They’re staring, Asuna realized. Not at me. At Kirito.
The shaman’s door banged open. “Inside,” the elderly weretiger growled, fangs visible. “Now.”
Jaw set, Kirito followed her in. Asuna took one more look around, seeing how the furred and feathered villagers seemed to relax a little.
This can’t be good.
Asuna shut the door just in time to muffle Kirito’s yelp from the listeners outside. “Lady Tetsutora!”
“Did I not say ye should not call me that?” One clawed hand gripping the swordsman’s shoulder, the weretigress finished rubbing something thick and black, with a glitter like shed scales, across the nape of Kirito’s neck under his hair. “There. That should throw it off the scent for now.”
Asuna breathed in, noting something oddly missing. “Kirito, you… you smell like a draconic.”
“Mistfeather scales,” Tetsutora told them both, wiping her hands on a much-abused towel. “The beast would never believe a weretiger scent. Not when the cub here always smells of feathers.” Her growl was audible, though her fangs were receding. “I asked ye to come here first.”
“I know.” Kirito’s gaze flicked toward the door, and the lake far beyond. “But we saw… what happened?”
The shaman sighed, her own glance going to the silver spear by her door. “Tinctoria Village is no more.”
Asuna felt a chill prickle down her spine. One of the villages on the 40th floor was gone? Please tell me there was no one there when it happened… oh, no. Please, let no one have teleported there! “How?”
“Was anyone rescued?” Kirito asked, hard on the heels of her words.
“’Twould seem a certain Power took offense to the Lady Aeris granting her Healing Rain to a firebird shaman,” Tetsutora growled. “In the midst of night, the very heart of the earth where Pollista’s nest fell, cracked and shuddered. The mountains themselves trembled, and Risia’s moon blazed bright as day, and… the waters washed all away.”