“It’s just minor cuts and bruises, sir. Mostly the battle just fatigued her. She was lucky to have you with her,” the nurse said brightly, “She just needs a little rest right now.”
Crow had his doubts. He remained silent as he watched Quina’s sleeping form. The trials of last night tore and soiled her dress. He knew Quina sustained more than just a few cuts and bruises. A broken heart, although invisible, hurt as much as an open wound. How long it took to heal all depended on her. Crow looked upon Quina’s sleeping form. Her face drawn and pale, her breath ragged and her tattered dress testified to her trails of yesterday.
“We need fresh supplies,” he thought. “Nurse,” Crow said, “I’ll be going to the shopping district. I have matters to attend to.”
“Of course, sir,” the nurse beamed, “She’ll will be well cared for here, sir.”
Crow left the infirmary. The shopping district was buzzing with life now. Crow thought of the couple that hadn’t made it from last night’s excursion. In a way, he envied the monsters. He would have done far worse to Azrael had it not been for Quina hot on his trail. “No matter,” Crow thought. He thought again how poorly equipped Quina had been for the forest. She managed to survive anyhow. She was quite impressive for a novice and reminded him of her father. All that aside, she needed equipment and supplies if she is to continue adventuring. He needed meseta. His telepipe still glowed near the checkroom. Crow headed for the pipe.
Crow materialized into the small glade in the forest and scanned the area. Sunlight bathed the grass and the leaves in the tress swayed in the breeze. The morning had already vanquished the chill of night and if not for the bodies, yesterday could have been just a nightmare. Scavengers had consumed much of the woman’s body. Crow found a few sellable trinkets on her remains. He turned to Azrael’s body. Blood stained the grass under and around his still form. He envied the insect-like creatures’ kill vaguely. Womanizing wasn’t Azrael’s only vice and there was a price on his head. Ironically, Quina was the only thing that protected Azrael from the bounty hunters. The moment he deserted her, a predatory creature of Ragol kills him. The bounty only stipulates proof of Azrael’s death, Crow mused. Decided, Crow deftly removed Azrael’s ear. The bounty would be his. Bodies of the giant insects remained in the glade as well. Their appearance reminded Crow of the Praying Mantis on Earth. Their deadly mandibles fetched a good price as well. Methodically, the mandibles were collected from each creature. Satisfied Crow reached into his pouch for a telepipe capsule; his energy was too low to cast Ryuker. His fingertips brushed against the cool surface of Quina’s pendant.
He scanned his surroundings once more before sitting in the grass, ignoring the smell of death in the glade. The pendant rested in his palm. He held the chain with his other chain. “How can something as simple as jewelry bind a person?” Crow asked himself. He recalled the tech bands every hunter wears on their wrists, allowing them to learn spells. Perhaps the question isn’t exactly appropriate, but Crow wondered how it worked. Rubbing his callused thumb on the sharp crack absently, the forest seemed to fade away from him. His thoughts grew deeper. Quina’s smile, her laughter and scraps of conversation blurred and fleeted across his mind. Krow hadn’t seen her so happy since her father’s death. Though they were fading, the pendant still clung to memories. Quina’s memories. They were hers; he shouldn’t keep this pendant. He didn’t know when he would ever see her so happy again. Strangely, he wanted to hold on to that, her happiness. Carefully he tucked away the pendant, activated the telepipe and returned to Pioneer 2.
Shopping was mundane and uneventful. He only needed a new dress for Quina. Crow stood at the monitor, the order form glaring from its screen. She liked the color green and would want something similar to the fashion of the Force Academy. However, the Force Academy’s uniform was too heavy. She needed something more lightweight. He touched a few buttons, placing the order according to his specifications. A few moments later, a bundle of clothing dropped into the bin below.
Crow perused the new clothing. The material was amazingly light and curiously strong. With a high collar and quarter length sleeves, the dress itself was completely void of frills. Its coloring was quite remarkable too. Predominately the color was a rich emerald with touches of ruby woven in. The sleeveless waist coat was as simple and fashionable as the dress, made from the same lightweight material only woven thicker and instead of green it was a creamy yellow. Satisfied, he hurried back to Quina.
Crow stopped just outside the infirmary, assessing the situation. Quina stood in just a gown, her long hair free against her back. Standing in front of her was a very small woman dressed in green. White fluffy hair stuck out from the green cap she wore. Crow wondered what was with the white hair.
“Quina, you just have to help! Nyko is still out there in the forest!” cried the tiny girl.
“Crow!” Quina ran up to him, distress clearly on her face. “This is Nyla, my cousin. She just told me about her twin brother. He is still out in the forest since last night. We have to go help him!”
Crow gave the clothing to Quina. “Get dressed and we’ll go.”
Quina returned promptly. The new dress fit perfectly. “Thank you, Crow.”
Crow nodded as Nyla gasped. “This fabric consists of Rappy feathers! Quina! It’s positively divine!”
Quina blushed, “Never mind that for now. Let’s go rescue Nyko.”
They marched through the forest. Nyla led the way. The girls chatted, catching up and reminiscing. Their merriment seemed out of place to Crow. Odder still was the lack of monsters. They had traveled far and no signs of the enemy creatures sighted. Unease settled upon Crow as they continued through the forest.
“It’s not much further,” Nyla said, as they broke through the trees in a large grove. Ruins of the settlement loomed above the tree tops. “This is where we got separated.”
Darkness suddenly fell over the grove as the trees swayed and bent. A murderous howl ripped the air and flame scorched the sky. The beast landed on the grass, shaking the ground. Quina and Nyla staggered from the force. It howled again. Its sulfurous breath stung their eyes. Red scales shimmered in the light as it folded back its dark wings.
“Dragon,” Crow said.
“Let’s go!” Nyla shouted, already running to flank it.
Quina spun around to it left swinging her scythe. Ice formed and shattered around the beast’s body and Nyla cast Gibarta. Stunned, its head smacked into the ground. Crow struck the easy target with his sword. Hot blood sprayed freely. They attacked relentlessly. The dragon thrashed in agony. Howling turned to bleating as it crashed into its own blood. Its final breath puffed from its nostrils in smoke. Quina and Nyla danced and cheered. Crow almost missed the muffled cry.
“Hey! I’m over here! Help me!”
“This way,” Crow said, coming to an unfinished well at the end of the grove. “He’s here.”
Using Quina’s scythe, they pulled Nyko out. Brushing off the dirt from his green uniform, he smiled.
“Thank you! I’m so glad you came to rescue me!” Nyko hugged the girls. “Thank you,” Nyko repeated, shaking Crow’s hand. “Let’s celebrate!”
Crow watched as the three of them joined hands and danced in circles around him. As they traveled back to the ship portal, Crow understood Quina’s battle skills. With three forces in a party, they needed different tactics. Now that they had vanquished the dragon, the monsters emerged. He observed their formations as they fought the beasts. Surrounding the enemy, they took the upper hand. Quina wielded her scythe and foie liberally. Gibarta shot from Nyla’s hand, freezing the beasts in place. Nyko unleashed Razonde, powerful electricity jumping from each target.
As they reached the ship portal, the setting sun painted the sky violet and orange. Exhausted but cheerful, they returned to the ship.
“I’m sorry I haven’t any cash to pay you,” Nyla said.
“Don’t worry about it, okay?” Quina replied.
Crow nodded in confirmation and noticed a woman running from the guild room toward them. She wore the guild staff uniform. The others fell silent as she reached them. “We have just received a message via the BEE system,” the woman said, “Hunters attacked and dismantled an android. It needs help immediately! Will you go and recover this android?”
“Of course we will!” Nyko said quickly. The other forces nodded.
“Oh thank you! Please head out as soon as you can,” the woman said and returned to the guild room.
Crow frowned as the others scattered through the shopping district. Only hunters dealing in the black market would dismantle an android. They meant business and trouble. Were these three small forces ready to take on such a mission? There was no choice but to go with them. Somebody had to protect them from their mischief.
Archived on LiveJournal @ 14 May 2009
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