"How could you?"
Zero's expression showed he didn't quite understand what she meant.
"I mean could you stand there when a blade is coming at you? You could have died!!" Leah's voice slowly died down only to be heard in the background.
Zero could only focus on one thing right now: her face. Long ashen hair complemented her light gray eyes, her smooth face now creased with worry, eyebrows pulling downwards...
How cute..he thought.
"Hey!! Are you listening to me?" Leah cried, pulling Zero back into the real world.
"Sorry, I blanked out. you were saying?"
Frustrated, she put her hood back on and started walking away .
"Where are you going? Don't you want to know the answer?" Zero let out a chuckle in the end.
Leah turned around, more pissed than ever.
"I stood there because I knew you would stop"
"If you didn't, He would have stopped it," he said, interrupting her sentence and pointing to the direction he came in.
Leah peeked around the wall into the darkness, cloaking the alley. She heard the faint thud of boots against the cobblestone; the sound became louder with each passing second and soon, a shadow appeared out of the darkness of the alley.
It was a boy about their age, who had light dark skin and black hair. Unlike Zero, he was well equipped with adventure gear. His face didn't show much expression. It was stoic, like a person who encountered death countless times. His gaze seemed to pierce through her and a fright of terror took overas she began walking backward instinctively.
"Hey princess, you are too slow. This fool here would have stopped you in an instant even if I didn't save him." The boy said in a heavy voice.
In a state of shock, Leah couldn't utter a word, frantically looking towards Zero for some explanation.
"He is my friend and partner Kevin Vespera . You can call him Kevin." Zero turned towards Kevin."And you. "Stop releasing your mana like that. You are scaring her. You know Elf royalty have a high sensitivity towards mana."
A screeching metal sound was heard by both of them. In an instant, a blade was under Zero's chin, ready to slash his throat.
"Now tell me, how do you know I am an elf? Where did you get that information?" Her eyes were filled with rage, inching her blade closer, she asked again: "I will kill you right here and now if you don't tell me how you know that I am an elf."
The tensions were rising, none of them moved, even their breaths echoed through the alley. Leah was disappointed. She didn't want to kill a friend, but it had to be done, it was what she had been taught.
She moved the blade from his chin and prepared to behead Zero. "I am sorry," she muttered with tears in her eyes. As she was about to swing the blade, it was stopped in its tracks. The entire alley was filled with dense killing intent.
Leah shivered in fear.
"Hey princess, you need to trust us now, the walls have ears. It's not safe here. We need to move quickly."
Leah didn't answer. Kevin was sure that she would retaliate.
"Ahh!! Kevin, you did it again, you released too much mana, now she can't move." Zero grabbed her hand, but she didn't move an inch.
This is bad.... "I am sorry Leah," he uttered these words as he knocked her out. She now laid motionless in Zero's arms as he carried her like a gentle flower, and they all left the darkened ally.
Leah woke up with a jerk, still trembling in fear.
"What the hell was that? I thought I was going to die..." It took a minute for her to calm down and realize. "Where in the world am I?"
It was a small room of some very cheap inn. She looked around but there was no one there. She got out of bed as slowly as possible and stood up, grazing her head on the ceiling.
It was a bit low for an average human. That would mean only one thing: it was the house of a dwarf.
Panicking, she looked around for her gear but it was nowhere to be found. The door behind her began to open with a click, she grabbed the candle stand beside her holding it like a sword, awaiting the person about to enter.
The door slowly opened to reveal a lady who was unusually short, about Leah's waist. She carried a tray with some porridge and some drink.
"Who are you? Where am I?" Leah asked with the candle stand pointed towards her.
"Oh, dear! you are awake. How reckless of those boys to bring a fainted girl here," she said grunting, looking towards Leah, "Don't be afraid my dear, my name is Martha. I am the innkeeper of the Dwain and that's where you are. Does that answer your questions? Now sit down and have this, you haven't eaten anything since last night."
"What! Last night? How long has it been since I came here?" Leah was still holding the stand in her hand.
"Not done with the questions, I see. Those two boys brought you here yesterday and they were covered in cuts and bruises, but there was not a scratch on you. If I didn't know them I would have imagined a princess being saved by her knights."
Leah couldn't believe what she heard. They protected her, a million thoughts running through her mind.
Are they guards sent by father to protect me or are they bounty hunters...
"Hey, miss!! Lost in thought after hearing about them?" Martha grabbed her hand and dragged her onto the bed, handing her the tray. "You just eat this up and rest, I will bring those two to see you later." After saying this, Martha left the room.
Leah was still confused about what had happened.
What the hell just happened here? Should I believe whatever she said? This porridge, it could be drugged, I should check it first. She kept her hand over the bowl and concentrated, pouring her mana into it, but her stomach gave out a low growl.
" Well I guess it's safe, so maybe I should eat it then." She quickly gobbled it up. It was warm, soothing her empty stomach.
Finishing her meal, she still wondered, who are they?
Just then, she heard a knock. Martha opened the door. Behind her, Zero and Kevin followed.
"I see you gobbled up the porridge, that’s good. I will leave you guys here. Call me if you need anything."Martha grabbed the tray and left the three in the room. An awkward silence spread across the room.
Zero grabbed a chair, sitting beside the bed. Leah noticed bandages wrapped around his arms and head.
"I heard from the innkeeper you both got hurt protecting me? What really happened in that alleyway?"
"Assassins, Princess," Kevin grunted, sitting down in front of the door.
"Well, yes assassins were hunting for you since you are an elven princess," Zero continued.
"Why do you guys keep calling me princess?" Leah cried with a flushed face.
Zero chuckled. "That's your question? Well, I think you know the answer to that, because you are one, aren't you? An elven royalty."
"Ho-how d-do you even know that?"
"Well, the earring and the armor you were wearing both were imbued with mana and that earring conceals your ears, right?"
Leah was in shock, she didn't expect that someone could see her identity. Her expression changed, anger swelling up. "Who are you? Why did you save me?"
"Hey princess, no need to rile up your mana like that. We are just traveling adventurers from the outlands. We have come here to join the guardians," Kevin replied.
"Where is my armor and my Sword? And how did you know about the mana without examining it?"
"Oh, that. We sold it for some money."
"You did what!?"
"Kevin! Don't joke around. Don't worry Leah, Martha sent your armor for cleaning. Before she sent it, I dissipated mana in it while your sword is in our room. I will ask Martha to fetch it later. As for your second question, I have unusually high sensitivity towards mana. Now can you please calm down?"
"You are such a buzzkill, Zero," Kevin said.
"You said you were going to join The Guardians, but what were you doing in the alleyway?" Leah asked.
"Same thing as you."
"Like me?" Leah looked confused.
"Yes, gathering information. What else princess?"
"Will you stop calling me princess!!” Clearly annoyed, Leah inquired more about the information they were gathering.
"The Ruins." Zero replied, with a smirk on his face.