After returning to the inside of the town, life was calm for several days. I also opened the brewery to get rid of the excess food. Brewing wine consumes relatively more food, so that would return the food warehouse back to its normal count.
The festive atmosphere in the town has grown in the last few days. Smoke came from everywhere in the town. Some people had taken their stuff out from home to sell. Firewood became used to warm up consumables. The air carried the aroma of food, piquing Leah’s interest and making her look forward to the Fire Torch Festival tomorrow.
The days before the festival could be considered ceremonious days, too. The wooden people and wild beasts in the plaza were already prepared. These wooden figures were to be burnt tomorrow. The ashes left over will be poured into the ground. The huge human puppet was taller than our residence. It stood alone in the empty plaza as though it was a lonely giant looking into the desolate wild in the distance.
The music band in charge of performing rehearsed on two sides of the road. All of them wore long robes with olecranon hoods. The instruments they held resembled violins, but they sounded different. They sounded comparable to an erhu. There were also wind instruments. The band continued to rehearse over and over, seemingly trying to adjust their performance abilities. A large wooden wine barrel had been placed at the entrance of the hotel. Judging from the fact that the men were red in the face and their foreheads were sweaty, the wine barrel should be full.
The people on the second floors of the buildings on both sides of the road opened their windows and hung outside colourful ribbons with colours representing the festival. The scene of colourful ribbons outside at the top on both sides of the road blowing was particularly pretty.
I looked at Leah. She looked excited as puppy eating its meal. If she had a tail, she’d be wagging it with great excitement right now. She squirmed around in my arms. She wished to see the scene of the entire street completely changed. However, it didn’t look possible for her. She looked at me with great excitement and asked, “Papa, what exactly will happen tomorrow?”
“There will be lots of things to do tomorrow. Well, there’s nothing to do during the day, but people will have begun drinking and dancing. In the afternoon, there will be the festival commencement ceremony, which will be very ceremonious. At night, people will begin to dance around the bonfire, which is the very ceremonious moment.”
“Uhm! Uhm! Papa, I have to see the entire event tomorrow in my new clothes!!”
‘It doesn’t take long to make new clothes, so the clothes should arrive in time, right? Our agreement was to have the clothes delivered tonight.’
I stroked Leah’s head, and then rode toward home. Veirya doesn’t leave the house. At most, she’ll sharpen her sword and swing it around in the courtyard of the residence when there’s nothing to do. She won’t go randomly walking around. I take Leah for a patrol walk every day by myself.
When we got to the entrance of the town, we suddenly found a few more horses in the stable. I dallied for a moment before quickly jogging over to the door and pushing it open. There were guests here, but Veirya was the only one in here. Veirya doesn’t have guests visiting, so there might be trouble inside.
One thing I did notice, though, was that the four horses were slightly odd, in that they were virtually the exact same. The horses’ fur was clean without a blemish, making them white as snow, while their hooves were also particularly clean.
‘I think that only the military would be able to have four horses that are virtually identical like this. The military must be here for Veirya. Wait, no. They should be here for me, and most likely to find the food.’
‘I don’t care, though. I haven’t been sitting around doing nothing for the last few days. I’ve done away with the food already. Food that has been eaten won’t be in the books, so I don’t care.’
‘All of the food has been eaten. What, can you kill all the townsfolk or something?’
I pushed the door open to find all sitting spaces at the table occupied. Veirya sat on one side in silence. The man next to her wasn’t old. He looked as if he just came of age. However, his light purple cape caught my attention. Sitting opposite him were soldiers with blue capes who also kept silent. The four of them just sat there. There was also one standing against the wall with his right hand on his sword handle and chest up proudly. He watched the four in front of him in silence.
‘This is no guest visit. This was essentially shutting yourself in to reflect on yourself…’
I gently touched Leah’s head. The sight of the soldiers led to her feeling slightly fearful. They didn’t wear armour, but their neat clothing intimidated Leah, nevertheless. I crouched down and next to her ear said, “Leah, you head on upstairs. Don’t come out, understood?”
“Don’t worry. It’s nothing serious. Papa will be able to deal with it quickly.”
“Leah is worried about Papa…”
“Don’t worry, Leah. Papa has never disappointed you, right?”
I stroked Leah’s head with a smile. She looked at me and then went up on her toes to touch my face. With a smile she replied, “Okay, Papa. Leah will be a good girl.”
I watched Leah walk upstairs before walking over to the table. The five people at the table didn’t bother to spare me a glance. They maintained their erect sitting posture. I was somewhat puzzled. It was as if I walked into a painting, as nobody but me was moving.
I swept my gaze over everybody and then asked, “Gentlemen, who are you to Lord V-…”
The man with the light purple cape raised his head up to look at me. He replied in a serious tone, “I was one of Lord Veirya’s soldiers. I came to specifically visit Lord Veirya and inquire about the food matter while I was at it. You’re the person who went around scamming people in Lord Veirya’s name, right? Take him away for interrogation.”
The three of them then swiftly stood up. I heard the sound of sharp metal that makes one grind their teeth, as soon as I heard the person behind draw his sword.
I looked to my side while feeling stupefied. I had no idea what just happened next to me until I turned my head around, where I found two swords in contact with each other right at my neck. The soldier behind me drew his sword and tried to hold it up to my throat. Veirya, who was in front of me, stood up and drew her sword to intercept the blade that swung at me. I looked up at Veirya, who was opposite me, with surprise; but, she didn’t look at me, for her focus was on the soldier behind me, “This is my spoil of war. Are you trying steal it?”
The kid in front of me panicked as he stood up and looked at Veirya, who was standing next to him. Veirya swept her ice-cold gaze over to him and said, “Mine. Don’t touch.”
“Don’t do it! Don’t do it!! Veirya!”
I knew that Veirya was serious about retaliating, so I quickly shouted out. The young man on the other side backed off two steps. He felt at a loss for what to do. He shouted, “Move! Stop! Don’t make Lord Veirya angry! Stop!!”
The two swords moved away. The three soldiers behind me moved away from my back. Veirya swept her ice-cold gaze over them. When her gaze stopped at the boy in front of her, he intensely shuddered. He looked as if he was about to cry. He looked at Veirya and sobbed, “Lord Veirya, I did not do that on purpose… I honestly did not do that on purpose… Do not be angry… Lord Veirya…. Do not hate me…”
Veirya didn’t utter a word. Instead, she sat back down as though nothing happened. That, instead, caused the boy to look completely baffled, unsure of what to do.
‘Why does it seem that this boy’s IQ is… about the same as Leah’s…? I bet that would have been how Leah reacted if I scolded her…’
“I… I did not come for anything else… Food… I will… Forget it… Forget it… Lord Veirya, you just need to say the word… We will definitely have food delivered… We will… Umm… Umm… Do not be angry. Do not be angry… I was in the wrong… Umm, umm, I shall take my leave. I shall take my leave now.”
The boy in front seemed to feel that he offended Veirya. He continued to retreat and led the three to the door. They swiftly exited upon reaching the door. The next thing I heard was the sound of horse hooves, which wasn’t much longer after they left.
Veirya lingered. She then looked up at me with puzzlement, “Did I do something wrong?”
“No. I don’t think you did anything wrong this time. However, he… Mm… That soldier of yours that delivered the commands … I feel that there’s something wrong with him…”
“Who is he?”
“… You don’t remember him?!”
‘All right; I think we shouldn’t let the kid know this. I feel that he worships Veirya on a borderline insane level. If he finds out Veirya never cared about him… God knows how much pain he’d be in…’
*Erhu – A two-stringed bowed musical instrument, more specifically a spike fiddle, which may also be called a Southern Fiddle. It’s also sometimes called a Chinese two-stringed fiddle.