Chapter 57: Escape
For a precious second, the world stopped moving.
The impact of flesh and metal on the ground silenced everything apart from the steady stream of red liquid erupting from Kartoff’s neck, followed by two more crimson rivers.
Staring blankly at the little demon, the archer reached up to the new wound running through his face, from under his right eye to his left one, the projectile Nisha had thrown at him had snapped his bowstring, which had in turn injured him.
A lucky throw, hitting spot on and rendering the arrow that the archer was still holding in his hand useless as there was no weapon to shoot it anymore.
The first blow had been as lucky as the second had been unlucky.
Because she was used to her [Taurith Short Swords], that weighed more than the dagger, Nisha’s aim had been off.
She had only wanted to scratch the huge man called Shayne, which would have made him drop his greatsword.
Unfortunately she had cut deeper than intended, lopping off two of his fingers. It had really made him lose his weapon though.
The black sheen on the dagger had disappeared when it had left the warrior’s rough skin, and all parties were now gawking at the two limbs next to the greatsword in the dirt, fresh blood steadily dyeing Shayne’s armor red.
Unwilling to believe the events that had unveiled in front of his eyes, the large adventurer was still blankly looking at the place where his appendages were a moment ago, unable to even scream in pain.
A cry echoing from the other side of the training grounds suddenly broke the tranquility, and motion returned to the frozen scene.
“AARGH, you b*tch! You crippled me! I’ll kill you! I WILL KILL YOU!!”
Weren’t you trying to kill me already?
Exploding into a scream of pain, Shayne fell to his knees, pitifully clutching his open wound, an attitude rather different from what one could expect hearing his aggressive claims.
The priest peering with horror at the fingers laying on the battle stage, his face gaining a greenish hue, making him appear more sickly than he already seemed.
Guessing there would soon be other people, Nisha searched for the short dagger that had be knocked away earlier, she had to leave, the sooner the better.
Sadly, she couldn’t find it anywhere, her [Spirit Sight] of no help, apparently out of use, as it was only weakly outlining her surroundings, showing her a blurry mist.
Another problem was the smell of blood. Although in [Blackquarry] the dragon didn’t really have time to notice it, the current situation was different.
Aroused by the iron smell, her instincts were urging her to continue the slaughter, to rush at her foes and tear them to pieces, until nothing was left.
She wasn’t ready to face the consequences of her actions and get thrown out of the Guild so shortly after joining it under the impression that it would be the first step in attaining her grandfather’s level and abiding by his wishes for her to live an adventurous life, hence she panicked.
Forcefully suppressing her blood lust, Nisha attempted to rush out of the Guild building, she knew that if she were to wait any longer there would be too much people at the scene for her to flee.
Gathering her mana, she activated her [Flickering Cover], wrapping herself in its shadows to escape.
To her dismay, the dark projectile coupled with the black sheath casted on her dagger had taken up much more energy than expected, draining her aura to the point where her spell could only partially obscure her figure instead of completely concealing it. The scarcity of her power also prevented her from reinforcing her limbs as she wished, resulting in a speed much slower than she would have liked.
Thankfully the commotion was concentrated around the battle stage where Sunno had just arrived towed by Aubrey, another man in clerical robes accompanying them.
Some adventurers ran into her, curious about the ruckus, paying her no attention, barely noticing her small frame passing by them.
I wonder if the enchantment was really necessary…
Somewhat in a trance, she saw her next actions through a haze, she left the Guild to wander through the streets, avoiding the contact with people; she had pulled a hooded cloak out of her [Soul Space] to hide herself without having to rely on her dying spell.
Her aura slowly returned while she was walking, enabling her to reinforce her legs again and move faster, albeit she was soon helpless again, having drained her power right away.
For the first time in a while, she was almost completely out of mana and aura; she was used to subconsciously circle these energies from her core through her body, and being left without this constant protection made her feel naked.
When the dragon returned to her senses, she was in the large hall of the [Church of the Seven Stars].
Talking to the High Priest Roland might help her, therefore the elvish girl was about to enter the hall decorated with the light pillar when she heard agitation at the entrance.
“Out of the way! We have an emergency here!”
Turning around, her blood almost froze in her veins.
Kartoff was being carried on a stretcher, out cold but still bleeding, the greatsword wielder clutching his hand next to him.
Despite her attire, they might recognize her, thus entering the [Hall of Light] was now absolutely out of the question.
What should I do now? I don’t think I can leave without passing by them.
With her path blocked from both the front and the back, Nisha opted for one of the less populated halls, to hide until the departure of the that group she didn’t wish to cross paths with.
It wasn’t really a surprise for someone seriously injured to be brought to the temple, but in her daze she hadn’t considered it.
Since there was no one in the [Hall of Life and Death], something she had noticed during her last visit, she easily chose her destination.
Hurriedly gathering her last bit of strength, the elvish girl activated her [Flickering Cover] and headed into the obscure doorway.
The maneuver seemed to succeed, no one pursued her or called her out, and most likely no one else would enter the apparently cursed place while she was inside.
Now that the danger was gone, she had the leisure to inspect the mysterious hall more closely.
It smelled old, it was enshrined in dust, and each time the little girl was inhaling her nose was tickling, on the verge of sneezing.
Quelling that urge as it would give away her whereabouts, Nisha progressed further inside, her ability to see in the dark proving to be useful. No candles were lit in the holders mounted on the wall, nor was there any light piercing through the windows, the glass had been covered with curtains.
Leaving behind a distinct trail on the dusty floor, she arrived in front of the stone altar emitting an eerie atmosphere.
I wonder if there’s another being like the one in the [Hall of Light] here. How will it be like?
To ensure that she would not make any noise, the dragon delicately stepped on the slab at the center of the room. The rock was carved with white, black and grey veins, blended in a speckled mix.
She knew there had to be something, as a presence was filling the room.
It was drifting around the altar, producing low scraping sounds.
Determined to find the source of the noises, Nisha paced through the darkest parts of the room, trying to expose the deity’s location.
Forgotten were her problems, her fight in the Guild – in spite of the aching in her body and her face -, the regret she had felt for the troubles she had caused.
Sensing that she was getting closer to the presence, the dragon scrutinized the air, looking for the hovering figure of a God.
Suddenly, there was a hand on Nisha’s shoulder, making her jump out in fright.
Her legs went down and Nisha collapsed on the cold stairs of the altar.
“Young lady, come down from there. I have to sweep.”
Sensing wrinkled skin through the fabric of her hunting clothes, Nisha, whose heart was beating out her chest, spotted a shape in the darkness.
Holding a broom in one hand – the other on Nisha’s shoulder -, an old elven lady was currently sternly studying the little girl with her hazy eyes.
“You’re not a visitor, are you?”
Offering her a hand, since Nisha – out of mana and aura – was struggling to stand up on her own, the old lady helped her up.
“Are you here to get healed?”
The woman caressed her guest’s face and a sharp pain flared up, caused not by the gentle contact but by the damaged skin.
Aware that she had been bruised after hitting the ground head first in the training hall, Nisha blushed from embarrassment.
“Ah no, I just wanted to see this place for myself, I was wondering why no one was coming in here. If I’m not allowed to be here, I can leave…”
Unhappy to be disturbed by what she imagined to be an old elven servant sweeping, Nisha offered to leave, thinking that she could slip out of the temple while everyone was busy ins the [Hall of Light].
The old lady had other plans.
“Don’t worry about pointless stuff like that. If you’re not here to visit, it’s fine, I won’t need to bother cleaning the hall.
Come with me, we’ll do something about your injuries.”
Not giving her any room to answer, the servant lead her to the corridors behind the door in the back of the hall, a labyrinth of open empty rooms and dusty passageways. The path they took was the only one with traces of footsteps, and even those were sparse.
At the end of the corridor, the guide opened one of the few closed doors, inviting Nisha in to lay on the bed in a corner of the office, which was littered in books, parchments and decorative items, many of them already broken.
“Now, show me where it hurts. Take off that silly armor.”
Making the pile of paper on the sole seat fall to the ground so that she could sit, the old lady directly pointed out the issue.
The thought of undressing somewhere that was not her bedroom was strangely embarrassing for Nisha, it was the first time she was in that state, after all she had never felt the need to wear clothes before, it was more of a habit implanted in her head by her sisters and her grandfather.
The red shade on her cheeks darkened into a deep crimson.
At the sight of her innocent reaction, the old elf erupted in laughter.
“Relax, it’s nothing I haven’t seen. I was young once too, you know?”
Suppressing her shame, Nisha stripped out of her top, her ears still bright red.
Calmly seeing the state of her torso now that the fight was over, she realized how violent the match had been.
Both the place where the metal of the greatsword had hit her and the other side on which she had brutally landed were shining in many colours, blue, yellow and purple, amongst others.
The battered area was huge on her small frame, and one of her cheeks was similar to her torso as it had collided with the earth too.
“Tsk, tsk, girl, you need to take better care of yourself. What happened?”
Clicking her tongue at Nisha, the elder was inspecting the young elf.
“I fell. No big deal.”
Muttering in a low voice, the dragon avoided the other party’s eyes, afraid that her lie would be seen through if she were to meet her judging gaze.
“And my name is Nisha, not girl!”
Normally the dragon would have been much more careful faced with a stranger, but she couldn’t detect any malice from the old lady living in the Temple.
High Priest Roland had left a good impression on her, which was now befalling on the old lady.
“Nisha, is it? How fitting, if this is left untreated, your skin will be black like the night tomorrow. Let’s see, what about doing it like that …”
Black and white sparks were dancing on Nisha’s skin wherever the outstretched index finger was circling.
It wasn’t unpleasant, rather it was literally rejuvenating.
Lifting her hand to motion her patient to switch sides, the elder kept quiet until she had entirely treated Nisha’s bruised body.
“There we go, don’t you think it’s better this way? The scales were a surprise, though.”
Lowering her head, the dragon discovered that the thin line of scales on her abdomen was peeking out of her pants; she had completely forgot about it when she had gotten rid of her top.
Unable to blush any more, she hurriedly covered her exposed parts with her hands and put her leather shirt back on as fast as possible.
“Now tell me who hit you.”
The temperature in the room suddenly dropped a few degrees as the woman spoke in a tone colder than ice.
Sweating nervously, Nisha had been caught off guard by the change of topic.
“Really, it’s nothing.
I just … fell.”
Fully aware of how weak her excuse was, the dragon tried to continue.
“I am sure it looked worse than it actually was, there’s no need to worry, Miss … “
Realizing that she had yet to hear her healer’s name, her voice trailed off.
“My name is Thana. Don’t try to fool me, I have seen my fair share of injuries. If you don’t tell me who did this to you, I’ll have to call the guards to sort this out. Or I might have to set things right myself. Hitting a little girl is never alright.”
Hearing the ire in her voice, Nisha got deeply scared.
Understanding that the old elf was not the kind to make empty promises, she had no choice but to explain what had happened.
“… and that’s how I ended up here. I am interested in this Hall, but I also wanted to escape from the people in the entrance.
Sorry for lying to you.”
During the former dragon’s confession, Thana was simply seated on her spot, not interrupting, just watching, her dark blue eyes on the young elf, making her feel more and more ashamed as the words were leaving her mouth.
The explanation finished, she waited for a second to pass, before asking Nisha:
“Do you feel guilt?”
“No! We fought, we put our lives on the line! I feel bad because I caused trouble for my friend Aubrey, she only wanted to show me around and I created a mess. I wish I could tell them it was my fault, not hers.
If I could fight Kartoff again, I would absolutely do it again. He made Aubrey uncomfortable and underestimated me, it was his fault he was injured.”
“I see. I can’t tell you if your actions are good or bad, that’s not what my faith deals with. However, I can at least tell you that I think you are in the right. You don’t have to feel bad about the whole affair, as long as you make your decisions in accordance with your own thoughts. You helped someone, your friend, although it was in an unconventional way.
Here, take a look.”
She handed Nisha a hand mirror, into which the dragon glimpsed.
Surprisingly, all her bruises were gone, the silky smooth look of her alabaster skin had been restored.
“Thank you so much for healing me! I don’t know how I can pay you back.”
Thana kindly smiled at her.
“How about this. I wanted to invite you to a cup of tea, so we can talk a bit more. I didn’t notice earlier, but you are the Nisha Roland talked about recently, aren’t you?
Regrettably I ran out of tea leaves.
If you do this errand in my stead and buy new leaves from the store down the road, I’ll consider it as my payment. Do you think you can do this?”
Handing her a coin pouch, Thana gazed at the small girl, waiting for an answer.
Hearing the enthusiastic response, she explained her newly found errand girl the way.
“Once you’re back, we can talk some more, I’ll bring some order into the chaos that is your mind.”
The mysterious old elf then sent her off through the back entrance of the temple.