The R.U.N.N. base is the furthest thing from grand or glorious. In comparison to the other ruins in the death circle, all that separates R.U.N.N.’s centre of operations are boards on the walls and crudely built fences. On the roof of one of the buildings sits a young man, lazily staring off into the distance with a couple of tomes stacked at his side. As Draego comes close the man waves, and then proceeds to immediately begin making gestures that Cyrilla does not understand.
“That little shit,” Draego mutters as he returns gestures quite passionately. The man on the roof laughs heartily, clearly in range to use words but he continues making gestures anyways.
“What’s he doing?” Cyrilla asks, trying to interpret the signals.
“Asking to get his ass kicked is what he’s doing. Once he’s off duty I’m gonna remind him where rudeness gets him,” Draego huffs as his muscles flex.
“I meant on the roof,” Cyrilla clarifies.
“Oh,” the tension in Draego’s body immediately loosens. “Clover’s one of our look-outs, makes sure nothing from the wilderness comes too close and he’s the first line of defence if something does come baring its fangs. He’s young and lacks discipline but he’s invaluable to the group; everyone is. You’ll find your place quickly enough as well, I’m sure,” Draego affirms. “Just make sure that place is nowhere near him. He may be the closest to your age here but he’s a brat, wouldn’t want his habits rubbing off on you.”
Cyrilla considers Clover for a moment, then politely waves before following Draego inside. The inner walls of the base are no less spectacular than the modest outside. It’s just a stone room with wooden benches, warmed by an artificial heat from a single hanging page of a tome. The fortifications amount to nothing more than cracked walls and overgrown plants. Two people are in the room, silent and separate from each other.
The first is a middle-aged, heavily scarred woman with only one arm. Before her is a desk with an ink bottle and quill and papers stacked high upon it. Pinned to the walls around her are more sheets of paper covered in various words and number that Cyrilla cannot make out. Also leant upon the wall is a large sabre clearly made of bone. The other is a slightly younger woman with tomes stacked on the floor beside her. She looks barely awake, turning her head when Draego and Cyrilla enter but not really registering them at all. Both have dirtied skin and old, worn clothes that strain to latch onto their wearer’s bodies.
“What’d you use?” The one-armed woman asks the moment Draego walks in.
“Geez. You’re real efficient at not caring that I came back alive, huh?” Draego objects with a smille on his face.
“It’s not like this was a run to another settlement. Would have been a waste of energy to worry,” she refutes.
“Hey! I ended up bumping into the head family back there, they may be prissy but it’s not like I’m explosion-proof. Anyways, here’re some tomes for you to pencil in. Should have some quality stuff in them,” Draego says as he places a stack of five tomes on her desk.
The one-armed woman glares at Draego for a moment, then picks up her quill and starts to write something down. She mumbles, “risk of upper-class coming to personally wipe out the base, up…”
“Hey now, Shiva! I brought a new recruit, don’t go scaring her with nonsense like that. The upper-class are way too scared of the wilderness to come out here.”
Shiva suddenly stops writing, then makes eye contact with Cyrilla. Her expression softens and she raises up to her feet. She approaches Cyrilla and offers her hand. “Sorry about that. Draego’s short-term memory is awful so I like to get information from him as quickly as possible.”
Cyrilla nods and shakes her hand. Her grip is ridiculously strong, Cyrilla winces and Shiva quickly loosens up.
“Ah, my bad. That’s my shortcoming, I’m bad at handling recruits while they’re still soft,” she explains. Suddenly, she shouts “isn’t that right, Clover?”
No response. Shiva smirks.
“His shortcoming. Bad with words. Anyways, Shiva Mahara, strategist of the Echor R.U.N.N. base. Pleasure to be acquainted, I hope your shortcomings aren’t fatal,” she jokes.
Cyrilla is unsure as to the expression she should make. It ends up somewhere in the middle of happy to afraid as she responds; “I’m… Cyrilla. Thank you for having me.” As she says this she gives a small bow.
“Oh, I see. Too polite, got it,” Shiva comments as she returns to her desk. “Now. Draego. Spell usage, expend anything big?”
As the attention returns to him, Draego begins to sweat. “Oh, you know, not a whole lot, just a teleport spell,” he admits.
There’s that glare again. Shiva sighs and expresses her disbelief; “you burned a teleportation just to get out of the city?”
“I told you!” Draego becomes defensive, “I was being chased by the head family! And I had Cyrilla to rescue, I think that’s worth the time it’ll take for the magic to gather again.”
Shiva’s writing intensifies. “This pushes back a lot of stuff, y’know,” she sounds exasperated. “Alright, that’s all I needed to know. I’ll be busy re-scheduling things for a while. Get out of here, get some rest.”
“You’re telling that to me?” Draego looks over to the other woman who is practically collapsed on the floor. “What’s she doing in here, anyways?”
“Hah? You talkin’ about me?” The woman groans, too tired to open her eyes.
“You know that Nova was in charge of training Clover. She’s become quite protective of him, every time his shift comes around she stays in here in case he requires any assistance,” Shiva enunciates in her stead.
“Well she isn’t much ‘assistance’ like this,” Draego scoffs as he gives Nova a playful kick.
“I’ll beat your ass, Draego!” She objects, using the last of her energy in doing so.
“I’m real scared. What’re you gonna do like that, sleepwalk at me?” Draego taunts.
Nova just gives off one last groan before passing out.
“Nova’s another of our look-outs. She was the newbie for a while before we found Clover. She’s reliable, you should talk to her once she’s well-rested,” Draego recommends to Cyrilla. “Alright, we should get outta Shiva’s hair. The boss operated in the next room, so put your brave face on.”
Upon hearing this, Cyrilla begins to panic. She already had been panicking but now that feeling was intensified. She has the resolve, every fibre of her being wants to meet with this boss there’s no doubt, but that doesn’t quell the worry. She has to make a good impression, she has to make a good impression; she stresses in her mind. When she focuses her eyes again she realizes she has already followed Draego into the room.