5 years later.
Reina, Donna, and Leon walked abreast in front of a large Stagecoach made up of gray-green stones. The coach was being pulled by two massive Rams. 'Stonebreakers', the blue-skinned dwarven coach pilot had called them. The Ram on the left had snow white fur and stood somewhere in the area of six to seven feet tall at the shoulder. It had two massive horns behind its ears that curled into spirals and a much smaller horn on its nose. The other ram had solid black fur, stood somewhere in the area of eight to nine feet tall at the shoulder and only had one horn in the center of its forehead.
When Donna asked about the names of the two creatures, the dwarf simply pointed at one and said, 'White'. Then he pointed at the other and said, "Black."
"You named them after their colors?" She asked with a dumbfounded look towards the dwarf.
"Yep," he replied.
Speaking of the dwarf, he stood somewhere in the area of three feet tall, what was built like an Olympic bodybuilder with massive arms legs and a barrel chest. His braided Black beard hung past his waist and his bald head reflected the sun like a beacon.
"But why?" She asked with genuine confusion in her voice.
"Stupid beasts never asked for my name, so why the hell should I ask for theirs?" his words were obviously more of a statement than a question, but that was either lost on Donna or she just didn't care.
"They're your friends, right? Why wouldn't you give them a nice name?"
As Raina listen in on their conversation, she was once again reminded of how much she disliked these kinds of contracts. Bounty hunting was one thing. She could get in, kill the monster, get out and get paid.
Escort contracts, on the other hand, were a serious pain in the butt. She'd been having to put up with the dwarf's attitude for the past week and she was getting sick of it.
He was rude, crude, and a bit of an asshole. However, he was offering to pay them nearly four-hundred gold coins to escort him across the nearby ocean and to a city on the other side. That and the fact that Reina actually felt a little sorry for him led to her agreeing to the contract.
That didn't mean she had to be happy about it though.
"Reina, we've got movement ahead." Leon said in a strangely serious tone. He'd spoken just loud enough for the party to hear him without letting his voice carry too much further.
Reina was about to ask what was going on when she noticed him glance over his shoulder at the teenage elf riding in the back of the dwarf's coach; She was the dwarf's shop assistant and apparent stepdaughter if the conversations Reina overheard were to be believed.
"Oh, brother... Not this crap again." Reina internally sighed.
Reina liked Leon, truly, she did. He was one of her first friends in this new world and had been loyal since that day in the cave. But he could be a real pain in the ass sometimes.
Because he liked showing off to impress naive and impressionable women. He'd taken to pulling this stunt at least once per escort contract... Which was another reason Reina didn't like these kinds of contracts; The contractors usually had a pretty daughter or wife and Leon would be nearly insufferable until they'd part ways.
It was only through sheer dumb luck that Donna; the woman who joined solely because Leon couldn't keep it in his pants, was just as much a flirt as he was. In fact, one of the most entertaining days in recent memory for Reina, was the day Leon walked in on Donna and his newest... *ahem* conquest, in the midst of passionate lovemaking.
The two days that followed was the only time since Reina had met Leon that he refrained from shamelessly flirting with her at every turn.
The only explanation Reina could think of was that his confidence had taken a hit and he needed a few days to recover. Which suited Reina just fine. She was never really comfortable with being flirted with, not even when her husband did it. Her mother used to laugh and say to her ten-year-old self; "You're beautiful, Sarah. One day you'll be beating the men off of you with a stick."
And to be honest... Reina always wished her mother was wrong. It definitely would have saved her from a few headaches over the years.
"Hmm... On the other hand... I wonder what Ken will think of my new form?" She wondered. A sly grin showed on her face and her eyes danced with amusement as she pictured her husband's face after seeing her new form.
He used to say she was his 'Angel' because of her golden blond hair and bright blue eyes. Well, what will his reaction be to her new appearance? She wondered and not for the first time.
Will he like it? Or will he think of her as a freak?
"Knowing him, he probably wouldn't care one way or the other." She sighed.
That reaction of his was simultaneously the most endearing thing about him... And the most annoying. No matter what she did with her hair, her nails, or what kind of outfit she wore. The only thing he would ever say when asked about it was; "You're still you." And she never really understood what he meant by that.
She only hoped he wouldn't freak out too much. After all, she kinda liked this new form and she could only hope he did too.
"Psst, Reina. We actually do have movement ahead. Looks like a battle or something."
Reina snapped out of her thoughts and turned her gaze to the road ahead. In the distance, she could just barely make out a group of elves standing in the back of a small wooden cart—using what looked like earth magic to hold off a small horde of imps; A tier two monster known for kidnapping young girls and vanishing with them; they all had purple skin, were around two feet tall, and looked like deformed humans; Ogres; A tier four monster known to raid and pillage undefended villages; They looked like large, bloated, hairless gorillas with green skin. And a giant; A fifteen-foot human that looked like a deformed caveman; It wore a loincloth around its waist, leather bracers on its wrists, and wielded a massive bone as a club.
"Donna, guard Heror and the coach! Leon, you're with me!"
Reina pulled the two mag-pistols free and whispered under her breath, "Speed up!, Strength up!," A dim yellow light flashed around her and Leon's bodies, then they took off at speeds that would make most horses jealous.
However, just before they could assist in the battle, a massive wolf; Easily over twenty-feet-tall at the shoulder came tumbling out of the nearby forest with a giant's neck in its mouth and finally pinned the naked, human-looking creature's body beneath its massive bulk and ripped its head off... Then it turns its sights on the other 'monsters' attacking the elves.
"Leave. My. Family—ALONE!" The wolf roared as it leaped into the other giant and used its massive jaws to grab the Giant by the hand and throw it to the ground.
Just as the massive wolf leaped upon the giant, Reina, who had left the much heavier Leon trailing behind, leaped on top of an Ogre's shoulders and put a magic bullet into the crown of its head. Then, she leaped from the falling corpse to another and after shooting this one in the back of the head, she was swatted out of the air by the third one she attempted to jump on. She hit the ground in a roll and sprung back up in time to fire three rounds into an imp's belly before it could jump on her.
Reina leaped to the side as a massive flame whip tore through the imps surrounding her and she rolled into a crouch. She looked in the direction the whip had come from and saw a dark-skinned elf walking out of the forest; She was wearing a dark green robe that covered most of her body and two demonic looking horns stuck out on either side of her head. She was flanked by three beings; A green-skinned woman wearing plate armor with long black hair and a trident balanced on her shoulders, A twelve-foot-tall minotaur made almost entirely of metal with two— three-foot horns on either side of his head. The only clothing it wore was a pair of leather leggings and carried twin great-axes. The last creature stood at nine-feet tall and looked like a large stone gorilla that wore a loincloth. It carried a war-hammer, the head of which was the size of a small child.
"That's new; Monsters actually helping someone instead of trying to eat them."
"We're alright, Findral! None of us are injured!" A young elf with bright blonde hair called out to the approaching group.
"Says you." Reina mumbled to herself. She was almost certain her hair was singed and Leon was currently holding his arm in a vain attempt to ease the pain of blocking an Ogre's punch.
"Oh, we have guests." 'Findral' said while looking directly at Reina.
"Afternoon," Reina waved.
"Were you attempting to help the mistress?"
"She was, and she did fairly well. Managed to take out two Ogres and an Imp before you almost bar-b-qued her."
Reina noticed the look of genuine confusion on her face as she directed her question at 'the mistress'.
"You did." The young elf agreed. She hopped off the back of the cart, leaving the three others elves and the previously unseen wolf-beastmen to deal with the clean-up.
"Hi, I'm Ayla." She stuck out her hand and waited for Reina to take it.
"Reina," She replied while grasping the other elf's hand. "And that's Leon over there on the ground."
"Well, Reina, do you have anywhere to sleep tonight? We were in the middle of setting up camp in the woods over there when we were attacked, but you're welcome to join us."
"Yes, please do!" Ayla cheerfully agreed. "A place to rest and a nice meal is the least we could do to repay you for your help."
"But I didn't really do anything-" Her mouth was suddenly covered by an arm wrapping itself around her neck.
"We gladly accept your offer." Leon replied in what Reina had taken to calling his 'playboy' voice.
"And so it begins." Reina internally sighed as he practically dragged her towards the camp.
Later that night
After several hours of trying to keep Leon and Donna under control, Reina just gave up and allowed the two of them to freely party with the other group. She stood up from the log she'd claimed earlier night and walked into the forest to be alone for a while.
Or that was the original plan. But after a few minutes of walking, she bumped into the elf girl Ayla who'd apparently had a similar idea. As Reina watched the young elf she noticed how morose she appeared; Sitting in the center of a small clearing with an unhindered view of the night sky was Ayla, her legs were pulled into her chest, her bright blonde hair hung loosely down her back and she was wearing a pair of black tights and a loose gray tunic.
"She looks so sad..."
Reina slowly walked over and stood just behind her.
"Mind if I join you?"
Ayla jolted in surprise but calmed down after realizing who it was that had snuck up on her.
"Oh, no, it's fine. Please." She said while motioning to the spot beside her.
Reina took off her gun belt and sat it on her left side, away from Ayla, and flopped down onto her back.
"I had to get away for a few minutes or else I might've shot Leon." She said in a mock serious tone.
"Tell me about it." Ayla laughed. "I've never seen someone flirt so shamelessly."
"He certainly one of a kind..."
The two shared another laugh, then silence filled the clearing. Reina watched Ayla out of the corner of her eye for a few more seconds then asked, "Wanna talk about it?"
"Whatever's weighing on your mind." She replied while sitting up. "I've been told that I'm a fairly good listener."
"Oh... No, I'm fine, honestly." Ayla waved her off with a smile and stood up.
"Alright. Well, if you change your mind, I'll be here for a while yet."
"Like I said, I'm fine... But thanks anyways."
Reina listened to the sound of her footsteps fade away as she walked back towards camp. Eventually, though she wasn't sure when it happened, She fell into a dreamless sleep and only woke up at the sound of someone moving beside her. Her eyes snapped open and she reached for the belt still resting beside her.
However, at the sight of Ayla sitting in her previous spot and staring into the distance, she sat up and yawned.
"Did you change your mind?"
Ayla didn't answer her and just continued to blankly stare ahead.
"Is that a no?"
"Can I ask you a personal question?
Reina slowly blinked, "Um... Sure... I guess."
"Okay, hypothetically speaking, if you were interested in someone you thought your father wouldn't approve of... What would you do?"
"Ah... It's one of those questions." Reina sighed. "Well, I guess I'd have to ask myself if I liked this guy enough to possibly ruin my relationship with my father."
"And then I'd go on a date with him."
"Yeah, I guess that makes sense...Wait... What!?"
The look of surprise on Ayla's face made Reina lightly chuckle.
"Yeah— not only would I do that, but I've already done that."
"Really? What happened?"
"I eventually married him and had the best ten years of my life; We had three kids, our own house, a mutt of a dog..." As Reina spoke, her voice grew softer with each passing word.
"It sounds perfect."
"Yeah, well... With such good times, the bad was sure to follow. My dad refused to have anything to do with me after I got married; He never returned my calls, he refused to answer the door when I went to visit... Hell, he never even wanted to see his grandkids."
The two sat in silence for several minutes as Ayla thought over what she'd been told.
"Do you regret it? Marrying him, I mean." She eventually asked.
"No, I don't. He may have been a stubborn, grouchy, overprotective asshole." With every harsh word, Ayla flinched. But Reina didn't seem to notice. "... But he was the best husband I could have ever asked for." She said with genuine fondness in her voice.
"You know..." Ayla laughed, "For a moment there, it sounded like you were describing my dad."
"Ha— Well, if he's anything at all like my husband, then you won't have to worry about him following in the same path as my dad."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because he's too damn stubborn to give up on the people he cares about." She winked at Ayla, then stood up and stretched. "So go ahead and give him a little hell. If he's at all like the man I knew... He'll never leave you alone." She bent down and picked up her belt.
Then she waved over her shoulder at Ayla and headed back towards the camp. "Oh!" She spun on her heel and grinned. "And don't forget to invite me to the wedding if you ever decide to marry this 'Hypothetical' guy."
"Right..." Ayla blushed and looked away.
Reina gave her one last smile, then headed back to camp to wake up her party. They were on a schedule, after all, and they were running late as it was.
Reina once again looked at the snow-white parchment in her right hand and smiled. She was standing in the vast plain outside of Asgarn and would reach the city before nightfall. She stuffed the wedding invitation she'd received via a guild messenger into her satchel and motioned for Leon and Donna to follow her.
Leon and Donna were both excitedly talking about going to a 'Royal' wedding and Reina... Well, she was just curious how much like her husband Ayla's dad would truly be.