Chapter 8:

Chapter 7 - The measure of distance

PowerPlay! ~ The odd tale about awesome powers, quirky personalities and why they make for an awful mix.

Bookmark here

Something warm trickled on my cheek.

It trailed softly over the edge of my troubled sleep, tumbling down towards my chin.Bookmark here

I slowly opened my eyes grumbling under my breath.
Something or someone had grabbed a hold of me, tightening me in an embrace.
It wasn’t all that much unpleasant. It felt like…Bookmark here

Bell…?” I whispered.Bookmark here

“Dust!!! Oh, thank the gods!”
The girl kept crying and crying, pouring all her emotions into a steady stream of tears that trailed from her eyes to our connected cheeks, as she held me.Bookmark here

“Master Dust! You are awake!”
Nero was kneeling very close, his face pale with worry.
Bookmark here

Damn, I still can’t believe this guy.
He used to be so frail and clumsy.
No wonder I didn’t recognize him as the great holy paladin of the order.Bookmark here

“I'm sorry... I'm really...!”
Jezebell Graham… we never used her full name when we were kids.
She was just Bell to us. Another brat without a future, trying her best.Bookmark here

I looked into her worried eyes, trying to process all this mess.
The ravenous beast was nowhere to be found now. Only the kid I knew remained.
Bookmark here

How did I not recognize her before? Gods, her eyes are shining blue and pure like the morning sky. I could have sworn they were red like clotting blood before the battle.

“All right, all right. Let the boy breathe now.”
Romon interjected between me and Bell, distancing her and letting my head rest on the bed from which the girl had pried me when she had embraced me.Bookmark here

As I groggily looked at my side, I met the distressed gaze of Enrietta, her arms crossed, complicated expressions flashing on her face.
Not a scratch on her, of course. I shouldn’t have been worried.Bookmark here

That’s what you get when both your parents are heroes capable of strangling giants.Bookmark here

“What are you looking at?” She scoffed.
She must be sullen because we’re in her room.
She’s just a normal girl inside that head, after all.
There was no way I could simply let her pick a fight with those two idiots.Bookmark here

“Sir knight, I think my herbs have taken sufficient effect… would you mind?”
Romon gestured towards Nero as if to invite him towards me.Bookmark here

“Of course.” Nero answered with the outmost reverence as if grateful.
He then sat next to my bed and positioned the palm of his open hand over my head.Bookmark here

Are they really going to...
Bookmark here

Recovery magic can be as unpleasant as it can be useful, if used incorrectly it can even be downright harmful. You can imagine it like making enough water to fill a cup suddenly appear in a glass. What would happen to the very same glass if a veritable river suddenly sprung from inside it?
Bookmark here

“Not too strong, remember…” said Romon with some apprehension in his voice.
Bookmark here

Bookmark here

And I'm a very small glass.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

“「LESSER HEAL 」”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

A sensation very similar to a strong electric current erupted through my whole body.
I quickly sprang up invigorated by a magical force that ordered every single bone and muscle to burst with painful liveliness.

“WHOA! Watch those spells, noble-boy! I thought my heart would jump right out of my chest!”Bookmark here

Nero looked at me, speechless.
Oops, I called him noble-boy. I hope he doesn’t get mad at m-Bookmark here

He gripped my shoulders with inhuman strength, grinding my poor bones to dust in the process.Bookmark here

“GAAAH! M-my shoulders!”
Realizing what he had done, Nero apologized flustered.Bookmark here

“Oh! I’m deeply sorry master Dust! I will remedy immediately.”
Remedy?Bookmark here

“「HEAL 」”Bookmark here

An immense amount of mystical energy poured violently into my sore body this time.
My heart started pumping like crazy, every muscle in my body burst full of energy and each strand of hair stood to attention as I forcedly jumped out of bed with a weird shriek of pain.Bookmark here

“What are you doing you blockhead?! The Innkeep told you to use lesser spells ’cause he’s weak!” Bell grabbed Nero by his collar, shouting in his face.Bookmark here

“Heal is a trick even knights in training know! Master Dust is an incredible individual, a single healing spell of this level could never replenish his boundless spirit!”
Answered Nero sanctimoniously.Bookmark here

“N-naturally! But even he needs a bit of rest between each burst! You’d know If you would get down from that pedestal of yours, you brick-for-brains!” Jezebell hesitated slightly but managed to force out an excuse.Bookmark here

“And what would a demon-child even know about healing prayers, uh?!”
Responded Nero, raising his voice.
Bookmark here

Crawling back up from the floor, enduring cramps to all of my very out-of-shape muscles that had contracted simultaneously, I listened to the quarrel getting more and more fiery with each word.Bookmark here

Enrietta, frustrated by the exchange, was about to step in but her father stopped her.
Romon looked at me with his usual furrowed brow, asking what I assumed to be a silent question.
Bookmark here

What was I going to do with those two?Bookmark here

That old man. He’s going to leave it all to me, uh?
I breathed a disheartened sigh, while massaging my back.
I looked at the knight and girl bickering for a few long seconds.
Bookmark here

They certainly have changed a lot.
Well, they might be monsters now, but I don’t think they’re bad people.
And they still owe the inn for all this trouble.Bookmark here

After steeling my resolve, I loudly cleared my throat.
The two stopped their bickering and slowly turned to me.Bookmark here

“Dear guests, you seem to enjoy quarreling on our esteemed tavern’s premises…”
The two glared at each other.Bookmark here

“…I believe your earlier fight has caused some issues to both this fine establishment and me, so I would like BOTH of you to accompany me to the counter to discuss reparations…”
The two were about to protest but I continued.Bookmark here

I showed them my most gentlemanly smile.Bookmark here

They gulped.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

---Bookmark here

The muffled sound of quarrelling holy knights and bandits could be heard, as they clamored for a peeping spot outside the inn’s entrance doors.

Candles and lanterns coloured the tavern’s dark atmosphere in a homely hue. Two contrite figures were seated in front of the counter as a third labored with pen and ink behind the cashier.

“…so that will be twenty three thousand and two gold coins.”
I handed them the receipt.Bookmark here

“Wait, master Dust… what would be the two gold coins for?”
Said Nero scratching his head.Bookmark here

“Remember the glass you smashed before the fight? Seriously what were you thinking?  Smashing other people’s stuff just to underline your epic speech...”
Nero looked at his feet embarrassedly while Jezebell burst out laughing.Bookmark here

“Ahahahah! The righteous knight going around smashing glasses like a drunkard!”
My eyebrows twitched.Bookmark here

“Maybe I should remind miss Graham that her salamander pet burned down most of our stables trying to get out and help a certain queen of the wastes in her fight…”
Bookmark here

I sighed and raised my arms and shoulders in the gesture of a bewildered shrug.
“Really guys, it’s like you didn’t even think about the consequences before causing all that ruckus.”Bookmark here

The silence grew heavy and a few very long seconds passed in silence.
Maybe I’ve been a bit too cold to them, I should do something about it…Bookmark here

Just as I was thinking that, Bell finally spoke up.
“So… I like your tavern.”
“Yeah, it’s a pretty famous place, I like working here.” I answered, while picking up a few mugs and polishing them for use.Bookmark here

“How much did it cost to build it?” Continued the girl.
“Oh, the inn is quite ancient. It’s been standing for at least 5 centuries.” I replied while intently looking for a bottle under the counter.Bookmark here

“So when did you acquire its property?” asked Nero.
Uhm? Did he say property?
Don’t tell me…Bookmark here

“Property? I just work here.”
“Yes, but when did you buy the establishment?” he pressed me.
“I don’t own the place. I just work here.”
I reiterated while pouring the contents of the bottle in one of the mugs.Bookmark here

I smiled amusedly, as I noticed the two looking at each other in utter perplexion.Bookmark here

“Then… you’re helping a friend’s family in need?” asked Bell awkwardly.
“They pay me. I work. It’s my job.”Bookmark here

“Oh… then you cook fabulously delicious meals? Recommend exotic wines?” dared to ask Nero with a look of desperation about him.
"No, I..." I tried to explain but Jezebell interrupted me.
"Do you sing epic ballads, play an instrument with a skill far beyond mortal means, do you...?!"Bookmark here

This time it was my turn to interrupt them.
“Gods above, guys! I clean the dishes and occasionally help around the counter! That’s all I do. Clean mugs, cups and plates all day until the end of my shift…”
They didn’t seem to understand my sudden outburst, so I pressed on.
“…at the end of the month I get my pay and that’s pretty much all there is to it.”Bookmark here

If possible, they seemed even more confused.
I sighed.Bookmark here

“Guys, I know what you came to do, today. And I’m happy. I really am happy to see you…”
They seemed relieved at those words but I pressed on.
“…but I am not like you guys. Nor like the people from my tales.”Bookmark here

The words felt poignant to the point of being painful to say out loud.
“I mean, I still have to accept you have crazy magical powers, now. I, for one, certainly don’t have horns or a flaming axe or a thousand holy knights following me around.”Bookmark here

The words flowed out like a confession.
“…I’m just normal, old, weak-as-they-can-be Dust.”
The two were speechless. They just stared at my face with gaping mouths.Bookmark here

I could practically hear their brain working full speed to rationalize what I had just said.
Seriously, what did they think they would find coming here..Bookmark here

Bookmark here

I'm just a guy trying to get to the end of his shift.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.