The girls were safe… they knew that, yet it was difficult to shake off that constant feeling of anxiety. Trudging pace of the freed prisoners didn’t do any favors to their emotional state either. Moving slightly ahead just enough to break line of sight briefly:
⟨ Mirror Image ⟩
They quickly created a replica of themself behind and went on ahead of the group. Thanks to the use of stealth none, not even the two wild lupine companions following her noticed the change. It took only a short distance to travel before the twins were in the range of telepathy.
Thinking everything through, much of the fiasco was the result of their ever increasingly reckless game of hide and seek. Though some of the fault lies with her oversight; always searching for better and better places to hide in, straying further and further away from their watch was the ultimate reason. Even without concrete words and sentences telepathy carried more than just messages. Seething anger reverberating all throughout the shared psionic link, aimed at whom, it wasn’t clear, but it wasn’t much of a challenge to guess.
All who had received the gift of telepathy felt it, the simmering asperity about to boil over, its intensity eclipsing everything else.
- ‘Stay with Ramiel.’
A calm, simple and inoffensive instruction was transmitted. So innocuous that it was exceedingly incompatible with their current tumultuous emotional state. The two knew they were coming and fast. Girls didn’t understand what exactly they did wrong, but it was the first time they felt them like this which only added to their growing discomfort.
They couldn’t wander off or more specifically, escape, not under the thundergoat’s watchful gaze. Before even a minute pass and they could start to brood over the reason from who knows where Alicia came sprinting out of the woods. Hair tousled from the trip, small bits of leaves and sticks tangled in it. With intensity in her eyes she grabbed ahold of Anastasia afore anyone could react. Sliding in on her knees, as she didn’t kill her momentum even the normally harmless earth scraped and scratched her knees and legs. Scanning and feeling around her body searching for any wounds;
< Soul Echo >
>Initializing Full Physical Examination…
>Pulse rate……… 111 BPM. Heightened state.
>Respiration rate……… 22. Heightened state.
>Retrieving vital fluid oxygen level……… Saturation 99.7%. Nominal.
>Cardiovascular system. Normal.
>Retrieving lipid levels……… Nominal.
>Retrieving vital fluid antibody level……… Nominal.
>Retrieving vital fluid sedimentation rate……… Nominal.
>Pulmonary functions. Normal.
>Respiratory systems. Normal.
>Visual systems. Normal.
>Auditory functions. Normal.
>Immune System. Functioning normally.
>Central nervous system. Normal
>Peripheral nervous system. Normal.
>Response time. 117 milliseconds.
>Hormone levels. Nominal.
>Vital signs. Normal.
>Prognosis: Subject on alert from distress; No outlying problem. End Report.
As the examination concluded Alicia clutched her close in a tight embrace. Her actions seemed to say ‘I was worried sick.’ All the fuming emotions seemed to all fade away into nothing as she took a deep whiff from the crown of her head. The unique and strangely calming scent seemed to soothe her raging emotions. To her only the present mattered. Despite the stifling grasp, the usually outspoken, voluble Anna was strangely reticent on account of choked tears of Alicia. Swallowing all the lesson and lecture to be said she simply let Anna go while shooting a beckoning look to Goldia, who after being briefly confused trotted up to her. With both sisters’ attention on her,
- “Both of you, promise me you won’t wander away too far again without letting someone go with you.”
They could only answer with slow nodding and now they could guess where they did wrong. In spite of their free willed nature, they still held their parents dear. Thus Alicia’s worried face when she came looking for Anna, the look of joy from relief when she found her and lastly perhaps the most persuasive, her unshed tear hidden behind a pained smile ingrained the deference more than any admonishment or a lesson.
- “Okay, there’s another thing. Let’s play a game. There are humans coming, like the one you saw before Goldia, the rule is that you have to hide from them if you’re in your spider form but you can be seen if you mimic them beforehand. You lose the game if you get caught. Easy, right?”
- “I was playing that with Rossie.”
- “Hey no fair! You started without me!”
- “You were too slow to find me anyway.”
Twisting their love for games into something more beneficial to her plan, she made them willingly hide themselves from the coming ex-prisoner humans. Though it was largely to close things up on a positive note, she also planted a notion of wariness towards humans, that they are to be avoided and hidden from. In general, it was mostly a needless precaution as the girls already knew what Alicia is truly. But she wanted to ascertain how long the twins could hide themselves among humans, as even though ones currently coming here are unlikely to pose any threat to them, that was not necessarily the case for humans outside the forest. At least for now until the girls could grow enough to protect themselves on their own.
- “Don’t forget, the game has already started.”
The whole event brought about a nostalgic reminiscence of her past long gone. It was during his middle school days. Coming back home well past midnight with black eye and a dirty uniform. Scab had already started to form on his face and injuries. Reasons how he got into the fight he had already forgotten. The rush he felt afterwards and the dread of reprimandation soon to follow, came back all too vivid. His mother’s tear soaked face when she saw him, there wasn’t any reproach, only questions of whether he was okay, and her rushing off to get a first aid kit from the kitchen.
His father never once raised his hand against anyone for all he could remember. He genuinely thought that day was the day that was going to change. But the only thing he had for him was the look of disappointment. Not for getting into a fight or being hurt. Not because he let him down. But for letting his mother cry. That look hit him in the gut harder than anything in the world. The aluminium bat he took to the stomach, the self defense arts’ instructor’s beatdown, even the crushing pain of death upon his head couldn’t dare hold a candle to that pain he felt. She figured that emotional ache like that of her previous life was far greater teacher than any physical punishment or scolding.
- ‘I will go… with them…’
- ‘That so? I guess it will be much safer for them with you around.’
- ‘It's nice to see you this active rather than tuck away in that den. Well let’s see if I get used to this pain.’
⟨ Mirror Image ⟩
‹ Gemini ›
‹ Doppelgänger ›
The typical agonizing pain from the division was felt once. That however was the least of her troubles, parting with Alice once more meant she left an expansive space to be filled in herself. And that emptiness portended to consume everything that she was. Thankfully it only lasted a few moments before settling down into a lull. As Alicia saw her off one problematic issue was sorted out. She could now move on to the next point of her mental checklist. The Housing for the freed girls, which needed land surveying, topological, pedological1The study of soil. Not to be confused with paedology which is the study of children’s behaviour and development. studies among other things such as feasibility studies and groundworks.
- ‘Ramiel, before you go could you tell Dryssia to come see me at the oak?’
- ‘But of course.’
- ‘There’s also something I need to ask of you when you return.’
She needed a foundation for the temporary shelter into a barracks-like hall. Disservice to be sure, in her mind that is, but right now whatever she could turn into a safe place to pass the night would work. She was intimate with the forest and its nature. With that experience she knew that the soil wasn’t just enough to hold up any serious construction project as it is. Though she did have the tool to help with the groundworks, Earth Aspect. She didn’t utilize it very often, rather the first time she even used it was by accident. Simply put the nature of the earth eluded her until she understood why, the forest was too full of life.
The forest floor above the soil was teeming with it, shrubs, trees, roots, insects all of which in varying states of decomposition inhibited the earthen powers. What she needed was the strong bedrock underneath them. Pulling it up was a problem due to the soil above it. The Earth aspect wasn’t the tool to deal with detritus. She needed to find a spot with least density of unwanted plant material. Although she herself could do it, why stumble in the dark when you have the perfect expert?
- “Open space?”
- “Preferably close to where we are.”
Mumbling to herself the Dryad wandered off in a direction before abruptly stopping a number of paces away.
The ground of the place where she stood was indeed thinly vegetated compared to dense flora around it most importantly the earth was mostly covered in dirt. There was still however another problem.
- “Are you sure? I’ll have to cut them down.”
- “I understand.”
The somber tone of her questioning made Alicia feel awkward.
- “Well… I don’t have to if you want, I can use them as a supporting pillar”
- “Master, it’s fine. Even the tallest trees must fall sooner or later. When it does rays of sun will shine without the thicket to darken it and from it may grow another. An end of a life is the beginning of another. A chance for a new acorn to flourish.”
‘I’ve forgotten that underneath her childish behaviours is a thousands of year old tree… Well let’s get to work.’
The trees blocking the site were cut down by intense thermal ‘wire’. Alicia’s superheated threads didn’t last long - even when imbued with constitution - before vaporizing but until then it could be used as an effective thermal blade. Removing the stump and the subterranean roots needed a different approach, one Dryssia provided. Kneeling in front of the bare, freshly scorched stump she gently placed her hands on top of it. Not long after, roots were animated digging themselves upwards, like new bloom seeking the sun.
She barely noticed an indistinct glow as the nymph slowly raised her hand up. Focusing on it Alicia could make out what appeared to be beige root or a vine linking the stump and the palms of her hands. Few branching and sprouting leaves. As she finished her work of exposing the trunks, most of the vines slowly detached themselves from the stub before ‘burrowing’ back away into her hands. Few that remained, wilted and disappeared in a fading light.
Their ethereal display revealed what they were, the spirits of verdure and nature, a less evolved form of what Dryssia once was. Unlike the free flying petals of air, the regal and chaotic flutterings of flame, stumblings of earth or the gentle undulating glide of water it was a slow but sure creeping progress that both enveloped the surface and submerged underneath. Much like that of a seed ever vying for the sun and the sky as it roots itself into the ground.
- “I’m done!”
- “Thanks, I’ll be sure to make the most out of it.”
With the trees clear she could start with the foundation. Although she was going to use it as a temporary shelter, she wanted to have a headroom for later renovations and expansions to make into an apartment complex if needed as she didn’t know if the coming residents had familial ties where they could share an apartment. Planning for the worst case where everyone needed their own room.
Normally it would take months to process fresh tree into a workable timber as trees hold almost half their weight in water, sap and other moisture much of that time is soaked up by the ‘seasoning’ or the drying process. Of course there was the quicker option of boiling the tree but the intense heat and steam often degraded quality. But she could more or less cheat the process thanks to a certain someone she knows.
- “So now I draw out the liquids?”
Llynbel was quietly and intently observing what Alicia was upto. Despite being knowledgeable at many things related to spirits and magic. Engineering and construction was a whole new topic for her, comparatively speaking.
- “Slowly so the wood doesn’t get damaged and you can leave about one fifth of it still in it. Try to get it out as uniformly as possible and leave the moisture as evenly spread.”
- “Seems easy enough.”
‘That should finish in an hour or two tops. Now for me to do my part.’
Controlling earth was the most puzzling part. Earth wasn’t an element per se. Unlike air which was mostly nitrogen and oxygen and water being mostly hydrogen-monoxide2Hydric Acid Earth was a collection of much more numerous elements. Calcium, silicon, magnesium, sulphur, iron, copper, zinc, nickel, manganese, boron, aluminium and many more forming various different minerals. Controlling each aggregates and particulates individually was a fool's errand but on the other hand the easily manipulated single composite mineral in large mass and shape was not exactly plentiful.
- ‘Alright show me what you can do mudmen.’
The solution was, if she couldn’t find it naturally, she'd make it magically. Compressing the elements she would make her own mix of indurate, resting above the bedrock, strong enough to hold up the construction project. Her knowledge of chemistry and geology was insufficient to make it happen methodically thus she could only rely on Earth spirits indigenous to her hair. They guided and used her magical energy, shifting the earth underneath to form the image she wanted, a firm concrete.
‘It’s like I’m clenching my fist… or clenching someone else’s fist for them… quite the experience…’ Although she wanted a shallow foundation the compressed earth naturally sunk as it hardened. ‘It’s more than I asked for so no complaints there, once the tree is dry I start getting some beams in place to hold the roof and walls. The first night is going to be rough for them since it's going to be more or less a homeless shelter but I'm sure they’ve spent time in much worse places. I could name one for sure… Oh they’re here.’
Strangely not many of her familiars were suited for hauling cargo. Despite having considerable strength her Araneae didn’t have the flat surface to comfortably carry something without toppling it over. Wolves while more suited had problems of securing it leaving only the goats. Although they couldn’t carry much, with sheer number they could carry large quantities of small to midsize items. The others were relegated to escort duty since they couldn’t protect themselves while loaded. As for what they were carrying: the reclaimed materials of brigand camp was taken down and recycled. Long storing food, tents, weapons, textiles, clothes and other likely illegally obtained goods.
Shortly after, Faenas and her officers carried in things bundled in cloth.
- “Got what you wanted, I’d say they’re decently made.”
- “Ah the bedclothes are here, thanks a lot, especially on such a short notice.”
- “Don’t mention it, you’ve helped us a lot. Only natural to give some of it back however we can.”
- “How’s Sha’ko’s party?”
- “The bagged a cave lion. Big one. Said they’ll send someone after they’re done preparing it.”
With how much distance between her and the double she left with the girls remaining, she expected them to arrive well after sundown. But pulling in all the favors she could get.
- “We can make it!”
‘Though I’m feeling a little winded… strange.’
>Notice. Energy level 57%
>Estimated time until critical levels at current expenditure: 517 minutes.
‘I can still make it.’