Chapter 33

“It’ll be ten silvers Miss.” The shopkeeper, Tim Vann, told the young girl in front of him.

“Ten silvers! That’s practically robbery Mister Vann. Six silvers and you have yourself a deal.” The youngish girl in front of him said in response. “And don’t try to go any higher, otherwise I’ll get my sisters to come instead.” Stella giggled as Mister Vann’s face changed to a sour grimace, fully indicating how much he hated dealing with Luna.

“Oh, if only your sister was as reasonable as you are. A sight for sore eyes, she is. But that temper of hers…”, he ruefully stored the food supplies in the wooden crate in front of him, making sure all the liquids were sealed tight. “Make sure you bring back these glass bottles. They’re rather expensive as is.”

“Yees daaad,” she exclaimed with a smile as she strode out of the shop, a light skip in her step. She could hear muttering behind her, but chose not to listen to him talk about her skewed sense of manners once again. Her plan to use Luna and Shavie to intimidate everyone had gone off swell, or as well as it could in a city such as this. The hard part was how to safely toe the line between mischief and crime, and they already had a few complaints from the Nespe City Watch from the wimpier merchants. Luckily, their age and looks softened their fines, but only a bit.

“Glass bottles, check. Now I just need to drop this off with Shavie and we’ll be good on supplies for at least a few days.” She smiled to the other shopkeepers as she passed the main road, making sure to greet each of them in turn. ‘Relationships are key to all missions. Remember that Stella. A smile can have more value than a dagger at times; the key is knowing when to use which tool.’ Her footsteps faltered for a moment, but she sped up, making sure to stick closer to the shadier portion of the street. “I’m not an Nightwalker anymore. I’m just an alchemist. Just an alchemist,” she whispered quietly to herself.

Waking up in the city with a baby had confused her at first. She could remember everything that had happened, the events from the ritual imprinted in her mind. Checking around for any witnesses, Stella quickly fell back to her Nightwalker training. “I forcefully request the status of those around me. [[Hidden Status]].”

Stella Platz, Human Alchemist Apprentice

Isabella Freal, Human/Demon Blessed Apprentice.

Those few days before meeting up with the rest of her team was rough, but she weathered it all with some help from the local shopkeepers. That, and her knowledge of alchemy and medicine helped open some doors as well.

“Hopefully Bishner can find some information, but none of us are well suited for our new roles. Well, except maybe Shavie.” As she rounded the corner Stella looked upon an odd building; one that did not fit in with the rest of the neighborhood. It was fully surrounded by a brick wall, a central courtyard could be seen from the road. But upon further inspection, one could make out what was missing. The roof was missing for a good portion of the house. ‘Ugh, it’s going to cost a fortune to replace the rotting roof line. Maybe Shavie can poison a carpenter discreetly. Maybe I could barter medicine for help…’ Stella bit her lip and banished the thought away. ‘I’ll get an estimate later. Perhaps it’s cheaper than I thought, and it would not be worth it if I get caught.’ “Shavviiee, you there? Luunnaa?” she yelled as she grabbed the simple gate and opened it.

“I’m here Stella. All you had to do is turn your head and you’d see us.” Luna scolded lightly. Luna was sitting in the shade of the lone courtyard tree, A bundle of cloth on Luna’s stomach. “Wake me up later, I need to get back to the library around noon.”

“Where is Shavie?”

“She is somewhere around here. Just follow the sound of the guards yelling and you’ll probably find her nearby.”

Stella frowned at the frank response. “Luna, goodwill only goes so far. Please make sure that she doesn’t do anything that will draw too much attention to our…unique situation.”

“Relax, she’s still trying to figure out her own circumstances. Peaceful times do not make an Assassin any less tense. Especially when she can’t solve her problems with killing,” Luna said tiredly.

Stella looked over at Luna, who was falling asleep under the reddening maple tree. “You’re gonna get sick that way, you know. At least have a blanket nearby; it’s pretty chilly in the shade.”

“The baby is acting like a weighted blanket. Relax, she’ll wake me up when she needs something.”

Stella sighed. “Luna, when was the last time you got up? Shouldn’t you get ready for your day job? I thought you said Miss Heather and her family were going out of town for awhile?”

“A few weeks to gather new books. Relax, the library isn’t going anywhere. And if someone tries to steal something…well, at least Shavie will have something to do.”

“A teacher, an appraiser, an alchemist, and a bodyguard,” Stella said as she picked up the bundle of blankets, revealing a swaddle, sleeping baby girl. Her platinum hair caught the sunlight coming through the tree just right, twinkling like the stars at night. “What can we even teach you, our little Cleric? What are our roles in all of this?”

“For now, it’s just surviving. At least we found a place that the weird fog isn’t willing to gather at. Can you even imagine spending all day in that god awful fog? I’m getting shivers just imagining it,” Luna said, her gaze resting outside the courtyard. Stella turned and saw the low fog that was resting on the cobblestones of the town. Both of them knew that the fog was only visible to the four of them; the rest of the city and the people around them couldn’t see it.

“Weird fog. Are you sure it’s even dissipating? Do you know how hard it is to actually run around this city and not being able to use our skills reliably? It takes almost ten times longer to gather mana than before. That’s barely a spell every few days. Or a skill once a week!”

“That’s probably the point Luna. How would we be able to explain our abilities otherwise? ‘I’m sorry, mister guard captain sir, I didn’t mean to heavily injure the poor sod for harassing us. How was I supposed to know I could still break half the bones in his body with a single hit. To be fair, he was a creeper and was looking at us funny.’ Do you know how much legwork I had to do in order to stop us from being expelled from the city? I swear, I was about to have a heart attack when Shavie said that out loud.” Stella said with a groan.

“Haha, well, at least you were able to soothe the issue out peacefully. And a crying baby helps too,” Luna chuckled. “Has the boy’s family been harassing you again?”

“No, my medicine is spot on. Honestly, I’d be more surprised if they could find a poison that is not fatal that we don’t know about. The guards put a stop to it after the fifth attempt.” Stella said quietly. “I did offer to heal the boy, but the guard captain said it would be a bad idea.”

“Well, I’d trust a law enforcement officer more than any noble. Besides, they have no dirt on us. The chances they do something against us is minimal.”

Banishing potential problems and darker solutions away, Stella asked the question on her mind. “Has Bishner found any news on Markus?”

Luna sat up and stretched, her arms and legs cracking from the stiffness of her joints. “Nope, nothing new so far. He’s going to go and check the other towns that were previously conquered soon. Hopefully one of our contacts left information somewhere hidden. But as far as the world is concerned, we are “dead”. And let’s leave it that way for now. At least until we can all leave the city.” Standing upright, she jumped up and down slightly, the baby in her arms moving around in slight discomfort. “Walk with me to the library? It’ll be a good change of pace.” Luna said as she held out her hand. Stella grabbed it tightly, and Luna gave a heartfelt smile. “We’ll be fine. We made it through Nightwalker training together. Who’s to say this will be tougher than that?”

With a rueful grin, Stella agreed. “Your right. Let me deactivate the wards when we leave, it’s too expensive to leave on continuously.”

Passing by the courtyard gate, Stella brushed the inside of the gate, wiping the eavesdropping wards away. The inert material landed on the ground. Looking over it critically, Stella sighed to herself. ‘Privacy wards are too expensive this way. It’ll take me at least another twenty grams of shade leaves and alcudian moss to create that reagent. I think Mister Vann will have some in, or maybe I should go to an apothecary for that? But those materials don’t really have a use in traditional medicines…’

“So, how did the shopping go? I noticed you brought supplies. Soup tonight?” Luna said as she gazed ahead at the road. She noticed Stella had zoned out, probably determining costs again. They weren’t too poor, but poor enough to have to stretch each silver coin as much as possible.

Stella herself noticed Luna was marking out escape routes and hiding spots. Old habits were hard to kill. “It was fine. I threatened Mister Vann for a discount. Said you and Shavie would pick up the supplies next time.

“Hah! That’s my sister! Do the same to the baker by the library. I think they were the Baker’s? Heh. Make sure to get some fresh bread when you head back.”

“Luna, do you think it’d be like this if we were back home? You know, if we never got our classes?”

Luna slowed, clearly thinking about the question. “Probably not. You know, everything was centered around the war. We’d have a different class instead most likely. Maybe field medics or something, since we are friends with Markus. We probably wouldn’t have met Shavie or Bishner though.”

“No, probably not.”

“There’s a good crowd up ahead. Did you want to listen to the town crier for updated news?” Luna said quietly. The road ahead was filling up with people as the traveling crier brought updated information about the war efforts. The premise of someone yelling the information at you instead of reading it filled Stella with distrust.

“Not particularly, sister. I can read the news bulletin just fine. And we can use the extra paper to patch holes in the wall afterward. Let’s take the backroads to the library instead.”

“Suits me just fine,” Luna said with a shrug. Picking a route she had already mapped out, Luna walked briskly through the narrow alleyways. “So Shavie is not the best babysitter. Do you think we need to find a nursemaid or something?”

“I would, but we don’t know who we can really trust yet. The boy’s parents are friends with the local Duchess, so…” Stella trailed off, sighing loudly. “I know Shavie meant well, but it made a few things harder for us.”

“Shavie will get the hang of it. I’ve been reading up on the local laws as well, so they won’t be able to get us with the law. I’m sure I can mount a perfectly good defense. And if not, I’m sure Shavie will be able to send a message or two.”

Checking the street for any crowds, Luna and Stella walked over to the library. The stone building was separated by a wide street on each side, each street fully paved with brick and a well on each corner of the building. Stella looked over at the building and thought it was a waste for a library to command such a prime location in the city. Even the city hall and guard station were abutted by shops on each side.

“I looked up the history on this building. Evidently, the Queen and someone called Peter Alduit built it. The wells and streets are meant to be a firestop, and the library is the primary evacuation spot for the civilians in case of an attack. It’s apparently also the second largest library in the nation. I can’t access the vaults yet, but Miss Heather said that she could try and get me access to it; if I do a good job while she is gone.”

“Heh, so that’s the real reason you got up huh?” Stella giggled as she waited for Luna to deactivate the wards surrounding the main entrance.

“Come on, I’ll show you around.”

“It’s huge…” Stella looked around, her eyes wide at the sight. From the outside, the stone walls and wide streets made the building look smaller than it was. Rows and rows of books lined the inner portion of the building, a small glass ceiling above shedding light evenly throughout. No, Stella realized it was not just the floor, even further down the light penetrated, revealing rows and rows of books. The floors were made of glass as well!

“The streets, walls, and rooftop have been heavily reinforced. Apparently, Miss Heather said it could withstand at least a few blows from an elder dragon if need be, and the offensive wards can stop even the Imperial Scions from barging in recklessly.” Luna said with respect, her love of history revealing itself.

“Do you think that the Senate’s library would pale before it?”

“In terms of decor, most definitely. And to think, this is the second greatest library in the nation. But the Senate’s library has the entire race’s history and knowledge stored within it. How could a single border country ever compare to the depth of knowledge it holds.”

“Well, what about the vaults?” Stella asked as she was reminded of them.

“Ah, well, apparently that is where they house the more…dangerous books? According to Miss Heather. Don’t know what that means though,” Luna said with trepidation. Luna took a sharp right at the entrance and started walking forward, her hands idly skimming the spines of the books. “For some reason the queen herself has to sign off on anyone who wants access to the vaults. I only noticed it because it felt dangerous in this corner.”

Luna stopped and pointed toward a darkened corner of the bookshelf ahead. The shadows stuck to the wall for some reason, as though hiding something.

“I hate it. It gives off the same vibe as that damn Mausoleum.” Luna said under her breath.

“Wait, what?”

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