"Hold up, let go of my hand or slow down!"
I found myself yelling to Beryl; we'd 'run' nearly ten meters before I got her to lower her pace. While it would not have normally been a struggle to keep up, at the moment, I was currently trying to run and avoid being side-swept by this girl's six or seven-meter tail.
"Ah, sorry, I forgot myself."
Beryl began to slow down, allowing me to catch my footing before she leveled out at what was similar to a walking pace as I got her to let go of my hand.
"I'm not really used to 'running' with anyone other than Vaughn, or my old friends."
Beryl said, twisting her upper body around to face me as she slithered.
"I was a bit overly excited at the prospect of us spending some time together."
"It's cool, it's just difficult with you holding onto me like that."
I was now rubbing my hand, which was slightly sore from the jostling it just received.
"On that note, how fast can you really go? That was almost too fast for me as well."
"Oh, Mother Cressida tends to be the one that play's with me. It mostly is just playing chase, though. Since I have to outrun an adult, I built up speed rather quickly."
Beryl exclaimed, before looking up to ponder for a moment.
"Earlier, when you said you've never had friends before... Was that for real? Or are you just yanking my chain?"
"No, not really... I figure I should probably tell you, I have amnesia. I can't really remember a thing past a year ago. I have some dreams every now and then, but that's about it."
I said, lying partially.
"Everything I know, it's all thanks to my Mama, the Guild Master, and a few others."
I counted off, using my fingers.
"Oh, wow... hmmm... What all did they teach you?"
"Hmmm, history, adventurer stuff, some ecology stuff, and just some stuff about the world."
"They didn't teach anything else?"
I replied in an unsure tone.
What they're teaching is on par with what I should be learning, right?
With a sigh, Beryl turned to me again. Nudging me to start turning off to the side, along the road, dozens of wagons were left to the side. All with either clothes drying next to them or tents pitched from their sides.
"They didn't teach you any girl stuff?"
"Uhm, no? Dresses maybe? But I'm really conscious about that."
"Kiyomi, you may as well be a boy if that's all they taught you... Well, at least I'm here now. You poor soul."
Beryl sounded dejected for a second and proceeded to pity me as if I were someone unfortunate.
Am I being mocked? Wait, isn't it good to retain some sense of my previous self? Good news for me, I guess?
"Nothing, you'll see if our parents give us some alone time to play or relax after dinner."
"Wait, see what?"
The snake continued to randomly prod for information and teased me for another twenty minutes or so as we 'walked' to wherever the wagon that Vaughn and his father stayed.
With my body and mind no longer in a rush, I was afforded an opportunity to actually register in my head who I was talking to. Rather than everything being blurred by the rush, my vision was more clear and I was taking everything in. Looking back to Beryl every now and then, Mother's words came back to mind. Her entire body was clad with teal scales that looked similar to raw beryl, her secondary pattern being a mix of grey and black scales, and a white underbelly. Her upper body was almost a one-to-one copy of my build, and similar in complexion, while the rest of her body looked as if she were a particularly muscled snake, even though the patterning looked like some sort of viper I had seen pictures of before. Her hair was similar in base to her primary scales but much less vibrant, tied to the side and resting over her shoulder, with bright yellow eyes drawing from the hair surrounding them. And lastly, her tunic, or dress, that she wore around her upper body; white, with few accents, and held to her lower body bay a few tightened straps.
Thinking back to Vaughn, I actually couldn't remember what he looked like. I had only really looked at him for a minute from the whole time we were waiting together. The realization I couldn't even remember what he looked like after saying I would be friends with him strangely made me feel bad.
I'll make it up to him. He'll never know, but I will... yeah, I'll definitely remember what he looks like next time!
"Hey Kiyomi, are you alright?"
"Hm? Yeah, I'm fine."
Beryl was leaning into my direct view, looking at me strangely.
"You sure? Your face is red."
Beryl smirked for a moment before shrugging.
"Well, anyway. We're here, and this is their wagon."
Beryl directed my attention to a slightly larger wagon than the ones around it that were situated in a circle. It looked like it was lined with workbenches and awnings' that protected a plethora of tools and what looked like scrolls on shelving underneath it. There was a door that was currently open at its rear, and as we came around, we saw Vaughn sitting next to his father, who was currently absorbed in a scroll that her had opened across his lap. Beryl slithered up to the wagon and up the side, propping her body, so it looked as if she were standing to the side of the door, then directed me to walk up the steps themselves. As I walked up, I got a better view of the wagon and heard some of their conversation.
"Alright, so like I said before. We'll take the elevation here; we'll have to build one hell of a foundation if this initial longhouse can really be replaced in the long run. Hand me that plan over there, boy."
He really is one hell of a foreman, still trying to get what work he can in his condition.
Vaughn was turning around from his small stool to look at a shelf behind himself, stopping as he saw Beryl and myself standing in the doorway.
"Aw, hell, sorry, we didn't hear you come up- ow!"
Vaughn was cut short as Gregor flicked his ear after cursing.
"Language, boy, they came to see us, and you greet them with cursing?"
The older male scolded his son, causing the boy to slump some.
"I'm sorry... "
"Don't say it to me, say it to them, then hand me that floor plan."
Vaughn proceeded to look at us again and was averting his gaze some as he apologized. I think that Beryl got some enjoyment out of his suffering as she struggled to hold down laughter. Afterward, when Vaughn handed his father a scroll, we managed to start talking. Past some greetings, Gregor thanked me again and proceeded to ask what we were doing here so soon.
"I assumed I wouldn't see Beryl or either of her mothers until tomorrow, let alone our little savior. Honestly, looking back, even if your mother were still there, I'd have bled out when she ran out of mana trying to stabilize me."
Gregor said, shifting his position slightly.
"Well, Mother Cressida sent Kiyomi and me on our way. She and Kiyomi's mother knew each other apparently, so they wanted to catch up."
"Ah, so you've come to fetch Vaughn in the meantime, I see?"
Gregor asked, looking at both of us. To which we both nodded.
Gregor grabbed Vaughn's attention as he was handed another scroll.
"-you best go with them, not much you can do here but save me a moment of effort at a time anyway."
Gregor said, waving Vaughn our way.
"You sure, Pa?"
Gregor waved once more, Vaughn taking the hint as he headed to the wagon entrance.
Making space for him, I finally got my first good look at Vaughn through the afternoon sun. He was taller than me by maybe half a head, his complexion was that of a light tan. Atop his head, his hair was maybe twelve centimeters at its longest, and dirty blonde in its base, turning darker at its roots, accentuated by dark green eyes.
"You two bothered coming out this far just to see us?"
Vaughn asked, appearing confused.
"Shut the hell up and go with them!"
Gregor yelled from his bed, prompting us to abandon our spots and move some way from the wagon. We all decided on making our way back to Beryl's wagon before doing anything else, as we had a twenty or so-minute walk before dinner otherwise. Becoming curious about something I'd wanted to ask for a while, I finally spoke up; as the two were talking and playing catch up.
"Hey, by the way. How old are you both? I never asked why, but you two kinda look at me like I'm some little sister."
They both looked to each other, then back to me.
Beryl spoke, eyeing me suspiciously.
"Uhm... ten. I just had my first bleeding, though."
UGh, I hate talking about the period... but fuck, that's like a maturity marker? Right?
"Heh, well, Vaughn."
Beryl looked to Vaughn.
"You're no longer the youngest."
Beryl said, a smug smirk plastered across her face.
Wait, say that again?
I looked to Vaughn.
"Ah, well, Beryl's on her twelfth sun, and I'm on my eleventh. That makes you the youngest since your ten.
Oh, for fuck sake. I'm the youngest?
I looked back up to Beryl, who was now holding her body up higher as if to make me look smaller in comparison.
"It's okay little sister, I'll pave the way for us as your big sister."
"Can you not?!"
I was now trying to pry the Lamia off of myself as she was smothering me in an awkward hug as we walked. After managing to pry myself free, I tried to flick her ear; however, she started 'running', forcing Vaughn and myself to keep up so we wouldn't lose where we were.
This feeling, I remember this. With my friends during the war... when we were home... having fun... or even before the war... one more feeling brought back... I'm living well for us, Kiyomi.
To any villager, or refugee, the view that accompanied the weary caravan, was three children that were running and laughing as they played. Traveling it's length as they headed towards the lead wagon.
"Fuck... Orion... give me strength- AAaahhh! Fuck! Ahhh-ahhh-"
Sto-ar was currently having the worst time in his existence so far in this world. Previously on patrol, to ensure one of the towns within the newly acquired territory given to Morus by one of the warring clans was now abandoned. Not a moment after passing through the gates of the abandoned town, his company of knights and paladins were slaughtered by an unknown number of enemy combatants that flooded from the alleys and the surrounding forest. As he was trying to rally his troops, he felt something strike him off of his horse with great force, and then he blacked out. He was currently being beaten by a girl who displayed great strength, enough so, that he didn't doubt she could simply rip his head from his shoulders.
"What is it you want!? Ransom? Information?! You may as well send me on my way to the hunt! Get bent, you whore!"
He defiantly spat, fed up with the beating, as the girl was deliberate about striking where he would not lose breath and felt every hit.
She stood there, silently, staring down at him as if he were an insect. His sight coming back to him with clarity, she looked like an Oni. One with a striking resemblance to the ones he was tasked with wiping out nearly two years before. She looked strikingly close to the one he chased into Damus, however, she was much older; her horns were clearly different, and her hair was a deep blue., as she had clearly selected her attribute.
"You... you god damn rats... so... Elexis survived... otherwise one of her whore spawn wouldn't be facing me right now... heh."
Sto-ar found amusement at the thought of who he found himself in the captivity of. This only confirmed in his mind what his captors wanted.
They don't want any of that... they want me dead... it seems I WILL be joining the hunt today.
He thought to himself.
"Mother, I'm done with this one."
The female Oni that stood before him backed away, as one that was standing in the corner walked forward. No longer obscured by the lack of light, Sto-ar's blood ran cold. He knew what awaited him; he helped slaughter this woman's entire family, ten of her twelve children, her own siblings, a majority of her attendants, and lastly, her husband.
"So... The queen pest show's herself... "
Sto-ar mocked, even as he could feel himself shake.
"You speak boldly from the position of a chicken that's about to have its head sundered."
The older female Oni said, staring down at Sto-ar as she stood over him.
"It's for that exact reason that I speak boldly."
Sto-ar locked eyes with his captor.
"Tell me... Elexis... Have you yet to bury your last daughter? I've heard rumor you're still searching for her. I hope you know, she's probably well and done 'Skulker' shit right abo- "
Sto-ar's taunting was cut short as he proceeded to vomit into his own lap, as he was punched hard enough in his gut for it to void its contents. He struggled to catch his breath before he felt a fist grab a clump of hair on his head, forcing it back.
"I know damned well she's alive, Sto-ar, you were demoted for coming back without her corpse. You will tell me, where was she last seen?"
Elexis's face was now a mere five centimeters from Sto-ar's as she questioned him. The woman's clenched jaw, glowing blue eyes, and wrathful expression clear on her face.
"She'll be a grown woman by the time you make your way th- Ahhhh!"
Sto-ar was cut short, again, by the searing sensation of a blade slowly pressing through one of his fingers until a sickening- *crunch*- was heard, accompanied by the knife hitting wood.
"Do I look like I give a damn?! Where was my daughter?!"
One thought was running through the woman's head as she proceeded to spend the next several hours mutilating, healing, and mutilating once more.
I will find you, even if it takes years... Kiyomi...