The next day you wake up with a missing memory and a major headache. At the same time, you feel justified with whatever happened. That is until Kein slaps you. You don't have the slightest idea why that is but for whatever reason, that's probably why Kein refuses to talk to you at all. As much as you try to apologize, it has no effect on the situation.
"Well, now," An old man's cracked voice enters the scene. "You sure now how to hold a bottle, huh, sonny," The man laughs. Somehow, he seems familiar but at the same time, you have no idea who he is or where you are. What you do know is that you have a killer headache and you want some sort of medicine or treatment for it. That was perhaps the first time you've ever gotten drunk making this your very first hangover. In a way, you feel that's another call for celebration but look where that's gotten you.
"What happened?" you rub your head. It's a stupid question but at least it's an honest one. You genuinely have little to no recollection of whatever happened last night.
"You got smashed, is what happened!" Kein shouts. That was the first phrase she's said to you all day.
As you try to recall whatever it was that happened, the old man explains to you what happened after you had fall asleep on him.
"You're a pretty big fellow. You've got a lotta good muscle on you, that's for sure." The old man leans in closer to whisper a short phrase to you. "This young lady is a very fine woman. Take good care of you, hear?"
You obediently nod. He slips you a cup of water which you thank him for. As you drink the water, you hear the explanation change into a ramble. It's quite humorous.
"So I was saying, you guys are welcome to stay as long as you like, don't-"
Kein slaps you again. "This is all your fault!" she bellows into your face. It's not like you intended to get drunk. It just happened. At the same time, you are to blame. You watch her storm off. Your mother had always warned you about upsetting a woman. It seems you just weren't be very careful this time.
The old man croaks into a laugh. "She's probably upset that you guys are staying here. Please, don't be bashful. It's not often that we get visitors."
You look pass the man to see the doorway that Kein walked through. She has all the right to be upset. After all, you did expose yourselves by puking all over the place. As much as you want to make it up, Disarest is not the place to be. You look at yourself.
"Oh, we already took off your clothes to be washed," He leaned in again. "Your pants had barf on them so I took them off myself. They're all in the wash right now. Lucky you had a spare change, huh," He croaked again.
You turn red but still maintain a straight face. This old guy was really weird. Kind but weird. As nice as it would be just to go back to sleep, there was a lot to do. There was no way Kein would let you stay here. It's not like you wanted to impose on this man more than you already have. You try to stand up but the man makes a strange smile that keeps you still.
"If you're worried about the damages, they'll never find you here. We're across the river."
You look at the old man. He grinned at you in such a way, you felt a shiver down your spine.
"That bridge doesn't do anyone any good. They say it connects the two parts of Disarest together but that's a joke. They might as well destroy the thing."
Like a magnet, your butt just seems to attract itself back to the bed. You listen carefully to the old man.
"There's no difference between this side and that. I don't even understand why we're so divided myself."
It was most likely just a geographical difference. But that wouldn't be right. It's not like the river was particularly wide. In fact, both mountains were practically twins. So why would such a small river make such a large difference?
"I'm sorry sir, but-"
"Solon. Solon Cosmos. Pleasure," He shook your hand quickly as to allow you to continue.
"Solon, but it wouldn't be good for us to stay here."
"Oh don't worry about it. I already know what you guys are." His smile seemed distant. His voice became hollow. You could hear him swallow whatever it was that was stuck in his throat. But at the same time, it felt like it was still there. "I don't think," his voice became dark and low. It was barely but a whisper. "that poor little lady understands the reason I'm helping you. Please give this old man one last favor and humor him,"
You almost want to pity him. This old man was empty. His house was silent yet there was clear evidence that someone else must have resided here with him. Whoever they were, they most definitely were not living in this house anymore. Whatever it was that his old guy wanted, it was best that you let him do whatever he wanted.
"I'll talk to Kein. I can't promise anything though," You respond calmly.
"Is that her name? She wouldn't say a single word to either of us!" Solon laughed and slapped his knee. It was such an geezer thing to do, you couldn't help but smile. "She has a lovely name, though," He looked over his shoulder.
Kein peeked her head. She still glared at you but at the same time, she was worried. Solon was right about what he had said about Kein. You agreed with everything he had said. You smiled at her which only seemed to make her even angrier. Nonetheless, you motioned her to come over.
"I figured you were eavesdropping on us," Solon announced. It's not like you would've noticed considering how much your head was still throbbing. But compared to the other injuries you've sustained in battle, this was nothing. "So what do you say on this matter?"
"I'd rather leave as soon as possible!" Kein exchanged glances with you. If Solon had already figured out who you were, it'd be best to make haste. He'd understand too. You say not a word.
"I don't need you to stay long. Just a few days. I'll even help you restock. It's been so long since there was any sort of life in this household…" He seemed so sad when he spoke. At this point, he was practically begging for you and Kein to stay.
"Then travel with us if you want to be with us so badly," you blurt out. You glance at Kein. She's just as flustered as she is confused. Nobody was expecting that, not even you. "If you know who we are, you'd understand why we must make haste."
Solon paused. The ticking of the clock was dreadful in the silence. "Yes. I think that seems reasonable. I shall travel with you. However, I ask that you stay inside for today. We'll leave in the afternoon or the evening. I need to run some errands."
Neither of you can decline such a simple request. "Whatever's mine is yours. I'll be back as soon as I can," the old man hobbled off and left you with Kein.
"I knew I got wasted last night and puked but did anything else happen?"
"No…" Kein mumbled. Her eyes were averted from you. When you tried to look at her she hit you again. "Stop! That's really embarrassing!"
You backed off with a sneer. Oh. So that's what it was. It's been almost a year since Kein moved in with you forcefully. It was indeed a surprise for both of you. You were still trying to settle into a new lifestyle before Kein came along. Back in Necestia, the two of you simple coexisted in your own little space. You both had to work so it's not like there was much of a relationship formed. It wasn't until you had left that you guys finally befriended each other. But now it seems to be a new story.
"Hmph!" Kein puffed. She was too cute; it was too hysterical. You burst out. "Hey! It's not funny!"
"Kein, I just want you to know that you're very important to me," You grasp her hand. Her hand is just as cold as yours. You both are in the same boat. And it's not like you have anyone else either. From now until you die, whenever that will be, it's just the two of you together. You smile gently before pecking her hand.
She hit you again. Her face was so red, you thought it'd turn purple at any second. That's if she didn't turn into a beet head first. "You're an idiot but you're all that I got left." She clenched onto your hand. You blushed a little too. You hadn't felt this warm since last night. But it was a tingly kind of warmth that made you feel good. And for a long moment, the two of you just sat there hold hands. Even if you were facing each other, you didn't need to look at her to know how she felt. It was right there in her hands, her cold dying hands.
You sighed. You tried to slip away from Kein to take a bath. You still smelled a little like barf and ale. Kein was reluctant but she did slip out of your hands. You ask Kein to map out the route out of the mountains and onto the next location. And if there was anything among the collection of novels encasing this house in knowledge, she should look into that myth you were chasing after.
While you were soaking in the bath tub by your lonesome, you spent some time thinking. You feel as though you have come a long way. You and Kein especially have grown such a strong relationship because of the desperate situation. It's come to the point where battle without her just isn't natural anymore. Every little magical boost does indeed help. With just a quick glance, you can tell exactly what she's thinking.
As your knowledge of the world grows, the less you know. It is obvious that the more you travel, your insides are turning blacker. Indeed, it is evident that your strength is decreasing every day. Your hands are almost an ivory color. No matter how long you stay in the sun, there is no helping the fact that you will continue to get paler and paler. The hallucinations as sporadic as they are, they're becoming more frequent. Allergies have also become a new pain for you to deal with as well as other minor sicknesses. You have become so unhealthy these past months yet you have learned to deal with it. So long as you continue your journey and practice healthier habits, you know everything will be okay.
But then there was Kein. As you became weaker, Kein has become stronger. Her spell casting time has increased significantly since the beginning. Not only that, she's also learned some more summons on the way. Her healing does not seem to be very advanced but whatever little you can get does go a long way. To compensate, her summons are no laughing matter. To summon just a fraction of the gods' powers must require a lot of skill and energy. Her strength is most definitely her most admirable point.
You wash your hair thoroughly. It feels good to be rid of all that grime, grease and barf. You feel much better as you smell much cleaner too. You wonder when your clothes will be done washing too. It's not like you don't have a few extras to spare but the one outfit you wear the most often is the one that Kein crafted for you herself. After all this time you've spent with Kein, it was clear that she had developed something of a crush for you.
Thinking about it like that, you are unsure of how you feel yourself. Yes, both of you have gone through all sorts of adventures together, the two of you have been living and traveling together for over a year. Of course, she was cute. But at the same time, you were never very good with women in the first place so you avoided dating as much as possible. Although you were popular, you were still a farm boy so it's not like you had much experience with women of higher class such as Kein.
The Angel's Curse however, was almost a blessing in the sense that it gave victims a new start on an equal playing field. There was no way a wealthy person could buy their way out of a quarantine let alone sneak some illegal money to receive a vaccine that still doesn't exist. Because of all that, you were able to meet Kein. But could you say you loved her? For the most part, you treated her more like a younger sibling, considering the closest to one you had was your cousin. But remembering the time spent with Melodus, it was then you almost acted like a real couple, even if it was just an act. For that year that you've spent with her, she could definitely be considered your family, even if you aren't blood related. Yeah. That was it. You loved her like family. How awkward it must be for her sometimes.
After your bath, you continued to relax. You tried to take in as much water as you could. Your headache was still bothersome but still, you tried to hide it. Otherwise, Kein would get angry again. Solon spent almost the whole day out of the house. You are curious as to what he was doing all day. You and Kein do find some time to go out to eat as well as some super quick supply shopping.
"Welcome back," you and Kein greet Solon simultaneously.
"Thank you. Sorry I was out all day. I'm not as quick as I was back in the day. I had to do some shopping as well as deliver some things. Come here you two. I've bought each of you some new things," He beckons you to come. You feel guilty for taking it. Kein is the same.
"Oh, you didn't have to," Kein received a new bag. Inside, there was some new clothes and equipment as well as a new staff.
"But I wanted to. That old thing won't last much longer. You're a summoner, aren't you?" Solon grinned. "Oh and I also picked up some medicine for you. I figured that the one you were currently taking would be wearing off." From his pocket, he hands you a folded paper package. "Mix it in your water and drink it."
You want to examine what is in the package to figure out what kind of medicine it is but Solon stops you by handing you your own new bag. It's very stylish and suits you quite well. "Thank you very much, Solon," You slip the medicine into your pocket to examine the rest of its contents.
"You're quite welcome, sir." Solon begins to explain the features of both your bags. "I was able to find a magical bag. It'll be much easier to carry your items. It can hold fifty items each."
Out of your bag, you pull out your new armor as well as a brand new bow. Your jaw drops in awe. It is such a fine piece. You almost don't want to use it. You want to thank him but at the same time you're speechless. You go in to change into your new equipment. You feel fresh and new.
"May I ask why you did all of this?" You ask him as politely as possible. Still, you feel rude for asking. Perhaps you shouldn't have asked in the first place.
"You may detest me for this but it was out of pity…" You look over to Kein who avoids your glance. Solon continues. "I had a daughter who was lost to the Curse. My wife passed of sadness. That is why I need someone to humor a dying, old man."
There was a deep silence. With that story being told, you almost pitied the man, too. It would be very difficult to say no. But you couldn't bring another person with you if they couldn't fight. Even if it was just you and Kein, there was no way you could protect another person. Kein motions you to come over.
In a hushed huddle, you discuss your plans with Kein.
"I think it's too late to really be traveling. Though I'd rather leave as soon as possible," You voice your opinion. "I wouldn't wanna make an old man lead us around in the dark," you say in a hushed tone.
"I agree. I think we can spend one more night here."
Then it occurred to you that you guys were also running outta money. You shuffle through your pockets as you dig out your wallet. There is 200 geld left between the both of you. You show your emptying wallet to Kein.
"I think we can spend a few more nights here. And we are NOT taking any money from Solon." Kein waves her finger at you. It's not like you had intended to take any money from him in the first place. "Tomorrow we're gonna have to work extra hard and extra fast to make some extra cash. Got that? Let's rest for now. Tomorrow's going to be busy. I want to get up as early as possible. First to wake up wakes the other, got that?"
You nod. Solon gives each of you your own room. You insist that you cook dinner for the night. Hesitantly, Solon allows you to cook a small meal. After having very little to eat in the past month, you and Kein eat a lot while trying to restrain yourself. It is difficult but there is enough leftover food to last you until lunch tomorrow.
The night is unsettlingly quiet. Solon had already gone to sleep. Kein had went to bed earlier too. But you could not sleep. There was something that didn't feel right. It was too peaceful. It's not like you were complaining about that but there was a stillness around you that made you uncomfortable. You lay in bed with your eyes wide up. If something does go wrong, it's best to stay alert.
There's a low rumble. It's almost like an earthquake but more subtle. You peek out the window. It's pitch black. Not a single light is lit. The stars in the sky seem to be shrouded in the darkness. You know something's out there. "Not good, not good," you repeat to yourself. As much as you had hoped this wouldn't happen, it almost was inevitable.
You change quickly into proper battle attire. When you open the door, Kein is already there. "Eep!" she yelps. You jump back a little, too. You were just about to wake her up. In the dim light, you see her already changed. "C'mon. Let's go."
As quietly as possible, you shut the door tightly. Before you close it completely, you take one last glance inside to double check Solon. You wouldn't want him to worry about you after all he has done for you and Kein. Kein already has left but you double check the house for when you have to return back home.
"Kein!" You call out.
"Just as I thought. It's the Shade. Do you think we'll make it?"
"I don't know," you reply. You scan the area. The Shade is hard to make out. This time it takes the shape of a blob creature. It's disgusting form chills you. Its foul fumes fill your nostrils making you a little nauseous. You try to find its beady yellow eyes.
"There!" You shoot an arrow at the shapeless creature but it has little effect. "What?!" You step backwards. The monster didn't even flinch. Not even a little. Did it even take any damage at all? You bite down on your lip. No. Now was not the time to be distracted. You needed to cover Kein while she was casting. You dig through your bag for anything that would be useful. After scrambling in the dark, you light a match.
You set your arrow aflame to shoot it immediately at the monster. This time, it flinches but only a little bit. "Yes!" Just as your hopes go up, the monster extinguishes the fire just as quickly as it does your confidence. "tch" You try to attach some homemade explosive to your arrow. As it comes closer to the monster, the monster absorbs the arrow with its gooey hands. "Gross!" You look at Kein who is still concentrating. You feel helpless. You rummage through your bag again to see if you have anything else to use. You grunt in desperation. Already you are on the verge of tears.
As you are too distracted, you do not notice the approaching slime. "Watch out!" Kein screams. You try to draw your sword but do not make it in time. The Shade has touched you. Your breathing becomes heavy. Around you, you see the souls of rotting men as they attempt to swallow you, bit by bit. You cannot move your arm to swing your sword and begin to panic. "N-no! Get away from me!"
In that instant, there is a flash of lightning. The spirits recede quickly. The Shade yowls in pain. You fall backwards. Already you are drenched in cold sweat. You feel as if you could have froze at any second. You scramble to find a potion to restore your strength. Already, you hear Kein resuming her summon.
But before you can even turn to your bag, already, you feel yourself recovering. Who is casting this magic? You hop up and turn around.
"Solon?!" You shout in surprise. "What're you doing? Go back!" You dash over to Solon.
"Ho ho ho. You underestimate me," Another bolt strikes right behind you. Is he..? "Worry about yourself first. Hold still," He waves his staff over your sword.
You stare in awe as your sword turns a burning red. You can feel the heat radiate from it. What did he do?
"Go on. I'll cover Kein for you. Try that enchantment. If that doesn't work, I know a few more. I've been a wizard long enough to still have a few tricks up my sleeve," He shooed you away and rushed towards Kein.
As much as you'd like to know how he figured you were gone, now was not the time. If you did not handle the situation now, who knew what would happen to the Shade.
You slash and stab at the blob. With each crash against its shadowy figure, flames burst upon impact. A fire attribute! It doesn't seem to be taking very much damage either way. You look back helplessly at the two casters.
"I'm on it!" Kein shouts to you. Already, you feel an improvement in your strength. Instinctively you try again. You grunt as you slash downwards upon its black flesh. The gash you create pours out not blood but something reminiscent of spirits. But still, the wound seals up instantly.
You leap backwards. This is not affecting this thing at all. "I-I don't think physical attacks work on this thing!" You feel exasperated. You don't know what to do. Should you keep trying to hit it? Even with the little damage you can do?
"Aren't you glad I came?" Solon teases.
As you rummage through your bag again, you hear you name called. But by then it's too late. "Argh!"
The monster snatches your leg and drags you away. Your heart beats faster than it has ever before. It becomes hard to breathe. You are beyond terrified. You pant and you cry. You are drenched in tears and sweat. The black liquid becomes a continuous trail merging with the shadows of the monster. The wailing sounds of dying spirits burns into your ears. You feel unusually chilly. No, not chilly, freezing cold. Deathly cold. You swing your sword aimlessly but it slips through like slicing air.
"I got you!" Solon grabs hold of your hand just as you were about to slip into the darkness. From his own staff, he freezes the Shade and breaks you out of his grasp. You scramble as fast as you can towards him just as he pulls you out of its grasp. The two of you retreat. "Kein!" Solon shouts. "He needs a blessing!"
"Okay!" Kein shouts back.
All the while, you are trying to catch your breath. You can't let yourself fall again. "Solon," you pant. "Enchant my bow. I'm not going that close ever again."
After he gives your bow an ice enchant, you try to barely manage to stand up. And when you try to draw back, you hear a blood-curdling screech. The ghosts that scratch and beg for your flesh are crying. The only light shines down on the three of you. You feel refreshed. Its gentleness cleansed you of the fear.
"Are you going to be ok?" Solon pats you on the back. You give him a good nod.
The battle continues. You shoot from afar as the two magicians continue to cast their spells. The more damage your party deals, the louder the creature screeches. You feel encouraged to continue despite your failing strength. "Just a little more," you breathe with every arrow you draw back.
Eventually the Shade falls backwards. But as if it were a ghost, it simply phases through all the homes and buildings. And as if none of this were real, you see the light return to the sky. The darkness collapses just as you do.
You smile lightly. You did your best and now it's over. All of the pent up tension disperses from your mind. You fall to your knees then to your face. Your eyes feel heavy and you can barely focus.
"Stay with me!" Kein's muffled voice shouts. But it's pointless. You pass out anyhow.