Chapter 3

Cynthia aimed for Stark's left side, but his hand caught the blade. Surprising the woman, the helmet's eyes lit up as it stared at her. Since she wasn't releasing her weapon, Stark slashed with his arm, but Cynthia's bright and shining hand stopped it.

"Light is my genetic magic. The fire is just a special bonus," she informed.

Not caring, the man let out another barrage with his right arm, but his opponent still kept up. The two stayed resolute on holding Stark's sword, so they battled with one arm each.

"We'll just get nowhere doing this," Cynthia said as Stark slashed again.

When he did, the girl blocked with light protecting her arm and let go of her sword with the other. With her newly freed right hand, Cynthia aimed her palm. In response, Stark swung his own sword backwards and struck her neck with the handle.

Since the attack stunned her, the man dropped the weapon and thrust his sharp hand at her collar. However, it stopped a couple of inches away.

"Too scared to kill me?" Cynthia taunted.

"I know you could have done something."

"But you still didn't stab me. You aren't as big a jerk as I thought."

Stark's threatening hand still inches away, Cynthia made sure to slowly grab the man's broken katana on her hip.

"I know I'm a pain, and I'm sorry. It was selfish of me to take your problems without asking."

Cynthia presented the man's sword to him. He hesitantly took it and stared at her as she bowed.

"Why did you really help me?" he interrogated, bringing her head up while his armor faded.

"Huh? I told you already. I just felt like helping. It's not like I was trying to keep swordsmen from going extinct."

"Because you felt like it?"

"Yep."

Stark stared at Cynthia's earnest smile before turning away.

"Whatever."

"Wait! What about that big bully? He stole something from you."

"I'll get it back on my own."

"Are you sure that's a good idea? You weren't in the best condition the first time."

"I'll find a way. It's my business."

"What would it take for you to let me help?"

Stark stopped himself after taking a step. Images of Paige began to flash through his head, her face resembling Cynthia's a little.

"Before I accept any help, I need another sword."

"Ha, we can do that. I'm sure someone here sells weapons. Let's get going."

The carefree girl led the way, so Stark slowly followed, but a pair of eyes also followed from the shadows.

-----

"Boss! Boss! I found the swordsman!" the sharp-nosed thief informed after reaching their base.

"Then why didn't you kill him?" Kukaku questioned.

"B-Because he had someone with him. He's teamed up with a swordswoman."

"Are you saying you couldn't beat both of them?"

"W-Well, I mean, yeah," the underling muttered.

"Speak up!"

"Ah! Uh, I didn't trust it, sir. It looked like he had healed from your fight."

Kukaku fell silent for a second. "It's fine."

"Huh?"

"We have his gem, so he'll cometo us. In fact, Wily!"

A second later, Wily Moustache appeared.

"Yes, boss?"

"You know what to do with this." Kukaku tossed Stark's jewel to Wily. "But before you do that, make sure the creatures are roaming.

"Yes, sir." Wily left in a hurry.

"We'll be ready when he shows. As for you, you better pull your weight."

"Y-Yes, sir!" sharp nose said.

-----

"Wow, I think this one's better than the last," Cynthia commented as she left a stone with Stark.

In the man's hands was a blue-handled katana with a matching case.

"Now we can go looking for that bully," Cynthia continued.

"The bar is the next location. There must be something there."

"If that's the next stop, we need a plan then."

Cynthia quickly got in front of Stark to stop him.

"What?" he asked.

"We can't just talk to people the way you are now. You need to be a little friendlier."

"Don't make me regret accepting your help."

Stark tried walking past Cynthia, but she stopped him again.

"Look, not everyone will fall to threats and a mean face. Let's work on your communication skills first."