“How are we going to pay? We can't camouflage credit cards. At least not like our phones."
One trick everyone at the academy learned was how to hack one's phone to prevent systems from finding it. Nowadays, an internet connection could determine a mission's outcome, so getting rid of smartphones could prove fatal. Of course, that also meant that she couldn't locate her father. Not that she had expected it. Or that he would return her calls.
Altera took out a golden plastic card and displayed it with a proud expression. “A little gift from the princess. This card has enough money on it to buy a castle. It's not connected to any bank account. So, no one will track us. As long as we have this, money won’t be a problem.”
“Ahh.” Ragna made big eyes.
It was easy to forget that her best friend was as rich as Dagobert McÖnd. Once this was over, she will offer her service to Aura and repay her debt.
“I assume taking the plane would be too risky, right?” Ragna asked.
Altera showed a map on her phone. “The only other way to get to Utgard is to take the Bifrost until we arrive in Hlessy. From there, we board a ship to Eren. After that, we have to take a ferry to the coast of Glast, and then walk the rest on foot. But what are you going to do once we arrive there?”
Ragna stopped and clenched her fist. “Find my father, of course. Or at the very least a lead. And hopefully, something that will incriminate Skyfrost. I know it’s a long shot, but that’s all I’ve got.”
Altera pressed her lips and leaned back and forth. “Skyfrost, huh?”
“You don’t believe me?” Ragna lowered her eyes and rubbed the bridge of her nose.
Of course, she didn’t. Why should she? She was only here because of Aura.
“No, that’s not it. I think you may be on to something.”
“Really?” Ragna smiled. Her eyes radiated like a little child’s who had heard an echo for the first time in their life.
“I don’t know if your father is innocent, but I don’t trust Skyfrost either. Have you ever read the reports of Captain Donnerschlag’s team? They...” Altera paused and exhaled. “Those are just horrible. Skyfrost is a monster. Not to mention the rumors that she's from Vaix.”
“Pretty sure, the rumors are true.”
That’s right. Midgard might want her, but Skyfrost’s reputation was abysmal. There was no way that the people of Midgard wouldn’t be suspicious. The Captains would investigate him too. And most people believed that he was from Vaix. There was no way that bastard could be innocent. The authorities would fry him quicker than a potato wedge.
“Also, why do you think Skyfrost's female? He's a guy."
“Are you crazy? She identifies as a woman and is a C-Cup. I'm not sure how you would think that he's a guy.”
Ragna tilted her head in confusion.
She had met Skyfrost once, and he had referred to himself as male at that time. Altera had always been weird, but why would she mistake Skyfrost for a woman? Not to mention, a busty one? Neither of them was stupid nor blind.
“He's flat as a piece of plank. And how would you even know Skyfrost's bra size?”
“Any more stones and your glasshouse will break," said Altera. "But if you must know, she once gave an interview for the Norn."
"We should rest there.”
After they had walked for two hours, Altera pointed at a multi-family residence in front of them, whose features darkness had obscured. Only a few cars were parking, and the only sources of light were a dim glow from the front door and the fading letters of a sign, telling all travelers this was 'Motel Glitnir'.
“Just ten minutes ahead is the train station. The train comes only once a day at ten o'clock. So, don’t oversleep. I already booked two tickets.”
The two opened the door and entered a small room. The walls and ceiling were a bleak, half torn-off gold and silver and had the saturation of a banshee. With every step they made, the floor creaked, interrupting the receptionist's radio that played 'The Bilbos' ‘One more bullet’.
Altera leaned towards the reception desk. “Excuse me, Sir. A room for two, please.”
No reaction. The receptionist – an old balding man who somehow had managed to retain some semblance of youth in his face – was more concerned with the old tube television. Only once Altera rang the desk bell did he throw a room key at her.
“Your room is 2,40. Don’t make too much noise. Checkout is eight AM. You can pay then.”
The receptionist didn’t bother to look up. Watching a rerun of ‘The Touchables’ seemed more important to him. Altera took the keys and went with Ragna upstairs. If they had hoped to see different conditions in their room, they would be mistaken. On top of that, there was only a single bed. Altera widened her eyes at the sight of the room and stormed down the stairs. Ragna sighed and began to disconnect her garter belts.
She was too tired to care.
Soon enough, a din and curses roamed outside the floor. Altera opened the door.
“It seems this establishment possesses only single-bed rooms,” she said in the most demure way possible, only to blush at the sight of a stripping Ragna and rush out of the room, slamming the door shut.
What was wrong with that woman? Did she have gymnophobia? That girl needed therapy. A little voice in her head told her that this would be a long trip.
“You can go in,” said Ragna as she put toothpaste on her toothbrush.
Altera peeked inside and opened the door. She took her bag and went to the bathroom.
"You want something?” Ragna asked, still brushing her teeth.
"Can you please go out?"
"I don't want you to peep.”
Before Ragna could say a word, Altera had pushed her out of the bathroom and locked the door.
“Are you kidding me? Why would I...? Can you at least let me rinse?”
Was the motel affecting Altera's thoughts? As the moans from the neighboring rooms indicated, it was no coincidence that there was only one bed.
How could they have chosen a No-Tell-Motel? And perhaps it was her tiredness, but did Altera believe that she would try to make moves on her? As if she would ever be interested in her.
Once she had used a water bottle and the open window as a makeshift sink, Ragna went to bed. As she had expected, it had the softness of a concrete wall.
Fuck this. She was too tired for this shit.
But despite the uncomfortable mattress, Ragna closed her eyes, and her mind drifted off.
DagobertMcÖnd – The richest man in Midgard and supposedly in the entire world. It is rumored that he has a vault full of gold bars and coins where he swims every day.
The Norn – A fashion and lifestyle magazine run by the Cadets of the Midgardian Military Academy. As such it focuses on the life of those willing to become a Viking.
Bifrost – A high-speed bullet train that travels across Viking. Its speed can go up to 400 km/h. Its rainbow painting made it an iconic LGBT symbol.
The Bilbos – A four-man boy band who had their peak from 980AR to 990AR. They were the love of every teenage girl and known for their excessive lifestyles. The song ‘One more bullet’ was a satirical anti-war song, played as a response when the 1000-year-long peace seemed especially fragile.
The Touchables – A dramedy show that aired from 884AR to 892AR. It was about the everyday life of four cops in Midgard fifty years after the Great War. The gimmick was that the cops were in the pocket of the Mafia.