Chapter 1 is lovingly dedicated to the most famous
scene in my favorite video game.
I don’t remember much nowadays…. There are so many holes in our memory…but I remember her saying, "We’re doing this for the children who have yet been born. We’re making sure they have a good tomorrow to be born into." Those were words that always gave me courage. But she didn’t know that tomorrow’s heroes would be children themselves….
But it matters not! I will not forget my vows!
Because what good is the whole if you’ve forsaken the part…?
Kyri could hear birds outside. Chirping of that sort meant it was morning, time to rise. Yet sunlight always beamed through her bedroom window in the morning, and she felt no warmth on her face.
So she didn’t bother to open her eyes.
She heard a yawn from behind her, and her eyelids flickered up in start.
Unicorn was pressed against the side of her pillow. Looking over the little creature’s ear, Kyri saw Aikel sitting up in his bed. She saw the inn room in Semita.
She saw reality and wanted to go back to sleep.
She rolled over instead to see who had yawned. Himeki was sitting up and rubbing her eyes. Yousei was still face down on the next bed.
After a few seconds of sleepy silence, Himeki turned her head toward Kyri and asked, "Hey, do you want to go for a walk?"
"Oh…" Kyri mumbled, "I guess so."
"Aikel? Yousei?" Himeki asked. "Do you want to go too?"
"Mmf…" was Yousei’s response.
"You aren’t that tired, are you? Walking it off will do you good."
"Hey…" Yousei wearily lifted her head. "You have long legs…. It didn’t take you as many steps to get here…!" She collapsed back onto her pillow.
"Heh, you’re right," Himeki admitted. "Aikel?"
"He’s a zombie," Pegasus said when Aikel didn’t respond. "We’ll stay here and make sure Yousei has some company."
"I should probably stay too," Unicorn mumbled sleepily. "I’ll go if you want me to, but it’s probably easier on both of us if I stay."
"Alright," Kyri said warmly as she patted Unicorn’s fur. She started to stand up, but Himeki grabbed her wrist to speed her up.
"I guess it’s just you and me," she said cheerfully.
* * *
"I’ve never seen a human city before, except for a little bit of Paden…" Himeki said, "What you can see from the ferry dock…." She spun around yet again to look at the buildings. "I think it needs more trees."
"I’ve seen a lot things in the last week I hadn’t seen before," Kyri said darkly. She forced a quick smile to drive away the dismal feelings.
"Let’s go find some kind of social place…" Himeki said, still looking around.
"I think we’re already in a social place," Kyri mumbled. They were on the main avenue of the town, and people were everywhere.
"No this is just where people walk on the way to other places."
"The market square?"
"Hmm…" Himeki responded. "No, how about that place?" She pointed to one of the buildings alongside the street. The sign above the doors said boldly, "Great Axe Tavern."
"I don’t think that’s a good idea. The windows are curtained and…" Kyri began, but Himeki was already pulling her.
"How bad can it be?" Himeki asked, but she opened the door slowly.
I was dimly lit inside the building. The people who where in the path of light that came from the door shielded their eyes.
"Do you think they serve fruit punch?" Kyri asked nervously. There was a band of musicians playing music on the stage, and a few of the tavern’s patrons were singing along in loud slurred tuneless voices.
"We serve lemonade," the bartender informed dryly as Himeki pulled Kyri over.
"How much does it cost? Do you take this kind of money?" Himeki held up a coin. "Do you want a lemonade, Kyri?"
"Yeah, it’s two of those coins each," the bartender answered.
"Sure," Kyri mumbled.
As the bartender gave them each a glass of lemonade and went to serve someone else, Himeki said, "I know this place seems sort of unpleasant, but don’t you think it’s a good place to pick up gossip? We should try to have an idea of what the orcs are doing, right?"
"I guess you’re right…" Kyri focused her hearing on the voices around her. Someone in town was annoying everyone by bragging about how profitable her husband’s farm was being. Another person’s child was causing trouble at school. Another person thought that his pumpkin was possessed by an evil spirit and was looking to hire an exorcist.
"Heeeyyy…! Who’s up for a challenge?!"
The shout was loud and sudden enough to make Kyri jump. The conversations in the room stopped a moment as everyone turned to look at the man standing on a table with a bottle raised over his head. Then everyone ignored him and went back to what they’d been doing.
"I need to hire a new bouncer…" the bartender muttered to himself.
"Come on, you pansies!"
"People like that are so annoying," Himeki grumbled. She looked in the man’s direction a moment and asked, "Is that Nopinula Ale he’s waving around?"
"Yeah," the bartender said. "He’s had a million drinking bouts with that stuff. He always wins so no one wastes their time anymore."
The man seemed to be a bit drunk already. He was still challenging everyone to a drinking contest, and with no one accepting, he was starting to be shout profanities.
Kyri noticed Himeki make eye contact with the bartender few several seconds. When she moved her hand, there were three coins laying where it’d been. Kyri gaped as the bartender traded the coins for a small bottle, which Himeki took hold of before she stood up.
"Himeki?!" Kyri demanded as Himeki jogged toward the drunk man. She saw Himeki pound on his table to get his attention. She was clearly telling him off, but Kyri couldn’t hear her over the crowd and the distance.
"Nopinula Ale…" the bartender muttered.
"How is that different than any other ale?" Kyri asked, still watching Himeki worriedly.
"It tastes absolutely hideous, but it’ll make you feel drunk really fast. The stuff from the Nopinula trees messes with your head and sort of magnifies the alcohol. You can’t understand a person by the time they’re done with that little bottle. The drinking contests usually deal with who can gulp it down the fastest because it’s hard to drink with that awful taste."
"She’s not going to do that, is she?"
"That seems to be her intent."
"I thought you weren’t supposed to give stuff like that to kids…."
"She’s not your age, is she? I thought she was probably older…. Elves look like her until they’re thirty…."
"I… I don’t know how old she is…" Kyri admitted. She turned around on the bar stool as to ignore Himeki and the drunk man. She focused instead on the voices around her, and suddenly one voice seemed to stick out from the rest. Still she could only catch broken pieces of the conversation.
"… father is the… commands to the militia."
"Really?" said a female voice.
"… any fighting?"
"No… might be soon."
"Something… wrong in Ranges…. A couple cities…."
"Oh, that’s sad…."
"They’re centaurs… in Ranges."
Kyri turned to the bartender. "Sir…?" He turned to look at her. She asked, "Can you tell me what Ranges is…?"
"Ranges? The country?"
"Oh, it’s a country? Where is it at?"
He looked at her funny. "It’s to the east. It’s a country of centaurs."
"Thank you…." Kyri turned back to Himeki and the drunk man just in time to see the man fall over. Himeki brought the bottle away from her mouth and grabbed the table for balance. The man had passed out because he’d had too much to drink beforehand. A fifth of Himeki’s bottle was still full. She left it on the table and walk waveringly back to Kyri. "Are you okay?" Kyri asked.
Himeki rubbed the back of her hand over her eyes. "Uh… yeah, I’m… ugh…" She fell over and landed roughly on the floor. "Uuuggghhh…."
Kyri yelped and hurried to help her up. "Are you okay?!" she repeated frantically.
Himeki’s response was incomprehensible. Kyri pushed her up and supported her with the edge of the bar, but she was limp and wouldn’t stand on her own.
"You’ve got to be kidding me…" Kyri moaned. She slung Himeki’s arm over her own shoulder and dragged her toward the door.
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