She was practically dragging the rebellious elf back to The Nest. He was going to participate in some drinking games, regardless of whether he wanted to or not. Drinking never hurt anyone when they were feeling down. Robinia could speak from personal experience in regards to that.
"I'm not going to join you and your friends' fucking get-together! Got it?!" Ash firmly stated. It wasn't the first time he had said that since she had started dragging him along. He was always complaining.
The elven girl sighed internally, as she prayed for her friends to be awake back at the inn. She would be needing them the second she walked through the door.
Robinia had reached the back door to The Nest. She opened it with her free hand. The other hand was busy with dragging the stubborn elf, who was refusing to move on his own.
"I'm back!" Robinia said, as soon as she was in. She let go of Ash, who used the opportunity to sit down at the nearest table. He ordered a drink of some kind, an action his companion deemed highly inappropriate, given his current mental state. The drink was delivered to him shortly after he had ordered, and he grabbed it with shaking hands. It was like watching an addict getting their hands on their drug of choice.
Robinia sighed once more. How was she going to survive with this walking and talking cloud of depression? Maybe she should've just left him alone, back at the bridge...
It was Lin. A light in the dark.
"Lin, great to see you again. You remember Ash, right? He's gonna be joining our party for a bit".
Lin looked overjoyed. It wasn't every day Robinia decided to let another person into their tightly knitted community of three. Now, it was going to be a community of four. The party leader could see how exciting that would seem, if you didn't know the person who would be joining.
"Do you know where Fang is?" Robinia asked. She had been sneaking a few looks around the dining hall, but he was nowhere to be found.
"He passed out about five minutes ago. The receptionist is carrying him back to the room".
"I see. I guess not even he can stay sober forever".
The swordsman took a deep breath and decided to ask the question, she had been holding in for the duration of their conversation.
"Could you talk to Ash? He seems kind of down and he wont talk to me..."
"Aye!" Lin said, and immediately started moving towards the table where the depressed elf was sipping at whatever he was having. Three empty glasses were already towering over his lowered head.
"Not very good at staying sober for extended periods of time, huh?" Robinia muttered to herself. She was staring at the drunk elf in disbelief. How did one go about obtaining such a depressing aura? It was mind-boggling.
Robinia moved to the table where Fang had been sitting earlier. The place her comrade had been drinking his opponents half to death, was reeking of alcohol. She grabbed the bottle her party member had left behind, took a swig and placed it back on the table. She pulled out her adventurers plate. Ash's stats had gotten her thinking. How could she ever count herself among the strong, when there were people like Ash in the world? The girl looked at her own stats.
⌈Name: Robinia de La Pole – Level 23⌋ ⟨ Swordsman ⟩
Magic Affinity: E
While her stats could be considered good by some, they were pathetic when compared to her elven companion. Compared to him, she was a failure.
Robinia took another swig from the bottle. It was of poor quality, but it was what the adventurers had to make do with. There weren't anyone who complained about their circumstances. Everyone were happy with had they had, except Robinia. Although she was adopted into a family that had everything, she only ever wanted the simple joys of life. To compete. While many adventurers did what they did for money and fame, she did it to obtain power. Everyone in her party had the mutual goal of 'become the strongest of the strong'. With a goal like that, it was disheartening to see beings such as Ash, who just happened to have obtained the power, they sought themselves.
There was no explanation as to how he got it. He just had it. And that was one of the reasons why the determined swordsman, Robinia, had to help him. To redirect his power towards good deeds. Immense power like that of the misguided elf, Ash, shouldn't be wasted on misdeeds such as murder.
A man sat down beside Robinia. It was the receptionist who had carried Fang to his quarters.
"It has been done, miss Robinia. But I have to say... Your guy sure weighs a ton".
The receptionist was used to do simple desk-work, but now that the governor's daughter was there, he had no choice but to do his utmost to satisfy her every need. Even the heavy lifting.
"I hope I can make up for it with this" Robinia responded, and laid a few silver coins on the table.
The young man's expression lit up considerably.
"You're too kind, miss. Now, I'll have to get back to work. Enjoy the remainder of the night".
And just like that, he went back to work with lighter feet and a heavier pouch. Robinia envied his lightheartedness. She would love to be able to be as carefree as he was right now. But unfortunately for her, she had things to worry about, such as making sure that Ash didn't run away in the middle of the night. Not that anyone could stop him, seeing as he possessed monstrous strength, but maybe someone would be able to talk some sense into him.
"I'm back. Its no use... He's far too depressing to be around".
It was Lin. She had returned from her quest to cheer up Ash. She had failed miserably, and had even gotten a bit sadder herself. It wasn't easy trying to cheer up a man who didn't want to be cheered up.
"Maybe we should all, including Ash, go get some sleep" The still-sober elf suggested. She wasn't really tired, but it felt like the night was already over for some reason.
The pair walked up to the drunken elf who was sitting in solitude, grabbed him by the hood of his cape, and dragged him off towards his room.
"Let me go you fucking-" Ash began, but was interrupted by a sudden, spontaneous urge to vomit. It wasn't a pretty sight to see the elf puke all over the staircase.
"Do you ever act rationally?" Robinia asked, completely disregarding the fact that her companion was feeling sick. She continued to drag him up the stairs.
Many hours later, the sun emerged from behind the walls of Elcrada. Unsurprisingly, the party-leader was the first one to shed their sheets and rise from the comfort of their warm bed. It was almost as if she was the only one with a real sense of duty, among the party members.
She left her room and went to wake up her party members. It was a long and painful process, which included many disgruntled sounds from the two drunken men, who had been drinking more than they should the night before.
Lin was easy to wake up, but spoiled as she was, she was a pain to get out of the room because of the sheer stubbornness of her character. As powerful as she was as a sorceress, she was equally powerless against comfortable beds. However, Robinia was used to this, so she knew that all she had to do was be forceful with her comrades. In the mornings she truly had to act like a leader, if anything was going to get done at all.
When everyone was successfully woken up and dressed, the party of four went to the dining hall, where they ate their respective meals.
Fang enjoyed a simple meal. Porridge. Lin had to act like the privileged girl she was, and ordered the largest meal available. A whole roasted pig. It wasn't as if the girl was going to eat it all, since it would be physically impossible to fit the pig inside her small body. It was a matter of showing off the difference in status between her, and the rest of the adventurers present in the dining hall. It worked every single morning.
Robinia ordered the special of the day: Omelettes, served with various kinds of vegetables of the season.
The elven girl peeked at Ash's table, where omelettes and pancakes were neatly arranged on his plate. The pancakes had berries on top of them, which he, himself, had picked in the forest. It looked delicious, but she had heard that it was what he always ordered. Every single day.
"Say Ash, would you like to try what I'm having? We could switch dishes just for today?" She suggested.
The hungover elf simply threw a cold glance in her direction and said "Not interested, sorry". It wasn't particularly rude or anything, but it still struck a chord with Robinia. It was annoying to be rejected every single time she offered the man anything at all. No matter how small the favor she was offering, he would never accept. That was just one of his many flaws.
"Now guys, I have an announcement for today. We're going to be having our first monster hunt along with our newest party member, Ash".
As Robinia said this, she gestured towards the elf, who was trying his hardest to hide behind his glass of juice.
'Hah, victory!" Robinia thought to herself, as she watched the hungover elf get smaller and smaller in his seat.
"L- Looking forward to working with you all" Ash said. Robinia could tell that it was hard for him to feign friendliness like this. Hopefully the others didn't notice the missing sincerity in his voice.
With worries like that swirling around her head, she led the party out of the town. She was leading them towards the deep, dark forest, in which she had been saved by the elf, whom she was now trying to help. It was a strange feeling.
"Right, there have been reports of a few rampant undead, haunting these woods lately. This is a Silver Rank quest, so keep your guard up. Fang, prepare traps as we go in case we have to make a run for it. Lin, prepare your magic enhancement. Ash, watch how we fight together. You're going to need to know how our party functions, if you're gonna be of any use at all!".
Robinia thought she heard Ash say something along the lines of "Remind me how that went last time", but then again, she might have misheard.
They followed the main road that lead through the forest. It was a gravel road, so it was hard to walk on for Robinia, who had a habit of not wearing shoes. It wasn't as if she couldn't afford proper footwear. She just didn't like the feeling of having any part of her caged.
"I see an undead! Why are there so many of them these days?" Lin complained.
And just like she said, there was a skeleton of some kind, standing still under the fickle rays of the sunlight that escaped through the thick cover of leaves.
"Watch us Ash! We're gonna take this guy down" The swordsman shouted. She was confident that it would go better than the last time she had attempted to fight an undead monster.
"Gap Closer!" She exclaimed, quickly bringing her agile body next to her opponent. She followed up with ⌈ Cross Cut ⌋, which she used out of habit, even though she knew that it wasn't going to help her even slightly.
The skeleton staggered a bit, regained it balance and retaliated. The only problem was that it was way too slow to hit the agile swordsman.
"Arcane Arrow!" Lin shouted, resulting in a blue arrow of condensed mana flying towards the enemy.
One of the differences from the last fight was the fact that Robinia wasn't fighting alone this time. She had allies this time around. Allies that would help her in case of an emergency, such as the one that had occurred last time. She was making sure to leave openings for Lin, so she could fire her spells at the skeleton without hitting anyone but the enemy. Fang was preparing an escape route, in case things went south, but if things kept going as they were, no traps would be required.
The swordsman kept fighting, without using anything but defensive skills. While it was easy to finish most battles with offensive skills, it was useless against an opponent that wouldn't die from what would otherwise be considered mortal wounds.
A slash was nearing Robina's face, but she reacted quickly, blocking the strike with the guard of her sword. This move allowed her to turn her wrist slightly, severing her opponent's wrist.
Apparently, the ghastly foe before her didn't care for its missing wrist. It grabbed onto the sword, but unfortunately for the skeleton, Robinia had prepared a kick, aimed at its chest.
The skeleton staggered once again, and before it could react, the skilled swordsman decapitated it, utilizing its temporary loss of balance. However, that wasn't enough to bring it down. Even without its head, the body kept fighting just as well as it had been doing before.
It took a stab at Robinia, who was slightly surprised by its persistence.
"Double Cut!" She shouted, in order to ruin its balance once again.
She then kicked it in the kneecap, giving her enough time to repeatedly slash at its severed skull, which was lying on the ground. In the end, the skull broke.
Defeated, the skeleton lost control of its bones, and fell to the ground like a child that hadn't been properly trained to walk.
"We did it!" Robinia and Lin shouted in unison.
The victorious pair turned around to look at the men that had been watching from the sidelines. Fang was clapping, looking quite pleased with the two girls, but Ash on the other hand seemed to be completely unmoved. He was staring at the shattered skull.
He sighed and stood up, leaning on a branch, he had picked up.
"That sure took you a while".
Robinia, who was immensely happy with her accomplishment, had a little bit of her happiness replaced with anger.
'Like you could do any better' She thought to herself.
Ash drew his knife and started walking deeper into the forest. Robinia who didn't want him to run away on their first hunt, followed him.
He stopped as soon as he came across another skeleton. Without any hesitation, he walked up to it and kicked it in the abdomen. It seemed as if he was quite skilled at utilizing his body when fighting. In fact, the otherwise extremely skilled fighter, Robinia, couldn't follow the movement of his leg, as it shattered the opponent's rib cage.
The skeleton fell to the ground. It wasn't dead, but it was in no condition to fight. Ash knew this, so he simply stomped the skeleton's skull, shattering it.
He then turned around. It didn't seem as if he had derived any pleasure from ending the skeleton's second life, but at the same time, it didn't seem as if defeating the otherwise dangerous foe affected him even slightly.
Maybe it hadn't truly dawned on Robinia earlier, but now she knew that the individual she had accepted into her party, had introduced to her friends and comrades, was indeed a dangerous man.
Even though the elven girl had only just begun her quest to help Ash, she couldn't help but wonder...
'Had it truly been a good decision to help him?'