The first day of travel towards the city of Orton was boring and dull for the most part. Since I didn"t have any privacy I couldn"t really practice anything and I couldn"t talk to Zirani since she was busy with her new spacial powers. There was Lucas but the conversation about the conflict had soured his mood and Sandra"s and both hadn"t wanted to talk about anything. The elder had left to speak with Markem who was near the center of caravans. I tried to keep myself busy by practicing techniques, but after the first time Zirani had angrily told me to stop disturbing her, so I was left walking, glancing about at the nearby trees and occasional odd plant that we passed by.
I almost shouted in joy when we finally stopped for the night, and the caravans positioned themselves into twin circles that were connected to one another. Guards were set on rotation at the perimeter of each circle and food was prepared. A stew that didn"t taste half bad. While the steel heart and merchants weren"t affiliated with each other, they did have a friendly relationship and the merchants liked the steel heart as unlike the twin horn sect we didn"t cause trouble and go around trying to rip off or take whatever they wanted.
I was sitting on a wooden stump, eating my stew while glancing into the fire when Zirani"s voice cut into my mind.
"I think I"ve got the basics down," She said. "It"s rather odd how the mutation works. I knew it added a spacial aspect to things but it"s so confusing at times."
"You think you can teach me something?" I asked. If I could learn even a basic spatial teleportation technique then I would be happy. That would be extremely useful in a number of situations, not just fighting.
"Oh I think so, but I"ve still got other things to teach you. What you know so far is only the most basic and simple things. You"ve a ton more to learn, but I think we can integrate something that involves spatial travel. I"m also gonna have to teach you to harness the spatial aspect and make sure it doesn"t interfere with any techniques if you don"t want to. That part won"t be too hard."
"Hold on, what do you mean interfere?"
"Our core has mutated, Aiden." She said, "It was just nature before and all that encompassed that but now a spatial aspect has been added. It isn"t just using nature to perform spatial abilities but is also a combination of nature and space. The nature of space, although we won"t get to that until later on because frankly even I don"t understand it yet."
"It sounds confusing," I said. "Are my normal techniques still gonna work?"
"Of course, nothing"s been taken away," She replied. "Just make sure you focus on nature when you pull from our core. The aether you pull will still be mutated but the spatial aspect won"t be in use, and the technique will work as just a nature technique, though I"ve already thought of adding special effects to your current techniques. There"s so much possible now. I understand now why the people below the great scar valued mutation relics so highly. They truly are wondrous things."
"I don"t think we"re going to be able to practice until we get to Orton," I said sourly.
"That"s unfortunate, but you can still practice technique formation. Try to form them while doing normal tasks or out of the blue. Get it ingrained into yourself as deeply as you can. Remembered what I said, instinct. We want it to be instinct."
I nodded. "I remember."
I finished up my stew and headed to add it to the pile of dirty bowls. There were tents set up, not as large as the ones that had been in the camp outside West Vale but still far better than normal tents. Since I"d contributed so much in the tournament I"d been given my own and I was just about to head there and practice when I spotted a familiar face.
"Misty? Is that you?" I asked.
The blonde who had been about to walk by me froze and turned to face me.
"Ermm do i-" She paused and peered at me. "Aiden? Oh hello. I should"ve guessed you"d be here, what with the victory and all."
"Yeah," I replied. "But what are you doing here? I mean I know your dad"s a merchant and all, but you"ve never left the city before."
She shrugged, and I noticed just how blank her face seemed to be, like all emotions were gone. Her voice was also dull, not lifeless, but dull, tired.
"My father wants me to get some experience in Orton and we"re going to be meeting some friends of his to discuss an arrangement."
"Ok… does this arrangement have something to do with why you"re acting like a zombie?"
Was it crass? Yes.
Did I care? Not particularly.
I wasn"t really a subtle person and my aunt had often complained that I spoke too freely and casually and that it would get me in trouble one day, which wouldn"t happen. I knew when to keep my mouth shut and to be respectful, but with someone like Misty? I honestly didn"t give a shit about decorum or subtlety.
She froze at my words and after a long look into my eyes she opened her mouth, but quickly closed it and shook her head, turning and fast walking off back to the merchant circle, leaving me confused.
A voice asked from beside me, and I jumped slightly, turning to see Sandra there.
"Bloody hell Sandra," I said, taking a deep breath. "Scared the hell outta me."
She shrugged. "My bad, so is she your girlfriend? Seems a bit dead to me."
I shook my head. "Not my girlfriend, not even a friend. Just someone I knew back in West Vale. You noticed it too then, the way she was acting like a zombie."
Sandra nodded. "Yeah, it"s hard not to. The entire time she"s been here I don"t think she"s shown any visible emotion. Want to follow her and find out why?"
The last words were said with a grin and her eyes twinkled with mischief.
I"d quickly learned that Sandra loved espionage and stalking, which was a bit creepy, although I wasn"t going to tell her that. I had not detected her coming up on me, and I didn"t want her stalking me and finding out my secrets.
"I"m good," I said. "I"m gonna head to bed for some rest. I"ve got things to think about."
She nodded, losing her humor. "Yeah, it must be quite the shock to learn about things."
"It is, well I"ll see you tomorrow, Sandra, goodnight."
"Goodnight, Aiden," She replied.
I made it to my tent and headed in, zipping it up before leaning back on the blankets and pillow I"d been given. That had been quite odd. I hadn"t really been close to Misty since we were kids, but even after we"d grown apart, she hadn"t ever acted like that, not even last week, so what the hell was wrong with her? Was she sick?
I shook the thoughts away and leaned my head back onto the pillow. I"d spent enough time thinking about problems and random things.
It was time for some training and then some sleep.
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