"Er... Excuse me...?"
"You want to have a champion as well right? Well, two is better than one! Make me your champion alongside Auren!"
Auren was stunned by Ria's proposal. He expected to carry the burden by himself in order to be of use to the rest of the team, but it seemed like Ria wanted in on the idea.
"Ria... Do you know what you are saying...?"
"I'll have to spend the eternity working for this little girl as her servant right?"
"T- That's right!! You can't do this!!"
"... But you will be by my side... Right...?"
"I know that someone needs to make a sacrifice so we can go on with this... But there is no need to do it alone... I'll stay with you for all eternity..."
"Ria... Why would you..."
"Because I love you too you moron!! How long do you think I have been waiting for that marriage proposal?? And now that we were so close you want to run away with this lame excuse??"
"Y- You... You knew??"
"Yes! You big idiot!!"
Ria grabbed Auren's head so he would be unable to escape and kissed him. After that Auren became so red that his head was starting to look like a bomb about to explode.
The rest of the group was staring at the scene with their mouths open. All except for Daren who had an "About time..." look on his face.
"We came too far to let things end now... From now on... Wherever you go, I'll go with you, and the same goes for me!!"
"I- I- I- I..."
Auren was acting like a computer that was about to glitch. The idea of offering himself as a slave to a goddess for all eternity seemed like a much simpler fact to take in than that of Ria sharing his feelings.
Ria stared at West and returned to their discussion.
"So, what do you say? Two servants for the price of one! We work for you and you help us deal with our problem."
West also seemed to be shocked by that situation. Was this the first time two people had offered themselves at the same time to work as their followers? Evlin was just gazing at the situation and trying to see where everything was going to lead.
"The thing is... I can't do that... After I give someone my blessing, I can't do it again for fifty years..."
"Ehhh???? Why not??"
"Those are the rules... If I could, every god would just have an army of blessed followers under their belt... This restriction works to keep things balanced."
Evlin thought about that for a second and started to realize that she always found it strange why the goddess only blessed one person with her power. If she wanted to kill all the demons on the planet, why not just make a bazillion living weapons? So there was a restriction like this to keep things in check. But the goddess made her contract with Marceus two-hundred years ago. Did this mean that there were four other blessed followers like Marcus somewhere out there?
"Fifty years... We can't wait that long... I would be an old hag by the time I could be blessed as well... Isn't there any way around it??"
"Well... I could give you two a shared blessing that would only work when both are close to each other..."
"You can do that??"
"Yes... But as a disadvantage to that, you two would need to share your life forces... If one of you dies, the other would die too..."
Ria and Auren looked at each other and realized that they were thinking the same thing.
"We have no problem with that!"
"We will live together, and we will fall together!"
"No, please don't say that... If you two fall I lose my champion and will have to wait fifty more years to get another..."
It seems like the duo were really getting the goddess off guard. She probably never met two people so ready to become her servants so easily despite having such a big restriction. Even if Ria and Auren received some amazing power, it would not work unless they were together, and if one were to be killed the other would too.
"So, are you two sure that you can deal with these conditions..."
"We will serve and fight for you!"
"Very well, then choose what is the blessing that you want..."
"Wait... We get to choose?"
"Regulars blessings are decided by the god that bestows it upon the follower... But since you two will be my champions from now on, I want to try and be nice to you... Now... Choose wisely... There are no do-overs later..."
Ria and Auren were at a loss. They didn't expect to have such an opportunity. If they messed up and picked a wrong blessing they would have been sacrificing themselves for nothing.
"Ria... What should we choose?"
"Don't ask me... I don't know anything about... ... Combat... ... !!"
As she finished her sentence, Ria received a flashback during her time at town shopping with Ashley, and words from their discussion started to flow into her head.
[["Why not? She can transform anything into whatever she imagines right?"
"Yeah, to whatever she imagines it... But all she ever thinks about is fight-related matters... She has no sense of style..."]]
Evlin got a scare once Ria screamed her name and came rushing to grab her by the shoulders.
"What... What did I do??"
"You're a girl with zero sense of style who thinks about nothing but fighting!!"
"... Excuse me??"
Evlin could not believe what Ria was saying. She was leaving the fate of her and Auren's future in her hands. She was the leader after all so it made sense that she trusted Evlin so much, but now it would be her fault if she picked a bad blessing.
"Ria I'm not sure this is a good idea... Maybe Ashley should pick... She is our strategist..."
"Ashley hasn't been on the frontlines nearly as much as you! Think Evlin! What is our group lacking??"
Lacking? Was there anything that the group was lacking? They had a lot of offensive power thanks to Evlin's massive earth attacks and Daren's physical strength. Maybe speed? No, Daren and Lilith always move like lightning on the field. Communication? Gustav had that covered. Variety? Evlin's spells would give her a rather large pool of options during fights. What were they lacking exactly? Why did they lose to Marcus so easily?
They got defeated because they had nothing to stop Marcus's attacks. His very first move was cutting their Homebase in half like it was nothing, which lead to many of them getting knocked out in seconds. After that, even when they tried to fight him with their full strength they still couldn't stop his attacks.
Maybe that was the secret. Marcus was a sword. The blessed sword of the goddess of the east. So maybe, what they needed was the opposite, a shield. Something that could have protected them from that first huge slash. Something that could stop his wave of attacks. Something that would have blocked that arrow that almost killed Ria and Evlin herself.
"We lack defense!"
"We have many ways to dish out a lot of attacks and cause a lot of damage... But when it comes to protecting ourselves we always lack in options... All our enemies keep relying on this goddamn metal that can cut anything... Most of the time I can just steal it with my modeling magic... But I always run the risk of getting cut while doing it... We need a power that can keep us safe... Some kind of protection..."
"But... We don't want to only defend... We also want to attack! We want a power that will be useful during battles!"
"Who says you can't use a shield to attack?"
While Ria was still unsure, Auren decided to intervene.
"She might be right Ria... We also need to think about the future... We won't have our friends by our side forever... When that time comes, having the ability to defend from any danger might be really useful!"
Evlin looked at Ria and realized what her problem was.
"You just wanted to have a power that would let you hit things right?"
"Ugh!! ... ... ... M- Maybe..."
"Fine, fine... A defensive blessing... I get it..."
Ria grabbed Auren's hand and the two walked towards West after making up their minds.
"Goddes of the west... Please give us a blessing that will allow us to protect our friends, ourselves, and each other."
West then decided to begin her blessing ceremony. This was the first time Evlin ever saw someone being blessed so she was kinda excited.
"Lady Ria and sir Auren... Do you swear loyalty to the goddess of the west?"
"Do you swear to fight for me! Kill for me! Die for me! And to go to the ends of the earth for me?"
"I do!" x 2
Evlin started to feel something strange about this ceremony.
"Do you swear to never betray your faith, during times of joy or in moments of pain, in sickness and in health?"
"I do!" x 2
Evlin was feeling this ceremony was looking rather familiar to another certain ceremony she knew.
"Then with the godly power vested in me... I now announce you two, servants of the west!! You may now receive your blessing!!"
There is no way she's not doing this on purpose. Is what Evlin was thinking.
West extended both her hands and the same energy from before started to flow inside of Auren and Ria. The two began to glow for a moment with some sort of silver energy similar to the blessed metal. But something about the color was a little different. It was a little less silver and slightly more golden-like. This made Evlin start to think about a certain Japanese animated show she used to watch where characters would be surrounded by golden energy that made their hair stand up.
"You two have now received the blessing of the unbreakable barrier. May you use it to create a path towards victory on my name!"
Auren and Ria stared at their hands and tried to focus. The golden energy from before started to materialize and took the shape of a floating transparent energy shield.
Ria looked at the energy shield and came up with an idea. She started to focus even more and the shield started to grow bigger and bigger. She stared at the sea and tried to throw the massive shield into the ocean creating a huge pillar of water with the impact.
Daren tried to copy her move, but instead of making the shield larger he tried to add density to it, making it more solid and heavier. Instead of making the shield drop from the sky, he tried to launch it like a bullet, and as it kept flying towards the water a pair of parallel waves started to form beneath it. Ria looked at that and released a smile.
Daren and Ria continue to play with their new power until dawn arrived. As the sun started to shine on the beach announcing the end of one of their longest nights, Evlin released a few words towards her group.
"We might be finally ready to take on the demon kingdom!"
Evlin took another glance at her team. Everyone shared her feelings and were ready to take on the next challenge.
As they were having their moment, West approached them.
"Them I guess my work here is done. I expect great things from all of you. The kid who learned to accept his own curse. The girl who returned to her path as a warrior after being afraid of her own strength. The young man who was tired of not being able to stand with his allies during battle. The girl who gave up on her dream to become a mage and found a new path. The two lovers who decide to dedicate everything to support each other, and you... The one who wanted nothing to do with any of this, but kept moving forward anyway..."
"Hey... Don't forget about Sphinx!"
"Yes... The beast who was accepted by humans as one of their on... You all sure do make quite a group. As of today, every single one of you is a representative of the west. Do not disappoint me!"
West approached Evlin and whispered something into her ear. Evlin widened her eyes by what she said.
"That... That is..."
"The secret to kill a goddess... Good luck!"
West finally vanished in thin air and left her new group of followers to enjoy the sunrise.
As Evlin watched Ria and Auren sharing a passionate kiss on the beach she was approached by her sister. The rest of the group started to gather by her side as well and joined her on enjoying the morning sun.
"One hell of a birthday sis..."