Drina was all ears to Lulu’s plans. All of her plans had only caused more issues, making it difficult for everyone. Crossing her arms, she leaned back into her chair. “Alright. I will listen.”
Lulu smiled with a nod. “It is nothing fancy, but it is better than nothing. Since I can protect us in the hostel, no one will be able to attack here. You can leave freely without protection as long as you have the mutt.”
Hestar laughed. “How is a dog going to help?”
It was easy to see how it would be humorous putting all the faith in a canine beast. The outside appearance of the mutt was that of any regular crossbreed of a dog. Drina knew better, especially after seeing its demon form. Speaking up for Lulu, Drina explained.
“This mutt isn’t any regular beast. You may have noticed when it joined me on the stage how sudden everything calmed down. This breed is actually called “Eth’skial’. Hellhound in the common tongue. They are an old being that is a bridge between the plains. They protect the living realm from spiritual attacks, be that from stray ghosts or from another human. For a price though.”
Before Hestar could ask what the price was, Lulu continued on. “And since it has chosen you, this may be beneficial. Not often does one get the honor to be picked freely. It may seem that you either are in great need or in grave danger. With this, it will be a tool you will need in order to succeed. Especially if it is one that Mr.Gafrald has owned.”
Drina glanced down at the mutt curled up at her feet. It perked his head up towards her with a tilt. Raising a brow, she spoke to it. “Guess we are going to be pals the next few days.”
Ocan broke from Hestar’s arm, jumping up from the table to kneel beside the mutt. “Oh! What should we name him?”
With disgust, Drina could barely keep the dismay in her tone. “Name it?! Why on earth would you want to? It will think we want to keep it!”
Ocan whined, wrapping her arms around the mutt to hug it close to her.
Hestar teased Drina with a chuckle. “Didn’t take you to be a dog hater.”
Blushing, she whipped her head towards Hestar. “Did you hear what I said? This isn’t a regular dog!”
The mutt sprung up, lapping at Ocan’s face as she giggled. Drina felt queasy just from the thought. If they knew what true form it beheld, she had a feeling they wouldn’t take as kindly to it either. Sneaking a peek towards Lulu, she hoped at least she would agree with her. Instead, Lulu only smiled, raising her finger to her lips.
“Look Drina! It’s a boy. What if we called him Wiggles?” Ocan plopped the mutt into her lap, scratching at his belly. The hound lazily dropped his tongue out the side of his mouth, panting with a grin. Drina smacked her palm against her face.
“There is no way in hell I will call him Wiggles.”
Hestar leaned in, grinning. “Oh yeah? What would you call him instead?”
Removing her hand from her face, she stood from her chair to squad down to the mutt. He lifted his snout, waiting to see what she would say. He was scarily aware of the conversation more than he should have been. Thinking back to his burnt-looking appeal, she grinned mischievously at the beast.
The mutt sneezed at her, bearing his teeth at her while Ocan frowned.
“I like Wiggles better.” Wiggles yipped with approval, making Ocan smoosh his face with attention. “I think he likes it!”
Shrugging, Drina stood up. “I thought mine was pretty good.”
She walked around the two on the floor towards the door. The appetite she had before the conversation was long gone, most of it attributed to Ocan touching the mutt. Just thinking of touching him threatened Drina’s empty stomach to expel.
Almost to the door, Hestar called out to her. “Where are you going?”
Drina paused to turn around, fear and curiosity clear across Hestar’s face.
“I’m going to start my investigation. I’ve wasted enough time here and need to solve this as soon as possible.”
Hestar leaped from the chair. “Not without me.”
“What? No. You’re staying here with Lulu and Ocan. You heard Lulu, it will be enough to protect you.”
Scoffing with a determined smile, Hestar sped across the room to stand in front of her. “Not a fat chance. I am not going to be holed up here while you put yourself in any further danger. Besides, you will need help navigating the town. I know every road, back alley, and shop in this town. You’ll need me.”
Dropping her jaw, Drina crossed her arms definitely. “I don’t need-”
“No. She’s right, Drina. You can’t afford to waste time wandering around the town getting lost.”
Dropping her arms, Drina growled with irritation. “How is it a good idea to take the person whose fate is death, might I remind you, to tag along with me finding where the malicious Spector is from?!”
Hestar’s eyes widened as a thought clicked. “Maybe… if you look for the murderer, you will find the ghost. These events might actually be connected.”
Hit with realization, Drina had to agree. The boy had been kidnapped and the spirit seemed to be tied to it for some reason. Was the killer working alongside it? Facing Hestar, Drina sighed.
“You are onto something. Although, I am no detective. This is well above me. How do we even start to look for a killer?”
Lulu stood up from the table, making her way around the table towards them. “If you are looking for a killer, start with the boy. I don’t know who Marcus is, but I can bet a good place to ask around in the market.”
Hestar smugly huffed with a smile. “And no one knows that market better than me. Come on, we should get started. I know you need something to eat and people speak more freely when coins flow in.”
She walked past Drina, heading down the hall to the front. Biting her tongue, Drina placed her hands on her hips. Looking down at the mutt who sat by her side, she glared with a frown. “You better keep her safe. Not just for my sake.”
Wiggles yipped with a happy tail wag, trotting off after Hestar. It was worrisome just how much the hound could understand, making it both intriguing and terrifying to Drina. Glancing back once more to Ocan, Drina offered a weak smile.
“We will be back as soon as we can. Please don’t cause trouble for Lulu.”
Lulu chuckled, reaching into her pocket to hand her a stone. “I would say she is the least of my worries. Here. This is to help keep you calm.”
It was a dragon’s blood gem, one Drina had owned several of at one time or another. With a smirk, she took it from Lulu and held it tightly in her hand.
“Thank you again.” With that, she turned towards the hall. Ocan called out behind her with a giggle.
“Be safe and have fun on your date!”
Stopping with a sharp pivot, Drina barked back at her sister while crimson red in the cheeks. “This is not a date!”
Drina watched Lulu smack Ocan upside the head before hastily walking the rest of the hallway. Stopping quickly in the room they spent the night in, Drina grabbed her satchel and double-checked all her things. Grabbing out her fan, Drina paused. She was still a little flustered from being teased, yet holding the fan helped somber her. If only she had never owned the heirloom. Holding it to her lips, she closed her eyes with a small prayer. “You got me into this, now get me out.”
It wasn’t much of a prayer, but she wasn’t a pious woman. The sound at the door startled her as she shot her eyes wide and turned. At the door was Hestar calmly watching her with a smile. “Are you ready?”
Her eyes caught the sight of the fan while Drina nodded. Placing the fan back inside her satchel, she turned it on her hip and walked towards the door. Stopping short, Drina fidgeted with her fingers.
“I uh… to say before we go. I am sorry about the premonition. If I never got involved you-”
Hestar placed her finger on Drina’s lips to silence her. Stepping closer, she removed her finger to kiss her lightly. “Would it have mattered one way or the other? I don’t believe in fate or destiny. We forge our own paths, do we not? How I live my life won’t change knowing or not knowing if I am going to die today or years from now.”
Grabbing Drina’s hands into her own, Hestar pulled her out of the room while stepping slowly backward.
“I only care about saving you and spending what time I can with you.”
Mesmerized by her, Drina followed willingly. “W-why me?”
“Well for one, you are extremely beautiful. Second, I love your stubbornness. It’s cute.”
“Stubborn?! I don’t think I have ever heard that being a quality someone would fall for.”
Hestar broke into a giggle, letting go of one of her hands to lead her. “Things may surprise you for what people could fall in love with.”
The word ‘love’ made Drina gasp while her heart skipped a beat. With a hard yank, she pulled Hestar back towards her. It caught her off guard causing her to trip. She lost balance and fell towards Drina’s body. Catching her, Drina wrapped her arm around her and pushed her against the wall, her body in full contact with hers. The sound of Drina’s beating heart was all she could hear while looking deep into Hestar’s startled eyes. The violet pools drew her in, unwilling to let her escape. The question lingering in her mind needed answering, one Drina would not let go of until she asked. In a whisper, Drina got the courage to ask.
“You could have anyone. Anyone from the town or passing by. What makes you say you could fall in love with me?”
Hestar’s breath was quick and warm against her face. “Because since the first day we locked eyes, my heart hasn’t stopped pounding. Not a moment passes when I am not thinking about you. Call it strange or whatever you like, but in the short amount of time we’ve known each other I can’t help but feel I’ve been waiting for you.”
The image of the swan from her fan flashed across Drina’s memory. Biting at her bottom lip, she couldn’t deny Hestar’s feelings. Skeptical at first, yes. Yet everything Hestar felt had been mutual. This no longer was just because of her prediction and wanting to save some person’s life. Drina wanted to save her because she loved her in return. With renewed faith, Drina had something to fight for. Still holding her hand, Drina pulled them away from the wall and released her arm around her waist. Instead, she cupped her face with a determined smile.
“We are going to solve this mystery then, saving you and breaking my blood-bind. Then after, maybe I can stay in this town a little while longer. I have yet to see more of the town and what it has to offer. I hear you are an expert in such an area.”
Hestar smiled, clasping her hand to Drina’s along her face. “It’s a date.”
Wiggles barked loudly at the two before anything further could occur. Both of them jumped at the sound, breaking into a laugh at the sight. Baring his teeth at the two, he looked irritated at the delay. Drina could take a hint when she saw one, they had wasted enough time as it was.
“Alright, Alright. Time to move it. Let’s go.”
Drina stepped forward, this time leading Hestar out towards the door, their hands interlocked.