79 This is Poker!
There was a time I believed being a cat was awesome, as you could be lazy all day, sleep whenever and wherever you like, get fed without doing anything in return and even have people petting you or scratching you behind your ears. But now that I was in a situation that was almost the same as that, I couldn't help but curse at my bad luck.
Ofris was carrying me around like a small pet, even though he knew I didn't like to be carried by men... or anyone. He probably believed I would decide to run away as soon as he wasn't watching, though this couldn't be further from the truth. In the last three days, I had more than enough chances to do so.
I could run when he was asleep or when he was busy talking to Risa and the elf. Sometimes he would even give me to one of the female adventurers idling in the townhall, so that they would touch me everywhere while he was busy doing his own stuff. Not a single one of those girls would be able to hold me back, if only I decided to run, at least I hoped so.
In the end, it was only my 『Status』 screen that kept me from doing exactly that. The vixen was doing fine. She was busy wasting my mana for reasons I couldn't even think of. Though whatever she did, it ended up with my experience bar slowly rising towards the almost magical '100' which would release me from this little body of mine.
The fox I had sent to find Shiro had not returned yet. It was probably still trying its hardest to find the goddess and doing a far better job at it than I would ever be able to. Sure, I had a good nose now and far better ears, but obviously, I had never tried to memorize Shiro's smell.
«I should have taken a few sniffs...»
Today Ofris was busy talking to a group of four young men who could be described as the manifestations of good-for-nothing anime protagonists. They wore armor as every adventurer did, that much went without saying, but theirs didn't seem to be useful but rather fancy instead.
Two of them had painted the metal parts with a bright white, which would be even easier to spot than Shiro's fur, another guy used red instead. The last of them was the worst. While he had used no paint at all his shoulder pads and arm guards had long, curved spikes on them that made them look sinister to some degree, but would end up getting him entangled in branches, clothes and basically anything an enemy could aim at him.
«...are they trying to get themselves killed?»
It took Ofris about half an hour to fix the mindsets of the four. He gave them hints and tips on how to improve their equipment and weapons, how to select the best or most fitting quests and when to give up and try another time. There were other topics, too, but I soon stopped listening thanks to Ofris keeping me in a state of half-sleep ever since we arrived here.
After sitting down, Ofris had placed me onto his lap as if it was the most normal thing in the world. It was only when the others had pointed it out that he explained who or rather 'what' I was, namely his pet which he had found while adventuring. And after telling them my name, he even started petting me, as if to prove their point. He totally forgot I wasn't a pet!
Though I didn't exactly like it at first, I soon gave in at let him play with my fur. There was nothing to be won by starting to bark at him and, if I was honest, being petted like this wasn't bad at all. Naturally, I preferred being pet by those girls from before instead.
After talking to the adventurers-to-be, the leader of the group, Little Red Riding Hood, went to one of the counters together with Ofris to register their temporary apprenticeship.
The three remaining fools, Mister White A and B and Silly Spikes Guy didn't feel like waiting while fighting boredom, so they took out a deck of cards and little bags filled with a few coins.
Yes, they were. Tomato Guy gave out two cards each and placed five additional ones in the middle of the table, turning around only three. After taking their own cards and judging their worth, all the while paying utmost care that nobody could see them, the three of them soon enough placed coins onto the table.
I knew this picture, I knew it all-to-well. This looked like normal poker. Just the ordinary poker you would play with your friends or online - not that I ever played it with my friends.
After watching them two full rounds, I was sure. The rules seemed to be exactly the same. Sure, the numbers looked slightly different, and there were no kings, queens or jacks painted on the cards, but dragons, princesses and knights instead. There were four series of cards, namely sword, spear, wand and bow, with a single card each portraying them in golden color: the ace.
It took me five more rounds to realize how the weapons were weighted. Sword seemed to be the best, followed by spear and wand, with the bow being the least precious. I couldn't say why it was sorted like this, but there was one thing I was totally sure about: these three were bad at it, especially Cherry Boy, who had already lost half of his money by this point.
"Damn it," he complained. "Why are you so lucky, Ron?! You almost won every round!"
「Because you are so stupid!」
"You don't even know to play! See?! Even the dog is making fun of you!"
「I am no dog!」
Ron, who apparently was the now richer of the two White Armor Guys, thought for a bit, before abusing me to attack his friend again. "Rika, was it? You poor thing, having to watch that fool lose all his pocket money~"
"It isn't funny," the now even redder Mr. Tomato complained. "You are cheating for sure!"
"I never cheat!"
"I bet you do!"
"With all of them watching?!"
He was right. When I followed Ron's gaze, I found about half a dozen strangers staring at them. They had probably caught their attention thanks to the noise their little quarrel had caused. With so many of them closely watching, there was no chance for him to cheat. At least starting from now.
Red Armor Guy seemed to think the same, for he dared to challenge his friend: "Double or nothing!"
"Your wish. But don't come crying!"
Seconds later, they had already dealt the cards. Tomato picked up his cards, which, honestly speaking, weren't good at all. But he didn't even seem to realize how bad his chances of winning were. I watched him, half grinning, half crying for his stupidity, until I could no longer ignore it. Accompanied by two angry barks, I slapped down his cards.
「Pass, you idiot!」
"What did you do that for?!"
A series of loud laughter filled the room. Ron pointed at me, then at his friend, to then laugh again.
"Looks like the dog is smarter than you! Even he knows you shouldn't play that hand!"
「I'm not a 'he'!」 I heard myself bark.
«...wait. I am! But...»
「I AM NOT A DOG!!」
"...just deal the next round," Paprika-Plate complained.
"As you wish."
"You should give up, Gokan," the third guy finally spoke up. "He is better than you."
He wasn't buying it. After receiving his new set of cards, Tomato or rather Gokan, what his real name seemed to be, immediately seemed to lose faith, despite having a good hand. I couldn't help but interfere before he would make his next big mistake.
With a short, loud bark, I made him stop, to then lift my paw and point at his cards, one of which had a dragon plus a sword painted on it, the other a sword and the number five. I made sure he got the message by barking once, to then point the same paw at the middle of the table, which had three cards displayed, two of which were the sword princess and the sword nine.
Gokan stared at me in disbelief. It took him a moment to realize what was happening, then an additional few seconds to think, before he, finally, placed two coins on the table.
It looked like I was just as lucky as Gokan was stupid. When the next card was turned around, it was a hit. It was only a ten, worse than I had hoped, but a sword none-the-less.
«It is a flush!»
Gokan was stupid, but not stupid enough to toss away this chance. He placed two additional coins on the table and raised his bet.
Ron couldn't help but laugh again. "You really make the dog decide for you?!"
"It... it was my idea!"
「No, it wasn't!」
"Hahaha! I wonder who is the better player of you!"
I was. After getting the well-deserved revenge and a few coins to boot, Gokan gained a little bit more confidence, in me and his supposed luck. When I pointed out the next set of cards for him, he followed my advice or rather barks, to then win again. The third round I had him pass, the same with the fourth round.
It was only the fifth round when our luck grew to the highest level possible. The third of the fools, who was apparently named Halrim, had a series of bad cards, leading him to an early all in. Gokan, or rather I, had gathered a straight of wands, which was more than enough to beat the three aces the poor guy tried to defend himself with. He lost, leaving only me and Ron... and Gokan.
By now, he had already learned to trust me and not even question my decisions once. I no longer had to bark, nor did he hesitate following my decisions. Instead, he had become something like a mindless robot, which sooner or later put all his focus on babbling nonsense instead.
Thanks to his loose mouth I found out quite a lot about the four. All of them were fifteen, which Ron and Halrim being twin brothers, though you couldn't really see much similarity in them.
Ron had dark blonde hair, while Halrim was brunette, much like Gokan who, contrary to the too, wore his hair long and bound to a plait, which made him look even goofier than he was in reality.
The leader of the group, Malco, had nothing in common with his friends. He was larger than them by a head, and rather muscular, too. Combined with his black hair and his obvious self-confidence, he couldn't even be compared to them.
Seemingly it had only been a few weeks ago that the friends decided to become adventurers and, after a long debate with their parents, received green lights as long as they took an experienced adventurer with them who would not only protect them but also decide if they had the things in them that were needed for this otherwise dangerous job.
Ofris did just that and it wasn't even the first time he did it. Judging by the men and women surrounding us, and especially the four friends talking, he was widely known for being a teacher and caregiver for striving adventurers.
It was certainly fitting the image I had of him, as he had essentially done the same to me. Even back then, when he found me in the forest, wasn't he with young men, too? He must have taught them, too.
The sole thing these four had to speak for them was certainly their armors, which their parents had surely wasted far too much money on for them to just be painted over or decorated with silly spikes.
Luckily for me, they were even worse gamblers than adventurers or heroes, as Ron, too, was sooner or later forced to go all in. He ended up with just two pairs of aces and knights against my full house, loosing all of his remaining money. And the game ended just like that, with all the coins now piled up in front of me.
"The dog just won," a voice next to me exclaimed.
Surprised I turn around, only to see that the women and men who had stood at the other side of the room before were now close enough to examine not only me but any card I had played, too. I didn't even realize they were creeping up on me!
"Did Ofris train the dog to do this?! It is a pro!"
"It is so cute, too!"
"I want to pet it!"
"Only if I get to pet it first!"
"Let's ask him!"
⊱————- Extra ————-⊰
Halrim: I want the dog to play for me now!
Gokan: No chance! I found it first!
Ron: You didn't find it! Ofris brought it!
Gokan: But it was me who taught it how to play!
Rika: 「You did what?! You couldn't even win if your life depended on it!」
Gokan: See? It is even defending me!
Ron: Isn't it complaining instead?
Gokan: Why would it? We won!
Ron: You didn't win! The dog won!
Rika: 「I'm not a dog! I'm a fox! Stop calling me dog!」
Halrim: Can't we take turns playing with it?
Gokan: You have nothing to bet anymore!
Halrim: I will bet my spear!
Ron: And I will bet my daggers! Both of them!
Ofris: What is happening here?!