Part 2: Myau
Chapter 2: Myau
I rose my shield to fend off one of the gigantic insects, and dealt the other a glancing blow with the flat of my sword. I slashed its abdomen open with a second swing, then felt a sharp tearing pain as the first insect wheeled around behind me and sank its fangs into the side of my neck. I dropped to the ground, rolled and flailed wildly with my sword and shield until it released its grip. Before it could get back into the air, I pinned its wing to the ground with my sword and stomped its head into the dirt, sending thick yellow blood oozing from its body. After making sure both insects were dead, I wiped my shoe clean on a rock in disgust.
The creatures' nest was in some bushes nearby; a human skeleton in tattered clothing lay among the shrubbery, its flesh long since devoured. I wish I'd had time to give it a decent burial, but the sounds of more insects buzzing all around me let me know I couldn't stay for long. I whispered an apology, salvaged a few coins from its pocket and retreated back into Camineet, light-headed from pain and blood loss.
I remembered what Suelo had said: If you should ever be wounded in battle, come here to rest. I knocked on her door. I could tell she was upset to see me injured, but she took me in, fixed me a drink of warm milk and cast a healing spell to treat my wounds. She handed me a book of spells to study while I rested and to take with me on my journey. Just like Nekise, she was risking her life to help me -- unlicensed use of magic was strictly forbidden, and a licence was all but impossible to get. Never before had I been so grateful to have friends willing to break the law for a good cause. I knew I couldn't give up now; if I was going to let my friends risk their lives for me, I'd damn well better achieve something that was worth the risk.
As grateful as I was, I knew I'd get nothing done if I came running back to Suelo every time I got hurt. The sooner I found Odin, the better. I only hoped he'd be willing to teach me to fight. I thanked Suelo for her help, apologised for bleeding all over her couch and set off again for Scion, hoping for an uninterrupted journey this time.
Fortunately, I got my wish. A few hours later I walked into Scion. The town had clearly seen better days; entire blocks of houses lay abandoned and crumbling. I talked to the locals, hoping to find out something about Lassic's plans or the location of Odin.
With both land and sea trade cut off by monsters, everyone was suffering, but ports like Scion suffered the most. I wish there was something I could do to help these people, but even if I could, Lassic's death was the only thing that could solve their problems in the long run.
Baya Malay was a hard place to miss. I'd seen it on the way to Scion, surrounded by walls and patrolled by robot cops. Whatever was going on there, it was something very important to Lassic -- and that meant I'd probably be going there one day.
One man had some interesting information for me about Odin. It was a little hard to believe that he had a talking animal following him around, but it was all I had to go on.
I managed to find a dealer in rare pets who corroborated the talking-animal story. If this animal was real, it must know where Odin went. It looked like I'd have to make a stop in Paseo soon, and that meant acquiring a roadpass.
All kinds of things passed through second-hand shops, especially these days now that newly-made goods were so hard to come by. Among the clutter on the shopkeeper's counter I noticed a small booklet that I recognised as a roadpass, with a 200-meseta price tag attached to it. Of course, buying and selling roadpasses was a capital offence, and this one was probably stolen, but it was still my best chance of getting one. It looked like I'd have to earn some money.
I hunted giant scorpions and bizarre, stinking fungus creatures near the outskirts of town, looting the bodies of their past victims and collecting any monster body parts that seemed potentially useful for barter. It was disgusting, dangerous work, but I needed money fast, and regular jobs were scarce nowadays.
In between hunts, I took the time to learn a thing or two about magical healing; it would certainly come in handy.
Eventually, I returned to the shop with 200 meseta in hand and was pleased to see the roadpass still there.
When the shopkeeper saw me reach for the roadpass, he seemed horrified at the realisation that he'd left it in plain view on his counter. He quickly snatched it off the counter, hid it in a drawer, denied all knowledge of its existence and kicked me out of his shop. Apparently he'd only risk selling a roadpass to trusted customers. I didn't plan on leaving Scion without that pass, though.
The shopkeeper wasn't pleased to see me try to reenter his shop a minute after he'd kicked me out. He stopped me at the entrance, categorically denied selling any illegal goods, made several rude gestures and waited for me to walk away. Too bad for him I wouldn't be discouraged so easily.
"I'd be ever so grateful if you'd sell me that roadpass," I said, giving him my sweetest smile. "And if you don't sell it to me, word might get out that you have one for sale. Don't you think it'd be best if you let me take it off your hands for you?"
He sighed, looked around to make sure nobody was watching, then beckoned for me to come inside.
I skipped out, clutching my roadpass proudly. I wouldn't really have turned him in to the cops -- that's not a fate I'd wish on my worst enemy. But I didn't have time for negotiation right now.
I was a little nervous when I presented my roadpass to the cops guarding the road to the spaceport, but they didn't seem to have any way of telling that it wasn't mine.
A few minutes later, I was at Palma's spaceport. Luckily for me, there was a shuttle leaving for Paseo that afternoon. First, though, I needed a passport.
Of course I wanted a passport. Were there really all that many people who spent half an hour queuing in front of a passport application counter and then decided they didn't really want a passport after all?
Another stupid question. I hoped she didn't seriously expect an honest answer, because I wasn't giving one.
I was a teenage girl going on a long journey through monster-infested lands in an attempt to rescue a talking animal, find a legendary warrior and assassinate King Lassic of Algo. I'd never felt better in my life.
A fee. Of course there was a fee. Off to scrounge up some more cash, then.
I was looking forward to the shuttle trip. It'd be nice to have a chance to sit back and collect my thoughts.
I made small talk with a few people in the departure lounge. One of them mentioned to me that Motavia was ruled by a Governor who had some degree of independence from Lassic. A powerful political ally was exactly what I needed if I was going to stand a chance against Lassic; I resolved to meet the Governor while I was in Paseo.
I boarded the shuttle and soon felt it taking off and speeding through space toward Motavia. I stared out the window, watching Motavia grow from a star-sized yellow dot to an endless expanse of sand. It was an awe-inspiring sight, and I only wished I had more time to appreciate it before the shuttle landed.
In the arrival lounge, I struck up a conversation with a man from Paseo returning from business in Parolit. He warned me to watch out for ant lion traps if I travelled in the desert; I thanked him for the advice.
I also chatted with a tourist returning from a tour of Palma. He told me about a cake shop he'd visited in a cave north of Baya Malay. I wasn't sure what kind of idiot would set up a cake shop at the bottom of a monster-infested cave, nor what kind of idiot would want to visit it, but I kept my thoughts to myself.
Paseo was dominated by the Governor's mansion, on an artificial hill in the middle of town. The Governor was clearly a man of wealth and extravagance; I just hoped he hadn't been corrupted by Lassic's offers of wealth and power.
Talking with the locals at least put that fear to rest. Any enemy of Lassic was a friend of mine.
Unfortunately, I soon found out the Governor was not as eager to see me as I was to see him. If I wanted to meet him, I'd need to find a suitable gift first. For the moment, that could wait. I explored the city further and soon found what I'd come here for: a shop for rare and exotic pets.
Unless there were two rare animals with bottles around their necks in Paseo, the pet dealer had the animal I was looking for. Unfortunately, he was charging more than I could hope to earn in a hundred lifetimes. Did he expect Lassic himself to come in there and buy his animal? Nobody else could afford that price.
Remembering the only thing of any real value I had, I took the Laconian pot out of my bag and offered it to him in exchange for the animal. I was reluctant to part with it, but I knew it was the right thing to do. For all its sentimental value, it was only a pot, and Nero would have wanted me to do whatever it took to find Odin and stop Lassic.
The pet dealer let the animal out of its cage. It walked out, sat at my feet and raised a paw in greeting.
"Hi there. You're not going to ship me off to Dezoris next, are you? I don't like the cold."
I jumped back a little, startled. I knew it could talk, but hearing it actually do so was still a little unnerving. "Uh... hello."
The animal made a short purring noise that I could only interpret as a laugh. "What's the matter? Haven't you ever seen a Musk Cat before? Now what exactly are you planning on doing with me?"
Had Odin given him that name? If so, for all his prowess as a fighter, he wasn't exactly a creative genius.
So it didn't occur to him that in the event that he actually needed this medicine, there'd be nobody physically capable of opening the bottle? I desperately hoped Odin was better at fighting than he was at planning ahead or thinking up names.
Setting out with a talking animal and a bottle of strange medicine in tow made me feel more like Alice in Wonderland than Alis Landale. All the same, I was feeling more confident now than I felt when I started out. I knew where Odin was, and while he was currently incapacitated, I had everything I needed to fix that.
On the flight back to Palma, I had a chance to catch up on my studies. I learned a spell to cloud the minds of enemies for a few moments, allowing a speedy retreat. I had a feeling I'd be getting a lot of use out of that spell, especially if Medusa was still hanging around in the cave.
Myau proved to be a capable fighter. His claws and fangs were razor-sharp, and his small size and agility helped him avoid attacks and make short work of the monsters we ran into on the way to the cave. I could see why Odin had brought him along, even if a companion with opposable thumbs would have been more practical.
All the same, I couldn't help but feel a creeping sense of dread as we stood in front of the entrance to Medusa's cave. If the legendary warrior Odin fell here, what chance did I have?