“Are you okay?”
Jaycee shrugged off the hands on him and turned to face Kyla. Her cheeks, covered in dirt, reminded him of when he was a kid and fell while playing in the village. Unfortunately, now that wasn’t the case. He shakily rose, using Kyla’s shoulder to keep him steady. The blast had made his legs wobbly.
“What just happened?” His gaze examined the room, but smoke encompassed most of what the eye could observe.
Kyla frowned. “I don’t know. This wasn’t our doing. Anyway, let’s get out of here while we have a chance. It looks like our archer boy is out for the count. Good riddance.” She stuck her tongue out at him. Alessio was still hacking away. The smog had most likely damaged his lungs.
“Archer boy?” He was sure she knew his name.
Outside, smoke covered the sky like a blanket, masking any sign that the sun still held itself high in the clouds. The uneven ground beneath Jaycee’s feet carried parts of houses, blown off in whatever explosion had transpired minutes before. Around them, once normal structures were now collapsed and dilapidated. The fixtures and trees had either burned or toppled over on one another, broken glass shattered. After the ringing in his ears vanished, the moans and muffled screams of the townspeople from far away filled him. Their voices replayed over in his mind, making his heart race.
In the distance, the clashing of steel echoed.
“Whoa, talk about going out with a bang.”
Did she really just—?
“Look, look! I think that’s the boss!” Kyla pointed to a figure a ways away.
Jaycee would have argued her sanity, but Alec’s red robes stood out amongst the grey colors that had settled. It was odd. He never failed to appear when you least expected it. As they made their way closer, Jaycee noticed Alec hunched over a young woman. The scene was not unlike what they had just come from, except this time, the cries of others were closer.
“Is now really the time to have your hands all over some stranger?” asked Kyla.
“Girl, go make yourself useful. Fetch me some clean water and a couple of rags.” Alec didn’t even glance up, and instead called out orders like he was a patron at a restaurant. “Sheol’s military warned the townspeople and evacuated them ahead of time, but a few of them didn’t make it.”
That made sense, since the scene that unfolded around them was far from that of a normal battlefield.
“Was this Fioma’s doing?” Jaycee hoped his thoughts on the matter were misguided, but hope was often a fragile thing.
“Of course it was!” Kyla interjected, voice becoming increasingly louder with each word. “All they care about is getting more land, the hows and whys unimportant. Instead of being happy with what they have, they take from others like a bully.”
Her opinion surprised Jaycee, since she usually kept them to herself. While she made brief comments here and there, this was the first time she had spoken her genuine thoughts aloud.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m going.”
“I’ll go with you,” said Jaycee. He felt useless standing around and doing nothing.
“No, I require you here.” Alec waved him over. “I need you to put some pressure on her lower abdomen.”
Kyla huffed, but didn’t spend any time dawdling.
Confused, Jaycee knelt down on the other side of the woman, his knees brushing up against rocks that stuck out, stabbing him. He noted the woman’s dirty clothes and her torn and bloodied skin. Her breaths were uneven, and her eyes closed. The shock of the pain must have been enough to make her pass out.
“No.” Alec grabbed his hands, an unusual warmth to them, and lowered them to a specific spot. He used a considerable amount of force. “Hold pressure.”
Alec quietly worked, only speaking when he needed Jaycee to move her or otherwise. It was strange to watch Alec working so diligently for someone else’s sake, with no unusual expression or mischievous smile that showed he was up to no good.
“Did you always have this medical knowledge?” Jaycee’s curiosity got the better of him. The man in front of him never ceased to surprise him at every turn. Not to mention, if they were going to be working together for the unseeable future, they should learn about each other, right?
“I trained under my father for a time. He was a doctor of a small village out in the countryside.” Alec glanced up at Jaycee, staring at him for a moment with an unreadable expression. “You’re hanging around Kyla too much. You’re becoming just as nosy as she is.”
“I’d call it inquistive.”
A small, almost unnoticeable smile graced Alec’s lips.
Not long after, Kyla came back with a cloth and a bucket of water. Alec worked diligently, and not much time passed before he finished. With Kyla’s help, they moved the woman up against a still-intact building. Alec felt her forehead with the back of his hand, a pleasant hum escaping his lips.
“Boss, did you find out where they’re keeping Leon?”
Alec narrowed his eyes. “Are you questioning me right now?”
“I would never do that.” She threw her hands up. “Oh, great one.”
“With your help in distracting Alessio, I found out where Leon is. But by the time I got there, he had already escaped on his own. We should follow his lead. Fioma is going to start an all-out war, and we don’t need to get caught in the aftermath.” Alec whipped out his fan; the white bright against the darker colors that inundated them.
“Where are we headed next?” asked Jaycee. He scanned the surrounding destruction, and his eyes fell on the casino behind them. No one had yet to come out.
“A little seaside village close to here. There’s a blacksmith we need to visit.”