The three of us arrived in Warrington the next afternoon. Unimpeded by assassins from the Harrowed Vindicators, we reached the city without any problems. When we walked through the gates, a guard stopped us and looked us over.
“You are… the adventurers that went to investigate the [Cultists] in the towns northeast from here, right?”
“Uh, what seems to be the problem—”
I answered without hesitation; Daniel glanced over at me and stared. He opened his mouth, but resignedly sighed.
“Right, we are.”
“Hrmph, well, the captain has been awaiting your return. He told us that you should report to him in the eastern barracks of the city. Tell him what you found out.”
“We don’t have to go there immediately, do we?”
My Human companion glanced down at himself. His clothes were torn and bloodied— mine was too, however my Blue Jacket covered it all up.
“Because, uh, we’d rather not present ourselves to your captain dressed like this.”
“He didn’t say when. Just told me to deliver you the message.”
“I see, thanks.”
He nodded at the guard and started to walk off. I followed after him— leading Rachel by the hand— and slowed once I was next to him.
“You were upset.”
I pointed out.
“No, I wasn’t upset by what you did, Salvos. Just would’ve preferred if you weren’t so open about who we are.”
I cocked my head. While I was getting better at reading Humans and their emotions, there was still a lot about them I had yet to learn about.
“Because we’re being hunted right now. We don’t know how far the reach of the Harrowed Vindicators stretches. If they have some influence in Warrington— and that was some kind of trap to get us arrested…”
Daniel shot me a glance.
“Please don’t say ‘huh’.”
Sighing, he rubbed at his temples.
“I’m just telling you, Salvos. We have to be a little more careful next time, ok?”
“I agree with Princess Salvos!”
Rachel piped up from next to me; I grinned and triumphantly held up her hand— she chose to walk with me over Daniel this time— and showed it to the Human man.
“My subject and I will be careful. So there’s no need to worry! As long as you follow me, you’ll never be in trouble, right Rachel? It was because I taught you how to punch an annoying person, grumpy Daniel is still alive.”
She happily nodded her head with me.
“I’m telling you, she’s not even a… nevermind. Just don’t teach her to punch me down there, and we’ll be solid.”
“But we are solid. See?”
I tapped my hand, showing how my skin took the impact of my finger. Then I cocked my head and Rachel copied me.
“You know that’s not what I meant. And can we be serious for a moment? We have other things to discuss.”
We were passing through a busy market with voices drowning out any single conversation from being heard, yet Daniel spoke in a hushed whisper. He faced me with a dark look; his eyes were shadowed over, fear and worry written all over his body.
“If this person… is actually able to beat you just like that. And appear anytime he wants. What if he comes back for you— like when you’re trying to collect summoning collars again.”
I huffed and waved a hand off.
“He told me he liked me. He found me funny! So he wouldn’t kill me.”
“You don’t actually believe that, do you?”
Daniel gave me a judging look but I just shrugged.
“Anyone can die at any time. So why worry about someone who can just teleport behind me and cut off my head before I can even react? It’s fine!”
“I know… I’m just thinking about what you said last night, you know?”
“About the Valiant Dreamers Company?”
“Yeah, they may be good people and good fighters— according to Edithe— but that’s exactly why I don’t want to give them too much trouble. If they get targeted by both Demons and the Harrowed Vindicators because of us… I don’t want that.”
“Well, if you really want, I can get Saffron to help us—”
I began to reach into my bag, but Daniel grabbed my hand and stopped me. He gave me a pleading look.
“Please don’t. Once again, we don’t know who they’re affiliated with. And I don’t know if we can trust a noble.”
“But she’s nice!”
I protested as I walked next to him— then slowly felt something lightly tugging at my hand and came to a stop. I turned to face Rachel who was standing still. Her arm was extended, pulling me back.
The little girl’s gaze slowly spun around the busy market. She went from stall to stall, looking at shops and food stands, her eyes bulging and her mouth watering. I bent over next to her and peered past her shoulder.
“Do you want something, Rachel?”
She jumped and faced me.
“Me? I— no.”
Rachel’s gaze slid off my face and to the ground. She spoke shyly as she shuffled her feet.
“I-it’s just my first time in a big city. Daddy… never brought me to one, but mommy would always tell me stories about it. And there’s so many things that she talked about here. I was just… awed. That’s all.”
“Do you want anything?”
I gave her a curious look. She backed up and waved her hands in the air.
“No, no, no! It’s fine! I was just looking. We can continue!”
I exchanged a glance with Daniel and he gave me simply wrinkled his brows. I spun back to her and gave her a thumbs up.
“I told you, I’m a Princess. I’ll get you whatever you want.”
Rachel slowly perked up. Her eyes widened and she stared at me with those orange-yellow irises of hers. She hesitated for a moment, but eventually spoke up in a squeak.
“Then— then I want that!”
The little girl pointed at a doll being displayed at the front of a small shop set up on the side of the street. I beamed back at her, nodding.
Then I turned around.
“Daniel, can you get that for her?”
The Human man shook his head.
“You can’t even buy her a cheap doll and yet you call yourself a Princess…”
“Listen! From what you told me, Princesses get people to do things for them!”
“I mean, fair. But you can't just make promises you aren’t able to deliver on.”
“But I can deliver on it. I’ll just ask you to buy it, see?”
“You’re lucky the [Cultists] had some spare money for us. Otherwise, we’d be broke right now.”
“Didn’t we just get paid by Saffron?”
“We used the coins to buy healing potions, remember?”
The three of us went to the stall and bought the doll from the shopkeep. Rachel jumped up in the air and spun with it. She stared into its black button eyes, rustled its curly blonde hair, and fluffed its purple dress. Then she hugged it.
“I’m going to name you Princess!”
I blinked and Daniel snickered.
“Regret your decision now, Salvos?”
I scowled and crossed my arms. But Rachel did not even notice me, continuing to play with Princess, waving her in the air.
“Hmph! It’s fine, but I’m sure she knows who the real princess here is. Since I am the one who bought it for her, after all.”
“I’m sure she does.”
The girl giggled, twirling the doll around and stopped. She sniffed the air as a scent wafted its way to us. Her stomach rumbled and her face turned red.
Rachel looked over at us but did not say anything. I realized what was going on too late; Daniel smiled and stepped forward, bending down to meet her gaze.
“What’s wrong, are you hungry?”
She nodded slowly and Daniel beamed.
“Well, that’s alright. Come on, thanks to Princess Salvos, you can have anything and everything you want to eat here in the market. Don’t be afraid to just point out any food stand you think looks yummy and you can have it.”
I stared on, aghast, as the two conspired about having food. I caught Daniel glancing back at me with a wicked face, reveling in his vengeance against me. I jabbed a finger accusingly at him.
“Whatever happened to an eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind?”
“I’m not G——i.”
After spending the whole day walking up and down the market of Warrington, Rachel left the street fully satisfied, hugging Princess and patting her tummy. Meanwhile Daniel and I glared at each other, both of us swearing to settle this grudge match at a later date.
For now, we found our way to the captain that had called us to the guard barracks back during the afternoon. It was now evening, and while Daniel was not too ecstatic to make a report despite not getting any rest, he was almost out of money and we were supposed to get paid for our mission.
The guards led us to a small office located on the second floor of the building; there, the three of us entered the room and found the same Human man from before.
“You’ve returned. And with a… friend. I take it this means you’ve found something?”
“Yeah. We found the hideout of the [Cultists].”
He nodded grimly. Daniel opened his mouth to continue, but the captain raised a hand and cut him off.
“Please spare me the details. I… don’t want to know what kind of atrocities they committed.”
His eyes stayed off of Rachel— even though we had bought her new clothes, she was still dirty and slightly bloodied from the fight with the assassins.
“I just want to know if they’ve been taken care of and where my men can find proof of this.”
Daniel walked up to the captain's desk and began pointing out on a map the rough location of the cave from the town where the Traveller’s Inn was located.
“There’s a collapsed cave there. You won’t be able to find much evidence since a lot of things were destroyed in the fighting—”
He was lying.
“However, if you go to the town here, you’ll find a man who goes by the name of Joseph. The people there know about him— or you can ask about him from an innkeeper named Eren— they’ll lead you to him. He worked with the [Cultists] and even gave his own daughter up to pay off his debts to them.”
The guard captain nodded and smiled gratefully.
Daniel stepped back and raised a brow.
“So, where’s our payment?”
“Your payment… yes.”
“Is something the matter?”
I turned to my Human companion while Rachel continued to play with Princess behind me. He folded his arms.
“I just realized we never negotiated payment for this job.”
“That you didn’t.”
The guard captain stood up and reached for something at his waist. Daniel and I tensed, however, he just produced a small bag.
“What is it?”
“50 gold for the investigation and destruction of a cult. It’s your reward.”
I saw the glittering coins sticking out of the pouch and grinned. I walked up to accept it.
But Daniel interrupted me.
“Isn’t that too little?”
Cocking my head, I paused as the guard captain lowered his hands. My Human companion stepped past me and placed his hands on the wooden desk.
“I believe I just explained to you— we not only helped find this cult that has been disturbing the peace of your city and the surrounding towns, but we destroyed it and killed the Greater Demon they summoned. Don’t you think that should be worth more than 50 gold? It’s 5 platinum— I can go to the Adventurers Guild and do five easy Gold Rank jobs for that much.”
The guard captain opened his mouth, slowly bobbing it as he struggled to find his voice.
He finally mustered up.
Daniel blinked and I just glanced between the two with a puzzled look.
“I said I’m sorry. But I can’t pay you more than that. This was never a job put up by the lord of Warrington. He isn’t even in the city right now! I put up the job myself— and you’re right, I omitted the payment from the contract. Because this was all I could gather. I dipped into our city’s budget and my entire savings for this.”
The guard captain bowed and my Human companion took a step back.
He pleaded with a shaky voice.
“I can’t offer you anything else. I am sorry.”
Daniel stared at the guard captain— at the wrinkled man with gray hair as his body trembled and shook. Then he clicked his tongue.
The [Hero] turned around and began to leave. The guard captain stared, eyes wide and jaw hanging as he walked out of the room.
“Come on, Salvos, Rachel.”
The little girl hurried after him— and stopped.
“But Salvos isn’t coming.”
Daniel glanced back at me as I stood in the center of the room, head tilted up facing the ceiling. I tapped a finger on my chin.
“Uh, Salvos, what are you doing? Let’s go—”
“I don’t want to.”
He stared at me.
“Not yet, at least.”
I turned back to the guard captain and pointed at him.
He nearly jumped back as I spoke out.
“You can’t pay us because you don’t have the money, right?”
“I-I can! I have 50 gold right here—”
“But according to Daniel, that is not enough.”
I looked back at my companion for confirmation and he slowly nodded. I beamed and pointed back at him.
“And you. You don’t want to accept the gold because you’d feel bad or something or another.”
“What are you getting at, Salvos?”
He narrowed his eyes as I clapped my hands together happily.
“Then why don’t we just come to a compromise?”
The two Human men spoke at the same time. This time, they were the ones that were puzzled. However, I just explained myself.
“So if he can’t pay us enough in coins and we can’t accept it because Daniel is too uptight, why don’t we just get paid another way?”
The guard captain hesitantly raised his hand.
“W-what is this ‘another way’ of payment you speak of?”
I leaned forward in his desk, right until my face was before his. And I smiled happily.
“Give us a carriage.”
He sputtered, spit flying past my face.
“Our city doesn’t own any carriages— every carriage we have available is owned by the lord! We can't possibly give you what isn’t ours!”
“You don’t have to give it to us.”
I leaned back and snorted.
“You just have to lend it to us. Let us use your carriages to go somewhere. Then we’ll return it. That’s it.”
“But the lord would never permit—”
“He doesn’t have to know, does he? After all, he’s not even in Warrington right now as you said.”
The guard captain trailed off and slowly sat back down. He’s starting to get it. I smirked and turned back to Daniel. I knew I had to explain myself to him too.
My companion frowned.
“Salvos, what are you—”
“We’re going to the Sunmere Republic. To Viechester.”
“You don’t mean…”
His eyes widened and I nodded.
“We’re going straight to the Valiant Dreamers Company.”
He looked at me with dubious eyes.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Well, I think it is. You don’t have any better plans, do you? Or are you just going to worry over unseen enemies as we wander about aimlessly with a target in our backs.”
“You could’ve at least given me more time to think about it.”
“Fine. You can think about it. In the meantime, I’ll ask Rachel what she thinks.”
I walked over to the girl holding the doll to her chest and she cocked her head. I placed my chin between the palm of my hands and met her gaze.
“Want to ride on a fancy carriage with me? We’ll all be like princesses.”
Her eyes sparkled and she danced on both legs.
“Yay! I want to be like a princess with Salvos and Princess!”
I turned back to Daniel.
“Now it’s your choice.”
I smiled. He shook his head, muttering under his breath.
“You’ve really gotten good at this whole people thing, huh?”
“I’m still learning!”
I happily supplied. He inhaled deeply and acquiesced.
“Fine. Next time however, please give me more of a heads up. I’m not good with things like this so suddenly.”
I shot him a thumbs up and turned back to the guard captain. I placed my hands on my hips as he scratched his beard.
“Viechester… the Sunmere Republic. Certainly that’s not too far away. With a good driver and well-trained horses by a [Beast Tamer]... a fast carriage should be able to go there and back in two weeks. The lord might return by then, however..”
I raised an eyebrow.
“So, what about it?”
The guard captain nodded.
“For the saviors of Silvergrove, and now the saviors of Warrington? I’d gladly take the risk.”
I exhaled deeply, releasing a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Then I was pounced at by Rachel from behind— she hugged me tightly with Princess still held around her arms.
“Yay! Thank you Salvos! We’re going to be princesses!”
I hugged her back and laughed.
“I told you, I’m already a Princess!”
“...don’t they realize that a lowly lord’s carriage is nothing compared to what a princess would ride—”
“No, don’t tell them.”