3nd day of the month of Olfaccium
Afternoon"Is that the place?”
Sil asked excitedly.
She had been acting giddy like this all day. Talking about how having a sister was going to make her bigger and asking over and over if it was time yet. Now that it finally was time to pick up Karina’s familiar, she had changed the game. Pointing at near everything and asking if that’s where they were going to get her ‘sister’ Akai. It was enough to give Chres a headache.
More than once the certain something just so happened to be a someone. After the first time Chres was quick to cut her off every subsequent time. This time however, Sil happened to get lucky."Yes."
Chres replied, giving a relieved sigh. He looked to Karina and smiled. "You ready then?"
He asked while nodding to the entrance. "Delvin should be done by now. At least it was what he told me yesterday."
Karina replied when Sil asked if they had arrived and just after Chres had replied to her.
Karina couldn't help but find amusing how Sil was acting the entire day. Since she knew about Karina's familiar, Sil couldn't talk about anything else. She was clearly eager to meet her 'sister'."I'm curious to see how it turned out."
Karina replied as she nodded towards the entrance, signaling for them to follow her."Delvin?"
she called as she entered the store, looking around while searching for the man whom she talked with the other day.
The man called Delvin peeked out from his workshop. His eyes darted from Karina to Chres and back. ”Aaaaaaaah, if it isn’t my favorite customer!””
He said putting extra emphasis on the word ‘favorite’. ”Welcome back! Welcome back!”
The man's gaze wandered over to Chres. He had a smile that didn’t quite meet his eyes. ”Ah, I see. And you must be her lover."
His eyes flicked back to Karina. ”What a fine man you’ve chosen! His age does seem to match your temperament.”
Chres raised an eyebrow at the comment. He was pretty sure this Delvin character had just called him old. And what was this about them being lovers? Chres couldn’t help but feel amused by the barb. He glanced over to Karina, curious to see how she had taken it.
After she called, Delvin soon appeared to greet them. Apparently, being one of the few customers he had on the last days did give her some preference, according to his tone. After greeting him with a small nod, Karina was about to enter, but suddenly stopped when Delvin looked at Chres, calling him her lover.
Such a comment from Delvin made Karina's face red, but not from embarrassment. Her stare at Delvin was clearly unhappy with his comment."I would be careful with your tongue, Delvin..."
She said, her eyes almost piercing Delvin."He is not my man, he is much older than me and... Would you like to elaborate on what you meant by 'my temperament'?"
Karina asked with an almost terrifying smile as she looked at him with the same cold, piercing eyes.
Delvin’s head jolted back as if surprised by Karina’s reaction. ”My lady, please forgive me. I didn’t mean to offend. I noticed that the man’s necklace and the one you gave me looked to be a pair. That, combined with your comment yesterday about how someone gave you the pendent… any skilled familiarist, such as myself, might have drawn a similar conclusion.” ”Besides,”
Delvin continued. ”considering your concern yesterday, about people not taking you seriously, I would think it a compliment. A compliment on your good tastes, that is. After all, you know what they say, right? ‘The older the man, the more splendid he stands.’”
Chres tilted his head back slightly. He was impressed by the man’s quick tongue. His explanation was plausible. Had Chres’s interpretation of Delvin’s comment about his age been wrong?”That said,”
Delvin went on, ”it seems my judgement here clearly missed the mark. Seeing as I’m a professional man who sees too the needs of his customers first, this second lapse in my judgement deserves a proper apology.””The second half of your payment,”
Delvin said. ”I will slash the cost by one twentieth of what is owed.”
The man met Karina’s gaze. He drew his mouth in a line. ”Will that suffice, my lady?"
Karina couldn't help but to raise an eyebrow at Delvin's words as he replied to her. It was undeniable that he had quite a sharp tongue, especially when trying to deflect a situation or make up for something he said wrong. Unfortunately, his sharp tongue was at the same time, what saved him from some problems but also what put him into said problems in the first place. He seemed to have a tendency to try and smooth talk people or try to win their favor with flattery."He is the one who gave me the necklace, yes. But we do not have such a relationship."
Karina reinforced as she heard Delvin explaining why he thought that. Even though the reason was indeed believable, after all the necklaces did seem to be a pair, it was still something annoying for Karina to hear."My personal tastes are my problem. Not something you should be concerned with. As long as you keep your sharp tongue in check, we will be ok, Delvin."
Karina said after he gave her the offer of reducing the price as an apology.”Second lapse in judgement?”
Chres whispered to Karina."Yes. He treated me as a child when I first came here."
Karina said, replying to Chres' question after she finished talking with Delvin."This should be enough for an introduction. As I promised, I returned with the second part of the payment. Is the necklace ready?"
Karina asked as she took out a small pouch of money she was carrying in one of her pockets."I also don't have much experience with familiars as it's the first time I'm going to have one. A few hints and recommendations on how to... maintain it... would be welcome."
she finished as she waited for Delvin's answer.
Delvin’s eyes flicked towards the pouch and back. A friendly smile spread across his face. ”Of course, my lady.”
He said. ”Though I’m not really sure what advice I can give you. A familiar is not like a sword. It doesn’t need to be maintained in order to function. I would keep your familiar away from Shadow Metal though. I’ve heard It can do a number on a familiar for a time.”
Chres nodded at that.”As for the familiar itself, every one of them are different. So learning to live with a new familiar is very much a learning experience. Not even I can say for sure how yours will act.”
Karina heard Delvin's advice carefully. Interestingly enough, there wasn't much for her to worry about, other than keeping them away from Shadow Metal. As he continued explaining, Karina found it interesting to know that, just like what she had thought earlier, living with a familiar was much like living with a person. She would have to learn how to live with her personality, understand her and learn about her while teaching her familiar about herself. Surprisingly, it seemed to be an... interesting experience for Karina."Then I was right when I first came here. That a familiar is much like a person in many aspects. Living with one, dealing with them & etc."
Karina said as she looked to Delvin.”If my lady says so.”
Delvin said, his expression unchanging. ”Now regarding your familiar...”
He pulled out the pendent and placed it on the counter.. The metal glass shimmered in the light. Reflecting specks light here and there. ”Here it is.”
The moment he took the pendant out, Karina couldn't help but noticed that it seemed to be somehow... prettier than it was when she came, almost like if it was shimmering with the light, reflecting it in specks of light.
Before she could say anything, Karina saw Sil immediately flying towards the pendant, her eyes and mouth wide open in awe. Her reaction to it was simply adorable as she asked if it was her little sister."Is that my little sister?"
Sil asked. "She’s soooo beautiful!""I'm curious on how you two will interact."
Karina said with a smile to Sil."Hmmmmmmm..."
Sil hummed. "She doesn’t seem to move much though..."
Delvin frowned. ”Is this… yours?”
He asked Chres."She’s my familiar, yes."
Chres replied.”Did you make it yourself?”Make it myself?
Chres wondered. ”No.”
He said. ”Why?”
Delvin shrugged. ”Only wondering is all.”
Chres frowned. He wanted to ask more, but Delvin had already turned his attention back to Karina.”Would you like to meet her before performing the blood bond and making the exchange?”
He asked Karina.
He idly placed his hand on the metal glass piece. It began to glow faintly.
When Delvin asked if she wanted to meet her familiar before making the bond, Karina simply shook her head."It would be cruel to make Sil wait more than she already did. I'm ok with making the bond already."
Karina replied with a chuckle to Sil. The entire day, Sil was ecstatic and only talked about Karina's familiar and how she wanted to meet her and about being her big sister.
Delvin raised his brow while keeping the rest of his face smooth. ”If that is what my lady wishes, then so be it.”
He said."Not yet, Sil. We still have to make the bond. Then she will wake up."
Karina said with a kind smile towards Sil.
As Delvin took his hand off the pendant, the glow subsided. After doing so, he took a needle and some bandages from the drawer next to him, the tools for Karina to make the blood pact. ”Now,”
He began. A smile slowly creeping across his face. ”let us make the blood pact.”
He handed Karina the needle. ”Take the needle. Prick a finger. Then speak its chosen name. Relinquish your blood so metal glass may soak. And so the bond shall form.”
Delvin spoke with much bravado. Carefully, he handled Karina the needle. Even though the instructions sound like they were rehearsed and said that way only to make an impact on the client, they were still clear and easy to follow.
With a quick movement, Karina pierced her finger with the needle, making a small drop of blood begin to form on its surface, getting bigger and bigger before she extended her finger above the pendant, letting her blood drop on the pendant."You will be... Akai."
Karina said as her blood dripped on the pendant, one drop after another.
The moment Karina said her name, the pendant began to glow again as a girl appeared from it. With the size of a child's, she had white hair with red ends and a single horn on the right side of her head. Her clothes, an eastern type kimono, and adorning her head, a fearful oni mask with it's horn making a pair with the other one, quite a contrast compared to her small and rather cute appearance."Akai... Hm... It's a decent name. I think I like it."
Akai said, with a smirk in her face as she looked around."I'm happy that you did. It suits your appearance quite well. I'm Karina Frost, I'm glad to meet you."
Karina said as she looked at Akai with a smile."So, you're the one who named me, right? Hm..."
she said, with an unamused expression as she flew towards Karina, stopping just a few centimeters from her face as she looked at her almost as if she was analyzing her."Yeah, that'll do. Your eyes... They tell a lot more than your cute and petite appearance does. Misleading. I like that."
she said with a chuckle and a half smile."Wait..."
Sil said. She fluttered up to Akai, finger to her lips. There was an uncertain look on her face. She looked to Akai, the pendant and then to Delvin. "I thought you said that was Akai."
Sil said to Delvin while pointing to the pendant.
Delvin raised an eyebrow as if unamused. ”It is.”
Delvin said. "But Icesarina here says she’s Akai."
Sil continued, now pointing at Akai.”She is as well.”
Delvin said. He casually removed Akai’s pendant from the counter."So I have two little sisters?! But wait... how come you're not little? Aren’t I supposed to be bigger than you?"
She asked the big Akai.
Karina couldn't help but to think that Akai had an... interesting personality, both due to her words and the way she analyzed her with her eyes. That said, Karina didn't think that her personality was bad, it was just... interesting. It kinda made her want to know more about Akai."Wha- Hey! Who's the small one?"
Akai asked, surprised as Sil fluttered towards her, looking at her with a confused expression as Sil looked from her to the pendant."Icesarina?"
Karina repeated, with a confused expression on her face but at the same time, not being able to hold a discreet giggle at the silly nickname Sil gave her."Maybe I'm the big sis' then. Don't worry though, I won't bite you just because I'm bigger... Or maybe I will..."
Akai said with a teasing grin to Sil as she opened and closed her mouth in a biting motion, showing the two pairs of sharp canines.
Sil smiled and stared at Akai expectantly. She seemed to be waiting for something. However, that something never came, for a second later she tilted her head to the side and said, "Or maybe you will what?""Bite you, of course, birdbrain!"
Akai asked, rolling her eyes as she showed her teeth."So, whitey over there is my owner. I'm assuming the old man there is yours, right?"
Akai asked Sil, pointing towards Chres."You mean Chres?”
Sil asked. "Oooh, he just likes to follow me around everywhere I go. Kinda weird if you ask me."
Chres scoffed audibly at that."That is a way to put it."
Akai said after she heard Sil, laughing."I think I'm going to enjoy having you nearby. What's your name?"
Akai asked Sil, curious."They call me Sil, but I like to call myself… Sil...”
She said with a nod and smile. ”Yes yes.”
Delvin interjected. ”You two do seem like you’re going to be best friends and everything, but it is getting quite late.”
Delvin looked to Karina and gave her another forced smile. ”Everything up to your satisfaction, my white- uh lady?”
He casually raised the hand in which he held the pendant. He fidgeted with the metal glass by rubbing his thumb against its smooth surface.
Karina was enjoying herself by watching Akai and Sil knowing each other but it was cut short by Delvin, who interrupted the conversation in a clear, albeit quite rude way of asking for the rest of the payment, which made Karina clearly displeased. Surprisingly, the first one to talk wasn't Karina, but Akai herself."You're quite a rude and greedy little man, aren't you? You really shouldn't interrupt someone when they're talking."
Akai said, with an unamused expression as she looked at Delvin with her hands on her hips, her tone coming out almost as she felt personally offended by Delvin interrupting her.”Aaaaaaaah, but you had finished speaking by the time I spoke, hadn’t you?”
He replied coyly.
Without a word, Karina walked towards Delvin, with an almost threatening stare towards him as she threw the pouch of money at him before taking the pendant from his hands."I recommend you to not say even a single word more, Delvin. You crossed the line quite a few times already and you haven't learned your lesson yet, have you?"
Karina said, looking right to his eyes with a freezing air emanating from her."I said I was going to pay you. There was no need for you to remind me of doing so in such a rude manner. It is only fitting for me to treat you in a similarly rude manner, don't you think?"
she said in a low, menacing tone before she turned her back towards the man.
Delvin smiled smugly. He didn’t, however, say another word."I knew I wasn't mistaken about you. I felt the chills from here, quite literally! Those eyes too... They were quite nice."
Akai said as she looked to Karina with a teasing smirk on her face."It wasn't the first time he said something that he shouldn't have."
Karina said, replying to Akai."Anyways... I hope we can get along. It is quite a new experience for me... Having a familiar I mean."
Karina said as she looked at Akai after calming herself down."Oh don't worry. I have the feeling we will get along quite well indeed. Plus we do agree that the Delvin guy only wants your money. You do know that everything that guy said was only so he could get your money, right?"
Akai asked, rolling her eyes as she looked at Delvin."Yes, I know. His sharp tongue was starting to get on my nerves too..."
Karina said with a sigh."We should go now, Sil, Chres and Akai. It is getting a bit late."
Karina replied as she got ready to leave.
Chres hesitated. ”Would you wait for me outside?”
He asked Karina. ”I have something I would like to do here first… Sil, you too.”
Chres looked to Delvin as Karina, Akai and Sil left. ”If you don’t mind, I would like to ask you a few questions.””I do mind, actually.”
Delvin said. ”As I said earlier, it is getting quite late.”
Chres raised his brow, his amusement starting to turn to annoyance. He wanted to ask the man more about his question regarding Sil… However... ”What’s your deal here Delvin? Where is this hostility coming from?” ”Oooh, it’s coming from somewhere...”
His eyes flicked towards the door where Karina had left and the back to Chres. His smug smile never fading. ”That, I assure you.”
Chres frowned. He had seen Karina’s temper first hand. Had she said something to the man? ”I simply wanted to ask about the question you asked regarding Sil. The one where you asked if I had m-””And I simply am far too busy to speak further regarding the fairy.”
Delvin interrupted. ”Now if you would kindly see yourself out-”
An itch crawled up the back of Chres’s neck, and before he knew it, he had slammed his fist onto the countertop. ”I WILL NOT LEAVE UNTIL YOU TELL ME WH-”
He heard himself shouting.
Chres’ words cut off. Something sharp was poking against Chres’ throat. His eyes lowered. In Delvin’s hand, he held a few glass beads. Jutting from one of them was a blade.”Please leave.”
Delvin said coldly.
Chres blinked. Where had that outburst come from? He was so surprised that he didn’t notice the itch slowly fading from his neck.
Chres pulled back and Delvin’s illusion faded. This man had noticed something about Sil. He had information Chres yearned for. And yet…”My apologies.”
Chres said, turning to leave. Delvin simply nodded. He watched as Chres closed the door behind him.
Karina did find it a bit strange on how Chres said he had something to do inside the store. Strangely enough, he wanted Sil to stay behind as well. Karina simply nodded at him as she walked outside together with Akai."That 'Delving' is an unpleasant little man... You should really have scared him a bit more. Maybe make use of that sharp sword you carry around? It would be funny to watch him piss himself in fear."
Akai said, with a mischievous smile."As much as I think he is really unpleasant and would love to cut that tongue of his, he is still a civilian. That said, a little scare couldn't hurt too-"
Karina said, replying to Akai before she was interrupted by a shout coming from inside the store.
While it was obvious that Karina was trying to explain that it wouldn't be right
to do that, it was obvious that Akai disliked Delvin as much as Karina did, either that or Akai really just wanted to put fuel into the fire. Which was also very possible.
That shout though made Karina immediately put her hand at her rapier as she walked towards the store again. Before she entered though, she saw Chres walking out. His expression was of extreme frustration as he walked right past Karina, Akai and even Sil."Do you still think he deserves any respect at all?"
Akai asked with a smug smirk in her face that practically yelled 'I told you so'.
For a moment, Karina stood still, simply looking at the store with the same freezing air emanating from her and a terrifyingly cold stare, simply staring at it, trying to decide if she should go back to the store or not. Delvin didn't have an ounce of respect for her, which made her really irritated. But she knew that if she went back there and Delvin did anything that she deemed 'hostile' she wouldn't hesitate to strike him down."No... He's not worth my time. We should go."
Karina said, shaking her head before she turned away from the store and going after Chres."Aww~ I was really looking forward to what you would do with him, but I guess you do have a point."
Akai said as she followed Karina."Chres?”
Sil said hesitantly as she hurried after him.
Chres didn’t answer. He had left the shop feeling frustration with Delvin, the world and himself. Where had that anger come from?
Chres wondered. The man may have been irritating, but that anger… He had overreacted. "Chres?”
Delvin had asked if Chres had made Sil himself. Why? Chres had figured Sil was custom made, but other than that, he knew nothing else about how her creation. If he had only been calmer, maybe Delvin could have told him something useful. Maybe he would have learn more regarding his wife’s betrayal. Maybe he could have-
Chres felt a tug on his sleeve. "Chres!”
Sil said again. This time more urgently.
Chres jumped. Blinking twice, he turned to face Sil. ”Hmm?”
Sil said nothing. She simply stared at him, a concerned look on her face. "I… I never heard you yell before.”
Chres frowned. He wasn’t quite sure what to say. "I-I’m sorry.”
He said. Sil frowned, but nodded. Apparently that was enough for her.
He then looked to Karina. "That man seemed to think he was in the right of things. What happened between you two yesterday?”
Just as Akai finished speaking with Karina, they approached Chres. He was acting a bit strange but instead of interrupting, Karina simply waited, hearing as Sil called Chres. Did something happen inside the store? Before she could say something, Sill beggan tugging his sleeve, calling for him."Sil is right, Chres. Something happened."
Karina said as he turned towards her, asking what happened between Delvin and Karina."Delvin's tongue is too sharp for his own good. He crossed the line more than once. That is all."
Karina replied with a serious expression."He will still cut himself with that tongue of his sooner or later so why bother, right?"
Akai said with a chuckle and a smirk on her face after Karina said that."I see…”
Chres said, looking back to the shop. "That man seemed to have noticed something about Sil.”"He probably just noticed that I was adorable.”
Chres smiled softly. "Maybe…”
He said. "Still though, I would have liked to learn more.”
Chres sighed and shook his head.
He was about to turn to leave when-
“Lieutenant?!” A man shouted. “Lieutenant! That is you!” A young man, with a sword at his side, rushed over to Karina. He stopped awkwardly a few feet away and gave her a rough solute."Something about Sil...?"
Karina asked, confused. Clearly Chres wanted to know why Delvin was so surprised with Sil and what he knew about it. While Karina did know a bit about the circumstances behind Chres' story, there was still a good part of it that was still a secret.
When they were about to leave though, a voice suddenly shouted in their direction, calling a name Karina hadn't heard in a while... When the man approached them, Karina was surprised to see a soldier from the Military of Touch."Lieutenant? Interesting!"
Akai said, raising an eyebrow with a surprised expression."At ease, soldier."
Karina said, saluting him with a serious stare and a military salute. For the first time, Chres was seeing Karina acting like an officer.
The soldier lowered his solute but stood by attentively."Are you by yourself, soldier?"
she asked, looking at the soldier."Did the general send reinforcements? Whatever you do, you must send someone back. Tell the general and the other officers that we need to change our priorities. The Cult is a bigger threat than they had imagined."
Karina said with urgency in her voice.
“Send someone back...” The man seemed troubled. “But Lieutenant… Nobody is being allowed out…” "Wait... What?! How did you get past the distortion? How many came with you?"
Karina asked, her eyes wide open in a startled expression.
“We all came through the east gate in disguised as caravan owners.” The soldier said. “They are letting people in but not out. We tried last night, but were-”
His words trailed off, for at that moment Sil fluttered inches away from his face."Hello!”
She said happily. "My name’s Sil. Today I became a little, big sister.”
The poor boy seemed confused. “... Little... big?” He repeated uncertainty.
With an embarrassed smile. Chres leaned forward and pinched her wings together, effectively snatching her out of the air and the soldier’s face. "Ai!”
She yelped in surprise. "What is this?”
She began to squirm, her struggle unfruitful. "Hey! Let go! How are you doing this?”"Sil...”
Chres said. "Perhaps now is not the time...”
The soldier looked to Chres and Sil uncertainty. "Madam Lieutenant… Who are these people?” His eyes then fell on Akai. “... What are these people?”
Even as Sil greeted the soldier, Karina was simply silent, thinking. It was clear due to her expression that the situation wasn't exactly good nor it was what she had expected."It... It's a long story, soldier..."
Karina finally said as the soldier looked at Chres, Sil and Akai with a confused expression."What? Never saw a familiar before? Or you're just that interested in me?"
Akai asked with a chuckle and a teasing grin as the eyes of the soldier stopped on her.
“I have...” The soldier said. “It’s just that...”"You and your unit entered the distortion and now are stuck here inside... Just like us, is that correct?"
Karina asked with a long, exhausted sigh."How many came with your unit? Where are them right now?"
Karina asked, looking at the soldier again.
The soldier shook his head “There are four oth-” The boy stopped himself. His eyes widened as if realizing something.
“No.” He said, looking to the ground as if ashamed. “Two others now...”
Karina froze solid as she heard the soldier's words. Despite her repeated warnings, they kept underestimating the cult. The small unit they sent was now trapped here, just like they were. Why didn't they assume something went terribly wrong since she had to send them that message? Were they still too busy about the war despite the threat that the Cult posed to not only the Nation of Touch but the entire world?
In that moment of silence, a freezing air emanated from Karina as the ground beneath her feet began freezing with thousands of ice needles forming around her. It was the first time Chres or even the soldier himself saw Karina irritated like that. It was clear that she was trying her hardest to keep her control, but her power betrayed her true feelings."Two... Others..."
Karina repeated, slowly as the ice on the ground around her cracked audibly as the needles broke, with others appearing in their place."And now, you are trapped here... Just like us..."
she said, her voice coming out in a terrifyingly calm tone, a clear contrast with the ice around her and how her fists were clenched so tightly that blood was starting to come out."Did the other high ranking officers really think that I, Lieutenant Colonel Karina Frost, would send that message without a good reason? That I wasn't capable of returning to the forward base by myself? Do you have any words from them?"
Karina asked, her icy cold stare looking directly at the poor soldier.
“I-” The soldier started while taking a cautious step back."WHAT WERE THOSE IDIOTS THINKING?!"
she shouted, almost trembling with rage as the ice around her cracked once more with a loud noise, the spikes getting bigger as she lost her calm further and further."Their incompetence and lack of trust in another officer's reports cost them TWO LIVES already! Not only that but the cult only keeps growing STRONGER AND STRONGER each SECOND that passes!"
She continued, the area immediately around her getting more and more dangerous to one to stand as the time passed.
Chres frowned. The scene Karina had made was starting to draw the attention of a few bystanders.
The moment the ice spikes were big enough for Karina to finally notice what she was unconsciously doing, she raised her hand, asking for silence as she breathed deeply, trying to calm herself down. Slowly, the ice around her began to thaw and the freezing air was no more. It did take quite some time for it to finally disappear and Karina to finally calm down enough to speak something. In that moment, even Akai that usually would mock anything and generally not take anything seriously was silent, despite her amused expression as she looked from a safe distance."Report on the situation, soldier. You are three, counting with you. Did you bring any supplies? Any word, message or information from the headquarters?"
Karina asked, the air coming out of her mouth being visible due to her body temperature having dropped a little thanks to the 'small' outburst of rage she just had.
The soldier looked to the ground and back to Karina, clearly unnerved. “M-my pardons, Madam Lieutenant. Rescuing you was never part of the orders given to us.” The soldier said, trying to keep his voice from shaking."At ease, soldier."
she said, finally calming down and trying to calm down the soldier as well."I... lost my calm for a second. The situation didn't go exactly as I was expecting."
Karina said, not only to the soldier but to Chres as well."I recommend you to be careful regarding your identity. The Cult won't like to know that the Military of Touch is starting to get involved in all this. Some of the local citizens or even the local forces might not like it that much."
Karina said, regaining her composure."Now, focus. What's the report on your unit's situation?"
she asked again.
“Well-” The soldier started."Perhaps,”
Chres interjected. "we should find a place more private.”
The bystanders, who had taken notice to Karina’s display, had begun muttering to themselves.
He could barely make out the words from the nearest bystander. “Did she say Frost? Frost, as in General Frost?”
Upon hearing one of the nearby bystanders repeating her surname, Karina simply looked at them with a death stare. Honestly, at this point she was considering killing whoever heard her to keep her presence a secret but there was no running nor hiding from it now. Her presence was already known. Even though her anger was completely justified, she had said her name out loud, which was an error."Take me to the other soldiers before I end up killing someone... We can't count in those incompetent officers while we're here in this damned city and since we're stuck here, we will need to make plans."
Karina said looking to Chres and the soldier.
It took a minute for the soldier to lead Karina and the rest out of prying eyes. In the end, they ended up at one of the city’s cheaper inns, not far from where their whole adventure started.
The soldiers had gone in together on a room it seemed. One of them was heavily bandaged and was currently resting. The other sat staring into the corner, saying nothing.
“He’s been that way ever since this morning.” The soldier said. “We-” The soldier looked to the others as if in a daze. “We turned on each other, we did.” The soldier whispered. “W-we should be punished… we were comrades, we were… We-”"This is The Distortion’s work.”
Chres said. He stood with his arms crossed by the door. "Sounds like you all got your first taste of Insight.”
The soldier looked to Chres, wide eyed. “The Distortion?” He repeated. “Yes yes, That’s what it must have been.” The man said the words quickly, as if willing to grasp onto any excuse to explain what happened."Now you all understand what I said before... The Cult can't be underestimated. They need to be annihilated."
Karina said with a serious expression, looking at the soldiers.
It was clear that their morale was very low. Having turned against each other, killed their own allies and with one of them still in shock, it was no surprise that they were like that."These are our only reinforce-"
Akai started speaking as she looked at the soldiers who were in a sorry state before she was interrupted by Karina, whom simply raised a hand in front of her for her to stop speaking."What? Three soldiers won't be enough to help us, you know? I'm just saying the truth..."
she completed, crossing her arms as she rolled her eyes."They have strange powers, able to control people's thoughts and minds. This 'Insight' they speak of..."
Karina continued, with a grim tone."Sadly... I still have no idea on how their powers work, how to stop them or how to resist them..."
she completed, with a heavy sigh. After a moment of silence, Karina walked towards the middle of the room, looking to the soldiers."Soldiers, you are now behind enemy lines. We know very little about what we are fighting against but we know for certain that we can't allow them to continue growing stronger. You need to steel your hearts and your minds. We can't fail here, gentlemen, otherwise... The cult will spread itself like a disease, corrupting everything and everyone."
she finished, with a serious and determined tone as she looked at each one of the soldiers."Don't let yourselves fall into despair and stay strong. We still have a mission to complete."
Karina said with a determined tone.
“A mission?” The boy repeated. His eyes still wide. He blinked twice and shook his head. “Yes, that’s right… the mission...” The boy looked to Karina. ”We were sent to find you, Madam Lieutenant. To deliver a message from General Frost. The Emperor's sister, Queen to the Nation of Sight, is dead. Murdered by her own husband. Head sent to us in a bag. We will begin our assault on Shimmer Town in two day. You are to open the Eastern Gate so that the assault will not turn into a siege… That is all.”
Chres frowned. This news had major political implications. He probably shouldn’t have even been privy to hearing it. But that was not what bothered him. He had put too much hope in Karina it seemed. Her father did not seem interested in rescuing them. Rather, they would be stuck here. Stuck here until they got the job done.
He looked to Karina. How would she take this news?.
Fortunately, Karina's small speech had some results, as it reminded one of the soldiers of their mission. They had come to find her and to give her a message from General Frost, her father. The message though, wasn't something good... Upon hearing about the death of the Emperor's sister, specifically how it was announced it made her look to Chres with a worried expression. The news that there wouldn’t be a rescue for her made her a bit angry as well.“So there won’t be any rescue despite me being a high ranking officer and having valuable and critical information regarding the cult…”
she said shaking her head in disapproval trying to mask how angry she was at that."Do you think it has anything to do with the Insight? Is it possible that the cult's powers were somehow responsible for that?"
she asked in a low tone.
Chres shrugged. They knew too little to be sure."They cannot proceed with the assault... We still don't know what we are against. The cultists have strange powers that we aren't aware of. You saw some of those powers personally..."
Karina said with a worried expression."Doesn’t sound like we have much of a choice. It’s either an assault or risk being stuck here for a very long time.”
Chres replied."Shouldn't be easier to just raze everything to the ground then? Cultists included?"
Akai asked, raising her eyebrows."You didn't see what the cultists are capable of, neither the creatures they call 'The Sightless'... I fear the worst might happen if the military comes to face an unknown enemy, unprepared."
she replied to Akai."Maybe...”
Chres contemplatively. ”Though an assault in combination with a raid on the gate would make for a distraction...”"You saw what they can do with people's minds, Chres. You felt it yourself. If they are already strong as they are, what do you think they would be able to do if they somehow took control of the Military of Touch?"
Karina asked, with a serious tone in her voice."The only thing we know so far is that their power is linked with the dark. Don’t sleep in the dark, whatever you do. The Jade candles also seem to block some of their powers but that is basically all we know… The creatures they refer to as ‘The Sightless’ are even more of a mystery... Our information regarding the Cult is dangerously scarce for a direct battle right now.."
she finished explaining as she became silent, thinking."None of that matters though if the battle doesn’t last longer than a day.”
Chres said. ”If we use the battle to mask a second attack against The Seed.”"You do have a point. Still... The threat of the sightless is still not something we can ignore. That said... We have General Frost. If anyone can turn impossible odds in favorable ones, it is him."
Karina said looking to Chres."Now... What do you know about The Seed?"
Karina asked, raising an eyebrow. Chres' plan was interesting and it could definitely work. If they were able to destroy the seed by using the battle as a distraction…
“The... seed?” The soldier said, looking confused."We were told that was the source of the Distortion.”
Chres said looking to the soldier.
“You were told? I’m sorry, who are you again?” The soldier said, shaking his head. "An ally I suppose.”
Chres said with resignation. "The Lieutenant and I, along with a few others, got wrapped up in this mess together. A… friend was there with us when this all started. He told us how to hide from the Cult, how to avoid the Insight’s touch, and he told us about The Seed of Insight.”
Chres paused for a breath. "If we kill The Seed, we should put an end to the Distortion here.” And I’ll be able to put this mess behind me and start focusing on learning the truth.
Chres thought”Trouble is, he didn’t give us much information to go on other than that… So what do I know about the seed? Not much more than you.”
He said, answering Karina’s question. ”However, if I were a betting man, I would wager they would put something so crucial in an area they already have under their control. A place like a certain inn, turned place of worship. That is where I suspect we’ll find it.”
Chres gazed out the window absently. ”Rip out its hearts. Cut off the stem. Salt the stump.”
He said, repeating The Being’s instructions. ”Only then will we kill the seed.”