Circle Star Adventure. The Ever Blooming Flower.

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Chapter 40. A Healing Potion Or A Poison?

I wanted to let Eve walk by herself, but she wouldn’t let go of my neck.

- Huh? Is something wrong? - I asked.

- Master TC… uhm… - her cheeks were burning red. - It’s not fair for that woman to kiss you like that.

Oh that. Eeer… What do I do now?

- Eeer… well… she was the one who kissed me. I mean… I was surprised more than anyone else. - I tried to rationalize the incident.

It’s not like I’m complaining about it. It was pretty hot actually.

- Really? - Eve wasn’t convinced.

- Ahem… how about I make up to you somehow? - I asked.

- Will you kiss me now Master? - Eve eyes sparkled.

(gulp)

- I was thinking about taking you to the Passion Springs Bath House again? - here and now wasn’t the best time and place after what happened.

- Yey! That’s even better. But on one condition. - she declared.

- Which is? - I was curious.

- We will take Luna with us. I told her about it back at the inn and she said she’d love to go sometime. - Eve changed from sad to excited in a second.

Hey, hold on! That’s a bit over the top. Bah… I should’ve expected as much from you. And Luna will probably say she won’t mind joining us.

- Yeah… ok. - I sighed.

- Thank you Master. You’re the best. - her childish charm won again.

Sigh. Maybe I should bury all my morals for a day and plunge into the pleasure available to me? Eve and Luna together with me in a steam ba- Bhaaa! What am I thinking? I only yesterday met Luna. Why would she… Sigh (again). I’m gonna cry.

I let Eve walk by herself and we met Angel at the arena’s exit.

- Sorry to keep you waiting Angel. This is Eve. She’s my companion. - I introduced her.

- Huh? A companion? But I thought you didn’t have one. - Angel was surprised.

- I never said I don’t have a companion. - I smiled.

- Oh? Ok then. Hello Eve, my name is Angel. - she looked at Eve with a little bit of a concern.

- Hi, nice to meet you. - but face showed she was already thinking about the bath house.

- Right… Follow me please. - Angel invited us to follow.

I watched her from behind as we walked with all kinds of thoughts spinning in my head.

All things considered, I understand why people want Angel as their companion. She’s a Gold Companion and with five stars as well. And she can fly too. Which is AMAZING! And that’s not the best part about her.

I lifted my head and noticed Angel’s sad face. The realization hit my gut and the fantasies vanished in an instant.

That’s right. It’s not about me here. Now matter how I look at it, we’re all humans after all. Companion or not, Angel cares for her current Master. Even if she becomes someone’s else companion, those feelings won’t disappear. Nor the memories they spent the time together. It’s not as simple as it looks now that I think about it. Heh, it probably never was.

Eve was holding onto my arm all the way while we walked. Expression on her face showed she wasn’t worried about anything right now. If anything, she was looking forward to our visit to Passion Springs Bath House.

The corridor led us upstairs. There were guards stationed on every other turn in the hallway. Security was tighter than at the entrance to the arena. Having people protecting public order made sense, but having so many of them here was kinda overkill. Someone really didn’t want Gorren to have visitors.

We finally stopped at the big iron doors with two more guards stationed next to it.

Seriously? How many are there in total? Are they protecting the place from someone getting in or from someone getting out?

- We’re here to see Master Gorren. - Angel announced.

- We’re not allowed to let anyone in. - stated one of the guards.

- What are you talking about? I’m his companion. - Angel was shocked to hear that.

- Sorry ma’am. Rafnadar’s orders. - he said.

Aha. The mystery man himself. That means he’s inside that room right now.

Hearing Rafnadar’s name raised additional suspicions. And we were not allowed to see Gorren. I can understand if it was only me and Eve who wanted to get in, but they refused to let Angel, his companion, to enter as well. Something was really going on here.

- I am Master’s Gorren companion and TC is the winner of Five Star Tournament. What do you mean you’re not letting us in? - Angel raised her voice.

- I don’t know any details. I am simply following orders. - the guard replied.

- And on who’s orders were you stationed here? - asked Vorin behind us.

- Guild Leader Vorin? - the guard’s face went pale.

- Explain yourselves. Why aren’t you letting them in? - asked Vorin in a more serious tone.

- That is… I mean… - the man couldn’t come up with any excuse.

- Well? - Vorin stared him in the face.

- Sir… sorry sir. Please come in. - and the doors were opened for us.

So Vorin is a real bad ass, eh? And Naomi is with him as well. He must know more than he told me about this tournament. Good thing he showed up.

- Thanks Vorin. - I said.

- Don’t mention it. Naomi. - he hinted to his companion.

- Yes Master. - it seemed she understood what he meant.

Something was definitely going on here. All this secrecy and security. This Rafnadar guy was pulling some strings behind it all.

Angel went in first. Me and Eve followed her inside. Vorin and Naomi entered last and closed the door behind them.

- Well hello my dear Angel. You are not hurt, are you? - a man wearing dark, fancy robe greeted her.

- I am fine. How is my Master doing? - she asked.

- He is holding up. But I am not sure how long he will last. There is only so much I can do unfortunately. - his fake honesty was as unpleasant as his face.

- Rafnadar, why were the guards told not to let Angel inside? - Vorin crossed his arms in front of him.

- Ah, so sorry. You can’t be too cautious these days. I was simply worried about someone breaking in. You know Master Gorren’s current condition. We don’t want anything bad to happen. I have to make sure he’s safe. - his fake sincerity was making me sick.

- Are you sure it’s not the other way around? - I couldn’t keep quite any longer.

- Tsk… such insolence. And who might be you? - my comment hit one of his nerves.

- This is TC. He won the Five Star Tournament. Please show us to Gorren’s room. - said Vorin.

- I see. - Rafnadar looked me up and down.

I looked back at him and our eyes met. He had an intimidating, scary eyes. We stared at each other for a moment. He fixated his gaze upon me and I felt a burst of dark magical energy trying to creep inside my body.

- Nice to meet you. I’m TC. - I smiled.

My gesture took him by surprise and he averted his unpleasant gaze.

Intimadtion? No, more like Paralysis Magic. I see. Very subtle indeed. I doubt others even noticed it. Too bad for him, it won’t work on me. I’ve seen far worse.

But his act made me worried. I started to understand Vorin’s involvement. This man was not to be trusted.

- Right this way please. - Rafnadar extended his hand.

He opened a door leading to the next room. Angel went in first again, then we followed.

The room was small and shabby, not what I’d expect for a Gold Rank adventurer to stay in. A single bed, a table and two chairs was all there was in it. On a positive note, it was very clean and tidy. A single window allowed enough sunlight to make the room bright.

One interesting thing that caught my eyes, was a stack of some sort of plants and herbs in the corner of the room. Some of them I recognised from the forest, near the Hunter’s Village. Others I did not.

In addition to the herbs, there were plenty flasks and vials on the table. Some where full with different liquids, others were empty. It was evident potions were being made here.

- Master Gorren. - Angel rushed towards the bed.

- Ah. My dear Angel. You are back. - Gorren pulled himself up to sit down. - Is the tournament over already?

- Yes, it is. - she said.

Kinght Gorren looked rather healthy, yet somewhat weak. I thought I let them be for now and turned my attention to the contents on the table.

- Don’t touch that! - Rafnadar grabbed a potion from my hand. - These are invaluable Healing Potions for Master Gorren.

I would’ve understood his concern, if the potion I picked up was a Healing Potion. However, to my knowledge, it was not.

- Are they now? - I smirked. - Then how come Knight Gorren is still in bed?

- How dare you? You have no idea how hard I work to create them. Healing Master Gorren’s wounds is no easy task. But what would someone like you know? - Rafnadar put the potion down.

- Someone like me, eh? - I was used to be called that by now.

- What do you mean Master Gorren? Why do you say you don’t want TC to become my new Master? He won the tournament. - we all heard Angel’s surprised words.

- He might’ve won the tournament, but such a lowly, horrible person is not fit to become your Master. - said Gorren.

Hah, that’s new. Nobody has called me that way yet.

- What do you mean Gorren? - Vorin stepped forward.

- You should know better than anyone else Vorin. He used Karina as a hostage and killed Mordan using some hellish magic. - his words were full of anger.

- But Maste-

- I can’t accept him as a winner! - Gorren interrupted Angel’s words. - It has to be the person I can trust. If this person hadn’t used such despicable acts, Mordan would’ve won for sure. Now that he’s gone, the only other person in line would be Dirk. I know he fought valiantly and fairly. He is worthy of becoming Angel’s Master.

Mordan? Dirk? That grin on Rafnadar’s face says it all. Mordan and Dirk must be his lackeys. His intentions are becoming clearer now.

- Is that so? - I intervened. - Didn’t the rules say everything was allowed? Any weapon, any magic, even potions were allowed to be used.

- That maybe so, but Master Gorren has made his decision. I’d like you to leave. - Rafandar was the one to answer my question.

- And why are you ordering us around? You’re not the one making the decisions here, are you? - I confronted him.

- I mean… I… of course not. I am simply passing on Master Gorren’s will. Besides, he is weak and can’t be disturbed for long. It’s time for him to take his medicine. I ask you to leave now. - Rafnadar didn’t like my persistence.

- Oh, it’s fine. I won’t get in your way. We all wish for Gorren to get better. - I stepped away from the table. - He can pass on the Pact after he takes the medicine.

- Didn’t you hear me? My patient needs to rest. And he said it himself, he doesn’t want you to become Angel’s new Master. - his dark hood wasn’t able to hide his angry eyes.

- The tournament’s standings are final. - interfered Vorin. - Don’t put the Guild in a shameful position. That you should know better than anyone else friend.

- Hmph… - Gorren didn’t say anything.

Rafnadar’s face was changing shapes and colors. But he didn’t argue with Vorin regarding the tournament. Guild Leader’s words were the law here it seems. Glad Vorin was on my side.

- Knight Gorren might be too weak to perform the Release Pact. How about I prepare a Healing Potion to make him feel better. - Rafnadar’s attitude changed from angry to sweet all of a sudden. - However, if he still feels too weak, you will have to let him rest.

- Ok, fine. - Vorin agreed.

Rafnadar went to pick up few plants from the stack. After choosing the herbs, he brought them to the table and placed them in the bowl. He added some water, waved his hand and the herbs dissolved, creating dark, greenish color liquid. There was nothing suspicious about his movements. That’s how I made my potions as well. The only suspicious thing was the plants he used. They were not the herbs someone would use to create a Healing Potion.

I looked around to see if anyone else noticed it. Everyone was calm and patiently waited for Rafnadar to finish. People had no idea what he was making.

- Here, it’s done. - he poured the contents into a bottle. - Master Gorren please drink this.

Rafnadar was about to take the bottle to his patient when I swiftly took out Robert’s broken sword and threw it at the robed man. The broken part of the blade hit his hand and left a scratch. The wound wasn’t deep, but the cut was enough to show some blood.

- Whaaa! What the hell are you doing? - Rafnadar shouted at me.

- Oh sorry, my hand slipped. It’s good the sword is broken. You might’ve lost your arm here. - I said as if nothing happened.

- That’s not funny you imbecile! You saw what he did Vorin? This person needs to be arrested immediately! - he held his wounded hand to stop bleeding.

- Explain yourself TC. - Vorin confronted me.

- How about I show you instead? - I picked up the potion Rafnadar was about to give to Gorren. - Here you go. It’s the Healing Potion you’ve just made. Use it to heal your wound.

- Tsk… - for whatever reason, Rafnadar didn’t want to take it. - That’s… that’s for Master Gorren. I can’t use it.

- Why not? It’s a ‘Healing Potion’, is it not? If it’s good enough to heal Gorren, then it must be good to heal such a small scratch. - I persisted.

His face was full of anger. Everyone’s eyes were on him and on the potion in my hand. But the hooded man still didn’t want to take the potion.

- How dare you talk to me this way? If not for me, Gorren would’ve died long time ago. I was the one helping him all this time! - Rafnadar tried to sound righteous.

- Were you now? Then why do you want to poison him? - my words caught everyone’s attention.

- You don’t know what you are talking about! Don’t listen to him! - Rafnadar’s face burned with anger.

- Then prove me wrong. Heal your wound with this ‘Healing Potion’ of yours. - I emphasised the words ‘Healing Potion’.

Everyone stared at Rafnadar in silence. His dark, red eyes stared at me like a wolf about to jump on a rabbit. My hand was extended in front of him, with a potion he made only a moment ago.

- He won’t use it. - I finally placed the bottle on the table. - You know why?

- Tsk… - Rafnadar tried to keep himself in check.

- Because this is not a Healing Potion. - I stated.

- What? - Angel stood up.

- What does he mean Rafnadar? - asked Gorren.

- Hrrr… - he glared at me, but did not say anything.

- I thought there was something suspicious about him. Randy accidentally mentioned Rafnadar’s name during our fight. The potions they were using – those were from him. - I pointed at the man with bleeding hand.

- So what? I sold few potions to them. That doesn’t mean anything. - he smirked.

- Maybe not. But Htilil mentioned something interesting too. You know she wouldn’t lie about… - I stopped mid sentence.

- That damn succubus. - Rafnadar cursed her.

- Now here’s the interesting part. I did not say she was a succubus. How did You know that? - I looked him in the eyes.

- Aah… mm… - he realized his blunder.

- Htilil never mentioned your name, but she also made it clear it wasn’t Mordan who summoned her. You stayed in this room all the time, where nobody was allowed to enter. How did you know Htilil was a succubus? The answer is simple – you are the one who summoned her. It was all part of the plan, wasn’t it? - I stated as if to know everything.

- You… you… damn you! - Rafnadar’s teeth gritted against each other.

- What does this all mean? - asked Angel.

- It means he wanted to make you his companion. - I answered.

- What? - Gorren was shocked. - Rafnadar? This can’t be!

- Explain yourself Rafnadar. - Vorin addressed him.

- Imbeciles. Incompetent fools. - Rafnadar was talking to himself. - It was a perfect plan and you… you had to ruin it. How? This makes no sense. Who da hell are you? I have never heard about you. And a Bronze Rank on top of it. How did you defeat a succubus. That’s simply not possible! - his eyes almost popped out from rage.

- Well, I had someone more charming than Htilil to help me out. - I winked at Eve.

- Aaah. - she went all sparkly, despite what was going on in the room.

- You! You will pay for this! Dark Ligh-

- Thorns! - Eve was faster with her spell.

Thorns grew fast and entangled Rafnadar, stopping him from casting his spell.

- Ghhaah… Hrrr… - he struggled to get out, but couldn’t.

- Dark Lightning, eh? I met someone who used that spell against me before. - I commented.

- So it was you? You freed that elf girl? Tsk… damn you. - he was about to curse again, but instead took a deep sigh to calm himself. - No matter. You might’ve foiled my plans for now, but Gorren will not live for long. Hahaha. No. And when he dies, the Master / Companion pact will disappear and Angel will be free for the taking.

- You monster! - Angel reached for her sword.

- This is not over! I will get what I want sooner or later. And you will regret ever standing in my way! Hahaha. - his laugh was more creepy than scary.

- Haaa! - Angel was about to strike him down.

- Mist Embrace! - with those words, Rafnadar disolved into dark mist and vanished in front of our eyes.

- Ah? No! - Angel slumped on the ground. - Master… Gorren…

Tears were gathering in her eyes. Gorren sighed deeply, probably realizing his mistake in trusting the man he thought was helping him. It was a hard blow to deal with, but it was already too late. Everyone in the room had gloomy expressions on their faces.

- Meh, what a pain. He got away. - I scratched my head. - Oh well, only one thing left to do.

My last comment sunk, like a rock in the water. There was complete silence in the room for a few moments.

- I will inform everyone about what happened here. Don’t worry friend, I will not rest until we catch and punish Rafnadar for what he did. - said Vorin. - However, TC is right. Rules are rules. He is the winner of the Five Star Tournament.

- Ah… that’s right. - Knight Gorren looked at me. - I wish I would’ve seen through Rafnadar’s plans. I am ashamed of how naive I was. On the bright side, you seem like a capable man.

- Master Gorren. - Angel fell into his arms.

- Now, now my dear Angel. It’s ok. I can only blame myself. Besides, you did fight him, did you not? You told me you want to test your future Master’s strength. Was he strong? - Gorren patted her on the back.

- Yes, he was. - she sat back up.

- Well then, all the better. - her Master smiled.

- I will be the witness of the new pact. Take your time Gorren. Let me know when you are ready. - said Vorin.

I felt uncomfortable witnessing all the emotional drama happening around me. And I wanted to end it quick. So without wasting any more time, I proceeded to do what I came here for.

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