Written by: Kenji Park & Riverly Julianet
Chapter 1: A New World
Set the heavens ablaze and let hell break loose to awaken the nightmares…
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The sound of a lone whistle pierced the quiet winter air, and was joined by desperate battle cries, as hundreds of figures started to climb ladders leading out of the safety of the trenches. The dark sky was covered in clouds of light grey smoke, lightened up by the scorching colors of flames and flashes of bursting bombs and gunshots. Up there, it was a ruthless battlefield.
A young soldier joined in the cry as she tightly gripped her rifle in a vain effort to steady her shaking hands and was ready to move. Gunfire erupted from the enemy side and she watched in slight horror as some soldiers who were climbing the ladder tumbled backwards onto the frozen floorboards of the trench, blood oozing from gaping bullet holes.
The stink of blood penetrated the air, filling her nostrils with a rusty iron stench that made her nauseous. Red stained the floor where several bodies gave their final breath. For a brief moment, she hesitated as fear slowly swamped her mind; but she shook it off instantly. She swallowed the bile that had been rising in her throat, hard, and forced herself to step over the casualties and grip the side of the ladder.
After scrambling out of the trench, she ducked low and started to advance through the hail of bullets being sent by the enemy. A nearby explosion made her dive into a close by, half-filled crater full of muddy water and blood, just in time as another explosion went off not too far from there, sending pieces of a mangled body into the crater.
Gritting her teeth, she clambered out of the hole and charged forward once more towards the enemy trenches.
As she pushed towards the enemy, the land behind her became littered with countless bodies of both dead and wounded. Yet, with all the commotion happening all around, progress was being made and she was able to see the enemy lines come into view more clearly.
Each step she took brought her closer; and soon enough, she was hovering over the targeted trench with her surviving partners just beside her. Taking a deep breath they jumped down into the enemy trench, facing the army of foes directly on their ground.
The time had finally come, rifles were fired, pointing blank at each other; bayonets clashed; and the screams of those being hit echoed in the air. She, too, swung her rifle and a sickening crunch was heard as it struck an enemy in the face.
Shoving aside the gurgling corpse, she took a few steps forward only to be stopped abruptly when yet another blast blew off just beside. The sound was deafening and her eyes burnt in white light as she instinctively raised her hand up to cover her head.
The sizzling heat was the last thing she remembered before being flung into the air. She blacked out from the force of impact as her body slammed into a nearby hardened trench wall...
A young woman lurched up from her bed and tiredly rubbed her face. ‘Damn another nightmare.’ Shaking her head to clear the bad memory, she threw aside the bed sheets and swung her legs out from the bed. Her bare feet lay flat on the wooden floor below, sensing the cold tickling her skin before she got familiar with it. She took a moment to stretch her arms, then stood up and made her way over to the window near her bed and opened the curtains.
Wincing slightly as the morning sun streamed through the hazy glass panes, she looked down to the street below and saw people bustling about their daily lives. Usuality. This part of the city was never at rest even at late in night time or early in the morning. She then glanced over her shoulder and took note of the time before letting out a sigh. ‘Well no use staying cooped up in here. Might as well get the day started.’
The woman with messy short blond hair made her way over to a dresser and proceeded to get dressed for the day’s events. After securely fastening her armor and accessories over her body suit, she slipped on a pair of thigh-high boots before making her way out of the room, quietly shutting the door behind her so as to not wake the other occupants in the building.
She had gotten the habit of putting on armor plates and cape during her years serving in Jutland military and afterward being a member of Pathfinder Corps; stepping outside without her suit made her feel so vulnerable. Besides, she had to be in prepared stance at all time.
But that was here nor there as she sluggishly walked down the stairs. She gave a short wave and a small smile to the receptionist who tiredly returned the greeting. Must be difficult doing night shift, she thought to herself and felt bad for the man.
Noticing the early pangs of hunger making its way through her stomach, creating some grumble noises in the process, she decided to pay the dining part of the inn an early visit. She entered the chamber and found herself the only one in this room. It was about forty past five in the morning, and technically, the place had not even been opened yet, so she was certainly the first guest of the day.
She strolled across sets of tables and chairs that were cleanly organized and passed by some pots of decorative plants that lay cast in the shadow of an unlit chamber, and took a seat at the bar counter at the back of the dining area. Dizziness hit her along with a faint nausea stuck at her dry throat. ‘Damn, I could go for a glass of water.’
“You know if I didn’t know better, I’d say that you look like shit.”
She blearily looked up to the speaker of the voice and raised an eyebrow. “And who was the one that challenged me to a drinking contest?”
The lean woman, who had a few strands of hair half braided on one side and the left was swept over to the other side, wavy in an alluring way, leaned against the counter and snorted. “Well maybe next time you shouldn’t try to out-drink the owner of a bar.”
She laid her forehead onto the cold surface of marble and closed her eyes. “Shut it Awela, it’s too early in the morning for this.”
“Aw, and here I thought the legendary Lynn O’Hara could handle her alcohol.” Mirth filled her voice as she playfully nudged Lynn in the shoulder.
“While I am all for continuing this meaningless bantering, can I get some water please? I’m arid.” Just as Lynn finished her sentence, her gut groaned in protest, reminding her of an empty stomach. “Yeah, and hungry too. Sorry about that. A meal, too, please?”
Awela grinned, “Sure thing honey, what’ll you have for breakfast? The usual, I assume?” A silent nod was Awela’s only response and she pushed herself up from the counter, heading into the kitchen.
As Lynn enjoyed the comforting feeling of the marble counter, she mentally cataloged what needed to be done for the day. Her thoughts were interrupted a few minutes later when Awela came back out and placed a plate of steaming food in front of her along with a cup full of lemonade. “Here you go. Lemonade works better than water so I made you one.”
“Has anyone told you that you’re the best, Awela?” Lynn smiled as she accepted the cup and downed half of its content in a single gulp without noticing a happy look on the older woman’s face.
She slightly made a sour-face as the lemon taste hit her sense, but it felt so good and her thirst had finally been pleased. She put the cup down and turned to Awela’s special dish: a thick vegetable soup served with baked bread. The smell was ambrosial with light garlic tone and seasonings that wafted the closed space of the unopened dining room. Waiting no more, Lynn started to munch on her food as Awela simply watched. A relaxed silence settled between the two of them for a long moment.
“Oh yeah before I forget, I heard that a new shipment of supplies and mana crystals just came into the port. Seeing as you are planning on heading out on an expedition soon, I believe that you maybe want to restock your group?”
Lynn paused her spoon of soup mid-air to look over at Awela with interest written on her face. “A shipment?” She put the spoon into her mouth before continuing with her chin puffed and her voice muffled. “Been awhile since I heard that type of news.”
“Swallow before you talk, hun,” Awela told, eyebrows knitted as a mother who was displeased seeing her daughter acting rudely. But it was only for a second and she was back to normal with a shrug. Putting a hand on her hip, the woman continued. “I know, right? I mean, hell, you could go out and harvest your own crystals in all, but the purity just wouldn’t be the same as the ones from the mainland.”
Lynn pursed her lips and sighed, “While I am glad to hear the news, I don’t really look forward to the possible situation.”
Awela snickered at the defeated look on the blonde’s face. “I’m assuming your sister is going to go full mad scientist once again.”
“Yeah, she did all kind of the experiments on those unrefined crystals we harvested while on expeditions.” She nodded in reply. “I don’t know what will happen when she finally gets her hands on the refined ones. Probably more researching and more testing. And, guess who is her favorite test subject?”
Awela playfully ruffled Lynn’s hair with a loud laughter before having her hand gently drawn away. “Is that why you keep your hair short these days?”
Lynn futilely tried her best to fix the messier mess that was her hair, but gave up the battle moments later with a tired sigh. “That’s one of the reasons, yes. But that’s not the only one for why it’s short.” She twirled a part of her hair out of habit before grimacing slightly at the quirking strand. Annoyed, she kept pulling the stubborn strand until it became acceptably straight.
Awela had a Cheshire grin plastered over her face as she spoke, leaning forward on her exposed too-firm arms. The woman had a healthy muscular body with pretty tattoos adorning her tan skin tone, and she definitely did not bother to hide it. “I dunno sweety. While I do miss the cute little ponytail you sported in your earlier days, this bob-cut style isn’t a bad look on you either. Just throwing that out there.”
Lynn finished her last bite of the baked bread, the soup had already been cleaned and she was a little wistful over that small fact, then leaned back from the counter and tipped her chair slightly, making it balance on the back two legs for support. “I mean if you say so. I guess I just wanted a new look to show that I started a new page in my life.”
She then shrugged absentmindedly before dropping the chair flat on the ground and toying with the metal spoon and the empty soup bowl. “Anyways, before my younger sister decides to include me in her quest to find the perfect volatile mixture, I’m going to go out and shop for some supplies, and with what you said earlier, probably pick up some crystals along the way as well…”
“That sounds like a plan,” Awela commented. “The old Jax must have his shop opened by now.”
“Does his shop even have a closing hour?”
Lynn and Awela laughed a little at that and with a light grunt, Lynn pushed herself up from the counter. “I’ll be leaving now. Can you help me with these?” She indicated the empty dish and empty cup just minutes before had been serving her breakfast.
“Sure thing. Don’t worry about it.”
The blonde nodded politely then turned and made her way to the exit. She was about to take her leave when Awela suddenly cleared her throat and pointed at the coat rack next to the door. “Don’t forget your cloak!”
Lynn shook her head in mock disappointment before reaching over and grabbing her favorite ash gray cloak from the hanger. Upon doning it, she gave Awela one more silent nod as she finally made her way out of the building.
The sounds of people going about their daily lives filled the air around her as Lynn casually made her way down the paved road.
After trying her utmost best to not get in the way, she still managed to bump shoulders with more than a few people as she navigated her way down the crowded street even at this early hour. Being the business zone and all, where the most trades and transactions took place in the capital, it was an ordinariness that the streets were seemingly always lively. Whether it was day or night, weekday or weekend, the stream of people would be either super crowded or semi-crowded.
Taking some time to also peruse the stalls lining the sides of the street, she noticed many merchants calling out to the passerby for the purpose of selling their offered wares. It was a wide range of displayed goods from those that were practical and may at least have some usage benefit, to those that made her raised an eyebrow at and actually wondered why and how they could be sold and in fact had a lot of customers.
Still she wasn’t the one to judge as business was business. Ruefully, she shook her head and continued to walk down the street.
A few turns and finally reached her destination, Lynn quietly opened the door in front of her, stepped inside and was immediately welcomed by the short figure who was sitting behind the wooden table whose surface was littered with mechanical parts and tools for whatever he was doing.
“Why if it ain’t my favorite freelancer.” His husky voice broke the tranquility that set the chamber a total different world from out there. Sound-proof glass sure did an excellent work and so did the walls. “What can Jax’s Emporium do for ya today?”
She smiled at the middle-aged man whose canine teeth was shining in gold. He had a scar crossed his thick dark eyebrow on the left side and his facial expression was so intimidating that it sometimes scared his own customers away. But Lynn felt comfortable with that trait of him, having known the man for years since she had still worked for the military and he had been a black market supplier that the government secretly worked with. Both of them had escaped from their previous lives.
“What’s up Jax! I heard from a little birdy that a new shipment of crystals has just come in. Was wondering if you have any?”
He plunged his head backwards in shock and mockingly put a hand to his chest before sighing with a hurting look in his dull brown orbs. “Oh dear, the fact that ya have to ask hurts me so much! What type of merchant I’d be if I didn’t have what the client wanted!”
Lynn snorted humorlessly. “Alright, cut the crap Jax. Only yes or no, please.”
A familiar business smile graced his features as he gestured to the back of the store. “I do, actually. Before ya came in, I’ve finished sortin’ through the crates and yes, two stocks of pure Caerulus are waitin’ to be sold.”
Jax left his chair and motioned for Lynn to follow, passing racks stacked with a variety of equipment's and weapons of all sort, the two of them proceeded to walk to the hallway at the back. The light was dim along the corridor that led to a room which appeared to be a storage, and the air was cold. This was so like Jax, the man who discreetly loved darkness.
He unlocked the thick iron door with a key of his for she to step into. Almost instantly, she took note of the light hues of radiant that become obvious in the unlit room, as it was a mixture of both blue and purple shining in the dark.
“Hey, Jax…” Lynn was about to ask but she was rudely cut off.
“Girl, ya should consider yarself lucky.” Jax said when the lights slowly turned on. “Come there and see what’s in that crate.”
She was puzzled and curious but decided to do what he said instead of asking more questions. She carefully walked over to the crate which was radiating a purple halo, that was if her eyes had not been hallucinating, and she opened the box before reaching inside and pulling out a crystal that was about the size of her palm.
Her eyes widened at the beautiful violet crystalline in her hand. She looked on in awe. “This…”
“Aye,” Jax proudly jiggled his head. “Ostrum that ya seein’. The only stock I got my hands on.”
“Woah… I don’t know what to say, Jax.” Lynn found herself unable to tear her gaze away from the small piece of crystal. “This purity… And an Ostrum? This… This is amazing.”
Jax grin grew bigger at her reaction. His gold teeth sparkled as he spoke. “I know. I have great customers who’ve booked for these for ages, at a pretty good price, of course. And I don’t intend on sellin’ the rest to ordinary guests.”
Lynn frowned at the underlying meaning. It was understandable, though.
“Don’t be so upset,” Jax kept his business smile and waved his hand lightly. “Like I said, ya lucky. Ya my favorite customer and my first customer of the day, so I’d like to offer ya a discount.”
“Is that you, Jax?”
The man burst into a hideous laughter and he answered through his cackling. “Surprisingly, it’s still me. So ya take it or not? It’s the one time offer, ya should know that.”
“Can you remind me the price of one piece of this?”
“I originally sold it at the price o’ 1000 Rul, plus 300 Rul for reserving cost.”
“Kill me, Jax.” Lynn bluntly said. There was no way she could afford that freaking high of a price and she would rather spend her Rul on Cearulus type of crystals. Those were fine enough for what she wanted.
“Haha, girl, I’ll sell it to ya 500 Rul. How does that sound?”
That was a bizarrely sweet discount coming from Jax the merchant, and Lynn knew him well enough to understand that he was in truth being generous to her. There would be no second chance for her to have this good of a deal with Jax, and she truly wanted to own a piece of pure Ostrum. After full consideration, she came to her final decision. “Fine, I’ll take one.”
“That’s my girl.” Jax laughed again. His voice boomed and echoed. Then he pointed towards another crate. “Since ya here anyway, I also got another shipment of powdered crystals. Perhaps ya want to top off ya suit?”
Lynn looked down at her outfit and subconsciously poured her mana into it, making the parts made up of the powdered crystal glow a light blue hue. “Yeah... I guess I could use a refill soon, but not quite yet. There’s still some use out of this batch.” She stopped the flow of mana and the suit ceased to glow in response.
The short man shrugged in indifference, “Well ya might want to pick some up now while ya have the chance. Just sayin’.”
“Calm yourself there buddy, I’ll still buy some, okay?” Lynn sighed, knowing that she had just, again, let herself fall into Jax’s words. This man was a businessman and he knew exactly what to offer his customer. “I’m just saying I won’t be using it right away.”
He clasped his hands together cheerfully and nodded. “Splendid! Well ya know the process. Pick what ya want and meet me up at the front.”
He patted on Lynn’s left arm, too short to reach her shoulder, and started to walk out of the room. She looked over her shoulder, mused. “Oh, and what’ll stop me from robbing you silly if you leave me alone in this wonderful room?”
The sound of crispy laughter yet again filled the air as he shook his head in mirth before a serious tone filled his voice. “O’Hara, ya one o’ the most honorable people I’ve ever met. Ya not goin’ to steal from me, because that’s how highly people think o’ ya.”
“While I do appreciate the kind comment, I haven’t done anything to deserve it.”
He pursed his lips and then smiled, “Don’t be modest. If it wasn’t for ya, many of us here would’ve been dead. Me included.” He clapped his hands and cleared his throat. “Now then, let’s put aside that and go back to what we were doin’.”
With that being said, the short salesman left, leaving Lynn inside an open storage room full of treasures. Literally. Every crate here contained precious materials or items that was worth a fortune and could create one hell of a dangerously powerful battle set if they were to fall into malicious hands.
Lynn finished picking up what she wanted and stuffed them into a random bag she picked up in the corner of the room. Making sure the heavy metal door had closed shut behind her, she walked back to the front of the store to see that a handful of people were there looking at the wares.
She quickly approached the counter where she deposited the items in the rugged bag before reaching into one of her pockets and pulling out some Rul coins and paper sheets and put them on the counter, right in front of the watching man.
“Hm, the correct amount.” From behind the counter, probably sitting on a really high stool, Jax pleasantly commented. “What else can I expect from my lovely freelancer?”
She smirked at his talk, “Well, seeing as how I basically get the same things every time, it’s not hard to remember their prices.”
The man nodded his square-shaped head in agreement. “Ya not wrong. But do me a favor, will ya? Do not waste these materials. I know how ya and ya sister like experimentin’ on these things.”
“Correction,” She picked up all the items and stowed them away in a new better bag Jax handed to her. “My sister likes experimenting, and I’m just the test dummy which definitely isn’t fun.”
“Well tell ya sister, good ol’ Jax said hi and treat her older sister better.” An amused smile graced his thin pale lips, revealing a tiny bit of that golden teeth he had.
“I’m sure she’ll listen to that advice. Anyways, I’ll catch you later Jax.” She waved her goodbye and soon found herself had been out in the busy and noisy street. She suddenly missed the quietness inside the place she had just left.
‘Right, now, let’s find my little sister and the others and see what they’re up to.’ The thought just flashed through her mind as she decided to return home after a short shopping trip. She considered visiting a laboratory equipment shop that was round the corner at the far end of the street that she would be passing by for some purchases.
Since she recalled Aika had been nagging about the breakage of a few glass jars and the lack of devices of some sort last night. However, it was still quite early in the morning, so Lynn doubted the shop would be available. ‘Maybe later.’ With that, she shrugged and kept heading back to the inn.
The inn in question was an aged building with a neon board written “Stella Inn” on the front of the building, it was situated on a branching road leading to a busy and crowded neighborhood. Far to the North, the landscape was imposing and marvelous even at a great distance as there stood the industrial area of Atlas - the capital of Jutland. Silhouettes of tall pillars breached the cerulean sky and flying objects circled around doing transportation and surveillance.
“Technologies,” Lynn clicked her tongue unknowingly. She had never been there before, but had passed by close enough to be awed by the constant advancement and magics that always happened in the area. Aika, on the other hand, had paid the place several visits despite having refused to work for the research centre that located high on top of the gigantic steampunk building.
The Relicium, they called, where the most talented people gathered for the greater purpose.
Yes, her beloved sister was that genius. It still astounded her why her sister decided to be a freelancer rather than accept the job offerings.
The door cracked open when Lynn touched on the knob and turned it. A sudden ring resounded to announce guests, or residents, had just come through.
“Happy shopping?” Awela greeted with her usual playful tone. “Seems you’ve got your crystals.”
“One of the earliest.” Lynn replied, patting on the bag hung from her shoulder. “This really is an excellent shipment.”
“That’s what I’ve heard, sweetie. No need to thank me for informing you.”
“Oh, my bad. Of course I have to thank you, Awela. So, thanks a lot.” Lynn grinned to the inn owner. “Your source of information is always fast and reliable.”
“Haha. What do you know.” Awela chuckled, changing the subject. “Oh, right. Your sister is still upstairs.”
She raised an eyebrow at the statement. “Still? Where are the other two?”
Awela waved a hand nonchalantly, “Dunno, they asked me where you had gone and I told them you went shopping for crystals. Then they just left, I assumed they were going after you, to tell the truth.”
Lynn shrugged. “Well, I wonder... I’ll ask Aika if she knows what they’re up to, but they can handle themselves so I’m not worried.” She readjusted the bag on her shoulder quickly before heading up the stairs and down the hall to a room where her sister was staying in. Upon reaching the door she lightly rapped her fingers on the wooden door and waited for an answer.
“Yeah? Come in, please.”
Hearing the response, Lynn allowed herself into the room and saw her sister fiddling over something on the stainless steel desk that took up a whole corner of the small space. Lying on the desks surface were several types of equipment's, a microscope seemed to be in the middle of a working session, papers and notes scattered about, and a glass jar holding a piece of a bluish colored magical crystal.
When Aika was absorbed in her scientific research, these kinds of messes were usually escalated beyond her working table; so Lynn had a reason to believe that her sister had only just begun whatever she was doing.
“What are you working on?” She walked over, carefully looking down at her steps as she used to trample on some of the many things that Aika ‘accidentally’ left around on the floor during her research (at some point, the aftermath had turned out horrible and Lynn refused to repeat it ever again).
As she approached the back of her sister, she perched her chin lightly on Aika’s shoulder, seeing the girl observing a dark blue powder template in her hands. Her oval face was adorned with a thick glassware that covered half of her facial expression.
“I had an idea about augmenting your abilities and wanted to test it out.” Aika took a moment to reply, quickly put the template down along with the dark glassware and turned around to look at Lynn before her eyes caught that familiar shopping bag of Lynn’s. A smile formed on her pale lips as her green orbs sparkled with excitement. “Are there by chance any crystal in there?”
Lynn silently, and defeatedly, nodded as she set the bag on the desk, pulling out one of a faintly glowing crystal from the inside. Sharp diamond in shape and purple in color, the crystal fit perfectly in the palm of her hand.
It was as if this type of crystal had a charming spell, because the longer you looked at it, the more mesmerizing it became and you could hardly tear your gaze away.
Aika gasped at the sight, eyeing it greedily before gingerly taking it from her sister’s hand and examining it closer. She treated the crystal so gentle as she raised it under the white light from the ceiling lamp.
“Oh my god!… This-is-great! An Ostrum. Exactly what I need to finish this project.” Aika exclaimed in pure exhilaration. “Oh my, how pure this thing is! Unbelievable!”
“Yes, very rare, very pure, very expensive.” Lynn pressed on the last part on purpose, although she was sure that Aika gave very little attention to that. “And pray tell, since it involves me, what is this project? Will it result in burning my hair again?”
Aika shook her head. “Nah, not this time, you should be safe… for the most part.” She gave Lynn a bright, innocent smile that was anything but reassuring.
“Right…” The blonde woman rolled her eyes, not even trying to hide her sigh. “Well, what is it that I need to do this time?”
Aika started to tinker with the crystal in her hands as she answered Lynn. “Well after I grind a little bit of the crystal and add the collected dust to the mixture, which I’ve already prepared, I’ll need you to ingest it. Just swallow the dry powder mixture, no water or else everything will be ruined. Then, if all goes according to plan, you should gain a boost to your perception for about two to three minutes? The enhancement should last for at most an hour if I were to use Caerulus. But, heck, this is Ostrum. Maybe its duration can reach a few hours length! I realize you can sort of sense when metal comes in a close proximity to you since your ability is metal-related, so I thought maybe this would be a fine tune to it.”
The young scientist paused to catch her breath, and was quick to return to her endless babble. “As for the possible haywire situation, for your concern my dear sister, there’s no guarantee of what might be coming. It can be of no effect at all, or it can lead to temporary loss of senses. Just hypothesis, though. I’m certain that there will be no harm to your life. You know, I will never do anything that hurt you, for the most part at least.”
While the explanation was being given, Lynn couldn’t help but slightly felt doubtful and worried for her own health. Aika was a wonderful sister for her to have, caring and everything; but Science Aika was a little questionable. Lynn laughed dryly. “Sure. I believe the ‘never do anything that hurts me’ part. But, if this goes wrong, you owe me a round of ale.”
“And if this does work, would you buy me a round then?”
“Fair enough, so you want me to take this now?”
Aika simply gave a signal for Lynn to wait as she swirled to her working table, carefully putting the Ostrum crystal onto a tray that she had just pulled out from the cabinet hung on the wall above. She wore her glassware back on, picked up a handheld grinding knife, then slowly and professionally carved out a very thin layer of purple crystalline which fell down the tray as finely crushed dust.
When done, the young woman proceeded to tap all the powder into a small bowl which contained who knew what ingredients and gently mixed them up. She poured in some more chemicals, mixed again, and the mixture became chewier to the look. Very much like a kind of purplish green paste.
That was quite a big portion for only one or two swallows, Lynn gulped, but then she noticed her sister continuing dividing the paste into several vials for storage, keeping only about a spoon for immediate experiment. Lynn could deal with a spoon. She steeled her nerves and mentally prepared herself for the eating session.
However, Aika shook her head. “Nope, not yet. Let’s head outside first, shall we? Just in case.”
She reached over and grabbed her bow that was lying up against the wall and walked out of the room leaving Lynn greatly worrying about her health.
“Just in case?” She quickly followed her sister downstairs and out the backdoor, into the yard. “What case?”
“In case you puke or something. Wouldn’t want to get Awela’s floors dirty.”
“Oh gee, your concern for her is great,” Lynn chided childishly. “What about me?”
“Bah I’ll pat your back and tell you everything’s fine,” Aika beamed at her sister as putting a hand on the blonde’s shoulder. She held out a vial filled with the horrific looking sticky paste to Lynn. “Now it’s time. When I tell you, you’ll down this and then I’ll fire an arrow toward your direction. Try and grab it.”
Lynn blinked in disbelief. “Okay? While I can sense the arrow and dodge it, I highly doubt I can catch it. That sucker’s moving really fast.”
“Humor me then. You ready?” Aika shrugged, a strand of her long pink hair slid down from her shoulder. She looked excited, almost completely positive in a favorable outcome.
Lynn glanced at the vial in her hand and swished the contents inside out gently. A drop of sweat started rolling down the side of her face when she shaped the paste into a sphere. There was no any strange smell, nor it was as slimy as she had originally thought. “Yeah, let’s do it.”
Aika gave her a thumbs up in encouragement, and she downed the ball of mixture in one gulp. ‘Huh it’s pretty tasteless to be honest.’ was Lynn’s first thought when that paste went right down her stomach. Waiting for one or two minutes, she felt no difference both in a good or bad way.
Nothing out of ordinary happened until up to the moment when her sister raised her bow. Lynn noticed that she seemed to be drawing out her bow and arrows from the back much slower than usual, so was when she pulled the string. ‘Huh that’s weird. She’s usually quicker with her shots.’
The world around Lynn was as if being slowed down and her senses were sharpened incredibly. ‘Maybe I can catch the arrow.’ She flexed her hands and prepared herself. When the arrow was finally released from the bow, while it was still quick, it definitely was lagging in velocity than what it should have been darting at.
When it entered her proximity, she bent her knees and put full force on her feet for a backward flip. She jumped. Her legs curled up to her chest and she turned downward right in mid-air, catching the flying arrow in her left hand at the apex of her flip before elegantly landing in a crouching wide A-position.
The world around her suddenly sped up again and the beginnings of a headache started to form and smacked directly into her skull. ‘Well shit... I know this feeling.’ Lynn barely had enough consciousness to realize the familiar aftermath that was going on with her own body, the pain took over her sensibility and made her fall to her knees.
She hugged the side of her head, hearing the resounding ring in her ears as her vision became blurry and a moment later, everything was an empty blank of darkness...
Lynn didn’t know how long she had been passed out for. It felt like it had been at least a few hours that had gone by and every attempt trying to move her limbs sent an aching shot across her body. It was difficult to open up her heavy eyelids, only for a split second before she shut them again because of the brightness from the sky above.
Her senses gradually came back, and she felt something humid beneath her and the wind carried aroma of Awela’s favorite flowers that were planted in the backyard. Somebody shook her and helped her sit up.
“... Are you okay? Hey, Lynn!” She heard her name being called repeatedly and a little worriedly, sounded like her younger sister’s voice. A hand checked her pulses, then hauled her up.
Lynn groaned, blinking to adjust her vision to the surrounding. A fuzzy bed of Roselia flowers blooming pridefully at the corner of her eyes told her that somehow she was still outside and her physical state had obviously not regained even a tiny bit. She weakly called, unable to finish the question. “... Aika? Wh… What…?”
“It’s okay. You’re alright. Maybe the effect is much stronger than I have anticipated.” Aika’s guilty sweet voice blended with the faint ringing sound beside her ear. “Don’t worry. Let me help you get inside.”
Surges of throbs at her temple came every now and then, but bearable. Or so she thought. It struck intensely again, the headache. And this time, there was no black out to cover the agony.
All Lynn could do was moan and grit her teeth hard while clutching her head, completely unaware of how Aika had brought her to a guest bedroom on the ground floor and had Awela bring a tray of water into the room. She sat down on the bed, gulping a whole cup of fresh water given to her cracked lips.
“How’s she?” Awela asked in sincere concern, but if Lynn was in her right mind and health, she would have catch that tint of amusement in those sharp almond eyes of the bar lady. There was no reply from Aika, though, or if there was, Lynn had failed to pick up.
Surprisingly, the water worked; the pain lessened and Lynn could stop grinding her teeth to breath out curses. “Damn… Damn you, Aika…”
“Oh,” Awela chuckled teasingly. “I guess you’re fine, sweetie.”
“Hell…” Lynn grumbled. “... I feel like a pile of shit. Damn it… How long have I been unconscious?”
“Well, only a few seconds back there in the garden.” Aika, who was standing beside Lynn and studying her reactions carefully, laughed nervously. “I really don’t see this coming, sis. I’m so sorry. But apart from this, the experiment was a success, don’t you agree?!”
“Bravo,” the short blonde had wanted to congratulate her sister’s achievement; however, she was in a very bad mood and every word leaked out from her mouth appeared to be sarcastic. “Argh, shit… This is worse than any time before. I don’t know why I agreed to do your bid in the first place…”
“Because you’re my sister.” Aika smiled. “You should lie down and take your rest. Would you mind if my sister stayed in this room for a while, Awela?”
“Nah, I’ve labeled this one O’Hara anyway since every damn time you two carry out an experiment, Lynn would end up needing the nearest room for whatever reason that might be.” Awela lightly pat on Lynn’s shoulder, her trademark smirk adorned her face. “Rest well. I’ll be leaving for now.”
As the older woman took her leave, Aika called after her. “Thanks, Awela.”
“No worries, but for the trouble of taking this room up I expect a trinket or something from your next expedition.” Awela quietly shut the door giving the O’Hara sisters their own private space.
Lynn hardly laid her back flat on the bed, an arm still clutching the side of her head tightly. Aika’s expression was truly sorry as she bit her lower lips and helped Lynn lie down. “I’ll work on to reduce this side effect. This won’t be happening the next time.”
“... What? There’s a… argh, fuck…” Lynn heaved out in slight horror. “There’s a next time?”
“Well yeah, I mean, putting aside this headache, the experiment did work as intended, or even better than expected. You have definitely moved faster than your normal speed, which is by the way the fastest in our group, and you caught my arrow!”
“Hm... It did feel as if the world had slowed down a little... So yeah, I guess it did work.”
Aika thought for a few moments before coming up with a reasonable explanation. “Maybe, and this is just a thought. Perhaps your headache is due to the overwork your brain had to experience? Kind of like pushing it past the normal speed at which it processes? So that it suffered and collapsed for a second, that’s why you were blackout just now, and the after effect lingers as this serious headache.”
While her eyes were still closed, Lynn gave a small nod of agreement to her sister and did not forget to put in some sarcasm. “Yes, sounds reassuring. Next time, please make sure that part gets left out. My head's killing me right now.”
A cheeky smile grew on Aika’s face one that was tinged with a bit of nervousness. “Well, I’ll do my best. But let’s look on the bright side, I was able to get you the hangover headache which would have happened if I bought you a round, but without spending money.”
Lynn opened her eyes and turned her deadly gaze to her sister, pursing her lips as she cursed. “jävla helvete…”
Aika sheepishly rubbed the back of her own head and laughed nervously.