Chapter 21:

The Devil, The Witch, and The Solace of Respite

The Devil, The Witch, and The Wicked World of Delirith

Somewhere in the wicked world of Delirith, somewhere in the highlands of Mount Mortis, our two protagonists were seen riding across the empty roads to an unknown destination on their silver hoverbike, the Silverbolt. This time however, the one-horned devil was seen driving the bike while the witch sat behind, as opposed to the usual vice-versa. Bookmark here

“Well, if there’s anything we learned from our encounter with the Frost-wulves, is that a wooden prosthetic leg- is pretty shit.” Bookmark here

Ranting about wooden legs!Bookmark here

As pointed out by Fyra, the witch’s wooden prosthetic leg was easily bit off by the oversized ice-spitting wolves; the Frost-wulves of Mount of Mortis, during their unfortunate encounter with them. Because of this-Bookmark here

Lost his freaking leg!Bookmark here

And now, they’re off to find someone or something to help replace Mako’s missing leg. Until then, Fyra will be driving the Silverbolt.Bookmark here

“Wait, what’s that?” Mako pointed to a lone building some distance away across a geyser field. The building had an oriental design to it, like that of a Japanese minshuku, with a little touch of dieselpunk-ish design.Bookmark here

More importantly, the building bore a sign on it’s a roof; Greciel’s Artificery and Homestay. The duo headed to the building without hesitation, swerving left and right dodging the steamy eruption across the geyser field. Once they arrived, the duo parked their bike, deconstructed it away and went inside the building. Bookmark here

*Creeeeaaaaak!*Bookmark here

“Hellooo!! Anybody there!?” Mako called, pushing open the sliding door as it’s loud creaked echoed the entire room.Bookmark here

Welcoming Mako and Fyra was what one would expect when visiting an artificer's workshop; racks of tools, shelves of various metal slabs and wooden planks, saw and hammers hanging on the wall, and that strange aromatic smell of wood dust, burning forge, and smudged grease and oil. It’s not as classy as the last artificer’s workshop the duo visited owned by Copperhead the steampunk gentleman, but the humble state of that place gave them a more ‘homely’ feel to it. Bookmark here

Now, if only the owner of that place would show up for right now, the place seemed to be devoid of any life.Bookmark here

“You think the owner’s out for lunch?” Mako asked, earning a shrug from Fyra.Bookmark here

Regardless, the duo decided to explore the place just for the heck of it. Mako and Fyra went behind the counter searching for samples of this place’s owner’s work. After all, being an ‘artificer’ in Delirith meant many things. Bookmark here

For one, an artificer may refer to those who craft guns, firearms, and other projectile-shooting weaponry. Sometimes, artificers are those who tinker armours for an individual, their vehicle, or their pet animals. And sometimes, artificers are those who craft and fix prosthetic body parts for those lacking a limb or two. And of course, there are artificers who handle all three.Bookmark here

The last two types were the ones Mako and Fyra were hoping to meet to make a new leg for the witch. However, it seemed this workshop displayed no sample of its owner’s work to help indicate to the duo the kind of artificery service provided in this place. Bookmark here

“Welp, I guess we just gotta find another pla- AAAAARGHK!!” Fyra turned and was caught by surprise-Bookmark here

“Oh dear oh dear~ Two kids, snooping around my workshop without permission-” Bookmark here

“These wrinkles ain’t nothing kiddos! I’m as young as ever in the heart!”Bookmark here

Did your parents not teach you kids NOT to do that at a stranger’s place?” Greciel asked in a rather ‘grandma-ish’ voice, while cocking a shotgun pointed at the duo.Bookmark here

The Elder Artificer looked just like any elderly woman you’d see; droopy wrinkled face, ong grey hair tied to a bun, slightly crooked back, and even her clothing was that of an old lady’s gown- at least the upper half of it, for below her waist was nothing but a set of brown-steeled robotic spider legs. Bookmark here

“Woah woah! We’re not here for trouble, miss- madam- ma’am-” Mako stuttered for a while before regaining his composure- “we saw the sign outside and uh… I sort of need a new leg.” Mako raised his right leg, showing her the amputation of everything below the witch’s knee.Bookmark here

“Ah! You two are customers!-” Greciel immediately dropped her gun- “oh my! Where are my manners? I’m sorry for pointing a gun at you, dears.”Bookmark here

“It’s okay ma’am. We’re used to it,” Fyra replied casually.Bookmark here

“May I?” Bookmark here

Mako raised his right leg as Greciel bent down all eight of her spider legs, putting her at a lower position to give the witch’s amputation a closer look. She took out a measuring tape to measure the width, diameter and all of the amputation’s dimensions before requesting to measure the witch’s other fine leg. Mako gladly granted it of course.Bookmark here

“Well kid, it won’t take long for me to cook up a new leg for ya, but judging from the screws, wounds and all, I take it you’ve had a fake leg before?”Bookmark here

“Yep. Two actually, but the second one got bitten off by a Frost-wulf cuz it’s made out of wood,” Mako explained.Bookmark here

“I see. Well, if you two don’t mind, I can make a more reinforced one that wouldn't come off even from a nuke! But it’ll take three days though.”Bookmark here

“Three days huh…” Mako and Fyra looked at each other.Bookmark here

"Well… How much are you going to charge us for this?" Fyra questioned the elderly.Bookmark here

"Ah, I see. Don't you two worry about that! Once you've reached my age you will see less value in money than things that truly matter like health, love and company…"Bookmark here

"You're charging us for free then!" Mako concluded, a huge smile beamed from his face.Bookmark here

"No. That'll be 60 scraps," Greciel replied blatantly. "BUT, if you two are to stay here in my homestay for those three days, then I'll cut the price in half and only charge an extra 60 for your stay!" The elderly women negotiated.Bookmark here

Mako and Fyra counted the new price with their mind and fingers. With the duo's combined mathematics IQ barely reaching two-digits, they decided to accept the offer as their hearts took charge of the decision making and claimed the price to be less.Bookmark here

With that, Greciel escorted Mako and Fyra to their room at the homestay connected behind the workshop. The room, and pretty much the rest of the place's interior resembled that of a typical minshuku. From its wooden floored hallway, tatami-matted rooms, paper sliding doors, and the fact that the duo were told to open their shoes before entering the homestay. Bookmark here

"This is the best guest room we have for you two's stay. It's the biggest guest room in the house and has an outdoor natural hot spring bath right outside!" Greciel pushed the sliding door open revealing a spacious tatami-matted room. Another sliding door laid wide open at the end of the room, revealing the outdoor hot spring bath as claimed by the elderly woman.Bookmark here

"Feel free to use it anytime throughout your stay. The minerals from the springs will do wonders for your health!" Greciel boasted to the two.Bookmark here

Needless to say, Mako and Fyra were simply flabbergasted by the place, having never before seen such a sight after years of sleeping under dirt cheap conditions. The artificer's hospitality was unexpected, but a welcomed one for sure.Bookmark here

"You sure you're gonna have us use this room? We only paid 60 scraps for all this, right?" Fyra asked.Bookmark here

"Oh don't you worry about that! It's been years since I had a guest. People from the outside no longer come to this mountain, y'know?" Greciel assured the duo. "Because of that, if anyone ever came to stay in this place, I'll give all the best-est stuff I got, ya get me? It'll be a waste to just leave it unused…"Bookmark here

"Well, you two enjoy your stay! Breakfast will be at seven morn, lunch at 12, seven night for dinner, and tea-time (my favourite time!) from three to four. You two can join or not depending on your mood, but if it's the latter I'd very much appreciate it if you could notify me by latest an hour earlier. Save me some time and energy from all the cooking y'know?"Bookmark here

"Alright Miss Greciel! Thank you for everything!" Mako thanked as the duo bowed to the elderly women. Bookmark here

With that, Greciel left the two to their own devices, and the first thing they decided to do was unpack, unwind, armour's off and head straight for the bath!Bookmark here

****Bookmark here

“Ahhh..~ Nothing beats having a hot bath in the middle of a cold mountain place…” Fyra thought to herself as she dipped into the outdoor hot spring. How long had it been since she had a nice relaxing bath like this? Weeks? Months? Years? Bookmark here

“Four years ago, I think. We have never bathed properly since we met, unless you’ve been sneaking out without me knowing.” Mako appeared sitting at Fyra’s right side out of nowhere. Bookmark here

“Wha- Gatdammit Mako! You had to sneak from my blindspot, huh?”Bookmark here

“Blindspot? I thought your right eye’s good now from Copper’s contact lens we bought that day?” Bookmark here

“Yeah, but I lost it back when we rode with Anubrax’s clan. Ain’t seeing anything from this side.” Fyra cupped her hand on her right eye, which made no difference to her full sight.Bookmark here

“I see… Wait. Since your blind there, that means I can do this-”Bookmark here

“Oh hell no! You ain’t doing that!” Fyra pushed Mako who was about to stand up back down. The witch simply giggled at her reaction.Bookmark here

Silence ensued for some time after as the duo took this opportunity to enjoy a moment of relaxation. After everything they’ve been through and everyone they’ve shared their adventures with throughout their journey, chilling on a mountain hot spring was exactly what their body and mind needed. Bookmark here

“Maaaan, I can’t believe we’re already this close,” Mako spoke, breaking the silence. “A few blocks down the road and we will finally reach the end of our journey, four years worth.”Bookmark here

“Yeah...” Fyra replied. “So, once all this is over and assuming we make it out alive, what’s your plan after this? What do you want to do?”Bookmark here

“What do I want to do huh…” Mako pondered on his friend’s question for a while- “I’ll just follow my mother’s footsteps I guess? Wander around this planet helping those in need, all while shooting and looting any baddies out there that are up to no good. Just like a true witch!”Bookmark here

“And what about you? What’s your plan once all this is over?” Mako asked Fyra back.Bookmark here

“Well, it’s not like I have a home to return to, and I know you and I aren’t obliged to stay around with each other, but maybe I’ll do just that-”Bookmark here

“Really? You’re going to stick around even after we’ve killed him?” Bookmark here

“Like I said, I don’t have a home to return to anymore-” Fyra lifted her hand from the water and pointed it to Mako- “come to think of it, the same could be said about you.” She poked the witch’s soft cheek just for the heck of it. Bookmark here

“Heh, guess we might as well be inseparable at this point,” Mako commented.Bookmark here

“Yeah, like bread and butter,” Fyra responded.Bookmark here

“Like venom and fang,” Mako continued.Bookmark here

“Like running and gunning-”Bookmark here

“Like bullet and murder-”Bookmark here

“Like brother and sister-”Bookmark here

“Like husband and wife-”Bookmark here

“Wait what?” They both spoke at the same time, looking at each other in awkward confusion.Bookmark here

Ahem! Anyways, like The Devil-” Fyra put out her right arm and clenched her fist tight.Bookmark here

“And The Witch!” Mako did the same on his left as they both crossed arms with each other.Bookmark here

“HIYAH!!” the duo shouted as they lifted their arms together. They ended up bursting out laughing at what they had done just now.Bookmark here

“Aw man… What the hell was that? That’s pretty random of us just now!” Fyra remarked.Bookmark here

“Yeah man damn… Still, that was fun! We should do more of that next time. Makes me feel like we’re a power duo!”Bookmark here

“Yeah, me too. That said-” Fyra got up and gave herself a good stretch- “can you scrub my back for me Mako? I’ll do the same to you right after.”Bookmark here

“Aye sure.”Bookmark here

With that, Mako and Fyra cleaned themselves up, scrubbing each other’s hair and back before having one last dip and returning back to their room. When the hour clock reached seven, the duo enjoyed a hearty dinner with Greciel, sharing stories and tales and whatnot, before retreating to bed at nine.Bookmark here

The duo slept peacefully together on the comfy futon in the middle of their room. Seeing this, Greciel left the two in their quiet slumber and went back to the workshop to work on Mako’s reinforced prosthetic leg.Bookmark here

****Bookmark here

*BZZZZZZZZZZZZ!*Bookmark here

*Ptew!*Bookmark here

Greciel opened her welding helmet as she finished welding a part on the witch’s new prosthetic leg. It's been two days and two nights since Mako and Fyra came to her place and as promised, she will have the leg ready by the third.Bookmark here

Blowing off some smoke from the freshly welded iron leg, Greciel heard footsteps approaching her from behind.Bookmark here

“I suppose you two have trouble sleeping,” Greciel commented, revealing the person sneaking from her back to be none other than Mako and Fyra themselves.Bookmark here

“Heheh, sorry miss-” Mako scratched the back of his head- “we didn’t do anything exciting this morning, so we thought we could spy on your work.” Bookmark here

“Is that so? Well then, you could’ve just asked instead of sneaking up to an old woman like me. Come, take a seat.” Greciel pointed to two conveniently placed plastic chairs right beside the duo’s side. They sat down on those chairs and observed keenly as the elderly continued her work.Bookmark here

“Y’know, seeing the two of ya sitting there reminded me of my three children way back then…” Greciel suddenly commented. “They like watching me do my work when there’s nothing else to do. And from there, they learned the fine skills of smithing, welding, and carpentry, and soon became a professional of their own right…”Bookmark here

“What happened to them, Miss Greciel?” Fyra asked.Bookmark here

“Like what any kid would do once they grow up. Leave their homes to walk their own paths… but truth be told, I don’t like the path they're currently walking on, and worse yet, I have no else but to blame myself for that…” Bookmark here

“Those kids, I like to tell them stories. At night or at morn, before or after bed. All the stories I told them are that of heroes and kings, power and magic, fairy tales and folklore and whatnot. I soon learned that telling the wrong stories carry terrible consequences- one that will make you regret for a lifetime...”Bookmark here

“It all started one night when I told the three of this mountain’s secrets; that somewhere in Mount Mortis lay an “ancient stash” of great accursed powers. It was simply a story crafted from rumours I’ve heard back since I was young. I myself, and pretty much the rest of the mountain folk didn’t believe that story much in the first place. My eldest son however, believed it with all his heart, and even convinced his two brothers as well. “Bookmark here

“I never expected that little decade-old boy to actually find the so-called “ancient stash” with his brothers, but that’s exactly what happened. Unfortunately, something happened during their search as a huge explosion boomed- no, completely destroyed the other side of a mountain. When I came rushing there, I was greeted by all three of my sons greatly injured from the explosion.”Bookmark here

“The last son became blind as his eyeballs were completely destroyed. The middle son had his face cut leaving an ‘X’ mark on his face, as well as having some glowing purple shards stabbed all across his spine. The first and eldest son had it worse; for his entire upper body was filled with cuts, wounds, slashes, and amputations on both of his arms. I carried all three home where, in desperation and love, I built them a new body to replace all their useless injured limbs.”Bookmark here

“After all that’s said and done, you’d think the three would stop visiting that “ancient stash” but no, the three returned once more to collect some strange glowing crystal shards and whatever stuff they could find there. Days become weeks, weeks become months, and months become years. The three boys had collected plenty of shards in which they used some of its ‘power’ to build a more menacing and terrifying body. Their changes did not go unnoticed for not only me, but my neighbours and customers too were terrified not of their looks, but of what they could do with their new bodies, and their deep obsession to the strange glowing shards they had found.”Bookmark here

“Then one day came and the ruling clan of Mount Mortis at that time claimed sovereignty over the “ancient stash”. Oh how furious my sons were when they heard of that news. They end up waging war with said clan, just the three of them against hundreds!”Bookmark here

“And to my horror, my dear sons who couldn’t even harm a fly as children, slaughtered and tore the clansfolk apart (quite literally) without remorse. I could still remember the sight of blood and death, the helpless screams of countless clansfolk and annihilated tanks, and the smell of burning homes and lands. Them clansfolk were laid waste upon indiscriminate of age or gender, by my very own children now turned to ironclad monsters!”Bookmark here

“Yet despite the atrocities they’ve committed, I can’t bear to put them down myself, and strangely enough, so do them despite my clear retaliation against their deeds. They left the house and an elderly me behind, walking onwards on their own path to twisted glory. All I could do was observe helplessly at their bloody conquest and violent ascent, knowing all too well the countless lives they had and will lay waste to sate their desire for power and ruleship- all because of that accursed stash I told them in one of my stories!!”Bookmark here

Greciel put down her welding torch and paused for a while. Mako and Fyra watched her in concern after her sudden retelling of her past.Bookmark here

“In the end, my three sons did achieve their dreams in a way and now ruled over a very powerful clan. A mighty and massive clan, always on conquest to expand their empire, and to claim those accursed crystals for themselves. Their capital is actually just a few miles down from this place just so you know-”Bookmark here

Greciel had finished all the final touches on the reinforced prosthetic at this point, and that’s left was to leave it to cool down. Because of this, she put down her torch, turned off the gas, opened her helmet, and turned to the two kids who had been listening quietly to her story.Bookmark here

“Come to think of it, no outsider rode across Mount Mortis’s roads since the Skull Clan ruled over this mountain range- until you two showed up. And from what I’ve heard, our local rebel group will launch their final, largest attack by the end of this week-” Bookmark here

Greciel turned to the duo as she realized something. Mako and Fyra remained silent.Bookmark here

“Ah, so that’s how it is. Well, can’t say I didn’t see this coming. Those three waged a lot of wars, so they’re bound to make plenty of enemies throughout their journey.”Bookmark here

“So, you’re not gonna stop us from killing your last remaining son?” Fyra asked.Bookmark here

“Like I said, I’M the one who can't bear to stop them. But for better or worse, I won’t stop others from settling their personal grudge after all the atrocities they’ve done. Heck, I’ve even hired some folk or two to slow down their advances- take it as you will on what I meant by that.”Bookmark here

Greciel took the prosthetic leg she had made and approached Mako, who gladly rolled up the sleeve of his right leg as the elderly helped put it on. Moving his new leg around, the witch was delighted as he was able to get back to his feet once more- no longer needing Fyra’s assistance to walk around.Bookmark here

“Now, have a goodnight’s sleep and rest well tonight. You two have a long journey ahead of ya, and not wanting to sound pessimistic, but as Yakh’juj Khan’s mother, this might as well be your last.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, we’re prepared for that,” Mako replied simply. “Thanks for the leg, Miss Greciel. I feel like I could kick down a tank with this!”Bookmark here

“Oh you’ll have plenty of time to do that after this. Now back to bed kids! You still got one more night of comfy stay here~”Bookmark here

And so, Mako and Fyra retreated back to their room and had a nice shut eye on their warm futons. Hours passed by quickly as the sun rose proudly, bringing forth the following day- the duo’s final day in the homestay.Bookmark here

****Bookmark here

“You done yet Fyra!?” Mako called out, waiting outside Greciel’s place sitting on his Silverbolt. Fyra showed moments later, carrying a backpack filled with their stuff.Bookmark here

“I’m here, I'm here! Sheesh! What’s the sudden rush?” Fyra grumbled as she tossed the backpack behind Mako’s seat. She grabbed the witch’s hand as he pulled her up to her seat behind him, squeezing the backpack between the two.Bookmark here

“We’ll be going now Miss Greciel! Thank you for everything!” Mako waved to Greciel, currently standing at the entrance. The elderly woman waved back.Bookmark here

“Feel free to come back next time, children! I’ll be waiting with a big pot of the mixed stew you both loved so much~”Bookmark here

“Is that a promise miss? Cuz if so, then we’ll make sure to come out alive no matter what!” Fyra replied, half-joking and half-serious in her statement.Bookmark here

“Oh my! Then I’ll take it as a promise then if that means you two will come back~!” Greciel responded, also half-joking and half-serious in her reply.Bookmark here

With that, the duo rode off across the geyser field and went back to the long, empty road. Greciel waved goodbye as the sight of two kids riding a silver hoverbike gradually disappeared in the horizon. With nothing else to do, the Elder Artificer went back to her shop, awaiting her next customer once more.Bookmark here

“Those two kids… Sure reminded me of ‘them’ back in the day…” Greciel thought to herself.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.