A Simple Life
Chapter 1: Story Time
Lina looked up towards the ringing bell. The golden chime rung again as the door closed behind the newcomer. During Lina's pause away from her conversation, the little girl at her side took up where she left off.
"50 gold pieces? That charm is worth 100!"
"I'm not paying that much!" The old man across the counter replied.
The child stood on her stool behind the counter, crossing her arms and looking away. "Listen, old man. It's almost my bedtime, so I'm already considering not wasting time with this at all. There will be plenty of people who want it tomorrow." She had already read the man. He was stingy, but still really wanted that item.
He looked to Lina for help. "I believe I was haggling with you, Miss."
Lina just leaned her elbow on the counter and smiled. "Oh, she's doing just fine." She glanced over at the newest occupant of the magic shop. "Hey, Zel."
"Hi, Lina." He smiled, joining her by the spectator edge of the counter.
The old man sighed and turned back to the child. "Alright! ...70."
"Boy, you're stingy, old man... 85!"
"I can't believe I'm haggling with a 6-year-old..." The old man muttered. "80 is all I'm paying-Hey! Where are you going?"
The little girl stopped at the doorway of the shop's back room. She turned and yawned, as she replied. "To bed. It's my bedtime. I'll sell that charm tomorrow."
"But I won't be here tomorrow!"
"Too bad. I know a friend of my mommy's will be in tomorrow, and he'll probably buy it."
"Arg! OK!" The man threw up his hands. "I'll play your 85."
In an instant, the girl bounded back up on top of the stool and made the transaction. "A pleasure doing business with you!" She smiled cutely behind the counter as the old man grumbled his way out of the shop. The door chimed a little loudly as the last customer closed the door.
Zel shook his head, laughing softly.
"That was some good work, Blair!" Lina grinned as she picked her off the stool.
"Thanks, Mommy!" The indigo-haired child hugged her mommy, as she was carried off to the shop's back room.
After locking the door and posting the closed sign, Zel followed.
"That old man was stingy, huh?" Zel heard Blair say, as he walked in.
Lina tucked the quilt up to Blair's chin. "Yeah, he must be a real miser with his money!"
The 2 girls started to giggle.
"Aren't you talking about yourself?" Zel added.
"That's different!" both sets of ruby eyes glared back.
Zel only smirked and raised an amused eyebrow, before turning to put away his sword.
Lina settled down on the couch, within Zel's embrace. He adjusted accordingly, helping her to hold the book in her hand. The fireplace in front of them crackled with orange light.
"So, Zel..." Lina turned a page of the book.
"Hm?" Zel's chin vibrated a bit on her shoulder with the inquisitive hum. He continued to read, waiting for Lina to continue.
"Anything happen during your lessons today?"
"Lina, my students can't be attacked by monsters everyday." Zel smiled, knowingly.
"Oh, ratz. So there really aren't any more monsters in the forests around here lately."
"Well, the way you fried their den the last time they interrupted my sword lessons, it's hard to believe otherwise."
Zel and Lina stared wide-eyed at the little girl.
"You're supposed to be in bed, Blair." Zel leaned back on the couch.
"I know, Daddy." Blair climbed onto the couch. "But I can't sleep! And it's so boring staring at the dark!"
Zel sighed, but still smiled.
Blair somehow hopped onto her parents. "So tell me a story. Please, please, pleeeazzzeeee!"
"Ohkay." Lina closed the book and placed it aside. "Once upon a time..."
The little bundle called Blair sat attentively.
Zel gave her a pillow to lie on.
"...There was a beautiful and powerful sorcery genius, named Lina."
"That's your name, Mommy!" Blair proudly declared her discovery.
"That's right. I'm going to be the hero of this story. Now, aside from being beautiful and brilliant, Lina was righteous! She punished bandits everywhere she went, and saved many towns from them. -What are you laughing at, Zel?"
"Oh, nothing. Continue."
"Hrrrmph...! Anyway. One day, after recovering some treasure, which was too good for the bandits that stole it, Lina met up with a stranger who was waaaaaay too smug and always made cheap shots to insult innocent girls who didn't deserve it."
"Ooohhh! He sounds annoying!"
"And that he was, Blair! -OUCH! Zel! What did you pinch me for?- So, Blair. On the day Lina met this stranger he was trying very badly to not be suspicious. So when he wanted to buy a statue she had-"
"-stolen." Zel smirked.
"Stop it, Zel! She took it from bandits, so it was OK! Remember that, Blair."
"OK, Mommy!" Blair smiled.
"Lina, don't tell her things like that!"
Lina stuck out her tongue. "Well, as it turned out, when Lina didn't want to sell him the statue, he went so far as to kidnap her, and force her to give it to him."
"For free? That's really stingy!" Blair again practiced her limited, 6-year-old vocabulary.
Lina nodded in response. "Apparently, this stranger didn't think like Lina: She only did bad things to bandits, and he thought it was OK to kidnap girls."
"Now you're messing up the story." Zel interrupted.
"No, I'm not!"
"You know this story, Daddy?"
"As a matter of fact, Blair, I do."
Blair now turned her full attention to Zel.
Lina turned on his smiling, arrogant face and mumbled. "Cunning bast-"
"Shh. You'll ruin the story. Actually, Blair, what happened was that the statue was verrrrry important to this stranger. So it was OK to do whatever was necessary to get the statue."
"No, it's not!" Lina protested.
Zel ignored her, and continued explaining to Blair. "Like the way you haggled with that customer."
"You mean, how I lied about a friend of mommy's coming tomorrow to buy that charm?"
"Now who's telling her things they shouldn't?"
Zel only gave Lina a look, before continuing. "Being the tricky thing she was, Lina hid the statue. So even though the stranger went through all that trouble of kidnapping her, to make sure to have the statue, and get this business over with-"
"-she outsmarted him." Lina smiled.
"But!" Zel nodded once towards Blair's mommy. "The stranger figured out very quickly that Lina had given the statue to a friend of hers to hide. Lina looked _very_ surprised, and caught completely off guard."
"Mommy? She wasn't? What did she really do?"
"Lina decided to bide her time, and wait until the stranger was asleep, for when she'd try to escape."
"-But when the stranger checked on her in the middle of the night..." Zel added.
"Did he catch her trying to escape?" Blair clutched her pillow.
"No." Zel replied, as Lina got annoyed. "She was asleep."
Lina started up again. "The stranger rudely awakened our heroine! He scared her half to death by swiping his sword at her!"
"Woah!" Blair's eyes grew wide.
"Mm-hm! He was _very_ rude."
"But he was really aiming for the rope tying her up." Zel completed before Lina could keep going. "He even gave her back her cape and sword. Then, he helped her escape. The stranger realized that now was the perfect time to run off and get the statue for himself, before the evil priest, who the stranger was forced to work for, asked him for the statue."
Blair "oh"'ed. "So the stranger only did bad things because the evil priest forced him too?"
"That's right, Blair. He needed the statue to free himself. That's why it was so important to him."
"Did Lina give the stranger the statue?"
"Hmm..." Zel looked at Lina. "Sort of. She helped him get rid of the evil priest."
"Then he was free?"
"Yes." Zel smile fondly at Lina for a while.
Lina thanked the orange fire-light for hiding her blush.
"So then what happened?" Blair chirped.
"Well, the stranger started traveling with the sorceress for a long time, and eventually, they became partners. The best in the mercenary business."
"Wow! That's cool!" Blair squeezed her pillow.
"Alright, Blair. You got your story, now off to bed with you." Zel finished.
"Ohhhh...oh-kay..." Blair slipped off the couch. "'Night, Mommy. 'Night, Daddy." The child reached up and pecked her parents on their cheeks, before scurrying off.
The fireplace crackled slightly softer.
Lina leaned back into Zel, watching the flames, with a serene smile.
He wrapped his arms around her, and again, rested his chin on her shoulder.
She closed her eyes, still smiling, and whispered in his ear, "...and they lived *very* happily ever after."