Inside the inn’s courtyard, Nisha stared angrily at the old innkeeper. His hesitation to let them inside his property almost cost her big sister’s life, a mistake the man was going to regret very dearly if there were any lasting damages going to remain on Annabelle.
“Man, show us a room. We paid, more than just gold, to keep you and this place safe. Now, lead the way.”
Unwilling to waste any more time on a coward, the dragon snarled at him, openly showing her hostility.
If he shows even the slightest bit of resistance, I am going to hit him… very hard.
The gaze of a dragon about to sink her fangs into meat worked regardless of form, the already frightened man nearly wet himself, swallowing a hard lump in his throat before answering.
“Sure… if the ladies would follow me…”
Trying his hardest not to offend the deathly sisters, the innkeeper bowed deeply like he would before a noble.
Deeming him beneath her attention, the dragon focused on her injured friend in the carriage, approaching it and checking on her condition, while Lydia approached the [Strider Deer] which was still bridled in front of the cart.
The fight did not help to calm the animal down, its flared nostrils and wide open eyes indicated the agitated state it was in.
Being covered in blood from head to toe probably wouldn’t help if Nisha tried to calm it down, so she gladly left that task to her older sister, who did not sustain as many injuries as to require her immediate attention.
Lifting Annabelle from the cargo space, the dragon followed the innkeeper, who waited at the stairs, not daring to offend his powerful guests that had just slain a large group of invading enemy soldiers.
Leading the way wordlessly, the man and the three girls soon arrived in front of a large wooden door, where a brass key was handed to Nisha. Withdrawing as fast as he could, the old man evacuated from the scene, reluctant to remain in their company.
Opening the door with the key lead into a lavish suite, most likely the most exquisite room in the whole inn, fit for any rich travelling merchant or lower nobility.
After carefully resting the unconscious body she was carrying on the large double bed, Nisha was glad to discover a jar filled with water resting on the bed side table.
Taking a few big gulps, she quenched the immense thirst that befell her after finishing the battle, her exhaustion was evident now that the rush of adrenaline slowly left her and reality sunk in.
Handing the jar to Lydia after she had drunk almost a third of it at once, the tired girl slumped down besides her other sister, closing her eyes and enjoying the warm sensation on her wrists, while waiting for the conversation that was bound to happen soon.
I wish I could just fall asleep now. But Anna and Lydia need me, we’re not safe yet.
“Is she going to be safe? Anna suffered some serious wounds, seeing her bleeding like that was terrible. Thank god you learned how to treat wounds, I didn’t know what to do at all when I saw her like that.”
Lydia’s voice reached her through the fatigue, after satisfying her own thirst, the woman had taken a seat beside her on the bed, Annabelle sleeping behind them.
“Yes, most of her wounds were not were not so deep that I couldn’t heal them, I think the blood loss was what lead to her fainting, she just needs a good night’s sleep.
Are you injured too? I still have some mana left to treat you if there’s anything that especially hurts.”
Fighting a full squad of five soldiers head on was definitely beyond their current capabilities, at least, if the opposition was made up of enemies at the third and second aura rank. Coming out as the victor, this time, was owed to the dragon’s deceit tactic with the enchantment and the crimson bracelets, which she now played with while talking to her friend.
Three tiny gemstones had formed amongst other decorations, giving the equipment a very pleasant appearance, albeit, the gemstones felt somewhat eery to the sensitive girl that was wearing them.
“No, there’s nothing that won’t heal on its own, you are much more hurt than I am. Look at you, there’s still the dagger sticking in your shoulder, take care of that first!”
Discovering a dagger buried in Nisha’s flesh alarmed Lydia greatly, her voice raising an octave and getting increasingly upset.
Blinking a few times, the dragon girl stared at the dagger too, despite piercing her skin and flesh, the injury barely hurt and only now that she was reminded of it did it start to hurt a bit again.
Gripping the knife at the handle, Nisha was about to pull it free and gather dark mana to heal the wound, when her flame whispered to her again, this time from the bracelets she was wearing.
Following the instructions it gave her, she ceased to gather the tiny remains of her mana reserves and instead, she just removed the dagger from her body, wincing slightly when the sharp edge was dragged out.
No blood flowed from the open fissure, only an odd feeling of emptiness remained after the foreign object was removed.
Lydia trusted Nisha when it came to medical knowledge, she herself was no stranger to blood or wounds due to the occasional hunt she accompanied the dragon on. But something about injuries and opened bodies repulsed her and she just left all of the healing to her youngest sister.
Repeating after the bracelet, the dragon recited the low whispers of her flame.
“Soar, Flames of Life. Return the vitality you have captured!”
Under her command, the three tiny crimson gems transformed into streaks of light, separating from the bracelet and playing around her silhouette until they finally streamed through her wound, dissolving into remnants of warm sunshine.
Inspecting herself after this flashy occurrence, Nisha was surprised to see that the wound in her shoulder had disappeared, as well as various other small injuries she had sustained in the fight.
While she was still covered in grime and blood, at least her injuries were taken care of and a tiny amount of aura and mana was restored at well.
Staring at the incredible armament, the bracelet reached the end of the time that it was able to be sustained and it reverted to its original form, the small flame that belonged to Nisha.
Circling around the stunned dragons in a small arc, the orange flame parted with one more secret about the bracelet before heading straight for Nisha’s chest, disappearing in her body.
So strange. This is my flame, I recognize it, but why did it take the shape of a metal bracelet?
“You know, usually, I’d ask you what just happened there. But with you Nisha, there’s always something unbelievable going on when you are around.”
Waking up from her blackout, the first thing Annabelle saw already surprised her.
“You’re awake! Thank the gods!”
Throwing herself on her older sister, Lydia embraced her, crying tears of happiness that she was alright.
Smiling at the two of them that were sharing their recollection of the events so far and bringing each other up to the latest news, Nisha inspected the bracelets more closely.
They neither felt warm when she touched them from the outside nor seemed to be particularly soft to the touch, rather than that, they were solid like iron. So the dragon had no idea why they radiated heat like that into her body or were able to change their form, nor did they burn the bedding when she had laid down.
Truly a mysterious piece of equipment!
While the dragon was admiring her newest accessories, Annabelle and Lydia had caught up with each other, discussing their opinions regarding the siege and the behaviour their youngest sister showed.
“Say, Nisha. I’ve noticed a while ago, but do you actually enjoy violence? I know you are a dragon in reality and have lived in the Wilderness for quite some time, but I am worried that you might be overdoing it a bit. It is hard to talk about this, I know you are gentle and the best little sister anyone could wish for, but -”
“No! I don’t think I am fond of violence, really.”
Cutting Annabelle off, the dragon girl interjected quickly.
“I admit that I fancy a good hunt and I am not particularly bothered by blood, but I don’t just kill people because it brings me joy.
It’s just… when I see someone about to hurt you, someone I hold very dearly, like real sisters, and when that soldier was about to hurt you… he was about to take my precious family away from me, and I won’t stand still when that happens.
If I have to hurt someone else to protect what is important to me, I will do that. No matter who it is.”
The conviction in her voice moved the other two women, a belief as solid as iron that she meant everything exactly as she said it.
“Thank you, you’re a little sister to us two. We will always be your family, whatever happens.”
No more words were needed between them, all they needed was each others company to process some of the gruesome things that happened today.
“But we also can’t stay here for too long, the wall has been breached and soldiers are streaming the city. We should see if we can make our way to Luthais on the wall, maybe he can help us get out of here.”
The proposal Lydia came up with sounded good, the half-elf surely would be able to defend them against each and every attacker that might be foolish enough to go against him.
There is a lot of danger on the way, though. Maybe I can convince them to do something else, so the soldiers won’t get anywhere near them again.
“That sounds good, but we would have to leave our carriage here.
How about this, I will sneak through the houses and go to the wall alone, I have experience in hiding myself and my [Flickering Cover], so I will go ahead and tell Luthais to meet us here. I’m sure he won’t leave grandpa’s remains here and Sergeant Rivers said he’s a genius strategist, so he might have a plan too.
Can you safeguard our carriage? I trust you can defend our belongings from all greedy hands.
And keep an eye out for the innkeeper, I don’t think we can trust him.”
Truthfully, Nisha wanted to keep her precious sisters out of danger, although her words also contained a seed of truth.
Lydia and Annabelle appeared very reluctant to let Nisha take on all of the danger by herself, yet they also discerned the merit of her words.
In the same vein that the dragon had gained precious memories and things she cherished during the time she lived in the cottage, the two former maids had also done that, as servants they did not get to own many things. Every time Nisha gifted them with a trophy of her hunt or something she made on her own while practicing crafting or sewing, it warmed their hearts.
“Are you sure you want to risk this all on your own? We’re in this together, you aren’t alone anymore. Those soldiers are monsters, you know? They’d kill us without a second thought, so don’t feel too bad about it. I am very glad that you stood up for us.”
Anna is right. Just because these men have a family and people love them too, doesn’t mean I won’t be missed or should surrender because of that. Killing for no reason is not something I do, I only want to protect what is important to me. For that, there’s no reason to be ashamed or hesitate.
Filled with new determination, Nisha cracked a crooked smile before replying.
“Don’t you know? Monsters are the favourite prey of beasts.”
Picking up her two trusted short swords, Nisha did not give them time to challenge her decision, shooting them a last reassuring smile before jumping out of the window to leave without informing the innkeeper about her departure.
I don’t trust him after all.
Stalking through an environment of wood was no news to the experienced hunter, only this particular kind of wood was already processed and built into houses, hiding herself and staying on edge for any kind of predator was like a second nature to Nisha already, slinking away from the inn’s courtyard made her feel straight at home.
Being a hunter fits me best after all.
Inspecting the site of her previous exploits, the dragon noticed a new group of soldiers was inspecting the remains.
From within the crowd, a peculiar well-dressed gentleman with a cloth pressed against his nose stood out.
Ordering the soldiers to turn the corpse of the leader around, he took down the handkerchief just long enough to recognize his features, before kicking the dead body in the side and spitting on him and gesturing in the direction of the inn.
Hiding in the shadow cast by the neighbouring house, Nisha sported a toothy grin, admiring her own luck.
It seems like I don’t have to hunt for any monsters at all, they run into me all on their own.
And I can’t let them endanger my sisters now, can I?
Inching closer and closer to the edge of the shadow, Nisha circled her mana through her body, supplying her amulet with the energy it needed to cloud her in the shadow of her own flame.
The runes in her core also roared at her, demanding to be set free and unleashed on her enemies as well.
Figuring that there was no harm in using everything at her disposal to hunt some monsters, she allowed them to come out to play too.
After all, they didn’t get to take some prey the last time. No harm in playing once in awhile, is there?
“Dance for me, dance, War Flame.”
Whispering in a low tone to herself, she unleashed the whispering flame, waiting to coat her blade with her own flare, the shadows around her turning into a living being and congregating around her flame, animated by the runes flowing on her skin.
With a last smile, indistinguishable from a malicious smile of a gruesome beast, the living shadow brandished her glowing blade while striding towards the soldiers who just noticed the presence of another being, shouting in alarmed voices.
“It’s monster hunting time.”