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The Dragon's Treasure

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Jeremy was rather proud of his work that week. He had repaired the mayor’s globe and enchanted it to light up for good measure, managed to sell one of his automatons to the apothecary to tend to some of the herbs, and sold a whole trunk’s worth of trinkets at the market. He’s managed to make well over seven-hundred and fifty gold, which put him firmly on his way to his goal.

Life was good, which was something rare for the half gnome, having had more than his fair share of hardships in recent years. Still, Jeremy wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. So he loaded up his wagon with the remains of his wares as well as the supplies he’d need for his journey to the next town over.

Once Gideon, his horse, was strapped up, Jeremy climbed on to his wagon and started on his way out. He made a note to stop by the next trading post along the way to send some of his bountiful haul back to his father in Rowanwood, since none of the shops in this town would provide that service.

Jeremy was halfway out of town when a figure, clad in a red hood and mask, dropped from the top of one of the buildings and landed in the back of his wagon. Jeremy was a little ashamed to admit he screamed a little.

Before he could question this stranger, they got right behind the driver’s seat of the wagon, hands on either side of him on the seat back, and spoke. The voice was deep, terrifying, and sent chills down his spine. “Drive,” the figure commanded, and when Jeremy looked back, he saw the golden eyes set behind an intricate mask, glowing in an intimidating manner.

A raven landed right in front of him, crowing right in his face, as if warning him to listen or else. As the raven crowed, however, he could hear the faint sounds of a commotion a ways away, slowly getting closer. “Now.”

Jeremy wasn’t about to argue. With a squeak, he snapped his reigns and set Gideon galloping down the Main Street. Luckily it was a straight road, so the wagon wasn’t at risk of tipping over, but Jeremy very nearly swerved into a building (and almost hit multiple townsfolk) when the stranger hopped up to the front seat next to him.

When Jeremy glanced behind him, he saw multiple figures chasing after them, all dressed in guards uniforms. If he stopped, he’d be caught and the stranger would leave, but something about this stranger compelled Jeremy to help him. It was something about the red hood and mask, a memory which was being forgotten due to his panic as they barrelled down the street.

The figure beside him huffed, seemingly looking through their bag. They were muttering in a language that instinctively sent more chills down his spine: infernal, the language of the devils. “Aha.” They took out a mini crossbow, quickly loading it before looking back.

The figure shot and Jeremy heard them curse under their breath before aiming and firing twice more. He heard a commotion behind him, seeing the banner hanging above to announce an upcoming festival suddenly drop down and ensnare the group of guards. “Be quick, while they keep tangling themselves up.”

Jeremy snapped his reigns once again and sent Gideon charging through the street. The gate up ahead was closing too fast for them to make it through. Thinking quickly (and acting without considering the consequences), Jeremy grabbed one of his stall posts and tossed it towards the gate. With a press of the button on the controller attached to his wagon seat, the pole extended and wedged the gate open. They dashed through it and out of the town. Behind him, he heard the pole snap a moment later as the gate slammed shut. He kept pushing Gideon onwards.

The figure beside him pointed to a forested area. When the stranger spoke, their voice was nothing like before. It was smooth and gave Jeremy a warm feeling in his heart. “Go that way, off the path. When we’re about to go off the path, take it slow so your horse doesn’t hurt itself and so your cart doesn’t get damaged or leave a trail.” Despite that slight bit of common sense that Jeremy had to not listen to random strangers who drop from the sky into your cart and somewhat threaten you, he listened.

Said stranger continued to navigate him through a good portion of the forest before telling him to stop. Gideon stopped by Jeremy’s command, and the masked figure let out a heavy sigh. “Sorry about that, but thanks for hauling ass and helping me out back there.” They got out of Jeremy’s cart then, but not before dropping a small sack of coins where they once sat. The raven that had been perched on the very front of the cart flew and quickly perched itself on the stranger’s shoulder. “Stay here for half an hour or so, you should be good to return to the trail and wherever you were going. Again, sorry for the trouble and thanks for the help.”

Jeremy nimbly hopped off of the wagon and grabbed the stranger’s arm. He was quite a bit taller than Jeremy but that was hardly a surprise, Jeremy’s gnomish features tended to make him quite a bit shorter than everyone.

“Wait! You’re... you’re the Red Hood, aren’t you? I recognize your mark on the bag.” Memories finally hit him as the panic from earlier faded to nothing. Awe and gratitude took its place very quickly.

A few years back, maybe three, he had helped him and his father. It had been near the start of Red Hood’s rise to infamy by taking from the rich and helping the poor. They had certainly been poor when his father, long divorced, devastated, and depressed, had been essentially tricked out of their glorious workshop and forge by the greedy young lord of Rowanwood. Red Hood had swooped in a week or two later and given them enough money to get off the streets. They had nothing left to their name, yet he had come in and gave them something to sustain themselves and easily get them back on their feet.

Red Hood just froze for a second before sighing. “Yeah, I am, which is why I need to make some distance. If you’re caught with me again, and I’m not forcing you in seemingly threatening manner to do stuff for me, you’ll be taken in or something.”

“I’ve had my fair share of run ins with guards.” Jeremy waved him off. The incident with the halfling bard and the sack of stink worm slime wasn’t worth going into in detail just yet. “Please, let me offer my assistance. You saved me and my father some years ago and I’d like to repay the favor.” He grinned up at the Hood, hoping he could tell how sincere Jeremy was about his offer.

He could see the other’s golden eyes looking him over past the mask. “I can’t risk you getting hurt or caught. I don’t do this to get repaid either, I just want to help those in need. If I helped you and your father out, that in itself is repayment enough,” Red Hood insisted, and Jeremy swore he could hear a smile in the other’s tone.

Jeremy smiled too, but he still shook his head. “You did more for us than get us out of a tight spot. You’re the reason I still have a father in the first place. The back streets of Rowanwood are... unkind to those of Gnomish ancestry and even worse to gnomes themselves. We were stuck in the stone quarter, with the more malicious characters. If you hadn’t gotten us off the streets, my father likely would have been killed within the month.” Jeremy sighed and shook his head again. “At least allow me to give you a ride to your next destination. For my own sake if not your own.”

He saw Red Hood’s resistance practically melt away as he spoke. “I... Alright.” The raven crowed then, and Red Hood sighed as he turned his head towards the bird. “Hush, Darling.” The bird crowed once more, but just seemed to relax then as the Hood looked back over at Jeremy, a fondness in his golden eyes. “I don’t want to be visible though when we’re on the road, I could put you in danger if any law sees me. I can take my hood off to help, but I’m not taking my mask off.”

“Of course, my good sir!” Jeremy chirped, letting his arm go. He took a step back and offered a courteous bow. “Jeremiah Heere, formally of Rowanwood Forge, at your service. You can call me Jeremy.” He grinned. It was strange, normally strangers sent Jeremy into a stuttering mess if he wasn’t talking about his skills or wares, but the Hood set him at ease. There was just something... gentle about him. It relaxed Jeremy to no end. Add the fact that he had saved his family and Jeremy may as well be his friend already.

The Hood seemed to hesitate at what to say then, which made sense. He probably never had anyone do something like this before, and if someone tried, he had probably gotten out of there before agreeing. “It’s nice to meet you formally, Jeremy,” the Hood said. “This is Darling, she is my raven.” Said raven let out a low noise. “Yes, hi there, Darling.” Red Hood scratched under her beak, and she seemed to relax thanks to his touch. “I uh... Well, calling me ‘Red Hood’ or some variation of that is really awkward, um...”

Jeremy giggled. “Don’t worry, you can take your time. I’m sure this is a bit unusual for you.” Slowly, he reached up and, after getting a nod from the Hood (who bent down to accommodate him), he hesitantly stroked Darling. She practically melted under his touch. “Hello Darling. My goodness, aren’t you beautiful?” he cooed. Darling croaked and hopped onto his hand. Then she flew over and perched on his head. Jeremy couldn’t help but giggle again, the tips of his pointed ears twitching a little.

“She, uh, she normally doesn’t take to people, especially not so quickly,” Red Hood said, seemingly awkwardly crossing his arms as he looked over Jeremy and his bird. “She probably remembers you from a few years ago, I’ve had her since I started this whole Red Hood thing, so uh... yeah,” he said, though there was something off about how the Hood spoke. Not in a bad way, but…

Jeremy shrugged it off for now. “Well there were a couple of ravens around who I used to feed back then. They were very sweet, and would bring me the occasional coin to buy some seed for them,” he recalled fondly, reaching up to stroke Darling. “They’re wonderfully intelligent birds, so I tend to like them.” He looked up at the bird on his head as best he could, gigging as she peeked down at him before flying back over to the Hood’s shoulder.

The Hood seemed to stand straight up then, that off feeling he couldn’t identify seemingly lingering and intensifying somewhat before he coughed. “Well, you’re certainly right about that. They’re very intelligent, and Darling is no exception.” He walked back over to Jeremy’s cart, hopping into the back with his goods before rifling through his messenger bag. “Uh, and... Well, you’re willing to do this for me, so I can trust you enough... My name is Michael, my real name. Don’t go tossing that around though, but I doubt you’d even consider that. Probably wouldn’t have even crossed your mind if I hadn’t said anything...” His voice trailed off at the end there.

Jeremy sighed a little, fondly exasperated by the Hoo- Michael. He was just so awkward, he didn’t seem to be able to figure out how to handle this situation in the slightest. “Don’t worry, I won’t,” he assured him.

“Also feel free to grab some food or anything you need from the back there, Michael. You’re welcome to it since we’re to be traveling companions for now.” He grinned, getting Gideon moving again. They started on a walk, following the faint trail for now.

“I... thank you,” Michael got out from the cart. His voice was soft, but he seemed to be recollecting himself from that situation. When Jeremy glanced back, he saw Michael taking off the actual hood and the whole coat itself, revealing features he hadn’t seen before.

Michael had somewhat unruly dark hair, very puffy and curly with a mix of waves. He could see the faintness of horns protruding from his temples, but in a ram’s spiral shape. There was also a tail that was wrapped around Michael’s waist before he quickly donned a traveler’s cloak and he reached up to fix his hair. The horns and tail were quickly hidden as Michael seemingly got comfortable.

Jeremy hesitated then nodded to himself. “You’re part tiefling, aren’t you?” he asked. The indicators were all there: the infernal language, the oddly colored eyes, the horns and the tail. Too much lined up. Jeremy could tell he wasn’t full tiefling, but he was at least a quarter.

Jeremy noticed Michael stiffened, and he instantly got to reassuring him. “Don’t worry, I’m not prejudice. I’m a firm believer of letting people’s actions dictate how I view them, not how they’re born. And your actions speak loud enough for me to know you’re a good person at the very least.” Jeremy’s cheeks heated up a little, his embarrassment about being so open hitting him, but he stayed firm with that he said.

Michael seemed to shift at that, wrapping himself up a little more in his cloak, but not because he was worried or concerned about Jeremy’s prejudice anymore. “I... thanks,” was all he got out as he shifted a bit in how he was settled in the back. Darling let out a small caw then, nudging against Michael’s mask-covered head before hopping up onto the back of the driver’s seat, against where both Michael and Jeremy were settled against, just from opposite sides. She seemed to look up at Jeremy curiously.

Jeremy wasn’t quite sure what she was after, but he reached out and stroked her anyways. “Do you want to know about me, do you? Is that it?” he asked, reaching over the seat into the bag next to Michael and grabbing a bit of bread. He offered it to Darling, who cawed and started eating it.

Before she could take a real bite though, Michael’s hand suddenly snapped into view, snatching the bread away. “Birds can’t eat bread. I’ve seen some birds eat too much from people. It’s not good for them, it hurts their stomachs,” he quickly explained. “You can feed her things like peas or bird feed or something like that.” After that, Michael quickly cleared his throat. “Ah, and sorry for snatching... I just don’t want her to get hurt, even if by accident...”

Jeremy blinked. “Oh, I didn’t realize. Sorry about that. And don’t worry about that, I don’t want her hurt either.” He thought for a second. “I have some sunflower seeds in the bag to your left. That would be okay for her, right?” Michael nodded and they both reached for the bag. When their hands touched, Jeremy froze and drew back quickly, cheeks flaming. He suddenly felt very flustered all of a sudden, probably because he was meeting someone who was basically his hero. “B-but yeah. In th-there,” he stammered out, turning back to the road.

“I- thanks,” Michael said, clearing his throat before Jeremy heard stuff moving around. When Jeremy glanced back, he saw Michael with seeds in the palm of his hand. The raven cawed, seemingly happily, before she started to eat. “I adore you, but you’re a little shit, Darling,” Michael said, huffing for a second, though there was a bit of an accent, similar to when he spoke in infernal. Did he mean to say that in common?

Jeremy had to face the front again, feeling something creeping up on him emotionally. He knew when he started crushing on people, it had happened enough times in the past, and from how cute Michael was with Darling and how flustered and awkward he was, Jeremy couldn’t help but feel the beginnings of a crush start to develop. He’d keep his head on, because he always did somehow, but it was good to acknowledge these things.

“I- er- wasn’t kidding about the offer to tell you about me,” he mumbled after a moment. “If- er- if you want anyways.” He shifted in his drivers seat uncomfortably. “I mean, we could always talk about other things, or just stay quiet if you like. I’m sure you have plans to make or something, you do so much for so many people. I wouldn’t want to get in your way of that.”

He saw Michael’s head practically pop up then, looking at him. Darling was completely unphased as she continued to eat her seeds. “Whatever you want to talk about, but I’d love to learn more about you!” Jeremy saw Michael rest his head against the top of the seat back, looking up at Jeremy with a somewhat lopsided smile. “It’s been forever since I’ve really gotten to talk to someone like this. Fire away with whatever, I’m all ears!”

Jeremy blushed again at the cuteness that Michael was radiating, but he also grinned. Michael was genuinely interested in Jeremy, which was a nice change of pace from people only wanting to know how fast he could fix their watch or something.

“Well I’m a half gnome. My dad’s a rock gnome from out west, but he moved to Rowanwood to serve the old lord as an engineer about sixty years ago. My mom’s full human, and she was a wizard, so I sort of got a blend of both my parents in every respect. I got my dad’s skill for tinkering and my mom’s knack for magic,” Jeremy explained, guiding the wagon around a bend. “I’m what you might call an artificer; I make magical things. And I sell them on my travels or I repair things and stuff like that. My real passion though is automations. I create automatons and self repairing machines, when I can get strong enough magical artefacts to power them anyways.”

Michael’s eyes were wide as he looked up still at Jeremy. “Oh my god, really? That’s so cool. I’ve seen some automatons around and they always amaze me. They look so cool and hard to make,” he said, hand still out as Darling seemed to be deciding if she wanted the last few seeds or not. “Normally, only the rich have them, but I’ve snagged one or two and been able to relocate them to better places and people. I’ve made sure they’re in good hands and can’t be traced back so those people get in trouble, but yeah. That’s so cool? How do you even make that kind of stuff?”

Jeremy shot a grin back at Michael. “Well my way is pretty unique from what I know, so my automatons are very different from most. You see, most automatons have a mechanical sort of power source, which lets them do repetitive tasks. My ones have a magical one, which gives them a limited sort of intelligence. You can set them to do a job and they’ll do it and deal with any issues which might stop them from doing it.”

He patted the bench next to him. “C’mon up, I’ll show you. Just grab me the uh- the small red box with the flame on it, it should be in the box directly to your left, and the um... damn, where was it? Oh right! The dagger from the bag on the right side, between the two crates.”

“Oh, uh, alright.” Michael got going after a second, after Darling took the last sunflower seed. He heard Michael scramble around for a second, probably to find the dagger, but climbed over and sat next to Jeremy in the next minute or so. “Got it,” Michael said, a smile able to be heard as he plopped the box into Jeremy’s lap. The dagger, which had its cover on, was held still by Michael.

Jeremy offered Michael the reigns and opened the box. The little fire starter he’d been working on, along with all the tools he needed to finish it, were tucked inside. “Okay, so you know how most fire starter tools tend to break within a few hours of being used?” Jeremy asked, starting to finish off the assembly. He put the flint and steel into their correct places. Michael nodded, Jeremy saw him out of the corner of his eye. “Well the way I make them, it repairs itself so that it can’t break, even after a thousand uses. All you need to do is occasionally replace the flint and steel, which can be accessed via these mechanisms here.” He held up the fire starter and pointed out the buttons for changing the parts.

Michael’s eyes seem to go wide at that, staring at what he held seemingly with awe. “Wait, what? I... that’s amazing, I’ve never seen a fire starter that didn’t break after, at most, a few days, let alone at all.” That offness from before was back, and Darling let out a more high pitch string of caws, which seemed to make Michael sputter for a second. “Oh you shut it, you.”

“Well for now it’s just a standard fire starter with changeable heads. The self repairing part comes from the next step.” Jeremy nodded. “Pass me the dagger please?” Michael did. “This dagger has a small enchantment on it, something about making the one who gets attacked by the dagger to smell like flowers or something like that.” He’d won it in the game of craps at the tavern. It was a good day.

“Anyways, it’s a minor enchantment which is perfect for what I need. You see, I realized magic is like energy, it can’t be created or destroyed, only changed. So I take the energy from a magical object like this one.” He touched his gyroscope necklace, exposing the crystal for his magical focus. Then he touched the dagger and muttered the spell. Pink energy suddenly buzzed around it and flowed up to cover Jeremy’s hand. “And transfer it over it here in the form I need.” He pulled the magic away from the dagger, which crumbled to ash, and touched his still glowing hand to the fire starter. The magic turned orange, then flowed down into the fire starter and vanished after a second. Jeremy dusted off his lap. “Unfortunately, the magic object I got the energy from is destroyed, but it’s magic is kept safe in whatever format I put it in.” His gyroscope crystal was hidden again as the focus closed itself.

He held up the fire starter for Michael to inspect, feeling a rush of pride. That was one of his most fluid and efficient transfers to date. He was glad it happened around Michael and that he didn’t embarrass himself.

Michael’s eyes seemed to light up (no, not in the glowing way like it did before) then, and he carefully took the fire starter to look over. “I... wow, that’s incredible,” he muttered out, seemingly taking the object and what just happened in. “This is truly incredible. I’ve never seen someone transfer magic before. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone even thinking about doing something like this. This... this is incredible, Jeremy. I know I’m repeating myself a lot, but... oh my god.”

Jeremy spluttered and turned bright red as he fumbled to put away his tools. “It’s- er- I’m- oh god- er, it’s no big deal?” he tried, suddenly hit full in the face with the intensity of this big hulking crush. No one had ever reacted so positively to his creations before. Sure, they were interested and shit, but never this excited or genuinely enchanted by them. It set Jeremy’s heart fluttering to have someone love what he made as much as he did.

“You can have it if you like...” he added lamely, barely over a mumble.

Looking back up at Jeremy then, seemingly thinking something over. “I... Thank you,” Michael said. “I’ll take really good care of it, I promise.” He quickly tucked it away into his bag, seemingly in a safe location, before smiling at Jeremy then. “You’re a really amazing artificer, Jeremy. Seriously, I haven’t seen stuff like that before.”

Jeremy’s blush darkened but this time with pride. “I... thanks, Michael.” He mumbled, relaxing a little from the honesty in Michael’s voice. He was so sweet, and Jeremy didn’t think he really wanted this crush to leave him. Maybe he’d be able to convince him to let Jeremy go with him for a while longer. “I’ve been studying really hard. Twenty years to get to the point I’m at now, but I’ve only been able to actually pull it off for the last seven.”

Michael looked at him for a second then, seemingly trying to figure something out. “Wait, how old are you?” As soon as he said it, his eyes seemingly widened behind his mask before he quickly waved his free hand, since one was still holding the reigns. “I didn’t mean to ask that, oh god, I’m so sorry! I’m not good with social stuff, oh god, oh no. I’m so sorry, oh no.” Darling looked over from where she had been watching then, crowing softly before hopping up onto Michael’s shoulder and nuzzling against his cheek.

Jeremy giggled and shook his head. “No it’s fine. I get it, my mouth tends to run ahead of me too sometimes.” He shot Michael a charming grin. “I’m twenty-seven, tuning twenty-eight next midwinter. Not even an adult by gnomish standards, so I’m still a baby in my field. And to answer the question that’s probably on your mind, no. I likely won’t live as long as a gnome. Half gnomes tend to live to about two hundred and fifty years, maybe up to three hundred for the really lucky ones.”

“I- uh- thanks for telling me. It still wasn’t the best to just blurt it out, sorry. Like I said, not used to much interaction with conversations lately, but still no excuse to me rude,” Michael said then as he saw his golden eyes glance to the side. “I... uh, well, to be fair, I’ll tell you how old I am.” He fiddled with the hem of his traveling cloak. “I turned twenty a week ago, so... yeah.”

“No way,” Jeremy blurted out, then quickly worked to amend. “I mean, you’ve been active as Red Hood for what, three, four years? You’ve been doing this since you were a legitimate child! Color me impressed, Michael, seriously.” He looked up at Michael with a small, probably smitten grin. “You must have a really big heart and a really strong will to pull that off.”

Michael just let out a small noise then, but quickly laughed it off. “I- uh- yeah, I guess so! My moms always told me that kinda stuff, even if I kept saying otherwise, hahah... I just, y’know, had the skills and built them up and wanted to help, so I did. I mean, I got to help out people like you, so...” Jeremy noticed that Michael pointedly wasn’t looking at him, but Darling was looking right at Jeremy.

As he looked into Darling’s intelligent eyes, something finally clicked. He finally figured out what was so off about Michael’s behavior. It was possible, and it was just a theory, that Michael might like Jeremy. Granted, no one else had ever shown interest in him before, so he didn’t exactly have a point of comparison, but Michael was acting almost just as flustered as Jeremy was when he liked someone. That had to mean something, right?

He wasn’t about to ask to court him just yet, even if the attraction was mutual; they had just met and Michael still was wearing the mask. There was one thing Jeremy could ask without consequence.

“Hey, um, Michael? Kinda odd question but... do you think we could keep travelling together once I’ve gotten your next location? I really like your company and I’d like to get to know you better. You seem like a rather wonderful person,” he tried, a little nervous but knowing it was the right thing to do.

Michael’s eyes seemed to widen behind the mask, and he was still fiddling with the hem of his cloak. “I... I’m still a threat if anyone sees us together though, like when I’m wearing the mask and cloak together and doing my Red Hood stuff. Are you really sure you want to hang around me? You... you’re a nice person, and I don’t want to drag you down with me, with the reputation I have with the law and all.” Michael looked over at Jeremy as he asked, hands stilling. “I don’t want to rope you into a life of being on-the-run from law enforcements... You seem too good and smart of a person, someone who could definitely help better and advance the world.”

Jeremy thought for a moment, considering this fact. Then he made up his mind. “The fact is, I can work on my creations anywhere so long as I have my wagon. And I have my guild who can bail me out if I get in any trouble, but I won’t. I’ll be careful, and make sure to disguise myself if we’re headed somewhere risky for me. You’re doing something good, Michael, and I want to do that as well. And I feel I can do that best if I traveled with you, for as long as you’ll have me,” he stated honestly. Something in his gut told him to stay with Michael, that it would be important to stay together. He normally would ignore that part of him (for good reason) but decided to listen to it for once instead of letting his anxiety get the better of him.

Michael was quiet for a minute, staring right at Jeremy, and he almost squirmed under the somewhat intense golden gaze. For a second, he thought that Michael might continue to say otherwise, which he’d continue to argue against, before he heard the other say, “Alright. Honestly, it would be great to be with another person again. Not that you’re not great company, Darling, you’re honestly amazing, but... Yeah... I’d love to have you, Jeremy.” Again, Jeremy could hear Michael smiling from behind the mask. “If you’re getting into this though, I should let you know that... that I’m sorta heading to do something, something that might not be the safest thing.”

Jeremy’s stomach flipped at that but he stayed strong. “What are you gonna do?” he asked after a moment.

“I had a dream last night. I was visited by a red spirit, though I know it was a representation of the Red Mountain Spring of the South’s guardian, Iconis, in my dream. He came and told me that he needed help. His brother, Tracz, the Green Mountain Spring of the North’s guardian, is in trouble. Some being called Squip is doing something, trying to harness his spring and bring harm to not just Tracz, but the citizens of this realm. It’s... honestly a bit terrifying, at least from what I was informed about.

“Iconis called on me to help, and he offered me a boon if I helped. Even if he didn’t offer the boon, I would have helped. I just can’t ignore something like that, you know?” Michael looked at him during this entire explanation. “I understand if you don’t want to continue journeying with me after this. It’s more dangerous than just my Red Hood stuff. I don’t want you to come and risk your life, Jeremy, not if you have any hesitations.”

Jeremy hissed at the mention of the Squip. “You’re fighting the Squip? The corruption demon? That’s not something small, Michael... but I’ll still stay with you. You’re right, it’s not something you can just ignore, not when you know and can do something about it. Plus, you’ll probably need a magic user to take the Squip down. I can help a little there at least.” He sighed.

Everyone who was trained in magic knew about the Squip, the horrible corruption demon. It was said that if you looked into its eyes, you would lose yourself forever. If it had somehow gotten to the Green Spring, the fate of the whole country, maybe the whole continent, was at risk. Jeremy couldn’t just sit idle if that was the case, even if he wasn’t necessarily the most patriotic citizen. Innocent people were more important than his own bias against the ruling class.

Michael seemed to relax a bit where he sat then. "I... thank you, Jeremy. Honestly, it's really a huge relief to have someone to count on besides myself for this, excluding Darling here." He reached up, scratching along the side of the bird's neck with a finger. "I honestly feel a lot better than I did after waking up this morning. Going across the continent by myself, well, wouldn't be that fun, so thanks for going along with my whole craziness after I literally got the drop on you. It... it means a lot."

Jeremy shot him a small smile, his cheeks heating up again. “Well it’ll be an adventure if nothing else.” He shrugged. “But it’s also the right thing to do. So I’m glad to be of service.”

Michael let out a soft hum then, glancing away to look right at Darling. He could hear some flustered (yup, he knew that from before he could really outwardly control how he was when he got crushes) tones in that hum. “I... thank you,” Michael muttered out. “I-I know I already said it, but yeah... You’re a really good person, Jeremy. I’m glad I ran into you again.”

Jeremy felt his own cheeks heat up further. What was it about this boy that made Jeremy so weak to him? Regardless, he blushed and nodded. “Me too. And I’m glad you dropped into my wagon and not someone else’s.” He took the reigns back and focused onto the road. “Now, let's get going. We have a spirit to save.”