Interlude 3 – Divine

The world of Estus was a connected one. There were small connections, little holes in the fabric of reality that the occasional poor unfortunates slipped through, and big connections, leading to realms of a very different nature than the physical world in between them.

If one were to face the planet head-on, and had the right eyes to see the truth with, they would see three pathways branching off from it. The straight one above led to Cielo, the collective realms of the Rakuli; the crooked one leading down went to Abisso, the realms of the Ouza; and lastly, the weirdly wiggly one going off somewhere horizontally or perhaps diagonally was Vuoto, though the latter two weren’t exactly important in this context.

Back to Cielo, the currently important one, the realms of the Rakuli were a varied and fantastic mix of elements. No matter which god they belonged to, it was guaranteed that the landscapes of their realm were gorgeous and glorious; all truly fantastic places of wonder and beauty expressing the true breadth of their divine creator’s power and aesthetic brilliance.

Which was why it totally sucked that they had to use ‘Daybreak’ as their stupid meeting place.

Chlora sighed dramatically, deliberately drawing out the breath as long as possible. While it wasn’t that Daybreak was unpleasant, she just didn’t personally enjoy being there. For the goddess of everything arboreal, her light-minded mom’s vaunted meeting place was simply too plain and drab. Not a spec of color in the entire place, aside from her fellow gods. They couldn’t even personalize their thrones for some dumb reason. 

The whole place was way too sterile, almost the exact opposite of her own realm. The white stone lacked any sense of life and vibrancy in it. It was so dull, it was making her restless, and if she had to wait even one more second for the rest of her fellows to show up, she was going to cover the whole place with moss and ivy!

“I think that was your longest sigh yet.” 

“I’ve done longer, but it’s definitely one of my most annoyed.” 

“It certainly sounded like it,” Foco continued, her tone as warm and even as ever as she fully manifested in the white seat beside Chlora.

Glancing off to her right, Chlora couldn’t help but blink in surprise. Apparently Foco had adopted a new style. Instead of her usual red robes, the two-eyed goddess was wearing some type of long-sleeved, cream-colored, and somewhat fluffy woolen shirt and a pair of tight blue pants made from a fabric that she didn’t recognize. It actually contrasted pretty nicely with her fiery skin…

“What the flip skip are you wearing?”

“Oh, this?” Foco leaned back, smiling as she gestured at her outfit, her cozy eye brighter than her wild eye. “These are some new garments I received from my new partnership with a mortal dragon. They’re apparently quite popular with outworlders.” 

All five of her upper eyes blinked. “What? You have a what with a who now?” 

“Oh right, my apologies, I haven’t mentioned that yet. Ah, to sum it up concisely, my temple core getting stolen was quite beneficial for me. All of my lovely little angels also love these quaint things we’ve received in trade for simple, everyday items like meteoric iron and cosmetics.” 

“…Well okay then. Can I have some?” 

“Of course! Though my seraphs insist I must barter properly in order to avoid being taken advantage of.” She giggled, a cute crackle of wildfire. “Ah, they are such shrewd children. They seem to have taken the little dragon’s boldness as a challenge to them and are insisting on proper ‘business practices’.”

“Huh. Weird.” Chlora paused for a moment, then smirked, her green lips going wide. “So you could say they’ve gotten fired up~?”

Foco’s short bob of flame flickered for a moment, going yellow before returning to its natural red-orange color. Both her eyes were dull as she stared at her grinning girlfriend. “Why.”

“Because you make it too easy~.”

“What are you doing?” Chlora stiffened at the sound of Mesic’s voice, a stern and steady river current. 

“Nothing! Uh, nothing much, just, you know, chatting!” Chlora giggled in a rustle of leaves, grinning awkwardly as she turned to face her other fellow matron. At least the three-eyed member of their trio wasn’t wearing anything new, aside from maybe a couple more sapphires in her necklace and bracelets, plus a couple chains in her watery hair. 

She wore the same type of loose, flowing robe Chlora preferred, though hers had a whole lot less cleavage. Of course, Mezzy didn’t quite have the luscious valley Chlora did, though hers were still on the big side-

“Stop staring.”

“Wasn’t!”

“Your lower two were.”

“…So Foco’s trading with the mortal realm.”

“I can tell. I’m surprised they have clothing in our size.” 

“Oh, they didn’t,” Foco replied, waving cheerfully at Mezzy, who returned the greeting with a raised hand. “But Galinori had these made specifically for me as a sweet little gesture.” 

“Hm…Perhaps I should have let the hero group take my core as well. The benefits appear…acceptable in comparison to the loss.” 

“Even if you did, I don’t think you would’ve gotten the same stuff,” Chlora pointed out. “Unless that Galinori happens to be near your temple too? Foco?” 

“Oh, no, she’s in those little Ebkai mounds. They’re some miles or kilometers away, I think. Ah, but Galinori did mention that she runs a trading company, and I believe she does do business in Orindaco. That’s near your temple, right Mesic?”

“It is. Unfortunately, it would likely take far too much time to receive anything good if I were to use your method. According to my Pontiff, the leader of that morally rotted city can be very shrewd and conniving.” 

“Ah, that is such a shame. I would have loved to see what you would have received.” 

“Looking good, Foco!” cut in the rather boisterous voice of her big bro, the lightning god Innominatum. The one-eyed nerd sat down right next to Mesic, one leg crossed over his knee as his long ponytail crackled with eager joy.

“Ah, thank you very much In-Oh, did you get a new eyepatch?” 

“So you noticed! Yes indeed, one of my angels gave it to me~!” Inno chuckled in a crash of thunder, then tapped the covering of his empty socket. The big, fancy god of lightning only had one real domain, so he only had one electric eye in the right side of his face, but for some reason, he’d gone with this weird idea to wear an eyepatch where his left eye would be. 

No one ever questioned it, so it became common for all of the Light Land gods to see him with a bright yellow eyepatch that usually matched the undershirt beneath his white and black hakama jacket, which swirled with constant storm clouds. But now he had a new eyepatch, a pink-colored one with a heart on it. 

“Ooo, cute~!” Chlora beamed, leaning forward to look curiously at his new accessory, her long vines drooping loosely around her head. “Where did they get it?” 

“From Surton, of course. That’s where she’s living.” 

“Oh, that makes–Wait, why is one of your angels living in Estus?” As far as she remembered, none of their angels were allowed to live on Estus, only visit. The only exceptions were those heat angels, who didn’t even have a god to force said rules on them, and the guardians that were only really allowed down there for a few days at a time.

“…” Inno was abruptly wearing his standard yellow one. “What are you girls talking about? I still have my same eyepatch.” 

Chlora pouted and leaned back in her seat, crossing all six arms over her chest as Foco giggled and Mesic sighed. “Fine, don’t tell me, not like I wanted to know…so hey, any idea where the Triarchs are? They called this meeting, but none of them have shown up yet.” 

“Probably wanting to get everything ready. You know how much of a perfectionist Lucere is,” Foco pointed out.

“Heh. Mom wouldn’t be herself if she wasn’t insisting on perfection,” Inno added, chuckling again in a rumble of thunder.

“Greetings,” came the brass chime of Augant’s voice as he manifested by Foco, one pair of arms already crossed over his chest while the other two rested on his throne’s armrests.

“Hey Augie~! How goes the crafting?” Chlora asked, already positive that he wasn’t going to be talking much.

“Fine.” And so she was proven right. Poor steel-skinned goober was always so stiff. He’d be cute if he let himself bend every once in a while. She really did like his rugged, bronze-bearded look, and his otherwise bald head just shone so prettily in the right light. Plus, the four-eyed god had fantastic abs and barely ever wore the upper parts of his iron robes. 

Sure, he was wearing it right now because professionalism or something, but she could still see the gleam of those awesome pecs-

“Chlora, stop leering,” Mezzy ordered.

“Nope, focused again.” She leaned back and turned her eyes towards the largest throne right across from her, over the decagonal table, trying to ignore the light scent of flowers in the air- “What do you think Rosie does when we have meetings like this?”

“She attends to her realm, most likely.”

“Ah, she’s such a hardworking soul.” Foco sighed. “Lucere really should just let her attend our meetings already. She may have been born mortal, but her soul is most certainly divine.”

“Yeah, exactly! Mom’s so weird about it! We even have an extra chair here that we’re not using!” Chlora complained, gesturing to the throne between Augie and the Triarchy’s three seats.

“No,” Augie cut in, frowning. “That seat is in honor of Elder Sur-”

“She wasn’t one of us,” Mezzy interrupted, “Elder Lucere’s attempt to ‘honor’ one of the Sunrise Court is meaningless and dishonors one who should be among us now.”

“I-”

“Mesic is right, Augant,” Foco spoke up, frowning too. “I doubt my mom would care for this kind of ‘honor’, particularly when it was Lucere who chose to set up her own separate court to begin with.”

“And yet you joined it.” Inno raised his hands in surrender as Foco turned her frown towards her half-brother. “I’m just saying! Honestly, I’m on your side here! Mom wouldn’t care and mother cares too much, it’s what they’re like, but mother isn’t about to change anytime soon, and it’s a thing we just have to live with.”

“It’s a dumb thing to live with. Also, speaking of mom, she and the shinies should be here already-”

As if on cue, and it probably was, Chlora was cut off by a trio of flashes. Sitting tall, probably taller than all of them–Chlora considered for a moment if she could stand on Mesic’s shoulders to actually look her mom directly in the eyes, then discarded the idea; Foco would be a much better partner there, much less likely to protest–and directly across from her was the Elder God of Light, Lucere.

Brilliant, shining, iridescent. Those were all words poets liked to use to describe her mom, the chief god of the Light Lands and all paradises falling under the Light Domain. Never ‘radiant’ though, since that was associated with a lusty and gluttonous Ouza called Delight. Not exactly a comparison anybody wanted to make.

Back with Mom, she still wore pale-yellow robes that reminded Chlora of primroses, though the triangles decorating her hems, sleeves and hood were more of a sunflower yellow. Nothing close to the shining green light she knew her mom’s skin naturally was, a few tones lighter than Chlora’s own leafy-jade shade. More like the light of a healing spell than healthy grass.

Nobody could see a hint of that light either, since Mom started wearing wrappings and a cream-colored mask of her own face like the creepy weirdo to the left of her. It was really annoying too, since the serene mask didn’t come close to matching how hilarious she would look when agitated or flustered, and she used to fluster soooo easily…

Chlora grimaced. Three thousand years and she was still stupidly upset about this kind of thing.

As for the weirdo on her left, Purus, the God of Purity, her stupid little bro, was also dressed in long, flowing robes, though his were white, and every visible inch of his body was covered in white wrappings. Like mom, he also wore a mask that covered his stark white skin, but unlike hers, which was modeled after her face, his was completely blank aside for three eye-holes, spaced like Mesic’s eyes. 

That always weirded Chlora out, since she knew his only real domain was ‘purification’. It made her wonder what the other two could possibly represent…

And finally there was the Iudex, the God of Judgement and her other little bro. Unlike mom and Puri, he had more broad, physical bulk to him, emphasized by the marble-white plate armor he wore. Sometimes he wore a great helm, but currently he was wearing a similar facemask that was modeled after his own stern glare. Also unlike the other two in their fancy group, he didn’t wear any wrappings, leaving his bald head free for all to see. 

That also bothered Chlora, but it was mostly because Yudi used to look so much cuter when he was younger. He had really long hair back then, like tapestries dragging on the floor, and while he’d always been on the bulky side, it was in a nicer way back then, far less harsh lines and solid structure.

“Good morning, my marvelous children,” Mom began, her voice shining as it washed over them all. Chlora couldn’t help flinching at the sheer brightness. Weird to think it used to be comforting… “Thank you all for being here. It is truly wonderful to know we can rely-”

And that’s about when Kata popped in, a loud burst of air sounding out as the four-eyed prick formed into his throne, his legs hanging off the armrest while he leaned back on the other one.

“Hello~! Sorry I’m late! I was discussing some rather important things with my dear pontiff, and I’d hate to be rude and scamper off in the middle of a conversation.” 

“Kataba, my child, you should know that I would only call a meeting if it was the utmost importance,” Lucere chided, though her tone remained serene.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Mama~! I just didn’t want any of my poor followers to feel unloved~.” 

“Kataba, you should have known this meeting was more important,” Yudi spoke up in a weighted rumble. “No mortal should have hold over a true god.”

“And even if he were to be displeased with you, replacing him would be a simple matter. If a mortal is unsatisfied with a position so close to their god, then they should be removed,” Puri suggested, his voice cheerful and sterile all at once.

“Yeh heh heh, thank you, my lovely brothers, for your helpful advice!” 

Chlora felt an eye twitch, branches crackling in an agitated breeze. Her oldest brother was irritating at the best of times, but the way he was playing along with their little brothers’ “advice” pushed that irritation right into revulsion.

“I don’t believe that would be such a good idea,” Foco spoke up, “If we were to start replacing our dear followers over something so minor, it may cause unneeded unrest.”

“A small amount of unrest would be better than allowing them to think we bend to their will,” Yudi weighed in, “If the Fool’s pontiff were to learn he chose a meeting with a mortal over a meeting with the divine, he would grow to abuse such knowledge.”

“And if he were to grow so corrupted, then death would be the only acceptable response,” Puri added.

“If you say so~,” Kata replied. He wasn’t even bothering to look at them at this point, just tossing some small ball between his hands.

“Death isn’t an option,” Mezzy cut in, her eyes all narrowed. “Killing even one of our followers is an unforgivable sin, and merely ordering it would break our accords and allow the Ouza to-”

“My children, we have matters to discuss.” A harsh gleam echoed out and everyone sat straighter. Even Kata actually sat up straight for a second, but he went back to slouching a second later when he realized he wasn’t about to be punished. “It is one that may decide the fate of our lands.” 

After a moment, Chlora spoke up, her leaves rustling anxiously. “Hey, uh, sorry if this is rude, but if it’s such a big threat, then shouldn’t we get all the other gods in on this? Even if the Tundra and Sunrise courts aren’t involved, Rosie should be here for this.”

There was a hint of glare in the light. “It is a threat within our own lands, my child, so we shall be the ones to deal with it.” 

“And regardless of how she may be viewed, she is still but a mortal,” Purus added, “Her words hold no weight here.” 

“She has a divine soul!”

“Your judgment is clouded!” Iudex snapped, “You favor a mere mortal pretender because her petty domain mimics your own!”

There was a brief crack as Chlora’s fingers dug into her armrests, but then Mesic interrupted, “If we may return to the topic at hand, what is the threat you speak of?”

There was a second of total silence before Mom spoke again. “It has recently come to my attention that our hero has been in contact with someone who could end his life in a single motion: The mortal named Julius, a corrupted ally of our former hero.” 

“Excuse me??” Foco questioned, actually flaring up for a moment in her surprise

“You refer to the mentor of the current hero,” Mesic continued, her waters shifting in obvious annoyance.

“It is not uncommon for mortals to betray one another for their own measly gain,” Mom intoned, speaking with a luminous certainty. 

“…Forgive me for asking.” Oddly quiet, Inno leaned forward, his eye fixed on their mother. “But why do you believe he may have turned?” 

“If I may.” At Mom’s nod, Iudex stood up. “Through our connection with our divine blade, we could tell that he has once again entered a contract with a demonic being.” 

“Ah, so that was it!” Kata chuckled, crossing one leg over the other again under his robes. “My dear pontiff did mention a brief spurt of demonic energy from my temple! One that soon disappeared not but a few minutes after!” 

“See? We admit, he may have rejected and been purified of that vile power once, but to use it again shows the corruption in his heart!” 

“But if he rejected it once, he could do it again,” Chlora cut in, “We can’t just judge him because of one thing.” 

“Even if you were correct, we have more to say! Our divine blade has also detected dream magic emanating from the warlock’s sleeping form, has noted that he has some form of…creature posing as a human in his group, and has seen that he has become infatuated with the very demon lord seeking our land’s domination!” 

“…Once again, my pontiff also mentioned that last thing,” Kataba muttered as he glanced off to the side, his breezes sounding sheepish as he scratched his shaven cheek. Flighty jerk…

“The matters of his guilt are not what I brought you here for,” Mom intoned once more, “We are to decide what it is we shall do. Even if this Julius saved our mortal lands in the past, he is far too dangerous to be around our hero.” She sighed, dimming in what she plainly meant to be sadness. Chlora couldn’t remember the last time her mother was actually sad. Maybe when Auntie Suro vanished, but there was a lot more rage back then…

“…What exactly do you propose?” Augant asked, speaking up for the first time since the Triarchs’ arrival.

Mom was silent for a moment, her gaze on him, before she spoke again, “The three of us have decided that three possibilities are our only true options. Banishment from the Light Lands, eternal imprisonment, or death.” 

“No! We can’t just kill him!” Foco immediately shouted, her wild eye burning brighter as she glared in a loud crackle of rage. “For all that he’s done for us, killing him would be as if we betrayed him!” 

“It is true that he’s done a lot for us,” Purus agreed, “As such, I truly believe we should grant him a swift death. It’s the least we can do~.” 

Foco flinched back, then stood, flames leaking up her visible skin. “Do we not owe it to him to give him another chance?! Despite these pitfalls, he’s shown over and over again a true drive to save the Light Lands!” 

“We cannot wait, delaying would be a sign of weakness, our decision must be swift and soon,” Iudex replied, glaring back at her, “You cloud your judgment as well, driven by vanities of materials and mortal comforts! You even bear the clothing of the outlands like a vapid-!”

The right side of Foco’s face went blue, bright and vicious flames burning up that side of her body. “Do not disrespect me so-called Judgment, pathetic child of the Laut!

Chlora winced as Iudex immediately snarled in a crush of gravity, his mask outright cracking. And oh crap, one of Mom’s fingers twitched. “Er, kinda a low blow there, Fo-fo. Maybe tone it down a little?”

Purus and Iudex’s ambiguous second parent was a really sore point in their family, especially since they were so plainly different in nature–way more conceptual than elemental–than their siblings. To the point that Mom’s claims that they were born asexually looked…well, really stupid.

“Foco’s anger aside, Iudex, Purus, you two have failed to explain to me, again, by what means you seek a mortal’s death,” Mesic spoke up, her calm rains almost steaming against Foco’s snarling flames. 

Iudex glared at Foco some more, then huffed angrily, trying to draw himself up again. “We’ll send an angel, of course.”

“…You want to send an angel to kill a mortal being.”

“Yes, I just stated as such,” he drawled in obvious condescension. 

Mesic’s eyes were looking dark, the waters inside–rainwater, freshwater, and saltwater–all starting to churn as her own anger grew. “Our messengers are not to harm mortal life. They may only strike at threats demonic, phantasmal, or purely elemental, never mortal.”

“And that is a waste of their utilities.”

“And besides,” Purus continued for his brother, “Corrupted mortals really are closer to demonic than truly mortal, are they not?”

“We cannot strike at the cambionic races, so no,” Mesic countered.

Purus shrugged. “Semantics. Summoned angels obey the clerics of their gods and battle whoever they must, without restriction.” His sterile voice seemed to sparkle in reflected, distorted light. “Simply put, the corrupted mortal should be dealt with before he falls entirely. We have the methods to ensure his end, so I firmly believe he must be slain, lest his soul fall to darkness entirely. If we strike true and fast, he will fade peacefully and reincarnate. If we linger, then the demonic shall claim him forevermore.”

“Let’s say we do allow this to happen. Are we sure our hero will take this in stride?” Mesic questioned, “If they’ve been traveling together for some time, there must surely be bonds of trust there.”

“His duty is to defeat the demon lord. Regardless of what may happen, that is what he shall do. If he were to grow weak, then our sword will simply choose someone else.” 

“If anything, wouldn’t this motivate the young hero?” Iudex brought up, “Demonic forces corrupted his mentor, so would he not wish for revenge? Did ‘Julius’ himself not seek vengeance after the death of his mentor?” 

“Yeah, and didn’t that turn him towards the Ouza in the first place?” Chlora replied in a flutter of pleased petals as her brother immediately glared at her, plainly scowling under his mask.

“…I do not believe one such as Julius would turn to the demonic.” Uncrossing his arms, Augant paused for a moment before continuing, “…Like many blacksmiths before him, he asked for my blessing when he forged his sword. And like many before, he received it. Even if it was but a minor one, my blessing still allows me to connect with his blade and hear his prayers. One such as him, one who would feel sorrow at having to postpone repairs to his sword, all to complete your quest, would not become evil.” 

“Well, that is entirely lovely. But I wonder if we can take your word on this. After all, one from such a dark lineage-” Before Purus could finish, Augant slammed all of his hands on the table in a sharp chime of steel. 

“I am my own god. Regardless of my mothers’ crimes and natures, my own words are unclouded.” 

“Be that as it may,” Purus began, sounding bored, “It is simply because of Lucere’s divine grace that you and many others are still on this council. I would tread lightly if I were you~.” 

And that’s when Mezzy’s armrests snapped right through the middle, a crash of waves and loud downpour sounding out as she took a deep breath to calm herself.

Enough. We are not here to discuss such matters. Let us decide if something shall be done. We may discuss further after.”

“I side with mother,” Kataba immediately stated, smiling lightly even as he glanced away from everyone, avoiding Foco and Mesic’s glares.

“As do I~,” added Purus.

“I will do as I always have, and follow the will of our wise Elder,” Iudex said, no doubt at all in his tone.

And with that, Lucere had four of the nine votes there, though she always was going to. Even if she didn’t just pull the ‘Elder God’ card and overrule everyone, the three ‘good sons’ would vote with her-

“…I say he should be banished.” 

“Augant!?” A snap of branches echoed as Chlora stared incredulously at him.

“There is nothing to be done. We cannot halt the will of the Triarchy, if this is indeed their decision. The very least we can do is ensure he has some life, even if it is no longer in his home.” 

“He’s right,” Inno muttered in sullen sparks as he stared down at the table, a sour frown on his face. “Banishment would be kinder than death or ‘imprisonment’.” 

“Just because it’s kinder doesn’t mean it’s right!” Chlora snapped, glaring back at him.

“And that is four for death, and two for banishment,” Purus noted cheerfully, “Foco, Mesic, Chlora, what’s your decision?” 

Chlora bristled, thorns curling down her vines before she shook her head, speaking up before her friends could. “Let him prove himself!” She stared right at her mom, her anger building at the sight of that impassive mask. “Our heroes have gone through four temples already! If Julius can make it all the way through the rest, all without falling into Marrow’s influence-” She nearly smirked at how Puri actually flinched slightly, but kept her focus. “-then he can be trusted, no doubt!”

“Chlora, this isn’t a debate,” Iudex drawled again, “You can’t add conditions to his punishment.”

“But he hasn’t been punished yet! This is his trial, not his execution!”

“Say we banish him,” Purus cut in, actually leaning forward, “He would fall right into the demonic power then. He would become an active force against us!”

“So you admit he isn’t one right now!” Chlora grinned, dramatically pointing right at Purus with half her hands.

“Geh-!”

“Not to take from Chlora’s point, but why would that be an issue?” Mezzy suddenly asked, “If he becomes a threat, then you still win. Adrien will have a new challenge to face and overcome, a la the corrupted rivals previous heroes have faced. In the worst case scenario, Julius dies at the hands of his student, who now has even greater cause to strike down the Demon Lord.”

“No, in the worst case, the hero dies!” Yudi snarled.

“So?” Foco was sitting at this point, but blue flames were still licking around her wild eye as she grinned viciously at Yudi. “Then ‘the sword shall choose someone else’, right? Why does a mortal’s death matter to you now?”

“This is different!”

“It really isn’t,” Mezzy noted, smirking too. “A hero can die at any time, at the hands of any being. Be rational, little ones.” Both her younger brothers went rigid at that, glaring right at Mezzy. “Allow Julius this trial, and should he fail, banish him. Would that not satisfy us all?”

“Indeed. You have convinced me.” 

“Heh, knew you’d-” Chlora blinked, then looked up at her mother. “…Eh?”

“You have convinced me, my child. You and the daughters of my esteemed fellows have quite firmly stated your cases. I am moved by your mercy, and persuaded by your conviction.” The mask almost seemed to smile. “I grant this clemency. Julius, he who has chosen the surname Goldforge, shall have his trial. If he should fall, then he will merely be removed from our lands. But if he remains steadfast, he shall be allowed to remain within the lightlands for the rest of his mortal life.” 

“But Mother-!”

“Peace, my child. My decision has been made.” 

Yudi stared at Mom for a few seconds, then glared right at Chlora as he sunk back into his seat.

“Now, since a decision has been made, it’s time for this meeting to end.” Standing up, Mom gently bowed to everyone. “Thank you all for coming here, my children.” And with that, she vanished. 

Once she did, Kata poofed out too, all without a word. Puri vanished a second later, chuckling for some reason, while Yudi glared at Chlora. She glared right back and he huffed angrily before vanishing too.

Then a thunderous sigh echoed out through the room as Inno slumped in his chair, charged fingers running through his buzzing hair. “How in all of the realms did you fucking do that?” 

Chlora giggled, grinning. “I have no idea! I was just saying whatever honest thing I thought would work!” 

“…It certainly did work. Congratulations.” Augant nodded to her, then vanished too.

“Geh, I feel like I need to sleep for an eternity.” Rubbing his shoulders, Inno disappeared in a flash, leaving the three matrons to themselves. 

And in that sudden silence, Chlora couldn’t help but frown. Even if it was her victory, she couldn’t help but think something was off. She wasn’t one to doubt others or think they were unable to change or anything like that. For Keziah’s sake, her current archdruid used to be a bandit! Still, she had a weird feeling about all of this-

“Ah, I need a drink,” Foco suddenly muttered, raising her voice as she glanced at them, “Would you two like to come over? I did recently receive a number of alcoholic drinks that are supposedly quite strong from Galinori.” 

“If you’re inviting, then yes,” Mezzy immediately replied, immediately looking more interested at the offer of booze.

“…You know what, sure! It’s been literal eons since I’ve had mortal booze and I need something to unwind!” Chlora giggled and leaned back in her seat, mentally reaching for the Paradise of Flames as she pushed her worries out of her mind. 

After all, she was probably just getting to herself. 

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