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Luminous Heart [Pending Title]

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  • Class: {{esusrinfo_class423105}}
    Level: {{esusrinfo_level423105}}
    Guild Name: {{esusrinfo_guild423105}}

    Oof. This one was hard.

    Illipia had not spoken a word since Takeshi’s sacrifice. She did not even pray, for every time she knelt, clasped her hands and closed her eyes she could hear a dark whisper drown her prayers. Was she being led astray? Had her Goddess forsaken her knowing that she grieved over one mortal life?

    She had seen many deaths in her time on this world. But they were all faceless strangers. Mortals that she never had the chance nor the desire to know. Some may have told her their name at some point, but she never committed them to memory. She thought nothing of the corpses she stepped over in the ancient Elrian Kingdom or the savage lands to the south of Xin.

    But these men she knew. They were the first mortals she spent enough time to learn about them. She knew that Chandragupta was a hopeless romantic and would likely remain a bachelor for the rest of his life. Xheng Zian, for all his boisterous posturing, was a walking disaster when it came to cooking.

    And Haan… She held no special feelings towards the man, but she found his presence to be calming. She did not require his martial skills to guarantee her safety, she could take care of herself. Rather it was his quiet gaze that told you he was listening when you spoke to him and his blunt honesty that was delivered with deliberate words. He was true to himself, and it showed. She found some measure of comfort in that.

    And there was one more thing. “Lady Illipia. May I have a moment of your time?”

    “Of course, Sir Haan. How can I be of service?” The group had stopped to rest in a small cave on the mountain.

    He set down his weapons and sat on the ground, beckoning her to sit with him. She obliged and sat down next to him, barely an arm’s length away. “Are you alright?”

    Illipia looked at the stony ground. “... I’m unharmed, Sir Haan. And the climb hasn’t been too difficult. At our current pace, we will reach your village by tomorrow.”

    Haan gave her a hard look. “... You haven’t spoken a word since-”

    “Please… Sir Haan. I’m alright.” She did not want to hear it. Just the mere mention of that event would summon those dark whispers.

    “Lady Illipia, forgive my persistence, but you are not alright. A shadow hangs over you, I can feel it.”

    She shook her head. “No, I am uninjured and rested. Let us continue our climb.” She made to stand, but a firm hand grabbed her wrist. It was a strong grip, but not painful.

    “Please, a few more moments.” She sat back down and he released her wrist.. “I do not wish to presume. Tell me, what troubles you, Lady Illipia?”

    The whispers began to hiss. “... Death, Sir Haan.”

    “I see. Takeshi’s death?”

    The whispers grew louder. “... Yes.”

    “Do you grieve for him, Lady Illipia?”

    “I…” She could not grieve for a mortal life after seeing so many pass. But this one life, Takeshi’s life, felt precious, making the loss far more painful than she imagined it would be. “I have seen death in my prior travels. Everywhere. But it never made me feel so… afraid before.”

    Haan looked at her. “Afraid? Do you fear death, Lady Illipia?”

    She met his gaze. “... No. Not as one like you would anyways.”

    He narrowed his eyes in confusion. “ I don’t follow.”

    Illipia took a deep breath. The whispers were louder now, and she began feeling irritated. She felt her grasp on her facade slip. “Must I explain this to you, Sir Haan?” she said sharply. “I fear not my own death. I fear for yours. And Chandragupta’s. And Xheng Zian’s.” She began to shout. “I am not like you! I love life! I love the light! Death should not come for life! Even if life shines brighter against it, I hate death! Why did he have to die like that!?”

    Chandragupta and Xheng Zian stared at Illipia, surprised. Haan said nothing. And then his hand reached for her shoulder and gripped it gently. “Lady Illipia, what you just said tells me you are more like us than you think.” She looked at him, confused. “We too fear for the lives of our friends. We would fear for the death of others we do not know as well. But what would that accomplish?” He gave her shoulder a small squeeze. “Fear drives us to do both the incredible and the terrible. It can be dangerous to always live in fear. To fear for the death of all is to fear life. To fear for the death of those you love is to cherish what time you have with them.”

    Haan looked to the other warriors and they smiled. “We are but small men in this large world. We can fight to change what we can, and we understand that there is much we cannot do. But if we were to lament on how small we are we cannot touch the lives of those closest to us. Death gives our lives meaning. Fear drives us to live our lives as best we can for those we love, so that when our time comes we need not be afraid anymore.”

    He moved his hand to her opposite shoulder and pulled her into a small embrace. “Alone, fear only grows fear. Together, fear cultivates courage. If we live our lives for one another, we shall stand against that fear of death when it comes. We are brave because we are afraid. And if you are afraid, Lady Illipia...”

    “... I must be brave,” she finished. The whisper, at last, faded. She heaved a relieved sigh. “Thank you, Sir Haan.”

    “Of course, Lady Illipia.” He released her and stood. He offered his hand to her. This was the other thing she liked about this man. He was attentive and prepared to lend whatever assistance he could when it was needed. His words, even the blasphemous ones, had enriched her perspective.

    She took his hand and began to realize something. She was more like these mortals than she believed. All this time, she saw herself as more than them. But it was that eternal life that blinded her to what life, perhaps, truly was. For all her worship of life and light, she had not truly lived.

    Because she never felt this ready to face down death. She never felt so ready to live.


    • Class: {{esusrinfo_class423412}}
      Level: {{esusrinfo_level423412}}
      Guild Name: {{esusrinfo_guild423412}}

      We made it to Fahrmann! Yay!
      The party reached Fahrmann Village at last. While Shisui’s ‘mudhole’ comment was certainly rude, this village was a far cry from the splendor of the valley. The homes were modest, made from wood and stone and there were sakura trees scattered about the village. But there was a distinct scent of cherry blossoms and crisp, mountain moisture in the air that seemed to energize the party’s tired legs.

      Haan led the way. “Welcome to my home. Let me introduce you to everyone.” The villagers were at first wary of the visitors but quickly rushed out to meet them once they recognized Haan was among them.

      Every single one stared at Illipia. She was unlike anything they had seen before with her blond hair that seemed to glow azure. Her pale skin, her bright clothes, everything about her was exotic and mysterious to them. She was used to these gazes. She had endured them as she traveled through the valley to see the Emperor. But she never paid them mind.

      Now, she watched their faces, noting the wonder in their expressions, the young ones especially.The children were entranced by her. She smiled and beckoned to a young girl in the back. The child walked up to her slowly and looked at the priestess’ face, awestruck. “What is your name, child?” Illipia asked kneeling down..

      The child’s mouth fell open. Illipia could see her thoughts through her eyes. She can talk?! The little girl stuttered. “U-U-Um… M-M-M-My-My name is… Xianghua…”

      “Xianghua? That is such a lovely name. My name is Illipia.” Xianghua was enthralled by Illipia. Out of all the curious children that surrounded her, she had been picked out to give the beautiful foreigner her name.

      Illipia noticed Xianghua shifted her gaze to her cross. The ornate, white cross emblazoned on the silver pendant was yet another foreign wonder to her. Illipia saw two small twigs and a short length of twine at her feet. She picked them up and under Xianghua’s wide gaze she tied the two twigs together into the shape of a cross. Illipia smiled and held out the handmade cross to the young girl. “This is for you.”

      Xianghua took the gift gently and cradled it in her hands. She looked at her new cross and then back up to Illipia. “What is it?”

      Illipia cupped her hands around Xianghua’s. “This is a cross. If you hold it close and pray, someone will hear your wishes.”

      Xianghua eyes lit up. “Really?! Someone like Drabaki?”

      Illipia’s mood instantly soured, but she held her smile. She had forgotten that these people worshipped the serpent still. They had yet to hear of their mission to kill the beast. But she couldn’t bring herself to say it to this child. “Yes, someone like Drabaki.” She stood. “Keep it safe, Xianghua. May your light shine bright.” Xianghua was speechless. The little girl nodded and quickly ran back to the other children where they all asked to see her gift.

      She heard Haan call for her. “Illipia.” She turned to face him. He and the others looked ready to move on from the gathering. “My home is past the sakura trees. We will be resting there for our stay here. Join us.”

      “Of course, Sir Haan.” As she walked over to them, she overheard some whispers. Many were curious as to her relationship to the warrior. She considered it a fair curiosity, but chose to ignore them.

      The party ascended a set of stone steps that climbed to another level of the village. As they stepped off the stairs, they were greeted by the sight of a modest temple and attached home, as well as a beautiful young woman with long black hair.

      She bowed to the party. “Greetings, you must be Haan’s friends. I am Chunhua.”

      Xheng Zian stroked his chin. “Oho… You really caught yourself a fine woman, Haan.” Haan blushed.

      Chunhua looked to Illipia. “Do forgive me, but are you a foreigner?”

      Illipia bowed back to her. “Yes. I come from a land far beyond Xin on an important mission.”

      Chunhua looked concerned. “Mission? What mission?” She looked to her beloved who stepped forward.

      “Let us discuss this inside. My friends are tired and need rest. I’ll explain everything then.” He gently took her hands into his.

      Chunhua smiled and leaned into him. “Very well, my love.” She beckoned to the rest. “Please, come inside. I’ll prepare tea and futons. Stay as long as you need.”

      The others bowed graciously and thanked her for the hospitality. Before Illipia stepped over the threshold, she paused and looked down upon the village. She watched the people, looking for something; Something to justify what she came to this land to do.

      But she couldn’t see it. Not from here. She stepped over the threshold into Haan’s home.

      She couldn’t see the despair to justify taking these people’s god from them.
      I want to apologize for the delay with this update. Something potentially exciting came up over these past couple of days and may updates may slow because of it. For now, I will continue to try and give you daily updates. More to come!


      • Class: {{esusrinfo_class424166}}
        Level: {{esusrinfo_level424166}}
        Guild Name: {{esusrinfo_guild424166}}

        So sorry for the delay!
        The party now rested in Haan’s modest home. After a warm and hearty meal and warm tea the Xin residents moved to the adjacent temple to meditate, leaving Illipia alone in the dining room. She looked at the bare walls of Haan’s home, questions abound in her mind.

        Her Goddess had told her that the great serpent, Drabaki, held in it a terrible wish. A wish to ascend and obtain the divine powers to raze Xin to the ground. The monster was evil, not benevolent. Its kindness was a lie. Its wisdom was malevolent.

        Its heart was dark.

        That was the truth as her Goddess saw it. And Illipia believed in this. So why was she hesitant in the face of these people? Her mission was to free the land of Xin from the hidden machinations of a terrible beast the native people believed their god. She was the righteous one. The one in the right.

        So why was she still hesitant? The faces of the villagers flashed through her mind. Their joy, curiosity, their courtesy, all of it she remembered. Lives built on a lie. When she succeeded in her mission and Drabaki was slain, would their faces change?

        It was at this moment the others returned from their meditations. The men were exhausted and retired to their rooms to rest. She bade them good night and moved to the porch where she sat, staring at the stars.

        She had to steel herself, for tomorrow they would begin their final ascent to the peak where Drabaki meditated. She could not afford to hesitate now! And yet…

        “Lady Illipia?” She turned to face Chunhua. She must have just seen Haan to bed.

        Illipia smiled softly. “Yes, Lady Chunhua?”

        Chunhua shook her head. “Please, call me Chunhua. Forgive me, but I am not very used to being spoken to so formally.” She let out a nervous giggle.

        “Of course, La- Excuse me. Chunhua, then. And please, call me Illipia. I hear enough formality from your betrothed”

        She giggled with a dusting of rose on her cheeks. “Very well, Illipia. May I join you?”

        Illipia slid over to make room. “Of course.”

        “Thank you.” The Xin woman sat herself down next to the priestess. The two women sat in silence for a moment. “May I ask something of you, Illipia?”

        “Of course.”

        Chunhua looked to the stars. “What land do you hail from? Even without Haan telling me, I can tell you are not of Xin.”

        Illipia toyed with her explanations silently. “I come from across the ocean to the west.”

        Chunhua looked at the Illipia with wide eyes. “Across the sea? You’ve traveled far to reach our land. What is your home like?”

        Illipia hesitated for a moment. She had, in truth, not seen her true home in… well, a long time. She could barely remember it. She hailed from the plane that her Goddess inhabited, but since her creation she had not once returned save for the rare occasion for consultation. The only part of her home she could remember was the golden throne and the immediate space it sat in. Not that would tell the mortal her true origins anyways.

        “My home is a small abbey hidden in the hills. If you look out the window in the tower you can see over the hills and watch the plains sway in the wind. It is like seeing an ocean of grass.”

        Chunhua was enraptured by the story. She had probably rarely, if ever, left the mountain. To hear of a place like that must be like hearing someone explain a dream to her. “It sounds like a beautiful place.”

        “It is. And this land is beautiful, as well. I’m not terribly used to climbing mountains, but I must say it feels wonderful to conquer these peaks.”

        Chunhua giggled. “Yes. Many of us have speed climbing competitions. Haan said you were quite capable of climbing though.”

        Illipia laughed. “Even with his approval, I doubt I will be attempting such a competition anytime soon.”

        “It isn’t for everyone, that is certain. I much prefer to keep my feet on the ground.” They laughed and then fell silent again.

        Illipia broke it this time. “May ask something of you, as well, Chunhua?”


        Illipia’s gaze flitted to the village below. “... Do… Do you love the Great Serpent, Drabaki?”

        Chunhua gave her a curious look. “Yes, as does everyone in this village. Why do you ask?”

        “... I… My faith is not the same as yours. I worship a goddess not of our plane.” Illipia looked at the Xin woman. “I… find it hard to believe that a mortal creature could have the same intentions of a god.”

        Chunhua broke eye contact and her gaze shifted to the ground. “... I think I can understand that stance. May I ask what your faith entails, Illipia?”

        Illipia felt a tiny surge of excitement well up inside her. “Of course!” She set her hand on her pendant. “I follow the faith of the Goddess, Ishmael, the creator of this world.”

        Chunhua let out an impressed breath. “Oh? She created the world?”

        Illipia nodded. “Yes. It was her wish to see life flourish and the El granted her this by creating the world, Elrios.”

        “Is that what the world outside is called?”

        “Yes. It is a wonderful place, filled with people like me and even more unlike me.”

        Chunhua was enjoying the story very much, but she shook her head. “Forgive me, Ilipia. I took us on a tangent.”

        Illipia giggled. “It’s all right, Chunhua. Anyways, my Goddess was the one responsible for bringing Elrios to life. But…” Her voice lowered. “Not all is perfect. Death and darkness are my Goddess’ foes, and she desires to see life and light to shine eternal. But her will is not enough for this. So she asks her followers to pray for the darkness to one day fall to the light, so that we may all know love and happiness free from fear.”

        Chunhua was silent for a few moments. She was the first one Illipia had shared this much about her own religion, too. Not even the men she traveled with were told this much as they never openly asked.

        Chunhua’s gaze met Illipia’s. “Illipia, I see that your faith is one that desires for all to be happy. I do see this. But…” Illipia forced herself to not frown. “I can’t help but feel that it is… antagonistic.”

        Had these words been spoken to the Celestial before she came to this land, she would have smote the mouth that spoke them on the spot. But now, doubt stayed her hand. Instead, she said, “Antagonistic? How do you figure that, Chunhua?” The words lacked venom, but were still sharp.

        Chunhua flinched slightly at them. “Well, for all that your faith claims to promote love and happiness it yet asks for you and its followers to wish for the unmaking of concepts that do not align with it. Forgive me, Illipia, but it… just doesn’t sound right.”

        Illipia relaxed her jaw. She didn’t realize she had set it.

        She didn’t immediately answer. Hearing this opinion on her faith, the very thing that empowered her for so long, was… jarring. When Chunhua put it that way, it made sense objectively. For her to worship life and light by cursing death and darkness was contradictory. Life and light as concepts were loving and tolerant, and yet her Goddess demanded that those that followed her to be hateful and intolerant, even if it was towards only specific ideas.

        She finally formed a response. “... I… I have never… thought of it like that, Chunhua. I hope this doesn’t make you think any less of me.”

        Chunhua shook her head. “Not at all, Illipia. I have only known you briefly, but I can see a heart in you much like our Great Serpent: kind and compassionate.”

        Illipia looked at the Xin woman, surprise and relief in her gaze. “... Do you… really mean that?”

        “Yes. I do. The way you walk, the way you look at the people, the way Haan has spoken of you, all of it tells me you are a truly good person. I won’t say you follow the wrong path. You simply follow one that you must believe is right. And that is nothing but incredible, Illipia.”

        Illipia felt a warmth grow in her chest. Even if she didn’t agree with her core values, Chunhua still saw her as a person truly good. As someone she could trust.

        She giggled. “I can see why Sir Haan is so taken with you, Chunhua. He is truly blessed to have someone like you in his life.”

        Chunhua blushed. “Ah… Thank you, Illipia.” She then stood and bowed. “Thank you again for indulging me, Illipia. I must be off to bed. You should get some rest as well.”

        “I will. Thank you, Chunhua. May your light shine bright.”

        “And yours, Illipia. Good night.” Chunhua finally left the Celestial alone. She looked back to the sky to think more on their conversation, but she beheld approaching storm clouds. She had enough time to fully rest before they would arrive.

        But her doubts would have to wait.
        Last edited by GirgeFE-solace-; 09-15-2019, 09:09 PM.


        • Class: {{esusrinfo_class424706}}
          Level: {{esusrinfo_level424706}}
          Guild Name: {{esusrinfo_guild424706}}

          Sorry for being so late! I actually had a potential freelance writing gig cross my table and I was working on my samples for the job. Back to the story!

          The storm reached the mountain by sunrise the following day. While it lacked howling winds and flood-threatening rain, lightning still cut the sky and the resulting thunder sent rumbles through the meager, Fahrmann homes. The warriors decided with Illipia to delay their ascent until the storm subsided. They did not want to risk losing one of them to a fatal slip on wet rock.

          It was during this discussion that they told Chunhua of their mission. She listened quietly, but Illipia noticed her hands balling into fists. She looked at Illipia. “... Did your… Goddess bestow this revelation to you, Illipia?” There was an edge to her words, bordering on accusal.

          Illipia tried hard not to flinch. “No…” She shook her head. After their conversation the previous night, Illipia knew where Chunhua stood on the topic of her Goddess. A lie was necessary. “Rather, it was a vision granted by the El itself. My Goddess bade me to hurry here so that we could avert the coming disaster.”

          Chunhua’s gaze softened slightly. Haan set a hand on hers. “Chunhua… The Emperor has tasked us with hunting down Drabaki. Once the serpent has fallen, we will bring its empowered blood to him. He will inherit its power and continue to watch over us.” She clasped his hand and set her jaw. She eventually nodded, accepting the inevitable.

          She retired to the temple to meditate, leaving the party to discuss their next move. “That went better than expected,” Chandragupta whispered.

          Haan gave him a hard look. “Chunhua, as well as the other villagers love Drabaki. To tell them that the serpent is actually evil is to break their hearts. Were we not all skeptical when we first heard it?”

          Xheng Zian nodded in agreement. “True. The Emperor bade us to carry out his wish, and we cannot refuse. Guess we got used to the idea in the time it took us to arrive here.” He glanced at Illipia. “Not to mention our precious priestess has won our hearts over the course of this journey.”

          They laughed to ease the lingering tension. Now Xheng Zian looked at the rain outside. “But if we are to carry out our mission, this storm must subside. It’s too risky to ascend to the peak while the sky cries like this.”

          “Indeed,” Haan agreed. “And Drabaki’s ascent should be happening any day now. This storm is going to make us cut it awfully close.”

          Illipia stood. “Perhaps I can be of some assistance.”

          The others looked at her, bemused. “How so, Lady Illipia?” Chandragupta asked.

          She clasped a hand around her cross. “I can pray to my Goddess to allow the storm to pass quickly. She can exert her influence in such ways.” They looked unimpressed with her suggestion.

          Except Haan. “Are you certain?”

          “Yes. I will have to venture out into the storm to pray, but I assure you my Goddess will bring it to an end.”

          The others looked at each other silently for some moments. Then they nodded.

          “Then we’ll leave it to you. Here…” Xheng Zian offered her an umbrella. “To keep you dry.”

          She accepted it gladly. “Thank you, Sir Xheng Zian. I will be back soon.” She made to leave, but noticed Haan gathering his weapons out of the corner of her eye. “Sir Haan? What are you doing?”

          “Someone should go with you, just in case.”

          She held up a hand and shook her head. “Please, Sir Haan. I would like to show you that my Goddess watches over me always. She will see me back safe and the storm abated. Please, allow me to perform this task alone.”

          He watched her with an even stare and eventually set his gear back down and returned to the table. “As you wish, Lady Illipia. Be safe.”

          “Thank you, Sir Haan. I will see you all again soon, under clear skies.” She stepped out into the storm, opened the umbrella and took a deep breath.

          She had an appointment to keep.


          • Class: {{esusrinfo_class424736}}
            Level: {{esusrinfo_level424736}}
            Guild Name: {{esusrinfo_guild424736}}

            Two in one night! Gotta make up for all those missed days!

            The rain pelted the umbrella, dripping off the edges in liquid tendrils. The occasional lightning would illuminate the valley miles below, and the thunder would overwhelm the pitter-patter of the raindrops.

            Illipia held the umbrella until she was out of sight of the village. Once she confirmed no curious eyes were watching she folded it and shook it dry. But she did not become soaked by the rain. No, a film of El coated her body, shielding her from the storm. For her to succeed she was required to remain human. Humans could not perform the feats she was capable of, and that had to remain a secret.

            She called on the power of the El to lift her and carry her to a nearby ridge. There, she was greeted by a voice she had not heard in literal ages. “Sister, you finally made it.” As Illipia’s feet touched the ground she turned to face the figure standing in the shadow of the cliff.

            “Raul, you’re late.” A flash of lightning cut the sky and illuminated the woman in the shadows. She was tall, lean, her long, electric blue hair was tightly wound into a braid. She wore glowing blue armor much like a valkyrie from an Elrian story, with a blue and white skirt and several tresses and a small cape of azure. Each of these were decorated with shimmering accessories fashioned into bolts of lightning, and she had several hair pins sticking out from her head haphazardly, as though a storm roiled just under her hairline. A single earring shaped like a sapphire lightning bolt hung from her right ear.

            Raul shrugged and pushed off from the wall she was leaning on. “I had business to attend to en route.”

            Illipia’s eyes narrowed. “Business more important than our Goddess’ wish?”

            Raul smirked. “You’re so uptight, Illipia. Can’t you be happy to see your younger sister after so long?”

            Illipia sighed. “Our Goddess did mention before that you would be late, but I was hoping you would make haste to make up for lost time. The serpent’s ascension is-”

            “In two days. Yeah, I know.” Raul looked to the peak above. She frowned. “Still don’t like that we can’t just go up there and kill it ourselves.” Raul had always been brash and unpredictably eager for a fight.

            “You know why, Raul,” said Illipia sharply. “The people of this land must see their own mortal brethren bring down Drabaki with our aid. If we were to just march up there and kill the serpent ourselves, the people would only curse our Goddess. She wants their prayers, not their scorn.”

            Raul scoffed. “Yeah, yeah. You take the chosen ones up there and support them with some of your magic, I rain down lightning from above as though the heavens themselves desire their victory.” She gestured dramatically as though she were in a play.

            “Please take this seriously, Raul. We have an opportunity to convert an entire nation. The Emperor should have already spoken to the people in the valley and sent word to the outlying villages. Should we succeed-”

            Should?” Illipia cursed her choice of words. Raul was always looking for something to pick at. “The Illipia I know wouldn’t have said should. She would have said will. What happened to you on your climb?”

            Illipia forced back the reminiscent smile. “Does it matter?”

            Raul sneered. “Oh ho… No need to get so defensive, I was only asking out of concern for my elder sister.” Illipia said nothing, recognizing the verbal trap that had been set. Raul rolled her eyes when she did not fall into it. “Mother told me-”

            Our Goddess.”

            Our Mother…” Raul measured the impact of her words, but seeing Illipia’s expression remain even she did not wait long to finish. “Told me that you lost two warriors on your way up.”

            Illipia blinked, hiding the dark shadow in her eyes that was Takeshi’s death behind it. “Yes. One was a fool. The other was injured in an ambush and sacrificed himself to halt our pursuers.”

            Raul whisteled, feigning amazement. “You mean even crippled, one managed to actually make himself useful in the end? Not bad for a mortal.”

            Illipia felt anger burst from her chest and could not stop the words that came from her mouth. “That mortal is Takeshi. And you will respect his sacrifice, Raul.” Raul’s eyes widened at this. Realizing that trying to divert from the subject would be a futile and suspicious effort, Illipia doubled down. “That man was far braver than any of our followers I have seen. He is a perfect example of what we have to gain in this land. So you will respect Takeshi’s sacrifice, Raul.”

            Raul held up her hands in surrender. “Okay, okay, Illipia. Ta-Takeshi…? I’ll see to it that Mother knows of his sacrifice once this is all over.” Illipia nodded, satisfied. Raul sighed. “Never thought I’d see you get so hung up on a mortal.” Illipia’s angry look made it clear she was unhappy with the topic at hand. Raul clearly wanted to pull more on this loose string, but it would have to wait. “Anyways, are the others up to the task? You have three now, right?”

            Illipia nodded. “Yes. Sir Chandragupta, Sir Xheng Zian, and Sir Haan. They are each highly skilled.” She ignored Raul’s eyebrow cocking at the mention of their names.

            “Huh, as long as they pull their weight and don’t just die we should be able to pull this off.” She began to float off the ground. “I’ll get into position above. The mortals can make the climb in a day?”

            Another nod. “Yes. They can. Provided we don’t have any complications, we will reach the peak tomorrow evening and strike just before the serpent ascends.”

            “Alright then.” Raul cracked her neck as she began to ascend. Then she stopped and turned to her sister. “Let me say one thing, Sister.” Illipia narrowed her eyes.

            “Don’t get attached.”

            Illipia sucked in a breath. “I do not plan on it.”

            Raul smirked. “You committed the names of fragile mortals to memory. Also…” Her gaze sized up Illipia. “You seem… different. The way your standing.”

            Illipia’s patience was at an end. “Get to the point, Raul.” Raul floated to her sister and set her hand on the small of her back. Illipia flinched at the touch and glared into her sister’s azure eyes. Raul sneered before letting go.

            “You stand… like a mortal.”


            • Class: {{esusrinfo_class426216}}
              Level: {{esusrinfo_level426216}}
              Guild Name: {{esusrinfo_guild426216}}

              Sorry for the delay! I'm away from home for the week, so I updates will be slow. But we're almost done!
              As she promised, Illipia returned to the village under clear skies. The storm clouds, a conjuring of Raul, had parted to expose the sun. But they still lingered, urging the party to make haste to the peak lest the heavens deem it necessary for more rain. They bid the villagers farewell and began their climb in earnest.

              Haan described the final ascent to the peak to be the most harrowing; a single misstep would send one plummeting to their death. And with the rock slick with rain water, the threat was that much greater.

              And so it was met with great relief when Chandragupta did not perish when his foot slipped and he fell. The man was resourceful, using his bow to grab onto a nearby branch. Though branch snapped, it cut his momentum enough so that his landing was not fatal. But the rest could see his arm and leg bent unnaturally, even from their high vantage.

              They rushed down the cliff to his side and Illipia prepared to heal the injured man. He pointed to the peak above and said, "Leave me. It was my error. You must make haste to the peak. There is no time to waste on me."

              Illipia despaired; she did not want another of these men to die. Before she could protest, Xheng Zian knelt next to the broken warrior. "You will not lay here to die alone, Chandragupta. I will take you back to Fahrmann myself."

              "Xheng Zian! We are upon our objective! I cannot have you leave the rest for my sake! Please, complete the mission!"

              Unfortunately. The crippled warrior could not stop Xheng Zian from scooping him up. He turned to Haan. "Can you handle the rest alone, Haan?"

              Haan took a deep breath. "I must. Take care of Chandragupta."

              Xheng Zian nodded and looked to the broken man. "There you have it. Haan's getting all the glory for this hunt."

              Chandragupta sighed in frustration. "Forgive me. Just… don't let any of the village women see me like this."

              Xheng Zian laughed as he began his careful descent. "Ha! Just say you ran out of arrows and had to tackle a monster off the cliff!"

              "You think they will believe that?!"

              Their voices eventually faded as they descended out of sight.

              Now there was only two: The warrior Haan and the priestess, Illipia.

              He turned to her, adjusting the grip on his spear. "It would seem I will be counting on your assistance in the coming battle. Tell me…" He looked anxious. "How well can you protect yourself? As skilled as I am, I will not be able to protect you and fight Drabaki at the same time"

              Illipia set a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Sir Haan, do not fear for my safety. Trust me.” She looked to the sky above. “My Goddess shall see to our victory.”

              He looked to the clouds above as well, silent. He nodded as he looked back to her. “Very well. Let us finish this.”

              The duo commenced their final ascent in respectful silence.

              At the peak, the two beasts Drabaki and Eun stared at the clouded sky above. The Great Serpent, having accumulated tributes had taken on a new form. Its scales, still white as the moon, were now jagged and sharp, its snout angular, and its mouth lined with many teeth. Two horns jutted from its jaw on each side of its mouth, spines ran down the length of its back, and two small wings sprouted midway down its body. To call it a serpent now would be wrong now.

              Eun looked to it and smiled. “The moment is upon us, my love.”

              It smiled back. “Yes. It is time. Time for my ascension.” It lowered its head and nuzzled the fox. “Thank you for all you have taught me, Eun. Never forget that I shall always be here not in form, but in spirit.”

              The fox held back her tears. “Yes. I know. And what a god you will be.” They held their loving touch for moments they stretched for as long as they could. They eventually parted.

              Drabaki looked again to the sky. “It would seem a terrible storm is upon us. No matter. It will not stop my ascension.” It looked to Eun. “I have one last favor to ask of you, Eun.”

              “Anything, my love.”

              “Go to the village just down the mountain. They will need your protection from the coming storm.” Eun hesitated, and Drabaki chuckled. “Do not worry. You will be able to see my flight just fine from there.”

              She laughed. “That’s good. But please… one last touch, my love…”

              “Of course, my love…”

              This time, Drabaki wrapped its body around Eun gently, embracing her as best it could. She licked its face and nuzzled against every part she could.

              It was their last embrace, and they wished to always remember it.


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