Three

Even before the sun had risen, the humidity of the air carried a pleasant and nostalgic warmth. Yun stood at the counter of a coffee stand, bags huddled in a pile below. In front of her was a small ceramic cup filled with coffee that she held precariously by its one-finger handle, taking small, careful sips until it cooled enough to drink properly. 

She could hear the approaching of someone clad in armor behind her and turned to see a simple metal breastplate, worn and scratched but clearly taken care of. The woman wearing it was fairly tall, not older than her early twenties, only a couple years younger than herself, and her hair cut a neat, angled line halfway down her neck, the back retreating up, sharp enough to make Yun reconsider her own shoddy cut. Her skin was fair, but the color of her hair was even fairer, wavering between a sheer, snowy white and a hazy sky blue. There was something to her more than her straightforward appearance betrayed, but Yun couldn’t quite place it. 

“My name is Adelaide. You’re the witch recommended by Miss Tsukimi, yes?” She stuck an armored hand out, which Yun shook, finding her grip to be altogether too enthusiastic for how early it was in the morning. 

“I’m Yun.” She looked at her thread, noting how it seemed well-coiled and sufficiently taught, wrapped around her waist like a belt, but oddly knotted and seemingly snaking far out of view. She couldn’t make heads or tails of what that meant. While it wasn’t unusual for her to be unable to see the entirety of a person’s thread, she couldn’t help but feel that many were disappearing out of sight a little sooner than anticipated. An ill-omen, certainly.

“I suppose we have the train ride ahead, but I’ve also brought this,” she pulled out a pleasantly rounded bottle holding an amber liquor. Yun’s eyes perked up immediately. “Miss Tsukimi asked me to give it to you.”

She took it, nodding contentedly. 

The whistle-pop-lock of tracks signaled the arrival of the train, followed shortly by a gust of wind.  

The train was, as always, a welcome enough sight. The weathered cabins were clean, but bore the marks of traveling families, carved insignias from bored children and sanded grooves where luggage was held. Yun remarked at how long it had been since she’d shared a cabin with anyone to which Adelaide simply extended her enthusiasm for the idea. 

”Miss Tsukimi was a friend of my older sister.”

“I wasn’t aware she had friends.” 

“Lots of people say that.” Adelaide smiled. “She doesn’t seem too personable at first glance, right?”

“Second, third, fourth either.” 

Adelaide laughed, clearly and loudly.

“My sister isn’t much for mincing words either.” 

“Perhaps that’s why.”

“And how long have you known Miss Tsukimi?”

“Longer than I’d have liked to.” 

A silence hung in the air as the train began to move, taking the two over the water, now in the light of day. The salt-sea air of the clear blue skies carried an inexplicable melancholy, a heart-wrenching freedom both beautiful and suffocating. 

Adelaide’s gift was easy to understand, a rallying cry that could inspire others to draw out hidden strength. The kind of skill that would make for an impressive expedition leader. She was personable, too, making no less than six separate attempts to get to know Yun. Even there she was gentle, careful not to use her curiosity to pry, but to let her speak on her own terms. Were she born a few years earlier, she could have easily made a name for herself. 

“My gift is one of Sight. I can see the threads of fate.”

“Fate?”

“It’s a lot like fortune telling, if I’m going to be honest.”

“Can you affect this fate, then?”

“Barely. I can move the strings, adjust the flows, even rebalance or restring.”

Adelaide looked confused.

“I can manipulate luck.” 

“Oh! That sounds useful.”

“Maybe. If you believe in it, that is.”

“Do you not?”

“Some prefer to forge their own destinies.”

“Is that possible?”

“It’s more common than you’d think.” Yun paused. “And more reliable.”

“I see.”

This job was going to be dangerous, for very little benefit to Adelaide. Yun had to admit she felt bad about that. About lying to her. She was sure Tsukimi had properly warned her, but it was one thing to assume a journey was going to be dangerous and another entirely to be hunted down by the Heroes who slew the Demon Lord.

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