Umbra, Chapter 30

“Ya… know… you could be doing this yourself…” Aaron wheezed, sweat pouring down his furrowed brow, “There were plenty more hand scythes in there…”

“Are you joking? I’m nowhere near strong enough, not with this collar.” Nariko said, nestling herself further into Aaron’s back, “Besides, this is nice…”

“I’m glad you’re enjoying it… fuckin’ bitch.” Aaron snarled, adding the second part under his laboured breath.

Replaying the events in his mind, Aaron still couldn’t believe Nariko suckered him into the stunt.

Doubling back to the broken window, Nariko presented the human with a brilliant plan- use the scythes to climb up the drywall and hop into the next floor. Aaron thought it was a great plan… right up until Nariko handed off the scythes and hopped onto his back.

Still, she protested with teary eyes, that he was the one who dragged her into danger in the first place. Even then, Aaron felt like quite the fool as he reluctantly agreed to scale the wall with raiju clinging to his back.

“Oh, don’t be a baby. This was a common technique employed by assassins from my homeland.” Nariko chided him from his thoughts.

“No shit? Must’ve been… pretty spry dudes…” Aaron wheezed.

Nariko let out a sweet chuckle into Aaron’s ear, “I suppose you could say that. They’d cloak themselves in black, hide in the cover of the night, and use spikes to climb up the castle walls. Of course, whenever my father caught them in the act, he’d have the guards pour boiling oil on their heads…”

“Castle walls? What, were you some kind of princess or somethin’?”

“Oh, something of that nature. But that matters less than dirt now, especially in this land, oh so far away from my sweet little home…”

“Well, still… it’s an honor… for some stinkin’ fishmonger like me… to be… ferrying a princess…” Aaron huffed, continually striking into the wall and ascending skyward with each and every sarcastic word.

Only a few feet away from the window above them, Aaron hurried to finish things. Reaching a bit too far with his next swing, his injured hand exploded with pain and his cuts spurted out a fresh wave of blood. The deep crimson began seeping through his bandages and running down his arm. With his only two choices being either to fight through the pain or fall, Aaron grit his teeth and slammed the scythe back into the wall.

“Oh… are you alright?” Nariko asked, clinging onto him even tighter at the sudden jolt.

“What’d you think!?” Aaron snarled, unable to control his temper with the combination of pain and fatigue wracking his body.

“I… I’m not doing this to be mean. I’m really too weak to do it myself… I’m sorry…”

Picking up on the pain in her voice, Aaron’s racing heart suddenly felt weighed down by guilt. Licking his dry lips, he swiveled his head around to meet her with a single eye, “Don’t sweat it. Sorry for snapping at you like that. Just… just go open the window… I don’t think I can do this for much longer…”

Nodding to him, Nariko crawled further up Aaron’s shoulders, then hopped up to the window’s frame, sticking her fingers under the sealing.

“Oh, thank goodness. It’s unlocked.” she giggled, grunting as she pulled it up.

“Shit. And here I was, lookin’ forward to punching open another window…” grumbled Aaron. He summoned up the remaining strength in his burning arms and made his way up to the window, where cool air spilled forth, tempting him like a wily seductress. Sinking his scythes into the frame, he hauled himself up and flopped inside. Nariko hopped in after him and crouched at his side.

Shakily rising to his feet, Aaron dusted himself off and looked around with Nariko. They appeared to be in a guest room of some sort; a large bed on one side of the room and a fireplace in the other.

“Let’s get going. Most of them are probably still searching for us downstairs and in the garden, but they probably still have a few patrolling up here too.” Aaron urged, tossing off his bloody bandages and tearing off a few strips from the bed’s blankets for a fresh set.

“Not to mention they’ll probably figure out we scaled the wall once they see all the holes we left in it…”

Aaron took a look out the window, cringing as he saw he realized he had left a long series of splintering scars all along the wall.

“Yeah, let’s get moving.”

Exiting the guestroom, Aaron and Nariko crept further into the house. There were still a few guards and a maid or two patrolling with them, but very little manpower as compared to the lower level.

Coming to a bend in the hallway, Nariko’s face scrunched up as she spotted something fishy. Grabbing Aaron’s shoulder, she pointed to a bust of a square-jawed fellow ahead of them.

“Look, human. What’s with that statue?”

Aaron looked a bit closer, studying it closely. From its polished bald head down to it’s thick marble neck, Aaron could find nothing conspicuous about the bust. Giving it another once over, he at last spotted it.

“It’s eyes… the pupils are made of glass.”

“Yes. I’d say it’s a trap.” Nariko said, walking forward and removing a tulip from a nearby vase. Tiptoeing closer to the statue, she tossed the flower before the bust’s face.

And, like a reaction, it’s eyes shot forth two beams of harsh scarlet light, instantly cutting apart the flower and igniting the remainder of the stalk. Grimacing at this, Aaron quickly turned the bust to face the wall before stomping out the flames of the dead tulip.

As they proceeded ever further, they eventually came to yet another cross in the hallway.

“Fuckin’ hell. This place is a damned maze…” Aaron spat. The tale of an ancient hero traversing an endless labyrinth in order to slay a minotaur that lived at it’s center came to his mind. But glancing over to the monster at his side, it occurred to him that many wouldn’t exactly liken him to the hero.

After proceeding down the right of the hall, they hit a dead end. Doubling back, they went half way back before Nariko’s ears twitched in attention.

“Someone’s coming.” Nariko warned, the two quickly ducking into a nearby room. Holding his ear up to the door, Aaron listened intently.

“…son of bitch… climbed the damned wall…!” he heard one voice scream a hallway across before his tone quieted and could no longer reach Aaron’s ears.

“…just found… trap…” he thought he heard another voice reply, but he couldn’t have been to certain.

“Get everyone up here and find him!” he heard the first voice much more clearly a the two approached their position.

“Hide!” Aaron and Nariko urged each other at once, quickly darting around the room in search of a hiding place.

Like where they had climbed in, they found themselves in yet another guest room. Only this one was sparsely furnished, the centerpiece being the large queen-sized bed with a light, translucent curtain hanging around it.

Aaron was half thinking about crawling under the bed until Nariko hissed his name.

Looking over, his saw her climbing into a dresser, just big enough for both of them to cram into and inconspicuously tucked into the back of the room. Thinking it was good a spot as any, Aaron hustled over and climbed in with Nariko.

“You’d best keep your hands to yourself, you big brute~”

Even while she was saying it, the raiju promptly wrapped her own hands around Aaron’s waist, draping one leg over his own and snaking a hand dangerously close to his groin.

“I’ll try to keep my frisky hands at bay.” the swordsman sourly grumbled. Turning away from the raiju, he found a small hole in the dresser door and peeked through it. Just as he did, the door to the room swung wide open.

Even from the diminutive hole, that flash of bold scarlet could only be the garb of a single man. And with his voice clear and unmuffled, Aaron at last realized who it was.

Percival, the crooked High Inquisitorial Officer of Jalam.

“Look, I don’t care! Just find the damned bastard! Every single one of us is as good as dead if what’s been going on here gets out.”

“Yes, Your Holiness. Will do.” the soldier replied, throwing out a salute.

“Oh, spare me the pleasantries. We both know the church would have my charred head on a pike if they knew I was in league with you lot.” the officer spat, stomping into the room and out of Aaron’s narrow line of sight.

Following close behind him was a dainty blonde maid, who shut the door behind her. Adjusting his position, Aaron kept a single eye locked on the inquisitor. The church official’s shoulders heaved with each fuming breath, and he curled up his fingers as he paced about, one eye twitching.

“DAMMIT ALL!” Percival screamed, his anger coming to a boil. Slamming his fists down on the cabinet, he slapped the vase atop it away, “How did that stupid hick escape!?”

“Temper, temper~” the raiju whispered to Aaron a bit too loudly for his comfort. The raging inquisitor seemed not to notice, however.

“I knew I never should’ve gotten involved with these crazy bastards.” the High Inquisitor sighed, pushing apart the curtains at the side of the bed and plopping down atop the sheets. Jamming a finger at the maid escorting him, he motioned towards the back of the room, “Go, lock the door. And be quick about it.”

With a simple nod, the maid darted off to the door and out of Aaron’s sight. After a heavy chunking sound hit his ears, the maid was right back in front of Percival.

“C’mere. I need to relieve some stress.” the officer grunted out, undoing his scarlet robes. A sudden sickness bubbled up in Aaron’s gut as he watched from the closet.

“Yessir.” the witless maid thoughtlessly responded, shuffling closer to Percival. Tossing off his robes and hat, the inquisitor was left in nothing but his plain-white britches as he took a seat on the bed.

“On your knees. I think you know what to do from there…”

Aaron grimaced and squeezed his eyes shut. It disgusted him to just stay hidden and watch, but he had little chance of overpowering the maid in a head on fight, and even less with Percival giving her backup.

“I’m sorry, sir. Madam Otha has forbid it.” the maid informed him as soon as she picked up on his intentions, still sounding just as wooden and stiff as as a plank.

“Fuck. Thats right, Otha gave you knew orders because all her moron guards kept trying to molest you lot, didn’t she?”

What room do you have to talk, you piece of shit?!’ Aaron mentally screamed, tightening both hands into tight fists.

“Hmm… what was that code Wes gave me, again…? Ah, that’s right.” Percival said as he scrounged around in his memory. Clearing his throat, he took on a much deeper and monotone voice, “Initiate special procedure.”

The girl seemed to shoot up, her monotonous tone slightly picking up in pitch and speed, “Authority recognized: High Inquisitorial Officer Percival. Initiating special procedure. What is your command?”

“Enter stasis. Show no resistance.”

The maid’s shoulder slacked, and she did nothing but follow along as Percival guided her to her knees. Grabbing a handful of her golden locks, he forced her face between his thighs.

“Ah… there we go…” the inquisitor snickered, “I’ve gotta do all the work, but I suppose it can’t be helped…”

Aaron supposed he was glad the angle he was spying on Percival from didn’t allow a clear view of his actions, but that didn’t stop his blood from igniting like a pile of tinder under a raging flame.

He wasn’t planning on waiting any longer.

Bursting from his hiding spot, Aaron’s feet slammed against the carpeted floor as he rushed forward.

Percival whipped round, his eyes going as wide as saucers and his plain face twisting up into a look of both surprise and contempt. He lifted up his hand, an electric spell already sparking in his palm.

Unfortunately for him, Aaron was faster. Leaning to the side, Aaron dove out of the way and hurled the knife he had nicked at Percival. The blade flew right by the thunder spell, sinking into Percival’s shoulder.

“FUCK!” the inquisitor cried, falling back and hitting his head against the nearby cupboard. The maid crouched between his legs was tossed forward from his fall, plopping against the carpeted floor without so much as blinking.

While the electric spell just missed Aaron, it hit Nariko square on the chest. However, she only spread her arms and took it head on, her body absorbing the shock with little to no repercussions.

“Oh yeah, that’s the stuff~” she mewled, a thin trail of drool escaping from her lips as the yellow sparks surrounding her slowly fizzled away. Stepping out of the dresser, she slowly sauntered over to Aaron’s side.

Stomping over to the officer, Aaron kicked him back to the ground as he tried to stand and grabbed hold of the knife. Slapping a hand over the man’s mouth to muffle his screams, the seething Aaron yanked it out and glared down at Percival.

“That was a pretty fucked up thing to do to a girl.” Aaron snarled, planting a foot atop the officer’s stomach and slowly applying his full weight onto the man underfoot, “Now, keep it down. Start yelping or calling for help and I’ll slit your throat, Percy.”

“I-its Percival!” the officer protested, writhing about like a worm in the mud.

“Whatever. Just put your damned cock away before I chop it off.” Aaron spat down at the man. He wasn’t sure whether or not he would follow through with that threat, but he was drunk on rage and couldn’t rightly apply his usual morals.

Aaron normally wouldn’t deliver such punishment upon his opponents. But from the way the sleazy bastard rubbed him in combination with preparing to rape a mind washed woman left Aaron dangerously low on pity for the sot.

Heh. Look at you! First, sparing those guards… and now you’re threatening to neuter a man! How do you know they weren’t just as vile as him?’

Aaron looked up, quite confused. Did he just think that? The voice was his, but it wasn’t he who had dredged the thought up.

N-no… I’m not that cruel. I wouldn’t do that sort of thing, even if I have to kill someone. Even… even if it’s a bastard like this.’

“Aaron? Hello? We’ve got a hostage here, so your attention would be appreciated.” the raiju broke him from his thoughts.

Blinking, Aaron shook his head to both sides and turned back to Nariko, “Uh… right. Sorry.”

Seeing his guard drop, Percival spun his head towards the maid laying motionless on the ground only a few feet away and called out, “Initiate special-”

A swift kick just under his ribcage had Percy sucking up air before he could finish his sentence. Pulling back his foot, Aaron stared daggers down at the man before his feet.

“What’d I say about using your inside voice, huh? Now, tell us… calmly and quietly… where’s the stairway to the third floor?”

“I’m not telling you jack shi-”

Aaron quickly dropped to a knee, holding the bloody knife that had just been in Percival’s shoulder up to his throat.

“Take a left and keep heading down the hallway until you hit a crossroads. Take a right, then the next left, and it should be dead ahead.” he squeaked out, caving almost immediately.

“Thanks. You sing pretty good, Percy. Maybe you should consider a job as a minstrel.” Aaron snickered, flipping the knife around slamming the handle against Percy’s forehead, he knocked the officer clean out.

“Hyehehe~ we’re getting close, now…” the raiju chuckled, wrapping two hands around the bulky collar snapped around her neck, waving her hips around and flailing her tail back and forth. She seemed to be nearly salivating at the idea of getting the damned contraption off.

“Alright. Let’s just keep our eyes open for traps and take Percival’s directions. He didn’t seem like he was lying, but even if he is, it’s a better lead than-”

A sudden pounding on the door made Aaron’s blood freeze in his veins. Nariko’s ears and tail shot up, just as horrified as he was.

“Sir, are you alright? We heard some loud crashes!” asked a voice from beyond the door, someone continually pounding on the door with their fist in the meanwhile.

“Oh fuck.” Aaron swore under his breath.

“Sir?! We’re busting open the door!”

That awful feeling of having an angry parent threatening to break down your locked door was something Aaron was familiar with. While his current pinch and that gnawing fear were of the same vein, fear so intense it seemed to practically eat through his stomach as he wracked his brain on what to do.

But Nariko already seemed to have a plan, tossing the unresponsive maid atop the bed.

“Quick, Aaron… grab that bastard.” she hissed at him, “And pray to your favorite god that this works…”

“1… 2… 3!!!”

On that count, the trio of guards standing outside the locked door burst forward, breaking the lock and sending it swinging open.

The lead guard stepped forward, “Sir, are you-”

The guard stopped, a rush of blood flowing into his face and leaving him looking a tomato. While the satin curtains surrounding the bed obscured his view, he could still make out the shape of his robeless superior hovering over a female body.

And the bouncing, creaking bed could only mean one thing. When that bouncing suddenly stopped, the guard quickly spun around and ushered his comrades out of the room.

“I-I’m sorry sir! I won’t bother you again!” the guard quickly stuttered, slamming the broken door shut and quickly scurrying away,

“Thank… thank the heavens…” Aaron breathed out, crawling out from under the bed. It seemed a bit crazy, but it didn’t take long to figure out what Nariko was trying to simulate when she dragged him under the bed and commanded him to push up on the mattress. Fortunately, the curtain obscuring the unconscious bodies and the rush of the situation seemed to push their little ruse to success.

“The heavens? How about you thank me instead~?” Nariko teased him.

“Maybe later.” Aaron sighed, dragging Percival off the body of the catatonic maid and slinging him into the dresser they were hiding in. Cramming him into a position that would surely leave him with numerous aches and pains, Aaron slammed the dresser shut and broke off the handles.

Slapping the maid’s cheeks several times, Nariko ogled down at the woman as she showed not even the slightest reaction. Her eyes were alert and open, but she lay as still as a corpse, her breathing not even being noticeable. One could’ve easily mistaken her for some sort of hyper-realistic mannequin.

“Goodness. She’s really out of it.” Nariko whistled.

Walking up to take a look for himself, Aaron scratched his chin as he thought back to what Percival had said.

“Hey, he ordered her to go all unresponsive like this, right? What was that command he gave her? Um… that’s right! Initiate special procedure!”

“I’m sorry. Authority not recognized.” the maid at last said, then immediately returning to doing absolutely nothing of the sort.

“Dammit. She must be trained to recognize different voices.” Aaron figured, simply propping the girl into a rocking chair and leaving her there.

Opening up the busted door, Nariko motioned for Aaron to follow her, “C’mon. No use hanging around here any longer.”

Nodding in agreement, Aaron took after the raiju. Even after that close encounter, the goal seemed within a hair’s breadth, and he could already taste the sweet flavour of victory upon his lips.

Following Percival’s directions, Aaron and Nariko snuck around a few more traps and patrolling guards before finding the steps up to the third floor. It was dead ahead, nothing that would tip them off to a trap and no enemy to bar their path.

With no words needing to be exchanged, they both approached the stairway. While Nariko stayed in the lead, Aaron hung back a couple of feet, watching their back.

Peering to both his left and right, something made Aaron immediately break out into a cold sweat.

There, appearing from out of seemingly nowhere, was a hallway. It was unfurnished, comprised of nothing but dark brown stone, clashing with the peach carpets and maroon walls of the hallway he and Nariko were currently creeping down.

It stretched on for what looked like several meters before being swallowed up in an inky darkness. Immediately consumed with curiosity, Aaron took a tentative step into the mysterious passage.

Aaron turned to his raiju partner, “Nariko, are you-”

The swordsman let out a choked gasp. A brick wall had suddenly appeared behind him, separating him from Nariko. Darting backwards, Aaron pounded his fist against the wall until his blood splattered against the brickwork.

“Nariko! Can you hear me!? W-what is this?! What the fuck is happening?!”

Backing away, Aaron grabbed at his head, his chest puffing out as he desperately gasped for breath. Trying to make sense of just what in the world was going on, Aaron turned back to the darkness enveloping the other side of the hallway.

But that only caused his panic to rise to ever greater heights. Stepping out from the darkness, the headmaster of Jalam’s Holy Magic Academy, Faust, stepped out from the shadows, running a boney hand through the locks of his long beard.

“Y-you…!” Aaron growled, unsure of what else to say.

Faust simply motioned for Aaron to follow him before stepping back into the shadows. Gritting his teeth, Aaron stepped forward and rushed after the old man, bursting through the darkness. But he ran headlong into some invisible force, which pushed him back onto his knees.

Gasping in shock, Aaron whipped back around to the hallway was gone, and he was now looking at a toasty brick fireplace with the stuffed head of a grizzly bear framed above it. A grandfather clock was tucked away in the corner, but it refused any sort of ticking, and it’s three hands all remained fixed on the twelve.

Whipping his head around in a frenzy, Aaron spotted someone sitting before him. With a small scented candle and piping cup of tea at the table to his side, Faust lounged in a cushy lounge chair with one leg folded over the other. In his lap, he had a thick, leather-bound book, already cracked open and halfway finished.

“What… what the fuck? How did I…”

“How’d you get here? A simple matter. I set a trap. It was a rather simple illusion spell, you see.” Faust explained slowly and methodically, raising up a cube of sugar before dropping it into his tea, “And you, Mr. Axenus, took the bait, hook, line, and sinker. Honestly… I would’ve thought a fisherman would’ve known better than that. Most people would’ve been able to see through that quite easily, in fact.”

Then, with an unseen force, Faust’s tea rose into the air alongside a small silver spoon. Dipping itself in, Aaron watched in amazement as it stirred the sugar in itself. He had seen plenty of magic before, but this… he hadn’t seen anything quite like it. Faust didn’t even look like he was focusing on the spell, instead lazily leafing through the pages of his tome.

“Quite frankly, I’m a bit disappointed. Your brother was far brighter.” the old man sighed, gently shutting the book and having his tea slowly set itself back down onto it’s plate. Lifting it up, Faust took a small sip and hummed at the rich flavour.

The smiling face of his dear departed brother flashed in Aaron’s eyes. His nerves and curiosity nearly overwhelmed him as he looked up to Faust, “You… you knew Douglas…?”

“Hm. Before I answer that, would you like some tea? My assistant grew the leaves herself, the sweet little thing-”

“Don’t screw with me, you fuckin’ geezer!” Aaron growled. Stomping forward, he reached for his knife and shank, “And where the hell is Nariko? If you don’t start talking, I’ll-”

Without any sort of visible reaction, Faust flicked his finger at Aaron. And with that simple motion, the swordsman was sent flying to the other side of the room, where he slammed against the drywall and found himself suspended in the air.

Unable to move a muscle, Aaron couldn’t so much as struggle as Faust bent his finger back into place and sent Aaron floating back to his original spot, gently dropping him back into place.

“Now, now, Mr. Axenus. Please, calm yourself and have a seat… or I’ll have to do that again and again until I knock some sense into you.” Faust sighed, cracking open his book once again.

Snapping his fingers, a puff of smoke exploded from behind Aaron, who was still reeling from the sudden and powerful blow.

Looking back, Aaron found that out of the smoke, a cushy leather lounge chair had appeared, looking to be a perfect replica of Faust’s own.

“Are you hungry? Do you need anything to drink?” Faust offered.

A deep feeling of unsettlement and dread knotted itself up in Aaron’s chest. Faust was being nothing but kind and polite, especially considering Aaron had tried to attack him. With his knees nearly clattering together, he collapsed back into the cushioned seat.

Meeting the old man’s bold eyes, a crushing pressure seemed to bear down on him, not to different from the feeling that swelled up when he encountered the Dark Knight. Swallowing the lump in his throat, Aaron glanced at his feet and nervously stuttered out an answer.

“J-just… just a drink, thanks.”

A smile appeared from under Faust’s beard. Snapping his fingers, a bottle of wine popped into existence over Aaron’s lap, gently falling into his open hands. Brushing away the dust covering the wine’s face, he found the yellow paint declaring its date of bottling of over fifty years prior.

“That’s one of my finest vintage brews. Please try not to slug it all down in one sitting.”

A glass appeared in Aaron’s other hand, courtesy of Faust’s magic, no doubt. Taking a deep breath to stop his jittering hands, Aaron popped the top to the wine and poured the dark red brew into the glass.

Aaron gulped down the wine more quickly than he had intended, the liquid burning his throat and slipping warmth into his belly. He had not the mood to enjoy its taste, however.

Although his shaking hands were steadied, his mind swirled with turbulent thoughts all the same. How did he get there? What was happening to Nariko? But he found himself unable to hold back the most nagging question he had.

“Y-you knew my brother?”

“Not quite. I’ve studied him from afar, but never traded words. A bright young lad, he was. His thirst for knowledge and desire for wisdom were almost palpable. In a way, he reminded me of myself when I was young.” Faust sighed, leaning further back into his chair.

“Why… why did you watch him? Did you want to take him as an apprentice or something? Recruit him for your academy?” Aaron asked, unconsciously pouring himself another glass of wine before setting the bottle back on the ground.

Faust took a long sip of his tea before removing the porcelain from his pursed lips and shaking his head to both sides, “No. I’m sorry to tell you, I have no love for Otha, the Legion, or my academy. To me, all of them are but means to an end. I’d have been happy to take your brother under my tutelage, but he’d be more or less the same as the rest.”

“L-look. I… I don’t care. Please, just take me back to where I was. There are people there who need my help.”

“Why? So you can continue this pointless bid for revenge? Do you honestly think you’ll be able to defeat Lucero?”

Aaron kept his lips shut, thought his thoughts raced even faster. Beads of sweat began to trickle down his forehead, and he was unable to pry his eyes away from the seemingly omnipotent old man before him. Faust finished his tea before lifting his book into the air.

“Do you know the old saying, Axenus? Sometimes, when a man goes out for wool…”

Faust slammed his book shut, and the crackling fire burst several feet up the chimney at the same moment, casting the room with an ominous orange glow.

“He gets sheared.”

“I-I have to. I have no other choice… if you’ve been watching my brother, then you know what happened to him and his wife… my niece… Lucero has to pay!

“Ah. Do you think payback makes you a noble soul, Aaron? That two wrongs make a right?”

“No. Of course not… but… maybe it’ll stop another wrong. If not, it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t at least try.”

Faust simply smiled at his response, “Is that so? You choose to follow what you feel is right? Well then, you should be on your way, shouldn’t you? Here, you might need this.”

A glint of silvery light appeared from Faust’s sleeve as he threw that same arm forward. Sailing through the air, Aaron was snapped out of his stupor just in time to catch that glinting trinket.

“…whats this for…?” Aaron said, looking down at the little silver key in his palm.

“For the acquisition room. You might’ve found yourself in a tight spot without that.” Faust chuckled, “Honestly, the young are so brash these days. Did the possibility of the door being locked not even cross your mind, or did you think that flunky guard you tied up had access to every room in the building?”

As immensely more powerful Faust was, Aaron took the insults in stride. But he couldn’t help but demand a final answer.

“Why are you-”

“Why am I helping you?” Faust interrupted as the grin under his beard turned quite wry, “Well, let’s just say your health is in the best interest of a dear friend of mine.”

Then, with a simple snap of his fingers, Faust made everything go white.

When color began to fill in the blank void, Nariko’s fuzzy voice soon began to chime in Aaron’s ringing ears.Stumbling forward, he found himself right in the position he was before he saw the new hallway appear from thin air.

“Aaron! Aaron, are you alright? This is the second time you’ve zoned out like this!”

The steady throbbing in his head and back he received when Faust slammed him into the wall and the warmth in his belly from the wine was gone completely, as if Father Time tossed him back behind the natural flow of things . Even his bloodied fist from pounding on the wall had been healed.

Or, did it never even happen at all?

“I-I’m sorry. Let’s get going.”

But when Aaron took a step forward, he noticed something peculiar. Something was jangling in his pocket. Reaching in, he pulled out something that made his heart sink into his stomach.

A small, silver key.

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One thought on “Umbra, Chapter 30

  1. Typos:
    > at it’s center
    > a the two
    > sparring those guards
    > and it’s three hands
    > onto it’s plate
    > his book shoot
    > makes you noble soul
    > youth or so brash
    > made everything went

    > Faust’s friend
    I can’t think of many people Aaron and Faust might both know, especially one that would have a positive interest in Aaron’s health and be a friend of Faust; if the friend was someone Faust was trying to break out from Otha’s dungeon I’d wonder why he wouldn’t have done it by now, so that leaves either the black knight or perhaps William wants to take Aaron out himself.

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