Flowered Metal | 15

The grey mist of spent gunpowder began to drift towards the river as Opal’s HUD Began converting the red “◊”s to “x” that flickered momentarily before disappearing. Along with the grey mist, the dust began to drift from the settlement’s hillside. Tens of yellow diamonds had appeared, but since no one else had tried to attack, she ceased her assault.

She waited for a moment, allowing any challengers to come forth per article 25543.654-22 of UA Aggression Treaties. Again, no one came forth, and she flagged it as mission accomplished. Syfa had retrieved her goods and neither she nor her brother died. Wounded, but not dead. Opal backed the IFV up, both guns trained on settlement encase a foolish brave decided to test her. Again, no one presented themselves and the warfare indiction lights – small little pill like LEDs that were more so for friendlies than enemies – turned from red to yellow, and once she was in the shroud of the forest; blue.

Once Opal had logged the firefight as officially completed did the lights turn off. She continued to back up until she found a suitable turning point. From there, she placed a navigation marker over the Omega Ark on the map and put it on auto-pilot. It would follow the path she had taken earlier to get back. Her chassis rumbled as it unloaded the HE rounds from the turret.

She transferred herself to the BD where she checked on the progress of the factory. It was half complete with only 3/4ths of her drones on the task. The others were doing minor work just to move the progress along on more projects. That would change now. Everything moved to DEFCON 3 “Round House” from 1. Her attack would alert any major powers to her presence and the Arks safety was now at risk.

While most would’ve agreed that crash landing and waking up in an unknown environment was cause enough to be at 3. To Opal, there was not. There were unknown animals out there and the Hikari, but in her defense, there’d been no need to escalate it all there. There have been no threats to her or the ark. She was a program, and the only occupants onboard were machines. Only physical attacks would cause her to raise any alarm.

But this was different. The Hikari had already shown her that there was some sort of organized group or groups out there. The settlement on the fringes of her reach looked much more than survivors. This was cause to elevate on grounds of a retaliation. Her UAV could stay in the air for another hour before having to return for three to recharge. One of the few advantages she had was she wasn’t running on fossil fuels. Everything could recharge through the reactor.

Now that she’d squared away the ship, now it was time to find Syfa and her brother as she switched to the UAV now.

The Commanche hovered just below the clouds now as it slowly scanned the road. With tall pines edging all of the south-west edges of the road, the UAV had to edge itself onto its north-eastern side as the road often bordered the river. It slowly scanned, zooming until it could make an accurate assessment. The beating of its propellers was now slightly audible in the quiet forest.

Every now and again, a flock of birds rose into the sky as trees in the town’s direction shook.

[Friendlies located]

The UAV beeped as a green diamond appeared over Syfa’s wagon. It was moving hard and fast as it took a bend. Haiafe had thrown himself inbetween two sacks to keep himself from flying out. To Opal’s surprise, they were already reaching the lake.

—¦—

“You’re going to make it!” Syfa hissed over the fierce rattling of the wagon. The Kimber Lizard was pushing itself to its top speed as the vixen whipped the reigns harder. Behind her, in the wagon’s cargo hold, Haiafe was whimpering. His voice made her go cold. She wanted to stop the wagon and go to her baby brother’s aid.

When he didn’t respond, she dared a look over her shoulder. He was nestled between two sacks of grain as blood was pulsing out of his arm. His trembling arms gripped the muscle limb, his body spamming from his crying.

“Pull it out and bandage it, already!” Syfa let out a fierce hiss. Rage danced on her tongue, but not aimed at him. No, he was just a child. He was mad at those humans who attacked them. He just happened to be where the anger lashed out towards.

“I don’t know how!” Haiafe finally looked to her with those pleading eyes. Eyes he had always given her when he’d been hurt. It made her heart twist. “Help me…” His voice was no longer that slightly deep voice he’d gotten after puberty a few years ago. It was cracked and broken. Full of the fear it once held on that night ten years ago.

“Pull it out.” Syfa managed to reign in her emotions. The fire that was in her throat cooled into a cold trickling stream. “You remember that incantation I taught you?” He shook his head before he turned to pull out the arrow. There was so much blood. It just an arrow to his arm, but it jutted out through the back of it. It was a serrated head…

“Pull it out from the head.” Syfa’s voice danced on the wind. Her attention jumping between the road and her brother. Kimber Lizards were notorious for charging forward without guidance in these situations. They could feel their owner’s emotions, it was the bond they held that allowed such fierce animals to be their pack animals.

Haiafe screamed in pain as the shaft began to slide out. With it, blood pulsed here and there as the meat tried to go with it. Once the end was free on the front, blood squirted before it began to flow down his broad chest. The other end was free before Haiafe noticed it, and that was when it began to scream again.

“Big sis! Big Sis!–” His eyes were big as he looked to her for help, but she couldn’t. Her staff had fallen off during the bumpy ride. She couldn’t cast a healing spell without touching his arm and concentrating. Syfa wasn’t sure if Opal had stopped them or escaped past through her legs. She just didn’t know! So, she wasn’t going to chance it. She’d go straight back to the village.

“Hold you hand to the wound!” Syfa couldn’t keep that cool front up anymore as she looked back again. His entire bare chest was crimson as he began to hyperventilate. “Haiafe!” She roared once again when he didn’t move. He flinched and did so. His large meaty hand gripping his wound.

“Chanel your mana and repeat after me!” Syfa yelled over her shoulder as she guided the beast round a corner. “Mother above!”

“Mother Above!” Haiafe repeated.

“Grant upon me your blessings–” And so, Syfa guided him through the chant. It was a basic healing spell that needed no knowledge to use. It was questionable to use it on a deep wound such as that one, but any higher spells would require body knowledge; knowledge he didn’t have. After a few seconds, a golden light glowed around his hand and the blood began to slow to a trickle.

“It didn’t close all the way!” Haiafe cried.

“Do it again and again until it does!” Syfa ordered him. And so he did. They rimmed the southwestern edge of the Lake of Souls. They would be a few more minutes until they reached her people’s village. There, they would be safe.

The trees gave way to the rocky hillside the Hikari village inhabited. Years ago, it’d been forest as well. That was before the Hikari had cut them all down for supplies and security. That was the day the forest loving tribe escaped death, only to end up like other mountain tribes.

“Guard the pass!” Syfa screamed as she pasted an etched boulder. A very startled Hikari lookout perked up when he caught a brief glance of her little brother. The guard let out a deep and primal howl. The Hikari was not just Fox people anymore, they’ve been intermingled with the wolf tribe of the mountains. The only tribe that’d take them ten years ago.

As she passed that outcrop and crossed through an unnaturally tall grass dune, did the village appear. Just as so, the village was stirring from the alarm being raised. All of them ran for their dune as trained. The leader of the village’s security ran beside before hopping onto the wagon.

“What happened!?” He growled before he saw Haiafe. The man’s gray and red ears flattered with rage. Haiafe was pale as snow and faintly conscious. It was obvious to where there should have been a wound, but only a bright pink slit was left where the wound should have been.

“He’s low on blood and mana!” Syfa reported. “Humans attacked us outside the human town after we left it! I managed to get him to cast a healing spell on it, but Haiafe doesn’t have a high mana reserve! We need to get him to my cave!”

“Do you have any spells to help him right now?” The beastman asked. Much to his reputation, he was quick to set aside his anger and his face fell deathly calm. Syfa knew this man too well though, and she could see the fire raging in his eyes.

“I do.” Syfa held out the reigns. “Get us to the cave.” The man nodded before he took it and Syfa clamored into the cargo area where she hissed again. She had realized how pale he was. Blood had soaked the bags around him, but both his muscled breasts were thick with it as well. It was already leaking off the back of the wagon.

“It must have hit an artery!” Syfa whined as she cast Blod Rejuvenation after. It was a High-tier healing spell she’d learned in her travels, and just as they were reaching the top of the village, the color began to return. But tears still streamed from his closing eyes.

He was never meant to be a warrior! Syfa cursed in his heart. Father was an idiot to make him one… 

The biggest body with the gentlest soul. Her baby brother who loved arrows because he could make them whistle, or swords because they were shiny. He loved flowers because they smelled good.

“It’s fine,” The man said as he appeared next to her. “He just needs rest. You did it, stop doing that.” Syfa narrowed her eyes at the man, but his face as still water in her eyes.

“Doing what?” She said, repressing the desire to whack him

“Overreacting.” He said.

“I am–” He cut her off.

“Syfa, I know that look,” He said. “You always do it when one of your siblings get hurt.”

“He was hit with an arrow!” Syfa growled, the air around her shimmering. The man did not back down. as he helped Haiafe off the wagon. Syfa right behind them to help her little brother walk into the mouth of her cave.

“And he’ll live.” The man said. “You’ve done your duty, and more. Your brother lives and you’ll see that he becomes healthier than a baby dragon.”

“Stop… Fighting… With… Your lover…” Haiafe joked as he tried to break their argument.

“Oki is not my lover!” Syfa bellowed, her voice ringing through her large cave. Haiafe gave Oki a weak grin, and Oki held a faint smirk. Haiafe knew his sister would treat him, and he also knew how overprotective she could become when one of them got hurt. In fact, she was infamous for it.” He. Is. Not. My. Lover.”

She couldn’t fool the two, nor herself when she felt her face hate up. A mixture of embarrassment and indignation.

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