The next morning came bright and early, the sun leaking through the window onto Aster's bed, waking him up instantly. When he sat up, it took him a few moments to recall he wasn't in his room at home, but in a completely new place. And he wasn't alone…
Aster looked across the room at the other bed, seeing Bella snoring softly, her fire-like hair spread out around her pillow like a solar halo. She was beautiful, to be sure, and incredibly cute when she wanted to be, but she was also powerful and kind of intimidating, especially in combat. Aster recalled the vicious and focused look she'd had on her face when fighting. It was like she was a completely different person when she was locked in combat. It was hard for him to reconcile the strange but cute girl she was normally with that aggressive and brutally competent fighter.
His eyes trailed down from her face to her neck, then further to the upper part of her chest, where her blankets rose up to cover her boobs in a very alluring way. The fact that she was nude under that blanket only made him more eager to see underneath it, but he contained himself. If she caught him staring at her while she slept, she might get really upset at him and yell, or even leave, and he really didn't want that. He hadn't imagined he'd get to start his journey to become a knight with a girl as his partner, but now that it was his reality he really didn't want to miss the chance.
Besides, if she becomes a knight too, then maybe we can share partners if she chooses to marry me. Aster knew the thought was ambitious, but hell, she was a really cute girl who seemed to like him, and that was good enough to want to marry her in his book.
He didn't want to disturb her sleep, so he sat quietly in his bed for a while, watching her as the sun rose higher through the window. Eventually she started to wake up, yawning heavily and sitting up from the bed, letting her blankets fall and uncovering her chest. Aster bit his lip, excited at seeing her boobs again but not wanting to say anything that might upset her.
"G-good morning Bella," he said to her, drawing her bleary eyes his way.
"'Orning," Bell responded sleepily. "Where's shower?"
"Over that way," Aster told her, pointing to the bathroom to her right. She muttered a quick thanks before hopping out of bed, walking towards the bathroom without a second thought despite her nudity, giving him a look at the rest of her body. Aster's blush grew twice as strong as he studied her form, particularly her tight but curvy ass, before she left his sight and closed the door to the bathroom. He listened to her start the shower and was left wondering just what he should be doing at the moment. He felt his body supply him with an answer, but shut down that idea immediately, remembering her warning from the night before.
"Not enough time for that, now. Plus, I think I should really ask her permission first. Otherwise it feels like I'm taking advantage of her…"
Her shower was surprisingly quick, as she came out within only five minutes, roughly drying her long hair with her towel, leaving the rest of her uncovered.
"Shower's yours, Aster," she told him, her voice much more coherent now. "Plenty of hot water left, it seems. Rather impressive plumbing as well for a seemingly medieval society."
"Me-what?" he said, too distracted by her still wet boobs to hear her properly.
Bella rolled her eyes at him, then snapped to get his attention, which only lasted a few seconds. "Go ahead and shower, bud. We have places to be today. What those places are we don't know yet, but places all the same. Get!"
Aster leapt out of bed to follow her order, rushing into the bathroom before even thinking of removing his clothing. Once he was safely inside though, he was struck with a particular thought again, and this time it was much more tempting.
"I've never masturbated in a shower before," Aster said to himself in a whisper as he pulled down his pants. "Mostly because we didn't have a shower at home…" His pants and boxers fell to the floor with a swift tug, leaving his half-upright cock to jump free. His breath hitched as he cautiously grasped his member, then he grinned. "I mean, if I hurry, I should be fine, right? We're not in that much of a rush."
Excitedly he jumped into the shower, in his haste forgetting he still had his shirt on and tossed it out onto the floor. He fumbled with the handles for a bit until he figured out which was hot versus cold, then set the shower to just the right temperature. For a while he just stood under the stream, enjoying the sensation of water falling down his body and soothing his muscles. But down below his cock was still hissing at him to attend to it, and soon enough he obliged, taking it in his hand.
Aster was proud of his cock, even though the only thing he had to compare it to was porn mags, which his sisters had told him were blatantly unrealistic in their sizes. When he was fully erect he measured about a quarter of his arm's length, and wide enough he had difficulty rubbing the whole of his cock with one hand. It would take him a bit to reach that size at his current level of arousal, but he was more than eager to expedite the process.
But who do I think of? Bella, Raimus, Riche? My sisters? He struggled with his choice for a while, images of all the girls floating through his mind, before deciding not to decide and choosing them all. Grasping his cock tightly, he explored the feeling of water coating his length and making his hand move smoothly up and down. He started to envision the boobs of all the girls he'd seen. Raimus' mountainous curves, Riche's restrained but perky beauty, his sisters' twin sets of gorgeous peaks. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, none of them could compare to Bella's, as he had seen them in all their glory, unspoilt by clothes or bra. Her creamy smooth skin, her small pink nipples, how they jiggled as she moved.
He sped up his pumping, moving his hand from head to balls in rapid fashion. The water was making this extra easy, and the heat in the shower was making him pant.
Next he imagined Bella's ass, seeing it right there in front of him, with curves so perfect he couldn't dream of better. He wanted to touch her ass, feel it in his hands, grasp it tightly and run his fingers over every inch. His breathing grew labored, and his cock grew stiff and hard in his grasp.
He saw her pussy in his mind's eye, that soft, inviting slit waiting there between her legs, wanting him to get close and probe with his fingers, his tongue, his cock. He thrust between his hands, imagining it was Bella's pussy instead, moaning as he could almost feel himself slip into her. He saw her lips spreading to take him in, heard her gentle moans as she flooded with pleasure from his thrusts. Their eyes met, his and hers, both staring at each other with passion, pleasure… and love.
Aster groaned heavily as he reached his peak, ropes of his cum launching from his cock against the shower wall. He kept pumping away as his climax continued, imagining Bella's content smile as he filled her up with his cum. At last he ran out of steam, falling back against the wall, hand over his heart as he breathed in and out deeply.
"Wow… that was… incredible."
It took him a few minutes to recover from the force of his orgasm, but finally he remembered he was technically in the shower to get clean and rinsed himself off. Once he was out he picked up the towel laid out for him and dried himself off, taking care around his cock since it wasn't quite shrunk just yet. He then picked up his clothes and put them back on, striding out the door with a smile.
Outside Bella was waiting for him on the bed, spinning her mace around between her fingers out of apparently boredom.
"So, how was the wank?"
Aster just about flatlined, jaw coming loose as his mind shut down entirely.
"I assume it was a good one, given how long you took," she said, voice not changing at all in pitch as she kept speaking casually. "I wonder who you thought of most? I'm guessing it's me, since you saw me naked twice. Then again, could be your sisters, if you've seen them naked as well."
"It was mostly you," Aster said, then clapped his hand over his mouth when he realized what he'd just spoken.
"Called it," Bella said cheerfully. "Anyway, hope you had fun, because we're heading out now. Got lots of stuff to do."
Aster just nodded mutely and followed her out of the room, stiff as a board as he walked. He noticed Bella add some more time to their inn stay before they walked out into the street.
"So… what to do now?" Bella asked herself as she looked around.
"Should we try to go find Ramius?" Aster asked. "Since she's a knight she might know what to do to become one."
"That was my thought, but we have no idea where she might be at the moment. She did say she had other jobs to do besides protecting the town." Bella hummed, tapping her chin in thought. "I suppose for now we could just wander around killing monsters again. Getting some more gold to upgrade our equipment is far from a waste of time."
Aster was torn between really wanting that nice sword he saw in the shop and having to go out and kill gal monsters again, but he told himself that in the end, they were monsters, and half of a knight's job was slaying monsters in the first place.
"Hey, do you think we should look for Riche too while we're out there?" he said as they made their way to the edge of town.
"Oh for sure, but I don't think we're likely to run into each other on our own. She looked like she had places to be. If anything, I think she'll be the one to find us."
They chatted for a while as they left the town behind, Bella grilling Aster on what he knew of using his sword and her giving him more tips on using it effectively. As they were walking, they heard a moo come from behind them. Sure enough when they looked there was a cow wandering around on the road alone, no herd or humans in sight.
"Where did you come from, fella?" Aster asked as he walked up to the cow, petting it on the head. The animal barely seemed to notice his presence, mooing again in the exact same tone.
"Probably escaped from one of the farms around here," Bella speculated.
They looked up to see a girl with green hair and a long dress running towards them out of breath.
"I assume this is yours?" Bella called out to the girl as she got closer.
The girl paused for breath once she arrived, then nodded at them once she was settled. She had a thin pair of glasses over her eyes and overall carried a 'home-town girl' vibe. "Yes! He's mine! He likes to wander off sometimes, so I have to go chasing after him."
"Isn't that dangerous though with all the monsters around?" Aster said. "I wouldn't want a cute girl like you to get attacked.
"C-cute?" the girl said. "You think I'm cute?"
"He thinks every girl is cute," Bella told her.
"They are though!"
"Don't mind him," she continued kindly, "He's just a bit too free with his compliments for his own good. But he has a point you know. Even with the knight Ramius around, it's clearly not safe to go wandering around outside of town."
The girl looked down at her feet, clearly embarrassed. "You're right, I'm sorry. I just… when one of my cows is in danger I tend to forget about the risks to myself. My family gets awfully mad at me for that."
"Well, nothing happened this time, but you should take the warning seriously," Bella said. "Nobody wants to be the one attacked by monsters or outlaws."
"Of course, I'll be extra careful next time and get someone to come with me," she promised. "Thank you, and especially thank you for finding my cow for me."
Aster and Bella shared a look before the former said, "He… kinda found us, but you're welcome anyway."
The girl giggled. "All the same. You know, you two should come by my family's farm the next time you're in the village. We'll give you a nice home cooked meal to thank you for your help. We're on the west side, by the river. Come by any time!"
"Sure thing," Aster told her eagerly. "We'll be there. Oh, but what's your name? Mine's Aster, and she's Bella."
"Yo," Bella said, giving a little wave.
The girl bowed at them slightly. "Nice to meet you. My name is Colpis. And this is Moosel. Say hi Moosel."
The cow did no such thing, blindly staring at the empty sky, oblivious to Colpis' touch.
"Geez, and I thought cows in my world are dumb," Bella whispered under her breath.
Colpis wasn't put out though, gently patting the brainless animal on its empty skull and giggling. "Oh Moosel, no need to be shy. Anyway, I guess we should head home now. I hope to see you both soon!"
"Plan on it," Aster promised, waving goodbye to Colpis as she took the cow away. He stared at her as she left, a wistful smile on his face.
"She won't let you touch her boobs just for saving her cow, you know."
"Gah!" Aster jumped at the sudden sound of Bella's voice uncomfortably close to his ear, looking to his left to see her smirking at him. "I… I wasn't… Okay I was, but I wasn't serious about it. Much."
"Sure you weren't," Bella teased. "Look, I respect your desire to touch boobies, but you have to do a wee bit more than notice a random cow on the road to earn that privilege. Try becoming a knight and saving someone's life before you ask. Politely."
Aster's face grew determined at that as he flung his sword up above his head, shouting, "I will become a knight so I can touch a girl's boobies! This I swear."
"Yeah, you tell that sky Aster," Bella said with a touch of humor, the boy rubbing his hair with a bit of embarrassment.
From there they wandered around the plains surrounding Abel, finding several more hanny slime packs and a few more gal monster pairs, but less than yesterday. Apparently their work from the day before actually had an effect on the population, which was an encouraging thought. All the same, they earned enough gold to afford a few new items at the store and decided to head back for an early lunch. As they reentered the town they saw the red-haired man who had been with the mob on the beach, and he apparently saw them, as he walked right over.
"Hey there you two!" he said in greeting. "No hard feelings about yesterday, huh? I was just doing my job you know."
Bella rolled her eyes at him. "And what job would that be, pray tell?"
"Adventurer! But, uh, right now I'm employed as a soldier for the town." The man held out his hand to them. "My name's Yarase."
"Aster," Aster said, taking the guy's hand and shaking it firmly. When the same hand was offered to Bella, she was more reluctant to shake it, but eventually did so while giving him a bit of the stink eye.
"Bella, non-outlaw seeking to become a knight."
Yarase chuckled weakly. "Yeah, sorry again about that. I was just… really bored, cause there's not much that happens around here. I joined the town militia because I couldn't become a knight until I took the Knight Test that happens in the capital. Once I ace that, then I'll be a knight free and clear. Then I can have more girls as my wives, oh yeah!"
Oh great, another one.
Aster on the other hand seemed thrilled. "You're becoming a knight to get more girls too?"
"Oh yeah, obviously," Yarase said. "Why else would I do it?"
"Oh, I don't know," Bella said, "maybe to help people, do the right thing, fight evil monsters to keep the world safe?"
Yarase's face fell. "Oh yeah, knights do that stuff too… Well, that stuff'll be easy once I get to be a knight! I'll train hard to take on any challenge and get all the ladies to myself!"
Suuuure you will.
"But for right now, I'm just a soldier, and soldiers don't get any special privileges like knights do. We're just supposed to fight monsters and protect places."
"Like Ramius does," Aster said cheerfully.
Yarase shrugged. "I mean yeah, but… to be honest, me and the other soldiers have been kinda avoiding her."
Aster was instantly aghast. "What? Why? She's great!"
"Oh she may be hot, but did you notice she's here alone?"
Bella perked up at that, paying attention to the conversation again. "Why does that matter?" she asked.
Yarase glanced around, as if looking for anyone who might be listening in on their conversation. "Knights are supposed to operate in teams you know, but Ramius is always alone from what I hear. Rumor is everyone she works with gets injured and leaves her behind. That's why she earned the nickname 'the Loner Knight'."
Aster's face darkened at the mere prospect of Ramius being disliked. "That's unfair. Knights have a dangerous job don't they? Just because they get hurt when they're with her doesn't mean it's her fault, right?"
"Hey man, I'm just saying what I know," Yarase told him. "And what I know is that nobody wants to work with Ramius if they can help it, and I'm listening to their advice."
"Yeah, you do that," Bella said flatly, but Yarase missed her comment entirely.
"Man, if only they'd sent Acheval down here. If he saw how skilled I am, he'd totally set me up with the knights!"
"Who's Acheval?" Aster asked, causing Yarase to gasp in shock.
"You've never heard of Acheval?!" the man shouted, to which Aster just shook his head. "He's, like, one of the most famous guys around! He's one of Eden's only three Zero Knights!"
"I assume Zero Knight is a very high rank?" Bella asked, arms folded over her chest.
"The highest!" Yarase told her. "He was a hero in the Arthur Tragedy. You guys had to have heard about that one, right?"
Bella and Aster both said no.
"We're not exactly from around here," she told him. "Grew up on an island with no news beyond its shores."
Yarase stared at them in shock, saying, "Man, you guys don't know anything." He missed Bella's glare and kept right on, saying, "Well, if you want to know about all that, I'm not the guy to ask. I flunked out of history class."
Gee, what a shock.
"Anyway, what are you guys up to right now?"
"We wanted to go find one of the farms so we could eat there," Aster told him. "We were invited by Colpis personally."
"Colpis, Colpis… oh yeah, that cow girl! Yeah, she lives over on the west side. I can show you there if you want."
Yarase smiled and nodded, waving for them to follow. "This way then." He led them through the town, pointing out various places of interests as they went, most of which they'd already visited the day before. It didn't take them long to reach the farm on the edge of town, where a wide-open pasture was being grazed by a herd of cows. Standing by the fence there was Colpis, hand feeding one of the cows from a bucket of grass.
"Hey Colpis!" Aster shouted to her, causing her to jump in surprise and drop the bucket. The cow took several seconds to notice it wasn't being fed anymore, staring straight ahead for a while before leaning down to eat directly from the bucket.
"Oh, hello Aster, Bella," she said as they walked up. "And Yarase, nice to see you again."
"Yeah, you too," Yarase said. "So where's your fiancé, Ginyu? I usually see him out here with you when you're feeding the cows."
Bella glanced at Aster when he heard Colpis was taken, but to her surprise he was only sad for a moment before cheering right up again.
"He's inside, working on some paperwork," she said. "Oh, Aster, Bella, as part of my thanks for earlier, I'd like you to try some of the milk my cows have been producing." She held out a couple of glasses of white liquid. Aster took his eagerly, while Bella had to mentally chide herself for thinking it was a different white liquid.
Mind out of the gutter, girl.
Aster took a hearty swig, then gasped in delight. "Holy cow, it's so sweet!"
Bella took her own sip, eyes widening in shock as she tasted. "Jeez, it's like liquid ice cream. How did you make this?"
Colpis smiled widely. "It's milk from a specially bred cow. It's actually so sweet it can't be drunk on it's own, so you have to mix it with water."
"You made this just by breeding a cow?" Bella asked in amazement.
"She's been trying stuff like this for years ever since she was little," Yarase told them. "Though this is the first time I've heard of it making something really great. Congrats Colpis."
"Thank you so much," Colpis said, beaming. "I was hoping to develop it for export so that Abel could spread it around the world. That way our little farming town could get to be a little more famous."
"If it tastes like this, then I'm sure you'll succeed, Colpis," Aster told her.
Colpis grinned at him. "That's very kind of you to say, Aster. Thank you."
They all looked up to see a young man with dark brown hair running towards them.
"Ginyu? What's wrong?"
"Oh, that must be her fiancé," Aster said, his smile slipping a bit.
"Easy there, boyo," Bella whispered to him.
Ginyu arrived, taking a breath to settle his lungs. "Colpis, I'm so sorry, but that special cow you bred? It seems like it's caught mad milk disease!"
Colpis gasped. "Oh no! Not her! I put so much work in to breed her."
Ginyu clasped her hands to calm her. "It's okay, sweetie, we just need to find some special nutritious grass to feed it and that should cure the disease."
"But grass that nutritious doesn't grow around here," Colpis said.
Ginyu nodded but said, "I've heard that the sea wind near Fort Baroroan makes the grass there extra nutritious. We just need to have someone get it."
Colpis started to say she'd go but she was interrupted by Yarase.
"Colpis, get real! If you go that far from town you're bound to be attacked by monsters!"
"B-but… if we don't get that grass my cow will die…" She started to sniffle, the beginning of tears in her eyes.
"We'll get it."
Everyone looked to Aster with surprise save Bella, who merely nodded along.
"R-really?" Colpis asked. "You'd do that for us?"
"Sure," Aster said freely. "We'd love to help, right Bella?"
Bella smirked. "Oh yes. There's nothing more I'd like to do today than to save a cow by feeding it special grass. Especially if it means you get to keep working on your dream Colpis," she said in a more serious tone.
"Oh thank you, thank you so much! You have no idea how much this means to me!" Colpis broke down crying, but there was a bit of joy to the tears rather than pure sadness.
"You two really are great people," Ginyu said as he cradled his wife to be. "The grass should be growing off to the north of town near the river. If you can see the Fort in the distance, that should be close enough. Thank you, truly."
"Not a problem," Aster said. "We'll be back with that grass in no time."
Yarase clapped Aster on the back, staggering the smaller boy. "Hey, you two be careful out there, huh? No telling how many monsters you might see on the trip. And I can't go out there to help, I'm stuck here watching the town."
"Don't worry, we'll be able to handle it," Bella assured him. "We should be back in a few hours."
They waved goodbye, Colpis rushing up and giving Aster a tearful hug of thanks as they went. Close as they were to the edge of town already getting out into the open took only a few minutes, and from there Bella oriented them northward by measuring the angle of the sun in the sky. They walked for a while in silence, both content with their thoughts, but eventually Bella started up a conversation.
"You're a real nice guy, you know that Aster?"
"Hmm?" He looked at her in confusion. "What do you mean?"
Typical. The guy is so nice he doesn't recognize his own kindness. Out loud she said, "You're offering to go out on a potentially dangerous task to fetch some grass all so a dumb cow doesn't die just to let a girl have her chance at her dream. That's pretty selfless, you know."
Aster blushed but stayed firm in his conviction. "I just… couldn't stand to see a cute girl like Colpis sad, you know? And since I could help, I really wanted to. I don't want to ever let someone be sad if I can do something to fix it."
"And that's one of the best virtues out there," she told him. "That sense of selfless heroism. Which, by the way, a lot of girls find very attractive in a man."
Given his shocked expression, Aster was surprised at the idea that his basic personality would actually be a turn on for most women, then he smiled dumbly for a while. They kept on to the north for some time, wandering away from the road after an hour to head directly towards the river. They ran into several more hanny slimes along the way, as well as more gal monsters , but none of them posed a challenge when they were spotted coming almost literally a mile away. Eventually they caught sight of the river, a wide, meandering body of water that moved at a modest pace to the southeast towards the sea. The grass around it was remarkably tall and sturdy, forcing both of them to work together to pull out a thick clump of it.
"Well, that was easy," Aster said as he stuffed the grass into his pack, only for Bella to hiss at him. "What? What'd I say?"
"Never say those words, Aster," she warned him. "Whenever you do, you jinx things so that something will go wrong. What and when is hard to predict, but I'm telling you, something always goes wrong when you say that."
Aster looked like he didn't believe her, but chose not to comment on it. The return journey was utterly peaceful, no new monsters appearing on their path back to town. Halfway back though they saw an oddity appear in their path: a random chest just sitting in the grass.
"What's that doing there?" Bella asked.
Aster was about to shrug when he remembered something. "Oh hey, I think that's a skill chest."
"A… no, wait, don't tell me. It gives you a skill when you open it?"
"Yep," Aster said as he approached the chest, hands out.
"And how do you tell if it's meant for you?" she asked him.
"That's what I'm trying to see," Aster said. "My sisters told me a skill chest will feel warm to the touch if it has a skill you can use inside." He put his hand on the wood and grinned. "Warm! This is for me!" He opened the chest and stuck his hand inside, then yelped as he leapt back, electricity coursing over his arm.
Bella rushed up to him. "You okay?" she asked, looking him over.
"Yeah, I'm fine. It was just kinda… shocking." As Aster said the word, more electricity ran down his arm, but this time it didn't stun him.
"Well hey, looks like you can control lightning now. That's cool."
Aster laughed with glee, then thrust his hand out at the ground, a small bolt of lightning lancing out and burning the grass there with a snap. "That's so awesome."
Bella clapped him on the shoulder. "Come on, you can practice more on the way back."
Aster grinned at her happily, then asked, "Hey, what skills do you have?"
"No idea so far. I'll figure it out later."
It wasn't long after that they saw the outskirts of town. As they got closer though they saw a group of people massing around the farm where Colpis was, and that made both of them nervous.
"That's not a good sign," Bella said for the both of them. Rushing the rest of the way there, they pushed through the crowd to the farmhouse. Ginyu was slumped against the front door of the house, Yarase standing over him looking dejected. Ramius was there as well, her brow furrowed.
"Ginyu, what's wrong?" Aster said. "Where's Colpis?"
Ginyu didn't answer, instead thumping his fist against the door behind him angrily.
"Outlaws took her," Yarase answered for the grieving man. "Happened not long after you left. They just… rushed onto the farm and nabbed her, plain as day. I was too far away to stop them, and they were too fast to catch. They got away… and I couldn't stop them…"
Aster looked like he'd been struck in the stomach, while Bella simply closed her eyes and let her anger seep away before it rose up.
"It's not your fault, Yarase," Ramius told him. "Outlaws are crafty and sneaky. They know how to go unnoticed until it's too late."
"But I was the guy on guard duty!" he shouted back at her. "It's my fault she was taken! I should have been stronger! Been faster, something!" The man's anger faded as fast as it came, his head hanging and his voice hollow. "Some knight I'd be if I can't even protect my own village."
Ramius stood next to him, fidgeting, clearly wanting to say something but unable to come up with the words. So Bella did it for her.
"Yarase, look at me." She waited until he did before she continued. "Sometimes in life, shit happens, and there's nothing we can do to prevent it. It sucks, it's awful, and it tears us up inside. Makes us start to focus on the what-ifs and the what-could-have-beens. Speaking as someone who's dealt with that feeling more times than I can count, listen to my words here: it's okay to feel sad about it, but don't blame yourself for something you had no control over."
Yarase stared at her in shock, but started to harden his expression as her words sunk in. "I… I see. I… thank you Bella."
"You're welcome," she told him earnestly. "Now, let's get to the part we can control. Finding these bandits and dealing with them."
Ramius stood up tall when Bella said that, saying, "It's my job as a knight to deal with them, and that's what I'll do. From what I saw of the tracks, it looks like the outlaws headed to the west around the cape. There's rumored to be an old smugglers den out there that they may be using as their base. I shall go there and clear them out, while all of you remain here."
"But we can help!" Aster shouted. "We should help! Colpis needs us to save her!"
Ramius stood steadfast though, shaking her head at him. "You are not a knight or a soldier, Aster, so you are not permitted to kill another human, even an outlaw in defense of another. More than that, it is not safe for anyone who is not a knight to go. The cave is known to be a haven for monsters now, and if the outlaws have joined them there, then it is far too dangerous for an ordinary citizen to go, no matter how skilled."
"Wait, how could the outlaws be hiding in the same place as monsters?" Yarase asked. "Monsters attack everybody, even outlaws, no exceptions!"
"Which means either the outlaws have found a way to co-exist with monsters," Ramius said, "or they were strong enough to clear out the entire cave of those monsters, meaning they are strong enough ordinary soldiers can't deal with them. No. Only I can go. I am the only one who can defeat them." She looked to Aster with an apologetic expression. "I'm sorry, Aster, but it has to be this way. Please, follow my orders."
The boy grit his teeth, the argument on the tip of his tongue, but he backed down, slowly nodding his ascent.
"Very well. I shall leave immediately so that she may be saved before they can attempt to turn her against Mother Eve."
"Wait, what does that mean?" Bella asked.
Yarase's expression grew dark as he explained. "Outlaw men take women for only one reason: to rape them. And if more than one of them rapes her, she'll be considered an outlaw and lose access to Eve's blessing just like them."
Bella's jaw fell open a second before she exploded with rage, saying, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! THIS BULLSHIT SYSTEM LETS OUTLAWS TURN OTHER PEOPLE INTO OUTLAWS AGAINST THEIR WILL?! HOW THE FUCK IS THAT POSSIBLE!?"
Everyone shrunk back from her roaring, both in shock and alarm.
"That's just the way it is," Yarase told her, trembling. "Nobody knows why the rules work like that but Mother Eve herself."
Bella was still seething as he spoke, but quickly attempted to compose herself, succeeding only in tempering her rage into a fine and quiet fury. "Well rest assured, if I ever have the opportunity to meet with this Mother Eve, I'll give her a piece of my mind, that's for fucking sure."
Everyone gasped at the proclamation, a few people in the crowd shouting at her for going against Eve's teachings. Bella had to suppress the urge to yell at them for being unthinking and uncritical about such an obvious flaw in their system of laws, but kept her cool enough not to rant.
"There is still time to save her if I hurry," Ramius assured them all. She looked to Ginyu, who was slumped on the ground now, tears dried from exhaustion. "I promise you, I will return her to you safely."
To her surprise though, Ginyu looked up at her with furious eyes. "How can I believe what you say?! It's your fault she was taken in the first place!"
Ramius, wide-eyed, backed away from him as he kept up his shouting.
"I wish the capital had sent Acheval here! If he was here, Colpis would never have been taken at all! Instead we got you, his useless sister, who gets all of her partners killed! How can I trust you'll save my fiance if you can't even keep your teammates alive!"
Aster grew livid as Ginyu ranted and was about to make a move at the man, but Yarase beat him to it.
"Shut the hell up you idiot!" Yarase roared in Ginyu's face, making the meek farmer fall back to the floor. "She's offering to go alone to save your beloved from outlaws and monsters and you scream at her for it?! How could you!"
Ginyu, his anger diminished, shrunk into himself, curling into a ball and heaving with tears. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it…"
"Sure you didn't you fucking prick," Bella sniped at him. "You're lucky I know what grief does to a person, or I'd pick you up off the ground and slap you right back down." She looked to Ramius, who was looking away from everyone, her gear loose in her grasp. "Ramius, don't listen to him. He's mad with grief and it's making him say stupid shit. I know you're the best bet Colpis has of coming out of this okay. You may be the only knight for the job, but that doesn't mean you're not the best knight for the job."
Ramius didn't acknowledge her words, but she did grip her lance more tightly. "I'm leaving now. I shall return with Colpis as soon as I am able." She turned to address the crowd. "All of you please return to your homes. The situation is under control."
At her order the crowd started to disperse, many of the people muttering to each other as they left. When most of them were gone, Ramius turned to Yarase.
"Please watch over the town while I'm gone."
Yarase straightened in place, saluting her. "Absolutely! I'll get the guys together and make sure nothing gets close, outlaw or monster."
Ramius gave him a small smile. "Thank you Yarase. I know I can trust you. And… thank you for defending me."
Yarase faltered a bit but returned to his serious pose. "S-sure thing."
Ramius nodded to him one last time then left, heading towards the edge of town. As she was walking off, Bella nudged Aster, motioning in the direction she had gone, to which he nodded and they both walked after her.
"Hey! Where are you guys going?"
They paused, looking back at him. Bella smirked and said, "Exactly where you think we're going."
Yarase stared at them wide-eyed for a moment, then grinned. "Good luck then. And… bring Colpis back in one piece, you hear?"
Aster firmly nodded to him, then took the lead in following after Ramius. It didn't take long to catch up when they both went at a light jog, catching her just as she was leaving the town boundary. She noticed them arriving and turned to see them, obviously confused.
"What are you two doing here?"
"We're here to help you," they both said at the same time, surprising each other, but surprising Ramius more.
"That's… that's not necessary," she started to say, but Bella cut her off.
"Necessary or not, we're doing it anyway. Colpis is in danger and she needs all the help she can get. And I don't like the idea of you going into a bandit lair all by yourself."
"Outlaws," Ramius corrected absently. "I'll be fine. I'm used to working alone. If you come, you'll just be put in danger."
"We can handle danger," Aster assured her. "We can take care of ourselves. Plus, we don't want to see you hurt any more than Colpis! We have to help to make sure you stay safe too!"
"I…" Ramius fell silent, staring at the ground between them. "I don't want you to get hurt either. Like… all my partners do."
Bella noticed how downcast Ramius was and decided to buck up her spirit by lightly punching her in the shoulder. "Hey now, we can handle it. We cleared out the hanny slimes and gal monsters from these fields by ourselves without a scratch. If the three of us are working together, there's no way those outlaws stand a chance, right? Plus… there's no way I'd forgive myself if a cutie like you got hurt."
Ramius' face turned up to her in sheer shock as she started to stammer again. "Y-you too? You think I'm cute as well?"
"Totally," Bella said. "Everything about you is adorable and hot at the same time. Heck, I'm almost as enamored with you as Aster is, and that's saying something."
Aster nodded to confirm, leaving Ramius no safe place to squirm her way out of the compliment. "I've never met a girl as attractive as you are before. And I saw Bella naked!"
Ramius' eyes, somehow, grew even wider as her gaze swapped back and forth rapidly between them.
Bella thumped Aster in the head, saying, "That didn't need to be mentioned, Aster."
"Sorry, I was just getting excited. But it's true!"
"I… I don't know what to say," Ramius told them. "No one has ever said such things to me before."
Bella looked at her with surprise. "Seriously? A girl as hot as you not ever getting compliments? Jeez, what blockheads and morons have you been surrounded by all your life?"
"They… most people can't see me as… cute… because I am a knight who slays monsters," Ramius told them. "They only see me as a warrior."
Bella pinched her nose. "Well then they're blind and stupid. Just because you're strong doesn't mean you can't be beautiful."
"Yeah," Aster agreed. "You're the strongest girl I've ever met, but that doesn't make you any less hot."
Ramius shuddered for a bit longer, but the pair could finally see the hint of a smile on her face. "Thank you… both of you. Your words mean a lot to me." She straightened, allowing some of her prior composure to return. "You both mean to help me, even though it will be dangerous?"
"We do," they both confirmed in unison.
Ramius closed her eyes, smiling as she came to her decision. "Very well. Then with the power granted to me by the Kingdom of Eden, I shall make you both Soldiers of Eden, so that you may be allowed to fight and kill like a knight." Her eyes hardened, and she pointed her lance at both of them. "Be warned. Do not misuse this power I have granted you, as I will not hesitate to eliminate either of you if you prove you are not responsible with it. The ability to kill at will with no repercussions from the law is a dangerous ability that not all are able to wield safely. If you begin to abuse it, it is all too easy to fall into evil."
Aster solemnly held up his hand, saying, "I promise I won't abuse my power."
Bella didn't say anything for a moment, instead wearing a sad smile on her face. "You may not know this, Ramius, but this is a power I am all too familiar with, and one that has plagued me for most of my adult life. You have my word I shall not kill without adequate reason, as well as the promise that if ever I do, I shall not resist your lance's punishment, and indeed present myself to you."
Ramius passively heard the speech in full, her eyes narrowing throughout before she nodded firmly.
"Very well. With that settled. Let us hurry. Colpis only has so much time before it is too late." Ramius held her lance out above her head as a light coalesced at the tip, shining brightly even in the midday sun. Once it was collected, she pressed it into both their shoulders in turn, saying, "In the name of Lady Ramius Dreissen, may Aster and Bella be granted the title of Soldier."
The pair felt a warmth flush through them, their shoulders growing numb at the point of contact for a few moments before the sensation faded.
"That was simpler than expected," Bella said.
"It is not a complex ritual," Ramius told her. "Also, now that you are soldiers, both of you will be eligible to become knights through the test in the capital."
"Wait, really?" Aster said. "Awesome! My first step to becoming a knight! And one step closer to being able to fuck my sisters!"
Bella facepalmed at the random declaration, then immediately removed it when she heard Ramius' lance moving. She looked just in time to see the point of the lance laying flush against Aster's neck, Ramius staring at him with clear anger.
"You… you wish to be a knight only to have sex with multiple women! That's an insult to the meaning of being a knight!"
"W-what?" Aster said, trying not to move so he didn't get stabbed. "That's the main reason why I wanted to be a knight, because you can have multiple wives."
That did not help matters, and indeed seemed only to make Ramius angrier. "So you are perverted and dishonorable then! I should take back your soldier designation, but I cannot do so by myself! But know that I will not work with you for anything at all!"
"Woah woah woah, Ramius, calm the hell down," Bella said. She grabbed the point of the lance and pulled it away from Aster, only to end up having the tip stuck to her neck instead.
"And what of you? Are you planning to do the same pervertedness with multiple men? Are you so lustful you can't stand the idea of only one partner?"
Fighting the urge to roll her eyes at the ridiculousness of the situation, Bella answered Ramius with, "Are you forgetting the fact that the whole reason we came after you was because we wanted to help save Colpis? A girl who, may I remind, is already set to be married to someone else?"
That gave Ramius pause, enough that Bella was able to step out of range of the girl's lance.
"Look, Aster's stated reason for wanting to be a knight may not be the most noble thing in the world, but you can't deny he is a noble person! He is here literally risking his life just to save a girl he barely knows all because he wants to help, not even in expectation of getting anything for it! Does that honestly sound like the actions of a person who has bad intentions for anyone, Ramius?"
The white-haired girl seemed to struggle internally with how to respond, a struggle shown in the unsteady waving of her lance back and forth. "But… but it's wrong to desire more than one partner! It's perverted, against Eve's teachings!"
"If it's against Eve's teachings, then why did she allow knights to have multiple partners?"
That simple question utterly broke Ramius' composure, as her arms went slack and her mouth fell open in shock.
"That's actually a good point, Bella," Aster said. "Eve must have wanted some people to have multiple wives… or husbands, I guess, or else she wouldn't have let knights be the exception!"
Bella reached out to Ramius, taking care to step around the lance scraping against the cobblestones. "Ramius, it's okay if you disagree with what he wants. If you find sex uncomfortable like that, then that's perfectly fine. But please, don't discount his virtues as a person simply because he enjoys something you find you can't enjoy the same way."
There was silence for a while as Ramius processed what Bella said, both Bella and Aster waiting quietly as she thought. Eventually Ramius looked up at them, a stern expression on her face. "Fine. I shall still work with you to help save Colpis. But know that I will not respect you so long as you have such ridiculous ideas in your head!"
Aster winced but quietly nodded. "Sorry, Ramius. I didn't mean to upset you. I just… like what I like. Still, I'm glad you're letting us help you so we can save Colpis."
Ramius didn't say a word, turning away towards the path. "Let's go. We need to hurry to catch up with the outlaws."
With that Ramius took up a jogging pace, both Bella and Aster following closely behind. None of them noticed as a figure moved out of the shadows of a building near to where they had talked, a blonde-haired girl leaning out to watch them go.
"It's been a long time since I've seen Ramius blow up like that," Riche whispered to herself. "She looked devastated when she heard Aster say that." She giggled. "That Aster. He's so different. He seems like a pervert on the surface, but under that he really seems to care about girls as girls, not just as things to be lusted after. How can a boy like him be so earnest about something most people are scared to talk about?" She paused, looking at the other retreating figure, the one with orange hair. "And Bella… she seems so wise, despite not looking any older than Aster. How old is she really? And where did she learn to be so understanding?"
Riche sat by herself in the shadow of the building for a while, wondering as to the answers to her questions. Then she reminded herself of the mission her friend was on and she stood up. "They'll need my help for sure, no doubt about it. I can't just wait here for them to get back. I should do something to help. Ramius. Aster. Bella." She smiled, holding her staff to the sky. "The Princess of Eden is coming to aid you!"
Thus, without another moment's hesitation, she took off after them, moving at her own pace so that she could meet them at the proper moment. As she ran a wind picked up across the plain, carrying with it a change in direction that marked the course of something much greater.
And thus we start our first major quest. Not much to say so far, very little has changed to this point in terms of plot. That said, I am going to try and dive a bit deeper on the various characters we spend time with in the game, seeing some of their other sides and exploring the changes they make over time. Incidentally, Ramius is best girl and I shall fight to the death to defend her.