80 A Collar
My luck run out sooner than I expected. Sure, I had won big time while gambling, but that didn't mean I had benefited from it at all. It was quite the contrary, as Gokan decided to reward me for my help with a never-ending series of pets, weird nicknames and silly praises.
Ofris didn't help me at all. When the boys called me 'dog' he just pretended there was nothing wrong about that, and when it went to 'good boy' he only said I was a girl and reminded them of my name. Sure, he didn't look comfortable with those guys touching me, but that was all. He just waited for them to release me, which took several hours.
By now we had already reached a small blacksmith's workshop not too far from Ofris' house. There was only a single man working in there, who was far older than Ofris, showing only small traces of his once pale brown hair.
A grey beard covered most of his face. It looked unkept, almost as if its owner hadn't bathed in weeks, though that could easily be explained by the state the smithery itself was in. Upon seeing us enter, the man took off his working gloves, before walking up to us.
Ofris greeted the smith with a handshake, before introducing us to him with few words. The man, whose name was Garen, didn't say a single word himself. He just nodded at his friend before harrumphed at the rest of us, or rather the boys. I myself received yet another awkward treatment, as the geezer gave me three rather rough headpats.
"Cute thing," his rough voice commented.
A slight smile appeared on his lips, which soon died away as he turned towards the clowns Ofris had led here.
"You want me to fix their armor?"
"No," Ofris replied, "just lend them your tools for a while. They will do it themselves."
Hearing this, the four of them thought about complaining, but a stern gaze from both Ofris and Garen sealed their mouths before they could utter a single word. Silent and submissive like a group of lamps they let themselves be led to a large shelf that had countless tools of all sizes, colors and shapes waiting for them.
Garen selected a few wirebrushes and other abrasives, placed them in the hands of the self-declared adventurers to then search for polishing tools.
"Use that one," he demanded while pointing at the working table that was the least blocked by tools and half-finished work.
That was all he left them with. He didn't waste a single word on explaining to them how to fix their armor. Instead, Garen approached us who were watching all of this from afar, sitting on the sole place that wasn't blocked by merchandise or tools.
"We signed the contract an hour ago."
"You have it rough."
A weak laugh shook Ofris' body. "It is only the first week, it gets easier after that..."
"Still don't understand why you do that."
"You know exactly why I do it..."
"She won't come back just because you save some kids from making the same mistake."
I could only look up at Ofris in confusion. His hand had stopped petting my back and his eyes stared at the distance, going straight through Garen as if he wasn't even there. When I followed his gaze, there was nothing to be found aside from the large furnace and the anvil waiting on the other side of the room. But he didn't look at the fire at all.
«...what kind of mistake? Who are they talking about?»
A yelp slipped my mouth before I could think twice. Ofris immediately reacted. He looked down at me in confusion, as if not having the slightest idea what I wanted from him.
"Did I hurt you," he asked. "Sorry..."
「Hurt me? You didn't even touch me!」
Seeing his friend like this, Garen couldn't help but sigh. He left us alone exited the smithery through the back entrance only to return with a chair seconds later. It seems as if he was living right next to his workshop so he could fall straight into his bed after finishing his projects.
It was only when he sat down in front of us that I realized he had brought more than just a chair. In his left hand, there was a small metal bowl filled with raw meat. He held it right in front of my face.
"I hope she is hungry."
«... he really expects me to eat raw meat?!»
I couldn't help but stand up from Ofris' lap and sit down next to him instead, far enough from the unasked-for meal for Garen to get the message. The blacksmith seemed honestly disappointed about my reaction, so much in fact that Ofris forced himself to make up a makeshift excuse.
"She is a picky eater," he explained. "She will eat it if it is roasted."
"Roasted? I can do that. Just wait a moment."
Garen didn't have to do much. After simply placing the bowl into the still smoldering coal waiting in the furnace, he once again made his way out of the backdoor to then return with a small dish. Moments later, he had already placed it down right next to me, to then watch me with expectation and glee.
Faced with two brown eyes staring at me, waiting for me to wolf down the supposed feast, my resistance died away almost immediately. I swallowed my salvia, slowly turned around and began eating the meal.
The meat tasted bland as Garen had used neither salt nor any other spice. He probably thought things like pepper would be unhealthy to me. And maybe they really were.
After making sure I was eating, Garen finally sat down for good.
"Where did you find such a cute thing?"
"A few weeks ago in the forest. She walked up to me because she was starving."
"You already have her that long? Why didn't you bring her before?"
"It couldn't be helped," Ofris continued with his lies. "She is very shy around strangers."
"That is to be expected, given that she was a stray."
Garen scratches his beard before staring at me again.
"Where are you going to leave her when you go out to turn those boys into something decent?"
"She will come with us."
"What?! It is dangerous!"
"I will buy a collar for her and ask Sahria to enchant it with protection magic."
"A collar? I will make her one."
"You don't have to," Ofris turned down the offer after a moment of hesitation, "I already know where to buy one."
"You can't trust the life of that little cute thing to cheap merchandise!"
"... it will be enough."
"No," Garen decided. "I insist on it! I won't let you leave her unprotected!"
"But won't it be expensive?"
"You insult me if you think I would ask for money!"
"... I didn't meant to."
"You are waiting anyway. So watch me turn that little thing even cuter."
«...please kill me.»
⊱————- Extra ————-⊰
Garen: Is there a pink metal?
Ofris: It doesn't have to be pink.
Garen: You are right. White is better. Or silver?
Garen: Silver would be good for that protection magic.
Ofris: It is just a collar, Garen.
Garen: Don't belittle a blacksmith's honor!
Ofris: Put it is too expensive!
Garen: You can still leave her with me if it is about money.
Garen: I will take good care of her!
Ofris: You would never let her free again...