A haze of dust was kicked into the air as the booted foot landed on the path. Acteon walked forward, towards the fallen figures in the distance. As he approached, their features became more distinct. Two of them were dressed in long sleeved ivory suits, the casual attire for nobles. The third was a rather elderly man, covered in not much more than a series of rags. Cuts covered their faces, and blood seeped through the clothes of all three.
Acteon shook his head mournfully. His gaze wandered to the poor man, noticing a golden circular shield lying beside the body, scratched and dented in several places. “Rest in peace, old friend,” Acteon murmured.
The middle figure coughed, springing back to life, causing Acteon to turn. The man’s eyes fluttered open and he tried to prop himself onto his arms. He coughed again, struggling to even out his breaths as he wiped a streak of blood off his forehead with his sleeve, staining it red.
Acteon stepped over and knelt down to the man. “Lord Ithel, I presume.”
The lord’s eyes flashed with rage. “What do you want, peasant? Are you trying to stand in my way?”
Acteon smiled. “I wouldn’t dream of it.” His brows then morphed into a deadly frown, grim seriousness replacing the merry gaze in his eyes. “The Cambire user, where is she?”
An even stronger wave of fury ignited in Ithel’s eyes. “That demon killed my son. I couldn’t care less where she is.”
“Where is she?” Acteon demanded again, fiercer than before.
“I don’t have to tell you anything,” Ithel growled. The lord was inches from death, and Acteon realized that he wasn’t going to get anything from him. Sighing, he stood up. His eyes locked upon the pathway that continued ahead of him. With a little luck, the girl would be somewhere ahead.
You have failed me.
The words throbbed in Jerilyn’s mind as if they were fresh wounds cut deep into her skin. Except she didn’t feel them from within as much as she thought she would, as her senses were distracted by the stream of blood that trickled down her arm. Jerilyn clutched her shoulder as she ran, fingers digging into flesh. It was a feeble attempt to stop the shoulder from moving, yet she kept it up anyway.
Bright rays beamed down merciless heat. Her footsteps echoed in the empty Plains as her feet pounded against the gravel pavement. The road continued endlessly, stretching as far as the horizon and even beyond. The mere sight of the path ahead sprouted a feeling of despair. There was no end in sight.
Her scabbard banged against her hip with each stride, every step forward sending a jolt of pain and fear through Jerilyn’s body. A beat of her heart would send her vision swimming slightly, making her sight spin. Breathing was becoming difficult, and continuing to run was even worse, as her waist became filled with agonizing stitches. The muscles in her thighs turned tight.
How long had she been running?
For the first time, Jerilyn’s brain contemplated the question. Minutes? Hours? Her legs seemed so accustomed to the movement that stopping became an alien feeling.
The mere thought of halting won over. Her body gave into fatigue and she collapsed, knees buckling, tumbling onto the ground.
The scratches didn’t bother her. Hands catching her fall, Jerilyn found herself staring at the gravel below her. Nausea struck her tenfold, and she lurched forward, retching. Pain exploded in her shoulder once more.
She forced herself to sit upright, pulling her hands away from the burning pavement. Jerilyn took a deep breath in, attempting to clear her mind. She whipped her head backwards, back towards the direction where she came from, and waited.
There wasn’t a single soul nearby. A breath of wind swirled in from the sides, giving the girl a small relief from the blazing sun, rustling the grass that aligned themselves along the road. The Plains around Jerilyn were completely empty. They almost always were.
A flash of bright crimson spasmed through her mind, and Jerilyn sharply shook her head, thrusting the sight away. She didn’t want the memory of the heartless, blood red eyes of Spirits haunting her.
She turned her head around again. This time, with faint hope in her chest, praying that Kyros would scale the horizon and come to help her. He always helped her. He even helped her escape her death. But he didn’t appear. Not this time.
But how much time would his attempt buy her?
How much longer had she sat there, in the middle of the path? Was she really hoping that someone would come to help her? No one would want to help a demon in disguise.
No one except Kyros, Jerilyn quickly corrected herself.
Her thoughts were a complete mess. Where was she to go? She wasn’t used to acting without explicit instructions. But she did have one as Kyros’ final words came to her: