Omen – Chapter 166: Guarding Information
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Caethya looked up at Aperio with an expression of what the All-Mother could only describe as a mixture of worry and sadness. "Are you going to devastated Foderys like you did Geshwen? Well, the [Ancestral Guard], that is."

"Not yet," Aperio replied. She let a bit more of the information her aura provided seep into her mind. "I will wait for Moria like I said I would. Just going to do some light reconnaissance."

"Couldn't you do that from anywhere?" her love asked, tilting her head slightly.

"I could," the All-Mother said, holding Caethya's hand a little tighter but taking care not to use too much strength. "Moria and Neria need some time for themselves, however. Doing this with my aura would also be… weird. I would either have to read someone's mind — which I will not do — or make a projection they could talk to. At that point I would rather go in person." She took an unneeded breath, her next words barely a whisper. "And this is an opportunity to spend time with you."

A smile spread across Caethya's lips at the words. "I hope you know that I am not good at detective work. I needed Mayeia to give me a hint to figure out where you were, back then."

"I was not even on this world when you started looking for me," Aperio said as she began to walk out of the alley she had appeared in. "And Mayeia did not know where I was either. That you found me in the dungeon was luck."

"I would claim divine intervention, but I doubt that would work with you."

"It would not." Aperio stopped as they reached the end of the alleyway, a touch of her magic keeping them out of sight of the mortals that walked past them. "But it is entirely possible that I wanted something to happen and the universe did its thing."

"Its thing?" Caethya asked, stepping into the stream of mortals with Aperio.

"Well," the All-Mother began, "if I want something to happen, the universe sometimes makes it happen despite me not having done anything. It just bends to my will — my thoughts — despite me not necessarily wanting that outcome."

Her love remained quiet for a moment, simply walking beside Aperio and tapping her chin with her free hand. "I mean, all the mana in existence came from you, so it makes some sense that you can still influence it.

"That it happens at a thought and seemingly at random," she added, "is a little more worrying. Did this ever lead to… bad things?"

"Not really?" Aperio replied, tilting her head slightly. "It mostly happens when I wish to move somewhere or want to make something. Like when I adjust my dress or make the armour."

"So you still actively want to do want something, but simply forgo the step of willing it to happen? You probably do do it, it just takes so little effort that you don't notice." Caethya paused briefly. "That will likely become more common the more you settle into your powers again."

"I hope not," Aperio mumbled as she absentmindedly balled her free hand and flexed the arm. "I wish to be in control of my powers; want to use them."

She was still growing ever stronger, despite not knowing how exactly that was supposed to work. How could she get stronger if her strength was already nearly limitless? Aperio shook her head. The exactitudes of the way she gained power was, to her, less urgent a problem than the memory that had simply manifested in her mind. Maybe they are the ones I got from the crystals that were fuzzy at first?

Every crystal, barring the first, had given her some memories she could access immediately and a great many more that had been jumbled and shrouded in a mental fog. None of them had come back to her in a way she had noticed, but maybe that was because she had busied herself with other things. And figured out that I… love? Caethya.

Her relationship with the Demigoddess was not something she had any prior experience in, and she had no idea what she should actually be doing. So far it had all gone well, but in Aperio's mind it was only a matter of time before she messed up. Before she realises that I am too… different. Who would want to be with someone that could end all of existence on a whim? Could control your every thought without you even knowing? Aperio herself knew that she would never choose to be near someone with such capabilities, and yet, she was the very person who could do all that.

"No questioning spirals today," Caethya said as moved in front of Aperio and placed her free hand on the All-Mother's stomach. "I will tell you when something bothers me. You don't need to let your brain trick you into some weird scenarios that I can't even think of."

She wanted to show that she understood and appreciated Caethya's words, but talking was not her strong suit. Aperio let out a soft sigh, wrapping her arms and wings around her love as she didn't know how else to begin to express how she felt. The mortals flowed around them like a river would a rock, seemingly not minding the public display of affection even after Aperio had let go of her magic.

The Demigoddess returned the embrace, the small giggle she made mostly silenced by Aperio's dress. It only lasted for a moment before Caethya tried to pull away, Aperio letting her go as soon as she noticed.

Her love offered her a smile and tapped her finger against Aperio's chest, right where her heart should be. "One day you will be able to talk about what's going in there."

"Chaos," Aperio mumbled in reply. "And confusion."

"I can imagine." Caethya took one of the All-Mother's hands and began walking with the current of mortals towards the plaza. "All of this is new for you, after all. And instead of getting to take your time to figure it out, you have to deal with things you could not have thought possible before."

If I had acted better in the past, I would not have to deal with them now, Aperio thought to herself. Caethya knew her opinion on the matter already, but arguing over it would get them nowhere. And she has a point. The All-Mother did have a tendency to spiral into a never-ending depth of bad outcomes, something she did not have time for, especially now.

"Indeed," Aperio replied, letting herself be guided by Caethya. Starting at the plaza was as good as any other place she could think of as she could already see a few of the golden-furred Lycans she knew would be part of the [Ancestral Guard]. But, what do I ask them?

She doubted that opening with something along the lines of 'Hey, so, I heard your Keeper dudes are like, really bad' would work, and neither did she think that invoking her status as the All-Mother would do her any favours. If they were willing to go after Moria despite her having told them that she was a friend of hers, they would likely tell their members to be wary of her. And probably tell them how I look…

"You wouldn't happen to have any ideas as to how we could get some information from them, would you?" Aperio asked, roughly pointing towards the two golden-furred Beastkin with one of her wings. "Unless the guard is a lot more stupid than I think, they should already know who I am and will therefore not answer anything."

"I mean, I could ask them," her love replied. "I doubt they remember me, and even if they do, I would just be some random mortal that chose to follow you for a bit."

"You are not even a follower of mine," Aperio said, tilting her head slightly. "At least, I hope not."

Caethya gave a small laugh at the words. "I do physically follow you, but I wouldn't really consider myself part of your church." She paused for a moment, idly brushing her hand over Aperio's wing before nodding to herself. "You are my love first and the All-Mother second, if that makes sense."

"It makes sense enough to me."

Her love's smile brightened a little at her reply and she untangled herself from Aperio to move towards the two members of the [Ancestral Guard] with a skip to her step that caused Aperio to tilt her head ever-so-slightly.

A touch of the All-Mother's magic hid her from the prying eyes of the mortals; just another way to make sure the guardsmen would not associate Caethya with her. If they didn't spot us hugging before… She did not think they did as the two of them had been looking the other way, seemingly staring very intently at the group of armoured mortals that had gathered outside of one of the taverns.

While Caethya did her thing, Aperio chose to move towards the gathering that the members of the [Ancestral Guard] had been watching. Those mortals would probably not know who she was, and a tavern was always a good place to gather information. I blend in too, minus the wings.

She would not be the tallest nor broadest person there, just the only winged Elf, and she could play that off as a fancy cape if she remembered to not move them too much. A step accompanied by a small flex of her mental muscles brought Aperio right behind the crowd of armoured mortals. Despite the bit of magic that had kept most of the prying eyes off of her, a few of the people in front of her turned, obviously fully aware that she was present. That I just appeared here…

Seeing her chance at passing off as a brawny Elf and not some kind of sorceress, Aperio closed her eyes and offered a smile, dropping the magic that had concealed her.

"Greetings," she said as she stepped past the group and moved to enter the tavern. Aperio stopped and raised a brow as an armoured arm appeared in her way. "Yes?" she asked, turning slightly to look at the mortal to whom the arm belonged.

"This establishment is currently closed," the armoured mortal said, standing up to fully block Aperio. "They cannot serve you."

The All-Mother raised a brow and looked above the man into the tavern. "It looks like it's operating just fine to me." She directed her gaze back at the mortal. "Would you be so kind as to step aside?"

Another one of the mortals — this one wearing a lighter set of armour and carrying a sword made entirely from crystal — whispered something to the one standing in front of Aperio. She did not recognise the language, but the meaning was clear enough. He wanted his colleague to let her pass, probably because he was one of the ones that had seen her simply appear out of thin air. Let's just hope they think I used some form of concealment magic and did not teleport. If they knew it was the latter, they would be stupid to try and stop her.

The mortal blocking her replied to his probably-mage friend, but did not move. Aperio took a step closer, the relaxed posture she had maintained for the entire encounter gone. "I do not like repeating myself," she said as she squinted down at the man. "Move. Aside." For good measure, she also added a meaningless mumble in the ancient Elven she so rarely got to use.

"It's closed. Leave."

Aperio let out a sigh, placed her hand on the man's arm and simply pushed him to the side while giving the armour a good squeeze. He tried to stop her but not only did one of his arms not work, he was also woefully lacking in strength. Weaker than Laelia before she became my Scion. She was certain one of his colleagues could take care of the broken arm she had given him.

The other armoured mortals were quick to stop the now-injured man from following Aperio, talking to him in their language and undoubtedly telling him to let it go. The All-Mother just shook her head as she ducked through the door and stepped into the tavern. Are they running a protection racket? Or is this somehow related to the mess the guard is in?

Perhaps it was a good thing she had come here; the only downside so far had been the slightly concerned voice of Caethya echoing through her mind as she had confronted the group. It had not been concern for Aperio's physical health, but apparently her love had feared that these mortals had some other unsavoury goals. The All-Mother could not quite follow, but a slight fuzzy feeling still managed to fill her.

"Welcome," the man behind the bar said, taking Aperio from her thoughts. "You wouldn't happen to be the help we requested?"

"I am afraid not," Aperio replied, regarding the rather flimsy-looking stools that stood in front of the bar. "But — if you do not mind, of course — could you tell me why those… people outside insist that you are closed?" Referring to them as mortals — while correct — was probably not the best thing to do right now.

"They were tasked by the [Ancestral Guard] to, well, guard this part of town," the man replied as he grabbed a glass from beneath the counter and began cleaning it. "Turned into extortion really quick, but we did not expect much else from the current Keepers anyway."

"Oh?" Aperio sat herself down on one of the flimsy barstools, a touch of her magic ensuring it would not break. "Do tell."

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