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A note from dotturndot

Well... the chapter lengths will shorten from here on. I guess you could say I'm prioritizing chapter update frequency than chapter length. But I will of course make each chapter at least 1500 words long. And the thing is that--some chapters may reach over 2000+ words long... so it isn't consistent at all!

Steaming her naked body in the lukewarm hot spring, Ellis looked to the sky, hands griping at the edge of the pool, pondering about the previous trip and other relating issues. Her unbridled hair tangled together with the cohesion of water, soaking her chestnut-brown hair thoroughly. Her chest submerged in water, hiding that amorous parts of her body, thought, that was quite impossible because the quality of the water was towards the clearer end of the spectrum.

She parted her supple lips, "Ernn, Ruth. How's work these days?"

Ruth turned around. Her hands clasped around her hair, rubbing in a smooth repetitive motion. From the top of her scalp, working her way down to the fringes of her fine black hair. She was half-squatting, her obvious chest also submerged in the translucent water. Compared to Ruth, Ellis' was smaller—

"It's been fine. People that come to Croquel were mostly kind and honest. Of course, there were occasional fights that happened but it was nothing too crazy," she said, her attention deviated from her hair for a bit.

Ruth looked past Ellis, another woman had jumped out the bath, a white towel covered her lower body, slender back totally exposed. She walked towards the changing area, disappearing from sight.

Not many people were present. Besides the two, there were a few others, but they were on the other side of the hot spring.

Ellis nodded. She lifted her hair and took a whiff of it. "I probably need to clean it more.."

Leaving the edge of the warm pool, she submerged her head in water, then reappearing again in front of Ruth. Ruth didn't avert her gaze that was glued to her own hair, concentrating on getting each and every scrub cleaned out.

"Too bad you can't use soap here," Ruth drawled.

"Nm," Ellis tried to mimic Ruth's manner of cleaning her hair. Unlike her, Ellis was clumsy in her methods. When she tried to grab hold of her hair and rub it in between her palms, it would just slide right off.

Ruth looked gorgeous when scrubbing her hair. Her flawless body and silky smooth skin that would make people awe in a way that not even Ellis could compete with. The perfect curves on Ruth's body and light gestures embodied the grace of a swan. Her hands were like jade touching against her black cascading hair.

Subsequently, Ellis' body was interspersed with slight bruised and light scars that have yet to completely heal. Her hands were also riddled with calluses. Showing the effort and work she had put into her sword arts.

"Ruth, what do you think about me and Curtis," Ellis said inadvertently, she was starting to get a hang of keeping her hair together when rubbing it.

"What happened?"

"Ur, I just feel like I'm always getting mad at him. And every time, I feel that he becomes a little more distant, each time.."

"Hm... I think he wouldn't mind you getting angry? After all, all men have to face this fact about women, don't you think?" Ruth knew that kind of brother Curtis was. He was patient, kind, understanding and doesn't act on impulse.

"Urm, urm," Ellis made these sounds as she bobbed her head up and down.

"Big brother must have done something to you didn't he?"

"Not really. I'm just worried that if this keeps up, Curtis would start to..." Ellis stuttered, not knowing the right words to fit.

"You've been with my big brother for so long now. Do you think that he would leave you just like that?"

"Perhaps."

"Perhaps?" Ruth looked at Ellis with a cautious expression. "How come?"

"I'm thinking that it might happen. It might."

"Might... but it's been almost a years now hasn't it?"

"I haven't even kissed him yet.."

Ruth choked on the words she was about to say. "Not. Yet?"

Imagine a couple staying together for two years without ever giving each other a light peck . What kind of impossible couple was that? Not even a love saint under a god-forbidden curse could resist the temptation of kissing. Now, Ruth was doubting whether or not Curtis genuinely liked Ellis. It would usually be the males who'd initiate the attack. But Curtis was..

"This is really complicated."

"Yeah,"

'What was Curtis thinking?'

Ruth couldn't understand.

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Curtis was still atop his bed, eyes closed. As his mind wandered, he heard a double knock on the door. Opening his eyes, he brisker over, unlocked the notch and pulled it open.

Ellis stood in the hallway, wearing a single garment light purple gown. The one that she would often wear asides the t-shirt and skirt combo. Her gown had already grown loose from being repetitively worn over and over again, making her cleavage more exposed each time. This, Curtis paid attention to.

"You used shampoo?" Curtis could smell the warm humid heat of the hot spring wafting from her skin, mingled together was the scent of tangerine on her hair. Shampoo wasn't allowed in a hot spring as it would contaminate the water. The only other possibility was that she took extra time to wash her hair at a separate shower somewhere at the bath house.

No wonder Curtis felt like something was missing; Ellis would always emit this wonderful sweet smell whenever he was around her. The difference of her being present was like having remembered to wear a watch or forgetting it before leaving the house. Except that watches don't exist in this world..

"Yup," Ellis walked inside.

She made a bee-line towards her bed, clearly indicated by the absence of the mess Curtis made on his own. Her body sank into the soft spring mattress. It was a wonderful feeling every time. During their voyage, they rarely had the opportunity to experience this comfort of lying on this soft squishy substance.

"Ellis, do you really want to know what happened back then?"

"Back when?"

Curtis paused a moment. "That time you almost got killed."

"Ah... that one," Ellis looked to the ceiling where the beams intersected. The carvings were beautiful indeed. "It's fine."

"Are you sure?"

Ellis had been pleading Curtis to recount the incident many times already, on one occasion during their voyage, fuming mad. Curtis thought maybe she deserved to be in the know.

Ellis on the other hand, had already put it behind her. Yes, she was still a little frustrated because Curtis wasn't willing to say it and also seemed like he was purposely hiding it from her. In the end, after talking it out with Ruth, she decided that it would be best to respect his decision.

"Your doppelgänger was naked when I saw her," Curtis sighed. Was this the best choice? To candidly say it to her? This much should be fine..

Ellis didn't looked to have much of a reaction. She laid there quiet, not saying a word.

Curtis could feel his heart sinking a little.

He walked a little closer, she shifted her entire body to the opposite side to avert him. From the place Curtis looked from, he saw that her ears were, bright red?

"Ellis?"

"You pervert," The pouting of her cheeks could be identified from the way she said that.

Out of Curtis' line of sight, Ellis' eyes were tearing up. Complicated emotions were churning inside her heart. A blend of frustration, relief, sadness, and, happiness.

Curtis sat on her bed, reaching out his hand, he pinched the tip of her ear. "I'm sorry I didn't say it earlier,"

Ellis snapped to a seating position. Her face was red as a tomato, hair tossed into a mess and teary eyes that amplified her cuteness. A gentle smile could be seen on Curtis' face. She was on the verge of saying something when Curtis embraced her in his arms.

Ellis returned the favor by wrapping her arms around Curtis too.

"Im sorry Ellis. But the events turned out to be something like that," Curtis laughed.

A moment went by without anymore being said, holding each other by the warmth of each other's body and touch.

 

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"Have you finished reading that novel of yours?"

"Yup."

"I'm planning to go the the library again."

"Let's go there tomorrow then."

"Nn."

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A powerful swing was thrusted into the air. A huge slice of compressed air shot towards Curtis.

{Wind blade}

{Wind}

The invisible cracks in the air, capable of slicing a meter think log into two approached him—but dissipated upon the wave of his hand.

"Ellis, I think you can go rampant with your magic skills since you're going to switch swords soon."

"If you say so."

The fusion crystal at the guard of the jade sword shone brighter, the blade twirling with her figure. In a fraction of a second, storms of wind blades exploded towards Curtis. A gust leaked from the excess energy of the combined pressure of the wind blades.

{Wind blade} was, as the name implied, wind blades that were close to impossible to notice visually, besides the forewarning of a strong gust and the distorting of air. Those who have enhanced physical talents also had improved instincts, so dodging these blades would be possible still. Curtis was a mage, lacking talent in the physical department. So he had to either consciously think of his next move, or train hard so that his subconscious reflexes would act. He didn't have a special sixth sense like they did.

The pressure of the combined blades wouldn't be as easily dispelled as the previous ones created by Ellis. Furthermore, the force behind each individual slash had been buffed a notch. Curtis swept his hands in an arc motion in front with the aid of his spellbook.

Whoosh.

The sound of the roaring wind could be hear from the force generated.

Slam!

Curtis was tossed into the wall behind him. Slowly, he slid down and sat on the floor, his breathing was deep at concise intervals. The force behind those cumulative slashes were too strong and fast, his reaction speed was too slow.

Tia who sat a distance away suddenly awoke from her day-dream state.

"Ahh! Sorry Curtis, sorry!" Ellis rushed over.

"I'm fine. Looks like I was a little too slow." The wind blades did get to Curtis, just that he had {Coat O' Arms} on.

"Ahh, no, I accidentally put in too much power just now! I didn't think that it would turn out this way.." under normal circumstances, Ellis would attempt to save the mana inside the fusion crystal. There was a usage limit to the number of magic skills the sword could evoke due to its mana limitations. The fusion had to be replaced every now and then once it ran out of juice.

Curtis shook his head. "That was a good move, you're getting better,"

"Curtis got knocked back!?" Tia was exceptionally quick at figuring out what just happened even though she missed more than half the fight. This was mainly due to the fact that the fights they held were usually boring, mundane and repetitive. Mainly focusing on increasing Curtis' reaction speed and spell casting. At the same time, brushing up Ellis' basic sword stance and swiftness behind her movements.

"Yeah, 5 wind blades were too much,"

"How did you know Ellis made 5 wind blades? Did your visual perception become better?" Tia's voice sounded with a high pitched intonation at this time.

"I can feel the traces of mana in each individual blade, it's not really an increase in my reaction. It's part of being a mage, like a magic detecting sixth sense," Curtis explained. Oh, so he did have a sixth sense.

Only mages that had trained precariously would slowly develop this ability to detect the sensitive fluctuations of magic energy around them. However, mages that Curtis had encountered so far that had had reached such a level were—nil.

"I see.." Tia expressed a look of understanding. She then turned to Ellis with a smile. "My turn. Want a spar?"

Ellis shivered. "Please be careful— this time..."

"I got you," Curtis layered a spell on both Ellis and Tia.

{Coat O' Arms}

It warped around their bodies with a glow too dim to see. This was the reason why during the Curtis' previous battle with the princess, she failed to notice the presence of this barrier as the outdoors were just too bright to see the natural glow of this spell.

"Good luck Ellis, I'm rooting for you," Curtis tried to give support, at least. Walking to the bench at the side of the room, he sat there and watched.

"What weapon should I use?" Tia muttered as such at the mini weapon rack at the other end of the room. "I haven't practiced this in a while now, so this one.

Ellis felt a cold sweat running down her cheeks.

"It's not like I'm going to kill you know?" Tia reminded. Her weapon of choice: a humongous great sword. A blade that stretched more than a meter in length but looked more like a huge metal plate had just been strapped to a handle. It resembled a breaker blade with the tip being squared.

 

'Just how heavy is that thing?'

Tia sound the sword in a loop as if it was paper-light. How was it possible she didn't break her wrist from that? Only the heavens knew.

"I wonder how her wrist didn't crack," Curtis muttered an impossible question to himself. This was the strength of someone with a physically enhanced talent.

"Cu..Curtis... make sure Coat O' Arms doesn't break ok," Ellis sent Curtis a face of desperation.

"It's not like Tia's going to kill you right?"

Perhaps.

During Ellis' previous spar with Tia, she had a blade placed up her throat without even striking Tia once.

Her incredibly nimble body, combined with her mastery of various lighting speed sword arts, earned her the title 'the combat genius' (To Ellis and Curtis that is). A literally prodigy.

Ellis nodded vigorously. Curtis' Coat O' Arm may be able to defend against an attack if a normal amount of force was applied. But last time, Tia had made mistake and thrusted a knife into her throat. With the spell on, it didn't slice her neck, but instead, created an almost unbearable blunt pain. Also, what if {Coat O' Arms} wasn't activated? Ellis didn't want to image the outcome.

"I'll be careful," Tia had doubts if that was even possible. Accidents were unpredictable after all. If not, why would it be called 'accidents'?

"Let's start then," Ellis' gulped and narrowed her eyes.

This time, she had to win.

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A note from dotturndot

Here's a fact, at the moment I'm writing this authors note, I have 50 something chapters in my inventory. I'm just letting it marinate for ideas and readjustments before putting it up.


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