“How is she going to help us?” I asked.
“The former princess should be fine within a few hours, once her magic flows again. As for our next steps, I’m not sure,” Zhuyu answered.
When we arrived at the stairs, ten bandits dressed in high-end equipment appeared. Kyoi gave them a stare and they backed off. Still, I could tell they weren’t the run of mill enemies from before.
“It’s okay. She’s an ally for now, be at ease,” Fei ordered.
“You know about her exploits, right?” one of the bandits spoke up.
“Fool! It’s obvious I know. Leave and defend this place. Don’t worry about me. While you’re at it, set up guest rooms for their use,” Fei chided.
They nodded and left. She glanced at me for a few seconds before shifting her focus over to Zhuyu and En. We finally arrived at Fei’s room after traversing through a set of complicated hallways. I expected lavish furniture and beautiful decorations inside. My expectations were shattered immediately. This looked like my room. No, that was a lie. It was slightly better. The furnishings were simple and practical.
“Your friend seems to believe I live in luxury,” Fei commented, seeing the surprise on my face.
“You’re a princess,” I retorted.
“Note the emphasis on “former”. That title should have been dropped once my father died. Still, Feng and Long insist on addressing me as such. What poor tastes. Long, you seem quiet, much more than usual. Has Feng broken you to the point where you can’t even speak without her permission?” Fei laughed.
“That would be a terrible day. Not much to say. You appear fine for someone banished from the administrative branch,” Zhuyu replied, his tone much more natural than when he spoke to me.
“I do what I can. So, tell me about this newcomer. Don’t tell me she’s someone’s girlfriend? You can’t bring people in here like that,” Fei asked, looking at me.
“What? Of course not, that’s crazy. I’m here to learn how to be a hero,” I replied.
The woman gave me a blank look. She glanced over at Kyoi and the others for confirmation. Kyoi nodded and the former princess heaved a heavy sigh. She sized me up and finally spoke again.
“You know what they do, right?” the former princess asked, pointing at Kyoi.
“I have a general idea. They aren’t exactly model heroes. If you’re talking about that, then yes,” I nodded.
“Putting that aside for now, how did you get dragged into this mess? I doubt you chose it,” Fei requested details.
I informed her about Ichizen and everything leading up to current events. Midway through my story, I realized a potential mistake. I didn’t fully trust her yet. She was one of Kyoi’s acquaintances and any involvement with her raised red flags.
Despite my doubts, I continued on. Maybe because I wanted someone to hear my story so far. Or the hope she could provide an easy answer for this entire situation. Regardless of what it was, I revealed mostly everything, waiting for Fei’s response.
“You’re a victim in all of this. I could console you, but that doesn’t change anything. There’s a way out. We can do a power transfer ritual. If you really don’t want any of this, Tess and I are capable of removing this burden,” Fei offered.
The former princess raised the exact same point as Tess. Before I was unsure, but now I knew. Everyone probably didn’t relish jumping into different dimensions as a viable hobby. Kyoi might be an exception though. I’m sure the others were offered opportunities to quit. If they managed to persevere, then I could too. Probably stubborn pride on my part, but I would see this through.
“No, I appreciate you asking though. Kyoi, you said we’re going hunting, so let’s do that,” I stated.
“We shall, but our beautiful royalty has a few things to tell us,” Kyoi said, looking at the former princess.
“How does that involve me? Hunting those creatures is of no concern to me. Do what you want,” Fei asked, shaking her head.
“Why go through all of the trouble setting up guards if you felt secured enough here? You also have that long winding tunnel which isn’t just for show. Something is out there, care to tell me?” Kyoi interrogated.
Fei remained silent, not saying a word. Zhuyu and the others stood by the window in silence. Was there really such a dangerous creature? I couldn’t tell if Kyoi was bluffing so Fei could divulge information.
“Like you suspect, there are creatures. It multiplies after devouring prey, growing stronger. I’ve hunted down several copies, but haven’t found the original. Take that down and its clone die along with it,” Fei revealed.
“Has the original crossed the boundary line?” Kyoi questioned.
“We don’t know. Judging from the data, it was in this general area. None of my traps triggered,” the former princess replied.
“What time is it now?” Kyoi asked.
“Early evening. You don’t plan to head out now?” Fei asked.
“Of course not. That’s a suicide mission. Once darkness hits, the snow picks up and we can’t even see anything,” Kyoi answered.
“So, what’s the plan, Feng?” Zhuyu asked.
“We’ll hold a strategy meeting and stay the night. We don’t have much of a choice. Unless Tomo prefers to trek through the tunnel and back to the vehicle in the dead of night, that’s always an option,” Kyoi replied.
“Of course not. Out of curiosity, how does time work here?” I asked.
“It’s not equivalent. One minute here doesn’t equal one minute back in our world,” Tess replied.
“If we stay the night, then it’ll be the same day back home?” I asked for confirmation.
“Correct. There are certain exceptions, but in those cases, we evacuate and return immediately,” Tess nodded.
“Think of it like a simulation game. You go through multiple days in span of two to three hours? Something like that,” Zhuyu added on an unnecessary amount of detail.
“Yeah, I get it,” I nodded.
Fei directed us to the guest rooms. Kyoi, Tess, and I all shared one room. There were three separate beds, sheets already tucked in, and blankets folded with precision. There was still downtime before the meeting. For now, it might be a good idea to check my grimoire. Now was a good time to see what En’s memories would reveal.