“Our duel. Has nothing to do with him.”
Veirya shot the others a warning gaze. She stood in front of me with her sword poised toward them. With her killing intent seeping into her voice, she said, “I accept. Your challenge. And will do. My best. To keep you safe.. If you try to hurt him. Though. I’ll kill all of you. No matter how many of you there are.”
The Anks instinctively backed down a step then exchanged eye contact with each other. They dismounted one after another then knelt before Veirya, their lord, Veirya.
Veirya did kill the man, but she won everyone’s respect. That was probably the Anks’ tradition. Veirya defeated their warrior before them, thereby proving that she was more worthy of being their lord. Francis looked at me and chuckled: “I told you, didn’t I? Veirya has never lost before. She was able to defeat demons several times her size before.”
“I can’t find it in me to laugh when Veirya protected me. To the contrary, I’ve lost any semblance of respect that the group might’ve had for me.”
I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was glad that Veirya didn’t get hurt. On the other hand, I was unable to dismount when the woman I liked was insulted, and she had to protect me in the end. My pride as a man was shattered. If she wasn’t Veirya, I probably would’ve received a glare. Ashamed, I couldn’t meet with Veirya’s eyes.
Leah tightly hugged me from behind and banged her head on my lower back. She whimpered, “Papa… you scared Leah… Leah… Leah thought…”
“He will. Be fine.” Veirya came over from behind me: “Next time. Don’t approach. When I fight. I can. Take care of it.”
Veirya’s gaze and voice were as calm as usual. I understood that Veirya wasn’t an ordinary woman. In spite of that, her calm demeanour made me feel more mortified. She didn’t look as if she agreed with my sentiment; she seemingly looking forward to receiving praise from me.
“No man can do everything in the world. It’s too late for you to learn swordplay now even if you wanted,” said Francis, with a laugh. He went up on his toes and patted me on my shoulder. With a smile, he continued, “Don’t feel pressured. If you want to be with Veirya and protect her, wouldn’t it make her existence meaningless? Veirya has solved one problem. Next, you’re required.”
Puzzled, Veirya titled her head. She didn’t quite understand what I was thinking. She had probably come to take her actions as a given.
I took in a deep breath to adjust my state of mind. It was no time for me to be sulking over my feelings. Francis was right. I needed to take the stage for the next part… For better or worse, it didn’t look as though the group needed to discuss the land with me anymore. When Veirya led me up to them, not even one of them dared to raise their heads. They were a simple race. We basically solved the issue using brute force. Beating them would be child’s play for Veirya. That being the case, I no longer served any purpose…
As I thought, the village was set up temporarily; or rather, it was always one of the camps that they set up for hunting. There weren’t many things worth money in the village. Their living necessities were very minimal. They persistently used pottery that was in shabby shape. The makeshift drying lines were as simplistic as what little kids put together. Based on the way they set up their structures, I figured it was safe to assume the villagers weren’t skill with handiwork. The children and hunting dogs ran about in the village. Perhaps it was a post-trauma that caused my leg to cramp whenever I saw dogs…
The women in the village sat outside their homes and sewed things with animal fur. They were a tad vigilant and curious when they saw us outsiders. The children also curiously scanned Leah, who was around their age. Similarly, Leah scanned them. The children were different to the human children Leah knew of after all.
The group of men led us to a tent that didn’t particularly stand out. At first, I thought that they it was set up for beasts, not humans. I brushed aside the curtain. A simple, yet elegant, scent came from within. By no means, was the tent a miraculous tent that was small outside and large inside. That said, the interior was stacked with books. There was only one elder sitting in the centre of the tent. He had a book in his hand. As opposed to looking as if he had his eyes narrowed to read, he looked more as though he was mulling.
“Lord Veirya,” acknowledged the elder, standing up before I said anything.
The elder was thin as a stick figure. His eyes were astonishingly small. He pronounced Veirya’s name perfectly, however.
“You… know Veirya?” I asked, surprised.
“Only ignorant fools would not know of the hero who slew the Demon King. I am this village’s voodoo doctor; they call me Prophet; however, I have no powers to speak of. In saying that, I can predict the future based on previous events.” The elder struggled to push the pile of books in front of him away then he came over to us. Form hunched, he continued, “What have you three come here for this time? Has the hero, who slew the demon, come to our village for something?”
“The reality is that this block of land belongs to Lord Veirya. After the war ended, all of the land around here became Lord Veirya’s property. Our reason in coming here this time is to ask you to move out of this area for we have other uses for it. However, you need not fret. We will ensure that we sort out everything adequately. You just need to move out. It should not be a major issue for you as you lead lives as nomads, right?”
I assumed the elder was a highly-respected individual in the village. Therefore, as long as he agreed to move, the rest should willingly move. With him and Veirya’s name at the table, it shouldn’t be difficult to sort out the matter.
The elder nodded: “We can leave. As it is Lord Veirya’s command, we will definitely obey. The young look as though they have decided to obey, too. What right does an old man, such as myself, have to refuse? In saying that, we also have a condition, and it pertains to where we will go.”
I nodded: “You may name it.”
It was perfectly reasonable for relocation to be a problem when asking someone to move. Asking someone to move without paying them a penny was planting a ticking time bomb on yourself. I didn’t have the impression the villagers were the type to make absurd demands. Thanks to Veirya, we seized the initiative in our negotiations. If negotiations fell apart, we would be kicked out.
“We… want your city.”
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