A horde of wild beasts?
Ran and Rikku exchanged looks. A horde. Isn’t that a bit exaggerated? What kind of beasts would cause a guard to panic like that?
“Do you think it’s a trap? Maybe Kan Yune moved his plan ahead?” wondered Ran.
“It’s difficult to say,” replied Rikku. “If it’s true, we have to move fast. If it isn’t, then…” he paused as he thought of something. He turned to stare at Ran.
“I need to know that I can count on you,” asked Rikku.
Ran was confused, “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean,” Rikku simply said. He needed to be sure she wouldn’t hold him back. In the heat of the moment, he needed to be sure that she had his back.
Ran blinked at him and made a funny face, “I’ll try my best. I confess, I was muddle-headed before and felt lost. I know that I have no other choice than to have a life here. These chains, I want to leave them behind. It doesn’t mean that they are going to disappear like magic. I really want to have fun and enjoy myself.” She sighed, “When we’re done with this mess, let’s start over alright? We’ll introduce ourselves over again and have a drink.”
Rikku jolted back, “You know…”
“That you don’t use your ‘real name’?” Ran giggled, “Of course, I do! Ain’t I the same? We have more in common than you think. I’m just a bit more on the crazy side.”
Rikku rolled his eyes at her. He saw some guards rushing to the man on the ground together with some priests. He scowled. It didn’t make much sense. Why would one guard create panic like that? If there really was a danger, why not directly report to Kan Yune? Collapsing like that was so overly dramatic.
“Anyway, we lack info,” Ran sounded a bit annoyed. “The size and nature of this horde aside, we don’t have a real overview on the guards’ ability to deal with threats. There are still the watchdogs to think of and Kan Yune’s intention,” Ran pouted, “Even if we were under attack, what role will we, otherworlders, have? If things turn sour, do they have a plan or are we going to be left to fend for ourselves?”
She really shot herself in the foot when she designed her skill set. She reacted in spite and under the influence of her emotions. She lacked raw power and strength. Her skills were designed to appear useless and would only shine under certain conditions. However, her level was way too low right now and she didn’t have the right materials on hand nor did she have the time to transform them. Sure, she could make something on the fly, but how long would it hold again a powerful foe?
“We may not know much, but someone else should,” mentioned Rikku.
Through the entrance, they could see Rikku’s maid trotting towards them and the shadow of a smirk appeared on their faces. Such good timing.
“Look at that! Don’t they say, ‘Ask and you shall be given’ ?” Ran giggled.
Rikku’s maid saw the pair looking outside, she flashed a reassuring smile at them. The pair went back inside followed by the maid. She was composed and nothing seemed out of place at first glance. However, if one took a closer look, they would see some uneasiness and restlessness. The maid shook her head, she had to disregard her uneasiness. She even asked herself how it turned out that way.
She was an elite assassin, she had been trained since young, she had completed countless missions before this one and walked between life and death way too often. So, how come, for this one mission, she felt so antsy? Kan Yune was a cruel and vicious man. She held respect and some fear towards him, just like she did before towards other employers. Yet, she had never felt this threatened and fretful like she was in front of Rikku. Was it because he was an otherworlder? Or the fact that neither she or the high priest had any grasp on his personality or skills?
Even though he was rather low-key, he was a complete mystery. On this type of mission, not having a good grasp on their enemy could lead to fatal risks. She had tried her best from the very beginning. She tried the ingenue and pitiful act. She tried to use her charms to coax him. However, he had never relaxed his guard. On the contrary, he was the one keeping an eye on her. His means and technics weren’t something she had seen before. She even lost track of him on a couple of occasions. He wasn’t even afraid to blatantly oppose the high priest. Furthermore, he knew a dark type of magic; who in their right mind would mess with a dark mage who was an otherworlder on top of that?
There she was, trying to keep her composure while wiping her sweaty palms on her dress. She had seen Kan Yune’s face earlier. She had seen the lifeless body of Dorian’s maid on the ground. The situation was taking a really bad turn and now, this guard came out of nowhere and caused a fuss. If she couldn’t keep Rikku under control that day, she wouldn’t live to see the morning sun. Her only comfort was if worst came to worst, she could retaliate. Better, if she could eliminate him along with that useless girl, she was promised a generous bonus. She looked around. Ran was daydreaming on the side. The maid’s lips lightly pursed. She still couldn’t wrap her mind around Ran. Under Belle’s influence, she too thought that Ran was useless, still, something deep down seemed amiss. She had this weird faint feeling that something was wrong.
Ran felt the gaze and lifted her eyes. Her gaze met the maid’s and Ran couldn’t help showing a bright and warm smile. Instinctively, the maid took a step back. She felt goosebumps all over and her face paled a bit. She felt threatened. Her basic instincts were telling her she was in danger. As she was about to pull out a weapon purely by reflex, Rikku opened his mouth and spoke.
"What's going on outside? Who’s this guy?"
The maid blinked fast and felt confused and conflicted. Her eyes alternated between Rikku and Ran. Rikku indifferently stared at her. He had already shed all pretence. He was set on using this commotion to his advantage. Whether his maid was on her guard or not didn’t change a thing. The maid found the atmosphere peculiar. Ran wasn’t usually warm toward anyone and Rikku’s gaze was more inquisitive than before.
Ran chuckled lightly, “Don’t mind him, he’s a bit…” she vaguely gestured and moved to pick up a glass sitting on a small table near the maid.
“I asked a question,” Rikku pressed for an answer.
“My apologies, I was being rude,” the maid gave a small smile and made a shallow curtsy, “The man outside is just an inexperienced guard. There were some beasts in the forest and he panicked on his own. There is nothing to worry about.” She offered a small comforting smile.
“Oh,” Rikku commented.
The maid felt cold sweat on the back of her neck. She still kept her composure and added, “Rikku-sama and Ran-sama shouldn’t worry. There is nothing to worry about, really. It’s just making a mountain out of a molehill.”
The maid started to feel uncomfortable and her fingers fidgeted on her side. Suddenly, Ran cried out and the glass she was holding shattered on the floor.
“Ouch!” She tried to pick up the shards and hurt herself.
“Wait,” the maid knelt down, took out a handkerchief to wipe the blood on Ran’s fingers.
Ran took the maid’s hand into her own and flashed a smile. The maid froze. She felt the warm hand in hers. The warm feeling flowed through her arm and spread in her body. She slightly blushed and tried to take it and back. How could Ran allow her to do so? She kept a strong grip on the maid’s hand.
Rikku’s lips curled into a slight smile, “So, this whole commotion has nothing to do with Kan Yune’s plan to ambush us?”
The maid opened her eyes wide, how did he…? Her eyes flashed in disbelief, how could he possibly, “I don’t understand…”
The maid quivered in alarm. Things were looking bad, she needed to act. She flourished her free hand and her body shook. Incredulity washed over her. Her body was sluggish. Her eyes opened wide and she tried to struggle free. Her face flushed red.
“Such a hot-blooded little one,” Ran softly shushed. Ran had positioned herself in front of the maid, her fingers wandered on the maid’s shoulders and arms. Anywhere the fingers touched, shivers would spread and a dull and cold sensation would invade the maid’s body. Finally, Ran settled both of her hands flat on the maid’s forearms. The maid tried to struggle in vain.
“It’s useless,” Ran muttered with mischief when she noticed the maid trying to activate one of her skills. “The more you struggle, the more mana you use, the worst you will feel.” Ran didn’t just seal her acupuncture points, she was also releasing her homemade poison.
Ran glanced at Rikku. She had put on a tough front, but she couldn’t keep her like that for long. The difference in level was too big. Rikku understood that they didn’t have much time, he straightened his posture and soon, a wave of killing intent flooded from him and the temperature inside the tent dropped.
“Now, let’s have a little chat,” Rikku’s lips curled into a cruel grin.
The maid held her breath as utter terror poured through her veins. She was at their mercy. She tried to struggle again and again. She had noticed that the flow of her mana was getting disturbed. She couldn’t let them gain control of her. She swore in her mind. She had been fooled. “Please. Don’t hurt me. Why would you -”
Ran cut her, “Don’t try to lie or bullshit us. I don't like it and I can guarantee that you won’t either,” Ran hugged the maid and cradled her head in her neck. She pushed her hands inside the maid’s shirt: on her back and another on her chest. Ran not only injected poison into the maid’s bloodstreams, but she was also manipulating her mana and slowing spreading chaos inside the maid’s body.
The maid started to feel a bit dizzy and muddle-headed as if a light veil of mist was draping over her mind. Her head felt light and her body warmed up.
Rikku stepped forward, “Who is the guy outside?”
“He... he is… a guard,” she stammered. Her mind tried to fight the warmth and break through the daze.
Ran groped on the chest tightly, directly above the heart. The hand that was on the back moved to the side of the maid’s face. Her fingers gave off a light fragrance of honey and fresh lotus. Thin pale blue threads seemed to escape from the maid’s skin to be spun and absorbed by Ran’s hand. The maid shivered and whimpered. Then, her gaze turned hazy and dull.
“Who is he?” Rikku repeated.
“A hidden guard,” the maid answered obediently.
“Is this part of Kan Yune’s plan?”
“No,” denied the maid in a monotone voice, “Kan-sama’s plan was to have the heroes ambushed by a group of bandit s further down the road.”
“Where did that guard come from?”
“He was sent ahead to contact the team monitoring the bandits. We lost contact with them.”
Rikku scowled, “What happened?”
“We aren’t clear. 5 hidden guards were sent to scout and report earlier.”
“Why does Kan Yune want us to be ambushed?” Ran asked. Her face was slowly drained of its colours.
“To test the heroes' abilities and…”
“Eliminate Rikku and Ran-sama,” truthfully replied the maid.
“Oh? Why?” Rikku sneered.
“Ran-sama is seen as useless by Kan-sama’s superior. Rikku-sama was deemed unlikely to follow orders thus too dangerous.”
“Fair enough. What will happen after the ambush?” Ran was curious.
“The group will go to Orchard city to meet with the Duke. From there, they will depart for an undisclosed location.”
Rikku and Ran were startled by the answer.
“They’re not going to the Capital?”
“No,” the maid replied dully, a slight frown appeared on her face.
“The summoning wasn’t ordered by the Court. It was a secret operation.”
Ran was baffled, “What? Your Church did the summoning without the support of the Court?”
Someone outside screamed and the sound of rushing footsteps became somewhat loud. The maid frowned harder and Ran grimaced. She felt that she was about to lose control. The maid’s level was too high compared to her own. Furthermore, the poison she refined wasn’t too potent nor was her acupuncture technique.
“Answer!” Rikku urged the maid.
“... The summoning wasn’t approved by the Church,” The maid’s breathing became laboured. Deep down, she was still fighting.
Rikku and Ran were speechless. This was way outside of their expectation. If this operation wasn’t mandated by the Court nor the Church, then...
“Who ordered it?” Rikku tried.
The commotion outside grew louder. Ran grimaced and her breathing quickened. They were out of time. She tried to absorb as much mana as she could to weaken the maid.
“What about the horde? How big is it? Can the guards take care of it?” Rikku questioned.
The maid blinked, “We… don’t know, but-” she paused.
The frown on the maid’s face deepened and her expression twisted. Ran was paler than a ghost and beads of sweat were dripping down her forehead. She gritted her teeth and pushed herself a bit more.
“But what?” repeated Rikku with force.
The maid closed her eyes and her expression turned grim, “There was a mention of a demon beast.”
“Aaargh!” Suddenly, the maid’s eyes snapped open.
She pushed Ran off. The young woman was already feeble and crashed heavily into the table and fell on the glass shards littering the ground. A short sword flashed in the maid's hand and before she could do anything, a dagger pierced through her neck. The maid’s eyes cleared. She refused to believe that she could die like that.
“Don’t think it's the end,” Rikku was crouched in front of her. He looked deeply at her before whispering, “I’ll let you keep your corpse intact, your soul though...” He watched her tremble, emotionless, and, in a merciless thrust, buried a blade deep into her heart.
The maid’s eyes dimmed, she couldn’t even let out a death rattle before collapsing on the ground. Rikku snorted as he stepped over the body. He helped Ran up the ground. She had shallow cuts on her arms, but nothing serious. Her complexion was unsightly and her eyes a bit bloodshot. Rikku helped her sit on a chair and drink a glass of water. Ran drank a mouthful and frowned as she tasted the liquid.
Rikku scowled. Ran pursed her lips but finished the glass obediently. Rikku moved to the entrance and peeked outside. Servants were running around in panic; some unfortunate ones laid immobile on the ground. Guards were struggling against the beasts. Rather than regular beasts, some looked like monsters, others were definitely magical beasts. The campsite was slowly falling into chaos. One beast against 5 guards; the guards were on the loosing side. Rikku squinted his eyes. For now, he could see around 5 beasts. If there was a horde, then they needed to move quickly before being caught in a battlefield.
Fortunately, he witnessed 5 otherworlders joining the fray. He breathed in relief. They still had some time to spare. He sealed the entrance with a spell and went back in.
Ran was sitting cross-legged on the chair, her eyes closed. She was breathing deeply with her brows lightly knitted. In the hollow of her palms was floating a small reel. The reel was spinning a long and thin blue thread. The blue thread was coming from the corpse. Ran’s face had lost a bit of its pallor and the magic fluctuation around her started to spin and concentrate around the reel. She was working hard to recover her strength and make some preparations. Rikku also needed to make his own. Even though he was intrigued, he didn’t want to disturb her. He strode to the dead body and stood over it.
As soon as he uttered the command, the corpse jolted and dark smoke rose from it. The smoke spun around and condensed into a solid shadow. It was the shadow of a woman. Her face was lowered in submission. Ran’s eyes flew open in panic. She gawked at the shadow. Rikku made a gesture and the shadow dove back in the corpse. The corpse trembled violently. The corpse opened its eyes at once. It rose from the ground and knelt in front of him.
“Open,” Rikku issued another command. The corpse flourished its hand and the content of its item box poured on the floor.
“Tsk! How convenient!” Ran said.
“Says the one who is spinning mana,” Rikku asked while going through the items on the ground.
“Wanna see something cooler?” Ran asked with mischief. She moved over to the dead body, put her hand near the bleeding wound and commanded, “Spin.”
The flow of blood rose and spun into countless bloody threads around an invisible reel. Ran gently swept a finger and a stream of threads separated from the rest. Ran took a roll of silver threads from her item box. She took the end of the silver thread, the Mana thread and the bloody one. She made a knot, then the threads spun and mix together. She held out her right hand, the mixed thread wove itself on a finger, then another, on her palm and finally on her wrist. She flicked her wrist, the thread snapped and started to weave itself into a glove on her left hand.
“You can weave mana and blood?” Rikku couldn’t believe his eyes.
“I weave stuff. Any kind of stuff,” Ran flashed her white teeth, “This is just basic, I don’t have time to refine it nor do some extra work on it. Well, I don’t have much equipment, so it’s better than nothing.”
The flow of blood was still spinning at a fast pace and the corpse was drying up on its knees. It took less than a minute for the corpse to be completely sucked dry. The bloody reel then flew towards Ran and was put away. Rikku rolled his eyes and went back to sorting the items on the floor.
Ran gazed at her newly made gloves.
Made from Blood and Mana of an Assassin, and Silver.
ATTK +2 Life +10
MP Regen + 2% HP Regen +3%
VIT +2 DEX +3
Ran felt the ground quiver. The cacophony from outside was approaching them. Given her current state, if she were to go out like that, no matter how skilled or used to battle she was, she would definitely run into trouble. She untied her bathrobe, stood there, her eyes closed and her body naked. Around her appeared floating orbs. From those orbs, threads made their way out, mixing with each other before attaching themselves onto Ran’s body. Through the growing noises of chaos, Ran was focused on weaving her first suit, a tight-fitting crimson bodysuit. From her toes to her neck, her skin was completely covered in red.
|BLOOD FAIRY BODYSUIT|
DEF +5 Life +20 STR +2
MP Regen + 2% HP Regen +5%
VIT +3 DEX +3 AGI +2
Ran opened her eyes and examined the body suit. It was velvety under the touch. As for the smell… she shrugged. She’s going to fight anyway, smelling like blood now or later won’t change anything.
“Open unsealed Status.”
Eternal Student - Lv 1
⌈ - Smooth and constant learning curves regardless of levels
- Research, analyse and learn any learning materials ⌋
Hypocrite (Hidden skill) - Lv 3
⌈ - True character stay sealed from others
- True self stay sealed from others
- Choice of persona according to circumstances ⌋
Bio-engineer - Lv 1
⌈ - Modify and manipulate one’s body (paired skill)
- Manipulate electro-impulsion and biochemistry of living organisms
- Decompose, refine, compound substances ⌋
Weaver - Lv 2
⌈ - Spin, thread, dye, sew, weave stuff to make clothing and equipment. ⌋
Gluttony - Lv 1
⌈ - Hold, store, absorb a vast amount of things according to the host’s desire.
Warning: Skill is paired with bio-engineer. Physical modification can be available depending on specific racial characteristic absorbed from the blood sample. Amount and quality vary according to sample. Custom modification in a separate window is necessary ⌋
Ran made a face, “Say, do you have any mana potion?” She managed to have some bonus stats, but they stayed relatively low. She had to be careful or she wouldn't be able to keep her life.
Rikku rummaged through the pile, grabbed a glass bottle and threw it over. Ran caught it with ease.
“I need equipment too.”
Rikku arched an eyebrow, “What kind?”
She chugged the potion and smiled broadly, “Any kind.”
Yes, it's clearer now Votes: 42 100.0%
No, I still have no idea what's going on Votes: 0 0.0%
meh, still needs work Votes: 0 0.0%