The plan was simple. We were supposed to ambush Bahr in the docks of Luke. Not only was it going to be the most overt operation Ginah’s Crew was going to carry out thus far, but it was also going to be the most dangerous.
Bahr was apparently a powerful spellcaster from the Dark Crusaders— an Apostle. He was even more powerful than all previous Dark Acolytes I had met, as they were only Disciples. I should have been nervous; I thought I would be nervous. And yet, I was surprisingly calm.
The stage had already been set. The deal had already been struck. There was no backing away now that I was here. Even Braz’s words from a week ago barely hung in the back of my mind, for I knew what I was doing here was right.
The Elise was expecting a shipment of the enuim to be coming in tonight; we had been destroying all their alchemy labs, preventing them from producing more within the city, thus forcing them to rely only on an outside supply. So we had set a trap.
Ginah, Jack, Elda, Gennady, and some of Ginah’s Crew were to intercept that shipment before it reached the city. They would hijack it just beyond the docks, forcing whatever ships and men Bahr had with him to come to its aid. But that was only the bait.
Myself, Kai, Braz, and the remaining elite pirates were to sneak into the city before twilight, waiting in a safehouse Lisa had prearranged for us; she had a meeting with one of her last few available contacts just the other day, setting this up for us. I wasn’t sure whether I trusted her, but I had no reason not to.
All I had to do was keep an eye on her now. I would have preferred if Gennady went with me, but a Dwarf in a city of mostly Humans was rather conspicuous. So he wasn’t able to participate in this part of the plan.
I had worked without him plenty of times before in the past few weeks, and I had gotten accustomed to fighting alongside Kai. While I had thought he was distrustful of me the entire time, it seemed my assessment was incorrect: he trusted me. He believed I could take care of myself, and he even assigned me with one of the most important roles in the mission.
“You’re our only spellcaster,” he said, back during our planning session. “We want you to stay at the back. Attack him from afar to draw his attention as we take out any stragglers that’s left behind him.”
“And what happens if he zeroes in on me?” I asked, folding my arms.
“Don’t worry. Braz and a few others will stay behind with you.” He gestured over at the grinning man, who shot me a thumbs up. I shifted uncomfortably, remembering his vague admission of guilt from the other day, but did not protest.
Ginah nodded. “We’ll already have him distracted by taking over his shipment of enuim by then. Maybe you could even take him out by surprise.”
I don’t think it’ll be that easy, I thought, but did not voice my thoughts. She continued.
“Once he sends his entourage out on boats to deal with us, you will begin your attack. It doesn’t matter if Melas kills him or not— because you’ll have him surrounded by the time his men would even realize what’s going on to turn back. And if anything goes wrong, you can always return to the safehouse…”
But that was a few days ago. Now, we were entering the city of Luke; taking a boat had become dangerous, as the Elise probably would have had the docks secured for tonight, so we were going by land.
I poked my head out of the wagon, glancing around to see how far we were from the walls. It was still a distance away— about a few miles out. I slowly turned around to take in the view of the sea for just a moment, before inhaling a sharp breath.
“That’s… The Lightbringer’s Vessel!”
“It is,” Kai said, still facing forward in the driver’s seat.
The single masted ship, which barely needed the aid of wind power, was sailing along the coast of Luke. It did not approach the docks, but it hovered dangerously around the vicinity of it— like a fly zipping around a rotten fruit before going in for a bite.
My mind instantly went to the worst case scenario as I looked over at Kai. “Did someone betray us?” I asked hurriedly. “Who—”
“Calm down, Melas.” He craned his neck slightly, and gave me a sidelong glance. “If that were the case, they’d have attacked us straight out of the cove. But they didn’t. So the presence of The Lightbringer’s Vessel is likely a precaution. It’s not an unexpected move from the Elise considering that we’ve been hitting them hard for the past few weeks.”
“R-right.” I felt the panic subside a bit, even going as far as to feel a little stupid for the way I reacted. After having calmed myself, I asked the next important question in my mind. “What about Ginah?”
“What about her?”
“This might ruin her part of the plan. If The Lightbringer’s Vessel is there, they might intervene before Ginah even reaches the enuim shipment. What then?”
Kai turned back to the front, no longer meeting my gaze, before answering my question.
“We’ll just have to trust that she can handle it.”
When we arrived in Luke, we headed straight for the northwestern section of the city where the safehouse was. There were no patrols of guards around anywhere in the area. The guard Captain in charge of the area had apparently been bribed by the Elise to halt patrols for the night. And perhaps some rumors and word of mouth kept people in their homes. So the streets were eerily empty, even at this time of day.
And it was day. I had no pocket watch, but Kai had one, and it was only an hour past noon. We were to get settled and wait until midnight, when the shipment was supposed to arrive.
It seemed like a long time of sitting about and doing nothing, however I saw it as an opportunity to perhaps mend any distrust I had with Lisa. She and I hadn’t spoken much over the weeks, and I genuinely wanted to trust her. I was not going to go into the conversation picking out anything to attack her with, and nor was I going to freely accept anything she said; I was trying to keep an open mind— not let my paranoia get the best of me.
“Melas?” Lisa cocked her head as I approached her in the dimly lit room. She was sitting on a wooden crate, freely swaying her legs with her hands to her sides, waiting for time to pass. She looked at me inquisitively as I stopped right in front of her.
“I—” I hesitated, realizing I wasn’t really sure what to say. Awkwardly standing there, I glanced about uncomfortably as my mind wandered between various topics to bring up. Finally, I sighed and decided to be as direct as possible rather than beating around the bush. “Why did you lie to me?”
“Lie to you?” She jumped out of her seat in surprise. “What do—”
“Last time,” I said, quickly cutting her off. “Why did you lie to me back then?”
Her face relaxed. “Oh. You’re talking about that.”
“Yes I am. What did you think I was talking about?”
“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “But I’ve seen your magic. I just don’t want to get on your bad side.”
Folding my arms, I tapped a finger impatiently as I stared at her. “So, why did you lie to me? It’s such an odd thing to lie about too. Why did you do it?”
Lisa glanced about nervously, her eyes darting around the room as if she was afraid someone was going to enter the room any moment and eavesdrop on the conversation. “I lied about… that,” she started, keeping her voice hushed, “because I was curious about you. I wanted to get you to lower your guard— find out whatever secret you were hiding.”
“You heard me right,” she said with less subtlety, now that we weren’t referencing her willingness to work with the Elise for the right price. “I handle all the technical aspects of my partnership with Jack. Well, me and Bruce— he was the one in charge of the ship. But he’s gone now.
“Logistics, information, and all those things that leads to a successful completion of a job were taken care of by the both of us. And when you came, showing off hundreds of gold while hiding underneath that mask? Of course all of us wanted to know more about you.”
I narrowed my eyes. “And that made you decide to speak all about yourself?”
“Yes. Lowering your own guard— admitting partial truths— is the best way to learn something from someone. It’s a give and take.”
“So you weren’t lying when you told me that you’d do any job for the right price?”
“As long as it isn’t detrimental to Jack and I, the answer is yes.”
I crossed my arms. “Why should I believe you haven’t gone behind our backs and taken a job from the Elise to betray us?” I asked, genuinely curious.
“Goddess grace us, no!” she said, putting up her hands defensively.
I stared at her, unbelieving. She hesitated, chewing her lower lip. I simply placed my hands on my hip, and she scratched her cheek slowly, eyeing my blade.
“T-they tried to recruit me— not the Elise. But one of my contacts within the Elise. But this was back at the very start! He didn’t think we had a chance, so he tried to get me to betray Ginah’s Crew.”
“Then what happened?” I stepped forward; I was not trying to be intimidating— I was curious, but she took it the wrong way and drew back.
“Nothing,” she admitted. “I mean, I told Jack and he didn’t like it. So we turned down the offer, and took care of all loose ends. Ginah— and Kai— should know about this. They just kept it quiet because they thought it was better for morale that way!”
Nodding, I took a step away from her to give her space. “I see.”
“I can promise you, I have not been bought by the Elise.”
Lisa looked at me pleadingly, and I just sighed.
“I don’t believe you.” The young woman took in a sharp breath, but I raised a finger. “But I have no reason not to trust you either. So stop being so worried. I’m not going to kill you or anything.”
“Oh, uh, thanks.” She gave me a weak smile.
I was satisfied with the answers— well, not satisfied, but content; I found little issues with what she said, and could even verify some of that information with Kai. I paused right at the doorway, deciding to ask one last question.
“By the way,’ I said, turning back around. “Why are you so nervous of me now?”
She was calmer— had been calmer— before I stopped to interrogate her one last time. Her smile slipped, although it remained on her face as she replied.
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t bother hiding it. You’re obviously way too jumpy around me.”
“Well, you know, it’s not really a thing I have against you personally. But it’s just that I have always found magic to be…”
“Off putting?” I raised an eyebrow.
“To put it lightly? Yes.” She brought up her arms helplessly. “I mean, I’m sure you have your beliefs and thoughts on the Goddess. I, personally, think She can be either the Goddess of Light or Dark. But magic is something the Demons did— and I don’t know, maybe it’s because of all the stories my parents would tell me about them when I was young to spook me into behaving, I have always found them to be a little scary.”
“It’s fine, Lisa,” I said reassuringly. “I honestly expected more people to have reviled my use of magic.”
“Revile is… a strong word. But I wouldn’t say it’s incorrect.” She looked up at me meekly. “And it’s not like spellcasters are the most unusual thing in the underground. Jack and I worked with these outlaws years ago that had a spellcaster as their boss. But they eventually clashed with Ginah’s Crew and… aren’t around anymore. And we get the occasional shipments of illicit books from some anonymous customers.”
I actually found myself smirking. “I didn’t expect you— smuggler and criminal— to be so devout to the Church.”
“I’m not devout or anything to the Church. Sure, I went to the temples every month on the day of the Illumination to pay my respects up until I was a teenager. But I stopped long before I even became a smuggler.”
“Why’d you stop going?”
Lisa shrugged. “Because they kept taking my money.”
I stared at her for a moment, before feeling my lips quirk up. I tried to hold it back, but I actually found myself laughing.
“Aren’t those donations?” I asked. “You could’ve continued going and not donated anything.”
“I know,” she said, rubbing her temples. “But then they’ll give you that look, and make you feel bad. I don’t like being judged for what I’m doing, Melas. That’s one thing I really like about my job— no one ever judges you!”
“Honestly Lisa, you’ll have to tell me why you even became a smuggler one day if it’s as entertaining a story as why you stopped praying to the Goddess.”
She looked like she was about to retort, but stopped herself. “It’s not that I don’t pray to Her Light. I just… do it less now than before.”
“I’m telling the truth!” She gave me a mock glare. After a moment, we both laughed for just a little bit.
I shook my head and finally started out of the door.
“And hey,” I added, before finally leaving the room. “At least you’re more relaxed around me again.”
Lisa nodded slowly, and smiled genuinely back at me. I turned around and walked away, leaving her alone.
And at least, I’m not so paranoid around you. Although that had been the norm for me up until now; I was trying to be better. Apparently Gennady’s pestering had finally started to affect me.
Of course, I went to Kai to confirm whether her story was true, and it turned out that it was. That did not vindicate her from anything she could possibly be doing covertly or could possibly do in the future, of course. But that meant she wasn’t lying about this.
We waited by the docks of the city as was planned. The streets were empty of all life. The crashing of the waves echoed in the distance, and a light, buzzing sound slowly came closer and closer.
It was a mana car.
It rode down the streets of Luke by itself. Its windows were tinted, and I could barely make out the figures within. Myself and Braz ducked further into the alley as it rode by us.
Honestly, I was slightly uncomfortable around the man, but we had worked together enough times that I could ignore those thoughts for now.
Lisa had stayed back at the safehouse, keeping watch, while Kai and the others were scattered around in wait. We knew who was in the car, but only when it finally stopped and the passengers exited did we fully confirm it.
A man stepped out, adjusting his suit and his hat. He had black hair and light blue skin, as well as a set of pointed ears. I stopped squinting as I confirmed it was him.
The Half Elf I had encountered briefly. Was it a chance of fate that I had met him at the beach before I got wrapped up in this whole ordeal? I remembered him trying to recruit me into some cause with some sort of story— if I had listened to him and gone with him then, what would have happened?
It was an odd thought. One which I highly doubted would have ever happened considering his trade. Yet I still wondered— perhaps because I was still wrestling with Braz’s comment that I was thoughtless— what was his story?
Doesn’t matter. He’s like Victor. He has to be stopped as soon as possible.
And more than just the pure morality of it: I had an incentive to finish things now. The sooner this was over and done with, the sooner I could get to the Taw Kingdom and hopefully finally find some peace and security in my tumultuous life.
Bahr was escorted by a group of a dozen men further into the pier, as a ship approached in the distance. More men were waiting for him out there, and he started discussing something with them.
I turned to Braz and he nodded. We both left the alley, finding ourselves a better vantage point where we could still remain hidden. I noticed a few other of the pirates moving around in the shadows. We had the docks surrounded.
We waited a minute. Then ten. And as the ship got closer and closer, suddenly another, smaller ship came out from the side. It assaulted the larger vessel, and its occupants began boarding it. Chaos broke out within the men waiting at the pier.
Bahr barked out some orders, and dozens of men hurriedly scrambled onto the few ships they could, rushing to their cargo’s aid. The Half Elf did not move of course. He just watched with six men by his side from where he was as the battle at sea continued.
Then it was time for us to act. Braz and I nodded, turning to a figure in the distance. Kai brought his rifle up, carefully aiming at our target. He aimed—
And shots came out from behind us. I whirled around as men poured out of a warehouse just next to the docks. A trap? Did Lisa—
My thoughts were interrupted as Braz pushed me aside from a stray bolt. He pulled me up, and steadied me.
“What do we do?” I asked the man, conjuring dozens of flaming arrows as I did. The projectiles landed amongst the oncoming men, bringing down only a small number of them, but impeding their movement greatly.
“Our job is to take out Bahr,” he said. “We’re surrounded. There’s no escape unless we force our way out. But then he’ll chase after us through the city. We have no choice.”
Then he turned back around and faced me.
“But that is myself and the rest of Ginah’s Crew. You have no reason to be here. I told you, didn’t I?”
I bit my lip, annoyed that he was bringing that up now. He was correct that I had no dog in this fight, but I was already here. And I did have something to gain from this. So I shook my head.
“Yes you did,” I said. “I thought about it, and I still came here. Because I still have something to gain. So don’t tell me to run away when I’m faced with a monster— I don’t do that anymore.”
Braz paused, inspecting my face, then he turned and shouted at Kai and the other pirates with us.
“Oi. We’ll be killing Bahr for you guys. Just hold them off!”
Kai nodded in our direction, signaling for us to go. He sent two pirates behind us as I started alongside Braz for the leader of the Elise. He was slowly coming at us from the edge of the pier, now halfway back towards us. I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye— a… ship.
The Lightbringer’s Vessel.
More backup. We had to act fast. We couldn’t waste anymore time on this. I brought out a hand, conjuring multiple Magic Missiles at once and sent it flying at the six men charging at us. They saw the attack coming, and simply leapt out of the way. Easily. Almost like Braz did when I had first met him.
I narrowed my eyes, and cast another spell. This time, they were more panicked as the Frost Javelin came at them. The projectile intercepted one of the men, killing him and pinning him to the floor of the pier.
They pulled out their own weapons. One man had a bow, and had just nocked an arrow with a glowing arrowhead onto it. He loosed it in my direction, forcing us to leap to the pier adjacent to ours.
It exploded, as expected. I prepared another spell to fire back, but Braz ran out in front of me. “You’re the only one who can beat Bahr.
These were skilled fighters too. Probably his bodyguards. They pressed Braz as I ran ahead. There was no time to waste here.
And there he was. The Half Elf I met when I first arrived in Luke. The Dark Acolyte who started the Elise. The one behind bringing the enuim to Laxis.
I approached Bahr, dagger already in hand; he narrowed his eyes as he watched me take each step. Finally, when I was a dozen paces away from him, he opened his mouth, his cool voice piercing through even the chaos in the background.
“Did you really think I wouldn’t have expected an attack? After you’ve oh-so-methodically taken out my supply of enuim within the city?” He shook his head. “All I had to do was set up an ambush. Offer your informants real bait, and prepare for an attack. It is that simple.”
I brought one hand behind my back, keeping my gaze one him. He seemed unbothered by my presence— he even recognized me from back when we met on the beach.
“I had known you were a spellcaster. A Half Goblin by herself, wandering about at night? It raised all the right flags,” he said. Shaking his head, he folded his arms across his chest. “But I did not anticipate you to join a group of motley pirates to oppose me. It’s—”
I did not bother to correct him; I brought both hands out, spell circles held out on each, and aimed them at Bahr. Two Fireballs shot out. The searing, red sphere flew like a comet through the night sky—
Then foliage of all kinds sprouted out of the ground in front of him. Tall oak trees grew alongside a lush, green shrubbery to form a thick wall between us. The Fireballs exploded, quickly spreading its flames across the miniature forest, yet never reaching Bahr.
I narrowed my eyes. Wood magic? And at such an advanced level too. He had to have been fully specialized in this field of spellcasting.
“It was a good attempt, but I can sense you tugging at the mana around you. I can feel it gathering at the palm of your hands. You’re inexperienced, aren’t you? Or maybe self taught. No one has taught you how to refine your control over magic. To make your spellcasting more subtle.”
The magical trees quickly withered away, and without anything to burn the flames from my Fireball snuffed out. The Half Elf simply stepped over where they once were, addressing me once again as I readied for another spell.
“Why do you insist on fighting?” he asked. “We could be allies. If you help me build up the Elise— take over the underground of all of Laxis— the Dark Crusaders will deem us too valuable to ignore. They will finally listen to me, and not just dismiss my plans. And I’m sure they can find a place for you too.”
This guy talks too much! The Stone Spears finished forming, and all three launched out at him. They were fast. It was one of my fastest long ranged spells. It covered the distance between us in an instant, yet all Bahr did was put up a hand.
The wooden planks of the pier rose up into a pillar, one for each Stone Spear, intercepting the projectiles, splintering as it did. As that happened, half a dozen thin spikes made of wood formed next to him. My eyes widened at how fast he cast the spell, before he sent them sailing in my direction.
“Strong. But too basic.”
I dashed away from the projectiles. Each one was about half as long as my body, but they were clearly sharp. I didn’t want to be skewered by them. It landed on the floor of the pier, puncturing a hole into it— and brambles shot out around the wooden spikes, jutting out dangerously.
“These Wooden Spikes may seem weak at first, but even this little of them are more powerful than any Fireball.”
If one of those had even come close to touching my feet, I would have died! Or at least, been severely injured. But I couldn’t stop to consider what might have happened as he summoned more of those Wooden Spikes out of thin air.
I ran laterally around the man, staying a distance away from his wooden spikes before they shot out. I saw the first spike move, and I jumped. From my pier to the next. The Wooden Spikes barely missed me, sinking into the sea floor far away from me instead.
“Ah, but the control over them is even less than a Stone Spear. They are too wild. Just like nature is supposed to be.”
Can you stop talking? I was already pointing one finger at Bahr when my foot touched the ground once more. I flicked my other hand, sending a Wind Blade in his direction.
He flipped out of the way of the Burst Cyclone, unaided by any spell; he sailed through the air almost majestically, landing on his own two feet lithely like a cat. He turned around, but I was running at him again. But this time, I had by my side half a dozen glowing orbs. Then a dozen.
Explosive Orbs, the most I had ever cast at once, surrounded me.
This was more powerful than even two Fireballs. This was probably equal to six of them all at once. Some of them were pre-cast, and others weren’t. I sent them flying in his direction as he dodged out of the way from the first wave.
He pointed a finger, dispelling some of the second wave, but failed to do the same for the third. Bahr once again evaded the onslaught, before leaping between the piers to avoid the rest. The last of the Explosive Orbs came at him as he stopped right in front of me. He dispelled them, as I tried to fight back but failed.
He was strong. I had known he would be strong. But dispelling my magic even when I fully concentrated? That shocked me. And worse…
The Lightbringer’s Vessel was coming! We were going to lose. Kai and Braz were busy holding off the thugs at our backs. And everyone who went with me was dead. I had to do this.
I had to beat Bahr, if not this was all for naught.
“You know,” he said, shaking his head. His back was facing the ship. His full focus was on me. “Your mastery of magic is one to be admired. But it’s clearly inexperienced. Scattered. You use consecutive spells that would never complement each other. And you rely too much on brute force.”
Why was he trying to give me advice? I wanted to question him, but I didn’t reply; there was no time for it. I tugged at the mana in the air. I felt an invisible hand appear right next to a stack of wooden boxes.
I held another spell at the ready as the Half Elf continued his monologue. “I was like that too, once. When I was still in Ghab-Ha.
“I learned magic because those foolish Humans rejected me. They rejected me for who I was, so I rejected their worldview. They forged a false treaty, pretending that our alliance made us equals. But that was never the case. They saw us as inferior. Their Great Hero wed our Princess, but never cared for our country. And when that foolish woman became Queen, she allowed us to lose our power— lose our place in the world.
“Is it not ridiculous that she teaches us to respect Humans, but doesn’t do anything when they walk all over us with their dirty feet? Even when her daughter— the child of Xander himself— is treated as less than a Lord by the Duke’s and Baron’s of the Holy Xan Empire, she says nothing. I will not allow such disgrace to continue any longer—”
I knocked over the box, toppling the entire stack down onto the ground. It landed with a crash, and Bahr turned to look at the source of the noise. I brought my other arm up, saying the name of the spell and casting it at haste.
A flash of light illuminated the sky, and a white beam came down from the heavens itself; it struck true and fast, falling down onto the Apostle. He couldn’t dodge. There was no time to dodge. This was a powerful spell that could kill even a Horned Viper. He was—
I stared in shock as Bahr simply stood in front of me, completely unharmed. He was surrounded by a sphere of darkened wood, protecting him from the spell. The Lightning Strike barely left a singe on the wood, only the trail of gray smoke indicated the attack even happened.
“Wooden Shell. It’s a powerful spell. The strongest defensive spell I know— only a Grand Fireball could possibly crack it. Perhaps if you had actually caught me off guard, I wouldn’t have cast it in time— but alas, while that simple Levitation spell manipulated too little mana for me to sense, the same can’t be said for a Lightning Strike. Especially not when quick casting it as you did.”
I took a step back as he slowly approached me; I was not completely out of ideas just yet, but it was clear— he was better than me. He was more experienced in fighting with magic, and he had a wider repertoire of powerful spells than me. Was this the difference between an Apostle and a Disciple?
Victor was talented, but he still lacked experience. That Goblin Dark Acolyte was more experienced, but lacked the talent Victor had. But Bahr? He had the skill set of both, and even more.
I warily drew my dagger, realizing that I was going to be pushed to the very brink in this fight; killing him was possible, but highly unlikely. I just had to distract him until the others came to my aid. But… were they even going to come?
I could only put my faith on them to come here in time. If they were too late, I would be skewered and killed by those deadly Wood Spikes. I couldn’t just put my trust on them, could I? The smart thing to do now was run— escape with my life instead of sacrificing myself like an idiot.
And suddenly, I found myself battling with indecision as my death edged closer and closer to me; this was not the time. I had to act now. If not, he would kill me!
Bahr brought a hand up, and I tensed. But he simply smiled.
“This is my last offer to you, Miss,” he said softly. He met my gaze, opening his palms up towards the sky. “Come with me. Join us— the Dark Crusaders. We don’t have to be enemies. It would be a waste to kill someone as gifted as you.”
Biting my tongue, I caught myself from rebuking his offer. This was a chance. Perhaps I could delay him by talking to him. If I could do that, maybe Braz and Kai would arrive, and we would stand a chance together.
And then, The Lightbringer’s Vessel arrived. It stopped right next to us, finally drawing Bahr’s attention. I had expected him to smile. To grin triumphantly and demand me to give in. But instead, his gaze snapped to it in surprise.
“What?” The Half Elf stared aghast. He turned back to me, face contorting. “So you were the ones who got them to betray me.”
I paused, cocking my head. “Betray you? What are you talking about?”
He angrily jabbed a finger in my direction, a spell circle already forming on his other hand as he raised it above his head.
“You— I wanted to spare you. But I have no choice now to kill you!”
I backed up, prepared to flee. To escape, calling it a loss. But a voice interrupted me. A laid back, high pitched voice.
“Kill her? I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do that.”
A figure stepped out onto the deck of the ship. It was a young woman with light blue hair and piercing green eyes. She was maybe in her mid to late 20’s. She wore a mix of robes and light travel gear, with mana crystals of all colors and sizes emblazoned on her clothing.
Bahr’s eyes widened, and a name left his mouth. It wasn’t a name I recognized, but there was a title attached to it. One that I knew. One that I feared.
She smiled happily in my direction, as I realized that the Church had finally caught up to me.
“I’ve spent all that time trying to find you, Aria. And I’d prefer if you didn’t die now that we have finally met.”
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