At the Inn, Ronald was guided to his room by a young servant boy. In there, he seated on the edge of the bed with Woof laying on the floor next to him. Riattus was near the window, looking out.
- Well, we are on the first floor with a view to the back street. It seems to be a good room with a quiet and safe location. There’s a rooftop under this window, so, if necessary, this window can become an emergency exit. You managed very well, that interrogation from Mira. Fortunately for us, we practice a lot your cover story. But why every time that you talk about your fake family you get so sad?
Ronald shrugged his shoulders.
- Yeah… A family is something that I never had. My two childhood friends were the closest that I had for a family. And every time I remember the way that woman tied to the pole was screaming, I get sad, thinking about her own family.
- You know, her family was already dead when we arrived to that Goblin Village. I saw the bodies of four children on that pile. Maybe one of the men that were also on that pile, was her husband. There was nothing that we could do differently, we arrived there too late.
- I know… Well, I need to sleep. What about you?
Riattus pointed to the left wall where the Guild’s building was located.
- I will have a look in there and in the City to see if you can be safe tonight. After that crazy stunt of you against those three Adventurers and then to that Ma Yangfa, someone could try to surprise you, late this evening. Or maybe not. Better safe than sorry, right?
- What did you want for me to do? They were threatening Mira.
- You could just stay put. That Ma Yangfa guy was getting near, he would stop them. You blew his chance of impressing his love interest. But you managed to shake them both afterwards with that friendly talk. Maybe they evolve those awkward looks that they were giving each other after you talked with Mira. But you really need to learn to keep a low profile, you can’t attract too much attention upon you, you are still very weak.
Ronald was taking off his clothes, and he was already in bed while Riattus was speaking.
- Go away, you talkative old man! I need to sleep!
Riattus smiled and vanished, leaving them alone. Ronald blew on the candle and covered himself.
In the morning, Ronald came down and the same servant boy guided him to the dining room, for breakfast. In there, Feebles, the Merchant, was eating some breed and tea with a young boy and a young girl. When he saw Ronald, he called for him, inviting him to join them.
- Mister Ronald, how did things turn out in the Guild? Did you find a job?
Ronald smiled while giving bread to Woof.
- Yes, I did, in Miss Duza’s Party. They have four members, five with me. I am the Carrier and the Cook. When they have a job, I will go with them. In the meantime, I have money from the selling of the leaves and I also sold some portions of deer meat. There was a Quest for those, so, I got paid.
Noticing the questioning look that Ronald was making to the young couple, Feebles introduced them.
- Where are my manners… Mister Ronald, let me introduce you Mister Taly and his fiancée, Miss Ari. They are travelling around this area, to know more about the World before getting married in a few months. They were escorted here by those three Adventurers that made that mess in the Guild, yesterday.
Ronald opened wide his mouth but before he could say anything, the boy talked.
- It seems we have to thank you, for the loss of our escorts. They are in no condition to accompany us any longer. One broken nose and two red eyes, one broken jaw and front teeth, and the last one, broken head and a hand completely destroyed. I guess it was good what happened, it turned out that they were weaker than their Guild said because they were easily defeated by a simple Farmer armed with a wooden bench. And Mister Feebles told us what happened, with them threatening the receptionist of the Adventurer’s Guild. So, considering that tomorrow we wish to continue our travel to get to Argoheria and you have a Party, we wish to hire you and your partners as our escorts.
Ronald stopped to think for a while.
- You two want to cross Zakrosia? You know that place is filled with Monsters and that could make you two get killed? Along with anyone that could be with you?
- We could also go by boat, we have no problems with either way. By land would be more expensive, but I have a huge sum of money, already prepared for this journey of us.
- But why make such a dangerous voyage? What do you wish to accomplish by doing that?
The girl, Ari, spoke with a smile while pulling Taly’s arm to let her explain.
- Let’s just say that we have our reasons for wanting to know the World a little better. We can also say that we are from the Nobility, and the state of the World concerns our future. And considering the huge amount that we are willing to offer for a safe journey, I think this kind of answer will suffice. We may be young, but we are not stupid. One-third of the money now and the rest in Argoheria.
- Why not half now and half by the end?
- Because that would be a fortune. And more tempting to kill two stupid youngsters. Five gold coins now and twenty when we arrive there. It will be five gold coins for each member of your Party when we get to our destination, as long as none of you dies, of course. And if you guys do a good job, we may want to hire you again, for the way back.
Ronald made a frown and looked at Feebles.
- Is that fair? I don’t have any idea how much would cost an escort job like that.
- Mister Ronald, the normal is ten gold coins, for that length of a journey. But considering the dangers along the way, I guess it’s reasonable.
Ronald stopped to think for a while.
- I must speak about that proposal to my leader, Miss Duza. It depends on her, I am just the Carrier. But she could be more tempted to accept if it were thirty gold coins in the end.
The boy smiled after looking at Ari.
- I think twenty-five gold coins is a lot more than anyone would be willing to pay. Considering that we need to come back and we will need an escort again, there is the possibility to gain the same amount on the way back. But if that wolf accompanies us and if you make some very good meals, we can put in an extra.
- Ok… Well, I am going to meet my Party leader in a few moments, to have a walk in the City. I can ask her about that. Can I give an answer by the middle of this afternoon? I guess it will be time enough to get things ready for our departure tomorrow after lunch, considering that we have to find a carriage for you, supplies and extra weaponry. But even that, it will be Miss Duza to decide, of course. But I think I can warn you, if too many of our companions die or if it becomes too dangerous to complete our journey, we will come back or find a safe place to go instead.
Ari nodded with a serious look.
- We have our own carriage, so that part is ready. If we get in a dangerous situation and you need extra fighters, we can help. We may look like any average sixteen-year-old couple, but in a fight, we are extremely dangerous. We started this journey early this year, from the North, and until last month we were all alone. But because I got tired of all the fighting and the killing, we tried to find some escorts that knew this region to avoid more confrontations. Taly is different, this crazy guy loves to fight. For him, we could continue all year, all alone, in a never-ending fight… Why that face? You know I am right!
Taly was frowning.
- It’s not that I love to fight, it’s just that I don’t mind doing it… So, Mister Ronald, we wait for your answer. If favourable, we would like to meet the rest of the members of your Party.
Ronald nodded while getting up.
- Of course. If you excuse me, I must leave. I don’t want to make Miss Duza wait for me. Mister Taly, Miss Ari, it was a pleasure. Mister Feebles, we can talk more at night?
- Of course, Mister Ronald. I will take care of some trading and at night I can go meet you at the Guild.
- That would be perfect.
Ronald left after a slight bow with his head. When he was leaving the Inn followed by Woof, Ari asked Taly.
- What do you think? He looks promising, right?
- Yeah… As for the members of his Party, I am not so sure. Let’s see about them later on, ok? Mister Feebles, do you know that woman that is called Duza?
- Yes, Duza Sonanji, the Guild Master’s older daughter. The best fighter of this entire region. Not even the Breidan’s High Knights mess with her. It’s normal for her Party to cross Breidan from one border to the other, without getting in any kind of problem. Normally, when the Breidan Knights are warned that she is travelling, they change their path, to not get in her way. And her Party members are almost as dangerous as her. If she accepts your proposal, you two will be in good hands.
Taly mumbled in a low voice while thinking.
- Interesting… very interesting…
While Ronald was at the Inn talking with Feebles and the young couple, Duza was in her room at the top floor of the Adventurer’s Guild, in her underwear, and nervously looking to a bunch of clothes on top of her bed. Mira was looking at an outfit of a sleeveless short blouse and cotton combat trousers.
- You could go with this set, but I am not sure… Maybe something prettier…
- It seems too revealing to me. I don’t know why you are insisting on this so much, I am just going to show the City to Ronald.
- I think he wouldn’t mind if you appeared before him completely naked, but that wouldn’t be good, for a walk around the City. Hihihi!
- Mira, you mean girl! What do you mean by that?
- Come on, sister, you haven’t noticed the way that he looks at you? Or how you smile when you are speaking with him? I can tell that you are interested…
Duza strongly shook her head.
- No, I am not! You are crazy!
Mira made a weird smile.
- Right… I confess, I am the one that is interested in him. Maybe I should be the one to show him the City…
- No! You can’t! I… I mean… I already volunteered… and… you see… he…
- Ahahahah! Don’t worry, big sister, I was just messing with you. You know that I only have eyes for Ma Yangfa. But this outfit is no good. You need to look pretty, not offering yourself… I know! I will be right back! Put those clothes in their place, it’s a mess in here!
Mira rushed out of the room, leaving behind a questioning Duza. She quickly put all the clothes in the drawers and the closet. When she was almost finishing tidying up, Mira entered the room again, holding a long light green dress.
- I bought this for you, for your birthday next month. But this occasion is too good to let it go to waste. Because I know how you are, it comes with two undercover leg sheath for two daggers and two decorative strings at each side of the dress, so, if needed, you can pull the dress a little up and tie the excess fabric on both sides, so that you can move better if you get into a fight. Quickly, try it! Or you are going to be late!
Duza nodded and with her sister’s help, she put the two undercover leg sheaths for two daggers and the dress. Mira was smiling while Duza was looking at the mirror. She tried to pull it up a little, it was revealing too much of her cleavage, but Mira slapped her hand to stop her.
- What are you doing? A beautiful woman like you and the attributes that you own, it would be a shame not to show it a little more! Pull your breasts a little up, they are sideways! Here, let me do it!
Mira grabbed Duza’s both breasts and pulled them up a little and squashed them from the sides so that they would fit perfectly on the dress.
- There, now they look just perfect! I need to get down to see if he arrived, release your hair, and brush it. You are going for a walk, you don’t need to have it tied up and ready for a fight!
Duza did as her sister said, and she started to brush when Mira was leaving the room.
- Mira… thanks for this dress, it’s really pretty.
- Yeah, I know, I hope Ronald thinks the same. Don’t take too long!
When Ronald crossed the front doors of the Guild, he went straight to the front desk where Mira was waving at him.
- Good morning, Miss Mira. Did I arrive too soon?
- Good morning! No, it’s a good time. Duza is still getting ready in her room, she was having trouble choosing her clothes. Normally, she doesn’t go on a walk around the City, she was a little worried about what to wear. But you can sit while you wait and drink something. And this guy over here can stay right here, next to me.
Ronald gave the rope to Mira and looking at Woof, he pointed towards her.
- Woof, protect Miss Mira, ok? Be a good boy and stay here next to her. I will come to get you, later this day.
He seated on the floor at Mira’s right side, with his tail waving. Mira caressed his left ear.
- Good boy, Woof! This is funny, a wild wolf acting as my bodyguard! I want to see any of these crazy bastards annoying me today!
Ronald smiled and a shout from a corner called his attention.
- Mister Ronald, come here for a moment!
Reylom was waving at him, seated next to Ini and Ovaidel. Ronald approached them with a smile.
- Good morning, everyone.
Ini made a small nod.
- Someone is in a good mood… It has something to do about going for a walk with a beautiful woman?
- Well… that too… Miss Duza is an extremely beautiful woman… I guess any man would be happy about walking next to her… But finding a job on my first day in here and on the second, a well-paid escort journey, can also be the reason.
Ini smiled, looking to the place behind Ronald, to a blushing Duza.
- Hello, boss. Nice dress you have there. I wonder why you never use something like that when you travel with us. Maybe we aren’t as good looking as we thought, right Ovaidel? Hey, close your mouth, man, you look weird! You never saw a woman or what?
When Ronald turned around, he saw Duza with her hair loose in a long light green dress, short sleeves and a sexy cleavage. Ronald blinked his eyes a few times, to get used to the astonishing sight in front of him. Duza took a slow breath and asked while sitting in front of him.
- What is that about, a well-paid escort journey?
- Well, at breakfast in the Inn, Mister Feebles introduced me to a young couple. They said they are sixteen-years-old Nobility and they are travelling across this region to get a little more understanding about the state of the World. They were escorted here from the North, by those three that I… assaulted… yesterday. Since they are in no condition to continue, that couple asked if they could hire us to escort them to Argoheria, for twenty-five gold coins. Five coins now and the rest in Argoheria. With an extra, if Woof could go and my meals would be good. And when they decide to come back, they want us to escort them again. The young boy said we could go across the land or by boat. I got the impression the girl prefers going by boat, but the boy seems to be a battle maniac and likes to fight, so, he prefers going across Zakrosia. I said it would be Miss Duza to decide and I could give them an answer by this afternoon. But they want to meet you all, of course.
Duza was gasping.
- Such a huge sum of money… But why they asked you instead of coming to the Guild and post a Quest? That would be the normal procedure!
- Well, maybe because the Guild from where those three guys came, said to them that they were strong, and a mere Farmer knocked them out with a wooden bench… I guess Mister Feebles told them what happened…
They all started to laugh. After a while, Duza spoke, after clearing her tears.
- Yeah, that could be the reason! Getting such kind of news would make anyone decide to hire that Farmer… Ahahah! Sorry, I just remembered what happened. Only now I realized how funny it was!
Ronald made an awkward smile while they were still laughing. When they calmed down, Ronald continued.
- I just don’t know when they will want to return or if instead of returning to Loriath, they want to go to another place. That you can ask them in the afternoon, I guess. They also said that if we face danger and if needed, they can fight. Seems that at the beginning of their journey, they were travelling alone. And when they decided to get an escort, they were fooled by that Guild. I guess they don’t trust in Adventurer’s Guilds and they prefer to be the ones to choose their escort. If you decide to accept the job, I think we could start tomorrow after lunch, with today’s afternoon and tomorrow morning, to find the supplies and extra weaponry. They have their own carriage. I took the liberty of warning them that if too many of us died or it became too dangerous, we would either turn back or find a safe place to go.
Duza nodded while leaning on the table to support her crossed fingers. Ronald tried to look away, that cleavage was too tempting, and those two big and round breasts seemed to call for his attention. Duza smiled after a short moment.
- I am not counting on taking any risk with our lives, you did well on warn them. I think we can accept that task, but it would be better if we went by boat at the border of Thetria. We could go by horse along Kwoghia, Rediorumia, Thetria, get a boat there and by sea until Argoheria. If all goes well, in less than four months we will arrive at our destination.
Ronald raised his arm.
- I don’t know how to ride a horse, I never learned.
Duza was surprised.
- How did you manage to get to this country, all the way from Trebiak?
- By foot. Sometimes, a ride on the top of a carriage or on an open wagon. Considering that they have a carriage and we will always travel on roads, we can put the supplies on top of the carriage, correct? I can go in there as well, or, I can take this opportunity to learn how to ride.
Ovaidel tapped his back.
- I can take care of that, I am a good teacher! The wolf can go on top of the carriage, he will have a good spot to look around so that we can rest assured that he warns us in advance if something weird happens.
Ini looked around and asked.
- So, we are in agreement? The only thing left for us to do is to have a talk with our employers. And you two, while walking around the City, search for supplies. Rice, potatoes, meat, vegetables, and bags of grain for the horses.
Ronald raised his arm again.
- I think I can find some eatable plants along the way. The meat won’t be a problem either, I can hunt with Woof. I was told that in case prey aren’t available, Monsters such as Lamias, Harpies or Orcs, are very tasty. I never tried, but I know how to cook snake, birds and pig.
- I would prefer not eating those. Unless you are an amazing Cook… Either way, its better if we have enough food and water instead of depending on finding those, during our travel. But we don’t need a lot, we can buy in some villages and cities while we travel. Well, go away, you are losing daylight! Have a nice walk, and Ronald, don’t let anyone get too familiar with our Duza there, because in those clothes, she can get into a lot of problems!
Duza quickly got up, with her face all red.
- What do you mean by that? Mira helped me to choose these clothes! I wanted to go in my combat clothes, but she was the one to say that for a mere walk, these clothes would be better!
Ini hid a smile.
- I agree with her. Those are indeed the perfect clothes to show this City to Mister Ronald. And you, be a good boy and pay her a snack during your search for supplies. In the market, there are always stalls with drinks and all kinds of food.
- Of course, that was my intention. No way that I would be walking with a woman and don’t provide food and drink when we take a rest. Miss Duza, shall we go?
Duza smiled but before she could answer, a woman scream was heard from the front desk. When they looked, Ma Yangfa was screaming while Woof had his arm on the mouth. Ma tried to get loose, only to make Woof bit harder and make his arm bleed. Mira was shouting for Woof to stop. After her second shout, Woof let go but he stood between Mira and Ma, growling. Ronald rushed to get there.
- Woof, quiet boy! Miss Mira, what happened?
Mira was all red, and she stuttered to explain.
- I… was giving orders to Woof, to see if he obeyed me… I told Woof to be alert… and then Ma approached and shouted my name when I had my back to the front desk. He was playing me a prank, but I got spooked and shouted. I think Woof thought that I was in danger and he jumped on Ma to stop him!
Ronald kneeled to look at Woof while caressing his head. He was still growling at Ma Yangfa.
- Calm down, boy. You did good, don’t worry. Miss Mira was not in danger, but you couldn’t know. You did a good job on protecting her, thanks. Mister Ma, sorry for this, but it was really your own fault. Woof is very obedient, and Miss Mira ordered him to be alert. He saw your prank towards Miss Mira as an attack.
Ma was holding his bleeding arm and breathing heavily.
- Yeah… That was indeed a very bad idea… I thought it would be funny, I didn’t know he was behind the front desk!
Mira rushed to Ma, with a bowl of clean water and a rag, to help him.
- Let me take care of you, Ma, and sorry for this. I was just playing with Woof!
- No, I was the one at fault. You have a very good escort. No one in here would dare to attack me as he did, and this little guy didn’t even hesitate!
Ronald got up again, and he winked one eye to Ma Yangfa.
- I am counting on you to help Woof on protecting Miss Mira against this horde of crazy men, ok?
- Of course, that goes without asking!
Ronald left, after taking one last look to a red-smiling-face Mira. When he got near Duza, she was smiling too. She pointed with her head into their direction.
- It’s good to see those two like that. They make a nice couple, don’t they?
- I thought the same thing, yesterday. I hope that evolves, it would be funny seeing them going all lovey-dovey. The kind and beautiful Miss Mira with the big and mean Ma Yangfa! Heheheh!
While they were leaving the Guild, Duza pointed back with her right thumb.
- Ma is not mean, he is truly amazing and a gentle person. But because of his looks, people always tend to fear him.
- I know, I like him, too. After what I did to him yesterday, a mean man would not rest until he got revenge. But I think we became friends. And late this day, he will either be friends with Woof, or he will lose one arm if he scares Miss Mira again while Woof is next to her! So, where can we go first?
Duza smiled while grabbing the side of her dress to lift it up a little, to be easier for her to walk without dragging the dress on the soil.
- We can go along this street, look at the Church, see the main house of the City Chief and go to the Market in the central square. There are a lot of small shops near it, where we can ask the prices for the supplies that we need. We must make a list of everything and the total of what it will cost, to present it to our employers, because supplies and stays in some Inns for them along the way, it’s their responsibility. We can sleep outside, in a stable or an Inn, but that it’s on our own.
They walked down the street, stopping from time to time for Ronald to look at the entrance of a house that caught his attention with Duza telling him what she knew about the people living in there.
When they approached the Church, Ronald asked if they could enter, and even with Duza frowning, she agreed with him. In there, Ronald saw some paintings along the walls, depicting some past battles and Kings. On the back wall, facing the entrance, was a picture of the World with Gaya over it and God Seya underneath it, with his arms stretched like if he was lifting the entire World. Right in front of it, there was a circle on the floor, with drawings similar to those that he saw on the cave where Ronald appeared. Ronald stopped right in front of it, looking. A Priest came from a room at the right, he had a rag on his left hand, and it seemed like he was cleaning something at the back. He greeted Ronald with a smile.
- Good morning for you, stranger! And to you too, Miss!
- Good morning Priest. I was just looking at this circle. And this painting.
- Yes, this World supervised by Gaya, the Magical Mountain and God Seya, carrying and supporting it. And this circle, you know what it is, right?