In which Rasik gives up on control.
The old man was angry, if anything. Alrey did not understand why.
"You nutcase, it's 'cause I can't feed so many mouths!" Rasik complained, glaring at the poor young girl in front of him. Well, she was about a year older than Alrey. She put her long black hair on her shoulder, twisting it between her fingers.
"I can feed myself," she retorted, now folding her arms. Well, she was not poor, either. She glared back at the old adventurer with as much fire in her eyes, a deep frown set in her face, though half-hidden by her rather long black fringe. Alrey glanced back and forth between the two. He had joined Rasik merely three days earlier. Since then, they had had already three people come up to the old man, asking him to take them on as apprentices. "I am used to living anywhere but inside a house, so I could be of great help."
"How do you people even know of me? I am not the one who stuck a sword in Treg's gut or a spear in Kilhiar's brain."
"But you were the one who survived those encounters. I mean, both Kir Berline and Onter Kad are dead," she said with a wide grin. It was almost wicked and made Alrey back away a step. Rasik, on the other hand, folded his arms and snarled at the girl.
"Who are you, even?" he spat.
"I'm Sar Berline," she spat right back at him. "Kir Berline's niece." Rasik fidgeted.
"Ah, Taine's kid," he said in a quiet whisper, shaking his head and lowering his arms, relaxing. "Very well, Sar, you may accompany us. I am guessing you are more experienced than he." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, pointing at Alrey.
"It's Berline, thank you very much," Berline said, clicking her tongue. Calling girls, well, anyone by their last name was rude, though it was still commonplace. It made it seem like the person one was calling out to was merely an item in their father or husband's collection.
"Think of another name, because I am not speaking that one," Rasik clicked in return, raising an eyebrow and circling his forefinger pointing at her. Berline tilted her head, then slammed her closed fist against her other open palm.
"Why did you never marry?" she asked. Rasik turned beetroot red and folded his arms again.
"We did not need that," he said, barely keeping his calm. Berline let out a triumphant shout. Apparently she was not entirely sure about Rasik and her aunt, but he did not seem to bother himself with lies. Alrey allowed himself a short chuckle, earning a rather quick, but effective glare from Rasik. He tapped his fingers on his lips, glancing between the two in front of him. They remained silent for a while.
"We were always on the move. It's no life for a child." Alrey could not determine whether his new mentor was angry or embarrassed. Perhaps both.
"Excuses!" she snorted and laughed. Rasik shrugged.
"Maybe, but it does not make it less true," he said. "Do not make me take back my words." The girl bit down on her lower lip, slightly frowning. "Good girl." She grimaced at his words.
"Berline?" a young voice reached them, a lanky boy hurrying over with a wide grin practically carved in his face, longer brown curls bouncing around his face. The girl spared him a glance, a deep sigh and a save-me sort of frowning expression. Well, the expression was meant for Rasik and Alrey.
"Heeey," she greeted, voice strained, smile struggling to stay on her lips, hand stiff as it stood in a small wave, arm pressed close to her body. Her eyebrows could do nothing but fail to remove the slight frown on her face as she stood face to face with the newcomer.
"How have you been? Haven't seen you in a year!" the boy said, giving Berline a quick hug. She awkwardly patted his back and he released her from his grip.
"Yeah, been great. You?" she replied, shrugging.
"Oh, I've been great, too," he said, though he did not seem to give off that vibe as he answered, his voice losing the initial cheerfulness. Rasik and Alrey exchanged glances.
"What have you been doing? Found a job?" she asked, tilting her head a little. She seemed more interested now. Her interlocutor fidgeted.
"Ah, yeah, a bit. I'm working with my father," he said, nodding and smiling. His cheerfulness was all gone. Berline frowned. She seemed the opposite of how she acted when he had approached them.
"Oh, dear," she muttered quickly and grabbed the boy's wrist, frowning as she stared high up into his eyes. More fear crept into his presence. "How bad is it?"
"It... It's not bad," he stuttered, gulping heavily. She eyed him from head to toe, squeezing his arms all the way from his shoulders to his wrists. She then proceeded to press her fingers around his ribs lightly. He flinched and took a step back. She grabbed his wrist again and grinned, looking up at him.
"Not bad, huh?" she said. He was frowning. She pulled him closer and spun to look at the old adventurer. "Uncle, we have a new member."
"Oh... already?" Rasik snorted, frowning. "I mean... What took you so long?" He looked as if he were expecting it to happen. He most likely was, Alrey thought. Just how quickly could he let his words fade? He said he did not want more than one apprentice. He then accepted Berline. Now, the nameless boy was with them, as well, apparently. "Name?" he said, then muttered: "Might as well start an adventurers' guild." He folded his arms.
"Uh," the boy gasped, his breathing quickening. "I'm Pirin Ram."
"Nice to meet you, Pirin Ram," Rasik said, elbowing Alrey.
"Nice to meet you, I'm Alrey Vid," he said, rubbing his ribs. Pirin nodded.
"Now that we all know one another," Rasik sighed, "we're all friends and we use only first names." He waved his arms around. "Exceptions? Sar. Well, it is actually a first name for her." He pointed at Berline and proceeded to poke her forehead with his finger. She growled and folded her arms, taking a step backwards. "I would say you all have to listen to me, but we all know it won't happen." He clasped his hands together. "Even the sparrows do." He then threw his arms up in the air. "Now that I'm loaded with helpers, I can safely say we can casually stroll in here." He stuck his hand under his coat and wiggled a map next to his head as he walked away, laughing to himself. The three apprentices followed him with their eyes until he disappeared up the stairs of The Old Waist.
Berline sighed and patted both of them on their backs, jogging towards and up the stairs after the old man. Pirin glanced at Alrey.
"I didn't even want this," he said.
"I don't think you mind it too much," Alrey replied. The lanky boy just shrugged and went upstairs as well, Alrey following suit. Seren sighed at the bar when the two of them disappeared up the stairwell, as well. The other patrons silently returned to their previous business, the main attraction gone.
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