After taking a steadying breath, Helen knocked firmly on Randidly’s door. The echo of her knuckles on wood hadn’t even faded by the time Helen reached down and twisted the handle. Her lips were pursed as she opened the door. Her bond with Randidly allowed her to sense Randidly somewhat. Or at least it had previously. Although his current location was fuzzy to Helen, she knew he wasn’t here-
“May I help you?”
Helen froze. There was a person in Randidly’s room, but it was not Randidly. It was a skinny and pale young man surrounded by several small mountains of scrolls. As Helen woodenly looked around the room, it was clear that there were dozens of scrolls haphazardly strewn across the table and the bed.
It seemed that whoever this interloper was, he had been here with a while.
Finally, Helen opened her mouth to answer the man. “Ah… are you an associate of Randidly? One of his squadmates has a match today, so I was just here to check if he would be attending.”
There was no way in hell that Helen would admit to sneaking into Randidly’s room for more personal reasons. During their fight, Randidly had built a wall between them that Helen was helpless to tear down. Instead, it was better to embrace her role as a support for Randidly.
However, Helen reasoned that she should at least familiarize herself with the way Randidly liked his spaces to be arranged. It felt like a weak excuse to be near him, but Helen truly believed it was not. She needed to find her role, and she currently was still too gunshy after their fight to approach Randidly directly. So she figured seeing his room would be helpful.
Now, Helen was annoyed with herself. If she hadn’t been so fucking distracted, there was no way that she would have just walked into a room with this weirdo…
“Ah, I’m actually looking for Randidly myself.” The young man said. He smiled wanly. “I’m Trentyon. Would you like to look for him together?”
“Oh, do you have a clue to his whereabouts?” Helen asked. She eyed the area around Trentyon. It really seemed like he hadn’t moved for hours. Had this guy really been looking for Randidly, or had he just started reading the scrolls and lost track of time?
Helen was aware of the value in scrolls, but it certainly was appropriate that Randidly was the sort of guy to befriend one of the mouse-ish people who spent their time buried in piles of scrolls. Well, if only for his relationship with Randidly, Helen sternly told herself that she couldn’t be rude to Trentyon, no matter how sallow his skin was.
“Of course not. Or I would be looking there. But you seemed rather lost, so I simply thought I should help a lady in distress,” Trentyon said with a dismissive wave. Then he turned back to the scroll in his hands.
Helen changed her mind about being nice to Trentyon. “A lady in distress? Indeed. Perhaps you can help me. I require an escort to the arena.”
“I’m uninterested, hun,” Trentyon said, covering a wide yawn with his hand.
Helen walked over and picked up Trentyon by the arm. She shook him a bit, dislodging a few scrolls that were caught on his clothes. “I simply must insist.”
While Trentyon spluttered, Helen carried Trentyon all the way to the arena. Halfway through the short walk through the city to the arena, she grew profoundly uncomfortable as the crowd of people around them began taking long glances at the pair of them. Trentyon continued to complain endlessly, squirming in her grip.
She flushed somewhat, under the gaze of so many. But Helen knew that Trentyon would probably just collapse on the ground like a pile of blubber if she let him go. So it was likely easiest to continue carrying him.
With her token as a competitor, Helen was able to bypass most of the lines and bring Trentyon along with her. It was only when they were in the box of seats reserved for the contestants and their families that Helen dropped Trentyon. He fell to the ground with a thump that did a lot to restore Helen’s mood.
“Why did you bring me here?” Trentyon asked sourly as he rubbed his arm. “I have no interest in these fights. I’ll have you know that I am on a very important mission for Randidly. He will not be pleased that you interrupted my research.”
As the match hadn’t started yet, Helen stretched lazily in her seat, “Oh? And what sort of important research were you performing.”
“I’m supposed to keep it a secret,” Trentyon said confidently.
Helen’s mouth twitched, but she said nothing. The conversation stalled into silence. Grumbling and casting glances her way, Trentyon eventually produced four scrolls from his interspatial ring and began to read them.
Trentyon’s angsty glances reminded Helen of some of her younger male cousins, and her gaze turned clouded as she thought about her family. Even though her mother would be extremely disappointed as to her marital status, even that woman couldn’t deny that she had grown strong. Although family connections were important, those were ultimately just secondary conduits to power.
What Helen was beginning to hold, due to Randidly and her dedication and effort, was true power. There was no need to bother with those sort of marriage alliances when she had the power herself.
Sighing, Helen closed her eyes. She knew that a large caravan was heading out of the Northern Domain and that her family had managed to escape with it. From messages she had exchanged with some of the people coming, the caravan was already deep into the Central Domain.
However, no one Helen talked to knew the area well enough to know when they would get to Hastam.
A cheer from the crowd drew Helen’s eyes back to the arena. With a wide smile, Skarch was striding into the arena. Opposite her, a cowled individual who appeared to be from the Death School was calmly gazing at Skarch.
Helen didn’t have much of an impression from this guy, but if he made it to the final under 25 Tournament, he wouldn’t be a pushover. However, Helen had heard after one of her daily spars with Azriel that Randidly had done something to Skarch’s spear that made the Spear School fighter extremely happen.
And speaking of the devil…
“Who is this?” Azriel asked as she pointed at Trentyon.
Trentyon glanced up and released a long-suffering sigh, as though he were forced to endure a horrible farce that was far beneath his dignity.
“Ah, a squatter I found in Randidly’s room. He claimed to have connections to him and to be doing important research at Randidly’s behest.” Helen said lightly.
“He seems weak. I’m surprised Randidly bothered with him,” Azriel said with a shake of her head. That earned her a glare from Trentyon, but the pale man didn’t say anything. Which, if nothing else, proved that he had good instincts.
Although Helen was rough, she was a far cry from the cruelty that an annoyed Azriel was capable of.
“It's starting,” Azriel said after a few minutes. Helen carefully watched the fighters. As soon as the referee announced the start, Skarch patted her spear.
It began to glow.
“How long until you will be finished?” Aiden Darke whispered hoarsely. He had just spent the last ten minutes in a state of shock before rushing back to the base. On a whim, he had gone to see today’s tournament match. And Engraving on the spear of the one woman in that fight…
“A while. Perhaps three weeks.” Selfia answered, sounding helpless. “Unfortunately, the Autarch’s grand working requires a certain number of bodies to continue. Although that work is important, this is the life’s work of the Autarch. Until it finishes, I will need to remain here.”
Darke gritted his teeth. “Is that the orders or your decision. Selfia, I assure you this Randidly Ghosthound-”
“Both. When I can, I will return.” Then Selfia closed the line.
“By the eternal darkness,” Darke hissed. Then he punched his desk, cracking it. There was a brief moment of satisfaction as the object broke, but then he just felt foolish.
The Propagator was currently healing itself, and therefore couldn’t be bothered with the interrogation. But Darke simply hadn’t been gifted the Skillset to extract the methods that Randidly could use to Engrave.
Previously, Darke was infuriated by Randidly’s ability to make him look like a fool, but he ultimately only distributed weaker runic engravings. Darke’s job was precisely tracking down small-time blood traitors like this. Sometimes, these individuals didn’t even understand that Wight blood was in their veins and the source of their ability to understand Engraving.
Due to this, Darke considered him something of a kindly father figure, guiding lost sheep back to the flock, so their bodies could be used to feed the will of the Autarch. But after seeing the fight today, and that engraved spear, Darke realized he had grossly underestimated Randidly Ghosthound. Whoever he had been, he was related to a powerful Wight. The sort of Engraving that the Skarch girl had…
His hands clenched into fists. Against that level of working… Darke was powerless. If the girl could control that spear, she would rip through him in all of five minutes.
Three weeks, Darke reassured himself, looking toward the isolation chamber. Then we will rip your secrets out of you. Just wait.