Locke and Els (1)
The curtains in the corner parted as a tall and slender silhouette slipped soundlessly out from the gap between the window and the bookshelf.
"Tsktsktsk, even the seduction of the alluring marchioness couldn't budge you. You definitely have a resolve of steel. It's not like there's a rule that says that you can't keep fooling around in bed even after a breakup... You're such a disappointment, and I thought I would get to enjoy a nice show later tonight... Sigh..."
The silhouette shook his head as if he thought that Lorist just lost a once in a lifetime chance, walked a few steps forward before stopping and slapping his forehead as he said, "Wait, you couldn't have known that I was there. Were you just bluffing? Maybe you wouldn't have discovered me if I had stayed put..."
"Hehe," laughed Lorist lightly. Before, Lorist indeed wouldn't have noticed his presence. But ever since he broke into the Dark stage, his senses have become so sharpened that he could easily detect the presence of any living being that was even as small as a rat, not to say much about a human, within a radius of one or two meters. The shadow who had stood still and quieted his breaths was totally unaware that his beating heart and the circulation of his blood was like a bright light shining in the dark night that easily caught Lorist's attention.
"I noticed you slipping inside the moment the young mistress put the candle away and sat down on the floor. You later sneaked around in the shadows before hiding behind the curtains. Was I right, Els?" Lorist described each and every action the shadow took when he slipped into the room.
"Huh? That can't be... Weren't you looking at your little lover just now? I even tried to avoid your line of sight," said the shadow as he went towards the table and looked at the five high-ranked Battle Force manuals that were placed there, and continued, "Not bad, these Battle Force manuals are pretty rare on the market and it doesn't look like they were copied recently too.The beast skin parchment used in the book looks at least a hundred years old. That ex-lover of yours really tried hard for your sake... She must have spent as much as three to four thousand gold to purchase these original copies from certain noble families."
That shadow in the room was Lorist's good friend, Brennan Evanport, or as most of his friends called him, Els. He was the nephew of the owner of the Red Grace Inn, Brennan Charlando. Having the prowess of a Two Star Silver combatant, he was also a syndicate boss who managed the affairs of the three districts around the area.
The circumstances in which Lorist got to know Els was rather comical. At that time, when Lorist was only 19, he frequently accepted missions from the mercenary guild to earn some extra cash. On one of the gathering missions he took with Charade, the two of them were fortunate enough to encounter a Black-horned Antelope, which was a low-ranked magical beast living in the mountains whose fur and horn fetched a rather high price. They spent several days of effort on tracking and hunting down that beast and brought their catch back to a nearby city with much haste.
Needing to take care of something back at the academy, Charade had Lorist go back to the house they rented to start tidying it up and wait for his return before they sell the catch away. The house they rented wasn't really large and they only used it to store the tools that they might need so that they don't have to go back to the academy that often and rest up whenever they needed to.
Lorist entered the house, threw the stuff in a corner and went straight into the washroom for a bath without remembering to lock up the entrance of the house. Having spent days out in the wilderness, he couldn't resist jumping into the water right away. As he was washing away happily, he heard the door open and close. Thinking that it was Charade, he called out to him a few times but nobody answered. Feeling suspicious, he went out to take a look.
The moment he emerged from the bathroom, he saw a young brunette woman who was breathing ragged breaths. Upon seeing Lorist, the woman almost let out a large scream before she had her mouth muffled up by Lorist as she stared at Lorist's privates.
Embarrassed and awkward, Lorist moved a few chairs in front of him to shield his bottom and put on his clothes swiftly. Before he even finished buttoning up, the woman crawled over to Lorist, hugged both of his legs and begged in a low voice, "Mister, please help me out... Save me, please?"
Having just come out of the bath and wearing nothing but a pair of undergarments covering his groin, given that the woman's face was so close to his wang, it would only take the slightest rub to trigger the male physiological reaction as Lorist was at the prime of his youth. Understanding his predicament, he hastily tried to get the woman to stand up and asked her what was going on.
The woman refused to stand up and continued to sob as she told Lorist what had happened, all while having her arms wrapped around Lorist's legs. According to her, right after she got married to her husband, she caught the attention of a syndicate boss who lusted after her body. She said the boss set her husband up so that he would incur a huge gambling debt which could only be paid off by selling him to the slavers and sending her to work at the brothel. Having no other place to hide, she came into a random house out of desperation to evade her pursuers.
That young woman, clearly noticing the change that was happening at Lorist's lower body, said that she would do anything for Lorist if he would help her out and even licked her tongue flirtatiously.
It was at this moment when someone knocked on the door outside. Lorist helped the woman up, guided her to somewhere she could hide, and assured her that nobody would be able to take her away with him protecting her. Then, he took his sword out and went outside.
This was Lorist's first meeting with Els. Baring his upper body and showing his lean, slender stature, Els had a shirt slung over one shoulder and a chicken drumstick in his hand. He stood there biting away as a distinct smell of alcohol emanated from his mouth; it was as if he had rushed out on short notice as he was feasting away. By his side were a few dejected men who were being scolded harshly by him.
Seeing Lorist come out, Els straight up demanded for Lorist to hand the young woman over. "Don't play the fool on me. I swear I saw her go into your house just now. If you're interested in her body, I don't mind renting her to you for an afternoon for only one large silver. Come on, I know you don't want any trouble too."
Lorist instantly retorted, "Stinking thug, don't think that I'm like the likes of you, always lusting after all women like you've never had one before. Get out of my sight or face the consequences." Within but a few exchanges, the two screamed at each other and started to break into a fight. Much to Lorist's surprise, Els was a rather upright syndicate boss who didn't order all his henchmen to surround him at once but rather just picked one of them who was at the Iron Battle Force rank to take care of him. Maybe he had seen Lorist's Battle Force badge and didn't want to be accused of bullying Lorist.
Naturally, Iron ranks were far from enough to take care of Lorist, and all of Els henchmen lost one after another. Not willing to believe the scene transpiring in front of him, Els himself went up against Lorist, thinking that Lorist would surrender right away given his One Star Silver Battle Force rank. He then subsequently lost to Lorist.
Thinking that he probably lost due to bad luck or silly carelessness, he tried time and again and ended up losing even on the fifth time. In the end, he made the excuse that his footing was unstable due to being under the influence of alcohol. Lorist merely laughed at his relentlessness and his reluctance to accept his loss even though Els himself was the one who begged Lorist to stop thrashing him. Lightly kicking Els a few times, Lorist merely asked that he get out of his sight, but Els still refused to leave and even said that his reinforcements are coming while holding Lorist's legs tightly. He said that if Lorist could defeat his reinforcements, he would leave that woman alone and no longer cause her any trouble.
Hearing that, Lorist could only stay there, given that his legs were being tugged by Els. He couldn't bear to end Els's life with one sword either. Since he wasn't willing to let go, Lorist got back at him by stepping on him as he willed. Els didn't mind it either and even chatted with some passers-by once in a while under Lorist's heel.
Lorist felt that he was really unfortunate to have met someone like this and was embarrassed to have been seen with him by the people around them. However, he noticed that the old couple living nearby did not fear that syndicate boss at all and even teased him for being stepped on by someone else. Els merely made the excuse that he drank too much and wasn't in his best shape today.
It was around this time when his uncle, Charlando, came over. Seeing Els being stepped on by Lorist, he was filled with rage and pulled his sword out without a single word. Lorist kicked Els aside and drew his own sword to face that One Star Gold combatant.
Lorist, initially thinking that Els's reinforcement would only be Silver ranks at best, was rather unlucky to be facing a Gold rank expert. At that time, Lorist hasn't reached the peak of the Iron rank yet and only trained in his family's Blazing Battle Force and not the Aquametal Technique. It did not take Charlando more than eight moves to knock Lorist's sword away and utterly defeat him.
Els stood up with a face full of bruises and gave Lorist's stomach two forceful punches. "Aha, just now you were pummeling me so gleefully. Now it's your turn!"
Taking the blows with much unwillingness, Lorist broke into a barrage of insults towards Els for attempting to force a poor woman into prostitution. Els returned the insults and said that Lorist didn't know what was good for him and bullied people with his strength. Charlando, hearing the contents of the insults, felt that something was wrong, and forced those two to stop and explain the situation to him. After both of them told Charlando their version of events, they looked at each other with much bafflement as the things they had just described were totally different.
Els said with much agitation, "What do you mean I'm blinded by lust and set her husband up and made him incur a gambling debt? That woman's husband was a sailor and is only home once in three to four months! She is also pretty disloyal to her husband and frequently spends nights with many other men. Additionally, she is also a gambling addict! Just last night, she attempted to cheat some money from my casino and was found out by my subordinate! She had already owed three gold coins by that time and wasn't able to repay it. Seeing that she still looked young enough, I was sent her to the brothel to earn some money to pay the debt back. Who knew that this afternoon, she stole the money bag of one of the visitors to the brothel and made a run for it! That was why I was chasing her! With all those women willingly selling their bodies away, why would I go out of my way to force one woman into prostitution!? Just go ask the old couple living next door. They know the sailor, Sur, personally."
Seeing the old couple nodding gingerly to what Els had said, Lorist really wanted to dig a hole and jump inside it to hide his embarrassment until Charlando reminded him to check if that woman was still hiding in the house.
Lorist tried to open the door only to find that it had been locked from the inside and even felt that it might've been barricaded by some furniture. She didn't answer him when he called either. Having run out of options, Lorist circulated his Battle Force and knocked the door open only to discover an empty room. The woman was gone along with his money and valuables in the room. Even the fur and the black horn of the catch he had just brought back was missing.
Upon further investigation, they discovered that the woman had escaped from the window at the back of the house. But, how had she carried all the things she stole?
After another few hours, one of Els's subordinates brought a horse cart driver over who said that the woman that came to him said that she had been locked inside the house by her husband who wouldn't let her go visit her sick mother. She said that was why she had to leave the house with her dowry from the back window as the front door had been locked by her husband. When questioned about the weapons that she had brought along with her, she said that her husband used to be a mercenary who now only lays around at home and refuses to go take up some missions and that her husband had used her dowry to purchase these weapons. To prevent her husband from losing it through his gambling addiction, she said that she had to bring those things away and only hand it back to him if her husband would one day regret his ways.
The crowd merely sighed in admiration of her dauntless behavior of taking all those stuff with her and leaving through the back alley when the fellows were out there fighting. The alley was only ten or so meters away from the house and she could have been easily discovered should she make the slightest mistake.
Lorist wanted to cry his lungs out but couldn't let out any tears. His attempt of saving a 'helpless' woman had cost him over 10 gold coins. Looks like he would have to starve himself quite often in the near future.
Didn't the books always say that good people end up being rewarded for doing good deeds? Lorist had to admit that he was a little swayed by the woman as she looked rather good and also had a pretty nice figure. Given that Lorist still hadn't slept with a woman at that time since he came over to Grindia, he reacted rather easily to that woman's hug. He even thought that he might have been able to take the woman as his personal maidservant after he chased the thugs away. The stories in the books were lies... Not only did I not get the damsel, I lost all my possessions to her too, thought Lorist as he sulked on the ground with much regret.
The cart driver said that the reason he got here so quickly was because the woman had already got off the cart by the river two districts away. But, nobody had any thoughts of going after her as that river was a pretty well-known port in the area. Once she got on a boat, she would probably end up sailing to one of the many lake cities of the Falik Plains and would never be easily found again.
Els pat Lorist on the shoulder a few times as he felt a mix of anger and amusement, and said, "Alright, the merchants have a saying that goes, 'losing money is better than losing one's life', which is usually uttered after an encounter with bandits. I wish the same to you since you are in such a predicament. I won't hold today's grudge against you since you've probably suffered enough. Alright guys, let's go back."
This marked the end of Lorist's first meeting with Els. Both of them lost something during this encounter; Els lost the battle while Lorist lost his money and valuables.