Chapter 2. Unexpected Obstacles.
Sunday, February 27st.
Park Bench. 1:24 pm.
It's a trial is what it is!
I was told before I left the temple that the outside world was full of temptations that could pull even the most virtuous dragon from the path of right, but I suppose I never paid too much attention… I just thought… how bad could it really be?
It turns out quite bad.
…I guess that makes it sound worse than it actually is. The outside world isn't really tempting in a blatantly sinful, debaucheries on every corner kind of way. That would have been easy to resist. It's tempting in a more down to earth, subtle, paradoxically harder to resist kind of way.
Human culture is just… so full of distractions!
I mean, really! Parkways, theatres, music, sporting events, restaurants that sell every kind of food imaginable (and unimaginable), and everywhere it's stores, stores, stores! How do humans ever manage to get anything important done with so many distractions all around?
I have to admit that I'm practically dying to check these things out just because, well, there isn't anything like this back at the temple. But I just… can't. I mean, okay, I probably have time for a little recreation. I've covered a lot of ground by flying all morning and I should be in Zephilia very soon—plenty of time to rest up before hitting the road again, and therefore plenty of time to poke my head in a few shops, but… on my salary, I don't think I can really justify it. I mean, my stipend is enough to feed me and pay for lodging all the way to Zephilia, and I'm sure that stipend will be increased when I take Miss Luna on the journey back, but I'm really not supposed to be spending that money on anything else.
Can you just picture the look the rest of the elders would give me if I threw all my money away in… in an antique shop or something like that? They'd probably call it "predictably foolish feminine behavior" or something like that.
…Which is really unfair. I've been sitting here for the last fifteen minutes and I've seen plenty of men going in and out of shops. It's not as though consumerism is an exclusively female thing or anything.
And they all have to wear clothes. …That's one of the things I think humans really have right. There are so many different statements you can make with the right clothes. You put something on and it's like you mark yourself apart from everyone else. And ever since traveling outside the temple I've seen so many different varieties of clothes, and some of the styles are just absolutely beautiful.
It's not the same in dragon form, you know. I mean, I try. I'm never without my pink bow. Some of the other dragons sneer at it, but I like it. It's nice to be a little bit different.
…You just can't do too much more than that in full dragon form, though. First off, it takes so much more fabric, and secondly, it just doesn't look as good. Clothes are designed with the human form in mind, and that transfer just doesn't work very well to dragon form. I suppose it's because with humans it's so much more necessary to… well, cover up.
But I'm in my human form now and I'll have plenty of chance to enjoy clothes while I'm on this trip.
…Except for the fact that I just have several pairs of the same old dress and priestess robes.
There's a clothing store just across the street from here.
It's staring at me.
I'm hoping that writing in here will keep me from succumbing to unauthorized spending. After all, this journal is the closest thing I have to a dragon confidant to keep me on the straight and narrow. My seat-mate certainly isn't helping me resist, but that's probably because it's my mace.
It's amazing how people don't want to sit next to you when a spiky, iron weapon is saving the spot.
The weird looks it's getting me are really starting to get annoying, and it's just kind of cumbersome to carry around all day even if it's no problem for me to lift. I thought about making some kind of hip holster for it out of leather—like you might see with swords. But that won't stop people from raising their eyebrows and wondering why a girl my size is able to lift something like that. It's a necessary evil, though. Sadly, a mace just isn't meant to be a concealed weapon.
I just thought of something. I may not want to actually spend money on clothes I don't need, but there shouldn't be any harm in just… browsing, right? I mean, I don't have to actually buy anything and I'm just resting here anyway, so I might as well entertain myself before I get back on my way.
In fact… hanging around a human store would probably help me a great deal. I could observe human fashion, so I can blend in better while I'm out here. I mean, you never know when something innocuous like clothing conventions could come up in conversation and I'd look very out of place if I didn't know such baseline things about the culture. After all, I wouldn't want to blow my cover by not knowing all about covers! Ha! Ahaha! …Eh…
Anyway, this wouldn't be a shopping expedition; when you get right down to it, it's research. And I'm supposed to be doing that on this trip, right? Right.
…I wonder if they let you try things on without buying them?
Patrelga's Apparel. 2:35 pm.
Oooh, this was a bad idea. It's easy to say you're just going to browse when you're outside a shop, but when you're actually inside, looking at what you want, when the dress is actually on you and it fits so well and it looks so nice… well, that isn't so easy.
I'm trying very hard to remember everything I wrote before I came in here about what a bad idea it would be to start buying things now, because now that I'm in the store I know that it could be a very slippery slope, but…
…don't I deserve a little something nice?
…That kind of thinking isn't helping.
I've retreated to the intimates section (it's what they call women's underwear. For some reason they just call men's underwear 'men's underwear.' I suppose this is just another aspect of human culture that I do not yet fully understand) in the hopes that my purchasing temptations would die down here. After all, surely unlike the other sections of the store with their bright, colorful, beruffled merchandise, the underwear section had to be more subdued and plain.
I was wrong. Even here, everything comes in every color of the rainbow with ribbons and ruffles and even sequins! In fact, most of the stuff here is more attention grabbing than the outerwear, and I don't see how that makes sense in the least. The delicates here were obviously crafted with a great deal of skill and must've taken a long time to make—as is reflected in the gigantic price tag. Why would humans spend that much money and put that much thought into the design of clothing that won't even be seen by anyone but the person wearing it?
It's yet another mystery of human thought and, even if I haven't solved it yet, discovering it surely justifies this window shopping expedition, however surprisingly challenging it may have turned out to be on the spending front.
…Perhaps the humans just want to wear something pretty for the sake of it? I mean, even if no one else knows that they're wearing very expensive and elaborately designed underwear, that doesn't change the fact that the person wearing them knows, and might feel a self-esteem boost because of it.
…It still seems overkill for such a small reward though.
…I hear groaning. Either this store is haunted, or someone's trying to pick up my mace.
The nice thing about my mace is that I can leave it pretty much anywhere and be guaranteed that no one will steal it. Hardly anyone can even lift it, and those who can aren't going to make a fast getaway. Still, I wish I had a better way of dealing with it then just tossing it around. It would be nice to have it on hand all the time in case trouble pops up—that's what I brought it for, after all.
I better go get it before whoever's trying to lift it sprains something. I should probably get going anyway… it's not like I can spend all day staring at garter belts.
Junewell Lodge. 5:00 pm.
Alright, so I bought something. But really, it's completely justifiable and I couldn't be happier with the decision, so I'm not about to languish guiltily about it. As soon as I saw those garter belts and thought of my mace something just clicked in my mind. With a little ingenuity and perhaps an attachment from a belt it would make the perfect holster for my mace. Not only would it be out of my hands, yet within reach whenever I needed it, but it would be hidden from view!
I've already sewn up the completed product and I'm proud to say that it's just about the cutest, frilliest weapon holster a girl could hope for. Well worth the money.
…And yes, okay, perhaps the garter belt and the regular belt were the only items that I need to buy, but the garter belt came in a set that was really a good price for what I was getting. And it matches! It's always nice to have things match. And perhaps I'll find out firsthand why humans put such pageantry into things that no one else will see. The material is certainly quite fine, and the clerk who rung me up agreed that I'd made a very good choice.
...Though she also asked me if I had plans with a special someone tonight; which struck me as strange… I wonder what she meant by that?
Oh no! She didn't think…? Oh dear… oh dear, dear, dear!
These… these kinds of clothes aren't meant for just the person wearing them to enjoy are they?
Oh my gosh. How could I have been so stupid?! She must've thought I was some kind of… some kind woman of easy virtue or something!
No, no no. This is not my fault! The world of human fashion is treacherous! This was not the statement I was trying to make!
I don't care—I'm keeping the garter belt!
Wednesday, February 29th.
Zephilia. Mimi's Diner. 10:15 am.
I've finally made it to Zephilia and I'm trying my very best to locate Miss Luna Inverse (and, you know, leave the unfortunate lingerie misunderstanding behind me). I asked around to see if anyone knew where she was and everyone said that she works at this diner. …Doesn't that seem kind of… odd?
I mean, what kind of job is waitressing for a Knight of Ceifeed? I suppose I could see a knight deciding to stay in a town like this instead of being part of a royal guard or traveling—it's very admirable, after all, to want to protect one's hometown, but… weren't there any other options? I suppose something has to pay the bills between fighting off bandits, beasts, and demons but… waitressing? Really? And they have to wear such undignified uniforms here too… though I suppose the hat is rather cute.
At least this probably means that the Knight will be easy enough to persuade to come along. After all, if she's bored enough to take a job like this, that probably means she's just about dying to get a chance to use her powers on something worthwhile.
…But first I have to find her. The waitress who served me said Miss Luna wasn't in today, so I suppose I can either come back tomorrow or see if I can find her address.
At least the trip here wasn't a total loss. This is the first place I've found since I crossed the barrier line where they serve blue archard tea. I mean, it's not that hard to make, but I guess it's pretty much an exclusively Outer World flavor and most people out here haven't even heard of it.
Mmmm. It smells heavenly.
…Wait a minute. I… I didn't even order this. How did she know I was from the…?
Where did that waitress go?
Thursday, March 1st.
Porch of Inverse Family Home. 12:59 pm.
There's no doubt about it—yesterday's disappearing mystery waitress was Miss Luna. The descriptions the townspeople gave me all matched. She must've realized I was from the Outer World… why else would she give me the tea? Did she figure out that I'm a golden dragon? …Why didn't she tell me who she was? Why did she disappear?
I don't know, but I'm going to find out. I've tracked down the shop her father owns, which is attached to their home. If she's not at the diner then she's probably here, and if she's not here now, she'll probably come back. All I have to do is wait.
…I'm just a little bit unsure about all of this now, though… there's got to be something wrong. Why else would she avoid me? We've never even met!
And… well, the townsfolk had a lot to say about her, though most of it wasn't very helpful. One man I talked to asked me if I knew what 'danger quotient' meant, and when I asked what he was talking about he just laughed this really bitter, dark laugh. And everyone everyone wanted to tell me about how she supposedly killed a Plasma Dragon with a kitchen knife.
Which, and I'm quoting a villager here, "was actually quite good with ketchup."
…I'm not at all comfortable with this.
But that doesn't matter right now! I'm going through with this anyway. I'm sure that if I can just talk to Miss Luna we can sort everything out and once she realizes what's at stake here, she'll be more than happy to lend her powers in the fight against destruction.
I'm going to go in right now and talk to her!
Next to Mailbox of Inverse Family Home. 1:36 pm.
…Well, that could've gone better.
First of all, Miss Luna wasn't there—or at least that's what her father claimed. I told him that I had some business to discuss with his daughter and he said she was working. I asked him if it was alright if I waited for her to come home, since I really did need to talk to her. Mister Inverse told me that the floor was for customers and suggested that if I wasn't one that I should get off of it.
I have no idea what I've done to earn such unnecessarily rude treatment from these people. Can't any of them appreciate that this is all to save the world? What's a little minor inconvenience compared to that?
Well, I'm torn. I guess I could go down to the diner and try to talk to her, but she's already dodged me there before. …I guess I should just wait here until her shift ends and she comes home. If she wants to go inside then she'll have to get past me and then I'll finally be able to say my piece to her.
So it's settled. I'll just wait for her to come back.
From here I can make out the backyard of the house, surrounded by a chain-link fence. What I thought was just a huge pile of grass in front of the dog house appears to have woken up.
Why does Miss Luna own a giant green dog?
…Is that even a dog?
…It's sitting up in a very un-doglike way. Like, with its legs crossed and everything. There's no way a dog could do that.
It's getting so cold out and there's nothing to do but play cat's cradle. I'm glad I brought my bag with preserved food or I'd have missed dinner.
…I suppose I could always go and check out the creepy not-a-dog, but…
No-ooo, I think I'll stay right here, thank you.
Friday, March 2nd.
Next to Mailbox of Inverse Family Home. 2:15 am.
I don't know why the Supreme Elder trusted me with this. The other elders were right; I'm just… how can I be of any help at all when I can't even convince someone that the world is worth saving?
What's left now? I… I guess I could scrape together some mercenaries, but how could they possibly stand up against the threat the prophecy mentioned? Miss Luna was my best bet and that…
Why? Why can't I do anything at all to stop this? …And how will I tell the Supreme Elder that I failed?
No. I won't accept this! I said I'd stay and stay I will! She won't get rid of me that easily. It's her duty to represent the human race and it's my duty to make her understand how important that is.
I won't be beaten. Not by this. Not after coming this far and with so many people counting on me!
I'm tired, I'm sore from standing here all day, and I'm disappointed, but I've stopped crying and before I go to sleep I'm going to record what happened.
I knew Miss Luna had finally come home when the green dog-thing started barking (Or… actually it was just going "Woof! Woof! Yip!" …There's something very wrong there that I just don't have time to examine. It's probably better that way) and sure enough I looked down the road and saw the same waitress that had ditched me approaching. She stopped when she saw me.
And then she just… walked past me and greeted the dog. Saying, "Did you miss me, Spot?" and such.
Well, I hadn't waited all that time just to be ignored. I said in my most authoritative voice: "Miss Luna, I have something very important to discuss with you!"
She didn't even turn around to look at me, but she did say: "The golden dragon from before? You don't give up easily."
I stuck out my chin and walked up to her, trying to achieve some eye-contact. This was difficult because of her long bangs. But I looked her straight in the approximately-where-I-thought-her-eyes-were and said: "Miss Luna, I come to you with grave news. A prophecy has been uncovered which foretells terrible destruction, and a human savior—with a power born of the struggle between light and darkness—is the only thing that can save the world from the darkness that will flood it."
I was hoping for an "Oh, well, that's different. I thought you were asking for a donation for the temple or something. Well, in that case I'd be happy to help!" but Miss Luna said nothing.
"Miss Luna," I said, trying to give her a little nudge in the right direction, "I believe that you are that human savior. Won't you lend your mighty power as a Knight of Ceifeed in the fight against the darkness?"
She tilted her head to the side like she was thinking about it. Then, after a torturously long amount of time she replied: "Sorry, I'm busy."
Needless to say, my jaw was nearly on the floor. "Busy?" I managed to choke out. "What could be more important than saving the world?"
"My schedule is fixed through May," she explained. "I could negotiate for a change in schedule after that, but I still won't have enough time for your apocalypse even if I used up my sick day."
"I…" I was barely coherent at this point. It still makes no sense even looking back over the conversation. "You're saying you won't save the world… because you're going to be too busy waiting tables?"
She nodded at me as though there was nothing ridiculous at all in that statement.
I clutched my head, trying to inject logic into the logic-less scenario. "Couldn't you just… leave?" I asked. "Is your part-time job really worth more to you then the entire world?"
"If I leave, I'll lose my job," she said curtly, ignoring my second question, "and my paycheck."
I grappled around desperately for a way around this. "There is a reward," I told her hopefully.
She gave a smile that seemed to indicate her doubts about the worth of the reward. What she said was: "Yes, but that's a one time thing. Can you guarantee me job security?"
I couldn't think of what to say. I somehow doubt we need a permanent human hero on call, and even still I don't think I'm authorized to make a long-term decision like that.
"No?" Luna said when I didn't answer. "What about health insurance? Dental? No, you wouldn't provide that," she answered herself. "Dragons grow a new set of teeth every fifty years, don't they? If only it was that easy for the rest of us."
"Are," I began, possibly-maybe tearing up a little at this point, "are you saying you won't save countless innocent lives because you've got a job with better benefits?"
She patted my shoulder. "Don't take it too personally, Miss uh…"
"Filia," I spat, too miserable to be properly furious.
"Filia," she repeated, backing away toward the house. "I'm sure you'll find someone else to fill the position."
I was too stunned to move for a minute. She was at the door before I said: "Wait!"
She waited, and as a result I was forced to think of something to say. "I'm not leaving," I said, voice wobbling only slightly, "until you agree to do this."
She seemed completely unaffected by my determined declaration. The last thing I heard before the door closed was: "Don't bother Spot—he needs his beauty rest."
And that was it!
This is absolutely insane and I don't buy for one minute that she really won't agree to save the world because of a petty scheduling conflict. That's so obviously just an excuse to get out of it. How can a Knight of Ceifeed behave this way when people need her?
I'm not giving up though. I meant what I said and I'm not leaving this spot until she does her duty and gives in!
…Though… this is probably going to be a terrible place to sleep.
There are dirt-clumps in my hair and I feel miserable all over. I woke up when someone (I think Miss Luna's mother?) took out the trash. She gave me a look but didn't say anything.
She's walking that Spot-thing. I swear, it must be nearly twice as tall as Miss Luna, yet she's walking it like it's a dog.
Nothing is right here!
Saturday, March 3rd.
This isn't working! She just walks right past me and no matter what I tell her it doesn't seem to make a difference. I've told her the whole prophecy and about how it somehow relates to the pillar of light (which is easy to see from here and should be taken as evidence that I'm not lying). I've told her how the Supreme Elder is counting on me, but nothing moves her.
She seems to spend all her time either working at the diner, helping out at the family business, and taking care of… the Spot-thing.
Maybe this is really about needing someone around to take care of her family and her "dog?" If so, then why couldn't she just say that?
Sunday, March 4th.
Oh for heaven's sake! How much longer is she going to hold out? I only have so much preserved food with me and before too long the elders back at the temple will be wondering what the hold up is!
Neighborhood kids keep poking me with sticks…
But this is all for the peace of the world! I can't walk away even in the face of adversity.
Monday, March 5th.
Zephiline Inn. 10:43 pm.
…I'm not sure if I lost… or if I got a lucky reprieve.
Miss Luna came back from work this evening and, well, let me tell you, after camping out on her lawn for days in a row, I was in no mood to be polite. I was about to tell her just how selfish she was being by refusing her duty when… she handed me a letter.
"Have you ever heard of a Lina Inverse?" she asked.
I just kind of blinked for a moment before muttering that I thought I had—I think she had a page in Miss Luna's file.
"My little sister," she explained. "She can fill in as the chosen one."
I sputtered. "B-but what about you? You can't just pick any random person to do this job! It's going to take someone unusually powerful!"
"Check up on her," Luna said. "Test her if you want. It's not just her—she's known for picking up traveling companions. Together they might just be enough."
It seemed like a lot to risk to me. The prophecy didn't say what the destructive force was, and there's a very real possibility that it could pick off weaker humans even if there were more of them. "Couldn't you just—" I tried again.
"There's something you should know," she cut across me. "The power between light and darkness… the power your prophecy talks about… is not the same as the power of Ceifeed. Even if I wasn't… busy, I couldn't help you."
My heart sank. I guess… I guess that's the real reason why she wouldn't do it. I chose wrong.
"My sister's the one you want," Luna said, shrugging her shoulders so her neatly cropped maroon hair billowed slightly. "Her and her friends. You should know that they did beat the Hellmaster."
That did ring a bell. Yes… I did read about a Lina Inverse doing that, though according to the file it wasn't on her own power. It was… that power. That didn't sit right with me. Even if she was strong, someone who'd use a spell to destroy the world… well, how well could they protect it from destruction?
Still… beating Hellmaster is something major. The most major thing that's happened in awhile.
'The power between light and darkness...' Well, maybe it's more darkness then I wanted, but maybe it'll do…
"What if she says no?" I asked. Call me crazy, but I'd already experienced enough of the Inverse clan's stubbornness. I didn't want to go through this again.
"She won't," Miss Luna said confidently, nodding to the letter she'd past me. "Give her that and she'll agree. If she doesn't…" The moonlight caught a glint of her eyes behind the hair that covered them, "…then I'm afraid I'll have to punish her."
I stared at her. "…Really?"
"Oh, yes," she answered. "After all, it's an older sister's job to keep her younger sister in line."
…And that… was pretty much that. I've been refused but… well, I do have another candidate now. I suppose Luna was more or less a lost cause from our first meeting, and it's really no wonder she said no if her power isn't the one mentioned in the prophecy (though, uh, she really could've told me that from the start). She even secured a replacement, which honestly is my job and not hers. Also she gave me a muffin before sending me on my way. So perhaps she's not so bad. Just… eccentric? …Or insane?
…Or maybe I look like the insane one for camping out on her lawn.
Anyway, I'll have to research Lina Inverse and her companions tomorrow. Who knows? Maybe this really is the better choice.
…But that's for tomorrow. Tonight I'm going to sleep in a real bed again!