The crowing of the rooster in the distance penetrated my sea of serenity. My mind acknowledged the noise entering my ears but my heart was still unwilling to leave the small pocket of inner peace that I had found. I felt the hand over my heart stir. The hand was small, delicate, and soft. The warm body snuggled against my back shifted, and then the movement suddenly ceased.
"It's time to get up, milord," the rich, melodious voice of Amelica drifted into my ear. The hand over my heart snaked upward over my throat and chin, and then a finger poked at my left cheek. "I know you're awake," my companion laughed softly.
I belated turned around under we were face to face. "I don't feel like getting up," I admitted honestly as the events of the previous night weighed heavily on my conscience. What more could I have done to save more innocent lives? I was beginning to appreciate the burden of kingship. It wasn't just my ticket to go home. It was an acceptance of all the hopes, prayers, and dreams of the people within the Kingdom of Merlin.
I knew that the mysterious Gamemaster, whoever and whatever he was, was orchestrating the events inside this gaming world to further his own end. Our lives were worth nothing more than his temporary amusement. We were like ants digging in an ant farm with no way to escape from his scrutiny. Oh, boy. I could see why Amelica didn't want me to be alone last night. Just thinking about my plight was making me depressed.
My bed mate poked her finger harder this time. Amelica frowned as she admonished me. "No bad thoughts allowed while you're sharing your bed with this beautiful woman."
I grimaced at her perceptiveness. "Yes, ma'am!" I rolled over on my left side to get off the bed. I spared it one last look and then turned to my chest, where I had stored my spare clothes.
"I'll meet you in the hallway," Amelica said and left the room.
As I started putting on my second set of clothes purchased two days ago, I suddenly remembered something important—where was my money pouch? I checked my other clothes in the chest but couldn't find my money. Had the valuable coins been pilfered from my waist without my knowledge?
I belatedly closed my eyes and tried to recall the events yesterday. When I visited the healer at the Watch Headquarters, I was asked to put on a white robe over my dirty and bloodied clothes. After I submitted my report to Bishop Canterbury, Enab took me to his torture chamber. THAT was when he removed my clothes, including my money pouch and my butterfly pin. I slapped my right thigh in anger and ignored the pop-up. I needed to talk to Enab and hopefully convince him to return my stuff.
I sighed at the thought of seeing the disguised form of Lord Bane again. The demon had a mischievous nature but carried a gigantic stick; I couldn't risk offending or angering him. I was beginning to understand the Holy One's predicament. He couldn't dismiss the demi-god or banish the demon from holy ground. Meanwhile, Bane was as annoying as Pee Wee Herman. The demon just KNEW how to irritate people. Well, I had no choice but to beg him to return my items. Maybe he'll be nice to me for once. Right, when hell freezes over.
In the meantime, I had no money and therefore, I needed to visit the bank first. With my plans for the morning completed, I finished dressing and made sure to affix my butterfly-adorned scabbard to my belt. I was tempted to wear the white robe of the clergy over my clothes but I decided to leave it in my chest. I wasn't sure how Lady Luck or her representative would react if I walked into the Lucky Shrine as a member of another faith. With my hard-earned lessons in dealing with Bane, I didn't want to risk angering another god. However, I decided to wear the Truth Stone of Order and Chaos and hid it under my tunic and robe. It was too risky to leave the relic inside the chest and have it stolen from my room.
When I finally left my room, I encountered an annoyed looking Amelica, who was tapping her left foot on the ground impatiently.
"It's improper to keep a lady waiting, milord," she growled.
I bowed deeply to the offended woman. "I was trying to find my money pouch. I think I left it at the Watch Headquarters," I explained. While it wasn't the truth, I couldn't reveal the presence of Lord Bane, much less explain that I was kidnapped by the demon and lost my clothes and money inside his torture chamber. Oh, please forgive me for telling you a white lie, Amelica! It was for your own good!
Her face softened at my explanation and she nodded in understanding. "Okay, we'll make a bank run and then visit the Lucky Shrine."
Suddenly, the church bell tolled six times.
Amelica's brows scrunched together. She grabbed my hand and walked down the stairs quickly.
Before I knew it, we had left The Noble Lady and Amelica was still holding my hand. Since my girlfriend (yes, I thought of Amelica as my girlfriend now) was acting like a raging bull this morning, I allowed her to lead the way to the bank. However, when we got there we were faced with locked doors!
A pair of guards stood in front of the doors. They were wearing plate mail armor and each man carried a long sword and a tower shield.
I saw the telltale colors emanating from the equipment, indicating that they were magical. I ignored the pop-ups again.
Amelica was astonished by the closed doors but her astonishment quickly turned into fury. She stomped up to the guards and asked, "What's the meaning of this? Why is the bank closed?" The woman put her hands on her hips and tried to look mean and intimidating. It was outrageous for the bank to be closed during regular business hours!
The guard standing on the left offered her a nonchalant look and replied, "The Bishop has ordered all shops closed today as a day of mourning for those fallen yesterday."
"What? Is The Noble Lady required to close today as well?" the woman stammered her question.
"Where would your guests go?" the other guard smirked. "HIs Eminence wisely made an exception to his decree for inns, taverns, and the bathhouse. Enough questions. Now begone!" the Watchman ordered.
I saw Amelica's hands balled into fists and immediately pulled her away from the guards.
"Let go of me! I'm going to give them a piece of my mind!" she yelled.
"Amelica, if you continue to argue with the Watchmen, they will arrest you and throw you into the dungeon. Believe me, it's not a nice place," I added.
My girlfriend finally stopped struggling against me. She took a deep breath and apologized. "You're right. I'm sorry that I lost my temper."
"You lost it for my sake. Thank you," I replied.
She blushed furiously and looked down at her feet. When Amelica raised her head, she was back to her usual self. She grabbed my hand and said, "Since the Lucky Shrine is also closed, we may as well return home. You can break your fast and then head over to the Watch Headquarters to reclaim your money pouch."
"Okay," I nodded in agreement of her plan and we walked hand-in-hand back to the tavern.