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Time out? I need a break...

It's true that you don't appreciate the finer things in life until you've lost them. You can't know mow much I missed sleeping in soft beds, eating hot, delicious food in plenty, and hot baths... Oh yeah, I was living the good life. This was thanks in part to all the loot that I let Kari hold onto for a while. When we got back together, I got the goods back from Kari and I sold them for as high as I could when we got back to a real town. Because of that, I can now get all the pampering that I deserve.

"Hmm... maybe we should go to the hot spring resort just 20 miles from this fork, Kari!"

Kari scratches his chin, contemplating the idea for what seems to be an entire day. I cock a brow and nudge him, "Hey, Kari... you still with me here? Resort? Bath, food?"

Still looking up at the sky, he lets me know just what he's thinking at the moment. "Oh... I wonder how Judas and the others are. Do you think it was a good idea to split up?"

Hmm. It's not that I hadn't wondered the same thing often since we went our separate ways for now. Just before reaching this town, Judas proposed that we should split up into two groups to maybe throw off what was an inevitable pursuit from Seto's standing. I gave it a little thought and agreed that it was best. As an afterthought, Judas added that I should let him have the orihalcon idol I kept instead of sold. My answer was a resounding 'no,' and I think that pissed him off to no end. At any rate, it's best not to act openly suspicious. I know nothing, I say nothing.

Having forgotten to answer Karius' question, I'm quick to smile and pat his arm from where I stood, "I wouldn't worry too much, Kari. Judas and his partners can take care of themselves. Right now, it's us we need to look after."

According to our plan, we are to wander about to throw Seto's possible pursuit off. I figured that the best way to go about this was to relax a little and get all this bound up stress out of my system. Judas is off who-knows-where, but we did make plans to meet back up at the Holy Kingdom of Seyruun in three weeks. Right now, we're in a little region just north of the country... and after entering Seyruun, we're to meet up at the first 'arm of the star.' Seyruun's layout is like that of a hexagram... a giant ward to protect the city from curses and offensive magic. For that reason, most everyone in Seyruun is happy, and the specialty mages there are clerics and priests, all extremely skilled in white magic.

... the royal family's members are also famous for their extreme zeal in the ideals of justice and pacifism.

But my main focus now is to relax and research this situation a bit more. You may think I'm being lazy, but you'd want to enjoy life as much as you could after the three near-death experiences I just went through... in a couple of weeks, no less. Oi...

Kari just sort of stood there... he needs a little persuasion. I grab his tunic's sleeve and drag him my way, the right way, in the fork. "C'mon, Kari. We're gonna eat, sleep, and relax! And no force on this world is gonna stop me from doing so!"

Heh heh hah hah hah! Because it's the middle of the night, I have the bath alll to myself. "Ahhh... this is the life. All alone... not having to compare my chest with anyone else's..." It's a gospel truth that one enjoys hot baths alone. Being summer, as I've mentioned many times before, it's naturally warm in this region. The water is even warmer, so it lets off a lot of soothing steam from its surface. The springs here are naturally fed by an underground resevoir whose water flows out onto the surface. Since the resevoir is relatively close to a magma pocket, underground, the water is nice and hot... and rich in certain minerals which have been said to be good for the skin. Being in a spring like this reminds me of a certain person I used to travel with; she was quite the hot spring aficionado... but more on the past later. I sit nose-deep in the water and think quietly.

Of course, my quiet time never lasts. A rustling in the surrounding trees behind the bamboo fence surrounding the pool snaps me to immediate attention. I lift my eyes up to where the sound came from, reaching for the towel nearest me. Rrrrr... a peeping pervert? If it is, I'll make sure he reaps what he sows...

Now that I'm clad in a tunic, a pair of shorts, and a pair of sandals, I go out to investigate the noise. With all my camping and outdoors experience, I KNOW what's a bird and what's not. The rustling of several branches indicated a large animal, most of which are not likely to prowl human-inhabited areas. Now that I'm outside, I don't know what to look for or even where to start. Save the crickets and the soft running water, it's silent. I scan the whole area carefully. Everything seems alright... but then I hear the sound of something falling from a tree and hitting the ground outside the fence with an audible "Umpf!"

I'll give HIM something to umpf about!!! "Levitation!" The spell lifts me and lets me easily alight atop the bamboo fencing, just lightly standing on it as I look down. Someone is trying to hiiide.... I narrow my eyes... hmmm.... "Oh well... I guess it was just an animal," I say. I smile inwardly and land lightly on the ground below, making myself disappear beyond a tree. Perhaps sadly predictable, the soon-to-be dogmeat sighs loudly and stands up from his hiding place. Not surprisingly, it's a male, and relatively young. His clothes are a little unusual for your average traveler. His hair is short and dark, skin slightly tan, and eyes green... his attire speaks 'sorcerer' of some sort. Whatever he is, he looks old enough to be out by himself... and if he can make his own decisions, then he should've chosen never to cross Rina Erris...

"That was close," he says. At that moment, I burst out from behind a tree, probably looking something like a monster out of a storybook. "You don't know how close, kid. HIYAAA!!" And I grabbed him by the collar to shake him. "WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA, GETTING AN EYEFUL OF ME... how... LECHEROUS!" You'd never think the guy was like that. He looked dead scared and like he was about to cry, all panicky and the like. "P-p-please don't hurt me, Rainbow Devil!! It's not what you think it is!!"

"Not what I think it is? You were up in a tree overlooking the women's bath, for crying out loud! What do you expect me to think you were doing?!" I give a slght glance upward to think then abruptly return it to my victim, "... and where do you get off calling me 'Rainbow Devil'!!?" The guy at this point has fireball-fodder written on him, but I'll let him have his last words.

"But... you ARE Rina Erris... right? The Rainbow Devil? The Natural Enemy of All that Lives? The Girl who leaves terror and destruction in her wake?" I let the guy go and stand over him to make sure he doesn't vamoose, "Ha ha ha... and where exactly did you get all this rubbish from?" The boy shakily hands me a rolled-up sheet of paper. I raise a brow and open it up. I'm dumbfounded at what I see. I'm not angry... that comes after the initial confusion of seeing my own wanted poster. Wow, that's a bad picture of me...

"I... I was just seeing if it was you." The guy cringes and shys back from my shadowed form before continuing, "Seeing how you're such an evil criminal, I was going to capture you... but I was in the worst place at the worst time..." I scowl and open my right hand, palm upward, to begin casting a full-power fireball. "You are SO screwed, buddy... first you sneak a peek, then you call me names, and now you say that you were going to arrest me." I form a ball of light over my right hand and sneer, "I'm gonna make an example of you..."

Before I can begin chanting, however, a strong force lifts me from the ground. I struggle and thrash, "Wha? Hey, let me go! Who is it?! You're next when I'm through with him, HEY!" The kid, wide-eyed and somewhat thankful, up and bolts from sight. I growl deeply and try to arch my head in such a way to see my assailant. Just then, a voice I know well speaks up, "Geez Rina... you're scary when you're mad."

"Kari?!" I'm put down but not out. I turn around and get in Kari's face as best I can with my height. "Why did you stop me, huh?! I was about to hand out some well-deserved punishment!!" Kari puts his hands up and backs a little, "Hey, hey! He was just a kid... calm down!" I cross my arms and look off to the side, half-closing my eyes. Now I'm a villain... psh. Damn Seto... I'll redesign his face when I see him. I just KNOW he's behind all this... "Whatever. I need some sleep..." Kari nods and follows behind me until my room. I step into mine as he heads off down the hall and disappears around the corner with a wave. I shut the sliding door and slump into the chair in front of the room's vanity, giving a sigh and looking up at myself in the mirror. Now THAT is not the lovely sorcery genius, Rina Erris. That is the tired, stressed-out, pissed-off, annoyed-one-too-many-times Rina Erris... I grab the brush and begin to brush my hair idly, a habit of mine since I was a little kid.

"I wonder who that kid was," I say to myself with a bit of aloud thinking. His cloak wasn't cheap cloth... it was something the more upper-class people usually wear. Even then, those people wouldn't be traveling very far with such expensive clothes. His family must be obscenely rich for him to take lightly the material things in this world...

I drop the brush into the cup and yawn. Drowsiness is finally setting in... I glance off toward the bag (which has my more valuable loot) shoved under the bed. I narrow my gaze and push it deeper under with my bare foot before jumping onto the airy mattress. Ahh... it's like falling on a pile of feathery leaves, much like at home during the autumn. Like so many days, I close my eyes and let sleep come to weather my fatigue away.

The morning is typically uneventful... but I feel like a new woman, refreshed and ready to take on the world! I glance off to my cloak, set on the backrest of the chair near the corner table. As I roll up the sleeves on my blouse and arrange the turtlenecked collar, I randomly wonder about the old armor... it had been handed down in my family since forever. The shoulder guards are assymetrical, which is a unique look. The left guard is like a half-bowl, a large spherical plate protecting the joint. It's actually two parts, so moving in it is a lot easier than it looks. The right shoulderguard is also two parts; jointed armored plates which go one on top of the other. Both pieces of armor have various amulets set in their frame and bear rune carvings along their edges. The cape is light but sturdy and also inlaid with sewn runes around the edges. All this gives me some protection from other spells, though I still need to be careful. I don't like taking unnecessary chances.

Turning to the same mirror I had looked into before I went to sleep last night, I pick up the brush and begin grooming myself. Heh... I certainly look different, mood-wise. I look refreshed and relaxed in comparison to my angry, tired, stressed form. At least all this stress lately hasn't had an affect on my complexion. Heh...

A slight rapping on the sliding door to the room alerts me. I arch my head back and call out in response.

"Who is it?"

"It's me, of course! Who else would it be?"

Ah hah... it's Kari. He's probably waiting for me so that we can get to breakfast. Heh... the thought of food makes my stomach groan. If I don't feed it soon, it's going to reach up and eat me from the inside.

"I'll be out in a second, Kari. Just let me finish here, will ya?"

Kari lets out a sigh and the one-liner, "Haa... why do girls always take so long getting ready?"

I give my mirrored self a small smirk as I toss my hair back, she returning it to me with the same action. I wrap my bandanna around my forehead, knot it tightly, and stand to get my gloves and bracers. Most of this stuff has been handed down, actually. The bandanna, the cloak, the blades -- my shortsword and dagger. I guess my family was just into the sort of stuff I am... which might explain why I'm just so darned talented... hee.

Gloves on, bracers locked, belts buckled, boots laced. I throw my cloak on, fasten the brooch, and grab my earrings... the two golden hoops which I've had since I was ten. I've been reminiscing too much lately, I think to myself with a 'heh.' The earrings go on and I grab the bag I shoved under the bed. With this safely tucked under my cloak, I put on a smile and walk out of my room. Time to eat! ... but Kari went without me! Ahhgh!

Typical breakfast: violent, fast, and indulgent. It was good, though! Kari and I had our fill and restarted our journey...

And it was fairly uneventful. Uneventful until lunch... looks like the price on my head was going to be more of a liability than I thought. Just when Kari and I were sitting down to a hearty lunch after walking the whole morning when a bunch of armored soldiers burst in through the door. The captain stepped in and held up the wanted poster with the bad picture of me. Of course, it was just barely resemblant enough for the tavern owner to point me out at our table.

"Why does this crap always happen to me??"

Kari, as usual, is confused. Then again, I forgot to tell him about my little trouble.

"Um... Rina?" I don't hesitate to grab his hair by the end and pull him along as I dart into the kitchen, "Forget it, Kari! I'll explain later!" As I break through the back door, I call, "Levitation!" My body becomes light, per usual, as I carry Kari and myself a good distance from town. It won't be long before they're persuing us in full force...

Needless to say, Kari wanted to know what was going on. "Uh... did I miss something here?"

"Yeah, you did," I tell him. "Someone put a price on my head. Now we really WON'T get a moment of peace." I hand him the poster and turn away, seething at my core. Whoever is responsible for making my life miserable is gonna be sorry when I get to them...

"Wow. That's a really bad picture of you."

I look over my shoulder at Kari and give an agreeing nod.

"... your chest is flatter than that."


"Dill Brand...!"

Blam. One crispy jellyfish.

"Oww... was it something I said?"