Garden of the Abyss - Chapter 537
The carriage interior fell silent for a moment as only the sounds of the wheels rolling across the length road filled the passing winds.
“…Anyway, back on track!” He clapped his hands together, moving the topic back where it was supposed to be, “this “Heavenly Keep”–it’s practically the most secure place in Mastorn, maybe more so than the royal castle itself, from what Beatrice told us, anyway. We’re not getting anywhere near it if they think we’re random travelers, let alone full-fledged wanted criminals.”
“Seriously, just what kind of guy is this “Gaol”, anyway? To be more protected than the king, sheesh…” Brahmi leaned her cheek against her palm.
“Were you paying attention at all to what Beatrice told us?” Tristan asked, “He’s not more guarded than the king, though. It’s a bit of old intel, but it’s said the king is always protected by the “King’s Blade”–the most elite knights within Mastorn, besides the Victorian Seven themselves. If that isn’t enough, apparently there’s always at least one of the Seven at the royal castle, and a few handpicked Argonauts as well. On top of that, Gaol is watching over the royal castle the entire time.”
After noticing the sharp glare transmitted from the toned-woman to the indifferent, stoic man, he let out a small laugh, “Anyway…it’s important that we stick to the guidelines given to us. I may not like her very much, but the Sage does know her stuff.”
“Yeah, yeah, I can’t argue that,” Brahmi scratched her head, “We’re still a week out from the capital, so we don’t have to stress out about all of this crap yet!”
“Weren’t you the one who asked?” Iris wryly replied.
“Not the point.”
After another hour of slogging through the wildlands of Mastorn, surrounded by the natural, flourishing spring verdancy and the tall valleys the country was known for, the sun began to set just as they passed into the next town amidst their journey.
“Billasdra,” the carriage driver told them, opening the slidable window from his section upfront, “this is as far as I’m going. My poor gals have been going for days straight now.”pᴀɴᴅᴀ-ɴ(0)ᴠᴇʟ.ᴄᴏᴍ
Of course, the humble, unassuming carriage driver was somebody specifically trusted by the Hollow Foundation itself. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, though they weren’t explicitly a part of the foundation, many in Mastorn sympathized with their goals, unhappy with the current state of the kingdom.
“That’s fine,” Tristan told the driver as they all hopped out of the carriage, hanging him a few, shining coins.
The carriage driver nodded his small, black hat to the man, “Don’t worry, Billasdra is as quiet of a major town as it gets in this land. Look for a man named “Darius” at the Staple, he’ll take you on forward down the rest of the way. I advise waiting until morning, though.”
“Thanks, old man,” he thanked the driver.
The gratuitous, yet backhanded remark made the man simply smile before nodding, pulling away as the group ventured into the city.
Though it was recognized as a “major town” within Mastorn, it wasn’t as lavish, advanced, or as secure as any of the other of its category, though it flourished with tourists all the same. There were no guards to stop them at the entrance of the tall, log-built gates, they were simply allowed entry by virtue of coming in through the carriage.
“It stinks of booze…” He scrunched his nose, commenting on the very first thing that came to mind upon entering Billasdra.
“Well, let’s see,” Brahmi began to count, pointing to the light, loud establishment neighboring the streets that were still lively for the four, “…one…two…five. I count five taverns already.”
“Five?!” He let out in surprise. pᴀɴᴅᴀ ɴ(O)ᴠᴇʟ
“…Let’s just find an inn,” Iris suggested.
“Good idea,” he nodded a few times.
pAɴᴅᴀ ɴ[0)ᴠᴇʟ Though they both could already tell the amusement park of booze was already attempting to entice Brahmi, who already began to walk towards one of the open-doored, boisterous taverns.
Luckily, Tristan got a handle on the back of the short-cut, black tank top she wore, tugging her back as the group continued to search for a proper inn.
“I don’t need to remind you that our mission is top priority, Brahmi,” he told her.
“I know, but what’s the harm in a little bit of fun? We’ve got to ease up just as much as we tense up,” she contested.
Tristan looked her dead in the eyes with his lifeless, amethyst gems, “We absolutely can’t risk being discovered. Even if we succeed in eliminating our target, it means nothing if they know it was us who did it. It would put the Festival mission in jeopardy. Do you understand?”
The serious words make Brahmi avert her gaze as she pulled herself away from his grip, “I got it.”
In the center of the town of such constant celebration, yet inhabiting a relaxing atmosphere, a towering pole with rune-based lighting switched on as the sun ducked beneath the horizon. ρꪖꪕᦔꪖꪕ(ꪫ)ꪣꫀꪶ
It didn’t take long for them to find an inn as they came hand-in-hand with the existence of taverns, walking up short steps and into the log-built establishment.
The interior smelled of pine and toasted firewood, made clear by the prominent, stone fireplace that occupied the lobby of the large inn.
“Welcome! Are all four of you looking to stay in a group room?” The freckled receptionist asked, holding her hands in a respectful manner.
Tristan held two fingers up while sliding a few coins over the counter, “Two rooms.”
The glance Tristan gave back to him was as if saying “I know you two love birds need a room for yourselves”—though he appreciated it.
“I see,” the pale, ginger receptionist nodded with a welcoming smile, “right this way then!”
Led to their rooms that had to be scaled up to the second story via carpeted stairs, the four split off into their rooms.
The sounds of likely drunk patrons of the inn snoring was audible from the corridor, though it was its own ambience of Billadra, apparently.
“Meet us in the lounge, first thing in the morning,” Tristan told them.
“Got it,” he nodded.
“Yeah,” Iris nodded as well with a smile.
“Good,” Tristan said boredly, rubbing his head, “Just make sure to get a good night’s rest, and try not to get into any funny business.”
What does he mean by that?! He thought.
Settling into their room for the night, the two not-so-newlyweds plopped down on the green-sheeted, plump bed.
“…What a long day,” he sighed.
“Yeah,” Iris let out a sigh of her own as well, exuding her exhaustion, “Who knew just sitting inside of a carriage for days straight could be so exhausting?”
“Well, we weren’t exactly given beauty sleep with the bumpy roads, and Brahmi’s snoring…not to speak of the cheese and stale bread they packed for us,” he groaned, sprawling out on the bed.
Iris laughed at his comical displeasure with the conditions of the journey, laying beside him, but soon her smile faded, “Hey, Ren?”
“Yeah?” He said, looking up at the wooden ceiling.
“Are you…scared?” She asked.
The question made him pause for a moment before he answered, not batting an eye as he continued to stare up, nodding, “A bit.”
His answer seemed to surprise her slightly, but he continued, placing his hand over the eye patch he wore, “Honestly, Mastorn scares the hell out of me. Between the Argonauts, knights, Victorious Seven, and whatever else…there’s just so much to worry about. We’re diving right into the heart of all of that.”
Iris seemed to frown at his words, feeling them sink into her worried self as she laid there beside him.
“But, when I remembered how strong I am–we are–and the fact we aren’t alone, I don’t see any reason to doubt that we can do this,” he held a smile now, looking at her.
“I know…I have faith in everybody, but when thinking about Mastorn, it’s difficult to not think of what could happen, you know? I guess…I’ve just heard so much about it, so many bad things, so many warnings, countless stories–it almost feels mythical,” she said with a slight, nervous laugh.
“You’re telling me about things that seem mythical?” He raised a playful eyebrow to her, “I just think, compared to Purgatory, we don’t have much to worry about. It’ll be fine.”
“Mr.Worrywart himself is trying to reassure me?” Iris poked his side, “I don’t buy it one bit.”
He scratched his head, ruffling his snow-white locks in the process as he sighed out, “You know me too well.”
“Obviously,” she looked at him with a small smile, “Be honest with me, Ren. It’s fine to be open about what we’re worried about. It just matters in the end how we handle ourselves when the time comes.”
For a solid few seconds, he looked at her before sitting up, still wearing most of his traveler garments, save for his armor itself.
“…I was trying to sound tough, but really, stepping into Mastorn feels like stepping right back into hell.”