079 Encounters · 14
Stumbling forward deeper into the forest canopy that she had landed in, Chain dragged her sword along the ground. The whispering of the Lucifalz and the image of the dragon of Darkness that filled her vision dulled her senses. She could not think for herself at all, her desire to put an end to the whispering driving her forward. Unfortunately, this meant that she did not hear Squawk at first and the nāti raised his voice indignantly.
“ARE YOU ACTUALLY HAVING THE GALL TO IGNORE ME⁈ I DON’T CARE HOW HARD IT IS FOR YOU TO FUNCTION RIGHT NOW, IF YOU DON’T WANT ME RAISING MY VOICE ANY LOUDER THEN YOU’D BETTER RESPOND YOU IDIOT‼”
Squawk’s voice was a powerful tool indeed, perhaps too powerful, as this time Chain heard it. It sounded distant to her through the whispers, but she could tell that it came from behind her and not from within the whispers. Turning around unable to believe that Squawk had made it to her current location, she saw him sure enough strike a gloating pose as Maye seemed impressed by him. Chain could not hear Maye at all over the whispering, but even focusing beyond the image of the dragon was a difficult task and Chain could barely stay standing. Her plight was lost on Maye and Squawk but Drop and her were one, so for the spirit it was an easy matter to understand. Drop did not settle for simple understanding however and swam through the air in a hurry to reach Chain. Chain looked at her confused as her double reached her and was about to say something but stopped as Drop grabbed her forehead as best as she could in relation to her size. With Chain’s forehead in her grip, Drop leaned her head and whole body back as far as she could. Chain recognized the action and panic set into her eyes. Before she could retreat or reach up to block her double, Drop lunged forward with all that she was and smashed her forehead into Chain’s. The cracking sound from the collision could be heard clearly by Maye and Squawk before they even came close to catching up with Drop and Chain. Maye winced in response and questioned Squawk about it as he showed no response while watching Chain fall to her knees clutching at her forehead.
“What exactly was that?”
“Nothing surprising considering this idiot. With a skull as thick as hers it’s no wonder we heard the collision back here. Though it does seem that the mini idiot has the advantage, seeing as she is able to apply that denseness to a more concentrated point. However, I have no intention of being distracted by this pitiable scene.”
Walking ahead of Maye, Squawk angrily placed his hands on his hips. As he reached Chain who was still coddling her forehead, He leaned in over her and raised his voice again.
“I HOPE YOU CAN HEAR ME NOW YOU IDIOT! AND YOU BETTER BE READY! I’VE AN EARFUL FOR YOU FOR THE SHEER IDIOCY THAT YOU’VE MANAGED SINCE I TAUGHT YOU ABOUT MAGIC!”
“Awawawawawawa~~~~~! Please don’t yell Squawk. I don’t know how, but I can hear again just fine.”
“Harrumph! Is that so⁈”
Harrumphing loudly, Squawk doubted Chain’s hearing even as she reached to protect her ears. Tears in her eyes she nodded in answer. Though she did not vocalize a response, her voice coming from Drop did continue the topic of Chain’s hearing.
“There is no need to worry. That part of us is hearing mostly normally again as this part of us has taken as much of the burden of hearing the songs of the world onto us as possible. Unlike that part, this part is much better accustomed to handling the noise of the Lucifalz as a result and can function just fine.”
“But did you have to headbutt me? My forehead really hurts now… And how did you get down here in the first place?”
“We jumped, though I have to say that you look the worse for wear heretic.”
“What do you expect? I’m an adventurer on an adventure so getting banged up is bound to happen!”
“ARE YOU ALL TRYING TO INTERRUPT ME⁈”
With Maye taking her turn in the conversation and Chain responding to her, Squawk had become all but forgotten it seemed. Raising his voice again was more than enough to make sure that did not persist and that they surely remembered he was there. With everyone’s attention again on him, Squawk returned to his intention of chewing out Chain.
“Ahem! I doubt an idiot like you has noticed, but we did not just jump, we used the principle born of your idiocy to enter Ambrosia! How you managed a feat that has not been achieved since the Saint Herself entered Ambrosia is beyond me, but it is to my understand that it is likely born of you completely failing to understand the fundamentals I taught you of magic! And then I hear that you can also likely open the Gates of others using the same principle!”
“Eh⁈ Really? I can do that?”
“We should be able to.”
“What do you mean should? Didn’t you not to long ago suggest having her open my Gate for me?”
Butting in again, Maye wore a frightening look as she expressed her displeasure. Drop smiled awkwardly and tried to answer both honestly and in a way that made it sound better than it was.
“Well, it seemed like it would make good practice.”
“Am I supposed to be your lab rat now?
Squawk clearing his throat froze everyone and the only movement they managed was to slowly turn to look at him. Chain managed to find the courage regardless to speak before he did, scratching her cheek with a nervous laugh as she did.
“I know you’re mad Squawk, but wouldn’t it be better to finish up here and leave before you yell at me some more? I mean, between all of the monsters, the two Sa·B·ers who are after me, and that Foreigner, not to mention the big monster I’m off to kill right now, this isn’t really the time or the place.”
The look Squawk gave Chain could have froze water, and at the very least froze her. Yet Squawk did not say anything, though the longer the silence persisted the angrier he seemed to get. Watching him was akin to watching the fuse on a bundle of dynamite and everyone got more and more nervous until finally Squawk exploded.
“IF IT’S SO IMPORTANT, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR YOU IDIOT??‼”
“Heh heh… Right. Let’s go!”
Springing to her feet, Chain started running ahead fearful of Squawk going off more. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to help as he just started shouting some more.
“First you say it’s dangerous and then you run off with out me! You idiot!”
Looking back to see Squawk, Maye, and Drop hurrying after her, Chain laughed and scratched at her cheek. Slowing down she allowed them catch up to her pace and laughed again.
“Sorry, and thanks for coming to get me.”
Looking back ahead of her, Chain furrowed her brow as she continued in a not so cheerful tone.
“I almost lost myself in those whispers.”
Narrowing his own eyes, Squawk demanded an answer.
“What are these whispers anyway?”
“The voices of the Lucifalz.”
Speaking for Chain, as she had clearer understanding of what was going on, Drop attempted to explain.
“They ring out like the songs of the world. To those who can’t observe the songs they make no noise, but to those sensitive to it they are deafening. To spirits who live within that song they are ignorable in their annoying discord, but for humans who are not used to it… Even then though they are weird. The whispers are so many voices, and within them we can hear our voice as well. So many echoes speaking things we should know like our fractured memories, but also teaching us things we should not know. The Lucifalz and its song make little sense to us.”
“Yet for as little sense as it makes, she-devil, I might understand your confusion. A Lucifalz as it grows begins to distort reality, so it seems of little surprise that even history is distorted around it. It would be best if we hurried and reclaimed its Light for the good of all.”
Maye’s words were humbling, yet there seemed little choice but to press on. Lute found all of the information he could glean from the group of utmost interest. Most if not all of it served no use in his current job, but it was unquestionable that the information would be invaluable for future work in a world twisted by the appearance of the Lucifalz. First though there was the matter of dealing with the current situation.
The forest canopy they ran through seemed without end at first, but it was more an illusion caused by the lack of monsters and the dread of what awaited them ahead. The canopy itself gave way to a cave, a sizeable tunnel that something extremely large could pass through, before they even realized it. The tunnel was long, but not so long that the other end and the light it held could not be seen. As they emerged beyond the tunnel, it was a scene as unusual as it was unsettling.
Above the sky, the greater and lesser moons, the Eyes of Icarus, looked down upon the Foreigner city that loomed over where the Forest canopy became as a giant nest. Save for the distant edges of the circular platform where their density was greater than even before, the flame petaled flowers were not present in the tremendous clearing. There were stray flower petals drifting on the wind that swirled about, but they were scarcely noticeable before the leafless tree that grew out of the center of the nest. Comprised entirely of Light, it stretched up and outward several dozen meters, covering a massive swath of the clearing. Stopping as they stepped under its branches, Maye breathed out in both amazement and disgust.
“Such a massive Lucifalz. I’ve never seen one so staggering in size.”
“I have… I think…”
Clutching at her forehead, Chain fell to her knees. The visions of a tree rising up from the face of Icarus to meet her so high in the sky. It was unlike anything she could comprehend, but the sight of a crimsoned-hued giant with wings of Darkness and a sword of Light faced her. There was something familiar about it, but she could not place it as the thoughts were pushed aside by the dragon of Darkness that plagued the space between. That Darkness threatened to swallow her, but her voice from a place both outside of herself and nearer than the Lucifalz provided her a way back.
“…don’t give in to the Lucifalz. The whispers are loud and distort everything we are. Please come back.”
Opening her eyes, Chain found herself on her back staring up at Drop, Maye, and Squawk. Relief washed over the three of them and Chain blinked confused. Sitting up she grabbed at her throbbing head.
“Thank goodness! We did not lose ourselves! We made it!”
Looking at the teary-eyed Drop, Chain smiled.
“I’m fine now, really.”
“I doubt that you idiot. The blood pouring out of your nose attests to a different tale.”
Prompted by Squawk’s harsh words, Chain wiped her nose with the back of her hand. Staring at the back of it, there was no denying the large quantity of crimson liquid that streaked across her chainmail. With a smile, Chain rose to her feet and blew it off.
“I probably just reopened the injury I got when the Foreigner hit me in the face earlier.”
“Regardless heretic, it is probably best you leave the Lucifalz to me. Though it will be a challenge to reclaim so much Light without the others, it is unlikely they can even reach it to be of assistance. I am fully trained in the recover of Light however and need only the time to perform the ritual. During that time you should rest and only take action should something appear which threatens its completion.”
As Maye had been looking at Chain as she spoke and stepped forward, she did not see what it was the maid pointed to. It was a matter as simple as looking however, and she irritably sighed heavily at what she saw. Pulling her rifle from her back, she checked the cylinder for how much ammo she currently had loaded and then answered Chain.
“Yes, that would threaten the ritual.”
Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater