Ethan watched the monstrous girl out of the corner of his eye while she “sorted” the cannonball rabbits into two piles, every so often she would stop as if thinking before she would begin tearing one apart and eating various parts of the rabbit. It seemed she did not care much for the stomachs or intestines of them given the growing pile she had started near the edge of the clearing.
“Just what the fuck happen here, Mira?” He whispered as he watched the girl bite into a fist sized heart much the same way one would an apple. “I mean who is that, and where is the girl from before?”
“That's her,” Mira answered, matching his whisper, though she kept her gaze firmly set on her own mud-covered shoes. “She just… changed. One minute she was talking to herself like normal, then she put those bands on her arms and sprinted into the woods.”
“You expect me to believe that,” Ethan motioned towards the creature currently chewing her way down a rabbit’s spine, “is the same F-rank girl we left?”
“I don’t see what you're so confused about?” Fiori shrugged watching the girl, “they look exactly alike.” Both her companions looked at her with shocked expressions as she spoke.
“Are you blind?” Ethan growled, “that thing looks nothing like the girl from earlier.”
Fiori rolled her eyes as she looked back to him, “you just heard Mira say, “she changed”, that’s the girl we were following.” She looked back to see the girl chewing on a bone plate, “just… different.”
Ethan inspected the girl again, no matter how he looked at her she looked nothing like the wide-eyed rookie they had been following. This “thing” looked… sinister. It wasn’t that it was currently committing a regional genocide on the cannonball rabbits, though that did not help; no something about this girl seemed wrong to him. it made his stomach turn, every time he looked at her every fiber of his being screamed that “she” was wrong. That’s a monster, one that needs to be…
The girl looked back to him, her black eyes causing him to instinctively reach for his sword only for Mira to grab his arm.
“You can’t fight her, Ethan.” She whispered in his ear as the girl seemed satisfied with their staring contest.
“It's clearly a monster, Mira,” he shook as he watched it from behind, it was wide open. All he needed to do was draw his sword and it would be over in an instant.
“You can’t win,” Mira pleaded as she fought his grip, “I watched her Ethan, I know that we can’t win. She’s too fast…”
“We have to try,” he hissed, fighting against her, “if that thing gets to town it’ll…”
His fingers brushed the hilt of his sword only for Fiori to step in front of him, “so… Hecatolite was it? Why are you out here?”
Hecatolite happily chewed on a rabbit as she hummed to herself, today had been a good day so far. Ignoring the three people who were whispering to each other at the edge of the clearing while she ate, and the massive group of people hiding in the trees that caused her some annoyance; but despite all of that she couldn’t help but be happy.
She finally got to hunt! And though she only managed to find weak little bunnies, they were surprisingly delicious! Even Amethyst had agreed that the bunnies were quite good before she retreated to the void after Hecatolite had healed her hand, Hecatolite was sure her sister had only stayed to be sure she did not eat more souls than necessary, but the company was nice, so she didn’t complain.
She was sorting the rabbits into two piles, “cooked” and “uncooked”, the cooked ones being the ones that had no lingering souls attached to them. Surprisingly, souls didn’t linger for very long it seemed, most completely vanishing in a minute or so, though some stubbornly clung to the body which required her to shake them off or wait until they dissipated and with no lack of soulless bodies, she found it easier to just wait, piling them to the side while they “cooked”.
She tossed the one the angry looking guy vomited on into the trees before picking up another and checking it with her soul sight when she felt a slight chill running up her spine.
That’s weird, she thought looking back at the group, her eyes locking with the angry looking man, he doesn’t seem like a bad guy, but I feel… her soul sight activated showing her the man’s nearly white soul.
It looked almost like a large cloud shaped human, the puffy white color swirling around in small tornadoes that seemed to randomly branch off before disappearing into a small gust of wind. She took a deep breath as she inspected it, it felt… proud, and kind… yet somehow it did not feel inviting like she expected. No, this man felt hostile which was strange because nothing about his soul seemed mean. If anything, he was probably the nicest soul she had seen, there was not a hint of anything threatening about it, even the little tornadoes seemed like they would simply dance around her if she got too close yet she could feel clear… blood lust?
He is strong, and kind but… I don’t think he likes me. Best steer clear of him. She thought looking at the scared looking woman who was holding onto his arm.
She felt completely different from the man, her soul was strangely large compared to her small body. Where she was average size, if a little thin, her soul stood the same height as the mans but it was a little… pudgy for lack of a better word. Where most souls she had seen that were “big” maintained their perportions this woman's soul was disportionately wide. Her soul was a dark mud like brown, every time she moved her soul would crackle like dried dirt releasing a small puff of dust. Hecatolite could feel that she was… strong? Not as powerful as Alexa or Taaffeite but definitely stronger than most of the guards. Hecatolite didn’t need to guess what feelings the woman held towards her as she had felt them before from other souls she encountered, no this woman was strong, kind, and most of all afraid. As to why she was scared of Hecatolite… well she didn’t know but if it meant she would keep the kind angry man from attacking her she wasn’t going to question it.
She went back to eating the bunny she held in her hands, if she waited too long to start eating them the blood would go cold and they didn’t taste quite as good when cold… still not horrible, too bad she couldn’t get the “keep food hot plates” to work quite right yet. They either burned the food or didn’t keep it warm enough to heat both sides… maybe I should just make a… no all boxes are bad, even the ones for food, they would always leave parts cold or too hot to eat. Dumb boxes can’t even be trusted with food.
“Hecatolite was it?” Hecatolite snapped her head to the side when she heard her name, “why are you out here?”
Damn it, I forgot about that one. She thought as she glared at the strange cat woman, she couldn’t put her finger on it, but she didn’t trust this woman.
The cat woman’s soul seemed completely normal, well minus the one oddity. It was a small dark feline looking woman with stripes of gray along its arms and legs, along with large cat-like ears and a long tail that flicked when she spoke. The thing that was odd though was that, unlike everyone she had met so far, Hecatolite felt… nothing from it. She could tell that it had concealment mana, just like the hero whose eye she ate, and she was a decent fighter but there were no underlying emotions attached. No good, no bad, nothing. That, combined with the fact that if Hecatolite was not actively looking at this woman, her soul seemed to blend with the shadows around her which made her nervous.
Normally when she had her soul sight activated Hecatolite could see all the souls around her, yet this woman seemed to vanish if she wasn’t looking directly at her… this woman is dangerous… Hecatolite thought as she deactivated her soul sight and inspected the woman.
She was small, only barely taller than herself, with short cropped gray hair and large cat-like ears that constantly moved on the sides of her head. She was cute, with big slitted eyes and a little nose that seemed to wiggle when she spoke. Her thin lips hid her sharp cat like teeth that shone a pure white whenever they parted. At a glance she looked thin though Hecatolite could tell that it would be a mistake to think this woman weak as she looked at the woman’s exposed arms, the thin coat of grayish fur hiding the wiry muscular arms beneath.
The woman moved silently as she stepped towards Hecatolite causing her to take a cautionary steep back. “Hunting.” Hecatolite answered bluntly as she watched the woman.
“Are you out here by yourself?” The cat woman asked, stopping a few paces away completely blocking Hecatolite’s view of the two behind her, though the dwindling blood lust coming from the man was no longer a concern as she watched the woman.
Hecatolite thought for a moment before replying, “Why were you all following us?” the woman tensed at her words, she could hear the scared woman squeak as a very faint alarm went off in Hecatolite’s mind causing her to look around the woman to the man who was now glaring at her, “if you’re planning on robbing us, or kidnapping us I will have to fight you. Amethyst will be sad if I kill you so if we could skip all that, I would appreciate it.”
“Why would you think…”
“I have the skill danger sense.” Hecatolite cut the woman off, backing up another step before stopping next to her cane she had left sticking in the dirt, “I can feel the blood lust coming off your friend.” She dropped the rabbit in her hands though she did not grab her cane.
The woman’s eyes went wide as she looked back at the man behind her, they seemed to look at each other for a long moment before the man looked away. The woman turned back to Hecatolite as she spoke, “I am sorry about Ethan, he’s a bit jumpy when in the forest at night.” The woman smiled as she raised her hands, “we were actually following a new adventurer out on her first request you see, it's common practice to send out more experienced adventurers to watch over…”
“I don’t like being lied to,” Hecatolite clenched her fist, “even I know that it would be too expensive to send a group out to follow every new adventurer.”
The woman sighed as she dropped her hands, “fine, you're right it's not common to do it unless the adventurer is someone special.” She gestured to the bloody grass around her, “surely you can see why the guild would want to keep an eye on you.”
“No idea, I am not an adventurer.” Hecatolite shook her head, “Amethyst and Saffron let me sleep through registering, so I didn’t get my guild card.”
The woman froze, “you’re… not an adventurer?” The woman’s ears pointed back as the two behind her whispered, “well that explains why you’re not taking the proofs off the cannonball rabbits.”
“You didn’t know? Every mana beast has a body part that serves as proof of the kill, if you bring it back to the guild they will pay you based on the difficulty of the beast you slay. Not only that, they will buy the corpses depending on how damaged they are, for a discounted price of course.” The woman scratched her ear as she thought for a moment, “I think cannonball proofs get like 5 copper a piece, while their bodies sell for 6 or 7 silver. You get more if you bring them to a leather worker, but most people just sell them to the guild that parts them out to various craftsmen.”
Hecatolite nodded, “makes sense the guild pays less but they have to do more work… I could make more if I brought them back… Inutil make a note to find a tanner when we get back to town… scratch that, make a note to have Joshua find a tanner when we get back to town.” The woman jumped back when the terminal appeared and affirmed the creation of a note. The women’s defensive posture reminded Hecatolite they were currently having a standoff. “Wait, you distracted me!” She yelled stomping her foot, she wasn’t good at long winded confrontations.
This cat woman is crafty. Hecatolite grabbed her cane and pointed it at the woman who didn’t move as they locked eyes, but she knows a lot about adventuring, and she’s clearly the leader of a party too… they can't be “bad” people, they did follow Amethyst all day, and didn’t attack her… wait did the guild really send them to protect Amethyst? If that’s true then they are good people, she waited to see if any of them would move, slowly looking over the three of them as she did.
The feline woman made no moves as she looked at the terminal beside her with amazement in her eyes, the man was currently holding onto the scared woman who looked as if she was about to faint as she pointed at the floating screen, her mouth flopping open as if she was trying to say something.
“I got it!” Hecatolite exclaimed, ramming her cane back into the ground, “of course, I’ll just bribe you!” She ripped her “amazing bigger on the inside bag” from her hip and opened it as wide as she could, “no one attacks someone who bribes them, that’s the point of bribes. Even the queen says my bribes are the best! Well, she says I give good “gifts” but I think she’s trying to save face with the court, we all know that gift is just another word for bribe. Now let’s see what I have…” She began digging in her bag, passing by dozens of super important items that had amazing enchantments that definitely won't explode, “lets see… you’re adventurers… no that one doesn’t work yet… definitely not that one… this one could wor…” There was a loud crunching sound as she winced a little, “I’ll need to fix that… Oh this is perfect!”
The three of them watched as she pulled a perfectly round black orb from the bag followed by a long piece of rope that was tied around it. She took a second to pull the entire length of rope before tossing the rock to Fiori who instinctively caught it.
“There, we are friends now.” Hecatolite nodded triumphantly, “be careful with that, and don’t tell Hans! He will be super pissed I gave it to you before I completed his order for them, in my defense it was really hard to make with one arm, not to mention a hundred of them.”
Fiori inspected the strange orb that had been forced on her as Hecatolite started grabbing rabbits and shoving them into her bag, luckily “living matter” was defined as “having a soul” meaning that any of the ones in the cooked pile went in no problem. “what… what is this?” Fiori asked, holding the orb by the string.
“oh, yea instructions umm… well better to show you.” Hecatolite scratched her head as if trying to remember before clapping her hands. “It's a torch ball, the command words are, bright bright… say the commands.” She urged the woman on with a big smile that would have been endearing if it weren’t for the dried blood on her face.
“Umm… bright bright.” Fiori repeated hesitantly. As she spoke the black orb flared to life as bright ruins appeared on it filling the clearing with light as if she were holding a dozen torches.
“Oh, too bright, quickly, dim dim.” Hecatolite shielded her eyes as she spoke.
Fiori recited the words and the light quickly dimmed to that of a single torch, she said them once more and the ball dimmed to barely a candle’s brightness.
“Now, the next words are float float… aww don’t let it float away! The string, grab the string!”
Fiori had spoken the words eagerly when she realized what was said only for the orb to levitate out of her hands causing her to panic as she scrambled to grab the rope that was tied to it. She let out a sigh of relief when she noticed the levitation was only strong enough to keep the orb aloft meaning just holding the rope was enough to keep the orb tethered to oneself. Only then did she realize what Hecatolite had said to her whole-body stiffening as it sank in, “we… we can’t possibly take this!” She nearly yelled turning to her companions who both stood stunned behind her, Mira still struggling to say something to Ethan who was holding her. “An enchanted torch is what… 20 gold last time I checked, and this thing floats! It must be worth a small fortune!”
“Pff,” Hecatolite waved half a bunny at the woman before shoving it into her bag, “you haven’t even seen the best part, stop stop makes the light and floating stop by the way.” She waited for Fiori to turn the orb off before clearing her throat, “now this command is the best one, be sure to cover your eyes when you use it.” She walked up to the cat woman and snatched the ball from her, she looped the rope around the woman’s arm before nodding. “Ready, now… BREACH!” She screamed, tossing the ball into the air, the tether keeping it from disappearing into the trees as it tugged on Fiori’s arm.
For a brief moment, barely even a second, all darkness around them was erased as if the sun itself had been summoned before their eyes. The three of them recoiled as the orb fell to the ground, all of them covering their eyes in a futile attempt to shield from the light. The manic laughing of the girl caused them all to panic as they rubbed their eyes.
“Best part.” Hecatolite giggled as she turned away from them, “it’s getting late so I’m going to head home now. Bye new friends,” She dug her feet into the dirt as she braced herself, “what was that skill I got? Jumping? Well let's give it a shot.”
Mira being the only one not looking at the strange girl was the first to recover, her mind still reeling at the realization of who exactly this girl was. There was no doubt in her mind as there was only one family in the world she knew that could summon a world terminal.
Mira could feel the air change as the girl seemed to ready herself, her armored feet digging into the dirt as she took a deep breath. With a tremendous explosion, the girl rocketed into the air, kicking dirt up as her feet tore a chunk of the ground free looking for all the world exactly like the cannonball rabbits she had been feasting on… well minus the fact that she fired off in a perfectly straight line…. At an angle to the right. Her surprised yell fading into the night as she vanished through the thick trees.
Mira sat stunned looking at the new crater as her companions recovered. It wasn’t the jump that surprised her, or even the fact that she tore a hole in the ground. It was somehow, by the grace of whatever god or devil watched over that creature, she had started off facing the wrong direction only for her “jump” to be interrupted by a large boulder hidden beneath the dirt. The boulder in question now completely visible with a large webbing crack running through it.