"Ok…its about…seven right now…" Ethan said, glancing at his watch.
"Yes…yes it is. What's your point?" Ricardo asked, looking confused and anxious at the same time.
"Well, it'll be dark in about an hour so we need to move fast." Ethan said, before linking his thoughts to his wife's. "Hello love."
"What's going on dear?" Maria asked, curious about how late Ethan was.
"Well, you know how you always wanted a pack mule?" Ethan asked, remembering an old complaint Maria had.
"You got me one?" Maria asked, feeling elated. "Oh Ethan I love you!" 'Crap' "Um, yeah! But remember, you need to feed him. I'm sending his stuff now so can you-" Ethan started, but Maria cut him off.
"Gates open sweetie! Oh I love you I loveyouiloveyou!" Maria said quickly.
'Well, better milk it for all its worth.' "So can we….you know…Mana Time?" Ethan asked tentatively.
"…let me guess, you want me to be on top?" Maria asked, still feeling giddy.
"…yes…" Ethan said in a small voice, fearing she wouldn't go for the idea.
"Is that any way to talk to your mistress!?" Maria demanded in a commanding voice. "Is that what you want to hear?"
Ethan laughed giddily. "I'll see you when I get home dear!" then he broke the connection.
Archer, Ricardo, and Caster stared at Ethan. The former in concern, the latter two in worry.
'Just who have I allied myself with?' Ricardo thought, concerned for his well being.
'This man is an idiot…" Caster concluded.
'What…the…hell?' Archer questioned exactly what was going on with Ethan and Maria.
"OK!" Ethan said loudly, turning back to the other three and seeing the looks on their faces. "What? Why're you guys being weird? Anyway, we need to stop by the church so the supervisor can explain everything I don't want to to you Ricardo"
"Remia? I've already talked to her." Ricardo said, remembering the holy woman.
"You did?" Ethan was taken aback by this change. "Alright. That saves me time then. Well, Ricardo, are you a helpful person?"
"If I need to be…why?" Ricardo asked.
"Walk and talk people!" Ethan said, opening Ricardo's door and walking out.
Ricardo and Caster stared at Ethan's back, both growing annoyed with the magus, but keeping their mouths shut and following. Archer had to stifle a laugh as she disappeared into the ether to follow.
"Anyway, Ricardo, my wife is under the impression that you are going to help her with whatever she asks you to while you're under our roof." Ethan explained.
"Wait, when did I promise that?!" Ricardo asked in confusion.
"You didn't. I did." Ethan said gravely.
"Well, you'll just have to tell her otherwise. I'm not some Hero Complex idiot helping people at the cost of myself!" Ricardo said.
"…I knew an idiot like that once…Anyway, you have to help her! For my sake!" Ethan pleaded.
"And why should I do that!?" Ricardo shouted.
"For great Lay!" Ethan said, holding a fist to the heavens.
"Great….Lay?" Caster asked as Archer smashed her palm into her forehead.
"…what" Ricardo asked, stunned.
"Great Lay! The one and only Fruit! You know! Nookie! Great and glorious Nookie!" Ethan said, his eyes practically aflame.
Ricardo simply stared at Ethan in dull amazement.
"Nookie?" Caster asked, still confused.
The other three stared at her in their own amazement.
With a cough, Ricardo cleared his throat. "Well, anyway….um…I…I guess I can help….a little…for that kind of a cause…I mean….I am a guy myself and…"
"I'd say I love you but my lovin' is waiting at home for me!" Ethan said, flinging himself on Ricardo in a bone crushing hug.
For the next twenty minutes, Caster was confused and Archer was embarrassed, until a new challenger approached to break them out of it.
Night had fallen completely and Ethan snapped to attention, the friendly smile he'd been wearing evaporating instantly. He dropped into a guarded crouch and began to look around
"Archer, get ready. Caster, keep close to your Master." Ethan said, his voice suggesting no arguments.
"Ethan Reynolds…" came a voice form the shadows.
"Come on out already." Ethan said, before whispering to Ricardo, "If you can think of anything that'll help, feel free to act on it."
"Ok…"Ricardo said, unsure of himself.
"I'll protect you, Master." Caster said.
"Archer, high ground." Ethan said. With no noise at all, Archer leapt atop a nearby building.
"My my my. So cautious. We are in the middle of a city you know." the voice said. "I can't do anything impressive you know."
"Yeah? Then why bring attention to yourself?" Ethan asked, hoping Archer would spot the attacker.
"Oh, simply to ask you a question. How much would you be willing to sell your impressive collection for?" the voice asked conversationally.
"Sell my…Nathan? Nathan! Is that you!?" Ethan asked in worry.
"Of course." Nathan answered.
"Well, no deal. Never gonna sell it. Sorry buddy." Ethan said, before looking down and grinning. "And keep your damn familiars off me."
Ethan grabbed his shirt and pulled, the shirt came off, revealing that the shirt was in fact an insect familiar that had planted itself over Ethan's shirt.
"Interesting. Well, I will have your collection some day. Good evening." Nathan said, sounding discouraged.
The evil presence lifted and Archer came back down behind Ethan.
"Master. I couldn't find him, although I think I found the general area of his hideout." Archer said, glancing around, her bow still nocked.
"Relax. He's gone. Good job finding his area though." Ethan said, still glancing around.
"Of course Master." Archer said, bowing slightly before fading into the ether again.
"Ok…how'd you know him?" Ricardo asked, curious exactly what Ethan did.
"Hmm? Oh right. You slipped under my radar…" Ethan said, giving Ricardo a sly look.
"What exactly does that mean?" Ricardo was growing more confused and simply wanted to sleep.
With a heavy sigh, Ethan straightened and turned to Ricardo dramatically, his coat fanning around him.
"That was cool." Ricardo commented sarcastically, thinking that Ethan was a little more…odd than most people. 'Maybe it's a mage thing…'
"Oh let me be impressive. We could die in the next three seconds, just indulge. Anyway, My name, is Ethan Reynolds. For what its worth, I'm the magus in charge of this town. So, any mages who decide they want to LIVE here, have to inform me, otherwise, legal action can be taken." Ethan explained, before jamming his hands in his pockets and walking back towards his house, apparently aggravated.
"Legal action? What, you gonna sue them?" Ricardo asked with a light hearted laugh.
A diamond stopped an inch from his nose. Ethan had a single finger pointed at Ricardo.
"No. I can legally kill them." Ethan's eyes widened slightly as he realized what exactly was happening. He calmed himself with a deep breath and put the weapon away. "Look, I'm sorry if I seem irritated, but Alaro always puts me on edge, plus he was planning something here."
"Yeah, what was that thing that you pulled off yourself. A familiar?" Ricardo asked.
"You know what familiars are?" Ethan looked at Ricardo with an unconvinced look.
"Yes I do. And please don't take everything out on me. It's annoying." Ricardo looked like he was growing tired.
"Whatever. Anyway, he rarely uses familiars so simply throwing one away like that has me curious." Ethan explained, still looking annoyed.
"So what? You're the one in charge right? That means you're top dog." Ricardo said, glancing at Caster.
"Not even close. It just means my family got here first. Now can we please drop this subject so I can think?" Ethan was so frustrated that he wanted to scream.
"What do you think is wrong with him?" Caster asked her Master quietly.
"I don't know. But it's got me worried." Ricardo said, staring at the back of his 'partners' head.
"Just so you know, I can hear you." Ethan said. Then he snapped his fingers and pulled out a piece of paper.
Ricardo stared at Ethan as the latter quickly wrote something. Then Ethan threw the paper behind him and it erupted into fire before dying completely.
"What the heck was that about?" Ricardo asked, confused by the display.
"I'm too scattered right now to focus on a mental link, so I sent a Burn Notice." Ethan said before dropping back into his funk.
"Burn notice?" Ricardo asked Caster.
"Its special paper that when burnt, reforms where the magus wants it to. Um….Mr. Reynolds, can I have a sheet?" Caster asked tentatively.
Her answer was a wadded ball of paper hitting her in the face.
"Ethan that was uncalled for!" Ricardo shouted, coming to Caster's defense.
"Sorry." Ethan said haughtily.
"Anyway, like this." Caster said, holding the paper in one hand.
It burst into flames, burned to cinders, then reformed in her other hand.
"That's kind of cool actually." Ricardo commented.
The four finally arrived at the entrance to the Reynolds home, just outside the boundary field.
"Jeez you live here!?" Ricardo commented, stunned at the size of the house.
"The basement's bigger." Ethan said, smirking slightly.
"You seem in a better mood." Ricardo observed, smirking himself.
"Not really." Ethan said, glancing to the side.
"Well, as soon as we get in the bounded field we're safe right?" Ricardo said nonchalantly before starting towards the house.
Ethan's head suddenly jerked up and he tackled Ricardo to the ground, clawing at his shirt.
"What the hell are you doing!?" Ricardo shouted as he tried to defend himself.
Ethan continued to attack like a madman while Archer and Caster stared on, not sure if they needed to act or not.
"GOT YOU!" Ethan shouted as he tore Ricardo's shirt off completely.
"What the hell are you-" Ricardo began to shout until he realized his shirt was still on. "What?"
"Got you, you little bugger!" Ethan said as he ignited the familiar that had been attached to Ricardo.
"That things been attached to me this entire time?" Ricardo asked, looking down at himself in disgust.
"Yup." Ethan said with a cheery grin.
"You seem…well now." Ricardo noticed that Ethan was as air headed as ever again.
"Well, I get a little weird when I solve a problem." Ethan said with a laugh as he walked into his yard, through the bounded field.
"A little?" Ricardo said with a raised eyebrow. Caster giggled, and Archer forced herself to not laugh.
Ethan pushed the doors to his home open and shouted, "Lucy! I'm home!"
"Oh….Ricky!" Maria finished the reference before cracking Ethan in the head with a pan. "What the heck was with that note?! We might be under attack, seal the vault!? You nearly gave me a heart attack when that stupid message came in! Singed my nose you know!"
Indeed, there was a small black mark on Maria's nose. Ethan quickly kissed it before gesturing at the guests.
"Oh. Hello. I hope Ethan!" Maria punctuated his name by hitting him again, "Didn't give you any trouble."
"No ma'am." Ricardo said, reserved at meeting Ethan's wife.
"It's ok. She's the one you have to worry about, not me." Ethan said before ducking another attack and fleeing the scene.
"Are you two…really in love?" Caster asked.
"Of course. I wouldn't treat him the way I do if he didn't love me as much as he does." Maria said with a warm look where her husband had fled.
"Um…can I ask something about Ethan?" Ricardo was curious about one very key thing with Ethan.
"Of course. I have dinner set out already so come and eat." Maria said, leading the way to the dining room.
Sure enough, the long table was covered in all kinds of food. Eastern, western, southern….everything.
"I wasn't sure what you would want so I made a little of everything." Maria said with a maternal smile.
"Um….thank you ma'am." Ricardo said as he began to sit down and picked up a fork.
"Finish moving, and it will be the last thing you do." came a silky voice from behind Ricardo.
Ricardo didn't move, because he felt a length of steel against his neck.
"Assassin…" Maria warned.
"He's in my seat." Assassin said with a pout.
"Oh for the love of!" Maria was almost always annoyed with her servant.
…dinner was an interesting affair. Ethan had walked in just as Assassin was flirting with Caster and got to watch Maria sink a spoon into the wall next to Assassins head. After dinner was finished, Ethan left with a mutter of "setting things up." Archer went to keep an eye on Ethan, and Assassin said he was going for a stroll. Ricardo ended up helping Maria clean up.
"Thanks…Ricardo was it?" Maria asked, making sure.
"Yes ma'am." Ricardo answered.
"Oh, there's no need to talk like that. You can just call me Mistress Maria or Master." Maria said with an innocent smile.
Ricardo kept his mouth firmly shut as he finished putting the dishes away. By cleaning up, he had ended up doing everything.
"Oh yeah. You had a question about Ethan?" Maria remembered.
"Right! I'd forgotten. What is with him?" Ricardo asked.
"I don't see what you mean." Maria said, her eyes narrowing slightly.
Regardless, the threat was not missed. "The way he acts. Like, he's always half there or not at all."
"Oh…that. To be honest, I don't even notice anymore." Maria commented.
Ricardo waited for her to elaborate.
Maria noticed and let out a sigh. "What you have to understand is, Ethan is by no means a genius. He has half a dozen different focal points up in this city. He has a vault full of magical items and he can tell you any single one of their story. How he or his father or so on got it, what it can do, what it can't do, and how to make it think it can do something it can't. He's got at least a hundred different spells floating in that head, where most magi specialize in maybe a dozen. So if he seems a little scattered, its because, in all honesty, he is."
Ricardo stared at Maria, digesting what he'd learned. "How did you fall in love with someone like that, and how did he even catch onto love?"
Maria had finally reached her limit. "Listen kid, I don't want to hear you badmouthing my husband, least of all when you're under our roof. The how and why of us falling in love, is none of your business. Ok?"
"Yes….mistress." Ricardo trembled at her glare. It was like he could feel the cold talons of death around his neck. Then, he swallowed hard and asked another question. "What do you mean a vault of magic items?"
"The Reynolds family collects magical artifacts. It's expected that each member of the family contribute at least one in their lifetime. Currently there are-" Maria was about to say, but Ethan interrupted.
"One thousand, three hundred and thirty seven items. And I'm gonna put something NEW in there." Ethan said proudly.
"Well duh. That's what you have to do right?" Ricardo asked.
"No. I mean I'm going to put make a new artifact." Ethan said with a fierce grin.
"Ethan, what exactly were you doing?" Maria asked after kissing her husband.
"Oh, I set up rooms for Ricardo and Caster." Ethan explained.
"And where's Archer?" Maria noticed that the golden vested woman was nowhere to be seen.
"She's…watching TV with Assassin…" Ethan said, still shocked by the revelation.
"What?" Maria was dumbfounded.
"Yeah…then again, it IS something they'd both like…" Ethan said as Ricardo watched in amusement.
'So they are a couple.' he thought.
"What show?" Maria asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.
"Deadliest Warrior™" Ethan hung his head at how lame that sounded.
Maria followed suit, putting a hand on her husbands back.
"Well…you wanna?" Maria asked with an understanding look.
Ethan perked up instantly.
"That's right…Come to momma…" Maria said, her voice becoming sharp.
"Yes ma'am! Nookie time!" Ethan said before latching onto Maria.
The two managed to get down the hall before Ricardo could hear heavy breathing and thumps against the wall.
Caster watched down the hall, then turned to Ricardo.
"Will you please explain what Nookie is?!" She demanded, causing Ricardo to marvel at how young she seemed.