Episode 32 – Firebird Flame Pill
With lightning speed, like an airbalt player scoring a goal, Elaru flicked the pill right into Kiel’s mouth. The pill shot like a meteor and in the blink of an eye lodged itself in his throat.
Kiel covered his mouth with his hands, his eyes wide as saucers, he let out quiet choking sounds. He wanted to cough the pill back out, but it seemed to be firmly stuck.
He quickly tried to accelerate it out of his throat, but the pill contained dense mana inside of it which interfered with his casting. His acceleration spell broke before it could form.
Before he could come up with a way to solve it, the pill melted into a liquid which slid down his throat into his stomach. He still didn’t give up and attempted to throw it up.
When he felt heat spreading through his body, he realized it was already too late.
He looked up at Elaru, his aura dropping down into sub-zero. His expression remained frozen, yet fury flickered in his eyes.
Elaru’s previous annoyance seemed to vanish into thin air, and she snickered. “Serves you right. Did you think you’d get cooties from the darn pill?”
“Anyone in their right mind wouldn’t want someone else’s saliva inside them!” Kiel spat out through gritted teeth. Elaru rolled her eyes. “Grow up.”
Kiel clenched his fists and spoke out slowly as if he had trouble speaking. “I. Could. Have. Choked. To. Death.”
Completely undisturbed by the change in Kiel’s aura, Elaru grinned. “You are a genius mage. If you can’t even accelerate a pill out of your windpipe, you deserve to choke on it.” She joked.
Kiel’s voice rose up an octave. “I’d like to see you cast a spell on a magical pill!”
Elaru shrugged. “You could have just cast a spell on the air surrounding the pill and pushed it out.”
Kiel’s eyebrow started twitching violently. “I would have done that, but it melted too fast!”
Elaru’s eyes glittered mischievously, and she smirked. “Let me get this straight. Earlier you said you could have choked to death, and now you are saying that the pill melted just too fast to do anything let alone choke on it. You’re contradicting yourself iceblock.”
The veins on Kiel’s neck bulged out. “You are missing the point!!”
Elaru shook her head and sighed. “I can’t believe we are having this conversation.”
“You can’t believe…?! I…” Kiel seemed to be fuming so much that he found himself out of breath.
“So sensitive…” This time, Elaru raised her hands in surrender. “Alright, princess. I won’t be rough with you again. Probably…”
“Stop it with the nicknames!” The veins in Kiel’s eyes reddened.
“Princess Iceblock.” Elaru smirked.
“Argh!” Kiel let out a cry of anguish, the last shred of restraint snapping like a rubber band.
The hair on Elaru’s neck stood up, and she darted away from Kiel.
The second she accelerated away, Kiel gave chase.
Elaru wasn’t sure what he would do to her if he caught her, but whatever it was, it wasn’t good. So naturally she ran like the wind, Kiel hot on her tail with his teeth gritted and red eye whites.
What followed next was a mad chase through the forest.
Which, instead of becoming faster paced, turned quickly into a crawl because of the strong effect of the pills.
Nonetheless, fast or slow, chase or crawl, it made little difference.
It took several hours for the effects of the pills to subside. By that time, both Kiel and Elaru were dirty and covered in sweat, however, at least they had managed to calm down.
Kiel’s anger slowly dissipated as he felt the effects of the pill for he realized that Elaru might have been right. The medicine might indeed possess a powerful tempering effect.
His hate disappeared along with his fury, and his mind regained clarity.
Elaru was secretive, often insufferable, and with eccentric methods of doing things, but her intentions weren’t bad. Over these 3 days, she had helped him out quite a bit. And yet, she didn’t ask anything in return.
On the other hand, not only did he not return the favor, but he wasn’t really a joy to be around either. So really, he had no right to complain.
He wasn’t used to feeling a sense of gratitude. It was a very unfamiliar feeling. He didn’t quite know how to deal with it. He opted to remember every bad thing Elaru did since they met, hoping that would squash the gratitude.
However, the only result of reminiscence was an involuntary chuckle. Wasn’t all of this…a bit…funny?
He had spent 3 days with Elaru, yet it felt like 3 months. These three days weren’t filled with anything overly exciting. There was no life or death battles, no maddening mysteries, no fantastical adventure. Yet it still managed to be an emotional rollercoaster that he wouldn’t forget anytime soon.
Kiel sighed. Tomorrow morning was the start of the exams.
In only a few days, his dream would come true, and he would get his peace back. Once he entered Muni, he had no intention of hanging around Elaru. They’d be in the same place, but they would be in different social circles.
Yet, the thought of future peace and quiet failed to move his heart. It brought no pleasure nor anticipation. It just left him feeling empty. I must be too tired to feel anything right now. Kiel thought, rubbing his eyes as if to further confirm the validity of the fact.
When Kiel saw the familiar looking inn in the distance, his eyes lit up. He wanted nothing more at the moment than to get his well-deserved rest.
As his eyes were glued to the building, he failed to notice the change in Elaru’s expression.
The emotions on her face gradually vanished, replaced by a type of calm that felt eerie, considering how expressive she usually was. Her aura quieted and stilled as if it became void of emotion.
It was the change in the aura that alerted Kiel and made him took note of her facial expression. As he considered whether he should ask about it, Elaru suddenly slowed down and stopped.
He halted too, turning around to look at her, about to voice a complaint. However, the solemn look on her face made him stop in his track.
Elaru looked him in the eye and transmitted her voice inside his head. “Two suspicious men are waiting for someone in front of Hot Pot.”
Kiel looked towards Hot Pot, but the other buildings blocked his view, and he couldn’t see what Elaru’s Aethernea managed to pick up.
“What about it? Why are they suspicious?”
“They are not paying attention to people leaving the Hot Pot, but rather, people coming in. They don’t look like guards, nor are they dressed in Peacekeeper uniforms. It is obvious that they are waiting for someone. Whether it is with good intentions or bad intentions is hard to tell.”
Kiel’s eyes narrowed. “What does that have to do with us? Do you think we are their target?”
“Judging by their uniforms, they are men from the Rroda family. The chance of their target being us is quite high.”
Kiel’s eyes narrowed. “How do you know what kind of uniforms the Rroda family uses?”
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t be paranoid. I know what kind of uniforms all noble families wear. It’s nothing personal. It’s helpful to be able to see the affiliation of people with a single glance.”
Kiel’s eyebrows furrowed in thought. “Why would the Rroda family send men to look for us? How do they even know where we are staying?”
“Probably had it investigated. As for why…you did leave Beyd in a hurry without contacting any of your family members. Maybe they were worried?”
Kiel snorted. “My family doesn’t give a damn about me. No one would be worried for my sake.” A thought flashed through his mind. “Could they possibly be here to deliver my luggage?”
“Not likely. I don’t see any signs of your luggage.”
Kiel sighed tiredly. “Why don’t we just go over and ask what they want?”
Elaru looked at him as if he was an idiot. “If their intentions were good, then sure. But what if they aren’t?”
“If they are from the Rroda family then naturally they wouldn’t have hostile intentions towards me. They might not like me, but I am still the grandson of the family head and a son of a councilman.”
“You are too naïve. Think! Why would someone from the Rroda family investigate your whereabouts and send people to meet you?”
Kiel sighed resignedly but nonetheless stopped to consider it. “If they wanted to pass me a message, they could have just left me a letter. Perhaps they were instructed to personally deliver it to me and not leave it in the reception? Or perhaps they thought it was inappropriate for me to stay at a small inn instead of going to the Rroda mainhouse so they came to pick me up?”
“Do those two people look like messengers to you? Messengers don’t come in pairs. And they aren’t bulky bodied mages with swords on their backs.”
“Hey. I can’t see them. How was I supposed to know they are battlemages?”
Elaru paid no attention to Kiel’s frown and continued: “Your second idea is possible. They might be here to pick you up.”
“Wait…battle mages?” Kiel narrowed his eyes. Something smells fishy here…why would his grandfather send battle mages to pick him up? Something else is at work here…
“Could it be that they are here for your sake? Did you somehow offend the Rrodas?”
Elaru stared at him her mouth twitching. My allies would never send people to pick me up. My enemies don’t know me as Elaru Wayvin. Even if they did recognize me, they wouldn’t send two blockheads to pick me up. They’d send a group of S class head hunters. And they wouldn’t be just standing around obviously waiting for me. Even an SSS class wouldn’t be able to catch me like this…
“No. Just no. If I had offended Rrodas in any way it would be through my relationship with you.”
Kiel couldn’t quite put his suspicions at rest. “You said you weren’t a wanted person. Why would you then be as attentive to suspicious looking people as you are?”
“In my line of work, it is impossible to not offend anyone. Competent people always end up stirring jealousy and hate. I might not have a criminal record, but that doesn’t mean there are no people who would take pleasure in my downfall.”
“Well then, there would be no problem if I went to talk to them. If they indeed want me to return to the mainhouse, I’ll come up with a reason to politely decline. I obviously can’t return to the mainhouse unless you return with me, and I doubt their invitation would extend to you.”
“What reason would you give them? What if they don’t accept it? What if they were instructed to escort you back no matter what your opinion is on the matter?”
Kiel turned silent.
He doubted they would resort to violence. He didn’t do anything that would warrant such treatment. However, if his grandfather was behind this, no matter what reason he gave, no matter how reasonable it sounded, it wouldn’t be good enough for him.
His grandfather treated his own word as law. Going against it was an act of rebellion that needed to be punished.
I can’t go with them, but I can’t refuse to do so either.
Tsk…what a crappy situation.
Elaru watched him closely, seeing his expression turning sour she interrupted his thoughts.
“You’ll have to have to visit your grandfather sooner or later. And I’ll have to go with you. However, I think now is not the best time. Why not wait, and visit him after you enroll in Muni? After your fabulous performance in the exams, he is more likely to treat you better and not do anything unpleasant…such as sending you back to Beyd.”
“Indeed.” Kiel frowned. “But it still doesn’t solve the problem at hand. What do I tell them?”
Elaru’s previously somber expression suddenly changed. Her eyes glittered mischievously, and she grinned. “Who said you need to tell them anything? Why not just avoid them altogether? They can’t do anything if the message never reaches you.”
Kiel’s eyes widened. “You want us to change the inn and not return to Hot Pot? To pretend that I had no clue anyone from the Rroda family was looking for me?”
That is…Kiel’s eyes glittered. Pure brilliance!
Since both of them only carried the basic necessities with them, they had no luggage left in their room at Hot Pot. All their items were already with them. They didn’t need to return to Hot Pot at all.
“Yeah…but I doubt we can find another empty room. Tomorrow are the exams. And if we spend half of the night searching for a room, we won’t be in the best condition for the exam.”
Kiel frowned. “What other option do we have?”
Elaru scratched her head sheepishly. “Do you have any friends living in Ashar that would let us crash at their place for a night?”