Dee looked at the line of people in front of her. All of them were queueing for the teleportation gate. Teleportation gates were not cheap to use, but not expensive enough to stop people from using them when necessary. She had expected there to be less people. Most of the queue seemed to be because the process wasn’t very fast. As the people usually had different destinations, it took a few minutes per person to retarget the teleportation gates to their destination. The area they were leaving was also rather busy and rich with trade. It had taken almost twenty minutes to have a whole trade caravan go through the gate, even though they were all going to the same place.
‘Well, we’re not in a hurry.’ Croestia sent a silent message to Dee.
Dee suddenly frowned and stared at her right hand that was now shaking. ‘It’s happening again?’ Croestia asked with a tinge of worry.
“Yeah. It’s a bit worse than the last one.” Dee said quietly. Her hand looked like it belonged to an addict that hadn’t gotten her fix. That comparison wasn’t actually that far from the truth. The tremors only lasted for less than a minute.
Dee knew what was causing those tremors, but not why. It had started after her thirteenth birthday, with a slight involuntary twitch, moving to slight tremors that lasted for few seconds and finally now to this. Since it had started after a birthday, she could guess that it had something to do with her heritage, but not entirely sure why that would cause this kind of effect. There had been no new races waking in her heritage since event with the blessings and something like this seemed to be a bad decision on the part of whoever had created Dee. The worst part was that Dee had this feeling that this was just the beginning, and the real issue hadn’t even shown itself yet.
‘You know, now that you’re getting away from the templar a bit, you could just go along with it.’ Croestia pointed out. They both knew there was a rather easy fix to the problem.
“You’re right. I was thinking the same thing. I’m sure we can find some people who won’t be missed if we really want to.” Dee replied with a light voice, as if talking about the weather.
The tremors came with a clear feeling of what would make them go away. They really were just like something experienced by an addict looking for a fix. The only difference was that it wasn’t any substance or drug that would help Dee.
‘I haven’t killed anyone for years.’ Dee messaged silently. ‘Still, I would prefer to know why my body seems to feel the need to take the lives of others. While killing some dirtbag isn’t a problem, and probably even something the templar would approve of if framed correctly, I’m slightly worried that I might end up feeding a beast that will only grow hungrier as it gets its fill.’
‘While I agree, it would be a problem if these tremors happened while you were in danger. And since they’re only getting worse, I’d argue that dealing with the immediate threat is a bigger concern.’ Croestia was silent for a moment. ‘Do you think it might have something to do with what’s supposed to happen on your sixteenth birthday?’
“I wouldn’t count out that possibility. Though if that really is the case, it’s quite worrisome if I’m already feeling the effects this much before the actual date.” Dee replied, switching back to talking really quietly. For some reason she felt more comfortable talking to Croestia out loud, even though she kept her voice low enough that no one else would be able to hear. Something about feeling more natural. She also knew that some things should not be said out loud, hence why she sometimes replied silently.
‘Do you think killing something else besides people would satisfy that urging?’ Croestia suddenly asked.
“That’s a good question. I have a feeling that might be the case for now, but who knows what happens in the future.” Dee said with a sigh. The two were lost in thought for the remaining queue time.
“Well this I didn’t expect.” Dee said to herself with a raised eyebrow, as she surveyed the surroundings of the gate after reaching her destination. They were currently in the tenth circle of the south Day city. The area covered by buildings that surrounded the gate was much smaller than the others Dee had seen, and she could barely see farms and fields from her perch on the dais. That wasn’t the surprising part though, as farming areas were common in the lesser circles in Day city. Dee hadn’t expected her teacher to reside in a farming area, but to each their own and it’s not like the surrounding city was small. There was still about a million people living in this area.
‘It seems like there’s some kind of celebration going on.’ Croestia said with an amused voice, pointing out the thing that had caught Dee off guard.
Dee thought that to be a safe assumption with the decorations, music, food stands and the obviously celebratory mood. It almost looked like a carnival of some kind, with many of the people wearing mask ranging from simple ones that surrounded one’s eyes and didn’t really hide the person’s identity, to full face covers and cloaks. There were also plentiful drinks going along with all the food, and much of it seemed to be alcoholic.
“I wonder what they’re celebrating.” Dee asked rhetorically.
‘Will this make it easier or harder to find your future teacher?’ Croestia asked.
“Apparently she’s supposed to find me. That’s what the notes that I got from the old seer said at least. We might as well go around and enjoy the celebration. It might help us run into our teacher.” Dee said in a rather chipper voice.
‘You just want to eat all this food, don’t you?’ Croestia pointed out, aware of Dee’s gluttony.
“Guilty as charged. Doesn’t mean I’m wrong though. I doubt she’ll find us if we just sit around in an inn. Besides, we might be able to run into some dirtbags while wandering around. Celebrations like this always attract the more unsavory elements as well.”
Moirai gave a small sigh while looking at the ongoing celebrations. She liked a party as much as the next person, but this particular celebration had already gone on for most of three days. Additionally, because her community was the one organizing this shindig, she herself had to remain vigilant and keep an eye out for trouble. Such was her duty as the guardian of the community. This left little chance to actually enjoy the celebration.
She also dreaded the coming years, which were most likely going to be filled with boredom. She was used to taking part in the battles raging between the groups vying for position in the third circle. Babysitting a sub-community was not going to keep up her interest very long. It was in fact likely that she was the only rank nine person in the entire southern area of the tenth circle of Day city. That said, she knew her job was necessary.
Even the groups and communities in the fourth and third circles gained new members every now and then. It was fine if the new members were recruited for their strength, but sometimes they were recruited because of their potential or skills outside combat. That was nothing to say of children being born to the community, who of course had no combat potential yet. In a high pressure battle focused environment that were the fourth and third circles such obvious weaknesses could prove fatal. If striking at your strongest members was too difficult, then what about striking at the weakest members instead?
The problem was made worse by the absence of organizations like the Order of the Radiant Sun and the Holy Orders who could keep such despicable tactics at bay with the threat of interference. Because of that, it was common for the large communities of the fourth and third circle to create sub-communities in the lesser circles that aimed to nurture those that didn’t yet have the power to fend for themselves at the main community. Because nearly all of the big organizations of the third and fourth circle had such sub-communities, a silent agreement of sorts was made to leave these sub-communities alone. If one community broke that agreement, all the others would combine to annihilate the offender.
Of course that wasn’t enough to safeguard those important to the future of the large communities, not all threats came from their rivals after all, hence these sub-communities often had one or more guardians assigned to them for protection. In those communities that were brought together by their race or family, often called familia, the sub-communities were often made up of their youngest members, so the guardians were usually selected from their parents.
Moirai’s community was an alliance of four races brought together by a common desire for greatness. All four of the races had huge advantages due to their racial heritage, but also glaring weaknesses. These weaknesses made it nigh on impossible for any of the four races to rise to greatness on their own when pitted against more all-rounded power races like the elves and saurian, so they had been bound to remain in the lesser circles forever, without achieving their desire for glory.
That was until the formation of the Four Winds alliance. The first leader of the alliance had noticed the common struggle of the four races and brought them together so that their differing strengths could cover for their weaknesses. The resulting alliance had become wildly successful, and in the following years the Four Winds alliance had risen in the ranks. This current celebration was the result of the alliance finally entering the ranks of the top hundred communities in the third circle. That meant that the Four Winds alliance was also among the top two hundred factions among the entire Day city.
As their recent struggles had wound down, and their new rank became official, those serving as guardians had also been rotated. Their new rank afforded the alliance a certain amount of respect, clout and protection, hence they could afford to protect their sub communities with stronger guardians. It was also their hope that those strong guardians could foster the growth of the minds and power of the young ones they protected.
Moirai gave another sigh as she thought about this. It was not very likely that she would be a big part of that growth, considering the lack of psions among the four races. In fact, two of the four races were completely incapable of even producing a psion due to their heritage. Both the Dagon and Jun couldn’t birth psions, though for opposite reasons. Jun were such inherently magical beings that any child with psionic talent would die at childbirth due to their inability to handle mana. Dagon on the other hand were naturally barren with magical abilities, but the same malady that made them unable to use mana made them also unable to use psionic power. Moirai never really understood the true nature of that malady, but the oldest of Dagon spoke of a curse laid upon their race.
The other two races Meilin and Anshar were capable of producing psions, as shown by Moirai who was a Meilin herself, but it was exceedingly rare. Meilin were a rare mixture fae and beastmen and magic ran deep in them as well, while Anshar were distantly descended from fire elementals and as such were deeply connected to their element. One of the reasons the Four Winds had sent Moirai here was to go through the young members of their races in the hopes of finding more psions, even though none of the people in this sub-community were related to her. In the third circle, it was not important to have that many psions but having only a handful was a real problem.
Moirai was brought back from her thoughts as she noticed some pickpockets plying their trade. Catching minor criminals like this was not exactly exciting, but it was still something to occupy her time. It was also positive to the reputation of their sub-community if they cleared up as many criminals as possible. Most of them had come through the gate in the last few days anyway, so their presence would not be missed by the locals.
As she lazily walked towards the soon to be prisoners, she ran a customary psionic sweep of her surroundings in the hopes of finding people with psionic talent. She hadn’t had any results in the few days she had been here, and now only barely paid attention to the scan, only performing it out of habit. She suddenly stopped and stood still.
‘There’s a response?!’ She thought to herself with surprise.
The response was unlikely to be a member of their community, as she had already checked them many times, but the Four Winds alliance didn’t eschew outside help. Their alliance was well liked and most of their races had few enmities that run deep with other races. As such, recruiting people from other races was not that difficult. Moirai ran another scan with the pickpockets already forgotten, this time trying to locate the response she got.
‘About two hundred mel in that direction.’ She thought to herself, looking down along the street towards the general direction of the gate. ‘A new arrival, perhaps? Hopefully not leaving just yet.’
She tried moving closer with every scan, but couldn’t detect the source of the response. ‘This doesn’t make any sense. Even in this crowd I should be able to detect them this close. The response only seems to be some few dozen mel away. It’s like I’m standing close to them, but they’re invisible or someth…’ Moirai’s thoughts suddenly halted as she realized a possibility.
‘Could they be using their powers to hide from me? But surely I would’ve noted someone attacking my mind.’ Now she was getting worried. Someone capable of hiding from her was a real danger. She suddenly raised all her mental protections and tried to purge herself of any mental influences.
Suddenly a tall figure appeared at a nearby stall, seemingly haggling with the owner over some fruits. Looking closer, the figure seemed to be a young woman, despite her height. She was holding several meat skewers in one hand, and was absently nibbling on them every time the stall owner was speaking. Judging by the young woman’s smile, she was merely haggling for the fun of it and not to actually save money. She was enjoying the game of it.
‘Some kind of fox-tribe beastman?’ Moirai thought to herself. ‘No, that seems wrong.’ She noticed the tips of several tails peeking from under the woman’s long cloak. ‘A kitsune demon? That’s fairly rare. Especially in these parts. Also looking closer, calling her a girl might be more appropriate.’
Suddenly it occurred to her. ‘How did I not notice an almost two mel tall kitsune demon haggling with the stall owner before? It’s not like she’s invisible or anything, seeing as the stall owner can see her just fine. She’s actually rather hard to miss with her size and appearance.’
Moirai started to lower her mental shields just a tiny bit, just to check what would happen. The effect was subtle but soon became apparent. ‘I see, she radiates an aura of familiarity and something else hard to pin-point. Your eyes just slide off her, as if she wasn’t even there, like she was a non-descript part of the furniture. How clever. Since it seems like a passive effect of sorts that doesn’t harm the target, you really have to pay attention to notice. Effective, yet subtle enough to not trigger any defenses or ring any warning bells. I wonder if she does it on purpose?’
Moirai had a slight smile on her face. She could appreciate it when someone was clever enough to fool her, even for a short while. Now that the aura didn’t affect her anymore, the girl was easy to keep tabs on. Moirai decided to follow the girl around for a while to keep an eye on her and evaluate her for a bit. The girl seemed young and skilled enough to try recruiting. Now would be a good chance to observe her personality, without giving the girl a chance to put up a fake front.
‘I can see the tip of three tails. I’ve heard that the tails of kitsune match their power level. So a class three psion perhaps? That’s very good for her apparent age. It’s hard to tell if she’s hiding more tails under that cloak.’ Moirai mused while following the girl.
After an hour of following the girl from a food stand to another, Moirai was starting to get a little exasperated. ‘How much food can she stuff in her face?! I can’t eat even a third of all that even if I tried!’
Suddenly Moirai noted that the girl had been still for longer than before. It was like she was observing something. The girl was good at hiding where her attention was focused, but Moirai wasn’t a class nine psion for nothing. ‘Those three?’ Moirai thought while looking at three men that looked to be lounging with some alcoholic beverages, staring at some Jun girls having a good time.
‘This seems peculiar. I’m observing the girl, who’s observing three guys, who are all observing some Jun girls from my community. Do I sense the beginnings of a joke?’ Jun were a purely female race tied closely to the natural world. They looked mostly human, but were taller and longer lived. Many compared them to the dryads, but the Jun were not only connected to forests and trees, but also the mountains, clouds and the world in its entirety.
Reputedly the Jun were gifted the traits of elegance and grace by a mythical bird when their race was young. Whether that story was true or not was up to question, but the Jun were undoubtedly very graceful and especially famed for their artistic skill and creativity, as they weaved beauty into whatever they pursued in life. This made them great craftsmen and artisans, in addition to their skill with magic. They didn’t make for very strong soldiers though. Even a Halfling could overpower a Jun when it came to physical strength.
‘Why is she observing those men? They don’t look exactly reputable, but…’ Moirai wasn’t sure she liked the direction this was headed. Her feelings only got worse as the three men stood up to follow one of the Jun girls who was apparently heading home. Moirai was sure she’d heard the girl’s name before. The kitsune girl Moirai was following followed the three men, seemingly flowing naturally among the throng of people.
Moirai became suspicious of the three men’s motives and gave a gentle scan of the surface thoughts of the men. Any deeper would be noticed by the men and alert them. She was deeply disturbed by what she found. The dark and lust filled thoughts of the men didn’t leave much up for question. They clearly had ill intent towards the lonely girl.
‘What about the kitsune girl then? I’m pretty sure she didn’t scan the trio, or I would’ve sensed it.’ Moirai could try to scan the surface thoughts of the kitsune girl, but psions were much more sensitive to things like that and the scan would most likely be noticed. Maybe it was better to see how this developed. She could always step in if things got too dicey.
Moirai lost sight of the people she was following for a moment as she got slightly delayed by the people and her quarry took several quick turns. She wasn’t too worried though as she could sense their presence and she knew the Jun girl was part of their community and as such was going towards the walled area owned by them. That was until she sensed the distressed emotions of the Jun girl, and heard something that could be the sound of metal cutting through flesh and several grunts.
Luckily the people had now thinned to almost nothing as the party area had been left behind, and Moirai broke into a run. It would be bad if she let one of the people she was supposed to be guarding die. The thoughts of the men had not suggested the Jun girl was in immediate danger of being killed, which is why Moirai was so surprised and hadn’t stopped them yet.
As she rounded the corner, she saw the flash of something black and her instincts screamed of danger. She hurriedly raised her defenses and pushed back at the black object she now realized had tried to slash at her throat. She wasn’t entirely certain if it had been her quick reactions that had halted the strike, or if her attacker had stopped the attack before it reached its goal.
It gave Moirai a small shiver that she had not detected the attack at all before it was almost too late. Fights at her level would be the death of her if she was this careless. She had let her guard down thinking the area they were in was not a threat. Truthfully she was a little doubtful if the attack could’ve actually hurt her even if she had done nothing, but that was not the point. Carelessness was dangerous.
Now she had the chance to observe was going on. The black object that had slashed at her throat seemed like the wing of an angel. The feathers were razor sharp at the edges and covered in a slight hue of psionic energy. ‘Maybe it could’ve actually hurt me a bit. Not enough to kill, but…’ Moirai revised her earlier estimate.
Part of the revision was because she noticed that the wing had pushed back the kitsune girl’s cloak, and revealed that the girl had five tails instead of three that she had seen earlier. ’Class three my ass. You’re really rusty today Moirai.’ She thought to herself.
The kitsune girl was easily holding one of the three men up with one hand, holding the man by his throat with apparently no effort. He was turning slightly blue in the face at the moment. One of the men was clearly dead with a throwing dagger in both his eye and heart, while the third man was in the process of dying with his throat slashed open. Some of the blood had splashed on the Jun girl, who was holding her knees sitting on the ground shaking, obviously scared and in shock but otherwise fine.
The kitsune girl was perfectly unharmed and didn’t even have any blood on her clothes. “Well, that was quick.” Moirai said out loud, not entirely sure what else to say in the situation.