounds, her clothes smeared with dirt and shirt untucked by the countless of times the men tried to grab her. One cheek was slightly swollen and a thin line of blood trickled down her chin from a tooth that fell loose.
Since Phoenix was still poised for another fight, she quickly reacted to Shion’s looming presence with a punch that he easily captured in his hand. Noting that the rogue wasn’t someone that she recognized, her shoulders relaxed.
“Who are you?” she asked him, lowering her arm that Shion released.
“You’re pretty good,” he told her. “The name’s Shion.” He nodded back to Kentarou and Sakana who had gotten out of their seats and approached them. “The guy in the white jacket’s my buddy Kentarou and the lady in the hood is Sakana. We’re just travelers passing by.”
Phoenix looked at Shion and then glanced at Kentarou and Sakana before returning to meet his eyes. The rogue noted that she seemed to linger suspiciously longer on Sakana for a moment and somewhere deep in his mind he feared that this idea would not work.
“What’s your point?” she asked.
“Actually, I wanted to ask the cute little waitress when she gave us our drinks, but you look like you frequent here enough to probably answer my question,” Shion continued. “A friend of ours left us after nearly getting herself killed. We were told that she came this way to get to the other continent. Have you seen her? I think she’s pretty hard to miss: green hair, one blue and one green eye…”
“Oh, I think I know who you’re talking about,” Phoenix said as she crossed her arms. “Her name was Rydia or something or other, right?”
“Is she here?” Kentarou asked, anxious although his outward appearance remained calm.
“She was here,” Phoenix told him, turning his way. “After she helped me beat the crap out of some idiots, she left. That was about two days ago, I think.” Her eyes narrowed. “You aren’t after her, are you?”
Kentarou returned her look with an equal one. “Depends on what you mean by that.”
They stared each other down for a moment before a small smirk appeared on the fighter’s face. “You don’t seem like the type of person who’d go out and kill someone without reason. Just…she seemed nervous about something, that’s all.”
“She didn’t want us to get involved,” Sakana spoke up. “But we want to help her.”
“She said to me that she was headin’ to the other continent by taking a stop at Arankar’s Peak.”
Shion found this the perfect opportunity to add in his input, the fear of her not coming downgraded for the moment. “Would you like to come with us?”
Phoenix stared at him, surprised. “What?”
“Would you like to join us?” he repeated. “Like I said, you’re pretty good. We don’t know who’s really after her, but what we do know is that they’re strong. Extremely strong.” He paused to let this sink in. “We need all the help that we can get.”
When Phoenix didn’t immediately answer him, he also added, “If you’re worried about how you’re going to pay the train, we’ve got more than enough money to pay for you.” Thanks to Rydia’s stash that she left behind at the temple… “I can tell that you want to get out of this place.”
The fighter closed her eyes, contemplating on the advantages and disadvantages. She didn’t completely trust Shion’s motives – there was something in the look in his eyes that made her a bit uneasy at the way he looked at her – but she still saw the truth in their words, their eyes. Phoenix had to admit, it was a bit crazy since she only met the girl once. However, she knew immediately that there was something wrong, as if she was regretting something in order to find the truth about something else.
She remembered back to just how much Rydia reminded her of her younger self.
Phoenix opened her eyes, biding her time as she looked at each person. “All right. I’ll come with you.”
A look of relief washed slightly over Shion, but Phoenix also added, “I just got two things to tell you. One: I hate fae.”
A feeling of dread and fear and guilt filled Sakana’s very soul at her words as she continued on.
“I have my reasons why, but I just wanted to tell you. I don’t give a damn if people say that they don’t exist or not; I know real well that they do. And two: I don’t like magic very much. You guys can use it as much as you like, but don’t use it on me. I’d rather suffer through the taste of a medicinal potion than a healing spell.”
Silence swept the group as Phoenix’s last words fell before Shion smiled and held out his hand. “Then it’s a deal.”
“But I’m—“ Sakana was about to say before Kentarou cut her off, knowing her intention.
“You don’t have to worry about Sakana,” the bandit told Phoenix, laying a hand on Sakana’s shoulder. “She looks a little…uh, different, but it’s because she has a…” he quickly glanced at her, meeting her eyes before looking away with a perfect lie in mind. “A rare disease, really rare. It happens in one person in a billion – that’s why her skin and ears are like this.”
“Holy shit, I’m sorry,” Phoenix said with sympathy, fortunately too preoccupied with Sakana to see Kentarou and Shion exchange nervous glances. “Are your eyes like that ‘cuz of your disease, too?”
Stunned at her abrupt sympathy, Sakana slowly nodded although she was still afraid of what might happen if Phoenix found out her true identity. She must have fae sight like Rydia if she says that….
“Um…yeah,” she quietly replied.
“Damn, I’m really sorry. It must be hard to travel around.”
Some people…just don’t like fae. They’re strange, unusual, or frightening by what some think.
Just be careful in some places. Most people aren’t used to seeing fae.
Her violet eyes dimmed even further in sadness at the truth of Kentarou’s words.
“Yeah…” she whispered.
~~~Feuille Pinnacle, a week later ~~~
After what seemed like an endless chase of catch and go, she finally found it – the place where her parents and master called home. Rydia looked down at the battered ruins from the cliff side where she stood. The forest sat behind her, the lost village stood below in front of her, and a large lake with mountains loomed over beyond it. This was Feuille Pinnacle, the lost village of summoners. The original village was destroyed at the battle of Hyne and Orion thousands of years ago, before Archangel’s Kingdom was developed, but the survivors from that battle moved to a place that kept itself hidden from the rest of the world, although legend did keep up its fame. For the past centuries, the village itself managed to stay away from harm – under the careful eye of the archangels from the world above. The summoners from one family were designated to guard something that was a reminder of the legendary battle.
However one day, sixteen years ago, something happened that caused one of the archangels to betray its loyalties to Hyne and annihilated the village. What Rydia looked at now were those unknown reasons for the village’s destruction.
This she found out after delving further into the scroll that Odin left behind her and from what she learned from other people, travelers and locals alike, who were willing to indulge her with their knowledge. What she read in the scroll, though, provided the sorceress with the most important facts as she clutched the amulet around her neck tightly. Her mother was from this village, and she came from the very family who had to guard the remnant of Hyne’s battle against Orion.
It was the amulet she held, that her mother entrusted her to protect when she died. She found out that much. It had powers beyond her imagination, and it sometimes had a mind of its own. Now, Rydia returned to the village to hide and to find out more about the story behind the battle. Something inside her now knew that it had to do something with the woman in chains, the one who constantly tried to protect her even though she was captured.
We can help you, Rydia. That’s why we’re here in the first place.
Rydia’s mind saddened at the memory of Sakana’s words. She knew that they wanted to help her, but she couldn’t…
The memory of Kentarou’s lips pressed upon hers flashed across again, and her heart skipped a beat as her hand unconsciously brushed her lips. What did he mean by that – she even hesitated to use the word – kiss? Why did he affect her so much? There was something in his eyes that showed a genuine sincerity and determination in him…and something else that she couldn’t quite pinpoint.
A rustling in the trees behind her startled the young sorceress out of her thoughts. She whirled around with daggers in hand, ready to fling it at her attacker, only to lower it when a white furry…thing with a red pompom on its head and purple wings on its back flew out.
“Huh?” she blinked in surprise. A mog?
Mogs were small, feline creatures that stood upright yet could fly. They had a language of their own that very few mortals could understand, but mogs were docile and skittish creatures by nature. In the past, because of their intelligence, they had their own communities far away from mortal contact, but some had recently tried to keep some as pets. It was rare to see one free nowadays.
“Ah, Moogle!” a girl’s voice shouted behind the mog’s flying form. “Come back!”
The mog circled around Rydia in excitement as if it knew who she was. “Kupo! Kupo-po!”
A girl poked out of the bushes. She looked only around six or seven as Rydia could tell with short, violet hair that fell just about chin length and tied up in a pale yellow ribbon. Her bright overalls of peach and white looked two sizes too big for her and her sandals looked worn from overuse. Yet she had the brightest blue eyes, contrasting with her dirt-smeared faced from apparently chasing after her mog. In her right hand, she carried a flute.
The girl also didn’t seem to see Rydia at the moment as she dusted the dirt off her clothes.
“What do you mean that there’s –“ the girl trailed off as she looked up and met Rydia’s eyes.
Rydia continued to stare at the bewildered little girl, not quite sure what to make of her. She didn’t think that there would be anyone else living around the village since it was destroyed so many years ago and its place hidden beneath a very dangerous forest and plateau proved it hard for anyone to make their way here. Yet here was this girl, staring back at her wide-eyed as if she had never seen another person before. Rydia, too, couldn’t say anything.
There was just something about her that reminded Rydia of herself.
Author’s notes: Hello, everyone and welcome back! This chapter doesn’t seem as, um, exciting as the last one, but it has given me much of a break from the drama that was so hard to write in the previous chapter. I think this is a lot shorter, but it still turns out that it’s around 20 pages on Word…
I hope that you liked the new character entrance! Phoenix was one of the former co-author’s favorite characters but she was also the hardest to write. I actually toned her down from her original stance a bit; she was actually much more…um…free when using foul language…
Until the next chapter! This one and the next one are a little bit more of fillers to give a full outlook of what’s to come.
Oh yes, I know quite well that a Molotov cocktail isn't really a drink...but it just sounds cool .