The nearest gas station was, despite us being in the industrial district, quite a bit away. Of course we walked in the simple, slow and unworried step of friends just spending time together. A bit out of place in the dark grey and brown buildings around us, but it didn't matter. In a way it felt like the first few days.
Including that odd feeling of danger on the horizon.
Of course, Valerie had to tell her story.
"This is quite a while back, just after Khuna joined us. For a while we had a lot of problems with Kryss and part of me still wanted to get rid of him somehow. That, I guess, was the primary reason why I was spying on him at the time. Khuna was with Kai and didn't know that I was doing this, she wouldn't have approved."
Valerie just smiled and continued. "Anyway, I'd followed them from a distance. To be honest, I'm not completely sure I went unnoticed by all of them. Kryss had allowed me to see him on several occasions before, to scare me. Of course this time was a little different. He didn't look around once. They just went for their destination."
Khuna and I listened silently.
"At first I thought they went to the park or something, but they chose an office building near it. Not an abandoned one, mind you, just a normal building, used by day, quiet by night. They made their way in and took the only guard hostage, if you can call it that. In the middle of the office, among all the cubicles or however you call them, they cleared some space and let him stand in the middle."
She paused for a moment, closing her eyes and trying to remember.
"I wasn't as close as I'd wanted, only on a roof nearby. I could look in, but hearing them was very difficult. I could make out most of it and I filled in the rest with minimal guesswork, when I could only hear some vowels or such."
She took a deep breath, making her voice lower.
"He walked to the center of the group, where the guard was standing, looking quite afraid. 'All nine surround me, witness to my deeds. His blood will be taken, his spirit destroyed, his body remains. There is nothing that can stop us.' He put his lips to his neck and drunk him dry, letting his body drop to the floor. 'The fear will spread through this simple deed.' They left the office through the front door, opened by the guard earlier."
Both Khuna and I frowned a little, noticed by Valerie.
"Wait, that isn't it, I kept close to them while they traversed the rooftops. The wind carrying their voices to me. 'Why is it only ever nine of us?' asked one of them silently to another. 'Fool, if there were more, we'd run out of cattle to feed on.' The first asked, slightly irritated. 'But why nine? Does it have a meaning? We'd be a lot stronger with a few more.' he was shushed by the second. 'Silent! Kryss will hear you.'"
Valerie smiled grimly. "Kryss had heard both of them and stopped the group, looking at them both. 'So, you like to question my methods? Question the one who has given you power?' The one who had answered looked at Kryss guiltily, the other looked defiant. 'I think you're just afraid of making more of us than you can control.'"
"The sound of Kryss hitting him with full force on the side of his head, with him falling to the roof echoed quite loudly into the night. 'It's worse enough you question my motives, but then you question my strength? There's several reasons why there are always nine of you and to be honest, you are not even worth telling why.' He stamped on the head of the defiant. 'But remember this, nine is important. It means there are three threes of you, strengthening each other in a pyramid. Don't think our strength comes from the blood alone, if it was just that, you wouldn't be so easily defeated.' He scowled at all of the other 8 watching. 'Remember this, there are good reasons for the things that I do. It's what makes us strong, keeps us string. Don't ever defy me like this one!'"
Valerie paused for a moment, Khuna and I noticed a look of pain on her face.
"He then... He then stamped really hard on the head of the defiant, the crack of his skull and the small splash of blood not only rode my spine as an ice-cube but also brought images in my head I would never forget. Such a unique sound, the crack of bone so strong and the squish of brains beneath-foot. He didn't even laugh maniacally or anything, just looked at the remaining eight and scorned them with his eyes. He spoke one thing before he bowed, took the body and ran over the rooftops. 'Don't defy me again.'"
Again a deep breath by Valerie. Khuna and I just looked at her in surprise, the intensity of her words is so hard to be explained here on paper. But the vibrato in her voice, the way she spoke those words. We felt echoes, remnants of those sounds that scared her so much, scarred her. As it did us in lesser form now.
"The eight remaining went away back to their hiding place. I couldn't follow either of them but I presumed that Kryss burned the body to be sure he wouldn't return. Though I still think after that, the defiant would just bleed to death, unable to heal itself." A weary smile. "I returned home but I didn't tell Khuna and Kai at the time. I wanted to tell them later but enough happened for me to just kinda forget about it."
She looked at Khuna. "I'm sorry."
Khuna smiled kindly. "It's okay, it's not like we have to tell everything that happens."
Valerie smiled a little happier. "Thanks."
After that we just remained quiet, each to our own thoughts. It was valuable information as Kryss really did kill them just for asking questions. Which meant that they weren't the type to really ask questions about their existence anymore. All that did had been... removed.
At last we arrived at the gas station, none of us wanted to speak and break the heavy atmosphere. Although it had been quite the tale that, it brought a hidden smile to my face. This story proved they'd experienced weird stuff without me, before they knew me. So it wasn't just me that was causing all of this somehow.
It wasn't just me...