Everyone shifted their attention towards the two officials who were to join their expedition as they finally made themselves known on camp, and Blaze and Colleen raised their brows, greeting them with judging eyes.
Alexandria and Kingsley Hastamvidé.
The sibling pair were officials known as the respective representatives of the faction's Storm Tribe, proudly displaying their insignia on the chest plates of their Council-provided rose gold armor. It could be said that the Hastamvidé siblings were close to the Ember Tribe duo, Blake and Winter, to a certain degree.
Technically speaking, the siblings were the ones who initially recommended Blake and Winter to the council after the previous representatives of the Ember Tribe resigned, for they were impressed by their dragon-slaying as well as their leadership skills.
But however nice that sounded, Blaze could not help but find fault in their seemingly well intentions. If they did not recommend them to the council back then, Blake could possibly still be alive, no? If someone were to know something about the assailant who killed Blake, who else could there be, but them? Heck, the assailant could even be them!
However, the Storm Tribe siblings were known for their dexterity with spears, not swords. So, the possibility of either one of them being the killer was remarkably low.
Even if that was the case, that didn't stop Blaze from staying highly suspicious of them. Who could blame her? So much had happened to her in the past few weeks, so much that it was enough for more than a lifetime. Her tribe was reduced to nothingness in just one night, her older brother died on the same night, and her boyfriend—her sex friend was on the run, a wanted man.
Aside from Colleen, she could not afford to easily trust anyone, especially those from the Lunargard Council. Against everyone, even the Lunargard Emperor, she must keep her guard up.
With the two siblings standing right before her eyes, she could not help but wonder what their motive would be, if they were the ones behind everything. She glanced at Colleen to find her staring back at her, each one thinking what the other was thinking. Of course, best friends think alike. While everyone else was busy discussing and listening in on the upcoming expedition, Blaze and Colleen silently conversed, exchanging subtle gestures and nods of their heads.
Blaze couldn't think of a possible motive the siblings would have against Blake and Winter, and that only made her suspicion skyrocket. Was there a deeper, darker reason that she and Colleen had yet to find out?
She didn't know yet... but she was sure to find out soon. They could hide as long as they want, but the truth would reveal itself sooner or later, for a lie cannot last forever.
"Hey... are we going to proceed with our initial plan?" Colleen whispered in her ear, and she nodded in response.
"What about your secret little boyfriend?" Colleen quietly teased her, somehow maintaining a straight face.
"He's not my boyfriend!" Blaze insisted with a hiss under her breath. "And he's not little! We already searched all the areas nearby, we can't just waste time solely looking for him, right?"
Blaze recalled what Colleen told her few moments before the Hastamvidé siblings arrived, telling her that Winter might be on the mountain bordering the Ember Tribe's territory, hiding in one of the places they met up for sex. Blaze had instantly facepalmed herself upon hearing such suggestion.
She thought her best friend had thought of something worth hearing but what the latter informed her about was insanely ludicrous!
If things continued like this, she might as well become crazy! Who would hide in such places, open areas in which anyone could easily stumble upon? Though Blaze can shamefully admit that doing the deed in such places was stimulating, there was no way Winter could just hide from officials in such areas…
Winter Askin, her boyfriend—sex friend, was not so stupid to resort to only that.
"Ohohoho! Our little Blaze is acting so mighty but so timid when Winter's around, heeheehee!" Colleen playfully poked her cheek, making fun of her as Blaze couldn't help but sigh. She could easily deny that fact towards others but not with Colleen, for she was the only one who knew anything and everything about her.
All she could do was ignore her taunts.
"Who's talking?" a voice suddenly thundered.
Everyone turned, the crowd parting down the middle, exposing Blaze and Colleen to the officials…
And Alexandria's mouth fell open upon noticing the unrequired presence of a certain Dragon-slayer among their ranks. "Blaze?! Blaze Estereon, is that you?"
She left her brother's side and hurried to approach Blaze, who sucked in a sharp breath of air through her teeth in annoyance upon being found out. "Oh my god! What are you doing here, Blaze? You should be on mandatory leave!"
Blaze's ears tingled. "Mandatory?" she scoffed, her tone of voice cold and unwelcoming. "No one told me my leave was mandatory, Alexandria."
Alexandria's small eyes broadened fearfully, regretting speaking out once she found the Ember Tribe's lioness was displeased with her. It was a poor choice of words on her end.
She stammered, trying to calm her flame. "Uhm... Blaze, sis. T- that's not what I meant- I mean..."
But it was already too late, what was said had already been said.
Alexandria may be better than Blaze in terms of political and leadership skills, but the latter was feared among the ranks of Dragon-slayers for a reason. She wouldn't even have the chance to give Blaze a run for her money if they were to start fighting right now.
"She meant it's improper for an esteemed Dragon-slayer like you to show up unannounced, Blaze." Kingsley stepped in to save his younger sister from her predicament, running his hand through his blonde, slicked-back hair that gleamed brightly under the sun.
"I'm fine, Kingsley. Thank you for your concern, but I am not going withdraw from today's expedition," Blaze retorted, her voice steel-like before the official in front of her. To set her point across, she swung her dragon-slaying javelins from her back, letting the siblings know that she would not stand down easily unless they beat her in a fight. Colleen reached for an arrow from her quiver, ready to aid her best friend if needed.
The pressure in the atmosphere surrounding the four Dragon-slayers was real as the crowd was left unnerved.
Kaiser nearly melted from the fear of what could happen. He knew damn well that Blaze was straight-up crazy and did not fear an official, having the skills to back that up. The Lunarguard Council never liked her since the beginning due to the reputation that she quickly built up among the fighters, even more so because she was a woman.
The silence hung in the air, seemingly for a long time before Kingsley finally laughed it off, relieving the crowd from the tense atmosphere.
"Your courage never fails to impress me, Blaze," he lightly said with a firm pat on her shoulder. "If you take down the two of us here, don't think the council will still allow you to do what you want. But since you're pulling off your usual stunts, I am positive that you're okay now. Truly impressive. Winter and Blake may have been the representatives of the Ember Tribe, but you hold the real epitome of its fiery title. Keep it that way."
Ticked off by how casually he stated his words, Blaze whipped her javelins at Kingsley's neck, the razor-sharp tip pricking his pale skin. "Don't you dare say their names again, Kingsley. I am warning you."
"Woah there... scary," he said with a chuckle, though his eyes glanced down at her unwavering weapon nervously. "I am not going to fight my friend's little sister, and I never said that I'm going to stop you from joining either. Believe it or not, Blaze, I am on your side."