Chapter 26 – Secret Affair
♫ Smooth, my skin so smooth
In my bubble bath, I splash and slosh ♬
♪ I miss my whisky and my vodka
I miss going out to be naughty♬
♫ Where are you, my lovely single malt?
“Off-key and weird. By the way, how long are you planning to bathe for in this stolen bathtub?” commented Rikku.
“Such a killjoy!” Ran was enjoying her bubble bath. The big tub was stolen from the castle. “What stolen? They clearly told us to use the items in the room as we wish? Why should I buy a bath? That’s ridiculous!”
“How much stuff did you steal?” Rikku asked.
Ran tilted her head. “Where?”
“Alright, let me rephrase. Where else have you been stealing?” Rikku sighed.
Ran dismissed the question with a gesture. “Irrelevant.” She blew out some bubbles, “Where and when are you planning to meet them?”
“I wanted to sneak in their tent at night…” He shook his head. “…but, they are already here.”
Ran didn’t even have the time to ask who the ‘they’ were when 2 men entered the tent without announcing themselves. Ran scowled at Dorian and Parvian. Those idiots! What discretion and sense of secrecy!
“You guys know how to enjoy yourself!” Parvian smirked.
Dorian looked down on Ran and said, “Leave. The adults need to talk.”
Ran blinked and stared blankly at Dorian, speechless.
Dorian furrowed his brows. As Rikku was busy setting up spells at the door, he asked, “Don’t tell me you want to take her too?”
“You better shut up before something bad happens.” Rikku lightly commented.
“Oh? Like what?” Dorian taunted Rikku. “I don’t need dead-weight slowing me down.”
“Me neither.” A frigid voice echoed behind him.
The temperature of the room dropped, the air became electric. Sitting on the edge of the tub, Ran displayed the regality she kept hidden. Her hair moved along the water and her chest at each breath. Her gaze was sharp, a dangerous sliver lingering in it. Her face bore a tinge of indifference and her lips lost all trace of warmth and emotion.
Dorian and Parvian were taken aback. When they had arrived, they weren’t too happy with the idea of teaming up with someone as weak and useless as Ran. Now, they realised that they had been duped. The aura emitted by Ran came crashing on them like waves, stronger and stronger.
“Stop that and get dressed.” Rikku came back and sat down.
Ran harrumphed and promptly stood up. The water dripped down the curves of her body. Her waist-length hair stuck to her skin and coincidently hid her sensitive part. As she stepped out of the tub, the water and the tub disappeared. She walked to a partition screen placed in the rear, exposing her round bottom without a care. Pity that one wasn’t interested and the hearts of the other two were filled with dread instead of lust. Behind the partition, they could see her shadow dabbing with a soft cotton towel.
“Do you have any alcohol?” Rikku asked lightly.
Parvian couldn’t snap out of his daze. After several instants, Dorian materialised a bottle of whisky and handed it over. Rikku flung the bottle over the screen. Ran swiftly caught it and a light and high pitched cry of delight echoed inside the tent. A pop, some big gulps and satisfied a sigh echoed in the tent. Immediately, the atmosphere lightened and the young men felt like they could breath unrestrained once again.
When Ran came out, she was wearing a light blue silk bathrobe with pattern. Her dry hair was put into a loose bun. She sat down as if she owned the place and unceremionaly chugged some more whisky. Parvian had trouble getting over the change, whereas Dorian was upset. He considered himself smart and good at judging people, but now seeing Ran’s true face, he felt like he had been slapped.
“Surprised?” Ran chortled. “You’re not the only one with a brain.”
“Truly deserve an Oscar.” Dorian’s face darkened.
“Let’s not waste time in a pissing contest. Let’s just get down to business,” Rikku intervened.
“What’s your plan?” Dorian asked Rikku.
“What are we going to do about the rings?” Parvian finally snapped out.
Rikku didn’t say a thing and just turned to Ran. She saw the look of expectation and rolled her eyes. Dorian and Parvian were taken aback a second time, not only she wasn’t weak, but was also the brains of this operation?
She thought for a bit, glanced at the duo and said, “Cutting a finger…” She saw them frown, thus added, “…I guess is out of the question.”
“Can you destroy it?” asked Parvian.
“Come on!” Ran complained. “That’s a top-grade magic item we’re talking about.”
“Your best chance is to interrogate Kan Yune and see if he can undo it,” Rikku said, flatly.
“How come you guys aren’t worried about this issue?” Dorian frowned.
Instead of replying, Ran took off the ring. Dorian was baffled and Parvian’s eyes were bigger than saucers.
“When?… Wait, don’t tell me…” Parvian stood up. “That morning when Nora came fighting… did you do something at that time?”
Ran smirked and Rikku stayed silent.
“Anyhow, Kan Yune is the key. I was going to ask him a couple of questions and steal a couple of things from him, so I’ll gladly inquire.” Ran smiled as she declared her decision.
A couple of minutes passed before Dorian asked, “When do you plan to act?”
“Tomorrow night.” Rikku explained. “Kan Yune and the others plan to have us ambushed by some bandits. They want to see how we react and also test our powers. We can use this opportunity to add on chaos.”
“Should we kill everyone while we are at it?”
Parvian was taken aback by Dorian’s words. “Are you crazy? You want to kill the others? They didn’t do anything!”
“So, what? You want to convince them to escape with us? Or do you want to let them go and run the chance of being hunted by them later?” Dorian had no scruples about putting them to death.
“I refuse!” Parvian became vehement.
“I refuse as well.” Ran calmly explained. “The only person we need is Kan Yune. We use the confusion to fake our death, abduct him and get far from here. Killing will slow us down and is completely a waste of time and energy in my opinion.”
“A waste?” Dorian sneered at Ran. “As if you won’t use the chance to take care of Nora and that maid of yours?”
“I do have plans for them, but none that include killing. Furthermore, I don’t want to be dragged into their stupid war as an adventurer just because there are no more heroes.”
“Anyway, I’m against killing anyone.” Parvian made his position clear.
Dorian scoffed yet said nothing. It wasn’t like he had much choice.
“What happens after we get our hands on Kan Yune? I doubt he’s going to tell us anything easily.” Parvian wondered.
“I have methods to make people talk.” Ran giggled and the 3 men felt goosebumps all over their bodies.
“Then, it’s settled?” Rikku asked.
“What about after we get the ring off?” Dorian wanted to know if they would stick together afterward.
“We’ll go our separate ways.” Ran didn’t hesitate a second to answer. “It would be too conspicuous otherwise. We also have differ in styles, it wouldn’t work.”
Parvian felt a little disappointed. Being with Ran would insure him a higher rate of survival. Dorian didn’t express this opinion and just glanced at Rikku. Rikku hadn’t really joined the whole conversation and was obviously going to follow Ran in whatever she wanted to do.
“Adding on the chaos? Alright!” Dorian stood up. “If Kan Yune doesn’t talk?”
“Oh, he will.” Ran reassured with a shadow of a smile. “He will.”
A hint of admiration rose in a corner of Dorian’s heart, yet he couldn’t get past the anger of being duped. He shrugged, just another 2 days and he would be free and far. Rikku observed the man for a moment and threw a glance at Ran. She pretended not to understand. Rikku persisted and saw her roll her eyes with extreme exaggeration.
“Wait!” Ran sent 2 small bottles towards the duo. “Don’t eat the food at the camp anymore. Those are antidotes for the additives they have been putting in the food. As for the tracking mark we all have, let’s ask Kan Yune for the specifics.”
Dorian swiftly caught the bottle, nodded and left, followed by the elf. The tent fell under a cosy silence. Ran and Rikku busied themselves with their own stuff and relaxed for a bit.
Under the night sky, on the edge of the camp, a man stood still. He had been staring at one tent in particular, a tent where 2 otherworlders had just exited. Cloaked in the darkness, he clenched his fists. It looked like his cautiousness was justified in the end. Those damn dogs! I’ve really been too nice. I’ll put you in line soon enough.