“Who exactly are you…?”
“It’s meaningless even if I told you, right? In short, you just need to remember that I’m here to protect you.”
Xia, lying in my arms, nodded feeling reassured: “Thank you.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
Xia spoke to me as if she was pleading me: “Are you willing to save me when you’re a stranger…? But… can you protect my sister…? You saved me… Hence, people will attack my sister… My sister won’t retaliate. They will treat her the same way… You need to save my sister, too, if you are to save me… My sister is surely struggling right now. I know my sister loves me… She must be suffering inside. Can you help her so that she doesn’t continue suffering in pain…”
I held Xia’s hand and responded in a serious tone: “I will.”
Xia slowly nodded, and then leaned onto my chest. Her breaths were weak. She was too weak, so weak that she couldn’t even continue speaking. Lucia stood behind us and watched the villagers in front of us with her dagger drawn. Alas, Lucia wasn’t as imposing as Nier due to her smaller stature and because she had a dagger. The villagers watched Ying fight Nier with satisfaction and demanded Ying kill Nier.
They were quite evenly matched. It was the first time I saw Nier expend so much effort in a fight. Ying’s sabre wasn’t a Japanese katana. I thought it was, but the blade was straight. It was more similar to the Chinese sabre in ancient times. Ying swung her sabre so fast it was virtually impossible to get a clear visual on it. Even Nier had to sometimes roll to evade her horizontal slashes.
The moving bright blades induced nauseous feelings. All you could see was flashing lights, and all you could hear was their blades clashing, leading to one gasping as they watched the combat. You could also hear the wind whistle as a result of their swift body movements.
Nier looked incredibly stern. She launched a five minute onslaught. Lucia wouldn’t have lasted that long if she was Nier’s opponent. However, Nier still hadn’t managed to even nip a corner of Ying’s robe. Ying’s expression didn’t change. It was my first time seeing Ying fight and how vicious her expression looked. I was originally worried Nier would hurt Ying; however, I started worrying Nier would get hurt.
I always thought Nier was unparalleled in a sword duel, but I ended up questioning that. Ying didn’t look any less skilled than Nier with a sword. Both Nier and Ying refined their swordplay through fights with their life on the line. If there was a slip in their swordplay, it would spell death. Consequently, the two of them sharpened their sword play to an overwhelming level.
The villagers fell quiet. They blankly watched the duel between Nier and Ying. The crowd seemed to be aware of how powerful Ying was. They were certain Ying would destroy Nier when the latter challenged her for that reason. As Nier and Ying were evenly matched, nevertheless, they began to worry and fear, for their source of confidence was Ying. Without Ying protecting them, they wouldn’t dare to utter a word. They brayed and carried on boldly, because Ying sided with them. With Nier going blow for blow with her, they were mere denizens who were afraid of death once again.
Lucia shifted over to my side and quietly asked, “Your Highness, do you want me to throw a knife to distract Ying so that Nier can subdue her?”
I shook my head: “Don’t. Don’t interrupt them. I don’t wish for either of them to suffer any harm. They’ll stop on their own once they’re tired. Most importantly, Ying is currently wounded, so she won’t be able to hold out for long. I’m confident Nier can defeat Ying. Ying’s physical attributes are inferior to NIer’s. She definitely understands, Argh!!”
Lucia widened her eyes. I suddenly felt a painful sensation from behind. An attack to my lower back almost caused me to fall forward and drop Xia. I couldn’t help but grunt. An arrow’s feather on my right shoulder wobbled dangerously. Lucia swiftly spun around and threw a flying knife in a circular motion. Her knife opened a wound for the blood of the person by the door to spray out just as he went to scream. With a groan, he dropped to the ground.
When Nier turned her head to shout, Ying leveraged her moment of distraction to slash at her, only for Nier to spin around and deflect her attack and follow it up with a kick to her chest. Suffering from pain, Ying grabbed her chest and retreated one step. Nier followed up with a knee, thereby knocking Ying upright. Ying’s wound opened again. The intense pain robbed her of her movement. Nier then grabbed her by her collar and viciously wrestled her to the ground. Following that manoeuvre, Nier then stabbed her sword through Ying’s lower abdomen to pin her to the ground.
Nier had no intention of stopping. She picked up Ying’s sabre, and then charged toward the villagers. She decapitated several people before I could stop her.
My body quivered due to the pain. I shouted for Nier, who went on a killing spree, to stop. However, Nier totally ignored me. She hunted down the villagers. There were screams of despair coming from outside, but all the voices soon died down.
I knew that it was too late by then. The arrow didn’t kill me, but it killed them. Nier will never spare anybody who harms me. Nobody could stop her rage now. Nier will kill all of the villagers, even if I tell her not to.
I heard Ying scream at the top of her lungs. But nevertheless, nobody could help her. Lucia blankly knelt next to me. She grabbed the arrow in me and quivered. Her tears accompanied her shaky voice: “Sorry… Sorry… Your Highness… I didn’t notice… I didn’t notice… I…. I didn’t hear the incoming attack at all…”
“It’s nothing. It’s nothing, Lucia. Just pull the arrow out for me later.”
Lucia had enhanced senses; still, it was difficult for her to notice a discreet shot over the chaotic scene and the fact that she was talking to me. I was too close to the crowd. Even if she hypothetically noticed it, the best she could’ve done was take the hit for me. This arrow was very short. It must’ve been fired from a small crossbow.
Lucia would’ve been able to protect me if she still had her wind elves buff, but she was considerably weaker without them. In addition, she hadn’t trained as diligently as Nier. Consequently, she never noticed the arrow flying toward me. I didn’t blame her; it wasn’t her fault. Fortunately, the arrow only hit my shoulder. Had it hit any higher, I’d be dead.
“Sorry… Sorry… I… I…”
Lucia grabbed the arrow in my shoulder and trembled. She snapped the arrow then tried to pull it, only to discover that it wasn’t sharp arrow but a mere wooden stick. Lucia, relieved, clasped my face. In a concerned tone, she asked, “Is there poison on this arrow? Is there poison?! Your Highness, how do you feel?”
“I feel all right. Nothing aside from a lot of pain.”
She let out a breath of relief, and then tore some of her clothes to bandage my wound. She then sat down to one side and wiped her tears.
“Don’t… Don’t! Don’t!!” cried Ying.
I never thought it’d end in a massacre. I wanted to help Ying, but all that was left in the end were her sobs. Nie was covered in blood. Lucia was overwhelmed with fear. And I had myself an injury…
I asked myself, “All those deaths just for Xia. Was it really worth it?”
*The sabre used in China in ancient times was similar in shape to a katana, but the blade was straight, as opposed to curve – not to be convinced with a sword (jian). It’s commonly mixed up with the broadsword, which is an entirely different beast. A broadsword – as the name suggests – has a blade with a wider surface area. Both are split into single-handed and double-handed versions, with the former being more popularly used as a single-handed weapon.