|Randel||[no title]||Level 32|
|Endurance: 5||Strength: 5||Dexterity: 11+1||Magic: 0||Spirit: 10|
|Souls: 23%||Essence: N/A||Mana: 453/453|
|Abilities and Weapon Skills
|Dark Bond||Level 2||Progress: 12.5%|
|Dagger Throw||Mana Cost: 15||Level 5||Progress: 52.0%|
|Sneak Attack||Mana Cost: 20||Level 3||Progress: 74.1%|
|Power Stab||Mana Cost: 12||Level 2||Progress: 12.5%|
|Lunge||Mana Cost: 10||Level 2||Progress: 89.2%|
|Spear Throw||Mana Cost: 5||Level 2||Progress: 2.4%|
|Throat Slash||Mana Cost: 20||Level 1||Progress: 5.5%|
The first thing I did after I met up with the others was to tell them everything. Well, everything that I could safely speak of. I didn’t have a death wish, so it meant that I didn’t mention anything about my latest encounter with the Inspector. Even so, there were things they needed to know about, like the day when I became a murderer and met Nosy. Even if Imaya was a horrible tattletale, I had to tell them.
I had to trust my friends… Friends? Maybe. I wasn’t sure if friend was the right term. If I took my own definition of the word, we weren’t exactly friends. It wasn’t our matching personalities that connected us. It wasn’t the same hobbies or interests that brought us together. It wasn’t even the fact that we enjoyed each other’s company that much. No, the only reason we had stayed together up till now was that we didn’t have any better alternative. After we had reached Bildy, this still hadn’t changed that much. Out of all the people in this world, it was each other we could trust the most.
Therefore, if I really intended to stay with the others, it was only fair that I informed them about my condition. They needed to know that Soul Eater could manipulate my emotions. I knew what to expect from my previous incident in the woods, and I wanted someone who would hold me back if— when things went wrong.
On the other hand, there were a few things that I couldn’t tell the others no matter how much I wanted to. In the grand scheme of things, it was quite significant that we had spectators who watched us for entertainment. It had so many implications. For one, I was pretty sure that the amount of money we received in the Core was in connection with how popular we were among these viewers. I hadn’t spent too much time pondering about it yet, but the logical conclusion seemed to be that I got so much attention because of Soul Eater. I was supposed to be one of the first to test this prototype, so I guessed it would make me some kind of curiosity.
It wasn’t only the viewers who watched me more than most of the Players. For some reason, that Inspector was interested in me as well. I didn’t know if it was a good thing or not— actually, I knew it. It was good for me because she was my best chance to escape from this world, and it was bad for me because it was very likely that I was going to suffer a horrible death as she experimented on me.
Not to mention, having an audience all the time made would make anyone quite uncomfortable. I was probably taking this better than the average person would: I really wasn’t the type who worried too much what others thought of them. But while I couldn’t say that I was overly concerned, it still bothered me.
On the other hand, I could turn this into an advantage. Maybe there were Players who figured something out from the existence of the Player support fund, but it was a safe guess that there weren’t many who knew the truth. It was worth thinking about how I could cultivate this knowledge. I didn’t think I was any good at acting, but if I could behave in a way that pleased the viewers, I could get an even bigger audience. Unfortunately, providing a good show would probably mean getting into a lot of fights, which I had no intention to do. Still, there were other options. Dressing up in black from head to toe? Making up ridiculous catchphrases? I had no idea what crazy immoral three-eyed aliens really dug, but it wouldn’t hurt to experiment.
First, however, I had a couple of more immediate issues at hand. We were currently on our way towards the inn that Jaks had recommended for us. We still had plenty of daylight, but we decided to check out that place as soon as we could. After so many failures last night, I wasn’t too sure that we would succeed here.
“There is one thing I don’t understand,” Imaya said when I finished talking about how I met Nosy. “Your leg was cut when you had the Dark Bond active. Shouldn’t Soul Eater be damaged by of that?”
“How— ” I had to stop to let a man pulling a cart pass. “How do you know it isn’t damaged?”
Imaya studiously avoided my eyes as she answered. “I may have… borrowed it to take a closer look while you slept.”
I just stared at her for a moment, then sighed dejectedly.
“How many times?” I asked.
“It’s not important, but I’m curious. How often did you borrow it?”
“Well,” she shot me an embarrassed smile, “It was always kinda boring to be on watch all alone while you took a nap. And it was fun to try to take it away from you without waking you up. Aaand, returning it was even more of a challenge. So… I dunno how many times? But not too often, though! Sometimes Nosy was too watchful for me to try.”
Alright, I would have been better off not knowing. Was a little bit of privacy too much to ask for? I hoped that this would change now when we found an inn.
“Isn’t that creepy?” I asked. “Like, similar to stalking but on a whole different level? Watching people sleep and prodding their stuff?”
“Oh come on, we saw each other sleeping all the time! I could probably list everyone’s favorite sleeping position, and could rate on a scale one to ten how much noise they are making as they sleep in those positions.”
“That’s because you are a creepy stalker.”
“No!” she protested. “Besides, it’s only stalking if an ugly guy does it. If it’s a cute girl, it’s just… umm…”
“Oh don’t worry, you don’t have to finish your sentence. I don’t see any cute girl anywa— Ouch!”
The girls in this group were really physical. Maybe it was just me who looked too much like a punching bag. I’d have to find out as soon as possible whether life insurance existed in this world.
“As for your earlier question,” I said, deciding to get back on track, “I don’t think the damage on the dagger would be easily recognizable. Compared to my whole body, the cut on my knee was very small. However, I also inspected the dagger several times on our journey. I wasn’t trying to spot the damage, but was checking those glowing orange lines on the blade, trying to see whether they were spreading or not. Anyways, I would have seen if the dagger had any cracks on it, but no. It was in perfect condition. So yes, it’s strange.”
“Repair itself maybe?” Devi contributed to the discussion on heavily accented Common. I was actually surprised that she could follow this part of the conversation.
“Yeah, that would make sense!” Imaya exclaimed. “Remember the first time you touched the dagger? The hilt changed its shape so that it would fit your hand!”
“I guess… yeah, it’s plausible that it can repair, or more precisely, can heal itself. It is supposed to be a living weapon, after all.”
I looked at Imaya to see whether she wanted to add anything, but for once she stayed quiet and thoughtful. She hadn’t said anything about me being a killer. From the Sylven I didn’t expect much reaction yet, as I still had to translate the whole story for them. Devi probably got the gist of it, but Teva’ryn just followed us silently. It must have been really frustrating to follow us all they, not understanding anything that we had been speaking about.
“So, what’s the verdict?” I asked Imaya.
“About me being a murderer. About me not being able to control that… bloodlust. Now that you know the truth, do you still want us to stay together?”
“Aww come on Randel, don’t sweat about it that much! We will do something about it, and it will be fine. So what if our resident Toad Killer has a dark side to him? It just makes him cooler. Still not cool, mind you, but at least a bit less of a loser.”
“You aren’t taking this seriously,” I frowned.
“And you are taking this too seriously. You said that you can feel the presence of your dagger, right?”
“Only that it’s in this area. Once or twice I felt as if I knew in which direction it was, but then… nothing.”
“Right. It’s something. So eventually we will find your Soul Eater, then you can kill some poor animals, and everything will be the same as ever.”
“No, you really aren’t taking this seriously. Look, if we cannot find it fast, and there is no reason to think that we can, I might begin to lose my mind. Or lose my life.”
Imaya sighed, then looked at me apologetically. “Yeah, I know, I know. Sorry for sounding like I don’t care. I do, and after we settled down at the inn, finding Soul Eater will take priority. But you are still being silly if you think we would abandon you just because of this. I don’t even understand how can you think so! If anything, this just makes staying together all the more important.”
I didn’t say anything to that. I felt like I was justified in my nervousness, though I still didn’t have any proof that Soul Eater could affect me from afar. But maybe this anxiousness was already the dagger’s doing. No, that’s not a good line of thinking. How could I do anything if I began double-guessing everything about myself?
We arrived to the inn, a weathered old house on the outskirts of Bildy without much difficulties. This place was recommended to us because it was cheap and people here didn’t ask questions. They also tolerated Players more than the usual, which meant that we got only a few scowls directed in our direction as we rented our rooms. I was going to be sharing a room with Teva’ryn, while Devi and Imaya got another room next to ours. The rooms were small, having only a bunk bed, a table with a chair, and two cabinets, barely leaving any space to navigate between them. I didn’t plan to stay here for too long, so it would be good enough for now. It was definitely an improvement anyways, after sleeping on the ground for weeks.
I stayed silent about Nosy, but I didn’t imagine I would be bringing him here a lot. Hopefully, he was still outside in the forest where I left him in the morning. He didn’t seem to like the city, or more specifically the people that much, so I was hoping that he would behave and stay in the woods. I had no control where he wandered, but luckily I could teleport him to me any time. That is, if he remained to be my companion. According to my collar’s menu, he hadn’t abandoned me yet.
After we were done exploring our rooms, I headed out to the streets once again, dragging the others with me.
“Where are we going?” Imaya asked as I stopped at an intersection. “Do you have a plan, Randel?”
“Not really. My only plan is to walk around and see if I can feel Soul Eater being close. Oh, and I wanted to be away from the inn when I gave you this,” I said, taking out 5 gold coins from my packet and handed it to her.
I handed Devi’lynn and Teva’ryn the same amount as well. They shot me confused looks, but accepted the gold without a word. With this, my teammates could afford to buy clothes and other stuff for themselves. It might have looked like a generous gesture from me, but in truth I was still keeping most of my easily earned money for myself. Even with this much money given away, I still had more than 25 gold remaining.
“Why do you have this much money?!” Imaya exclaimed, then she whispered with a worried look, “You haven’t stolen this from the inn, have you?”
“What? Of course not! I had this on my account in the Core.”
Imaya frowned. “You told us that you received little more than one gold.”
“Why do you have so many coins, Randel?” Teva’ryn asked while Imaya huffed and puffed.
“I don’t know. Something probably went wrong, and they gave me much more than intended.”
It was a kinda lame excuse, but I couldn’t tell them the truth. I briefly wondered if the time would come when I could be completely honest with someone. It was very likely that it wouldn’t happen as long as I remained in this world.
“Whatever is the reason, thank you Randel,” Teva’ryn said. “I appreciate your — .”
“Dunno what he said,” Imaya piped up, “But I agree with anyone who says that Randel is a cheater! No, a hacker!”
“If it hurts your honor Imaya, I can give those coins to someone else.”
“Oho! Don’t be so hasty,” she said, taking a step back and waggling a finger, “I’m perfectly capable to turn your dirty money into something truly great! Come on, Devi, we are going shoppi— I mean, we are going to the market and see if we can spot Randel’s dagger!” She grabbed the Sylven girl’s arm and began dragging her away. “See you guys later at the inn!”
She stormed away, Devi barely able to keep up with her. I was too dumbfounded to say anything before they disappeared in the crowd.
“You’re welcome girls, no need to thank me,” I grumbled after them.
The soup was so greasy that it was barely edible. I could have imagined a better introduction to the local cuisine than this. Teva’ryn didn’t fare much better with his cooked… something. I honestly couldn’t determine what it was supposed to be. Maybe we should have chosen a tiny bit more expensive place to eat. Teva’ryn insisted that this wasn’t that bad and he had eaten worse, but I could see that he was having difficulties with his meal as well. When he saw I finished eating, he decided to put away the remnants of his meal and spoke up.
“There are a couple of things I wanted to talk about with you.”
“Like the state of our group. I think it surprises no one that I’m not really leading anyone anywhere at the moment. Lacking the — language skills, I’m more lost than any of you.”
He had a point. Back in the cave, when I had told him to lead us, I didn’t actually expected him to become our leader permanently. I had thought that in combat situation he might be more experienced, and I had wanted him to call the shots right there and then. I hadn’t really cared about what would happen after we were safe.
“Why do we need a leader at all?” I voiced my doubts.
“We don’t need any leader immediately, but it would be essential if there was a fight. Being organized and acting together could be the difference between life and death.” He looked thoughtful for a moment, then added, “It would be also useful for keeping focus. We need a goal to work towards, lest we go slack. It would be the leader’s job to push forward, while keeping the whole team in line.”
“It’s just a four of us,” I said. “We could easily keep each other in line.”
“I disagree. Moreover, who said that there would be always just us four? Others might join us in the future.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You want to recruit other Players?”
“It’s not a priority, but yes. The other option would be that we join another group, but I have my — about that at the moment.”
I nodded. It would have been good if we found someone trustworthy who would have us in their team, but the prospect didn’t seem too likely. A new Player was a liability for the team. And four new Players…? I didn’t think any group would take us in, all at once.
We also had to be wary of those who might try to use us, because we didn’t know much about this world yet. It was so much easier to fall for any tricks when everything was so new and foreign. The fight with the octopus giants had also a real eye-opener. I didn’t think Lukas and Filip had brought us along just so that they could use us as bait or distraction, but they sure as hell hadn’t bothered to help us when we were in trouble.
“I agree that we should think carefully before joining any other group. But I don’t want to be our leader, if that’s what you are hinting at. Yes, I might understand humans better than you do, but that doesn’t mean anything,” I said. I saw him frowning, so I added, “Let’s just say that we will plan what to do together, and when there is a fight you will direct us if necessary.”
“That’s not the same.”
Of course it wasn’t the same, but it didn’t necessary mean that it was worse. I saw that Teva’ryn was really set on this idea and wouldn’t budge, so I decided to change tactic.
“Then let’s take a step back,” I told him. “Why are you asking this at all? Are you planning to stay with us? I thought you were looking for a Sylven community.”
“Ah. That. If that other Player— if Jaks could be believed, there are no Sylven communities in this world.”
“What? How so?”
“Lack of women, as always,” he said bitterly.
Oh, I should have guessed. The gender ratio of Sylven Players was probably the same here as it was in their world, 20 to 1. And from what little they told me about their society, their women were kinda pampered. They didn’t have as many rights as Sylven men did, but they couldn’t deny that they were well cared for— or so I presumed. And then they suddenly woke up in a completely new world and had to fight monsters.
Even if some of them – like Devi’lynn – survived, they wouldn’t be able to bear enough female children for the future generations. It made me wonder how they were able to do it in the first place. Probably this wasn’t a condition that their race always had, and now they had been slowly dying out. But I couldn’t know for sure, because both Devi and Teva’ryn was surprisingly secretive about their world.
“I could find other Sylven Players,” Teva’ryn continued, “But for the moment I decided to stay with you.”
“Because I have money?”
Teva’ryn looked offended. “Of course not, I hope you aren’t serious. Do I look like someone who can be swayed with just a few shiny coins?”
To tell the truth, I didn’t know. Maybe I was just being insecure and distrustful, but I could easily imagine that to be one of his reasons.
“If you haven’t forgotten yet,” Teva’ryn continued on a much softer tone after I didn’t answer, “I still owe you my life. You dragged me away from those monsters when I couldn’t move, and you hunted food for us when I wasn’t able to. You could have abandoned me easily, but you didn’t. For that, I will be grateful as long as I live.”
I coughed. “Yeah, well… you’re welcome. I just did what I thought was right in that kind of a situation. Umm… this still doesn’t solve our… err, leader problem.”
“Yes, I’m willing to let it — for now. But I’m telling you, I’m — for — .”
“We will talk about this later then,” Teva’ryn rephrased it for me, “And I’m not saying that you should take a leading role, but I have to warn you that I’m not a natural leader either. I was— no, I am a House Guard. I know nothing about planning or giving orders. I am lost in this world, and as much as it hurts to admit, I have no idea what to do to get back home.”
We sat there in silence for a while. Teva’ryn’s idea had some merit, but the problem was that I wasn’t a team player. I knew that I’d have trouble following others, and I knew I was not charismatic enough to be a good leader. Besides, I didn’t even want to be in charge. I simply saw no solution how this would ever work. Lucky for me that I wasn’t really attached to this idea in the first place.
“I also wanted to tell you,” Teva’ryn spoke up, “That I would go visit Nosy in the forest from time to time, if you want. I need to train if I want to keep myself in shape, and I cannot do it indoors. As for your pet, I believe he would appreciate if he had company.”
I smiled. “Yeah, that’s a great idea! Thank you.”
“However, I don’t think you should let him wander alone in the forest for long. Someone might spot him, or he may decide to try to follow you into town.”
“I think he is cautious not to be seen. I don’t think Nosy is too trustful towards people. You and I are obviously exceptions, because he got used to us as we traveled.”
Teva’ryn nodded. “Your pet, do as you see fit. I’m just warning you.”
It’s not like I wanted Nosy to become my pet, but Teva’ryn was right, the current situation wasn’t ideal. I hadn’t really considered all the responsibilities that came from keeping Nosy. Having to hide him all the time was just the cherry on the top.
“I’ll teleport him back to me when we are finished here,” I said. “But speaking of letting others wander off alone, how come you let Devi go to the market?”
Teva’ryn took a moment to consider my question. “While it’s true that it is my duty to protect our women, I don’t want to be — to Lady Devi’lynn’s side all the time. Besides, it isn’t really necessary at the moment. I trust her to have — and not to do anything stupid. Otherwise, she and Imaya will be fine. The streets might not be without danger, but people fear us here.”
“Fear? I think they are more revolted than fearful. It’s as if we were infectious or something. As if we bring bad luck everywhere.”
“I’m not an expert at reading Human emotions, so you may be right. Either way, I think Lady Devi’lynn is quite safe.”
I frowned. “And why do you call her like that? Why call her Lady all the time?”
“Because I’m just a House Guard, and she is nobility,” he said, much to my surprise.
“Wh— really? So you don’t address every Sylven woman this formally? And wait, she’s a noble? What does that mean? She never mentioned anything about this to me.”
“She wouldn’t,” Teva’ryn said with a tinge of annoyance in his voice. “From what I heard about her, she had never been able accept her station. You would think someone born into one of the wealthiest Houses in the world would be content with their life… but no, if anything, being rich just encouraged her eccentric behavior.”
I made a noncommital noise. It was hard to believe that this whole time, Devi wouldn’t say anything about her social standing… but on the other hand, why would she? All that wealth didn’t matter anything in this world. In fact, Devi had even asked me to address her casually, and continuously pestered Teva’ryn about doing the same. Now it made a bit more sense to me.
“Alright, but this was all in your world,” I said. “Here, it doesn’t matter what she was. So why call her Lady still?”
Teva’ryn shook his head slowly. “The moment I stop addressing her the proper way is the moment I gave up on going back home. Just because you are somewhere else than you are used to be, it doesn’t mean that you throw away all decorum. Lady Devi’lynn was a noblewoman in the past. After we make our way back home, she will continue to be so in the future. So why should I behave differently towards her in the present?”
“Well, if you put it that way…”
“There is one more thing I’d like you to know regarding this topic. I won’t force you to change the way you are speaking with Lady Devi’lynn, because you are an — . But you should be aware that shortening her name like you always do is extremely rude.”
“You mean calling her Devi? Hey, it was she herself who told me to call her like that!”
“Yes, I know,” Teva’ryn said, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “It’s one of those inane ideas of hers. I just wanted to warn you, in case you meet other Sylven. Should you omit someone’s House-name, it would be considered a — insult: only those who were exiled are called so. Those who don’t belong to any of the Houses are shunned in our society.”
“Wait— Then this means that you are from House Ryn…? And Devi— Hey, I have thought you were House Guard in the same House as hers!”
“You weren’t far from the truth. Currently our Houses are closely aligned… or at least they were before we got abducted.” He paused there, frowning in thought. “Politics is complicated. Considering how quickly the — are changing, I wouldn’t be surprised if our Houses become — towards each other by the time I get back.”
“Yeah, I can imagine it would cause quite a few problems if Devi’lynn disappeared without a trace.”
“Yes, I though about that. It is— ” Teva’ryn hit the top of the table with his palm so abruptly that he made me jump. “ — — — ! ” My language education hadn’t included swearing yet, but at this moment my vocabulary greatly expanded. “Why haven’t I thought about this yet?!” Teva’ryn exclaimed, clutching his head.
“Thought about what?”
“I’ve considered how the head of House Lynn would react if his daughter suddenly disappeared. We don’t know how we were kidnapped, but if it was indeed without a trace, it would cause quite a commotion. But only now do I realize that in fact, it’s not the case. There is one thing that they could find as clue.”
It took me a few seconds to get what he was hinting at. “Ah, you mean that you disappeared as well and someone might have connected the two?”
“Yes,” he groaned and slumped back in his chair, “My family will be interrogated…”
Actually, the interrogations were probably over by this time. Well, that sucked. If someone had found out that he vanished at the same time as Devi, it was quite possible that Teva’ryn would be framed as the kidnapper. Or that he and Devi escaped together on purpose. Wasn’t that how those romantic stories went? The princess falls in love with the righteous and honorable knight, and they escape together to… fight giant octopus-headed things while being watched for amusement by grotesque three-eyed aliens.
“Well,” I stood up from the table, “I’m sorry for your family, but no use stressing about it now. You cannot change anything from here.”
“Yes,” Teva’ryn replied, getting ready to leave too, “Besides, it’s not certain that they discovered the exact time I disappeared. I’m not as important person as she is.”
We got out to the small street and started walking back towards the inn in silence. The sun was going down, but there were still lots of people on the streets. The atmosphere was quite pleasant, actually. If I didn’t look hard enough, everything could have passed as an average town in a developing country. I just had to ignore the robot dogs carrying letters, the laboring and patrolling golems, the occasional translucent barrier… and once I even saw a skeleton following an old man, but before I could get a closer look, the sight was blocked by a carriage pulled by a robotic horse.
Yeah, totally average stuff if I ignored those.
“You know what I find strange?” I asked Teva’ryn. “You obviously knew who Devi’lynn was, even if she didn’t knew you personally. But for us humans, we didn’t even hear about each other before this. We weren’t even living in the same area.”
“Yes, but in your world there are surely — people too, right? People who are well-known for some reason.”
“True, but still, you and Devi’lynn had to live relatively near to each other. At least that’s what I think from what you two told me. So, I was thinking… how many Sylven are there in your world?”
Teva’ryn looked at me with narrowed eyes. “It’s not important right now.”
What the hell? “Fine,” I scoffed. “It’s not like I wanted to invade your world after I got out of this one, but whatever. I’ll take a wild guess then, and say that based on our starting group, there are two Sylven for every five humans. Which means that it’s still pretty incredible that two randomly selected Sylven would know each other. Or alternatively, it can be that there is some kind of logic behind the selection. It’s worth thinking about: maybe we can figure something out about our kidnappers.”
We walked for a few minutes, both of us in thoughtful silence.
“Why, just how many Humans are there in your world?” Teva’ryn suddenly asked.
I barely suppressed a grin. Oh boy, he is asking for it.
“It’s not important right now.”
I didn’t meet with the girls when we got back to the inn. I was dead on my feet, so I headed straight for my bed. So much had happened to me in the span of a single day, that after several days of simply walking through the forest – where the most noteworthy events were Imaya’s antics – this day was too much. As soon as my head hit the mattress, I was out.
I woke up because someone was banging on the door. Because I heard Imaya’s voice on the other side, I didn’t hurry to open up the door but looked around instead. I cursed when I realized that it was already getting dark outside. Teva’ryn was gone from the room, so that either meant he only slept a few hours and was already up and out in the morning, or I had slept through a whole day and it was sundown. Knowing how tired I had been, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which. These shorter days in this world were a constant struggle. I touched the rune carved in the wall next to the bed, and the magical lamp on the ceiling began emanating soft, white light.
“Finally!” Imaya exclaimed when I opened the door. “I was getting afraid that you’ve fused with your bed and couldn’t leave!”
I was about to make a half-hearted retort, but then I took a double take as I saw what she was wearing. It was a sleeveless one-piece dress in soft red and yellow colors that reached down just above her knees, sandals, and a straw hat. All that was missing was a braided basket, otherwise she was giving off serious farm girl vibes.
“What do you think you are wearing?” I asked.
“Awww, don’t you begin too! Look, this is just casual wear, okay? I’m not going to go monster slaying in this.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not telling you to go monster killing, but couldn’t you buy something more… practical?”
“I did buy practical clothes too,” Imaya huffed. “Seriously, I already discussed this with Teva’ryn, don’t you dare to start up the same conversation again!”
“I’m not going to, but—”
That was the moment I noticed Devi on the corridor, right behind Imaya. She had a new outfit too, and it wasn’t exactly on the practical side either. She was showing off an awful lot of dark blue skin. Her form-fitting black top left her toned stomach exposed, but at least it reached all the way up to her neck. She wore a leather jacket over the top, which was probably more for the looks than anything else as it was quite small too. Her new boots were covering everything up to her knees, but in turn the leather shorts that she wore were way shorter than the ones we had been given initially. I noticed that she was taller than me now: a second look confirmed that her boots had slightly elevated heels.
“Casual wear too?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.
“No, this is actually my battle gear,” Devi said earnestly. “I used to practice swordfighting in clothes like these ever since I was little.”
I blinked in confusion, her acting being so good that it took me a moment to realize she wasn’t serious. I already knew that she was quite good at controlling her expressions and her voice, but this time she caught me off-guard.
“You will be quite noticeable, you know.”
She nodded. “Yes, I know.”
“Especially by men,” I said. Blue skin or no, her body was still… finely shaped, at least by human standards. Or at least by my standards. No, no, no, better not get distracted. Point was, I knew from Teva’ryn that Sylven men usually liked their women a bit more chubby. Yeah, that was my point. Definitely.
“Yes, I know,” Devi repeated herself.
“Okay, fine,” I said, throwing up my hands. “I would ask why do you believe this is a good idea, but I don’t think I want to know the answer.” I looked back to Imaya. “So why did you wake me up? I hope it wasn’t to talk about clothes.”
“Nooo,” Imaya started slowly, “But now that you mention it, have you bought any clothing at all, Randel?”
I gave her a flat look. “Yes. The shirt I’m wearing at the moment is new.”
“Whaaat, really? It looks just like the old one.”
“Well, maybe some of us had better things to do than looking for the most fashionable clothes! Like finding Soul Eater!”
“Whoa, whoa, alright, no need to shout,” Imaya said, making placating gestures with her hands. “In fact, I’d bet that we made more progress than you while you slept through the day.”
“Imaya, not good,” Devi began to chide her but I talked over her, barely containing my rising rage.
“You dare?! Imaya, I gave you money, and at the next moment you are off to buy several sets of outfits for yourself! You didn’t even say a single thank you, no problem, but—”
“We did want to thank you, right now! But you just had to go ahead and kill the mood, didn’t you? Now you—”
“Kill the mood? What mood, Imaya? You being a pain in the ass, that’s what you call mood nowadays? How about you go and—”
“Randel!” Devi interrupted our shouting match. I reluctantly looked at her when she pushed Imaya behind her, but I was still pissed.
“Hey, listen,” Devi said in a softer tone, then switched to her language. “Remember when you told us to keep an eye on you in case your behavior becomes strange?”
“Of course I remember, it was yesterday!” I said exasperatedly. “My memory is completely fine, thank you!”
Devi just gave me a stern look.
“What?” I asked. “Are you implying— No, this has nothing to do with it. I feel completely fine. For god’s sake, I just woke up and the first thing I had to do is to speak with Imaya! Of course I’m irritable.”
“Hey,” Imaya spoke up, “What’s that supposed to mean? You should know that I—”
“No!” I interrupted her. “Shut up. I don’t need to hear whatever you’re going to babble about. Just… let me think for a moment.”
It didn’t make sense. Last time Soul Eater was getting hungry, I didn’t feel… irritated. I just had felt a strange itch to use the weapon, and it had made me bloodthirsty during the fight. But… it hadn’t been like this. On the other hand, Soul Eater had been with me at that time. And now that I thought about it, I had began losing my temper only after I had thought about looking for Soul Eater instead of shopping clothes. If I had just got out of bed on the wrong side, I wouldn’t have been so—
“You never get angry with Imaya this quickly,” Devi said softly. I almost told her too to shut up, to let me think, but I caught myself in time. Damn, something was indeed not right.
I gulped. “Are you telling me that I’m already starting to lose my mind?”
“No, not your mind,” she said with a sad smile. “At least not yet. Just understand that your dagger is a bit touchy subject for you at the moment, whether you realize it or not. Try to keep yourself in check whenever you think about Soul Eater.”
“Easier said than done,” I scoffed. “I don’t even feel different. I can’t tell whether my emotions are natural now, and I sure as hell couldn’t tell— umm, previously.”
I sat down on my bed and looked around the room desperately, as if I could find the solution in one of the corners. At first I thought that by avoiding Imaya for a while I could prevent getting myself too worked up. But if what Devi said was true and the mere thought of losing Soul Eater made me irritable…
“And this is just going to get even worse, isn’t it?” I said to no one in particular.
Devi walked over to the bed slowly, then sat down next to me. “You just have to keep a firm image of yourself in your mind,” she said quietly. “An image to which you can compare your current — .”
I looked at her, confusion clear on my face.
“For example,” she continued, “the Randel I know wouldn’t be angry with Imaya just like that. He might get frustrated with her, he might talk back occasionally, or he might even banter with her from time to time, but the Randel I know would rarely bother to argue with someone, let alone shout at them angrily. He would just say that he doesn’t waste energy for things like that.”
I frowned. “You know that’s not true. I even had an argument with you too, back in the cave—”
“You have already apologized for that one, and if I remember correctly, you yourself said that usually you’re not like that. Besides,” she added with a smile, “even then, it wasn’t you who got angry. It was me.”
I only hummed at that.
“I’m not saying that you are incapable of feeling anger,” Devi said, “Just that it doesn’t happen too easily. So what I’m telling you is that you should try to think rationally about what you would do in certain situations, and act with that in mind, not according to your emotions.”
It sounded good. Too bad it wouldn’t work.
“I hope you know that if I get angry, comparing myself to a mental image in my mind would be the last thing I do.”
“It isn’t just for when you are feeling angry. We don’t know what else could Soul Eater make you feel,” Devi said, then switched back to Common so that Imaya could understand too. “And not worry. If is not enough, we be there for you.”
“Yes, that’s true!” Imaya piped up, apparently sensing that I had calmed down. “So, is everything alright now? Because we came to tell you something Randel, and it’s not about clothes.”
Everything wasn’t alright obviously, but I didn’t think Imaya actually meant it as a question. I gestured for her to continue, but she just kept looking at me expectantly.
I sighed. She just never knew when to stop. “Imaya, this isn’t the best time to try my patience… ah, whatever,” I cleared my throat. “Tell me, oh keen-eyed Archer of ours, what news do you bring to my humble abode?”
“Wow, Randel, that was actually better than I expected! Ahem! It is my pleasure to announce that I have found others who would gladly lend you a hand in finding your lost treasure! Meet them tomorrow when the Sun is highest on the Sky, at the place where the Reapers are revered!”