It did not take us long at all to visit the kitchen. Though, when we did so, a surprising question came out of the halfling’s mouth. “Will we be able to hunt for our own food?” She asked curiously, glancing towards the meat locker.
However, I had to shake my head to deny that question. “The only way in or out of the Sky Citadel is with the aid of Aurivy. It would be best not to bother her with requests like that whenever possible.”
As I said that, I caught Aurivy sending me a knowing smile, causing me to let out a sigh. Yes, I know that I should practice what I preach. But at least now we won’t need to bother you for stuff like that as much?
It’s fine, bro! Aurivy communicated back to my mind, her smile growing into a full grin as we walked towards the bedrooms. I like being able to help out, really.
Once we got to the first bedroom, I pointed to the nameplate beside the door, looking towards the human woman. “What name would you like to have listed?”
She blinked in surprise that I had chosen her for the first room, a happy smile filling her face. Though the truth was… I just wanted to dump her off so that I wouldn’t have to deal with her for a while. “Melora Everglade.” She said, an unmasked sense of triumph in her voice.
Putting my hand on the golden nameplate, I pushed my ki into it. While everyone watched, the blank nameplate gradually formed letters along it. By the time it was done, the name Melora was clearly inscribed… in English letters.
“Is… this my name?” The woman asked, stepping up and stroking her hand gently along the nameplate. Of course, with my halfling height, that meant that my head was right next to her hips. Which, I would be willing to bet the entire Sky Citadel was intentional.
“It is. You can take some time to make yourself comfortable.” As I said that, I stepped back, glancing towards the halfling representative and Aurivy. Without another word, the three of us walked off towards the next floor. The halfling representative glanced at each bedroom that we passed, as if curious why I did not put her in any of them.
Once we had ascended the stone stairs to reach the next floor, I immediately pointed towards the nameplate of the first room that we came across, glancing towards the halfling. “Huh?” She muttered, surprised, before grinning broadly. “I’m Trixy!”
Tricksy little halflings… I thought inwardly as I inscribed her name on the nameplate. It was at that point that I suddenly froze up, my hand halted just as it was lowering from the nameplate. This lasted only a moment, however, before I opened the door to Trixy’s room.
It seemed that she hadn’t noticed my little incident, as she happily ran straight into the room. Excitement was evident on her face as she saw the large, soft bed, the ornate dresser, and even the tall standing mirror along the wall.
Without a word, I closed the door, and immediately began walking down the hall, a previously unseen purpose in my step. “Something wrong, Dale?” Aurivy asked curiously, hurrying to follow behind me.
Rather than answer her, I placed my hand on a nearby wall, activating one of the ‘elevator’ passages. Once myself and Aurivy had passed through the wall, I used my ki to propel me upwards. All the while, a confused expression could be seen on my face, my eyes narrowed in focus.
When we reached the top floor, I used the same spell key to open the ceiling, flying up through it. Finally, Aurivy was able to see what had me moving so urgently. Someone was standing right outside the barrier of the Sky Citadel. Rather, there were ten someones, each dressed in bloody, red clothes.
At the front was a woman who appeared in her later teenage years, finally showing signs of aging from the last time I saw her. She stepped forward, her hand pressed against the barrier. “Good evening, Keeper.” Scarlet said softly. Her language was… not quite English, but I could still hear the similarities.
I let out a sigh when I saw that the energies I had detected turned out to be the Martial Spirits. “Scarlet… how did you even get here?” We hadn’t been in this area long enough for her to cross the ocean. And I knew that there was no way she could be a mage or a druid. Her body itself rejected the production of mana.
Scarlet took her hand off the barrier, crossing her arms behind her back. “I asked one of the fairies to bring us here.” She answered simply. “I was hoping to speak with you, is that alright?”
When I gave a nod to her question, Aurivy snapped her fingers. Rather than the display of golden mist she normally put up, Scarlet simply disappeared from her previous location, instead standing directly in front of us. She blinked momentarily in surprise, before offering a thankful glance towards Aurivy. “Well, at least now we know why you weren’t able to stay with us all those years ago.” She said with a soft tone, her deep red eyes turning to look at me.
I let out a soft sigh, shaking my head. “Sorry, things have been… Hectic, you could say.”
“It is perfectly alright. None of us blame you.” Scarlet spoke in the same gentle tone. She glanced back to her nine brothers and sisters, before turning to look at me again. “However, lately there have been some issues with the lesser kin. Issues that I wanted to clear up with you.”
I rose a curious brow, not knowing what she meant. From what I had glanced over during the fast forwards, the lower ranked martial spirits hadn’t been making much of a fuss with the sapient races. “What’s the matter?”
“The lesser kin wish to be represented as equals with your races.” Scarlet spoke with a wry smile. “Many of them are… not as intelligent, but they believe that they have earned the right. It is something that we have seen over the last few years. When word reached them that you were choosing representatives from your races, they began to question why they were not given equal treatment.”
Once again, I couldn’t help but sigh. In truth, I had nearly forgotten about their existence as a people. Scarlet and her group were one thing, as they were born as intelligent beings. But those below them were little more than feral monsters with a few scattered tribes. “If one of you want to be their representative, that would be fine.”
I had no desire to alienate a single group. Even the merkin, who were still firmly rooted in the stone age had the chance to assign a representative. I had the feeling that they had simply forgotten…
Scarlet offered a brief nod, smiling at my acceptance. “Thank you, Keeper. If that is fine with you, then I would like to be your voice to our lesser kin.”
Again, there was no reason to deny her request. If anything, having the representative be Scarlet herself would only make it easier on me. “Okay. I’m giving all of the representatives the option to live in the Sky Citadel… would you like to?”
Almost immediately, Scarlet shook her head. “No thank you. I wish to remain with my people. Our numbers are still so few, even after all this time. Maybe in another age, I will accept your offer. But for now…”
I gave an understanding nod at that. “Alright… is there anything else?”
Scarlet looked as if she had to consider that for a moment. “I can feel two auras of blood within your palace, Keeper. One, like us… No doubt, one of your guests has formed a pact with a lesser kin. The other… one of your guests has walked through fields of death and slain countless beings.”
“The aura is hidden, suppressed by a tempered mind. But we are of blood, and the scent of blood fills the air they pass through. I do not fear for your safety, as I can also feel your own strength. However, I wish you caution. Learn the mind of the one who has walked with death.”
“As for the one who contracted a lesser kin… it is only the lowest of kin, the most feral. Their desires will be simple, but powerful. And if they find that they can’t get what they want, the lesser kin will lead them to slaughter. If possible, do not anger the one who holds the pact. If that cannot be avoided… then simply ensure that the other one can act, and will not do so against you.”
This was the most I had ever heard Scarlet talk at once, and I had to say that it caught me by surprise. Thinking of who could have contracted a Martial Spirit, my guess naturally went towards Melora. I knew that she was a monk, which was the basic requirement to do so.
As for the ‘aura of bloodshed’, my mind naturally went towards the unassuming maid. I had glimpsed a knife hidden beneath her clothes, and her level showed that she was easily the strongest representative here. Of the representatives, the lowest levels were from the halflings and elves. So I highly doubted that Trixy was either aura. At least, she shouldn’t have been the second aura.
“I’ll keep that in mind, Scarlet.” I told her with a nod. I’d need to speak to the representatives a bit more anyways, later on. And if what Scarlet said was true, it was likely that the owner of the martial spirit would act up. Maybe not at first, but eventually. And when they did, they were bound to make one hell of a mess…
Scarlet smiled, and then turned to look at Aurivy. “Can I trouble you to send be back out…? I cannot pass through this barrier.”
“Sure thing!” Aurivy grinned, snapping her fingers again. Scarlet was gone just as quickly as she had appeared, once more joining the others outside of the barrier. Turning around to face them, her body exploded into a bloody mist, which quickly faded away. One by one the others joined her, vanishing from the area around the citadel.
“So… uhm… Dale.” Aurivy spoke, somewhat nervously. “There are a couple of things that you should know…”
“...Aurivy?” I had never seen her act like this, so I couldn’t help but be worried.
“Ah! It’s nothing too bad, really! I just wanted to clear something up after what Scarlet said!” She shook her hands in front of her face, shaking her head quickly.
“...Is Trixy the owner of the martial spirit after all?” I asked in surprise, to which Aurivy nodded her head. There weren’t a lot of things that she could tell me after that that would be related to what Scarlet said.
“Yeah… That’s also why she seems so weak. Even though they are separate entities, the system wouldn’t allow their combined level to exceed the limit, back when there was a limit. But… when you’re just looking at her, you’ll only see her level. To see the other thing’s levels, you’ll need to focus a bit harder.”
I had to admit, I was not expecting Trixy to be the one with the martial spirit… though it did make a bit of sense, given the race’s propensity for taming creatures. If anything, it should have been odd that she was without any animal or monster companion. “The other one she was talking about… that’s still the maid, right?” I couldn’t help but ask, wanting to make sure that both of my expectations weren’t wrong.
“Oh, totally!” Aurivy said with a sharp nod. “Yeah, that’s all part of their training. They even call it the ‘trial of blood’! Send young initiates out into the forest alone, with no equipment to protect themselves. They have to survive completely on their own for a full year to pass the trial! And that’s a year in an area where the average level of a monster is over two hundred.”
I felt a brief shiver as I imagined that. A young child… one whose level was likely not even fifty yet, sent out to the wilderness like that for training. “Okay… so she definitely is the one for that.”
“Right? Anyways, I just wanted to let you know. Trixy has her martial spirit, and I didn’t want that to become a problem later on.”
“Thanks for letting me know.” I smiled, reaching up to pat Aurivy on the shoulder. “Saves me a bit of trouble.”