Ronald shook his head while looking at it.
- “No, I can’t say I know what it is. I think it has something to do with Magic, but I don’t know what.”
The Priest opened his mouth, and he looked at Duza, that seemed as surprised as him. Ronald realized that he said something that he shouldn’t, so he tried to explain himself:
- “This is my first time entering into a Church. I never had the time to do that, previously.”
- “But… for sure you went to one with another Priest, for your judgment when you turned sixteen!”
- “No, never, Priest. I never thought of leaving this World, so, I never went to a Church to be judged. I hope you don’t think badly of me for never doing it…”
- “No… not really… just surprised… I know that some people never did that, but I never met one. May I ask why you were never judged by Gaya?”
Ronald shrugged his shoulders.
- “I had a happy life, with a family and friends. I never thought about leaving them. And after my friends got married and moved to another City and my family got killed, I was so depressed that I never thought of doing it. But I still have time, right? Gaya is returning in a few months, maybe I try my luck when that time comes. Or maybe I won’t and decide to remain here. Let’s see what the future holds for me.”
The Priest smiled, and he then turned to Duza.
- “And you, young lady, are you coming to be judged in a few months?”
Duza had a very serious look on her face.
- “No, Priest. I am very happy as I am. I already know that because of my past, even if I tried, Gaya would never approve of me.”
- “Nonsense, such a kind and beautiful young woman such as yourself, for sure…”
Before he could say anything else, Duza interrupted.
- “I am Duza Sonanji, Priest. I am perfectly aware of what Gaya will say if I come here to be judged.”
The Priest trembled a little.
- “Forgive me, Miss Duza Sonanji, I didn’t recognize you in those clothes and loose hair. I will say no more. But you could be surprised or even tempted to change your ways if you decided to come, you never know…”
Duza made a small smile.
- “Maybe, or maybe not. But I would never leave my father and sister behind, you know that. Forgive us, but we must go, we need to look for supplies for our next job.”
The Priest made a slight bow.
- “May God Seya guide your life, young ones.”
Ronald returned the bow, and he followed Duza. While they were walking, Duza was silent. After five minutes, with Ronald waiting for her to say something, he asked:
But she interrupted him.
- “With my line of work, one is always in some kind of danger or difficult situation. I am still alive while many other Adventurers from our Guild are dead. I keep on living because I react with violence and death towards anything or anyone that threatens me. Because I am a woman, some people tend to underestimate me and try to get any kind of advantage, thinking that they will have their way. Those don’t live long. I hope you don’t turn out to be one of those. I would be upset, and Mira won’t forgive me if I took your head.”
- “I see… I will do my best to conquer your confidence. If I can’t, no harm is done, I will just continue travelling and leave you alone.”
Duza turned bright red, and replied:
- “I would prefer if you conquered me… I mean… If you…”
Ronald smiled and looked at her while touching a small curl in her hair.
- “I will try to gain your confidence. And your heart, if possible…”
Duza looked away.
- “I am… a very difficult woman… or so I was told…”
- “Maybe, or that is just an act on your part, as protection. Well, I don’t have any rush, I have a lot of time to make you trust me a little more. Maybe this job helps if you decide to accept it.”
Duza made a small smile.
- “Maybe our travel makes you get stronger because my father will never approve of you. A simple Farmer with his older daughter? He would never…”
Ronald placed a finger over her lips.
- “I don’t need anyone else’s approval. Besides, I think I have already conquered your father. And your sister. I even managed to conquer your companions and Ma Yangfa! But… I haven’t met your mother…”
- “She died when I was little. She was a Guard, and she was often in battles on the border of that forest. A company of soldiers from Breidan came from there, and she died while fighting them. I was told that she had the most killings when she was hit by an arrow straight to her heart.”
- “I am sorry, I didn’t know. Do you remember her?”
- “Yes. Mira has some recollections, but she was so little when our mother died that she only remembers her singing. I still remember her looks, smell, and how she smiled. I hope that God Seya found a nice place for her to rest, she deserved it.”
They continued their walk, passing in front of the City Chief’s house, with a Guard on the other side of the gate looking at them. Duza made a slight bow, and he remained still, just looking. They went in the direction of the Market, where Ronald took the chance to choose some freshly baked cookies and some fruit juice, for them to eat while seated on a nearby bench. Duza was smiling while eating, watching a couple of kids playing catch-up. She pointed to a shop on her left.
- “We can go there, for you to choose some armour. You just have those combat clothes and that sword, right? You could have some armour and a shield, as protection.”
Ronald shrugged his shoulders.
- “Never needed it. I saw some people in the Guild with it, but I think it winders the movements. Ma Yangfa can be strong, but all that armour that he wears makes him slow and easy to defeat.”
- “Easy to defeat? Only you to say something like that! Even with all that armour that he always wears, no one is faster than him! Well, except the Guild Master, Ini, and me… Oh, and you!”
- “Like I said, easy to defeat. You saw it, right? Even Woof had him as a snack, early. No, I pass on the armour. But we could buy a battle axe for Ovaidel. He uses two short swords, right? It would be funny, seeing a Dwarf with his size, with a big battle axe!”
- “Yeah, I already tried to convince him to get one, but he says that it doesn’t work for him, he thinks it’s a slow weapon.”
- “That’s a pity, it would be so funny… And that shop over there, with that strange drawing of a wolf on that sign over the door?”
- “That’s a Card Shop. It sells Magical Cards. We can check it up if you want.”
- “I do, I am a little curious…”
After finishing eating, they walked in the direction of the Card Shop. Duza knocked and an old woman opened the door with a weird smile.
- “Oh, visitors! Please come in! I have a very nice selection of Magical Cards for such a lovely couple!”
Duza turned bright red, and she looked at Ronald from the corner of her eye to check his reaction. He was a little awkward, looking surprised. Duza hid her smile, and she followed the old woman into the shop. Ronald stopped at a closet, looking at some Cards that were displayed in there, protected underneath a window, with some supports holding them upright for easy reading. A “Big Rat” and “Giant Spider” Card, next to a “Bottomless Hole”. The old woman noticed where he was looking.
- “Interesting, right? Three of my best Cards. Very expensive and difficult to find. I have some more in a drawer in my desk, that are even rarer, if you want to have a look.”
- “I do. I would also want to see some that are more common and cheap.”
The old woman nodded, and she went to behind the front desk. She took a key from a necklace and she opened the bottom drawer. From there, she took a small wooden Card Box.
- “Here. Two spells, “Lightning Strike”, “Fire Slash” and a trap, “Catapult”. Together with those three that you saw in there, are the most expensive that I have. You would have to search in a lot of Card Shops to find these.”
- “I see… You don’t have “Willpower Cards” or “Mana Cards”?”
- “No… I only saw one of those, once, in all my life. A High Mage had it. They are almost impossible to find. And the ones that exist, have owners that aren’t willing to sell them to anyone!”
- “Really? Interesting… So, can you show me some more common Cards? And also, tell me the price of the “Lightning Strike”, “Fire Slash” and the “Catapult” Cards.”
The old woman slowly shook her head.
- “Young man, you don’t know that for using these Cards, you must be in sync with them?”
- “Well, I already know that I was in sync with some of these some time ago, but I don’t know if I am with these. I guess I need to try, right?”
The old woman pointed at the Cards and Ronald touched them with his right index finger. He felt a tickling and smiled.
- “It tickles… Well, I guess I am in sync with these. So, the price for them?”
The old woman blinked a few times, surprised because the Cards that she had for so long, that no one was in sync for all the past few years, had found an owner.
- “These spells are three silver coins each and the trap, four silver coins.”
- “Miss Duza, is this reasonable? I really don’t know what the prices of these Cards are, in this Kingdom.”
Duza was biting her lip.
- “Yes, it’s fair… But… you want to spend money on this? But your Mana…”
She stopped speaking because Ronald made an angry look at her. He then made a small smile to the old woman.
- “Well, considering the amount of dust on some Cards that you have displayed and the lack of customers, I could guess that you don’t have many opportunities to sell Cards like these ones, right? So, what are the common Cards that you have and that most people buy?”
The old woman opened the top drawer, and she took a small chest from there. She then grabbed some Cards and placed them over her desk.
- “This one is often bought by young couples, the Spell Card “Light Ray” for 100 Mana, that blinds a person for a few minutes, giving time for a young lady to escape, and these that are bought by parents to offer their children, the Magical Beings “Jumping Rabbit” and the “Fast Bird”, each for 50 Mana.”
Ronald was smiling at the drawings.
- “These are pretty… How much?”
- “Two copper coins each. Very cheap, right?”
Ronald pointed to the Spell Card “Light Ray” while asking Duza.
- “Do you have one of these?”
- “No… I have Mana for it, but I prefer taking the head of someone that tries to attack me…”
- “Well, since couples always buy this… and because I think this Rabbit and the Bird look funny… let me test it… it tickles too… cool… Now you.”
Duza touched the “Light Ray” and she nodded.
- “It works for me… but… these are bought by the man to offer to a woman…”
- “Last time I checked, we were a man and a woman… So, I want the “Lightning Strike”, “Fire Slash”, “Catapult”, “Light Ray”, “Jumping Rabbit” and the “Fast Bird” Cards, please. For a total of ten silver coins and six copper coins, correct?”
The old woman trembled for a moment. So much money was surprising.
- “Yes… that’s correct… and… if you want all that, I can even offer a wooden Card Box for them.”
- “That’s not needed. Just the Cards, please. Here are the coins. It was a pleasure doing business with you. Let me just place these Cards in my Card Box… and here is your “Light Ray”. Try to use it next time someone messes with you instead of killing the poor bastard, ok?”
Duza grabbed the Card with a trembling hand and held it near her chest. Because that dress didn’t have any pockets, she placed the Card under her underwear and over her right breast on the same side of her heart.
- “Ok… thanks…”
- “Thanks for the business, see you next time.”
The old woman was smiling, looking at the coins on her hand.
- “I am the one to be grateful, young man. I was thinking that I would never find someone that could use those Cards!”
They both left the Card Shop, leaving behind a waving old woman. While they were walking, Duza was intrigued.
- “Ronald… why did you buy those Cards? For what I saw in the Status Sphere, you only have 200 Mana for spending each day… Those Cards, you can only use that amount…”
- “I intend on getting stronger, remember? With these, I have an extra incentive. And they are lighter than an armour, right?”
- “Yeah… but you would be safer with armour than with those Cards…”
- “Don’t worry, I managed to stay alive until now, with my strength, a few Cards, Woof, and this sword.”
- “But the journey ahead of us, it’s very dangerous. A lot of things can happen.”
- “Yeah, I am a little excited about it. Travelling with you and the others looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun. So, Duza, where to next?”
- “Hey, what happened to Miss Duza?
- “You were the one to address me as Ronald, only moments ago… But if you prefer…”
- “No, I… don’t mind… even the others call me Duza. You were the only one to call me Miss Duza. I kind of… got used to it…”
- “Very well, Miss Duza, I shall continue addressing you like that.”
Duza strongly shook her head.
- “No… I… when we are alone, I would prefer if you only used my name… Ronald… it seems more… appropriate…”
- “Of course, dear Duza, I will do just that…”
Duza became bright red. Being called “dear” was too sudden. But she smiled with a sparkle on her eyes. She then pointed to a nearby stall where some bags of potatoes and rice were exposed. On the next stall, there were vegetables and dried meat. While Ronald was asking the price for those, Duza noticed four Border Guards walking in the market, talking loudly and with one of them trying to kiss a young seller woman. Since she refused to be kissed, one guard slapped her while shouting that she should be honoured to be kissed by someone that is always protecting the border with that dangerous forest. Duza turned to look at the rice bags while watching from the corner of her eyes to those four rude Border Guards. Then, one of the Guards noticed her and he elbowed the one next to him, pointing at her. She saw them walking towards the stall and she swiftly went near Ronald, grabbed his arm, smiled at the seller and guided him along the market. She disguised and increased the speed of the walk while pointing to a store. Ronald thought something was happening but before he could say anything, she pointed to an alley and spoke in a loud voice, for the pursuers that were only at three meters away, could hear:
- “Let’s go through there, it’s a short-cut to a beautiful shop in the back street!”
Ronald didn’t say a thing. Riattus also saw the Guards approaching, and he was the first to warn him that trouble was coming. When they entered the alley and almost in the middle of it, one of the Border Guards shouted:
- “You two, stop! You are looking suspicious!”
Duza stopped, and she looked at them with a weird smile.
- “We are the suspicious ones? What about you four, annoying every woman in the market? And when you saw me you decided to try your luck with the fragile young woman in the green dress? I don’t want to ruin my beautiful dress with your blood, but you are pushing your luck a little too far, by interrupting our walk. You may not recognize me, but I know who you all are. Your deeds and bad reputation precedes you, but no one does a thing because you are Border Guards. And you abuse the goodwill of our people. Unlucky for you, I hate people that disgraces the amazingly good reputation of the Border Guards…”
While talking, Duza was pulling her dress up, raising the bottom until it reached her knees. She quickly tied the excess fabric with the two strings at both sides that Ronald thought it was only for decoration. Only at that time, he realized that Duza had that dress prepared for a fight if needed. She quickly grabbed the two daggers that she was hiding on her thighs and she lowered her body a little and bent her knees.
- “So, who wants to be the first to die?”
As soon as the Guards approached their hands to the swords, Ronald moved at light speed. He put his hand under Duza’s dress and took from her underwear the Spell Card that she had over her breast. He then shouted while throwing the Card to the front between them and the Guards:
- “Duza, close your eyes! “Light Ray!””
A blinding light spread from the Card, as bright as the sun. Ronald closed his eyes and covered them with his hands. The Guards were shouting, in panic:
- “Aargh!... I can’t see… What’s happening…”
When Riattus told him it was safe, Ronald opened his eyes and ran towards the Guards. When Duza opened her eyes, she saw him holding a Guard on each hand and bumping them against each other, knocking them out. He then punched the third one and kicked the last one in the groins. A karate chop on the back of his neck knocked him too. When he finished, he bent over to get Duza’s Spell Card from the ground. He gave it to her, with his face all red.
- “I am sorry for what I did… I had no second intentions about touching your breast as I did, I just wanted to get the Card to protect you. I know that you don’t need to be protected, but you were going to kill them and ruin your beautiful dress. You look very pretty with it, I would prefer if you could use it on another day.”
Duza turned bright red, and she put the daggers on the leg sheaths again and loose the strings of her dress. She put the Card under her underwear, with a slight smile.
- “That’s ok… but try not to touch my breast so sudden… next time, at least kiss me while doing it… but I am not an easy woman, you will have to work a lot, for me to be willing to be kissed or touched by you…”
- “Well, I don’t mind the extra work. So, what do we do with these guys?”
Duza looked to both ends of the alley.
- “No one saw what happened, but when they wake up, they will try to find out who did this. Sooner or later, they will know who I am. A lot of people saw us getting out of the Guild. We could have a lot of trouble because of them…”
- “They were the ones to cause all this. We just defended ourselves.”
- “Yes, but no one saw it. It’s our word against four Border Guards. Because of their line of work, everyone will believe in them.”
Ronald looked at the Guards. She could be right, but he had so little knowledge about the World that he wasn’t sure about what to do. Riattus hovered to be next to the four Guards, and he spoke with a concerned look on his face.
- “You know, she is completely right. Even if you all go tomorrow on that journey, these guys will make a mess in the Guild, looking for you both. They will for sure try to catch you before you leave the country and if they don’t achieve that, they will wait for you to come back. Or they will go after the Guild Master since he is her father and all. There are only two things that you can do. Do nothing or make them disappear for good. Because even if you hurt or threaten them to not tell a thing, sooner or later they will recover or break the agreement. And these guys look like the vindictive type. If it was me, I would prefer to make them disappear, but it’s your call.”
Ronald looked at Duza and then at the Guards. He whispered:
- “Maybe make them disappear inside a deep hole…”
Duza heard him.
- “What do you mean by that?”
Riattus pointed at her with his right thumb.
- “If you do that, she will get suspicious. But for what I saw so far, she is well level-headed. A strong woman in this dump of a World. I think you can trust her. On her companions, I don’t know. For my experience, Church fanatics like that Reylom always caused me more problems than I thought at first. Like I said, your call. I will help you with everything I can, you know that.”
Ronald turned to Duza and placed one hand over her right shoulder.
- “Duza, I am going to make sure that these guys don’t cause any more problems for you. But I need you to promise me that you don’t ask me anything and you can never tell what I am about to do, to anyone, including your father and sister.”
- “But, what are you …?”
Ronald placed one finger on her lips.
- “No questions. Can I trust you?”
Duza slowly nodded. Ronald went near the four knocked out Guards and from the Card Box on the inner pocket of his combat vest, he took one Card that he threw to their side and activated it. A dark, deep hole appeared on the ground. Ronald quickly threw the Guards inside of it before the baffled look that Duza had. When the hole disappeared, he picked up the Card and placed it on his Card Box again. Duza pointed at the ground where the hole used to be, and she stuttered:
- “A “Bottomless Hole” Card… you had one of those… but… you shouldn’t have enough Mana for it after using my Spell Card, how…”
- “Duza, I warned you, didn’t I? No questions and no talking about this to anyone. Or I will disappear immediately. Can I trust you to keep this for yourself?”
- “Yes… But, will you explain this to me, one day?”
- “Of course, when I am sure that it’s safe. It may take a while, I hope you can wait for my explanation.”
- “I guess… Thanks for this, I could have a lot of problems because of those bastards. And my family… I knew it was a bad idea, putting on this dress. If I had my normal clothes and my tied-up hair, they would know who I was, and they wouldn’t dare to mess with me.”
- “But I would never have the chance to walk around town with you today, looking so astonishing. Not that you don’t look good in your normal clothes, but your dress is very beautiful, and it suits you, together with your loose hair. Besides, if they didn’t come after you, they could have gone after another woman, one that would have a lot of problems with them. So, before I forget, let me just pop those Mana Orbs. I need to get stronger fast, right?”
Ronald touched each ball, one after the other, feeling the familiar tickling. He then smiled at Duza and went towards her.
- “Well, shall we continue our walk? Don’t you forget, this never happened.”
-Yeah… But you can use the Status Sphere that the Guild Master has, for assigning…”
- “No, he could ask about how I managed to get more Status Points and I don’t want to answer that. Don’t worry, I will take care of it, at another time. So, shall we go?”
Duza followed him, more intrigued than when he first entered the Guild. He was indeed very interesting and with so many questions appearing when so many others were previously answered by their talk at the Guild. She hides a smile, maybe he could turn out to be her mate. She already figured out that he was interested in her, but she wasn’t sure if she felt the same way or if she was just impressed by his mysteriousness.
They went to the Market again, checking the prices of every supply that they would need. When it was almost lunchtime, they returned to the Guild. As soon as they entered, they noticed the silence all around, with everyone that was at the tables looking to the front desk where Woof was growling to a pair of Knights that were escorting a young boy in shiny clothes full of frills. Next to Woof, was Mira, holding his neck scarfs and the Guild Master, that looked angry. Ronald heard him and by that, he could almost figure out what was happening.
- “No, you can’t have this wolf. He is not ours, to begin with, he belongs to one of our members. But we all consider that he as well, is a member, despite being a wolf.”
The boy bumped his right feet on the floor a few times.
- “Not fair! Why this Guild can have a wild wolf as a pet, and I can’t? If I tell this to my father, he will order you to obey! He is the City Chief, and he has more authority than you and…”
Before the boy could say anything more, Ronald interrupted as soon as he got near them:
- “Thanks, Miss Mira. I hope he didn’t give too much trouble. Woof, come here, boy! Miss Mira, can we have something for lunch? We walked for a while, and we are starving.”
The boy spoke and while looking at Ronald, made a proud pose.
- “You! Why didn’t you greet me in the proper manner that a Nobel like me deserves?”
Ronald looked at the boy, from top to bottom. He then looked at the Knights that seemed to be a little worried about so many Adventurers nearby. Ronald approached the boy and whispered at his right ear:
- “Careful, boy… I am in a really bad mood. I am a skilled assassin in disguise and if you make me angry, I will appear inside your room in the middle of the night and slice your throat. Next, I will go after your mother and I will rape her while your father watches. I will then chop her head and drink her blood before killing your father. Maybe I rape him too, I will decide at that time. Now, don’t you say one more word and leave. If I see you again, I will make you regret it for the rest of your very short life! Do you understand what I just said? Nod your head if you do. If I need to repeat myself, I will kill you this instant.
The boy turned pale and slowly nods his head. He then turned to face Mira.
- “I… will just take the deer meat that you have from my father’s Quest… let’s go…”
The boy left, wobbling a little, followed by the Knights. Ronald frowned while watching him.
- “Such a rude brat… What was that about?”
The Guild Master took a deep breath.
- “The usual, a spoiled Nobel’s son. But this one has more power than it should, for someone of only ten years old. He is used to having all his wishes granted because if not, his father can cause a lot of problems for someone that doesn’t bend to his whims. What did you say to him?”
- “I might have threatened him a little… or made a fair warning. I need to think about this for a while. Maybe I need to have another talk with him so that he realizes that I wasn’t joking. Or else, he could cause some problems for you.”
- “No, he won’t. We may not look like it, but we are a very powerful Guild. This City relies on us, for helping on protecting them from the Breidan Army or Monsters that comes too often from the forest. That boy may not know about this, but I grew up with his father. I warned him a lot of times that his kid was getting this kind of bad habit and one day, he would either die because of that or cause the death of someone. Maybe you should be more careful, you tend to put yourself in this kind of situation, more often than you should.”
Ronald agreed with him, Riattus said something similar, previously.
- “You are right, but it’s also your fault for having such kind and beautiful daughters that make everyone willing to protect them… Didn’t you notice that Ma Yangfa over there had one hand over his sword? And Ini had an arrow ready? If I didn’t scare him, there would be a lot of blood on this floor again. And Miss Mira would have a lot of trouble, cleaning it. You should thank me for my intervention, instead of looking at me so worried about my well-being.”
The Guild Master looked around and he noticed a bunch of hidden smiles and muffled laughter.
- “The nerve of this guy… Ok, thank you, Mister Ronald, for your kind and thoughtful intervention! Now, Mira told me that Duza went to show the town to you, what do you…?”
Only then, the Guild Master noticed Duza approaching. His jaw dropped, she looked just like her mother, in a beautiful dress and loose hair that was floating as she walked towards him, with a smile on her lips. When she got near him, he slowly placed his right hand on her face.
- “Duza… you… remind me of your mother, like that… why…”
He then noticed that she was turning red and was nervously looking in Ronald’s direction. He looked back and saw Mira smiling, with a shine in her eyes. Since Ronald was so serious, he understood immediately. With a small nod of his head, he went to his office again. That reaction surprised Ronald, and he asked Mira.
- “He is angry with me, or what?”
- “No, I think he just realized that Duza grew up and became a very beautiful woman. Did you both enjoy your walk? I have lunch ready for you, but I didn’t know if you would come back in time or not. Go seat, I will take care of your meal.”
From Ronald’s back, a familiar voice was heard.
- “Do you have room for three more? We would like to eat here, if possible. Unless Mister Ronald wants to make another mess, of course. That Noble boy and those two Knights almost threw me into the ground, on their hurry to get out from here!”