237 Greatest Achievemen
Justus grinned. Was that a good thing? It sounded like a good thing, "What do the numbers mean, Gia?"
Gianna placed her hand over her mouth, lightly giggling. Justus figured that was her answer.
Though he was still curious, he was happy to be able to restore her spirits.
With that done, he brought his attention back to his trusted ally, "Duplicarius Zehr, what did you want to investigate, exactly?"
Zehr's left arm was preoccupied by Holy Bolter Rena's grip. The Duplicarius pointed with his right at a building in the distance.
The old stone guard tower looked like it was ravaged by fire years or decades ago. There was evidence of blackened soot in parts that hadn't been washed or eroded away by rain. While its stone architecture proved sturdy, it didn't look welcoming, at all-- especially in the dark of the moonlit night.
"I had entered the village earlier through a wall broken by siege weaponry," Zehr explained. "I wanted to see if there were any spoils of war to be had. It seems the residents aren't around to contest our claims."
"The wars..." Gianna pursed her lips.
Everyone turned towards her.
"Go ahead, Gia," Justus prompted.
She nodded and continued, "Over two decades ago, when the Realm Wars were at the peaks of their hostilities, the northern edges of Ezyria were plagued by Nemayan raids."
Justus grimaced at the thought. No other nation in the Realm was viewed with more suspicion and hostility than Nemaya.
Gianna shrugged, "My father fought to defend towns like Montegarico-- he... he still had nightmares, up until the sun he passed away."
"Hm, the Sleeping Country, you say?" Zehr mused.
Rena placed her cheek against Zehr's bicep, "Um... C-can we go back now?"
Zehr raised his eyebrow, "Did you see them, too?"
Rena nodded, pouting.
"Mhm, I think we should go back." Gianna agreed, "I wouldn't want to disturb 'them.'"
Justus furrowed his brows. He knew that both Rena's and Zehr's vision was excellent, but Gianna's? It was nighttime! Humans aren't supposed to see in the dark! "Wh-what did you see, Gia?"
"Oh, I didn't see anything. I just wanted to sound cool, too," Gianna admitted.
"The restless dead inhabit the tower," Zehr shook his head. "It's not worth the trouble. Let us return."
Zehr and the two girls started back. Justus continued to stare at the ruined structure.
He felt someone shove his butt and he stumbled forward a step. He turned back to see Rena with her sandaled foot outstretched.
"Hey, Mister Decanus. You coming?" She asked.
"I... I want to fight them," Justus pursed his lips to the side, "I think I learned a new skill today."
Zehr raised an eyebrow and placed his hand on his chin, "A skill? That's quite impressive for your age."
"I'm almost 18!" Justus yelped.
Oh. That sounded way more pathetic than he had intended.
Gianna stifled another laugh, though the look of amusement turned Justus' ears scalding hot.
"I meant no offense." Zehr laughed politely, "Very well. With the 4 of us, the danger is minimal."
The Shield Maiden nodded, "I could use some after-dinner exercise. Don't wanna get fat."
"You're perfect the way you are, Gia," Justus offered a genuine smile.
"Well, I'm not fat right now," She lightly punched Justus' arm.
Justus rubbed his arm and averted his gaze. He hadn't gotten that reaction before... and somehow it felt they'd become closer.
"H-hold on~!" Rena interrupted, "M-my crossbow broke and I didn't get a new one yet!! I only have like... three bolts-- can I run back? I'll be quick."
Justus scrunched up his face in worry. What was that little thief planning to do? Steal from one of Constantina's scouts?
Zehr managed to escape from Rena's grasp while she was distracted, "That won't be necessary."
"Because you'll protect me, Zehr?" She grabbed hold of Zehr's arm again, holding on tightly.
Zehr shot Justus a small grimace. Still, Justus didn���t move to help him.
The Duplicarius turned back to Rena, trying (and failing) to keep emotionless, "Rena... your class is..."
Zehr's mouth twitched from the girl's overly gleeful response, "R-right. The Holy Bolter is a branch of the Divine Enchantress class."
"Oooh, Enchantress. I looove that," Gianna beamed.
"But... I can only enchant crossbow bolts?" A cute, thin line appeared between Rena's eyebrows and she crossed her arms. She seemed to be thinking terribly hard on the concept.
Zehr slipped his hand down, reaching for Rena's waist.
"N-n-n-no, what are you doing? Not here! We're in public!" The archer protested, "--Unless you're into that? By the Flame, are you into that?"
...Or so Justus thought she protested.
A confused Zehr held up one of her crossbow bolts. He had taken it from her belt.
"Can you enchant one of your bolts with your eyes closed?" Zehr inquired.
"O-oh. Hah. Yeah. I can do that," Rena blushed furiously, closing her eyes.
She pointed out a finger, placing it lightly against the bolt Zehr held.
He held onto her wrist, "Concentrate. You are enchanting the surface area of the bolt with your prayers to the divine, yes?"
Rena nodded her head, "Mhm. The Eternal Flame guides my bolts... It's my faith-- it's my will to protect my friends that gives me the strength to fight."
Justus felt a warmth in his heart. He had nearly forgotten Rena's personality. As much as she loved to beat him, she hated fighting. He thought back to the tears she cried after she killed a kobold out of desperation.
Everything that Rena had done was out of her desire to protect... him.
She had made friends along the way, yes but... Justus was the only reason that she would join-- had joined the Rhodok adventuring company.
He began to feel a bit guilty because of it. He really wasn't thankful enough for her and her unselfishness-- her unselfishness on anything that didn't concern Duplicarius Zehr, anyroad.
Justus hadn't noticed when Zehr had done it, but the green-haired Duplicarius had managed to silently unsheathe his Decanus sword with his opposite hand and hold it in place of Rena's bolt.
"Oh wowwww..." Giana admired Rena's work, "Enchaaaantment."
Zehr spoke softly, a hint of smugness in his voice, "Take a look, Divine Enchantress Rena."
The Holy Bolter opened her eyes... to see that a portion of Zehr's blade glowed with a silver flame.
"Wh-what? I can... Did I do that?" Rena blinked her eyes, staring at the blade closely.
Zehr smirked and raised an eyebrow, "That's a rather silly question, considering the circumstances, don't you think?"
Rena tilted her head, her lips pursed in disappointment, "B-but it's so small? How can I make it bigger?"
Gianna abruptly snorted, turning away in embarrassment.
Justus grimaced, his heart beating rapidly.
He had to say something to that. He had to risk it.
...Even if risking it meant that his life would be forfeit.
But it was worth it. It might just be... the greatest achievement he's had in his life.
No... Living like a coward was not a life worth living at all.
Decanus Justus, Hero of Leopardon, was no coward.
"Rena...." He flashed a radiant and trustworthy smile, "--maybe if you actually had tits, this wouldn't be a problem."