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60 Part III

 "Zircon please don't make me do this" Artemis gulped.

'Thirty seconds' It rang in her head, but she couldn't do it. Not again. "Zircon, please" The book refused to open, and might never open if she failed to complete the task.

"Darren I'm sorry. I lied." She chewed on her lower lip. Shortly, the book opened up again, "You are quite lucky. You had less than five seconds left."

She switched her gaze to the beastman standing in shock. She hissed at him before storming out of the cave, and he followed her.

"Zircon, why did you make me do that?"

"Your affinity was declining. Something had to be done."

"But..." She thought of how to say it without sounding rude.

"I know what you want to say. It's none of my concern, right?" Artemis nodded, and the words shuffled again "That's where you have it wrong, Rivera. I oversee all your points and they all matter to me, as well as your stale cooking skill." She puffed "Those are skills I care so little about."

"I know, but they're important, but I'll pardon you on the cooking aspect. As for your relationship skills, I promise to be on your neck."

"I want to ask something..."

"Ask away."

"Do you only belong to me?"

"At the moment. Why?"

"Because, that dolt- I mean Darren wasn't able to read you the same way I do. So is there any need of being mindful of who gets the book?"

"Do not be mistaken. The thumbs determine who my owner would be. If Someone else unlocks me with their thumb, I and the other gems will not hesitate to tell them the secrets they want to learn. We are nonpartisan to both sides. That is why you shouldn't risk losing me. For your own advantage."

She needed to keep Darren away no matter what and also hide the vital information.

"Artemis Rivera, Darren is your teammate. Start treating him like one."

"I'm sorry Zircon, I can't. I'll try my best to stop bullying him, but I can't do anything else apart from that." She closed the book, then pulled Meg by its leash. The more she thought of zircon's words, the more she found it impossible to treat him as a teammate. She still viewed him as her enemy, and chances she might be matched with him in the demigod games because of his weakness were high. Just like how Grazob was paired with her because they viewed him as the weakest of his kind.

"We have to walk a whole day because we slacked off and please don't delay me" She said without looking back to see the face of the wolfman she scarred emotionally. He was sure she wouldn't care, and if she saw him crying,  she'd taunt him even more.

"Did you hear what I said?" She stopped walking and turned back.

"Yes," He said, forcing a smile to cover up how much damage her statement had caused, but his brimming eyes couldn't be helped. His tears streamed down the second she turned her attention back to the dirt roads ahead.

*

Ever since their last fight, they hadn't said a word to each other, and Artemis preferred it that way. At some point, she wanted to talk to someone, but definitely not Darren. She'd rather die. Once in a while she'd say a thing or two to him because of Zircon, and after that she wouldn't bother talking to him again.

Days continued to pass by, and Darren's stamina improved. He could walk an hour without stopping, but Artemis could go more than that. The tenth day came, and Zircon announced they were close to their destination, but there'd be a deferral. The gatekeeper of the Feline wood's would detect their presence and it was probably going to attack.

"Look out!" Darren screamed, but before she could see the oncoming spiked log, it knocked her into a tree.

In a matter of seconds, the guardian rose to her feet. The semi decomposed leaf litter poured down off her sun-sensitive skin to the forest floor and she snarled, "Who goes there?!"

Darren ran to Artemis's aide, but she shoved him aside, "Don't come near me." She was wounded, but she got back on her feet.

"Are you certain you can take this thing on?"

She unsheathed the sword she carried around and stood in a battle stance, "If you want to flee, you're free to do so."

Darren stepped back, and Artemis scoffed. Just like she thought, he was still the scared wolfman she'd always known. The moment Darren stood by her with a weapon in his hands, her eyes widened.

"Are you mad? You've never had an official fight."

There was no time to persuade him to leave. The guardian was ready to attack again. In the blink of an eye, the guardian moved from tree to tree, at the speed of light, cutting them like they were pigs in the slaughterhouse, and slashing at their swords.

Darren couldn't deal with the pain. He ran back to take cover, however Artemis stood in place despite the bleeding cuts she had. She was waiting for the right moment to strike, and after reading the sequence of the guardian's monochromatic movements, she swung her sword towards the root tail adorned with thistles.

The guardian growled again. This time, she was confounded. She was blind. She'd utilized the breathing of her foes to see their position, but she could no longer picture Artemis's spot in the woods. Before the guardian could move again, Artemis had her sword by the scruff of the crooked neck "I won't hurt you anymore, so hear me out. I'm not a member of the Legion of Alchemy. I'm just someone who wants to train more and develop his strength and skills."

The guardian didn't respond until Zircon skimmed over to her side. She looked at Darren's direction with those black soulless eyes, and it made shivers run down his spine. She couldn't see anyone or anything, but only Zircon was aware.

Wherever her eyes were fixed didn't matter and it didn't change the fact she was sight impaired.

Artemis cut off the most important part of her body, and the guardian had a sudden interest in the fighter. Zircon also recommended and spoke well of her, but not about Darren.

"You have my trust." The guardian said, and Artemis's wounds started healing along with Darren's.

"Thank you." She appreciated, and the Monster returned to its camouflage as a tree "Good luck on your journey. The Feline domain is not too far from here. A couple more hours and you'll be there in no time."

"Thank you for sparing us," Darren acknowledged the guardian before walking away.

"I wish I was that strong." Not only did Artemis have applaudable strength, she also planned strategies ahead. He found that to be very cool, and he was envious of how good she was. She wondered how long it took her, and if he'd ever be able to reach her level and compete with her.

"Your fighting skill was remarkable" Zircon commended and Artemis flashed a proud grin "Of course it was."

"Don't laud yourself too much, Artemis Rivera. If the guardian is frail, that means getting the gem wouldn't be easy."

"If I recall, the pearl is in a fountain. Am I Right?"

"That is correct."

"It's just a fountain. I can handle it."

Zircon was becoming fond of its new owner. As for Darren, he felt even more and more like he was out of place, and everything was a complete waste of his time.

He had no knowledge of his stats, and ever since they started their journey, he could see a major distinction in Artemis's form. Regardless of his shortcomings, he still believed he could achieve something with the little time he had, and he'd improve so much it'll leave Artemis stunned.

"Who am I kidding? There seems to be no hope for me" He looked up to the sky, and frowned "Why do I have to be the weak one?"