Snow fell heavy, covering the desolation that the North had become just recently. Far and wide, sparkles of white mingled in a swaying dance, going up and down, piling on top of each other like a group of children playing. Lino stood on an open field, his long, black hair swaying with the flakes, his eyes expressing a mix of emotions. Over two years had gone by in a flash; should someone ask him to recall them, he could perhaps, at most, remember a week or two worth of days. The rest are merely blurbs living somewhere deep inside of him, waning away until they vanish.
He glanced up and saw a pair of wings contract as Edryss landed behind him, her large head acting as sort of an umbrella to shield him from the snow. Her gaze quickly found his, tepid silence befalling them, only to be broken minutes later by her.
“You have done well,” she said in a somewhat guarded tone. “And you have my gratitude.”
“I’d prefer gifts and rewards, actually.” Lino grinned sheepishly.
“How about an advice instead?”
“... I’ll settle.”
“Though the light you cast is bright and ever-reaching,” she spoke solemnly. “ Do not let it blind you too; inside of you, there is still something terribly dark and vile and every day it is crawling for victory over your mind. Do not let it.”
“... you sure do sell out rather depressing advice,” Lino chuckled bitterly. “Perhaps it’s best you stick to being a hardly-spoken, mysterious Dragon. Suits you a bit more.”
“... what are your plans now?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Lino replied, shrugging. “Go back home, figure something out. A long road is still ahead of me.”
“... best of luck on your journey then,” Edryss said, slowly taking to the sky. “I hope our paths do not cross again.”
“...” Lino glanced at the sky with a faint smile for a moment before sighing, shaking his head, turning around and leaving. Her advice, however, continued resonating through his head; it was a sullen, two-faced advice masquerading as something far more, something an elect part of his brain selectively chose to ignore for the time being.
A long, winded road stretched through an empty valley bustling with merchant activity; wagon after wagon cruised along, chatter filling the sky. On the side of the road, past a rosed hill, a beautiful lake stretched into a vista-like mountain range. On the lake’s shores a small, temporary ‘village’ of sorts stood; as the road was one of the heavily traveled ones, connecting a major port city on the Holy Continent and the mainland cities, some few quick-witted individuals fancied a profit by constructing a rest spot for the weary travelers who come along.
Inns, pubs, brothels, shops, hotels, auction houses, gambling dens... the small rest spot had everything one would need in a short period of time, making it similarly to the road a heavily populated area. Inside one of the pubs, lunged in the corner, Lucky sat drinking with a dulled gaze, seemingly lost in thoughts.
She has been running around the Holy Continent like a mad chicken trying to root out the spy inside the fortress for the past few weeks, and the results were rather depressing. Whenever she gets tired and simply feels like storming the Holy Grounds and killing the truth out of everyone, to recover her sanity she comes here to rest, far away from the eyes of the world. Beyond that, this small place was also a great spot to gather information spanning the entire Continent as merchants from all corners cross over and few have many issues with selling some information for fair coin.
Today, however, has been a rather slow one; most of the merchants came from the West and far North, two of the least interesting regions of the entire Continent. While some information was still valuable, none of it was truly helpful. Realizing it was pointless, she sighed lowly, put a gold coin on the table and left with a sunken expression.
Rather than moving toward the road, she heeled backwards toward the mountain, using a series of rather well-hidden ‘roads’ to bound the rest spot and the eyes of the curious. Shortly after, she found herself traveling through the thick shroud of branches and leaves hanging off of old and young trees, shrubbery by side reaching nearly her neck at some places. Critter or two would occasionally jump past her as birds continued to sing on.
It was a peculiar, beautiful place to take a simple walk through to clear one’s mind, yet Lucky was far more interested in the destination. Halfway up to the mountain, there was a small protrusion hidden by the over-arching trees, overlooking the entire lake down below. She would often come here to sleep or simply think, far away from the noise and chatter of the civilization.
However, an unexpected surprise awaited her as she walked up; siting there, on the edge with her legs heaved over, was a girl -- or perhaps a woman already, Lucky pondered -- with sun-dyed hair and a pair of beautiful azure-colored eyes. She wore rather simple yet elegant-looking robes decorated with golden threads throughout, pairing perfectly with her hair. Though Lucky’s instincts told her the woman was beyond dangerous, she chose to disregard them as she walked up.
It was only when Lucky stood right above the woman that the latter spotted her, crying out and nearly falling off of the edge as Lucky managed to grab her and pull her back. Looking at her face, she couldn’t help but admit that the woman was truly beautiful; even the freckles over her cheeks only worked to enunciate her beauty further rather than to blemish it somehow. Her eyes were wide and large, guarded by long, curvy eyelashes and decorated by a pair of high-reaching, thin eyebrows above.
“You alright?” Lucky asked with a smile as she sat next to her.
“T-thanks...” the woman replied in a somewhat meek voice.
“No worries; it was my fault anyway. Sorry for startling you.”
“No, no,” the woman shook her head. “I shouldn’t have been lost in thought on the edge anyway.”
“How’d you find this place anyway?” Lucky asked. “I always figured this was my secret, healing spot.”
“Oh, it-it’s yours? Ah, I’m so sorry!” the woman shot up to her feet, startling Lucky who began wondering whether everything was functioning properly inside her brain. “I didn’t know. I apologize profusely!”
“Ha ha ha, relax, relax,” Lucky laughed, pulling her by the arm and forcing the woman to sit back down. “Of course it’s not mine. How could I possibly have a heart to hoard such a beautiful place? I may not be the saintliest of people, but I’m not so evil either.”
“... he he,” the woman chuckled sweetly, almost like a child, Lucky mused, wondering whether she was one of those sheltered, noble girls who grew up only seeing glitter and gleam of the world. “It really is a beautiful place. I discovered it on accident; I was, uh, supposed to do something in the town below, but I wandered up the mountain and, well, kind of got lost... and wound up here.”
“... a good friend of mine often says that we’re never truly lost,” Lucky said, smiling faintly. “Our bodies are simply taking us to where we need to be.”
“Ha ha... I should probably use that one. I tend to get lost rather often. What’s your name?” the woman asked her.
“Lucky,” she replied, smiling and extending her hand. “Yours?”
“Alison,” the woman replied the handshake, smiling as well. “Is... is your name really Lucky, though?”
“Luckily it is.”
“Ah, sorry,” Lucky groaned. “That friend of mine has also left me traumatized when it comes to my name. One time, he spent entire three hours just listing out the puns he’d thought of when it comes to my name.”
“Eh? Why do you call him a friend? He sounds like an ass.” Alison said with a curious expression.
“Oh, he is. A major one,” Lucky chuckled. “But... well, it’s hard to put it into words. Sometimes we just love certain people... regardless of what they do to us.”
“... yeah,” Alison mumbled in a low tone. “That’s true.”
“Ah, nothing, sorry.”
“Anyway, what do you have to do in the town? Perhaps I can help you. I know the place like the back of my hand.”
“Ah, it’s nothing major, really; I’m looking for a [Densin Flower], and I heard rumors that they sometimes pop up at auctions here so I came to check it out. The reason I climbed the mountain is because the auction is still a few days away, and I didn’t feel like staying at an inn.”
“Good call,” Lucky nodded. “You’d have been wolfed on if you went without covering your face.”
“What are you acting so surprised about?” Lucky questioned. “What do you think happens when a beautiful girl enters a den of horny men? You think they’ll just ignore you? Nah, they’ll pounce on you like starving hyenas.”
“... ee-eh---...” Alison blushed deeply, looking away from Lucky. “No... no... I, uh, I already have someone...”
“Eh? You married?” Lucky asked, seemingly somewhat surprised.
“Ah, no, no. He’s, uh, a Senior Brother of mine and, uh, he’s really nice to me.”
“So you pounded him yet?”
“Hm?” Alison glanced at her, seemingly confused.
“... oh boy.” Lucky grinned, yet then felt a cold shudder blast at her soul; right then and there she was reminded of just how much Lino had corrupted her. Instead of keeping the innocent girl innocent, she imagined how much fun it would be corrupting her.
“W-what’s wrong?!” Alison asked in a worried tone as she saw Lucky’s face turn pale.
“N-nothing, khm, yeah, nothing. Never-mind-it-all. You like that Senior Brother of yours?” Lucky quickly shifted the subject slightly.
“... uh... t-this is embarrassing...”
“Ah, so you do,” Lucky chuckled. “Nothing embarrassing about that.”
“Sheesh, it’s just two girls talking about boys,” Lucky punched Alison’s shoulder lightly as she saw the latter crumple into a ball. “What are you getting so coy about?”
“... I... I just... never had anyone to talk about this with...”
“Well, you have me now,” Lucky said. “And I just happen to be very interested in the vanilla tales of innocent loves. For better or worse, they are like a healing rain for my tepidly jet-black heart. So, go on. Share. The more details there are, the better.”
“... S-sister Lucky... y-your eyes are scary...”