TALES OF OBSCURA
Written by Benit149
This story is both an original tale and homage to Namco's Tales of... video game series, which I have always enjoyed playing. Any characters and/or concepts that do not exist in the actual games belong to me. Those that do occur in the games belong to Namco and all related affiliates. I claim no ownership to Namco's characters, but do claim my own original characters.
Two days had passed since Hieizou was liberated from Tadanori's tyranny. Sanada's sailors swarmed Fuyukin's port and palace to seize control of the fallen national capital, thereby switching leadership as well. The news of Tadanori's downfall would take about a week for the entire country to learn, but Lord Sanada knew there would be a lot of changes installed. The biggest of them all was the shift from Hieizou being run by numerous minor daimyos into a form of unified democratic government. Sanada prayed that would finally reduce the number of ignored and isolated incidents like what happened in Izumo last year.
Galbard, Milei and Misha returned and reported of their incredible success, as well as the sad truth of Krita Shizumori being allied with Tadanori. However, the shogun wasn't sure what to make of their claims of a sentient and malevolent crystal controlling the man's dead body this entire time.
"It's true!" Misha contested. "This talking gem was inside Tadanori's head acting as his brain and everything! We didn't know that until Krile destroyed this weird Nerifes Thauma thing! That's what was sucking all of the energy from our Thaumae!"
"Are you sure about all of this? He couldn't possibly have had the technology to control the entire ocean," Sanada replied. "Then again, this is Tadanori we're talking about..."
"Then how do you explain everyone's energy suddenly being drained out of their Thaumae, as well as the unnatural churning of the seas?" Galbard asked forcibly. "There's no doubt about it – Tadanori waited for both sides to gather their Thaumae together so he could use this 'Nerifes Thauma' to wipe you out, even if it meant destroying his own army as well. It fits with the captain of Fiertia's story as well, doesn't it?"
"Hm," Sanada pondered. Indeed, everyone's bizarre stories were matching up, and that frightened her. Fiertia's captain explained basically the same thing; that Tadanori was developing a Thauma capable of controlling the seas, but had no idea how it really worked nor that Tadanori would use it on his own sailors just to get to Sanada. Even if the Nerifes Thauma failed somehow, Tadanori had planted the second 'Asura Thauma' inside the palace as a failsafe.
Between the Thauma munitions, a crest that would make the seas wild, and a powerful god of war inside the palace, Tadanori sure as hell placed some impossible odds on them. It was possible that if these two forbidden glyphs did their job properly, Sanada's army would have been utterly wiped out.
"It's a miracle that everything worked out the way it did," she murmured in disbelief. "How did Tadanori's plans fall apart like this?"
"That wasn't a miracle, Lord Sanada," Milei said. "Everything was thanks to Krile."
"What do you mean?"
The princess explained what Krile did to save everyone's lives; destroying both the Nerifes and Asura Thaumae. Sanada was surprised to learn that the swordsman didn't have a Thauma; the glyphs were practically commonplace, so pretty much everyone had one. She didn't understand why all ten elements rejected Krile, but perhaps 'destiny' was an appropriate explanation. Did the elements know this would happen in the future, or was all of this just a fantastic case of 'right place, right time'?
They could debate about it all they wanted, but they would never know the answer. It was just as well – Sanada was worried about Krile's state of mind during all of this cacophony.
"Where is she right now?" the leader asked.
"Krile? She's inside one of the palace's rooms," Misha frowned. "But she was really, really upset. She didn't want any of us bothering her right now."
Galbard sighed. "Her missing sister Krita was Tadanori's chief thaumaturge. She assisted him in his development of these forbidden weapons, and knew she was serving that jewel demon rather than a human. I don't know what Krita intends to get out of such a partnership, but it's all been a big shock to Krile."
"No kidding," Sanada lit up a smoking pipe and inhaled a deep breath of intoxicating fumes. "Sorry, but I'm gonna call it a night. I'll go see her before turning in. You kids better get plenty of rest as well. Fiertia's captain is arranging to bring you all to Sumizome in a few days."
"Ah, that's the first bit of good news I've heard all day," Milei sighed with relief. "We'll finally be able to return to Eikimi and report to my father about Tadanori's activities. I'll see to it that Hieizou's new government will receive Eikimi's cooperation."
"I second that for Sumizome," Galbard added.
"You better be careful with explaining about the Thauma munitions to your leaders. Don't go giving them ideas, or things could get really nasty."
"We will do our best, Lord Sanada. If you will excuse us, we'll turn in for the evening as well."
With that, the royals parted ways for the night, but knew they were in for another busy day tomorrow. Passing the legislations and spreading the news all across the country would take a while, but at least Hieizou's citizens would not have to worry about being secretly manipulated by their own leader. Sanada also promised to clear the prince and princesses of any terrorist charges, even if it meant explaining the grisly truth to everyone until her jaw was sore.
She sure had a lot to do in the near future, but she was the type of woman to focus on the present. Right now, that involved making a short visit to Krile. No one had seen her for the entire two days because she shut herself in an obscure room. The swordsman wouldn't eat, talk nor sleep; her comrades were growing very worried for her overall health. Sanada felt obligated to step in and do what she could, considering she involved the girl in all this to begin with.
The feudal lord found the room in question easily thanks to Melvin standing guard in front of the shoji screen. She said, "I know you're worried about her, but you should go get hammered for a change. You ought to be out partying it up with my soldiers instead of standing around here."
"I'd like to, but I don't want Krile to feel like she's by herself any more than she does already," Melvin frowned. "No matter what I do, I can't make her get out of bed."
"Then you're not going to be of any help here, Dengon. I'll switch places with you."
"Are you sure?"
"I have a few things I want to say to her, and I got to do it privately. Got it? Privately. If you understand, then go on and get!"
"Hmm," the dark elf sulked, but gave in and left Sanada in front of the screen.
She exclaimed, "Krile! I know you're in there! It's me, Sanada! Open up already! You can't lock yourself in there forever!"
"Just so you know, I have the master key to every bedroom in this place! I'll let myself in, if that's what you want!"
Again, there wasn't a reply.
"Okay then! I'm coming in!"
The leader indeed possessed the key in question and unlocked the bedroom screen. All of the curtains were closed, so there was no ambience whatsoever. About two or three plates of cold food were left on the table, still untouched since they had been brought in. The holy sword Durandal leaned against the wall near the bed, posing as an unknown and unheard witness to this scene – Sanada had not been told about Krile's new ownership of a sentient sacred weapon.
Krile laid on the bed, her shoes and stockings removed so she was in bare feet. Several crumpled tissues littered the comforter. She crossed her arms over her face and just laid upright in silence. Sanada wasn't sure if she was asleep or just thinking depressing thoughts.
"Are you okay?" she asked, sitting down next to her.
"I heard what happened. I'm having trouble believing it, but the prince and princesses insisted that it was true. Some kind of otherworldly demon has brainwashed Krita and taken her away, as well as caused all of this country's problems. I can't imagine that this monster is still out there."
"Well? Say something."
"I know you're exhausted, but it's been two days. Everyone's trying to cheer you up, and you keep turning them away like that. How long do you plan on staying depressed, huh?"
The feudal lord sighed in dismay and leaned in, realizing that being blunt and harsh wasn't going to work. She needed to go at this from a different angle.
"Listen to me. You don't have to go find Krita anymore. I can hire you as one of my guards. This incident is far too great for you to handle. I'll cooperate with Sumizome and Eikimi's scouts to go find her."
"... No," Krile finally shook her head. "That's impossible."
Sanada's worries intensified. "You want to save her no matter what?"
"I promised my mother that I would reunite with Krita."
"Promises exist to be broken, sweet cheeks. Your mother is dead – she will not accuse you of breaking it. No one will."
"Then if not for my mother... then for myself."
"Krile, I know how you feel, but this is too big for you."
"That's just an excuse. Whatever is in the way of that promise doesn't matter. The obstacles may be huge, but my goal is simple. As long as I remain focused, I won't have anything to fear. I'm just really shaken up."
"Are you sure?"
The leader fell silent, feeling encouraged by the calm girl's wisdom.
"All right," she smiled. "If that's how you feel, then I won't stop you. Just remember that if you need somewhere to return to, you can call this place home."
"That's right. You wouldn't want to return to Izumo after all of this."
"No, I wouldn't."
"Then that's settled. If you want to return to Hieizou, come back here. I'll have plenty of work for you."
Krile sat back up, feeling calmer now that she had a concrete goal to reach for. She felt more comfortable if she knew where to go and what to do, rather than feeling lost and confused. There was so much to deal with, but she was only one person – trying to do everything at once would only get her hurt in the long run.
"So," Sanada said, "you still plan on going with the prince's party?"
"I will go with them to Sumizome, although I'm not sure if I should stay with them. Only a couple of weeks ago, I didn't even know they existed. Now that Krita is involved with demons and illegal Thauma munitions, I don't know if-"
"Hmph. I can already tell what you're thinking – you want to leave them so your sister doesn't hurt them."
"I... suppose so," Krile lowered her head shamefully, amazed that the older woman could read her so easily.
"Really. You stoic types think you're so hard and complex to figure out, but you're actually easier than children's books. If you intend to break off from those guys, you're kidding yourself."
"Maybe they don't feel important to you, but you're certainly important to them. They couldn't stop talking about your fight with that other god Ashra or whatever."
"I don't care. They're all worried sick about how you're coping with Krita. When you get complete strangers like them losing sleep over you, well then you can't call them complete strangers anymore, can you?"
"I guess not," Krile couldn't argue that point.
"Saying that, they may allow you to leave on your own, but I won't. You're not one of my soldiers, so I can't issue an order to you. However, you're good at following promises. As your mother's former employer, I will make you follow this one for the rest of your journey."
"What is it?"
"You must not leave them until your goal is accomplished. Promise me that."
Krile felt reluctant, but submitted. "I understand. I won't leave them until I find Krita."
"If I find out you broke that promise, you're going to have hell to pay. I can't stand those overdramatic martyr types who blame everything on themselves and think their lonely sacrifices will change anything," the leader muttered, then stood up to leave. "Now that we've got that settled, I can sleep a little easier myself. The prince's ship will leave in a few days. You better be ready by then."
"Yes, ma'am," Krile bowed.
With that, Sanada returned to her duties. The young swordsman laid back down in her bed and struggled to fall asleep for the next while. Fortunately, she wasn't as depressed as she was earlier. Perhaps letting someone older and wiser speak to her helped clear her mind of these wild, rampant and immature thoughts that plagued her. Yes, losing Krita to a demon's control was a big shock. Yes, having to fight a god was terrifying. Yet, she could not obsess about it forever. She needed to move on and do what she could to save her only remaining family.
As Krile meditated on these more positive notes, somehow she finally managed to drift asleep.
Three more days passed since Lord Sanada talked to Krile. Fuyukin's citizens were now well-aware of Tadanori's activities and a tense but eventual peace returned. Several disagreed with the takeover and dethroning, but many couldn't help but wonder how Tadanori was able to conquer 80% of the country. Now that Sanada provided those answers, many suspicions could be put to rest and life could return to normal.
During this time, Melvin managed to tempt Krile out of her room and get her walking throughout town. The others were busy helping Sanada spread the news, perform menial government procedures and clear the prince and princesses' names of terrorism, so the pair had a lot of time to themselves.
"Um, Melvin?" Krile stammered, feeling embarrassed for saying this. "If I made you worry, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking about anything but myself."
"Hm? Don't worry about it," he said. "I know it must've been a huge shock to you. If it were me, I'd coop myself in longer and get angrier and angrier until I'd want to explode! I'm impressed you came back out as soon as you did."
"Well, it was mostly Lord Sanada. Otherwise I might have done the same."
"That old woman may be crass, but at least she knows what she's talking about," he said, fumbling to change the subject. "Hey, I found this place you'd like. They sell the best damn dessert around!"
"Dessert? I didn't figure you had a sweet tooth."
"I don't! I wanted to buy you some!"
"You mean to stock up for the voyage? I suppose that would be a sensible idea. I don't know when I will return to Fuyukin," Krile mused, completely missing the point of Melvin's offer.
He reeled for a moment, blushed and thought, Hey, hey, it's no big deal, man. She ain't used to people being nice to her and all that. Not like she's turning you down...
"So where is this place?" she asked.
"It's over here!" the elf exclaimed and snatched her wrist so forcibly that she was caught off guard. They walked for a few minutes, but he didn't loosen up at all.
Krile wondered, "Melvin? Could you let go for a second?"
"What's the matter? We're almost there."
"My hand is turning funny colours."
"Ahh!" he yelped and released her. "Sorry about that! I wasn't thinking!"
"Are you okay? You've been acting weird lately," she asked while rubbing her hand.
"Of course I'm fine! Why the hell would you ask me that!"
"You seem flustered. Did you have a bad experience at a brothel?"
"What!" Melvin paused, stunned that Krile would ask something like that so simply. "Wh-What do you think I am, some kind of deranged skirt chaser! You really need to watch it when you ask questions like that to your friends! You sound like you're accusing me!"
"Oh," Krile blushed, realizing her mistake.
"I know, I know. Just be careful next time. And for the record, I don't hang out at brothels too much. Don't have time or money for that kind of stuff. If I'm gonna fetter some coins, it'll be through gambling."
"That's a relief. Just don't overdo it."
"Hm," the elf smirked and assured himself that she didn't harbour a grudge for the Rizutani mess.He really did feel guilty for putting her in such a humiliating position, and he needed to repay her for her patience.
"Are we almost there yet? The ship departs in a few hours," Krile interrupted him.
"Yeah, we're right there. Damn best place in the entire city, if you ask me!" Melvin exclaimed while bringing her to an open table at a cafe. As she waited for him to return, she sat there and thought about what Sanada said:
"If you intend to break off from those guys, you're kidding yourself."
"Maybe they don't feel important to you, but you're certainly important to them."
"When you get complete strangers like them losing sleep over you, well then you can't call them complete strangers anymore, can you?"
Krile watched Melvin order their food, slowly comprehending what the shogun was trying to say. It seemed like feelgood nonsense upon hearing it, but to see the warrior elf go out of his way to make her feel better was a little invigorating. Perhaps it was from experiencing such traumatizing and exciting situations with her comrades that she felt firmly bonded to them. When she was a child, she always had Krita to hide behind if anyone picked on her.
With that support system gone, having this camaraderie gave her new people to rely on, and equally for them to come to her if they needed help. Krile didn't have to feel abandoned anymore, and Sanada didn't want her to let something that precious go over selfish reasons. She closed her eyes and sucked in a good breath of air, then exhaled for a long while as if to discard whatever remaining doubts she had. It was time to focus on the mission.
"Here we go," Melvin interrupted her meditation, setting a plate of fruit covered pie down in front of her.
"What is this?" Krile wondered, poking at the dessert before her.
She shuddered. "Peach? I've never heard of that before."
"Just eat it! The proprietor Popura here is a genius with them! I swear you won't be disappointed! Even converted a die-hard meat lover like me!"
"If you say so."
She took a few bites of the dessert, then continued scarfing piece after piece down with wild abandon. She didn't realize how hungry she was until now. With each bite, her mood continued to improve as well. Melvin sat there resting his chin and watching her eat with a satisfied smile.
Looks like Sanada talked some sense into her. Krile will be better in no time at all. That's good – once we depart, we'll have one hell of a chase ahead of us. Letting that snarky ruby-thing get away, and him brainwashing her sister, of all things! Bloody unforgivable! For that, I'm gonna give him a thousand deaths, and each one will be more painful than the last!
The dark elf clenched his teeth and gripped the side of the table to control his anger. However, his brute strength caused him to snap off a chunk of wood, and the pair stared at it dumbly.
"... Oops," he cringed.
Aboard the Fiertia that evening, the skies turned dark with the arrival of a calm, temperate night. The party ate dinner together and talked about other things besides the war they just won. It was refreshing to get to know each other over a simple meal like this, and Krile savoured every moment of it. Yet during the while, she kept glancing back at her scabbard and to the sword sheathed within it.
She had been meaning to find some time to speak with Durandal by herself, but everyone kept pestering her to hang out with them during the voyage. She had told everyone about the Swordian's existence. However, she begged the others if she could ask him the hard questions herself when she had the chance. Durandal patiently waited for the right time as well, keeping silent while watching the group converse.
Finally, that opportunity arrived when everyone finished supper. Krile was about to help with the cleanup, but Milei stopped her and said, "You've been staring at your sword all night. You want to go talk to him now?"
"Is that okay? There are so many dishes."
"Go ahead. I'll make Melvin slave away for your share!"
"Hey, why am I being treated as everyone's favourite butt monkey!" the elf yelled from around the corner.
Milei chuckled, then pushed Krile while ushering, "Go on! I want to hear what Durandal has to say, but we'll respect your privacy for tonight."
"Okay," the swordsman nodded and took Durandal with her to find a secluded area. She had also spent some time looking around earlier and had found an unoccupied stable towards the ship's stern. She headed back there again to see if it was occupied. Luckily it wasn't; many passengers and employees had turned in for the night, so there was little chance of her being disturbed.
Krile sat atop a bale of hay and positioned the Swordian in a sort of 'conversation' pose so they could talk to each other eye-to-eye.
"Are you there?" she asked sheepishly.
"I am here," was the muted answer. It felt extremely weird talking to an object that should otherwise never respond.
"I'm, uh... I'm sorry for the wait."
"I am patient. Now is the time to discuss what lies ahead of you, young one."
"Please call me Krile. This whole 'young one' and 'child' business is unsettling."
"Krile, then. You may address me as Durandal."
"Okay," she nodded, then sat there for a bit while trying to think of her first question. "Well first off, who are you exactly? Or rather, who was the man I defeated back there? He wasn't making any sense whatsoever."
"That was my former wielder; Lord Asura, god of combat. As for me, I am a god-slaying sentient weapon called a Swordian."
"It is natural for you not to understand these words. Lord Asura, myself, Ghagiel, and even the Thaumae are beings from a world different than yours, called 'Qlipott'. It is much akin to Sephira."
"Another world like this one..."
"Our populace is on the verge of extinction – I believe there are fewer than a million civilians left all across the planet, and that number decreases with each year."
"That few?" Krile raised an eyebrow. "Just this continent alone is populated with two million."
"Indeed. That is why Lord Asura spoke of uniting Sephira and Qlipott together. That is, he wished to bring the Qlipottians from the dying world to this one."
"Really? How far away is this place? Is it in the uncharted seas?"
"No. You know the stars in the sky your kind observe at night?"
"Yes. No one really knows what they are, other than they exist."
"Those are other worlds."
Krile lost any air in her lungs for a second. Other worlds?
"Our planet Qlipott is one of those infinite stars," Durandal continued. "Likewise, Sephira is but a star to those other worlds. To bring the dying Qlipottians to this world involves traveling a distance equal to sailing across your ocean millions of times – perhaps trillions."
The girl paled, realizing what an insane task it was. But something still didn't make sense.
"You say that, but you and Asura were summoned here through that Thauma, were you not?" Krile asked.
"That was Lord Asura's Thauma that Ghagiel brought with him and installed in Fuyukin later."
"Is it possible to transport humans across worlds using Thaumae?"
If Durandal could shake his head, he would have. "That is impossible. Only we gods can be summoned safely with that method. Humans cannot be transported across the stars with magic – the overwhelming occult power required for the spell will eradicate them before arrival."
"The gods, including Lord Asura, had been searching for a way to safely 'summon' humans from Qlipott to Sephira without such deadly consequences, but with little success. That is when Ghagiel descended upon us, as Lord Asura claimed before passing away."
"You keep saying 'Ghagiel'. Who is that?"
"Recall that red crystal your party encountered, and which your sibling obeys without question. That is Ghagiel, a self-claimed god of memory. Unlike the rest of us deities, Ghagiel does not hail from Qlipott; he is a mysterious deity who arrived upon our world and provided his knowledge of these 'Thaumae' you speak of. None of us know where he originated from, but that information has proven crucial in the hope of moving the Qlipottians to Sephira. But there has been a dire drawback."
"Drawback?" Krile repeated.
"Ghagiel presented this promising information only if the gods agreed that he be in charge of the project. The gods, especially Lord Asura, were willing to give him control if it meant saving the humans. After all, gods cannot exist without the prayers and faith of Qlipott's mortals, or they fall into oblivion. With such levels of worship drastically waning, the gods were desperate to preserve themselves. They had little choice but to agree to Ghagiel's terms."
"He had them trapped in a corner."
"Indeed. Lord Asura believed that Ghagiel could have come sooner with this idea, but perhaps intentionally chose to wait until Qlipott's humans were nearly extinct. With the gods frantic to preserve their existence, it was an excellent opportunity for him. I am not privy to such an opinion, so take that as you will."
"Hm. Go on."
"Now with the gods' approval, Ghagiel spearheaded the Radiant Thauma, a type of light gateway created with two types of Thaumae; an 'exit' on Qlipott, and an 'entrance' on Sephira. I believe Ghagiel is in the process of finalizing the 'entrance' Thauma in the hopes of teleporting the remaining Qlipottians here. However, Ghagiel has been demonstrating some rather... unethical ideas about the whole endeavour."
"I can imagine," Krile scrunched her face in disgust.
"It is unfortunate that the gods are relying on an unknown, otherworldly being for salvation. It is becoming apparent from his activities on both worlds that Ghagiel has his own intentions and will not hesitate to utilize whatever he deems necessary to achieve them."
"What sort of intentions are we talking about?"
"Lord Asura knew of the details but never spoke to me of them. However after your battle with Lord Asura, it has become possible that Ghagiel seeks to betray Qlipott."
The girl sighed. "So basically, everyone has become Ghagiel's patsy but no one knows why."
"Not just a 'patsy' either. Several gods challenged Ghagiel's project in the past, deeming it too extreme or only being propagated for the gods' self-preservation, rather than saving the Qlipottians from extinction. Some even asked him about what he would gain out of it when he is not even from Qlipott. Lord Asura was one of these dissenters, although he believed in uniting the two populations into one on Sephira. However, any who spoke against the Radiant Thauma... were never heard from again."
"What happened to Lord Asura?" Krile wondered worriedly. "Ghagiel summoned him from that giant red Thauma in the palace, so he wasn't dead."
Durandal paused, wondering if he should tell her. She thought he 'fell asleep' and asked him again:
"What happened to Lord Asura? Please tell, Durandal."
He finally murmured, "To answer that is to explain how Thaumae can even exist in the first place."
"What do you mean?"
"A Thauma cannot be made out of nothing. They are binders and controllers of certain elements and concepts that humans can utilize. Now, there are other, greater beings that already control those same elements and concepts. Who do you think they are?"
Krile took a moment to think about this one. Another type of being that could control greater forces. Then it dawned upon her, and the idea suddenly made her sick to her stomach.
"Yes," Durandal whispered. "A Thauma is actually a god's very existence transformed into a crest and fused onto a human or object. As I said, anyone who disagreed with the Radiant Thauma would 'disappear'. That is, Ghagiel used other Swordians to kill the gods, turned them into a Thauma, and then brought them here to Sephira. He must have introduced them to Sephira's magicians afterwards, and have now been integrated in your world's society. I believe you Sephirans recognize ten different Thaumae as common elemental glyphs; all of them were once gods of Qlipott who opposed Ghagiel long ago.
"I fear those ten are not the only ones; Lord Asura suffered such a transformation and became the 'guardian of Fuyukin' - the Asura Thauma. Unlike the other ten, Lord Asura was reserved as Ghagiel's 'personal protector' should he ever desire it. I am almost hesitant to wonder how many other forbidden Thaumae are hidden across Sephira, ready to be utilized against their will."
Krile felt a chill run up her spine. Asura alone was powerful and frightening enough. If there were multiple gods out there as strong as him, Sephira was in serious trouble.
"That is why Lord Asura bequeathed me upon you; so you may destroy these gods before Ghagiel turns them into tools for his ambitions. Unlike the other Swordians, Lord Asura personally commissioned for me to be used to kill Ghagiel, and so now you are the only one in Sephira capable of accomplishing this. Lord Asura's deepest fears have been founded, and he wishes you to bring peace to these fallen gods while silencing Ghagiel's intentions. If nothing is done, Sephira and Qlipott may both perish at his hand without ever understanding why," Durandal finished his explanation.
"I see," Krile whispered sullenly, feeling a tremendous weight pressing down on her.
"Are you willing to accept me as your blade? By doing so, you will also inherit Lord Asura's wishes. This is the desire of an eternal god. Can you bear it despite being an ephemeral human?"
She stared at the intricate sword with little hesitation in her eyes. She gripped Durandal's hilt and held him before her while saying, "All of that may be important to you, but I only have one mission; to see my sister again. If it means having to slay gods, then I will do it. In addition, I may be a citizen of Sephira, but if there is a way to bring the Qlipottians here safely, I will support it, but not for the gods' sake – it is to give those suffering humans a new chance."
"Then I shall be the sword that clears the way to Sephira and Qlipott's victory. Embody Lord Asura's will and use me as you see fit, Krile Shizumori."
She sheathed Durandal, stood back up and exhaled in relief. That was a hell of a lot of information to process, but now she had a far greater understanding of the situation. The real problem was what to do from here. Durandal warned that there could be other gods transformed into taboo Thauma scattered across the world, but Ghagiel sure knew how to hide them. Not to mention that Krita had become his right-hand woman, so Krile didn't want to imagine how much she knew about this otherworldly conspiracy.
Krita kept saying she wanted to make Sephira a world of peace. Perhaps she knows about the Radiant Thauma and Qlipott already. With Ghagiel influencing her, those intentions might be corrupted. He did lie about Lord Izumo using Thauma munitions against his own people.
But why did he pick Krita, of all people...?
The questions just kept piling up, so she rubbed her temples and urged herself to calm down.
No, this isn't good. I can't overanalyze things, or else I'll wear myself out. I need to focus on what I can do, not what Ghagiel and Krita are up to. If Ghagiel is the type to control things behind the scenes, I need to find some sort of disturbance and investigate further. He managed to throw Hieizou into such turmoil, so he can easily do it to other countries.
Krile stepped out of the hay storage and took a short walk across the merchant ship. The warm sea breeze felt refreshing after being in that stuffy room as she watched Hieizou's coastline sail past the ship's port side. Several merchants were nearby discussing business, while a couple romantically gazed upon the sea. She couldn't help but feel envious of their blissful ignorance. Here she was, being told insane things about gods, Thauma, dying worlds, and secret plots that could ruin Sephira's future - all told by a talking sword, no less!
Krile had to let those feelings go. She concentrated on the calm rocking of the boat and Hieizou's land as it passed before her eyes. For now, this was good-bye to her home country. She had never been to any other nation before, but Hieizou was her home. She wanted to return here should she be successful with her grand mission. Even better, she was going to bring Krita home, no matter what.
That's something to look forward to. Even after going through the outrageous moments, sometimes it's best to return to the simpler times.
Lost in the tranquility, the swordsman didn't pay attention to a pair of rushing footsteps behind her. She thought this person was rushing to find someone else, but...
"KRIIIIILE!" a high-pitched feminine voice called out before someone bounced onto Krile's back and gave her a tremendous hug – almost right over the railing that would have plummeted them to a 50-foot fall into the cold waters below! Krile gasped and fought to regain her balance, shoving them both safely off the rails and sweating profusely.
There was only one girl she knew who was immature enough to pull this type of stunt:
"Misha, that was sort of dangerous," Krile shuddered.
"Really?" the princess wondered. "I'm sorry about that. I just saw you standing here and was really happy you got better! At least, I think you're okay. Are you?"
"Yes. Thank you for your concern. I was just watching Hieizou pass by."
"Missing your home already? I didn't think you were the homesick type."
"Sort of, but I can return here anytime I wish."
"That's the spirit! So?" Misha leaned next to her. "Did you talk to your new friend already?"
"That talking sword thingy."
"His name's Durandal. And yes, I managed to get some information out of him."
"Like what!" the magician pleaded as if hungry for the latest gossip.
Krile scratched her chin nervously. If it were only as simple as 'gossip', she would have had no problem telling her.
"It's not something I can talk about in the open. In fact, I'm still having trouble understanding everything he said. It should be saved for when we meet with Queen Sumizome and your father. All I can say is that it's something of dire urgency."
"You mean you can't tell us! That's something I don't like about you, being all quiet and secretive and everything! Couldn't you explain while we're traveling to Galbard's home? If you don't understand it, maybe we can all figure it out together!"
"Um," the swordsman fumbled. "Well, some of this was fairly deep."
"There you go again, making excuses to keep quiet!"
"It's not like I want to hide anything. I just find it kind of overwhelming. But if you guys do want to hear it, I wouldn't hesitate. It would be easiest if I explained when we're all together and far away from port, though. Do you think you can hold off the questions until then?"
"Hmmm! Milei says I'm not the best with patience, but I guess this is a good chance to practice," Misha muttered while folding her arms. "BUT! I'm not going to let you stand around by yourself while the rest of us are having fun! Sis is playing pool against some guys, Bunyan's gone to bed, and Galbard and Melvin are really going at it with chess!"
"Melvin playing a board game? I never imagined him to be like that."
"He keeps losing to Galbard, but he won't quit until he proves himself."
"That figures," Krile rolled her eyes.
"Really, huh? Melvin has lots of pride in himself, and he feels the prince is deliberately challenging it. I keep telling him that isn't true, but he won't listen to me."
"That can't be helped. Besides, I'd imagine Melvin needs something to believe in other than he's an idiot challenging a mastermind."
"Ah! I never thought of it that way..." Misha blinked. "Umm, Melvin was really, really worried about you for a while. I promise I won't tell him what you just said, or he'll be super upset!"
"You make it sound like he was the most worried out of all of you."
"Well, we were all worried, but Melvin just wouldn't shut up about it! He was all 'Krile this' and 'Krile that' the other night, and he kept cursing your sister for trying to kill you over her 'stupid beliefs' or whatever. We had to call a Melodist to use a Fonic Hymn to put him asleep that evening. You know, Galbard offered to play chess with him to get his mind off you."
Krile fell silent, stunned that someone she just met would be that concerned for her. Misha suddenly threw her arm around the nape of Krile's neck and impishly whispered, "You want to know what I think? Melvin's got a huge crush on you!"
Is she for real?
The swordsman blushed, thinking back to Melvin's Peach Pie deal back in Fuyukin. How could she fathom something so juvenile coming from her companion?
"Ah hah hah hah! That's so cute! You really do make the perfect pair! He's a loud, hot-blooded dude while you're quiet and shy! It's like one of those 'opposites attract' couples that-"
"Misha, this isn't the time for such foolishness," Krile cut her off sharply, fighting to clear her cheeks of the shameful redness. She even felt a migraine coming on from the excited girl's perky attitude. "Melvin has a tendency to overdo things. I'm sure that was just another example of his zealousness getting the better of him. If any of us were as injured and upset as I was, he would do the same for them."
"Aww, what a boring excuse!" Misha pouted.
"Boring or not, that's what I'm going with," her partner said, while thinking, Besides, an impulsive man like Melvin having romantic affections for me presents a whole new set of problems, and I already have enough of those as it is. I can't let Misha run around with such wild ideas.
"So it's just the two of us! What do you want to do?" the princess grabbed Krile's arm like a giddy schoolgirl.
"I need to take a bath."
"Oh yeah! All of this adventuring hasn't left us any time for pampering, has it? I hear the baths on this cruise are to die for! There's a massage parlour as well! Then after that, it's a manicure and pedicure. I keep forgetting if a manicure is for fingernails or toenails... I think it's for toes. I'll have to ask Sis later – she knows everything. Oh, I hope they have good bodyguards there. I don't want the guys to peep in on us while we're naked. It's so embarrassing, don't you think?"
Misha continued her incessant babbling while dragging the reluctant Krile with her to the bathhouse. All the swordsman wanted to do at this point was dip into the warm water and fall asleep, but the healer's yammering would likely make that impossible. At least the rest of the trip to Sumizome would be this relaxing and uneventful. Krile opted to take advantage of the break while she could.
After all, Krita was still out there.
HIEIZOU ARC: END