Beware of Creeps
Rood didn't know how an old man could come out of a daruma doll, but he had absolutely no intention of marrying it.
"Why?" Erlking cried.
"For one and foremost, I'm a guy. And I have absolutely no intention of marrying."
"Hard to believe. Seeing you wear that." Shicmuon commented which Rood chose to ignore.
"As long as you're cute, it's all fine." Erlking reasoned with a straight face. "Cuteness prevails over all."
"Also, I'm 15. So I'd appreciate it if you'd stop calling me cute. Save that for an actual girl." Despite the large vein popping on his head, Rood controls himself from beating up the perverted old man.
"It doesn't matter if you're 15,000 years old. All that matters is physical development." Erlking nonchalantly added.
"That's a horrible way of saying it that way?! And are you saying I'm not physically developed enough?! I kill you?!" No longer able to tolerate this anymore, Rood snaps.
"Don't worry, Rood-nim! I love you the way you are!" Linus joins in while hugging Rood.
"As if that'd make me feel better?!" Rood couldn't tell if Linus was trying to help him or not.
Why is that everyone is always commenting on Rood's height.
"So you'll stay pint sized for the rest of your life?" Shicmuon unnecessarily added much to Rood's chagrin.
"You stay out of this?!"
While Rood and Shicmuon were having their usual conversation where Shicmuon taunts Rood and the latter rebuts, Lapis was curious about one thing. It had weighed on his mind from the beginning, but he wasn't sure whether to ask or not. Curiosity getting the better of him, Lapis just goes and asks.
"Pardon my forwardness, but you wouldn't..." Lapis wasn't sure how to say this delicately. "You wouldn't happen to be a... crossdresser...?"
And he said it.
Now he's done it. He could have said that much more smoothly. Lapis has no doubt in his mind that Lalita will get mad at him. Who wouldn't? He just asked if he was a crossdresser. That was practically the same as labeling him as one. Unless, he actually was one, there's no way Lalita won't break out in a fit of rage.
"What's a crossdresser?" Lalita naively tilts his head to the side unaware of the meaning of the word.
Lapis face faults as he hears this.
Contrary to Lapis's initial thoughts, Lalita didn't break out in a fit of rage for labeling him as a crossdresser nor did he admit he was one.
The kid had no idea what a crossdresser was?!
Was he serious? Any kid his age should already know what that was. If he didn't know what a crossdresser was, then it's unlikely that he's one. But the question now is why does he have that dress that he lent to Rood to wear since all the rest were just women's clothing? This was getting more confusing.
"Th... Then that dress..." Lapis stuttered as several of strands of his hair messily stick out.
"Oh, that's a present for my friend!"
A friend? It wasn't for him? It was for a friend? Lapis's cheeks turn slightly red in embarrassment for thinking that Lalita was a crossdresser.
"Your friend is a girl... right?"
"Yeah!" Lalita stated as if it was obvious.
Lapis felt even more embarrassed for asking. Of course, it was for a girl. What guy normally buys a dress for another guy?
"I'm sure you'll like her. She's really nice and kind. She's always helping me too."
Too caught up in his own embarrassment, Lapis wasn't listening at all. Of all the things to say, he had to say that and turned out to be wrong. How embarrassing...
"Since we've already got what we came here to get, we'd better head back to the inn." Rood suggested. The sooner they get back the sooner he can get back to his room and change out this embarrassing dress. Then he'll return the dress back to Lalita. Hopefully, he won't tell his friend that it was worn. "Since we're all heading the same direction, you might as well come with us."
"Really!" Lalita kindly accepted Rood's offer.
The others had no issue with it since Lalita was the one who helped Rood out and even loaned him some clothes although it was a dress. All except for one blue haired Idun.
"No! I'm against this!"
"Why?" Rood didn't see what Dio was making such a big deal out of. "You don't want to go with him?"
Dio felt guilty after looking at the sad, abandoned puppy dog look on Lalita's face. The kid looked like he was about to cry which made Dio feel even worse.
"Th-That's not it." Dio clarified not meaning to hurt Lalita's feelings. "It's not him that I mind. It's... THAT THING that I can't stand!"
Dio points to his rival for Rood's attention and sworn enemy.
"He's a wild beast! As soon as you turn around, he'll shed that fake, innocent skin and reveal his true vicious, cannibal self!"
"Eh? Fenrir?" Lalita questioned. "There must be some mistake! Fenrir is a good boy. He won't do such a thing."
Lalita's pure innocence nearly blinds Dio. Just how could he say such things?! That baby wolf must have really tricked Lalita.
"He's a good, little pup. He wouldn't harm a fly." Lalita honestly assured Dio.
So does that mean he sees Dio as less than a fly...
"Little children, shouldn't be out this late! You don't know what dangers lurk in these part of the woods." Erlking said wanting to join their party.
His motives were pretty much obvious except to the oblivious Lalita.
"The only danger here is right in front of us." Rood deadpanned.
"Now. Now. Don't be shy. Let this uncle chaperone you kiddies~" The heavy panting and flushed face from the floating daruma doll weren't exactly convincing anyone especially not Rood.
Officially creeped out by Erlking's antics, Lapis grabs the small daruma doll and threw it far, far away.
"Let's go before he gets back."
Lapis wasn't going to stay a second longer knowing that creepy pedophile might come back any moment.
On their way back to the inn, Dio makes sure to keep a close eye on the flower he got since it's the only way to get rid of the smell on him. He wished he was as lucky as Lalita and found the underground lake which held the same properties as the Lilium Lotus.
"You're so lucky~" Dio pouted. "I wish I could had half as much as your luck and found that hidden underground lake."
"Really? I fell a lot of times, and it hurt so badly." Lalita whined. "But I did find this pretty flower."
Lalita shows Dio the Lilium Lotus he got when he was in the underground caverns.
"You got one too.."
"It's for my friend. She likes flowers."
Dresses and flowers sounds like stuff a girl would like. Maybe Dio should have saved a few for Lin as thanks for helping him out with those Tower magicians back when the [Door] was opening and when Lispen was about to cut him down.
Leisurely sitting on top of a cliff was a young man wearing a black long sleeved, open coat reaching to his ankles, black gloves, and black boots under his dark colored pants. He has a silver chain tied to his dark blue belt. Under his unbuttoned coat is a white collar shirt with a red tie and black cross design on his tie.
"Now, where did that fool go?"
As the gentle wind blows through his black locks, he stares down in wonder as to where his partner had gone.
"Better hurry up before Axel and that annoying bitch get on my case and nag at me for being late."
The only problem was that his partner was always running off who knows where doing his own thing.
"I should get a leash or something..."
Meanwhile, in another part of Xaytre was a lost young mint green haired man in search of something.
"I could have sworn it was should have been here or was it over there."
Looking around, he couldn't see hide nor hair of anyone.
"If I don't hurry, I'll be in trouble."
Resting from their long run, they could finally have a breather especially after running into so many obstacles along the way. Aside from Rood and Shicmuon, everyone else was dead tired except for Lalita who was short of breath.
"I... I think we finally lost it." Dio said heavily panting.
"Y-Yeah..." Lapis agreed trying to catch some air.
"That was so terrible..." On the ground, Linus laid next to where Rood was sitting at. "If only there wasn't for a certain useless baggage, Rood-nim would have easily handled it."
"Who are you calling baggage?!"
"But then again Rood-nim is too gentle and kind to harm an animal..."
"Listen when someone is talking?!" Lapis retorted. "Still, just how many animals do we have to run into... That was the sixth one already..."
Lapis clearly remembers each and every dreadful time they got attacked by some wild animal. Each animal was big and scary. One was a bear. Another was a crocodile. Then a wild boar, a bull, lion, and finally the one that they just managed to shake off: a giant scorpion. And the professors warned all the student beforehand not to harm any of the animals for any reason due to their endangered status. It was the condition that the students and staff were given. So long as they remain on Xatyre, they should abide by the rules of Xatyre and not do anything that would damage the ecosystem or endanger the creatures. With all the poaching problems lately, the animals are very wary especially towards strangers. They may even mistaken the students as dangers and run rampage from fear. Should they run into a frightening creature. They should run and not confront it. Otherwise, they will be immediately kicked out of Xatyre and sent back to Helios.
And to make things worse, Shicmuon almost went ahead and retaliated against the animals. Had it not been for Rood who knew the nature of the crazy pyromaniac, not just the animals they encountered but a large part of the land would be devastated.
End result: They'd be kicked out Xatyre.
Although Rood didn't like how this trip was starting out, he didn't want to ruin Lidusis's chance to enjoy his school life especially not because of some annoying red flea.
"It's because you smell so bad that the animals were like that." Linus bluntly pointed out. "You should hurry up and take a bath already."
"You think I could if I wanted to?!"
Like the others, Dio too was tired of having to run from the animals. In his case, it was worse since all of the attacks were mostly focused on him. Now he really wanted to get a bath as soon as possible.
"Uhhh, all that running made me hungry. I haven't eaten anything since we've gotten here." Dio felt his stomach wrenching itself in hunger.
"I'll go look around for something to eat." Rood gets up. Since he was the only one, except for Shicmuon, who was perfectly fine, he might as well go foraging for food.
"Rood..." Dio was moved to see how much his friend cared for him.
"So is there anything you want, Lidusis?" Rood asks Lidusis much to Dio's dismay.
"For Lord Artian?!" Dio cried brokenhearted by Rood's favoring over Lidusis. This was favoritism. The difference in the way he treats between him and Lidusis was practically discrimination. How unfair.
"Don't worry I'll bring plenty for you too." Rood assured Dio.
"Yeah, we need someone to try it out first to see if it's safe." Rood joked.
"So I'm just a poison tester?!"
Dio felt his heart was taken and torn in two.
"If Rood-nim is going, then I'm going too!" Linus didn't want to miss out a second being away from his beloved idol.
"It's too much for you to go. I'll go instead." Still believing that Rood was a weak bodied child, Lapis offered to go in Rood's place.
It's just a short walk... Rood sweat drops. It's not like he was going to another country.
As Rood started heading off to get some food, Shicmuon started trailing behind. The fact that Shicmuon was tagging along greatly bothered him. He didn't disliked the red haired magician's presence for more reasons than one, but most of all because the latter would never get off his case.
"Hey, who said you can go?!" Lapis grabs Shicmuon by his shoulder. There was no way he was going to leave Rood alone with his bully (or so he thinks that).
Not pleased with Lapis's interference, Shicmuon glares at Lapis almost ready to kill him. Then returns his attention back to Rood who took the chance to disappear the moment Shicmuon looked away.
"That damn Blackie!"
From his present location, Rood could hear Shicmuon's yell. It was a good thing he managed to sneak out the moment Shicmuon was distracted, but the problem was after he returns. No doubt Shicmuon will be difficult to handle once he returns.
For now he'd better concentrate on finding food first.
Looking up, Rood found some nice fruit growing on a tree. They looked perfectly ripe and in season.
Needed some air to clear his mind, Chevel went out for a short stroll. Prior to their training camp, Chevel received cookies from Lidusis. Apparently, he made them in class when the lecture was changed to a cooking lesson.
Really, that guy was nothing more than idiot. A really big idiot.
Chevel had bullied and tormented him in school. Blamed him for his sister's death. Initially, he didn't even like the guy at first.
Yet he chose to save his life back in Ishuella and didn't even hate him for all that he's done.
He really is a big idiot, but the bigger idiot was him for doing such horrible things to Lidusis.
Chevel's cheeks slightly blush as he has his hand curled over his mouth.
For him to hang out with Lidusis, it was almost like their childhood days.
Back when, he visited the Artian Estate with Ibriel at least before her death.
Images of his late younger sister run through Chevel's mind dampening his spirit even more.
Just as Chevel was thinking of his younger sister, he saw something very shocking. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. His eyes must be deceiving him.
This had to be a dream. How else would his little sister who died years ago be right before him.
Someone who's dead shouldn't be here. It just wasn't possible. It had to be a hallucination. The forest must be playing tricks on him. That's it.
But even so...
He didn't care if it was a hallucination or a dream.
Chevel dashes over to 'the hallucination of his sister.'
Hearing the footsteps from behind, the 'hallucination' slightly turns around then hugged by Chevel.
Wrapping his arms around the hallucination of his sister, Chevel could feel the warmth of a human body. This was no hallucination. But he didn't care. If this was a dream, he didn't want to wake up.
Just the very thought of his precious sister makes Chevel want to cry as teardrops start to form in Chevel's eyes.
"..re ...ou ..."
Near his ear, he could hear his sister whispering something, but it was too soft for him to make out what it was.
Was she trying to tell him something?
"What are you doing?"
Was it him or did Ibriel sound much different than how he remembered? Was her voice this boyish? It wasn't really deep or anything, but it didn't seem to match the lovely, energetic voice he remembered during his childhood.
Reluctantly, Chevel releases his hold in order to take a good look of the face of the person in his arms.
Reality hit him harder than a ton of bricks.
In arms wasn't his sister but rather someone he didn't expect to see or want to see for that matter.
At the sight of the young blond, Chevel froze in fear too petrified to move a muscle. He was without a doubt going to kill him.
Of all the people, it had to be Rood Chrishi.
But before that, he had to think of something before Rood asks him why he embraced him in his arms out of nowhere. He couldn't tell him that he thought he saw his little sister. That's for sure going to raise up a death flag. HIS death flag.
"Eee... Ano... You see... Uhm..."
Great, now he sounded like an idiot. He needs to think of something quick.
Things weren't looking good for Rood either. Although he wasn't sure why Chevel embraced him beforehand, that didn't matter right now. He didn't know what to do if Chevel asked him why he was in a dress.
Racking his brain for the right response, Chevel just throws out some random stuff.
"You look great in a dress!"
Shit. That wasn't supposed to come out.
When humans are under pressure, they tend to use the first thing that pops in their mind.
Later, as the others were waiting for Rood, one particular talentless Idun was stressing over the absence of the sad, ill child who he thought was weak and bullied.
"That's it!" Lapis could no longer stand the passing time. "He's been gone far too long! I never should have let him go by himself!"
"It hasn't even been 5 minutes." Dio pointed out before Lapis went out to look for Rood.
"5 minutes. 5 hours. Does it make any difference?!"
A lot... Dio wanted to say but kept it to himself.
"To leave an innocent, weak bodied child in this harsh environment, I have got to be out of my mind not to go after him?!" Lapis could just imagine the danger Rood could be facing at the moment like getting stuck in a hole or a giant bird swoops down and kidnaps him for dinner. And worst of all, he's crying for helping all by himself.
"Waaahhh! He~lp! Lapis!"
That's got to be what's happening?!
"Big Brother will save you?!" Lapis prepares to charge deep into the forest to find Rood but is stopped when Dio grabs him by the back his clothes preventing him from proceeding any further.
"Stop! He's fine! Just wait!" Dio tries to reason with the stubborn delusional Idun keeping the latter in tow. "You guys say something too!"
Dio turns to the others for assistance but thought twice about his actions as soon as he saw the others.
Lalita just casually sat on the ground with Fenrir in his arms like nothing was happening. It didn't look like he was going to be of any help.
No surprise that Lidusis was worried over Rood's absence, but it was barely 5 minutes since the kid left.
Linus was moping in a corner and has been since Rood left.
And the last one wasn't even present.
Rood... Please hurry back! From the bottom of his heart, Dio wished that Rood would return. He wasn't sure if he could handle this any longer.