77 A Vessel
Ofris lips didn't stop moving. He was busy explaining or rather lying about my whereabouts and my involuntary stay in the capital. It wasn't only the men and women in the town hall that kept bickering him with these questions, but even those who met us outside and on the way to his house.
I was forced to listen to all of his tales, lies and excuses, unable to free myself from his overmighty grip. Sure, I could try to fight back and somehow free myself, but my neck still felt sore from the last time I tried.
Back then, he had grabbed me like a mother cat would grab its kittens, by the scruff of my neck, but he probably deeply regretted that decision of his. Not only had I had fought back with all my strength and yelped in pain, but I had even tried to transform myself back into my human form, just so that I could escape.
All of this ended as painful as it had begun, with Ofris letting me fall to the ground. He had been too surprised about my loud and fierce reaction to still take care of my safety.
Of course, I wouldn't have thought twice about using this chance to escape and search for Shiro, but Ofris' surprise didn't last longer than for mere seconds, while I still fought against the aftermath of his attacks when he had long since picked me up from the ground again.
Now that Sahria had returned to her office in the town hall, to rest and do all the work that had piled up while she wasn't around, there was nobody to assist me. I couldn't just turn back into my human form to talk back to Ofris nor did my struggles seem weird enough for anybody to point it out.
Before long, we had already reached Ofris' house, which was close to the walls of the town where rents were much cheaper. It was just like I remembered it: looking like nothing from the outside, but comfortable and homely once you entered.
This time I couldn't even think about sleeping in his bed as if it was the most natural thing to do. Not with the vixen still out there, possibly wounded. I knew she was still alive, as I still felt her using my mana every now and then, but exactly this made me feel even more anxious. Why would she need to use magic this often?
When Ofris closed the door behind him, he was making sure to not only lock it but to also further secure it with a wooden bar, as if I was a prisoner he had to keep confined no matter what. Seeing this, I immediately turned back into my human form to confront him.
"What are you doing?!"
"I'm making sure you do not seek for an early death!"
"By keeping me confined?!"
I could hear Ofris sigh before he slowly turned around to face me. He looked exhausted, both physically and mentally.
"What else can I do?"
Ofris made a step forward and placed his hand on my head as if trying to pet me. When his eyes met mine, I could see him getting more and more insecure, but he shoved all of this aside.
"That woman isn't in danger. She never was."
"But she is fighting!"
"Yes, she is."
"She will get hurt for sure! My magic isn't strong enough to protect her!"
"And still you want to go and risk your life?"
Another sigh slipped his lips as he released me to take off his cloak. Before I realized, he had already laid it around my body, covering me from his eyes. He probably intended to warm me up, too, but the cloak sent shivers over my body instead. It had sucked up all the coldness from outside.
"... I will make a fire."
Ofris did just that. He immediately went to the chimney and began to pile up small pieces of wood and tinder, before using a small black rod to ignite it all. He didn't even take a single glance at me, as if he was a hundred percent sure I wouldn't even think of trying to run away. He was right.
"What do you mean," I asked.
"You said Shiro isn't in danger! Do you know where she is?! Why isn't she here?"
"Sit down," he asked me while pointing on the soft pelt waiting for me in front of the chimney, "it will get warmer in a second."
I hesitated for a second before doing exactly what he asked me for. He was right. I couldn't help Shiro, at least not by myself. There was no choice left but to listen to his explanation and maybe find a way to talk him into helping me find and save her.
As soon as I had sat down, Ofris gathered any blanket he could find. He buried me under several layers of soft cloth, before making his way to the neighboring room, where he had a little kitchen. I still remembered myself sitting at the table standing there, staring at Ofris after waking up in his bed. It must have been awkward for him, too.
"What did she tell you," I heard myself ask.
Ofris froze in place as he heard my question. He hesitated for a bit, before letting himself sink to the floor right next to me, not on the soft pelt, but the hard, cold wood instead. It was as if he feared I might end up deciding to run away, should he come to close. But how could I, without receiving the answers he kept secret before?
"That woman has no body of her own..."
"Of course she has! I have seen it before!"
"It was you who made her look like that. She just took the form of what was the most fitting image of a goddess."
"What do you mean it was me?!"
"She doesn't even remember what she looked like before. We don't even know if she was a woman to begin with..."
"You mean she could have been male in the past?!"
A vivid image appeared in front of my inner eye. It showed Shiro with a naked and muscular chest, hair growing all over it, and a beard in the place where her cherry-red lips should be. She winked at me while flexing her muscles, both flirting and showing off at the same time. I felt a cold shiver run over my back.
"She clearly was not!"
"Anyways... it is her who gave you this body."
"But she didn't do it because she liked you or felt bad for you. She had her own reasons..."
"She was lonely."
"That is no excuse for what she did."
"So what did she do? What makes you hate her so much that you do not even care about her safety?"
"She cannot die! Even if she would fight against dragons, the worst that could is that she would lose the body you summoned for her! She can just return to you whenever she wishes to!"
"She can return to me?"
"You are her vessel, Rika..."
"She lives inside of your body. That is why only you can hear her. That is why she is only giving you those quests. She only does it for herself!"
"So- so what?!"
"... you still don't realize?"
"Why do you think she gave you those quests? The ones that made you kiss me, confess to me and even made you think I slept with you..."
He was right. I had thought she had done it to troll me, to just make fun of me. But could that possibly be it? Shiro was desperate for attention, I knew that much, but she could have gotten even more of it by just being nice to me or at least loud and annoying. The path she had taken rather made me despise her, even though I now knew she wasn't as bad as I thought before.
«Why did she do that?!»
"She wanted you to give her a real body," Ofris said with a weak voice, "not one that would just disappear once you run out of mana..."
"A real body? But I can't-"
"You are a healthy woman, of course you can..."
It took me a moment to realize what he was talking about. Those quests didn't make sense at all. She couldn't benefit from me doing all those things to Ofris. There was only one way for her to get something out of all this supposed trolling, that was by me giving a new body to her and becoming her mother rather than her vessel...
«What the fuck...»
⊱————- Extra ————-⊰
Risa: 137 Goblin corpses, 21 orks, 7 giant lizards, 39 wolves, 2 bears...
Shiro: 3 bears!
Risa: Ye- yeah. 3 bears...
Shiro: So how much money will you give me?
Risa: I... can you wait for a moment?
Shiro: Sure. Can I unload the other ones in the meantime?
Risa: Other ones...
Shiro: There were some weird worms I killed...
Shiro: Ah! Right, the cat~
Risa: You killed a cat?!
Shiro: Yes! Wait a second...
Shiro: ... so messy.
Risa: Just how big is that "Itembox" of yours?
Shiro: It could fit this town?
Risa: THE TOWN?!
Shiro: I think so. But who would be so silly to stuff a town into an Itembox?
Shiro: Do you buy shiny stones, too?
Risa: Shiney stones?
Shiro: They looked beautiful, so I couldn't just leave them there. See?!