Editor: Areth Kyntaul
‘It sounds like the Demon King’s city isn’t too far from humanity’s so-called north.’
Put another way, maybe humanity’s north was the Demon King’s city. The demons had been eradicated, so their land must now belong to humanity.
‘Why does Veirya want to take us to the north? The Demon King is dead so the warrior doesn’t need to go to the border to fight anymore. So for what reason does she want to go to a desolate place like the north?’
We didn’t see a soul through the slot from the horse carriage from morning to night. There were no fields on the way, either. It was just a desolate expanse of land. Even birds were few and far between. It certainly was freezing outside. It wasn’t snowing, but I felt like the ground was completely white.
The horse carriage I was in was the one carrying the weapons. Inside were the weapons of the guards outside. Long-swords were placed neatly inside a chest.
After ensuring that the chest wouldn’t bounce, I took my cloak off and used it as a mat on the ground so that Leah could comfortably lean against it. The curtains on the left and right of the carriage were very thick, so they were enough to keep us warm. So, other than having a bumpy ride in the horse-carriage, everything was fine.
It sounds like we’ll be arriving at the town tomorrow, according to the conversation between the soldiers outside.
‘I don’t really get why Veirya chose to come here. Did she come here on orders? But then the demon race is no more. Who would she be attacking? Could that territory be a reward? But why would anyone reward that sort of land? It’s far too barren. It’s not a good location in any way. Could it be that she’s been banished here?’
Such barren land would be perfect for sending exiled people to. Veirya is a warrior; a warrior who was specifically used to fight against the Demon King. Now that he’s dead, what use does the warrior have to offer?
‘Discharge a worthy person when he has served his purpose.’ Veirya, who has the complete support of the people as well as strength is now the ruler’s enemy. Thus making it explainable as to why Veirya was sent here.
However, based on my observations of Veirya, she doesn’t seem to be aware of that. I don’t intend to inform her. It’s not a bad thing if Veirya and that Queen Sisi turn against each other, but… No eggs stay intact under an overturned nest. I need to depend on Veirya right now to survive, not to mention there’s Leah to consider, too.
Knowing that we were just one day away was good news to me. The demon form Leah transforms into at night might be a succubus. I think Veirya would probably kill her without hesitation if she saw her. The longer we stay in the horse carriage, the more likely it is she’s discovered. The sooner we arrive at our destination, the safer it is.
Leah didn’t lean on the chest to sleep. Instead, she sat on my lap and leaned against me as she cheerfully told me about all sorts of things. I sat cross-legged inside the carriage. Leah rubbed her small bottom against my groin since she sat on my lap and told me stories of the demon city.
Unfortunately, my attention wasn’t focused on her story, but her warm body’s contact with mine. The thought of Leah’s position last night, makes me feel…
“Eh? Papa, there seems to be something poking me.”
Leah gently twisted her body around and looked at me innocently.
I looked at Leah’s innocent and cute gaze. A strong sense of shame and guilt tormented me to death, but I managed to swiftly grab Leah’s hand, which was trying to touch to see what was poking her.
Darkness was going to fall soon so the two oil lamps slotted in on the side of the carriage were lit up. The flame swayed as the horse walked. However, we didn’t travel far in the dark, as we soon stopped.
I looked out from the curtain. People coming and going unloaded the things from the other carriages and, soon, there was a fire on the barren land.
A soldier came over to our carriage and quietly said, “Come on out and have a rest.”
I looked at Leah, and she looked back at me, confused. Leah hadn’t transformed yet, so maybe it happens at night? Honestly, I have no concept of time here. But…
‘Whatever, let’s eat first and then return to the carriage early, to be safe.’ I hopped off the horse-carriage and then carried Leah down.
I also saw Veirya dismount from her horse.
Leah wrapped her arms around my neck tightly and curled up on my shoulder.
Veirya scanned me from head to toe. She didn’t say anything and walked up to the fire, removed the canteen on her belt, and gulped a few mouthfuls.
I, too, walked up to the fire and sat down. I sat far away from Veirya to take care of Leah, but then Veirya came up to my side.
Leah trembled in my arms and didn’t dare to utter a word.
I looked at Veirya with puzzlement.
She handed me her canteen and in a composed manner said, “Have some water.”
I looked at the canteen in front of me and spaced out. If my memory does me justice, this canteen was on her lips just moments ago. Her lip-prints were still on the canteen…
‘What’s this…? An indirect kiss…?’
But we haven’t had any water this entire trip. I couldn’t help it since I didn’t have a canteen…
I took the canteen and gently raised it to Leah’s mouth, but she slapped it aside and adamantly refused to drink from it. It looks like Leah won’t accept anything from Veirya.
I sighed and then handed it back to Veirya, feeling a little guilty as I looked at her.
‘I can have a sip, right…?’
Veirya didn’t seem to mind. She didn’t look at me. Her eyes were fixed on Leah.
That caused me to jerk my body.
‘Veirya doesn’t intend to do something to Leah out of anger, right…? Veirya is a serious person. If that’s the case then Leah may very likely be in trouble…’
I lifted the canteen up to my mouth. I couldn’t help myself from licking the water on the edge of the mouthpiece… To be honest, it didn’t feel like water when I drank it. There seemed to be a taste but it might’ve just been my imagination…
I returned the canteen back to Veirya and she took it. She drank from it without any hesitation, which left me stunned. It looks like Veirya thinks nothing of such things. She didn’t care in the least. She then stood up and walked over to another spot to sit.
The guards placed two wooden bowls in our hands.
A pot was hung above the fire. It gurgled as it heated up the stuff we ate in the morning. The rye bread from the army got tossed in and slowly boiled. I guess that’s the only way it’ll be edible.
Everyone then soon used a large spoon to take a scoop and pour the soup onto the large piece of bread. Then, the spoon would get passed to the next person for them to get their scoop.
Leah sat in my lap and looked at the pot in front of us with infinite happiness as she eagerly waited for the spoon to get passed over here.
I picked up the spoon and gave us one spoonful each. I think I can eat this time. The spoon had been passed around once but there was half left in the pot still.
The soldiers began to engage in idle chatter, however; Veirya didn’t enter any conversation. Instead, she ate mouthful after mouthful while keeping her eyes on the food in front of her. She ate extremely quickly as if it wasn’t hot at all. Veirya picked up the spoon and gave herself two more servings by the time I had eaten just half.
“Papa, I want some more…” Leah, who was next to me, wasn’t any better. She raised her empty bowl up to me.
I reached out and filled it up fully for her. Just as I put the bowl down, Veirya picked the spoon up and gave herself another bowl.
“Papa, I want some more…”
I was wrong.
There was half left if we had one spoonful each, but that wasn’t anywhere near enough for Leah and Veirya. There was just one last spoonful left. I went to reach out to get another serving for Leah since I’m biased here, but… As soon as I touched the handle, someone pressed their hand firmly on mine. I raised my head in surprise and saw Veirya’s clear-blue eyes.
She looked at me sternly and spoke with her usual monotone voice, “Give it to me.”
I let go. When Veirya said that, I felt that she was serious. Stealing Veirya’s food gave me the exact same feeling as stopping her from killing Leah last time. I felt that if I were to fight her for it, my head would be in the pot in the next second…
Leah retracted her bowl with the utmost fear. She tugged on my arm and pulled me back…
Veirya filled up her bowl with the food in the spoon with great satisfaction. She then looked at the scared Leah, hesitated for a moment and then walked up to us. She extended her hand to pick up Leah’s bowl and poured the food from her bowl into Leah’s bowl. She then placed it back in front of Leah.
‘She’s making it very clear she’s trying to be friendly, isn’t she?! I almost lost my head to Veirya fighting for the food just now, but then she went and divided half of her food with Leah. That’s a very clear sign she’s trying to be friendly, isn’t it?’
However, Leah didn’t accept the kind gesture. She shrieked and then swung her hand aggressively.
Veirya was shocked as Leah smacked her bowl away, splashing all of the piping-hot soup on Veirya’s face.
My heart stopped…
My body automatically pulled Leah behind me.
I stood up and looked at Veirya. The wooden bowl dropped onto the ground, making a hollow sound. Veirya stood in place but was still expressionless. The piping-hot soup slowly coursed down her face.
The entire vicinity went silent as everyone looked over in our direction with astonishment.
Leah realised what she had done, too, so she grabbed my thigh and trembled.
Alright, let me think now.
‘What I need to do now is reduce her anger.’ It is time to negotiate with Veirya, who is standing in front of me. ‘I need to do my best to calm her down so she doesn’t get violent. I don’t know how many chances I have. The best course of action is to apologise directly.’
Veirya didn’t say anything. She just continued looking at Leah behind me. I seemed to understand what Veirya wanted.
Now that I know what she wants, I’ll do everything I can to satisfy her.
“Leah, come and apologise.”
I brought Leah forward to the front but my hands were still on her shoulder. If Veirya strikes, I’ll immediately pull her behind me.
Veirya was looking at Leah.
Leah was so scared that she couldn’t hold back her tears. Her body desperately wanted to run behind me. It was clear that Veirya didn’t want my apology but Leah’s. Leah sobbed softly and desperately squirmed with her body. She was almost ready to start rolling around. She didn’t want to see Veirya. The memory of being hunted down by Veirya for so long and almost being decapitated had become an eternal nightmare for her.
“… Forget it.” Veirya seemed to give up after watching Leah struggle. She reached her hand up to wipe her face and then turned around and left.
The soldiers around let out a big sigh of relief and gave agonised chuckles before resuming their conversations.
Leah dropped to her knees.
I crouched down, and she threw herself into my arms and cried loudly.
“It’s okay now, it’s okay now, Leah. I will help you.”
I extended my hand out to gently stroked Leah’s head and back. Leah gripped my chest tightly like a wounded animal and didn’t want to take a step away.
It looks like that was essentially breaking off the bridge between them. In a normal negotiation, this is basically the equivalent of Leah not giving Veirya what she wanted, and Veirya consequently refusing to continue with negotiations. As Leah’s guardian, I need to mend their relationship so that they may continue to interact in the future.
We’re dead for sure without Veirya’s care. We have no friends or family here.
I must mend their relationship.
“Leah, wait in the horse-carriage. Don’t go anywhere and don’t come out, understood?” I carried her back into the horse-carriage. After I had placed her inside, I told her, “Papa is going to go out for a bit and will be back soon, understood?”
Leah immediately leapt at me and hugged my arm tightly as she pleaded, “Papa… don’t leave me… Papa…”
I looked at Leah and thought about it.
‘Leah isn’t going to separate from me at a time like this. I’ll stay with her for now, then. Once I get her to sleep, I’ll go find Veirya.’
I hopped up onto the horse-carriage and held her tightly. Leah sobbed softly and shut her eyes in my arms. It gradually got quiet in here…
*Leah artwork in comments*