No prompts used.
When the night fell, we were ready. Ria had managed to conjure a net for us both so we could carry whatever we managed to catch back to our camp without having the inklings dissolve on the spot; it would have been far more difficult to try to catch them — or as many as of them as possible — straight into bottles.
As we crept further like predators, I started to hear chattering. Inklings! Ria and I exchanged a glance and started to circle around the snickering from different directions, nets ready. The more we managed to catch, the better.
It was tough to discern the inklings from the dark ground, but I saw them glimmer in the tiny shafts of moonlight which shone through the gaps in the leaves. I looked up to see Ria ready as well. I nodded to her. She nodded back.
We rushed at the inklings.
The snickering turned into high-pitched shrieks as we swung our nets at the inklings. Many got away, but we managed to secure a few. There was nothing to silence them, though, so we had bear with it all the way back to the camp.
Once we got back, I observed the inklings we had caught. I had seen an inkling up close only once before; I had been six when my father had taken me to see them at the forest near our village. I had managed to catch one into my hands only for it to make an explosive dissolution right at my face the moment I had touched it. The ink had stung in my eyes for hours after that.
As Ria prepared the ink bottles, I spoke up, “My father used to say that inklings are merely ink animated by a spell without an end parameter other than being touched, not actually living creatures. Is that true?”
“It is, as far as I know,” Ria told. “Why do you ask?”
“I was just curious. It always felt a bit strange since they seem so… sentient.” I gestured at the captured inklings as they chattered in audible horror.
“Back in the City,” Ria pointed at the stars above us, “they say that a mage once animated his ink for safer transportation when he changed residency, but he made a sloppy work with the spell, most notably not making an end parameter that would trigger anyway. The only end parameter was a living being touching them. Some of those inklings escaped mid-transit and, as sloppily animated things left to their own devices tend to do sooner or later, started to duplicate in the wild. It escalated to the point he could not stop them, so he gave up and reported the matter to the nearest sorcery school. That school eventually gave up on their inkling hunt as well and instead started to research them.” She smirked. “In the end, that school got a source of infinite ink from them, renamed itself ‘Inky Academy’ and started to sell their inkling ink for extra money. Eventually, they started to gain so much money from the ink that they could gradually lower their tuition fees into oblivion without cutting from anything.”
“Inky Academy?” I had heard the name before. “So, it’s not just a myth that they sell actual inkling ink?”
“Not as far as I know,” Ria told. Her smirk softened into a smile. “We could always visit it and see for ourselves. I may be a fallen angel, but I’m still an angel. I’m sure that they won’t pass up a chance to interact with one.” She turned to look at the inklings. “However, first things first. Could you help me with the inklings? We probably have to make multiple hunts, but I don’t want to lose any more drops than necessary.”
“Of course, as long as none of them explode on my face.”
Ria laughed softly. “If any of them does, I’ll get the ink off, don’t worry.”
I gave her a lopsided smile and braced myself to meet the horrific memories from that one night in my childhood. “Let’s get to it, then.”