“E-eheh, right, um, it’s okay!” The pixie scratched her neck, glancing at her feet. “I mean… it kinda was my fault I fell in your drink in the first place,” she mumbled. “So… weeell…”
Kye paused, watching her - until she hugged his nose. He flinched back reflexively in surprise and crossed his eyes to look at her before he realized he was doing it, blinking and watching her from his peripheral vision instead.
“I-I should be the one saying sorry. So… sorry.” She mumbled, her cheeks starting to glow a little.
"Um..." Kye swallowed, clearly not sure what to say. "That's okay," he finally managed. He didn't say anything more for several moments - it was clear she wasn't going to get much more out of him.
At length, he finally said, "I, ah... guess if you're looking for Percula, you should just hide out around here somewhere until we can find her. She's usually with Caiden, like I said. We're supposed to be going to a ship soon, but I guess it'll be a few days before we get there... I dunno." He shrugged vaguely, not really seeming to care much either way. "Whatever you want to do. If you want to find her, I'll help, if I can. Right now I think she's..." he gestured vaguely, "kind of - inaccessible?"
“I’m sure it’ll be fiiine…” She reassured him, though she paused at Caid’s warning. She shifted subtly, thinking for a moment. “...Considering the plan, that might be for the best, for now.”
"Maybe," Caiden said, as he tended to, his voice low and thoughtful. But, a bit more strongly, he added, "It probably is. I've often wondered if he's more of a help or a liability."
“...Wouldn’t mind saying ‘bye’ to him before he goes, though.”
The Venator grunted something in agreement. "I'll look for him," he replied, heading upstairs. He stopped at the first door and knocked, but received no answer. After a moment, he glanced up and down the hall and then tried the knob. Unlocked.
Slipping inside, Caiden looked around. All of Drake's possessions were gone. Moonlight spilled across the floor at the monster hunter's feet. Wind whispered past the manor outside, and Caiden shivered briefly. He quickly learned why: the window stood wide open... a disturbingly direct portal into the night.
Caiden approached the window, looking out across the low roofs of the commoner homes in Redfield. He reached up and gently pulled it shut, but he felt something on the lock. Drake's hands had been sweating badly enough to leave some moisture behind. At least that meant he'd left as a man, albeit a worried one, rather than a monster.
"Sorry, Percula," Caiden said quietly, "I think we just missed him."
Eventually, everyone found a place to bed for the night. Not that everyone got some rest - particularly Rosette, who, if she chose to stay in Kye's room, quickly discovered that the demon-kin had a tendency to scream in his sleep - but at least an effort was made.
When the morning came, some of them said their goodbyes. Drake was already gone, something that made Kye sulk even worse, even if he seemed to have fully expected it and perhaps knew more about it than anyone else. Ben had orders to be elsewhere, and he said his farewells, as did many others - except for Stevan... and Plexaura.
As the motley assortment of strangers gathered their gear and prepared to set out for Templaria on the backs of whatever animals they could afford - some horses, a few mules, others donkeys, and still others having to ride double or in carts pulled by someone else's mount - Stevan stepped up to Caiden.
"I'm coming with you," he said firmly, offering a gauntleted hand. Caiden gave it a shake. "You're going to need all the help you can get. And with something like this, it can't hurt having another Templar by your side."
"I'd prefer to have another friend," Caiden replied, giving one of his rare, small, one-sided smiles, which Stevan returned in a much more apparent form. "Thank you, Stevan."
The Templar promptly moved off to find his beautiful white stallion, his perfect coat shimmering in the morning sun. But Caiden was next approached by someone very different: Kye Vakurseth.
"Going to join us, Kye?" Caiden asked, and Kye shifted his weight between his feet. He shot Stevan in particular a look and breathed a long sigh.
"I don't really have much choice," said the disguised demon-kin, his voice low. "And I'd like to help you. I just..." he shrugged, "um... don't really want to die horribly under some Templar spell."
"I'll do everything I can to make sure that doesn't happen."
That didn't seem to help much, but Kye nodded. "Thanks," he said, sidling off toward his own white horse.
Caiden was just about to turn away to mount his brown steed when someone else tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned to look his little sister in the face. Plexaura gave him a huge grin and threw her arms around his considerably larger form. Caiden just blinked in surprise.
"I thought we...?" he started, but Plexaura cut him off.
"I was given leave," she said cheerfully. "Turns out I don't have to report back immediately. Ben and Durante vouched for me, too, saying I needed some time off. Durante took the job I was supposed to go on, and they're delaying my training for a bit longer."
Plexaura released him and took a step back, looking more serious. "Let's end this," she added in a lower voice, her eyes showing the same eagerness - but of a different kind. This was not eagerness to be with her big brother - it was a thirst for revenge.
"Careful, Plex," Caiden replied, resting both strong hands on her shoulders. "Remember this isn't just personal."
Silently, she lifted a hand on his blind left side, brushing a few fingers over his eyepatch. Caiden set his jaw and swallowed.
"No... it isn't. But he's the one who made it personal," the channeler whispered. But she patted him on the arm and abruptly moved off, leaving Caiden standing there watching her for a moment before he shook his head and turned to his horse, mounting as he tried to settle in for a long ride...
- End of Prologue -
((AREA TRANSITION: ZONE - Imperial ship at sea ((Chasing Shadows - Chapter I)) ))