Chapter 18:

Bigger Problems (2)


\\\ Jessica ///
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“It’s bad enough that you have to come back late with blood all over you, but why are you dragging me out of bed so late at night?” I asked. “I’m so hungry…”Bookmark here

It was dark, the road was dimly lit by street lamps, but we had already gone far enough off the road so that I had to use a flashlight to see anything. My eyes were still adjusting to the lack of light when I saw traces of blood. There was quite a lot of it spread across the field in front of us.Bookmark here

“What a mess…” I said while surveying the scene. “Is this what was keeping you so late, Trigger Happy?”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” he said. “Now, about that thing I needed you to do-”Bookmark here

“You want to clean this up, don’t you?” I said, finishing his thought. “Sure, but I want to know what exactly you were doing here before I do anything.”Bookmark here

“I encountered Marion Blazebane-”Bookmark here

“That name sounds vaguely familiar… who is she?” I asked.Bookmark here

“The demon princess from Lavaland-”Bookmark here

“The demon princess from Lavaland?!” I repeated. “What’s she doing all the way in Shadow Shore? Wait, where is she now? How come-?”Bookmark here

“Would you mind not interrupting me every time I talk?” Trigger Happy said, although now he’s interrupting me.Bookmark here

“Just hurry up with your explanations then. If you don’t wanna be interrupted, stop giving me time to butt in.”Bookmark here

I heard him grumble something to himself before continuing, “She was travelling with another kid-”Bookmark here

“Does he have blue eyes, brown hair, and a shisu blade hanging from his right hip?”Bookmark here

“Yes, but stop interrupting me,” Trigger Happy grunted. “A word of warning, don’t go after her. Even if you could overpower them I don’t think they’re any real danger as long as they’re left alone. But I don’t want you getting involved with them. Don’t tell anybody about them either.”Bookmark here

“Okay fine…” I sighed. “But out of curiosity, did the boy have an elemental core in his sheath?”Bookmark here

“Jessica… you’re not thinking about doing something rash after I told you not to get involved with those two, are you?”Bookmark here

“I won’t do anything rash,” I said. “I promise.”Bookmark here

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\\\ Oliver ///Bookmark here

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“Why are you telling us about the part where you promised not to get involved?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Because I’m demonstrating my superior intellect by showing you how flawlessly I can remember the scene from last night even though I was super sleepy at the time,” Jessica said.Bookmark here

Jessica was now sitting where I used to be, I had moved to the same side of the table that Marion was at so we could ‘negotiate’ but right now she’s just wasting our time.Bookmark here

“We weren’t there for the scene in the first place, so how are we supposed to know what it went like?”Bookmark here

“That doesn’t matter blinky, what matters is that now you two know I’m the one who covered your sorry butts.”Bookmark here

“Stop calling me that, I have a name you know.”Bookmark here

“And I know your name,” Jessica responded. “But who even cares?”Bookmark here

“I-”Bookmark here

“Exactly, no one.”Bookmark here

“Don’t just interrupt-!”Bookmark here

“Can it dry eye,” Jessica interrupted yet again. “Stop wasting time, we need to negotiate. Right, Princess?”Bookmark here

“Yes, I would like to get to the point,” Marion said. “What exactly do you want from us?”Bookmark here

“Well what I want is something he has,” Jessica said as her gaze turned towards me, or rather, towards what was fixed to my hip.Bookmark here

“You want my sword?”Bookmark here

“Not really, I don’t exactly know how to use a sword and I don’t care to learn,” she said. “What I want is the elemental core inside your sheath.”Bookmark here

“The fire core?” Marion asked. “What do you want with that?”Bookmark here

“Oh good, so you do have a core inside there,” Jessica said as a mischievous smile spread across her face. “And what’s better it’s one I don’t have yet.”Bookmark here

“Wait, you didn’t even know if we had a core?”Bookmark here

“Of course not, don’t you remember my recollection?” Jessica said. “Trigger Happy didn’t answer any of my questions about you two because he didn’t want me to get involved.”Bookmark here

“And yet here you are…” I said.Bookmark here

“Are you insinuating something?” Jessica asked. “I think you need to remember the situation you’re in right now.Bookmark here

“Right now, I have the power to make your lives hell. All I have to do is suddenly yell that the demon princess from Lavaland is here and every adventurer in the tavern will spring on you in less than a minute. The only thing you can do to ensure your safety is buy my silence.”Bookmark here

“Don’t you remember your recollection?” I said. “You told Trigger Happy you weren’t going to tell anyone about us. So are you just a liar or what?”Bookmark here

“I have no intention of telling anyone about you two,” she said. “Because you can’t be dumb enough to think I won’t change my mind if you refuse me.”Bookmark here

“So does that mean you lied to Trigger Happy?” Marion said. “From your flawless recollection you seemed at least a little familiar with him. If we can’t trust your word with people you’re actually close to, then why would we even trust that you’d stay quiet if we did accommodate you? If we trust your word then that means we can’t trust your word. It’d honestly just save us a lot of trouble to get rid of you as soon as you leave this tavern.”Bookmark here

“Huh? B-but you wouldn’t-”Bookmark here

“Anything’s possible…”Bookmark here

As Marion spoke, a familiar feeling began to seep into the air. It’s not quite as potent as yesterday, but I can still notice it from here.Bookmark here

Bloodlust.Bookmark here

I don’t know if this is something I should be worried about, but she definitely doesn’t seem like she’s joking about that threat.Bookmark here

A cold sweat ran down both mine and Jessica’s necks, but for different reasons I’m sure. Also, I don’t know why I’m noticing Jessica’s neck sweat but whatever…Bookmark here

“Mmm…” Jessica murmured nervously.Bookmark here

“Furthermore, I want to know your true reason for coming here,” Marion said.Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“You really didn’t need to come here to try and blackmail us for Oliver’s fire core. You said yourself that you didn’t know if he had one or not, and if you knew we were dangerous then you wouldn’t take a chance like that for something that might be the case.”Bookmark here

“No, that’s exactly why I came here,” Jessica refuted. “I need all the elemental cores that I can make a Philosopher’s stone! Because I need one no matter what…”Bookmark here

“Why?”Bookmark here

“To… bring my parents back from the dead?”Bookmark here

“If you’re actually pursuing a Philosopher’s stone, then you should already know that they don’t have those kinds of capabilities.”Bookmark here

I think I lost track of this conversation a while ago. Philosopher’s stones? What are they even arguing about again?Bookmark here

“Alright, fine!” Jessica said, throwing her arms up in defeat. “I’ll admit I’m not trying to bring my parents back from the dead or anything like that.”Bookmark here

“Then-?” Marion tried to ask, only to be interrupted.Bookmark here

“But you don’t have it all right,” Jessica said. “I do need a Philosopher’s stone, just not for a simple reason like that.”Bookmark here

“Then what do you need it for?”Bookmark here

“I need it for my art.”Bookmark here

“Your art?” Marion asked as the bloodlust dropped. I guess we’re okay on that front for now…Bookmark here

“Yes, my art, my very livelihood, the very reason Trigger Happy came to me to get that mess cleaned up.”Bookmark here

“So I guess you take pride in your art?”Bookmark here

“Correct, but I’m always hungry for more,” Jessica said. “Every night I’m haunted by the fact that my art could be better. That I haven’t yet achieved my peak. But in order to do so I need a Philosopher’s stone… and that’s not exactly something one comes by easily, especially when-”Bookmark here

I then heard a low rumbling sound. It was a sound I’ve come to recognize all too well during my years volunteering at that orphanage.Bookmark here

“When’s the last time you ate?” I asked.Bookmark here

“I don’t remember!” Jessica said haughtily. “I’m a starving artist in the most literal sense so I’m always-!”Bookmark here

The rumbling sound came back to interrupt her as she hunched over at her seat.Bookmark here

“…hungry…” Jessica finished.Bookmark here

“Then why don’t you get something to eat?” Marion suggested.Bookmark here

“I’m too poor to afford food…”Bookmark here

“Wait, you don’t have any money on you?”Bookmark here

“It’s not that I’m completely out of money, but I have to save all the money I currently do have,” Jessica said, “I don’t have enough money left over for even basic necessities…”Bookmark here

“What’s more important than basic necessities?” Marion asked.Bookmark here

“The future.”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“All the money I have left is going into my chance at getting into FuzzyCoats Academy. So even if I have to continue on with barely enough food, I can’t spend it…”Bookmark here

“Then we’ll get you something.”Bookmark here

“Really?”Bookmark here

“Hold on, I’m a bit lost,” I said, interrupting their conversation. “Are we or aren’t we at odds right now?”Bookmark here

“We’re not at odds anymore,” Marion answered.Bookmark here

“Yeah, man,” Jessica said. “Don’t get lost in the flow of a single conversation.”Bookmark here

Heh?Bookmark here

Who does this girl think she is? Insulting me so casually after trying to blackmail us? The nerve…Bookmark here

“So, what do you want to eat, Jessica?” Marion asked.Bookmark here

“I appreciate your kindness, but I can’t accept,” she said.Bookmark here

“Why not?” I asked.Bookmark here

“The true reason I’m out of money is because I’m in debt,” Jessica explained. “And as such I’ve been temporarily banned from eating at this fine establishment.”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“You see, I’ve racked up quite the tab here, and I meant to pay it off but by the time I was supposed to I had recently bought this metal core,” she said while holding up a shiny ball of metal about the size of a baseball.Bookmark here

For some reason I could tell there was something different about it. Something special. It didn’t seem like it was just a regular ball of iron.Bookmark here

“As soon as I saw that it was available for purchase I knew I had to buy it to further my art. Unfortunately, the staff here didn’t appreciate my explanation… At all…”Bookmark here

“Wait, if that’s the case then shouldn’t someone be throwing you out right now?” I asked.Bookmark here

“They can only throw me out if they know I’m here,” she explained. “Currently I’m in a blind spot, so the bouncers won’t be able to see me unless they come over here to check, which they won’t do without good reason to suspect my being here because that might disrupt the patrons.”Bookmark here

“So basically, the more you think about it, the worse your plan was from the get go?”Bookmark here

“I wouldn’t say that,” Jessica answered. “The possible rewards far outweigh the numerous risks.”Bookmark here

“What exactly are you trying to get again?”Bookmark here

“Because my original plan has been thoroughly derailed, I guess I might as well tell you anyway…Bookmark here

“My original plan was to make you think it was your fire core I’m after, which I kind of am but that’s beside the point. After you two resigned yourselves to my blackmail I was going to offer you a different way to pay for my silence-”Bookmark here

“Since Marion’s a princess you figured we’d be travelling with loads of cash, didn’t you?” I asked. “So you wanted to make us pay off your debt?”Bookmark here

“Close but no cigar my friend,” Jessica answered. “You may want to better read the situation before interrupting someone who’s still speaking to you.”Bookmark here

Heh? How’s she getting off to telling me not to interrupt people?Bookmark here

“I didn’t want you to simply pay off my debt,” Jessica said. “Even though you must have a considerable amount of cash with you I doubt it’d be enough to cover my debt-”Bookmark here

“How far in debt are you?” I asked.Bookmark here

“That’s not the important thing,” Jessica said, brushing off the subject. “The important thing is that I’ve been given the option of clearing up my debt by doing a special quest, but…”Bookmark here

“But you don’t think you’ll be able to do the quest by yourself,” Marion said, finishing Jessica’s sentence. “And you wanted our help.”Bookmark here

“Mmm… something like that…” Jessica murmured. “You know… from what I gathered I figured you two must’ve been pretty powerful and for the particular quest I’m stuck with I need a bit more power than I currently have, so… if you could… maybe… please help me…?”Bookmark here

Ah, so that’s what this has all been about. She’s in trouble and needs help. Honestly I would help her, if that wasn’t such a terrible idea to begin with.Bookmark here

Like, where do I even start with this whole situation? The blackmail or how annoying she’s been? On top of that, I don’t even know what quest she needs done, so that’s already too risky.Bookmark here

“Look,” I said. “I’m sorry, but-”Bookmark here

“-We’ll do it,” Marion interrupted.Bookmark here

“Really!?” me and Jessica both said in surprise.Bookmark here

“Yes really,” Marion answered.Bookmark here

“Marion, can we talk for a sec?” I said in a low voice.Bookmark here

“Yeah, sure Oliver,” she answered in a similarly hushed voice. “What do you need?”Bookmark here

“I’m not so sure we should do this.”Bookmark here

“Really?” Marion asked with a confused look on her face. “Why do you say that?”Bookmark here

“Because this seems like a terrible idea.”Bookmark here

“Well I have a good feeling about this.”Bookmark here

“I’m glad you feel good, but that doesn’t change the fact that-”Bookmark here

“Just trust me on this one, Oliver. I have a plan.”Bookmark here

“A plan? A plan to do what?”Bookmark here

“Can’t say or it most likely won’t happen,” Marion said. “So please just trust me until I can tell you.”Bookmark here

“Hmm…”Bookmark here

“The moment things start looking like they might get out of control, I’ll pull out and tell you everything, okay?”Bookmark here

“I guess it’s fine for now…” I said before turning to Jessica. “Before we agree to anything, what quest is it that you need to do?”Bookmark here

“Oh, yeah… I probably should tell you…” Jessica said. “Well, you see, the thing is…”Bookmark here

“Just spit it out already!”Bookmark here

Jessica murmured a bit more before pulling out her mini-board and showing us the screen. On it read:Bookmark here

~Bookmark here

Special Quest: Hunt Down the Beast in Preternatural Forest:Bookmark here

There’s reports of a monster in Preternatural Forest attacking adventurers and travelers alike. This threat is making travel between Shadow Shore and Dragons Hollow difficult, and multiple adventurers have already been taken down. Due to claims by surviving adventurers who’ve encountered this beast, we believe that this is a rogue kaiju shifter as opposed to a regular kaiju.Bookmark here

Jägers requested.Bookmark here

~Bookmark here

“…!”Bookmark here

Oh hell no!Bookmark here

MiracleBound Volume 1 Cover(updated)


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