Path of Salt

by

father mask enjoyer

Chapter 30: That Night, from a Different Perspective

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Chapter 30: That Night, from a Different Perspective

 

The opened glass pane windows let out a chilly, but refreshing breeze, as Bastille sat beside Clara and Jacques once more. He lazily stared at them, with a hand settled beneath his chin, as he began to sort his thoughts.

 

So basically... you’re telling me that the reason why we shouldn’t heal ourselves with a Healing Potion while we’re not in a dangerous scenario is because it uses our life force to heal faster, is that it?” Bastille echoed, as he thought to himself.

 

That’s what I’m telling you.” Jacques nodded. “Well, at least, that’s what the Cleric told me.”

 

That sounds stupid.” Clara commented, and the Swordsman gave an agreeable nod.

 

Yeah, don’t even try to think about it.” He commented.

 

Bastille’s fingers snapped repeatedly, while his tongue clicked every now and then. Clara and Jacques only paused to watch, and see what their Sorcerer would come up with. He did have a tendency to do that whenever he’s thinking really hard to himself.

 

Using up one’s life force to heal faster... Why did that sound too familiar to him?

 

Wait, no. Break down his thoughts into easy to absorb components. It wouldn’t be too good for his mental to just keep repeating ‘life force to heal faster’ like a mantra. It was like trying to remember something by hitting his head against a wall repeatedly.

 

Human bodies were self repairing organisms. Yes, that much was obvious. But humans are made up of microscopic cells, were they not? Wounds and injuries, when seen from a microscopic perspective, were simply damaged cells. And to repair these damaged cells, it requires...

 

Cells splitting apart to form identical daughter cells... Division was it called? Yeah. Cell Division. Now, these cells replicate themselves so they can repair wounds and injuries, correct? That was perfectly fine and all, but more importantly, this was the basic process on how injuries are healed.

 

He got that concept down. The latter part of the puzzle was now solved.

 

Now, how exactly does a healing potion use one’s life force to heal faster? Think, think, think...

 

Cells had a lifespan, do they not? If he remembered correctly... It was a theory... not even a theory, more of a concept, saying that a cell could only replicate and divide itself for about a set number of times or so.

 

Mostly because a cell’s DNA isn’t perfectly replicated, and each time it does divide, its DNA only gets shorter and shorter until it cannot replicate itself anymore. He wasn’t sure about the number or what it was called, but he did remember it exists.

 

And if that was true... If that really was the case... Then healing potions aren’t quite as magical as he expected. On hindsight, seeing it work and feeling its effects... It simply felt like the time needed for a wound to be healed is only sped up dramatically, so that the natural body healing process only took a few moments.

 

So a healing potion forces a human’s healing factor many times to the point where it seems like magic. So that was why the Cleric described it as ‘using a person’s life force to heal faster’. With some scientific background, it made a whole lot of sense.

 

But of course. It was merely his speculation, and he wasn’t quite sure if that was the scientific explanation behind it. Because at the end of the day, he is in a World of Magic and Wonders, after all.

 

He opened his eyes, and his fingers didn’t snap anymore. He turned to look at his party members, who only looked back at him with expectant eyes. Then he let out a sigh. On the other hand, without any scientific background... it simply didn’t make sense.

 

Did you figure it out?” Jacques asked.

 

So he moved closer towards his friends, and patted their shoulders. He idly wondered if he should try to explain it to them or something, before letting out another sigh.

 

Do you really want a lesson time right now?” Bastille retorted back, and both of his friends’ expression froze. That was before they became blank, and then finally, resigned.

 

On second thought... Never mind.” Clara said, as she backed away from him slowly. And while his senses weren’t as sharp as hers, he picked up something. Was she shivering?

 

Yeah... all we need to know is that we should avoid healing potions unless we really need them, yeah?” Jacques replied, and flashed a nervous grin.

 

Bastille blinked, then his eyes narrowed. “Come on, what I found out is simple this time. It doesn’t involve fancy terms, and symbols at least.”

 

The last time you said that, you tried to teach me triangle form... formula... something!” Clara hissed, and her finger raised itself to point at their Sorcerer.

 

Trigonometry.” Bastille clarified. The moment she heard that word, she only gave an even more threatening hiss, and raised her clawed fingers against him. He sighed. “And besides, you’re an Archer. I thought that teaching you how to find angles from a numerical perspective would be helpful.”

 

You always have the right to remain silent.” She replied, and narrowed her eyes. “But why don’t you ever stay silent?!”

 

This lesson time doesn’t even involve mathematics anymore!” He retorted back, his slightly raised voice coming off more as a hiss.

 

Now, now. Keep your voices down, we’re still in the recovery room and it’s already night time.” Jacques called out, patting both of their shoulders to placate them. Clara gave him a small hiss, while Bastille only nodded.

 

Say...” Bastille muttered, and looked around. The different lit lanterns hung by the wall gave light, but at the same time, cast seemingly ominous shadows. The curtains didn’t help, and the way they swayed from the open window breeze only made their shadows somewhat eerie. “Don’t you think it’s too silent right now?”

 

Indeed. He didn’t know what it was, but he felt something in the air. It was like a calm... A calm, before a terrible storm approaches them. He didn’t know what basis he had for that mindset, but he was just aware of it. Maybe some instincts he had? He hoped he was wrong, though.

 

Aside from Clara hissing,” Jacques began, and his words were only met by a disappointed pout from the mentioned Archer. “Then I agree with you. But what about it, though? Isn’t it normal because it’s night time?”

 

Maybe I’m thinking too much –” Bastille froze.

 

The flow of mana within the air – even with his third rate mana sensing capabilities, he could tell that something was happening. The air turned wrong, as if someone... no, something had set a great evil within the world.

 

And no later after that realization – a scream emerged from one of the drawn curtains from the opposite corner. It was a woman’s scream, and it quickly devolved into something which sounded like pure agony.

 

Bastille quickly stood up, and rushed towards the source of the screaming. Drawing the curtains open, he found that there was an older woman – an adventurer, who screamed and thrashed about, while hiding her face with her hands.

 

No... on closer inspection, she was holding her face with her hands. Her thumbs were positioned above her eyes, and they seemed to press down on her eyes with as much force as they could. He immediately grabbed both hands, and tried to pry them off from her face.

 

Stop! What are you doing?!” Bastille shouted, as he struggled with all his might to prevent the woman from inflicting anymore harm to herself. What the hell was going on?! Why was this woman trying to crush her own eyes with her own hands?!

 

H-help me!” The woman cried, and opened her eyes to look at Bastille. And within those eyes – were red, runic letters. Bastille didn’t know what they specifically meant, but he knew magic was involved. Otherwise, they would never glow so ominously like this. “My... my hands just want to hurt me!”

 

What’s happening?” Jacques asked right behind him, and his next words seemed to be suppressed when he noticed the markings on the woman’s eyes. By now, the woman had attempted to stand up, but he moved quickly and held her legs down.

 

He hissed when she kicked up, and the force made his arms ache. But he didn’t let go, bearing through the pain with gritted teeth. “Clara, get the Cleric!” He barked out an order, not even bothering to look behind him.

 

Got it!” In turn, the Archer only ran towards the door, and swiftly left the room in search for the mentioned caretaker.

 

Oh God... what’s happening to me... help me please...” The woman they struggled to immobilize began to sob and shiver, even as her body jerked about violently, straining against her captors.

 

No, in this case, because she was trying to hurt herself, they were her saviors instead, were they not?

 

I don’t know what these are... but I can tell they’re constructs of magic.” Bastille replied, even though his arms were struggling to keep the woman contained. He must have felt that it was a question he could answer, even if vaguely. “These runic marks... This must be some sort of curse.”

At his words, it seemed like the markings glowed brighter, and the limbs they tried to restrain in place suddenly grew more violent and more desperate. Tears began to flow from the woman’s eyes, and her sobs grew louder.

 

You know Bastille, you can really shut up sometimes...!” Jacques hissed, his arms violently shaking as he struggled. The Sorcerer let out a wince; weren’t those arms technically recovering from being broken?!

 

I’m sorry!” The Sorcerer apologized back with a wince of his own. Why was this woman so frantically strong...! Did he actually jinx it?! “Where the hell is Clara –”

 

Right on cue, the door burst open. A quick glance towards the door revealed Clara, alongside the Cleric and a man that he saw earlier. On hindsight – wasn’t this the same man who visited this same woman earlier?

 

When the man saw what was currently happening, he only took a step forwards and his face turned into one of anger. “What are you –”

 

It doesn’t look like it, but they’re helping her!” Clara yelled, interrupting the man. “She wants to hurt herself, so you better help them pin her down!”

 

What –”

 

Hurry up!” Bastille shouted, and looked at Jacques. His face was too pale, and he wasn’t sure if he heard a snap or two emerge from his arms. “My friend broke his fucking arms, and he’s keeping her from standing up! So you better fucking come over here and help us!”

 

Those words seemed to finally snap any doubt or suspicion from the man, as he bolted towards them. He placed his hands on the woman’s legs, and pressed down to pin her. By then, Jacques let out a long, relieved sigh, and he withdrew his hands with a pain-filled wince. “I’ll leave it to you guys, then...”

 

Dear, oh dear...” The Cleric muttered from behind. “Your arms... you strained them too much...”

 

The man turned towards Bastille, with an expression of confusion. “What the hell’s going on, kid?!”

 

Look at her fucking eyes!” Bastille snapped back, and the man turned to follow his words. The same red, glowing runic markings met them once more, moistened with tears. “I don’t fucking know what those things are, but they’re making her hurt herself!”

 

William... please help me...” Once more, the woman sobbed, but her expression was less anguished at the sight of her comrade.

 

Hang in there, Anna.” The man, now identified as William replied back, as he seemed to give an assuring gaze towards her.

 

Truly amazing how bonds can soften a battle-weary man’s face to one of warmth and relief, Bastille idly noted.

 

Am I going to die...?” She asked, with tears streaming down her marked eyes. “Am I cursed...?”

 

William let out a hardened gaze for the briefest of moments, before shaking his head in denial. “No, no. You’re going to be alright, don’t worry.”

 

Bastille noted that the man lied. Those eyes – they shone brief recognition at what this woman was currently suffering through, but he still lied about it. Then again, this was a human’s nature was it not? Lying to ease another person’s burden was something everyone did at some point.

 

By the way, Clara, help me. My arms are starting to hurt.” Bastille insensitively called out, and the man shot him a glare, as if to ask why he would ruin the moment. Bastille shot back a glare, challenging him, and gesturing towards his shaking arms which felt like wanting to give up.

 

I feel like everyone’s bossy to me.” Clara muttered, as she grabbed Anna’s arms beneath Bastille’s hands. She was directly behind him, and her arms were literally beneath his. But he didn’t pay any attention to it.

 

Much more stabilized, the Sorcerer idly looked at the woman’s eyes. They were glowing red, and seemed to be growing brighter with each passing minute. And while her arms weren’t quite as strong as before thanks to Clara’s assistance, he could idly feel the strain increasing, even if it was incredibly minute.

 

Or was that exhaustion creeping up to him? On the contrary, how was this woman still this strong after struggling for a while now? Must’ve been some kind of fighter, then...

 

You there, William was it?” Bastille called out, turning towards the man. “You seem like you know something about this.”

 

I don’t know what you mean.” He replied back, too quickly to ever be natural.

 

Bastille stared even harder. He found the outline of a grimoire pressed against the man’s robes, and he let out a narrowed glare. “You’re some kind of Sorcerer or Mage, aren’t you?”

 

What’s it to you, kid?” William turned to give him a strained, hostile glare.

 

Fucking hell, I hate Mages...” Bastille muttered lowly, giving a sigh. “Alright. I’m sure even you can tell, but she’s somehow only getting stronger the longer we hold her down. Now, what do you think is gonna happen when she finally overpowers us?”

 

Silence. Bastille could see the man’s face contort slightly to think, before the man finally let out an annoyed sigh. “God dammit. Whatever. Alright, I’ll tell you this one, kid. She’s probably Hexed by someone in this place.”

 

Hexed?” Clara asked from behind him.

 

So she is cursed.” Bastille confirmed. William narrowed his eyes to glare, but otherwise nodded. “So then, you know why she’s Hexed in the first place or what?”

 

Why the hell are you so nosy?”

 

Bastille blinked.

 

And then he looked at the older man with an expression of disbelief, shock, surprise – whatever synonyms for that emotion was. Because he would be lying if he didn’t say that information being held out like this in such a crucial scenario wasn’t a god damn pain in the ass!

 

Because the more we know, then the better our chances are of actually helping her!” He snapped. “I know you’re a fucking Mage and you’re the fucking type to hate sharing knowledge and all, hell, I’m a fucking Sorcerer myself!” He let himself pause, to take a deep breath to calm down. He got too winded up. “But right now, your friend is cursed to literally kill herself with her own hands, and you can somehow afford being a god damn asshole and not giving us information which could help this situation?”

 

Fine!” William yelled back. Then he took a deep breath to compose himself as well. “We got attacked, like you guys a few days ago. Fucking bastards, they broke my party members’ bones and limbs, and fucking knocked me out. When I wake up, I had to drag my party to this place and shit.”

 

That also happened to us, if it helps for reference.” Bastille informed him, giving a nod that showed he sympathized with him.

 

Hah. Sounds about right.” William let out a snort. “As soon as I can walk, I tried to search for the bastard who attacked us, but nothing. Then the next week, another party gets attacked, and another survivor also tried to search for our attackers and shit.”

 

So you joined up.” Bastille figured out, and the man let out a nod.

 

Yeah. We couldn’t find anything, until your party got attacked. You definitely don’t know anything, but a few hours after you dragged everyone here, this bastard related to our attacker gave a speech about how we should be pussies and not take up quests and shit. Now that was our first lead.”

 

What about Marcus?” He asked, and the man hummed.

 

Marcus...? Oh, you mean the kid who joined us. We let him know what we know so far. Figured he’d want to hunt down your attackers for you and shit.” William shrugged. “Anyways, so we kidnapped the guy who gave the speech, right? So we started interrogating him. Then the moment we ask who he was working for, the guy suddenly said something so fucking creepy and weird, I don’t even know how to describe it. Then the moment he did, he fucking dies a gruesome death. Like, his eyeballs popped out and his veins exploded and that kinda shit. Oh, and his tongue had a black symbol to it. The Witch told me it was a forbidden Hex and all, and I can tell that this is maybe the same or something.”

 

...” Looking at the woman, she was pale at the avid, violent description. But Bastille had to admit; even though she could potentially suffer that same fate, she was still giving off an impression that she didn’t quite give up yet. Tears might have flowed from her eyes, but he can still see defiance beneath those inhuman markings.

 

So whoever attacked you also marked this woman with a Hex, correct?” He asked.

 

Yeah.” William nodded. “Don’t know who he is. I backed off from our little hunting party once I learned that whoever we’re against can do such a thing.”

 

I-I know I’m intruding on your discussion and all...” Clara whispered, and her voice was strained. “But... she’s only becoming even stronger...”

 

Can’t the Cleric purify this curse or Hex or something?” Bastille asked, as he tightened his grip. He had accidentally let his grip slack, and made Clara struggle against the woman’s thrashing alone.

 

Finally. Let me see what I can do.” The woman with the white cap walked closer to them. “This is a Hex, right? I am not sure if Cleanse Curse works against this, but I will try.”

 

And she clapped her hands together, and began to seemingly pray to herself. Bastille winced – this woman really was getting stronger, and even with Clara’s help, it was almost painful just holding the arms in place.

 

After a few moments, maybe a few minutes – Bastille wasn’t sure; struggling made one’s sense of time unreliable – light came from the Cleric’s hands. And then, she reached out, and her hands moved towards Anna’s face. The light surged towards her eyes and seemed to burn away the marks, before Anna let out a pained screech.

 

You’re hurting her!” William shouted, as he let go of Anna’s legs to move towards the Cleric to stop her. Almost immediately, those released legs began to flail around, and managed to kick the Cleric in her torso with enough force to make her fall on her back.

 

A quick glance told Bastille that she must have knocked her head against the ground, and was knocked out unconscious. If they were lucky. Dammit...!

 

You imbecile!” The Sorcerer hissed towards the blasted Mage.

 

Stop her!” Jacques yelled, and even though his arms were covered with splints, he was once again ready to bear with the pain to help contain the situation, as he stood up from his seat and sprinted towards them.

 

This woman...! William gave her an inch, but she’s taking the mile! Her legs swept across her bed, and planted themselves on the floor immediately. And then, she stood up, and shoved Bastille and Clara towards the floor.

 

Clara let out a noise of pain, and Bastille immediately moved to get himself away from crushing her. He let out an apologetic gaze, but didn’t say anything else. He would apologize later, when the situation was contained.

 

I – I’m sorry!” Anna shouted, as her body began to move on its own, fueled by the Hexes within her eyes. Those marks within her eyes seemed to burn, as red, ominous light poured out from them like lanterns in the dark.

 

When William tried to move closer to catch her, she only knocked him down with a swift, powerful kick towards his stomach, which made him crumple to the ground in pain. Solar Plexus hits were absolutely devastating for a reason! Then her body proceeded to begin to run – and Bastille realized her intent.

 

He leapt forwards from his crouch, and his hand snaked out to grab Anna’s leg. The woman only looked back with a tear-filled, pained expression, before she raised her possessed leg and stomped at Bastille’s face. “I’m sorry!”

 

It was good his glasses weren’t worn at that moment. He still felt his nose get dislocated, and with a pain-filled hiss, he let go of her leg. He instantly regretted it, because by now, she began to sprint towards the wall opposite to the door...?

 

No. Wait... She wasn’t trying to run away from the room... The windows were left open... No way...

 

The woman named Anna sprinted swiftly, and with a leap that was too graceful, she jumped over the window. On the distant horizon, there was a pillar of stained light, but it went relatively unnoticed because all attention was focused on the woman who leapt through the window.

 

And through Bastille’s slowed down perception of time due to adrenaline, he could see her gracefully twirl through the air, before turning her body so she was falling head first. Her fearful eyes met with his for a few moments, before shifting to one of gratitude and resignation.

 

Gravity soon took control of her a moment after.

 

There was silence for the briefest moment.

 

And then – there was the sound of... something cracking against the ground.

 

Everything was silent again.

 

The man – William, let out a series of coughs, then proceeded to push himself to stand. He clutched his chest in pain, and winced as he took a step. He limped towards the window, and setting his hands on the rails, he gave a hesitant glance downwards.

 

And the expression his face turned to wordlessly told Bastille that the worst had come. The Sorcerer idly glanced towards his own party members. Jacques bore a regretful face, slumping in his seat in defeat, while Clara had her eyes squeezed shut and her hands pressed against herself, and she seemed to shiver to herself.

 

Bastille himself had a face of subdued annoyance. Towards the man who fucked up, and let this happen, mostly. But he took a deep breath to calm himself down.

 

But then again... it wasn’t fair to be harsh against the man. That woman named Anna was his party member and friend, after all. It simply wasn’t his place to be angry at the man, even if he slipped up.

 

No, if anything, he should probably be more apologetic to the fact that he failed and let go, just because she decided to kick his face.

 

The Sorcerer wordlessly stood up, and walked towards the man. But he didn’t look down from the window – she deserved that much respect, after all. Instead, he gave a single pat towards William’s shoulder, and braced himself in case the man turned violent.

 

Nothing came. The man only continued to stare down with an expression of despair, before he finally looked up from the window. His gaze was blank, as he looked at Bastille, and towards his extended hand. Then without saying or doing anything else, he began to walk away, as if his body was heavy and filled with shackles.

 

Where are you going?” Bastille hesitantly asked, as his hand was left hanging in the air. The man froze – and Bastille felt regret from asking that.

 

William turned around, and while his eyes were dead and blank, the Sorcerer could see something familiar underneath; growing fires, born out of anger.

 

I’m going to make things right.”

 

And just like that – the Mage named William walked out of the door. Bastille hadn’t known him much, if at all, and his first impression of the man was less than pleasant... But he cannot deny that he doesn’t understand what the man was going through.

 

And besides... Bastille could feel that there was supposed to be something deeper within William’s relationship with the now deceased woman named Anna.

 

He let go of the thought. He should be more respectful, and stop speculating about them. He stood up, and moved towards the Cleric who was sprawled on the ground. He checked her pulse, and found that she was still alive, but unconscious.

 

So he wordlessly heaved her body up, before setting her gently across an unclaimed bed.

 

Once he was done with the task, he idly turned to face his party members once more. Jacques remained standing in place, as he seemed to glare at his arms wrapped with bandages and splints. Clara had begun to quietly sob to herself. Bastille gave a silent sigh.

 

This was probably the first time their failure had led to someone dying, even if it wasn’t their fault. On the contrary, they did everything they could, and didn’t let stress make them an invalid in such a high-pressure scenario. How many people in his world would have frozen in fear in such scenario like this...?

 

He walked towards his crying comrade, and knelt down beside her. Raising his hand, he gently gave her back a pat. “You did your part as best as you could.”

 

His words made her turn to face him. Her cheeks were stained with trails of tears, as each tear glimmered beneath the dim lanterns and moonlight, before disappearing into the ground with the most silent of drops. Her lips were pursed and quivered slightly, as she stared at him with the most painful expression she ever bore.

 

I don’t...” Clara sniffled. “Feel like... I did anything... She died because... of me.”

 

Bastille shook his head. “This time, I’ll be honest with you.” He said, and his hands reached out to hold her shoulders. She met his eyes with languid, bloodshot eyes. “Clara, it was not your fault. You did everything we told you to do excellently. No one would be able to blame you for what happened, not me, not Jacques, not even that man.”

 

She only kept staring at him without saying anything. But then, she shook her head lightly, and her lips curved upwards for just the slightest moment. “You’re really bad... at this...”

 

I’m a Sorcerer, not a Psychiatrist, dammit...” He replied, sighing at her words which unexpectedly wounded his pride – just a little bit. Would embracing her make her feel better then? He hesitated. That was simply too embarrassing.

 

And there’s... the random words you... throw around again...” She whispered. After that, her hands finally moved towards her face, and she wiped her tears, as well letting out a great sniffle that sounded too wet with mucus. “I don’t know... I think I feel better though... thank you...”

 

Bastille let out sigh of relief. Then he squeezed her shoulder in assurance, and nodded. When he moved to stand up, he only felt a hand touch gingerly across his shoulder. He looked down, and found that Clara had extended her hand to touch his shoulder, and while her eyes were still red and teary, she bore a truly radiant smile with pride.

 

And with that, he gave her a smile, which might not have been as radiant or as beautiful as hers. But it was neither a smirk, nor a grin. It was truly his most honest smile, and what he couldn’t match in appearance, he would try to match with sincerity.

 

The Sorcerer idly turned around, and found Jacques staring at them with some minor amusement. Was this guy seriously just watching them without even saying anything...?

 

And you.” Bastille called out, locking gazes with the party leader. “Wanna receive some shoulder pats from me as I stare into your eyes while telling you did your best and stuff like that?”

 

Jacques looked back at him, blinked, then gave a glare, as if he found the idea preposterous.

 

On hindsight, that kind of sounded a bit... ‘homo’, for lack of better term. “No thanks. I’m fine over here, you can keep doing that with Clara instead.”

 

Clara turned to look at Jacques. Then she seemed to process the words that left his mouth. Then her head tilted the side – confused at his words. It seemed like she failed to grasp the meaning of those words, after all...

 

He meant that I was flirting with you.” Bastille explained, and his words had a drastic, quick effect to her.

 

Namely, she quickly scooted away from Bastille, and turned around so she couldn’t see them. And her hands pressed towards her ears, as she seemed to sit by herself on a corner of the room.

 

Bastille and Jacques looked at each other, then gave a nod. Sometimes, getting Clara to feel better was as simple as that. Then again, giving another subtle glance towards the window, he let out a small sigh.

 

...

 

He morbidly thought that it was a good thing he didn’t peer down the window. He still wanted to sleep later, after all.

 

***

 

Right when everything was normal, with Jacques, Clara, and Bastille chatting idly about mundane topics to pass the time since nobody wanted to sleep yet, the door suddenly swung wide open.

 

An unfamiliar woman stepped in, who wore a black coat which had a tailcoat of similar length to Marcus’ own dark blue coat, and whose raven hair flowed freely from her back. Her eyes were also crimson, but unlike Bastille’s, they were much darker in comparison – more reminiscent of fresh blood, if nothing else.


Her sudden appearance gave everyone pause. Her eyes gazed across the room, and seemed to fix themselves on Jacques, Bastille, and Clara in that order.

 

You.” Then her gaze locked on Bastille. “You’re the Party Mage, right?” She asked, her voice urgent, as she seemed to demand only absolute compliance.

 

Who are you?” He asked, his eyes narrowed with a glare to see this woman’s intent.

 

I am Stella, a Silver Ranked Witch.” She said, and gave a polite nod. “But there is no time for anymore questions. Have you seen a person with a Hex who...” She paused, as she began to search for an appropriate word. But then at some point, her features hardened, as she seemed to realize pleasantries weren’t applicable in this case. “Killed themselves, to put it bluntly?”

 

Her words had intended effect; Bastille’s eyes narrowed even more. Clara flinched, and looked away. And Jacques only looked back with a raised eyebrow.

 

What if we say we did?” Jacques slowly said, eyeing the woman cautiously.

 

Dammit...” Stella bit her lip in frustration, as if she was too late. “He wasn’t wrong, after all...”

 

Who wasn’t wrong?” He asked.

 

Magician.” She replied, and Bastille’s eyes widened. Jacques idly turned to him; he definitely linked the pieces, and put two and two together. He didn’t expect anything less from the Sorcerer. “I assume you know him, then?”

 

Yeah. We do.” The Sorcerer replied. “Anyways, why are you here?”

 

It’s better safe than sorry, but I thought that everyone who got attacked might have been Hexed at some point.” Stella admitted, and he blinked. “So just in case... so this horrible thing never happens again, I would ask for everyone’s cooperation so I can examine, and potentially remove your Hexes if you do have them.”

 

Alright. Go for it.” Jacques agreed.

 

Don’t you think you agreed a bit too quickly?” Bastille retorted back, and Jacques let out a glare.

 

You’ve seen what Hexes could do.” He replied, with a tone that sounded a bit too hollow. Bastille let out a slow blink at his words. “And besides, it’s my responsibility as Party Leader to ensure the safety of my party. And because we know nothing about Hexes aside from knowing they can cause some nasty and gruesome deaths, then I’d say we leave this task to someone who knows better. Is my reasoning clear, Bastille?”

 

You’re savage sometimes, you know?” He commented, as he let out an appreciative whistle, before nodding in agreement. “This is why you’re party leader. Sure, I agree with him then.”

 

Thank you for your cooperation.” Stella nodded, and then proceeded to walk towards them. “Who wants to go first?”

 

I think that honor goes to our party leader.” Bastille offered, and Jacques gave a slight glare. “He did, after all, agree without any hesitation whatsoever.”

 

... Fine, whatever.” He sighed. Then he turned his gaze towards the Witch. “What do I need to do?”

 

Oh, you just need to sit like that right there and keep still.” She idly replied. Then she walked towards him, and stood in front of him. She leaned down, so that their faces were a few inches apart, as she seemed to examine him close up.

 

Somewhat expectedly, the sight of a mature, alluring woman just a few inches away from him made Jacques feel embarrassed, even through his current post-shock state. But to his defense, he bore it with as much dignity as he could, as he only stared back at the woman’s eyes – her left eye changed color. From its vibrant, passionate red, it became an iris of gold which was as glorious as the sun itself –

 

Alright. Those eyes were too pretty. Towards Stella’s forehead, then. That was better.

 

Eyes don’t seem to have anything...” The Witch in front of him muttered, as she stared at his eyes. Yes, forehead was a good place to look at. Don’t look down. Then she nodded to herself, and then her fingers moved towards his neck. The sensation sent shivers down his body, as he bore it with a grimace. “Neck and shoulders don’t seem to have anything as well... Can you stick your tongue out for me?”

 

Jacques blinked. Then he looked towards her. “E-excuse me...?” He stammered – the rare occasion that he did, really. And that was because her alluring, mature charm, and the audacity of her request made him take a mental stumble.

 

Your tongue. Sticking it out for me would be really nice.” She clarified back, and he blinked. Then, he did as he was told. She inspected the top part of his tongue, before crouching, and inspecting the bottom part. Then she let out a hum, and nodded. “Thank you. Moving on...”

 

The next few minutes were agonizing to Jacques. Stella was nothing but thorough in her investigations. She told him to remove his tunic, then to roll up his trousers. It was simply too humiliating, and agonizing to bear. To keep the remnants of his sanity intact, he thought of the situation as Necessary.

 

Yes. It was simply something that they most definitely needed. He was just setting an example as their Leader.

 

And... that’s about it.” The Witch intoned, and gave a nod. “My [Hex Eye] doesn’t pick up anything from you. Thank you for your cooperation.”

 

Just like that, Stella left him alone. Those few minutes definitely left his heart pounding, and his cheeks felt like they were heated. He let out a silent groan, raising a hand to his face, and tried to calm himself down. Dammit, why was this so embarrassing to him of all people?

 

And... Bastille was staring at him with a knowing stare, as if to tease him even more. Jacques gave back a murderous glare, and the Sorcerer only let out a chuckle.

 

Same old bastard, it would seem.

 

In contrast, Bastille bore the examination with a much more dignified face. Almost indifferent, really. That was probably because he knew what was coming to him, unlike Jacques, who was taken by surprise.

 

But that only lasted until Stella activated her own [Hex Eye], which turned her left eye into a beautiful, dazzling sun of its own.

 

Then his attention was drawn towards those, and he let out an amazed gaze. For the shortest time, Jacques wondered if the guy was also allured by the woman.

 

What kind of [Magic Eye] is that?” The Sorcerer asked, meeting Stella’s gaze more than head-on with an inquisitive gaze.

 

No. This guy wasn’t allured by the woman. He was only curious about her eye. Jacques let out a sigh; of course he was.

 

Then she blinked, and let out a hum, considering his words. “If I tell you, you’re not going to kill me and harvest my eye now, would you?”

 

Of course not.” He shook his head. “I have simply never seen such a golden eye like that.”

 

Is that so?” She asked, although she already continued with her examination. Once more, she peered around his neck, asked him to stick out his tongue, and asked him to remove his tunic and roll up his trousers. “Mhm, nothing on you as well. Because you’ve been a good boy, I’ll tell you a bit about it. It’s a [Magic Eye] capable of understanding all the Hexes in this world.”

 

While her words definitely implied that such thing was amazing to Jacques, to Bastille however, his eyes widened with surprise and seemed to glimmer with admiration and excitement. “Wow... That’s amazing!”

 

Was it really that amazing to the point that it made Bastille act like some excited eight year old boy seeing a cool toy? Then Jacques let out a shrug. Maybe it really was.

 

It is, it is.” Stella nodded. “Do keep it a secret, okay~?” She purred, and the Sorcerer eagerly nodded. He wasn’t enthralled by her charms – abysses no. He was simply in awe with her eye. Yes, that was simply it.

 

And, to our next patient... is she alright?” The Witch asked, as she stared at the crouching Clara, whose back was turned to them.

 

Clara, come on. Don’t be rude.” Jacques called out, but his words went ignored. Then he let out a sigh, and walked towards the girl. “Come on now, this isn’t that bad.” He placed his hand on her shoulder, and made her turn around to face them.

 

Wait... why was she shivering again?

 

The moment he made her turn around, she seemed to let out a hiss. Her eyes were narrowed for the longest time, before she blinked uncertainly, as if she was getting used to the light. And after a few more seconds, she finally opened them fully – yet what lied within was wrong.

 

Her sapphire-like eyes which should have greeted them with a confused gaze, were instead turned void black, as she stared at them with the most frightened expression she ever bore.

 

And the next words she said only made Jacques narrow his eyes.

 

Where... Where is Tobias?”

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A note from father mask enjoyer

Hooray for my first advanced review (thanks, Wasgreg!). And for almost 5k views in like...

I forgot when's exactly the first time I posted this story. And I'm too lazy to check right now, so it is what it is, I suppose. Anyways, this is the new longest chapter I've released, I think.

One more chapter later on this day, as usual. And mostly because this story is much more successful than I ever anticipated it to be!

So... Thank you, everyone! Even to those readers who only read the first part of the Prologue before dropping it, to those readers who dropped this story after the Prologue, and even to those people who decided to say 'screw it' and skipped the entire prologue and read chapter 1, before they either;

Dropped it from confusion, or they literally backtracked and decided to read through the Prologue, or they somehow managed to power through the story even without proper context (they're kinda amazing, actually...)

Thank you, truly, everyone!

 


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father mask enjoyer

  • Tomb of the Giants -- THE LEGEND NEVER DIES
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