Danmachi: The Cure
DISCLAIMER: Danmachi belongs to its respective owners. Everything that occurs in this story is of my own creation and the characters abide by the fictional laws in the setting.
Commissioned by: Palik
Chapter 15: Mistakes Were Made 1/2
Part 17 (first half)
Two adventurers stood in the middle of a busy street in Orario, one not too far away from the restaurant they had first met. And very much like the first time they met, the elven adventurer gave a reproachful stare down to the white-haired adventurer who sweated bullets and looked away to find a way out of his predicament.
"Bell Cranel." Riveria's tone dropped an octave lower which triggered Bell's fight or flight instincts. "Answer me."
Bell glanced left and saw on the sidewalk the long of merchants blocking that side, then he glanced right for another way, but a party of adventurers tightly bundled together effectively made a human wall that he wouldn't be able to cross without barreling through someone.
Walking backwards was no good, as he was certain that Riveria would simply walk forwards and follow him wherever he went.
"Um," Bell rose one finger, "Hold on."
The young adventurer took a deep breath as the fuse of Riveria's patience slowly burned out. One look into her soul and he knew he didn't have much time left to think of an explanation since the little multicolored fairy was pulling different deadly weapons from itself and testing them against its little palm.
"Haa…" Bell released a long suffering sigh once he realized there was no way out of his predicament.
Riveria – not too pleased with his actions – crossed her arms tight enough that not even her bulky robes could hide the swell beneath. "I'm waiting."
Bell pinched the bridge of his nose to try and alleviate the forming headache from the situation Freya had unknowingly put him in, yet he couldn't really lay blame to the Goddess since she did warn him not to open her gift in public.
Sure, he could try and lie to Riveria, but not only was it likely that she would discern he was lying but also create a massive wedge between them – and Bell would not risk losing one of the few people willing to help him, less so since Riveria's presence was something he… enjoyed.
They hadn't started off well and their friendship was still shaky, but Bell couldn't deny that Riveria had come clean with everything she had done in the past – the past that he initially hated her for – and she was trying to make amends for what she felt was wrong…
Besides, Alfia had already forgiven Riveria. Why should he continue judging the royal elf or hide things from her?
Riveria was his… friend… The least he could do was to trust her as much as he trusted his two other friends.
"It's… a complicated story and I'm not sure you'll believe me…" Bell's tone wavered as he glanced around again.
Riveria compared Bell's words to his conflicted and downtrodden expression, noticing that whatever explanation she needed was one that would leave him vulnerable to something she was not certain of. Her own expression softened, then, and the multicolored fairy dropped the broadsword in its hands.
"Bell, what you have there is something extremely important to my race. Whether I believe you or not will come after I hear what you have to say."
Her words said, Riveria took a step forward to hold one of Bell's hands to try and soothe his nerves and show that she wasn't that angry, but really just wanted to know the truth. "So, please… Tell me?"
Bell's innate magic analyzed the emotions flowing from Riveria's touch as his own eyes found hers; a speed up tune laced with warm tones filled Bell's mind as he felt Riveria's concern for not just the item, but for himself and how he had gotten his hands on it.
Then there was Riveria's appearance itself. He'd never really paid attention to her in detail, but with how close she moved to hold his hand, it was hard not to notice the little things like the slight brilliant sheen to her emerald irises, the minor well-hidden dark bags under her eyes, or the way her-
Startled, Bell shook his head free of his previous thoughts and focused on the problem at hand again.
"Could we take this somewhere private?" Bell replied and unconsciously squeezed Riveria's hand.
"Thank you," Riveria squeezed back and started walking with Bell in tow. "I have a place in mind, come on."
Belatedly, Bell noticed the stares given to them as Riveria continued guiding him by the hand through the throng of people on the streets. He couldn't exactly let go since he didn't know where Riveria planned on taking him; besides, it also served to keep the little multi-colored fairy happy evident by the little skip in her steps as the two walked.
He didn't want to learn if souls could interact violently with one another.
Either way, there was little Bell could think of besides what he would tell Riveria while she dragged him towards one of the massive walls surrounding Orario. He couldn't exactly tell her the whole truth as it would put him in a precarious position if she were to tell anyone else, but at the same time, he believed Riveria wouldn't do that if he were to ask her for it.
They didn't know each other for long, but Bell knew Riveria was someone he could trust because she hadn't told others that his aunt was back in Orario when she was supposed to be 'exiled'.
"Here we are," Riveria's voice snapped him out of his thoughts, his sight regained focus to see the two had stopped at an old building not too far from Orario's walls. The building seemed to once serve as a garrison, however age had taken its toll on the buildings and the wooden palisade surrounding it.
"Where is this?" Bell asked while looking around to see few other similar looking rundown houses and buildings nearby.
"This used to be one of Loki Familia's training grounds and housing complex but once we moved to the northern walls, nobody ever bothered with it again." Riveria explain and dragged him towards the garrison-like building where she pushed open the wooden gate. "Since these are private grounds, it's very unlikely that anyone else will see us here."
Ignoring the fact that Riveria had taken him two times to private places where his young mind wandered into dangerous territory, he could appreciate the fact that she had gone out of her way to truly bring him somewhere nobody else should hear what he had to say.
Riveria ignored the garrison itself; instead, she dragged him over to the open field where there was a path that led towards a decrepit watchtower.
"Isn't this a bit of a waste?" Bell couldn't help asking after almost tripping from an overgrown weed while they walked over to the watchtower.
"It is." Riveria went to tap her cheek as an idea hit her but stopped short when she felt her hand didn't budge an inch. Surprised, she glanced down and her face heated up. "E-eh… B-Bell?"
"Mm?" Bell glanced at Riveria and spotted the multi-colored fairy turning entirely red. "Yes?"
"Um." Bell slowly let go as he laughed awkwardly, "Y-you… err…"
Riveria half-turned away from him and started fiddling with her hair, "Ri-right, it was so you, um, wouldn't run away or get lost…"
Bell mentally clapped his hands together and thanked whichever deity blessed him with the opportunity to see such a wholesome reaction out of Riveria.
"Syr, you good?"
"Yeah, I'll be there in a minute!"
Bell recorded the moment to his heart before forcing his own nervousness down. "Right, so… About that explanation."
His words got Riveria out of her embarrassed flunk via the fairy slapping its cheeks again, "Wait, not here. Follow me."
Riveria went to grab his hand again, paused, laughed nervously then marched without looking back towards the decrepit watchtower. Bell said nothing, but he did enjoy the sight of the reddened tip of her ears peeking from between her long hair.
At least, until they reached the watchtower itself.
Just like the other buildings in the area, nature was overtaking the building; what with the moss and vines covering several portions of the walls, the wooden door almost snapping off its hinges once Riveria pushed it open, then the inside was… exactly as he could've expected.
Damp, dark, windows blocked with vines, and the walls equally covered in mold as the outside. The room itself was circular, with a circular staircase with a weathered handrail that neither him nor Riveria deigned to touch as the two carefully went up the stairs.
Thankfully, the windows at the upper part of the tower allowed for some fresh air and light to rush in. Now, Bell wasn't one to think much of a normal occurrence like that, but when said light shone over Riveria who walked ahead of him, well…
Even her bulky clothes weren't enough to hide that she was in fact, a good looking woman.
–Again, he normally wouldn't look at others that way but since he had gotten a closer look at Riveria earlier…
"This place really needs some clean up…" Riveria muttered and snapped Bell out of his trance, yet again, to see her test the endurance of a metal ladder at the top of the stairs. "I'll have to inform Loki about repairing this place or selling it."
Bell half-nodded to that idea but stopped as soon as Riveria climbed the ladder and unlocked a hatch door above her, she grunted lightly when she pushed it open and allowed for more light and fresh air to flow through the new entrance.
She went up outside first, leaving Bell to debate with himself as to who was the worse influence on his young mind between the old man from the mountains, Alise, or Riveria.
Thankfully –again – Riveria didn't seem to mind Bell taking an entire minute before joining her at the top of the watchtower where she sat by a weathered bench near the edge; to be precise, the only bench since the other two were piles of rubble.
"This place should be good and private enough for what you have to tell me, Bell." Riveria patted the spot beside her at the same time as she fixed her hair behind her ear.
The butterflies in his stomach turned into a bottomless pit that made him feel ill when he was reminded why they were here, "Right."
He gathered himself once more before sitting beside Riveria; his expression probably conveying just how troubled his mind felt.
"Bell," Riveria placed her hand over his. "Please?"
That's so unfair… how could I say no now?
- 0 - T.C - 0 -
The longer Bell's explanation became, the more grateful Riveria felt for how he handled his emotions the night the two spent together on the second floor of the Hostess of Fertility. That night, Bell had been brutally honest with his feelings, but he had kept his emotions under control and allowed her to give her own explanation without interruptions.
Riveria knew very well about the hatred Bell still held for her Familia and everyone involved in the actions that drove out his surrogate mother from Orario; so, hearing how he had almost killed one of – if not the most Notorious Goddess in Orario after letting his emotions run wild… Riveria couldn't be more grateful that her own encounter with the white-haired adventurer turned out so different.
All of that did not take away her embarrassment nor the hands hiding her face as Bell explicitly recounted every detail of his encounter with the Goddess Freya when she had interrupted his lesson with Miss Teasanare.
If it had been anyone else but the 'son' of Alfia who blabbed his story, Riveria would've looked at them in disgust for speaking such a blatant fantasy story and called them on their bluff.
She didn't need to be a mind reader or have Bell's skill of seeing souls to see that Bell was not lying.
In the long life Riveria had lived –compared to human standards, that is– She had Seen the Goddess do far too many things Riveria disagreed with, and some that made the royal elf resent the Goddess, but Riveria understood that everyone held different beliefs and lived their life in their own way. So, despite not having the best opinion of Freya, Riveria would always treat the Goddess with the respect one of her kind deserved.
However, Bell had no such reservations.
Riveria believed that if Bell hadn't unconsciously known Freya could be of use to him, then he might have truly killed her that day regardless of how foolish his actions were, or how it could've negatively impacted his mother.
Not that what he had done wasn't any better, but it spokes volumes of how far Bell would go for his surrogate mother.
And if Riveria was a little honest to herself… She was kind of glad that someone had finally put a real leash on the Goddess.
If only the one to do so hadn't been Bell…
"Bell…" Riveria stared through her fingers at the white-haired adventurer with a stoic expression beside her. "Are you insane!?"
"A little bit?" Bell sighed and wildly scratched his hair. "I mean, if you were in my shoes, wouldn't you have done the same?"
That gave pause to Riveria, and within a second of putting herself in Bell's position… "Maybe," Riveria massaged her forehead, "But still, are you insane!?"
"What else was I supposed to do?"
Right, it was either him killing Freya or Freya sinking her claws into him and turning him into another of her puppets.
"I… don't know." Riveria admitted and took long, steady breaths. "You really are something else, Bell."
"I'll take that as a compliment." Bell grumbled and sat cross legged with his back dangerously reclined against the tower edge.
Riveria didn't confirm his words, choosing to stay silent and finish processing what Bell had told her. At least, she now knew where Bell had gotten the sacred elven branch from and could discard Bell doing illegal things to get his hands on it - not that almost killing Freya wasn't illegal but what was done was already done.
Then what Bell told her really dawned on her.
He had essentially admitted to committing a crime that would've banished him from Orario – if not worse if she decided to – as her Familia liked to say – rat him out.
"You… could've lied to me, you know?" Riveria tilted her head as her own words left her mouth.
He gave her a prolonged blank stare that made her feel awkward and shuffle on her seat before responding with the quietest tone she'd heard so far from him. "Riveria, you're one of the few I know I can wholeheartedly trust. If it wasn't for you, I would've never known what happened to my mom until she decided to tell me, nor would I have another teacher willing to help me find the cure for my mom. I'm… not sure you understand how important she's to me."
When he put it that way…
"I see," Riveria's expression softened. "Thank you, Bell." Then her expression turned dark, "Still, did you really have to go into so much detail!? Are you insane!?"
That made Bell sheepishly look away, "I mean, you wanted an explanation, so I gave you the whole story…"
"I did not need to know what Freya sounds like when you - Never mind, forget it." Riveria huffed with a slight blush and rubbed her temples again. "So, what are you going to do with her? Are you really certain that you two are… bound as you say?"
Bell touched the center of his chest and Riveria felt the faintest use of magic in the air coming from him before Bell replied with a nod and, "Yeah. Even now, I can feel her emotions through our connection if I focus a little bit."
And wasn't that concerning in and of itself, Riveria frowned. "Can she feel your emotions too?"
"No." Bell immediately replied. "At least not unless I want to."
Riveria nodded. "Then…"
Bell sighed, "There's only one thing I want her to do for now and its to help me find the God who cursed Alfia. After that, I'm not sure… She's… not exactly what I had expected…"
Riveria raised an eyebrow at how Bell frowned as those words left his mouth, "What do you mean?"
"Well, she's…" Bell paused, and she could see how hard it was for him to find words to explain himself before he gave up by shaking his head in the negative. "It doesn't matter."
It did, but Riveria wouldn't push him further. She had heard enough, more than enough if she was honest.
What she knew for certain was that Bell wholeheartedly trusted her. The least she could do was to wholeheartedly trust him back.
- 0 - T.C - 0 -
Bell felt as if a weight had been taken off his shoulders once someone else knew of what he had done to Freya and found it in themselves to not smite him on the spot. Even he knew he might've taken it too far, but deep in his heart he still felt his actions against the goddess were justified.
Once Riveria was past scolding him –for the fifth time– for how far he went into detail about his encounter with Freya, she had asked him something that he hadn't thought of.
"How were you going to explain this to Alfia?"
His initial reaction was to snort before shivering as images of how his aunt would murder him for getting involved with Freya, especially in the way he did.
"I haven't thought that far yet," Bell released another suffering sigh in response. "Alfia already knows I did something incredibly stupid that she would probably murder me for but is willing to look the other way… for now."
Riveria mimicked his suffering sigh before reclining her back against the precarious edge of the tower, much like him. "Do you think she won't ask you about the branch?"
"She will." Bell hadn't thought of a suitable explanation for his mother yet, which was partially the reason why he hadn't been against being dragged by Riveria and giving him more time to think of an excuse.
Sure, he wouldn't lie to Alfia if she asked him to tell the truth but as long as she didn't ask for it, then he wasn't one to make his life more miserable – not any more than he already did, at least.
"I can see you haven't the slightest idea of what to tell her." Riveria's voice held that scolding tone laced with concern before she went quiet.
Bell took that moment to look up into the darkening skies and momentarily forget about what he needed to do to survive in the next few hours. If it wasn't for his pressing need for survival, he would've found his little outing at the top of the watchtower with Riveria a little more… enjoyable?
"I think…" Riveria hesitated which made him turn towards her to see the royal elf staring back at him with a deceptive smile dancing on her lips. "I have an idea on how to help you this time, Bell."
His response was to sit straight on the bench and turn to Riveria with high expectations.
"I was supposed to receive a Sacred Elven Branch sometime within the month," Riveria sat straight too, not seeming to be the least mindful of how close they came to be. "It was my planned gift to you, but perhaps I might've suddenly 'lost that branch' and 'found this one' instead."
Bell caught on quickly and for the second time, or third… or fourth – whatever– felt a rush of positive emotions that he wasn't accustomed to feeling for others beside Alfia.
"Would you be fine with that?" Riveria asked him.
Bell's response was to hug his life saver, quite tightly.
Riveria laughed nervously, but still accepted and responded to him in the same manner.
- 0 - T.C - 0 -
Alfia stood outside of Hephaistos home, arms crossed while glaring at her son and her latest pupil who traded glances every so often.
"Sorry, we had something to do before coming back." Bell awkwardly scratched the back of his head.
Alfia hummed before glancing at the quiet Nine Hells who held onto a basket.
"Miss Alfia, I've brought a gift for you." Riveria lifted the basket slightly. "It's the reason why Bell and I took so long to get back for our lesson today."
Alfia raised an eyebrow in response, "I don't need gifts, I need punctuality. For your bodies' sake, I hope this 'gift' is worth making me wait."
Nothing to get the blood pumping like a reminder that today's magical lesson would involve sparring with The Silence.
"I'm certain it will be useful to you," Riveria smiled tightly and lifted the cover of the basket.
Alfia didn't even need to see the item itself to know what it was. The magical essence wafting from it was one she was extremely familiar with to the point that she was sick of seeing it, even though it was one of the requirements to continue staying alive.
Her mismatched irises went directly to her son, who gulped nervously and waited for her response.
His nervousness was unwarranted, unless… he had done something stupid, again.
"I do not know what you two have come up with, nor will I bring myself to care so long as neither of you gets hurt." Alfia spoke with a blank face that made both adventurers aware that The Silence hadn't exactly bought their lie but was willing to play along with them.
Alfia took the basket from Riveria's hand before speaking again, "Nine Hells, head inside first." She noted how Riveria threw one last glance at Bell, almost as if silently asking him whether he wanted her to stay or not.
Her nephew nodded, Riveria hesitated for a split second before finally leaving the two alone.
"You seem to have grown closer with the Nine Hells." Alfia started with a questioning tone.
"I… yeah." Bell admitted and awkwardly shuffled in place. "I'm starting to learn how to trust others more and she's been really helpful…"
"That she has," Alfia nodded along. "Just remember that not everyone is deserving of our trust."
Bell nodded and waited for her to continue, which she did by setting the basket aside to bring her nephew into a warm, welcoming hug.
"Please don't get used to hiding so many things from me…" Alfia whispered in his ear, letting Bell know that she knew there was more to what happened today.
"I… sorry mom, I'll try not to." Bell nodded and tightened his hold. "Thank you…"
- 0 - T.C - 0 -
Alfia sat by herself on the bed she shared with her nephew, a warm cup of tea on hand that she stirred clockwise while looking at the bedroom's door. The scent of the tea turned her stomach upside down thanks to the heavily magically infused item it was made from, which after a moment of disdain, Alfia drank with the foulest of faces.
It was already late into the night and The Silence was still awake due to three things. One that she had just taken care of, and almost threw the cup in disdain for the aftertaste that clung to her tongue. The second was her nephew that had yet to return from his lesson with Riveria.
And the third was fighting her own clinical mind that tried to discern what Bell was hiding from her.
She had told him that she would look the other way to his actions, and she was actively trying not to think too much about them, but every day that passed and her son keeping more things from her made Alfia more… paranoid?
She hadn't felt that way ever since that one time Zeus took Bell alone for a 'man's adventure' to the village near their home at the mountains and both men refused to tell her what happened on that trip, even on the promise of untold violence.
At times, she felt that coming to Orario so early wasn't doing Bell any good because his heart was still young and susceptible to being swayed by his emotions, but she knew that the only way his heart could mature was also by coming to Orario and giving Bell free reign to live his life as he needed.
So far, the friendships Bell had made on his own were questionable from her perspective but seemed to be doing well to his emotional maturity.
So, she wasn't too worried just yet.
Sure, the Nine Hells was growing closer to her nephew at an alarming rate – Enough for both to lie and hide something from her – but Alfia still trusted their relationship would remain strictly professional.
Mostly because of their age and life experience gap.
Alfia took a deep breath and dispelled her paranoia, grabbed a book from the bedstand and flipped it to the page she stopped reading last time.
Every so often, she would glance at the bedroom door but as an another soon passed by and no signs of her nephew coming to sleep on their bed, Alfia questioned herself more and more whether she really was willing to let her son grow apart from her so fast.
So, with little reluctance, Alfia set the book down and marched towards the door in order to bring her son to bed.
'He better not have fallen asleep on the Nine Hell's bosom again.'
- Ch 15 first half end -
Author's Note: This is the first half of ch15. There's some scenes I'm changing from the second half, only the time during which it happens so expect the second half to be released before the weekend.
Author Note 2: If you'd like to support me, please consider joining the dis cord server (42SQENPj54) or supporting my Patron (IreJasmine)