“I’m not waiting anymore!” Emily exclaimed. “If that vulpecular’s owner shows up, they can finish the job, but I can’t take this anymore!” Stephen watched her raise her hands up to perform a spell, and he expected to watch her heal herself, but instead she put her hands over his legs and chanted, “Relevia delero! Medio ospin!”
“No, no, no!” Stephen objected as she repeated the same phrases and worked on a section at a time.
Emily retorted, “What, you’re the only one allowed to be selfless?” She again chanted, “Relevia delero! Medio ospin!” She paused and added, “I’m not changing my mind, so don’t even try!”
Stephen had intended to argue the point, but he knew that her determination had made up her mind. In addition to that, he knew the more he debated the issue with her, the more time she would take away from her healing herself and he wouldn’t let her stay in agony any longer than necessary! As he watched her weave her way up his leg, he could tell she was hurting a lot, and yet she chose to work on him first without hesitation! As she reached the top of one leg and made her way down the other, he noticed her wincing became more and more pronounced. Despite her obvious discomfort, she never once looked tempted to stop. It amazed him that she didn’t fuss or grumble once! Her unselfish concern for others buoyed up even more respect he had for her character, and he now believed that she was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside!
When she went over every inch of his legs, she finally shifted over to herself. He felt relieved to know that soon she wouldn’t suffer from her injuries anymore. He could feel his own maladies slowly ebbing, so he knew that it would work on her too. He heard a twig break in the distance, and he realized that, for a moment, he had forgotten where they were! He kept vigilant for any signs of danger, but he also really hoped that nothing attacked them while she nursed her broken bones. Every bit of noise made him paranoid, and he didn’t know how effective he would be against vicious, mythological creations in this condition! He positioned himself so that he could get up and fend off whatever threat came their way. He knew he would risk worsening his injuries by putting weight on it too soon, but he didn’t care! He would do anything to make sure that she stayed safe!
Luckily, she finished the mending process without incident! She exhaled and leaned back with an exhausted expression on her face. She glanced over at Stephen and informed him, “It’ll take a few minutes to work.”
“It’s starting to feel better already!” Stephen remarked as he bent his knee slightly. It still felt a little stiff and tender, but he could already feel a huge improvement!
“I knew it would!” Emily commented confidently. “Obviously, I practiced these spells a lot!”
Stephen playfully teased her, “Oh, how often do you injure yourself?”
Emily grinned at that. “I hurt myself a lot when I was a kid. It opens up a world of trouble knowing you can heal yourself almost instantly!”
Stephen chuckled, and then he asked her, “Is that why you healed me first? You’re used to getting hurt?”
Emily laughed, but then she shook her head. “You deserved to go first. I mean, it’s my fault you’re even in this situation!”
“You didn’t make the plane crash!” Stephen disputed. “It’s not your fault!”
“Yes, but you wouldn’t have been in the plane at all if you didn’t have to protect me!” Emily differed. “If I could have learned the teleportation spell, I wouldn’t have needed to fly to Ovelstrofe. I’m the one that put you in all of this danger! I’m really sorry!”
Stephen emphatically responded, “Emily, listen to me… None of this is your fault! Those other heirs probably knew how to teleport, and it didn’t lessen the danger for them! I got assigned to fight a mass murderer and to protect the current heir, so I would have been on that plane regardless of who was next in line for the throne! If I had to go through this ordeal with anyone, I’m glad it was you! You work hard without complaint, and you’re talented enough to get us through anything! You’re easy to talk to, and not everyone I’ve had to protect has been such enjoyable company! Anyone else might have made this difficult journey even worse, but not you! So, don’t feel bad for any danger I face while we’re here; it’s been an honor to serve with you!”
Emily’s eyes sparkled as if she were holding back tears, and Stephen could tell she didn’t typically get a lot of appreciation, which just didn’t seem right to him since she really deserved it! He had this urge to put his arms around her and give her a hug tight enough to show his support, but before he could, she softly spoke to him, “I’m so glad you feel that I’ve helped you, but you’ve helped me more than you could have imagined! I never could have gone through this without your help! Your bravery and kindness has made me feel more hopeful for the future than I’ve ever been in my life! You’ve got a gift for seeing the good in people when they need it the most, and I’m so lucky to have gotten the chance to experience your invaluable wisdom! I’ll probably never been able to repay you for all you’ve done for me! Thank you for everything!”
Her praise really touched him! He devoted his life to helping people, but if he got any thanks for it, it was aimed towards the job he did and not for the person he was! His heart beat wildly to hear someone he admired so greatly think so highly of him, and for a brief moment, he savored her appreciation so much that he wanted to give her a token of his gratitude. He felt an impulse to kiss her, but that thought put him into a panic. He didn’t realize it until right then, but he knew now that he had developed feelings for her that were deeper than admiration! He admonished himself for crossing professional boundaries like that! It wasn’t against the rules technically, but it did have improper implications for the legal side of things. Besides all of that, he couldn’t imagine such an amazing woman would actually feel anything romantic for someone as unworthy as him! A goddess destined to become queen, he didn’t think he stood a chance! He supposed that the difficult nature of their predicament may have stirred up his emotions, and he also speculated that the spells she used on him may have had some side effects that made him act foolish. Regardless of the case, he resolved to squash these feelings and focus more on the mission.
Suddenly, the noises Stephen had been listening to grew louder, and he felt sure that something was approaching them! He tried to stand up, and while he was able to bend his knees, his legs weren’t strong enough to prop himself up. He flipped himself over and crawled towards a nearby tree to use it for support, but he could sense a heat coming from the bushes nearby Emily, so he moved back towards her direction. That’s when he spotted a pair of yellow eyes staring at them! Before either of them could react, a large, dark creature suddenly pounced on Stephen! He saw an almost dog-like feline with oversized, pointy ears and sharp claws glowering over him, but instead of attacking him, it opened its mouth and brutishly uttered, “Give it back!” Stephen’s nerves were too shocked to let him speak, so the creature repeated, “Give it back!”
Stephen didn’t know what to say to it except, “Give what back?”
This had been the wrong answer to give to it. The creature howled in anger and brandished a claw to strike! Stephen grabbed a nearby branch and held it over himself. The beast’s claws tore right through it, but Stephen was able to use this as a momentary distraction. He pushed the strange animal away from him and rolled out of its way. He reached for his gun, but the creature caught up with him pretty quickly. Before it had a chance to assail him, Emily chanted, “Tamulta delero!” The beast’s spine straightened out, and it doubled over in pain. Stephen pulled out his gun, but the creature swatted it out of the way, which spun Stephen onto his stomach. The beast lunged onto his back, but Emily chanted, “Consciti pello!” A huge gash appeared on its side, and it decided to turn its attention towards Emily. Stephen quickly dove for his gun and immediately shot it. The bullet hit its shoulder blade, and Emily backed away from it as far as she could. It recovered quickly and managed to hop out of the next shot’s trajectory. Before it could maul her, a light bulb seemed to go off in Emily’s head, and she cried out, “We don’t have it!”
The creature seethed, “You lie!”
“Tail!” She pointed at its bare hindquarters, and a long tail sprouted out of it! “If we could give you your real one, we totally would!”
The beast looked to Stephen, who nodded in agreement, which only confused it. “But humans take!”
“We’re not with those humans!” Stephen assured it. “We’re different people!”
The creature had to really contemplate this concept, but after gazing at its temporary tail again, it finally put all of the pieces together. “Okay!” It scampered off into the darkness, and the two of them didn’t hear it make anymore sound.
Stephen and Emily each used the tree closest to them to pick themselves up, and then Stephen noted, “It headed towards the path.”
“That’s okay,” Emily responded unconcernedly. “It’s not looking for us anymore. If it had its tail, it wouldn’t be vicious at all, so obviously Xavier took it so it would attack us.” She bore a disgusted expression at that thought.
Stephen shook his head at the cruelty of that thought. “Well, if we’re lucky, it’ll find them before we do and destroy them before we have to.” Emily smiled at that thought, and with a slight wobble to their step, they walked back towards the pathway.
As a hit song blared out from the speakers, a bunch of well dressed young people danced on a packed dance floor. A couple of large, muscly men gruffly made their way around the room and closely watched the patrons that they passed by. All of a sudden, the one on the right hit the one on the left’s chest to get his attention, and he pointed to a group nearby. The guy on the left didn’t have to ask who he had been thinking of, he instantly knew! He saw a woman with long, wavy, blonde hair dance very skillfully in a gold sequined dress that amply displayed her very finely shaped figure, and even though he couldn’t see her face, he nodded in agreement. They strolled over to her and tapped her shoulder, and the man on the left invited her, “Excuse me, miss! Would you join us in the VIP section?”
With a pitch higher than she’d normally use, Allison replied, “Okay, sure!”
They escorted her to an opulent staircase led to a lounge with several cushy seats rested. A couple of other men wearing all black were up there watching over a few other scantily clad women, including Blythe. Allison recognized her instantly but did not dare to let her eyes linger. In any case, she didn’t see their potential victim around, so she stayed focused on the bouncers that brought her up there. They pulled a bottle of champagne out of an ice bucket and poured her a glass. The guy on the right requested, “Please join us in a drink!”
“Okay!” She eagerly took a sip and gushed, “Wow, it’s super yummy!”
The guy on the right bragged, “It’s made from the finest grapes grown in Amouraq!”
Allison pretended to be really impressed by that, and the guy on the left inquired, “What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a hostess at Splendor’s,” she fibbed.
“Are you happy there?” the man on the left asked.
Allison came up with, “I hate my job! No one’s ever nice to me! Not the customers! Not the staff! Nobody!”
The man on the left proposed, “What would you say if we gave you an opportunity to do a job that’ll not only make you rich but really well respected?”
Allison answered, “I would say that I’m listening…”