I Was Tasked With Defeating The Demon Lord, But For Some Reason, She Is Now My Girlfriend!?
The city was sprawling, practically overflowing, with people moving about on the streets in every direction.
Though I had spent years traversing this city’s streets, it always amazed me with how everyone made their way through. As if they had their part to play in a visual display story of the city.
And I hadn’t even made it that far in yet. Actually, I was very lucky to have made it in at first. The cart driver had gotten in very easily. Apparently, his paperwork was all in order and the guard at the South-by-Southwest gate barely looked at them before ushering him and his horses along.
“Lawrence Larkdale, huh?”
I, on the other hand, had been questioned pretty thoroughly by the two royal guards manning this gate. I didn’t recognize them, but they did seem a little young, so they might have newer recruits since I had been gone. But that was hard to tell, as I was mentally stressed over the questioning. I could barely look them in the eye.
“Y-yes, that is correct,” I squeaked out.
It had taken a few minutes of them eyeing me up and down, before they finally relented that I was who I said I was and the letter of invitation into the capital was legitimately from the actual Alfred Magnus.
I know I may not look like much with my short and slender frame, my weak arms and legs, my messy blonde hair above my bespectacled face, but my magic staff was real. That should have been obvious, but I guess those who weren’t trained in magic wouldn’t know the real artifact from a fake.
In the end, they had let me pass unscathed and only slightly searched over for contrabands. I considered myself blessed they let me pass in on my own and without chains around my wrists.
I made my way down the entrance road that was wide enough for several carts to be lined up side by side and travel with ease. And it was still very packed with people bustling about. I followed the general flow of traffic which led into a side road and eventually into a bazaar of street vendors.
There were nearly a hundred shops on this road alone, and each of them were calling for your attention as you passed by them.
“Fresh fruits! Picked just this morning and only for you!”
“The juiciest meat you have ever had! Only 5 silver pieces per pound!”
“Step up! Step up! View my finest wares!”
With each shouting voice over lapping further, it was suddenly reminding me why I did not like going to the market on my own. All of the stimulus was becoming overwhelming and I needed to find an open place to shake all of the noise from my head.
“Hey buddy, you OK?” a voice asked from behind me. I turned to see a portly, fruit seller manning his stall looking down on me, “Need a seat? I have a chair by my stall if you need a breather?”
Before I could answer, he gently guided me to the side and let me sit in the makeshift wood chair in the shade. I thanked him for his generosity.
“No problem, I don’t need you tossing your cookies in front of my stall. Bad for business. But take an apple, if you need.”
I smiled joyfully and grabbed one of the bright and shiny apples sitting in a basket next to me. I opened my mouth to take a bite before I was cut off by the vendor.
“Ah, it’s not free. One copper piece, but trust me it's well worth it.” His face started out stern, but then he winked.
I shrugged and reached around to my hip pouch to pull out my wallet, when I noticed my wallet was feeling a little empty.
Actually, it was like air. I looked down to where it should be, but instead of seeing my wallet with the money left from my travels in there, there was nothing instead.
I began frantically searching myself to see if maybe I had misplaced it. Then, I heard some mischievous laughter over my shoulder. Turning over, I saw a couple of young boys running off into the crowd, their hands were full of different items sold at the different shops and the one in front had a familiar brown fabric sack bouncing in his hand.
“My… My money…”
I turned back to the fruit stall owner, dejectedly.
“No money? Sorry, sir, but I am going to have to ask you to put the apple back.”
I nodded sorrowfully in understanding and raised my hand in order to put the fruit back. Then, I noticed my hand was also empty. My heart sank in an instant as I turned back to see the boy who had my wallet also take a bite of the apple I was holding.
I turned back with tears practically streaming out of my eyes, I pleaded to the stall owner.
“Where’d the apple go?”
I tried to point into the crowd and explain what happened, but before I could get the words out-
“You ate it? You stealing from me? Guards! Guards! Arrest this man for stealing from me!”
I tried to interject. I tried to plead my case, but before I could form a coherent statement, let alone utter a word, the man was calling for my incarceration. I fell to my knees and begged for forgiveness, when a firm grip grabbed at my shoulder and pulled me to my feet in an instant.
“Royal Guard arriving on the scene! What is all of the commotion? A robbery?”
My heart felt like it snapped in half once I heard those words.
For one thing, the guards arrived rather quickly. I knew there were many roaming about, but that was quicker than expected. But for another thing, it was the Royal Guard. The highest brass in all of Stalvart. The Chief Commander was a right hand advisor to the King himself. If one of their men said I was guilty of a crime, there was little doubt I would be convicted of it, probably without a trial of any sort.
“This man came up and just started eating my fruit without paying. He was about to run away when I called for help.”
That is not what happened in the slightest!
I would have voiced my rebuttal, I was too busy trying to hide my face and slink off quietly into the crowd. Not that I would run from a crime scene normally, but I was trying to specifically hide from the one who arrived and still had their hand on me.
“Where do you think you are going, criminal?” I got tugged back in front of the royal guard with a shining gold insignia on the shoulders of their light armor. A design that held the resemblance of an eagle in flight. That marked that this person was high ranking in the Royal Guard. Specifically, second in command. And I know just who that is…
“Don’t you have anything to say for yourself- wait, Lawrence is that you?”
The guard's gruff voice belied the softer interior of who was inside the armor as she pulled her helmet off and let her long, light blue braid shine in the sun. Before me stood the Vice Chief Commander of the Royal Guard of Stalvart, Krystal Scarlet. A former high-class Magic Knight destined for the frontlines and my childhood best friend.
…The last person I wanted to see at this moment.
“What are you doing here? I thought you were traveling. And wait! You were stealing? What the hell is wrong with you?”
In a fraction of a second she went through a range of emotions. Starting with surprise, then joy, and ending with rage. She started to give me a hug, or so I thought as it became a full on chokehold. I taped for air as she turned to the fruit vendor, “Sorry for the commotion, sir. I will take care of him. Go about your business. Good day!”
She finished her farewell to the crowd and then proceeded to drag my body out from the market area and down many streets before finally stopping, all the while I was about to pass out at any moment from air loss.
She finally let go after I tapped her arm again, this time more vigorously, an old sign we used when we were kids to say “Uncle, I give”.
“I’ll ask again”, Krystal’s eyes narrowed into ice daggers coming for my blood, “What the hell is your problem?”
“It wasn’t me, I swear,” I repeatedly bowed my head in front of her, “It was some kids! They stole the fruit and my wallet too! It wasn’t me, I swear!”
She only glared harder at me while a cold sweat drained down my entire body.
Finally, she let out a sigh.
“Of course, I knew you weren’t a thief, stupid. You couldn’t commit a crime if you tried.”
I don’t know if that was a complement or not… but I kept that thought to myself, just in case.
“I meant what is your problem not telling me you were back. It's been a whole year without hearing from you. I was worried.”
In an instant she grabbed my shoulders and pulled me into a tight hug. It was a bit painful with the armor pinching me from all sides, but I could feel the warmth of her embrace beyond the cold steel. She did finally let go, but stayed close and swayed awkwardly as she kept her eyes focused on the ground between us. Not like I can comment, I was basically doing the same.
She may be a warrior, one of the most fearsome fighters in the world, but she was my friend and she would take an arrow for me. I should have told her earlier that I was arriving. I do feel really low for not telling her, and even worrying about what would happen if I had told her.
Maybe she could have gotten me in earlier? Focus, not time to think about that. Right now, I need to apologize to the girl twiddling her fingers in nervous frustration.
“Krystal, I am sorry, I should have-”
She held up a leather gloved hand between us and stopped me from speaking further.
“If you are really sorry for everything, you will make up for it by taking me to a cafe for my break.
She turned on her heels and began to walk further down the street. I tried to call out for her to listen to me but she was already deep into deciding on where I would treat her.
Just one problem with that… I still don't have a wallet. I think she already forgot about that.
The sun was just starting to set, casting the normally white stones of the streets and building walls in a soft yellowy-orange glow.
Though everything did look comfy and beautiful in this light, I sat there nervously staring at my order sweating in the still heat of the summertime.
“You could have ordered something more than just water, you know?”
Across from me at the table was a large parfait with all of the toppings. On the other side of that was Krystal bringing another spoonful with a strawberry wedge on top to her mouth. She squealed with joy with each bite, making it harder to tell her the problem I was facing.
My eyes darted from side to side nervously while I fidgeted in my seat, and before I knew she had finished the entire mountain of a treat.
“So, why didn’t you tell me you were coming? You know I would have had something special set up for your arrival?” She waved the spoon she was using around then pointed right at me in an accusatory fashion.
“It-it was kind of impromptu. Plus, I arrived early. I just wanted a bit of peace and quiet after a long journey.”
I had a hard time raising my eyes up to her as I answered, but I did at the end and caught a glimpse of one of her veins slightly hidden behind her bangs nearly exploding.
“Are you trying to say I am not peaceful and quiet?”
An aura of death emanated from her as years of childhood trauma flooded my mind. Scenes of myself being put into every headlock known to man and being forced to follow Krystal’s every whim no matter what torture it meant for me.
Not wanting to experience any of that again, I raised my arms in defense, but I shook them in a way to clear the air.
“N-n-not what I meant! I-I meant I wanted to rest before I spent the day with you!”
“Really?” Krystal’s eyes flashed brilliantly upon hearing those words. I had really stepped into it this time. I am sure she will make me suffer for saying those words.
Her hands went to her cheeks, almost as if she was trying to hide her face but I could already see it was red. Hopefully, she isn’t getting too excited over this.
“I-I don’t know what to say, Lawrence. It's a bit much so quickly.”
Oh, no, she is overwhelmed by me offering my neck.
I had to change the subject quickly.
“S-s-s-s-so… uh, how have things been here since I have been gone? How’s your father doing?”
The steam that seemed to be emanating from her dissipated after she shook her head and appeared to pop back into reality for now.
“Huh? Dad?” She blinked repeatedly, processing my question, “Oh, he is doing fine, as far as I know. He is out patrolling along the border with the Demon Nation trying to keep an eye on their movements. He says there have been rumblings from the other side and he is worried about an invasion. I don’t know if that really is the case or not but for now everything seems to be safe and secure.”
Right, should have mentioned that her father, Anders Scarlet, is the highest ranking soldier all of the human army, Chief Commander of the Magic Knights. This is the last time I forget to mention important details before hand. I hope...
“Really?” I asked, trying to keep the conversation on the new topic as best as possible, “He is that close to the Demon Nation. It must be scary knowing how close he is to living catastrophes.”
“Are you kidding me?” Krystal nearly sprang to her feet leaning over the table, and jamming a finger into my face hard, “He is the most powerful magical knight in the entire kingdom. Demon’s quake in fear before his presence. You know how strong he is first hand. Were you not paying attention when he would spar with Magnus? The two of them on their own could bring down an army on their own.”
I conceded to the memories she brought up of each striking of their powerful attacks causing the ground to shake. Apparently they were holding back. Quite terrifying to be honest, I had to keep my eyes shut most of the time.
“Right, right. I did forget just how powerful he was. You are right.”
Krystal stood up straight and puffed out her chest with pride, letting the pressure of said pride out of her nostril with a big smile on her face. But shortly after taking that pose, she slumped slowly back into her seat.
“But you are right,” she played with her spoon in the empty glass absentmindedly, “I am worried. I just have this bad feeling in the pit of my stomach I can’t shake. Like something bad is going to happen. I wish I could have come along in order to watch his back. I don’t know.”
She was right, there is a better strength in numbers, I had to admit. And just being able to keep an eye on him would greatly lighten the burden of worry. I get it, I wish I could do more to help people out. Maybe even be a sort of protector to them, but I don’t have those kinds of strengths. Only in theoretics do I excel.
But I couldn’t keep seeing Krystal with that melancholic look on her face. I needed to do something, even with my not helpful abilities.
“You already said it,” I took her hand in my reassuringly, “Your father can’t be beat. We just have to have faith that he will come back perfectly fine, right?”
Krystal’s eyes went wide and her mouth just hung there momentarily slowly looking between her hand and me. But then her smile returned along with a warm glow on her face. She flashed a big grin, telling me she was right.
She needs to be careful who she gives that look. With a smile like that she could bring a man to one knee and propose to her in an instant.
I know she is really cute, everyone says so. And I do mean everyone we’ve met. Everyone would elbow me and tell me how lucky I was to have such a good looking girlfriend. Too bad for them, we were just friends.
It's kind of hard to imagine her as anything more than a friend. Especially after all of the torture I had recieved by her hand.
But if she is happy, and not bored, then everything is safe.
I am glad I got that weight off her shoulders, but why is there suddenly a pretty substantial weight on mine?
I nervously turned around to see two royal guards staring down at me with a hand from each of them on my shoulders.
“Lawrence Larkdale. You need to come with us.”
Krystal sprang to her feet, nearly knocking over the table. “What are you two doing? I have already cleared his name. The charges against him were false. Why are you taking him?”
“Our apologies, Commander Scarlet,” one of the guards handed a paper to Krystal, “But our orders are to apprehend Mage Larkdale and bring him to the interior.”
The Interior was deep inside the castle of the King. It is where all militaristic strategies are discussed before becoming orders for the army to undertake. I only know this secondhand from Krystal talking about her father being there a lot.
“The interior?” Krystal questioned with brows furrowed, before snatching the paper from the guard. “Why there? And who would give an order like that? I command you to ignore that order.”
“Our apologies again, Commander.” The second guard spoke up this time, “We can’t follow that command. Our order comes even higher above you.”
“They outrank me? Who the hell-”
Krystal’s voice froze when she began reading the paper and eyes went so wide, I thought they would fall out of her head. For several seconds she locked eyes with that paper before turning to me and screaming in surprise at the news on it.
“The King has summoned you!?”