Delbrea -- Crimea, 60 miles off the Crimean/Daein border
"Raise your blade a bit, Kane," Ryman shouted, as he parried another blow. "Keep your blade that low, your foe will shear through your arm on his counter.
"Not if I'm fast enough," Kanon grunted, as he extended his leg and caught Ryman in the chest, pushing him back.
"Good! That's good improvisation, Kane. You've grown stronger in these last few months." Ryman picked himself up and sheathed his sword. "That's enough for today. Better head back home and get some rest. It'll be dark soon."
"Same time tomorrow?"
A half hour later, Kane was walking through through the market. The city was bustling as the shopkeepers were closing down and people were heading home for the day.
Shoot. Missed the mark. The current model still needs a lot of work. I had a theory on why these guns of mine always fired a bit off their mark - mostly randomly and unpredictably, too. I came to the conclusion that perhaps it was due to the ball travelling through a smooth bore barrel, and that the ball would bounce along the barrel on firing, which would affect the trajectory on exit. Yet, I didn't have a solution for this theoretical problem. How annoying. Though Stefan said it was good enough so long as we used them in the volley tactics we'd drilled for, I won't be satisfied with just this much. Besides, I'm sure he's just saying that. I mean, no matter what kinds of weapons I've developed so far, I know for certain he'd be able to beat anyone even with this level of technological innovation. Pretty sure that man actually can move faster than a gunpowder propelled metal ball. The goal was to produce something that even his capabilities could not surpass. Still, I'm on vacation right now, touring the wide, vast Tellius that us desert folk don't normally get to enjoy, so what was I getting worked up for? Oh... Right. I was aiming at my dinner just now, and now the whole flock's been scared away.
My bag of travelling gold was getting lighter and lighter. My arms were getting sore from carrying all my wares and equipment. I haven't been doing the great job at self sufficiency that I had originally intended, and have been instead eating just one meal a day for the past three days. Not only that, but the prices at these local inns is pure, unadulterated highway robbery! Just because I eat more than your typical human doesn't mean they have the grounds to charge me criminally! Alas, my mind, body and stomach tell me otherwise, and I can only sigh in resignation as I'm about to collapse. Walking what was probably fifty miles a day on a nearly empty stomach while loaded to the brim with my portable workshop was not easy. I must say, so far, this has been the worst vacation ever, and that if Stefan ever insists I tour the world again, I will smack him. I suppose I'll spend the rest of my gold for a dinner and a bed at a local inn that does't look too run-down or thug filled. I can always refill this bag of gold at a later day. Maybe a local blacksmith could use my help to speed up some of his requests or something. But I'd discovered from my adventures outside of the desert that most men didn't like being shown up by women - particularly when it came to my field of specialty. So lately I've had to limit the quality of my work to be just under the master smiths of Tellius, so as to not get chased out of their forges on the accusation that I'm a witch or something. No matter how much it irks me to do such subpar work and get paid for it.
...Well, here we are. Vigilante Cove. A place for travelers to coalesce, I'm sure. Well, most of the people entering and leaving didn't look wealthy in the slightest. Quite the contrary, really. To be honest, though I was certain the Inn was full of men of morally questionable backgrounds and motives, at this point I couldn't care less. Any place that could fill my stomach and give me a bed that's at least slightly more comfortable than a rock for a price that wasn't outright thievery was alright with me.
Clyde was cruising over around in the airspace above the Daein-Crimea border when he saw smoke from a settlement below. I wonder what could be down there? Clyde thought. So Clyde dove down on his pegasus to check it out.
Kane decided that he wanted to check out Vigilante's Cove. That was where the traveling swordsmen and other warriors of different races tended to gather. He could at least see different types of fighters and learn something new.
As he walked through the main street, he could hear blacksmith's hammering away.
Teddy was sitting inside Vigilante's Cove alone at a table drinking his sorrows away. He thought of the men he killed in cold blood and felt ashamed, one face stuck out particularly, it was the face of the youngest soldier there barely old enough to have hair on his chin. He looked at the purple armor he donned. "Best thing I ever forged." He muttered to himself, lifting his cup as if to cheer for himself and downed the contents.
"Oi, Barkeep! Buy a round for every man here!" he shouted raising a money pouch he had throwing it to the barkeep. "Happy hours on me men!" Might be my last hour as well. I've must have a bounty on my head by now and I can't keep running forever. The former smith thought somberly once more.
Scoffing down food in Vigilante Cove, Grants was enjoying some rare down time. Hmm, reconstruction is going pretty well. Soon we'll be finishing up and heading back to Gallia. Oh man that's going to be so nice. I'll finally get to spar against that headstrong kitten, Skrimir. And it would be good to give my division some rest, I haven't given them much of a break since the Mad King's War ended. We've all been run pretty ragged.
The bar erupted in a loud cheer suddenly taking Grants out of his thoughts. "huh?" Grants said quietly, looking around to find the reason for the cheer. He quickly found his answer upon seeing a man in purple armor raising a bag of gold.
Huh. I didn't think I'd be seeing people having enough gold to treat people yet. Especially since the reconstruction effort only got here recently. But I like the way this guy think.
Grants got up and walked towards the purple armored man leaving his food behind. "I like the way you party! What's your name brother?" Grants said cheerily and strongly to the purple armored man.
Kane was walking past a local pub when a loud cheer emitted from within.
"Hm? Wonder what that was?" He wondered, as he started to walk in.
"Free rounds on that guy!" One of the patrons shouted, clear that he'd already had a bit too much. Kane looked over and saw a man in bright purple armor sitting down. He was approached by another, he'd apparently been sitting down and wanted to thank the man for the free drinks.
"Hello," Kane introduced himself, as he walked over to them. "My name's Kane. It's odd to see this much generosity nowadays."
Teddy, sitting comfortably in his chair, looked at the man whom he quickly discerned that he was most definitely a Laguz. While being a native Daein man, he knew better than to treat the Laguz as poorly as his fellow country men did. While it wasn't because he was a white knight to the Laguz cause of equality, but he just knew better than to act aggressively against men and women who could easily rip him to shreds in seconds. The former smith took a drink as he saw another man approaching him. He looked young.
"The name's Theodore Brice, or just Teddy for short." He smiled and lifted his cup to the white haired Laguz. He then looked to Kane and his gaze became blank as the young man reminded him the young soldier he had killed. "It's better to go out with a bang and enjoy it than to simply wither away with wealth alone." He said. "My days are numbered anyways." He muttered as he took another drink.
"Numbered? How so?" Kane asked, as the barkeep handed him his free drink. He took a deep drink from it and sighed as he enjoyed the taste. Free drinks always tasted the best. He inquisitively looked at the man in purple armor, Teddy. He wasn't sure why the man had seemed to pause when he looked at him.
We haven't met before...yet why does he look at me that way? Kane thought to himself, as he took another drink.
The other man also troubled him. He was clearly a laguz, most likely of the beast tribes.
Most laguz can't tell a Branded from a Beorc, but most CAN tell that something is off. Let's just hope IF this laguz can tell, he keeps his mouth shut. I've grown used to this town, and I'd hate to have to leave again.
Just my wonderful luck! I come into this little-too-lively-for-me inn for some grub and mead to refresh me for my journey, and I run into what was probably going to turn into a hedonistic party within the next twenty minutes. Do you know what the best part is? Some goof in bright purple armor decided he'd waste all his gold for free drinks on the men in the pub, which would mean, as expected, I'm torn out of an opportunity due to completely uncontrollable factors of my birth once more. Regardless, it was worth a shot. My arms were about to come out of their sockets, what with my workshop, despite being travel sized, still full of iron, steel, and other inconveniently heavy materials and the weighty tools to bend them.
"Oi, barkeep. I know that the man in vibrant purple armor said free drinks for all the men but... Care to spare something for this tired gal over here?" I try to bring some charm into my request, but I could already tell I was failing miserably. For one, I had no idea how to talk to strangers, and being stuck dead centre in a pub full of soon-to-be-hostile humans as the only female of any species wasn't making it easier.
"Sorry lass, but you heard the good lad. He specifically said all the men," the barkeep responded without much interest. His eyes were focused elsewhere. Disgusting human pig. "Aye, maybe he wasn't counting on a woman travelling here - your kind's a bit of an endangered species in parts like this here inn. Maybe you oughta ask him yourself. Though I'd love to keep your company instead of that little rainbow over there," the aged barkeep laughed as he pointed me in the direction of the rather inconsiderate-but-charitable man. Of course I knew, for the most part, that the barkeep was joking, but his nonchalant attitude combined with the sexually harassing undertone made me feel very uneasy to be within ten miles of him. I quickly scuttled my way towards the purple man, partly motivated by thirst but mostly motivated by my instinct to flee.
"Oi, you're the jerk who ordered all these drinks on the men, aren't ya?!" I slam the table the purple man was seated with all the fury a starving kitten could muster. I realized that spouting angry insults at this man was probably not the best idea I ever had, and more than likely not going to get me the free drink (and prospective dinner) that I so desired. In the first place, he had no obligation to buy anyone free drinks. Alas, I was consumed by emotion at this point, and I've come too far to just walk away with embarrassment. "Did you think that women couldn't get thirsty or something?! What's with that ridiculous order?!" Yep, and there goes my dinner voucher. Good job, Nicaea. The man is frozen in bewilderment. I would be too. I kind of want to scuttle away right at this moment as well. That was a pretty embarrassing thing to say in front of a dozen scary looking human men. Then I notice out of the corner of my eye a few individuals seated beside him. In particular, a man who was definitely my kind. Obviously, like me, his brand is concealed, but simple deception like that shouldn't work between us cursed ones. I can only stare at him in bewilderment, as his stare returns to meet mine. What's one of my kind doing here? This isn't the place for Branded like us... I try to discreetly signal to the man that I want to have a private conversation with him, though I'm not sure he could understand my awkward gestures toward him. Then, I notice something much, much more disconcerting. At our table was an incredibly sharp and burly looking albino sub-human, who could only be, without one shred of doubt whatsoever, a member of the legendary lion clan.
Teddy sighed at Kane's question. "It's because I have a bou-" He said before being cut off by a strange young lady who was making a scene. At first the smith was confused, then he was simply amused. Then he started laughing, slamming his fist on the table tears blurring his vision. It had been too long since Teddy laughed as hard as he did.
"Barkeep! Meals for us four!" He motioned at his table with another bag containing gold. He looked at the strange young woman who now strangely tensed up. "Come on now lass, oblige a man who hasn't laughed in a long time and sit with us. Plus, it's a free meal." He said, a fatherly smile on his face.
Clyde landed with a thud near the bar. As he was dismounting he realized that none of the local stables would be equipped to deal with pegasi so he just brought his with him. Seeing a commotion in the tavern almost dissuaded him from entering, but he was too hungry to care at this point. Leading his pegasus by a tether he entered the tavern and ordered a meal from the barkeeper.
Grants was taken aback by the brazeness shown by the woman who started screaming at Theodore, it reminded him of some the laguz women back in Gallia. Ugh, why am I getting this off feeling though. I didn't have it until that man came here. Ah right I remember this feeling, ugh why did I have to run into one here?
Though things went a little too fast for Grants to make any comment on the man, woman, or Theodore's remark about his situation before seeing a man walk in with his pegasus. "What the hell is going on in here?" Grants laughed as he forgot about the uneasy feeling the branded gave him. "Theodore, you're a good man. Tell me about this situation you're in, it's the least I can do for treating everyone so."
Now somehow, in some strange way, my incessant whining toward a man I'd never met was able to earn me not just the drink I had so desired, but also a gracious meal as well. Something doesn't add up, but it's not like I ever expected humans to be rational in the first place. Alas, consumed by hunger as I am, I knew there were more pressing matters at hand, which also demonstrated itself as a convenient excuse to get away from the scary sub-human lion. "Er, thanks for your consideration, sir. But um, I've a slight change of plans..." I meekly responded to the purple man. "I didn't expect to meet him here. That man has some important things to discuss with me, but maybe if the food's not cold by the time we're done, I'll be back?" I pardoned myself regretfully, following the Branded man and carrying my luggage awkwardly with me as I went. I caught a glimpse of a pegasus being brought into the tavern on my way out. Crazy humans.
I hurry up to meet the man outside, finding it convenient that he'd already arranged our talk to be in the secluded wood hidden beside the inn. I wanted to make our conversation fast and concise, so that I could return to the inn to my promised meal, but at the same time there was so much I needed to know from this man. Without any delays, after I've made sure that nobody else in the vicinity can catch ear of us, I spoke to him in a hushed tone. "I didn't think there were others of our kind outside the desert," I pause a moment, giving more thought to what I'd just asked. In the first place, I was born into human society, so it obviously isn't impossible in the least that there are others like me living among the humans. "At least, I didn't think I'd find one so easily among the human society." I make no delay as to show him that I mean no hostilities, and that I'd rather become his friend, if at all possible. I warmly extend my hand to his, expecting him to return my gesture with handshake. "The name's Nicaea. I'm something of a blacksmith from the Grann desert. If you'd like, there are many others like you and me living there in a settlement. It's not safe for us out here to be among the realm of the Goddess' chosen," I emphasize with scorn as I speak of that accursed deity, "so if times are ever too difficult for you, we'd be more than happy to welcome you to our sanctuary. So tell me, why do you live amongst the humans?"