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Lucius's eyes glinted as he could do nothing but watch—completely captivated by the first battle he had ever seen up close without a barrier protecting him.

Tissette, unsurprisingly, was a very competent fighter. The way she danced around the aberrant with swift strikes and dodges made her look as if she was simply toying with the beast. To put it simply, the slim, nimble Allagorian made it look easy.

"Hey, heads up!" shouted Tissette after blocking a swipe of the aberrant's claws and kicking the unsightly beast towards Lucius.

"Oh, cur—"

Unfortunately for Lucius, he wasn't fast enough to react. The aberrant slammed right into him—knocking the air clear out of his lungs for a split second. He and the aberrant rolled on the ground multiple times before stopping mere steps away from each other.

Lucius tried to get up before the aberrant did, but failed as he could only clutch his stomach and cough—his helplessness kickstarting the self-deprecating thoughts that ran rampant in his head.

So much for my first day outside. Wh-Why must die this early?

"You should be warier of your surroundings Lucius," said Tissette as she hurled a dagger full force at the aberrant's face right before it got back up, redirecting its fury towards her once again.

"Th-Thank you for the lesson," Lucius struggled to say in a mock-grateful tone as he finally got himself off of the ground and away from the two. He shook his head and clenched his hands tightly as he felt an unfamiliar sensation bearing down on him—making his entire body feel heavy.

"So that is how being struck in the gut feels like," he whispered to himself.

Under Castarossa's tutelage, Lucius knew pain. Mentally or physically, he embraced it, whether he had a choice or not.

Although, the pain that he felt during Castarossa's borderline torturous methods of "teaching" wasn't at all similar to what he was feeling now. It was nowhere near worse, per se, but still unpleasant.

Lucius grimaced, clutching his aching stomach with a groan. He checked his Vita and saw that it had only gone down by 0.7%, although he couldn't help but feel as if the damage that he had taken was way, way worse.

With these hideous things around, I'll surely need to take heed of my surroundings from now on. Tsk. Where did these horrid creatures even come from?

"Talk about fodders overstaying their welcome." Tissette grinned from ear to ear before throwing four daggers that were connected by web strings to her hands towards the aberrant—hitting both of its eyes and the sides of its cheeks and tearing through its skin as if it were paper.

The aberrant, blind and daft, howled once again as it flailed around wildly—sending dirt and small debris flying all over the place.

His mouth slightly agape, Lucius watched as Tissette ran past the thrashing aberrant by doing a flip above its head before pulling back all of the web strings attached to each of the daggers, each of them rending straight through the monster's head.

Blood and pieces of brain matter burst through the aberrant's head like a small, macabre rendition of a geyser, killing it instantly after it cried out its one last pathetic howl.

"This way I don't have to get my clothes dirty," said Tissette with a smirk. She pulled onto her weapons with a slight heave and caught all four of them at once, then cleaned each of them by twirling so quickly that Lucius's eyes couldn't keep up before sheathing them.

"Impressive," Lucius said as he stood by Tissette who had a wide grin on her face. What he said was clearly an understatement, but strangely, he felt the urge to curb the Allagorian's cocky attitude just a little bit.

"That's it?" The Allagorian frowned. "I put on a great show, you know. Didn't you see my moves?"

"Yes, yes, your 'moves' were certainly eye-catching but did you have to kick the thing my way?" Lucius grumbled with a frown.

"Well, about that..." Tissette scratched her head as she smiled wryly. "I was kinda testing how you'd react. Whether you really are, you know..."

"Weak? Defenseless?" said Lucius with a sigh. "I passed this test of yours, I assume?"

Tissette's smile widened. "Yep. With flying colors, actually."

"Splendid."

After being reminded once again of his sparse combat ability, Lucius visibly deflated before turning his attention elsewhere. He looked at the dead aberrant, and after a moment of careful deliberation, he finally approached it—slow, and tiptoed.

"Well, I now know that you're untrained but dude, what was that? Hmm, maybe I should've partied up with you before I fought. You could've used the EXP, I bet," Tissette said with a raised brow. "I mean, are you okay? You blanked out for a second back there."

"My apologies. Must be the battle jitters, as they say." Lucius said, trying not to redden in embarrassment as he leaned over and prodded the aberrant's corpse with a stick. Slowly and carefully, as if expecting it to come back to life at any second.

Its anatomy is unlike anything I have ever seen before. A new tribe of Allagorians perhaps? Maybe even a metamorphed Ferrian? Hmm. Both no, most likely.

"Battle jitters? You didn't even fight though," said Tissette as she sat by him and joined in on the prodding with a dagger. "Wait, what are we looking for?"

Lucius stood up and shrugged before throwing the bloody stick away. "Nothing. I was just curious."

"Wait, have you never seen an Aberrant before?"

Lucius tilted his head. He watched Tissette's face carefully and said, "You could say that. Our orphanage was located pretty far into the woods, but we have never encountered anything such as this even if we wandered off."

"Hmm. I gotta say, I envy you guys. There are very few places left in Elyssia that aren't overrun by aberrants."

Lucius only nodded. Again, he did not want to ask the girl too many questions, nor give her the impression that he knew too little.

And, more than anything, he did not want to be seen as more of an annoyance than he already had been during the fight. The fact that he could do nothing but stand aside and watch was humiliating enough for him.

I shall look for a Hall of Tomes or some other establishment of the sort as soon as we arrive at the city. I must play to my strengths before I do anything else.

"Shall we resume our journey then?" Lucius promptly suggested. "We—"

His words were interrupted as the corpse of the aberrant suddenly burst into fragments of light—leaving only a few shiny, rounded pieces of metal behind.

He leaned over and looked at what was on the ground more closely.

Isn't that gold? How did that just—

"Aw dangit. No other drops?" Tissette clicked her tongue as she walked over and picked up the gold coins with a frown. "I shoulda known. That Inferus was pretty weak."

This time, Lucius couldn't help himself. With a forced smile, he begrudgingly asked, "I thought that beast was dead, Tiz. Where did it disappear to just now?"

"Oh, right. You've never encountered an aberrant before," Tissette said before presenting the coins to him with a smile. "Aberrants have no souls. With a few exceptions, when they die, they all leave random items and get resurrected."

"Resurrection?" said Lucius ambiguously with a frown. "That sounds familiar."

"Yeah," Tissette said matter-of-factly. "Like the Outworlders before they lost their Providence."

I knew it. These Outworlders were the Players back in my time. Not only that, but they also lost a Providence they once had? When and what for? Curses. I have much to learn about them still. Just who are they?

"Ah, so it is," Lucius said with a nod. "I won't tarry us with my questions any longer. Let us be on our way."

"Yep. But before that, heads up!" Tissette giggled before throwing the coins at Lucius who struggled to catch them one at a time.

"Much thanks, but...why?" Lucius asked as he gazed at the coins in his hand, then at Tiz who looked at him with an amused expression.

"Trust me, they'll come in handy now that you're out of the sticks," said Tissette before waving her hands and walking away. "Now come on, let's get out of here. Follow me closely and no daydreaming this time."

Lucius sighed as he hid the gold coins inside the pocket of his tunic and followed the girl. Behind her, he whispered, "It was just one time."

...

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful except for the gradual change in scenery, but not for Lucius.

As he and Tissette got closer and closer to the city, there had been more sights that amused him than he could have ever imagined seeing. He, of course, took Tissette's warning to heart and watched his surroundings more warily, but wonder took hold of his senses more than caution ever could.

The countless birds flying in the vast, blue sky...

The grass that got greener and greener as they walked forth and the flowers on the side of the trail that blossomed with vigor and vibrant colors...

The beasts of the wild that he encountered that weren't trying to take his head off for a change, grazing upon the pastures peacefully...

And finally, a lake so crystal-clear and serene that he almost shed a tear while watching it from afar if it weren't for Tissette nudging him awake...

...

Lucius grinned while relishing the memories he just made. One that he, even without his outstanding memory, would surely remember for a long, long time.

"We're close," Tissette muttered before turning to look at Lucius with a small, dissatisfied frown. "Are you alright? You've been quiet the whole time."

"Yes," Lucius said absently. He was following a deer trotting alongside them with his gaze, thoroughly entertained by the fluency and gentleness of its movements. He was even enamored by the oddly-satisfying sound its hooves made as it jogged.

Tissette rolled her eyes with a sigh. "You're a pretty boring traveling companion, you know that?"

"Yes."

"Glad you do," said Lissette in a sarcastic tone as she elbowed him playfully on the arm, startling both him and the deer which scuttled away from them and into the thickets nearby, never to be seen again.

"Oops." Tissette offered Lucius a wry, apologetic smile.

Lucius frowned. He rubbed his arm and gave the girl a sideways glance. "Could you be gentler, Lady Carraway?"

"I dunno, could you be less awkward and talk to me for a change?" Tissette said with a defiant smirk.

"As you wish." Lucius sighed, not even bothering to argue any further. "What do you want to talk about?"

Tissette hesitated for a moment, but eventually, she smiled and asked, "How did Aidan look like?"

"What?"

"Well, y'know. How did he look like when he was fighting those thieves?" Tiz said with a small grin. "I only made it to the castle when it was over, so..."

Looking at the girl's bashful expression, Lucius felt it would be easier to just go along no matter how confusing her question was.

"Hmm, well he looked well-trained and composed throughout the fight. The way he handled his sword—"

"No no no, not that!" Tissette interrupted with a pout. "I want to know what he was saying and what his hair looked like while fighting. Does it flutter? His clothes too—"

"Uh..."

Bewildered, Lucius took one look at the bright, yet somewhat unnerving smile on Tissette's face and he immediately decided that he did not want to be involved in whatever that was.

Salvation came for him in the form of a tall, well-built structure complete with high stone walls that slowly unraveled itself on the horizon as they walked.

"I-I that Delta City?" Lucius asked as he pointed before him with an inward sigh of relief.

 

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About the author

Red Fox

  • Nirvana
  • a.k.a. Red Fox

Bio: I hate grapes. Wine's not bad though.

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