"Oh, look. Is that Delta City?"
Lucius interrupted Tissette before she could go on and on about someone he did not even know about. Instead, he pointed at what seemed to be a city outpost from afar—with walls stretching as far as his eyes could see. Mounted atop the walls were gigantic palisades and small dots that he could only assume were the city's watchmen from afar.
"Duh. Didn't I just tell you that we were close? Oh c'mon, was I just talkin' to myself all this time?" Tissette sighed. "Anyways, yeah. That's Delta City right there. Courtesy of Denzel Fayre, the founder of the Five Free Cities of Alavaria."
"Denzel Fayre. Hmm, good to know." Lucius furrowed his brows after hearing yet another unfamiliar name.
Must be another Player. No, er—an Outworlder. I have to be careful not to call them that anymore.
As they neared the city gates, Tissette suddenly perked up and slapped him in the shoulder playfully, startling him.
"Oh, hey! I just remembered something!"
Caught off-guard once again by the girl's actions, Lucius said, "Wh-What?"
"You're in luck!" Tissette shouted as she continued to nudge him playfully. "Remember what I told about Alavaria being founded exactly three hundred years ago?"
"Of course," Lucius said as he tried to keep a dignified expression while being played around with. "What about it?"
"Well, the third Grand Festival of Founding is today!" Tissette said. She grinned at him with her mouth wide open—revealing her two sharp fangs carefreely as she continued, "What better way to introduce you to one of the Free Cities than with a huge celebration!"
"A festival?" Taken aback by the sudden revelation, Lucius could only nod his head. "How interesting."
Lucius frowned. He had never been in a celebration of any sort before. Unless, of course, watching a small party of Asherii guardsmen get drunk while on duty from his bedroom window counted.
"That's it? 'Oh, how interesting,' my butt," Tissette frowned. "It's THE Grand Festival! And you do know what they say about the citizens of Alavaria, right?"
"No. I do not think I am familiar with it," Lucius said with a frown. Curiously, he asked, "What do they say about the citizens of Alavaria?"
Tissette's smile widened. "When it comes to partying and celebrations, we are second to none!"
"A pretty strange thing to be proud about, but I shall take note of it."
Lucius nodded at Tissette while trying to recall the proper attitude and etiquette to show when merrymaking. This was to be his first festival after all, and he did not want to screw up by being an uncouth and boorish ignoramus.
"And did I tell you already about..."
After enduring Tissette's unwavering talkativeness for quite some time, Lucius finally made it to the outpost. He leaned on his knees and panted. He felt as if his heart would beat out of his chest at any second, and the stinging ache under the soles of his feet made him wince a little.
This must be what 'fatigue' feels like.
"You tired? I told you we should've rested for a while back there," said Tissette as she looked at Lucius worriedly. "But then again, you're Corpus is kinda low, isn't it? We didn't even walk that far."
"P-Perhaps. I have rarely ventured outside the orphanage back then," Lucius managed to say in between breaths. "Besides, I simply do not feel comfortable resting while those monsters were still around."
"Fair point. Just hang in there, buddy," Tissette said, patting his back with a wry smile.
"Hey, Tiz! Who's the kid?"
Lucius looked up and saw a Ferrian with long, ivory tusks on both sides of his face and a husky, muscular body walking towards them with a smile. The man wore a brilliant, golden insignia on his chest much like the rest of the guards, but his badge was much larger and significantly more polished than the rest.
Hmm. A sign of distinguishment, most likely.
"Captain Rek!" Tissette shouted and greeted the tall man with a smile. "They finally got you out of that stuffy office?"
"Nah, I left on my own for today. Pushing pencils while there's a festival going on just ain't my style," said the massive Ferrian—Rek—with a shrug.
Lucius remained silent as Rek looked at him with a smile on his face, as if waiting for him to say something.
"Oh, he's Lucius. I found him wandering around that spooky old castle alone. Can you believe it?" Tissette then hooked several of her arms over Lucius's neck playfully as she continued, "He's a bit shy and awkward, but we've pretty much been friends ever since we've met, right Lucy?"
Lucius held back a frown while being overwhelmed by Tissette's one-sided show of enthusiasm.
"Greetings," Lucius struggled to say to Rek with a small smile as he finally managed to release himself from Tissette's arms.
"A refugee?" Rek asked as he looked at Lucius with a soft, frowning gaze.
"Yeah. He's from an orphanage somewhere in the Human or the Ancient kingdoms. Barely even remembers what happened before or how he got here," Tissette said, her tone a tad serious than her usual jovial one. "Sounds familiar to you?"
"Are you saying that he's been—"
Tissette nodded grimly. "There's a very high possibility, Captain Rek. They've been running rampant ever since the civil war in the west broke out, and they're also one of the few groups who specialize in mind-addling magic."
Lucius gazed at the two, wondering where they were going with their assumptions. Then, he finally realized why Tissette trusted him too easily. She had already formed a story about him all on her own, it seemed like. Not that he was complaining though.
"Damn slavers." Rek gritted his teeth before looking at Lucius with a sad smile. "Oh, you poor lad. Must've been hard for you all this time, living in a place that's foreign and harsh to our kind. Perhaps those slaver bastards did you a favor after all!"
Rek then patted Lucius's head with his huge arm as he continued with a more jovial tone, "But forget all that. You don't need to worry anymore! Starting now, you will get to see just how great Alavaria is during the festival!"
Lucius groaned as his knees almost buckled due to the sheer weight of the man's hand.
Charming, but are the people in this era usually this...touchy?
"All that aside, I'm glad to see a fellow Ferrian join our community. Let me be one of the first to welcome you to Delta City, Lucius."
"My thanks, Captain Rek," Lucius said with a small smile before bowing right after. After realizing that his old habits had taken over once again, however, he quickly caught himself and awkwardly stood up straight.
"Did you just bow to me, lad?" Rek chuckled as he threw Lucius a sideways glance.
"Yeah, he does that," Tissette said, crossing her arms as she looked at Lucius. "He's weird."
Lucius frowned. "Hey."
"Well, doth thou deny mine claim, Sir Lucius?" Tissette said with a twirl and an exaggerated bow of her own. "Art thou not an awkward gentleman, may I ask?"
"I do not speak like that," Lucius said, frowning as he stared wide-eyed at the girl. From the corner of his eye, he saw Rek laughing at their antics before moving aside—giving him a glimpse of the city from beyond the outpost.
Ignoring Tissette for a moment, Lucius almost hung his mouth wide open at the marvelous sight of the city. Tissette's voice slowly faded behind him as he moved forward absently—as if he was being drawn by the wonderful, yet positively alien scenery right before his eyes.
Tall buildings, houses, businesses, stalls, and establishments that he didn't even know the purpose of were laid out far across the grassy landscape, along with people of different races mingling with each other along the ever-bustling, lively streets.
Atop the city's far edge was a high plateau where a magnificent castle stood high and mighty—its pointed peaks shining ever so slightly under the late afternoon sun.
Once in a while, a few sleek, bizarre-shaped hunks of wood, and sometimes, metal flew right above the busy streets from place to place—making Lucius question what he was seeing.
"Hey," Tissette called out from behind him before putting a hand on his shoulder. "You alright?"
Lucius flinched but eventually regained his composure. He sighed and said, "Yes. I was just observing."
Tissette smiled as she too looked at the city from afar. "Well, there's plenty more to see if you wanna leave this place and actually go there."
"Right, lad," Rek said, his voice booming as he continued, "Go on and see what our city's really like with little miss Tissy over there. I know that she could be a handful most of the time but trust me, she'll grow you eventually if she likes you enough."
Lucius resisted the urge to sigh as he nodded slowly while looking at Tissette.
"Why thank you for the thoughtful commentary and for using the lame nickname, Captain Rek. I'll see you later," Tissette grinned before walking away with a bounce on her step. "Let's go, Lucius. We have some touring and sightseeing to do."
Not wanting to be left behind, Lucius gave Rek a quick, yet polite nod before catching up to Tissette with a jog.
Filled with much excitement that he could barely conceal and a vague sense of wonder unmatched by anything he ever felt before, Lucius never looked back as he walked towards the city of Delta—one of the Five Free Cities of Alavaria and the very first city he had ever laid his eyes on.