Chapter 6:


Chained Regalia

“Nerush is a frontier town, meaning it lies on the border of civilization and Lishkarn-overrun territories. Because of that, travelers, particularly Chainbearers and Chains, are common around here, using the town as a base of sorts.”

Lucia started explaining something as she handed me what looked to be a menu. We had finished our trek to the town—apparently called ‘Nerush’—and had gone straight for the inn she had been staying at. We were both pretty exhausted, so we had decided that we’d get something to eat and then crash for the night. The bottom floor of the multi-story inn happened to be a restaurant, so we didn’t need to make multiple stops.

“Wait, slow down a little. What’s a ‘Lishkarn’? Oh, also…” I held up the menu she had handed me and pointed to some of the neat, handwritten text. “I can’t read this.”

Lucia blinked a couple of times in surprise. “Oh, I forgot about that. You’re illiterate.” The look on her face was a mix of exhaustion and irritation.

“I’m not illiterate. Er, at least in general. I’ve never seen this language before, though.”

Lucia shut her eyes and sighed heavily. “I will need to teach you to read and write, too.” She moaned, “What a pain. Not that it’s your fault, of course.”

“Actually, on that note, how are we talking and understanding each other right now?”


“I don’t appreciate the sarcasm.”

“It wasn’t sarcasm, though.” She was resting her head on her hands, and she sounded completely unenthusiastic. “I’ll explain it to you some other time.”

She doubled down, but I still couldn’t tell if she was messing with me or not.

What am I talking about? I’m a spirit. ‘Magic’ is the least farfetched thing I’ve heard today. Hell, I literally saw her shoot fire at that wolf earlier. How else could I explain that if not magic?

Thinking back on the incident, my attention was then drawn to her arm, the one she had injured earlier. She had wrapped it up using a cloth bandage, and although it appeared the bleeding had stopped by now, the bandage, as thick as it was, had been dyed a light pink in the meantime. She had also wrapped the gash on her stomach with a bandage, though it had been nowhere near as severe of a wound.

Having opened her eyes at some point, she noticed my gaze. “Worry not. I am fine. I wasn’t hurt that bad, and I will heal it tomorrow morning. Normally, I would’ve done it right away, but the Chain summoning ritual was very taxing. I doubt I could pull off a healing spell without resting first.”

She sounded genuinely unconcerned, so I breathed a tiny sigh of relief. Magic sure sounds convenient, huh?

“Anyway, would you like me to read out the menu for you?” She lifted her head and changed the topic.

“It’s fine. I’ll just get whatever you’re getting.” For all I knew, the food here would be completely unfamiliar to me, anyway.

Lucia waved over to someone who appeared to be staff, and they hurried over.

The two had a brief exchange, but they spoke a language I had never heard before. It was only natural, but it was a bit jarring to see Lucia suddenly start speaking a different tongue all of a sudden.

The waiter soon departed, and Lucia returned to speaking to me in my language. Not that I could recall what language it was, though.

“Oh, and to answer the question you asked much earlier: the monsters we encountered in the forest are the ‘Lishkarn’ I spoke of. It’s an ancient word meaning ‘cursed corpse’.”

I had thought they looked puppet-like, so ‘cursed corpse’ sounded appropriate.

“They are mindless monsters that repopulate through death. The curse itself lies in their miasma, which they infect creatures with by attacking them.”

“Does that mean you were—”

She cut me off. “Technically yes, but it dissipates very quickly in living things, so it’s already gone by now. Dying while infected, though, is another story.”

“And… the neighboring area is ‘overrun’ with them?”

She nodded. “Other regions, too, but Nerush lies next to the largest…”

I had a decent feeling as to what she was going to say next, but I still shivered a bit when I heard it.

“The land that was once the Kingdom of Allion.”

“I-I see…” I said as sympathetically as I could.

“Lishkarn have existed for as long as the recorded history of Ysfal. They have always roamed even within the borders of established nations, but, typically, they’re a threat no different from dangerous animals that might roam the wilderness. Extremely rarely, however, a special Lishkarn is born. These Lishkarn retain their intelligence from life but are still bound to their Lishkarn instincts to spread through death. While typically mindless, when united under an intelligent ‘General’ who can order them around, Lishkarn swarms can grow powerful enough to eliminate entire civilizations.”

The air had grown heavy, and it was hard to breathe. She was spiraling. Her voice filled with more despair with every word, and, because of that, I wanted to change the topic. I opened my mouth to speak, but the sudden tension prevented me from getting a word in.

“The only way to prevent that outcome is to slay the General, thereby disorganizing the Lishkarn once more. But the General that destroyed Allion… still lives. I—”

A jumble of sounds I didn’t understand interrupted her. The waiter had shown up just in time to do what I couldn’t.

I swear, if I ever learn your language, the first thing I’ll do is thank you.

We were both served a dish consisting of chunks of some kind of meat mixed with some kind of grain and topped with some kind of sauce. In short, I had no idea what any of the ingredients were. We were each given a fork and a knife, though, so at least I found something familiar here.

The interruption seemed to have brought Lucia back to her senses, because she didn’t continue where she had left off once the waiter left.

We started eating silently. The food tasted good, but the awkward silence was too distracting to be able to fully appreciate it.

Trying to break the silence, I asked the first question that came to mind. “So, uh, I noticed that your arms are one of the few unarmored places on your body. Is there a reason for that?”

It seemed like she was also looking for a new topic to jump to, because she didn’t take long to reply. “As you probably figured out, my fighting style emphasizes speed and mobility above all else. Lishkarn are fairly strong, so the leather armor I wear isn’t very effective against them, but I cannot wear anything heavier without taking a hit to my agility. That is especially true for making precise motor movements with my limbs. In other words, the little protection offered is not worth the sacrifice to my speed, as tiny as it is.”

I breathed a silent sigh of relief. She already looks like she’s in a better mood.

“That makes sense.” I gave a boilerplate reply, but then considered something for a moment. “What about your legs, then? Wouldn’t that have the same issue?”

“Oh, that. Well, normally I prefer to not wear leg armor either, but I had to play it safe today. It’s kind of your fault.”

“Eh? What did I do?”

She lifted her fork and pointed at me. “Well, I considered the situation beforehand. I was going to be summoning a Chain today. ‘What if they’re a boy?’ I asked myself. ‘What if they’re a perverted boy who tries to look up my skirt? What if we get attacked, and my skirt flies up while fighting?’ I decided it was best to play it safe and just wear pants. And you know what? I did get a boy. My concern was founded after all.”

“Hey! Don’t say your ‘concern was founded’. I wouldn’t have tried that, alright? Have a little bit of faith.” Though, thinking back… “I guess the angle I was sitting at when I was summoned would have—”

“Yes, it seems the concern was founded, after all. You really are a pervert.”

“W-wait. I wouldn’t have tried to do that though. I swear…”

Her lips curved into a ruthless grin. “You seem to recall the angle suspiciously well. Your pleas of innocence seem kind of dubious in the face of that.”


She’s having way too much fun at my expense. What did I do to deserve this?

“Hold on. You brought this on yourself by wearing a dress in the first place! I didn’t do anything!”

“Liars love to blame others. Just accept your nature and admit to your crimes.”

I wasn’t thrilled with this tangent, but it was certainly better than the alternative.

Syed Al Wasee
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