“…glad everything worked out.”
Curiosity got the best out of you, and you decided to eavesdrop on them before tending to Alecsander’s request regarding Tamamo, the mysterious Keeper. You could make it in time to hear him talking mid-sentence, Capella’s voice heard in response.
“Even so, we can’t afford to trust strangers on the spot like this. She wasn’t a wolf, but as we’ve concluded from what Mr. Taketori told us, Red is not our only enemy now. A mistake could cost us too much.”
“Despite still being in the pacifist continent, I know you’re right. I would never expect an encounter like that one here. We were just being tested but, in all honesty, I was very ready to cast a barrier spell in front of you…”
“You didn’t need to worry though; I could hold my own against one fleabag to protect you all.”
Alecsander chuckled, as Capella completely missed his point.
“I wasn’t exactly worried about my or the group’s safety, love”, his words were followed by a light clattering of what sounded like tableware going against a wooden surface. “I knew you’d protect us.”
“Oh- That’s very kind of you, but you don’t need to worry about me.”
“I’m not that strong, but I wouldn’t simply stand by while you carry me around, you know? As much as I know you’d be perfectly able of doing that”, he giggled. “If I can do something to support you, I’ll.”
“I’m actually glad to see you looking relaxed like this”, Capella paused for a moment. “You seemed very tense after we finished talking.”
“If I wasn’t aware of how well you know me, you’d make me blush with that.”
“Aren’t you, though?”, now it was her turn to do the giggling.
“That’s just my natural charms~ Being cute is hard work.”
Silence fell for a few moments, as if Capella waited on something; you didn’t know what, but you just could tell. Then, a sigh came from Alecsander. His voice didn’t sound as playful as before.
“It’s just quite a lot to take in all at once. There’s something that’s been in my mind.”
“What is it, Ale?”
“I’m sorry for bringing this up, but I need to ask: about the wolves; would you mind telling me more? What did Amalthea mean with ‘one of our kind turned into a wolf’?”
Capella didn’t answer right away, making the room fall silent for a few moments again. You couldn’t tell if the subject was too difficult on her, or if she was just searching for the best words to explain things; or both.
“You’ve probably noticed by now”, she spoke again, calmly, “but every child of Mother Nature has a special ability; for example, just like Mr. Taketori’s power is creating barriers, and that another one whose power probably has to do with the crystal formations in the Architect’s Site.”
“I wasn’t sure of it, but I had my suspicions. Please, go on.”
“That’s Red’s ability”, you could perceive a distinct tint of fury in her once calm tone of voice. “He is able of turning into a wolf himself, and if he bites someone while in this state, then the deed is done. They’ll be turned, too.”
“And, I’m supposing it’s not as simple as just becoming a feral wolf… am I correct?”
“Everyone who’s turned will gradually lose their sense of self, until they become a mindless puppet. They can’t refuse to obey Red’s orders, either; that’s how he increases his army.”
“Isn’t there a way out of it?”
“Not that we know of. So, I think the best option is to simply kill them if we happen to cross paths, given we can’t bring them back to their former selves.”
“If Red was to be defeated, couldn’t they keep living, even if there isn’t a cure to this condition? They wouldn’t be bound to serving him if he’s not around anymore.”
“That sounds nice in theory, but… We don’t know if the progression can be reverted. And once they lose their senses, it’s the same as if they had become an empty shell; they can’t be redeemed. Freeing them from their misery is probably the only thing we can do at that point.”
“Are you worried about the people back in your hometown?”
“Not exactly; I mean, it’s indeed concerning, but due to how close in proximity our villages were, I kind of expected it had been savaged when Red’s attack took place”, he sighed, “I’m thinking of going back there one last time to pay my respects when we make it to your village in the expedition. I could borrow one of the wagon’s horses, which would be faster than the walking distance.”
“I wouldn’t mind that, but will you be fine?”, Capella sounded worried.
“Yes. It just feels like something that I need to do to move on. If you’re worried about impending danger, you know I’m armed.”
“Just take care, okay?”
“I’ll come back to you in one piece, Cappi. So please, just trust me.”
“I’m sorry the conversation took this turn, by the way; I know it’s way harder on you than it’s on me. Even so, thank you for listening to me. It’s just… a bit difficult, getting confirmation to your worst-case scenario thoughts. It’s like you know something, but feign ignorance because you don’t want to believe it.”
“This is fine, Ale; I know how you feel. I want to be here for you and support you in other ways too, other than by just brandishing my axe around.”
“Thank you, Cappi. You help me more than you know; the axe is just a nice detail to it.”
The two of them laughed, sounding happy for once during the entire conversation.
“Well, I think I should leave to aid everyone in the search for information on Tamamo. May I do something before I go?”
“What is it?”, a pause followed. “You don’t need to ask me permission for that, you know.”
Some shuffling around could be heard, and the pair fell silent yet again. You could hear them saying something after what felt like a long while, but their voices were too low to make up the words.
“Why now, though…?”
“Someone once told me hugs are the best way to make yourself and someone else feel safe and loved. I think she was right.”
Uh-oh. That sounded a little personal; you were already starting to feel bad for intruding on them like that when you spotted a gentle-looking elderly woman approaching the door. You moved out of the way, hiding from her view.
She knocked softly on the sliding door’s wooden frame. You heard Capella go “oh”.
“Mr. Taketori said his wife would come over to see if she could make something that fits me; it must be her.”
“That’s very kind of them”, Alecsander said. His voice sounded a little more cheerful than before now. “I’ll leave so you can properly change and get some well-deserved rest.”
“Thanks. Do you have plans for when you get back?”
“I was thinking of getting some rest as well or taking a look through some of my notes. If you’re asleep, I will take care not to wake you up.”
“Okay, I’ll see you later then. Good luck with the search.”
“Thank you! And thanks again for everything, Cappi.”
More shuffling sounds, followed by the distinct sound of footsteps. You moved out of your location, pretending to be just a passerby. Clever. Looking back as you walked away, you could see the sliding door opening and revealing Alecsander’s figure. He slightly bowed his head at the old woman as he passed by her, who returned the gesture.
“Evening, madam. I apologize for the wait, please come in.”
“That’s completely fine, my boy. Thank you.”
He smiled at her. “Now, if you excuse me, I’ll be on my way.”
A closing door’s sound and, the next thing you realized, you could hear Alecsander leisurely catching up to your pacing.
“Oh, hello again! If you are leaving to search for information, care to join me?”, he said while putting on his gloves. “I’m just heading to the city myself.”