“Agreed. If only we could figure out how to turn the damn thing off,” Mary retorted sardonically. She felt the wince that came with it from Abe and couldn’t blame him for it.
[Well… that’s true. If we do figure it out then… that’ll be rule 1. You have an idea for rule 2?]
She instantly nodded. “You can block out the sensory input you get from me, right? If so, then please, for the love of the few pure things in the world, please cut off your sensory input while I’m doing certain things. I don’t want to be mean, but I’ll be very pissed if you don’t,” she demanded. An annoying part of her mind was telling her that she was being silly, that what she was doing was like asking her left eye not to look at her right foot, but she desperately pushed that part of her mind away.
[Don’t worry, I won’t,] Abe replied. [Please tell me that I’m not the only one who has a corner of their mind telling me that this is all needless. It feels weird.]
Mary shook her head. “Don’t worry, it’s not just you. But I guess an important if needless rule 3 would be not to try to hurt each other. Don’t you think?”
[Important but needless. Agreed. Other than that nothing else comes to mind, so what’s next?] he asked.
That question gave Mary pause for a moment. She finally internalized, on an emotional level, that she had no other goals at that time. She couldn’t be a teacher because she was a fugitive. The Sect of the Divine Mechanism was burnt to ash courtesy of Abe. She never had many friends, but the few she did have hated her because of her demi-human adoptive father. For all of her talk about having goals and revenge, she finally realized that it was pretty much fulfilled. And beyond that, there was no way she could take on the Purity Union. “I… just realized I don’t know what’s next. The Sect is gone, the Union is still out there but so big I can’t fight it, and I have nothing. I can’t get a job because of the whole fugitive thing and I don’t want to have to become a low-life in the slums to make ends meet. Or any of the other distasteful professions available to those who fall from grace. I think I’m just… lost,” she admitted. It was painful to admit, but she had to admit it no matter how much it stung.
Abe stirred for a minute, seemingly digesting her words. He then suddenly asked a question, [Why is it impossible? Why can’t you fight against the Union?] he asked.
She was about to answer reflexively, but stopped herself. She could feel the layers of meaning Abe put into that one sentence, even if she didn’t want to. She knew how big the Union was, how monolithic it was, and how impossible it was to fight. It was ingrained in her from the moment she saw them. But… hadn’t she fought and killed a whole team of highly trained, well armed squad of special forces with nothing but a sword? “Is it really impossible?” she asked herself.
[Nope.] Abe helpfully replied.
She chuckled and got up from her chair, putting the dried fruit to the side. “Alright then. So we’ve decided to take down an authoritarian, fanatical government. The question is: what’s the first step?”
[I don’t know. Neither of us have overthrown any governments. I think we need to know the players of the game before we play it though,] he said.
Mary tilted her head, thinking. “What do you mean ‘the players?’” she asked, “Is there really anyone other than the Union?”
She got the sense that if Abe could have shook his head, he would have. [There is always someone who disagrees with the mainstream. Doubly so with a place like this; a small but nonetheless present chunk of the population getting slaughtered in the streets will always make someone mad. The goal, I think, is asking who it makes mad and who it makes happy. If we can find the people who don’t like the Union while also not tipping off anyone who does, then we can get a good coup going. Hell, if you wanted to be a bit ‘morally flexible,’ then you could use the slums as a recruitment base. I doubt they have any love for the government that continues to not care about them.] he laid out, plunging Mary into deep thought.
The day of Purity definitely ruffled a lot of feathers across the city, she realized, and none more so than the Spice and Gold company. The cabal of merchants, peddlers, dealers, antiquers, collectors, and businessmen had a decent number of demi-humans among their ranks. The Day of Purity drove all of them either underground or to the noose. If there was any group that had a reason to hate the Purity Union, it was the Spice and Gold company. “I think I have an idea,” she said confidently.
[I’m listening.] Abe replied, [I don’t know much about the factions around here, after all. You’d think that they would give their world-ending god a tourist packet.]
She giggled and cut to the chase, “The Spice and Gold company. A union of those in the business of money. They had a large number of demi-humans in their ranks and were, and still are, a close community. We could probably snoop around there to have a good chance at finding allies,” she decided. “By the way, what made you so cavalier about this whole overthrowing a government thing?”
[Honestly?] he asked, [I am not fond of racists and bigots, which is what this whole thing is. They’re going out and killing innocent families and whatnot. That is just awful.]
She shrugged. “That’s just how it is. We’ve had worse in our history. A few hundred years ago, some dumbasses tried to kill anyone who had too much hair. It ended in bloodshed nonetheless,” she mentioned, “Well, I guess that means that our first stop is the Spice and Gold company?”
[It does seem that way, but we need to get something with more oomph than a sword and lightning. I looked at how mana works, and you need a good enchantment. And better clothes. And better armor. And-]
“I get it. I need more stuff and better stuff. At least you can do the lightning trick. How do you do that, by the way?”
[Hmm… from what I can see, I can take a bunch of influenced mana, like from enchanting, and sling it at some poor sap. I use electricity because I know it so well, but I could do other stuff as well.]
She nodded, picking out an outfit and throwing it on the bed. “That’s good to know. Anyway… You’re going to have to close your eyes or whatever for a bit. Because, you know.”
He sighed. [I get it, just call me when you’re done.]
“Where are we now?” Luna asked.
“I have no clue,” Kain replied, “It seems that this area is an industrial area. We’ve run into enough factories, after all,” Kain remarked, gazing at a large factory they had left in the distance. They had been walking for an hour at that point and they had no real idea where they were. They had gone beyond the busy streets of the place they found themselves in and the constant noise was replaced by an eerie silence combined with the odd factory still working into the long hours of the night. They were walking along an alleyway between the fences of two factory complexes when Luna asked her question.
“Can we say that this place is, like, one of those factory things you guys were talking about?” Luna asked.
Instead of Kain responding, Ythane spoke from her crystal, “It seems so. This is much more like the industrial districts of the Titans than the assembly sectors of my people. Your people seem very much like smaller Titans, Kain.”
He shrugged. “Maybe. Luna did say that they were similar to my world’s humans, so… I wouldn’t dismiss the idea that they do similar things as humans,” he surmised, gazing into the night, “You know what? I think we should head back. We don’t have any idea where we are, so we should get our bearings,” he posited.
Before either Luna or Ythane could answer, a foreign voice came from behind them. “I don’t think that’s gonna happen.” Kain and Luna turned to see a human man walking into the alley from an offshoot. He was mostly unremarkable, with a dull blue jacket and similarly colored jeans, a head full of brown hair, and piercing green eyes. “I don’t let rabbits run from the hunter.”
Kain stepped in front of Luna with his arm up, an entirely unnecessary gesture but it was the thought that counted. “May I ask who you are? In fact, where are we? You see, an experiment left my sister and I in a foreign land,” he lied, studying the man up and down. He walked with an unconcerned gait and with an impassive face. At Kain’s statement, his eyebrows went up ever so slightly.
“Ah, I see,” he said, revealing a sickening smile, “It seems that God has chosen to deliver the filth of the world to the city of purity to be cleansed. Now then, filth, will you take your cleansing with dignity, or will you die like the prey you are?” He then began to meanderingly walk over to the pair. He dug into his pocket and drew from it a knife that suddenly surged with heat when he pressed a button on the handle.
As he approached, Kain decided to stall for time, “You still have not answered my question. I believe I asked, very nicely, about where we are.”
The man stopped for a moment and burst into laughter. “You see God’s will staring you in the eye and yet you question where you are? Were you not a filthy infidel, I would have loved to make your acquaintance. Very well, if that is what you wish to know when you burn, so be it. You are in Olsvania, the land recently cleansed from impurity by his holiness, Pope Helix the First. In other, more on-your-level words, this is the place where filthy demi-humans are cleansed from the world and sent to the fiery pits of the Void. Remember me well, cretin, for I, Joshua of the Mana Wire Mill will be the one to send you to-” his words were cut off as a bladed limb of bone and flesh and muscle lashed out at him from behind Kain. The man tried to defend himself with his heated blade, but it was of no use. The blade simply severed his forearm and hacked into his abdomen. Despite any expectation, the blade did not simply tear flesh, but eviscerated it.
The corpse that fell to the ground only vaguely resembled a human being, his entire chest and abdomen simply pulverized into mist, which painted the alley red. Kain wrestled with shock for a moment before turning to see Luna retracting the extended limb. It merged back into her body with a sickening crunch. She looked at his shocked face and scowled. “I won’t defend myself here. He was going to either kill us or give us to bad people. What I did was right,” she defended, her rabbit ears leaning forward, almost challengingly.
Before Kain could answer, Ythane’s voice came from the crystal in her other hand, “I agree. That human had no good intentions, and while the force used was exceeding what was needed, she made the correct choice.”
Kain looked between them and sighed, “… It seems that we cannot keep blood off of our hands then. Alright. I just wish it didn’t have to be like this. Anyway, at least we now know that this place isn’t safe for you, Luna. You should-” before he could finish, the group heard a soft gasp from the end of the alley. Turning, they saw a middle aged, thin man with wire-framed glasses and silver grey hair. Before they could even tense up, the man raised his hands in surrender.
“A demi-human, huh?” he asked rhetorically in a calm voice, “I heard a bit of what happened. Sensitive hearing aids. He was a purity goon, don’t feel too bad. I run an antiques store on the edge of the slums and… look, we don’t have much time. We have to get out of here before the cleansers arrive. I can give you three shelter. Though, I don’t know where the third one is. Come on!” he said, before jogging off. Luna looked to Kain and he just shrugged. They followed after the man with their hoods up.
Busy week ahead, so chapters will be inconsistent at best. Sorry. Anyway, yadda yadda enjoy.
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