“Lord Lin, we are going fast enough already. We should be able to arrive at noon tomorrow. Even if you do not want to rest, surely your daughter needs rest. We should take a short break here,” shouted one of the riders, from the window of the carriage.
I covered Leah’s head and peered outside. It wasn’t wise to travel in the wilderness in the dark. On top of that, Leah and Ross hadn’t eaten anything all day. While Achilles provided me with a horse carriage and personnel, he didn’t provide me with food and water. Leah never complained once from my side. Though I urgently needed to get back, Leah and Ross did need rest, indeed.
The soldier nodded and then shouted out to the coach, bringing the carriage to slowly come to a stop.
“Papa, it’s all right. Leah isn’t tired…”
“No, Leah, Papa can’t make you suffer. You should have something to eat, as well.” I hugged Leah and kissed her cheek: “Leah, hop off first. Papa has to do something first. Papa needs to change capes. We’ll be arriving at Veirya’s place soon.”
Leah pushed the door open and hopped off. The people outside began preparing a bonfire, dinner and had a bit of a break. I could see that they were exhausted. Even humans feel overwhelmed with fatigue from the rockiness of speeding on a horse.
I removed my cape that I used to cover my wound, hissing as I felt the sharp pain again; some blood even spurted out from my abdomen. I didn’t know when it happened, but my bandage and blood were stuck together. When I pulled on my cape, it pulled on my wound, too.
I carefully removed my red bandages. I clenched my teeth and wiped the spilt blood. Then, I took out a small bottle of alcohol. With my teeth gritted, I poured it onto my wound. The intense sensation The pain had me squirming, banging my head back on the carriage, randomly trying to grab things and even seeing black screens every now and then. I forced myself to sit back up. I took in a deep breath. Then, I covered the wound with cotton and bandaged myself again.”
I couldn’t tell if I was wiping tears or sweat off my face. I hid my bloody corpse under my seat then opened the door to let the stench of blood escape. The smell of plants in the North and the cold air blew against my face, thereby relieving me of the pain and discomfort and calming me down somewhat.
I went over and sat down next to the fire. Ross jogged up to me and nervously asked, “Lord Lin, are you all right…? I… You… you got hurt… You sent me back… When I was waiting for you… you were attacked… Is your injury… bothering you?”
I shook my head with a smile: “It’s just a scratch, nothing major. It won’t affect me. I’m glad you’re all right, Ross. I was worried that the assassin would go to the place we were staying and burn it or something. I’m glad you’re okay. We’ll be in the North soon. will be well once we reach the North. Veirya should be fine.”
Ross stood up: “All right. Lord Lin, I shall go help take care of the horses! I will be back soon. Have a rest here for now!”
I sat next to the fire with Leah. I wasn’t sure if the reason they didn’t come to the fire to rest was to allow Leah and I to have time alone. They, instead, set up a new fire, where they sat around to eat and chat. We had a small pot placed above our flame that boiled the bread and milk combo, which was what we always had. I, unfortunately, didn’t have an appetite. Leah ate the meal enthusiastically, on the other hand. Although she claimed she didn’t need to rest, it was clear that she was starving.
I rubbed Leah’s head and continued gazing toward the North. I couldn’t see the town’s fires from where we were. One thing I did know for sure was that the businessmen were already there trying to get back at me for dropping haymakers on them.
I was running late, but even if they arrived before me, the auction would require some time to prepare, so I would still make it in time if I arrived tomorrow. I wasn’t convinced that they had ten thousand gold coins. If they could whip out ten thousand gold coins so easily, they wouldn’t have gone bankrupt.
I was nodding off. Seriously, I wanted some quality sleep. While we were in a much poorer environment than the imperial capital, at the very least, it was safe. The North was my territory, so if they wanted to assassinate me, they’d have to bring their A-game. If Veirya was with me, as well, I’d be even safer.
I didn’t know if I fell asleep or not because I just had my head down; I felt I nodded off, nevertheless. Either way, Ross came over, shouting in a panic-stricken voice, “Lord Lin! Lord Lin!”
Surprised, I cast my gaze up up to see the people by the other fire on their feet and slowly approaching us. Their blades reflected the flames. Ross tightly grabbed my arm and anxiously shouted in a muffled voice, “Lord Lin! Lord Lin! They… they are planning to kill you and then sell Miss Leah and I! What do we do?! What do we do?!”
“Don’t panic.” I urged. I maintained my sitting posture and vigilantly watched them approach. Quietly, I instructed, “Ross, hurry over to the horses immediately. I want you to link our horse up to the carriage. Use a piece of wood to break the joints on the other horses, or you could even kill them and be done with it. Regardless of what happens, do not leave them with a functioning horse. After you’re done, just wait by the carriage.”
Ross responded with a firm nod. He mustered up his courage and bolted off.
“Leah, when you hear me speak, put the fire out immediately, and then we’re going to run as fast as we can into the carriage, understood?”
“Understood, Papa!” replied Leah, tightly grabbing my arm.
Smiling, the crooks sarcastically proposed, “Lord Lin, technically speaking, we have seen you off to the North, so it is time for us to collect our payment, right? How about this, you hand over your money, and we will leave, all right?!”
I held my abdomen as I shakily stood up: “Really? That’s hilarious. Men who once fought alongside Veirya have become scum and bandits, not to mention that you’re carrying out your crime in the North, which happens to be under her jurisdiction.”
“Lord Lin, that is all in the past. I think you are the only one who still reminisces. We fought alongside Veirya, but we were left empty handed in the end. Only Veirya found herself territory to rule. The erstwhile glory and prestige is worthless now. We would rather money than that stuff now.”
They spat and then waved their swords around.
“Lord Lin, need we say any more? You have a child with you. Do not let her see bloodshed and be without a father. Hand over your money, and we will leave right away.”
I would’ve considered them handing them the money if I didn’t need it because I could make more as long as I was alive. Howbeit, I couldn’t hand it to them, for it was money I needed to buy back the North. Without the gold coins, I couldn’t reclaim Leah’s land. The North was Leah and Veirya’s home. I had to reclaim what Leah treasured!
“Papa…” Fearful, Leah hid behind me.
Suddenly, we heard horses neigh. Then, the horses began to riot. The group froze and instinctively turned to the direction of the sound.
Leah kicked the wooden rack used to hang the pot, the soup instantly putting out the fire, while I lost my vision. On the bright side, I could also hear the crooks panicking. I remembered the direction the carriage was in, so I grabbed Leah’s hand and “ran” over, dragging my crippled leg along. My abdomen throbbed as though I was breaking in two. My left foot couldn’t keep up, so I staggered and tripped several times.
“Leah, Hurry on!”
The group picked up their fire torches again. They roared as they ran over. I leapt onto the front seat of the carriage and aggressively poked the horse. Ross helped Leah up onto the carriage. My lower back screamed in pain due my vigorous actions. I grabbed the reins in my teeth. I didn’t know where to run to, so I just sped off northward. Ross hopped up to the front from the rear and shouted, “Let me take the reins! Lord Lin, I can see the road at night! Let me take the reins!”
Though it was dark for me, it was all the same to Ross, who was a cat.
Ross got the horse to pull the carriage out of the mud and get back onto the road. Once again, the horse sped off full pelt toward the North. The group’s horses couldn’t catch us due to their pain and broken links. We finally appeared to be safe.
“Damn…” I let out a breath of relief and went limp where I sat.
Ross enthused, “Lord Lin! We are safe! We have escaped! Lord Lin! Lord Lin!”
“Stop shouting. Bloody hell it hurts!”
I grabbed my abdomen and groaned in pain. My sewn wound had burst open. I was bleeding heavily. I could even feel my blood just gushing out. Even my conscious faded gradually.
“Can I reach the North…? Can I still make it back to Veirya? Hang in there. I need to hang in there… Just a little more. Just… a little more…” I told myself.
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