Interlude 20 – The Tundra’s Fist

Julius and Ellen did their best to move quickly but quietly as they traveled through the forests of Naloriva. After what…happened, the party found themselves in need of some money. Blake was the one with the funds and he…So, even with what Tisma had on her, and what they’d barely managed to scrape out of the Fire Temple, they found themselves having to take a detour and do some bounty hunting. 

Which was why the two were scouting ahead to see if they can find a local bandit’s hideout. Cyrus’s entire thing involved making noises, Tisma was a bit too large to be stealthy, and Julius still didn’t like Douglas that much, which was why it was just them. 

Though there was an awkward tension between the two. For Julius, anyways. It was the first time the two had been alone together since they started this journey, and neither seemed to know what to say. 

“…” 

“…Whoever they are, they’re good at covering their tracks,” he decided to say after a while. Something to break the silence, even if they wanted to be silent, so-wait, shit, right, he needed to be quiet, fuck–

“They do use plant magic and we are in a forest. Any footprints they could have left could easily be erased.” Ah. Okay. Talking softly worked. Right.

“Hm…” 

“…Julius, I think-” 

“Let go of me so I can kick your ass!” Pausing, the siblings turned to where they heard a loud, furious scream. Glancing back at one another, they nodded, and snuck their way towards the sounds, where they found…

Hm. Well…so, that was some kind of knight who was screaming. A really tall, pale, and blonde one, currently…restrained by some vines, and noticeably divested of the blue steel armor she was probably wearing before, which’d been tossed to the side while a humming wood elf–dark-skinned and green haired–dug through a small pack. Probably the knight’s, based on the current situation.

“Really, don’t you have anything worth stealing?” the elf asked as she tossed the pack away, standing and smirking as her vines squirmed across her captive’s chest. Which was still clothed, she had a shirt on, it wasn’t that weird, he wasn’t staring. “Well, at least I can make a quick gold off of the armor and glaive. I’m sure an exotic Frost Land weapon will probably get me more than what it cost you~.” 

“Don’t you dare!” 

Glancing at each other, the siblings silently decided on a plan. Since the vines were all coming from one direction, instead of all around the knight, it would be simple enough to slash through them. Though a bit of a distraction would be needed. Gripping his sword, Julius took in a deep breath as he waited for exactly that.

And the instant Ellen threw a rock, Julius rushed forward, sword swinging down as the wood elf jerked away, avoiding the rock and giving Julius the space he needed to cleanly slash through the vines. 

Stopping by the discarded glaive, Julius reached down and tossed it over at the knight as she got back up. And accidentally hit her with its pole when she reacted a moment too slowly. 

“Gah-Hey! Give me warning next time!” the knight barked as she brandished the weapon with one hand, keeping her distance from both Julius and the bandit, though she was glaring at the wood elf. And damn, she was a really tall lady…

“Well, I see we have a guest. Though I must say, you are quite uncouth, throwing a rock at someone like me~.” 

“Says the bandit.” 

“And the liar!” the knight snapped. 

“Now you can’t blame me for that. Honestly, who falls for the ‘scared maiden in the woods’ nowadays~?” 

“Methods aside, you don’t have much of an option here, Namita Loren, the wood mage of Eston.” The bandit beamed, standing straighter at the recognition. “Surrender, now.” 

“Yeah! Give up so I can punch you!” 

“Hm~. Decisions, decisions. Though you two forget one thing.” Loren grinned as the woods seemed to come alive around her, vines extending from the grass and wood bending off of the trees. “The forest is my element.”

And then a second rock beaned Loren straight in the temple. “Gyouch-!”

She looked to the trees, wincing and grabbing her head, and very conveniently forgot about the very angry knight she’d pissed off. Though since the knight in question rushed straight in and smashed a fist right into her face, Julius had a feeling Loren wouldn’t be forgetting about her anytime soon.

Well, assuming she remembered much after getting launched off her feet and colliding with one of the trees behind her. “Damn. You don’t really hold back, huh, Miss…?”

“Ha! Cruel bandit, your greed has brought you ruin!” Okay, so she was ignoring him. “Oh, yes, you said something?” There it is.

“…I was asking about you.”

“Oh! Forgive me! I was excited! This is first Light Land bandit I have faced, and she was quite unpleasant.”

“Yeah. I noticed. Name?”

“Hm? Oh, yes, forgive me, the thought slips. I am Stazher Charlotte Danilovich Rassvet, of the Holy Faith of Khioni!” She abruptly bowed at the waist. “And I am in your debt, dear friend!”

What.

“Huh. So this went well.”

Rassvet immediately snapped up, her eyes flicking to Ellen and her hand tensing on her glaive before she settled, grinning. “Ah, you have sister! That is surprise, but explains rocks from earlier. Thank you too!”

“Uh, you’re welcome?” Ellen rubbed the back of her head, a little bashfully. So Julius did the logical thing and elbowed her. “Ow! Dick.”

“What? I just wanted to make sure you weren’t getting drawn in by the cute foreign girl.”

“Oh like you’re one to talk…”

“Aw, no fighting!” Rassvet chuckled, then walked up–Oh okay, guess they were being hugged now, alright. “Siblings should be nice, yes?”

“…Yeah, I guess,” Julius replied with a shrug, before glancing at Ellen, who was completely red-faced, “Though I think you need to put Ellie down before she pops a blood vessel.”

“Hm? Is that thing that can happen?”

“I dunno? Our older sister’s said it before, so probably.”

“Ahhh, yes, wisdom of elder ones is important.” Letting them go, Julius rubbed his shoulder as he ignored the sound of disappointment from Ellen. “Now, I know you have helped me a great deal, but I must ask a favor.”

“Which would be?” 

“As I said, I am from Holy Faith of Khioni. A friend and I have come of our own accord to help new hero as representatives of Frost Lands and Khioni! Would either of you two know where hero is?” 

“…Well, you’re in for a surprise.” Interestingly enough, it turned out that her friend was in the same town as their team. Apparently, Charlotte rushed off when she heard about Loren, leaving her pal behind. 

Though introductions would have to wait, since when they returned with bandit in tow, they found the town on fire with horrific beasts and monsters ripping through everything and a cackling bastard by the name of Khor leading the onslaught. In the confusion of saving as many people as they could, Namita had managed to escape, ridiculously vowing vengeance in the middle of the burning town like some kind of idiot.

And so, with two new members in tow and some kind of “rival” gained, the heroes escaped, running to fight another day.

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