Book 2 chapter 31
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Amethyst sat on the edge of the city wall, her feet dangling in the wind as she watched a bird flying over the forest in the distance.

We could catch that bird. Hecatolite’s voice called in her mind causing her to shake her head.

We just went out yesterday to hunt, she replied, besides I have a meeting today, remember? Amethyst replied, running her hand through their now extremely short hair.

You mean a date. You think today will be the day bunny boy makes a move? Did you remember protection? 

Protection from what?

Maybe an antidote, we are kind of… sizzley now.

Amethyst sighed as she tried to ignore her sister’s teasing, though she was not wrong, ever since she ate a large portion of the basilisk a few months ago they had gained the amazing traits of “poisonous” and “corrosive”. Meaning their bodily fluids were, though not dangerous normally, kind of toxic for prolonged contact. Or as Hecatolite describes it "we are spicy now".

The sound of footsteps behind her caused both of them to fall silent as she turned to see Applejack standing at the top of the stairs to the wall. 

In the past few years he had grown considerably, now old enough to be considered a man; he stood more than a foot taller than Amethyst not including his ears. His shoulder length chestnut hair was swept back, his long ears that seemed to flop slightly towards the tops holding his bangs out of his face allowing her to look into his large brown eyes. His fur covered face twitched as he smiled, his tiny button nose wiggling as he held out a handful of flowers. She looked up his arms to his wide shoulders, having taken to working out since the attack years ago and though, not nearly as muscular as a warrior, he had a nice definition to him. Through his loose tunics deep collar she could see his defined chest muscles, her imagination filling in the rest as he eyes wandered down his body. He was wearing clean light tan pants that looked as if he was about to outgrow them any moment given the way they hugged his massive thighs a noticeable…

Amethyst sucked in a sharp breath; the spike of hormones, compliments of her sister, did not help as her eyes lingered on…

Damn it Hecatolite, do you mind? Amethyst quickly looked away as she chastised her sister who began to laugh in her mind.

You kids have fun, Hecatolite giggled as her presence vanished from her mind. Amethyst knew what Hecatolite hoped would happen.

Though her sister agreed to wait until Amethyst had her first time naturally, the “dry spell”, as Hecatolite called it, was clearly wearing on the Deity of lust. 

“Amethyst?” Applejack said more as a question than anything as he held out the flowers.

Amethyst couldn’t help but giggle as she turned back to him with her cheeks burning red, “of course it's me.” She replied, taking the assortment of brightly colored flowers.

Applejack seemed to relax as he smiled at her, “just checking,” he stepped to her holding his arms out for a hug which Amethyst happily accepted.

She was engulfed in his arms, a slight hint of cinnamon tickling her nose as she was pulled into his chest. She could feel his breath on the crown of her head as he gave her head a soft kiss. His hand toyed with the back of her short hair.

“Your hair is already growing back,” he said softly as he traced around the patch of white hair that stood out on the back of her head, his calloused fingers avoiding her sister's mark as they moved.

“Yea,” she smiled as she stepped back and patted down her now disheveled hair, the acidic blood and stomach acid of the basilisk had fried her hair nearly beyond saving, leaving her with barely an inch of hair by the time the barber was done removing the fired parts. “Thankfully my eyebrows grew back.” she giggled as she ran a finger across her brow.

She didn’t see his expression falter as she spoke, for only a split second he grimaced as he looked at her boyish hair, his smile quickly returning as she looked back. “Thankfully.” He replied as sat down on the edge of the wall, his back facing the forest as he looked over the city.

“So how has the bakery been doing?” She asked as she sat beside him, “I’m sorry I haven’t been around lately, lots of work to do.” She sighed as her shoulder slumped, “who knew starting a guild was so much work. Then I became a saint which is apparently a whole thing, all that on top of training and our adventuring request, though we only do those on the weekends,” she looked up to him to see him looking back with concern in his eyes causing her to pause for a moment.

“You’re not pushing yourself too hard, are you?” He asked as he gently took her hand, “you need to remember to take care of yourself.”

“Oh, we take breaks,” she giggled while squeezing his hand slightly, “on Mondays we both sleep in and then play all day, though that could be because we are…”

“Not your sister Amethyst,” he cut her off, his voice growing stern, “you need to take care of yourself. She’s not making you do anything dangerous is she?”

“don’t be silly Applejack,” she playfully swatted his arm, “Hecatolite isn’t “making” me do anything. We agree on what we are doing, and we do it together.” 

He took a deep breath as he rolled his eyes, “agreeing on what you do with your own body,” he muttered under his breath as he turned away. “Just be careful ok, I… I don’t know what I would do if anything happened to you.”

She knew Applejack did not like Hecatolite, no matter how hard she tried to convince him otherwise, he only ever saw her as a problem for Amethyst. 

“I am being careful,” she leaned her head against his arm. She understood his viewpoint, though she disagreed with it. 

Hecatolite and Amethyst had spoken about it at length several times now, surprisingly Hecatolite sympathized with Applejack even saying, “of course he doesn’t like me, I’m the reason the sun attacked us that time, remember?”, the statement bringing up concerns about Hecatolite’s memory as Amethyst explained they were, in fact, not attacked by the sun.

He let out a long sigh as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders, “and how long until you two… you know, separate?”

“Well, that’s why I called you today,” she tried to calm her nerves as the smile faded from her face. Her stomach sank as his expression became sullen, “it will be at just over 1 year. We are planning to depart for Ecrein right after our 15th birthday.” he nodded having already heard this part of the plan, “but before that… I must take the exam to become a C-rank adventurer.”

“Is that all?” he smiled, nudging her with his shoulder, “pre-test jitters?”

Her mouth became dry as she looked at his smiling face, “Applejack.” Her tone caused him to stop as she steeled herself, “I will have to… I’ll have to kill someone.” She could feel his grip on her shoulder tighten as his mouth fell slack.

“W... what?” 

“The exam to become a C-rank adventurer is a bandit subjugation.” Her head fell as she looked away, “I will have to kill a person to advance my rank.”

To advance one's rank they need to fulfill certain requirements. Anyone could be a F-rank, commonly called the “Flower picker” rank. To advance to E-rank you needed to kill a normal beast as proof that you could at least hunt. D-rank required a mana beast of some kind on top of completing an “overnight” request. C-rank however is the “test” most people struggle with the most. The infamous “bandit test” that proves you have the resolve to take a life if needed. This was required because C-rank is when someone can start taking protection/escort requests, it is at this point most veteran adventurers consider someone a full-fledged adventurer given you can take a request of any kind now as long as your rank was high enough. After C-rank there were no more “tests”, promotions after that were based solely on merit.

Applejack was quiet for a long time as he shook slightly, the idea of the sweet little girl he had fallen for being forced to take a life caused his mind to all but stop, it took all he had to mutter the single word, “why?” The concept of needing to kill someone was so foreign to the baker he could barely comprehend what she had said.

She gently took his hand, her fingers gently brushing the short fur as she caressed it. “It was… my parents made us agree to become at least C-rank before we left. To be sure we would be prepared to travel the world.” She said softly, her gentle touch bringing his mind back as he processed what she said.

“Can’t… can’t you just make her, do it?” He frantically turned to her, the motion almost causing them to topple as he grabbed onto her arms. “I mean it's her fault anyway, right? Why should you have to do something like that for her?”

The worry on his face broke her heart as she looked into his frantic eyes. She knew why he was worried, killing another human was different than hunting a beast, or so she was told. It was something that… changed people. Something someone couldn’t just brush off… 

Amethyst closed her eyes as she thought, the deal with her parents was that she herself would complete the tests. The reasoning was not lost on her as she knew Hecatolite would have no issues doing whatever she needed to do to survive. If I tell him that though, she opened her eyes to gaze into his large brown eyes… “of course Hecatolite is going to do it.” for the first time she lied as she recalled a conversation with her mother not long ago.

Their mom told her that she would eventually have to hide things from people, not out of malice but out of love. The simple fact is as not only nobles but powerful mages, no matter how badly they wished to be the same as everyone else, they simply weren’t. 

Applejack was a simple man, a baker from a family of bakers. He didn’t hold any amazing magical talent, or a title, he was just a man. The simple fact that the two of them simply lived in different worlds was now apparent as she watched relief wash over his face before hugging her. He would never look at me the same if I told him. She felt a slight twinge of pain in her chest as she hugged him back. He would never understand her need to do this, he would always blame Hecatolite if he thought she made Amethyst into a killer.

The two spent the rest of the afternoon talking as Amethyst pushed her own concerns to the back of her mind. She had hoped to talk to Applejack about her nervousness but… this is fine, she thought as they watched the city slowly become bathed in the red glow of the setting sun, her head resting on his shoulder. He didn’t need to know what she did or understand why. As long as he was there for her that was fine. I will get strong enough to where no one ever has to worry about me again. 

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