Adelaide Jade Regent
“Third patrol, four on foot” Shalelu scrawled the information into her book as Sandru continued to call out the guard configurations around the palace walls.
“Wait, one appears to continually tilt his head and glance upward, I would add an invisible Oni to that” penning it in, Shalelu silently commended her moustachioed companion’s perception and deductive reasoning.
The two were perched on the upper tier of a Pagoda that looked over the palace walls and had a clear view of the front gates and surrounding terraces. Hidden in the shadows, they relied on their natural hiding ability rather than magic to keep them from being spotted by the various flying Oni. They had taken to scouting the Kasai Palace while their friends were away on the Imperial Island gaining the blessings of the ancestors.
Over the day, the two had seen a sharp change in the security and behaviour of the guards. The Regent’s armies had left the city to fight against the northern rebels and the remaining Typhoon Guard had been pulled from street patrols. Only human traitors now guarded the now emboldened populace.
Shifting her position, Shalelu put her book down and grabbed the waterskin they had been sharing. Slaking her thirst, she casually flicked it to Sandru. Now that neither were concentrating on their mission, the uncomfortable silence returned. They had shared some time together when they returned Koya’s body to the Forest of Spirits, but they were bound by common grief. Now, it was back to how they were when the caravan had first left Sandpoint.
“I’m sorry” Sandru’s surprise at the elf’s whisper mirrored Shalelu’s that she said it.
“Uh” Not sure how to respond, Sandru begun to stammer something out before being interrupted.
“Don’t, I, uh. Hmm” Frustrated, Shalelu grabbed the waterskin back and took another drink. Looking back up at the bewildered gypsy she held out the waterskin “This is sake! I just gave you water”
Looking suddenly sheepish, Sandru pulled the original waterskin out from behind him. Reaching out to take the sake filled bag, he was surprised to see it snatched back.
“I didn’t say I wasn’t drinking it” With a smooth lift, the elven ranger downed another mouthful and let it warm her throat. “Shifty Gypsies”
With mock offense, Sandru took the sake back and continued to nurse it. “Call us shifty” His face starting to break into a wry smile “I am pretty sure that the elves in the group are far shiftier. One is trained in ninjitsu and is practically a shadow and the other two are sneaky types that claim to be rangers but almost burn down an ancient forest”.
For a moment, Sandru thought he pushed his luck for the blonde woman just stared at him wide eyed. Then laughter fell forth, a genuine girly laugh of mirth.
“I, I really cannot argue with that. However, I am very concerned that you seem creepily fascinated with Theibar’s pants” Easing back into the shadows, Shalelu turned slightly before crossing her legs to face Sandru.
Flicking the waterskin back, Sandru also turned to face the elf, a one-time enemy. Enemy might be a bit strong he thought, but they certainly did not like each other. But, they both had one shared purpose, Ameiko’s welfare.
“Do I detect a hint of jealousy, could it be that I have been in Theibar’s pants more than you have? I speak literally of course though, they a bit tight however.”
The flush across Shay’s face was gold enough for the smiling gypsy. He had struck home. With mouth slightly agape at the stinging verbal backhand, Shalelu pulled a deep drink and felt her cheeks burn even more. She could have slung back with a quip about him and Ameiko, but that would have been cruel. He had lost enough on this journey. And while his daytime grumpiness was sometimes annoying, she knew it was out of genuine concern.
“I am sorry Sandru” Shalelu’s sudden sombre tone brought Sandru back down a little and he nodded slightly. “I was wrong all those years ago when I tracked you down after you left Sandpoint. I was rash and arrogant and did not realise the magnitude or reasons of your leaving.”
“I knew your reasons Shay, you were just protecting her” Sandru looked out across the late afternoon sky of Kasai “It is what it is I guess. While I would have preferred not to be on the receiving end of your anger, I understand it”.
“Maybe, but if I had not interfered, maybe you and Ameiko could” Shalelu’s apology was cut short by Sandru holding his hand up.
“No” With a sigh he took a final drink “It would not have changed a thing, and it is the way it had to be. Ameiko has a bigger destiny than me. Besides, this trip was not necessarily about me just following her across the world lovelorn, it was the freedom and adventure that Koya had always dreamed of”.
With the mention of Koya’s name, both took a moment of silence.
Getting ready to move back into position for more reconnaissance, Shalelu spoke once more. “Will you stay afterwards?”
“And be an extra wheel? Probably not, I have Koya to return and bury. Ameiko needs to find a future here and you and Theibar will have each other as does your sister and Matsuro. What is there for me here?” His tone had gone quieter, and Shalelu could hear the truth in his voice. There was no future for him and Ameiko and to watch her eventually take a consort would be heart-breaking. But still, he underestimated his companions and what they thought of him.
Clapping him on the shoulder, Shay spun the man to face her “I thought this journey of all things, would have taught you the lesson that an extra wheel is always needed. When one breaks, it is that spare that becomes the most important thing in the world. None of the others can function properly otherwise”.
Looking back into her deep green eyes, Sandru paused in deep thought before cracking into a large grin. “That was pretty cheesy you know? Where did you get that, the Sohei scrolls of musings?
Looking down, the woman quipped defensively “It was a book and it was profound I thought”.
“Thank you” Sandru looked at her seriously and nodded. Looking up, Shalelu smiled and nodded back. She silently thanked him, she was getting awkward and his approval put her at ease. They could resume their task, closer and with a better understating of each other. He was a good guy and she finally could admit it.
SMACK!! Broken from her serious thoughts of self-growth, she felt pain spread across her ass cheek as Sandru slapped and cupped it for a moment. Spinning in shock and unbridled rage she found him standing beaming ear from ear with his hands on hips allowing his silk shirt to billow and his hair sway.
“WHY!!!!!” Shay almost cried out the accusation.
“Why not?” Not moving from his pose, Sandru deepned his voice to husky tone “Just think, if Theibar hadn’t rejected Ameiko, the two of them would be together now leaving just us two. I was just seeing what I could have been missing on. Also, I felt you should also see what you are missing out on”. With a flourish, Sandru flicked his hand through his impressive goatee and prepared to run.