Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Volume 1 - Chapter 5 - Incognito as Shadow

The group has created, scrapped, revised, created some more, scrapped some more, revised some more plans until Rick had to log off. Out of all the plans, there's a very simple and devious one that can greatly benefit them. Make the two guilds fight to the death and then gain credit for it among the non-users. There are some risks involved, but considering the current situation, even if they were to get caught, there will still be bigger fish to fry than for the two guilds to go after them. Not that they can even if they want to, since the group is relatively unknown save for Feia. The ones in the most dangerous position would be Bell and Till, but surprisingly, it was Till who made the final suggestion.

Mikhal's departure will be delayed until Rick logs back in, when Mikhal's fit to travel of course. This way, Rick can throw the support of the Academy behind Sardon as part of Feia without anyone being the wiser. This will also save them from having to giveMikhal a mount since they will be riding Sammy together.

Kun will be in charge of the academy in the mean time, and go over the 2nd batch of books that Defaye left them. While he might not be the best at understanding high concepts, he's exceptionally good at grasping what can be used and more importantly, in what ways something can be used. He's also to provide personal training to the older students, so that they can watch over the academy in the future should the entire group be absent for any extended period of time.

Till and Bell will masquerade as envoys that are sent to assist Sardon. Till will seek an audience with the king, she recalls the king of Sardon had previously consulted with Alfina, it's likely the King or some of his entourage will recognize Till. Bell is to be the escort, and also the intimidation factor should something go awry.

* * * * *

In the dimly lit corner of the workshop, an untouched tray of food lays on the far end of a workbench. The surrounding table space is filled with sawdust and half shells made of wood. An aqueous humanoid throws another wooden shell haplessly onto the table, unsatisfied.
Grabbing another piece of wood, Dosnak starts carving again.

Dosnak is what one would call a humanoid slime, often mistaken for slime beasts, Humans tend to attack them when they are encountered in the shades and burrows of forests and swamps, thus the species as a whole has few individuals and is normally very hostile to humans. Since he was rescued by Defaye and Till when he was young, he harbours no such feelings common among his species.

His species as a whole is weak to fire, thus is uncomfortable in the sunlight. Since he can't help farm nor patrol during the day, he had been restricted to hunting at night and staying indoors or in the shades after joining De'muel, Mak'ra and Isnic. During one depressing, bright afternoon, Till brought back a clay toy to cheer him up. This eventually led to him picking up crafting as a hobby, then it became a calling.

The entirety of his body save his core is aqueous, often in the consistency of a jelly. He can change his body shape at will, so he can be very sensitive to the shapes and texture of anything he touches. As such, he makes some very comfortable furniture and clothing since he can imitate the shape of those that will use it. As a matter of fact, a large majority of the furniture in the academy had been built by him. Various curtains, upholstery, towels, clothings and so forth were made by him as well. Even so, this is the hardest project he've faced so far.

Haphazardly throwing another hollowed, wooden shell on the table, he picks out another piece of wood and starts carving again.

* * * * *

"Be careful out there, Rick-ni. Keep an eye on him, Sammy."

*kero kero*

"We will be back before you know it, and what did you mean by telling Sammy to keep an eye on me... hey, wait, no, Sammy, nooo!" Sammy picks Rick up with his normally hidden mouth and stuffs him into its cheeks. Riding on top of it, is Mikhal. With nary a notice, the furry white blob storms off onto the road leading out of the forest. Leaving Till behind, who is giving them a small wave.

Both Bell and Kun are busy with their respective work. With August approaching, Bell is busy checking both equipments and personnels to ensure they are fit to work in the upcoming summer work season, and to get replacements if needed. Kun on the other hand is busy running training camps for assorted groups of people, the funds earned will make the upcoming winter easier and more manageable. This leaves Rick and Till, who are on summer break to log in and implement part of their plan. Since the audience with the King would require Bell to be present, Till decided to temporarily take over Kun's duties while he works.

"Till-ne, come with us, we need to have a talk."

De'muel had hit his growth period, he had went from just slightly taller than Till to almost as tall as Rick now if you include his horns. Mak'ra and Isnic, who are also starting to show signs of growth, are further back behind De'muel, waiting patiently.

"Why? What's the matter?"

"We will discuss it at the workshop, come."

The four of them head to the workshop under the bright morning sun.

* * * * *

"Go ahead, Dosnak."

We had gathered at the front of the workshop, a gentle breeze blows in from the opened doors and windows.


Picking something from the table, the jellyman grabs my right hand and hands it to me. It's a necklace with an intricate amulet of a blooming flower the size of a medallion, as though one has been plucked while in bloom and then instantly fossilized. At the very center of the flower, a shimmering crystal lays firmly embedded in it. The crystal and wooden carving looks to be one continuous piece with no visible lines to show how they were put together. I recognize this crystal anywhere, it's the one that Aflina always keep with her.

"Please cheer up... headmistress wouldn't have wanted to see you like this."

*poro poro*

I just stare at the amulet, my vision becomes slightly blurry and something warm seems to be coming out of my eyes. A pair of feathery arm wraps me in a hug from behind. "Everything's going to be okay, just let it out."


Something like a dam inside of me bursts, why am I crying? A bittersweet pain fills my chest, why am I remembering Alfina all of the sudden? I turn and sob into the figure behind me. The warmth feels really comforting...

Till had been grieving the loss of an old dear friend without being aware of it. It can be easily forgiven if one considers her tender age of 12. She had been sickly as a child, as such, her mother had often bring her to work and play with her in her lab while working. She eventually grew out of her frail constitution, but not before befriending those beings in the machine world that her mom had shown her in her laboratory.

To keep using the consoles at her mom's lab, she was made to promise to score well in her report cards. It was an unreasonable promise intended to keep her from visiting often, but unexpectedly, she had no problem keeping up, even surpassing her mother's expectation.

Unbeknownst to her mother, she had been reading books to keep her mind off her illness when she was young. She had been unable to play and interact with other children as far back as she can remember, so she had to managed on her own. The username Till, is based on a geology book she had found from her mother's study during this period of her loneliness, referring to the left behind sediment from a glacier, because that's how she'd felt, left behind.

Due to her awkwardness, intelligence and timid attractiveness, she was bullied when she fully returned to school. Her peers, who were jealous of her looks, intelligence, attention, etc.., made her life miserable, stealing, taunting, even physically attacking her. Her teachers weren't much better, throwing unreasonable expectations on her while blaming her when she was the obvious victim of various incidents. Realizing the shallowness of those around her, she chose to close her heart and mercilessly fought back against those who continued to wrong her.

Children her age that continued to bother her would have rumours spread about them, sometimes with their electronic diaries, journals and even embarrassing photos posted anonymously on the school's intranet board, at times, even onto the greater internet. Her teachers who were incompetent or malicious were either fired or arrested for a variety of reasons. Eventually, she was even able to gain exemption from attending school altogether aside from the designated time where she would need to take various tests.

The principal and guidance counselors tried to convince her to apply for the national prodigy recognition exam, but she had deemed that it would merely improve the school's reputation and their career's future prospects. As such, she flatly refused, she even threatened to withdraw from the school and get the media involved when they tried to strong-arm her into taking the exam.

It's simple irony that it was non-humans that had kept her humanity from slipping away. She had intended to scare the three users that were rescued by Alfina away by telling them about the planned dissection. She knew Alfina was merely joking, but dissecting these shallow, two-faced creatures didn't seem to be too bad of an idea to her.

She had expected them to log out and never to return again, but unexpectedly, they did log back in. The three of them even helped each other, it's obvious the short black-haired man was different from the other two and didn't really know them. Why would they help each other? How can they laugh and work together like this?

Sensing the subtle change in her presence, Alfina sent her out travelling with them. She cheerfully went along with it, what better way to view a drama of greed and betrayal than a front row seat?

But nothing changed, not when Bell reached level 1 and started to grow hair all over the place and ended up as part cat. Not when Rick had to find a needle in a haystack and the two went and helped him for his [Archer] test. Not even when Kun was picked up by a stray Roc, the two had jumped right into rescuing him before running like mad for cover. They treat others with sincerity, talk about their daily, mundane things, joke around as if it was the most natural thing to them.

That was when she learned that not all people are trash, she was going to share this with Alfina when she got back, but she never had the chance.

Hmm... comfy... wait, why am I in bed? I remember getting the amulet and then...


I couldn't recall much after that. Giving up, I open my eyes and sit up, looking around. I see Isnic's distinct feathers wrapped around me, with her gently snoring away. The sun is streaming from the windows, Dosnak seems to be sleeping in a wide shallow tub. De'muel and Mak'ra are nowhere to be seen. I got up slowly to avoid waking either of the two up and walked outside the room. It seems I was sleeping in Dosnak's bedroom... did I cry myself to sleep?

On the long workbench in front of me, there are many small, semi-circle hollowed shells that were almost exactly half the size of her amulet. I look at the amulet hanging down my neck.

Just how many times did he carve to make the crystal fit in so perfectly?

I gathered them and placed them into a crate and quietly cleaned up the place before sweeping the sawdust with «Burst». I don't know why, but I feel a lot lighter, and I think, a little hungry. Am I hungry in here? Or in my real body? I went back into Dosnak's room, close the windows before heading to my room in the dormitory and log out. There's going to be a slight change of plans.

* * * * *


The wind howls wildly in the night sky. It is an unexpectedly chilly night. The weather in Sardon is usually mild to warm in all seasons due to its unique geography, but unusually strong winds and foul weather visits the gray hills of Ashentor this night.

"Good night, my liege."


A figure clad in a royal purple cloak waves off a troop of guards and servants. It climbs onto a large, satin covered bed with a canopy after throwing the cloak haphazardly on the floor, reaching over to blow out the candle lamp.


As soon as he rests himself into the bed, a voice greets him.

"Good evening, King Einwil of Ashentor. And don't scream for your guards, you know you would already be dead if we wanted to kill you."

He sits up from the bed, noticing the pair of golden eyes that's staring at him from next to the window.


*gaba gaba*

A flutter of the other curtains and the rubbing of clothing answers his question.

"It has come to our attention that you need assistance against some immortals."

The king narrows his eyes, trying to locate the rest of the "we". "Any peasant with an ear knows that."

"Ah, but would any peasant help you deal with them?"

The king remains silent for a moment. "Elaborate."

"We are going to send some help."

"And if I refuse this 'help'?"

"We will just make sure Mikhal doesn't arrive in Feia. You know they are the only ones that will send help of any significance, your other so called allies and neighbours will merely offer some token support. No one wants to agitate the immortals after all."

The king himself expects as much as well, and he had also sent Mikhal and his two brothers to Feia personally. The two older sons of the obese Barwn Donavic are mostly more brawn than brains, but the illegitimate son has proven himself to be quite excellent. The king also knows that no help comes free... or cheap. "What is the cost of this... 'help'?"

*hiso hiso*

"Two items from the treasury, and all the layouts and maps of the forts and keeps the immortals had taken over and those surrounding them... and a favor."

"Two items?"

*hiso hiso*

"Fine, 1 item, but 5 from the royal forge."

The king is dumbfounded, unsure of the purpose behind the low price for the offered help.
He reaches over to the candle lamp in a smooth motion to avoid drawing notice to it.


"«Flame»." The king managed to light the candle lamp.

"Remember, maps, an item from the treasury and five from the forge. Just give the maps to the Feian force, it will come to us eventually."

The king turns around and points the light toward the pair of golden eyes. But they are already gone, a flutter of feathers and a trail of aquamarine exits the window. The king immediately runs toward it, trying to spot the people that were once in his room.

*gaba gaba hyuu*

But all he sees are his guards patrolling the ramparts, with nary a commotion.


In the sky high above the royal castle, a shivering Till holds onto Isnic tightly while breathing out clouds of white. "Good acting there, Isnic... Buurrrrrrrrr, next time I'm going to bring a coat." The two figures glide silently toward the [Forest of Illusions].

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the chapter!
    Finally! At least we got a deeper look into the character know has Till.


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