Chapter 57: Back Home
With the feisty crimson lass subdued, purring on my lap, the armed villagers slowly lowered their weapons. They even lowered it further after I removed the veil that hid my face. It looked like my beauty was effective enough to end the bloody brawl. Call me a narcissist, but it’s the truth.
Anyway, aside from a fair number of broken teeth that wouldn’t grow anymore, plus the broken bones and loose jaws, there were no other casualties that I had to worry about.
Even so, I now had another problem at hand. With a sigh, I glanced at villagers and raised my guard up, especially against those whose eyes had turned shifty. It felt strange to stare at like I was some fat lamb in the middle of ravenous wolves. Now I understood why Emma and the village head, three years ago, had forced me to wear the veiled sakkat, especially when going outside.
Sitting on the grassy meadows in the middle of the night with a bunch of man-children, a half-ogre, and catkins; I began explaining with all honesty what happened to me and Hild for the past three years. The story was nothing but uneventful, scrapped that, it was full of twists and unbelievable shit.
Who could have known that I’d see the spirit realm? I also had a short meeting with the reaper of souls, annihilate tens of thousands of rats, and return, only to realize that I had aged three years without my consent. Yes, I gained years against my choice. Even the spiritual blobs had acknowledged that I had aged extra years as soon as I returned to the mortal realm.
So, technically, I wasted the prime of my youth, the time when hormones raged and ladies make stupid decisions about men and money.
Oh, now thinking of it deeper, wasn’t that quite okay too?
I continued to explain, and most listened. Only most since I had met doubts and resistance because of my unbelievable claims. Most of the opposition came from a cautious golden catkin who now sported a series of odd stripes. He refused to believe me and kept bugging me with questions until I felt a bit annoyed. He was in full-doubt mode until I unleashed my killer moves against him. I crushed his brief rebellion through my kitty scratching techniques. Soon enough, his snarls turned into purrs as he laid down on the ground with the feisty lass, conquered.
I puffed my chest and asked whose next only to retreat after a few hairy man-children stood up to take up my challenge. Their eyes shining with unbelievable passion and I felt like that even if I step on their dignity, they’d still end up happy.
I frowned. Did I just stir up some veritable nest of simping wastrels? Damn, I shouldn’t have said that.
“Are you telling the truth?” Emma asked, her eyes shining in relief, but the luster in her eyes died out as soon as I tried to reach out for her spoofed tail. She slapped my dexterous hands as if she was splatting a mosquito. I rubbed my aching hands and sulked. Even after three years, her guard remained as unreachable as the heavens. In my mind, I dubbed her as the unconquerable Emma.
“You’re truly… Lady Victoria,” the old catkin whispered with a faint trembling voice. A few tears slowly slid down her face, making me feel guilty. I strode towards her and gave her a quick hug that she deserved. I told her it wasn’t her fault, but a play of fate.
Who could have expected those things to happen?
Still, that sneaky action of mine against her tail had proved that I was indeed the real Victoria she knew three years ago.
Though it wasn’t the intended purpose, all was well, since it saved me from wasting a considerable amount of spit works for an explanation. After answering a few more questions, the crowd turned silent as they tried to process everything that I had said.
I shifted my gaze towards the blond lady. She sat there in silence. With a soft gaze, she took care of the still sleeping village chief, as well as his cracked chin. I sniffed out the smell of minty herbs on the black smudge she had put on her husband’s chin.
After taking a deep breath, I walked towards the couple that I had separated from each other for three damn years. Scratching my cheeks, I gathered my courage and bowed my head, asking for their forgiveness. After all, it's partly my fault for not asking the little blob about the repercussions of using her spirit abilities. I mean, I couldn’t blame Maggie for the request I had asked, right?
Hild waved her hands and smiled at me. “There’s no need for that. It’s not your fault. Instead, all I can say is thank you… for giving me a new lease in life.” She cast a loving at the battered man sleeping on her lap and smiled. “I still can’t believe I have survived that witch spell and meet this silly man again. Truthfully, I was prepared to die that time.”
Soon enough, I heard wretched sniffs echoing a few meters away from me. The villagers, who could still stand, pushed themselves up from their feet and lowered their heads to me. Emma and the little ones also hoisted themselves up and bowed their head in gratitude.
And with a loud voice, the villagers said. “Thank you very much, Lady Victoria, for saving the Mistress!”
It took me a few moments to recover from the embarrassment of being treated like a savior. I stared at them, and tiny mirth slid out from the sides of my lips. A familiar bubbly feeling rose from my heart.
It would be stupid to not accept their thanks. “It’s my pleasure.”
It seemed I hadn’t wasted that three years for naught. Helping someone could indeed lift one's spirit. I threw a glance at Hild and the villagers. It seemed Hild’s quite popular among the villagers and had quite a status in everyone’s heart.
[The goddess of virtues applauds your sacrifice. She has acknowledged the virtues within your heart. Be ready for a reward after you fully recover.]
‘Another reward, huh? It’s the goddess of virtue this time.’ I smiled deeper as I watched the flickering word, ‘reward’. It would only take a few more days before I reach full recovery. I never thought that I would miss that useless cheat screen of mine.
“Let me take home, Lady Victoria!”
“No, let me!”
Bullshit, I was not some cute pet anyone could just take home. I cast a classic condescending glare against the passionate men as they hollered against each other. The men had started another ruckus as soon as the issue about my temporary home was raised. This time, the nutcases had started a debate on who’d help me for my lodgings. Some even promoted that they had a herd of cows, sheep, goats, and whatnot, as if they were fighting who would be the most capable of giving me a better life.
“Tsk, boys.” I rolled my eyes and felt like spring had come for me. Ever since I had broken up with my ex-boyfriend, I had put little effort into searching for a new partner. However, I found someone to marry though, my old job.
Truthfully, dating and marriage had once crossed my mind, but I dreaded the possibility that the man I would choose would also leave me like my ex. It was a trauma I still couldn’t recover from. But… why the hell am I still thinking about that shit? Perhaps aging three years without me even knowing, and the sight of the passionate men had awakened something strange inside me. It felt weird since I still thought of myself as an aunt suffering from the inevitable menopause and mid-life crisis.
A sigh slipped out of my lips. I was just too tired to even listen or watch the unfolding full-blown boasting and debate. I slowly slithered out from the crowd and went to Emma and the catkins. I tugged her sleeves and threw the classic puppy eyes I had used against her three years ago.
The old catkin slid out a tired smile in reply. “That’s why I have told you to wear the veiled sakkat properly at all times that day.” She then looked at the mob and giggled. “Look at the chaos that you have caused among the singles and widows. In the Madlands, it’s difficult to find a spouse, especially for the men of the meadows. Most of the young ladies love the walled cities and tend to marry over there, so many men here are still single. You can pick one if you like.”
“No,” I said, deadpan.
“That’s alright too.” Still, Emma’s smile grew deeper and deeper. She tiptoed and reached out to ruffle my hair like a child. “You’ve grown so beautiful that it’s stunningly unbelievable. Oh, you also grew a few inches taller. Anyway, don’t worry about the lads. I’ll take care of the trouble.” She reached out, hugged me tightly, and stared straight into my eyes. “Thanks for saving Hild… and returning home well. Thank you. I mean it.”
I had grown a few inches after returning from the spirit realm? Anyway, it was a strange feeling to be on the receiving end of the head pat, but it wasn’t bad. It was strangely comforting. It felt like… home.
Emma strode towards the middle of the crowd as if she knew long ago how to stop the rambunctious men. As soon as she raised her hands, all the eyes zeroed on her and the men kept their traps shut. “I’ll take care of Lady Victoria, and that’s the end of this discussion. Let’s all go home now.”
“Emma, I… don’t! Bugha!”
“D-Don’t come near… nooo!”
“Yes… stop… don’t kick anymore. I agree! Please take care of my wife-to.. ugh, Lady Victoria.”
It seemed Emma wasn’t the type who’s well versed with diplomacy. Her fist was diplomacy, and it was powerful enough to end all the rising dissents and funny stupidity. Perhaps it would be a good idea to learn a few tips from her. She was smiling, but her eyes weren’t.
In the end, they agreed that the old catkin would take me home. The curious kittens, no, young catkins, trailed and skittered around me with their eyes focused on my back. I almost giggled, but kept it in. The duo had been quite curious about me but held themselves from asking because of the raucous. Unlike three years ago, Tabi and Coby were quite aware of their boundaries and didn’t ask questions. Umu, they had grown well.
Still, it wouldn’t be too shocking if they had already forgotten about me. After all, I had only stayed for a few days at their home before I got spirited away… again. So I had little to no idea about their personalities.
What I knew about them from three years ago might have already been obsolete.
“Emma’s so lucky. My mom would surely be happy if I had brought the lady home.”
“Shut yer’ trap, mama’s boy!”
“What ya’ two talking about? I’m sure she’ll like my parents better.”
“Bah! I’ll eat your horse’s ass if that’s true.”
Oh, these dumb men were still here? I sighed and pinched my glabella. I had almost overlooked that we’re all going back to the same village. A few of the knocked-out folks had also woken up from their short slumber and followed, having my story explained to them by the other villagers. Luckily, this bunch hadn’t seen my face yet.
Hild also followed as she carried her giant husband via princess carry. It was supposed to be the other way around and let me add the fact that Astolfo’s probably a 200-400 pounder monster yet she looked like she was simply lifting a toddler. Damn, it was one hell of a strange sight.
Anyway, I shook my head and simply accepted that she’s strong.
Soon enough, we finally arrived at a fork road and separated from each other.
I ignored a few longing gazes coming from the single duds and strutted out of their sight while holding Emma’s hands. On the other hand, the man called Rynard led Hild to the villager chief’s new home (since the little blob had shredded it in the virtual space). He also promised to meet us later.
I somehow sensed that he and the old catkin were hiding something from me. They were probably planning to tell it to me after a good rest.
Anyway, Rynard indeed had some ability since he was able to drag away a few of my bulky stalkers. Unfortunately, not all.
A few hardheaded ones had escaped his net and tried to follow us like it was the most normal thing to do. The kittens had thwarted their plans to introduce me to their parents before it even bore fruit. Tabi pulled out her pitch-black daggers while glaring at them menacingly. Coby had also taken out his bow and nocked a few arrows that soon whistled in the wind.
The arrows ended up landing a few inches away from the stalking villagers’ feet, halting their advance. Thankfully, that was enough to stop them. If not, I’d make an example out of them by pulling some drastic actions through my lovable wind spirits.
Soon, I glimpsed a familiar house. The moonbeams fell from the open skies, illuminating the surroundings to give me a better view. I couldn’t help myself but grin. “It still looked the same even after three years.”
“I’ve kept it that way for the kittens.” Emma giggled. “It has been a long three years…”
I shut my eyes and took a deep breath. It felt warm… like home.
“Anyway, though it’s already late.” Emma took my hands and smiled. “Welcome home, Victoria.”