The two stood up in sync and quickly returned the bowls and spoons back to the vendor. Claire thanked him once more before they turned, and began briskly walking after the little girl who had almost disappeared into another street. It wasn't mere curiosity that drove them—though partly it was that—it was also the inclination to dig at a mystery that simultaneously gnawed at both their minds. Something that was tied to Alicia's past.
"If she smells like Albert, then she might be a Deadly Sin," Claire commented as they rounded away from the fountain pass of the road and stepped on the slightly more elevated cobble of a side street, busy with many people, but still trailing after the girl whose black hair drifted behind her.
It was odd, however, that person who looked so young was making her way between pedestrians as if the world was her oyster with a speed comparable to theirs even with stubbier legs.
"Or someone who had been close to him," She spoke once more with lesser confidence. Via Goodwill had supposedly known him, and Alicia had never mentioned their smells as 'the same' or 'similar.'
Those were her two conjectures for now and Alicia nodded, agreeing as blood left the palm of her hand and a half-mask of white was gripped, equipped back onto her beautiful face.
"She could also simply be a demon," Alicia added as her nose twitched, however. Though she could smell that the two beings were similar, that did not necessarily mean they were at the same level of strength. Now that they were actually tracking after the girl, she could tell something was off. "Her smell seems weaker than his. His was strong. Rough. She seems faint. Like the wind had managed to pick up only a whiff."
"Oh?" Claire raised a brow. Those words were coming from a girl who had been able to smell her return into a dungeon? Though her 'fairy blood' had been described as a powerful, tantalizing, delicious scent by Alicia, it was still remarkable. "Isn't there too large a disparity here than when you track me? She's no more than a few meters from us."
"I've been around you longer, and I can never forget your scent, it's extremely distinct from anything else, and I'm careful picking it out from everything else," Alicia replied as she shook her head, understanding Claire's words, and leaving the part that they slept together unsaid. "I can find you no matter where you are in this city or perhaps even further. But I can't say the same for others."
She narrowed her crimson eyes at the young girl.
"She has a weak presence." That was her conclusion. She wondered if her <Death's Glare> would even work on the girl.
Claire was entirely confused for once. Did the girl have a weak presence? Why couldn't she tell?
"Really?" She asked.
"Mhmm, I'm finding it hard to keep her in my sight," Alicia explained.
"Then she must have an ability that works based on the overall rank of viewers." Claire nodded, noting this calmly. "Simply follow me if you lose her, then, I'm having no issue seeing her."
It was the difference in strength. In Alicia's eyes, the little girl seemed to disappear and reappear in her vision. It was as if her existence refused to be tracked by mere sight, and it took effort for her to keep track of her. Claire, on the other hand, noticed nothing out of the ordinary and so surmised, based also on the fact that the surrounding pedestrians didn't seem to register the girl even when they were bumped into, that the individual likely had an ability that depended on the stats of those who looked at her.
Alicia blinked her eyes then stopped in place in disbelief. Her nose twitched, but confusion was etched on her stumped face. She looked, momentarily, utterly lost as she blinked her eyes once more.
"Hmm?" Claire paused.
"I can't see her anymore. Her smell disappeared too," Alicia said, "She's no longer here. She disappeared."
The Ice Queen looked incredulously at the vampire before grasping her hand and continuing to walk forward.
"No, she hasn't," Claire said, looking ahead of them, her azure eyes clear. "She's right there."
"She's right there."
Alicia had completely lost the ability to see the girl. She frowned at that realization. She lost the ability to see the girl, that she could take, but her smell disappeared too? She had thought that the girl simply vanished into thin air using a skill of hers but, no, Claire said the opposite. The girl was still right in front of them, walking, but her, an ancient vampire of all things—whose senses were superb—could not even so much as register her. It reminded her of the darkness she had came from, a place where, though she had senses, there was nothing to sense.
"Just follow me," Claire said.
Alicia followed Claire, just as she had done when they first met. Yet, even Claire had to stop her steps a moment later as the girl turned and entered the stray of walking pedestrians.
"Alright. . ." Claire muttured, stumped, "I lost her too."
One moment she had been there, the next she was gone. She surmised that the girl had used another ability.
"Well, we figured out that she has at least two abilities. One makes her presence weak, the other does something that I can't tell, either she teleports or she turns invisible or. . ." As Claire spoke, she paused and glanced around them.
"Or she can blend into a crowd of people?" Alicia asked.
"That and the many other things it could be."
The girl had disappeared as if she had been a ghost. Yet, even Vander Slade, an actual ghost, wasn't capable of performing her disappearing act. Alicia felt frustration. Her mind swam with the thought that she hadn't been of much use besides initially noticing her. If she were stronger, then perhaps she would have been able to still track the girl.
"Claire. . .may I suck your blood?" She asked.
". . ."
And here Claire had thought about returning to their date.
". . .but. . .my date. . ." She muttered.
For once, their roles felt reversed.
Lain Tross sat comfortably at the helm of the rectangular table, legs crossed, and hands tangled on his lap as Rance Chrome laxly stood behind him, an oddity in the room that was once littered with high-ranking individuals.
The meeting had concluded, and most had left, yet one person remained. A rather annoying one. Lain took a breath at the realization that his dealings with people hadn't yet ended, he could almost hear a chuckle at his back. He frowned. Sometimes, Rance forgot his senses were sharper than most. That or he simply didn't care.
'Most probably the latter.' He thought absentmindedly as he turned his gaze to the remaining man.
It was an older male seated closely to him. The individual was dressed in robes of red, and on his chest was the emblem of a blue phoenix on a pure-white facade. On odd pairing of colors, perhaps, but one that would make any peasant bow in respect. This was clothing relegated to the mages under the royal family.
Lain collected his thoughts then spoke.
"Do you have anything left to discuss?" He asked. "If not, I would rather be on my way as I am never without work to do."
The man stared at him then at Rance, then back at him with furrowed brows.
"I don't mean any disrespect, Lord Tross." The man prefaced his statement. "However, I have wondered this since your arrival, and waited patiently until the end of the meeting so as to not bring anything unnecessary to the table, but should your butler of all people have remained here?"
"Wherever I go, so does he," Lain plainly replied. Then he continued. "Think of him as nothing more than my guard."
"A butler guarding one of the most famous heroes? Is there someone capable of that, much less a mere butler? Furthermore, he stands allowed into such meetings?" The man thought it silly. "Isn't there a possibility that he may be a spy belonging to Arion? Is there not a possibility that, even if he were not a spy, that he could leak information?"
"If the royal family were to hear of this, I don't believe they would view it kindly." He ended rather lightly.
Lain stared expressionless at the man for a moment, as if taking his presence in for the first time. Past the blonde locks of the male, and past his small truffle he called a beard, his eyes saw a person who's mana sizzled purple, like dissipating steam within his soul. Clearly, though he was someone who had perhaps manipulated himself up the ladders of the kingdom of Tress, he had some strength.
"You may be an inquisitor of the Lamillion family," He spoke as he narrowed his eyes at the man, "But my loyalty lies with them, not you. So I suggest you keep your ego deflated when in my presence."
The inquisitor gulped and though Lain's golden eyes saw his mana move briefly—chaotically—the male still nodded solemnly.
"I shall do as you ask," The man said.
Though Lain might be someone famed for killing individuals, he did not believe he had ever killed someone unjustly. Though there were times when some persons were an annoyance, enough that he thought them better that they didn't exist, Lain did not kill them. That, however, did not mean people weren't still afraid of him.
"Good," Lain replied as his face softened. "Is there anything else you still wish to discuss?"
"Hmm. . .the Princess has a more private question to ask: 'How are you doing?' she says."
Lain raised a brow. He opened his lips. Paused. Then finally spoke.
"You may let her know that I am handling things rather well since my brother's disappearance," He replied.
The inquisitor nodded, stood from his position and bowed. Then he left the room with faster steps than when he had first came in.
The room regained its silence, then as chuckling rang behind him, Lain sighed despondently.
"Bureaucracy has never been something I enjoyed." He sighed as he pinched the bridge between his eyes.
Rance held his hand out as Lain took it.
"You're the shining sun. Strong enough to withstand anything," The 'butler' said as he chuckled, "You've got this, my lord."
Lain stared at him passively, but still grasped that large hand with his own and stood. However, he was forced to pause a moment later.
"What's wrong?" Rance asked immediately, head tilted.
"A new vision of the future came."
"And? What's in it?"
Lain furrowed his brows.
"Some time from now," He muttered, "You stab me in the back, right through my heart with that sword of yours."
". . ."
Rance frowned, bewildered.
"That can't be right? Can it?" He asked.
Was he mistaken? No, Lain thought. That couldn't be the case. His eyes. His ability to see the future, though not efficient, had never been wrong. He could choose to disbelief it, but there was a reason he was called the Hero of Light and, so, the only option left was that he had the choice of a plan to make.
"My eyes have never been wrong," Lain replied.
Usually, he would kill the person immediately but, in this case, Lain was a bit troubled.
'I have to make a choice,' He thought. He didn't know when he would be pierced in the heart by Rance, so leaving thoughts to wonder wasn't an option. He didn't wish to kill the person he loved, so that wasn't an option either. 'I have to keep him away from me, and safe, until time passes. Something must have controlled him to attack me. He'll understand."
That, the Hero of Light decided, was the best option. Ever since he was born, above all else, he had trusted his golden eyes. Though his heart may ache, his eyes never wavered.