Scarlett and Kat both sat in the carriage as it moved through the bustling streets of Freybrook. Kat wore the outfit she usually wore when they weren't going out on any of their dungeon runs—a piece of black and brown clothing that was easy to move around in—but had her hands on her legs and looked uncharacteristically orderly, Scarlett noted.
Scarlett herself wore a dark red dress that reached her shoulders and flowed down into a fancy neckline. The dress only covered half of her arms and had far too loose sleeves for her tastes, as well as a waistline that was just a little bit too tight. It wasn't something she would usually choose to wear but since she was going to a wedding, and she didn't know much of the local practices, she'd asked the servants to pick something for her. She was starting to regret that choice now that they'd left the mansion, however. The only pieces of apparel that she'd chosen herself were the half-circular [Charms of Apperception] that hung from her earlobes and the [Ring of Umbral Defiance]. She doubted anything bad would happen at the wedding, but that didn't mean she would leave all her means of self-defense behind. And it just so happened that the amber gem affixed to both the earrings paired well with her dress for the day.
"Ehm....Where exactly was this wedding?" Kat asked as the carriage passed by a large square with several market stalls set up in rows across its center. The woman seemed to startle a little as Scarlett turned to look at her. "...My Lady," she added on quietly.
Scarlett examined Kat's face. Not once during the past week and a half that she'd known her had Kat bothered to use any kind of special address when speaking to her.
"Did no one inform you?"
Kat shrugged her shoulders, but quickly paused and lightly shook her head instead. "I just heard we were taking the carriage and that you'd be..." She seemed to think about what word to use for a moment. "...attending by yourself."
Scarlett gave the Shielder another look, before turning away to the window. "I see," she said and observed the buildings outside. She was starting to recognize the surroundings from the game now. They had moved into central Freybrook where many businesses and shops made their residence. In stark contrast to many of the other districts in the city, the buildings around here were old, and most only had one floor. It made for a much more pleasant atmosphere than the claustrophobic feel in the district where the Snow-show Fishery had been located. The roads were also wider so there was a decent amount of carriages and wagons that traveled back and forth.
Scarlett's eyes locked onto a large structure further down the road. "I appreciate that you still chose to join me, however," she said offhandedly to Kat. "As for where we are going — the reception is held in Ambercrest."
"Ambercrest?! I thought it was in the city?"
"You thought wrong."
"Wait, are we taking the Kilnstone there?"
"We are," Scarlett answered Kat's question as she watched the carriage drive down the cobbled road towards a wide circular square where it met up with several other roads. At the center of the square was a large platform with an open marble structure supported by several pillars in a ring. There were two queues on either side of the platform. One of them was noticeably longer than the other and was mostly filled with people and wagons that looked like they might belong to different kinds of merchants. A few of the insignias on the sides of the wagons were ones she recognized from storefronts in the city. The other line, although being much shorter, clearly housed the more 'important' people. There were no people in it per se, but rather several expensive-looking carriages and their horses. She could only assume the emblems on the sides of those carriages were the coats of arms of different noble families. Their coachman soon began steering the vehicle around the outskirts of the square before turning towards that second line.
Scarlett turned her attention to the structure itself. Through the curled pillars she could see a tall obelisk floating at its center, its surface a clear reflective gray reminiscent of the [Mirror of Communion]. This was the Kilnstone, another of the ancient artifacts left behind by the Zuverian civilization and the player's main way of traveling around later in the game. This particular Kilnstone had several guards in green gambesons and polished cuirasses standing guard around it, with a couple of men in stately black uniforms with ledgers in their hands seemingly being the ones in charge. She saw as one of them peered down at his ledger for a moment before waving a group of three wagons from the longer queue forward.
Scarlett turned back to Kat to see the woman looking at the Kilnstone too. "Have you not traveled via the Kilnstone before?" she asked.
"Well, I have," Kat said, looking back at Scarlett. "But I haven't traveled through it that much. The few times I've done it is when the Guild has had urgent requests for senior Shielders. It just feels weird to use it for a wedding." She grimaced as if she forgot herself. "...My Lady."
Scarlett gestured to the long lines leading up to the platform. "There seem to be many others that make use of it regularly."
Kat looked out the window. "Yes, but I bet most of those are rich traders or nobles like you."
"I do not see why there could not be common people among them as well." After all, in the game, she'd used the Kilnstones to travel around long before her characters had gotten any real wealth or made a name for themselves. It wasn't that expensive.
"Maybe. But don't you usually have to book months ahead?"
Scarlett frowned. "Why would that be necessary?"
There had never been such a feature in the game. There, it had been enough to just walk up to the Kilnstone and pay the fee if you were in one of the cities. It probably wouldn't have made for good game design if the game forced you to plan your fast traveling several months in advance.
But this wasn't the first detail in this world that was different from the game. The dungeons, quests, and items all appeared to stay the same—albeit expounded upon—but details such as this seemed inclined to have gone through slight changes.
"Aren't there only a limited amount of uses every day?" Kat's voice brought Scarlett out of her musing. "That's what I heard at least. Although I guess that doesn't matter as much to you because you're a noble."
Scarlett stared at Kat. It seemed she had to read up on how these Kilnstones actually worked. It was becoming clear her assumptions about it were far from correct. Turning away from the Shielder, Scarlett watched as their carriages situated itself at the back of the queue behind the other nobles' carriages. Another person in a black uniform and ledger in hand slowly walked up to the front of their carriage and appeared to check something with the coachman.
Kat went quiet as well and they sat in silence for a while as they waited for the line to move.
"I had been meaning to ask," Scarlett eventually spoke. "Is there a reason for your unusual behaviour today?"
Scarlett turned her head towards Kat. The Shielder still had her hands on her legs with her back straight, as if she was at a formal dinner of some sort. It didn't fit the woman at all. "You have been addressing me as 'my Lady.'"
An embarrassed look appeared on Kat's face. "Ah, well. That's..." Scarlett waited for her to continue. "That butler guy told me I was acting improperly."
Scarlett raised a brow. "Garside?"
Kat nodded. "Yeah—I mean, yes. He chewed me out yesterday evening, telling me I had to show more respect. I didn't think it was that big of a problem, but he told me it reflected poorly on you and all that."
Scarlett listened to Kat's words and thought about it for a moment. Then she waved her hand in the air and turned her attention back to outside the window. "You do not have to bother with formality. I believe my actions thus far have demonstrated that it does not matter much to me."
That was a little bit of a white lie. Informal behaviour did annoy her, but she actually preferred it in Kat's case. It was one of the few of the original Scarlett's quirks that she could handle well enough to even attempt to get used to it.
"You sure?" Kat asked.
"I would not have said it if I was not."
"Thank the gods." The relief was clear in her voice. "I was going crazy having to think about each and every word like that. Being all prim and proper really isn't worth it."
"I would not say your behaviour could be described as 'prim and proper'. That would likely require more than exchanging 'going' with 'attending' and occasionally adjusting how you address me."
Kat let out a sigh. "Believe me, I don't need you telling me I'm bad at it." She paused for a moment, before speaking again. "But won't that be a problem for you? Aren't nobles all about appearance and things like that?"
"You are not one of my subordinates. I hired you for a job. I do not see how it is my business how you act while performing it as long as you exhibit a modicum of respect. If others believe that should somehow reflect on me, then let them. I do not plan on wasting time preoccupying myself with what others think of me."
"Oh...I see," Kat mumbled.
Scarlett glanced at her. "I will admit, it does surprise me that you would care about these matters. I did not take you for such a person."
Kat looked at her with a slightly peeved face. "What, you think I would just ignore his warning?"
"I did not think you cared. You showed no such signs when we first met."
"Ah, well." She hesitated for a second. "I didn't, actually. Care, that is. And you never said anything so I didn't think it mattered."
"You thought correctly." Scarlett looked back out the window and towards the Kilnstone just in time to see its reflective grey surface turn completely black as if it absorbed all the light from its surroundings. A moment later a small group of people along with three wagons appeared in a show of light at the center of a large marked area next to the obelisk. One of the men in charge walked up to the group and exchanged words with them before jotting something down in his ledger.
"Well, I couldn't exactly ignore your butler's words," Kat continued. "I think acting as your escort should also include not causing you any extra trouble, so I had to at least try."
"A laudable sentiment. Despite its superflouosness," Scarlett said as she watched the newly arrived group leave through a wide opening between the surrounding structure's white marble pillars.
Scarlett turned to Kat. "Superfluousness. Something that is either more than needed or wanted."
"Ah, I see," Kat had a look of understanding on her face. "Sorry. Sometimes the words you use throw me off."
Scarlett looked at her. She was unsure what to say in response. As a content editor in her world she was used to working with a wide—and sometimes unusual—vocabulary, even though she rarely used much of it when she spoke. But now that she had become Scarlett, speaking this way had become part of her nature. She had tried talking more like she used to but it hadn't gone well. So far it was the only thing she knew of that was even worse than trying to deal with her innate contempt for Scarlett's younger sister. Of course, she didn't want to arouse too much suspicion by suddenly changing how she spoke either. There were enough sudden and surprising actions she had performed as it were. "...I will try to simplify my language." To the point where she could, at least.
"That's not really necessary." Kat shook her head as if she didn't consider it to be that important. "I don't think I'm one to tell you how to speak. Just do what you do."
"...Very well." Scarlett looked out the window again as the both of them went quiet. There were four carriages ahead of them in the queue and it took about thirty minutes before they reached the front. In that time three different groups of people and wagons had teleported here through the Kilnstone and left through the same gap between the pillars as the first group she'd seen. Eventually one of the men in charge waved their carriage forward and she heard the coachman urge the horse onward a moment later. He steered them around the tall obelisk and towards a marked area on the opposite side of the area where people teleporting to Freybrook ended up. The same man that waved them forward ensured they were within the marked space before waving forward another carriage that had been behind theirs in the line and repeating the process. He then pulled out a watch from his breast pocked and looked at it. "One minute until transport. Make sure you don't leave the marked zone," he announced.
Scarlett stole a glance at the other carriage next to them as they waited. It was completely black and larger than theirs, with two horses harnessed to its front instead of just one. She felt that the insignia on the side of the carriage looked familiar, a dark green stag with golden eyes, but she couldn't quite pinpoint where she'd seen it before.
She didn't have much time to think about it as the Kilnstone ahead of them suddenly sucked in all light around them and everything grew completely dark for a millisecond. Then the artifact suddenly spat out all the color again and the world filled with light as a new view appeared before them. The wide square surrounding the Kilnstone was now situated on a large hill that overlooked a city to the left and a large body of water to the right.
They had arrived in Ambercrest.