As Aleah had told her, the effect of the black mist went away just about a minute after Aleah left. Liri slid down to the floor. That had been one of the most painful things she'd been through. That's something I've been saying a lot these days. She laughed.
After a while, she stood. She saved me. She noted. The Black Star. Alright, I'll go see what she has to say. Looking to her right, she glanced at the assassin's dead body. She walked over and grabbed his weapon.
26 AD - 40 AD
(Requires 26 DEX)
Not my kind of weapon, but maybe someone I know could use this. She tied it to her belt and began to walk out through the path Aleah had told her to.
Before long, she was running away. How do I get back to the Hunter's Guild? Liri asked herself. She hadn't been in Torasan that long, nor had she traveled at all, she didn't know her way around the streets.
The grey of the building and the road contrasted heavily with the colorful sea of people parading around the city. I guess I'll just have to ask people.
"Excuse me," she reached out to a random elderly man.
"Ugh, a Gen? I thought we dealt with your..." Liri didn't wait for him to finish. She kept going, from one person to another receiving either surprised or disgusted reactions. However, something had changed inside her. Instead of the usual self-pity, every time she heard someone insult her, she felt compelled to smack them.
"The Hunter's Guild?" A woman asked in return to Liri's question.
"Oh, keep going straight, take two rights, a left, and keep going straight again. You'll get there in around ten minutes." Liri blinked.
"T-Thank you!" Liri nearly bowed.
Holy shit, did that just happen? Liri asked herself. Shrugging, she jogged away.
Liri nearly broke the Hunter's Guild's front doors down. With her clothes torn and her body wounded, she marched to the bedrooms. Most were open, the majority of the Hunters had to be out training, but one door was closed.
As agitated as she was, she didn't bother knocking. Upon opening the door, she was startled to find Lise speaking with Casira.
"... next thing ought to be." Lise looked up at Liri, "oh! You're back from the palace!"
"Y-Yeah." Liri felt strange seeing her... Well, being honest, yes, her only friend speaking with someone who hates her so vehemently. "Can I speak with you? Privately."
Casira stood. Liri moved to the side allowing her to walk by.
"I..." Where was she to start? "Someone tried to kill me."
Lise's eyes widened.
"I don't know, I was in the palace's library just walking around and all of a sudden, someone came at me."
"Maybe it's prohibited to be there."
"No, the princess took me there."
"You don't think she..."
"No, no, because she protected me!" Lise stood up.
"She did what?"
"Yeah, I couldn't see her fight, but I heard her. She beat the guy, I never even got close because the guy was so fast, but, she did it!"
"That's insane!" Lise started pacing around the room. "She's the most innocent woman ever!"
"You've seen her?" Liri asked.
"Yes, sometimes, she and the king will come down and parade around the city. She looks so frail!"
"As far as I can tell, she's anything but." Liri sat down on her bed with a sigh. Lise sat next to her, slowly placing a hand on Liri's shoulder as to not provoke her.
"Wow..." Lise said softly. "This is a lot to take in."
"Tell me about it."
"So, what are you gonna do?"
"The princess wants to meet with me tonight at a place called the Black Star. I'm guessing she'll answer some of my questions there."
"Oh, that's pretty close to here, just a couple of minutes walk away. I'll go with you!" Lise grinned.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, it's a little worrying that the one time I let you go off on your own you nearly get killed." Liri scoffed.
"Alright, fine. She didn't say anything about me being alone." Liri shrugged.
"Wow... I'm gonna meet the princess!" Lise squealed. "Tell me, is she as beautiful as I remember?"
"Uh... What do you mean?" Liri asked.
Lise stared at her.
"Liri, I know you had a rough childhood, but come on. You have to be able to tell that at least."
"I honestly don't get what you mean."
"... So are you gonna heal me at any point? Seriously, every part of my body stings right now."
"O-Oh! Sorry! [Lirio]."
After packing up and cleaning herself off, at midnight, Liri went out into the dimly lit streets accompanied by Lise. The shorter girl took the lead, guiding Liri through the darkness until eventually, they were standing outside the only building still open.
"I've never gone inside before, I just knew it existed," Lise noted.
"Just a tavern like any other, right?"
"Yeah, I just wish I knew why it was still o..." As they entered the establishment, they found out exactly why.
The room was wide and painted red. Six tables were lined up from front to back, side to side. On top of them though, was what made Lise blush and hide behind Liri. Naked women were dancing for dozens of men's entertainment.
Liri's jaw dropped.
What am I seeing!?
Quickly, a hand was raised in Liri's direction. A short man with his face covered, but just the hint of white hair underneath was beckoning her. Liri stared in awe at everything around her as she moved toward him. Lise kept her eyes covered the whole time.
They reached the man who in turn, stood and walked to the back, gesturing them to follow. Liri raised an eyebrow but went with him. He led them through a small series of halls until eventually, they ended up at an alley behind the place.
The man took his wrappings off, and Liri outright gasped.
It was no man, it was Aleah.
"I am sorry to make you visit such a place, I am sure you must find it distasteful that..."
"YOU'RE THE PRINCESS!" Aleah sped up to Lise and covered her mouth.
"Shhhh... There is no need to let the entire neighborhood know who I am. Do you understand?"
Lise (with her stunned, glimmering eyes) nodded.
"I wasn't expecting you to look so... Different." Liri admitted.
"It is a disguise I use sometimes. It takes a while to get everything in place." Aleah rested her back against a wall. The smell in the alley was rotten, but nothing that Liri wasn't used to. "So, I am certain you have many questions."
"Yeah, to start with, why me?" Liri asked.
"... My brother is nowhere near as holy as he comes across. He is quick to anger, immature and has far too much power in his hands. So, it could be anything really. It could have been because you're a Gen, it could have been because your request insulted him. I do not know what goes on in his mind, but one thing is for certain, you are not safe at the palace."
"Am I safe in the city?"
"You should be, at least for now," Aleah replied. "He can certainly find out your location just by asking where the Gen is, you are the only one in the city after all, but I doubt he cares that much. He can get new assassins, and he spends most of his time making new grudges anyway. I would say you should be careful for a few days, but after a week or so, he should cease his attacks."
"Can't he just order my arrest or something?"
"He would risk his image if he turned this into a public problem. Yes, the citizens distrust you, but the Hunter's Guild is particularly fond of you, and they, in turn, are loved by all."
"Some of the men in the tavern today were Hunters. They kept going on and on about a Gen that fearlessly charged at a dragon. You have already made an impression."
Liri sighed, closing her eyes.
"So, just lay low for a while?"
"Yes." Aleah nodded. "However, I am afraid I will make a request that goes against that premise."
"What?" Liri looked up to see Aleah with a determined expression.
"I need your help." She stated.
"We'll be happy to help!" Lise pitched in with a smile.
"I... doubt that. My request is simple though." She breathed in. "I want to kill him. I want to kill my brother."
"What?" Lise took a few steps back, panicked and gaping at the words that Aleah just let out. "Why!?"
"I understand that to a regular citizen, it may appear as though Saedryn is the picture of a fair and honest ruler, but I assure you this is far from the case." Aleah's calm nature was maintained as she described Saedryn's true self. "Saedryn is a cruel and evil man who is allowed to exert his dominance on others with impunity, with no restrictions. He has killed friends of mine, he has killed his own family due to fears of betrayal and..." She looked down. "He took my left hand."
"You're lying!" Lise was looking at Aleah as if she was someone entirely different now. "He wouldn't."
"He did!" For the first time, Aleah raised her voice. "It was just four years ago. A man had been caught trespassing at the palace barracks. He claimed to have lost something of his and was swiftly apprehended. Saedryn was younger, harsher. He suspected him of being an assassin and ordered his death. I... I did not know who the man was, but I could not stand to watch someone be put to death for the simple act of being somewhere he should not have been in. So, I spoke for him. I did not attempt to absolve him of punishment, I simply said that perhaps, imprisonment would be a better punishment. Saedryn looked at me and he smiled. He ordered one of his knights, then and there, to cut off my hand. Me, his sister who had been his biggest supporter till then!" One tear slid from Aleah's right eye, reflecting the torchlight behind Liri. "I was left with one hand and the man died anyway. Ever since he has developed a habit of taking limbs."
"Even," Lise interrupted her, "even if all of this is true, that doesn't explain why he's a bad king and that doesn't explain why we, of all people, should help you. If he dies, who would take his place?"
"I would," Aleah replied simply. "All of the men in the family are dead, the king has no children. If he dies, rule over Torasan would fall on my shoulders."
"So, you just want to take the throne for yourself?" Lise accused.
"No, although that is certainly the outcome of my plan's success." Aleah shrugged. "Torasan needs change. For years, decades, Torasan has been an isolationist, paranoid nation that is allowing itself to rot from within. We drove the Gen away, we cut off all official interactions with our sister city in the south, even now our relationship with Nil is only military in nature. Use and be used. That needs to cease, listen," she drew closer, "I have read about them, the countries in the far west and the far south. There are technologies that our citizens could only dream of. Machines that perform construction automatically, vehicles that run without horses." Aleah looked straight into Liri's eyes. "We could be that. But we need a change first."
"This is crazy," Lise told Liri. "Even if everything she said is true, which we don't know that any of it is, there's no reason for you to get involved."
"How would I even help?" Liri asked.
"Alone, you would do nothing," Aleah admitted. "You would be the first. One of many I would add to a group that one day, would march into the palace, straight through the knights, with the king's blessing and would take his head then."
"The palace, the same place I can't go near?"
"You would be disguised. With you being with me, they would allow you to pass." Aleah stepped back. "My plan is not something that would happen in a day or a week. It would be a long-term affair. And when it does happen, because with or without your help it will, it would be swift and clean."
"What do you mean with or without my help?"
"I am going to kill this man," Aleah stated with finality. "The only part of the mission that is in question is whether or not I will live afterward. With no supporters, the knights will have my head seconds after my brother is dead. And I am fine with that. Understand, there are two outcomes here, I die along with my brother, or only he dies. But one of these will happen, you have my word on that. So, what is your response? When the day comes, may I call upon you?"
"... No." Liri shook her head. "I'm sorry, but right now, all I can think about is the coming invasion. It could be tonight for all we know. I have to be ready for that. I can't have my mind in different places like this."
"... I see." Aleah took a step back. "Well, this was the answer I was expecting." She chuckled. "However, there is one offer I can make."
Liri nearly rolled her eyes.
"What is it?"
"I train you, and in turn, you think about it," Aleah replied sweetly.
"I am better with a sword than you are." She stated like it was the simplest fact of all. "It is why I was able to beat the assassin and you were not. I am not saying you are a bad fighter, but I am saying that, if you lost to him, you are not quick enough."
Liri's mouth opened involuntarily.
"I am. And I did not reach that level with talent alone. You see, the library has more than just history. Sure, there is nothing for mages there, but what it does have are martial arts texts."
"Impossible," Liri replied instinctively. I checked the place for spellbooks. Spellbooks glow white, if there's anything there that could be used for combat like those, they'd glow white too, right? Unless is it different? Do they stand out at all?
"It is very possible. The library has access to hundreds of styles, old and new, that would greatly benefit you, I am sure. Only, because of today's events, you cannot go there. I can. I can take them, and bring them to you."
"Every night. Just like tonight, we meet here, I give you a book, I even spar with you." From behind, she pulled out a sword. There was a silver blade, thin and elegant, lying in her right hand.
Silver Straight Sword (Rare)
35 - 45 AD
(Requires 18 Dex)
"I had intended to give you this before the attack. This is yours. All I ask in return is that you consider my plan. You do not have to accept, all I want is for you to think about it."
Liri tentatively reached out and grabbed the sword.
"... All I have to do is think about it, right?"
"Correct. So, what do you say?"
Liri sighed and looked her in the eyes. If today was evidence of anything, it's that I still have a long way to go before I can defend myself properly. I don't really care about this city, I don't care about her, but I do need to get stronger. So...
"I guess all I can say is yes."