The Nest was filled with the merry laughter of the masses. Robinia's party, excluding the elven girl herself, was merrily taking part in any and all open drinking games, they could get in on. Fang proved himself to be more than capable of holding his liquor, as the third guy that had challenged him to a drinking contest fell to the ground. As the bloated gentleman hit the ground, cheers came from all around the room, some money exchanged hands, and the still sober trapper received numerous pats on the back from the onlookers.
Music was being played in the dimly lit dining hall. People were cheering and dancing. It was the perfect image of a gathering of good friends and comrades. But if one was to look closely, they would notice a man, sitting alone by a table in the back of the room. He was wearing a black greatcoat that went well with his black hair and pale face, which was almost completely hidden by the hood of a cape, he was also wearing over the greatcoat.
He was sipping away at some sort of alcoholic beverage, while sorting through the coins he kept in the massive leather pouch he had. Silent 'clank' sounds came from the man, who was stacking the coins neatly on the table in front of him.
Suddenly, a fist was slammed into the table he was sitting at. He looked up at the bald man, wearing light leather armor, who had showed up at his table. The bald man was a well-known member of the guild known as "The Rookie Hunters". They were infamous for hunting, killing, and looting new adventurers, depriving their adventure's plates which could be sold for a lot of money.
The inn fell silent, as all eyes fell upon the two men.
"You killed my fucking party.. You killed them..."
It was as if even more silence filled the already silent room. The people who weren't staring before were looking now.
"I don't know what you're talking about" The man responded, in a voice so cold, it almost proved his guilt. Normal people would at least show some consideration for the poor man's loss.
Robinia was also looking at this point. She had recognized the voice, but the version she remembered was a much more cheerful, energy filled version of the now monotone, emotionless voice.
It was the elf who had saved her, she was sure of it. Robinia rose from her chair, leaving behind the drunk Lin and the still sober Fang. She walked closer to the table where the two people were staring each other down.
"If you'd excuse me, I'd like to get back to counting my coins" The elf said.
"How to fuck did you make all that money? Did you sell my comrades' fucking equipment?!"
People kind of laughed at that remark. A mere Iron Rank killing off a few Silvers. Not likely. Impossible, actually.
"Maybe they're better off dead, if you believe they could get beaten by the likes of me?"
The bald bandit's face was getting redder and redder. He was getting angry. So angry, that he drew his sword, and sliced at the elf's head. The blow was stopped by the defender's arm, which strangely didn't sever on contact with the high-quality sword.
The elf drew his dagger, shed his cape and prepared for combat.
"Fight, fight, fight!"
People were really wanting this bar fight. A Silver Rank adventurer versus a complete newbie. It wasn't often people were able to see showdowns like this, so the drama that was currently unfolding before their eyes, was consumed by hungry eyes.
The first attack came from the man known as Bald Ben. He chopped at Ash the elf's flank, but the attack was easily deflected by the small dagger, the elf was using. The deflection was followed up with a stab to the arm, which penetrated all of Ben's armor and went all the way through the arm. The elf proceeded to kick the already downed man in the face, resulting in him falling to the ground.
"Argh... Shit" Ben said, as he laid on the ground. Humiliated and defeated.
But the elf wasn't done. He grabbed the glass, he'd been sipping from, and smashed it on the poor man's head. He was about to punch Ben in the face once again, but that was when Robinia couldn't take it anymore.
"Ash, stop right this instant!"
The elf flinched. Apparently, he hadn't been aware of her presence. He had stopped attacking the bandit, and was now backing away towards the back door.
"Please stop! I just want to talk" Robinia said, but it was too late. Ash had disappeared through the heavy wooden door.
The noble elf decided to give chase, so she placed her glass on a nearby table, and started running towards the door. She wasn't gonna let Ash get away with beating up the people of her father's town like that. He had clearly strayed from being the good-natured elf, she had met a few days ago.
She slammed open the door, just in time to see the fleeing elf take a turn around a nearby street corner. It was raining, and Robinia wasn't particularly warmly dressed, so she ran as fast as her nimble elven legs could carry her.
It wasn't as if she couldn't understand Ash's reasoning for retaliating against the man, who had shown up at his table and attacked him. But to keep beating him while he was down was just... Not acceptable. The act of letting a good person corrupt them self, was an unforgivable sin on its own. A man like Ash with potential to do good, would be wasted on bar fights and the like. Robinia would have to set him straight. That was her determination to hunt him down. To help him.
The elven girl ran and ran, until she came to a bridge. Underneath, the entrance to the sewer was located. Robinia had a feeling she might find the renegade elf in the sewers, since it was a popular place, for stray people of all sorts, to hide out.
Robinia herself, had many times found herself hiding underneath the very same bridge. It was always when her father had scolded her for acting unladylike or something. His scolding never yielded any results, seeing as the elven girl he had raised, had grown up to become an adventurer. Adventurers weren't exactly known for their noble way of life.
She crawled underneath the bridge and as she thought, the elf was sitting there, drenched in rain. Robinia hadn't even noticed the fact that it had been raining, because she had been chasing him so furiously. It was strange for her not to notice things, since she was normally extremely aware of her surroundings, as a party leader.
"Ash..." Robinia said. She didn't know how to speak to the guy. Come to think of it, she barely knew him. Why was she so intent on helping him, then?
"What do you want, noblewoman?" Ash asked, practically spitting out the last part.
His hostility surprised the noble girl. Previously, the elven man in front of her had been so nice to her, giving her preferential treatment even though he clearly didn't like her other party members. Why was he acting so unfriendly?
"I don't think hostility has really been called for, Ash. Care to explain why you were bashing Ben's face in, back in The Nest?" She asked, crossing her arms.
Robinia had decided that she wouldn't let Ash's unfriendly behavior get to her. She was determined to get him to apologize for hurting the man more than he deserved.
"He was throwing accusations at me. Also, did you notice how he was pointing a blade at me?"
There was no denying that. The elf had been threatened and on top of that, challenged to a duel of honor. One could not simply walk away unscathed from a duel like that, and participants of such a fight were also protected by the law. Even if you killed your opponent, you wouldn't get arrested. However, there was no guarantee what the other adventurers might do to you, should you kill one of their brothers in a duel.
"But were his accusations true?"
Robinia had been wondering about that. While Ben was definitely the type to pick a fight with just about anyone, he seemed genuinely upset when he had challenged Ash. Also, him challenging someone wasn't normal. Under normal circumstances, he would've killed Ash off with his comrades. But not today.
"And what if they were? I won the duel, so his arguments are invalid anyway. Besides, do you really think, I could've killed a bunch of Bronze and Silver Ranks?"
The elf was trying to use logic to end the argument. But Robinia knew that Ash possessed power of an unusual caliber. He had been able to smash the skull of an undead, using only his fist. Although, his hand had been severely damaged, he had killed off the grotesque enemy nonetheless.
"Alright, if you truly want me to believe you, let me make an estimation of your level. If it's around my own, I'll take it you could've actually killed Ben's party. If not, I'll believe what you just said".
The elven girl was sure of Ash's innocence in the first place, but it was better to be sure. Although, she could vouch for him in an argument, it would be better to have hard evidence to prove his innocence.
"No, wait! I don't-" The now perplexed runaway elf began, but he was too late. Robinia had used her skill before he could finish.
⌈Name: Ash Tsuga – Level 30-40⌋ ⟨ No Class ⟩
Magic Affinity: A-
The elven swordsman had to take a step back. Those stats were way too monstrous for a man of Ash's age to possess. B to A level stats. In a duel against herself, he would easily take away the victory, since her power levels only reached around C and D. The man in front of her would easily be able to kill off the bandits that had allegedly attacked him.
"Show me your weapons" Robinia said. Her voice was stern, now that she knew that there was a good chance of Ash being a murderer.
"But.. I... Well.." Ash stuttered. He was still recovering from having his stats exposed. Nevertheless, he pulled out a single dagger and laid it beside him.
"Is that all? You better not be joking..."
Ash seemed to have regained control of his nerves. Robinia couldn't comprehend why he had lost them in the first place, unless of course he really had committed the murders.
"Now Ash.. I need you to be honest with me. Did you kill Ben's comrades?"
The elven girl could see that the question was like a needle through the man's heart. She knew the answer just from looking at his troubled facial expression.
"I had to. They wanted to kill me.. I swear!"
Ash's nerves were back out of control. His emotions were really getting in his way, while Robinia was interrogating him. If only he didn't let his emotions show quite as easily, he might've gotten away with it all. But maybe that was what Robinia liked about him? That unintentional honesty of his.
"Don't worry, I won't be telling anyone. On one condition-"
The elven swordsman crossed her arms, and looked at Ash with an expression that let him know that her proposal was going to be his only option, unless he wanted to die by the hands of other adventurers.
"- You're going to be joining my party".
"I'm gonna what? Don't make me laugh, I don't want to be your pawn".
"I thought you were better at reading situations. This is your only option, unless you want me to tell everyone what you did?".
Ash's face twisted into a mad grimace, becoming more and more unsightly by the second. He didn't enjoy being toyed with like this, it was more than visible to Robinia. Suddenly, the murderous side of him was showing. Robinia could see the emotions he had felt, when he had killed Ben's party members.
"Fine" He said. It was only one word, but it was said in a cold voice, which in no way resembled the voice she heard when she had first met him. It was even colder than the voice he had used, when downing the bandit back at The Nest.
"Then sign this contract" Robinia said and held out a piece of paper, on which Ash was supposed to write his name in agreement to becoming her subordinate.
"Alright then, I'll become your fucking dog".
Any affection Ash might've felt for her previously, had completely disappeared from his face and voice. As she was looking at him, she realized that she might as well be looking at a demon. The way his scarred face had contorted into an avatar of hatred. Robinia could see that the man called Ash had experienced more hardships than most people could ever dream of. At least she couldn't, since she had been sheltered by her family, ever since she was young. Unlike her, he had been alone for a long time. But for the first time, he was about to get some comrades. Feel happiness.
Robinia would make sure of that.
She was going to turn that face of pure hatred into a face of love and compassion. She would turn Ash into a man, who could enjoy the company of people. A man that could love, and see the good things in life.