“It’s truly unfortunate to suffer a shipwreck. Here, this is for the shrine.”
The owner of the vegetable store was a lot warmer compared to the owner of the rice store. He, actually, sold a lot of things at his store besides vegetables. He also sold eggs and chicken. Of course, things he sold weren’t things he provided. He was considerably more generous than the owner of the rice store, but he still didn’t provide enough for two people. As such, I spent my own money to buy some more. Gold coins weren’t their currency. Still, gold is gold. If they melted the gold again instead of spending it, they’d still make a good deal out of it.
In a serious tone, I asked, “I want to ask one more thing pertaining to Ying. Why are you all so certain she can’t leave? She volunteers to offer you protection, but I don’t think that it’s right for you to treat her with this attitude. She’s willing to protect you, yet you’re not willing to provide her with sufficient food. You’re not grateful to her in the least. You’re treating her the way you’d treat a dog!”
Perhaps what I said was slightly harsh, as I noticed his gaze was weird. However, instead of answering my question, he abstained from speaking and looked interested. My anger gradually subsided. I started to feel awkward due to the way he looked at me. He finally laughed and, in a soft voice, replied, “Young man, I can tell you’re not from an ordinary family with a glance. You must’ve grown up eating meat, right? Perhaps you’re the child of a noble or you’re a Prince and have always had everybody protecting you. Others will also provide food and money to your family as well as loyally answer to your calls. Let me put it this way: have you ever had a bodyguard?”
“Was your bodyguard formidable, then?”
I thought about it. Tanya was, indeed, formidable. She was the young girl who managed to take the head of the anthropoids’ leader against an army of ten thousand. Say what you will, but she was a very strong soldier. In the past, I had Philes, who was also very skilled; he just didn’t have many opportunities to display his skills. There was no need to mention Nier. Other than Elizabeth, there wasn’t a single human who could defeat her nowadays.
“If they wanted to kill you, would you be in a very precarious situation?” he asked, smiling sarcastically. “As you said, Ying is very powerful. You haven’t seen how she looks when she fights the wyrm. She’s practically a demon. What would you do with such a demon right by your side? Would you not be afraid? What would you do if she suddenly decided to do that to your family? You are a noble who eats meat. Your money can maintain the loyalty of those more powerful than you, but what about us? We’re just ordinary folks. Forget gold coins, we’d pick up bronze coins until we’re pale in the face. How could we get Ying to remain kind to us?”
“She said she’d protect you.”
He slammed the table hard and cut me off: “That’s what she claimed. If we one day accidentally anger her, isn’t it but a simple matter for her to massacre our village? She can protect us, but it’s also easy for her to destroy us. Furthermore, how are we going to talk her out of leaving if she one day sees the outside world and wants to leave? Wouldn’t we be at the wyrm’s mercy once she leaves? Naturally, we have to chain her down so that she’ll stay with us and protect us. She’s a violent dog that can fend off threats for us, but we need to ensure she won’t bite us. Young Man, you have no idea how we ordinary folks must live. We have to use your so-called despicable means to obtain what you see as natural and right loyalty. It’s the only way can we ensure our safety.”
He chuckled: “You understand now, right, Young Man?”
I took in a big breath then picked up the basket to the side and went to the entrance. The owner didn’t plan to say any more to me. He casually waved me goodbye and headed to the rear of the store. I opened the curtain when I got to the entrance. I stopped and, without turning around, stated, “Perhaps you’re the one who doesn’t get it. Money can’t buy loyalty. My guards aren’t with me for my money. If loyalty could be purchased with money, then there’d definitely be others who’d be willing to pay more than me. The reason my guards are with me is because I trust them. I can trust them with my back. If you entrust others with your trust, they’ll return it with their loyalty, understand?”
“Money is the easiest thing to obtain in this world, but loyalty is the hardest to obtain. How can you exchange what’s easiest to obtain for what’s hardest to obtain?”
I abruptly turned my head and looked at a live chicken. Well, it was similar to a chicken… I asked, “It’s all right for me to buy these, right?”
The owner smiled and waved his hand: “Take them. There’s not much to sell anyway. It’s decent enough for me if you can buy it. There’s a house close to the harbour. Perhaps you’ll find what you want to see there?”
I went to the harbour. It was more of a ford than it was a harbour. Old fishing boats were tied up on a vertically erected timber pillar situated at the centre of the ford. I found the old man in charge of the fishing boats inside the small building. I spoke to him. He said there would be a boat. I looked at the boat and went into deep thought. I couldn’t figure out how Ying was going to utilise the shabby fishing boat to combat the wyrm.
I also saw the house the old man mentioned. To sum up its description, it was in ruins. Nonetheless, it was a house with a courtyard, which was rare to see. The walls of the courtyard were constructed using stone. The walls were two people high. It was covered in moss, so it must’ve been abandoned for a long time. I didn’t know what was inside, but as soon as I headed over, I noticed lots of people watching me. I couldn’t aggravate the locals. I wanted to get to the bottom of what the deal with the house was, too.
I finally understood the relationship between Ying and the villagers. They weren’t grateful to her for her protection. They were afraid she’d kill them; they were afraid of their guardian. Ying wholeheartedly wanted to protect them, yet they questioned and insulted her loyalty. She shouldn’t be at the island. Her loyalty was just a waste to its inhabitants. Loyalty should be repaid, but they weren’t grateful in the slightest.
I carried a bunch of stuff back to the stone steps. I honestly felt that Ying was right. I forgot I was a patient who just suffered severe wounds and had yet to recover. I felt the basket carrying the big bird and a bunch of other stuff was about to snap my lower back.
Ying waited for me at the door. Upon seeing me, she tilted her head and questioned, “How come there’s so much stuff?”
With a smile, I answered, “Some of it was stuff they gave, while the others was stuff I bought.”
“I see,” responded Ying, with a nod. She took the stuff: “So, those are yours?”
“As it is your stuff, we need to separate it. I can help you.”
I put a hand on Ying’s shoulder and solemnly looked at her: “No. What I meant was for us to eat together. Be honest, Ying, you haven’t eaten anything in the last few days, have you?”
“I need to eat very little.”
Ying wore poker face; therefore, I couldn’t tell if she was acting tough or not. That was why I didn’t plan to guess. I shoved everything into her hand: “Whatever the case, I can’t let you take care of me for free. Consider it my repayment for your care. If you don’t accept them, then I’ll leave the shrine right now.”
“You have nowhere to go.”
“I can take a boat and leave.”
“The wyrm is active.”
“I’m not scared. Would your conscience allow you to accept me dying to the wyrm?”
It was as if we were trading blows. I won in the end, though.