Chapter 15 – Crimson Coats
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Lunella finds herself staring at a familiar ceiling; above her are large oak beams crossing the room. Straw from the cheap mattress pricks her body, but it certainly beats the pain she experienced in that dark prison cell. Yawning a bit as she stands up, she speaks. “Amara, I just had the worst nightmare—” Her speech cuts off abruptly as she notices the inky darkness out the window.

I guess it wasn’t just a nightmare; I’m just asleep. Lunella’s body feels much lighter than it did before; perhaps it’s because she’s in what is essentially a dream. The pain is gone, and checking her body, the knife is nowhere to be found.

She shouts out into the void. “Miss Ghost! Are you here?”

“I’m here,” the familiar voice is heard from behind Lunella.

Lunella turns around and responds. “You just show up wherever you want, don’t you.”

“I do; this place isn’t real after all.” The hooded figure says before having a seat next to Lunella.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this it… What is the inn doing here now?”

“As I’ve said before, it seems like it left a strong impression on you.” The ghost clears her throat. “And, your heart probably longs for it, more than you think.”

Lunella thinks back to the inn and conjures up an image of Amara’s smiling face. All the laughs and conversations that they had. Why did you have to go and send me to this prison? I thought we were friends.

The ghost speaks, “You were friends, yes. Still, you feel guilty.”

“What are you talking about? Did you just read my mind?”

“I live in your mind. Do you think your thoughts and experiences are a secret to me?”

“That’s just not fair.”

“Well, it’s not like I have a choice either.” The ghost says before shrugging.

Lunella lets out a sigh before standing up and opening the door. Surprisingly the hallway is also in her dream, and beyond that, the first floor is here as well. Upon creaking open the front door, she notices that immediately outside the inn is the riverbank she once rested upon. However, the darkness seems a little less threatening, and the gravel ground from the riverbank extends out infinitely.

“This place has really grown….” Lunella lets out a breathy voice filled with surprise.

“Your mind is expanding. I’m sure in the future, it will become even more interesting.”

“Strange” Lunella mouths before heading back into the inn. The two girls find a seat at the dining tables inside the inn—the same place where Lunella once talked with her friend. Letting out a sigh, she speaks again. “Well, this place certainly beats that jail cell at least.”

“I’d imagine that knife was so painful.” The ghost says, arching her back. Realizing that Lunella is staring at her blankly, she elaborates. “I said your thoughts and experiences are a secret to me, but that means I’m forced to feel them too.”

“So what, we share a body?”

“More or less.” The ghost says before shrugging.

“Okay, I get it. We’re a team. Then what do you think we should do about this situation?”

“We can’t just wait around in jail; that guard that stabbed is a real piece of work.” The ghost touches her hand to her chin in thought, then continues, “He said they have orders not to kill us; I’m sure they’re waiting on someone else. I don’t think we want to be around to find out; we need to escape.”

“And what should we do about her?”

Amara lies in her bed, staring at the ceiling. Moving her body even an inch would require more strength than even the celestial heroes had. Her thoughts are scrambled, and she’s unable to focus on any one thought in particular. The only thing she knows for sure is that everything feels terrible. Part of her wants to curl up in a ball and pretend she doesn’t exist, and part of her wishes she had never existed. That was how it felt when she heard of her mother’s death. The future fell away, and the lights in the past went out.

She thinks back to the darkened past, back to when both her mother and her father were alive. Her father died when she was just a child. He was an adventurer, but one fateful day things went wrong, and she never saw him again. It was hard for her then, but her mother always smiled through the tears. Her mother had tried her best to educate Amara; she had tried her best to raise her right. Around that time, her mother’s tune changed from ‘follow your dreams’ to ‘live a safe life.’ Never before did she consider it, but now she finally imagines what her mother may have felt.

As Amara continues to lay there staring at the swirling ceiling, a spark comes to life in her heart. She doesn’t realize how, but strength begins to return to her body. When I was in the wilderness, I ran into an orc, and instead of fighting, we just talked and went our separate ways. After Remembering Lunella’s words, she quickly sits up and dives deep into thought. It’s only been a few days; perhaps mom is still alive, trapped in the orc camp. If she were, then—no one is coming. Those thoughts give her power, though it doesn’t dawn on her just how foolish they were.

“I won’t give up that easily; it doesn’t matter who I am now,” Amara yells out, unconsciously influenced by Lunella’s words. Amara walks downstairs to the front desk of the inn and grabs the box of money. “If there is any chance mom’s still alive, I’ll save her!”

Amara grabs a kitchen knife and departs the inn, heading straight for the adventurers guild. Knowing that she has absolutely no combat experience, her only chance is to hire a group of fighters. Slamming open the doors and walking into the guild’s tavern, she spots a group of adventurers all wearing distinct red jackets. Amara approaches the group, grabbing their attention.

“I have a request for you brave adventurers. Would you be willing to hear me out?”

One of the adventurers, a scrawny man with black hair and glasses, responds with a penny-pinching gesture “Depends on how much you’re paying—”

A fist flies into his arms from behind. A red-haired girl with a longbow on her back clears her throat in response. “Ahem, you’ll have to forgive Ivan; he’s terrible at networking. My name is Eliza, and we are the Crimson Coats!” The other adventurers nod along with her, except for the man who just got slugged.

“The name’s Jofre,” the shortest member of the group, an older-looking dwarf carrying a hammer taller than he is, responds. “You can count on me to be a strong front line.”

The group’s final member, a girl with curly silver hair and a shortsword, doesn’t respond, only keeps drinking water from a tankard. She seems to be quite the rarity; it takes a special kind of adventurer to go to a tavern and order water. The other adventurers all look at her prompting her to introduce herself.

The girl finally responds, “Adria.”

“Finally, we have Ivan,” Eliza reintroduces the glassed man. “He’s our rather greedy assassin.”

Noticing that she’s the only one left who hasn’t introduced herself, Amara takes a slight bow and says, “I’m Amara. My mom used to run the inn around here.”

Eliza puts on a warm smile and says, “We’ll hear out your request; it’s something about your mother, yeah?”

“How did you know?”

“Call it a ladies intuition.”

“I see. Anyway, let me explain.”

Amara promptly explains the situation to the party; the rough and tough dwarvish man Jofre bursts into tears midway through the story. Despite looking the toughest, he seems to be the most emotional one of the bunch.

“Well, Amara, today is your lucky day,” Eliza responds with a massive grin on her face. “We are the most experienced orc exterminators in the five kingdoms!”

Ivan adjusts his glasses and then steps up in front of Eliza. “We’ll help. For one platinum coin!”

Eliza clenches her fist and glares at Ivan. “All in favor of not trying to gouge our friend here?” Eliza announces before raising her hand in the air. Joffre, entirely moved by Amara’s story, raises his hand as well.

“Great, now we’re tied,” Ivan responds bitterly. “This is why I told you voting doesn’t work with an even-sized party.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” Eliza says with a slight grin before announcing once more. “All in favor of gouging Amara.”

Ivan’s hand darts up into the air; after looking around, he sees no other hands. He quickly glares at the one member who abstained and shouts, “Adria!”

“What? I vote we don’t help at all. She’s basically asking us to fight an entire encampment of orcs; you guys are insane,” Adria responds before taking a sip of her water. “Not that you guys ever care what I think; you’ll just go off and get us killed anyway.”

“It’s fine. We’re just going to sneak in and try to find any survivors. No fighting necessary,” Eliza said before making a funny face. “And when we all get back, we’ll have a massive feast to celebrate our victory!”