"We'll take it!", the merchant shouted excitedly, before turning to Katherine and correcting himself hastily. "I mean, we'll make it! The bet! Make it now!"
"Very well", Katherine grinned, glancing at the wife for a second, before turning to the daughter. "Then I'll begin now. Don't forget to follow up your words."
The merchant snorted. He was absolutely sure there didn't exist a person who could make his daughter healthy again in only an hour. The gold pile was as good as his! Why else would that other girl throw him chilling glares? She most likely knew that this young doctor or whatever she was made a big mistake when placing the bet. He gave her a triumphant smile.
Her face darkening, Hazel turned away from the blasphemer. Outrageous! How could he even think about winning against her goddess!
The wife of the merchant pulled at her husband's arm softly, whispering: "Darling, do you really think this is the right choice? Why should she initiate a bet if she can't win?"
Annoyed, the merchant looked down at her. "How should I know why she's so dumb? But obviously it is impossible for her to win! There is no-one who can do what she claims she can!"
Without the pair noticing, Katherine's hands began to glow in a soft light, her fingers touching the skin next to the wound. As the light spread, a little m.o.a.n escaped the drunken, half-consciousness woman, her body relaxing even more into the pillows.
After quarreling for a while, the couple got curious if there had been any progress. Under the watchful eyes of Hazel, they crept closer. When they saw the glimmering light, their brows furrowed, but after they saw the leg, they gasped aloud. All there was left of the devastating wound was a short red line, as wide as finger.
Disbelieving, the merchant rubbed his eyes, before exclaiming angrily: "Impossible! No! No! That can't be!"
The mother broke into tears. It was undetectable, if it was out of joy because her daughter was healed or pain and sadness to loose the caravan.
"No! Stop it!", the merchant suddenly roared, and dashed forward to push Katherine away. He couldn't look on anymore. If Katherine finished healing his daughter, he would loose his money, his caravan, his everything!
However, instead of throwing over the soft body of a little girl, he crashed into an iron wall.
"Hey, hey, quell your enthusiasm!", the iron wall chuckled darkly. "You might hurt someone."
His heart jumping in fright, the fat merchant looked up, and up, and up, seeing an iron chest, a bulls neck, a black beard with many sharp white teeth and a black one grinning deviously in between, before finally landing on the one black eye staring down at him from double his own size.
The merchant's face paled. Stumbling over his own two feet in retreat, he fell, but continued to flee like a spider on all fours. A wet spot began to show on his pants.
Watching him, Jack lazily scratched his beard with a proud look. Yes, that was the normal reaction, wasn't it? Not everyone would be like a certain girl and instead of retreating snatch his weapon away. The lady was so courageous, worthy of praise!
"Jack", Pete called, and pulled him out of his memories.
"I know, I know", Jack replied. Hastily, he walked over to the man on the ground, who shuddered with each step he took, and pressed his back further against the fabric of the tent, an expression of pure horror on his face. When Jack was only one last step away, the pupils of the man rolled back in their holes. He fainted.
With a laugh, Jack stopped. "Now he doesn't need to be searched anymore."
"Idiot.", Pete sighed.
The mother meanwhile didn't notice the distress of her husband. Tears still streamed out of her eyes, which were fixed on her child unwavering.
A few seconds later, the last sign of injury vanished under Katherine's careful hands. When she took them back, Hazel was instantly by her side, dabbing her sweat away and sprouting flattering words earnestly. "You're so good, milady! It took you only half the time you said it would!"
Dissatisfied with the term, Katherine shot her a mild warning glare. "Don't expose me!"
Hazel clutched her mouth with both her hands, and looked around anxiously. Right, she couldn't call her 'milady' here! Luckily, the mother and daughter were too occupied with themselves to notice the slip-up.
In a whisper, Hazel said: "Sorry, mi- ah! Sorry! I'm really sorry..."
Her face read like: I can't call the lady 'milady', but I can't just call her without honorific, too! What should I do? What should I do? Then she remembered something, and slowly ended like a question: "Your... holy-?"
"No!", Katherine decisively interrupted her, making Hazel flinch. She had known it wasn't a good idea. "Just call me 'Katherine'!"
The maid paled. "I absolutely can't do that! It breaks all conventions! I can't call a go- ah, I can't call you by name!"
She looked so miserable that Katherine gave in. "Fine. But you can't call me those other names, got that? Not here. Call me... 'leader' or something..."
Hazel's eyes got their l.u.s.ter back. "Yes! Respected leader!"
"Huh, she learned how to talk back!", Jack observed from the sideline. So the respect was more important to Hazel than following the lady's instructions? No, maybe one couldn't abstract this. It was just this one time. Still, the respect Jack had for Hazel grew from zero to... well, zero point one. But every improvement was better than nothing.
Melissa, the wife of the merchant, was hugging her daughter now and continued to cry silently. As the daughter was still heavily drunk, she just hung in the grip, murmuring nonsense to herself with a sloppy smile. Katherine didn't want to disrupt them, so she said: "Pete, can you stay here and bring the mother and merchant to me when they are ready to speak? I'll go heal the others meanwhile."
Then, she smirked. "I want my new merchant group to be as healthy as possible after all."
Pete bowed his head slightly. "Of course, milady."
After listening to her, Jack stuck out his chest proudly. "You hear that? She asked you to stay because she prefers my company!"
Although he didn't say it, Pete clearly heard a 'that's daddy's girl', and facepalmed. He couldn't take this foolishness anymore! "No, you idiot! She just doesn't want you to frighten her investment to death!"
With a laugh, Katherine acknowledged it. "That's right! Now, come on. There's much to do!"
The rejection only affected Jack for a second, before he realized: "Either way, my task is less boring. Have fun!"
With a wave at Pete, he slipped out of the tent. Seeing Pete's expression, Katherine tried hard not to laugh. She lightly patted his shoulder and said sincerely: "My condolences. It must be hard on you with such a partner."
The heartfelt words nearly made Pete emotional. Finally someone who recognized his struggles! Clenching his fists to repress his emotions, he gave a heavy nod. "Thank you, milady!"
Feeling satisfied, Katherine gestured Hazel to follow her, and the two of them left the tent.