IN THE DARK (I)
It wasn’t the first time she found herself in such a situation, Lucky mused silently as she hid further behind a set of boxes. She was surrounded by them yet, despite that, it seemed almost as though she herself had become one. Glancing ever so often at the open field of the strange warehouse she’d found and people currently walking about, she cursed herself more so than anyone else for following the trails all the way here.
The warehouse was stationed well inside the ‘Prime District’, the innermost point of the entire Empire, buried beneath a looming cliff, directly inside of it. It was wide and tall and lit well by the embedded crystals in the dry walls, spaced perfectly with stacks upon stacks of boxes lined neatly in a half-squared fashion opposite of the gigantic entrance.
As she was hiding she was unable to use her Divine Sense to listen in on the conversations developing well down below, yet could still infer more than most would in such a situation. It was mainly done through gestures, lip movements, expressions, mannerism, walking pace, every bit of unintended muscular movement never escaped her eye.
She had been sitting behind the boxes for nearly four hours now but she had never seen a familiar face. Before leaving someplace, Lino had handed her over a list of names and faces she ought to pay attention to, though as per usual he hadn’t explained anything beyond that, merely stating she ought to be careful. It’s been over a week since he left, and he hadn’t even used a talisman to check in.
It wasn’t a surprise, though, as this was too much like him it almost seemed poetic. Glancing out once more, Lucky’s expression stiffened for a moment as she quickly withdrew it; for the first time she’d seen a face she recognized -- First Princess Annabelle. She was accompanied by a set of well-armed guards and was currently talking to an elderly man, the only person who hadn’t left the warehouse the whole time she was here, Lucky noted.
She knew right then and there that it was time to leave; not only is Annabelle much, much stronger than most others who’ve come here today, Lucky had already obtained all she could from the warehouse. Though she didn’t dare look inside the boxes and see what they contained, it was irrelevant. While she was doing her job for Evelyn, she rarely if ever investigated something or someone to the tiniest detail; oftentimes it was much better to simply infer things from the clues. Even if she happened to be wrong once or twice, it hardly deterred her from doing the same thing the next time.
She waited until the Princess and the elderly man moved away from the entrance and off into the distance before slithering through the narrow spaces in-between the rows of the boxes, slowly moving toward the sole entrance and exit into the facility. She suppressed both her Qi and life force as much as she could, barely breathing all while moving without making a single sound.
There was about twenty-thirty meters of open space in-between the nearest set of boxes and the exit, so she waited for a little while until the Princess and the elderly man reached the very edge of the warehouse before sprinting out from her hiding and dashing for the exit while still ensuring not a single iota of her presence was leaked.
Just as she broke past the exit, she enrobed herself in an illusion to prevent the numerous guards stationed near and around the cliff from seeing her. Bounding the steep cliffside, she quickly climbed on top and sprinted away from the entire area, maintaining complete calm and composure all throughout.
She didn’t stop once she left the First District and continued running until she reached the Third; by then the dawn had come about, first signs of the sun appearing in the far east. The district seemed to wake alongside the sun as the silent streets were quickly filled with hubbub of noises, chatter and shouts.
Lucky slowly blended in with the crowd and began casually walking about as she headed toward the ranch. The atmosphere of the district -- and the city as a whole at that -- had turned up over the past few days as the Annual Festival of Arts and Crafts was fast approaching. Though Lucky didn’t quite understand just why was it so important, she could hardly chastise the masses as chances are they had quite little to look forward to on daily basis.
It took her a couple of hours to reach the ranch stationed somewhat off the main road, halfway up the mountain. Even before walking up to the fence she could hear the neighs of horses echoing in the distance; she had stolen some soon after Lino left, taking the latter’s advice. Felix had generously offered to take care of them on his own, though it might have had something to do with Lucky’s theatrical blasting of the ‘miserable life’.
Rather than opening the fence she heaved over it, entering the sprawling land of absolute nothingness. In the distance ten or so horses were currently running about; they were actually a mutated species of an ordinary horse, artificially bred with one or the other species of ox -- she couldn’t remember. The Ox Horses were quite similar to the ordinary ones, save for being slightly larger, endowed with much bigger legs that could pull stronger and faster.
“You’re just coming back?” a familiar voice jolted her back to reality, one slightly filled with anger. Lucky grinned as she turned around and met Felix’s gaze.
“Why? You worried I’m cheating on you?” she asked, walking over.
“I’m worried you’re doing something shady.” Felix sighed, unable to hold onto his stoic expression.
“... eh? Are you implying cheating on you isn’t considered ‘shady’?” Lucky asked.
“It’s not shady,” Felix said, smiling lightly. “It’s scummy.”
“Eh, I guess you’re right. You slept well?” she tiptoed for a moment as she kissed him gently.
“I always do,” Felix replied, glancing at the horses. “Well, I would if those idiots wouldn’t wake me even before the sun did. You went investigating again?”
”Aye.” Lucky nodded, glancing at horses as well as the two slowly headed over toward the small-sized mansion.
“Found the First Princess roaming about that shady warehouse.”
“... so it goes all the way to the top, huh?” Felix grunted. “Shouldn’t we stop now and wait for the Master to return?”
“Who knows when that bastard will come back?” Lucky rolled her eyes at him. “What if they relocate or something?”
“We’ll find it again.”
“You trust my skills way too much to do all that shit again without being found.”
“... aaah. So, what’s the plan?” Felix asked after a deep sigh of resignation.
“During the festival,” Lucky said, sitting down on the porch. “I’ll sneak back into the warehouse and check the boxes.”
“... we already know they’re most-likely full of corpses, though. Do you have to risk it?” Felix asked, frowning.
“It’s not about the corpses,” Lucky shook her head, taking the cup of mead Felix was handing over. “I want to see whether I can figure out what are they used for.”
“Some scummy shit no doubt.” Felix said, taking a sip. “And considering that the whole thing has remained under wraps all this time, it’s most-likely instigated by the Emperor himself. Haah... even Master is helpless with this.”
“... he’ll think of something.” Lucky smirked. “He always does. Oh, right, I might have figured out where he went.”
“I’ve heard some rumors that the north is literally flattened,” she said. “And I mean, like, literally flattened. No mountains, no icebergs, no nothing but flatland full of trash.”
“... yep, sounds like him.” Felix nodded after a short though. “Shouldn’t he have come back by now though?”
“Well, if you didn’t interrupt my story, you might have figured it out already.”
“I’ve heard there were some Sin-Devil corpses over there.”
“E-eh?” Felix nearly jumped out of his seat, staring at Lucky in confusion. “A-are you sure? I... I mean, I know Master’s strong but... is... is he really that strong?”
“I’ve checked repeatedly,” Lucky shrugged. “His talisman says that he’s still alive. However, he’s most-likely either exhausted or wounded. Either way, you can probably find him in one or the other brothel, ‘recovering’.”
“... he’s really full of surprises.” Felix mumbled, sitting down. “You don’t seem shocked that he might have possibly killed not one, but several Sin-Devils.”
“You haven’t learned yet?” she glanced at him dubiously. “Don’t ever go about setting standards for him. He’s insane.”
“:.. yep. Good point.”
“Anyway, enough about him.” Lucky said. “What’s for breakfast?”
“I thought you could make it today.” Felix said casually.
“Ha ha ha ha, yeah, good one--wait, you’re serious?”
“Are you nuts?!” Lucky growled. “I’ve never made a breakfast before in my life!”
“Then learn.” Felix shrugged. “Neither have I before you started ordering me to make one.”
“... I think it’s a bit too late for you to embody the whole ‘macho’ non-sense.”
“... you really don’t hold back, do you?” Felix commented bitterly. “That’s not it. I... I just want to eat something, you know, you made.”
“... well, that’s the most girly thing I’ve heard in my life.”
“Oh, come on!! What’s ‘girly’ about wanting to eat your food?! What, is every husband in the world a ‘girl’ all of a sudden?”
“Oh my. Are you practicing on being a husband?” Lucky grinned.
“Exactly! And you should practice being a wife!” it took Felix a moment before he heard his words. “T-that’s not what I mean and you know it!!”
“... I didn’t say anything.” Lucky said with a stoic expression, barely holding back laughter. “It’s just weird that you want me to cook as a practice. Food is easy to find, you know? How about we instead practice some bed stuff?”
“... you’re a fiend!! A fucking fiend!! Four times! Four times last night! What do you think I am goddammit?!” Felix exploded suddenly, surprising Lucky.
“Wasn’t it five, though?” she asked innocently.
“W-what?! I passed out after the fourth, you goddamn nympho!”
“... oopsie. Pfft...”
“Oh, right, of course. It’s funny, isn’t it?”
“Nah, what’s funny is that,” she got up and walked over slowly, placing her hand on his chest and tracing her index finger downwards. “You’re pretending you’ve grown tired of screwing me.” she leaned closer in and bit his ear, whispering. “And we both know you were as passed out last night as I’m dry right now.”
“... e-extremely... dry...” Felix mumbled as he felt a hand grip his crotch.
“... oh gods help me...” he shrieked lowly as Lucky dragged him inside.