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CHAPTER 345

FIRE (I)

A muddy road stretched through the massive plains whose ends and beginnings were impossible to determine. The road pierced through tall grasses, small dips, wild gardens of flowers, and dens of various beasts and critters. Though sparsely populated, if one looked from above and took in the entire road, it always had thousands of travelers bounding it, east or west.

On it, partway through the plains, a lightly-decorated wagon moved at a brisk pace, pulled by four beautiful, white manes. Curtains were pulled off its two windows, revealing the insides where two women were sitting opposite one another. One had starkly golden hair and a pair of beautiful, blue eyes, while the other had rather unruly-looking black hair and a pair of black eyes.

Lucky and Alison had departed from the City of the Thousand Lights a week ago, taking a carriage ride over the Cantanee Road bound for the Celeste Empire and its capital city, Do’r. Though they could have taken the teleportation array, or even a griffin ride, the two settled on making due the old-fashioned way.

Alison was currently reading a book with a quaint smile on her face while Lucky was going over some papers listing out materials Lino told her to keep an eye out. Though she’d managed to find most of the things from the list, she was still lacking a few. She wasn’t worried too much, as if all else fails, she could still ask Alison for help.

“Ah, this was a nice read...” as the sun began descending down the horizon, Alison closed her book and sighed in pleasure, smiling faintly.

“What’s it about?” Lucky asked.

“It’s a tale of the Seven Trolls of Wyndmare,” Alison replied. “And their uprising against the Ogre Clans. It’s based on a rather popular myth, though no one has ever managed to prove the existence of either the Trolls or the Ogres.”

“... you sure do have some weird tastes.” Lucky commented, looking at Alison dubiously.

“Hey! You don’t see me commenting on your fashion sense, do you? So keep your opinions to yourself!” Alison pouted lightly in anger.

“What do I need a fashion sense for?” Lucky scoffed. “Do I look like one of the noble ladies to you?”

“... you would if you tried.”

“Pft, ha ha ha, aaah, it’s adorable you think that.”

“No, I’m serious!” Alison exclaimed, sitting over next to Lucky. “You have a pretty face, but you do your hair all wrong. You’re very tall, have a nice stature, and with a proper dress, you could steal many-a-breath away.”

“...” Lucky remained silent, inwardly wondering when was the last time she had this sort of a ‘girly’ conversation involving dresses and hairstyles and makeup. She came to a very disturbing conclusion: not since she was thirteen and her mother prettied her up for a meeting about an arranged marriage.

“I know you don’t care what other people think of you, but don’t do it for them; do it for you!”

“Ha ha, I appreciate it,” Lucky said, ruffling Alison’s hair gently for a moment. “But, that’s just not me.”

“How can you know if you never tried?” Alison asked, meekly lowering her head.

“Because,” Lucky replied, taking a deep breath. “I’m at my prettiest when I’m shanking someone in their guts, or splicing open a line over their necks, or gouging their eyes out with a spoon, or--”

“I-I get it, I get it! Geez... you’re really weird... how can a girl say she’s at her pretties when she’s doing grizzly things like that?”

“... why not?” Lucky quizzed with a faint smile. “Isn’t there that old saying, we look our best when doing what we love?”

“... you love killing others?” Alison asked, her eyelashes quivering faintly.

“... sometimes,” Lucky shrugged. “Other times,” she looked outside the window, into the distant where she saw a flock of sheep. Alison spotted a flash of pain in the corner of those black eyes, her heart momentarily stilling. “I do it ‘cause it’s the right thing to do.”

“What kind of a weird sect asks people to kill against their will?! Humph! You better tell me so I can go and have a chat with the Sect’s Master!”

“... ha ha ha,” Lucky laughed heartily, momentarily imagining Alison trying to withstand Lino’s barrage of explanations on that question. “Don’t worry, you’ll meet him soon enough. I have a feeling you’ll actually like him.”

“As if! There’s no way I can like someone so difficult on you!” Alison said with a trace of faint anger in her voice.

“... when did I say he was difficult on me?” Lucky asked.

“... isn’t he?”

“... no,” she shook her head. “If anything, it’s the opposite. If there’s anyone he’s difficult on, it’s himself. Sometimes... I fear it might be his undoing in the end.”

“... you really care for him, don’t you?” Alison asked in a strange tone.

“I do,” Lucky replied, her lips curling up into a wonderful smile. “I wouldn’t be where I am without him. But, if you ever tell him that, I will have to kill you.”

“... a-are you... in love with him?” Alison questioned, lowering her head into her bosom.

“In love?” Lucky grinned strangely for a moment before replying. “What makes you think that?”

“... it’s, uh... it’s just the way you look... when you talk about him... is all...”

“What’s it to you?” Lucky persisted with a playful grin.

“... I... I just think you can do better...”

“Ha ha ha, well of course I can,” Lucky laughed freely for a moment, patting Alison’s back. “God, I pity that poor girl that’s stuck with him.”

“... you’re mean, you know that?” Alison mumbled with a pout, sitting over on the opposite side again.

“And you’re adorable. Are we done stating the obvious?”

“... humph.”

“He he...”

Lucky quietly gazed at the mildly-mannered girl she’d gotten to know quite well over the past couple of months the two had spent together. She was the strange sort, Lucky mused inwardly, with a natural capacity to disarm all those who spoke to her. It was a part of her natural charm, her smile that simply melts away all defenses and walls one puts up with her. She’s quite similar to Lino in that regard, Lucky realized; both had the sort of charisma that was difficult to replicate, cast the sort of light that was difficult to snuff out. The difference lay in the intensity; whereas Lino was the haggard, loud, bright sort, Alison was the mellow, gentle and warm kind.

She was a rather strange choice for a Bearer, Lucky mused; after all, every Bearer she met thus far was quite... difficult, for want of a better word. Lino, Hannah, Eos... all three had the ability and capacity to overwhelm the world around them through their mere presence. Alison, on the other hand, seemed to lack that initiative, that fire. She more resembled a Princess of a Kingdom than a Bearer of a Writ, one of Immortality no less. When she though about how both her and Lino were body cultivators who throw themselves head-on into the inferno, she really couldn’t reconcile to the two; Lino, with every fiber of his being, looked like he belonged there, in those flames. Alison, on the other hand... Lucky couldn’t even imagine.

After all, she saw nothing in Alison that would suggest that madness lived inside of her, madness practically required for one to use their body as a weapon. Lino, however playful he may appear, Lucky had come to realize is always like a beast on alert; if one were to carefully inspect him at any point, they’d realize he gave no openings, even if he was just innocently taking a nap. Air around him was always akin to a beast guarding its den. Alison, however, was full of openings all the time; even now, Lucky was almost entirely certain, she would be able to kill the young girl without much trouble.

However, after musing for a moment, she realized why the difference was so stark. For instance, even Hannah lacked the same edge Lino possessed, as did even Eos. Though the two did have the certain imposition Lucky only ever felt from them, when it came to the presence itself, both paled in comparison to Lino. The reason was simple, however: their lives. Lino never had security of a Holy Ground, never had an army of Elders behind his back to support him and defend him, never had a safe place to retreat to when things got ugly. He’d spent most of his life on a road with a target on his back. Eos, Hannah and Alison... didn’t.

It was similar to the difference between Felix and her; even when the former was several realms above her, he was never able to defeat her.

“What are you thinking about?” Alison asked, spotting a rather painful look in Lucky’s eyes.

“... did I tell you I used to be engaged?” Lucky asked, smiling frankly.

“E-eh? Really?!” Alison exclaimed with surprise.

“Sheesh, you don’t have to sound so surprising. There are some dudes out there who dig the whole ‘she looks like she’s gonna rip my nuts off while I’m sleeping’ spiel, you know?”

“... I-I’m sorry... I didn’t mean it that way...”

“... pfft...”

“You are so mean!! Stop teasing me!”

“Ha ha ha... fine, fine...”

“... what happened?” Alison asked.

“... he was killed.” Lucky replied. “Right in front of my eyes. And all I could do was stand there, watching it happen.”

“...”

“He was a whole lot like you,” Lucky added, glancing at Alison’s now-teary eyes. “Quite frankly, it pissed me off that he was a more of a woman in our relationship from time to time... but, it was also quite sweet. Every morning when we lived together, he’d wake me up with a breakfast. And every morning, he’d make it more and more elaborate. He’d also blush and bury his face in his chest when I teased him, he’d also tell me I didn’t have to go around killing for another... staying with you in the past few months has been quite nostalgic...”

“... do you miss him?” Alison asked.

“... every day.”

“... did... did you avenge him?” Alison asked with a faint tremor in her voice.

“I was too weak to do it,” Lucky replied. “However, he was avenged.”

“... by your Sect Master?”

“Hm,” she nodded, her lips curling up into a faint smile. “I think you’ll understand when you meet him, Ally, why I do the things I do for him. He’s a lot like you, in ways Felix was not. He has the capacity to make everyone around him feel as though absolutely nothing can go wrong... that even if the sky were to fall down onto us, he’d hold it up all by his lonesome. Whenever I’d hit bottom... he’d be there to lift me up. I’d lay down my life for him, anytime, no questions asked.”

“... don’t sell your life so cheaply,” Alison said. “It’s not so worthless.”

“Cheaply?” Lucky grinned. “Never...”

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About the author

beddedOtaku

Bio: Bad writer, worse painter, terrible singer. Accumulation of all things gone wrong. Rather proud of it, actually.

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