Chapter 522: Sewed up (Part 1)
Creatures smart enough to distinguish trash from gold were also so dangerous that it wasn't worth facing them unless there was a rich bounty on their heads.
In such cases, one had to be as wary of the competition as they were their target.
More than one group of mercenaries had been slain by another waiting in ambush for them to soften the prized creature.
What idiots called 'adventure' was actually a high risk, unknown reward business, yet it was the only path to wealth unless one was willing to submit to a noble.
Friya had invested time and effort into her personal guild, but its revenue was still far from ensuring that its members would put their honor and friendship above a mountain of gold.
How long has it been Three years" Even if the crowd didn't make way for her, Lith could notice Phloria from a mile away, and not because of her height.
Her scent and the sound of her footsteps were so deeply ingrained in his memory that he could recognize them anywhere.
She was wearing a silk satin sky blue evening gown, with a v neckline.
Part of her hair was down, like a silky black waterfall that reached her waist, while the rest formed a tress resembling a wreath over her head.
Nostalgia put a sad smile on Lith's face, which was quickly replaced by a raised embrown when he noticed that, together with sapphire parure, she was still wearing the gold lily shaped pendant he had gifted her years ago.
"Almost four." Only after giving her a small bow did he realize that she wasn't alone.
A handsome man in his early twenties was walking arm in arm by her side.
He was almost as tall as Lith, with pitch black hair and grey eyes.
His tuxedo emphasized his lean but muscular build.
If not for Jirni's words about him, Lith would have been happy for her.
'Phloria deserves someone better than I was.
It's the reason why I let her go.
How strong is this jerk, Solus' He thought.
'A clean cyan mana core and trained soldier level of physical prowess.
Kallion seems to be a perfectly normal human.
Phloria, on the other hand…'
'What about her' Lith suddenly remembered about her impurities moving, just like it happened to Yurial before his untimely death.
He had sent Tista to check on her from time to time and according to his sister, Phloria wasn't supposed to Awaken.
'Her mana core has gone from cyan to bright cyan and her mana flow is abnormal.
Maybe we should check her with Invigoration.'
Lith cursed his bad luck.
He had no reason to touch Phloria without making Kamila jealous, nor could he ask to speak privately about her health in the middle of the gala.
Lith was renowned to be a great diagnostician but spotting an asymptomatic illness with a single glance was something not even Manohar was capable of.
An awkward silence befell to the group after they had introduced their respective dates.
Neither of them knew what to say, at least in front of all those people.
Small talk was cheap, but speaking their minds would make things even more awkward.
"What a lovely corsage you have, Kamila.
I'd never seen anything like that.
Did Lith forgemaster it for you" Phloria unconsciously touched the dimensional amulet he had gifted her at the academy.
It didn't have just sentimental value to her.
Phloria had yet to find a better dimensional storage.
Orion had studied it for several hours, yet not even he had proven capable of such a feat since Lith had used true magic to make it.
It's called a Camellia." Kamila replied with a radiant smile as she marked her territory.
She didn't feel threatened by Phloria, the two of them were too different to make any kind of comparison.
Yet she didn't miss the tension Phloria's arrival had caused and she wanted to make things clear with her without being rude.
"It's wonderful." Phloria tried and failed to hide how those words stung at her, betrayed by a twitching smile.
"Would you be terribly jealous if I stole your date for a couple of minutes A wound from my last mission has left me with phantom pain the army Healers cannot explain.
I'm in dire need of a second opinion."
"Well, to be perfectly frank, yes." Kamila giggled to make it sound like she was joking.
"However, I know how seriously Lith takes his oath as a Healer and as fellow army members, we have to support each other.
I'll wait for you here."
The atmosphere tensed up to the point that the bystanders held their breath hoping things to escalate, but neither of the two women said anything nor stopped smiling.
"We'll be right back." Phloria gave her guest a curtsy before turning her back to them and walking toward a side room while Lith tried to keep up with her pace.
"That was… intense." Kallion laughed as soon as Phloria walked away, to make sure she couldn't hear him above the noise of the small crowd around them.
"Maybe a little too intense.
You've gone overboard miss Yehval, I think you should apologize for your behavior when they get back." His cold smile didn't extend to his eyes as his words triggered whispers and chuckles among the bystanders.
"You're overthinking, mister Nuragor." Kamila disrespected his title just like he had done to hers.
She was still afraid of the crowd, but not enough to let a pompous jerk order her around while she was an honored guest in her mentor's house.
"Some gestures come naturally when you really care about your partner.
I hope you'll find someone like that soon." The whispers and chuckles intensified.
None had missed how quickly Phloria had dropped Kallion's arm, nor that she hadn't talked to her date before leaving.
"I'm sorry to say…" Yet his stone cold voice didn't sound sorry at all.
"but it's not a matter of caring, so much as of upbringing.
Flaunting that small trinket of yours was unbecoming of an army officer, even for one with a shady family like yours.
Also, it's Mage Nuragor to you."
"I guess you're right.
Not even my disowned father would use such double standards.
If you're going to flaunt your title, then it's Lieutenant Yehval to you." Her rebuke made him turn red from anger, but he didn't dare to continue.
Most of the nobles were on his side, but Phloria's sisters were not.
"I'm sorry if I've offended you, that wasn't my intention.
I just wanted to warn you that the other guests may find your 'gestures' rude.
I understand you are new to environments such as this, but your behavior could embarrass Great Mage Verhen."
He gave her a small bow as an apology.
Between his words and manners, Kallion had put Kamila between a rock and a hard place.
She could either refuse his apology and risk appearing petty, or accept them and be forced to in turn apologize to Phloria even though she had done nothing wrong.