Chapter 2:

Chapter 02 The Kidnap

Content of the Magic Box

As she spun around, her voice raised in alarm, and she suddenly realized it was Antonio who had startled her.

Chuckling, he teased her, "Well, well, well, looks like someone who beat me in the city guard training course can still be scared by a little tap on the back. HA! HA! Haa."

Suzuka's heart rate slowly returned to normal as she recognized Antonio. "Hey, Anton. Don't forget, I'm not an adult. I'm just a little girl. So, of course, I can still get scared," she retorted with a grin.

Antonio's expression softened. "Sorry about that. I shouldn't have called you a little girl. How about we go somewhere else before heading home? There's still some time before nightfall, and I happen to know of a place that might interest you."

Intrigued by Antonio's proposition, Suzuka readily accepted his offer. "Sure, Anton. I have plenty of time today, so I don't have to worry about it," she replied.

Antonio chuckled. "Ho ho, someone sounds like an adult."

Suzuka rolled her eyes. "Well, Mom said I could have fun today for as long as I want, so..."

"And now you're back to being a little girl," Antonio teased.

"Shut up, Anton. If you keep messing with me, I'm gonna punch you in the knee," Suzuka threatened, though her playful demeanor betrayed her words.

Antonio held up his hands in mock surrender. "Okay, okay. No need for violence, I won't tease you anymore."

Suzuka leaned forward with her arms behind her back, giving Antonio a cute, innocent look. "Say, Anton, do you find me attractive...?"

But before she could finish her sentence, her face turned bright red with embarrassment. She quickly turned away from Antonio, muttering to herself, "Whaaa! Stupid! Why do you asking him that, I almost asked him if he finds me attractive."

"Suzuka, could you repeat that again? I didn't quite catch it," Antonio asked with a hint of confusion.

Suzuka hesitated for a moment before speaking, "I was wondering, do you find me athletic? I mean, I attend the city guard practices regularly and all."

Antonio considered her question before responding, "Yeah, you definitely have some fine muscle on you. You've been training since you were 9 years old, right?"

She let out a weak sigh and replied to Antonio, "Yeah, my dad took me there once and it looked like fun, so I decided to give it a try. And now, here we are."

After a fifteen-minute trek, Antonio and Suzuka reached the spot Antonio had in mind. It wasn't particularly remarkable - just a secluded area with a fireplace, a couple of rocks to sit on, and a broken tree. It was a basic campsite, but it served its purpose.

Antonio settled down on one of the rocks and began to build a fire, while Suzuka took a seat on another rock opposite him.

Suzuka looked around, taking in the unremarkable surroundings. "Why did we come all the way here, Anton? There's nothing to see."

Antonio worked on lighting the wood, his attention focused on making some fire. "Well, I just wanted to have a little chat with you first," he replied.

With a serious expression on his face, Antonio turned to Suzuka and posed the question as he stoked the flickering flames of their fire. "So, now that you're all grown up and finished with school, what's next for you? Any plans for the future?"

Suzuka considered for a moment before responding, "Nothing too concrete at the moment. I was thinking of following in Dad's and your footsteps and joining the city guard. After gaining some experience there, I have my sights set on registering with the hunters guild as an adventurer. Starting small and working my way up the ladder."

Antonio looked up, slightly taken aback by Suzuka's ambition. He quickly refocused his attention on the fire, tending to it with care to ensure it wouldn't go out. "City guard and adventurer, huh? Why those paths in particular?"

Suzuka paused, taking a moment to gather her thoughts. She closed her eyes, delving deep into reflection. After a minute, she opened her eyes and turned to Antonio, posing a question. "Say, Anton, why did you become a city guard?" she asked.

Antonio turned his head to the horizon, gazing out at the setting sun. "Well, when I was little, my dad was a city guard," he replied, his voice tinged with nostalgia. "I always admired his work...he was so cool, protecting people's lives from beasts and other creatures. I wanted to be like him, to follow in his footsteps. My dream was to become a city guard, just like my dad."

Suzuka picked up a stick from the ground and poked at the burning wood, causing sparks to fly. "So, your dream finally came true," she remarked. "You're a city guard now. How does it feel?"

Antonio stared into the fire with a sad expression, then turned to face Suzuka. "Yeah, it came true," he said. "I always wanted to be a city guard like my dad. I thought it would be cool to be a hero and save lives. But now that I'm here, I see it as nothing but a dangerous line of work, nothing great comes out of it," after a short pause he asked, "So, why do you want to pursue a path filled with danger?"

Suzuka rose to her feet, stretching her arms upwards as if to reach for the moon. With a resolute look on her face, she turned to Antonio and spoke. "One day, I want to build my own town," she declared. "But to do that, I need to become stronger and explore other towns. And to become an adventurer, I'll need to register at the hunters guild and get a license. It's a long journey, but it's worth it."

"Well, that is a big dream," he said before asking, "Got a name for it?"

While looking at the moon she said, "Luminecia, that's the name I would like to name my town. But before dreaming about town I need to become an adventurer first."

Upon hearing Suzuka's ambitious plans, Antonio couldn't help but smile. "Well, that's a really beautiful name you've got there," he said. "But being an adventurer is a risky job, and it doesn't pay very well unless you reach an advanced level. Finding treasures and relics is dangerous business."

Suzuka nodded, acknowledging the risks involved. "I know it won't be easy, but I'm willing to start small. I could become a city guard for a few years, and then move on to bigger jobs," she replied. "I'll work hard to achieve my dreams, no matter what."

"Hey Suzuka," Anton said, a sly grin on his face. "Have you ever thought about applying for a magic box power trial at MIS? Even if you only become a one-star mage, you could still make a lot of gold as a box power user."

Suzuka rolled her eyes, shaking her head. "I appreciate the suggestion, Anton, but I don't think that's an option for me. I already took the compatibility test at school, and I didn't score high enough to be considered for a trial."

Anton nodded, then shrugged. "Ah, I forgot about that. Well, it's not like I finished school. I decided to start working instead."

Suzuka noticed a piece of wood lying nearby and casually tossed it into the crackling fire. As she did so, she turned to Antonio and spoke in a hushed tone. "I heard from my father that you had a tough time when your dad... when you had to step up and support your family."

Antonio's face darkened for a moment, his anger flaring up before quickly subsiding. "Damn it, Steven! Does he always go around talking about people's pasts?" he muttered, more to himself than to anyone else.

Suzuka shook her head. "No, I think I'm the only one who knows," she said softly.

Antonio's expression softened. "It's not like it's a secret or anything," he said, his tone more gentle. "I just don't like to talk about it, that's all."

Suzuka nodded, sensing that the topic was now closed. "So, about that interesting place you were talking about..." she began tentatively.

Antonio's face lit up. "Yeah, this is it!" he exclaimed, gesturing around the campsite. "I used to come here all the time when I was younger. I wanted to show it to you."

Suzuka cast a critical eye over the deserted campsite but found nothing of note. The area was a jumble of nondescript rocks, and a decaying tree, almost entirely obscured by tall grass and moss. Clearly, the remote location had been abandoned for some time, with no signs of recent human activity. As she completed her inspection, a thought crossed her mind.

"Ugh, Anton you could have at least shown me your room instead of bringing me to this rundown camp, you handsome man," she muttered under her breath.

Her companion's voice broke through her reverie. "Why so quiet all of a sudden, Suzuka? Do you not like the camp?"

Suzuka started, realizing she had been lost in thought. "Oh! No, no, I like it," she hurriedly replied. "It's just so... quiet here."

Anton chuckled. "Come on, Suzuka, no need to force yourself. I know this place is a dump with nothing to see."

Antonio's eyes dropped to the ground as he whispered, "I'm sorry," while still seated.

Suzuka took a seat on a nearby rock, looking around as the sun slowly sank below the horizon. As darkness descended, the sounds of nocturnal animals began to fill the air, creating an eerie atmosphere around the flickering campfire. Suzuka started to feel uneasy, glancing over at Antonio.

"Hey, Anton," she said tentatively. "Maybe we should think about getting out of here soon. It's getting pretty late, and I don't feel very safe with all these creepy noises around. What do you think about heading somewhere a little more secure... like, I don't know, maybe your place?" She chuckled nervously, trying to lighten the mood.

As Antonio sat on a rock, he reached down to his bag resting on the ground and began to rummage through it. After a moment, he pulled out a flask and turned to Suzuka.

"Hey, I think it's about time for us to leave," he said. "But after all this talking, I bet you're thirsty. How about a drink of your favorite Melwyngold apple juice? It's fresh - I made it this morning."

Suzuka's face lit up, and she readily agreed to the offer. "Oh, Anton, you always know how to quench my thirst," she exclaimed. "Your homemade Melwyngold apple juice is just what I need. Sometimes, I wish you would let me try your wine, haha!"

Antonio shrugged nonchalantly and replied, "Well, you know what they say, a man's gotta do what a man gotta do'. Sorry, no wine for you."

Without hesitation, Suzuka lifted the flask to her lips and downed its contents in a matter of seconds. But as soon as the liquid hit her tongue, she knew something was amiss.

"Hey, wait a minute, Anton," she protested, grimacing at the taste. "This doesn't taste like juice... It's more like water with some kind of herbal concoction. Poppy and Valerian roots, I know this taste... Why did you give me sleep medicine? What's going on?"

Suzuka's mind grew hazy as her limbs grew heavy and unresponsive. She knew something was wrong; the water she had consumed was laced with sleep medication. Despite her best efforts to fight the drowsiness, her vision began to blur and her consciousness began to slip away.

Just as she was about to crumple to the ground, a pair of strong arms caught her, gently lowering her to the floor. In the final moments, before she succumbed to sleep, she heard a voice - Antonio's voice - speaking in sorrowful tones.

"I'm sorry," he murmured. "I really am. I didn't want it to come down to this. I hope... I hope someday... I hope you can find it in your heart... to forgive me for what I have done."

As Antonio spoke, Suzuka felt his tears fall onto her face as her consciousness began to fade and she slipped into a deep sleep. Antonio wiped away his tears, sitting in silence for several minutes as he tried to compose himself. His heart was pounding like a drum, his heart is racing, pounding like a drum. He pressed his chest with both hands in an attempt to stop it but to no avail. 

He then reached into his bag and pulled out a bottle of Melwyngold apple wine, downing it in a few gulps. After waiting for fifteen minutes, he retrieved a flashbang crystal from his bag and infused it with magic, detonating it to signal Jacob and his group that he got what they asked of him.

 Ten minutes later Jacob comes with his group and gathers around the campfire. Jacob approached Antonio and placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Antonio, my man! I knew you could do it, and boy, did you ever! You pulled it off like a pro, ha ha ha! Let me tell you, it takes a big man - not necessarily a tall one - to do what you just did. And you know what? Just for that - yes, just for that - if this gig goes well, I'm going to throw in an extra bone just for you."

Antonio shrugged Jacob's hand off his shoulder and stepped away from him, bending down to pick up his bag. He turned back to Jacob, his expression stony.

"I don't care about your gig or who these people are, or your so-called extra bone. All I want to know is what's going to happen to Suzuka once I'm gone."

Jacob's expression turned serious as he heard the question. After a brief glance at the girl and a check on his group's activities, he approached Antonio and looked him squarely in the eyes.

"Hey, hey, Antonio, don't worry," he reassured him in a serious tone. "We're not animals, we're not going to hurt her. Besides, we even have a member from MIS with us. Do you really think someone like that would stoop so low as to kidnap kids for fun?"

He paused for a moment, then continued. "Well, okay, maybe they would, but that's not the point. We just couldn't find a volunteer for this mission, so we had to do something like this."

Antonio's attention was divided between Jacob's words and the man with white gloves, who knelt beside Suzuka, using magical items to measure her magical properties. Antonio recognized the process, having undergone similar checks to determine his own mana levels as a guard. After listening to Jacob's explanation, Antonio posed a question.

"Once your job is done, will she be released and allowed to return home?" he inquired.

Jacob rubbed his chin thoughtfully before answering, "Well, if everything goes as planned - which it most likely will - MIS will take her in, I'll get my gold coins, and part ways with them. As for what happens after that, I can't say. But one thing's for sure, you better not go blabbing about any of this. Got it?"

Antonio nodded in agreement, turning his back to walk away. "Don't worry, Jacob. I won't breathe a word of it to anyone. I'll take this secret to the grave with me. Just do me a favor and forget I exist. This was my first and last dirty job."