Part 8: Falling For You
That night, for the first time in my life, I closed my eyes and saw darkness, heard silence.
Under any other circumstances, this might have been comforting. Now the void only reminded me that the vision was gone, gone from my mind to become manifest. A reminder that my end was ordained and premature.
In the coming days, I explored much and recorded little. There was so much to write, too much, and yet somehow not enough. Like using a sponge to drink from a lake. Plenty there, and then you try to do it.
For lack of anywhere else to visit, I resolved to go to Frannelle castle, peak of Rhoan and home of King Xenonbart. He sometimes allowed visits to his gardens in the morning. I didn't expect anything interesting, but truth be told, the journey was just an excuse.
Rhoan's walls were constraining me. Sooner or later, Rempo would urge me to move further afield. By squeezing as much out of the town as possible, I could postpone my departure, which I knew full well was pointless. I would never be ready to leave home.
To leave Fana.
Must be a purse-snatcher or something.
You should go after them. See what's up.
'Cause I'm bad at suppressing curiosity.
Is that a cat?
Okay, that's it. Chase one of them or I'll explode.
Let's not make more trouble for ourselves than we haAGH!
Sorry, I didn't realise you were...sorry.
I should think so!
What the hell? She friggin' tackles you and you're sorry?
So what? She got pushed out of the crown vagina. Good for her. Kick her ass.
Are you from town?
Er, yes. I am.
Good. You can help me, then. Do you know there's an Imperial intruder on the loose?
What, from Waisen? He isn't a knight, is he?
He might be, I suppose. Why?
Hey, even if he's after you, so what? Last one wasn't a problem.
Nothing. You wanted me for something?
I need to get to him before those soldiers do. It's very urgent that I ask him some questions, do you understand? I presume you know your way around, so would you help me search?
You don't really have a choice, you know. I'm a princess. You have to say "Yes, your highness."
Stick it, your highness.
...yes, your highness.
Good. Lead the way, then. And don't stand too close. I don't want anyone getting ideas.
No need to search, little ones.
Boy. I know you have the book. Do not try to lie, do not try to run. Just hand it over.
You! You're the one, aren't you? From Waisen! I know that armour!
What news of Prince Valdo? Is he-
Get out of my way.
Don't you talk to me that way! My daddy will put you in chains for that! I am Princess Dorothea and I demand to...to know what...happened...
Move or bleed, girl.
No! NO! Why did you do that?!
You horrible thing! He's just a little kitten! Why did you hurt him?!
Make a note. Domestic cat vs. demon knight ends exactly how you'd think.
Are you coming to get this book or what?
I never paid cats or any other animal much attention. Through poverty's lens, most of them were just meat. But this cat wasn't the monster's food. It wasn't an obstacle to him. He'd raised his weapon and struck an innocent creature out of pure malice.
Cruelty was too common a sight in my life, in the slums of Rhoan, in the world. I tolerated it, but only for lack of the power to avenge it.
If only I'd acted sooner.
Soldier! Why weren't you protecting me? Why didn't you stop this?!
Go, do something! Get help! Get my daddy!
Oh, you poor thing. It'll be alright. Mama's here. Oh please don't let him die. Someone help. Help him.
What's funny? Why are you smiling?
Because, my friend, we got this. No problem. Scan kitty and I'll show you how to patch him up.
Uh, now. Quickly. It won't work if it dies.
I can't do it with people watching. I can't let them know about the book.
...really. You're really still thinking about that. Even now.
Alright. If you can walk away from this, you walk away. Hell, it's just a cat, right?
It was just a cat. And the princess was just a stranger. Walking away would have been understandable. If I'd turned my head just a second earlier, I might have done it.
Instead, I saw her try to pick him up. I saw his body open as she lifted him, exposing splintered bone and sickening fatty tissue. I saw him tumble across the cobbles all but bisected, and her bloodied hands flying to her mouth to muffle her screaming, and beneath it all I heard myself yelling at Rempo to just tell me what to do, tell me how to fix this.
Light and Hope to create Vitality. All it took was the right combination of codes. And just like that, little Guri Guri was whole with not so much as a scar.
He's okay! Look! He's all better! Ha ha!
Come here, boy! Come!
Don't you ever do anything like that again you stupid, stupid cat. Don't you dare. Oh, thank god. Thank god you're alright. You stupid cat.
"Can't let them know." My ass. Nice work, kiddo. Feel good.
You did this, didn't you? I saw you touch him with that...that book. You healed him.
What did I do?
It's black magic, your highness! He's a sorcerer!
No! I'm not! I...I don't know what happened. This is just a book. He mustn't have been hurt that badly.
I only know infertility curses. You needn't worry.
You and I should have a chat. Come with me.
Do you see anyone else worth talking to?
Talk about what? I don't even know who you are.
Exactly. Don't you want to find out?
I considered declining, but her perfume dragged me behind her to a house in Fortune Teller Alley.
As she approached the door, her affectedly casual gait, furtive glances and sly smile all accused her of breaking in. Only the key she held protested her innocence, until we stepped inside.
Oh yes. This place was hers.
Excuse the mess. It's been a while since I had guests.
Alright, Ms. Seer-
Just "Nanai" is fine.
Nanai. What did you want to talk about?
...what about me?
I think you know.
Don't say anything. She's acting like she's already sussed you out so you'll talk. Oldest trick in the book.
Heh, in the book.
You'll have to give me something to go on here. I'm nothing special.
Oh? So a boy who is nothing special kills a monster that would have torn a trained soldier apart. Then he puts two halves of a cat together and makes it purr. I think one of us needs to redefine "special."
Would it be that much trouble to tell the truth? Just to me? I'm hardly going to go gossiping. You saw how they treated me.
Really, I don't know what to tell you. I'm as confused as you are.
Oh fine. Break a lady's heart, why don't you.
There is one thing you could do for me, though.
I was wondering if you'd be able to read this.
What is it?
Just a little something I brought from home. See if you can make any sense of it.
She gestured towards a stone tablet with not one square inch unmarked.
No chisel could engrave text so fine, no hand could keep form so even, and no methodical chipping could produce patterns so flowing. If this had been carved, it was with a diamond razor dancing a waltz.
Though alien to me, the glyphs evoked visions all too familiar. Fire. Chaos. Screaming. Letters blurred, and my eyes focused at the space behind, the space within where intent and emotion and conception breathed, transcending crude interpretation of shapes to perceive pure meaning.
I didn't know the language. But I knew the words.
"The end of life as we know it is here."
You can, can't you? What does it say?
...sorry. No. It just looks like weird symbols to me.
Hah. Well. This was a waste of time, wasn't it? But since you're here, you might as well stay a while. How about some tea?
I can't. I have a lot to do.
Wait. At least let me read your fortune for you.
Aww, please? I haven't done a reading in ages. I'm getting rusty, I just know it.
It won't take long. Promise.
Ah, let her try. Won't make a difference.
Just close your eyes and try to forget I'm here. Imagine yourself at home, in bed, drifting off to sleep. Don't think, don't move. Just breathe, nice and slow.
That's good. Now let me see what...
Are you okay?
...yes. Pardon me. Lost my concentration. I told you I was rusty.
Now. Your future.
...oh dear. This isn't good. I see you falling.
Yes indeed. You're going to fall terribly, and it's going to happen...soon. Very soon.
How do you mean falling? As in dying? Or like falling off a cliff?
You awake? How's your head?
How many fingers am I holding up?
Yeah, you're fine.
Well, I gotta hand it to her. You fell.
What happened? One minute she was reading my fortune, then...
Then she opened a trapdoor. I told you not to trust her.
No you didn't!
Not verbally. I was projecting signals. Body language. Not my fault you didn't catch it.
See when I turn my head like this? That means "Kill this person before they kill you."
Or I might be looking at something slightly to my left. I dunno. 50/50. Good odds for gambling.