Nightpetal groaned.

In her (admittedly sheltered, short) existence, she’d never felt quite so drained. Everything hurt. Her -fur- hurt. Plus, it was covered in sticky, red mud that abjectly refused to go anywhere, even when she subjected it to a solid hour of scrubbing in exceedingly, vindictively cold mountain brook water that gurgled in an irritatingly happy manner, unfairly uncaring about the current state of her everything.

It was totally, completely, utterly unfair, and she told it so, repeatedly. It didn’t help, either, that somehow Kun managed to completely avoid every muddy puddle or splash for two days. Her leathers still looked all black and dangerous and just… nope. Not fair at all.

Even her -chi- hurt. She’d summoned so much in such a short period that her mind and that ineffable place within felt raw and sandpapery. Exhaustion felt like it was flowing from inside like waves.

She’d… never seen a place that was hungrier, more lost. Westfall still had scorch marks and places where the grass simply wouldn’t grow, and blasted bits of heath and withered cropland that would, she hoped, recover one day, but weren’t feeding anybody right now. So… she did what she could.

She made pudding. And bread. Pulling it out of her own chi until she could barely walk, trying to help where she could. And after that? Bandages. Reading to the little ones. Trying to help a farmer push a ruined cart out of the mud that half-buried it.

“So stupid.” She sighed, and tried to get more comfortable on the brown and spikey grass. “Okay. Okay. You can get past dinner. It’ll work.”

She woke up to someone asking her something that sounded a little important, and discovered her legs were incredibly stiff and she really, really hoped whoeveritwas believed she was meditating because she was /not/ asleep. No-sir. Not her. Awake and definitely alert and projecting the confidence and complete unsneakability of a master magus. Breathe in, breathe out and..

… he called himself “Shifty Ryml”, and she thought that was a terrible name but didn’t say so. But he was nice, and they talked about the city and thieves and … then. It was all worth it. The clay and the too-cold water and all the food and the crying and Kun being all secretive: she had a name.

This Shifty person knew about the thief! And this place called Westguard, and this group of thieves called “Templars” which… she had to admit was a funny name for a bunch of thieves, but, if they’re going to kill people over a rock, she had to admit they were at least dangerous. “Blackbone.” A perfect name for a Yaoguai and it fit with the little bit she could remember – but it was a little more daunting. He had friends and some sort of female human with a pistol and a whole keep.

Petal grinned then, to herself – a little illusion, a portal, and a big coat. She could get a measure of this… this… criminal syndicate herself. And Kun would be so proud…

Author Aunne
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