She got off the train on a cold night platform and shivered, but not from the cold, nor from the night’s darkness. Orisa shivered, still feeling Lark’s hand on her shoulders. The last thirty minutes of the trip were especially unbearable when he became all ‘friendly’. It’s a miracle that they headed to another camp.
‘I guess it’s still better than being pierced by a noble’s rapier.’ She mused. Internal critic was about to make a joke about ‘noble’s rapier’, but decided against it.
She stood on an empty platform, alone in the dark. Inhale, exhale. A sense of vulnerability and weakness assaulted her. Orisa felt so week, so helpless, so lonely.
Inhale, exhale. A wave of stubbornness rolled through her, burning like a wildfire.
Inhale, exhale. She tightly clenched her fists.
“I will beat you, World.”
Orisa was quickly walking through an ill-illuminated street, looking for a door sign with a bed and one dot above it, as Rita instructed her. One dot meant the cheapest place, though, as Rita herself said, they were still rather comfy despite the price, so Orisa should be fine. She had neither the time nor any will to look around, so she left her first town and its appearance for tomorrow.
She paid thirty ‘mins’ for one night plus breakfast. These ‘mins’ were the lowest currency in this world, followed by ‘mids’ and ‘grets’. Luckily, the conversion ratio was simple — one gret equaled one hundred mids, and one mid equaled one hundred mins. She also paid two mins for a pair of sandwiches and went to her room.
After a late dinner, she completely undressed and wiped herself with a wet towel. ‘A shower tomorrow! I will find you and I will use you!’
Refreshed a little she went to bed. The wolf with a bloody hand in his maw awaited her. After spending some time trying to sleep, she gave up and let her thoughts just wander freely.
Rita’s chest, stamped with five Seals and violated by the scar, appeared in her mind. ‘Why was she so unnerved by my question? I feel, there is much more to Rita than she looks like.’
She also remembered Rita’s suffering about her family. ‘To leave someone behind is so painful. Can’t imagine the pain from leaving someone you love.’ Somewhere on the other side of the wall, the bed began to creak monotonously.
Satoru’s thought finally stumbled upon Mirai, the person he almost asked out. ‘Mirai-san, I’m so sorry… I really hope you are okay. I miss you.’ The creaks of the bed became more frequent, someone’s moans were added to them.
‘Mirai-san…’ Kanbara Mirai, 29 years old, quite short, peach bob haircut, giant red glasses, godlike smile. Satoru’s mind went much further than ever before. He imagined Mirai’s body in the smallest detail. ‘Mirai-san… Mirai-san…’
When Orisa came to her senses, her left hand was already squeezing her breasts, and her right hand was between her legs, wet and slippery. ‘Oh… fuck. What am I doing..?’ But it was too late to stop.
Later, after analyzing the event, she came to the conclusion that it was way harder to reach the climax, but also much more rewarding.
Orisa fell asleep when it began to dawn.
Following Rita’s advice, she wandered around the city in search of guards, but unfortunately she could not meet a single military-related soul. She tried to ask a few shopkeepers about the camp, but they all gave her really vague and even contradictory information. During the search she also did some sightseeing, which left her in a mixed feeling.
On one hand, the city looked exactly like she imagined an ordinary European city would look like. Two- and three-storey mostly stone buildings with tiled roofs. The streets were filled with little shops selling a variety of goods, and horses pulled the goods between them. People were dressed like you’d expect a modern countryside person to dress — simple woolen pants or skirts, shirts and such.
On the other hand, here and there one could see signs of different technologies. In the distance, she saw a ten-storey building. Some shops showcase items strikingly similar to machineguns, albeit bulky, as if hand-made. She could swear that she saw a passing motorcycle in one of the large streets. And so on.
Around noon she decided to have a snack and, while buying some dumplings, finally saw people in uniform. Swallowing the dumplings on the move, she headed towards them. A few moments later, one of the military also noticed Orisa and alerted his two colleagues. Together they moved in her direction, gazing at her.
‘Um, for some reason this doesn’t look very good.’ She began to suspect that something was wrong, really wrong. ’Hope they are mistaken or at the very least it is not related to those morons on the train…’ It was too late to turn around and run, anyway.
“I’m sorry, can you…” She tried to ask, but was rudely interrupted.
“Name your squad! What is your business here!?” A man in the middle shouted at her, grabbing her wrist painfully. The other two surrounded her, cutting off any escape route.
“Ouch! It hurts! What are you doing!?” Screamed Orisa, trying to free her hand to no avail.
“Shut the hell up and answer the question! What are you doing here!?” He squeezed her wrist so hard that it could break any moment. One of the remaining two military, woman, grabbed her other hand and put it behind her back, bending the whole body forward. Orisa screamed in agony. At first it was humiliating, but now it became extremely painful.
“What is going on here?” There was a stern female voice.
“We’ve got a deserter, Miss Satou.” The man who held Orisa by the wrist happily reported. The woman stared at the three servicemen, then at Orisa, who was already crying from all the pain and humiliation.
“Have you seen her tag? She clearly is not a deserter. I’m going to report this to the commander.” The woman said in a cold tone.
“Tag..? Yes, we need to…” He mumbled in confusion.
“So you haven’t even checked her tag? I see.” Everything around her froze. “Then I’m going to report this situation right now.”
“I’m… sorry, Miss Satou… It’s all a misunderstanding.” He and his colleague released both Orisa’s hands, backing off with a panicked expression. She fell on the ground, sobbing quietly.
“You can go now.”
The woman leaned to Orisa and put her hand on Orisa’s shoulder.
“Do you need help?” She asked in a calm, even voice.
“… yes…” Orisa said sheepishly, still sobbing.
‘Why is this happening to me?’ She thought, struggling with her pride and stubbornness that dictated her to rudely refuse the offer.
The woman helped Orisa up and gave her a handkerchief.
“You can have it.”
Wiping her face, she was finally able to see her savior. The woman looked somewhat older than Rita. Her long, smooth hair was gathered behind in a ponytail, leaving a small bang hanging over her glasses. She was taller than Orisa and her build was on a chubbier side. She stood straight, arms crossed, further emphasizing her already huge bosom.
‘Thirty-five or something like that.’ Satoru remembered the wife of his ex-colleague, Ryota. She looked kind of the same, with barely noticeable wrinkles in the corners of her eyes.
‘I want them to sandwich me.’ Internal critic drooled, with another quote.
“Thank you for saving me, I…” Orisa calmed down a little and tried to thank the woman, but was interrupted.
“No need. Youko Satou.” The woman interjected, calmly saying her name. “What are you doing here?”
“I was delayed at the Arrival Chamber for a few days, so now I’m trying to learn a way to the camp.”
On the one hand, Orisa was a bit annoyed by Youko’s attitude. On the other hand, she actually liked people who didn’t beat around the bush. Youko frowned after hearing Orisa’s reply.
“My business is done for today. Follow me. I can give you a ride.”
They left the city through a giant gate. The Guards stationed there nodded to Youko, ignoring Orisa entirely. She was quite content with this, wary of the people in uniform. Surprisingly, the city did not end with the gate. Behind them were many one- and two-storey wooden buildings. Inns, shops, canteens and such.
Among them were the stables. Orisa was left outside while Youko went to get her horse.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any experience with horses and I can’t ride them.”
“Don’t be. You are not supposed to.” Youko skillfully mounted the horse and extended her hand to Orisa. The scene that followed was among those that Orisa wanted to erase from her memory.
‘Today is your day, horse. But this is not the end.’ Orisa sat behind Youko, red like a rose. Her internal critic was having a good time so he started singing: ‘This is the end, you know. Lady, the…’
Orisa ignored him, and he was bad at singing anyway.
“Hold on to me.” Youko raised her hands slightly, signaling to Orisa were she should put her hands. They moved forward, gradually accelerating.
When the horse went to a gallop, Orisa began to feel the powerful rhythmical blows of something soft on her hands. She tried to not think about it.
“Why were you delayed?” After a while, Youko asked.
Orisa retold the events of her first few days, omitting small details. When she finished, Youko looked over her shoulder, a strange expression on her face.
“You should come up with a more believable story.” She paused for a moment. “Few people can believe such nonsense.”
“What..?” Orisa was perplexed. “Why..? I’m not lying!” She said in a distressful voice.
“Listen. You are not supposed to know this, so I will tell you.” Youko mused, trying to phrase her reply as easy as possible. “An evolved hound is a death threat to a squad of veterans.”
“No Tome Sage can kill it, especially in one hit. And without a lantern, on top of everything.” She continued. “And another thing that does not add up. Even for a Tome Sage, calamity spells are something that will leave them bedridden for a week.”
Instead of being disappointed by the accusation, Orisa felt an incredible shock, replaced by endless admiration for Rita. ‘There is really much more to Rita.’
They rode in silence. The scenery around was the same as during her trip to the train station.
‘She is stern, but doesn’t look bad.’ Orisa wasn’t sure if she should ask questions or not. In the end, of course, she still asked:
“If I may, there are two questions.”
“What is a lantern?”
“It’s a nickname for the spellcasters who infuse a special crystal ore with their Mana, creating an aura. Inside this aura, the Wavespawn become much weaker. Without the lantern even a non-evolved beast will tear down an elite warrior one on one.”
Orisa became quiet, pondering new information. Five minutes passed before she asked the second question:
“Can you explain to me who the Tome Sages are?”
“Spellcaster with innate talent. You can’t train to be a Tome Sage.” For a moment, Orisa thought she heard envy in Youko’s voice. “Their tomes contain a huge variety of spells, the bigger the tome, the more spells. There are even tomes with all the spells we know, though they are few and distributed among heroes.”
She paused, giving Orisa some time to digest her explanation, and then continued:
“Tome Sages can cast any spell written in the book without having learn it. However, there are two downsides. First, to cast a specific spell, you need to touch the page on which this spell is written. Second, it takes much more Mana to produce a Tomecraft spell. Depending on the spell, it needs five or even ten times more Mana than if cast by hand.”
‘As I suspected, Tomecraft is a cheat, but a costly one. And only for prodigies. Rita-Rita… Who are you?’
Their journey continued in silence. It didn’t seem that Youko was interested in Orisa, as she was silent all the way, aside from answering the questions.
Finally Orisa remembered another important thing for which she could use Youko:
“I’m sorry to bother you again, but I was entrusted with a letter. But I’m yet…”
“Give it to me.” Yet again she was interrupted. Orisa handed her a letter, which Rita left in her backpack. A letter in the local language that she could not yet read.
Suddenly Youko slowed her horse down before stopping it completely. She jumped off the horse and took out her armlet. After some tackling, the armlet began to emit a green light. Youko x-rayed the letter with this light and then read it again.
A lot of emotions changed on her face before she looked at Orisa again.
“What’s wrong..?” Orisa braced for impact. “Something is not right with Rita’s letter?”
Youko stared at Orisa again. Finally, she opened her mouth:
“Do you know who this woman is?”
“No. I’m sorry, I do not. She said she is a gatekeeper for new people like me, watcher of the Arrival Chamber.”
Youko let out a long sigh before finally saying:
“You’ll learn her name. In a modern history class…” She shook her head in amazement. “They call her Full Metal Witch, The Angel of Merdun.”