32 Picking sides
"We need your help to kill an evil goddess!!"
Evlin did not expect to hear that kind of request today. She assumed that if she would be asking for the assistance of Marceus's friends they would probably ask something in return as well. She guessed they would ask her to act as a bodyguard on their group on maybe require her to build something with her earth magic. But killing a goddess? An evil goddess? What on earth even was an evil goddess? In all her adventures the biggest threat she ever faced was probably a demon that had the power to eat people's dreams while they were asleep. How would she kill a goddess?
"I think... I need a little context..."
Gustav was getting impatient.
"Could we discuss this on the road? I think we need to start moving soon! Ria, could you do us the favor?"
Evlin watched as Ria removed her gloves to reveal her hand and started to place it still in mid-air. Suddenly, Ria started to lower her hand and some kind of energy was released by its trajectory. Evlin was reminded of the times she would stick her finger on her sister's birthday cake when she was young and leave a hole from where she stole a piece of chocolate. Except the case was the air itself and the hole was some sort of portal to a different location.
"This is the spot we left off before Daren asked us to rush back to the city. Should save us a little bit of travel distance."
Evlin stared at that portal that Ria had opened and realized she was the girl Marceus had mentioned before.
Ria turned around at Evlin's scream a little concerned.
"... What... Did I do something wrong...?"
"You can open portals!!!!"
"... Yes...? Would you like to go somewhere?"
"My home!!! Open a portal to my world please!!!!"
"Eh... That's impossible... I can only open portals to places I've been to before... And I have never been to your world."
"Ah!! That's right!! He did say that!! You need to teach me!! Teach me your ability so i can open a portal to my world!!"
"Teach... You...? Mmmm..."
Ria and the rest of the group finally realized the reason why Marceus had sent Evlin to find them and she started to wonder if she could use that to their advantage. She placed her finger on her lips pretending to be thinking about something.
"Mmm... I'm don't know... Should I..?"
"I'll do whatever you want!! I'll help you guys with your goddess or whatever!! Just please teach me how to do that!!"
Ria made a face that said "Gotcha!" and accepted her terms.
Evlin was full of joy at that moment but for some reason, Ashley was looking at her with a disappointed face.
"Ash...? What's wrong...?"
Ashley came closer to her face and whispered inside her ear.
"She was going to help you either way you dummy... There is no way she would reject you in front of her friends after hearing you came as a request from Marceus... But now we have to help them too..."
"Ah...! Well... It's fine, isn't it...? It would be rude to ask for help without giving something in return."
"That's why you are so bad at doing business... Stop rushing into things... Sight..."
Ashley seemed unhappy with the situation but Evlin didn't care. Be it a goddess, two goddesses or ten, If it would help her come back home she was ready to fight anyone. Besides, she wasn't all that worried. Marceus's friends surely would be strong individuals as well and she herself still had the power of her mage skills, the silver knives, and Sphinx.
"Oh shoot! I forgot about Sphinx!!"
Daren and the rest stared at her with curiosity.
"Do you have another friend with you?"
"Yeah! I told him to wait outside while we entered the city so he must be sleeping somewhere around here..."
Auren was confused by her remark.
"Why did you ask him to wait outside?"
"I didn't want to draw too much attention. One second. SPHINX!!! YOU CAN COME OUT NOW!!!!!"
Evlin shouted towards no particular direction and almost blew up Ashley's ears who were right below her. The rest of the group looked around as they started to hear the sound of a heavy object rushing towards their location at an absurd speed. A pile of smoke arrived together with the large object and once it dissipated it revealed a golden feline creature with massive wings and the head of an eagle.
"Everyone, this is Sphinx! My pet griffin! Isn't he the cutest thing??"
Sphinx started to cuddle Evlin and Ashley while the group started at the three with wide eyes. Ria looked at her portal for a second and stared at Sphinx's massive size.
"We might need a bigger scar..."
The group finally crossed Ria's wind scar after the poor girl spending twelve minutes trying to make it large enough so Sphinx could go through it as well. The poor girl was so tired that she ended up asking to be carried as well. Evlin asked if she would be ok with Sphinx carrying her and she gladly accepted. It looked like she was really enjoying being friends with a griffin.
Evlin herself wanted to be carried by Sphinx as well, but she was trying to make a good first impression with these people. They were her only hope to fulfilling her goal after all. But she started to wonder how long that would take by that point. She did promise to help them kill some evil goddess in exchange for learning from Ria how to open portals, but she had no idea where this goddess was or how they would kill her. She assumed now would be the best time to try and gather some information on the subject. For starters, wouldn't kill a goddess raise some problems?
"Excuse me, mister Gustav?"
"Yes miss Evlin?"
"Didn't Marceus received his powers from a goddess as well...? Won't she be angry if she finds out we killed one of her friends?"
"... Actually, the one we want to kill... Is the goddess that gave Marceus his power."
"It's a long story... But what you need to know is, that woman is not a good person... She betrayed Marceus and turned us into stone for the last two centuries..."
"W- What??? Why would she do that???"
"Because she didn't like Marceus being partners with Daren..."
"Why...? What's wrong with Daren?? Is it because of his dead eyes? Was he rude to her?"
"I can hear you talking you know..."
"It had nothing to do with my appearance or personality... It's just that she didn't want someone cursed gaining fame..."
"That big lion thing I turn into... That's my curse... She doesn't want people like me wandering around so she separated Marceus from us..."
"I see... So now you all want revenge from Marceus..."
"You bet we do... I will not rest until that crazy woman pays for what she did!"
"How strong is she by the way...?"
"She dealt with all of us with barely lifting a finger..."
"What!!?? She dealt with five powerful warriors like yourselves that easily??"
Gustav, Ria, and Auren tried to cover their faces with embarrassment after hearing that comment. Gustav started to talk again.
"The thing is, miss Evlin... Daren is the only warrior in our team right now..."
"What...? Arent you guys candidates to be users of the living weapon?"
"No... Daren and Lilith used to be but Lilith became a pacifist... And we three don't have powers suited for combat. I have the ability to connect people's thoughts, Auren can rejuvenate a person for about two hours and acts as our healer, and Ria can teleport us anywhere but only three times a day. We were the supporters for the candidates."
Evlin was now extremely worried. She assumed the whole group was filled with powerful individuals and that they would all work together to take down the goddess. But she just heard that only one of them is actually a fighter and only during the night. Doesn't this mean that Evlin is basically the strongest member of the team? If she is their ace and not too long ago she was having trouble with one mage and a group of hunters, would she be able to deal with a goddess?
"Mister Gustav? Do we have some kind of plan?"
Please for the love of all that is sacred tell me you guys have a plan, was what Evlin wanted to say.
"Daren has one actually. It seems that a curse is the only thing that can harm a divine deity, so right now we are all going to the southern kingdom to find clues on how to get curses for the rest of the group."
"You guys will all get yourselves cursed?? Is that safe...?"
"We don't know... But we don't have many options..."
"Should I get curses as well...?"
The one who screamed was Ashley. Evlin was embarrassed that she almost forgot Ashley was still carrying her on her back. How do you even forget that you're being carried on someone's back?
"Evlin you have been doing a lot of crazy stuff lately, but as your big sister I will definitely not let you do something as risky as getting cursed!!"
"B- But... Ashley... I made a deal with them... I need to help with-"
"You don't need to get cursed for that!! You are already one of the most powerful mages on the planet! You really want to risk going through something so dangerous like this?"
Daren was glaring intensely at Evlin after hearing that remark.
"You... Are a mage...?"
"Ugh... Yes...? But I'm a good mage... I swear!!"
"... Then when you said you caused all that destruction on the city's gates..."
"I... I am really good with earth magic... I got a little carried away and used it more than usual to fight that guy I mentioned before..."
"Are you mad...?"
"... I'm not mad... Just surprised... I guess that explains how someone from another world became so powerful..."
"Y- Yeah... I was surprised as well when I found out I had little bit of skill with magic..."
"Yeah... But I'm afraid that I'll have to ask you to hand over those silver knives..."
"Eh?? Why?? I need those!"
Gustav seemed to agree with that idea and started to speak as well.
"Miss Evlin, these knives give it's wearer a tremendous boost in power and speed. You may be a responsible lady but you're still young. It's better not to put so much power together in one place or you might end up hurting someone."
Ashley seemed really upset with that remark.
"You guys don't know what you're talking about!!"
"Ash... It's fine..."
"It's not fine!!! I know you want to work with these people but we honestly barely know anyone here and yet they keep judging you and giving out orders!!"
"You guys said that you all just woke up after sleeping for two hundred years right?? And the first thing you all want to do is to gain power that comes from monsters all so you can have a small chance against a divine diety?? Do you know how crazy you all sound?"
This time Gustav was the one getting upset.
"Listen young miss, you don't know what you're talking about. You don't know our circumstances, you don't know what we went through! All of our friends are gone because of the acts of one childish woman who played with us like we were toys. If you don't want to work with us then you are free to leave!"
"We can't leave because Evlin needs your help! But I don't want her to help you if you are all just a bunch of hard-headed idiots rushing towards their deaths!!"
"Ash!! You said too much!!"
"You shut up too!! Are you just going to follow anything people tell you to do if it means you can go back home?? If they told you to jump on a volcano, or give up an arm or steal the crown of a king will you go ahead and do it just because you're desperate?? You said you would stop rushing into things but you keep acting without thinking!!"
Evlin was starting to get angry at Ashley but then she realized that the girl was about to start crying at any second. Ashley was worried about her. She was worried that Evlin would just blindly start to follow anything these people would say just because they were needed for her to go home. But what was she actually doing now that she stopped to think about it? Using the power of monsters to gain a curse so she could help kill a divine deity? All so she could return to her own world? Was it worth it? How many things could go wrong with that risky plan? She could be killed by the curse or the goddess.
And even if she did kill a goddess, wouldn't other gods start coming after her in revenge? On top of that, killing someone? Not turning into a frog or smacking against a wall, but actually killing a living being? Even if she did go back home, would she be able to live with herself? She wasn't like these people, she didn't have a grudge with this goddess. Was this really what she wanted to do?
"Mister Gustav... Is a curse really the only way? Isn't there anything else that can harm a goddess?"
"Miss Evlin how easy do you think it is to meet a goddess exactly? We have little to no information on how they work, act, live, or die... The only way to know about them is getting into contact with one and the minute that goddess sees us she will probably try to kill us all. The only thing we can rely on is what we know for a fact, that being, that Daren managed to hurt her when he combined with Marceus! So a curse is probably the only thing that can truly harm her!"
"Wait... Daren was combined with Marceus when he harmed the goddess?"
"Yes, he was."
"Then... What if it wasn't the curse power... What if the divine power is the only thing that can harm a divine being?"
The group started to look more depressed after hearing that theory.
"If that is true... Then our situation would be completely hopeless... Since we no longer have Marceus to help us..."
"That's not true!"
"!!!" x 5
"I mean, Marceus might be gone, but before leaving he announced to the world that his son would inherit his power! On top of that, his knives, and I assume other weapons are probably all over the world right now."
Gustav was having trouble forming words.
"Hi- His son?? Marceus Had a son?? He has a son??"
"Yes! He said his name was Marcus! And that he is somewhere out there, and whoever finds him can use his power for themselves. If we can find him and use his power, and if we get a few more of this silver metal to help us, we might be able to face the goddess without the need of getting cursed!"
"..." x 5
The group was still indecisive. It might be true that it was Marceus's power that harmed the goddess and not Daren's powers. And even if it wasn't, gaining the aid of Marceus's son would probably prove a big help to them. Plus, he was the son of their lost friend, there was a small desire to just meet him in person. But Daren seemed to be against that.
"I know what I saw... I know she was afraid of me, of my power... Why would she give a human a power that could hurt her?? She wanted to get rid of me, and now we need to get rid of her!"
"But what if-"
"But nothing! Gustav is right... You two don't know our circumstances, you haven't been through what we had... If you have a problem with the way we do things you can just go."
Ria, who was still being carried on Sphinx's back, suddenly jumped down and barged into the conversation.
"Daren are you crazy? You saw what happened to that gate, we need her help!!"
"She's an outsider in this Ria. This is our mission, not hers! Plus, didn't you want to get cursed?"
"But what if she is right? What if we end up cursing ourselves and it is still not enough power to face the goddess?"
"Ria is right..."
This time, Auren joined the discussion.
"You faced the goddess at full power while combined with Marceus and all you did was scratch her hand... If we want to do this, we need all the power we can get, and Marceus's son might be our best bet."
"This is pointless..."
Gustav tried to bring the focus back to him.
"We are never going to get anywhere at this rate... We should just vote..."
Daren looked at him curiously.
"There are five of us, not counting these two girls... Let's just vote on which path to take... Going after Marceus's son or going to the southern kingdom."
"..." x 4
Evlin didn't know what to do anymore. One moment it seemed like she had just joined a new happy family and now it looked she was about to break them apart. Would it have been better to ignore Ashley and just follow these people? No. She had decided to trust Ashley's judgment and stop trying to do everything by herself. This might not be a pretty outcome, but it was the right outcome. Just going blindly into such a dangerous mission without thinking first would probably just invite disaster. They needed to properly talk about it first.
Ria was the first one to cast her vote, followed by Auren.
"I vote we go after Marceus's son. We need all the power we can get right now, and the son of the world's strongest sword will definitely be a big help!"
"Same here. Plus, if his son really is out there, I think it's our job to take care of him and properly raise him in honor of his father!"
Daren and Gustave Voted next.
"I say our best chance is in the southern kingdom. A cursed power is the only thing that can harm the goddess. If we all obtain one and go at her together, even she won't get off so easily!"
"Agreed! I'm also tired of always being useless in a fight! This power might finally give us a chance to stand on the battlefield as a true team!"
Lilith was the only one left. Ever since the group used the wind-scar she didn't let out a single word. With her ability to see the future, clearly she was the best choice to settle the discussion an choose the best course of action. Daren tried to encourage her to talk.
"Lilith... You are the one who knows how this will end up as... What do you choose?"
"... ... ..."
"I- I don't know!!"
"What do you mean you don't know??"
"The future keeps changing!! I see us both going after Marceus's son and going to the southern kingdom!! But I can't see anything past it because it keeps changing so much from one to another!! I don't know what the best option is!!"
"Then forget your future sight, just tell us what you think is the best option yourself!!"
"I- I also don't know!! Both ideas have good points and bad points... "
Gustav looked like he just had enough of it.
"Fine... I have a proposal then..."
"!!?" x 6
"Miss Evlin... How long will it take you to recover your power?"
"I- It should be fine by tomorrow..."
"Very well... If we can't solve this problem using our brains... Let's do it using our bodies... Tomorrow night, you and Daren will fight. The winner gets to decide our course of action. What do you say?"
"That's not fair to Daren... My magic is much stronger than his curse."
"... Excuse me????"
Daren glared at Evlin with eyes of ferocity.
"You think I can't beat you just because you are a mage?"
"Maybe you have been relying on these knives a little too much... Do you think i can't handle you by myself?? You must more full of yourself than I imagined."
"I wasn't trying to imply anything I just... Well..."
Daren suddenly transformed into his massive lion monster form and stared at Evlin with his huge red-blood eyes.
"You assumed my power was to simply turn into one big dumb monster, and you probably deal with dumb monsters on a daily basis, so of course you can deal with me, right?"
Evlin hadn't stopped to look at Daren's monster form so closely before, he was much more intimidating than she remembered.
"Then let's go ahead and find out. Tomorrow night, you and I miss 'i need someone to carry me around after using my magic'."
At that moment, Evlin started to feel like she had dug her own grave.