A decrepit old man with twig-like hair took a few steps forward with his hands behind his back. He had a pair of sinister-looking cloudy eyes and copper wrinkly skin. At a glance, he looked like a malnourished spirit gnome with a small build.
To Alan's astonishment, he saw his down-to-earth subordinate placed down the foodstuff in a hurry and rushed over with a fawning look. Once he reached the nasty-looking old man, he quickly walked to the old man's back and started to flatteringly tap his back repeatedly in an attempt to give him a massage.
"Hmphhh! This old one thought you have forgotten!" Although the old man had a scolding tone upon him, he was grinning from ear to ear happily while nodding his head in satisfaction. The boy still had his flair for appeasing him. He had been very agitated staying in the village for two whole weeks without anything to do except spending his time training the young ones.
Speechless, the first thing that came to Alan's mind was 'are they related', while the second one was 'alright, THIS is chummy'. Although he couldn't understand the language spoken1they speak in Bahasa Malaysia (BM) all the time. But Arash conversed with his Boss and colleagues in English. This is normal since English is Malaysians’ 2nd language. Almost everyone at least could understand basic English in Malaysia even if they couldn’t speak it. Because of the multiracial community over here, when in big groups with many races in an organization/function, the default language spoken will be English. Unless one is within a governmental sector, the official language will be BM whether in writing or in interaction. (this is mr mooncat’s offhand info and mrs mooncat didn’t bother to check, if it’s wrong, correct us in the comment haha) , he could guess from their body language.
It's not that his subordinate was not a warm person; it's just that the relationship between Arash and the people in the company was only at the surface level. For the first time ever, Alan finally could see the real Arash interacting warmly with others with his own eyes. Now he understood Arash's efforts to complete the 'humanitarian mission'. He must be very close to these aborigines. Practically everyone had a soft look etched to their faces when their gaze fell upon his subordinate; as if he was their savior or a long lost dear brother who were here to give them money. Nonetheless, only the old man talked to Arash, while the rest seemed to give both of them space out of respect.
Placing the icebox down, he prepared himself to be introduced by his subordinate to the village head. Silas provided a pocket comb, while the other two held a small pocket mirror and a handheld battery-powered portable fan.
He suavely combed his drenched auburn hair haphazardly, not caring about the aborigines' speechless stares. The wetness from the accumulated sweat gave his neat hairdo the illusion of just getting out of a bath. Quiet mumbles resounded in Bateq, as Alan prepared himself extravagantly. Usually, when he did this in public, he would hear faint giggles from instant fangirls. Hence, his confidence will always peaked! This time too, the unmistakable mumbles gave himself good feelings. He finalized everything with a deodorant spray all over his body in style!
"Look at that weird tourist! What is wrong with him?" The villagers started gossiping almost immediately, starting from when these out-of-place tourists appeared with Arash. They rarely received guests from outside of the country unless these foreign tourists were personally directed by a local outsider. Still, it didn't mean there was none at all. But indeed, this one was extra special. When this particular one took out a comb and started to prepare himself flamboyantly, a heated discussion took place a little louder than usual.
"..he is so ugly! Uglier by many times than our savior. Though his confidence is top-notch." A brawny mid-forties tracker added and clicked his tongue distastefully. A healthy tan under the sun was the definition of beauty amongst them. Deep copper skin was the 'in' now. Fair-skinned was always associated with sickness and bloated cadavers.
"This is the West Demon! I've heard stories about them! During the olden days, they burn the souls of women wherever they go." An old Bateq lady with a head of white-gray hair added quietly. It made the whole group who was gossiping became silent.
"Yeah, me too. I've heard about this once." Another one answered.
"Will he be okay? I mean, he came here with our savior after all. Stories about West Demons are just stories. What if the Exalted One kills him later? He must leave as soon as possible!" Some rational ones immediately rebuked. Although they kept to themselves a lot, their gentle nature made them easily sympathized with others, and always find ways for a peaceful solution. Their one and only spiritual healer was the only one who has an aggressive nature toward outsiders.
"Don't think so. It'll be alright. It's illegal killing people nowadays. The worst that could happen is most probably joining the ranks of those being hanged over trees upside down a day or two."
They shrugged and nodded with each other in relief mixed with a little sympathy.
At least, it was not just them facing such a fate.
"Tok Silihan, I didn't forget to bring you the best premium fragrant rice possible. Five bags just for you. The other fifteen are for everyone else. There're even some ready-made dishes!"
"Shut your yapping for a while." Tok Silihan placed his left thumb while grabbing Arash's head. He scrunched his brow and looked intensely over Arash's head, as if he was searching for something.
Arash stood quietly but was feeling awkward and embarrassed at the same time. However, he was a patient man and had a first-hand experience with Tok Silihan quirkiness. He quickly relaxed and waited for whatever his idol was doing. In novels, this posture was famous for imparting martial arts; there was no need to learn everything through a book or a scroll; just let it be transferred directly through one's consciousness. Due to that, Arash chuckled visibly, breaking the silence ensued.
"Knock-knock!!" Irritated, Tok Silihan knocked Arash's head as his concentration was broken by the uncute chuckle.
"Boy, you really need to learn to stay still!" Tok Silihan berated Arash unhappily.
"Sorry, sorry. Haha. Did you find what you are looking for?" Arash laughed light-heartedly.
"This old one was about to get it! Isk!" Tok Silihan clicked his tongue while feeling annoyed.
"Ehem, ehem." Both of them were startled and turned towards the sound of the fake cough.
When Arash saw Alan gave him a meaningful stare, he quickly introduced his boss to Tok Silihan.
"Tok Silihan, this in Alan. My boss from the place I'm working in. He helped me carry the provisions over. Thanks to him and his workers, we could transfer everything in one shot."
"!" Tok Silihan's turbid stare turned sharp as he scrutinized the auburn-haired grey-eyed boy beside Arash. This person was even uglier than Arash! At the same time, this person's spirit was murky but subdued!
"Why did you bring a West Demon to our home?! I don't like him! He smelled weird! Ask him to pack up now and leave! Or else, don't blame this old one for not being polite!"
Speechless with the sudden outburst, Arash turned to look at Alan and sniffed him a little. Yep, his boss, who always smelled good all the time, stank a bit right now. But it was a typical smell from a man who sweated a bit too much. Regrettably, the deodorant spray could only partially masked the scent. What he truly needed was a real bath. Thank goodness his boss couldn't understand Tok Silihan's thick accented Bahasa2its Malaysian language. ‘Bahasa’ means ‘language’ in BM. The aborigines conversed in Bateq language while they talked to outsiders in deep accented BM.. However, Tok Silihan's body language was very clear; he didn't like Alan.
"Alright, no need to explain. I will ask my men to pitch tent just beside the settlement."
Before Arash could find a polite way to explain to his new boss, Alan replied with a nonchalant look etched on his face. However, Uncle Miles and the rest of the guards weren't looking too good. They were obviously offended by the cold treatment.
"Twenty paces away from the village perimeter! This old one will start hanging people who dared to come closer! During the olden days, I stewed West Demons for meals!"
O_________O|||| He said it! It was even in broken English! Tok Silihan actually knew a bit of English!
Most of the villagers behind the eccentric old man closed their faces with their hands, unwilling to show their embarrassed look to the outsiders. It’s not that they’ve never welcomed foreigners from outside the country before, but those were the times when the spirit healer wasn’t around. Now, everyone didn’t dare to defend the tourists. After two weeks of suffering through the intensive training, everyone knew better.
Tok Silihan snorted disdainfully and swaggeringly walked away towards the village entrance. The villagers parted ways and gave a respectful wide berth for the Exalted Elder to go through, leaving Arash dumbfounded, not knowing what to do.
“Boy! Follow me! Remember your reason to come here!”
“I’m so sorry, Boss. The Elder had promised to help me with something extremely important. I’ll double up and settle everything as fast as possible. If you can’t wait, I’ll arrange someone to lead you back tomorrow morning.” A guilty look was plastered over Arash’s face as he tried his best to appease Alan while explaining in a soft voice.
“No need to explain. Just go. I will wait.” Alan’s expression was unreadable. He walked away with his people without turning back, leaving Arash in a daze and helpless. Arash sighed deeply as he observed Alan and his men walked back the way they came with all their stuff a moment longer. He then turned towards the village and walked together with the other Bateq people inside. The brawny Bateq men gave Arash warm hugs full of camaraderie one by one as they chatted animatedly with Arash. Arash smiled politely, listened, and nodded most of the time, while returning their brotherly hugs.
Tok Silihan watched them and sniggered when he saw Arash turned towards the village entrance. Truly, the West Demon had a dark and murky scent he couldn’t describe well. It was better to avoid such a dark aura, lest one could be infected by it. He had double-checked Arash’s mental health and could see that he was not affected, either by this demon or the previous demoness he battled previously.
But there was something that made him shocked, though he tried hard not to show it. Arash’s mental power seemed to increase quite significantly! For a person, there was no technique to improve one’s own mental strength. A person’s mental strength was considered inborn; one that was naturally born with, whether it was weaker or stronger. He definitely remembered that the boy’s mental strength wasn’t as strong as now, though this level of strength won’t manifest into anything. The boy must be practicing an obscure arts that he didn’t know. Even in the Way of the Spiritual Healers, no clear method was passed down for this. He needed to ask the boy about this…
1) language spoken = they speak in Bahasa Malaysia (BM) all the time. But Arash conversed with his Boss and colleagues in English. This is normal since English is Malaysians’ 2nd language. Almost everyone at least could understand basic English in Malaysia even if they couldn’t speak it. Because of the multiracial community over here, when in big groups with many races in an organization/function, the default language spoken will be English. Unless one is within a governmental sector, the official language will be BM whether in writing or in interaction. (this is mr mooncat’s offhand info and mrs mooncat didn’t bother to check, if it’s wrong, correct us in the comment haha)
2) Bahasa = its Malaysian language. ‘Bahasa’ means ‘language’ in BM. The aborigines conversed in Bateq language while they talked to outsiders in deep accented BM.