Mercy
4.1k 19 54
X
Reading Options
Font Size
A- 15px A+
Width
Reset
X
Table of Contents
Loading... please wait.

The voyage was unexpectedly pleasant. The ship was a lot steadier on sand than what you'd find on an ocean and that meant no constant swaying. 

After confiscating my stolen manuscript from Yesmina and quietly plotting a King's assassination I crept back into my room.

Cass had a foot propped up on the table while cutting into an apple. I threw him a small bag, which he caught without even looking.

"So will we be celebrating your engagement?"

"That's not funny."

He smirked. "I find it pretty funny myself. But then again most don't have my sparkling sense of humor." 

"I was just accosted by a 15-year-old. That's not cool, man."

"So?" The man snorted. "Most Noble male children start having sex around your age, or younger. You're always like this. What's the deal, kid? Don't like women?"

"I like women very much, actually. WOMEN." I stressed the word. "I've got morals, asshole. I'm not gonna go have sex with these little kids."

"15 is a perfectly reasonable age, though?" He squinted. "Back in my old country you could have been married by then. It's a little different where you're from but not by so much. Your values are pretty abnormal, I've got to say."

It's wrong for a modern-day dude like me to be apprehensive about having sex with "underage" girls?

Not that he'd know about that so I couldn't fault him.

"Besides you're a kid, too."  He pointed out. "What, exactly, is the problem?"

"I've the soul of a 30-something-year-old man inside me. How am I supposed to look at children sexually? I'm a bit of a lolicon, sure, but I'm no mere rogue pervert. I've got class."

He took a piece of his fruit and slid it into his mouth."30-something, huh. Alright, whatever you say. But you can't tell me you've never had a chance with older girls." The man's tone told he thought that unlikely. 

"More like I'm always interrupted each time I tried." If it wasn't Dolly it was Vera. If not her, Baz. Sometimes Mother. 

I can't catch a break. I tried, believe me, but no matter where I went one of them would find and drag me off before I could close the deal. Eventually I just stopped. Mostly.

I took a seat opposite the man. "Also I'm a bit young myself, really. How the hell am I gonna satisfy a woman with this kid's body, huh? I'm not that cruel." 

An excuse, nothing more. If those four were out of the way...

I sighed mentally.

"Most men wouldn't think of the woman's side of things."  Cass agreed.  

"Most men are selfish idiots." I stated. "I bet there wouldn't be so much adultery if the guy thought about keeping their women satisfied instead of just falling asleep after one nut."

"But then there wouldn't as many lonely housewives for us more thoughtful men to comfort." Cass' wolfish grin was terrible. 

He was a handsome man, all things considered, but his savage mannerisms and long shaggy hair left him looking more unkempt and roguish than most of the bandits we caught. 

Cass wasn't tall but he had a bloody presence that made him feel larger than he was, more dark too. So hearing him talk about comforting lonely housewives brought to mind a cuck session with a beaten up husband huddling near a corner.

Where oh where is that honorable clean-shaven knight I knew in times past?

"I met you." The man spoke mildly. 

"Huh?"

"I know what you were thinking."

"What a load of fudge. Why does everyone like to push their own bad behaviors on me? I'm innocent."

He paused and looked at me with a face that said, "Are you serious right now?" He actually said, "So how long you thinking about holding onto that innocence?"

"Waitin' for my growth spurt, pal. After that I'll happily get rid of the V-card." I promised. 

"Going to finally make rumor reality, are you?" He meant those damn playboy rumors, obviously. He liked to tease my by bringing them up since he knew they annoyed me to no end.

"What? No. To hell with that. I've already got a wife candidate all set up. As soon as I stop looking like a pretty boy I'm sealin' the deal and getting myself a cute wife to spoil rotten. It'll be a two for one deal. Not only do I get a beautiful bride but I'll be a step-father to a lovely doll of a child to boot." I paused. " Or brother-in-law. I'm not sure what they think of each other as, exactly."

"You mean that Minerva woman and her little girl?" Cass asked. "She's certainly a looker." He rubbed his chin. "Although..." He frowned.

"What?"

"I mean you realize you're basically a god to her, right? Either she'll refuse thinking herself too lowly, or she accepts it as a "great honor" instead of for feelings of love."

"Possibly." I knew that was likely given the current set up. However," But I'm cool with that. Most relationships don't start with love. Something like that's gotta be cultivated, my man

"Alright, true enough. What about everything else?"

"What do you mean?"

He looked me dead in the eye. "Your Inquisition's a real cult by now, kid. A big one. I don't think you fully understand the influence you've managed to collect. " 

"It's a problem." I admitted. 

I never should've gone through with the whole Angel thing. 

"It is, but not in itself." He waved. "What I mean is, what do you intend to do with it?"

"Sorry?"

The oil lamp flickered and created shadows over his face, casting him in a harsher light. "Kid, you've a knack for making the world bend over backwards for you." He began. " You started a whole new religion full of thousands of followers--willing or not--in a single month. Imagine what you could do in a year." His eyes seemed far away.  "Aside from the sand dunes there's plenty solid ground that you'd be able to make a green paradise out of. From how special and powerful your Aura is, it's possible to do. And with all the gold and silver mines waiting to be explored? Keep the monster population at bay and this could be a powerhouse of a Kingdom. No one's been able to unite the Dry Lands before. With the naturally strong bodies of the Aeil and a couple years of strict military training it could be one of the strongest powers in the world. Assuming, that is, they all serve one ruler. You've a chance to do something great here. That bastard Kane probably sent you here knowing that too. Maybe that's even what he wanted."

I think he just wanted me out of his hair. 

But still, he had some good points. The Aeil had managed to push back every nation that theatened them in the past. Their numbers were nothing to scoff at and a single warrior was worth ten regular soldiers just in terms of physical prowess alone. 

They also had adept skill with the spear, a weapon made even deadlier in their long, powerful arms. While this was their main choice they did train with other sort of weapons as well. Large, heavy weapons most other races would not be capable of using for long durations.

But they were never a cohesive group. Even the five clans were not allies to each other in truth, they just all followed the same goal of survival.

Compared to the Martial Empire they were not as skilled or disciplined but their had greater endurance and natural strength. 

Compared to the Fenrir clan's beastkin they were not as fast and instinctive but they were bold and steady.

If they weren't so divided due to the scarce resources of their homeland they'd have long since been a domineering force. They were fierce but they could be much more.

It's not their fault they didn't have a main ruler, however. The dust storms and monsters forced them to never stay in one place too long and while there were numerous water sources here and there they weren't normally large enough to sustain too large groups of people. Not to mention that other creatures had to drink too so even if they weren't attacked by monsters due to hunger they'd have a hard time driving off all the beasts in the area who would come for the water. 

The longer they held them off, the more desperately they'd attack. They couldn't keep them away indefinitely. 

Actually our base was also having that problem recently. The creatures were just too deadly so for the past week I'd made time go out on extermination missions to clear out the surrounding area as a side mission. 

Huh. Strangely however I haven't seen all too many here ever since I settled down. I wonder why? 

Well. I hadn't had much trouble with them even before. But then again I haven't encountered the real beasties yet. The Deathwings, the Living Mountains, the Howling Fogs. 

I'm strong, but I'm not OP. Compared to your average person I'm damn strong. Compared to average Aeils, I'm really strong. Compared to most monsters, I'm strong. 

But that's only with physical strength. Like I don't think I have any defense to other things? I can take a hit and I can give hits, that's about it. 

I'm like Conan on steroids. Or He-man, since I got the cheat sword Milly who just absolutely DOMINATES. Still. Until I can consciously control this fucking Aura of mine I anti gonna be able to take on anything too extreme. 

I'm pretty sure any mage who can get off the right spell quick enough can curb-stomp me. Which is why I never gave that Barney cunt the chance back at the city.

Even those Wyrms have a trick to them. All you had to do was wait till they were about to come out, jump away, and boop their snoots. The things had limited mobility, especially if they chased you above-ground.

I'm really lucky I haven't come across any fast, venomous beasts so far.

"Sounds troublesome though."

Yeah. I had no desire to be a ruler either. Running Kingdoms weren't my thing. I'd be fine with overthrowing one through sheer pluck and a few ground-pounds, but clerical work didn't suit me at all.  

Could I possibly think of a way to keep the monsters here down? Maybe. I already had several ideas for the smaller, less dangerous ones that were a lot more common. 

Since when was it my responsibility in the first place though? 

I may have a clingy Holy Sword that likes to follow me around, but I'm no hero overflowing with a sense of justice. 

Nope. I'm a selfish little asshole through and through...I say, knowing full well going the Minnie route is pushing me more and more into the Savior business. 

"You're the biggest waste of talent I've ever seen." Cass sniffed.

"I've been called worse."

"I get the feeling you've said that before."

"I have. Still true." 

"No great conquests anytime soon, then?"

"Nope."

Cass shrugged and stood up with a grunt. "If you ever change your mind, let me know. If it's you I wouldn't be opposed to being a knight again." He cut me look full of cunning. " ...Assuming I get my own castle."

I laughed. "Alright settle down, Bronn. A castle, heh...Am I supposed to give you Highgarden and make you Lord Paramount of the Reach next? Or perhaps you would like your head printed on the back of my Fuks huh, Master of Coin?"

Cass' gaze turned bright. "Those are some damn fine titles. I'll take 'em."

"Yeah, sure. Because you know a Claybrook always repays their debts."

"I know at least this one does. " Cass was already on his way to earning his Brown Noser achievement.

 "Flattery will get you everywhere. But not every thing, because I feel I'd make a damn lousy King. I know fuck all about running a nation." 

"Neither did my last King and he did pretty well until he decided to sacrifice virgins. And aren't you supposed to be a genius? You shouldn't do too bad. No one said you can't keep a council either. You can just make them do most of the work. Besides," He turned to leave. " You know when shit needs to get be done, then you do it. No matter your methods, no matter what you have to do, you get results. The last month has proved that and its the most important skill a good ruler needs. Everything else is secondary."

I was about to retort but the guy had already slammed the door shut. So I was forced to hold it in for next time. 

Really, that guy...

No, everyone...

...For the tenth time, just let me just purge in peace!

***

I had the door locked. I definitely had the door locked. 

So how the hell did I wake up with three little kids hanging all over me?!

Baz was halfway off the bed, head-first. Vera was curled up at my side. And Dolly's face was pressed all up against my cheek, hugging my entire head at a weird angle with her body perched along my chest. 

I couldn't breath right at all. 

"Little sisters are the best...suuu....Little sisters are the cutest...suuu..." She whispered in between cute little snores. 

....What the...

I feel like I already had my siscon set at max. What the heck was she trying to accomplish? No, rather, what'd Vee say to her to bring about this sudden interest in brainwashing?

More importantly, why was she tryna brainwash ME?  

This kid is getting weirder and weirder. Was her character always like that? She wasn't so odd in the game, right? I wonder why she's such an oddball this time? 

I poked her cheek. It was soft and squishy. "Oi."

Her mouth curved into a silly grin that exposed a row of pearly whites. She let out a weird giggle and moved her head. 

Before I knew it the kid had my finger between her teeth and was sucking on it like a pacifier. 

"Hnnn~" She nibbled lightly.

I felt my spine shiver. It's times like these I wish I still had a smartphone. But her teeth are weirdly sharp these days.

It was a long time before she decided to let go.

***

I quietly slipped out of bed and went to the deck of the ship. The sky was a pale blue and the heat was back in full swing. 

I looked and saw nothing but desert. It may be another couple of hours till we reach our destination so to kill time I was just about to start my morning training routine when I was grabbed from behind

Darkness. Pure, utter darkness.

"Guess who~"

Softness. Pure, utter softness.

Someone was wearing something thin and loose. And that same someone was covering my eyes from behind. 

"You've got to be kidding." I sighed. "Didn't I already reject you?" 

The person in question was, without a doubt, Yesmina. "Since when did being rejected mean you had to give up?" She flung back recklessly.

Huh. True. 

"Get back to me when you actually grow hair down there, child." 

The little girl who was actually older than me(physically) let out a pained sound. "How vulgar!" She exclaimed. "You're really different when you're not trying to save my feelings, huh." A could feel the surprise.

"Disillusioned, are you?"

Yesmina finally decided to take her hands off my eyes. I turned and saw her wearing similar clothing to those I gave Minerva. But her's was tighter and drew attention to a pair of nicely rounded hips through a combination of tight pants and short skirt. 

It wasn't as revealing as the belly dancer wear but less exposure and a tighter fit left more to the imagination. 

I had to admit, nudity rarely turned my on. Eroticism was much more than something so vanilla. Only little kids and men of mediocre tastes could remain satisfied with things of that level.

It was much more appealing when women wore something that accentuated their charms. It was the difference between a plain box and a box that'd been gift wrapped. 

The excitement you get by unwrapping that gift box piece by piece far outweighed what you get from the regular box.

But the fact she was so young meant I only got half a chub instead of an actual erection. A twitch, nothing more.

She shook her head. "Not at all." A smile. "This cold you has a unique attraction as well. It makes me want to be scolded."

Should I hit her? I should hit her, right?

"Anyway, I won't be giving up so easily!" Her eyes blased. "Maybe that other book didn't have the effect I wanted. But really I should've known those tactics wouldn't work on someone as experienced as you."

You can't play a player using his own plays, indeed. 

"That's why I've got a failsafe!" She held up another, much larger book. It was thrust into the air with both hands as if it were some sort of holy text.  

It was also big enough that she had to use a leather strap to carry it behind her back.

"An Encyclopedic Compendium of Bedroom Techniques: Conquer Any Man (drawings included)"

"Author: Lady Deepthroat."

I rubbed my eyes, making sure I wasn't seeing things. 

That wasn't one of mine. Who the hell is this Deepthroat? And how the heck did this thing get in the hands of Yesmina? Bedroom techniques, and it had drawings as examples? This thing was dangerous.

"Little girls shouldn't be carrying around such things!" I chided.

"Who's a little girl?!" She pouted. "I'm older than you!"

"Whatever." I waved her off. "It doesn't matter anyway. I don't care what book you have, I'm not falling anytime soon." I said confidently.

"So says you..." She trailed off.

"Chapter 1-Push Him Down." She read aloud, now ignoring me. She scoured the pages up and down, her face getting a deeper red every second. 

Finally she looked up and closed the book with a thunk. Something about that gaze, and the way she held the text, had me wary. 

She approached slowly, her face set in determination.

"Step one: Knock him out..." She muttered to herself. Our eyes met. She stilled. Averted her eyes. "Um...It'll only hurt a little, okay?"

"...."

She was hit. Multiple times.

***

"So this is one of the tribes under Pareia control."

The ground was harder than normal and there was a small oasis in the center. Around the body of water were large, elaborate tents that could probably fit an entire family of four each.

The place was surprisingly busy. There were people everywhere doing this or that. I saw some carrying pots to the oasis. Others were coming back from a hunt. 

"Ha!"

I looked down from the deck and notice little children practicing their bladework under the tutelage of older men and women. Sweat dripped from their brows and I could tell their muscles were trembling under the constant strenuous work. But they only grit their teeth and tightened their grips.

As the shipworkers slowed the rhino-like creatures to a stop a dozen Aiel warriors gathered together with spears in hand.

"Greetings, Lord Isha." One of them, a man with red stripes running along his face, stepped forward. His loud, powerful voice pierced through with crystal-clear clarity. "Greetings, Lady Yesmina."

I gathered Baz and the others, then followed the two down the bridge that's been placed down.

Yesmina was the first to reply. "Good morning, Chief Rames. Sorry for the sudden intrusion but we're carrying an important guest on his way to see the Little Goddess. We'd like to rest and feed our Uraks before continuing on our way. I hope that's alright."

She spoke politely, but with strength. She knew she wouldn't be refused.

"Of course, it's fine. Take what you need." 

The chief was not a young man, he was instead old and scarred with lines of old flesh covering his hands and arms. His beard was neatly trimmed and his face was more weather-beaten than Cass' but he carried himself with a dignity the other man's current self lacked. Standing straight and tall, hand firmly gripping an enormous spear with a metal head as long as a sword.

Damn thing reminded me of that Seven Spears bastard. Died to that fucker ten times.

Perhaps feeling my sudden bloodlust, or maybe because I was carrying an equally enormous wooden club, the chief gave me an interested glance.

I was also wearing my Solaire set so that may have had something to do with it too.

Or, more likely, he was wondering why there was a sword hovering in the air to my left. 

Yeah. Any one of those would draw attention.

"You are Solaire." It wasn't a question. I suppose I am pretty identifiable.

"I've been called that, yes." No way of hiding it. Despite knowing Yesmina would probably leak my name later anyway I still didn't give it to him. Yesmina knew who I was but other than her and her father it's unlikely any other Aeil would know my real identity as a Claybrook.

I wanted to keep it that way. Not that normal Aeil would even know who the Claybrooks are. Just wanted to be safe.

"Awfully short to be Bandit King, much less a Water God." The chief spoke bluntly.  "I expected someone bigger."

"Well I expected busty tribal girls in scantily clad clothing. Sadly I got you instead. Life's disappointing that way."

My candor did not earn me many smiles from the surrounding warriors.

"Were you part of our tribe that tone would earn a beating."

"You assume you could beat me. Terrible mistake, that." 

"Tough words from such a small man." 

"You're trying to pick a fight. It's working."

"Picked up on that, did you?"

"I had a feeling."

"Hmph. At least you're sharp. Care for a drink first?"

"Thought you'd never ask. Lead on then."

As the older man led us deeper into the village Minerva walked up to me and asked, "What just happened?"

"The guy wants a duel. We're having a drink first." 

"Why does he want to fight you, Master?"

I gave her a glance. "I'm carrying a three hundred pound club. Why wouldn't he want to fight me?"

Her face was a mask of confusion. But that's just the way of the Aeil. 

***

"The Young Miss is quite taken with you." The chief, Rames, commented after the third pint of wine. 

He said this because the girl used her status to have us seated together and refilled my cup attentatively each time it was emptied. 

Also because she introduced me as her future husband, which I disliked. But I mean I don't have any room to talk, myself.

"The fading infatuations of youth." I responded. 

After smelling the delectable fragrance of the wine I quickly decided that a couple people knowing my face was nothing much. Hence I gave my helmet for Dolly to play with--she liked wearing it to shadow-fight monsters using a wood sword I'd carved her. 

The bright blonde curls spilling out the bucket-like helm combined with her short stature was a real sight to see. Again, I really wished for a way to photograph these moments.

Anyway, taking the helmet off meant showing my face. 

And that caused several stares from the surrounding men and women in the "dinning room". Which was just a really long tent with an equally long table and plush pillows for seats. 

"I can see why now that I've got a closer look at you."

"Right? It's just the face, see" 

"You'd bring in a nice dowry." The man said in agreement. "Though it's strange, I feel..." He trailed off. "No, nevermind."

If he starts looking at me funny I'll break his spine.

"Hut! Ha! Pah!" Dolly was messing around in a corner. "Oh! Day, did you see that? What a nice combo!" 

Phiro, one of the representatives sitting next to Rames, regarded her with praise. "She's fast, agile too. Though her movements are sloppy she does have potential."

"Huh. Now that you mention it..."

I never noticed before, but he was right. Dolly did have a high Dex if nothing else. Good reflexes and all that. 

I'd seen her climb walls like a monkey, sure, but I never connected her to fighting. I don't think she'd ever shown interest before either? The In-game Dolly was soft and weak so I never thought about it before. 

But this version of her was somehow pretty quick on her feet. Not strong, per se, but athletic to some degree?

Actually, you know what, I don't think the game Dolly had ever really participated in any sports stuff. So maybe I'm just assuming wrongly about her having been weak?

"But I don't see a reason for her to learn how to fight."

Dolly may be limber but I and all the people I've ever trained with only knew how to use hardcore methods of training. There was nightmare and suicide. No in between.

Dolly and her easy-going mindset would never be capable of withstanding that kind of abuse. 

And really if she got hurt doing it I'm sure I'd totally flip out and beat someone.

The chief chewed a pieced of succulent meat, later saying, "It's always better to know how to protect one's own self." 

Against my overly protective brotherly instincts shouting, "I'll protect her myself!" I actually agreed wholeheartedly.

Is it time for me to continue Private Dahlia's training? Maybe I can call Jacob and have him give a few pointers. He's pretty skilled. 

"I'll be back." Yesmina stood and left. Bathroom, probably. 

I was relieved she was gone. "Guess I'll have to pour my own drinks for a while." I laughed, then was interrupted when some random girl from the tribe came up and refilled my cup.

"Oh. Nevermind then. Thanks?"

She said something in their language I didn't understand and disappeared. But not before her hand casually brushed along my shoulder. 

Feeling weirded out, I downed the cup in three seconds flat. I'd only just placed the thing back on the table before some other girl showed up.

My cup was, once again, filled to the brim. This time however the girl leaned in closely while she poured. Really closely. I could see cleavage. And the thick scent of perfume.

Oh, and I was gropped again.

"...Oi." I said irritably. "What the hell is this then?"

The chief was indifferent. "The presence of a particularly strong male, especially one as good-looking as you, always has an effect on women of Aeil blood. They only held back because the Young Miss was present."

"They can't know I'm strong, we haven't even fought yet. It's really just the face again, yeah?"

Damien, you bastard, you really can't go anywhere without causing me trouble! Actually, no. Why're there so many shallow women? Control yourselves, please.

"You don't know?" The chief seem puzzled. "Aeil are born with natural sensitivity to Hara...what your kind calls Aura. Your own feels especially thick and brilliant. That's why they can tell you are strong." He rubbed his chin. "Not to mention that Aeil are born with a specific form of Hara, Muladahara, which is fiery in nature. Your Hara, in contrast, is like cool and refreshing spring water. That alone is soothing and attractive to young Aeil women. It'll make them want to touch you." He explained. "The older females will have more self control but those around your age won't have that advantage. Combined with your Hara's strength, and your face? I imagine you're irresistable to them. It's why I wasn't very surprised the Young Miss took a liking to you. "

I was nodding along as if this were all completely normal. "So I'm a big ball of ice water to their fevered bodies?" I deduced.

"Essentially."

"And I'm likely to be felt up if I'm not careful?"

"Most definitely."

"And how old do you mean by 'young'?"

"Around 13 to 15, I'd say."

"...I'm a goddamn loli magnet...." 

Every time...every goddamn time....

Where's the Milfs?! The busty onee-sans?! I'm always surrounded by lolies, dammit! 

I follow the golden rule of YES Lolita, NO touch! So even though I can find them cute, it's not like I can forsake my values and become Pedo Bear. 

But everywhere I go the lolies crowd around and pester me. They should at least wait a decade or two, shit! Listen here, little ones! I can only accept you as sisters or daughters, anything else is off-limits!

All of you below 18, go romance a different target! Damien ain't supposed to be capturable in the first place, alright? 

I need to get outta this damn wasteland or these kids might really try pushing me down...

"I'm back. Did I miss anything?"

No. Wait. One already tried. 

 I was on the verge of shedding tears. Bandits? Monsters? No, the real threat to me here were the girls! And I can't fight little girls! I've only got two hands,  a joint assault would tear me apart.

A whole desert full of kids who'd like to keep me as a body pillow? 

Haha...

I'm in danger. 

Ralph Wiggum, that's me.

" Sorry, seat's taken."

While I was distracted with my own thoughts a new converation sprouted to life in the outside world.

It seems at some point Evie and Vera had taken a place to either side of me, leaving Yesmina down and out.

In fact Vera was the one in Yesmina's previous seat. Evie, I think that's where Rep.Isha sat? 

I saw the tall Aeil sitting further down, giving Evie a complicated look of fear and wonder I didn't at all understand. However Milly's spark of red electricity--when the hell did THAT become a thing?--along her silver body could have had a hand in their "negotiations".

Yesmina frowned. "I'm sorry, who are you again? And what kind of monster are you to take another person's seat? It's quite rude."

"I'm Lady Dahlia's maid." Vera replied simply. 

"Oh, right. The one with the foul mouth. I remember you now." Yesmina smiled. "But aren't you being unreasonable? A maid wanting to take my seat...shouldn't you be more aware of your own position? Or rather, lack thereof?" The words were biting. Spoken evenly but carrying hints of a winter's chill.

"My apologies, Miss, but it can't be helped. I'm a mere placeholder for my Lady. Surely you wouldn't want to keep her seperated from her own brother?" Her face was as unflinching as ever.

"Firstly, she seems busy playing at the moment so I don't see her coming over any time soon. Second, there are two sides. That one was and is mine. Third, I now notice that Lord Isha's seat has mysteriously become that of another's. She is a maid of Damien's, if I recall correctly. Might I ask why she presumes having a seat at the same table as her Master?" Her grin turned sharp.

Vera was unmoved. "To best serve her Master's needs as quickly and efficiently as possible, of course."

"Wow. What  'good excuses' you have. But it sure is strange how you both decided to come here at the same time. Right when I left. It's almost as if you're tying to stop me and Young Master Damien from being together."

For a desert it sure turned arctic fast.

"I don't have to do that. The Young Master has already made clear his opinon of you, did he not?" It felt like Vera should be smiling right then, but she wasn't. If she was, though, the smile would most assuredly be a sadistic one. "I must say, my Lady, you possess a remarkably stout heart. It takes a special sort of woman to so shameless continue her pursuit on a man after such a firm rejection. It was so flippant too, wasn't it? As if he didn't care about you at all." 

Vera was a girl who really enjoyed making others suffer. Like I said. She-devil. Have to hand it to her, she saw an opportunity and took it.  

Yesmina, to her credit, didn't back down an inch. "The help shouldn't be so mindful of their Masters' affairs."

"One should be aware of when their feelings become a nuisance."

"Does the little maid have a few nuisant feelings of her own, I wonder?" Yesmina challenged, making dangerous insinuation I nearly laughed at.

"How could I not?" Came the shocking reply. " After all I am one who grew up with both the Young Master and the Little Miss. We're practically family. That being how it is, is it not right of me to gently inform a cockroach when it's being too pesky for it's own good?"

"A roach...!"

"My bad. I meant flea."

"This damned maid!" The girl finally lost her cool. "Just who do you think you are! What gives you the right act so darn pretentious, huh? If I wanna court him that's my business! If I wanna snatch him away, that's my choice! Don't you try ruining my chances just because you know you have none!" She fumed. 

Vera said nothing. Her lips pursed tightly. She was silently contemplating what would be the best scathing retort, or at least I assumed that's what her silence meant due to past experience. 

I almost couldn't hold it in. 

Oh man. This kid. She was hilarious. 

Nah dudes, Vera definitely don't got that kind of affection for this Bro. If anything we had a rival relationship? The Loki to my awesome Thor-ness. A malicious little mischief maker through and through. Mostly just to annoy me. 

Even if we DIDN'T, as she said, grow up together...well given how many times I've beaten her cheeky little behind through all these years she'd need to be a total masochist to have feelings for--Hold up.

I narrowed my eyes. 

An insidious thought took root. 

My mind flashed back to the conversation with Mary at the Estate a couple months ago. If I think about it more, it was strange. Somehow a few of the things she said didn't seem to have been to me?

I squinted at Vera suspciously.

....I'd thought about it before, but...

This kid...could she--?

"Snatch away?" My thoughts were broken. 

Dolly, in all her selective hearing glory, turned her head our way with great force once something we said had caught her attention.

"Wait, wait, wait, what's this about snatching away? Huh?" She pounced on me. "Day, come with me real quick, okay?" She pulled.

"What? Dolly, what is it?"

"Nevermind that, just come!"

"Tell me what you're gonna do with me first."

"Well...I'm gonna pee on you!"

I almost tripped. "You're wanna do what now?!"

"Pee!" The little girl repeated. "Mother explained it to me once, when I saw Patches weeing on the house. She said that's how animals mark their property! Since Day is my brother, I have to pee on you! Otherwise how will these weird girls who keep popping up know who's brother you are?"

That... really is a special kind of logic! 

"Dolly, that's only for animals! We're human!"

"Nuh-uh, I'm a Dragon!" Dolly shook her head stubbornly. "So it's perfectly fine."

"It's not fine, dammit!" I pressed, ignoring her dragon comment. It was obvious she'd been talking to mother in the time I left her at home.

"Please?" She sulked.

"What the hell, stop that. I said no."

Her eyes went wide and glittery. Crap. Not the puppy-dog eyes....anything thing but that! 

"Please, Day? Can't I pee on you just a little?" She brought two fingers close together in gesture.

"N-No. That's...." I trailed off.

Tears. 

"Day hates me...he doesn't want people to know he already has a cute little sister at home...I'm not wanted anymore...."

She fell onto the carpet floor, a lifeless, formless mass of goop. She looked like banana pudding.

"Still not letting you pee on me." I wasn't gonna to give in. I had my dignity.

"Tsk." I heard a click. Dolly got up and wiped the wetness from her face like they were a lie. "Well that's okay, I didn't think you would let me, I was just trying to get your guard down!" She chuckled. 

Eh? 

"As they say, brother of mine... omae wa mou shindeiru!" 

Nani?!

In a flash of white-gold, as fast as lightning, Dolly flew towards me with inhuman speed.

In a mere second she'd conjured a sealed jar of ink and a small brush from out of the ether. 

I felt a ticklish sensation at my neck and in an instant the deed was done.

Dolly then wrapped her short arms around me in an attempt to keep me trapped.

"Fuuu" 

She blew cool, gentle breaths at my skin and the ink went dry. 

"..."

I was speechless.

"Remember what you told me, Day? If it has your name, it's yours!" Her smile was too pure for this world.

"You know I can erase the ink, right?"

"..." 

The banana pudding made a comeback.

***

"You had to have seen them. Why didn't you do anything? Could've avoided that little fight." 

I grumbled. 

Vera and Yesmina had entered a cold war ever since their spat and now the older girl would stop and glare at the other every chance she got. As for Evie, she didn't say a single word. She just followed me around with Milly in hand. 

The damn sword was weird like that. First Vera, now Evie. Did they have some sorta deal? Those three seemed strangely close recently. Which was also odd because Evie and Dolly didn't get along at all so Vera shouldn't either. Not that I disliked it, but it didn't make sense.

The chief didn't care about my mood at all. "That sword is a work of pure evil. The little girl, too, had the eyes of a mad Deathwing. I wasn't going to say a damn thing. "

Evie? Come on, that's stupid. Girl's an angel.

Milly was pretty mean-looking these days though, can't lie. 

"Whatever. Let's just get the show on the road. Hope you're ready for a beatdown, little chief."

"Speak arrogantly after you get the win."

By now there were several dozen men and women gathered around. The chief sparring might have been a special occassion because word spread fast and a lot of the villagers made time to come witness the fight.

They formed a large circle with us in the middle. 

"A spear against a club. I haven't ever had the opportunity to battle against such a weapon. It'll be interesting."

That's what he thinks is gonna happen, but no.

"Too bad, old man, I'm going old school on this one. Yo Cass, lend me that sweet sword for a sec!" I called out. Instantly a four-foot long blade was thrown into the ring. 

"What the heck are you throwing sharp objects for?!" I screamed, barely avoiding the pointy end. 

" I'm all the way back here trying to eat, you prick, what did you expect me to do?" He yelled back. 

"You could've thrown it better at least! I almost lost a pinky!"

"Did you die?"

"I was nearly skewered!"

"But did you die?"

He wasn't funny, not at all. Paying him no mind, I grabbed the sword and leveled it at the chief with a flawless stance.

"You're going to face a spear with a sword?" He seemed amused. "Very well. Let's see what you're capable of."

Despite looking dissatisfied with my choice of weaponry the man didn't belittle me at all and instead focused on the battle with an unwavering concentration.

I felt a rush of air pelt my face and a moment later my scalp tingled in anticipation. I sensed the attack with my body before I saw it.

His spear had been pointed right at me, the long but thin blade nearly invisible in the harsh light of day. 

There was no countdown to start and he attacked without warning, the only indication of his movement being the sand kicked up after his forward launch.

But I was prepared.

Goddamn Seven Spears wannabe, see how I deal with you!

Sparks flew as our weapons connected, then glanced off each other.

"Ha! Fuck yeah, get parried scrub!" 

The chief had a confused look on his face, likely wondering what the hell just happened. 

However he didn't dwell on the failure and immediately launched another attack. It came from the side, a large sweeping motion.

I jumped. 

The slash met empty air. In response I aimed a strike to his exposed side, taking advantage of the opening. I struck fast and hard. 

A shock went through my hand and up my arm as the blade was blocked. The man was fast and smart, having years of experience in battle. He was ready for what another failed attack might bring even if he didn't anticipate a jump. 

So he quickly brought up his shaft into a vertical position, using it as shield. Obviously the thing wasn't made of wood because there wasn't even a mark left on it even after being struck with Cass' sword.

I made some distance by backing away, ignoring the throbbing in my arms. My scalp tingled once more and a second thrust made it's way over. 

But we know how to deal with thrust, don't we? 

I casually stepped to the side and brought my foot down hard on the offending weapon, locking it in place. 

Time for the deathblow! 

I wasn't really gonna kill him, but a punch to the chest would hurt like a bitch in the morning. Dropping my sword, I closed the gap while he was still in a state of surprise at the unexpected move and jabbed. 

Which ended up being useless since he, too, left his weapon in order to escape the fist strike.

He had good instincts.

Like me he also stepped to the side. The correct way of dealing with a punch was not to back up, but to sidestep. Then close back in and launch your own attack. 

Which he did perfectly. 

Except he didn't exactly step to the side so much as spin to the side. And using the momentum along with his long limbs, chief Rames struck me with not a mere punch but instead ruined my cheek with the back of his fist. 

I was literally blown five feet away. Doing a bit of a spiral while I did, making me feel like a football.

My head hit solid ground and sent my mind reeling from the impact.

I blinked away the illusions of Tweety and got back up in a daze.

"Yup. That smarts."  

Rames, for the first time, appeared truly disturbed. "Not a single warrior I've hit with that blow has ever gotten back on their feet the same day. Are you not human?"

"I dunno, probably." 

I admit I may not, in fact, be fully human. I was stubborn, not stupid. Still liked being human best though. My biggest fear was waking up in scales.

Busty Argonian sloots were a turn on. Argonian men, on the other hand...

That happens, gonna have to off myself and try again in the next life.

"You got a couple of moves, geezer."

"You're not bad yourself, runt. Quite...unconventional."

"Continue?"

"Till one of us drops."

The man tore off his upper garments to expose a brutal set of well-defined muscle. I was envious. 

No more words were needed. All around us were the cheers of an entire tribe, enjoying the spectacle regardless of winner or loser. 

As for the chief and me, we lost ourselves to the discordant rhythm of battle. Old or young, big or small, things like that didn't matter in a fight like this. 

For what seemed like hours we stood in that ring born of men and women. 

Yes. It was an epic battle...

Parry. 

Parry. 

Roll.

Butt poke. 

The chief exploded in rage. "You little snot, stop aiming for my ass!"

i grinned shamelessly. " If it worked on Vordt, it'll work on you! Resign yourself to Death by A Thousand Butt Pokes!"

By this time the chief was already on the verge of insanity. 

In a matter of moments he stripped me of my sword, sending it back into the crowd.

"Son of a whore!" Cass cursed. "You bitch, I nearly became a eunuch!"

"But did you die?" I took the chance at petty revenge.

The chief's growl interrupted our bickering.

"Good, good! Now you'll see how it feels, you demon child! You ass, let me see your goddamn ass!" He howled madly.

The crowed was stunned into silence at the man's word choice.

I didn't despair at my lost sword. Because now it was time for my secret weapon.

"Pocket sand!"  And  threw a handful of dirt in his eyes.

"%$#^!" 

"This...is...SPARTA!"

I didn't have to say that old cliche, but come on, what's a Sparta Kick without it? I always felt Odyssey shoulda made that line the attack's opening. Such a waste.

There was an audible crack as what I reckon were his ribs giving way to my foot. 

He, to his credit, didn't drop as I expected him to. He just staggered back several steps. THEN he fell. On his knees, his breaths ragged.

I strolled towards him leisurely as I whistled a dandy tune. While I was also worse for the wear that wasn't a very large concern right now. Time for the mind games.

"Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself. Come on, why're you hitting yourself?"

Anyone with a dick of an older brother knows what's happening. Or hey, maybe you're a dick of an older brother yourself  and  are having a few nostalgic moments. 

Either way by the time I'm done with him both cheeks are gonna look so red and swollen he'll look like a baboon's ass.

"Alright, let's finish this. I'm not a bully, I'll give you a honorable defeat. But you really gave a damn good fight. So keep that chin up." 

I was a guy who sparred with the world's (supposedly) greatest swordsman on the regular. It'd be really ridiculous for me to lose to some random chief with a spear long enough to question what he's compensating for.

I crunched my knuckles, warming up for the blow to come. 

"Nighty-night." And delivered a swift, powerful jab to his nose.

It was the first direct skin-to-skin contact since the start. Rather, the first skin-to-skin attack I landed on the bastard.

He was knocked onto his back. 

"Hah. Clean up on aisle three." 

I was just about to dust off my armor when I heard a deafening roar.

"ASS!!!!!!!"

He's an ass man, apparently.

"Damn, you're not done yet? Pretty beefy, ain't ya? Okay, round two then--hold up." I blinked. "What the flip...?"

I couldn't believe my eyes. There, standing not five feet away, was the chief. Bearing not a single wound on his body.

"Oh for fuck's sake, since when did you get regen? That's so totally unfair. Goddamn bullshit, man. That's it, I call hax."

I had half a mind of taking Milly and having her dice the man into bite-sized pieces. 

He didn't care about my rambles. Instead he rushed me like a mad beast, not even picking up his weapon.

A brawl it is then!

"Put 'em up, beefy. It's time to engage in fisticuffs!"

Chuck Norris? Oh, you mean my towel boy?

And just like that, our battle began anew. From the crowd I could hear Vera muttering. "This can't be good."

Weird. Were my ears always so keen? I mean the crowd had gotten really loud by then.p

I didn't have much time to think about it though because he was already on me. One thing I should probably mention: He wasn't a very great hand-to-hand fighter. 

He was slow and sloppy, I could see through all his attempts at hitting me. That was strange for an Aeil but then again they didn't need all-round expert warriors for leadership positions.

Jab! Cross! Hook! Uppercut!

That's right, I've seen enough boxing manga to deal with you! I've even seen the entire Rocky series! Ain't got nothin' on me.

Yes I know that's a double negative. Shut up, nerds.

"Jesus...the fuckin' beefy-ness of this bastard..." After a full twenty minutes I started working up a real sweat. 

Actually I was starting to feel hot too. Like, really hot. 

But at the same time something felt like it was emptying inside me. Becoming a little hollow. It was so strange. Like my energy was just being poured right out of me.

...Wait. 

Don't tell me...

I looked at the chief's who was in the midst of great, shuddering heaves.

Everyone else was looking at him oddly too. Which meant they didn't know anything about his dirty cheat. 

...Don't tell me it's MY dirty cheat?

No. No, itcan't be! That's not true! It's impossible!

Right? 

"Am I a healer bro?" I wondered. I letout a chuckle. "Only one way to find out." I thought quietly. 

I took a couple of knives--told you I always keep some around--and approached the enraged, somewhat fatigued-looking chief.

A flick of the wrist and a thrown blade darted out. It made a shallow cut along his forearm.

"Oh no!" I sighed sympathetically. "That's quite an ugly looking wound, isn't it?"

I smiled. "Let me heal you..."

54