Chapter 1013 Elephant in the Room Part 1
"How is any of this your fault?" Friya hugged her, soon joined by Phloria who caressed Quylla's head and tried to calm her down enough to make sense. "You didn't call the undead here nor did you tell those idiots to ogle at me as if I'm just a piece of meat."
"Everything is my fault." Quylla replied. "I accepted that stupid ring back at the academy because I was jealous of Phoria and Lith. I killed Yurial and Mom almost died because I was too weak to fight the slave item.
"That day, I put you in front of an impossible decision that years later has ruined your career. If when I came to your house for the first time I refused being adopted, now you would be happy and I would have received the punishment I deserve.
"Mom should have given up on me and saved you from Deirus. Both at the academy and at Kulah, I failed to save anyone. I'm just a useless orphan. If it wasn't for me, you and Friya would be treated as the heroes you are.
"I don't deserve to be your sister." Quylla wailed in desperation, trying and failing to escape from the embrace of which she felt unworthy.
"And here I thought that Kortus was the biggest idiot in the camp." Phloria said. "You did nothing wrong. Quite the contrary, both here and at Kulah, you saved lots of lives, mine and Lith's included.
"Back at the academy, you had no idea your wannabe boyfriend had given you a slave ring. You were just one of the dozens of students that crazy bitch of Nalear turned into her puppets. What happened wasn't your fault but hers. Yurial was one of her main targets, just like Linjos.
"You attacked him only because Nalear ordered you to and Deirus knows it. His son, our friend, died in the attempt to prevent the outbreak of a civil war and with his actions, Velan Deirus is spitting on Yurial's sacrifice."
"Phloria is right." Friya said. "We all have read the diaries Yurial has left and we know how he felt about us. He wouldn't want you to blame yourself for what happened. As for Kulah, you were the true hero there.
"If you didn't stop the Mana Reactor, everyone would be dead now. We don't share any blood, but you are my sister since the day we met. I'd rather die than give up on you."
Friya lulled the sobbing Quylla in her arms, wishing that Jirni was really behind Balkor's return and that their mother would make all those responsible for her sisters' suffering pay tenfold for their actions.
Thousands of kilometers away, Jirni felt her ears burn and added a few lines to her masterplan.
"Quylla, life will always be unfair. Giving up on my job hurts, but it could go much worse." Phloria said. "I still have my magic, my family, and my whole life in front of me. You don't have to feel bad for something that even Mom and Dad couldn't stop.
"Now, since we are sharing everything, tell me the truth. Why did you break up with Anathor right after we entered Kulah?"
"He gifted me a ring." Quylla replied.
"That's a wrong move if I ever heard one." Friya said.
"It wasn't his fault, I never told him anything about my days at the academy because it was too painful. When he gave me the ring, I couldn't force myself to wear it or give him an explanation. After that, we just drifted apart until it was too late." Quylla had stopped crying, but Phloria refused to let go of her.
"Unhand me or I'll blow my nose on your sleeve."
"Be my guest. All Skinwalker armor are self-cleaning, little one." Phloria kissed Quylla's head and gave her a handkerchief.
"You know, back at the academy, I was always envious of your figure, Friya. Now, instead, I'm relieved I'm not the one forced to dress like a sack of potatoes to not be bothered every time I step outside the house."
Quylla still sniffled, but between the embrace and finally finding the strength to express her fears out loud, she realized how nonsensical they were. She still felt guilty, but Mogar had stopped resting on her shoulders.
"How nice of you!" Friya chuckled while ruffling Quylla's hair.
After the gloomy mood in the tent was gone, the three young women dined together, talking about all the good times they had shared during their time at the White Griffon until they fell asleep.
The following day, the Prospectors had joined hands with the army mages to create a first line of fortifications around the camp. The barrier that the Crystal Shield guild had erected during the first day was now several times bigger and stronger.
"What are your orders for today, Sir?" Captain Kortus had been forced to stay up all night to make sure that everything went according to Phloria's plan.
He didn't know whether to hate more the fact that she had managed to anticipate the moves of the undead or that he couldn't find a single flaw in her countermeasure plan.
"Same as yesterday. We need to find the crystal veins, if there are any, and understand what the undead were doing here. Maybe there are no mines and we stumbled into one of their secret bases.
"It would not make the Kingdom richer but it could deal a huge blow to their plans. Split the soldiers in three teams. One composed of elite units and Prospectors to search the mines, another of scouts to find all traces the undead might have left, and a third to keep watch.
"We can't fall twice for the same trick. If the Ghouls return, we have to regroup quickly and strike as one." Phloria said. "Captain Kortus, I'll leave you in charge of the camp while I explore the caves.
"If anything happens, call me and I'll Warp here. Are we clear?"
"Sir, yes, sir." Kortus almost bit his tongue to keep the edge out of his voice.
'How dare she treat me like a strawman even though we hold the same rank? Ernas is basically saying she doesn't trust me to do anything but keep watch. I don't know how, but I'll make her pay.' He thought.
Sfarzen was walking around the Ernas's tent, trying to find a way to make up for his blunder. The problem was that each speech he rehearsed sounded worse than the last.
"What are you doing here?" Friya was wearing an ample deep red Mage robe that covered from sight anything but her hands, head, and feet. "I thought I made myself clear yesterday, so unless invisible enemies are surrounding us, we've got nothing to talk about."
"Look, I know I've acted like an idiot yesterday…"
"Well, at least we agree on something." She cut him short and tried to leave, but he stepped in front of her with his hands raised in a plea for a minute of her time.
"…and I know this is sudden, but I'm in love with you. All I'm asking you is to give me a chance. One single date. After that, if you're not interested, you'll never hear from me again" Sfarzen said.