Episode 120 – Pirates
Occasionally, she would involuntarily open her eyes and look back worriedly (Can prof. Iphis keep up with this speed?), before closing her eyes hastily once again to suppress her nausea.
The redhead, on the other hand, had a nonchalant facial expression, yet her back, drenched in cold sweat, revealed her true thoughts: Darn it! Why are you guys so slow?
She had wanted to showcase her awesome abilities, starting with her great flying speed, but who knew it would turn out like this?
Orie couldn’t keep up with her speed, so Elaru was forced to carry her along. To make matters worse, Orie wasn’t the only one who had trouble keeping up with her speed – the examiners on their trail fell behind soon enough.
Perhaps the problem lay in the fact that she had concealed their presence and made Orie and herself invisible? Without being able to feel them or see them, they might have some difficulty following them…?
No, it was most likely the fact that the only argel of the three had two elibu deadweights he needed to carry along, while she only had one. – Elaru concluded. Orie and her were slim and light females, but that peacekeeper had some muscle underneath the uniform, and those fancy robes of Zerel’s certainly weighed enough to count as a half a person.
When the camp site of the four bandits appeared in front of the two, Elaru wasted no time and quickly landed in the bushes nearby. If it was her alone, she would have continued hovering above the bandits and waiting for an opportunity to attack, however, her instincts told her that she should land as soon as possible.
And indeed, her judgment was as outstanding as ever, for as soon as Orie’s feet touched the ground she stuttered forwards and started emptying her stomach in the bushes.
While Orie’s body shook, Elaru kept awkwardly patting her back in what was supposed to be a comforting gesture. (Is this the fabled motion sickness papa told me about?)
Orie felt so ashamed she wanted to disappear then and there. She wished she could just crawl under a rock and hide. Her face was red, her eyes turned glassy, and she was biting on her lip.
That face full of grievance made Elaru feel guilty, like she was a rogue bullying a weak and gentle virgin. Yet, she couldn’t help but also feel aggrieved due to the ordeal. How was I supposed to know that my speed might cause such a rare ailment?? They won’t deduct points for this…right?
In an effort to redeem herself, Elaru plucked a handful of nearby flowers and offered it to Orie, hoping that the flowery scent would alleviate her nausea. But when the flower scent mixed with sweet, aromatic smell coming from the leather pouch around Orie’s neck, the results were less than satisfactory.
Orie looked down at the bouquet of wild flowers and felt even more embarrassed. Her performance was inadequate, embarrassing! It was simply soiling Muni’s flawless reputation. She even troubled a poor examinee to take care of her. A fail of an examiner!
She was supposed to be a supervisor whose role was to draw out more information from the examinee that would help in their scoring. She was supposed to offer suggestions and advice that would serve as trick questions, but in the end, not only did she fail to dig out anything she was supposed to dig out, she was even dragging down this poor redhead.
After a minute of retching, Orie finally managed to calm down a bit, or rather, she emptied her entire stomach, leaving nothing more to spew out. Elaru snapped her fingers and disintegrated the vomit so that the smell wouldn’t spread and alert the bandits.
She wanted to offer a handkerchief to Orie, but she realized that she didn’t have one. Why would she need a handkerchief when she could simply Cleanse all contamination?
By the time she determined what cloth on her body would be the most suitable to tear off to serve as a handkerchief, Orie was already wiping her mouth with her own.
As she was wiping her mouth, Orie’s eyes landed on the inconspicuous silver bracelet on her wrist, and suddenly, she felt like crying all over again.
Meanwhile, the remaining three examiners were greatly confused by the sounds of throwing up coming from the bracelet on Zakaria’s wrist.
The strict face of the peacekeeper showed signs of worry, while he attempted to bring their flying speed higher. Zakaria pretended to not hear anything, her expression remaining as aloof as ever.
Unlike the other two, Zerel’s mood was so good he didn’t forget to add oil to the fire:
“Wait, Thadi, go back. I think we flew right past them.”
Zerel completely ignored the unsightly expression on Thaddeus’s grim face, and continued: “I think I caught a whiff of vomit a few bushes back.”
After Orie regained her composure, Elaru suggested for Orie to remain there, hiding in the bushes at a safe distance, while Elaru took care of the bandits. Since Orie couldn’t help her subdue them, she would only be a liability.
Noticing how Orie’s smile turned stiff, Elaru hastily added: “I need you to stay undetected and fire a signal flare if I run into trouble. If both of us end up captured without notifying anyone, our mission would be a complete failure.”
In the end, Orie agreed to keep watch while Elaru stealthily made her way towards the campsite.
Now that she was alone, she felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She floated through the forest silently, invisible to both sight and mana sense.
On the way towards the camp, she noticed that the bandits had surrounded all paths towards their campsite with traps of various kinds. Most of them were completely nonmagical, making it difficult to detect with mana sense. Luckily, she had expected such a thing, so she was paying extra attention. Otherwise, even her Aethernea of Sight wouldn’t have been enough to notice every taut string and covered hole.
While she was making her way towards the bandits, she noticed that the three examiners had finally caught up with them. They picked up Orie inside their invisibility barrier (probably to question her on the wretched sounds they had heard) and flew above the forest to monitor the situation better.
The four bandits had set camp on a small meadow next to the river and were in the process of grilling fish.
Even though the mission information stated that there might be more than four bandits, Elaru could only see four of them in this campsite. The others either didn’t exist and served to make the examinees reevaluate their plans or hadn’t arrived yet.
The most eye-catching bandit of the four was a large, burly, bald argel with a scary looking scar covering the right side of his face. He stood straight and rigid like he had something stuck up his behind and monitored the surroundings alertly. He had the bearing of an expert that would scare most people, yet, Elaru’s expression as her eyes landed on the man was rather…unusual. Wait a second…these guys…!
Her gaze quickly darted towards the campfire with the remaining three bandits.
A thin, tall elibu with overly long limbs and sinister look in his eyes was looking around vigilantly, while magically dispersing the smoke from the campfire, to prevent anyone from detecting them due to the fumes.
The remaining two bandits were sitting around the campfire roasting fish. Occasionally a grumbling of empty stomachs could be heard, followed by muffled swearing coming from the throat of a short bandit with a golden earring and a chin full of stubble.
Initially, Elaru intended to sneakily rescue the hostage without the bandits realizing anything was amiss, and then go wild, fighting without worry. However, she was forced to discard that plan, for the fourth bandit was currently petting the hostage.
The man had unruly black hair sticking to his forehead with sweat and a wide stupid grin that revealed few golden and several missing teeth. One meter long furry, fluffy tail was hanging around his neck like a scarf.
Elaru instantly recognized the brown striped scarf as Mr. Whiskers.
No, the bandits didn’t skin the poor hostage and make a scarf out of him – the scarf was literally the hostage.
Shéfurs were snake-like creatures that had long, fluffy fur instead of scales. Unlike their snake cousins, shéfurs were popular pets due to their docile nature, ease of raising and, of course, magnificent fur. In fact, their fur was so soft and beautiful with natural dirt and water repelling properties that they were also raised by the Ruyle family on large shéfur farms for the purpose of clothmaking.
“Aww! Look! He be purrin’!” The fourth bandit exclaimed with a toothy grin, his fingers full of calluses digging into the soft fur of his “scarf”.
The third bandit, a balding man with a golden earring sitting opposite of him, sneered: “What do ye think he is, a lunar? Fishbrain! He ain’t purrin’, he’s hissin’!”
Hearing the familiar voices, Elaru was forced to conclude: I know these guys! These guys aren’t bandits!
She shook her head, stepping over a taut string rigged to set loose a large and heavy tree log towards whoever triggered the trap. They are pirates…
Luckily, she didn’t exclaim it out loud. Otherwise, the facial expressions of the examiners would certainly be an interesting mix of “No way! She knows the men we hired? What are the odds??” and “…ex-pirates one would hope? …otherwise, the fact that you are familiar with them…”
“Na!” The fourth bandit huffed and turned his head away, looking towards Mr. Whiskers. “Just ignore ‘im, Mr. Whiskers. I know how ye really feel.”
His eyes were gentle, loving even, but instead of evoking tender emotions, that look only made one’s skin crawl.
Without looking away from the creature, the man picked up one of the tree branches acting as a fish skewer and brought it closer to his face. After determining that the fish was done roasting, he lowered it towards Mr. Whiskers who unceremoniously turned his head away.
The bandit didn’t take a no for an answer and kept pushing the fish right into his face.
After several seconds of staring, the third bandit couldn’t help but gape so wide he could have swallowed a tiwi: “What are ye doin’?!”
“I be feedin’ ‘im.”
The third bandit scrunched up his face in are-you-serious look. “Fishbrain, shéfurs don’t eat fish!”
“Yer sure? He looks like one of ‘em fish eaters.”
The third man continued to gape in the mix of shock and disbelief. “Where do ye plan to stuff that fish, ey? Shéfurs don’t even have a mouth!”
“A rodent without a mouth me ass… Ye think I be stupid?” The fourth man waved the fish skewer agitatedly.
“Ye could’ve fooled me!”
Their argument might have continued further had it not been for the shéfur around the fourth bandit’s neck. Apparently, the bandit’s waving of the fish skewer made a sizzling drop of grease fall onto Mr. Whiskers.
Whether it was because shéfurs detested being dirty or because of the burning pain, Mr. Whiskers started twitching around in a craze, strangling the neck of his captor.
The face of the fourth bandit turned purple, his eyes almost popping out. He dropped his fish skewer and grabbed the furry creature with both of his rough hands, trying his hardest to get him off.
Unfortunately, he was an elibu so his strength wasn’t that great nor could he augment it with augmentation magic, so no matter how he pulled, he couldn’t make Mr. Whiskers loosen his hug.