Chapter 18:

Hidden Intentions


Morning soon arrived, the house was filled with sounds of people talking, bustling around.

“Wake up, wake up, it’s morning.”- Amber tries to wake Leo up.

“5 more minutes Mom.”- Leo sleepily replies.

“I’m not your mom.”- Amber says.

“You can’t trick me.”- Leo replies, still refusing to get up.

Suddenly, he felt a warm sensation, as if the temperature just increased tenfold. As the sensation became increasingly dangerous, he smelled a burning scent, waking him up. In a panic, he looks behind him. His back is burning as he screams like a little girl, running outside. Amber has casted a small ember spell, lighting his shirt on fire as a prank. Natalie sighs and casts Downpour on the idiot, putting the fire out.

“You guys could have woken me up the normal way you know?”- Leo said in frustration.

“They did try, it’s your fault for being an idiot.”- Sophia said, laughing at Leo.

It seems like Leo was the last one to get up as everyone already seemed prepared. He would quickly do his morning routine upstairs, changing into another shirt and grab his items again. As he walks back down, he sees everyone having a great time talking in the early morning. Things have gone way better than he originally anticipated. Leo expected to be visiting his home alone, but it was good that he got to introduce his group members to his parents. With everyone now ready, they all head out, thanking Leo’s parents for receiving them as guests.

Standing outside the house, they said their farewells.

“Stay safe guys, take care of Leo. He might be an idiot but he has a big heart.”- Leo’s dad jokes.

“Make sure to take care of her, she’s a cute one. Maybe one that you’ll marry one day.”- Leo’s mom said, looking over at Amber while grabbing Leo.

“MOM! IT’S NOT LIKE THAT!”- Leo blushes as everyone laughs.

“Thank you so much for your advice. I’ll make sure to keep it to heart.”- Amber walks up to Leo’s mom with a confident look on her face.

“No problem at all, it’s just some heart to heart stuff.”- Leo’s mom replies.

“Heart to heart?!? Did you guys talk about something yesterday night???”- Leo jumps in.

“Ah, nothing. Just some casual talk. I don’t remember teaching my son to be so nosy though!”- Leo’s mom pulls his ear up.

“Ow ow owww. Ok, ok, I won’t ask any more.”- Leo submits in pain.

Leo’s mom and Amber laugh together as he walks over to his dad.

“Well, it’s great to see you guys again. I’ll come back soon! Stay healthy!”- Leo waves goodbye.

The group starts walking away from the house, waving back at his parents. Her emotions finally caught up to her as Leo’s mom starts to cry, waving goodbye at her son.

“He has grown so much.”- Leo’s dad says.

“Yes, our little Leo has.”- Leo’s mom answers.

The two remember the day when Leo left for the Academy and the many times he came to visit. They also remember when Leo left alone to become an adventurer, and now he is with a group of friends. They can feel assured now, knowing that he has reliable companions traveling by his side.

As the group walks further down the street, Saura appears from a nearby bush, which spooked Leo.

“CAN YOU JUST ANNOUNCE WHEN YOU ARE GONNA APPEAR?!?”- Leo yells, clutching at his heart.

Saura didn’t reply, just nodding her head as Garnet can be seen walking into view. She was the guide that Vera mentioned the night before. The group follows Garnet as she walks them closer towards The Garden.

“Do I need to put on a disguise here?”- Claudius asks.

“Umm... no need to. As long as I’m with you guys, it should be fine.”- Garnet reassures.

The route they took was different from what Leo was used to. He doesn't recognize the scenery that he saw many times before, the usual path to the academy. Natalie doesn't seem to be phased as it looked like she knows her way around the Capital pretty well. Sophia, on the other hand, was in awe of the scenery. The amount of buildings and people that fills the street exceeds what she saw in Abania, something that she doesn’t get to see often at home. Amber recognizes the scenery that she always saw while riding on her horse drawn carriage. Nevertheless, she was still excited by the difference it makes by walking instead.

Just like Garnet said, many were surprised by Claudius’s looks, but none were hostile towards him. This reinforces how much trust the people in the Capital have for Sanc Gladius members, especially the famous ones. Walking past the busy bustling market streets, they traveled further down past the residential area and into the fancier parts. This is where most government buildings and famous royalties’ mansions are situated, with the Royal Palace at its center. As the group walks down the road, a giant statue of Gawin comes into view. They all look at it in awe, as it's something they don’t get to see often. Leo can’t help but notice Amber turning her head away, avoiding the statue. Even an idiot like him has enough etiquette to not ask her about it. Passing several mansions, they finally arrive at The Garden, Sanc Gladius’ base of operation.

Contrary to its name, The Garden isn’t really a garden. It’s a big mansion situated near all the important political buildings of the country. Going through the main gates, the group walked down the long brick road leading right up to the mansion. The path always seems to be busy as there is traffic constantly coming in and out. Many are guild members, others are visitors, and some are even important political figures of the country. The group can’t help but be in awe at the scale of the place, especially it’s central building surrounded by statues. As they entered the mansion, Garnet escorted them past long winding hallways filled with beautiful decorations and treasures. Sanc Gladius members can be seen hanging around and talking, some looking over at the strange visitors that are Leo's group. Passing the giant portrait of the God of Adventuring, they enter into the main room. Its design is super similar to that of the throne room in the Royal Palace, only missing the throne itself, a showing of ego and pride of Sanc Gladius’ might. Vera was already there waiting for them, looking out the giant window.

“Welcome to our home. How’s the place?”- Vera turns around, asking the group.

“Great! The place is incredible! I did not expect it to be so massive.”- Leo excitedly replies.

“Yes, incredible is what I wanted to hear. It’s a shame that you guys didn’t come here last night, the night light would completely blow you away. It’s fine regardless, you’ll get to see its beauty for the next few days here as guests.”- Vera confidently declared.

“Damn, she’s already assuming that we’ll be staying here.”- Leo thought to himself, posing a fake smile.

“Well, let’s get down to what I wanted to talk about.”- Vera said as she walked over to the biggest chair in the room and sat down.

The group followed suit as they all sat down in their respective chairs. Garnet opted to stand behind Vera’s chair, serving as a kind of bodyguard.

“Man, these chairs are kinda small.”- Claudius said.

“Shhh. You’re being rude.”- Natalie whispers to Claudius.

“It’s true though!”- Claudius insists.

“Ahahahaha! Very well said.”- Vera laughs as she claps her hand two times.

A group of butlers enter from outside the room, removing the chairs that Leo’s group was sitting on. After taking the chairs out, they returned with a big fancy couch, enough for everyone to fit on. As if Vera was trying to humor them, Leo’s party members are now all on the sofa together.

“Well, as you all know, both Alias United and Elqium are after Amber here. Since you guys are under our protection, they are even willing to go to war.”- Vera said.

“What I’m trying to understand here is the reason as to why Lorcan is so desperate. Would you happen to know why?”- Vera asks, turning to Amber.

“I don’t really know to be honest. That creep is unpredictable.”- Amber answers after a brief pause.

“Well, it’s fine if we don’t know the motive. The thing I want to negotiate today is, ‘What do we gain by protecting you guys?’ kind of deal.”- Vera states.

Leo stays completely silent, as he knows that they don’t have anything to offer to Sanc Gladius. His party is only B tier, which is an even stranger thing that Sanc Gladius wants to protect them.

“Truthfully, we don’t really have anything to offer. So even though I appreciate you guys protecting us, I think we’ll be fine alone from here.”- Leo truthfully answers.

“Now, now, no need to be hasty. You guys might not know me personally, but I’m known as quite a kind person. What I seek right now isn’t money, or favors. I want us all to be good friends from this point.”- Vera said, with a devious smile.

“Uh, I thought we were all friends already.”- Claudius nonchalantly says.

“My bad! You are right, we are all good friends already. I’m hoping to strengthen our friendship down the line.”- Vera laughs.

“Get to the point already, I know you guys are in it for something. There’s no way you would be willing to enter into a war for your so-called ‘friend’ who you just met the day before.”- Natalie said suddenly.

“BRUH! SHE’S GONNA GET US ALL KILLED!”- Leo screams in his thoughts, looking panicky at Natalie.

“That’s quite a mean way to put it. It's true that I’m looking for something to gain, but it’s not as evil as you might believe. Plus, we still have a day to decide whether or not to play along with Doppel and Lorcan.”- Vera said.

“So, you never had the intention to let us go from the beginning.”- Amber states, looking sternly at Vera.

Sophia and Claudius both sit there clueless on what’s going on, as both were too naive. They got bored and both started playing rock, paper, scissors in the background. Natalie seems to have caught onto what Amber meant and gave a look of concern to Leo. He seems to understand there was some kind of tension in the room, but doesn't know what Vera’s intentions were.

“It’s just intriguing how obsessed Lorcan was about you. It’s quite amusing for me to see this whole thing unfold, especially with the pieces right in front of me.”- Vera cryptically replies.

“Ahaha, well it was nice talking to you. I think we had some kind of connection there, but we can protect ourselves. I don’t want to waste your time here.”- Leo tries to force an end to the tense conversation so that his party can leave.

“You don’t get it? You dunderhead! She doesn't have any intentions to let us leave here.”- Amber said.

“What do you mean by that?”- Leo becomes confused, looking back and forth at Vera and Amber.

“What Amber meant is Vera wants to prevent us from leaving. She has a reason to keep up. Most likely she wants to find out why Lorcan really wants Amber. If it’s something really good, she’ll keep Amber here. If not, she’ll probably turn Amber in for the bounty that Lorcan offered. It’s a win-win situation for her.”- Natalie explains.

“Oh shit.”- Leo said.

“I’ll have to admit, you girls are certainly sharp compared to your idiot leader over there. Just put yourself in my shoes, I’m going up against multiple dangerous enemies in a potential war here. You haven’t heard about this, but Majoria has decided to join into the temporary alliance.”- Vera said.


“Yes, we are up against Majoria, Alias United and Elqium. Of course, I’m still confident in our ability to win but I wouldn’t certainly want to fight for no reason.”- Vera smirks.

“You are just as dirty as all of them I see.”- Amber said.

“Well, since I want to find out. I have invited a special guest, who should be arriving here shortly.”- Vera looks over to the door.

“Who can that be?”- Leo thought to himself, looking over at a confused Amber.

Vera’s timing was spot on as right after she said that, two knocking sounds can be heard outside the door.

“Speaking of the devil, our guest is here.”- Vera turns to her right, signaling for Garnet to open the door.