Veirya climbed up a hill. She looked back at the young man, who was still over half a metre away and slowly hauling himself: “You can’t go anymore?”
The young man struggled to raise his head. He wiped his sweat on his face. His legs were quivering. He gripped the backpack more tightly than he was aware, thereby virtually sinking his fingers into the backpack. To be frank, it was pointless for him to grip it so tightly. Nonetheless, when someone pushed themselves to their limits when they were out of strength, they naturally put more strength into their hands. It was an instinctive action despite serving no purpose. The young man licked his pale lips. He mustered up all of his might to loudly reply, “No, Madam Veirya. I can continue.”
Veirya sat down where she was standing: “You don’t need to climb up. Stay there; take a break and drink some water. Then, we’ll continue.”
The young man forced himself to raise his head and look at Veirya. He exclaimed, “I do not need rest, Madam Veirya! I can hang in there! I can hang in there until we arrive! I am fine!”
It was clear he was physically worn out. He almost tripped just raising his head, since he was already wobbly. Veirya repeated, “Stay down there. Rest. Drink some water. Then, we’ll continue. Now. Don’t act tough. If you run into them in that shape. You’ll definitely die. I don’t want. To carry my own backpack.”
The young man was surprised. Veirya said something that could be considered a joke, yet her expression remained the same as usual. He didn’t see his reflection in her eyes. She then sat down. Veirya never made suggestions; she gave commands. As Veirya had told him to rest, he followed her order and rested. He didn’t plan to continue trying to argue.
The young man felt somewhat upset, though. He slumped onto a rock in a dejected manner. He felt the soggy moss and cold rock from behind. The birds chirping overhead couldn’t cheer him up. He sat there and dejectedly looked at his initially shiny boots covered in mud. His cloak, which was handed down by his honourable ancestors, was also vilified with moss. He wasn’t covered in his blood or his enemies’. He was initially ready to die and fight for glory, yet there he was carrying Veirya’s luggage instead. Not to mention he even failed to do that much and ended up a burden instead.
“I thought that I’m already an exemplary warrior. I thought that I could fight with Veirya, only to find out that my physical attributes are so poor. Madam Veirya has been chopping trees the entire time, yet isn’t even panting… I’m so useless. I’m probably the biggest embarrassment in my household. My ancestors bled for the imperial family. My household’s blood has been spilt on every inch of this land. What about me, though? I don’t even have the honour of sacrificing myself for the Queen. I thought I was extraordinary; only now have I realised that I’m just a failure of a soldier,” thought the young man.
Suddenly, he saw a canteen in front of him. He dawdled for a second then looked up surprised. Veirya stood in front of him and handed him a canteen. Noticing his gaze, she said, “Have some. Otherwise, you might not be able to fight. This isn’t. Time. To be acting tough. If you don’t rest up properly. You’ll definitely die.”
The young man met with Veirya’s gaze. Her gaze was emotionless. She didn’t show sympathy, give him encouragement or scorn him. It was void of any emotion. She didn’t suggesting anything or think about anything. Surprised, he said, “But… but… Madam Veirya, am… am I a burden to you…?”
“No. You’re doing. Very well. If I didn’t like you. I wouldn’t. Have let you come.”
Veirya’s emotionless eyes were reassuring. Veirya wasn’t being courteous or giving him encouragement. She was just telling the truth. The young man wasn’t a burden or dead weight. In fact, she was very pleased with him. Although doubtful, he didn’t ask if she was serious or not. Instead, he lowered his head and opened the canteen to quietly drink.
To relieve the fatigue, some alcohol was added to the water, except the alcohol taste was very faint. Maybe it was due to the strong alcohol or maybe it wasn’t, but after having a drink, the young man’s the heat that entered his body revitalised him.
He handed the canteen back to Veirya: “Thank you, Madam Veirya.”
Veirya took the canteen, and then sat down without a word. By the looks of things, however, she believed his expression of gratitude was for her passing him the canteen. The young man revealed a smile. He lowered his head and thanked her again, “Thank you, Madam Veirya.”
For the young man, hearing that from Veirya was enough for him.
Thought of the young man: “I’m not weak. I’m not a burden, and I’m not dead weight. Madam Veirya isn’t giving me encouragement or taking care of me. There are no emotions in her eyes. She’s just telling it as it is. In her eyes, I’m truly useful; I’m not a burden.”
“Veirya, please, can you not just crash into my teeth next time?”
When I went to complain to Veirya for the umpteenth time, Veirya clasped my face: “Don’t. You. Do it this way. With Leah? Though I don’t understand its significance. Do you know. What the significance of touching teeth is? I just. Didn’t want. To let you be angry. Anymore.”
How could I be angry when Veirya’s blue eyes look so innocent? I shook my head: “I’m not angry. It’s all in the past, so I won’t be so angry. Plus, people don’t touch teeth. We’re not supposed to touch teeth. It hurts. It’s called kissing.”
“Can you teach me. To kiss… As Last time. I’ll entrust you. With teaching me. This time.”
Veirya stood in front of me. My heart raced faster when I looked at her blue eyes. Veirya was a tad taller than me. It usually wasn’t obvious. When we stood up close, though, it was evident that she was too tall. It should be the female went up on her toes, yet it was I, who had to go up on his toes. My heart raced as I approached her soft lips…
I admit the bashful feeling akin to an electric shock didn’t feel too bad, nevertheless.