Henley could not for the life of him figure out what was wrong with that woman named Serina. Henley had the ability to “see,” or rather smell, anyone’s current emotional landscape with a little help of his magic. These landscapes were depicted to him as waterfalls of varying colors, varying degrees of temperature and various rates of flow.
Yes, that was what he normally saw: a beautiful waterfall with all of its peculiar characteristics. Although, when finally face-to-face with her today, he could not figure out why he could see exactly what he saw.
He saw something that frightened him. Not much, but just a tiny bit. And that was a big deal, for him.
Waterfalls were supposed to be made of water. That’s why it was always called a “waterfall.” But her waterfall was far different. Albeit he had never been able to see it before, but nothing could have prepared him for that.
It was dark red, like flowing blood, and it steamed and boiled and stank like a sulfurous pit, and there were glowing chunks flowing amidst it so hot he thought it might singe his eyes just from watching.
Whatever the case, it was highly destructive, vulgar and pitiless. The scent of the blood of hatred, bitterness and weaponized discontent nearly made him gag, as if he were inhaling the overflow of a pressurized vat of pure vomit.
He would have to watch that girl, Serina. She might just be the one he was warned about—one of the traitors sent with the intention of bringing about the destruction of Cerberus Black from within its own walls.
At least he now knew that, of all the people of Cerberus Black, there were none more untrustworthy than her. She could never be a “candle of veracity,” one of those appointed by the guild master as a divinely-appointed protector of the guild. If only just a tiny bit, it made his task of searching for the “codes of the candle” easier.
Yes, thank God it wasn’t her. He couldn’t bear to be in her presence more than a moment. His “emotion seeing” ability was constantly and inescapably active as long as he was in the act of breathing. That is, it was visible and constant only after he had been able to break through a person’s emotional field.
For most people, this occurrence was instantaneous. For some, however, whether for good or ill, a strong mental fortitude caused such a breakthrough to took a relatively long time.
That was the first time he had been able visualize her emotional interface, and he was glad, now that he had broken through he would not have to see her again.
At least, not for another twenty-four hours.
On his next visit, he would hold his breath in her presence, and he would not suffer any more of her sea of enigmatic hatred. Or so he hoped.
The following day he carried to her the package which he knew without fail would be sent to her from her close friend down below, and upon arrival at his normal delivery spot, he held his breath, just as planned.
He offered his warm smile as he always did to his clients and their recipients, as he did to everyone of Cerberus black, whether enemy or friend. And she, with a desperately-woven shielding over her emotions, a shielding of which was now powerless to his magic, could not help but seep them out.
His eye, or rather nose, was attuned to her frequency, and he could not but help to take a little peak to see if that vile river were still falling to its putrid death.
A tiny breath revealed that it was indeed all there in all of its pining misery. He hurriedly rushed out the window after smiling, determined not to take even the most meager a whiff of that inexorable scent.
Within moments, with his hand tucked away beneath a wall stone which he had passed thousands of times, and with his breath still held tight in his lungs, he had realized his error. He had forgotten to give her the package.
Biting his lip, he rushed back toward the tall window, cursing his deficiency and gathering that deep breath which would postpone the inevitable influx of her toxic soul fumes. He leapt into the window and bowed his waist to her in his reverent and graceful fluidity of motion which members of his class and rank were required to master.
“Terribly sorry,” he said in answer of his appalling crime. “Busy day.” He tossed to her the package.
“I really must be going. Now, I’m terribly late.”
“I wasn’t to receive a package today.”
“I wasn’t to receive a package today. This isn’t mine.”
He took from her hand the package. It was identical to the one that she usually received in every conceivable way, only its address was not made out to her but to someone else, on the thirtieth floor. A completely innocent coincidence.
He wasn’t sure whether it was the lack of oxygen or the ridiculously elementary mistake he had made which threatened to rob him of his consciousness.
“Really busy day,” he replied, taking the package back and offering in reparation the most endearing smile he could create.
Then, it broke loose. He took a deep breath, but even before he took that breath, and perhaps not at all as a consequence of it, the stench emitting from her soul hooked his nose like a heap of drunkards lying in a pile of their own fresh vomit, perhaps with a few still in the process of relinquishing the contents of their delightful recent meal.
There it was: the sea of magma and blood, oozing and screaming down from a tall precipice and slamming into a sizable sulfuric lake below.
It was as if someone had opened the lid of hell and, wafting the vapor of it into his face, had also showed him a vision of the world inside. That was the world which emanated from that woman.
What a terribly frightening creature, he thought. He drew in just enough breath to recite his intended getaway phrase. Courtesy in the midst of a violent war zone was a trifling but quintessential skill for a noble of his rank and occupation.
“Now, I am inexcusably late.”
He leapt out the window again and scrambled away from the window as fast as he could. He sincerely hoped that she wasn’t going to be receiving any packages in the near future.
Perhaps soon he could have her adamantly-corresponding friend from down below “called away” to a long-term mission in a distant country.
Perhaps tomorrow, even.