Everything would change from here, from this journey that was completely new to me. From this moment on, I would have nothing to rely on except my bare wits. The day we set out on the expedition, I changed into a set of new clothes—a light armor befitting of a bowman (which I was not). According to Remington, he could not afford to bear the responsibility of the death of the only human female that mattered.
Lies. Didn’t you kill me so easily last time? Besides, if only he knew I wasn’t even human anymore...but he needed not know.
I travelled on horseback, Arula next to me. He was the reason I chose to be a part of the bowmen in the first place—he was among those at the rear, and my main goal of joining was to find out how exactly Arula had perished in my previous life and prevent it from happening again. Meanwhile, Remington was amongst the knights at the front, not as a knight himself but as the general and leader of the army.
Later on, upon arrival at the site where we would camp until further action, the soldiers began building tents; Arula and I stood by and watched. We each had a cup of water in our hands, as idle as one could be at a time of war.
“Are you at all nervous?” Arula asked, smiling at me.
“I am in a pensive mood, but I wouldn’t call it nervous.”
He almost looked...proud, odd as it may sound. Nodding lightly, he then asked, “What can’t you do?”
It sounded like a joke, but Arula was the type to almost never joke. Hence, in an equally ambiguous tone, I answered, “Nothing. You’ll bet I can even impregnate women if I set out to.”
The usually graceful Arula let out a sudden surprised chuckle, very nearly choking on his water. He cleared his throat as I sipped from my cup with the usual grace that he exhibited before responding. “You are actually quite right about that.”
“But the question isn’t what I can’t do,” I added, “The question is, among the things I can do, whether saving you from the fate you suffered last time is one of them.”
“According to your memory, it should happen tomorrow night amidst cross-firing.”
I nodded. “Which means that, as we speak, whoever conspired is already conspiring. I don’t suppose you know what you were doing at this time last life?”
He shook his head. “It was you who lived it, not I...but if you weren’t here, I suppose…” There he paused in deep thought, and I waited. “Let’s take a walk.”
“Alright, but first…”
Five minutes later, Arula and I were hovering over the campsite, hand in hand and invisible, eavesdropping on every conversation. According to Arula, even in this form, we could still be heard—after all, we were invisible, not spirits. Thus, we stayed silent, and I simply followed the path he chose to take. When we arrived at the intersection between Remingtons’ and Arula’s camps, we stopped. One exchanged glance explained it all: Remington might sense us if we approach him directly.
I tugged at Arula’s hand, pointing to a dense canopy nearby. Taking the cue, he led us there. There, I let go of his hand—thus exiting invisible mode—and he too became visible on his own accord.
“I’ll go pay him a visit,” I said, “You take a look at Calder. I doubt he’d notice even if you were right next to him.”
“Good afternoon, Lord Remington. May I come in?” I asked, right outside Remington’s tent.
“Of course, Larissa.”
I entered, and he looked up from the documents that he had brought with him, temporarily setting them aside. He looked at me in curiosity, halting for a barely noticeable moment.
“I sense magical energy from you,” he said.
“Lord Arula lent me some of his in case of emergency. It will be returned to him when this is over.”
“He lent it to you? How?”
I put my hand on a spot in the middle of my chest. “Like so. He only lent me a little, though, it shouldn’t affect his performance.” I said that as if that was what I thought he was concerned about.
“Well...Arula may not live long enough for you to return it to him.” Saying thus, Remington handed to me the documents he had just been reading. “Calder is wary of his ingenuity and asks me to betray him tomorrow night.”
I received the documents and began reading them. The proposed plan was not exactly as I thought it would be, but it was very close.
“Is this handwriting that of...Lord Calder’s?”
“I don’t believe he has neat handwriting. It is most likely that of his adviser’s.”
“Is it his adviser who makes the decisions?”
At this, Remington paused; and at his pause, I looked up. He seemed truly thoughtful, as though his giving me this information was also genuine. Was this a hoax, or was it the trust that I had previously craved but never fully acquired?
Remington’s silence dragged from seconds to minutes. The whole time, he was immersed in thought. I did not interrupt him until I memorized the whole document for the second time—because surely I wasn’t going to take it with me.
“Oh.” He seemed to snap back to reality then, though I highly doubted his mind was one that wandered off. “I was trying to recall anything I might remember of the adviser. He is an almost an elderly man and has served Calder’s family for the past two generations. Since the family is not known for intellect or skill in magical energy…”
“...it might be the adviser who comes up with war plans?”
“Have you met Lord Calder in person in recent years?”
“Not for the past five years.”
Again, we both fell into silence. It was only when soldiers outside began preparing food that I handed the documents back to Remington.
“What will you have me do, if anything?” I asked.
“Relay to Arula everything you learned here and ask him to avoid getting killed. Request that he creates an illusion of himself in his tent tomorrow night but stays safe elsewhere, and to stay unseen for the rest of this journey. I will assure that word gets out that he was killed in a crossfire as suggested by Calder’s adviser.” As he spoke, Remington rolled the documents up and packed them back into the bottomless pouch hanging from his belt. “As for you…” he continued, looking into my eyes now, “Stay close to him and safe. Make sure to stop him from rushing to the rescue of an unimportant bowman in danger.”
I first bowed my head to signal that I understood my task. Then, I creased my brows in false bafflement. “Would he do that?”
Remington sighed. “He might. Lord Arula is extremely talented and well-read, but also exceedingly compassionate.”