The first thing they saw as they entered the cave were trees bending before the might of the raging storm. Leaves were hurled through the air and thick clouds hung in the sky above them, just waiting to unleash the rain within them onto the land.
"S-Should we perhaps wait out the storm inside?" Mira asked.
"There's an inn not too far away, perhaps an hour if we're fast," Zane said.
"Is it really smart to travel in a storm like this?" Mira asked.
No, definitely not. But it's better than being in there with that maniac.
"Better than waiting to be attacked by her again," Zane said with a shiver going down his spine.
Mira nodded and followed behind Zane who put the lantern into his satchel and wrapped his long cloak around himself. Mira did the same. They were in a small forest which began to thin out the longer they followed the path. After a while they came across a point where the small path they had been following went over into a much wider path made to be travelled with a carriage that led up a hill to there side, leading along a large open plain surrounded by forest, or down, where the path led along the cliffside of the canyon.
Zane turned and walked up the hill, walking along the large open plain with dark green grass. The storm began to calm down and the air began to become colder and colder. A few whiten spots of snow began to appear on the grass on the plains surrounding them.
And in the distance, Zane could already see the lights of the large inn standing on stilts next to a hill on which a bathhouse that was connected to the inn by a large veranda. It was made of dark wood and the stilts looked more like entire tree trunks, the bark still on them. A large roofed, staircase led up to the inn. Warm light flooded out of the windows and came from the lanterns hanging on the outside. In front of the staircase were many carriages and the horses were all tied to a fence in a roofed area, with multiple feeding and drinking troughs.
"Oh, so we're here," Mira said with a bit of excitement.
"Know this place?" Zane asked.
Mira nodded. "After I ran away I stayed here for a few days," she said.
"Well then, take the lead," Zane said.
"Are you sure it's smart for a member of the Vermillion family to just randomly pop up in some random inn?" Mira asked.
"Hmm . . ." Zane thought for a short while. "I mean there is really not a lot that could happen now that we're in Velva. In the worst-case some mercenaries that try to take you, in the best case a family member that has some quick way of informing Holvin," he said.
"Guess you're right," she said.
The two walked towards the inn, Mira in the front and Zane walking closely behind her. As they walked by the horses made some noises at them, their breath rising up into the air just like the smoke coming from the chimney of the inn. They walked up the staircase and Mira opened the door to the inn.
As soon as she entered Zane could hear gasps from the inside that quickly became even louder as he entered behind her. This inn had two floors, allowing Zane to stand once he had walked further inside. His head nearly reached up to the railing of the second floor. The heads of the other patrons were all turned to them and some of the mercenaries were hectically looking from the posting board with the bounty posters to Mira.
"Looks like someone already found her, and it's a big fellow as well," someone said.
Zane turned his head to see the one who had spoken. It was a demi-human. He had dark grey wolf ears and Zane could see a tail hanging down from the chair. The man also had long fingernails and wore a necklace made of monster teeth around his neck.
"Wait, white hair, light green eyes, if it isn't the Reaper, or should I say . . . Zane Larcadia," he said.
Zane just shrugged.
He does know my real name has been known for years at this point.
"H-Hey wait," he called after Zane and Mira as they were about to walk over to an empty table.
There was less confidence in his voice than before. The demi-human had gotten up and walked up to Zane.
"How about you let us take her the rest of the way?" he demanded more than asked.
Zane turned around and looked at the demi-human's pale grey eyes, with his cold, light green ones.
"Don't try to intimidate me, we've already heard from some of our friends that you've lost yer powers," the mercenary said.
The other people that had sat at his table stood up as well. All of them were demi-humans as well, wolf ears and tails with long fingernails. Mira, who now stood behind Zane, had a look of concern on her face.
"You may have been able to dispose of those idiots, but we're a bit different." The demi-human had put one of his fingernails against his stomach, trying to pierce his armour. "We're a bit more dangerous if you catch my meanin'."
Under normal circumstances, people would have looked at the spectacle with interest and tension, but at the sight of a demi-human threatening a human nearly twice his size some people couldn't help but burst out in laughter. The friends of the one threatening Zane were giving them evil stares which quickly shut them down.
"Listen here Reaper, we know how dangerous this business is, we're just tryin' to help," he said, digging his long and sharp fingernail deeper into Zane's armour, still not piercing it.
Bothersome, although facing all of them at once might turn out to be a bit dangerous. And judging from their accent they don't have as much experience in the business as I have.
"Fuck off," Zane said, putting a hand on the hilt of his katana.
He saw the demi-human's throat bulge as he swallowed his spit. The man took a step back.
"S-So yer tryin' to start a fight, huh?" he said.
Zane shook his head. One glance at the unsure stance of the one standing before him told him more than enough. Zane just turned around and sat down, Mira following suit shortly after.
"H-Hey how dare you just sit down, are you tryin' to make fools of us?" the demi-human yelled.
"Keep it down, please, I am trying to enjoy my food after a long journey," someone said from the second floor.
Zane couldn't physically see the person but he had a pretty good mental image. Dark red hair, just like Mira's and nine long tails.
"What do yo-" the mercenary began, but he was interrupted by a crossbow bolt piercing the floor right next to his foot.
Right on the money.
"The reason a mercenary like, the Reaper, does not take you seriously is that you will never meet a good mercenary with an accent," the Vermillion said. "You see, the way we nobels talk tends to rub off."
Zane saw how Mira had lowered her head.
"Everything alright?" Zane asked.
"N-No . . . that's my sister," she said.
Zane burst out into laughter, making him tear up. Mira's sister joining in as she walked down the stairs, her guards, clad in heavy-looking armour, following closely behind.
"Oh, Mira my dear, I do hope he has treated you well, you need to tell me," she said.
"C-Can we please eat first?" Mira asked.
"Oh of course," her sister said.
She snapped, making it as loud as possible, and the innkeeper came shortly after. Zane and Mira ordered their food and Mira's sister sat down at their table, her guards telling off the mercenaries that still stood there, staring at them.
"Ah, I have yet to introduce myself. I am Merana Vermillion, Mira's older sister."
Merana had shoulder-length hair, the same dark red colour as both Mira and Holvin had, her eyes were yellowish just like one of Mira's and she wore a red top with black pants. The nine tails on her rear were each a different shade of orange each with snow-white tips.
She extended a hand towards Zane, who after a short moment of hesitation, took it. The innkeeper returned with their food after a very short time.
"Well, we should definitely take a bath, I will reserve it," Merana said.
She snapped again and the innkeeper nodded at her before he walked back to his counter where he talked with one of the maids who quickly disappeared.
Merana watched the two as they ate and then practically dragged them to the bathhouse once they had finished. Once inside she undressed and gave her guards the signal that they had earned a break as well. Except for two who she ordered to stand guard at the entrance. Zane and Mira undressed as well, although Mira hid the stump where her left hand had once been the entire time and entered the bath. They all sat down in the warm water, Merana sat down with her arms wide open, exposing her bare chest, whereas Mira had covered her body with a towel until she sat down in the water and removed it. The guards, trying not to get beheaded for looking at their employer's body, sat down in a corner and began talking. Zane sat down in another corner, trying to pay no mind to any of the others as he crossed his legs and began to let Aura course trough his body.
"So, Mira, how come the Reaper was the one who found you?" Merana asked. "Or was it Holvin's offer of tripling the bounty?" she asked directed at Zane.
"C-Coincidence," Mira answered.
"Coincidence, really? Is that all? Come on, tell me," Merana said, pressuring Mira.
"I-I was posing as a mercenary and we happened to both take the same job," Mira said.
"What kind of job? Come on, don't make me ask for every single detail," Merana said.
"We conquered a tower together," Mira said quietly.
Merana looked shocked and surprised as she switched who she was looking at every few seconds.
"Y-You did what?!" she asked loudly. "I mean I heard that another tower had been conquered but that you would be involved . . . is it true Reaper?" She turned to Zane as she asked the question.
Zane, still trying to concentrate, nodded.
In celebration Merana hugged Mira tightly, feeling the stump on her left arm in the process.
"W-What was that?" she asked.
Before Mira could answer the question, Merana had already ripped her left arm out of the water and was looking at the stump, trying to find the hand that was not there anymore.
"W-What happened to you?" she asked with a serious tone.
"A w-wendigo attacked us an-"
Before Mira could finish Merana had jumped up and charged at Zane, who leaned forwards, dodging her punch.
"Stop!" Mira shouted."This isn't his fault!"
She was flailing around her arm like a club as she tried to keep her sister from attacking Zane again. For a few seconds, it seemed like Merana had calmed down as she walked back to where she had been sitting before. But instead of sitting back down she grabbed her towel and revealed a dagger with golden details on it. She grabbed it and charged at Zane again who managed to catch it just before sinking deep into his right eye. From the pain, he felt he could tell that she still managed to cut him.
Well, that will leave a nice scar.
The guards had gotten up from their corner and were surrounding them, trying not to look at the two women. Mira was hitting her sister the entire time, trying to get her off of Zane.
"It's not his fault," she repeated the entire time.
"You were supposed to protect her! You idiot! How come you could not even do that!" Merana screamed with tears running down her face.
"I-I'm sor-" Zane began but Mira interfered.
"Don't you dare apologize for this," she said.
After a struggle that took minutes, Mira had finally managed to get her sister off of Zane, who had a cut over his right eye. Merana was breathing heavily and tears were still running down her face.
"Let's talk this trough," Mira said as she embraced her.
Merana snapped which made the guards go back to their corner, although they were now eying Zane.
"I apologize, Reaper, it is just that I get very overprotective when it is about my dear little sister," she said.
Zane gave her an understanding nod before closing his eyes again as if nothing happened.
"Should you not get that bandaged?" Merana asked, her breathing still heavy.
Zane was already about to shake his head when he remembered that his powers were now gone and he jumped out of the bath, exposing himself for a short time and running out of the bath. He quickly dressed himself and went to one of the maids who quickly took him to a small room in the back where she bandaged his wound.
Instead of heading back to the bath, Zane decided to take a room and head upstairs. He closed the door behind him, undressed to his underwear and sat down on the bed. He traced his new scar with a finger. It hurt.
What a shitty day. If I had slept more then this wouldn't ha- no, I decided that I'd become stronger so what's a scar.
Zane then crossed his legs and began meditating, even though he was already quite tired. He let the Aura course trough his body, and again, the tingling had become stronger but was still nowhere close to where Zane would like it to be. Hours passed with the only noise being the occasional door closing or a bit of muttering in the corridor. He heard the doors of the rooms to both sides shut loudly.
Really? Have people no respect for others . . .
After a short while, he began to hear moaning from one of the two rooms, and the person who had entered the room on the other side joined in shortly after.
You have to be kidding me right? Both, at the same fucking time?
Zane continued to ignore the two for a while and before he even noticed it his sleepiness had overcome him and he had fallen asleep. A knocking on his door woke him the next morning.
"Zane are you awake?" Mira asked from the outside.
Zane grunted loudly, quickly got out of bed, put on his clothes and opened the door. Mira was standing in front of him with an awkward smile on her face.
"My sister agreed to take us to Kalwa," she said.
"Indeed I have," Merana said as she came out of the room next to Zane's.
Of course and let me guess the one on the other side is Mira's.
Zane nodded at her and walked past Mira towards the stairs.
"Let's eat then," he said to Mira. "Oh, and not so loud next time."