Chapter 59. Eve's Shining Hour.
The road was quiet for a while. We’ve been traveling for couple hours, yet people were hardly talking to each other. Roland was the first one to try and break the ice.
- How is your friend doing? That elf girl from the tournament? - he asked.
- You mean Luna? - Eve clapped her hands. - She’s fine. We took her back home. Her village is so beautiful. Full of flowers everywhere.
- What? You mean you went to an elven village in a Silvernight Forest? - Roland was surprised.
- Well... Luna said we didn’t rea-
- It was confusing to get there. - I placed my hand on Eve’s leg to interrupt her. - But Luna was kind enough to show us the way.
- Incredible. And you met other elves too? - Meera was super curious.
- Yes. They were all so friendly. And elven children are so charming. They kept asking me why my ears are so small. Hihi. - Eve laughed.
- Haha. That is so cute. - Meera was excited.
Other girls didn’t say anything, but they listened intently. They didn’t know each other yet, but knowing Eve, she will become friends with anyone.
- Oh? So interesting. And do you remember where that village is? - Sebastian’s question raised a warning sign.
- Somewhere in the forest. It was so confusing to get there. I wouldn’t be able to find it on my own. - Eve looked up thinking about it.
- What a shame. I would love to meet some of those elven children. - Sebastian was too sweet for his own good.
- Tsk... since when are you interested in children? - Horrace asked bluntly.
- Haha. That was funny Horrace. - Sebastian’s laugh wasn’t very sincere. - I have never seen on elven child. I was simply curious.
Is that so? Who is he trying to fool?
- Master TC could probably find it. He found the way back out of the forest. - Eve’s sincere honesty wasn’t helpful this time.
- I don’t remember. - I stated before anyone could ask.
My tone made it clear I won’t talk about it.
- Tsk... - Horrace crossed his arms.
- Let’s stop for a short break soon. - suggested Roland.
We stopped to stretch out and have some food. There was a village few more hours away. The Guild agreed in advance for us to stay at the inn. After spending the night at the inn, we will go directly to the Frozen Mountains.
During the short break Sebastian and Rlani were keeping to themselves. But Meera, Inri and Narima became friendly with Eve in no time.
I told Eve to avoid telling them too much about Luna and her village. But that didn’t stop her chatting about the ‘other’ stuff. The girls were sharing stories of their own as well. I, on the other hand, was completely comfortably having a snack all by myself.
After a short rest, everyone was inside the carriage and on the road again. The travel was a little more lively compared to before.
We arrived at a small village by the evening. They had thought it through before leaving. The local inn was tiny, but the innkeeper was friendly and polite.
- Here you go. Eat as much as you want. - the owner brought food himself.
- Mmm... that smells delicious. - Eve was ready to dig in.
- Be glad the Guild pays for your food Silver Rank. - Horrace blurted sarcastically.
- That’s so nice of them. - I made a silly face. - We can eat as much as we like.
- Tsk... - Horrace was disappointed with my response.
What a moron. It will take more than that to provoke me. On the other hand, he can blame nobody, but himself if he manages to do it though.
Me and Eve finished the meal and went to our room. I didn’t feel like hanging out with the rest of them. Not around the likes of Horrace.
- How come Horrace doesn’t like you TC? - Eve asked.
- I don’t know. When people get to higher rank, for some reason, they get a big head. They become arrogant and prideful. Not that I can blame them though. They fall down sooner or later anyway. - I reasoned.
- But Inri is very nice to me. - said Eve.
- Someone has to clean the mess, hehe. - I commented.
- What do you mean? - my cute forest nymph was puzzled.
- Never mind. Lets get some sleep. They said we’ll be leaving early in the morning. - I fell on the bed.
- Hihi. - Eve lied next to me.
- Goodnight beautiful. - I smiled.
- Goodnight. - she smiled back.
The next morning me and Eve went downstairs as soon as we woke up. Roland and Meera were having breakfast already.
- Good morning. - they greeted us.
- Good morning. - I said.
- Hello. - Eve sat next to me.
- Are you the only ones up? - I asked.
- Yeah. But others should be coming down soon as well. - said Roland.
- Lets have some breakfast then. - I smiled at Eve.
Having Roland and Meera as our only company was more than enough to have a pleasant breakfast. Roland told us the journey will take us through the forest, before we reach the mountains. The innkeeper told him it is infested with doggons and advised us to be careful.
Me and Eve finished our food before the rest of the group showed up, which was a good thing. I was in no mood to headbutt with Horrace from an early morning. Not yet at least.
- We’ll go outside to stretch our legs. - I told Roland.
- Ok. See you in a bit. - he said.
I had a small chat with one of the villagers, who was taking care of our horses. It didn’t take long for the rest of the party to show up. They must’ve rushed through their breakfast too. Good thing I am used to waking up early.
Horrace passed me with a stern face expression, but didn’t say anything. Roland must’ve said few words to him during the meal. I almost felt sorry for Roland needing to baby sit an adult.
- We will stop for a longer break in the afternoon. - said Roland. - There aren’t any more villages on our way to the Frozen Mountains. And we still have to pass a forest which, according to the locals, is full of doggons.
I sort of like that Roland is in charge of our group. I’d hate if Horrace was ordering around. Oh wait, I wouldn’t be here then. Haha. I’m glad Eve is cheerful and gets along with the other girls. She wouldn’t be able to hold a grudge even if she tried.
The trip went uneventful for a while. Kalim was silent all the time, but Narima was chatting with Eve and the others. Horrace was giving his attention to Sebastian. To kill boredom for the most part. I was enjoying peace and quiet when nobody bothered me, remembering bits and pieces from my past.
- Ok, lets stop here and set up a camp. - Roland interrupted my thoughts.
We’ve traveled for a long time and it was about time to put some food into our stomachs. Myself and Kalim went to fetch some wood right away. Eve and Narima came with us as well. Both of them became good friends during the short time they’ve spent together. And, despite being quiet, Kalim seemed like a decent guy.
The fire was burning and the food was getting ready to cook. We had to wait a little while before it was done.
- Sir TC? - Meera approached me. - May you honor me with a training match?
Huh? Where did I hear that one before?
- Haha. - I laughed remembering Stan, which made Meera confused. - Oh, sorry. I wasn’t laughing about your request. Yeah, lets have a little match.
Refusing after my sudden laugh would’ve been inappropriate. And I was keen for a light workout.
- That should be interesting. - Roland stood up to observe.
- Yey! TC will win for sure! - Eve cheered right away.
Of course you’d be enthusiastic about it. But it’s not like we’re gonna go all out.
- Will you not use your weapon from before? - Meera asked.
- I thought I’ll be on defense this time. - I smiled.
How serious are you taking this?
- Ok, here I go. Haa! - Meera dashed towards me.
- ‘Bang!’ - I blocked her attack with my shield.
- ‘Swoosh! Slash!’ - she attacked again.
- ‘Bam! Ding!’ - I blocked and parried incoming swings.
- You’re definitely strong. - I complimented her.
- Huh? Thank you. - she blushed. - But why aren’t you swinging back?
- Ghm... I’ll swing back if you make me lose my shield. - I smiled.
Hey, come on. It’s not like I want to hit you.
- In that case I won’t hold back. - Meera’s aura changed.
I sensed her magic, as well as her strength, increase. I raised my shield to be ready to repel incoming attacks.
- ‘Swoosh! Thrust!’ - she jumped with incredible speed and thrust her sword at me.
- ‘Ding!’ - it hit my shield.
- Haaa! - ‘Slash! Strike! Slash! Swing!’ - Meera unleashed attack after attack.
- ‘Bang! Ding!’ - I blocked and dodged her attacks.
- I’m not done yet! - ‘Swoosh!’ - another swing was coming down from above.
But instead of blocking or dodging, I jumped forward to get really close to Meera.
- Hi. - I smiled, looking her in the eyes.
- Huh? - she was surprised, yet still in a full swing.
Before her swing could reach me, I lifted my shield up from bellow and broke Meera’s balance. Then quickly turned to the side, lifted her up with my shield and threw her over my shoulder.
- Aaah! - she fell on her back.
- Yey! - Eve cheered.
- That was a nice move on TC’s part. - Sebastian commented seeing Roland’s surprise.
- Ahem... yes. - said Roland.
- That was... unexpected. - Meera stood up. - I thought you said you will attack only if you lose your shield.
- I said I will swing if I lose my shield. I didn’t swing per se. I was... eeer... stretching and you were too close. - I smiled.
- Hahaha. - she laughed. - Yes, you did say that. But I never thought you will use your shield like that.
- And I never thought you wouldn’t. - I said.
- I see. I will remember this lesson. - Meera was ready to continue.
- Hoorey TC! - Eve was happy to see me pull of such a stunt.
- Meh, how pathetic. Meera is letting a Silver Rank throw her on the ground like that. She must be sorry for him. - Horrace couldn’t keep quiet any longer.
- That’s not true! TC is simply stronger. - Eve wasn’t happy about his comment.
- What do you know? He’s just a tag a long weakling. I can’t understand why Vorin wanted us to take him along in the first place. Just go home. I am not planning on saving his or your sorry asses when we have to fight for real. - Horrace wasn’t shy with his rude words.
Ok, that does it. You just crossed the line.
I couldn’t care less what people thought about me, but him being rude to Eve was something else.
- So you must be really strong mister ‘oh mighty gold rank’. - I wasn’t about to let him of the hook this time.
- You watch your mouth! - Horrace reached for his axe.
- Now, now. Let’s all calm down, shall we? - Sebastian tried to soothe the situation.
- I bet it will be Eve who will has to save your shiny gold ass. - I commented.
- Don’t make me laugh. A Silver Star will have to save me? Your little companion is nothing more than a pretty face. - Horrace retorted.
She definitely has a pretty face. But I will make you eat your words one way or the other.
I was about to openly challenge him and kick his ass for good. Eve was upset and didn’t know how to react. This was the first time someone spoke to her in such a rude way. I knew if we don’t teach him a lesson, Horrace will keep his attitude going forward. Not to mention, it will hurt the whole group and might even sabotage the whole quest.
- Tell you what. - I had a brilliant idea. - I will turn around and go back home if you can win a duel against Eve.
- What?! Don’t insult me. I won’t bother fighting-
- Unless you’re actually afraid to fight against a Silver Star. So much talk and no action. - I kept taunting him.
- Why you... fine! But don’t blame me when she gets hurt! - Horrace face was almost blue from anger.
- Hey! Hold on now. I can’t allow some senseless fighting. - Roland objected. - All of us are on the same Quest.
- It’s fine Roland. This will be over quick. - I said to him.
- Let the young man have his way. It will be interesting to see what they can do. - Sebastian tried to persuade him as well.
- Humph... - Roland wasn’t convinced.
Roland knows quite well what I can do. He and Meera experienced it first hand. The others probably didn’t watch the tournament and haven’t seen me in action. However this time I am not planning to fight. I doubt I would need to anyway.
- Master Roland. - Meera approached him. - I understand your concern, but I doubt sir TC will do something unwise. I am sure he has a plan. Sir TC is not the kind of person to let his companion get hurt.
- Ok, fine. - Roland finally agreed. - But if I see either of you are going too far, I will stop the fight immediately.
- This won’t even be a fight. - Horrace was oozing with overconfidence.
- Is this really ok? - Eve asked me with confused look in her eyes.
- Yeah, don’t worry about him too much. - I said to calm her down.
- I’m not suppose to kill him, right? - Eve’s eyes showed the opposite.
- Eeer... no... - I made a silly face.
Wow. Scary. I haven’t seen Eve so upset since like... never. She has her own pride too.
- I will not allow anyone to belittle my Master. - Eve was thinking out loud.
- Go for it. - I walked further away behind her.
- Hiding behind a woman and letting her fight in your stead. I knew you were a poor excuse for a man. - Horrace tried to mock me.
I grinned ear to ear without saying anything.
- Hihi. - Eve’s chuckle sounded more like an evil laugh.
- Come on Roland, don’t keep us waiting! Give the signal already! - Horrace was being impatient.
- Master Roland? - Meera saw his concern. - Are you worried about Eve? If you wish, I will be ready to interfere and protect her.
- No, not about Eve. I’m more worried about Horrace. His arrogant attitude provoked TC. But TC provoked Horrace to fight against his companion. You don’t know this, but he didn’t show his true strength when he fought us. You didn’t see his fight against Angel. - Roland told her.
- But then... why did he put Eve to fight against Horrace? - Meera was wondering.
- That is what worries me. TC is not as arrogant, nor foolish. Did you know that Eve was a one star when he summoned her? - asked Roland.
- Really? But she’s a four star now. How? - she exclaimed.
- Exactly. I suppose we shall see. Be ready for anything. - he stepped forward to give the signal.
- Ok. - Meera took a stance, ready to fight herself.
- Are you ready? - Roland waited for just a moment. - Begin!
- Haaa! - Horrace charged at Eve in an instant.
- Living... - Eve’s eyes sparkled. - Thorns!
Hehe. - I grinned from ear to ear.
The ground shook beneath Eve’s feet and all surrounding area.
- Huh? What’s going on? - people were startled.
Huge roots, vines and thorns grew big and tall, then formed an impenetrable, gigantic wall, lifting Eve on the very top of it. Horrace just barely managed to jump back not to get caught in it.
- WHAT?! - everyone’s eyes were big and wide.
The shock and surprise in everyone’s eyes was too funny to watch. Only Kalim’s face expression was more or less like usual. People stared at the castle resembling wall made of thorns in awe. It was safe to assume nobody has seen that type of magicbefore. And I was beaming.
- Didn’t you say the man who hides behind a woman is a poor excuse of a man? - I made sure to add ‘extra’ sarcasm to my comment.
Trying to get away from the growing thorns, Horrace jumped so far back, he ended up not only behind Inri, but behind few of the others as well.
- Tsk... - his teeth gritted. - Don’t think some overgrown weeds will stop me. Haaa!
He jumped forward with his axe raised high in the air. But as soon as he was close enough, thorns and roots stretched out and attacked him.
- What? - he didn’t expect that, but there was no time to turn back.
- ‘Swoosh! Slash!’ -
Horrace swung at the thorns to cut them down. But as soon as he cut the first ones, new ones sprung out right away.
- ‘Slash! Swing! Slash!’ - Horrace was fast enough to defend himself.
- Thorns! - Eve, on the other hand, wasn’t planning to stay passive.
- Master Horrace behind you! - Inri shouted.
- Huh? - he was about to be caught. - Spinning Wave!
His axe glowed and created a magic wave while Horrace spun around. Thorns were cut down in pieces before they could reach him.
But as powerful as Horrace was, cutting down incoming thorns did very little since new ones sprung out in an instant.
- Yaaa! - ‘Swoosh! Swing!’ - he swung his axe without stopping even for a moment. - Damn! How many are there?
Hah. It’s not how many. It’s where do you focus your attacks. As long as Eve stands tall, you don’t have a chance. You’re about to learn a very painful lesson mister.
Since Horrace was in range of the Living Thorns wall, new roots and vines were constantly growing and attacking him. He wasn’t really tired, but Horrace wasn’t making any progress either.
- You... you lowly Silver Star! - Horrace was enraged. - Double Swing!
He swung twice, releasing powerful magic blasts from his axe. They pierced through the roots and thorns, thrashing them into pieces. It left quite a hole in their path. However, much to Horrace’s surprise and disappointment, Living Thorns wall grew back up, covering the destroyed part.
Huh? What? Eve?
I felt a huge surge of magical energy within Eve all of a sudden. Horrace’s words really made her upset this time. As excited as I was seeing Eve in all of her glory, it made me worried as well.
- Thorns Wall! - Eve waved her staff.
Magic thorns grew faster and bigger, and this time Horrace was caught in them before he could react.
- ‘Slash! Swoo-’ - his axe was entangled by the thorns.
- What? - Horrace couldn’t get it out.
Without being able to swing, his whole body was trapped by Thorns Wall spell as well.
- Thorn... - but Eve wasn’t about to stop.
Wait. She already caught him with her Thorns Wall spell. Why is she casting... Oh, no! That’s the...
- Eve! - I was too late.
- Spikes! - she finished her spell.
- Aaaaaa! - Horrace’s body was pierced by deadly spikes from all directions.
- Stop the fight now! - Roland shouted.
- Aagh... I can’t get close! - Meera jumped forward, but was stopped by Living Thorns in an instant.
- Eve! Stop! - I shouted.
A deep silence settled and everyone was afraid of the worst. Horrace wasn’t moving. Eve released her spell and her opponent was freed from the thorns. The rest of the roots and vines followed. The huge Living Thorns wall grew back into the ground like they’ve never been here in the first place.
- Hihi. - Eve chuckled when her feet touched the ground.
People rushed to check on Horrace.
- Quick! Bring some Healing Potions! - Roland helped Horrace to sit up.
- I’m fine. Ugh... - Horrace tried to stand up, but couldn’t.
- Sit tight. We will get you a Healing Potion right away. - Roland ordered.
- Wow. You really outshined yourself this time Eve. - I was impressed as well as perplexed.
- Thank you. - she smiled. - I made sure not to hurt him too much. I remembered that training practise with the rabbits we did at the beginning.
The one that ended bad for the rabbits? Heh... so Horrace was only a target practise for you? I am glad she kept her cool though. Still, that villainous expression on your face was something else. Almost like Htilil’s... but hotter.
- You did well. - I said.
Rlani rushed over with a Healing Potion in her hands. Horrace wounds were healed, but Eve has left her mark on him none the less.
- I’m... sorry. - Inri said somewhat hesitantly. - Please forgive my Master for his rudeness.
She was bowing down. Her hands were shacking, closely pressed against her legs.
- That’s ok Inri. You don’t have to apologize. You have done nothing wrong. - Eve smiled.
Right on point. Why are You apologizing?
- Can you stand? - Roland helped Horrace. - Well?
With Roland staring at him intently, Horrace took the hint. Having experienced Eve’s wrath, he wasn’t as confident as before.
- I apologize. Please forgive me. - I sensed embarrassment in his voice.
Sometimes you need to learn the hard way.
- That’s ok. - Eve smiled.
- Apology accepted. I wish we didn’t fight among ourselves in the first place. We’re on the same Quest, are we not? We need to rely on each other, otherwise there’s no point in continuing. - I said.
- Yes... I agree. - Horrace lowered his head.
- Great. - I smiled. - I think the food’s done. I’m starving.