Tycondrius carried the Shatterspike longsword over his shoulder as he walked towards the Magic Tower.
He had Barza Keith, the Lone Shadowdark, walk at his side. The young man appeared tougher than he actually was, with his dark, wild hair, a fighter's scar on his nose, and leather armor that openly displayed the well-maintained muscles of his arms.
[Lone Shadowdark, Bronze-Rank Human Warrior]
Lulu, in her white robes and red parasol strode confidently behind them. A dainty young blonde woman in the company of toughs was plenty intimidating. Arguably, Lulu was the strongest amongst them-- any enemy that sought to specifically antagonize her would not fare well.
[Lucifer, Gold-Rank Demon Umbrella Meister]
Appearances were important. The three of them together looked plenty intimidating. Tycon wanted to approach with a position of power, in the case that the woman had any designs to attack.
Then there was Levi Wolfrider... with his stained, unkempt armor, looking nervously to and fro. At the very least, his halberd appeared professional and well-maintained. Tycon gave the boy his own halberd-- the one he used to train Pale. He was hoping to give the dog-wolf-boy the Saltspray guisarme, but Shao Ran had burnt and melted it in its entirety.
[Levi Wolfrider, Bronze-Rank Weretouched Warden]
Sasha, the white-haired chocolate elf, walked with Lulu... Tycon needed to train her martial proficiency with... something.
Medusae were naturally decent with archery. Snake eyes are better at tracking movement and judging distance compared to human standards. Tycon hoped that his snake-daughter would show promise with a shortbow-- or failing that, a crossbow small enough for her to handle.
[Sasarame, Bronze-Rank Snake Oracle]
\"Yesssss, Masssster?\" The chocolate elf smiled.
Tycon handed his hand-crossbow to the girl, \"Hold this. Ah, your right hand goes here-- right, carry it like that.\"
Sasha held the hand-crossbow and stared at it with a look of uncertainty... She likely had no idea what it was-- much less how it was used. Tycon made certain not to load it. Or latch the mechanism into place. And the safety remained locked into place.
\"Ssssssasha isss a good girl.\"
\"Yes. Yes, she is,\" Tycon reassured her. The little white clump of hair on her head already stood upright, so he didn't disturb it.
Appearances were important.
Guild Invictus came upon a courtyard, enclosed by a white-stone fence the height of Sasha's knees. A woman in a maid outfit sighed as she watered the garden plants. Her style of dress was popular for Kingdom maids-- reminding Tycon of the maids attending the estate in Nice and her long, straight pink hair was topped with a frilly white headband.
Wolfrider sniffed the air and sneezed, \"There she is, Boss.\"
Lone pursed his lips, observing the courtyard garden.
Dozens of lifelike, white-marble statues were arranged in various positions throughout. There were strange and alien winged angels and beautiful horned demons in humanoid forms, both. Worryingly, many statues had body parts broken off-- some cracked and crumbled away, while others were hewn cleanly.
Perhaps the sculptor grew bored... or the ravages of time eroded the statues' appendages away. Concerning the worst-case scenario, the System could not differentiate between petrified creatures and statues. A petrifying effect, like a medusa's gaze, may be magical in nature but the end result was undoubtedly physical.
\"Boss, I don't like this at all,\" Lone whispered.
\"Keep your wits about you, my good man,\" Tycon nodded.
\"Oh!\" The young maid finally took notice of the group, dropping her brass watering can onto the dirt. She turned to the mercenary group, one hand covering her mouth in concern.
Lone's jaw had dropped and he gawked at the woman like she was a rack of roasted lamb and he hadn't eaten in a week.
Tycon narrowed his eyes. He was fairly certain Lone was attracted to the maid girl. Was it the large bosom? Was the woman's curvaceousness to Lone's liking? Because of her half-elven heritage, her face remained young, though her body had matured. Her ears tapered into slight points... Perhaps Lone was attracted to that, as well?
He didn't quite understand it. It was interesting and somewhat amusing to see Lone's exaggerated reaction, \"I believe this is the first time I've seen someone fall in love.\"
\"Ehehe,\" Lulu chuckled, \"We should hang out more, Boss. You'll see dozens of fella's fall in love by day's end.\"
Tears began to well at the corners of the maid girl's eyes, \"A-are you here to rescue me?\"
Tycon observed the girl's features. They matched what Priest Villiers described of the missing half-elf.
Lone immediately stood at her side, \"Of course.\"
Tycon nodded inwardly in approval. With an increase in strength, it seems that the Lone Shadowdark had grown a backbone. However, in private, Tycon would quietly remind the young man to always reserve a healthy amount of doubt.
Lone paused, \"Wait, excuse me? Rescue you from what?\"
That was a welcome surprise. It seemed the young man's wariness was not dulled, even in the face of the object of his attraction. Tycon was pleased.
Lone grimaced, \"Because if I can't rescue you, then I need to know now.\"
Tycon felt his eyebrow twitch. He needed to discuss with Lone, in private, the concept of tact and professionalism. Large groups can be judged by the actions and appearances of a single individual among them.
The half-elf dropped her guard, wringing her hands, \"My name is Margeaux... and I've... I've been cursed by the tower wizard. If I leave the vicinity of the tower, I'll die.\"
\"Well...\" Lone crossed his arms. He looked at all the life-like statues in the garden. He looked at the looming, multi-floor white-stoned magic tower against the backdrop of grey clouds. He looked at the manner of exotic, thorned plants in the courtyard, a number of which were faintly luminescent, \"Okay... we'll see what we can do to help you.\"
Lone looked back to Tycon, who nodded in response.
If Lone wanted to head the project, Tycon had no issue with it. He had no use for personal glory or any additional titles. It would be good for Lone to get a morale boost.
« System, inquiry: Afflictions on the girl? »
[System response: Margeaux is afflicted by an unknown Third-Circle Curse.]
The half-elf's story was legitimate.
\"I'm fine with it.\" Tycon looked to the white-robed girl in the parasol, \"Lulu, opinion?\"
\"Meh, I'm cool with it,\" the demoness shrugged and blew a kiss to Lone.
Tycon poked Sasha's cheek, \"And you?\"
The chocolate elf nodded shyly.
Tycon's gaze drifted over Levi Wolfrider.
The white-furred weretouched boy had his eyes narrowed. Upon meeting Tycon's gaze, he glared at Margeaux and bared his teeth, \"I don't trust her-- not one bit.\"