Morning pulled Orisa out of her nightmares with a pleasant surprise. Today they had a day off because of the country-wide celebration called The Foundation, and there was a barbeque planned for the second half of the day, so she decided to stay in bed for some more.
Orisa couldn't sleep, so she just lay there with her eyes closed, thinking about yesterday's events. She had to push away an image of her finger, again and again, forcibly switching the thoughts to other topics.
'I'm no Holmes, but the fact that Tiana was crying meant something.'
Orisa also felt incredibly lucky because of the holiday, as she clearly understood how vulnerable and unbalanced her fighting method was. She absolutely needed some defense in her repertoire and more ideas about the fighting style. Her Enrage workaround was by no means a good, clever or safe solution, and she wanted to move away from it as fast as possible.
Her mental health was also shaky, to say the least, so for Orisa it was indeed a miracle, a long-needed breather. 'I just hope that nobody would kill the mood. Lead game designer, please, let me rest for one day, or I'll leave negative feedback on your page!'
When she opened her eyes, Onuki was staring at her intently. Orisa sighed heavily before saying:
"If you want to take your revenge, now is a perfect time."
"How do you feel?" She finally said after chewing her lower lip and averting the gaze for some time. Orisa was clearly baffled by this turn.
"I, um, well... I don't know, probably not okay? But I'll manage, perhaps? Onuki, listen, I..."
"I see." She nodded and left the room hastily.
"Curiouser and curiouser..." Orisa muttered after some time.
They were expected to help with cooking, so Orisa came to a kitchen block after a late breakfast. She was glad to see that both Kanai and Iten were already there, chomping meat and veggies.
"I always said that men look better in the kitchen than women," she said instead of greeting. "I so love to see other people working."
"Good morning, Orisa, I'm glad that you are well." Iten did not even flinch, and continued to cut veggies.
Kanai just nodded and smiled awkwardly, so to break the ice Orisa grabbed a nearby chopping board and spanked his butt, before saying:
"Stop with this look of yours already, please. You're staring at me like as if we've slept with each other and the next morning found out that your father married my mother or something!"
Both Kanai and Iten looked at her quite intently, and some people around actually stopped their work and turned around. Finally, Kanai shook his head and added:
"Then there should be another girl if I'm guessing your reference correctly."
"Now, you see, we have Iten here. A bit of BL won't hurt, right?"
"What's BL?" Iten asked rather suspiciously.
"It's better if you don't know," hastily interjected Kanai before glaring at chuckling Orisa.
She squeezed herself between the boys, elbowing her way in, while still chatting:
"So how was that, threading an unknown, never before seen the second floor of the Dungeon? Epic loot or puns?" She started the chomping.
"It was a disaster," Kanai shivered, "the monsters were the same, but the Captain made us fight as a team..."
"And your teamplay was on the same level as in a typical DOTA game?"
"As one of my friends once said, when you play five against five, it's actually you against nine enemies, but the four of them are marked as friends for some reason."
They quietly chuckled under the gaze of confused Iten.
"As a team leader, I tried to organize them, but nobody listened to me and just kept getting in each other's way." He added depressingly.
"Don't worry, Iten, that's absolutely normal if you have no experience in forcing random people to behave." Orisa cheered him empathetically, "we'll think of something today."
Little by little, Orisa pulled more information on the second floor from stressed Iten, and it all looked quite manageable if she could set aside her berserk problems and lack of defense.
They ended their shift right before lunch and went to the park after picking up some food. Orisa had an unpleasant flashback about Iten's revelation on Waves right when they settled on a bench. 'No, brain, stop it. We are not going to think about the end of the world today, I'm telling you! We are chilling, restoring our mental capacities, and absolutely not pondering the problems.'
She noticed Iten still quietly sulking about his lack of leadership capabilities and let out a long sigh.
"Hoi, Iten, I was curious, you see," she elbowed him with a smug. "Are you adamant about solving the squad problem yourself, or is it ok for me to intervene?"
Iten eyed her suspiciously, expecting some mischief, and after she tried her hardest to make an innocent, angelic face, his brow signaled a good old doubt.
"What is it that you are scheming?" He finally asked in a restless voice.
"If your plan is to go Hulk amidst the squad, uniting us in a relentless effort to finally put you down..." Kanai mused for a moment, before making another innocent expression, rivaling that of Orisa, "it actually sounds great, I think. A noble way to go and fits you perfectly."
"For once, I was serious." Orisa pouted jokingly. "So, Iten, your last words?"
"I'm not sure about the last words, but if you mean the last question..." He silently chewed the lunch, deep in thoughts. "I think as long as the squad is okay, and everything works fine, it doesn't matter who did that."
"That's what I wanted to hear from you, oh my leader."
Iten rolled his eyes up, already regretting his words. They worked their jaws quietly for some time before he finally asked:
"So, what is your plan, Orisa?"
"No plan at all, I just thought about organizing people in smaller groups based on their abilities to ease the communication between them. But to do that I need at least some of them acknowledge my authority tomorrow."
Orisa sighed, tired because it already felt like she was digging her own grave again by taking the lead.
'You never learn, right?' The internal critic was depressed. 'How many times were you hurt because of your stupid initiative?'
"And to do that," she continued after some internal debate, "I'll need to talk to people tete-a-tete, at least with girls, as I expect your help with the male part of the squad."
Orisa had some free time before the barbeque, so she went to Chargery for some more Mana pool stretching and quick cash. Her drawing skills were still way below an acceptable level, but she felt slightly better after wasting almost half of the ink bottle. This time she also ended up less tired than before, meaning she made some more progress in the Mana-related field.
On her way back she saw their training field being turned into one giant camping site with lots of tables, stalls, bonfires, and other party-related things.
The place became crowded really fast, and Orisa was glad that each squad was assigned a specific spot beforehand. By her rough estimations, there were more than five hundred people on the field, including both regular soldiers and cadets from the other squads. It was her first time seeing so many people in one place after coming to this world.
Orisa saw her squad's boys managing small campfire, while the girls were setting the table. There was also the Captain, but unlike the rest of the squad, he was tasked with an important job of laying on a chaise lounge with an enormous mug in his hand. Toatre waved for here to come and help them with the table.
While they made small talk, a pleasant smell began to fill the air. The canteen's food was perfectly healthy and balanced, but it was in no way a flavor paradise, so the smell of meat and vegetables being grilled made her drool.
'God, I would run a marathon for a bottle of Cola.' However, some dreams were not destined to come true.
Half an hour later, when the food was ready, and everyone sat by the table, the ringing sound came from the central part of the field.
"Squad, stand up," Captain Pain muttered and lazily rose from his lair.
There was a small wooden platform in the middle of the crows, and Orisa saw a tall man in the uniform standing there. 'Probably the camp's leader, Colonel Something Sorry Can't Remember,' she mused. Some time passed before they finally heard his voice:
"On this very day, more than eight hundred years ago our country was founded. Glory to Lazra!"
"Glory to Lazra!" Everyone echoed him.
"While this is no longer the birth date of both the Supreme Commander and the council's chairman, we still celebrate a well-being of our current leaders. Glory to the Supreme Commander Kavenfenn!"
"Glory to the Supreme Commander Kavenfenn!"
Something clicked in Orisa's head, but she had no time to ponder it, as the Colonel yelled again."
"Glory to the council!"
"Glory to the council!" Everyone repeated.
"Let us work harder to protect the peace of Lazra and prosper eight hundred years more!" At these words Orisa, Kanai and Iten looked at each other bitterly.
The Colonel waved his hands like some bearded old wizard and finally said:
"Let the feast begin."
“By the way, squad,” the Captain quickly added before they began, “I have something special for you at the evening.”
The next twenty minutes were filled with chewing, drinking and ecstatic gourmet moaning, as the squad enjoyed the food. Orisa learned that Crion was a cook in his past life, and the dishes were made under his strict supervision.
"Delicious. Finally, some good fucking food," Orisa saluted to Crion with her cup.
As the plates began to empty, the squad made small talks here and there, but the conversations died out quickly.
Kanai cadged from the Captain a bit of his drink and became slightly tipsy:
"Guys, let's play a King game, yay!" He saluted with the mug, spilling some of its contents.
'Dude? Really?' While Orisa rolled her eyes, the idea itself was not that bad.
"What the hell is that?" asked one of the squad members. It became clear that Kanai was not in the right condition to make an explanation, so Orisa took the job:
"It's a party game. We have a stack of papers, and each person draws one blindly. One paper is marked as King, and other sheets are just numbers. The one who gets the King paper can order something funny or stupid as he names a number. The person with that number must fulfill the order."
Half of the squad was confused, and the second half expressed doubt.
"Oh, C'mon, it will be fun! Yay!" Kanai cheered, while Orisa pulled a stack of papers out of her bag.
"When you draw your paper, quickly look at it, memorize the number and don't show it to anyone. After each round, we'll draw again." She thought for a moment about making the game better. "And, actually, while there are twelve of us, the King should order four people at the same time. Also, let's not order something harmful or related to sex, okay?"
Little hesitantly everyone drew the papers, while the Captain watched them in amusement.
"Who-is-the-King?" Orisa and Kanai yelled simultaneously. Slightly confused Iten raised his hand.
"I'm not sure what to do now..."
"Oh, just name four numbers between one and eleven, and order them something. Like, say something stupid, uncover an embarrassing secret, or kiss each other in the ear. Think of something!"
Severe mental suffering showed on Iten's stressed face. 'Oh, poor good old Iten, I'm so sorry... As if, I'm absolutely not sorry!' Orisa celebrated internally. For some reason, she enjoyed throwing people into awkward situations, as long as they were not harmful.
"Then..." He began slowly, "numbers two, six, nine and ten, show us your hidden talents. Please?"
"Damn, and what am I supposed to do?"
Depressing cries began to roll among the squad. Orisa looked at her paper, on which her own betraying hand wrote number nine. 'Hand, how could you? I thought we were friends!'
"Okay, since it's my fault, I'll be the first." She said. "I actually don't know how exactly this works, just learned it when I was a kid..."
She opened her mouth wide and pressed the tongue against her palate. A tight jet of saliva shot out from under her tongue, generously irrigating people in front of Orisa.
"What the fuck!?"
"Oh my god, what was that?"
"Sorry-sorry-sorry! Forgot how long it was..." But some people actually laughed, including Kanai, Iten, and the Captain, too.
"Ok, I hope I won't be as disgusting. I'm number two." Said Crion and stood up. He juggled a little with forks and spoons, and it was rather cute. Everyone applauded, and some of them looked at Orisa begrudgingly.
At this moment she noticed that Youko was sitting by the Captain's side, slowly drinking something from the cup. Orisa nodded to her, and Youko smiled back a bit awkwardly.
Another squad member perfectly imitated the Captain's voice:
"No talking! Two more laps! Who said you could talk!? Four more laps!" As the squad began to laugh, Captain Pain stood and patted him on the shoulder. His smile was just slightly bloodthirsty.
"Ok, who is the last?" Orisa asked after ten seconds of silence passed.
"It's me..." Onuki's voice was shaking. Her face showed a mix of embarrassment, fear, and anger.
"Onuki, don't fret it. You certainly won't fail as much as I did." Orisa smiled cheerfully. "What are you going to do?"
"I..." She bit her lip and looked down. "I can sing..."
"Woah! That's awesome! Please, go on."
Onuki became silent after closing her eyes, and as more time passed, the squad members began to exchange awkward looks.
Suddenly Onuki raised her hands over the table and began tapping rhythm to support her voice:
In truth there is no better place to be
Than falling out of darkness still to see
Without a premonition
Could you tell me where we stand?
I'd hate to lose this light
Before we land
And when I feel like I can feel once again
Let me stay awhile
Soak it in awhile
If we can hold on we can fix what is wrong
Buy a little time
For this head of mine
Haven for us
Before we let euphoria
Convince us we are free
Remind us how we used to feel
Before when life was real
And when I feel like I can feel once again
Let me stay awhile
Soak it in awhile
If we can hold on we can fix what is wrong
Buy a little time
For this head of mine
Haven for us
When she finished, everyone sat in silence, completely astonished by her voice. Even the lyrics were not ruined by the translation magic. Onuki herself woke up from the singing trance and looked around with a panicked expression.
"You are brilliant, Onuki..." Orisa looked in awe and began to clap. The others immediately joined, and there even were some claps from other tables.
Onuki's face was bright red, and she hid it in her palms.
"Thank you... everyone."
They decided to end the game on a high note and continue some other day. As the evening drew closer, people from other tables started to leave, and Youko began to gather the dishes.
"Miss Satou, let me help you." Orisa volunteered.
Together they loaded two baskets and carried them back to the kitchen. On their way, Orisa asked about the history behind this celebration, and Youko gladly dived into another lecture.
They sat on a bench near the kitchen, and Youko uncovered more and more facts about the foundations, the council system that governed Lazra, and many other historical elements. It was all really interesting and well presented, so an entire hour passed before they finally decided to leave the bench and go back to the squad.
When they returned to the party, more than half of the field was already empty, and Orisa was quickly assaulted by Kanai:
"Gosh, where have you been?"
"We were talking with Miss Satou. What happened, Kanai, what's wrong?"
"Well, the Captain brought some famous adventurer to give a small talk about the Beasts, Waves, and the life outside the camp. I thought you'd be interested..."
Orisa looked at Youko with betrayed expression, her face showing one big 'How could you' emotion. She looked like a puppy, whose owners left her home for the whole day.
"Oh..." Youko was clearly ashamed. "I'm sorry, I absolutely forgot about it…"
She looked at Orisa's depressed face and thought deeply about the situation while studying the surrounding area.
"Follow me." She finally found what she was looking for and called Orisa.
Together, they quickly moved to the furthest part of the field where a lone figure was standing idly. The first thing that caught her eyes was a pair of two large swords on the person's back. 'I wonder how exactly they are attached there...'
When they came closer, Youko asked politely:
"Hunter Nowanzi, may I have a bit of your time?"
As the person turned around to face them, Orisa saw a tall knight in a full jet-black armor with the same closed black helmet on his head. He radiated a strong aura of might and confidence, and while Orisa couldn't see his eyes under the helm, she felt his gaze piercing her like a spear, which made her shiver.
He simply nodded to Youko, but Orisa felt as if she was finally allowed to breathe again.
"Because of my miscalculation, this girl here missed your lecture. If you have a moment to spare, could you speak to her and answer some of her questions, too? I would be most grateful to you."
The hunter turned his head to Youko while she was talking, and when her plea was over, he looked back at Orisa. She never felt being scanned, but that was her impression after receiving his direct gaze.
After a few moments of consideration he nodded, and Orisa heard a strong and deep voice making a short reply: