The walk back to her campsite had been uneventful and shrouded in awkward silence. They reach a small cave that she has made into her home. It was absolutely nothing to brag about, and a vast leap away from how she once lived. The space was small, cramp, and drafty at night. Her bed was nothing but a pile of leaves with a ragged blanket over it.
Standing at the entrance of her cave with torn and dirty clothes, tousled purple hair, and oozing injuries, Livia’s mind conjures up an image of a prehistoric cavewoman. Feeling a bout of rare embarrassment, Livia tenses when Sen stops a few steps outside of the cave.
He surveys the area coolly before heading straight to her meager medical supplies.
“Come here,” He orders her while pulling out bandages and disinfectant.
Livia would have ignored him out of spite, but she couldn’t endure the pain a moment longer. Her ankle had almost doubled in size and the angry gash on her arm had turned an awful color. She limps forward with an expression of great reluctance and continues to frown even as Sen treats and dresses her wounds silently.
He must not know healing magic; Livia thinks as she watches him. It was unfortunate that she was still a novice when it came to healing. She could easily heal others, more by sheer for of will then any real skill, but not herself. That type of magic was of the highest level, and very few people could do it. She didn’t want to risk it. Maybe when she was no longer pregnant, she would, but until then she reframes from attempting it. She has no choice but to heal the slow, old fashioned way.
“It will scar,” Sen tells her with a tone that is almost apologetic. Livia has to pull her eyes away from his earless head (Did he hide them? Why?) to blink at the words, a bit startled.
The small amount of healing herbs she had found in the wild will do nothing to stop the gash on her arm from scarring. If she had potions it would have certainly helped, but she has none at the moment. She would need to go into a town to buy them.
“I don’t mind,” Livia says after a while. Sen pauses at this, his eyes flickering over her face before he resumes his work.
She really doesn’t. She already had a small assortment of scars on her body from her time in the Crocus forest. What was one more?
If Livia was vain, she would have been upset by the fact that her skin was now marred by a few scars, but she wasn’t. In fact, it felt almost nostalgic. It reminded her of her first life, back when the scars of her skinned knees, and elbow during childhood had remained present even into her adulthood.
Her skin had once been clear of any blemishes. She had no moles, freckles, or bumps. Her skin had resembled that of a porcelain doll. After spending weeks under the blazing sun, fighting monsters, gathering herbs, and sharpening up her skills, she was no longer unblemished. Livia was actually proud of this. It was more proof of how she toiled the weeks away along with her weight and muscle gain.
Once Sen finishes, a silence sits heavily between them. As he put the supplies away, she looks over the cleanly wrapped bandages on her arm and ankle. The gash on her arm still stings a bit, but it feels much better, while the swelling on her ankle will no doubt go down with time and proper rest.
Now that those things were taken care of, Livia can now focus on more pressing matters. Like, how the hell did a capture target break out of autopilot!? They were essentially NPCs with a predestined path, after all.
Before she could think about how to broach the subject of Sens sudden appearance, her stomach grumbles loudly. She glances down at it and suddenly becomes all too aware of the fact that her crop top did nothing to hide her rounded belly. Her eyes widen and she hastily pulls her cloak around her to hide her body from view.
Did he see it? Livia thinks a bit anxiously, her fingers clenching into the fabric of her cloak. Sen turns around then, and his eyebrows raise slightly at her expression. Before he can say anything, she speaks up.
“There is a stream not too far from here. We can grab lunch there,” She says as she gets to her feet. She grabs at a spear she had made that is leaning up against the entrance of the cave.
“You know how to fish?” Sen asks. He is unable to hide his surprise.
“It’s not that hard once you get the hang of it,” Livia says with a little shrug.
It was all she could do with her strict rule of no magic (Which she just broke, but that was beside the point). She never attempted to hunt the other animals in the forest. They were all hulking beast that vaguely resembled the animals she knew on Earth, and she was opposed to risk getting trampled on. Fishing was the only way she could easily get protein. Livia always made sure to never eat the fish she caught raw, and cooked them thoroughly.
She had heard somewhere that pregnant women couldn’t eat raw fish.
Livia leaves the cave, her gate slow as she limps. Sen easily falls into step with her with his long legs, glancing at her every few seconds before he sighs and stops
“You go back,” He suddenly says to her.
Livia turns to him with a frown, “What? Why would I do that?”
“Your slow,” Sen says bluntly, his yellow eyes on her raised foot.
Livia scowls “I don’t need to walk fast to catch a fish.”
Sen returns her scowl with one of his own, “Your ankle is still swelled up and walking on it will only make it worse.”
“I’ve already made it worse. It won’t make much of a difference at this point. The stream isn’t even that far away,” Livia argues back.
“Regardless of that, the low levels are still lurking around. Do you really want to encounter another Hog-Thorne? You could barely handle the runt.”
Livia's eyes widen, “What? Did you just say, runt!?”
Sen smirks at her and says, “You do know they are normally twice the size of that runt, right? This forest is also known to have a large population of them.”
“No. That can’t be true. That was the first one I ever saw and I have been her for almost a month!” Livia says, her tone one of disbelief. She thought Sen was just messing with her. She couldn’t believe that boar could become any bigger than it had already been.
“They usually steer clear of all humans. They know they will be hunted otherwise,” Sen explains.
“Wait, your telling me that thing was edible?”
Sen nods, “Yes. It’s even a popular dish in the nearby kingdom.”
Livia didn’t’ know that. Wisteria had been close, but Salvia was closer. The dish must have been popular in Salvia. Livia had never heard of spiked boar meat in her home country.
Also, had he said low-level? That hog-thorne thing was considered a low level? Well, that certainly put things into a very unpleasant perspective.
“Fine,” Livia says flatly, “I will return to the cave.”
Sens smirk is annoyingly triumphed.
Livia tosses the spear at him before she hobbles the short distance back to the cave. Sen watches her go, and doesn’t move from his spot until she disappears back into the cave. He turns and head in the direction of the stream once she is gone.
Almost an hour later, they sit over a fire and watch the fish cook. Livia watches as Sen adds another log to the fire. He turns the fish he impaled on a stick he holds over the hot flames slowly, making sure that it cooks evenly. She nibbles on her own impaled fish. It had been expertly gutted by Sen and the scales had also been removed.
Livia had plenty of time to think while Sen was away fishing. In conclusion, she still had no idea why he appeared before her, so she simply decided to ask him bluntly.
“Why are you here, Sen?” Livia asks with narrow eyes.
Sen does not bother to look up from his cooking fish, “I already told you. I was checking in on you.”
Yes, but why!? Livia thinks in frustration. It made no sense. Sen was in the middle of a long-term and very important undercover mission in the Eastern Empire. The information he gathers was detrimental to the progression of the original storyline. He shouldn’t be able to move so freely about. He shouldn’t want to. It was more than just being professional; it was a personal matter to Sen and was important for his character development in the future.
Livia didn’t know the rules or the official guidelines to her situation, but so far, all the characters from the game have acted exactly as they were written to act. The game glossed over many details with time skips, but for the most part, all the main events have stayed true to the original timeline.
Sen should not be here.
It was a simple fact.
She could say it was her obtrusion into his life that had veered him off but her interaction with him had been minimal at best. Livia figured she came off unpleasant enough to squash down any curiosities he might have had about her unique powers. She pretty much accosted him. Who wouldn’t want to put the whole thing behind them after that? She also knew he wouldn’t have given her away without blowing his own cover, and figured he would just resume his mission once she had left him.
So, why was he here??
“I don’t recall ever telling you my name,” Sen says suddenly with a low voice, bringing her out of her thoughts.
She blinks, “What are you talking about? You told me it when we first met.”
Sen stares at her with a steady and intent gaze brimming with suspicion, “I had introduced myself as James Blake.”
Livia doesn’t even blink as she says, “It was just an educated guess. You look like a Sen to me, so I simply called you that. Is that your actual name?” Her heart thumps in her chest as she keeps her tone casual and light.
Sen yellow eyes don’t move away from her face, they stare her down in a way that makes her want to squirm in her seat. She doesn’t. She holds his stare, her expression perfectly crafted into one of mild interest.
“...Is that so?” Sen says in an airy tone, “Then I guess you wouldn't be aware of my last name, right?”
Livia relaxes a bit, “Of course I wouldn’t. Not unless it was Blake?”
“Well, what is it then?” Livia asks, returning her attention to her fish, and taking a bite out of it.
“I don’t know...why don’t you tell me?” Sen says darkly.
Livia freezes, and her eyes snap to his face, “What-” She starts to say, but Sen throws something at her feet.
It was a small vial of glass.
Livia quickly covers her nose, but she knows it’s already too late. She already got a good waft of the blue mist that floated up when the small bottle had broken.
Bloody hell! Livia curses in her head as she goes through a coughing fit. The smell had been so strong and potent, it burns her nostrils and the back of her throat. She can already feel the magic working on her, the urge to blurt out her deepest darkest secrets taking hold over her. She fights against it.
“Who am I?” Sen says slowly, his voice clear and loud.
Livia snaps her mouth shut and glares at him.
Sen leans forward, his gaze penetrating, “Who. Am. I?”
She clenches her jaw, and presses her lips into a thin line. The words try to crawl up her throat, but she refused to voice them. If she resists long enough, the potion will eventually wear off. Truth potions had a times frame, the more potent they were the shorter they lasted. All she had to do was keep her mouth close.
Sen glowers at her when she remains silent, “Your trying to resist. That only proves that your hiding something.”
No shite! Who in this world doesn’t have secrets that don’t wish to share? Livia thinks, furious.
Sen sighs, and leans back, “Fine. Then we do this the hard way.” He points his finger a and a blue arrow shoots out from it at breakneck speed towards her.
Livia recoils away, her mouth falling open in surprise.
Sen doesn’t waste a second, “Who am I?” He asks again.
Livia attempts to clamp her mouth close, her eyes practically spitting fire, but the words shove their way onto her tongue, “Your Sen Cade,” She hisses out through gritted teeth.
Sen eyes narrow into slits, “How do you know that? Who told you?” He snaps.
Livia struggles for a minute, curling away from the whole truth, “...You-No one told me. I already knew.”
“How...” Sen practically growls.
Livia bites down on her bottom lip until she tastes blood, and tries to will her body to do anything else, but it doesn’t budge. All she can do is curl her fingers into a tight white-knuckled fist. All she can focus on was telling the truth, she must say it, the potion wouldn’t let her do anything else. Her only saving grace was how unspecific Sen was being. She could still hold a few things back.
“Memories,” Livia blurts out and slams her mouth close again.
Sen stops short at this, his expression twisting into one of confusion, “Memories? What? What do you mean by that?”
“Ugh, you bastard. When this is all over, I swear I will pay you back tenfold,” Livia snarls instead of answering, her body tense and shaking from resisting the potion. Sweat beads at her forehead, a small trail rolling down her face as she struggles to gain control over herself.
Sen just scowls at her, his yellow eyes flashing in warning, “That’s all well in good, little lady, but I’m not the one who strong-armed someone into helping them while also being privy to information only a selected few should know. Just who exactly are you?”
“I’m Livia Katrina Valentine,” Livia says readily with a mean smile.
Three, no, two more minutes at the most! Livia thinks to herself, while Sen continues to glare at her.
“Valentine...you're the daughter of a noblemen in Wisteria? Then what where you doing in the Empire?” Sen asks, well informed as expected.
"I-I was taken there,” Livia says, her voice low and barely audible. She ignores how it trembles a bit, and can feel her face paling.
Sen observes all of this, but still pushes on, his face grim, “By who-”
“I don’t know,” Livia says honestly, silently counting down the seconds in her head.
Sen lets it go, but then asks, “The memories you spoke of earlier...what did you mean, specifically?”
Livia shakes her head and tries to cover her mouth with her hand, but all she can do is clench it into the tight first. The question was to direct for her to resist, and she speaks even as she screams no over and over in her head.
“I-I regained memories of my past life at my debutante ball. In those memories, I knew of you, the real you,” Just stop here, she thinks desperately, he doesn’t need to know more. But it was futile.
Sen had asked for the details, and her body could do nothing but give them to him. To make matters worse, she spoke quickly. It was as if the potion knew its sway over her was weakening and trying to push out as much information as possible before it left her system completely.
“You weren’t a real person in my first life,” Livia says helplessly, “In that world, you were just some fictional character in a game that I once played in my room. The game, it was called Aster Academy: The Feuding Houses. It was a game that followed the heroine, Amelia Margaret Reeve, as she entered the Academy after her mother died as the bastard daughter of a Baron. You, Sen Cade, are one of the captured targets in the game.
A capture target is a potential love interest to Amelia Reeve, and each target had their own storyline. I never actually followed yours, but a friend of mine did, and always told me about it. This is how I knew that you were in the Empire, and your true identity. Saer, the new Emperor, is also a captured target, as is Crown Prince Rodale of the Wisteria kingdom and his younger brother, Prince Orin. I have not met any other captured targets but them.”
Livia takes a moment to breathe as Sen stares at her in utter shock. Before he can even blink, she pushes on ahead, the potion rapidly weakening but still putting hard pressure on her.
“I was reincarnated as the villainies of the story. I’m the woman who gets in the way of Crown Prince Rodale and Amelia blooming love story. I bullied her. I humiliated her and did everything I could to torment her. I had been the fiancé of the Crown Prince and saw their interactions together as a great insult. B-but also, I just didn’t like that simpering little girl. At my debutante, I-...I poisoned Amelia. I wanted to trigger the event of my downfall. To just get it over with so I can evade my death and move on with my life. But...it didn’t go as I had planned. I ended up being taken t-to the Empire.”
Livia cut herself off here, she bites down on her own tongue to stop the words from forming, she didn’t stop biting even when she starts to taste her own blood. She is finally able to move, and she covers her mouth as she just sits there and trembles in place. Unwanted memories bombard her, and she has to take a moment to gather herself.
Sen stares at Liv, no, Livia for a very long moment. His eyes were wide and his mouth had fallen open during her explanation. His mind whirls into a storm of thoughts as he tries to process everything that he just heard. His first instinct was to deny it all, to scornfully dismiss the ramblings of a girl that was clearly out of her damn mind. But the potion he used; it was not only the best money could buy but it was also personally made for his mission. He knew the brewer specifically, and there was no way she would have given him a bad batch.
Which meant everything Livia just said was true.
Before he could really digest everything, Livia snarls, “Svázat!” And his arms and legs snap together before he topples over, frozen in place.
His yellow eyes are the only thing that moves as Livia stalks forward and towers over him with an expression of such darkness, his heart jumps in his chest.
Sen had meant to restraint her after or before the potion had worn off, but got distracted by the flood of words.
“Well, isn’t this just a lovely turn of events,” Livia says coldly. She kicks none too gently as his frozen body, turning him over so he was on his back with her foot. His yellow eyes land on purple eyes that gleam in a very dangerous way, a touch of madness entering their beautiful depths.
“Now, I believe that I made a promise to you, didn’t I? What was it that I said? Oh yes, I remember now, I said that I would make you pay for you very rude behavior,” Livia tells him in an almost conversational tone as if she was softly scolding a misbehaving child.
“What should I do with you?” She asks as she carefully squats down beside him, her eyes looking off into the distance now. This close, Sen gets an unavoidable view of her stomach, and like a rubber band snapping back into place, all the piece suddenly falls together.
Livia had been ‘taken’ to the Empire.
She had been on the run from the new Emperor when she met him.
The brand that had been around her neck marked her as the property of the Empire, especially, as one of the many women in the 14th Emperors harem.
She was currently pregnant.
Sen slowly closes his eyes, pained. He had suspected she wasn’t just a simple slave by the way she was dressed and acted, but had refused to think further on it. Now he berates himself heavily. If he had put the pieces together sooner, he could have gone about this very differently.
He opens his eyes to see Livia staring down at him blankly.
“You really are too smart for your own good,” She tells him, her voice flat and low, “You put it all together, didn’t you? How troublesome...”
Livia thinks for a moment.
Should I just kill him?
She thinks she could do it. A cutting hex to the delicate skin of his throat, and she could walk away as Sen slowly bled out on the forest floor, paralyzed and unable to move.
But it would be a useless and senseless death, and all because he knew more than she ever wanted him too? She blamed herself more than she did him. She should have never let her guard down. Even when he was being compliant, and even caring at times, he was still cunning enough to remain undercover in the Empire for years. She should have known better than to trust him for even a minute.
Of course, that didn’t excuse him interrogating her in such a forceful and traumatic way. But Livia understood the logic behind it. She suddenly appeared before him and knew things and did things that shouldn’t be possible. Anyone would become alarmed and would want answers.
Too bad he made the unfortunate mistake of underestimating her. Now he was completely at her mercy.
Suddenly, she has a brilliant idea, and a cruel smile spreads over her lips.
“I have decided that I won’t kill you,” Livia announces to Sen as she snatches up one of the daggers strapped to his muscled thigh. His eyes follow the movements of the dagger, not letting it out his sight.
“I hate needless killing and decided to put you to better use. I can’t just let you get away with your brute ways without properly reprimanding you, though. At least with my way, we both get what we want.” She tells him as she raises up her hand and slowly drags the sharp edge of the dagger across her palm, drawing a thin line of blood on it.
“You get to walk away not only with your life intact but also with your memories unaltered,” She explains calmly as she loosens the paralyzing spell on one of his hand, and turns it so the palm was facing up.
Sen eyes here with alarm and wariness as she drags the dagger across his palm, drawing a line of blood as she did with her own hand. She clasps their hands together so their blood mixes and stares him directly in the eyes.
“All you need to do is agree to the terms of the blood pact, and you can be on your way. I will even forgive you for your transgression against me,” Livia says as if it was a simple and easy thing.
She waves her uninjured hand over his face, lifting the spell from Sen head. Before he can say anything, she narrows her eyes and digs sharp nails into the skin at the back of his hand, “But be warned, Sen. I have very little patience. Your answer is either yes or yes. Understood?”
Sen refuses to show just how ruffled he actually was, keeping expression cool and disinterested.
“What is a blood pack,” He asks, his tone carefully neutral.
Livia smiles, and Sen has to stop himself from grimacing at her expression. It was as far from sweet and pretty as one could get.
“It a little helpful tool that ensures that all participants keep their word,” Livia says.
Sen swallows, “What are your terms?”
Livia holds up a single finger, her other hand still entwined in a blood grip with Sens, as she starts counting down.
“One; You are not to reveal my past life to anyone. Two; You are not to reveal my pregnancy, my time in the Empire, and my relationship with the 14th Emperor to anyone, as well. Three; One and two can be altered depending on the circumstances, but only I have a say as to when. Four; In exchange for your silence, I will tell you everything I know about the other targets, including Saer, the current Emperor of the Eastern Empire. You are free to do whatever you wish with that information, but it is on you if you get caught out. And finally, Five; Neither you nor I can outright lie to each from this point on.”
Livia raises a single haughty eyebrow, “Do you agree to these terms, Sen Cade?”
Livia smile instantly sweetens into something sugary and utterly false, “Wise choice,” She comments mildly before closing her eyes. She couldn’t do the spell by herself. They both had to participate for it to work. She could use more one-sided means if she really needed to, but this was much more preferable and more durable.
Livia was also extremely curious if it would even take with a complete novice at the other participant. Obviously, not just anyone can jump feet first into Old Ones' magic, but the way Sen had transformed when her spell had hit him all those weeks ago. It gave her a hunch and now was a good as time as any to see if her intuition was right.
“Repeat after me,” She tells Sen, “Krvi svázat se veridicitate... Krvi svázat se veridicitate... Krvi svázat se veridicitate!”
Sen is slow to follow along, the words peculiar and foreign on his tongue, but eventually he manages to say in tandem with Livia.
“Close your eyes, feel the air around you, concentrate,” Livia tells Sen sternly in between the chant, before jumping right back in. Sen does as he told, stiff with most of his body still paralyzed. He startles when the air picks up around them, and the same feeling he got when Livia had forced him to transform comes over him. Oddly enough, he sees nothing, and the only indication that anything is happening is the wind whipping around them and the growing feeling of something coming to life at the back of his head.
“Krvi svázat se veridicitate... Krvi svázat se veridicitate... Krvi svázat se veridicitate,” Both Livia and Sen chants in complete snyc with one another.
The blood on the palm of their hands becomes almost unbearably hot for a split second as the wind howls angrily around them before there is just blackness as they both pass out.