Chapter Nine – Flowers and Graves

Ivan narrowed his eyes. “How do I know you’re not the Eighth?” he asked immediately following Iris’s statement. She turned to him coolly.

“There’s no way to know, but I myself have no means of knowing whether any of you are the Eighth, either, so we would be better off pushing mutual suspicion aside.” Iris paused. “This is important,” she finally said, a tone of urgency in her voice.

Ivan opened his mouth to retort, but Mortimer grabbed his hand and shook his head. The thief clicked his tongue and fell back against the tree trunk, arms crossed. “Be quick.”

Iris turned to face the three. “Before that, I need to ask you a question.”

Ivan groaned. “Are you trying to drag this out?” he muttered, but Iris ignored him.

“What would you do if you realized one of your fellow Saviors was unfit for the job?” she asked. Mortimer cocked his head.

“What do you mean?”

“If they turned out to be untrustworthy, evil, or had committed atrocious crimes in the past,” Iris explained. She tilted her head. “What would you do?”

“Kill them,” came Ivan’s blunt answer. Ed flinched, but the thief shrugged. “It’s the only option, isn’t it? Only the Eighth can remove a Savior’s power, the only other way is to get rid of them. Ridding evil—isn’t that our job?” the Savior smirked. Iris was quiet. She closed her eyes.

“I see.” Turning to Mortimer and Ed, she asked, “What about the two of you?”

Ed jumped, eyes darting about. “M—me?”

Iris nodded and Ed averted his gaze, which turned out to be unnecessary, as Iris, too, seemed to be avoiding looking his direction. Ed glanced back up. “Um… I don’t really know,” he finally answered. Ivan snorted.

“Of course not.”

Biting his lip, Ed turned away from the thief and continued, “Well, if… if it was really bad, like they killed someone, then maybe…”

“You’d kill them?” Iris finished. Ed nodded, brows furrowed.

“Well, I don’t know if I could actually kill someone, though,” he added sheepishly.

“I don’t think you could, either,” Ivan said from across the clearing, still leaned back against the tree trunk. His eyes were narrowed. “…if they killed someone, huh,” he muttered. The Savior sighed and shook his head. “You really don’t know anything, do you?”

Mortimer turned to face Ivan, eyes cold as ever. “It’s a good belief to hold,” he said.

Ivan lifted his chin. “And a naive one. I’m surprised you’ve managed to survive this long,” he said, jerking his head towards Ed. The Savior in question stared at the ground. He could find no jumbled words to counter with, because when he tried to refute it, tried to point out that he’d spent so long on his own, the familiar pain came back to strike his mind and the blurry figures resurfaced.

Instead, he shook his head.

Mortimer was staring his direction, expression unreadable. Now, he turned to Iris. “I wouldn’t kill them,” he replied. Iris, who had been checking her bag while the three argued, now tilted her head.

“Why not?”

“Killing a murderer is only hypocritical,” the Savior said. “There are other ways to deal with them.”

“Like?” Ivan asked.

Mortimer ignored him, however, and continued, “However, if the Savior were too strong to apprehend, like the First, for example, then there wouldn’t be a choice.”

Iris nodded, seemingly satisfied.

“Well? You going to tell us why you asked?” Ivan asked, tapping his finger.

“I needed to confirm something,” Iris said. “It seems it’ll be fine, though.”

“What’ll be?” Ed asked. Iris shook her head.

“I just needed to make sure it was okay to give you this information. It’s fine, though.” The Savior cleared her throat and turned so that she was facing all three of the others, who now looked up and towards her direction, eyes intent.

“I believe the Red Artist and the Eighth are two different people,” she said. Ivan raised an eyebrow.

“What makes you say that? Any proof?”

“Think about it,” Iris said, “If the Eighth could kill someone so easily with their power, then why would they bother slaughtering those servants by hand?”

“He could’ve killed them with his power, then mutilated them,” Mortimer suggested.

“No, that’s not it, either,” Iris said, shaking her head. “If their power was already awoken and they used it, then why aren’t all of us dead? It certainly wouldn’t be a difficult task.”

“Then the Eighth hasn’t awoken his power so he killed the servants by hand. So what?” Ivan said.

“The Willis Island servants are specially trained members of the king’s court. They excel in combat and have memorized the names and faces of everyone of us Saviors. They would’ve recognized the Eighth if that were the case.”

“They could’ve been ambushed,” Ivan suggested. Once again, Iris shook her head.

“The Willis Island servants are trained to fend against ambushes. Even if the Eighth attacked each separately and then piled them into the cellar at the end, at least one of them would’ve noticed the surprise and it wouldn’t have worked. If you think about it like that, then it doesn’t make sense. If the Eighth had their power, then we would all be dead, but without it, then the servants couldn’t all be dead. The most logical conclusion is to say the Red Artist is one of the Saviors.

She could’ve gone up to each of the servants individually and they wouldn’t have suspected anything from a Savior. It would then be easy to kill them, deposit their body in the cellar, and go to the others, one at a time, until all were dead.”

Mortimer was quiet. “…that’s true,” he finally said, deep in thought.

“So what? Now we have to watch for two people?” Ivan asked. Iris nodded.

“Unfortunately, yes…”

“The worst case scenario would be if the Red Artist and the Eighth were working together,” Mortimer said, glancing up. Ed stared at the ground.

“But… what about the barrier?” he finally asked. Iris tilted her head.

“We can assume that was the work of the Red Artist, if the Eighth really hasn’t manifested their power, but if they have, then they could’ve done it, too.”

“Wait,” Ivan interrupted, holding up a hand. “By that logic, the Red Artist could’ve killed us all by now, if he was another Savior, if he killed the servants so easily. It makes sense if the Eighth hasn’t done anything, assuming their power actually hasn’t manifested and they’re incapable of fighting, but what about the Red Artist? He’s quite a skilled killer.”

“That’s what doesn’t make sense,” Iris said, resting a hand on her chin. “Especially with the barrier up, killing us all wouldn’t be as hard, with none of us able to escape. No, if one of them put it up, then they themselves could leave easily, so it could become their safe zone, making it even more difficult for us to retaliate.”

Ivan sighed and scratched his head. “This is getting ridiculous…” he muttered. He turned to Iris. “So? Why are you telling us all this? You have to be at least somewhat suspicious of us, right?”

“I won’t deny that,” Iris said, “but once again, I feel ensuring the Red Artist doesn’t win is more important at this point.” She paused. “ … in the very least, I believe even the Red Artist wouldn’t have gotten away with some injury, so that’s a lead. And, she would’ve had to have extensive experience in combat, though the public already assumed that of the Red Artist.”

“I don’t think anyone was injured, though,” Mortimer said.

“Besides him,” Ivan added, jerking a thumb towards Ed, who stared at the ground.

“…In the very least, it seems this conversation isn’t going anywhere.” Mortimer glanced up at Iris. “Ah, I wanted to ask, is that the only reason you left the mansion?”

Iris was quiet. “Well… I suppose you could say that, but like the three of you, I couldn’t stand the environment, either…” she shook her head. “I wanted to see if I could find Echo and Fay, too.”

Ivan narrowed his eyes. “In that case, I’m guessing you weren’t aware that Lucine also left.”

Iris’s eyes widened and she spun around. “What?”

Mortimer nodded. “She was at her mansion, we met her there,” he explained.

“She gave us a master key, too,” Ed offered. Ivan’s piercing glare, however, made him go quiet again. Iris furrowed her brow.

“A master key? That isn’t good…”

“Yeah, I suppose it wouldn’t be,” Ivan said. He narrowed his eyes. “What else do you know?”

Iris glanced up. “I’m afraid that’s it.”

“Really? Not hiding anything?”

Iris returned his gaze steadily. “Why would you assume that?”

After a moment’s pause, Ivan shrugged. “No reason. Well, anyways, it seems like everyone’s intent on handing us free information. First Lucine, now you.”

“Um… is that a bad thing?” Ed asked.

“Obviously,” Ivan said, though he didn’t elaborate. Mortimer glanced up at the darkened sky and pulled a lamp from his bag, which he now lit and set in the center of the blanket, providing an eery glow.

Iris, seeing this, stood. “Well, I suppose I’ll be leaving now, if there’s nothing else to say.”

Mortimer glanced up. “Not staying?”

Iris shook her head. “I’m afraid not. Don’t misunderstand, it isn’t that I necessarily don’t trust you, but rather I’m worried none of you trust me.” Her eyes rested on Ivan as she said this, and the thief narrowed his eyes.

Ed glanced up. “Um, is Willow okay?” he finally asked. Iris closed her eyes and shook her head.

“I’m afraid I don’t know. You’ll have to believe Lucine’s word, for that. I will eventually return to the mansion, though, so I will know then,” she added.

“Returning?”

Iris nodded. “Yes, after I’ve warned the others.”

Mortimer stared at the lamplight. “Isn’t it dangerous to be telling everyone? If the Eighth or Red Artist heard, then your life would be in danger.”

Iris shook her head. “I appreciate the sentiment, but fear not, I’m making sure to be cautious.” She smiled. “At the very least, I’m not worried about dying right now. Goodbye, and be careful. Our powers will awaken soon,” she warned. With a quick bow, the Savior stood and turned away, her silhouette melting into the shadowy forest.

Even after the rustling of twigs faded into the distance, the three continued to sit in silence, surrounding the lamp, Ivan still staring into the trees, eyes narrowed.

Finally, Mortimer asked him, “I wager you want to say something?”

“…She knows something about the Red Artist.”

“Yes, we all know about him,” Mortimer said. Ivan shot him a glare and continued.

“She made a lot of assumptions, assuming the servants were too good for a surprise attack. She didn’t even mention that the Eighth could’ve killed all the servants at a range with their power, then took them to the cellar and mutilated their corpses. Not to mention…”

Mortimer glanced up. “What?”

Ivan’s eyes were cold. “…She kept calling the Red Artist “her.” The public opinion has always fallen onto him being male, so why would she do that?”

Mortimer, who had pulled out his book from his bag, now sighed. “Yes, that is a big curious,” he admitted. Ed furrowed his brow.

“Then…”

“Oh, and you,” Ivan interrupted, snapping his head in Ed’s direction, causing the Savior to jump. “Why did you tell her we had a master key?” His eyes were fierce, the lamp’s flames reflected in them. Ed swallowed and looked away.

“Well… I thought we could trust her, so…”

“It really is a miracle you’ve lived this long,” Ivan scoffed. Mortimer glanced up from his book.

“No matter how suspicious we may be, Iris’s words do hold some truth. We should be grateful for having another viewpoint.”

“Should we?” Ivan muttered. Mortimer sighed.

“I’m assuming you take issue with that?”

Ivan stared into the trees, a gust of wind making the lamplight flicker. “Why would she go around giving away free information like that? There has to be an ulterior motive.”

“She might’ve just been nice. Did you not consider that?” Mortimer pointed out.

“What about Lucine? She gave us this key for no reason, either.”

“She did say it was for entertainment,” Mortimer replied. Ivan shot him a glare.

“The point is, all of us are trying to survive. We could die any moment. There’s no reason for her to have come here to give us free information at her own risk. She didn’t gain anything, so why would she do it? It doesn’t make sense.”

Mortimer sighed. “I can’t imagine how difficult life must be, if you’re so suspicious all the time.”

“It’s called, you figure things out on your own!” Ivan snapped. He turned away from the others. “I’m going to sleep,” he said, then went silent. Mortimer turned the page of his book.

“Well he was certainly antsy today,” he said plainly. Ed gave a nervous laugh, glancing up at the sliver of a moon. He considered going to sleep, too, but his eyelids weren’t heavy. That, and he couldn’t help but worry about what might happen. It was an odd feeling, but the Savior couldn’t shake off the idea that something terrible would happen soon. Perhaps it was just because of the situation, but he’d been having more nightmares frequently.

Once again, Ed closed his eyes and tried to recall when he’d first arrived, but the mist refused to clear and he shook his head. The Savior sighed, unsure of what to do. Beside him, Mortimer turned the page.

Curious, Ed turned to the other Savior. For a moment he sat in silence, but finally swallowed and scooted forward.

“What… what are you reading?” Ed finally asked. “Is it a book on mechanics?”

Mortimer glanced up, then back down, briefly holding up the cover and nodding towards his bag. “I have a book on engineering in my bag, this one’s on gardening.”

“Gardening?” Ed furrowed his brow. Mortimer nodded.

“So… you like flowers?”

“I suppose. I find them pretty,” Mortimer explained, turning the page.

“Oh.” Ed paused, thinking of new topics to add. He glanced at the green book cover, which had a single flowers in the center. “Um, do you want to plant a garden or…?”

“I would like that,” Mortimer said. “Unfortunately I’m incapable of planting anything without it dying.”

Ed nodded. “Not good with plants?”

“No.” Mortimer sighed. “A garden seems beyond me, right now.”

“It could be the soil,” Ed suggested. “You said you lived near the coast, right? Isn’t the land there more rocky?”

Mortimer nodded. “That’s true.”

“…What, what’s it like? Your village, I mean,” Ed asked.

Mortimer thought about this. “Well, it’s a bit dull. The sky’s always overcast and the sea’s always gray. The ground’s covered in rocks and a majority of the houses are old and worn. Everything’s monochrome, you could say.”

“Oh.” Ed struggled for words. “Well, it’s just… I always pictured the sea as more… colorful.”

“I don’t blame you. It’s that way throughout most of the kingdom, but our area’s an exception.”

Ed stared at the book. “Is… is that why you want to plant a garden? To give the village more life?”

Mortimer looked up. “I never thought of it that way, but yes, I suppose so.” He turned the page. “It’d certainly be nicer than all that gray, but I don’t think it’s possible for me to plant anything without it dying.”

“…My dad was like that, too,” Ed finally said. Mortimer cocked his head.

“What do you mean?”

Ed furrowed his brow, trying to collect his thoughts. “Well, he was pretty bad with plants, too. Oh, but there wasn’t anything wrong with our soil, he just didn’t have a green thumb. At least, at least I think so.”

“Think so?”

“Well… I’m not really sure… I think he was, but I can’t really remember him anymore,” Ed said, staring at the flickering lamp, hugging his knees. “Whenever I try to remember him, it just comes out all fuzzy. His voice was warm, but I can’t remember what it sounded like, and I think he was kind, but I don’t know why. I guess… sometimes I doubt if he was really like I think he was, or if I’m just imagining it.” Ed shook his head. “I, I don’t really know.”

Mortimer was quiet. “If you believe he was like that, then he was,” the Savior finally said. Ed glanced up.

“What do you mean?”

Mortimer set his book down. “Well, they say the opinions on a person makes up a majority of who they are, so if you perceive your father as kind, then he was to you.”

“…That feels a little wrong, though,” Ed finally said.

Mortimer shrugged. “Perhaps it is, but that’s just the way the world works. If you’re viewed one way, then there’s little room to change it.” He paused. “Though, in this case, I’d argue your father was more likely how you imagined. Old memories are often blurred, but key features remain. There’s no need to worry, your beliefs are true,” he finished, picking up his book again and opening it.

Ed glanced up at the starry sky, the sliver of a moon beginning to grow again, the hazy clouds drifting away. For a moment, he closed his eyes, an image of someone massive, rough, yet kind coming to him.

“…Thank you.”

Mortimer didn’t respond, only turning the next page of the book. Ed looked back down and opened his eyes again.

“Still… I’d like to know the truth someday.”

Mortimer nodded. “That’s a fine goal. Don’t worry, with the Savior’s’ power, I’m sure you’ll be able to reach it.”

“…Yeah.” Ed turned around to face Mortimer. “Um, sorry about that, I kind of changed the conversation. But, uh, you were describing your town?”

Mortimer shook his head. “It’s fine, I don’t really mind. There’s not much left to say about it, either.”

“You wanted to restore it, right? Get rid of the plague?” Ed asked.

“Indeed.”

“And add a garden?”

Mortimer turned the page. “That would be nice, but even if I were to find a plant that grow on those rocks, I doubt there will be enough time after the other efforts. The Saviors are quite busy, after all.” He sighed. “Well, in the very least, I’d like to see some planted before the next generation.”

“How so?”

Mortimer was in thought. “Well, the Saviors are given special burials, right?”

Ed nodded. As the Saviors were destined to die in eight years, each one was allowed to make specific requests regarding their burials. Some chose to be buried in their old villages, a majority requested grand tombs and palaces, and those who didn’t care were given elaborate burials, too.

Mortimer closed his eyes. “I’ve been thinking about it, and I’d like to be buried by the seaside. The headstone would be carved from one of the rocks, and it would be covered in a colorful garden. That way, I could spend the rest of eternity in my old home, and they might have something else to look at, too.”

“…That’s sad.”

“What do you mean?”

Ed jumped. “Oh, no, I didn’t mean like—!” he tried to explain, words pouring out as gibberish. Finally, he paused and took a deep breath while Mortimer waited patiently. “It’s a really nice thought, but, well,” Ed glanced up, fidgeting, “doesn’t it get kind of depressing, thinking about stuff like that?”

Mortimer frowned. “Really?”

Ed stared at the ground. “Well, yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t want to think about dying, not now, at least.” Even if it’d be logical, Ed added to himself, recalling the cellar and wincing.

“I suppose it’s a matter of principle,” Mortimer finally said, returning to his book. “I’m used to those sorts of discussion.”

“Oh. I don’t think I could handle it.”

Mortimer shrugged. “You’d be surprised. I don’t find any harm in talking about the inevitable, and there’s no use fearing it, either.”

“…That’s true,” Ed said. “I guess I’m just not used to it.”

“That’s fine, too,” Mortimer said, turning the page. Ed glanced up at the sky, unsure of the time. His eyes were beginning to grow weary and judging from his silence, Ivan had long since fallen asleep.

Laying down beside a patch of bushes, Ed yawned and closed his eyes, Mortimer later doing the same.

With the lamplight hitting his back, Ivan lay, eyes open, listening to the other two.

“…How stupid.”

That night, Ed found himself standing beside the cliff again. This time, however, his surroundings didn’t exist, only the silhouetted figure, the cliff itself, and the rest was dissolved gold. They looked a bit like fireflies, rising up from around him into a sea of emptiness, the lights growing stronger and stronger.

Mesmerized with the sight, the Savior took a step backwards, as though to get a better view, and found himself falling yet again.

As usual, the figure lurched forward, fingers reaching closer, and as Ed fell backwards into the golden lights, he couldn’t help but think about how warm those hands had been.

Then, just as his vision dissolved into gold, he opened his eyes and found himself staring up at the blue sky. Turning over, he found that Ivan was already awake and had put the lamp out. Yawning, Ed rubbed his eyes and sat up.

Oddly enough, a strange sensation was in his left eye, a bit like a burn, but not so unpleasant. He wasn’t quite sure how to explain it.

“Our powers will awaken soon.”

Ed’s eyes snapped open. Could it be? Ed stared at his hand, but the sensation was already vanishing. He frowned. If it was the case, then his powers didn’t seem to want to appear.

“Finally awake?” Ivan’s voice snapped Ed out of his thoughts. The Savior jumped.

“Um, yeah,” he said. He looked around. “Where’s Mortimer?” The other Savior was usually the one who said that. Ivan nodded his head towards a nearby tree trunk, where Mortimer was laying beside, back facing the two.

“Still sleeping,” Ivan said, frowning. Ed furrowed his brow.

The other Savior was usually the first awake. But then, he had been the last to go to sleep the previous night, so he supposed it was normal.

So, Ed turned away and picked up one of the pieces of bread Ivan had laid out on the blanket. He glanced at the thief, who wore a bored expression. “Um… what are we doing today?” he asked.

“Heading to Mortimer’s mansion,” came the blunt reply. Ed looked away.

“Oh.”

Ivan narrowed his eyes. “What?”

“Huh? What do you mean?” Ed asked, jumping a bit.

“You look like you want to say something,” the thief pointed out. “Well? What is it?”

“Oh. Uh, well, yesterday you were talking about not trusting Iris,” the Savior began, keeping his attention focused on the piece of bread in his hand.

“And?”

“I guess… I was thinking that having to survive doesn’t mean you’ll become selfish,” Ed finally finished. A distant memory surfaced, of days spent in an empty worn cabin with only himself and the blurred figure of his father there. Despite their situation, the Savior always recalled his father smiling, always giving his son support, always kind.

One time, when Ed had been returning from school, eyes sullen and legs sore, he’d found a stray kitten sleeping in front of the cabin door. Unsure of what to do, he had called his father, expecting him to chase it away.

Instead, the man had immediately returned to the house and come back with some scraps of food from the pantry. The young Ed had furrowed his brow as his father fed the cat and stroked its fur. He was painfully aware of the hollowness in his own stomach, and he knew his father had to feel the same.

Seeing his expression, the man turned to face him. “Don’t worry, boy, we’ve still enough for ourselves.”

“But…”

“Remember, you can never expect anyone to help you if you won’t help others,” his father said, turning back to the cat, who had fallen asleep. “Just think about that, son.”

And he did.

Now, a small smile crept onto Ed’s face as he recalled. The two had taken the cat home and raised it as a pet, though it had soon died, anyways. Still, for those few weeks, it had been comforting to come home and find someone there, someone who would always listen when his father was too busy with work.

Ivan frowned. “…If someone was like that, then they’re an idiot,” he finally said.

Ed looked up. “Why?”

The Savior turned away. “If everyone only thinks about themself, then they can’t blame anyone for anything and everything would be up to them. They’d only have to worry about their own happiness, and in the end, only the strong ones would live, leaving a world where the ones capable of surviving and staying happy lived. Isn’t it better that way?”

“But… then all the weak people would die,” Ed said.

“Exactly. Then, everyone left would mind their own business and everyone’d be happy.”

“That’s…”

“That’s rather cruel of you,” Mortimer said. Ed turned around, relieved to find the Savior now moving over to join the two.

“Good morning,” Ed said. Mortimer nodded, though his eyes seemed duller than usual. Ed frowned. “Is… is something wrong?”

Mortimer glanced up. “Huh? On, no, I just have a bit of a headache is all,” he said.

“Oh. Okay then,” Ed said, though he frowned.

Ivan narrowed his eyes. “What, you have a better idea?”

Mortimer bit into a slice of bread and sighed. “Using that logic, you could do anything under the guise that it was for your own happiness. You could kill someone and say it was for survival.”

“Yeah, you could. And?”

“You shouldn’t take lives lightly,” the Savior replied.

Ivan snorted. “It’s the person’s own fault for letting themself get killed. They should’ve been paying more attention to their surroundings.”

“Once again, I can’t agree with that sentiment.” Mortimer sighed and stood, brushing off his hands. Ed glanced at him, brows furrowed.

“Um, is that all you’re eating?” he asked. Mortimer nodded.

“I’m not very hungry, either, I’m afraid,” he said, swinging his bag over his shoulder. Ivan did the same and was soon followed by Ed.

The three Saviors then worked on replacing all the food and folding up the blanket. Once that was done, Ivan spent some time erasing any footprints leading to the area while the other two waited. Once the Savior was finished, he joined up with the other two.

“So we’re heading to the fourth mansion?” Mortimer asked.

“What else?” Ivan strode forward, ducking under the branches with alarming speed.

He continued this pace for much of the journey, with Ed constantly struggling to keep up. Mortimer always stopped for him, though, much to the Savior’s gratitude. Mortimer himself had to slow down a few times, too, despite usually keeping up with Ivan just fine, much to Ivan’s annoyance.

“You’re so slow,” he complained. “The Red Artist could come at you and you couldn’t even run away.”

“Then let’s hope that doesn’t happen,” Mortimer said, stepping past him.

Ivan narrowed his eyes, following the Savior’s movement, before he uncrossed his arms and continued forward, too.

The fourth mansion was already within sight when Ivan first stopped.

Ed, who had been behind him, nearly crashed into the thief, almost falling over if not for Mortimer catching him halfway before he hit the ground.

“Um, what…?” Ed asked, straightening up again. Ivan’s eyes were narrowed.

The Savior didn’t reply. Instead, he strode forward and stepped into the bushes, bending down. The other two watched with curiosity as the Savior plucked something from the bushes.

Stepping closer, Ed squinted. “What is that?”

Ivan was holding a white cloth, which seemed to have a few red spots on it. The thief frowned. “A handkerchief. It has blood on it, too,” he said, turning it over. He narrowed his eyes.

“What?” Ed stepped closer. Ivan held the handkerchief up and pointed to a small, finely sewed symbol at the back.

“It’s the king’s crest. This belongs to Echo,” he said.

Ed glanced around. “So… Echo’s near here?”

“Was,” Ivan corrected, turning it over again. “Judging from the tears, it was probably carried over by the wind, and the blood’s dried already. But, there’s no doubt she must’ve traversed pretty far already. We have to be careful.”

Ed was quiet. “So… you don’t trust Echo?”

“Obviously not,” Ivan scoffed. “I’m pretty sure that sentiment’s mutual, too. Well, we might as well keep going, for now. Not like there’s anything to do about it.” Ivan stuffed the handkerchief into the outer pocket of his bag, and called over to Mortimer, who was standing some distance away. “Hey, how far’s the mansion?”

No response.

Ivan frowned and stepped closer, shaking the Savior by the shoulder. “I asked how far the mansion is,” he said.

Suddenly, Mortimer’s eyes snapped open from their previous groggy state. For a second, his expression was wild, the complete opposite of his usual robotic state, as though he’d been disconnected from this world, but he soon relaxed. He touched his forehead. “I’m sorry about that,” he said. Ed frowned, forehead wrinkled.

“Um, are you sure you’re okay? We can stop for a bit,” the Savior offered.

Mortimer shook his head, though Ed didn’t miss the bead of sweat that trickled down his forehead. “No, really, it’s just a slight headache is all.” He glanced up. “And, I’d say the mansion’s quite close now. We should get there in a few minutes.” Without further words, he stepped forward, Ed following. Ivan narrowed his eyes, but kept moving forward as well.

Up ahead, the mansion drew closer, it’s shadow overtaking the path. Ed swallowed, a gust of wind rattling the trees as they stepped into the clearing, the gate looming ahead of them.

Last|Next