Sena entered the First Ward pub that served as the Jomuran army’s headquarters. It irked her a little that the building and location were so shoddy, but since she chose to make the emergency trip to Breor in the final hours of the takeover, she did not have a say in it. By now, the Jomurans were already used to operating out of the pub, and with such little time left, now was not the time to move. She looked around the room and then rested her eyes on what she had come for.
Loden’s body lay eerily still on one of the longer tables of the pub.
The Jomurans had removed all the arrows from his body and stripped him of his armor. He was dressed in Deep Tribe clothes, his hands crossed on his stomach.
The fat Jomuran, other military commanders and multiple Reo advisors that had left Breor with Sena in the balloon all stood around the room. Bene, the fat Jomuran, nodded with a grim face.
“Moon phases ago when we encountered him together in the Roen Sur he was a coward. I did not expect to see his face when I opened the mask. He charged us like a man possessed, took many of our warriors with him,” said Bene.
Sena had heard earlier that Sid died in the charge as well. The news brought out mixed feelings: she was glad she would not have to entertain the thought of eliminating him for being able to guess her identity, but Sid was also one of the kindest and most capable Adventurers’ leaders during the days she tried to enter the guild. It would have been difficult for her to kill him, so she was thankful that his sense of honor and bravery took care of him instead.
The rot had already started and parts of Loden’s body were seeing decay. Though the others in the room actively avoided getting too close to the body, Sena did not seem to notice it. She walked slowly toward Loden’s head, then touched his cheek with a claw. Loden’s disability and depressing aura prevented Sena from noticing it before, but in that moment in his serene sleep Loden appeared very handsome. Her eyes descended from his eyes to his neck and then she realized he was wearing some sort of necklace.
She reached out to it and pulled gently, revealing the blood vial.
“What is this?” Sena asked.
“We...do not know but it appears to be blood, so we did not want to remove it.”
After looking the vial over, she nodded slowly.
“This artwork is clearly Reo.”
Must have gotten this before the war, Sena thought.
The bird design on the vial reminded her of something or someone but she couldn’t quite place a claw on who or what it was. In any case, she did not know any Reo well, so it must have been a coincidence.
With the stress of the incoming Elysian navy and her surprise at Loden’s death, Sena was suddenly overcome with a mix of stress and grief. A few tears fell from her eyes, but they were caught by the mask and the others did not notice. Preparations for the Elysian invasion force had already started that morning when Sena arrived, but they would only have one day, or perhaps only until nightfall before the might of the Empire bore down on them. Despite that, Sena felt that she needed some time alone with the body before continuing with war preparations.
“Give me a minute.”
Bene nodded and exited the room, along with the Jomuran leaders and the Reo.
Now alone, Sena held up the vial with her hands, turning it over again. Something bothered her deeply about the vial but she could not understand or explain it in any way. She looked closely at the design one more time, trying to recall where she had seen a pattern like this before. Though she could not dig out the memory, she noticed the design suggested that a woman had given this to him.
“A woman...well this girl must like you a lot.”
No response from Loden.
“A Reo woman...how did a bastard like you end up with one?”
Tears flowed down her cheeks as she thought back to their time in the stone city. Sena had never liked Loden, but there was something endearing about his cynical, selfish attitude. Despite signs to the contrary, she was somehow not surprised that he would lead the frontier army’s final suicide run against her soldiers.
“Idiot…” she whispered.
But like with Sid, Sena was internally glad that she did not have to meet him on the battlefield.
Sena turned the vial over the third time.
Then the fourth. Then the fifth.
“Ohk!” she called out.
The door swung open and the silent Jomuran man jogged into the room, bowing quickly.
“Get a medicine man to preserve the body as well as possible.”
She turned to one of the Reo women standing outside the door.
“You! You speak Breori right? Find Kariya Loden’s daughter and deliver the body to her after we take care of it. I am going to write a note to send with you.”