Efficient Way to Live

((Holigrove Forest, Karavoss))

The walk through the dungeon's secret halls was a rather quiet one, as the two agents of Chaos pondered what might await them yet. They had individually witnessed many things, but who was to tell what would come next for them? Ponce, for one, had every intention to find out, he would track down Kalena and her friends, peek into their minds as to what their next steps were. The more he knew about the intentions of those around him, the better. And it was for this reason that the Sorcerer gave the Brute beside him a curious look, his own expansive knowledge of the mortal mind alluding to him that the beast of a half-man was more than glad to wear his tactical axe upon his back once more. But even still, Ponce struggled to understand him. What drove him? Some desire to make up for past wrongdoings, it seemed at first. It was obvious he wasn't really a mere brute. He was wise and worldly, and always aware of his surroundings. Even still, Ponce could not put his finger on any one thing, and the curiosity bit at him so that he soon decided to open his mouth and speak.

"Brute." He simply said. Turning towards the Horned Half-Tor with absolutely no interest in actually learning or speaking his name.

"Sorcerer?" Horns called back, gaze still fixed down the hall as he continued to move along.

"I just… I have to know, what's in it for you? Why did you accept this mission?"

Horns continued to walk, jaw working as he seemed to mull over the question. But in no time at all, he found an answer, "I need the money."

Ponce' eyebrows raised slightly, and he looked down the hall once himself, seeing a distant light that marked its end.

"But surely that can't be all? You have other ways to get money don't you?"

Horns shook his head, "Not money like this. Besides, work's slow lately. Not many people need my services often. To many new Hunters roaming Syn nowadays. Only the top gunners get fed by the Association."

"And how is it that you aren't a top gunner?"

"Don't take every job, and the Association doesn't like that."

Ponce nodded, taking in what he said, "So you prefer to freelance, but it isn't sustainable, and now here you are, fighting for a cause you don't believe in..."

Horns blinked in response, the only sign that he had even heard the Sorcerer in the first place, before glancing down at his feet for a moment.

"And you believe in this cause?"

"I believe in my cause, yes."

That made Horns turn his gaze.

"But not the Beings'?"

Ponce frowned slightly, "I'm no fool. As of right now, our goals align. Greatly. Until they show their true colors in earnest, they're an invaluable asset."

Horns sneered, "So the god is your asset…"

Ponce turned his frown on the Brute, who was, of course, unfazed. He looked upon his blued lips and the smirk that played across them for that split moment. He hadn't ever seen him smile.

"When you realize that this life is a game, to be won if played right, everything becomes an asset."

Horns nodded, scratching his beard.

"Efficient way to live. Painful though."

'Don't I know it…' Ponce thought, subsequently surprised the two had found equal ground, even if his rather defeatist mentality was rather unnerving to the Sorcerer.

Ponce was silent for a few more moments, and as he was he looked up to see the brightly lit exit was fast approaching. He found himself pondering this newfound insight into who exactly the person beside him was, however slight. Even as the only person he could almost trust, he was an asset as well, and the more Ponce knew about him, he realised, the better.

"So, you never said, what is the money for?"

"Get off the Rock, go someplace else." Horns simply said, the Sorcerer taking his pensiveness as nothing more than an invitation to probe even further.

"Alright. Then what? Why get away?"

Horns let out an uncharacteristically wistful sigh, "Looking for someone I used to know. Want to see if I can find them. Rather do that than kill stuff all day."

Ponce nodded once more, "So the barbarian has a sweetheart? Who might that be?"

Horns looked to Ponce, brows furrowed. He seemed perturbed at first but he seemed to gather himself quickly.

"Just someone I used to know. Don't need to know more than that. Doesn't matter."

Every scrap of information mattered to Ponce, but he knew now he had pushed this topic as far as it could go. And as if on cue, he looked up to see sunlight and the greens and browns of the forest floor just a few steps ahead of them. The two emerged from the metallic underground passage to find themselves in the middle of a dense forest. The passage trailed down into the dirt until its path was no longer viable, like a snaking pipe into the ground. Ponce took a deep breath, taking in the fresh forest air, and remembering the strolls in the woods he would take long ago on his way to Dalen to witness the circuses perform their harrowing acts, as well as the smog filled towns of cold and unforgiving metal he had visited since, all of which were utterly devoid of the sensation he felt now.

Horns shifted, and Ponce heard the suddenness in his ally's movement.

"Psst!" The sound came from a place of alarm, and Ponce knew exactly what it meant.

We're being watched.

What, was this whole thing some elaborate set up? Some hidden player that had decided to wait until now to unveil themselves? The two knew they would have to be on the toes, but this early? Horns turned, only to let out an annoyed sigh as he placed the white-haired elf who had just stepped out behind a tree.

"Surprise, it's just me." Vance spoke, that typical carefree smirk plastered upon his face.

"What exactly are you doing?" Ponce spoke, frowning and allowing himself to untense, "And why follow us all the way out of the prison? Didn't you say you couldn't leave?"

"Well I do find time to get out occasionally. But, alas, what you see before you is nothing more than a projection of my true self."

Ponce gave a small frown, taking a step forward, "What do you want now?"

Vance's projection let out a warm chuckle, "I only mean to provide a bit of assistance, mostly for your friend, though."

Horns, who out of habit was making sure there would truly be no more surprises, turned with a grunt as he heard he was being referred to.


"Yes, that dastardly Leo. I have deduced that he has fled across the Zataran border, and is now in Shadrazar, to the East."

Horns nodded in confirmation.

"And you Ponce, your destination lies to the West, in Osilon. This is where you will find your friends."

"We aren't friends." Ponce simply said, turning in something of a huff, already prepared to split from the two with no further words. Horns was about to do the same, but he then heard a grunt from Vance, the observant duo both picked up on the sound and whipped around in unison. Ponce turned to see a green magical wave rip through the trees and pass straight through him. He stumbled back, and his mind seemed to spin for a bit, and then, just as it had come, it was gone. Ponce looked to Vance, who was now completely gone. The sorcerer noted the slight drain he felt on his inborn magical abilities, it was as if something had pulled on his very soul and taken a piece with it. He looked to Horns, to see the towering Tor completely unaffected. The two meeting each other’s gaze, Horns looked ponce up and down.

“What do you think that was?”

Ponce took a deep breath, before looking around, through the trees and brush to see if there might have been some interlopers inbound. He saw nothing. A look to Horns and the placid expression on his face seemed to indicate he too had seen nothing.

“Ahh… for now? A distraction. There are much bigger pieces than us at play here, so until it’s necessary, it’d be best to stay under their radar. As we’ve done wonderfully well thus far…”

Horns nodded, looking up at the sky, which was still dark by this point.

“He said Shadrazar was to the East…” Horns mumbled.

“East is that way.” Ponce spoke, pointing in one of the many directions out of the trees.

“How can you tell?”

“I, like every other native of this world, was tethered to it at birth. A useless trait in most applications, especially off-world, but when in Aeran, I can use it to feel the magnetic poles and determine cardinal directions.”

Horns looked at Ponce and frowned, “Like a pigeon?”

Ponce let out a sigh, instantly frustrated, “East is that way.”

Horns simply nodded and turned, thus beginning his trek to Shadrazar, as did Ponce, embarking on a slightly longer trek to the city of Osilon, and the two would once again split, all the while knowing fate would draw them back together eventually, if that sort of thing was to be believed.

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