Chapter 61: The Road pt. 1
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I hope everyone enjoyed the spooky-cute crossover! No tricks this time around! Here's the real chapter 61 and the start of the last "arc" of Volume 1

Seyari lent me a spare change of her own clothes for the walk back to town—I had to go barefoot since her shoes wouldn’t fit. Her clothing stretched awkwardly over my much larger frame, but the loose fit (for Seyari) worked just well enough to keep me decent.

Much of our stuff was gone, but thankfully we hadn’t taken everything with us when we went with Ruston to hunt the demon. Still, one of our packs, some rations, and the sleeping part of our camping supplies had been turned to ash, along with my second to last set of clothes. We’d need to resupply in town.

We’d also need to explain why we were coming back without Ruston, what happened to him, and that we killed a demon. More pressing to me, however, was my desire to be more proactive with my goals.

I kept silent on our walk back, which seemed to suit Seyari just fine. Now wasn’t the time for me to voice any concerns. Night brought more rain, and the next morning we had a muddy and miserable trudge back to Harriston. I was glad the trail wasn’t too long, or we might have gotten lost—or even wetter.

Seyari and I didn’t speak about what we both knew we were going to do next. Mordwell’s estate was close now; a tangible thing instead of an indeterminable goal.

Telling everyone (including Fredrick) what happened wasn’t without a few bumps, but everyone in Harriston seemed to accept our story. Aside from omitting the fact we weren’t exactly human (or fully human), we left nothing out. Besides killing the demon, which we downplayed, we’d done nothing two accomplished individuals couldn’t have.

The demon’s head was taken to be shown to the Church as proof of what transpired. There’d be Church folk and Inquisitors crawling all over Harriston in the coming weeks. Ruston’s axe head was taken and buried in a grave next to his father’s headstone: Fredrick had mentioned they never found Ruston’s father’s body and I wasn’t able to suppress a shudder. Lucky for me Fredrick didn’t push for why I had such a strong reaction to the grave site.

Ruston had no surviving family, but I hoped some of the townsfolk would show up to his funeral, to be held after Seyari and I were long gone. He wasn’t a bad guy or anything, but his obsession had led to his death, even if it was me who failed to save him. The irony wasn’t lost on me. I spent a lot of time looking at Seyari and hoping, just maybe, that I’d come up with the perfect plan or that something would knock some sense into her.

I just wished it hadn’t taken Ruston’s death to knock some sense into me.

We left Harriston later in the afternoon, this time on a real road toward a real town. I had a single set of clothes left and had to buy some stuff that was meant for guys (and fit poorly anyway) just so we could get out of town. We’d also managed to buy a tent and replace our lost pack.

Seyari had asked after Lockmoth before we left, and recalled how to get to Mordwell’s estate from the answer. We were about a week away by foot from Mordwell’s place, she figured, and that included slowing down and leaving the road when we got close in order to approach a certain way.

Only a few towns lay between us and Mordwell. I had to find a reason for Seyari and me to do something other than charge in, and soon.

I waited until the two of us had stopped for the night, well away from the Harriston and the demon’s former domain. Then, I decided to speak up. “We’re not going to storm Mordwell’s estate and kill him.”

Seyari looked up from sharpening her knife. “What brought that out? And yes, we are.”

I looked at her across the small fire. We didn’t need the fire, but not making one this close to town was asking for awkward questions in the rare case we were noticed. “My anger was ruling me because I was afraid to ever get angry. And no, we’re not.”

“What does that have to do with killing Mordwell? Shouldn’t you want revenge more if you’re more okay with getting angry?” She gestured at me with the knife, then realized what she was doing and pointed the blade away.

“I want to live openly in Ordia as a demon. If we just run in and kill Mordwell, all it’ll do is make us targets of everyone. We need to make sure his crimes are known.”

Seyari’s anger spiked. “I don’t care about making his crimes known! I just want him dead!”

I allowed myself to feel anger in return. “What if we could prove what the Inquisition did to you, and get people to see the monster he really is?”

“Do you honestly think that’s possible?” Seyari glared at me.

“Yeah, Sey, I do.” I crossed my arms.

“You’re naïve. If we find anything like that, the Church’ll just cover it up. I won’t be the one to kill him, and you’ll be attacked on sight for being a demon.”

I crossed my lower arms. “The last part’s probably true. And while you might not be the one who kills him, if we can get what he did out to enough people, the Church will have to acknowledge it.”

“And how exactly do you plan on doing that?” Seyari asked angrily.

I glanced away for a moment. “Connections and influence. Maybe we could hunt demons, get noticed, get famous. I don’t know. There’s got to be a way.”

“Well, when you think of one, let me know,” Seyari said bitterly, “You’re wrong, Renna. And if you don’t come with me to kill Mordwell, I’ll do it alone.”

“Are you going to let Mordwell continue to control you forever?” I asked angrily.

“If I don’t kill him, he’ll come after both of us! It’s us or him, Zarenna.” Seyari sighed loudly. “You agreed before. What happened?”

“I decided to make my own decisions.”

“Maybe learn to make good ones first,” Seyari hissed.

I turned away and looked into the fire. “Fine. Be like that. Let’s just get done with this mess and get on the road.”

The two of us spent the night apart from each other. The ground was hard, but that wasn’t what made the night uncomfortable.

I didn’t want to go kill Mordwell in his estate and get us branded as murderers while making him a martyr. Being honest to myself, I never did. I wanted to help Seyari, and to stop whatever evil Mordwell and his ilk had propagated. I still did, and that’s why I wanted to try to find another solution.

I didn’t ‘resolve’ to do anything. Nothing was certain. I didn’t know if I’d be able to change Seyari’s mind or stop her. I didn’t want to know what it’d feel like if she left to kill him and I left her.

***

The next town we stayed in was a bit off the main road. A mining town, I’d asked to stop there to sleep in a real bed. By the time we settled in for the night, our collective mood was better, but there was an undercurrent of discontent that I knew wouldn’t go away until the issue was resolved.

With Seyari asleep beside me, I laid awake and stared up at the ceiling. I started counting the knots on the wood before I realized I wasn’t going to sleep. The realizations I’d had after killing the Harriston demon kept bouncing around in my skull. An echo that followed it was the argument I’d had with Seyari.

I tried to order my thoughts.

I want to help her get revenge and then… Well, I want there to be an “and then,” don’t I? Something for both of us. I want to get home, but I don’t think I can imagine “home” without Seyari.  I turned and looked over at her sleeping form. She looked stressed, and when I laid an arm overtop her, the lines on her face softened.

I’d rejected my nature up until only a few days ago. Does she reject her future? Is this why she was so against getting close to anyone—she hasn’t thought past revenge?

I’d put my foot in my mouth earlier today. I still wasn’t sure how to say what I was thinking, or if she’d listen. And I might have ruined my chance at getting her to listen. If we charged in, mostly unprepared and with almost no knowledge of what kind of resistance we’d face, there was no guarantee we’d even win. And if we did win, could either of us live with ourselves at the thought some of the people we’d killed had been innocents? Could we even get to wallow in that misery, or would we be hunted down by the bulk of Church and imperial resources?

Inadvertently, I pulled Seyari closer. I didn’t want to lose her. I tried to draw a parallel with myself, but I couldn’t. Seyari had a strategic mind—she’d shown as much. This wasn’t like her at all to be so reckless.

My mind spun in circles until I drifted off just before the dawn. I still hadn’t thought of a way to try to reconcile our goals. She wanted revenge. I wanted a future for both of us. There had to be a way to make both happen.

***

My body wasn’t tired in the morning thanks to my demonic constitution, but I couldn’t say the same for my mind. Seyari and I didn’t speak much during breakfast; I couldn’t think of anything to say. We set off down the main road early, looking for the small side road we’d be taking toward Mordwell’s estate.

As day wore on, I realized I was almost out of time.

“Are you sure Mordwell will be there?” I asked Seyari as we walked the hilly, winding road between the trees. I worked hard to keep anxiety out of my voice.

“He was using the estate when Lorelei hired me in Cavenze a year ago.” Seyari looked up at me. “Could you drop this?”

I shook my head. “I can’t. This isn’t like you.”

“How do you know what isn’t like me?” Seyari snapped. Her anger surged.

I stared back at her and forced a smile. “Because I’ve seen the real you. Out in the desert in Navanaea. In the mountains before we got to Ordia. You’re not like this.” The thought crossed my mind to quell her anger, but if I wanted to get through to her, manipulating her emotions would be the exact wrong thing to do.

“Like what?” Seyari asked angrily. “Like someone who wants revenge? Like someone who told you what she wanted and you agreed?”

I glanced up at the empty road and checked behind us. “I agreed to help you kill Mordwell, yeah.”

“Then why aren’t you?” Seyari kept her gaze locked on me.

“I am.” I raised a hand to cut Seyari off. I let some of my anger show in my voice. “But I’m not going to let you run in with no plan like this. You’re the one who taught me to plan. You’re the one who taught me not to rush in.”

“I know what I’m doing, Renna.” Seyari dropped my fake name.

“Really, Sey?” I shouted, letting my anger slip. “Do you really? Do you even know if he’ll be there? Do you know what kind of guard he might have? Who might be visiting?” Seyari tried to rebut, but I talked over her. “What about right now? I’ve looked and made sure there’s no one around, but you’ve been fixated on me this whole time.”

Seyari’s gaze faltered at my last comment. She gave a quick look down the road. “Lorelei complained he never left his estate. We’ll check and make sure we can take out whatever’s there to protect him.”

“And?” I crossed my two arms, wishing I had a second pair I could use for emphasis.

“And I forgot to check the road because you’re needling me all the time!”

“Are you serious!?”

“Yes.” Seyari turned and started to walk again. “Shut it and let’s go. Unless you don’t want to help after all.”

I started after her. “You’re letting your fear of Mordwell control you.”

Seyari’s anger roared so brightly I almost recoiled. She wheeled back on me, furious. “If you think that, then just leave! I knew you would!”

“No.” I shook my head, my own voice wavering. “I want to help.”

“Then leave me alone!” Seyari’s voice shook. Her unnatural timbre snuck back in.

“I don’t want to!”

“Too bad! Don’t follow me.” Tears formed at the corners of her eyes.

“But—”

“I should have known you’d be like anyone else!” Seyari turned and walked quickly off into the trees.

I caught a glimpse of her face. She was crying. I watched Seyari run off into the trees in shock.

Do I run after her? Would that make things worse?

I hesitated long enough that when I started after her through the trees, Seyari was gone. I tried to use my demonic hearing to pick her up, but all I got was a faint breeze.

I’d hesitated again. I’d tried this time, too. I’d tried to take a stand and I’d screwed up.

I jogged back to the road and turned the direction we were headed. Seyari had explained the route in great detail over the past few days. She’d never been as far as Harriston, but if I found the correct side road, I could get to Mordwell’s estate and try to fix things.

I kept eyes and ears out for other travelers on the road as I ran. I couldn’t get there too late. I had a bad feeling about what would happen if I did. The only time I slowed down was when I passed the few other travelers on the road. I wanted to just blow past them, but I didn’t get this far just to screw up and alert Mordwell that something might be up. Even in my human form, I felt fast. Not quite as fast as without it, but if anyone had seen me running, they’d have assumed magic or something more sinister.

I found the side road before the sun had moved to late afternoon. Ahead of schedule, but I didn’t know if I was ahead or behind Seyari. She was moving through the forest and should be slower, but I didn’t know how hard she’d push or how much her wind magic could help her.

I’d almost missed the small footpath. Steeper, narrower, and rockier, the trail switch-backed up and over a spur of mountains the main road went around. Seyari hadn’t even been sure the path would still be here, since the last time she’d seen it was from the air more than thirty years ago.

The rain started in the evening.

I ran until nightfall, then I ran through the night. I hoped I was ahead of Seyari. I didn’t have a plan for meeting her, or what I’d be able to do if I managed to get to Mordwell’s estate first. I ditched my human form at some point. Careful not to rip my last set of clothes, I’d had to change into a set Lilly had given me that would work with my tail. The stop slowed me down, but I more than made up for it by being able to use my full speed.

The road was full of twists and turns. I could have gone faster in a straight line, but not without knowing where I was going. The rain kept up, soaking me through. I used my magic to keep myself warm.

The road neared the top of the steep terrain, and ran along a deep gorge. I heard water rushing by far below.

Focused on the road ahead, I barely saw the flash of light aimed at me from the side. I stopped hard and twisted my body away. The beam of holy magic flew off down into the gorge.

“Watch for Yothariel! We’ll deal with the demon!” I heard a shrill voice yell in Ordian.

Lorelei? How!?

Edit: I've added a bit more of a break between the two conversations to cover Renna's thoughts. There's a bit of pacing whiplash with this chapter that's not easily fixed, but I hope the extra scene helps.

Did you like the crossover? Do you want a slightly spooky Halloween-themed pdf of it? Well, Flitter and I have exactly that up on itch.io!

If you want to read more, my Patreon has up to 18 advance chapters right now! There are also side stories (canon & non-canon), some of which will stay Patreon exclusive.

If you want to chat about the story or just hang out, my discord is open to all!

I'll be doing these end of chapter link thingies as author notes now, unless there's something that warrants an announcement.

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