Sleep had not come easily for Tucker as he contemplated both about his best friend Jessica and the man that he had seen earlier that day. He was worried about the mind state of Jessica after she became nothing more than a puppet for a high lord who had wanted her all to himself. They had just gotten away from him and she was still venting out much of her frustration in a place where she didn't have to worry about hurting anyone around her. He could only imagine what was going through her mind. While she was under the control of Lord Nostory she had almost killed him and only the link that they shared had prevented her from carrying out the deed. They had known each other almost their entire lives and Tucker had never seen Jessica like this. He feared that the girl that he had grown up with was gone and replaced with a husk.
Tucker also thought about the man who he had seen in the inn. He had told him that the quest was dangerous and it was best for him to turn back and forget about it. He would not have found it that odd since most people would have most likely told him the same thing. What struck him as being very odd was the fact that no one else in the inn had been able to see him. Everyone who Tucker had asked had told him that they had seen no man fitting the description that he had given them. He wasn't sure if the man had really been there or if he was merely a figment of his imagination.
Eventually Tucker's fatigue became too much and he did fall to sleep but he was awoken earlier than he had expected. There was a loud knocking on the door and it took him a few moments to come around enough for him to open the door. He only had his underpants on and his hair was in a mess. Not surprisingly it was the innkeeper who was standing there. He didn't think that he had a problem since he had paid the innkeeper in full before he had come to the room.
"W-what is it?" asked Tucker who was still somewhat confused. His eyelids were heavy and if he could he would fall down and go to sleep exactly where he was.
"I am sorry to have had to wake you at this early hour but there is a woman waiting downstairs for you. If you don't mind me saying she's the tallest person that I've ever seen in my life."
"Oh ok." He knew that it was only Jessica and for a moment he had been worried. "Tell her that I'll be down in a minute. I just need to make myself look more presentable. I think she'll understand."
A few minutes later Jessica was sitting at a table in the inn as she awaited the return of her best friend. She had come back to pick him up just like she had promised and she needed to have a talk with him. She was still experiencing anger over what had happened to her but she would try not to show any of this to Tucker since he was not the one at fault. She was the one who had wanted to come along him so that she could keep an eye on him. She thought that she would just have to protect him from raiders, not become the threat herself. She was also hungrier than she would have liked to admit.
She turned her head to see Tucker walking down the steps towards her. He had gotten himself changed and wore the light armour that protected him but also gave him manoeuvrability. She saw that he had Juggernaut by his side but he would never draw it in anger against her. She noticed that he seemed happy to see her and only moments later he sat down right next to her. Even in this seated positon she still towered above him but this was something that they had both gotten used to a long time ago. The fact that he was here already made her feel happier.
"Hey there Jessica," said Tucker who was trying to break the tension and start the conversation. "A beautiful morning isn't it?" He broke a smile to try and make her feel better and the next thing he felt was her arms wrap around him as she gave him a hug. She didn't care who was watching. It took her a few moments to break off the hug but already she was feeling better than she was a few moments ago.
"Sorry about that Tucker," replied Jessica as she tried to also break a smile but she found that she couldn't do this. "I've just been doing a lot of thinking and I'm just happy to see you, if there is anyone in the world that I can rely on it's you."
"How are you feeling anyway?" He paused for a moment before realising how stupid his question was. "Ok maybe not the best of questions right now."
"It's alright Tucker." She gave a sigh. "I'm feeling a little better than I did yesterday but I still don't feel the same as I did before. I don't think I ever will, what happened in July I will never forget and I don't know if I can ever forgive Lord Nostory. He took my free will away from me and almost made me kill one of the most important people in my life. I know I was a little naïve before but I don't know if I can fully trust anyone ever again. Maybe there isn't as much good in the world as I thought there was."
"You don't have to have the acts of one man destroy your faith in humanity." He gave her a little nudge to show that he was still being friendly. "Just look at me, am I worth losing your faith?"
"Of course not, you're the best friend a giant girl could ever ask for but as you know when I was growing up I wasn't the most popular person in our village. You were the only one who showed me kindness and for that I vowed that I would keep you safe. Yesterday morning I was the danger that almost killed you."
"It's ok Jessica you don't have to be sorry for anything."
"But that's the thing, a small part of me actually enjoyed it. When I was crushing you in my hands I could see the faces of those who had slandered me over the years and shunned me because I was a giantess. It was like I was venting all my built up emotions and unfortunately it happened to be you in my hands." She gave another sigh before she carried on. "You know that I wouldn't intentionally kill anyone but by the gods I've been tempted so many times. The only reason I never did was because I knew that I would become the monster that they had labelled me."
"And because you're one of the nicest people in Angleland." He place his hand on her shoulder. "Not many people could have put up with me when I was a child and even now not many people can stand being around me for extended periods of time. You've actually been with me for days at a time and never have you made me feel unsafe." He continued to smile at her. "One advantage of having a best friend who's taller than you is that you always have someone to look up to."
The next thing Tucker felt was Jessica once again giving him a hug but this time he could feel a few droplets of warm water strike his head. He realised that Jessica was actually crying as she hugged him. She felt that she was truly blessed to have Tucker with her, in truth if she could live the rest of her life with only seeing him she would die a happy woman. The feelings of overwhelming happiness was making her sob but she still kept a hold of the man that she valued as much as her father.
"Thank you Tucker," said Jessica as she continued to hug him. "You mean more to me than life itself."
"Err Jessica!" replied Tucker as he found his airways had been blocked by the enormous body that was his best friend. "I-I can't breathe."
"Oh I am so sorry." Jessica was greatly shocked and quickly broke off the hug. She had a very apologetic look on her face. "I kind of let my emotions get the better of me there. You're not hurt are you?"
"No I'm fine." He needed a moment to catch his breath. "There is something that I need to tell you, yesterday I was drinking and some bloke just sat right in front of me and told me to turn back from our quest. I know that might sound a little odd but the oddest thing was that no one else seemed to see him. They all said that I had been sitting by myself the entire time and that no one had come to sit at my table." He gave a small sigh. "I don't know if he was real or just a delusion bought on by drinking too much sweet beer."
"So what are we going to do? Keep going and hopefully find Three Man's Treasure or are we going to turn back and go home empty handed."
"That's the thing I'm not sure, after everything that has happened to us turning back would probably be the wisest move but returning empty handed is something I just cannot do. I can't face those people after they all mocked and doubted me. Not only will I be a failure in their eyes but in my own. If you want to turn back I won't mind, after everything that you've been through I can understand."
"I'll stay by your side no matter which way you go. I couldn't allow you to carry on with this quest alone and I'm not going to force you to turn back."
"I think that we should have fate decide for us." He then put his hand into one of his pockets and picked out a small six sided die. He placed it on the table and Jessica had no idea what he was thinking about. "We'll roll this die, if it lands on an odd number we go back to Morgan, if it is an even number then we carry on until the very end. Do you find these terms reasonable?"
Jessica nodded at Tucker and with that he picked the die up once again. He rolled it on the table and it seemed like the longest seconds in the pair's life as they watched it roll along the table. It almost seemed like an eternity before it finally stopped and Tucker dragged it towards them. His hand was over the die so that neither of them could see what it showed. Tucker could feel his heart beating very quickly and he could see that there was a small amount of nervousness in Jessica's face.
"Ok moment of truth," said Tucker as he lifted his hand up. Both of them immediately looked down at the die. They quickly saw that it had landed on a four and it meant that they were going to continue on with the quest. A part of both of them were both a little relieved and a little disappointed with the outcome. Neither of them had truly wanted to end the quest but they had not wanted to return home either. "Well there we have it, I guess our quest is going to continue."
"Hopefully for the better," replied Jessica. "I think we should better get out of here as soon as we can." She went to move but suddenly her stomach growled very loudly. It was a clear indication that she was hungry but she did try to hide it from Tucker.
"Unless some wild cat just got in here I'd say that you're hungry." A small smile appeared on his face. "Hey Innkeeper?" The Innkeeper had been working behind the bar as he knew that he would have weary travellers and regulars. "Can you fix us up two breakfasts for me please?"
"Really I couldn't." She was still trying to make it seem that she wasn't all that hungry when in truth she was starving.
"Nonsense, if you're going to be carrying around my bulky body all day you're going to need all the energy that you can." He turned his head towards the Innkeeper who was still behind the bar as he was preparing for any weary travellers. "Hey Innkeeper can you fix us up two of your best cooked breakfasts. Give a little extra to the lady, she's earned it." He saw the Innkeeper nod at him and move away.
They did have to wait a short while before the breakfasts actually came out. When Jessica first saw it she felt how truly hungry she was as she did everything that she could to stop herself from drooling. Tucker had also moved so that he was sitting across from her rather than right next to her. This was simply so that she had more room to eat and due to her size it just made her that little bit more comfortable.
As she dug into her food Jessica wasn't too particularly fond of what she was tasting. The toast was cold, the tomatoes were too squishy, the bacon was so hard that it could have easily shattered, the sausages tasted like they were underdone, the eggs were extremely runny and the black pudding was so tough that she thought that she would have broken her knife if she had tried to cut it. Despite all this to her it was the best breakfast that she ever had due to the fact that she was eating with her best friend and she was enjoying her freedom. Nothing would be able to wipe away the memories of what had happened but this was definitely the start of something better. She could see Tucker eating his food and she couldn't help but smile, she knew that as long as she had him she would always have someone who wasn't family that actually cared about her.
No sooner had they eaten their breakfast the two decided to leave the inn but not without paying for their mediocre breakfast. Tucker took his recently returned map out and rolled it out so that they could see the location of the second trial. It was a relatively short distance away from them. It was slightly to the west a few miles away from the west coast town of Logan. It almost lay right in between July and Logan and it would not take too long for them to reach the location. Unfortunately most likely the third trial would take them all the way passed July again and it was a place that neither one of them wanted to visit ever again. If Jessica had been a cruel person she would have destroyed the entire city brick by brick but she was not a monster.
Jessica then allowed herself to grow to her full size and she picked up Tucker. Like usual she placed him on her shoulder and wrapped a small piece of hair around him for his own safety. He felt extremely safe around her as he knew that his best friend would never let anyone harm him. He still thought that he could easily defend himself however, he thought that his skills with a blade would allow him to overcome an average swordfighter. A professional sword fighter would most likely be a little much for him but he did hope that one day he would be the mightiest sword fighter in Angleland. A knighthood would be nice so that people would call him Sir Tucker Martel.
A lot was still going through Jessica's mind as the events of the last few days kept repeating over and over again in her head. She could still remember everything that she had done for Lord Nostory and how she almost killed her best friend. Although Tucker had forgiven her for it she didn't know if she could forgive herself. It was something that only time could heal and she thought that this was something that she had plenty of.
The sun was still shining down on them and it gave the Summer Lands their name since even in winter it was still a relatively warm. It would have been nice for them to just relax and try and get a tan but they had important things to do although Tucker thought that when he found the treasure he would certainly live the rest of his life under the sun. It was a little dream that they both had.
If it were ever to come true they would definitely live as far as they could from July. Both had too many mental scars of the place to want to live anywhere near it. Just the thought of Lord Nostory filled Jessica with so much rage that she could hardly contain herself. If she were ever to see him again she didn't know exactly what she was going to do. She was likely to crush him where he stood, even her good nature might not be enough to save him in the end.
Tucker kept thinking that there was something that he could have done to prevent the whole event from taking place. He thought that he shouldn't have let Jessica allow the necklace from the old woman in Lake Town or maybe he could have stopped Lord Nostory from controlling her. In truth there was nothing that he could have done, he was just one man who was fighting dozens of others and in those odds there was very little chance of him ever walking away with a victory. He was just glad that the whole event was behind them and that he had his best friend back.
Jessica walked for some hours before she had to stop to take a rest. They had travelled a significant distance but even a giantess needed to rest every now and again. She shrank herself to her smallest size and watched Tucker as he used a nearby tree for sparring practice. He was not the most skilled of swordsman but in her eyes he was her knight in shining armour. He seemed to have some fun as he sparred with the tree. He tried to move around as he pretended that the tree was an opponent that needed to fall. She would have allowed him to do this for as long as he wanted but she knew that there was some ways that he could improve himself.
"Hey Tucker," shouted Jessica who was sitting on a large rock a few metres away. "I love seeing you stab a tree as much as the next girl but I don't think that you're going to do yourself much good."
"Well I am starting to be the greatest swordfighter in all of Angleland," replied Tucker with much confidence in his voice. "Don't forget that I defeated that armour thingy in the first trial and I would have beat that guy in Lake Town if you hadn't of stepped in." If Jessica hadn't of been there for him he would have been killed when the armoured being exploded in the first trial and for the man in Lake Town he would have killed Tucker if he only had one strike. He would have mentioned his trial by combat with Jessica but he knew that the memories of it would be too fresh in her mind.
"Maybe but you're not going to get much better by stabbing a tree." She stood up to her full height and began to walk over to him. "First off trees don't move and they don't fight back. I think that you need a sparring partner."
"No one can keep up with me." He was still trying to seem overly confident and Jessica could see through his façade.
"Yeah sure they can't." She continued to walk towards and she tried to break a smile. "Maybe I could help you."
"No I don't want to hurt you."
"Then maybe we don't use your sword for this one. We could use sticks and then work our way up."
"I don't know, I haven't used sticks since I was a child."
"But it could help you with your manoeuvrability and then we can move onto your attack. If I were to grow to giant size at that stage then you won't really be able to hurt me. Can you consider it at least?"
"Maybe." He knew that Jessica always had his best interests at heart and that she only wanted to help him. He could concede defeat for now and allow her to help him, he had to admit that it wouldn't hurt his pride all that much and with no one else around he didn't have to worry about what they thought. "Ok maybe we can for now."
"Great and I have the perfect idea for where we could start."
Several minutes later Tucker stood in front of Jessica, the distance between them was only a metre or two and she held a stick that was roughly the length of a sword. Tucker himself was unarmed. Jessica was still at her smallest size and she thought that this was probably one of the best ways to improve Tucker's swordplay. For now she felt that it was not best to actually dual, she thought that this was a better alternative. Juggernaut itself was lying a couple metres away behind her.
"Remind me again why we're doing this?" asked Tucker as he didn't seem to be too impressed with what Jessica had set up.
"It's simple Tucker," replied Jessica. She stood ready with the stick in her hand. "This is to help you improve your skills with a sword. Now imagine the scenario, we've been fighting and I've been able to disarm you and throw your sword to one side. You need to dodge my attacks and get past me so that you can get your sword back."
"This is stupid." Suddenly he felt a sharp pain in his arm as Jessica struck him with the stick. It was not meant to harm him but to simply make a point. "Hey that hurt!" He felt a sharp pain in his other arm as Jessica struck that one with the stick. She had a stern look on her face as she went to strike him again but this time he was able to get out of the way. "Stop that."
"Only when you get to your sword. And if this was real you would have lost both of your arms." She went to strike him again and once again he was just able to get out of the way. "Good, now we're getting somewhere."
Over the course of the next few seconds Jessica repeatedly tried to strike Tucker with the stick and he had to keep dodging them. He didn't realise it but Jessica had positioned herself so that she was directly between him and Juggernaut. Everything that she was doing was working to her advantage as she continued to try and strike Tucker with the stick. He was doing everything that he could to dodge the attacks but he was beginning to get tired while Jessica still seemed to have some energy left.
"Stop this," said Tucker as he didn't want to continue on but Jessica was not listening to him. She felt that the only way for him to really improve was with sessions like this, in her mind they were for his own good.
"Only when you reach your sword," replied Jessica as she tried to strike him once again. He had to jump out of the way so that her strike would miss but she was still determined. "If you can't even get past me how do you expect to defeat a great swordfighter in one on one combat?"
"I-I won't drop my sword."
"Sometimes..." She went to strike him again and it caused to have to duck to prevent himself from being struck. "Those kind of things..." She slashed at him with the stick and he was just able to move out of the way before the blow impacted. "Are out of your hands." He was still some distance away from Juggernaut and she thought that he wasn't really putting that much effort into the exercise. "Come on Tucker you can do better, you're still miles away from your sword."
"I can't get to it if you keep trying to hit me." He was getting out of breath while Jessica still seemed to be fit even though she had just walked several miles and had tried to hit him repeatedly with a stick.
"That's the whole point dummy. Now you've got to try harder or else you're going to have so many bruises."
She went to strike him again but once again he was able to get out of the way and he tried to get past Jessica but he got too close to her and she was able to grab him and lift him off the ground with just one hand. Even at her smallest size Jessica was still stronger than the average man and it showed. She had even dropped her stick since she didn't think that she would be needing it anymore. She was disappointed that Tucker had seemingly failed in his task.
"You got too close Tucker," said Jessica as she tried to give him some advice. "Ok I admit that my reach is much longer than most people but my arm could have been a sword and you would have been sliced in half."
"Yeah I know," replied Tucker seemingly admitting defeat. "But have I told you that from up here I can see how stunning your eyes are."
"They are?" She was taken aback by the compliment and she somewhat couldn't believe that he was saying it. She did enjoy it but she hadn't expected a compliment like that before. "Thank you."
"And I must say when I'm wrapped in your hair it is as soft as silk. Believe me I've felt the hair of many people, don't ask me how and I must say that yours is definitely the best to touch."
"Oh please stop." The compliments seemed to be working better than Tucker expected as Jessica lowered him to the ground and even released her grip on him. Immediately after that Tucker dived right past her and grabbed Juggernaut. He lifted it and pointed it towards her, there was a smile on his face but Jessica herself was quite angered about this. "That was a dirty rotten trick!" She didn't notice that her anger had made her gain a few inches in height but Tucker did notice."
"I'm sorry Jessica but if it does make you feel any better I meant every word." A small part of Jessica did feel better. She would have been extremely angry if he had only said this so that he could distract her but the fact that he had meant every word did make her feel somewhat better. "And in the end I won contest."
"You cheated and I seriously doubt that complimenting on the eye colour of your opponent is going to stop them from killing you." She was still somewhat angry but it was starting to subside.
"I know but it did stop you." His smile was still there and he sheathed Juggernaut as he walked towards her. "I'm sorry that I did that but you have to admit my plan did work and besides you do have dashing eyes."
"Oh no Tucker no amount of sucking up will save you this time." A moment went past before she wrapped her long arms around her. "Oh who am I kidding come here you." She embraced Tucker in a hug and she had to admit that Tucker did have some intelligence in his plan. He would not use it on a big muscular man but he would most likely come up with something else for that.
They broke the hug up when they could hear someone applauding them. As they turned to look where the applaud was coming from they saw a woman sitting down on the rock where Jessica had been sitting a few short minutes before. She had long blond hair and stunning blue eyes. She wore what seemed to be a light blue toga like dress that went down to her knees. She also wore matching blue slippers and she had a large smile on her face as she continued to gently clap her hands.