I wake up at dawn, immediately closing my eyelids to remain in my warm blankets for just a little while longer. My laziness doesn’t last long as I start getting nervous and fidgety within minutes.
I rise and add a half-portion of energy into the fire construct, which represents a third of what I regenerated during the night. Yvonne is still asleep on the other side of the blaze so I move carefully in order not to make noise.
I grab the hare from the handcart and a knife. I start cutting the meat off the bones to throw into the gruel we cooked last night. Once I’m done doing that, I place the pot back on the fire.
During the next hour, I stretch my sore muscles and train my sword swings by focusing on the lion strike which doesn’t burn all that much flow since it isn’t a very energy intensive construct to begin with and I’ve gotten quite good at it.
I stop as I grow exhausted, and unsatisfied. Lion strikes would just barely allow me to fight one on one but don’t compensate for the lack of a left arm at all so I turn to my potentially most effective construct, the blood blade.
It’s at this moment that I notice an increase in sunlight. I throw a look to the east, finding that the sun just barely rose over the sea on the horizon despite the fact that I’ve been able to see quite clearly for a while now.
My eyes start stinging so I turn away, realizing that their increased sensitivity to light might be an advantage instead of an inconvenience. Which reminds me I haven’t tested enhancing my eyesight.
I do so, finding that I can see like it’s bright daylight when dawn hasn’t even fully broken. I grin, glad to have gained something so small yet so consequent. Unfortunately, the sight construct isn’t working on the silver flashes which isn’t too surprising considering it’s of Rykz origin.
I sit down in front of the fire, feeling washed up from a mere hour of training but not so exhausted I couldn’t keep going. I’ll have the winter to get back in shape, it’s not too worrying as long as I’m careful.
I pick up a gourd to start training my blood blade construct with water by simply assembling and dismantling it in turn, using the single portion of flow I have available to the utmost.
As I train, I notice that the silver flashes I get from the fire occur when the blaze intensifies or diminishes, adding more evidence that the silver flashes correspond to fluctuations.
Once I’m confident that I have the blood-blade construct’s segments fresh in mind, I try to add components of the water controlling construct to it. It’s more difficult to do than I originally thought as the blood-blade is based on the air-blade.
While the air-blade construct can be used on fluids, the water controlling construct doesn’t work on air. Or perhaps it needs more energy to function which is a non-starter for my current access.
The reason I’m focusing on using blood-blades is that, while it consumes a lot more energy to float and launch, I can use it in close quarters over and over again as long as I remain linked to it, even inside disruption constructs which an air-blade cannot do.
Although, I could try an air-blood-blade to the same effect if there is no disruption construct. I ponder for a moment and decide that it’s worth testing. I assemble an air-blade and use Yvonne’s short sword to nick the back of my hand.
Unfortunately, the air-blood-blade disintegrates before I can even think of activating it as soon as I try to add my blood. I recover two-thirds of the flow which isn’t enough to keep trying.
“Well, shit.” I swear.
“’Morning.” Yvonne replies.
“Hey, sleep well?” I ask.
“Fine enough.” She tells me, rising up. “Oh, breakfast is almost ready!” She exclaims cheerfully.
The sword-sworn starts taking out the dishes so I leave her to it, focusing on what went wrong. Far as I can tell, the changes I’ve made to create a blood-blade simply aren’t compatible with air, but I couldn’t form a blade out of blood before I made them so this isn’t going to work.
Using water works, but that defeats the benefits of using blood instead of air to begin with. I sigh and give up on the air-blood-blade, deciding to steal some of the fire construct’s energy to keep experimenting since Yvonne can replace the energy.
I assemble another blood-blade with water, once more adding elements of the water controlling construct to stabilize and shape the fluid because I need it to link to my body when it’s made of blood.
The construct ends up looking quite like a tendril coming out of my palm and ending in a scythe-like blade. I make it swing once but quickly dismantle it because of the insane energy consumption.
I barely recover a fraction of my energy. Well, that’s pretty much that, the construct is good but unusable for me at the moment. Air-blades take a whole portion at the very least but that’s all it takes to use them effectively, this blood-blade requires at least three portions for the same result.
The only use I see for it at the moment is to free myself of shackles or as a sneak attack tool because anything larger than a finger is too energy intensive for my reserve.
Good thing I’m done fighting for others because I don’t regenerate enough energy to improve the constructs I have. The lightning-armor-piercing construct itself is just barely usable, I’ll have to train to activate it to cut only as much as I need to like Vikiana does.
I pick up a bowl to eat with Yvonne, deciding to keep what energy I have left to support me through the day. I’m mostly going to use a nourishing construct to help build my body back up.
“That looked pretty interesting but an air-blade would do the trick.” Yvonne notes.
“It was an air-blade, but with water.” I reply.
“Huh.” Yvonne utters in surprise. “Is it as sharp?”
“I don’t know, I never tested.” I tell her. “Don’t see a reason why not.”
“It’s probably harder to block, air-blades can be rendered useless if they don’t have enough speed to cut through.” She comments.
“Well, the point is to use blood not water, anyway. As long as it stays connected to you and the blood doesn’t die, it’s still a part of your body.” I explain. “I used that to get free of disruption shackles.”
“Smart, although I doubt you can use it for anything intensive, you’d drain out pretty quickly.” Yvonne points out.
“What do you usually use in battle?” I ask.
“I haven’t been in a real battle yet.” Yvonne makes a grimace. “I know lion strikes and defensive constructs, apart from that I have a small repertoire of useful constructs to guard Leomi. The rest are constructs we used back home so they have to do with fishing and sailing.”
“Like alarm constructs and kinetic ones?” I ask.
“Yes.” She nods. “Although, I’m not good with kinetic constructs so I don’t generally use them.”
We discuss constructs as we eat but Yvonne is unfortunately not very knowledgeable so I cut it short to go feed the parasite a few chunks of hare meat while sending it a friendly message again.
This time, I observe it as it uses its tendrils to move the meat down to its roots which buries with it under the loose earth. I go so far as to try to dig out the hare skull but it bars me so I send it a predator signal.
The parasite hesitates but it shifts aside. I dig the skull out, which is now entirely bare of flesh, and hold it for a few seconds before putting it back in. The Little one might be keeping it because it’ll eventually break down so it wouldn’t appreciate me taking it.
I really hope I won’t need to implant it within the time it takes Celyz to find a solution but there’s a chance I’ll have to if my heart problems worsen. I shake my head and help Yvonne put away the few items we took out of the cart. I once again get behind the handcart to push while she pulls the handles, yet she doesn’t immediately depart.
“Don’t get mad but… I think you should only help me if there’s a hill.” Yvonne speaks up.
“I’m not doing it out of pride, I need to recover my endurance.” I reply.
“You need to rest first if you want to have a chance at recovery.” Yvonne counters firmly.
I frown but, having been told the same thing by so many people, I decide to just walk for today and find out how tiring it ends up being. We make our way north-west, putting the coast to our back to find the paved road to Meria.
We find it by noon, it ironically heads straight north-east which means we would have likely found it quicker if we went straight north, or at least have wasted less time.
I’m rather relieved when Yvonne tells me that we’re a long ways past the Shipwold barony with a rather disappointed expression. I don’t have anything against her mother but she’s a titled Noble… so I kind of do in a way.
“Do you want to stop to eat or do so in a few hours?” Yvonne asks.
“Let’s keep going, we might be pretty close to Meria.” I respond, enjoying the fact my stomach no longer controls me.
“Still a full day away, I think.” Yvonne tells me.
I nod as our speed is a lot slower than mine when I traveled from Castle Lance to Meria. The cart is heavier than mine was and I was hurrying along. I grow tired as the day goes by but not so much I have to stop to rest even after helping Yvonne push the handcart up slopes in the road.
My thoughts wander quite often to my plan of a double-headed plow as the day goes by but it ends up being very frustrating without any new ideas or the energy to work on what I have. We stop at sunset and light up a fire.
The two of us talk quite a bit about Leomi’s hopes that peasants with the most confidence in their work are likely to try to take the chance to migrate over to the Izla or to Hetlan with the Hospitaliers’ help.
“They’ll stop that.” I comment.
“They’ll try. It depends how quickly Nobles realize what’s happening.” Yvonne replies. “Hospitalier chapters will likely not be allowed into our fiercest opponents’ domains so it’ll be hard for them to realize who’s helping their people while those who support us aren’t likely to lose many people since it stands to reason their domains would already be agreeable for peasants to live in and will become more so with the Hospitaliers there to resolve grievances that Templars try to smooth out instead of resolve.”
“It sounds like one more power play between Noble houses.” I grunt. “The Empire is eating itself inside out, the mere fact that we have the soldiers to defend the borders but don’t actually send them because Rulers consider it to be another Kingdom’s problem shows how ludicrous it is.”
“Well, there are always plenty of soldiers to join the phalanxes, this is just an anomaly because of what King Cenwalh did.” Yvonne argues.
“Because service there secures their future and it’s an honor, it doesn’t have anything to do with Kingdoms supporting the Empire as a whole.” I grunt. “Nobles want to keep their soldiers in their lands because of the ridiculous games they play in facing off with their armies to steal land from other domains. And because they fear revolts.”
“That’s such a pessimistic view.” Yvonne sighs. “Mirus isn’t sending an army because of Sykus’ revolt, which plays a bit into your point, but I think its understandable of them to worry about unrest. They do fund great caravans to supply the Empire’s borders with food and equipment every year, next spring will be no different. Caeviel on the other hand has manufactured many items for the Phalanxes as well as sold iron and grain to Telnur through Mirus. Our Kingdom doesn’t help much because it’s still quite poor compared to the other five.”
“I understand that things are complicated, Yvonne, all I’m saying is that the Empire would fare better if we were more united and that Nobles are the ones standing in the way of that.” I explain, gritting my teeth.
“I don’t disagree, it’s just really dangerous to openly go there.” Yvonne replies, checking to our left and right despite there being no one around. “If you don’t have enough support, you’ll quickly end up imprisoned. If you have some, actual titled Nobles will take an interest in you and the Templars won’t be far behind.”
“There has to be a way to do it, without a civil war.” I grunt.
“Jessica, there’s a reason soldiers don’t really like Elizabeth Vil but would follow her over Leomi Lance and it’s because Leomi, whether as a Noble or as a representative of a Republic, does not offer much to them.” Yvonne explains. “The overwhelming majority of qualified soldiers come from families with time-tested training regiments or are individuals aiming to create or join one through marriage or adoption. These soldiers are linked to Nobles even more than peasants because it’s their career and their life, it was their parents’, it will be their children’s.”
“Then why would they follow me?” I blink.
“Because in their eyes Elizabeth Vil could be a conqueror that has a real chance to win.” Yvonne explains. “Leomi Lance calls for reform, there is no gold to be had in that for soldiers. Especially when her reputation clearly indicates she wouldn’t tolerate pillaging. Those soldiers would be abandoning a wealthy master that trusts and pays them for an upstart that likely can’t afford to pay them. On the other hand, if you raised a banner in Caeviel, you would do so with the only choice of conquering the throne or dying. At first, few would join apart from desperate peasants but with a few victories on the field? You could gather a real army with promises of land and gold to be distributed. I think that’s why you are so feared among our faction, they don’t know you like Leomi and I do.”
“Soldiers would want me to start a bloodbath?” I question, stunned.
“No, that’s incidental to their job. They would be attracted to the prospect of pillaging castles, dungeons, palaces, and cities to take the gold directly from the hands of those who feed them mere silver. The officers and soldiers likely hoping to even gain positions and lands later, or planning to run at the first signs of defeat.” Yvonne replies. “Peasants would obviously be eager to join as well, but without flow users skilled in battle…”
“Nobility would slaughter us without even needing their soldiers.” I acknowledge. “Unless…” I pause. “Hah, no way.”
“What?” Yvonne asks.
“Don’t mind it, just a stupid idea.” I shake my head, not daring to think too much about it.
“Like the one you had to make a deal with the Rykz and save the Kingdom?” Yvonne asks with an amused smile.
“Well, I could do that because I found something out about the parasite more than anything else.” I shrug. “No, this one pretty much guarantees that it’ll trigger a massacre.” I reply.
“You don’t need to tell me but keep thinking about it, you might have just hit on the path to freedom for all.” Yvonne tells me, chuckling humorously at how preposterous that would be.
“Anyway, I have a few ideas about what I’ll do.” I say, changing the subject.
“Oh, tell me!” Yvonne demands enthusiastically.
“I’m probably going to try a mix of things, like hunting, engraving runes, and raising animals.” I tell her. “I’m pretty confident I can learn to do most of those things with a single arm, chickens and rabbits aren’t too difficult to take care of.”
“Good idea.” Yvonne nods.
“I’ll just have to learn to throw a spear right while I hunt smaller animals with my old sling.” I explain. “Most of that won’t get me much coin, apart from the rune engraving, but I’ll be able to survive on my own through barter.”
“You can always ask me for help to get started.” Yvonne tells me.
“Doubt I will, I think I’ll enjoy the peace and quiet.” With Leomi. “I’ll have to build myself a travois.” I add, thinking of an impossible future with my Lady waiting for me to come back with the results of my hunt.
“Sounds good.” Yvonne smiles.
We have a quick meal and then set to sleep. I take quite a while to fall asleep this time, thinking about my idea further because Yvonne’s casual dismissal of its potential pricked my sense of competition, despite the fact I was the first to set it aside.
After all, Nobility doesn’t like spreading out the fact that they’re born with just as much access as anyone else because that dents their supposedly superior status. If I sprea… I suddenly notice Yvonne looking at me as I roll in my blankets to find a more comfortable position.
“What is it?” I ask her.
“Your eyes are kind of shining.” She replies.
“Oh.” I blink and shift slightly to block the fire. “Now?” I question.
“Not anymore.” She nods.
“That could end up being an issue.” I grunt.
“Hm.” Yvonne ponders. “It’s really only noticeable when you stare and there isn’t much light.”
“You said that before, but you keep staring.” I note.
“It’s fascinating, what the Rykz can do.” She replies carefully, apparently trying not to offend me.
“Krr.” I try to restrain my laughter. “Ahahahahha.” I explode out.
“No!” Yvonne exclaims. “That was not an innuendo!”
“Hahahahahaha.” I keep going despite my stomach and cheeks starting to hurt.
“Ugh, you were so much cuter when you were all innocent.” Yvonne complains.
I instantly snap my mouth shut and bite my tongue to stop my maniacal laughter, ending up coughing and explosively breathing out through my nose. The sword-sworn suddenly turns awkward, likely realizing she might have made a mistake.
“I, I’m not cute?” I ask, affecting a stutter while I control my voice not to reveal how amused I still am.
“You are, you are, but it’s more womanly!” She quickly explains.
“Krrrrhahahaha.” I burst out.
“Dammit, Jess!” Yvonne groans, throwing a small pebble at me.
“Khakakakaka.” I chuckle in an evil manner. “I’m sorry, I missed you too but I’d rather be teasing than teased and you’re either one or the other when it comes to you.” I tell her, sticking my tongue out. She turns her back to me, affecting a pout.
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