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A note from dotturndot

The title of this chapter is trippy.. for some reasons..

Fun.

They were surrounded.

Ellis drew her sword. Louise couldn't do much besides standing close to Ellis, yet her expression was calm, cold almost.

The big guy took a step forward. Both Ellis and Louise instinctively took a step back. They knew if they did this a few more times, they would walk off the ledge. Perhaps that wasn't such a bad idea, falling into the meadow of yellow spider lilies, and then making an escape from there.

Before that plan ever came to fruition...

"Adolf!"

"Boss!" the big guy turned over to see a man dressed in a suit. His physique was thin, his face was striking and sleek but not pointy, there was a certain charm to him.

"What are you doing here! Why are you threatening them! Get your men away from them right now!" The guy referred to as the 'boss' proceeded to yell.

"But.."

"I never told you to threaten them. Most I did was ask you to persuade. Brute force isn't always the answer!" he hissed, "No wonder you're always getting the guild in trouble."

Such drama, as if it were taken out from one of the stories Ellis had ever read.

Ellis took another look at the bossy man, noticing an emblem stuck to his shoulder, a badge pinned to the left side his clothing.

Lion's Head guild.

"Forgive me for my rudeness. Forgive the adventurers also. It was my fault for asking them to come," he gave a firm bow of apology. "Call me Paladin, one of the guild masters in Lion's Head Guild."

Ellis withdrew her sword back into the holster. Louise looked at the scene befuddled.

"Guild Master Paladin was it? For the sake of convenience, may I ask for your reason?"

"Princess, my apologies. I sent the adventurers here to persuade Miss Ellis to come to meet me. I have certain matters to discuss with her," when Paladin said that, Adolf stiffened.

"Her only?"

"Guild Master Paladin, why are you asking for me?"

"I also wanted to meet with another boy but looks like he isn't together with you. Nevertheless, the topic in regard is confidential. So if you don't mind, may we continue the talk in a cafe? I know a place around here I believe you two would like, my treat of course."

"What could be confidential?" Ellis pressed him with her eyes.

"It's only a few questions and won't take too long. If you would, please."

Ellis looked at Louise. Louise gave her a stern gaze, as to say: choose properly.

"I refuse. As of the moment, the princess has arranged for me to be her guide. I would like to properly carry out my duty."

"Then how about we arrange another time to meet? My apologies for bothering the two of you today."

"Until I know the reason, I won't accept," Ellis thought perhaps Louise was hinting her about something. Also, the facts did not add up.

Paladin's face started to warp into one of plea.

"Do I really?"

"Yes."

"If that's the case, then I'll make it brief. You and your partner, you two have potential. We wanted to send you an invitation to join Lion's head guild. But by saying this, I don't think I properly persuaded you. In any case, I would like to have you and your partner to spare a moment to discuss this matter."

"Me and?"

"Your partner's name should be Curtis...We did our research—no, to be frank, we did our research on the two of you— very sorry for that. However, your achievements as a two-person party were astounding, and that caught the attention of Lion's Head Guild. We would like to offer your party a better opportunity to work with."

"Hm..." Ellis went into deep contemplation.

"Let's put it this way then, if she agrees, she will go directly to the guild and make a change, else, she maintains her state. With this, have we come to a conclusion?" Louise clapped her hands, looking at Paladin with a sharp gaze.

With so many loopholes and inconsistencies, it may fool Ellis, but not Louise. Louise had some experience in politics, knowing human relations to a certain extent. To her, his actions were—part of an act. Confidential? How can inviting Ellis and Curtis to another associate be considered confidential?

Paladin was shocked at the sudden remark. This princess was indeed quick-witted and decisive, as expected.

Paladin looked at Ellis and then at Louise, slowly, he made a frown. "Very smart," he muttered, looking towards Adolf and giving some sort of signal. Turning back to the two he bowed deeply, "Looks like we'll have to take coercive measures," in a soft chilly voice.

Ellis and Louise staggered—his sudden change in tone...

Paladin took a few steps backwards, his men took a few steps forward. Their distance was shortening.

{Elemental Magic: Ice}

The temperature dropped below the freezing point. Frost wreathed in the air like fog, and when it subsided, a blue domain appeared. Paladin, including all of his men, were encased in an ice coffin, with their heads exposed. For each person, there presented a fortress of numerous sharp glinting ice spike surrounding them.

One of the men forcefully broke the ice, tearing his hand out, just to be stabbed by one of the spikes outside.

"GUAAAAAAAAAAHH!"

"Thank you!" Louise gripped Ellis who was dumbfounded by the arm, "Run!"

{Gale Steps}

The moment Ellis snapped into reality, she was already being pulled by an incredible force at a speed hard to comprehend. Louise's natural physically enhanced talent combined with {Gale Steps} was no joke. Ellis struggled to keep up with her even though her arm was being gripped like a vice.

"AAAH...." the arm impaled, slowly crystallized, starting from the point where the spike impaled him up to his shoulder. No bleeding, no mess, no flesh—only agony, pain and frostbite.

"D...don't move," Paladin tried to raise his voice to give an order, only to realize that his body was freezing from the cold. He was shivering, when the sun was blazing above the sky.

It was like that for a while.

Even though the ice had not melted and they were frozen stiff, they felt that the ice was somehow, sparing their lives by not freezing them. Well, except for the guy who got impaled by the spike. He could already say goodbye to his purple, crystal arm which had died from frostbite.

"This.." A coarse voice of disbelief resounded near the ice formation. "Harold, Find a group of fire mages."

"Understood."

Leaving three guards at the scene, one of which, the royal knight—Aldrich.

"Cutaway the ice."

The two knights acted swiftly, the insignia of Haital on the guard of their blades, brandished under the sunlight. In just a few seconds, all the spikes were chopped off, except for the one stuck by an arm. The ice coffin remained.

"What is the situation?"Aldrich approached Paladin first as he looked like he was the leader of the group.

"This ice... it's not killing us, just a frosty feeling. But one of my men lost his arm," when Paladin saw Aldrich, he froze—actually, he was already half-frozen. His voice was shaking.

'Who is he? Why is he here?'

"Please hold on a little longer, the fire mages will come soon," Aldrich knew he couldn't act rash. It was certainly impossible to remove them from the ice by breaking it with his sword unless they were fine with chopping off some of their body parts.

"No, in this case.." Paladin attempted to forcefully break open the ice coffin with his body. Cracks spread across the surface, creating unorganized fractals. And in the next moment, the ice came crumbling down into pieces. "You can break the ice!"

The other men, including Adolf took heed in his advice, breaking the ice with brute force. Even the guy who had lost his arm made his way out of the ice prison. He slowly pulled his arm away from the spike, there was no pain, no feeling, not even numbness. It was already—dead.

Paladin knelt for a brief moment before standing up again. His breath had a weird frost to it, his internal temperature was impossibly cold. Oddly, he wasn't dead.

"I request a witness," Aldrich looked over the row of shops. Aldrich was actually informed by one of the citizens about this suspicious gang of unknown people when he was patrolling. However, they were the ones to be attacked in the end. There was something deeply wrong about the entire setup.

The people who once barricaded themselves inside the stores had already come out, befuddled by the scene of ice and bits of snow.

"Me!", a moderate girl came walking out.

"Pumpkin?!" Aldrich realized how he had turned into his 'father-mode' and quickly switched back to his knightly self. The other guards looked at him with wide eyes. Too late now..

"Dad, I'll be the witness."

What coincidence. Apparently, the girl who came to him, wearing a single piece cotton dress was Aldrich's daughter.

"Judge me fairly," Paladin had not left, standing motionless, waiting for his verdict.

"Matilda, please explain."

"Yes! There were two women who sat down on the bench there," pointing towards the wooden bench Ellis and Louise once sat, "and then this group of people approached them, it looked like an ambush no matter which angle you look from. It was him who said something about not having mercy," Matilda pointed to Adolf with a frown.

Aldrich narrowed his eyes, "And then?"

"Then this man came up to stop them," Matilda, referring to Paladin, "I wasn't sure what he said, but I knew he apologized about something. He bowed to show courtesy then suddenly, everything became mist and ice, the two women ran away."

"Ice... do you have anyone in mind? Did you not see anyone creating the ice?"

"Everything turned into mist before I could catch a glimpse. In fact, I didn't even see a glimpse. Perhaps it was one of the women?" Matilda's description was concise but vague.

"Why then?" Aldrich faced Paladin, "I would like to hear your side of the story. Don't pull any pranks."

"Yes, right. I actually only wanted to see one of the girls to invite her to join Lion's Head guild. I told my men to ask for her, but I didn't know the situation would turn into some butchery. I never told my men to use force but it happened so. As their head, I am willing to take the blame," Paladin tried not to mention the princess as it would definitely complicate matters, "I stumbled upon them and saw the scene. I quickly apologized and clarified the matter. Before we could agree on anything, we were suddenly trapped in ice," Paladin showed off his fake Lion's Head Guild badge.

"You stumbled into your men? Or did you plan it?"

"I would watch my men from behind every now and then. Moreover, your daughter being here wasn't planned right?" Paladin was stumped but it did not show in his body language.

"You have a point," Aldrich looks a little embarrassed.

"I'm sorry boss!" Adolf fell to his knees. The other men of the same group did the same. They all bowed and prostrated.

"Get up! If you want to apologize do it later! Don't you see that the knights are here?"

"Boss, it's our fault!"

"Get a grip," Paladin went to pull Adolf by the collar of his tank top, "If you want me to forgive you, don't repeat the same mistake again, you hear!"

"Yes."

The drama was unfolding in front of Aldrich, Matilda and the two other knights.

"Sir Paladin, do you have any ideas who the culprit may have been? Why do you think the two ran away?"

Paladin glared at Aldrich. "I think I know. First of all, I didn't only intend to invite that one girl. She has a partner, a mage. He's an unusual person, and I think he may be the one who caused the ice. As for why they ran away— she wanted to reject the offer."

"Do you have any backing that he was the one who caused it?"

"A two-person party, one of them being a mage, does that sound possible to you?"

"You mentioned that one of them was a mage...."

"What wrong?" Matilda sensed the oddity in her father's vacuous eyes.

"Are you intending to invite them again?" Aldrich gazed into the depths of Paladin's eyes.

Paladin wanted to take two steps back; his mind was suddenly occupied with the thought of being exposed.

In fact, Paladin wasn't after them joining Lion's head guild, but to find out the location of the new pillar. It was a setup, one that had failed miserably.

{What was it that they garnered the attention of Sir Dean, and the princess? They had a closed, lengthy discussion about something. Back at the cafeteria during the time, it was Paladin who observed the situation without anyone noticing. His gut knew that it was something so important, it had to be kept secretive.}

"From the looks of the current situation, I would like to try again one more time. This time, dealing directly with the boy."

"Directly with him huh?" Aldrich's expression changed, "Then be careful. Report directly if you sense anything weird."

"I will keep that in mind."

When Aldrich turned around, he could hear Paladin reprimanding his men. The knights he sent to find the fire mages were all dismissed after melting the icy aftermath. As for the man who lost his arm, he was quickly sent to the closest medical centre for treatment.

Aldrich left the place after saying goodbye to his daughter, Matilda.

One of his closest aides, Harold asked when everything calmed to normalcy.

"Do you think he's a Jester?"

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A note from dotturndot

Yahoo... Jesters are a weird existence aren't they? 


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dotturndot

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