Chapter 88: Errands

“And you say it’s a skill?” asked the Imperial Chief Healer, whom I couldn’t see through the clouds of orange gas, even though he was only three paces away from me. Sure that he perceived me as well, if not better than I perceived him in my domain, I gave him a nod while ignoring notifications of my poisoning. 

No one in the room seemed to have a problem with orange mist that attacked their nervous systems. Whether it was due to resistance to the poisons, or their regeneration was dealing with it like mine, was hard to tell. No one even flinched.

Since I was feeling tired and short of breath, you could say I was the worst off.

“A pretty powerful poison for a level twelve skill,” Janina remarked, testing the taste of it on her tongue. Seeing her, I did the same, only to be disappointed by the lack of apple flavor. The poison was tasteless as it has been so far.

According to her old mentor, the glands in my tail were not so exceptional in the realm of beasts. Meaning many of them had a skill tailored to their bodies, not that they all had poison tails. For example, those with wings had [Flight]. I was a shining example of that.

Only allowed on

As I began to ponder how to get rid of the poison filling the room, whether to open the windows to let in the fresh air, an energy swept through it. Bristling up my hair, it dissolved the orange mist in mere seconds. Looking at the source, I could only berate myself for not thinking that he would have such skill as a healer.

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“I think that’s all for the time being, Miss Grey,” said the Imperial Chief Healer. He seemed delighted, pondering what he learned during this check-up, while I was glad to get it over with. It wasn’t long before I reverted to my half-human form. “I’m getting better at this,” I said aloud, able to speak again.

“That’s what practice does,” Rayden grumbled. “Now I have to organize some for you.” Referring to my mana training and labyrinth expeditions with junior guards, she made it sound like she had to arrange it herself when it was more of a job for Travis, her assistant.

To tell the truth, thinking about it gave me a slight headache. There was so much to learn, so much to do, and so little time. It seemed almost impossible to juggle it all together. Training with Deckard, labyrinth dive with the junior guards, mana training, and little things like my body language or learning to speak Standard. All that while, I had to ignore the Agent’s watchful eyes.

Ruffling my mane, despairing of not being able to do it all, my hand touched the moss rooted in my hair, and I whined out loud. Bloody hell, Esu! On top of all that, there was the training he arranged for me. It was less than a week away.

So yeah, I was in for a f****** busy few days or rather weeks and months.

“The Emperor insisted I send someone else, someone younger, expendable. How glad I am that I didn’t. It was a genuine pleasure to meet you, Miss Grey.” The Imperial Chief Healer gave me a polite nod, throwing me off guard by it. My first instinct was to express my disapproval of his visit and question its necessity at all.

“Lord Wigram,” I returned the courtesy, swallowing the bitterness. It was hard to make a snarky remark when I knew Janina’s old mentor didn’t deserve it. As she told me, I had nothing to worry about from him. He hasn’t touched me once during this entire examination, keeping his distance, giving me space. Yet despite his warm, albeit at times an overly enthusiastic attitude, I couldn’t help but compare him to Dungreen. It wasn’t fair to him, and I knew that. That madman simply left scars on my soul too deep to disappear in a few days of freedom.

“If you can think of anything we missed today, don’t be afraid to come to see me. I’ll be here until the full moon,” the Imperial Chief Healer said, subtly hinting that he would not leave until after my training session with the mossbears. “I’ll most likely be staying at Lord Egerton’s palace.” On hearing that, a smile flashed across Rayden’s face. There was hardly anyone who wanted the imperial soldiers out of the barracks more than she did.

“Same if you found some difficulty with your…mutations. Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” he added before I managed to sort out my thoughts for a reply. “Now, I believe Agent Sah has already been informed of his reassignment. He shouldn’t give you such a hard time. However, I’m afraid he still needs to verify your words officially. Speaking of formality, is that a messenger from the City Lord at the door? He’s getting, let’s say, quite frantic.”

I looked. It was impossible not to, even though I was standing too far away for my inner domain to reach behind the closed door. Unfortunately, my outer perception was too weak to pass through for me to see said messenger.

At Rayden’s nod, the Imperial Chief Healer let out a sigh. “I don’t think it would be polite to delay this visit any longer. As I mentioned, I’d be happy to have you join me, Captain.”

My breath caught in my throat when she agreed. I was counting on her being with me for the interrogation. A notion stuck in my mind even before I met Deckard. Not so much needed now when he was here with me. She didn’t forget, though.

“I’ll send Blaine,” she said, arching an eyebrow. “Is it okay with you, Grey?”

It was. So I gave her a thumbs-up, a gesture that earned her frown.

“O-okay? Agent Sah should be at interrogation room one.”

A few respectful goodbyes later, Deckard and I stepped out into the corridor, leaving both Imperial Chief Healer and Rayden along with Janina behind in the infirmary. She wanted to accompany her old mentor while he was in the city.

As I marched down the corridor with Deckard in tow and Swordmaster Blaine joining us, I felt light, freed from the weight on my shoulders. Strange. Not even the fact that I was about to be interrogated bother me as much as it has worried me so far.

It didn’t last long, though.

When I settled into the chair across from Sah a few minutes later, some of my jitters returned. Yet, it wasn’t as bad as I expected, considering what happened to me here. Agent Sah acted professionally and gave me no reason to hold any more grudges against him. On the contrary, he was trying to regain some of my trust.

To my annoyance, I had to use the ID station, revealing all my skills. I took it as the price of my freedom on the Empire, unwilling to reset my skills again just to hide them. Perhaps even more annoying was the retelling of what happened from the very moment I came to Eleaden. That is, since my capture. Here I felt the effects of increased wisdom or some of it, as I was able to recall details I would surely have forgotten under normal circumstances.

I passed with flying colors.

With that, the matters I had feared for so long were done. Sure, a few more details needed to be worked out, like the aforementioned training with the junior guards. Mana training too. Only none of it was on me to sort it out. It irked me a little, not being able to say my part in it. But it was an acceptable price for not being hauled off to the Capital in a cage.

After meeting the Imperial Chief Healer, this concern of mine seemed rather silly. It was, in fact, built on bad experiences and misunderstandings. Still, this was an Empire, and he was just one man in it. Better not let my guard down.

“I’m a little confused,” I admitted as I followed Deckard down the main street leading to Labyrinth Square.

“About what?” He asked casually, without slowing down his leisure gait.

“Well,” I stopped short, sorting through my thoughts. “How this is supposed to work. I mean, I had a job, a place to sleep. I’m not sure I still need any of that.”

“I’d say forget the job. You’re a seeker now,” he said, and I could only agree. Money was an issue, though.

“I need to make some gold,” I pointed out, carefully implying that I couldn’t spend all day training.

Mildly amused, he smirked. “You’re the type who wants to earn everything through her own efforts. Huh?”

Not the way I would put it. However, he was not far from the truth. I wanted to feel that what I had, what I had accomplished, was because of my struggles, even if it meant more sweat, blood, and pain. Knowing that there were people like him willing to lend me a helping hand was genuinely heart-warming but a double-edged sword too.

Too much of it, and I’ll stay weak, dependent on others. I already felt like a damsel in distress at times. Not what I craved to be.

“I respect that, girl. Will your cash last a day or two?” Deckard asked instead of making fun of me as I expected.

Looking into the storage provided by the shoddy spatial ring, I couldn’t help sighing as nothing’s changed since training with Rezso. My whole hoard consisted of thirteen silvers, fifty-four coppers. If the pricing at Broken Mug stayed the same, it gave me some time. But… “A week, maybe a fortnight, if I cut back a lot.”

“Good, the way I see it, I’ll train you in Fallens Cry every day, from dawn to dusk, depending on what San comes up with. That leaves plenty of time for you to do whatever you want,” he said.

Well. Since I, unlike him, needed to sleep every day, it wasn’t that much of free time, was it?

“I’ll teach you some basic moves, and then we’ll incorporate hunting into your training,” he added. “Good?”

My answer didn’t come right away, and since I had a few reservations regarding this plan, it wasn’t ‘yes’. “I want to get rid of [Eleaden Standard Language].”

“It would be weird if you didn’t,” he replied right back.

“I have a teacher in mind,” I said and paused. “Not sure of the hours, though.”

He shrugged. “Ask, and we’ll see.” His casual attitude was at times refreshing, not so binding as a fixed schedule I’ve been used to having for most of my life. “So if I need to arrange something…?”

“Then just say it, girl,” he said, almost offended. “I won’t bite your head off.”

That was what I wanted to hear because it looked like we were heading into the labyrinth. Since we had spent a good part of the afternoon in the barracks, there was not much time left before nightfall. “Okay, so I-I’d like to apologize to a few people, take my stuff from the inn if they haven’t thrown it out yet. Stay if possible. Inform the old librarian that I’m fine and arrange for the said teacher.” Not necessarily in that order.

This time, he stopped and looked at me, a grin on his face. “Busy dragon girl, aren’t you? Should have said that sooner. Tonight’s practice is off, then.”

It looked that way. There just wasn’t time for more training. Ironic when I think about it. Despite the longer days here, I came back to the same problem I had on Earth. Not enough time.

“So now what? We go our separate ways?” Actually, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, whether I’d even be able to leave his side. If not, I was sure we were about to get on each other’s nerves soon.

He glanced around. “Unless we are heading in the same direction, then yes. Don’t have to cry about it.”

I gritted my teeth at his remark to my rather tearful afternoon. “And you are going..?”

“That way,” he pointed in what appeared to be a random direction. “I’ll check with avier, who might be able to give you some tips on your wings.”

It made me pause, struck by how seriously Deckard took my training.

“If she’s in a good mood,” he said, then grinned. “It’s gonna be a long night.”

And my awe was gone, replaced by images that brought blood to my cheeks and I’d rather forget. Of course, he noticed. I couldn’t do more than stare back when an irritating smirk flashed across his face. “You know I saw you naked in the woods, right?”

“Not that I have much choice,” I argued, my attempts to act casual fruitless.

Shifting his weight, he looked at me from a new angle. “I just didn’t expect someone running around naked in the woods to be so…prudish.”

“That’s how I was raised,” I barked back in my defense, perhaps too aggressively.

He arched an eyebrow. “I’m not saying it’s wrong. Just don’t be surprised when some seekers start talking about banging…and not just guys, some gals are…”

“Got it!” I stopped him. “My problem. Thanks for the advice. So, tomorrow, where?”

“Labyrinth Square, at dawn,” he said, not joking about me blushing any further. “Wait for me on the teleportation platform. I’ll find you.”

There was nothing more to say, nor did I want to. Giving him my goodbye, I took off towards Broken Heart, the hardest part of my errands I wanted to get off the hook first.

It was understandable that even Alyson, brothel owner, didn’t have much sympathy for me anymore. She didn’t need an employee who only worked one day and then disappeared, only to do it again after that. Her anger was tempered only by the small compensation she received from the City Hall, which surprised me, given the city’s finances, and the fact that I had been kidnapped, made a slave against my will.

All in all, it turned out as I expected. Some of the more temperamental companions chewed my ears off, and I lost my job there.

To the Broken Mug next door, I went somewhat battered, looking for a drink rather than my stuff. It was not yet evening, and the inn already had a few tables full. Tess was running between them, handing out mugs of beer, taking orders, even flirting with some.

The innkeeper tapping new mugs spotted me before I reached the bar.

“Miss Grey,” his eyes lit up. “I was wondering if I would see you again.”

A quite different welcome from the one I received next door.

“You look down,” he remarked as I sat down on a barstool. “Can I get you something?”

“I spoke with Alyson,” I said, glancing at the mug in his hand. “Give me one.” To get wasted was not the intention I came here with, but the more I tried to find a reason not to have a drink. The more I craved one.

“Oh, I see,” he said and put the mug he’d just finished in front of me. “What the heck happened to you anyway?” He asked. There was no anger in his voice, only a hint of concern and curiosity.

Taking a big sip of ale first, I told him how I was kidnapped. Not the full version, of course. In return, I learned about the city guards running around on the streets and people complaining about the lockdown. It didn’t affect Mr. Byron. If anything, it drove more guests to his inn.

Fortunately, the small empty room was still vacant.

As for my stuff, it didn’t end up in the trash, just in the innkeeper’s stash. Backpack, towel, soap, and spare underwear, not much. Yet, a relief to have it back. I have lost too much in the last year. My stuff, my family, my humanity…

“Ah…” I growled in frustration. One beer was more than enough. Two, and I’d start talking about things I’d rather keep secret.

“Something wrong?” Mr. Byron asked, seeing me scratching my mane.

“More than you think,” I sighed and put a couple of coppers on the bar. “I have to go, have some errands to run.”

“Don’t get kidnapped again,” he called after me before I went out on the street. Kidnapped, huh? My hand went to the back of my neck and my eyes on the buildings lining the street. As soon as I walked out of the inn, that strange feeling I got was back. Sah was somewhere out there in the shadows, doing his job.

Taking Lord Wigram’s advice, I tried not to dwell on it too much, push it to the back of my mind. Not with much success, to my irritation. So scratching the back of my neck in regular intervals, I made my way to my next destination, City Hall.

The place was as busy as ever, too much noise for my ears, too many people for my liking. My eyes immediately rested on the receptionist I wanted to see. Enola was just talking to a tall terran woman with a lizard tail that easily rivals mine in length. Unusually, there was no one else in line, so it wasn’t long before I was standing in front of her.

“Korra,” she greeted me with delight in her eyes and a smile on her lips. “I was afraid you got stuck in the labyrinth. Your soul cube still glowed. Y-you’ve gained a few levels. I guess I was worried for nothing.”

Oh, I wouldn’t say it was for nothing. 

For the umpteenth time today, retelling the story of my abduction, I got to the heart of the reason I was at City Hall. “…so, I need someone to teach me Standard.”

“Then why are you here?” wondered Enola. “You should visit schools.”

“It’s a bit embarrassing to go there,” I admitted. “I was wondering if Ria would be willing to help me with that.”

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