[Have any ideas?] Evelyn asked, concentrating on her ears, eager to find where Amelia was. [And by the way, where are you? Where are the others? Can’t you just show up? Not seeing you around is giving me the creeps, really. So, do me a favor, please?]
[I discern that we’ll be an easier target if we meet. And for your other question, no. I haven’t seen your party members.] Amelia’s eyes followed the circling Halvsoth. Gradually, the beast was making its way towards the center.
A feint? Or is it wary? Amelia thought as the Halvsoth made frequent turns towards her and back to its original path. For Amelia who knew only a few things about the Halvsoth, it’s quite a task to discern the beast’s intention. It moves too much…
Amelia was by no means uninformed of the existence of the Halvosth. In fact, it was one of the most common beasts that could be encountered during a voyage. However, having no experience nor the time to be familiar with Formos in person, Amelia could only rely on what she read on papers—or what Maize has taught.
In the first place, shouldn’t Halvsoth attacks be rare during this season? They often dwell in warm waters, if my memory serves me right.
In the warm waters of Formos dwell most of the Halvsoth. However, during the winter season, the temperature of the water naturally falls. As a result, fishes, Nereids, and sea beasts dwells a little deeper than normal. Some even migrate from Formos towards the ocean.
For the human nations, albeit the difficulty in catch, it is a somewhat peaceful time for sailors and the like. And thus, in paper, the sudden dip in the number of incidents in the sea is quite noticeable.
Meanwhile, “Amelia is right. It is unnatural for that kind of beast to be out in this season. Much less traveling on its own,” Celes muttered with a frown. Halvsoths could attack during winter, but they often come in numbers to mitigate the temperature even for a bit.
[I believe someone is trying to make a move,] Fenrir added.
“It’s probably him, and again.” Celes shifted her crossed legs and heaved a sigh.
[Again you say?] Fenrir turned its questioning eyes towards Celes. [Who do you mean? Based on the location, it’s most probably the Angels themselves or the self-proclaimed guardians.]
“Neither of them. And this is no doing of a Divine, sadly. I cannot impose the rules and swat the likes of him as I used to.”
Short low growls escaped Fenrir’s jaws. [It seems this meddlesome being has stoked your ire.]
“Who wouldn’t be?” Celes repeatedly tapped her fingers on her chair made of twisted roots. “You were expecting to see something out of the situation, but someone meddles and breaks the flow. Won’t you be as frustrated?”
[In that case, why not ask him? I believe he’s nearby.]
“The male Levia? Though I think the Leviathan Twins would be excited to see Amelia just as they were on Elena, there is no need. Besides, them moving for the sake of meeting Amelia… I can only foresee a disaster. Or at least the assembly questioning me for the movements of the twins.”
[And knowing you—]
“Dealing with the assembly… it’s not something I want to do very often. Looking after some lousy, violence-prone children is most unwelcome.”
Fenrir laughed once more. [Only you treat those Divines as children.]
“What title could I give them then? If they were not supervised, dealt with, and reprimanded under the rules, everything would be the same as it was when the Gods left. And I believe you know this very well, Fenrir.”
[A chaotic time indeed. I must thank you, the head overseer, for the short time of peace I am witnessing.]
“Surely you know that the assembly was made not without malice, no?”
Fenrir sat straight, seemingly like a faithful dog. [Perhaps. However, that malice does not matter to me. I would not be here if such was a bother. And for that, no matter the number of times, I must thank you.]
Celes’s eyelids fell. “You have accepted the terms. I am only doing what our contract entailed.”
[Nevertheless.] Fenrir leaned his head forward, allowing Celes to reach the fur underneath Fenrir’s jaw.
“You have my thanks as well.” Satisfied, Celes eased her legs and resumed her monitoring of Amelia and Evelyn. “Now, let’s see where this goes.”
Returning to where Amelia was, Think… There should be something that Evelyn could do to end this. She was preparing something before.
Her arms locked around the dead guards, standing on a barrier underwater, Amelia recalled the scene.
She lined up the corpses. But what? What could she possibly do with that setup?
Evelyn could shoot arrows out of nowhere. However, its efficiency is doubtful underwater. At the least, Amelia was able to hypothesize that Evelyn could make something appear and disappear whenever she wanted. The proof of it was the bodies around her arms. But even with that, Amelia could not think of any object effective against the Halvsoth.
I must make a situation where she’ll be forced to play her cards, Amelia thought.
I must see how she’ll deal with this situation. I might get a better understanding of her abilities then, Evelyn thought.
As both sides were rummaging through the list of options they could take, the Halvsoth decided to halt. Its mouth gaping, it turned towards Evelyn.
At this sudden action, Amelia stood stock-still. Give me a rest!
[It’s trying to target you,] Amelia said.
[Huh?! From which direction?! And an estimated distance if you can!]
For a moment, while making her way directly underneath Evelyn, Amelia remained silent. Was it a good idea to answer her question? It was akin to telling Evelyn that she could see the whole situation.
Ah, but I already gave it away, didn’t I? Amelia regretted the impulsive decision rooted in making Evelyn live. Just knowing who the beast’s target was already a hint. [From where you are facing, south-east. The distance… I have no idea. I just took a glimpse underwater, so I hardly had enough time to make an estimate.]
Evelyn gritted her teeth. She took a deep breath and dived. From that point on, Amelia had masked herself once more with an illusion, allowing Evelyn to overlook her.
Tsk! Evelyn resurfaced after recalling that she could not see anything underneath. Again, she grabbed a scroll from the air and poured mana. Soon, a light towards her right burst. Subsequently, Evelyn took another dive and saw the Halvsoth.
The Halvsoth remained at its place as if a fish sleeping at the bottom of a fish tank.
The Halvsoth then turned its tail. As immediate as it appeared, it then dove deeper into the sea.
Is it… gone? But why? Evelyn resurfaced. She rubbed her arms, trying to keep herself warm. “Will it come back?”
It was not a standard in games, but enemies usually come back for another round whenever they were lost or fled. However, this knowledge alone kept Evelyn at her toes.
[Is it still around?]
[… No. I can’t see it.]
Amelia, too, was dumbfounded. She never expected that the Halvsoth would flee. And though it was a thankful turn of events. Amelia was not able to draw more cards from Evelyn’s hand. The same situation has befallen Evelyn.
Moments later, Amelia found herself drifting along with Evelyn on a small boat. A countermeasure Evelyn prepared if ever she sailed on the sea—which came in handy. However, both were wary of each other, despite the non-existent space between them.
“Why can’t you let go of those.” Evelyn braved steeled her heart as she looked towards the bodies piled behind Amelia. “The boat is small for four people. It’s quite unsteady now.”
“They deserve a proper burial.” Amelia glared. “And I’ll be asking you for the rest of those you kept.”
“I will.” Evelyn shot back. “That is if you agree to my previous terms.”
Amelia hugged her knees and rested her chin. “I decline.”
Evelyn frowned. “Then—”
“I’ll have you agree to my terms instead.”
Evelyn gripped the side of the boat. Though dying and reviving was an option, she had yet to test it. The function existed in her menu, but Evelyn knew well that dying in LMOs, which strived to create a realistic environment, was never easy.
Evelyn etched a fearless smile. “I’m at point-blank range.”
“And so am I.” Amelia partly showed her neck, reminding Evelyn that none her usual shackles bounded her.
Evelyn flinched. Now that she looked at Amelia for a second time, she noticed that her wounds were gone. Neither a scar or blemish was left on her skin.
It was there before everything happened, Evelyn thought. She could remember it well. The blood that soaked her gag, dry tints of blood smeared on her rags, she could not have mistaken it.
“And why would I answer that?”
“…” Evelyn bit her lip. Should I make a move? But if I did, it’ll bound to be difficult. And if that beast returns right at the moment of our battle, it’ll be difficult. But I guess I can live through this.
Evelyn took a glance on the corpses behind Amelia.
Duties of a Royal huh. How idealistic. But it’s fine. I can’t hope for anything better.
“I believe you’ll understand our situation soon,” Amelia muttered. “It’ll be better if you agree to hear and abide by my terms before everything ends for you.”
Evelyn shook her head. “No, it’s you who doesn’t understand.”
A smile crept on Amelia’s face. “Then why don’t you ask that stomach of yours? We are drifting in the sea after all. Without knowledge and direction.”
Lies… Evelyn was late to realize. The battle was never on the physical side alone. “Ha! If you think that, then you won’t last longer than me.”
Foodstuffs, did you believe I have none? I did not store everyone else’s baggage for nothing.
“You can probably make food appear, don’t you?” Amelia said. “I’ve noticed this before. All of you were light on your toes. And judging from what I’ve seen, you have them, don’t you? And let me remind you once more, there is practically no space between us. Your food is mine as well.”
“But if you’re willing to wait it out and starve us both, believe me, it’ll be far better to accept what I have in store.”
This boat was a cage. That was what entered Evelyn’s mind.
A mistake. Maybe it would have been better if I gambled everything we boarded the boat. No. In the first place, I can’t tell if she’s bluffing or not. Just who are you? Just what are you?
Evelyn heaved a sigh. “What are your terms?”
“First, I’ll have you dig the graves of those you have killed.”
“I’ll instruct you on the others later, but for now.” Amelia slipped her hand between her thighs and chest and reached to her neck. “Hold my necklace.”
The Halvosth was gone. Its bait was gone. No, the illusion that made the Halvsoth move unexpectedly was gone. It was released.
“…” Nevertheless, the being that manipulated the Halvsoth was at an impasse. He remained staring at his feet, covered in a thin coat of grayish-brown fur.
Was there a being before? His feet brought him towards a wall. No, there wasn’t. A horned human? A single horn?
The illusion was well deployed, but having knowledge of illusions himself, he was able to catch a glimpse. Even the silhouette was enough for him to doubt.
That old man swam away with the other two. Three are dead. The Hero is alive… so it was their prisoner? Yes. I think it was. That princess, wasn’t it?
The being searched through his knowledge, an abundant amount based on his lifespan. No. Just as I thought. I cannot recall anything similar. Sure, there are humans who forged a contract with spirits and was changed as a result. But this girl… she’s sane. Or is she? No, she is conversing as a human would. It isn’t a pact. But what is she? And to contest a God’s vessel… this is news to me.
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