With a final goodbye to some friendly adventurers, Rohl and Ell made their way out of Elmon’s main gate, their hoods pulled up, bodies on edge. They were unlikely to be attacked in friendly territory, but it was best to be careful. Rohl was a traitor and only the gods knew what enemies they may face once they left Elmon and its surrounding boroughs.
They were still in relatively friendly territory, and with names like General O’Halley and Governor Sampson as traitors, it was likely Rohl’s name had been put aside, they had only sent three imperial guards after him after all, compared to the 40 that went after the general.
They were safe to continue adventuring and rousing support, but it was still best to avoid large cities and crown forces. News travelled slow and Rohl was a complete unknown out of Elmon, given the crowns suppression campaign on the events at Elmon. It was likely only Elmon knew about Rohl and the fight against the sacrilegious beast.
The crowns furious censorship on the true events had worked in Rohl’s favour, still, such reassurances did little to settle his nerves or calm take the edge off. Even Ell seemed to be a bit more on edge, her usual words had a little more of a bite to them, it was obvious to Rohl she was joking and didn’t mean what she said but no one likes being called a dumbass all the time.
Such as just now when he’d been called a dumbass for not getting the directions to Gleaton Morrow before leaving Elmon, fortunately, they were only a few minutes walk from the main gates when Ell had asked for the directions.
Rohl had been half tempted to say he’d never gotten them lost before, that had been her, but he didn’t want to die by bringing that up. Ell was still very sore about that event, understandable given what she had told him of her past.
With the directions secured from one of the Elmon guards who stood manning the gate, they were once again ready to leave. The mighty walled city of Elmon at their backs and a devastated countryside ahead of them, the wounds of the mimic’s attack were yet to fully heal.
The portcullis shut behind them, sealing off Elmon. A new security measure given recent events. One most people appreciated even if the merchants attempting to enter Elmon did grumble about it, the line of horses and carts stretched out far past the gate.
After one last look at the city, Rohl began the journey, with him and Ell walking side by side they made their way towards Gleaton Morrow.
Rohl was already bored after only twenty minutes of walking along the paved road, the bountiful countryside, forested hills, and wide-open plains were a pleasant view, but Rohl wasn’t in the mood for sightseeing. He would have loved to talk to Ell, the conversation could help pass the time but there were certain topics he wanted to avoid bringing up.
They had barely talked about Rohl’s voyage to the enclave, the gatherings with Quinn’s group, the goodbyes among other things. Rohl wanted to avoid such topics with Ell and there was another thing. Not too long ago they had shared a bed and almost kissed before that.
Rohl had an inkling that this meant there was something between them, but he could not be sure, maybe it was just the heat of the moment that caused these actions or maybe he was just very insecure about relationships and feelings.
Besides even if there was something between them, he was hesitant to discuss it. There were plenty of reasons for Rohl to just go the coward’s route and avoid talking about it.
Reasons such as what happened with Mimi and Quinn’s group, how he was trying to avenge his family and kill another sacrilegious beast, how he was scared of rejection etcetera. If something happened, he wouldn’t fight it, but Rohl promised himself that he wouldn’t actively get involved, it would be selfish to commit to someone only to spend all your time trying to kill a sacrilegious beast or worse die doing it.
Not even counting how it might distract him from his goals, he would just rely on his not actively pursuing and his natural cluelessness to sort him through.
Such thoughts had kept Rohl distracted for close to an hour, the city of Elmon had become a distant speck in the far background. The directions Rohl received had them following a wavy path, but the views should remain relatively similar with plains, hills, forest and villages. Nothing particularly exciting and only a small chance of coming across any monsters at all.
Between the rangers and Deaths Brigand’s the road was apparently kept well protected from monsters. A nice change even if Rohl did want all the monster-slaying experience he could get. Sure, he had killed a sacrilegious beast, but he had a lot of help, he always had help in his fights. If he was to slay the Endless Sleep, then he would need to become a lot stronger. Any veteran or divine monster or decent swordsman would likely whoop him in a 1v1 fight. Sure, he had killed a sacrilegious beast, a tremendous feat for anyone but he had a lot of help and had essentially poisoned it with his blood, without that it surely would have killed him.
The occasional training lessons he received from Ell and Quinn’s group did help but he would need more. If he was lucky, a monster would appear on the road allowing him to assess his current skill level and save him from any awkward conversation. Although just from one look Rohl could tell that Ell did seem to be enjoying the peaceful quiet walk, the countryside air seemed to instill a sense of peace with her.
It seemed to ease the tension and nerves plaguing both Rohl and Ell. Rohl had barely been a traitor for a day, and he was already incredibly stressed out, the walk was a nice change, he was only now coming to realise that the walk had helped release a little tension from his shoulders.
His hands were not glued to his weapon and both his and Ell’s hood were down allowing the cool breeze to gently sway through their hair. Rohl found himself temporarily fixated on the relaxed expression on Ell’s face, her black hair gently swayed back and forth, it had grown Rohl realised. Ell’s ears were still visible as they jolted through her hair, but it had definitely grown and was starting to slowly reach the end of her neck.
Only with Ell’s inquiring look did Rohl realise just how transfixed had been. That had snapped him out of his gaze, Ell only smirked with a slightly pleased look on her face.
“About time you noticed.”
“Hey, I don’t see you bringing up my appearance.”
“Your appearance hasn’t changed, even the dumb confused expression is still there more often than not. What are you so confused about anyhow?”
“Just how cool you are.”
After a few seconds of silence, both Rohl and Ell broke out in a chuckle, the change of scenery had done wonders for their ability to laugh.
“Your hair does look nice though”, Rohl spoke as the laughs were replaced with the previous calm relaxed atmosphere.
“Thank you, yours is okay too I guess.”
“Thanks,” Rohl said sincerely, he reckoned that was probably the best complement Ell had even given anyone.
With that, the peaceful air and comfortable silence returned and remained for the rest of the day‘s walk. Night was soon approaching, and they would have to make camp before finishing their journey tomorrow. With luck, they would arrive just around mid-afternoon.
Fortunately, the directions they received included a Vishnu circlet where they could spend the night, located in a small clearing just off the main road. It was just about dark when they arrived, Rohl was just glad that they wouldn’t have to do any night-time travelling to get here.
A small fire was up within moments of arrival, Ell was much better skilled at that than Rohl, fortunately, they had enough supplies to have a hot meal tonight. The fire’s red glow was almost unneeded as the night remained lit by a bright moon surrounded by shining stars.
A very beautiful sight that Rohl could have stared at for hours if it wasn’t his turn to make tea. Ell had thoughtfully packed a small cooking pot and bowls allowing Rohl to create a basic vegetable soup using some water from a nearby stream.
“How long? I’m getting cold.” Was Ell’s impatient question. She had already carved out a small sleeping area and was impatiently waiting for a hot meal to warm up the cold night.
“A few minutes, then it’ll be ready.”
“Good….I need to talk to you about something.”
“What?” Rohl replied confused.
“I'm sorry about Quinn and that Fae woman, I’m sure it can’t be easy having to say goodbye like that,” Ell spoke with an empathetic voice although her face remained neutral.
“It's alright, thank you but it rather not talk about it, it’ll just depress me beside ill see them again once all this stupidness is over. Here soups ready,” replied Rohl with a slight slump in his shoulders. He would miss his friends but moping about it wouldn’t fix the issue. Instead, he would just do his best to forget about it and repress his feelings and emotions until it all broke out. The classic way.
“Thank you, this is actually not bad to say you made it,” spoke Ell as she tasted the soup Rohl had handed her. A soup that was quickly devoured by the hungry and tired adventurers.
“How are you handling all this? People might come for you as well; I don’t want you to come to harm.”
“Stop, I can see where this is going, I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me I can take care of myself after all. Besides, without me you’d be a useless wreck.” came Ell’s immediate reply, her eyes showed no sign of worry, just hunger for more soup.
“Thank you, I'm glad you’ll be with me.”
“Seems there is some wisdom in you. We should practice your swordsmanship before we set off tomorrow. Best get some sleep soon, you get moody when you’re tired.”
“Do not,” Rohl said indignantly from his now laid position, his eyes focused on the stars above him.
“See happening already. I do wish it wasn’t so cold though.”
“Hmm.” Came Rohl’s sleepy reply.
“That was your cue to offer me your blanket dumbass.”
“Hmm.” Came Rohl’s reply once again, his mind drifting off into unconsciousness. He barely registered the familiar comforting presence that moved next to him, the warmth of the presence cuddled into him was the final push needed for sleep to overtake him.