I see the future.

More accurately, I see many futures, too many to count.

Thousands of possibilities, each potentially worse than the last, with a few that perhaps stand out as being positive.

Then I make a choice. Is it worth ensuring that one good future comes to pass? Is it worth killing, lying, and doing other horrible things to ensure a greater good is achieved?

That question, that choice is what it means to be the Oracle, really, and no matter how terrible, how gut-wrenching it may become…it's one I have to make.

OOO

"…Ugh." As I stared up at the ceiling of my small room, my body drenched in sweat as I worked to calm my rapid, uncontrollable breathing, I knew at least one thing about my situation.

"Being the Oracle fucking sucks." Not once since Everyn had I managed a peaceful night of sleep, with every minute of rest I'd caught in the years since plagued by visions of terrible truths and warnings of a dreary future.

Throwing aside the linen sheets, which were equally soaked in my sweat, I pulled off my clothes and threw them towards the floor as I eyed the cup of water on the nearby dresser.

Sliding off the rickety bed, I grabbed the cup and dumped its contents on my head, sighing in relief as the cold water ran down my bare skin.

It had been a particularly long night, and what I remembered of the dreams, most had been equally unpleasant.

*KNOCK KNOCK*

"It's me, Verner. Just checking to see if you're up, Miss Lovett." A muffled voice echoed from behind the wooden door to her room, and I waited before answering. He was a young man, working for the family business of this small, quaint inn that I was staying at. It had become clear he'd taken up a particular crush on me on the night I'd arrived, eager to speak with me until I'd politely excused myself.

"I'm up. Please don't come in, I'm getting changed." I answered, approaching the dirty mirror hanging from the wall nearby. Aside from a few new scratches from my travels, my body looked and felt exactly the same as it did five years ago…even down to the wretched gash running down my shoulder from the lethal axe wound I'd once taken. My hair refused to grow longer on its own, and even when cut it merely re-grew itself to regain its original length. The tattoos on my arms and legs remained where they had for years, of course, and had not faded much since I'd originally gotten them long ago on Earth. I was a woman frozen in time, doomed never to age.

The only thing that had ever changed were my eyes, once a dark brown and now an unnatural purple to always show what I had become, and what others would try to kill me for.

"Of c-course, Miss Lovett. I'll have breakfast ready for you q-quickly!" Verner let out an embarrassed cough before stumbling off, his footsteps obvious from behind the door.

"I didn't ask for breakfast." I shook my head in mild amusement, a smile cracking on my face as I turned to look at my satchel, which I'd left on the floor. "Enough admiring, Sasha. We've got work to do today."

I always dressed in the simple garb of a traveler, a dark woolen coat and trousers with a hooded cloak and gloves. The less that people saw of me, the better. Nobody yet knew that the Dark Oracle was among the people of the kingdom of Kronz, and it was better that way.

"I guess I understand why Dietrich was always so secretive. Everyone wanted to kill him just for existing, and that's before he turned into a mass murdering lunatic." Finally dressed and comfortable, I ventured out of my room at last, only to meet Verner at the stairs.

"O-Oh! Miss Lovett! Your, uh, your food is ready." He held a platter of steaming eggs and a fresh bread roll.

"Damn it." I'd hoped to avoid running into him and have an early start, but no such luck.

"…Thank you, Verner. I'll take my meal downstairs." I thanked him, taking the plate as he followed me eagerly. Sadly, I was one of very few patrons at the inn, leaving the young man to sit with me and attempt a conversation as I quietly ate.

"So, uh, you never did say. Where are you headed?" He asked brightly, ignoring my disinterest in meeting his gaze.

"The Nexus." Though lying had occurred to me, I had learned quickly that Kronz was a kingdom that valued security, with guards often questioning travelers on the road and anyone they might deem suspicious. If I was caught in a lie, it would only exacerbate the dangers of making my way towards the fortress of the Order of Paladins.

"Oh really? What for? Nobody ever goes there unless they're…are you looking to be a paladin?" He asked excitedly, and I resisted the urge to groan between bites of my bread.

"Yeah." I lied, hoping to sate his curiosity and earn a modicum of silence…but to no avail.

"Aren't you a bit old? I mean, n-no offense. You look great! I mean…wait, no, that's not what I…" He stammered, his face turning red as he struggled to correct himself, and I finally set my fork down with a sigh.

"Look, uh, Verner…I'm not the sort of girl you're looking for." I rubbed my eyes tiredly. "I'm not into guys, and I'm really not looking for that sort of thing right now."

"W-Wait, what? That's not what I…" His eyes went wide as dinner plates, and I rolled my own. My patience had grown thin, and I was ready to be done with the conversation.

"Go talk to the red-haired girl you stare at every morning and evening. The baker's girl, Cyan. She's got a crush on you." He was too shocked to notice my eyes as they glowed, his future rushing through my head. "Go invite her to take a walk with you and tell her how you feel. You'll get married and have three children, all of whom you'll adore."

Wiping my mouth with my sleeve as Verner blankly stared at me, flabbergasted and unable to response as I patted him on the shoulder.

"Thanks for the breakfast, Verner. Don't ever try Red Dragon Ale, you'll get drunk and break your right leg jumping off the roof of the inn." Pulling my hood up, I left a few copper coins on the table in front of him, to pay for the food if nothing else.

Thankfully, due to the lack of other patrons, I was undisturbed on my way out, and I got on the black horse I'd bought from a market in Reicherwall with no disruptions.

Silence was something I'd grown to deeply enjoy over the years. Most conversations bored me, and most people that attempted to speak to me nowadays intended to either kill me or take advantage of me. For the latter, I was quick-witted enough to evade trouble in most forms…and a flash of my rapier was enough to discourage the former.

I had not come to this world to make friends, anyway. I had come for one, specific reason…or rather, a person, and though I didn't fully understand why yet…I knew it was only a matter of time before I did.

"Whoever you are, it's time for us to meet…Cross Steinbacht."