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Chance or Fate? A key meeting...

The road to adventure and wealth is a long and hard one. There usually aren't many eked out roads, but here is a dirt path. If we follow this, we'll eventually get to a town. Ooo, I'm so hungry! Say... I wonder if Kari has anything with him. "Hey, Kari," I say. He looks down at me. I'll never get past how tall he is. He answers with that innocent smile of his, "Yeah, Rina? What is it?" I smile back and ask him the question: "Do you happen to have any food on you?" He raises both brows and laughs. I furrow my brow, annoyed, "What? What?!" He looks ahead and answers, as always (and to my knowledge), honestly, "Why do you have to ask a ridiculous question like that?" What kind of a moron answers a question with another question? "It... it wasn't ridiculous! I'm just hungry!" He puts his hand on his forehead and sighs, "Oh Rina... there are just some times in life when you just gotta hold your head high and take it like a man!" What brilliant logic he has. He should be a philosopher. Rolling my eyes, I reply with annoyance, "But I'm not a man!" He shrugs, "Oh yeah, I forgot." How could he forget?!

We keep walking along the path. It's a bit long, but nothing I'm not used to. Looking up, I see something amiss. Over in the distance, there's what appears to be black smoke curling into the air. Since I specialize mostly in the Fire Shamanism part of Shamanism, I know how smoke looks when certain things burn. By the looks of it, what's cooking is pretty large... and was made of dry wood or grass. I don't like to think negatively--it slows you down--but it could be a town that's burning. Kari notices my high gaze and has to ask, "What's up, Rina?" I look over at him and point over to the horizon, "See that smoke?" Kari follows my finger's direction and squints, pausing for a long while. I narrow my eyes and hurry him, "Hey, do you see it or not?" He hmms thoughtfully and raises both brows, "I thought it was a cloud." I tumble to the ground; I must've tripped. "Hey, Kari..." I growl lowly, "... what kind of a cloud is black and curls like that?!" He scratches a temple with his right hand and shrugs, lost for certain on his point. I get up and shake a hand while explaining it to him... slowly. "Listen to me, Kari. I know for a fact that that's smoke over there, and I think that it's a--"


I raise a brow as I'm cut off by a rather loud 'ahem.' Kari and I turn our heads to look back forward, and there stands a man who looks to me like a merchant. I turn my body to face him and motion with a hand as I ask him the obvious, "Eh, can I help you?" He seems to have been coming from the direction that we're going, and if not a little bit shifty. "Um, are you going over there?" He points to the smok rising in the sky. I nod slowly, "Yeah... we're going there. Why?" He coughs a little and sighs. I wonder, but not for long. "The town that was there... was burned to the ground." I sigh heavily and look at the ground. My bad hunch confirmed; no food! Gaaah!!! Kari steps in front of me, some shock in his voice, "Who did this??" The man looks a bit frightened, but then confused. He looks over his shoulder and sighs again, "I... I don't know. I was just passing by and I spotted the smoldering remains... I just came from there, so it's not far off from where we are." Kari nods and pats the man on the shoulder. "We'll check it out. Thanks for letting us know." What?!?! We're checking out a burnt town?? Why?! We have no business there! Ooooh my god...

The smell of burnt wood was everywhere. I really wouldn't mind if this was a barbecue, but it seems like we're a little too late for that. Everywhere, there are piles of burnt wood which I suspect used to be buildings. The ground was covered with ashes, and some of the buildings were smoldering slowly. That's what had caused all that smoke. Below most of the piles is a stone foundation, therefore confirming my assumption. Those were buildings, this was a town, and somebody burnt it down; it couldn't have been a wildfire because it's too humid this time of year in this place. I look over at Kari, who is sifting through a ruin as if looking for something. I walk over to him and pull his sleeve, shaking my head. He looks at me and 'huh's. "Kari, we're wasting time here. I'm sure any survivors would've picked up and left by now." Kari looks off to the distance, seeming a little upset. I could tell that this was gonna be one of those days...

And maybe it wasn't going to be. After a few hours on the open road, Kari and I got to a neighboring town. Luckily, this one hadn't been burned down, which made me more than a little suspicious. However, I wasn't about to let that ruin a good meal. It didn't seem to be bothering Kari during dinner, either. After all, why worry about something you can't do anything about? "So... you're a black mage, Rina?" Hey, Kari's showing some insight! I can't let this opportunity pass me up! "What makes you think that, Kari?" He answers quickly, without pausing, "Well, you did use the Fireball. Isn't that black magic?" I don't blame him for getting that confused. People who don't specialize in sorcery like me sometimes can't tell which branch some spells go in. Ordinary people who have no skill in magic often think that whatever destroys is black magic and whatever heals or banishes 'evil' is white magic. While they have the stereotypes right, they usually are amiss about a lot of things. "No, Kari," I say as I shake my head. "Fireball is a spell in Fire Shamanism. There are five branches in Shamanism: Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Spirit Shamanism. Do you have that?" Kari hmms and nods, "So where would that Dragon Slave overkill thing go?" I smile and clap my hands, which are gloveless when I eat, "That is true black magic, which is my specialty." I think I've confused Kari a little; he puts one hand behind his long silvery-gold hair and raises a finger to his bottom lip with the other hand. He speaks up: "So.... what makes black magic all that different from Shamawhatsit?" I sigh lightly and wave a hand at Kari, "It's a real long story, so I'll tell you later, alright?" Kari narrows his eyes and looks aside, "I think you'll have to save it anyway, because, heh-heh, it looks like someone is looking for you." What? I follow his subtle point to the doorway...

There, standing in the doorway, is a rather angry-looking man. His whole face is covered in bandages save a tuft of grayish hair, which sticks out, and his eyes. He wears dark gray robes, a large black-and-red cape, and leather gauntlets. Behind and aside him are four rather large trolls, which makes it no wonder why he attracted all the attention in the tavern. He looked straight at me, but I turned and tried to act like I didn't notice him. His sharp voice, filled with anger and resentment, filled my ears, and then it was obvious that he was talking to me: "YOU! I know you, you little witch!" I giggle girlishly and try to lie my way out of this one, "Oh hey! My name is Cecile but I'm often mixed up with another girl, about my height, same eyes, same hair--" but I get cutoff halfway into my excuse. So much for my act. "Shut up! Shut up! You... oooo you'll pay! You'll pay for what you've done to meee!" I laugh boldly and stand up, a foot on my chair's seat. I grin and point to the door, "Fine... let's take this outside!" He shudders, narrows his eyes, and gives me a resounding "No." I facefault and shrug, acting like I want to solve this diplomatically, "Can't we, like, talk this out?" He yells, a chorus of objections, "NO, you CAN'T. GET HER!!!" And like that, the trolls jump at me, ignoring Kari altogether.

Now trolls aren't really all that good for much else than hired muscle. For one, they are absolute brutes. Another thing is that they definitely aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. Fortunately, all they do is swing their clubs down at me. I'm quick, therefore I dodge. I jump and leapfrog over one of them, landing in front of the one behind it. I put my hands to the sides of my head and stick out my tongue, egging it on so it would make an attempt to smash me. It went ahead and tried, but I slid under its legs and made it miss.... me. It did hit something--its buddy! Fortunately, while they and one other were having a falling out, I had time to cast and channel a spell to my fingertips. Knowledge truly is the best weapon in some situations! When they did turn their attention to me, much to the thanks of a "Hey, over here!", they charge at me, and I jump, tapping each of them on the shoulder, the forehead, and the waist with the glowing orb at my fingers. I skid out of the way and wave to Kari as I get to him, "Hiya Kari!" Kari scratches the back of his head, "Uh, hi Rina." I take a stance while slipping the second of my gloves on and tightening it. "Kari, I need you to get in there and attack those trolls." He looks at me like I'm a fool, then at the trolls who seem confused at what I did. Kari speaks up: "Hey Rina... you do know that you can't hurt trolls with a sword; they'll just heal up quicker than you can hurt them again." I know that, and that's part of my plan! I get behind Kari and push him, "Just do it! Scratch them up!" Kari raises his brows and shrugs, bouncing a few steel pellets in his right hand. "All right... but don't say I didn't tell you so." I just grin. As soon as Kari finishes talking, he flicks all the pellets, about four, at the trolls. The pellets, which are sharpened a bit at the running end, embed themselves in the three trolls, and one barely misses another. A second passes, and the trolls start to approach. Kari reels and takes a step back, gritting his teeth, "See? All I've done is--"

The gauzed-up geek's eyes widen, "What?" The trolls are prompt to get sucked in towards their wounds, and then proceed to explode like sacks of flesh. It defenitely is not a pretty sight, and I'll have to make sure not to cast that spell again; it's a bad thing when a spell gives its caster nightmares. "My trolllssss!!! What did you do to them??!" Kari turns his gaze on me and asks the same, "Yeah Rina, what did you do?" I smile and give my reasoning, "Well, trolls have an immense healing power, as everyone here knows. That power is so great, I just simply took that power and reversed it, causing what you see to happen when they were given even the slightest cut." I wink and smile. The man just babbles, "You diabolical little--GET THEM!!" Oh, so it's them now? "Well this looks bad," I mutter as I draw my shortsword. I don't have enough time, or motivation, to use that little reverse-Recovery of mine again. Kari draws his longsword, and the cavalry comes for us.

Trolls are powerful creatures, everyone knows that. Only to reiterate, I thought about how strong their innate healing power was. That's what made them so hard to kill. As soon as you wound them with a sword, they just heal right up. Fighting them with magic is much easier, and that's what I plan to do; or, at least, that's what I planned to do. Kari was being as useful to me as boots are to a fish, so I had to dodge three other trolls' attacks and deal with them myself. I finally find myself an opening and drive my blade deep into a troll's gut. When I try to tear the sword out through its side, it stops me from doing so and grasps the crosshilt, trapping my hand in between. Struggle as I might, I can't get free from its trap. Glancing up quickly, I catch sight of the troll's club raised high over its head. Everything about that was expected, except for the fact that the club has not come down. I see this as my chance and stomp on the humanoid's right foot. It howls, its grip loosens, and I send a spell through the sword and into its body: "Digu Volt!" BZZZZZT!!!... Hissssssssssssss... is about the right way to describe the troll's body as I sheathe my shortsword, breathing a sigh of relief. "Whew! That was tooo close there!" I turn my gaze, which I imagine to look quite devilish right now, towards the bandaged fool, who I now presume to be a revenging pirate, and rub my hands together. He reels and takes a step backward, "Y-you demon!" I grin and chant, performing a simple set of gestures along with it, "Source of all power, light which burns beyond crimson flame..." He seems to choke and panic: "It's a F-FIREBALL! RUN!!" Abruptly, he runs out of the tavern, what remains of his trolling troupe following.

"Whew," I sigh, the glowing ball floating over my right hand. Someone is yelling at me, and I turn my head to see Kari dive under a table. He shouts: "Fire in the hooole!" Afterwards, he cringes and he awaits the explosion that a glowing ball of light would hint at. I try to grab his attention in a low voice: "Hey, Kari..." He pulls his hands from their protective position over his head and looks up. I continue, "... it's a Lighting spell." I will the ball to float past him and out the door to dissipate elsewhere. He stands up, looking annoyed, and scolds me, "Little girls shouldn't play tricks like that, you know!!" I grin impishly and giggle in my throat.

"You clumsy sorceress! Look what you did to my restaurant!!!" I shuffle my feet. I do feel kind of ashamed for what just happened; worst of all, the blame's gonna be dispersed on me since Kari and I are the only ones left. "Gee, mister... I'm very sorry... if only I could compensate..." He scowls at me, and I grab something from behind my cloak, grinning in my mind. I walk in and slip a flawed ruby into his open hand, smiling innocently, "This can pay for the repairs, so can you pleaaaaaaaaase forgive me?" The shopkeeper glares suspiciously, looks at me for a long moment, and shrugs, feeling that the object of my passing was a gem. He smiles and shrugs again, "I suppose I can let you go then." Hee-hee... yay! I jump back to Kari and hurry him and myself out of the tavern before the owner has a chance to examine the gem closely and find that it's flawed. About two streets down, Kari turns to me. "Whoa... that was amazing. How did you do it, Rina?" I grin and keep walking with my carefree air, "Why it's my immeasurable charm, Kari!" Kari scratches a cheek and looks up, probably trying to put two and two together.

Just when I thought the rest of the evening would be uneventful, a man in a hooded cloak and mask which covers all but his eyes approaches me and Kari decisively. I stop, immediately noticing him, and grab hold of Kari's tunic to keep him from walking forward any longer. Kari must've looked at me curiously, but I ignored him. Instead, the mystery man's calm voice becomes the center of my attention as he speaks, "Greetings... now, I realize that you have an item in your posession that I wish to purchase..." This is kind of sudden, but when it involves making money it's something I can always do... if it's my way. "Um... sure. But... you don't look like a normal merchant to me. How do I know you can be trusted?" He looks at his right hand and closes his eyes, speaking in the same bored tone, "I know I don't look like the most trustworthy fellow around, but believe what you want. I'm sure, however, that you'll be pleased with my proposition. You may name any price you want... and I can pay it. So... what will it be?" I scratch my chin. It sounds a little too good to be true, but at any rate, this should be done indoors. "Say, can't we take this indoors?" I ask. He shrugs, and walks off down an alley. "Wait!" I call, but when I round the corner and look down the alleyway, he's gone.

Kari and I are now settled into our rooms, but he's hanging out in my room while I answer any questions he has. "--and so, elemental magic is not black magic." Kari hmms and pops another question: "Okay, and what about that guy who came after you?" Hmm. I don't know this one myself for sure, so I just answer him to the best of my knowledge. "Oh it's probably just some pirate looking for revenge." He 'ohs' and nods. I ask him, "Anymore questions?" He sighs and shakes his head with a smile, "No more questions, teacher." I slap my hand on the table and stand up, holding the other hand out to my side, palm up. "Great then; class dismissed." When I was about to shoo Kari to his room, a knock resounds on the door which catches both our attention and silences the room. I answer... "Who's there??" The voice that answers is the one of the man from the alley, "It is I. I do hope that you have considered my offer." There is a pause. "So, what is it going to be?" Hah! This guy acts as if he's the authority around here! Still, he is intriguing, and I can't help my curious nature; even bro agrees that I'm nosy as a cat. After a bit of thought, I nod to Kari, "Alright, I'm gonna let you in... but if you do much as try anything funny, I'll hit you with a spell that you will never forget!" Kari seems hesitant, but he soon opens the door and lets him in.

First, the man walks in, and behind him is the gangly geek we encountered at the tavern. Apparently, he's not one for restraint. His eyes go wide and he starts growling, "Y-you?!!!" The man abruptly blocks his apparent subordinate by pulling his arm out to the side and reprimands him in a sharp voice, "No, Syrius!" I grin, "Well look what the dragon dragged in." The mystery man turns his gaze to me, "Please forgive my servant. He is usually more composed than this, but a certain event seems to have rendered him... vengeful." I raise a brow and grin, pointing to 'Syrius' and making a malignant-sounding sidenote: "Alright, but remember; the longer he talks and insults me, the higher my price will be!" Syrius gawks and I smile. He has a lapse in short-term memory as he starts yelling, "Whaaaaaaaaaat?! You little know-nothing witch! I--" Scowling, I interrupt him alright! "'You little know-nothing witch'? I don't have to take that, not from a half-hashed mummy-faced creep who can't tell the difference between a Fireball and a Lighting spell!" His eyes widen further, "Tha... that wasn't a Fireball?!" His reaction is one of anger, but the masked man steps in his path, blocking me from him. Syrius fumes in silence while our mystery man turns back to me and Kari, "I certainly hope your price isn't beyond affordability at this point." Well why don't you try me, hmm?

"Let's get down to business," the masked man says. I grab an item from my cloak and set in on the table between us, "Well, here I have... an arcane dagger!" The masked man holds a hand up and shakes his head, "Hold it. Set each of the items you have down, and name their prices first." I quirk, "Why?" He answers promptly, "Assuming I tell you what I want, you might charge higher for that one item than the rest." Well, it wouldn't have been a bad idea, but it never occured to me. He's a shrewd one... "Alright... for the old mirror... six million gold pieces!" The masked man's eyes widen before he tumbles to the floor. Syrius's eyes widen, "That's preposterous!!" Kari's mouth hangs ajar, "Rina, isn't that a little steep??" I throw my arms up and turn around, "You men are all the same! You say that you can do something and you end up not being able to fit the bill!" I turn, grinning to them all, "So... pay up, or shut up!" The masked man gets up from his knees and scratches his forehead, "A little steep, but it's no bother. You have other articles with you, I trust?" I nod, and then I lay out a pile of rubies, separating the flawed and the flawless, "Hmm... can we leave the gems out?" He nods, and then I take the two statues out. Now, orihalcon is quite hard to come by, and is very valuable as a magic-capacitating metal, so I think my price will be... "And for each of these... 60 million! A bargain!!!" The masked man turns and seems to tense up as he drives a foot repeatedly to the ground. Syrius faints, Kari gawks, and the masked one curses. Ahhh... with all that money, I could buy a prince's castle... and all his servants and land, too! I could be a princess! Ahhhh...

I think a little and shrug my shoulders nonchalantly, "Well, the price is a little steep, so I'll cut it down to 30 million, and not a silver less!" The masked man turns and nods enthusiastically, "30 million! I think we can work something out." Hah. An early retirement. How lucky I am... hee hee. "Unfortunately..." Wha-?? I look up at the masked man, "Unfortunately?" He closes his eyes. "Unfortunately, we do not have the funds at present to pay your price in full." Damn... how typical. "... However, I was supposing that we could becom allies, in which six months' time we would be able to pay double, or even triple, your price. So how about it...?" Now I was mad. If there's anything I hate more than being hounded by bandits, it's being promised an obscene sum of money and then not being paid. Luckily, I keep my composure and respond calmly, "Well, as tempting as your offer sounds, I think I have to decline. In addition to the fact that I'd rather die than ally with someone like you, I don't think it would be a pleasant working experience for either of us." The masked man hmphs and closes his eyes. "A pity we couldn't come to an agreement," he says. I nod, "What a shame." He motions to Syrius to move out, and he starts out himself, "I'm left with no choice but to take the item from you by force." I'm not surprised, frankly, but I listen anyway. "... Take heed: the moment you step out of this inn, we will be mortal enemies." I close my eyes and tilt my head downward, "Right... I'll remember that." He stops about halfway out the door, "Oh... and another thing. My name is Judas. Remember that name..." When I look up, he's gone from the room, and Kari closes the door.

"That was something else," said Kari. "Phew." I looked up at Kari from my bed and quickly slipped on my half-removed boot. I walked up to Kari in a hurry and pushed him out the door, "Time to go to your -own- room, Kari!" He looked confused when he turned around. He only said, "Huh? What?" I smile sweetly and wave, "G'night, Kari..." I shut the door without waiting for a response. Giggling, I fall on the bed, facefirst, and close my eyes. I'll need my beauty sleep for tomorrow...