CH : 26 – DISCOVERY PART 3D
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DISCOVERY PART 3D

Day 426; 2143 (Night)
Focus: Rialla

The vibrant glitter of the night sky reflected atop an endless frozen lake so clear that one might think it was a flourishing basin void of water. This place was the epicenter of the Protector's territory, and the only location in the Forbidden Forest that had clear, night skies.

On the shores of the massive lake, stood the Protector, whose eyes remained affixed on the universe above. The shimmering stars; the clouds of creation; the enumerable colors that swirled into oblivion; the passing moons; the captivating performance of the clashing unknown -- the scene was like a divine mural, painted to perfection.

Behind those eyes, however, was an unsettled thought, a reason that had gone unsatisfied.

Ordinarily, the Protector’s immovable eyes shone with clarity and calm. Her gaze was the embodiment of serenity, capable of lulling even the most vicious of beasts.

But tonight...tonight was different.

Underneath those fathomless eyes, glimmered a tinge of ferocity; a hint of quited rage; a look that could extinguish one’s soul. For this reason, the Protector had chosen to direct her gaze towards the skies above. Her purpose was to find purity in the stars -- to regain tranquillity before her eyes ushered-in destruction and anguish to those around her.

*STEP* *STEP* *STEP*

The swift, but gentle steps of a large beast entered within earshot of the Protector. With her gaze left unabated, she entertained her newly arrived guest.

Protector: (foreign language) "So, you have found resolve to face me."

Snarled the Protector.

The reason behind her loathing had just presented itself to her.

Rialla: (foreign language) "Yes Protector. It is I, Rialla, your humble envoy."

Replied Rialla, without a hint of hesitation or fear.

The feeling of disappointment and betrayal welled-up within the Protector, but she swiftly quelled those emotions before they made themselves known. 

Removing distractions from her mind, the Protector closed her eyes, but maintained her posture.

Protector: (foreign language) "Rialla, your mishap has forced my hand. Why did you disobey my order? Explain yourself."

The Protector calmly articulated, though a minor tremor in her voice indicated she was anything but collected.

To show sincerity in her actions, Rialla hurriedly made her way onto a raised platform before responding.

Rialla: (foreign language) "As per our customs, I have entered the Platform of Testimony to give my statement before the presence of the Protector of the Land."

"Any falsehoods in my testimony will be treated swiftly and harshly, in accordance with the Protector's laws."

Hearing Rialla’s determination and resolve, the Protector could not help but waver.

Protector: (foreign language) "Haaah...continue."

The Protector heaved a sigh full of melancholy.

[To have one of my most trusted stand before me on the Platform of Testimony...how tragically unexpected.] Thought the Protector.

Rialla: (foreign language) "Protector, the reason behind my choice to prematurely abandon my task was to seek your counsel...I am not well-versed with handling an Invader of high rank."

By the time Rialla completed her opening statement, the Protector’s ill-will had crumbled into senseless conjecture.

No longer rooted-in-place by her misconceptions, the Protector thought to herself. [Perhaps I was too hasty in assigning blame.] She had assumed the worst out of the situation, which was not the case.

Protector: (foreign language) "This Invader...are you referring to that male Traveller? What is your basis behind such claims?"

Questioned the Protector.

Rialla: (foreign language) "Rather than present assumptions, I shall tell you what I know. That man is anomalous. Part Traveller and part...unknown."

"As per my previous task, I had covertly observed newly arrived Travellers from nearby nations. Astonishingly, they all had the same peculiar scent. That scent being: a high mixture of latent Natural Energy and unique elements of charm -- just as you had mentioned."

"However, that man, the one I have named Trespasser…his scent was...it was somehow different -- defective. Neither hint of charm nor latent Natural Energy came from that man."

The Protector stared at Rialla for some time before making her decision. In her rashness, she had incorrectly presumed one of her most trusted subordinates to be a traitor. She had to rectify the situation before it devolved any further.

Protector: (foreign language) "Rialla, you may exit the platform, there is no longer a need for you to stay there."

Rialla: (foreign language) "Protector?"

Asked Rialla, confused.

Protector: (foreign language) "The others will see this as playing favorites, but I care not. I have seen no falsehoods in your plea. It is no longer necessary for you to stay on that platform, where false statements are treated as crimes."

Typically, the defendant would have to stay within boundaries of the platform until the Protector had finished interrogation. However, since Rialla stood on the platform, the Protector refused to treat the situation as a normal criminal case.

Hearing the Protector's sound reasoning, Rialla stepped-off the Platform of Testimony -- a platform used to judge criminals under the Protector's laws -- and resumed her conversation with the Protector, as a loyal subordinate.

◊◊◊◊◊◊

Day 426; 2150 (Night)
Focus: Rialla

The two women made themselves comfortable on the shores of the great lake. Rialla laid on her belly and rested her head on her front paws. Meanwhile, the Protector had molded the sands of the shore into a comfortable chair, which she sat on, using Natural Energy.

Protector: (foreign language) "Tell me again why you believe the one called Trespasser is an Invader -- one of high rank, no less. If you suspected something awry, why not take care of it at that moment?"

The Protector casually inquired, making it seem as though she knew more about the situation than Rialla.

Rialla: (foreign language) "If Trespasser had been a Breylord, I would have eliminated him without complaint. However, his classification is unknown, as I had stated before."

With a faint smile, the Protector continued with her inquiry.

Protector: (foreign language) "Is his strange odor your only reason for believing him to be an Invader? If I recall correctly, that man had used special moss found only in my territory as padding for his self-made armor. This application would undoubtedly mask his scent, perhaps even obscure unique qualities belonging to that of a Traveller."

Rialla: (foreign language) "Indeed, Protector. What you say is true. However, to solidify my assumptions, I took a glimpse into that man’s mind…”

“The basis behind this act were your stories regarding Travellers and their unique perspectives. How, by looking into their memories, one could peer into the world of a Travellers past life -- a life where their kin were rulers of the land, sea, and sky; where humans were apex predators; where Natural Energy was nothing but fantasy.”

“However, when I peered into that man’s memories, nothing was coherent. Everything was a jumbled mess; chaotic. His memories were rife with inconsistencies, as-if he had lived many different lives.”

“When I tried to pry further, a wall of countless angry voices forced me out of his subconscious. To be frank, I do not know which of those voices actually belong to Trespasser. Perhaps he is a composite of all, or perhaps those voices represent the ghosts of his past life -- ones that eat away at his mind...”

“Nevertheless, I must implore that you be wary of that man, Protector.”

Protector: (foreign language) "How disconcerting. If what you say is true, then there is a possibility that he truly is an Invader."

The Protector replied, though she did not believe her own words.

After taking a moment to collect her thoughts, she continued.

Protector: (foreign language) "I have not told you this before, but the egos of every high ranking Invader are determined and formed by the total number of memory fragments they absorb. Without an ego, they are nothing but lame monsters with predictable hunting patterns."

"They obtain memory fragments by absorbing the life essence of their opponents. However, the chance of success is minuscule. In order to develop a proper ego, an Invader must cause the deaths of untold lives.”

“As for what happens with the memory fragments, once an Invader has absorbed enough to raise its rank, the fragments collapse into a single point and are then forced to battle for control over the Invader’s mind. This process either strengthens the Invader’s mental fortitude -- making it resistant to mental attacks -- or causes the Invader’s mind to collapse, turning it berserk.”

“The former ranks-up and gains an ego, the latter dies from exhaustion or battle.”

Rialla's ears perked-up upon hearing this description. [Is that man on the verge of going berserk? His appearance betrays that notion.] She thought.

Protector: (foreign language) "That said, I have confirmed that that man -- Trespasser -- had not drained any entity of its life force, nor has he killed enough to warrant any fear."

[Then...he is not an Invader?...] Pondered Rialla.

Rialla’s face suddenly warmed as blood rushed to her head in embarrassment. She had just been told, indirectly, that her assumptions had been wrong.

Rialla: (foreign language) "I-I understand, Protector. Please forgive my ignorance. If he truly was an Invader with an ego, he would not have appeared so weak."

Protector: (foreign language) "It was my mistake for not providing enough information."

Said the Protector, as she gently stroked Rialla's snout with her delicate hands.

Protector: (foreign language) "Rialla."

Rialla: (foreign language) "Y-yes!"

Rialla responded, with a bit of surprise.

Protector: (foreign language) "That man’s unknown scent. Describe it to me."

Rialla: (foreign language) "It is...not pleasant nor abrasive; neither pungent nor fragrant; not odorless...almost familiar. It was as-if he smelled of nature; of dirt and sky; of wind; of storms."

Protector: (foreign language) "Peculiar. I did not detect such a scent during his rebirth…"

Rialla: (foreign language) "Protector?"

Realizing she had absentmindedly uttered her thoughts aloud, the Protector apologized to Rialla.

Protector: (foreign language) "Ah, I must have said that out loud...forgive me Rialla. I was present when that man first arrived in our world. I saw, with my own eyes, his reconstruction and the process therein."

Rialla: (foreign language) "I do not understa-"

Protector: (foreign language) "Rialla, if I had told you everything from the start, would have grown to doubt my decision? Would you have doubted the orders I gave you?"

The Protector asked.

She had fully intended on training Rialla to think for herself, although not as soon as she had expected. Using the situation as a moment for teaching, she decided to leverage this thought, turning the minor dispute into a lesson.

Rialla: (foreign language) "...no, I would not have."

Protector: (foreign language) "Although it might be painful to doubt your own master -- the one you have pledged your life to -- doubt, no, skepticism is a skill I require of all my commanders and trusted subordinates."

"I do not want followers that obey commands without question; to follow blindly will only lead to ruin."

Continued the Protector, while brandishing a loving smile.

Rialla: (foreign language) "Was this the only way to teach me such a lesson?"

Protector: (foreign language) "No. There were other methods, but it so happened that this was the quickest."

Admitted the Protector.

Protector: (foreign language) "Do not fret, what you are feeling now will help you form stronger resolve in the future."

Hesitant, Rialla responded with a shaky voice.

Rialla: (foreign language) "I...I will believe in your insight."

Protector: (foreign language) "Splendid.”

The two women continued their conversation well into the night. Their talks focused mainly on how to handle Trespasser, the defective Traveller.

As their talks reached its end, the Protector mentioned one last thing to Rialla, before sending her off.

Protector: (foreign language) “Rialla, since this incident has postponed my visit with that defective Traveller, I must issue some form of reprimand. Listen carefully, as this is your next task..."

---Chapter End

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