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Pick Good Friends (Fantasy Short Story) (Part 2)

"So, who's he working with?"

"Uhh... East Sentara Academy?"

The elf in the cloak rolled his eyes.

"We know about his true identity, so just spill already."

Albion tried to shrug. This was a wee bit difficult considering his arms were trapped against a chair. This whole situation was a bit strange. He was in a basement of some type, seeing as how the door was at the top of some stairs.

He wasn't sure what happened. One minute he was at the bar sipping some mead, the next minute he's being attacked by some kind of elf weirdo who believes his brother is a super-spy.

"I seriously have no idea what you're talking about."

The elf merely stepped closer, glaring at Albion.

"Who trained him?" he asked. "Kaliope? Bashno? Greg?"

He stepped back and pointed an accusing finger.

"It's Greg, isn't it?"

"Uhh..." Albion nodded slowly. "Sure, let's go with that."

The door cracked against the wall sharply as someone ran down the stairs. Both Albion and the elf looked over in the direction where they heard the noise. An elf in a similar cloak came into view.

"Sir, he's been spotted just a couple blocks from here. The boss wants all hands on deck!"

The elf who'd been interrogating him nodded.

"Stay here, someone needs to keep an eye on the prisoner."


"Whoever wrote up this letter needs to be fired," I muttered.

I raised the note up to the moon as if it would magically fix the garbage instructions.

"Head straight on then take a left at the soup stall–Stalls move from their position you pea-brain!"

I shook the note furiously. After a second of this, I realized how dumb I must look and stopped.

"Ok," I said. "I still have the address. All I need to do is ask for directions and I'll find the place."

A stranger appeared in my right periphery. I moved towards him then stopped.

"Wait, what was I thinking?" I laughed. "I'm a man! I don't ask for directions!"

With that, I made off towards where I assumed someone would park a soup stall, then dived left into an alley.


"It's been almost an hour, what is taking this guy so long?"

The forces of the entire elven mafia had given up at this point. Most of them were on the ground, playing cards or talking.

At first, everybody had been at the top of their game, bows right next to them. They had an epic entrance planned as well. The boss would make some threatening comments, then someone would hit the lights and boom, surrounded by elves with bows.

After a while, someone complained about the darkness and a mage hit it with a fireball, causing the whole place to be lit up.

Boss-man couldn't blame them, to be honest. Especially since he was doing the same thing with The Black Shadow.

"You got any fours?" said Boss-man.

The Black Shadow shook his head.

"Go fish."

Boss-man muttered angrily then took a card.

Then, someone opened the door.

Everybody reached for their weapons, but most fumbled with them due to being in sitting positions or having cards in their hand.

Boss-man paused, then sighed.

"False alarm, everyone, it's just the scout!"

He turned towards the scout and waved him over.

"So, what's the news?"

"I have no clue," the scout replied back in a clipped tone.

"What?"

The elf shook his head and stared at the ground.

"I don't know how he knew, but he knew," said the elf. "He was going all over the place, ducking into alleys, going through buildings. Just trying to throw me off."

"The worst part?" he said. "It succeeded. I just couldn't keep up."

Boss-man leaned back.

"He's trying to get the drop on us and mess with our heads," he muttered. "It's gonna work."

The Black Shadow whistled lightly.

"This guy can't be more than thirty, yet here he is outsmarting us old geezers," He smirked. "I don't know if that says more about him or more about us."

He paused. "Oh, got any threes?"

Boss-man rolled his eyes and passed him a three of swords.

"Someday I'll figure out your trick," he muttered.

The Black Shadow grinned.


"I am completely lost," I said.

I looked around. Perhaps there would be some kind of clue to help me along?

After a second of looking, I shrugged and stepped forward. A loose stone tripped me up. I attempted to right myself but only succeeded in shifting the direction of my momentum. I fell to the side, crashing into a cellar door. The door cracked and snapped open, causing me to fall straight down the stairs.

"Wait, who are you!?"

I fell down the stairs like a wheel and crashed into the stranger. His head smacked against the stone ground, knocking him out instantly.

I rubbed my head and slowly got up, groaning.

"Brother?"

My eyes snapped open. In front of me was my brother, tied to a chair.

"Albion!" I said.

I rushed over to him and began to unwork the knots.

"Soooo....." He began. "Were you planning on telling me you were some kind of super-assassin?"

"I'm not some kind of assassin," I said. "Everyone is just really, really confused."

Albion moved his mouth to say something, then paused.


"Wait, so you're telling me that he's actually the prince of not one, not two, but three different kingdoms?"

The man in the black robes nodded.

"Don't forget a small duchy."

Albion blinked.


"Brother, why is there a small army of women outside the house?" said Albion.

His brother waved his arms around in panic.

"I don't know!" He said. "One minute I'm confessing to Lizzy, the next thing I know I'm fleeing for my life from a bunch of women who say that I'm married to them!"

Albion shook his head in disbelief. He opened up the curtain to get a peak. An arrow came out of nowhere. Instinctively, he ducked, barely dodging the arrow. It glowed with a bright light, warning of the powerful enchantments placed on it.

"Wait, was that the high mage of Banra?" Sweat broke out on his face. "How on Thaend...?"


"Then after slaying the 'omniversal devourer' alongside you–a literal god–he took a break and fought off a couple of eldritch beings from another dimension?"

"You're forgetting the part where the Goddess of Thaend fell in love with him!"

Albion would've been disinclined to believe the strange man in front of him if not for the fact that he had just casually moved around the sun like it was a toy, causing mass panic in the streets.

Someone beside him had fallen down to the ground in fear, praying.


"You know what? On second thought, you don't have to explain a thing to me," said Albion. "This is really just a drop in the bucket for you, so I don't know why I'm surprised."

I tilted my head at him.

"What do you mean a drop in the bucket?"

Albion's eyes widened to the size of pans. He reached for my shoulders and shook me back and forth.

"How do you not know at this point!?" he said. "Have you not noticed the distinct pattern of insanity your life seems to follow!?"

I shook my head rapidly, my eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

"Albion," I said. "I have no idea of what you speak."

He stopped shaking me and stared me in the eyes. After a couple seconds, he blinked slowly and let me go.

"I'm going to the bar," he began. "And I will get wasted, ok?"

"Brother, that's not good for your health."

He nodded.

"My physical health, yes," he said. "My mental health, on the other hand, well..."

He trailed off then headed up the stairs drunkenly, seemingly unconcerned about the fact that he had been kidnapped.

Once he'd left, I shook my head in confusion.

"I wonder what his problem is?"

I shrugged.

"Well, guess I'll go home."


"It's been four hours," Boss-man muttered. "Does he really care that little about his brother?"

The Black Shadow shook his head.

"By all accounts, they care for each other deeply," he said. "He would do something, if only to keep up appearances."

"So where is he?" said Boss-man.

The Black Shadow opened his mouth to say something, then stopped.

"Tell me," he began. "Is there any way he could've known where we put his brother?"

Boss-man's eyes widened.

"No..." He stood up rapidly. "No, that's impossible!"

He pointed at his second-in-command.

"Get back to where we put his brother, find out what happened, now!"

The second-in-command nodded and dashed through the door.

Everyone had been set on edge by the sudden burst of activity. Several nervously fiddling with their weapons.

After a few minutes, the elf returned with a solemn look on his face. He turned towards Boss-man and shook his head.

"The guard was knocked out cold and the prisoner was gone."

The Black Shadow raised a single eyebrow in surprise. Boss-man grit his teeth and smiled threateningly.

"We had our mages secure that place with enough concealment spells to hide a battleship," he said. "There's no way he should've been able to find that place."

The Black Shadow turned towards him and nodded.

"You know what this means, right?"

Boss-man nodded.

"We need to go on the offensive."


And so, that brings us to now. A single dense-as-nuts school administrator locked in a Mexican standoff between the mob, a magic knight, and a monastic order.

A single droplet of sweat rolled down my neck.

"Hold on a second," The knight said. "I think I know what's going on here."

"What, us shooting your shiny butt with a thousand arrows?" said Boss-man.

"No, no," said the knight. "Although you couldn't do that if you tried."

Boss-man's left eye twitched slightly.

"Oh, you wanna test that theory?"

"Look, look," the knight raised his hands.

"He–" the knight gestured at me. "–Is trying to get us to wipe each other out. Whoever wins will be easy pickings, having exhausted all their energy."

For a second, nobody spoke, processing the statement in their heads.

"I...I see," said the old monk leader. "It's a brilliant tactic. I can't believe I didn't realize it."

"That still doesn't let us decide who'll get the gem, though," said Boss-man.

The knight shook his head. "We can hash that out later, but I think it's clear what our priority should be."

After a second, Boss-man nodded slowly.

"You have a point, shiny," he said. "Truce?"

The knight nodded.

"Truce."

This moment would be remembered in history for centuries to come. The day when a criminal mob joined arms with a knight and a bunch of monks for the sake of a greater cause.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to think about the historical implications of such a team-up. I was more focused on the fact that each of them had turned their heads at me, threatening weapons and all.

"So," I began. "This seems like a good time to talk about how this is really just one great big misunderstanding."

"We could do that," said Boss-man. "Alternatively, I could beat you to a pulp."

My face scrunched up as I thought up a reply.

"...I'll have to decline that offer."

I pointed behind everybody.

"Oh my goodness!" I said. "It's the Dagger of Banra!"

Everybody instinctively looked where I was pointing. I immediately dashed into the streets.


"Wait," said Boss-man. "Something isn't adding up here."

"Yeah..." muttered the knight. "I think we were tricked."

"Wait, we had him in front of us!" shouted out Boss-man. "How did we fall for that!? Why did we let him go!? Why are we still wasting time talking!?"

"How have we survived this long?" someone said in the background.


I could hear the distant sound of dozens of warriors stomping against the ground, somehow staying on my trail despite my headstart.

My heart pumped in my ears as I slammed my feet as hard as I could.

"This suucccckkkks!" I let out breathlessly.

I turned a corner and hid behind a corner.

"C'mon, c'mon," I muttered.

"C'mon what?"

I turned my head. To my side was an elf in a black cloak.

The Black Shadow of Banra.

"Ahh..." I said. "This isn't ideal."

"No," he observed. "It really isn't."

Familiar black blades spiraled towards my head. I ducked on instinct, barely dodging the strikes. The blades continued on, embedding themselves into the stone of the building behind me.

The Black Shadow swore as he tugged on the blades in an attempt to free them. I turned around and got ready to run. A familiar head of red hair greeted me.

"Knight-girl!?"

She raised her sword up.

"Meet your end, Dagger!"

In my haste to get away, my foot caught on a stone, sending me to the ground.

A bright light flew overhead. A thud and groan told me all I needed to know about what had just happened. Margaret ran over to the Black Shadow, checking him for wounds.

"Oh no, sir, I'm so sorry!" said Margaret. "I was aiming for the criminal!"

I winced before carefully trying to crawl away as quietly as possible.

"Well, you succeeded," muttered the Black Shadow.

I could feel the silence that followed his statement.

"Wait, hold on!" he said. "He's getting away!"

"Ah!" Margaret seemed to realize what was happening. "Stop right there, Dagger!"

I broke into a sprint.

"Why on Thaend would I do that!?" I said. "That would be literally the height of idiocy for me at this point!"

"Well, er..." she paused. "Well, we would promise to treat you properly!"

I stopped and turned towards her, mouth agape.

"You drugged me!" I said, arms waving in disbelief.

She had the decency to pause as well. A slight ember crawled its way up her neck.

"Yeah, heh," she chuckled. "Would you believe me if I said it was an accident?"

"How do you accidentally drug someone!?"

The heavy crack of armor stopped me in my tracks.

"Well," a voice began. "As amusing as this is, cousin, I believe we should finish this up quickly."

I looked around. In my worry, I had forgotten I was being chased.

The group from earlier surrounded me. The knight from earlier was here, standing alongside his apparent cousin, the knight chief. The mob boss stood off to my right and the monk leader was to my left.

To my back was the alley. Oh, and the Black Shadow.

Nice.

"In case you're wondering," said Margaret. "We've already cleared this whole area. We could blow this block to bits and not a single civilian would be hurt."

"Ah..." My eyes rapidly scanned for a possible escape. "That's... good..."

The knight's sword started to give off that oh-so-familiar glow.

So this is how it ends, I thought. Didn't even get to go out with that cute girl at the reception.

I looked towards the sky and clasped my hands in prayer. The group in front of me shifted slightly, no doubt wondering what I was planning to do.

Goddess, I prayed. I know I must've somehow really, really ticked you off for this to happen, but could you just do me a solid, just this once?

Both the warriors and I paused. I looked to the sky, searching for some kind of Deux Ex Machina to save my skin.

"Uh, shouldn't we do something?" A random person said.

"Yeah, standing around doesn't really seem to accomplish our goals."

A mafia elf guy decided to take the initiative and draw his bow.

Well, my eye twitched slightly as I grit my teeth into an awkward smile. Thanks for nothing, arse-wad!

Just like that, everything turned silent. In the distance, I heard the faint clinking of bells.

A gentle presence washed over me, calming my nerves.

I looked around in confusion. Where'd everyone go?

A soft, feminine voice entered my ear.

"Don't call me names, you insufferable goat..."

I heard the voice scoff.

"Ugh," she said. "Men..."

My consciousness snapped back into reality.

Clouds had come from nowhere, blocking the sun and darkening the land. The wind had picked up, sending leaves spiraling around in circles.

The people had dropped out of their ready stance, looking around in fear.

"That's enough of that," the knight growled. "Don't be intimidated. It's just a simple trick!"

He raised his sword toward the sky and slashed. A massive beam of light flew towards the air, getting larger and larger with each second. After a moment, it crashed against the clouds, causing them to be sent flying off towards parts unknown.

My jaw dropped. What kind of a monster was this dude?

He looked into the sky.

"I may've disrupted the local weather patterns for the next month or so," he muttered. "But it shouldn't be a problem–"

He stopped speaking and paled rapidly. Margaret looked at him in confusion.

"Cousin, what is the problem?"

He wordlessly pointed up. She followed his finger upwards.

"Oh."

I looked upwards as well, curious about what they were talking about–

The sun.

Was gone.

In its place, a massive black spere had come from seemingly nowhere.

After a few seconds of panic, a smile came to my face.

I take it all back, I thought. Goddess, you are seriously the best! I promise I'll become a follower of yours like no other! By the time I'm done, you'll have a statue of me in heaven!


Elsewhere, on a white throne, a woman stared down, rolling her eyes.


The group had collapsed into insanity. A fair few were on the ground, desperately praying. Several others had left their positions, running into the distance whilst screaming. In the distance, I could hear the sounds of glass breaking and people shouting.

The knight pointed his sword at me shakily.

"S-Stop this madness!"

I stared at him. Internally, I was sweating, hoping that he would buy this.

"Do you really think you're capable of stopping me? Someone who can pluck celestial objects from the sky and move them at my pleasure"

He gulped, seeming to understand. He dropped his sword and sighed.

"What do we need to do?"

I raised my chin to stare down at him. It didn't really work because he had a head up on me.

"I'm a peaceful man," I said. "I had no desire for violence. It was you who forced me into this."

I stepped forward. His breath hitched. Everyone had stopped, paying attention to my words.

"I have but one request." I looked over all of them.

Each of them froze up, sweat popping out of their pores.

"You leave me be. You don't bother me, you don't attack me."

Margaret looked at me for a minute, then she blinked slowly.

"That's it?"

I tilted my head.

"Should I have asked for more?"

Her mouth opened slightly, then shut.

"No, no... That's fine."

There was a beat of silence.

"Uhh, so can you put back the sun now?"

I shook my head and looked over at the monk who had said that.

"Oh, uh, yeah," I stammered eloquently. "Sure, no problem."

I slowly raised my hands in prayer again, looking up at the sky. Everyone stared at me anxiously.

So, thanks for the assist, but if you could fix the sun, that'd be nice.

I stayed in this position for another couple of minutes. Sweat dripped down my neck at the expectant stares of everyone.

"So..." began the Black Shadow. "You almost done?"

"It–" I racked my head for an explanation. "It's not exactly easy to move around the sun."

He shrugged from the corner of my eye.

"Yeah, I've never done that, so I have no clue how it works."

Another couple of minutes passed and I could feel the panic crawling its way up my throat.

I could see the doubts starting to prick at their minds. It wouldn't be much longer before someone tried to challenge me.

Then, a pain hit me in the eye. Sharp flashes of light came from the edge of the sphere. I felt the warmth hit me and nearly cried from relief.

Someone leaped up.

"Yes, yes!"

"Oh my goodness!"

A monk elbowed another one next to him.

"Remind me to quit as soon as we get back at the monastery."

Slowly, the black circle disappeared until it faded from view completely.

I looked over each of the leaders of the factions.

"We'll keep the deal," said Margaret. "You don't have to worry about that."

Boss-man waved his hand dismissively. "Yeah, yeah. I can take a hint."

The older monk looked at me.

"I really, really hate you," he began. "But I will not throw away the lives of millions just for that."

Is he still on about the barbering thing?

I nodded, trying to look wise and sophisticated.

"Very well," I said. "I will hold you all to that."


After that, life more or less returned to normal. I went back into work much more thankful for paperwork. I also went to church much, much more often. This was awkward, because most of the Knighthood went there as well.

Thankfully, they seemed to have gotten the message and didn't attack me. I caught more than a few shooting me looks of fear.

I have to admit, it was definitely amusing watching them throw furtive glances at the sun, trying to check if I'd made it disappear.

I would have similar experiences with the elvish mob. I had been shopping in the market when a small group of elves had cornered some storekeeper.

I'd peeked in out of curiosity. As soon as they caught sight of me, one pointed at me and whispered in a panicked tone to the others.

After a second, they'd dropped their weapons and bowed down, apologizing for 'messing around in my turf', as one of them put it.

The Black Shadow would later come up and shake my hand, thanking me for sparing his life. After that, he'd tried to convince me to take on a disciple of some sort, claiming that it would be a shame if none of my technique was passed down.

Obviously, I declined. What was I supposed to transfer? My ability to quickly complete paperwork?

I never saw the old man monk again. I didn't know whether he'd truly left me alone or if he was just hidden where I couldn't see him.

Yeah, I frequently checked under my bed, if you're wondering.

Margaret would later come to me with one last request. How did I bypass the truth serum?

I shrugged and told her that all my answers were true.

She'd blinked, then nodded. A day later I would find out that she had been arrested for public intoxication.

After a couple more days, Elric would arrive. There was no fanfare. I found him holding the gem in his hands when I came back home. He thanked me for holding onto it for him, then exited the house with a wink.

"Hold on," I said.

He turned around, a look of curiosity on his face.

"If you ever do this again, I will take whatever you gave me and toss it into a well."

"Ah," he nodded. "Fair enough."

And just like that, he exited without a word.

I would say something philosophical, impart some kind of Aesop, but there really isn't much of a lesson here. Don't accept magic gems from acquaintances?


A/N: And we've reached the end!

This part came out with far more difficulty, and overall I was fairly disappointed, tbh. The ending was weak, and the climax wasn't contrived enough to be truly hilarious.

As a whole, though, I think it was a fun ride. I do regret messing up some of the names. In retrospect, I should've just had the villains tell our MC their names, but I was in too deep by the time I realized that.

Critically speaking, this story is pretty meh. As the MC notes, there isn't really a lesson that was learned. There wasn't much of an arc in general. Stories of these types tend to struggle with that problem; Do you sacrifice the plot for comedy or sacrifice the comedy for the plot?

I chose the former, but it still didn't quite come out how I was hoping. Oh well, better luck next time.

Thanks for reading, and have a good day!

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