Intelligence attracts hard questions like beauty attracts flies
Locktini pushed himself up, grimacing in pain, and ran his (still aflame) palm over the plaster-like substance to no avail; the plaster only hardened.
“I can go get another moonflame plant for you,” Feisha offered frantically at the faerie’s suffering.
Locktini shook his head. “It’s too late for that now,” he managed.
“Then what do we do?”
“I don’t know,” Locktini answered, sombre. The fire blazing in his palm diminished slowly until there was nothing but a small flicker of light. “My brother had never recited the wrong spell before.”
Yeah, this kind of awkward thing would never happen to Almedande. “Why couldn’t you be more careful when you recited it?” Feisha couldn’t help but complain. Snow White might’ve ended up marrying the seven dwarves instead of Prince Charming if her stepmom was as careless as you.
“I only know it by secretly taking note last time my brother rescued me. It’s been a long time since then though…”
“Even houses would’ve expired by now.”
Feisha contemplated for a moment. “Do you have some communication device that we can contact the king with? He might have a few solutions.”
Locktini somehow managed to muster up the energy to roll his eyes even amidst his sea of agony. “If you care to remember, I’ve been labelled as a traitor. Why would I have that kind of stuff on me?”
Feisha didn’t dignify that with a response. This is why you shouldn’t go rogue in a fit of childish pettiness; it’s fine if you like playing house with your brother, but why the hell would you take it this far.
Abaddon’s words suddenly came to mind. “Apparently you also stabbed the king?” Just because of this, Feisha was once again deeply intrigued by the individual before him against his better judgement. Despite being decidedly lacking in the majestic, bloodthirsty war general archetype, Locktini has got to be a sly fox at the very least. It takes more than just luck to inflict bodily harm onto a powerful king.
Sometimes it was the truths that were much harder to stomach.
“If Dea didn’t have that affair,” Locktini huffed angrily, “then my lord brother wouldn’t have lost his composure like that- Goddamn it!” The fire in his hand sizzled out. Judging from the heavy breathing, his physical condition mustn’t be good.
“This is kind of the worst time to ask, but for the sake of future human-faerie relations…” Feisha hesitated before continuing, “What’s going to happen to me if you…kick the bucket?”
Locktini seemed to be painstakingly holding himself back, panting growing fainter. Feisha pushed himself off the ground, shuffling backwards.
“…You’ll be able to escape.” In the stifling darkness, Locktini’s quiet response seemed even more desolate.
Feisha felt something stir inside him, the faintest tugging sensation in his heart. The glow of a single red orb pierced through the shadows, bringing with it a familiar voice, “Where are you?”
Snapping his stupor, Feisha hastily grabbed the ruby brooch he had been given on his first day at Noah’s Ark. He always wore it on him because it was, by all means, an attractive brooch. And also because it looked pricy.
Each word that Isefel spoke was carefully articulated. “Where are you?”
Feisha felt hot tears welling up in his eyes, staring at the brooch that dyed his hand a vibrant crimson. “I’m here,” he choked, feeling as if he’d been reunited with long-lost family.
There was a pause.
“Where is here?” Isefel asked.
“The Forest of Deception,” Feisha answered, frantically trying to recollect himself. “It’s, um, that forest near Castle Aishefae.”
“…Are you camping?”
Feisha very nearly facepalmed. A summarised recount of his unfortunate adventure was quickly relayed to Isefel. “So what should I do?”
The answer came swiftly. “Wait for death.”
Feisha did facepalm this time.
“Wait for Locktini’s death,” Isefel added.
The coldness in Isefel’s voice was unexpected, to say the least. “No,” Feisha blurted out.
His response not only took Isefel by surprise but also himself. Even Locktini’s labored breathing hitched for a split second.
“Erm, I mean, they say it’s of boundless beneficence to save a life, right? God supposedly cares for every living thing, and also my primary school teacher taught us to take care of our environment from the grass beneath our feet to the flowers sprouting from-”
“Are there any rocks near you?” Isefel interrupted his rambling.
The brooch was waved around as Feisha used its dim glow to search around himself. Before he could get very far, a bright light shone lit up behind him, courtesy of the barely conscious Locktini. The sight of his determination spurred Feisha on with a burst of renewed energy.
“I found one!” Feisha reported, picking up a nearby smooth stone around the size of his palm.
“Chisel open the white-solid form black slaver on his leg.”
“Chisel?” Feisha abandoned the stone in his hand for one that had distinct edges. Locktini was only semi-lucid, but the nod he gave Feisha was anything but unsteady.
Fearfully approaching Locktini’s slumped form, Feisha realised that this thing called white-solid form black slaver only looked like solid plaster from a distance; closer inspection revealed that it was still sluggishly pulsing.
“Can I still chisel it if it’s moving?” Feisha pinned the brooch back onto his shirt, hands trembling as he lifted the rock.
“Wait for the movement to cease.”
All of the bottled courage rushed out of Feisha’s lungs. “And how long will that be?”
“I do not know.”
The flame in Locktini’s hand flickered brightly despite his half-conscious condition. Feisha had thought that maybe vegetarians would be more accepting of death, but evidently this wasn’t true. He couldn’t help but feel wave of admiration towards the faerie’s will to live.
Under the glow of both Locktini’s fire and Feisha’s brooch, the white-solid form black slaver was nauseatingly disgusting to look at. Feisha desperately tried to change the topic, “So uh, why did you suddenly contact me through the brooch?”
“Dea informed me about your disappearance.”
Dea? That bastard actually spared a thought for his bro after getting his hoe, huh. That’s a first.
“Oh,” he replied absentmindedly, swiping his thumb over the rock. A particularly sharp corner nicked his skin, making him let out a yelp of pain.
“What happened?” Isefel’s voice was calm and unhurried.
Feisha decided to mess with him a little, lowering his voice, “There’s a monster!”
The brooch continued blinking, but there was no response. Could it be that Isefel got so worried that he decided to come here? It’s hard not to feel emotional about that!
“Are you bored?” Well, that’s not exactly the response Feisha had in mind.
“Why do you ask?” mumbled Feisha.
“There are no monsters in the faerie realm. The only being that fulfils the appearance category is the bibi beast. The most it ever does is tease people.”
“Why do you know so much about the faerie realm?”
“This is common knowledge.”
So basically Isefel was implying that not only did Feisha lack basic knowledge, but also that he was painfully obvious about it? Feisha pouted, running his thumb across the rock only to get nicked again.
Sometime along the line, Locktini’s fire slowly fizzled away. Within the darkness, the brooch bathed Feisha and his near vicinity in a glow of warm light. Meaningless conversation carried the silence; Feisha rambled on about interesting encounters at the hotels he’d worked at to Isefel, who never contributed but would occasionally offer short sounds of acknowledgement. It was enough.
A loud crack caught Feisha’s attention, the source of which was revealed to be the slaver as Feisha nervously ran the brooch over it.
It wasn’t moving.
“It looks the same as regular plaster. Can I start chiselling now?”
“Are you okay with strong odours?”
“Find something to hold over your nose.”
A few minutes of blind patting returned no such item. “Uh, can I just use my hand?”
“Can I start?”
Brooch pinned to his shirt and one hand firmly held over his nose, Feisha brought the rock in his other hand firmly down onto the slaver. It split cleanly in half, releasing a foul stench that wafted through the air.
Feisha had prepared himself somewhat, but not for something this strong. Locktini, on the other hand, fared much worse than Feisha had – he was sent straight back into unconsciousness before his eyes even had the chance to open themselves.
It was with great haste that Feisha backed away, making sure to keep well away from the odour before dropping the hand on his face. “It’s open. What do I do now?”
“Leave the forest.”
“…Was chiselling open that thing a prerequisite or something?”
“Then why did you make me do it?!”
“Didn’t you want to save his life? The castor’s body will disappear along with the forest when the spell is broken should the slaver be still attached.”
“So what should I do?”
“Tell me when he is completely free from the black slaver.”
“Why?” he asked, but Isefel gave no response. Sighing, Feisha raised a hand to cover his nose once again as he made his way back to Locktini. The time he gave it to air out had worked wonders for the general toxicity of the place.
Picking up a nearby stick, Feisha started nudging the solid slaver off of Locktini, bit by bit. Due to the fact that Locktini was unfortunately not conscious, there came a point where Feisha was forced to hold his breath while lifting Locktini’s leg to remove the slaver trapped under his calves.
It took him an entire hour to clear the site of all slaver. The stick was immediately tossed away. “Okay, I’m done,” Feisha sighed, lying down onto the ground.
“Put the brooch down.”
Feisha put the brooch down.
“Now yell my name loudly.”
“…Here? Why?” The mental image of himself doing so brought on a few chuckles.
Isefel didn’t reply. The silence seemed even more suffocating than usual in the oppressive darkness.
“Ahem.” Feisha pushed himself upright, stepping back and cupping his hands around his mouth as he yelled out, “Isefel!”
The ruby brooch instantly let out beams of blinding light, dying their surroundings in a bloody crimson. Feisha had to turn away, only peeking back when the light died down.
Beneath spread wings, Isefel’s blank face stared back at his own.
“Erm, I mean, they say it’s of boundless beneficence to save a life, right?”
Y’all know the drill: 救人一命勝造七級浮屠 jiù rén yī mìng sheng zào qī jí fú tú (lit. to save a life is better than building a seven-storey pagoda)
A pagoda is a type of tower built as places of worship in Taoist and Buddhist religion. What this saying means is that the gods/flow of karma (something like that – I’m not well-versed in Southeast Asian religions) will look upon you more favourably if you were to save a life than it would if you built a seven-storey pagoda. To make it clearer, a seven-storey pagoda is a Big Deal and would earn whoever managed to build it an astronomical amount of karma. The only action that would give more would be to save a life, which would net you an infinite amount.
It is of boundless beneficence to save a life is the title of a quest in Dragon’s Prophet. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or a reference since it was developed by a Taiwanese group, but there you go.[/hide]