Chapter 28 [Tusked Boar]
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A tusked boar: a beast literally how it was described. A boar with a pair of giant tusks that could impale someone if it decided to charge toward Victor and the little girl. Realistically speaking, Victor had no chance of beating that beast with his injured arms and no weapon on sight. However, they both still have the chance to escape. All they need to do is to stand still and establish themselves as a non-threat.

Yet, the little girl didn’t share the same thought of Victor. Her hands were shaking. She had never faced something like this before. The word ‘Survive’ kept screaming in her head. So one tiny mistake was all it took: a sudden move from her as she turned away and quickly ran up the hill.

The beast huffed its breath and charged toward the girl. Victor with widened eyes forced himself between them and used his injured hands to hold the beast back by the tusks. The pain surged up from his hands to his chest. The muscle bulged out and forced the stitches to come undone, causing a tremendous amount of blood to drench the bandages even more.

The little girl halted when she heard the groan of pain coming from her savior. She turned her head and was horrified at what she had done. She tried to run back to him but was stopped by a loud shout.

“Stop! Go back! Get to safety!” Victor had a half-smile on his face as he tried to assure the little girl that everything was fine, but the truth is his strength was fleeting.

“No!” shouted her.

“It’s okay. I will be fine,” said Victor with a soothing voice. He dropped to one knee while both arms trembled in pain as he held the beast back.

The little girl grabbed a stick then charged toward it. She managed to puncture the boar’s right eye with the stick. The beast roared in pain and tossed Victor to the side. His body rolled against the rough ground until he stopped. A copious amount of blood escaped through his cough as he squirmed in pain. The little girl rushed and put herself under him then tried to lift him.

“You need to run. I’m no good. You knew it and I knew it,” laughed Victor.

“Not again!” shouted the little girl. Victor expanded his eyes at her.

The tusked boar shook its head and dragged its hoof against the dirt, ready for another charge. The little girl took another stick and rushed toward it with furious anger. However, before the beast could charge, she slid the stick underneath her belt. Just a few inches close, she jumped and took hold of its fur like a ride. Her grip tightened as the beast rammed its body against a tree. However before the beast could slam its side against another tree, the little girl managed to raise herself on top of the beast.

She used the stick between her belt and kept stabbing the thick hide, but it proved to be harder than it looked. A mistook grip caused her to lose her hold over the beast. She fell and rolled herself away before stopping into a crouch. The beast charged and it was too fast to avoid. The girl was about to be trampled by the beast, but a kick to its face caused it to change its direction into a tree.

The leaves rain down on them especially on Victor as his injured arms dangle below him and a rough frown accompany that intense glare. He turned at the little girl with a half-smile and a worried gaze.

“On me. Aim its other eye." Victor squatted down, turning himself into a launching platform.

The little girl dashed toward him then stepped on his knee before launching herself up in the air. The beast charged again but this time toward Victor. With ease, Victor turned 80 degrees to the right and missed it with a smirk. The little girl landed on top of the beast once more and this time, stabbed its other eyes.

As the beast rampaged in pain, blinded in both eyes. Victor bit the back of the little girl's collar and pulled her away before kicking the boar away from themselves.

"Good job, we make a good team. Now, run!" shouted Victor after letting go of the girl as he lured the boar away with his voice.

A worried wide-eyed glare cast at Victor, "What about you?"

"I got a plan." He focused on his leg, breath in, breath out. He sucked in the air through clenched teeth as he kicked the tree behind him. The kick was enough to crack the tree but not enough to take it down.

The tusked boar charged again, but Victor jumped to the right at the last minute, missing its charge. The beast crashed, sending a loud thunderous boom across the forest. The tree fell on top of the beast, locking it in place and taking it down.

Victor turned to the little girl and sighed before dropping on his knee out of pure exhaustion. She rushed to him, holding his shoulder, keeping her savior from collapsing to the ground. The sweats were running down his face and soaked through the little girl's raggedy tunic. As they were occupied by their newfound problem, the old problem resurfaced. The boar rolled the log off its back and came charging at them.

Out of nowhere, a halberd impaled the boar body and buried itself into the ground. The beast was stopped indefinitely. The little girl turned her head and saw a maid with peach-color hair gracefully landed beside them.

"Gabriella Vanderbilt at your service," proclaimed The Maid. The woman had a few grays in her hair and wrinkles on her face, but her polite smile immediately turned to flat when she saw Victor.

The man was barely conscious, trembling from head to toe, his body was soaked with sweats. Grabellie kneeled and took a peek behind the bandages. She was wide-eyed when she saw the purple madness underneath it. Victor’s injuries were getting worse and he needed help. Gabriella took over and lifted the man.

“Victor? Are you okay, mate?” Yemen came downhill and saw his friend in agony. The little girl bared her glare at the man.

“I’m his friend. Come with me, we have supplies to help him.”

The maid left her suitcase behind as she ran up the hill with Victor in her arms. The little girl stood behind as her gaze dropped. When she lifted it again, the three of them were long gone. Gabriella walked past a bunch of newly buried graves and toward the back of the carriage. She lay Victor on the wooden surface as gently as she could.

Kenn appeared out from the front of the carriage with no jacket and dirtied hands. He turned to Yemen, and the Pirate looked away. Gabriella began removing the soiled bandages, it was a painful sight to witness. His arms had turned completely purple. The cuts that were stitched together had become undone and he was bleeding furiously. Yet it doesn't deter Gabriella from her duties as she climbed inside and searched for the healing herbs and fresh bandages.

“What happened?” asked Kenn as he stood beside Victor.

“I don't know, mate. I think he was attacked by a boar.”

“Was it?” Kenn turned his sight at the broken cage.

Yemen shook his head.

It was a horror-filled night as Victor’s screams echoed out through the forest. Gabriella stitched back his wounds and applied a stronger mix of herbs on his arms. After Victor had calmed down, Gabriella left his side and fetched her things with Yemen escorting her. Kenn moved on to the campfire, preparing dinners for the four of them.

On the edge of consciousness, Victor refused to cave into his exhaustion, instead, he tried to move a finger. A simple movement that took a tremendous effort for such a minuscule result. His finger was trembling the moment it reached his palm. He chuckled softly before turning his head to the wall beside him.

“Why are you hiding? Come out where I can see you,” whispered Victor.

The little girl peeked her head out at the back of the carriage, she flattened her lip and was gripping the fabric wall.

“Are you hurt?”

She shook her head with a downcast gaze.

“I’m glad then.”

Her stomach growled causing her to look away. Victor chuckled some more before trying to lift himself so his back would press against the wall. However, it was so painful to move that the little girl quickly came to his side and helped him. As he propped up against the wooden wall, Victor heaved his breath out before calming down again. He turned his heavy gaze at the girl.

“Are you hungry?”

She nodded her head slightly and rubbed her belly.

A smile appeared on Victor’s face, “He who does not work, does not eat. In he, I meant you, but lucky you. I am the world’s greatest chef in all the lands, or at least, how I claimed myself to be. Except, I haven't cooked for months now.”

She tilted her head at the man and raised her eyebrow.

“Look, if you want to eat, you might have to do most of the work. Since my hands are not up for the job. So what do you say?”

Her stomach growled again, she nodded her head and listened closely.

“Good. You see that crate over there?”

She nodded again, she climbed in and walked to the crate.

“Open it up and tell me what you see.”

The little girl brought up an object. “Pan?”

“Not quite, it’s a cast-iron skillet. Good find. Anything else?”

“This crystal sand thing?” She took out a bag of crystal sand.

“Sugar or salt?” asked Victor.

“This is sugar?” replied the little girl.

“Taste it.” Victor gestured his head at the small bag in her hands. With a finger, she dug into the bag of see-through sand and rubbed the remaining residue on her tongue. Her face puckered up adorably and Victor let out a coughy laugh. A furrowed eyebrows appeared and were directed at the joyful man.

“I’m sorry. I guessed that was salt. It’s coming together now. Continue please.”

“Next is these two jar?” Two clay jars were held by the little girl before she set it down and removed the leather lids. The first jar held a thick creamy substance that resembled milk, and in the second jar was more fluid, an oil of sorts.

“Ah, butter and olive oil. Wanna taste it?”

“No.”

“Can't fool you twice, can I? What’s next?”

An arrogant smirk stayed on her face as she took out a small sack, she unraveled it and behold, tiny black balls that resembled rat droppings. “Eww.”

“Whatever was on your mind, I doubt it was that. It’s black pepper. Okay, we got what we need. Let's get going then.” Victor tried to raise himself but found it to be difficult. The little girl quickly rushed under his arm and helped him to stand. “You know, I never caught your name before. Mind telling me what it was?”

“I don't have a name… They gave me a number.”

“That is good news.”

“Huh?”

“You got to choose your name. You would find it surprising that not many people have the chance to pick their names. Go on ahead, pick one.” The little girl helped Victor get off the carriage as gentle as she could.

“You like to talk, don't you?” After she leaned Victor against the carriage, she climbed back in for the material she found earlier and they both walked toward the campfire.

“It helps with the pain. So, have you made up your mind yet?”

She took a long sigh before raising her sight. “How about Kiko?”

“Kiko?” Victor was dumbfounded by the name.

“Bad one?”

“Nah. Nope. Uh...It sounded familiar to me. I guess it’s just me. Kiko it is then.” shrugged Victor as they started to approach the campfire. “Well, Kiko. Today might be the most important moment of your life. Today, you are going to learn how to cook.”

“Victor?” Kenn turned his head to the incoming shambling man and the little girl. Quickly he stood and helped Victor. “Shouldn't you be resting?”

“It’s fine. I’m fine. Oh, meet my new friend, Kiko.” Victor stepped aside to reveal the little girl hiding behind him. The marks on her hands and legs, it was similar to the shackles inside the cage earlier. The rookie couldn't help himself but feel a little wary of the small child. “Kiko meet Kenn, he’s...my acquaintance

“Are you sure about your friend there?”

“She’s a good girl, take it easy on her.”

“I’ll try, but I won't let my guard down. If you try anything suspicious, I’ll make sure to put you down on the spot,” warned Kenn as he laid his hand against the hilt of his short Katana.

“Ignore him. Come sit by the fire.” Victor escorted her near to the warm fire. “Kenn, do you mind passing that raw steak to my little friend here?” Kenn placed a steak in her skillet and took a sit on the log.

“Rubbed some salt on it.” Victor nodded his head as he watched closely from behind, “Good, now, remove that steak and place it on the plate there.”

“Why?”

“Because we need to heat the skillet first. Then go ahead and pour some oil into the skillet.”

“Now what?”

“Can you feel the heat above the oil?”

“Yeah?”

“Put the steak gently on the skillet to sear it.”

“Sear?”

“Cook it slowly.” The meat sizzled as it lay on the hot surface. The fragrance of cooked meat rose above the skillet.

“Ok, turn the meat to its other side.”

“Like this?”

“Keep doing it after the smell hit. We need it to be cooked evenly.”

“Am I doing right?”

“Yeah...You are, just keep flipping it,” commented Kenn as he continued with his task of preparing dinner.

“Add butter next,” said Victor as he rested his back against the log.

The butter melted into a fine liquid, “What’s next?”

“Use that spoon to keep the meat wet with butter.” The small smile and the gleeful eyes on Kiko’s face was a wholesome sight to behold. She kept pouring the melted butter over the sizzling steak carefully until its surface became brown.

After taking another look at the steak, Victor leaned in close, “It’s done, now fish it out onto your plate.”

Kiko quickly grabbed her plate and laid the steak on it. Kenn stood beside her, where he dropped a large serve of mashed potatoes right beside the girl’s steak. Enlarge eyes and drooling over her accomplishment, Kiko was surprised that she could cook something so delicious. It may have been seen as a small accomplishment to some, but to Kiko, this was a big deal. Her stomach growled even more and with no time to wait, she grabbed a fork and started munching down, hot or not.

“How is it?” asked Victor with a smile.

“Deli-mmm-licious.” Despite her mouth filled with food, she still took the time to reply. Victor and Kenn smiled at the adorable girl and continued to wait for others to come.

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