The elderly woman kept looking into my eyes and didn't laugh. She somehow knew that I wasn't joking when I called her a young lady.
“If that's a special tree, there's no way we can afford to maintain it.” The man said.
“It's from an anonymous donor, and I'm pretty sure that as long as it has lots of sun, the occasional rain, and lots of love, it's going to be just fine.” I said. “Of course, there's a monetary donation to go along with it for the fresh soil and for the fence to stop people from trampling it.”
“Yes, that is a great idea.” The elderly woman said and kept staring into my eyes. “You aren't staying to help, are you?”
“I have an appointment that I've been putting off for a while and now it's almost time that I get to it.”
The elderly woman touched the man's arm with her free hand. “Run to the hardware store and bring back all of the bags of soil they have.”
“We did that six months ago.” The man said and poked the dry and crumbling dirt with his shovel.
“It's going to be different this time.” The elderly woman said with confidence as she looked at the seedling. “Now go do what I say.”
I held out a hundred dollar bill to the man. “Keep the change.”
He let go of his shovel, grabbed the money, and ran. He was almost twenty feet away by the time the shovel had toppled over and fell to the ground. Both the elderly woman and I laughed at how quick he was.
“You didn't have to do that.” She said and looked at me with an amused expression.
“Are you kidding? That was hilarious!” I said and grinned at her.
She let out another laugh. “You're not going to tell me who you are, are you?”
“Is that necessary?” I asked.
“What if we put up a sign and...”
“Believe me, you are not going to need a sign.” I said. “When this thing gets going, everyone will want to come and see it.”
“How do you know that?” The elderly woman asked.
Because I've been feeding it my Presence for almost seven hundred years and it's still only a seedling. I thought and let my amusement show on my face. “I told you. This is a special tree. In five years, it's going to cast a shadow over the town hall.”
The elderly woman turned and looked at the building that was all the way across the park and the next street. “In only five years?” She asked and looked back at the seedling. “I hope I can see that.”
“You will.” I said and saw her sad face. I pulled her close with the hand she still held and she looked startled that it hadn't hurt. “You're in remission now.” I whispered.
Her free hand reached up and touched her chest where the doctor had said that the lumps had become inoperable, and her fingers didn't feel them. She let my hand go and used both of her hands to try and find the lumps that had been her death sentence. It was rare for cancer to be diagnosed so late, and also in an elderly person; but, she had been healthy her entire life and only went to the doctor's recently.
“You shouldn't grope yourself in public.” I said with a smile and caught her hands before she pulled off her dress to examine her chest with her own eyes.
“How did you... I don't... oh, god.” The elderly woman started to cry. Are you an angel? She asked me mentally and couldn't force herself to ask out loud, because it was just a bit too ridiculous for her to admit that she thought I was.
“It's all right.” I said and put my arms around her and held her. By the time the man came back with someone driving a forklift with a container full of bags of soil, the elderly woman had cried herself out and had wiped away the evidence. She didn't speak as the man dug up the dried dirt where I told him to. The forklift driver helped open up the bags and the two men dumped the soil into the hole and made it several feet deep, which was the perfect depth for a new tree to grow in.
I walked over to the center of the new soil and looked at the seedling. “Pot and all, right?” I asked it in a whisper and felt its approval. “Don't overdo it, okay? Take your time.” I whispered and used Presence to open up the soil and placed the pot into it, then used Presence to tuck it back in.
“Not with the pot!” The man said and tried to step close.
“It's bio-organic.” I said and blocked him with a hand. He relaxed and stepped away.
I took out a large water container and carefully poured it out over the new soil, even though it was already moist, and I used Presence to spread it out evenly. I felt the seedling's appreciation and then I felt a thrum of Presence from the planet. I motioned for everyone to step back and I could see... what was essentially a hole in the world's Presence... that the seedling had just filled like a missing bulb from a string of lights. We all heard the pot shatter and the soil rippled as roots from the seedling spread out through the rich soil and then down into the earth. The seedling grew from its one foot of height to five feet, then several small branches popped out and little leaves appeared all over it.
“Sweet Baby Jesus!” The elderly lady exclaimed as fresh grass grew up from the soil around the tree. “Get that roped off right now!”
The man and the forklift driver quickly put up several posts around it and strung a rope up to tie them together, then they stared at the impossible growth they had just seen.
“It's going to grow in increments every six months or so.” I said and took out five thousand dollars and gave it to the woman. “This should be enough for a nice fence and a gate. Have it built about twenty feet out from the center, then in five years time when the tree fully matures, open the gate to the public.”
“Wh-what?” The elderly woman looked at me with surprise. “We can't possibly... such a rare...”
“It wants to help.” I said with a knowing look, glanced down at her breasts, then back at her face.
“You... no, are you... it can't...” The elderly woman mumbled to herself for about thirty seconds.
“I told you that people will come from all over to see it.” I said with a smile and took her hand and kissed it. Her face flushed red at the intimate contact, as I had intended, and I let her hand go. “Keep it safe. Once it's discovered, people will try to take from it and experiment. That won't work and will only cause it harm.”
“I... I know someone in the mayor's office. I think I can have her declare this site as... as... as an environmental preservation area!” The elderly woman said and then smiled. “I'll register it on the internet as well, along with what it did to restore this dead area. If anyone tries to take advantage of this tree or hurt it, all of the environmentalists in the world will rain hell down on their heads!”
I nodded and gave the two men there a hundred dollar bill each. They thanked me and then I turned to the elderly woman. “Happy Birthday.” I said and handed her my money pouch. I wasn't going to need it where I was going, so I waved to her and walked away.
The elderly woman stared at the pouch and felt how thick it was. “He really is an angel.” She said, her previous thoughts of not saying it out loud had been forgotten.
I didn't stop to refute her words and chuckled as I walked across the park and stepped out into the street, mindful of the traffic, then walked down an alleyway. I made myself invisible and quickly changed into my armored uniform and slipped on my blast shield, then I made myself visible again and used Presence to hide my extra lengths of hair. I pulled out an intricately carved wooden platform from my bag of holding and put it down on the pavement, then I made the several bags of holding I had on my belt invisible.
The two inch thick and five foot wide wooden platform had an engraved ritual circle that already had all of the ingredients needed for the spell embedded into the surface. It just had to be powered and it would activate and then destroy itself when the spell was complete.
Pre-loaded spells are awesome. I stepped onto it, filled the ritual circle with energy, and it activated.
Hunter disappeared in a brief flash of blinding light and the wooden platform broke apart into kindling and then turned into sawdust. A light breeze scattered it across the alley and it became a part of the normal dirt and grime that all alleys built up over time. The old bum that rested in a corner of the dumpster nearby swore for the next thirty-six years to anyone who would listen, until his death from natural causes, despite having a liver disease that should have killed him decades before, that he had seen an angel that day.
The blinding light faded and I appeared at the exact moment that the summoning ritual had taken me from (Undecipherable)'s hideout along with Kara. She was on top of me and I could hear thoughts, so I blocked her in my mind to hide the knowledge that I could read her thoughts. I also repressed the external feeling of my Presence to what it had been before.
Kara moved up onto her knees and sat back as she looked down at me. “Hunter, I...”
“Yeah, it really happened.” I said. “You should probably change your clothes.”
“Oh! Yes, I should.” Kara said and stood up, then she stripped off and put on her Order robes. She stared at me the entire time and I could tell that she was looking for any kind of reaction. Thanks to my little side trip, I was quite satisfied sexually and her nakedness didn't affect me like it used to. I could admire her if I wanted to or I could completely ignore it. I ignored it and she sighed.
“How do I look?” Kara asked and took out her Light sword from her bag of holding and hooked it to her belt, then she tucked her bag of holding into her robes to hide it.
“Like you never left.” I said and gave her a little smile.
“For everyone else, we haven't.” Kara said.
“You should probably check your two helpers, then.” I said as I sat up and pointed to them. “They're pretty hurt.”
“Wh-what?” Kara looked over at the spot and saw two Order members about fifteen feet away from the edge of where the summoning circle had been and they were unconscious. She walked over to them to check and I took out my very old wrist communicator and put it on. I had charged it up over the years and had used some of the scavenged parts from my father's Light sword to repair it.
“Hey, is anybody there?” I asked after pushing the button to turn it on.
“HUNTER!” Luxia's voice exclaimed from the little speaker. “What happened? What was that flash of light on the shuttle's scanners? Where's Kara?”
“I'll explain later for the first two questions, and Kara is about twenty feet away from me and is checking her companions.”
“I'm sending the shuttle back down!” Rhubin's voice said.
“No, keep it on course and reattach it to the ship.” I said. “I think it's time I took Kara's advice and faced the charges against me.”
“NO!” Luxia yelled. “Hunter, they'll have you killed!”
“They would have to hire me to kill me, if that was the case.” I said and then laughed. “Can you imagine? Hunter being hired to hunt down and deal with me?”
“Hunter, you shouldn't joke about it.” Luxea said, her voice much softer.
“Hey, it's okay.” I said, my own voice going soft. “We have a long overdue date as well.”
Luxea didn't say anything for a minute. “Hunter...”
“I'll hitch a ride up to you on the Order's shuttle, negotiate transport, then we'll head to the Order's home planet of Ulathall.”
“You make that sound so easy.” Rhubin said.
“You're really going to turn yourself in?” Luxia asked, her voice full of concern.
“I was going to try and escape and keep running; but, after thinking about it for a while, I realized that if I did, I would always have to run. I don't want to do that to you guys.”
“Hunter, you know we are going to follow you anywhere.” Rhubin said. “We've followed you this far, haven't we?”
“Yes, you have.” I said. “I don't think I've ever properly thanked either of you for that.”
“Don't worry about that now.” Luxia said. “You've got... if you're really going to...”
“I'd like to say I have a plan; but, I'll make it up as I go along.”
Rhubin laughed. “Don't you always?”
I laughed, too. “All right, I better go. Kara's coming over.”
“We're right here in orbit.” Rhubin said. “If they aren't reasonable, we'll make sure that this ship is the only one that The Order shuttle can dock to.”
“Thanks, Rhubin. See you both soon.” I said and turned off the wrist communicator.
“Did I overhear that right?” Kara asked. “You're going to turn yourself in?”
“Yeah.” I said and stood up as I eased some of my mental shielding to hear her surface thoughts. “How are they?” I asked and motioned to the two Order members.
“They'll recover.” Kara said. “They took some damage from the mana backlash when they hit the summoning circle, mainly because their bodies couldn't handle the odd energy.” She was quiet for a moment as she gathered her thoughts and then spoke. “I'm sorry that you had to leave Maylia like that.”
I opened my mouth to say that it had been a long time in coming, then remembered that I wanted to keep up the pretense that I had left when she did.
“I think you actually meant that.” I said with a slight smile.
Kara's face flushed a little red. “Hunter, I... I know you and she were together for...”
“It's all right.” I said. “I made the most of the time I had with both her and Afyne. Things turned out pretty much exactly like I thought they would.”
Kara let out a little sigh. “If you want to talk about it...”
“Actually, I'd like to negotiate how I get back to Ulathall.”
“If you're really turning yourself in to my custody, then it has to be on The Order ship waiting for us in orbit.” Kara said.
“What if I agree to enter your custody in orbit over Ulathall?” I asked. “My ship is going to follow us anyway, so I'd like to enjoy its comfort while we travel.”
Kara looked about to argue, so I gave her an olive branch.
“There's enough room for you as well.” I said, then held up a hand to stop her mind from going places it shouldn't. “On the ship, not with me or in my bed.”
“Hunter!” Kara's face flushed completely red as she blushed.
“I just wanted to make the conditions clear. You'll be my babysitter on the ship and nothing more.”
Kara looked like she was struggling with the decision. “If I only escort you, you won't try to jump your ship away to lose us?”
“No, Kara. I give you my word that I am taking you up on your offer to stand by me to face the charges together in front of The Order council.”
“You remembered I said that.” Kara said, barely above a whisper.
“So, what do you say?” I asked. “How do you want to handle this?”
Kara stood there and thought about it. “At the moment, you are in my preliminary custody after I defeated you in battle.” She said, getting her official story straight. “My ship will escort yours back to Ulathall, where my shuttle will pick you up in orbit and it will take us both to the surface.”
I pretended to think about it for a moment. “That sounds reasonable.” I said. “Do you want to give me one of your tracking devices, just in case?”
“No, I...” Kara started to say that she trusted me, then she remembered how she reacted to hearing about Dawn being my bed sister for nearly two months. “It's not necessary.”
I reached out and touched her hand. “Kara. I had a Presence barrier covering my manhood the entire time I slept inside the magical barrier that covered the lands of the elves.”
The Presence didn't waver and she stared at me because of what that meant.
“She tried to take advantage of me a few times, and...” I started to say and she pulled her hand away.
“I don't need to know the details.” Kara said and I smiled at her.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “This is the first time you've been willing to listen, and...”
“Yes. You can keep that to yourself.” Kara said and turned towards the two Order members that were still laying down. “Give me a hand with those two and we'll fly you up to your ship.”
I went with her over to the two men and I used Levitation on them both. With them laying down, it was like they were on invisible stretchers, so I pulled them behind us over to the shuttle. The hatch was still open and we entered and I tucked the two men onto two of the small fold down cots in the back.
“Pilot, seal us up and take off.” Kara said and the door closed and the shuttle took off. She visibly relaxed when it finally hit her that she was really back where she was supposed to be. After a brief explanation of her plans to the pilot, the shuttle stopped beside my ship and dropped me off. I was wearing one of the large and bulky emergency suits that fit everyone and I floated from the shuttle and into the cargo area of my ship. It closed and pressurized, so I stripped off the big space suit and the hatch into the ship opened.
“Hunter!” Luxea exclaimed and tackled me with a tight hug.
“Luxea.” I said and she eased the hug and leaned back to look up at my face. “We have about three days of travel before we reach Ulathall.”
“Hunter, I... I don't think that...” Luxea's shoulder length blonde hair waved as she shook her head.
I cupped the sides of her face and leaned down to kiss her. I touched her lips with mine and gave her a very small bit of Presence. Her whole body shivered and her eyes closed as it swirled through her, then she felt the difference from the last time I had given her some.
“I would have gone on The Order ship if I didn't want to spend this time with you.”
“But... you're going to... the council and...”
“Right now, all that matters is being with you.” I said. “Do you want to join me in the shower first, or do you want to have a nice meal and discuss things?”
Luxea stared at me for about thirty seconds. “Why are you giving me such a hard choice right away?”