Chapter 182: Tickle
It happened a week ago.
The day had started like usual, with Senton and Rena opening the front shop while Zekell heated the forge to take care of the repair jobs.
Because of the plague panic, most villagers and farmers were already armed to the teeth, making his business slow.
Except for travellers and local hunters no one bought his weapons, leaving him with only menial jobs to do.
Zekell wasn't a greedy man, so that kind of quiet life didn't bother him much.
Repairing farming and kitchen tools was an easy and quick job that allowed him to cover for the daily expenses.
It also left him a lot of time to hone his skills and teach Senton all the secrets of their trade.
After getting married the boy had bloomed into a man, taking his responsibilities much more seriously than before.
While in the past Senton would try to complete his tasks with the minimum effort to go out and goof off with his friends, now he put his utmost dedication in every piece he worked on, never being satisfied with the result and often asking his father for advice.
Such change of attitude had made Zekell really proud of his son.
All the yelling at him for his laziness and the whacks upside his head were just a bad memory, now he didn't have to worry anymore about what would happen in case he died.
The shop had remained empty most of the day, so when the closing time neared, Zekell sent Rena and Senton back home while he finished cleaning the floor.
He gave them all the free time he could afford.
With advancing age and Senton's new character, Zekell couldn't wait to have a grandson or two.
He wanted to witness the Proudhammer's next generation and maybe teach them to love the art of turning a bland piece of metal into a masterpiece.
He was about to lock the door when a well dressed handsome youth entered the shop, looking at his merchandise with great interest.
Zekell almost bit his lower lip in frustration.
The young noble and his escort wore the insignia of the Rath family, a bunch of well known troublemakers.
The noble purposely cut himself with one of the weapons and used the pretext to demand for a compensation.
To Zekell's horror, the youth 'casually' had with him a contract of transfer for the workshop.
Zekell tried to defend his life's work threatening to denounce the noble to Count Lark or to Nana, but to no avail.
The Rath family had a Great Mage in their ranks and the name of a fallen outcast like Nana held little importance to them.
Lith's name mattered even less, the noble didn't even know of his existence.
Fearing to lose everything and his family, Zekell had almost signed the document, but a firm hand stopped him.
It belonged to Captain Locrias of the Queen's corps, dressed like a country constable and royally pissed off.
He and his team had managed to remain incognito for months and now the idiot had forced their hand, blowing up their cover.
"No need to sign anything.
This man is under arrest." Said the Captain with a sigh.
"How dare you You don't know who I am!"
"I think I do." Vykaros, the liaison with the Mage Association, had collected intel about him since the moment the noble had stepped into Lutia.
"You are Tikin Rath, second son of Baroness Rath.
With pending charges for murder, r*pe, arson and embezzlement of taxes.
You sure like to keep yourself busy, kid."
"My family, what about my family" Zekell was still panicking.
"Your family is safe." Locrias said.
"All of Lord Rath's men are already dead, now it's his turn." A small dagger appeared in Locrias left hand, while the right one was holding Tikin's collarbone with the strength of a vise.
"You can't do that!" Now it was Tikin's turn to become pale and to panic.
"I demand a fair trial!"
Zekell sighed with relief but suddenly fear reappeared on his face.
"He is right, you can't kill him!"
"Don't worry, neither the so called Great Mage or his mother will see tomorrow's dawn." The knife plunged into Tikin's chest, piercing his lung and heart instantly killing him.
"What have you done" Zekell screamed, while the corpse fell to the ground with a thud and a thick dark pool of blood spread on the floor.
"Good sir, I'm Captain Locrias of the Queen's corps.
You have no reason to be afraid anymore.
You and your family are under our protection." He said puffing his chest with pride, feeling wronged by the artisan's lack of trust.
"Glad to hear it, but that's not what I'm talking about! You could have killed him out of here, or at least give me the time to put a carpet on the floor.
The b*stard sh*t himself dying.
Between this stench and the blood stains, no one will enter my shop for weeks!"
"Luckily he used a magic something to make the corpse disappear and clean my floor." Zekell was all laughs and smiles like it had all just been a bad dream.
- "Either this guy is even more thick skinned than me or he is raving mad." Lith thought.
"If it wasn't for you, Captain Locrias wouldn't have intervened.
I'm once more in your debt.
If there's anything I can do for you, you just need to ask."
"There is actually something I could use your help for.
Based on what you told me, you have lots of free time, right"
Zekell nodded in response.
"I need to perform some experiments with Forgemastering, but I know nothing about blacksmithing and I don't have the time to learn it.
I'd like you to provide me the things listed here."
Lith handed him a piece of paper that Zekell read immediately.
"That's a lot of stuff, kid.
They are all common items though, so I can make them relatively quickly.
Give me a couple of days."
"I just need a first batch, there is no need to rush it.
I am willing to pay you for your work." Not only had Lith asked for many things, the quality of their materials also varied from poor to very good.
Before receiving the Crown's reward for the plague, he could not have spent so much money without affecting his family's quality of life.
Also, his experiments required Solus' tower form to be conducted and he never had the opportunity to use it again since the first trimester's break.
"The work is on the house, but I'll have to charge you for the materials.
Some are quite rare and I can't afford to have an empty warehouse."
Lith didn't want to abuse his gratitude, so he promptly closed the deal with a handshake.
After leaving Zekell, a call to Count Lark allowed him to make sure that the Rath family wouldn't bother anyone anymore.
They had all been arrested several days ago and their properties assigned to a newly promoted household.
Lutia had always been a quiet village, but since the corps officially showed their presence, the worst crime that would take place was a kid stealing a fruit or a candy.
After Garith's death Tista had learned her lesson.
Now her suitors knew by experience that her no meant no, while Lightning Bolt meant "Never approach me again".
Lith spent the first part of the morning catching up with his family, before attempting to contact his teammates again.
- "I can't call Quylla, she is still not over her crush and I don't want to give her false hope.
Friya and Yurial are off-limits too, they are likely to be traumatized and I fear their reaction after I basically ghosted on them until it was too late.
This leaves me only one option."–
Lith used his communication amulet and called Phloria, who responded immediately.
"Sorry for never returning your calls." She apologised.
"I spent most of these last two days in the bed."
Lith inwardly sighed with relief.
She didn't seem to be mad at him, which made it even harder to say what he had to.
"I'm glad to see you are all right and the fact that you answered so quickly means a lot to me.
Yet I think you should wear something besides a white nightgown before picking up your amulet." He said diverting his eyes like a true gentleman.
In the new world there were no underwear and with the increasing summer heat, she was wearing a thin cloth while sitting cross legged as always.
Phloria emitted a high pitched scream while the amulet made a thud sound, like it had been tossed away.
Only after a minute or two Phloria's image reappeared, this time wearing the academy's uniform.
Even the hologram couldn't hide her beet red colour.
"What did you see" She asked with the cutest and most feminine voice he had ever heard her talk with.
"Almost nothing" Lith lied through his teeth.
"I swear it on both my brothers' heads."
The answer seemed to calm her a bit, allowing them to resume their conversation.
"How are you feeling" He asked.
"Embarrassed, I mean terrible.
I barely get out of my room.
I feel guilty not taking care of Yurial and Friya but I already have too much on my plate."
"Yurial is at your house"
"He and his father.
Our dads think that having shared a similar experience they can help each other overcoming their trauma."
"That's a great idea." Lith too remembered how he had needed therapy back on Earth to try to get better.
Too bad he never managed to find a Murderers Anonymous association.
"Why don't you call them too I'm sure they would appreciate the thought."
"Phloria let's be honest, when it comes to feelings, I'm a bull in a glassware shop.
I'm afraid I would only make things worse."
After a bit of small talk, Lith closed the call and went into the Trawn woods for his experiments.
Until Zekell provided him with the items he needed, he could still practice on rocks or study the boxes more.
After reaching the mana geyser, Solus was able to take her tower form, revealing that the first floor was almost completely rebuilt.
Once inside, the access to the upper floor was still barred by debris.
"Sorry, I have no control over any floor until its complete.
I do not know why."
Months had passed since Lith had actually heard Solus' voice instead of her mind, yet he didn't miss the change.
"Solus, your voice has become much clearer and more human like than before.
I can even hear some kind of accent, even though I don't recognize it."
"You noticed!" He could feel her joy in his mind, she was walking on air.
That's why he avoided adding that it was hard not to, since her previous one sounded like a customer service' answering machine.
"And that's not the only change.
The tower's walls started to glow of a faint radiance.
The light slowly detached from the stone, forming a wisp the size of a tennis ball that started to spin around Lith's head.
"Now not only can I accompany you, but also you have someone to talk to instead of looking at the walls or the ceiling."
"It's a great news! Is it solid or…"
"I wish." Solus sighed.
"It's just light."
Lith waved his hand inside the wisp without it encountering any resistance.
There was nothing inside nor substance to it.
It was indeed just an oversized firefly.
Solus started laughing out loud, surprising him quite a bit.
"I like your attitude.
I was afraid you would get even more depressed and…"
"Stop that." She cut him short.