My name is Lamir, by the way.” Lamir pushed his hand towards Ren with a bright smile on his face, teeth so white he could star at a toothpaste commercial.
When Lamir’s hand dangled for him to take, it was only when Ren came to the realization that he was wearing his hood.
He cursed inwardly. Sometimes he forgets at the moment.
“Be careful next time,” Ren said and turned to where he came. He didn’t even take his second step when Lamir called out to him.
Lamir went to Ren with an open smile and expectant eyes. “Can we join you?”
Ren had enough of explaining. Did anybody read the contract at all? It was only a one-page paper and in very simple words. It wouldn’t even take five minutes to read, but why was it that everybody seemed clueless about it?
“No. As stated in the contract–”
“No one should come to you for this quest, I know.” Lamir finished. “But we’re not after the quest. We just want to explore this world a little more.”
He then looked over at his battered members. Out of the twenty armies strong, only six remained. Five for the other one just perished into pixels when their healer couldn’t keep up with the poison that ended his life.
Lamir hid his nervousness with a laugh. “As you can see, we are not in a condition that would last in this forest. Our potions are almost depleted, and our members few. If we encounter those enemies again, I’m afraid I won’t be able to get my money’s worth.”
It’s not my fault that you brought with you, useless players. Ren wanted to say. This Prince was sly. He was appealing to his conscience, it seemed.
Lamir was the highest buyer, and he knew that. Lamir was hoping that he would use it as a bargaining chip to get special access to Ren’s group.
But he underestimated Ren’s stony nature when the latter said without remorse, “You should have thought of that and brought along pro players.”
“I find them boring to look at,” Lamir was quick to reply in disdain. “I’d rather be in the company of beautiful dead men than in the presence of gaunt, stinky-smelling guys. No offense to them.”
“Then, that’s on you.” Ren didn’t want to reason with the Prince anymore and turned back.
“Wait!” Lamir called, and when Ren didn’t stop, he bargained. “How much?”
Ren paused, and Lamir’s smile widened. “I can pay you to just bring us along with you. Just far enough to get my money’s worth. What do you say? I can transfer the money to your account right now.”
Ren was silent before he faced Lamir and said with a flat tone, “Unless you can pay xxx xxx xxx xxx amount of money, then the answer is no.”
He then jumped on Tiki’s back, apologized for making the Princess wait, and resumed their way onwards.
Watching the giant Lizard, Lamir’s fingers skimmed his jawline. “Hmm . . . what a cold man.”
A knowing smile broke on Lamir’s lips, and his eyes twinkled with glee. “I like that in a guy too.”
Tiki slithered from the forest floor, and within a few minutes, they covered a great distance into the forest until Lamir and his group were no longer visible, and their voices faded into the distance.
“You didn’t bring them along?” Elena asked after they had ridden a great distance.
“You heard that?” That was the only explanation Ren could come out when the Princess asked that question. She probably heard Lamir and his offers.
“Why should I bring them?” Ren asked back.
“You did save them after all.”
“. . .” Ren was silent. Even he didn’t know why he had saved Lamir. “He is one of the highest-paying players,” he only said.
The Princess gave him a look that she didn’t understand what Ren was talking about, but she didn’t ask anymore, and they resumed their journey in silence.
From time to time, the Princess told of the stories about the Feys, one that she had remembered. Often times they ride into the forest in deep silence, observing and keeping tabs on the noises and flickering of lights in the forest to spot for any threat.
As they moved through the dense forest, they spot a break between the trees’ overhead shrunk until the sky was no longer visible. While dim light seeps in that area, it was impossible to tell if it was day or night. In the distance, Ren saw flickering lights and heard festive flute music.
Tiki stopped at Elena’s command. Ren and Elena then looked at each other while the former frowned.
The Princess was calm as a lake as she answered in a joking manner, “Maybe the feys are partying? Let’s go and have a look.”
Before Ren could form a reply, Tiki disappeared from below them, and Ren almost lost his footing when he landed on the ground while the Princess gracefully fell to her feet and moved forward.
Ren didn’t have any choice but to follow the Princess. As they approached the flickering light, their view was still largely obstructed by trees. And when they entered a small opening that allowed them a better view of the source of the music and firelight — a revel appeared to be in full swing.
They were greeted by a roaring bonfire and loud, festive music. An enormous minotaur with flowers adorning his horns skips around the bonfire. Two humans — one in a priest’s robes and the other dressed as a hunter — dance nearby. Ren saw a small satyr perched on a large barrel playing the lute.
As soon as the party entered the clearing, the Satyr greeted them boisterously while the others continued dancing.
“Ah! Hello there, Friends! Welcome! Welcome! I’m Zakou, an emissary of a Satyr band spreading the message of living life to its fullest to the rest of the world! Come here and take part in our revel!” The Satyr then picked up the flute, which hung in the air, and continued playing.
Ren and Elena traded glances.