Chapter 14

Without Oliver's quick natured cunning and the good fortune of his sensory magic, Erwin doubted they'd have made it a block down the street before finding death. Thankfully, the round assassin, oily skin flushed red with effort, could taste emotions like a snake tastes scents and used that power to lead them slowly through Tent Town's labyrinth of canvas and brick. They even managed to steal along the way, donning disguises—smudging their faces with dirt… brandishing caps and keeping their heads down.

Erwin doubted it'd last long, but he needed time before he could use his magic again.

So the two went from looking like cloaked warriors, crusaders on a sacred mission, to casual citizens in loose trousers and long sleeved shirts, both of which clung to their forms with a severely baggy drape. Erwin promptly disposed of their old clothes, dumping his duster and cloak into one of the storm drains while Oliver followed suit.

Erwin pinched face narrowed his eyes, certain that he now wore some new bruises alongside his new wardrobe. But as awful as he felt there, he was sure that he didn't look as bad as poor Oliver. Those eyes of his were puffy and bruised, swelling with a bulbous purple welt. The sadistic frog looked more like a well-used a punching bag than a man and Erwin had to fight to keep from laughing.

"That's rare." Oliver murmured, righting himself as they lingered beside some shady brick building. "Given our failures tonight, I doubted I'd feel any amusement from you."

Erwin just shrugged, "I'm thinking about how often you got knocked around today. Them kids sure gave you a beating, huh?"

"Quiet you." Oliver hissed back, dabbing at his black eye with the hem of his oversized shirt. "I was testing an experimental substance and… grew careless. It will not happen again."

"An experiment? During such a crucial time?"

"I will achieve my mission the way I know how." He said flatly. "Besides, you were hardly any help either. The creature escaped you too. Then you proved too weak to pursue them, resulting in us being ambushed. Now we're forced to hide in a den of wolves while you—bah." Oliver flicked the air with his hand, "imbecile."

"They were lucky is all." Erwin looked down at his hand, the magic fire drained of its heat temporarily. It would come back, it always did—but he didn't have the luxury of taking a long pleasant nape. If he wanted to find them, he needed sustenance. All magic wore down on something, and his ate away at his body's nutrients.

"Lucky you say?"

"I would've torn up every bit of concrete and pipe to get them if I was able." He huffed and pressed himself back against the hard wall. It was chilled by nightlight. "It was the red haired stranger's fault. If I had not encountered him, I would have been able to erase the boy from existence."

"Indeed." Oliver drew in a deep sigh. "But he was important to these people. Simply look around. We're here hiding here licking our wounds while an entire city of cloaked insects scurry in the darkness searching for us. We have made many enemies tonight, so we need to play our next few moves with intelligence."

Erwin said nothing and just thought back on the memory of that boy and girl cowering there. They didn't look like fearsome harbingers of death and doom. They looked like two very dirty, upset, frightened teenagers who had no idea what was going on. And there was that boy on the floor…

"They were enemies before we met them." He growled, trying to convince himself. No matter how he felt, there was a dark magic at work. Manipulation of world ending proportion was at play and he needed to stay vigilant—dedicated to his training, and his objectives.

So he turned his purple gaze back on Oliver.

"What were their names?"

"The girl with the short hair was Nadira." Oliver answered, still wiping at his beaten, misshapen face, "and the boy who seems to be the Vessel, is called Ashur."

Ashur. Erwin committed the name to memory. He was just a scrawny waste of space, a teenager with a mess of uncombed cowlicks, a lazy, determined face, and a clueless gleam in his green eyes. He was just a kid, too young to be a man but too old to be a child. Even without his magic, Erwin imagined he could kill the boy with ease.

"We're hunting children." Erwin ultimately decided, grunting. "You okay with that?"

"Of course." Oliver drew his hands together and smiled, "I am not pleased by it, but choosing a younger vessel might have been a strategic choice. It considers us too weak minded and flexible to take the life of a young one. Well, the evil is wrong. You and I, our feelings for one another aside, will do as we were trained to do and fight to keep the Five Kingdoms alive. This creature wants everything we love to perish and if it is left alone, it will surely strike the Heartland and achieve just that."

"I… I know that." Erwin replied, surprised by Oliver's sudden assurance. "It's just sad is all. I don't enjoy killing, and killing kids? Now that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth… but, if that's what we gotta do, then so be it. It's just… well, its unfortunate is all."

"Yes. Truly, utterly unfortunate." Oliver pressed a thumb over one nostril and blew blood and snot out of the other. "So let us finish it off once and for all. I've directed us to where the search is less focused so we are safe but that man's soldiers move as one and will surely catch up."

Erwin's belly rumbled and although he felt a twinge of magic. If he could only summon it again…

"I need dinner."

"Dinner?"

"Yea, that's what I said. Dinner" Erwin rubbed his stubble, "we've got the funds for it don't we?"

Oliver nodded but gestured to the empty space beside him, hands open, palm facing up. "I know you said you needed time to recharge, but surely you do not mean to sit down and actually eat something…"

"That is exactly what I plan on doing. And yea," he fixed his stare sternly on his chubby face, "I'll be getting appetizers."

"We've got a monster under the city planning who knows what, and you want to eat a scrumptious dinner?"

"Need, to eat a scrumptious dinner." Erwin corrected him, ignoring his sharpness. "It can't get out of the city, not in the next hour, and I'm sure it'll need to rest just like we do. Hunting isn't' always about who runs the fastest and goes without the most rest. So just trust me on this and lets find a place with a good ribeye."

Oliver rolled his eyes but ultimately relented, turning toward the alleyway beside them. "If you absolutely must eat in order to be useful to me again, then let us hurry. I will find us a safe place."

Erwin pushed off the wall and moved with him, trying to steady his breathing as his sore form moved along the narrow pathways. Thanks to their recent assassination, they had to stick to the shadowy canvas and alleyways. If they tried to take one of the brightly colored main roads, they'd surely be caught. Once in a while however, as Oliver navigated a sea of rage and anger, he would stop them and slip to the side, urging for him to follow with the same swiftness.

Erwin did just that when able, and no later than five seconds after, men in bright scarlet cloaks rushed by, flying before them with the grace of cardinals.

"If they end up catching us," Erwin grunted, thoughtful, "we might not make it out of here."

Oliver said nothing and pressed on, and thanks to him, they didn't stop until the two of them had a plate of steak chopped rice and gravy steaming in their mouths. It was seasoned just the way he liked it and the brown gravy stained the rice a satisfying golden-brown. Erwin had two portions, and paid well for extra meats, ensuring that he got just what he wanted until he was nearly throwing up from fullness.

"This place has good cooks." Oliver breathed steam after his last bite and pat his stomach. "It is worth protecting."

"It does and it is." Erwin agreed, cracking a toothy grin as magic surged through him again. Like a tank of gas being burned away with use, the food in his body rapidly broke apart turning into magic that crackled along his skin. At once he turned to Oliver and with the ease of a thought, erased his exhaustion and his injuries, returning the blubbery bastard to his original, fully charged self.

"Ah… much better." Oliver stretched his arms out before offering a slimy grin, "now… let us act, and do try to avoid giving up halfway through."

"I didn't give up." He argued back, "and if you say that again, I might just erase your voice by accident."

Oliver eyed him warily before huffing. "Then let us be off. Follow closely and do not fall behind."

Erwin nodded and that was it. Oliver simply licked his lips with a snaky hiss, only to cheerfully step out toward the blue road leading to the Azurian gates. The kingdom was one of great knowledge but it had a mighty military. Going there was dangerous without the right papers…

"He is going there?"

"I do not know… but there is a profound hatred in this direction and it seems to be placed at everything around it. It's so noticeable to me… a bon fire of rage. It is the best place to start. Don't you think?"

Erwin nodded and let his magic flow through him, readying it.

He would never let that boy escape him again—but maybe… just maybe he didn't have to kill him. He could erase almost anything, and he could get specific when needed. If the boy was willing to see reason and let him, Erwin figured he might just be able to erase the power inside him altogether. If he did that, then they could let them live.

Nobody had to die.

He knew he couldn't take away what happened to that other boy, but he was willing to do whatever it took to achieve his Order's mission.

Anything it took. So he truly hoped that when they encountered him again he would turn to the light.

"Alright Oliver. Let's go save the Five Kingdoms."