‘Disaster’ was the first thought in Yun’s mind when she awoke. Her throat felt raspy from breathing in the dusty air of the train car, but before any of that, she was staring down the business end of a staff.
“Hello, little miss stowaway,” a teasing voice came from the wielder of the staff.
“‘my luck,’ right?” Alexis interrupted her. Of all the people to meet on this train, they had to be one of the worst. The peerless arcanist, Alexis Marley, the powerhouse of the heroes’ party. They came from a noble background, born with immeasurable talent, and pursued it as far as it would go.
“You’re breaking my heart here. I thought we were friends,” they said. In the dimness of the car, she could make out Alexis’s form, sharp dress hiding sharper eyes. A tailored suit complete with cloak and hat, simple golden accents and clean stitching made for an imposing form. This was the type of stuff Alexis liked, nothing garish, just perfect craftsmanship in low key fashion.
“You going to try to kill me or what?”
“There’s time for that later, I haven’t seen you in, like, forever—love your new hair, by the way. Obviously there’s the whole matter of you murdering our dear leader—I didn’t take you for the type, but all evidence points to you, I’m afraid.”
Yun furrowed her eyebrows, looking for an out. It was easy to maneuver around Olivia—she was always very straightforward. Alexis was hard to read and nearly every part of their being was dangerous.
“No more words for little old me? I wanted to believe you, you know. After all, we work so well together.” Alexis’s gift was luck reversal, the very kind of thing that made them a devastating partner to Yun’s particular expertise. Looking upon them for the first time in years, they were still as imposing as ever. They were less like threads and more like wrapped steel wires, seemingly impossible to break no matter how tense they got.
“Actually, I could still choose to believe you. I could even offer you protection from the other heroes, should you so decide to-“
“Now, now, let’s not be so hasty- wait did you just say yes?” Alexis widened their eyes slightly, whatever passed for surprise with them. Yeesh. Alexi and Tsukimi truly were two of a kind in that regard.
“Huh. I thought this would be harder for some reason. Well, no matter. I had no intention of killing you at this time anyway.” They flipped the staff back and tucked it under their arm, reaching out a hand to the still prone Yun. She took it, pulling herself upright and brushing the stray chaff off her clothes.
“You know, you were always so reluctant to join me after the journey. I’m not some unsavory character, you know,” Alexis said, opening the door to their cabin.
“Listen I know I can- hold on, did you just agree with me? What’s going on with you today?”
“You’re not a bad person, Alexis.”
“Alright. Who are you and what have you done with my cute little Ye-eun.”
“Joke in bad taste? I concede. What do you want, anyway? I can’t imagine it being easy to reconcile with one of your former comrades.”
“Not after the way our journey ended.”
“There’s the rub, though, isn’t it? Do you remember exactly what happened at the end there?”
“It’s a little hazy. It was a couple years ago and-“
“No. I mean, doesn’t it feel like there’s something missing?”
Yun instinctively reached for her journal, only to remember it wasn’t on her person.
“You can feel it, too. We all assumed you killed Nari because of what we saw, what we remember.”
Yun remembered that particular scene all too well. In the aftermath of the battle with the Demon Lord, she stood over Nari’s body, blood pooling underneath her. In the back, the rift to the Demon Realm blazed ominously. All around, the foundation of the castle was coming down. She looked down at her hand to see the sparkling silver of Nari’s blade, covered in her blood.
“I do not believe you would kill Nari Han,” Alexis said, folding their staff up and tucking it behind their back. They pulled out a notebook from their pocket, casually flipping through. “There’s something we’re all missing.”
“Have you ever felt like your notes don’t line up?” Yun asked.
“Precisely. Like there’s holes in the course of our journey that, try as we might, we cannot seem to remember. Which brings me to my proposal: Help me find out what really happened that night, and what’s really going on in this country as we speak.”
“Even if it makes the world your enemy?”
“You know I love a good challenge,” they said, the twinkling in their eyes betraying a dangerous excitement.
“I was afraid you would say that.”
“You know me too well. Now, returning to the matter of your request for me. This is an equal relationship, after all.”
“There’s a boy in a village to the southwest of the entrance to the Northern Ward. I want you to teach him.”
“You want me to teach him what, exactly?”
“Alchemy, Arcana, whatever you know. His gift is the Sage’s Sign.”
This caught Alexis’s attention.
“You really surprise me at times,” they sighed. “I’m not nearly the alchemist dear Hyacinth is, but I suppose I’ll attend to it after this matter is settled.”
“Don’t worry your little head over it. We still have to get you equipped. What did you say happened to you again?”