Chapter 13 – Tit For Tat
“It’s the kettle calling the teapot black,” spat Ran.
A heavy, hostile air enveloped the two as they confronted each other. Rikku remained quiet as he kept his gaze glued at Ran. He let his arms relax on each side of his body; but concealed within the hollow of his hands, a dim metallic glow radiated. Now that he had seen her true face, he couldn’t afford to believe anything she showed him. Had it not been for his instincts, she would have fooled him too. Her scheming was apparently deep and well-crafted, yet he had always been the one to approach her; It was no wonder she regarded him with such caution. He really shot himself in the foot. Thinking about how he would have reacted the same way as she did if he were in her shoes, Rikku found it hard to blame Ran. He could only blame his high level of alertness
Ran felt disturbed when she looked at the man before her. Rikku’s eyes reflected the shadow of someone from a distant land. Like him, an image of another half-elf holding the same coldness around the cheeks and the same stubborn eyes flashed in her mind as memories came flooding back in. She winced in pain. She didn’t want to remember and lose herself again.
Ran’s aura flared up and sent chills through Rikku’s body; his heart quivered. The shadows inside his hands turned into two black daggers. He was about to make a step toward Ran when she raised her eyes to look at him. Rikku froze, completely gobsmacked. Tears welled up in the girl’s eyes while she sniffed. It turned out, she was having an internal battle and that fierce aura wasn’t directed at him. He felt lost. What was he supposed to do?
“You…,” Rikku didn’t know what was going on and didn’t want to be rash.
Ran wiped her tears away, “I’m tired.”
She found a wooden crate nearby, sat down, and buried her head in her knees while Rikku was left bewildered about the whole situation.
‘This is why I don’t like women. Their mood swings don’t make any sense!’ Rikku complained silently.
He stood around awkwardly, wondering if it was another scheme of her. In any case, he let her cry without a word.
After a couple of minutes he asked, “Hungry?”
Ran raised her head and spoke in a rocky voice, “I want whisky.”
“Why would I have whisky?”
Ran clicked her tongue, “Wine’s fine then.”
“I don’t have any alcohol. ”
Ran clicked her tongue a second time as she whispered, “Useless!”
“I heard that!” Rikku sighed and relaxed a bit, “We’re not enemies. We don’t have any conflict of interest.”
“Aren’t you going to ask me why I was like that?”
“Not interested,” Rikku shook his head.
Ran chuckled softly. She took some pastries from her item box and started to munch on them.
“What did you do to the big guy?” Rikku asked after some time.
“I injected air bubbles into his bloodstream,” Ran answered in between bites. “And I crippled his manhood too. It’s not like he would have time to use it again, anyway.”
“How about Nora?”
“Why would you think I did something to Nora?” Ran chuckled, “I splashed poisonous waste on her lower extremities. It’s worse than STD!” Ran giggled. “She won’t die from it and it won’t affect her performance as a hero. Although I couldn’t guarantee her performance on other areas, ” she laughed playfully as if laughing to an inside joke.
Amused, she was about to add something when she noticed something from down the street. Annoyance flashed through her eyes as she announced, “I’m afraid I’d have to break our lovely conversation because some people are already looking for us.”
Ran snorted and walked out of the alley without looking back at Rikku. While she walked, she felt Rikku’s presence vanished, which brought a pinch of sadness in her heart. Belle was barely worried when they reunited at the restaurant. Ignoring her questions, Ran strolled along the streets and replenished her stock of alcohol at a store, to Belle’s surprise. Afterward, she went to an alchemy store.
“Oh, Ran-sama knows alchemy?” Belle exclaimed in fake amazement.
“No.” Ran shook her head and continued, “I know how to make creams and other cosmetic products. Since I’ve collected a lot of roses and plants in the garden, I thought of making some creams out of them. I need some vials, jars, and other instruments,” Ran recited as she browsed the store.
Belle fumed inside and felt her patience fleeing fast like a flock of spooked sparrows. By the time Ran had bought some herbs, a mortar, and some other necessities, the sun was about to set and the purse Belle gave here was almost empty. Finally, she bought some medicinal herbs before deciding to return to the castle. The trip back to the castle was done in utter silence. As soon as Ran entered her room, she went straight to the bathroom to run herself a nice hot bath.
“Belle, are we leaving tomorrow or the day after?” Ran asked while standing by the door of the bathroom.
“The day after tomorrow,” replied Belle.
“I see. No need to serve me dinner; I’m still full from this afternoon. I’m going to bed early.”
Ran didn’t wait for Belle’s answer before closing the bathroom door.
Ran slept in late until the next day and showed no sign of wanting to go outside. Instead, she ate a late breakfast and spent her day fiddling with her plants and instruments crushing, infusing, and mixing. After making sure that everything Ran was playing with was harmless, Belle left her alone for the day.
Ran didn’t pay attention to her, anyway. After working on her project, she ate some pastries and fruits for lunch before taking a nap. When she woke up from her afternoon nap, she read some books she bought, ate dinner on her own, then went to take a bath. A rich fragrance of roses and tea filled the room.
She had been soaking in the tub for some time, lost in thoughts, when she reached out her hand towards a small empty table next to the tub. In a blink of an eye, a bottle of wine and two cups appeared on the table. She filled both glasses with wine and took a slow sip on one with her eyes closed. Her hair was floating on the warm water like beautiful seaweed under the moonlight while soap bubbles and petals barely hid her alluring figure. Beside the table, a hand reached out to take the second glass. He sniffed the content before gulping a mouthful of liquid.
“What’s your plan?” Rikku asked.