She keeps staring at me as we sit alone in the room with only her attendant nearby. Then she turns away, and to my surprise, I am still alive.
"Why did you do it?"
"He wanted to kill me."
She pauses once more and doesn't ask more about that, as if my answer explains everything.
"Do you regret it?" There is a hint of curiosity in her voice.
I open my mouth, about to lie, but then stop myself just in time, remembering her warning. I still believe that I have no other choice, so I answer honestly.
She nods, "I see."
Is she not going to ask me how I did it?
"Why didn't you run away?"
"I thought I would get caught, and staying here would be much less suspicious. I also tried to cover it as much as possible."
She leans back on the couch with one of her legs crossed over the other and still looking at me, curiously. There is some mana at the top of her hands spinning wildly, but I do not dare to try to probe it to see what she does.
"What will you do if I try to kill you?"
Try? Don't be funny. There is no way it would be trying. I will die the moment you decide to do so. Still, I answer honestly.
"I will try to kill you too."
A small laugh escapes her mouth, and her attendant, a young redhead woman, seems to be shocked.
"What do you regret more, killing Emeric or getting caught?"
"No regrets for taking his life?"
"The moment he said he would kill me, there was none."
Mana in her hand spins faster and faster, and I realize that it's something like a fidget toy for her, maybe also an exercise. The mana continues to spin, then it stops, changes density, creates shapes, and disappears only to be summoned back. All at a terrifying speed, showing her mastery over it.
"You can ask one question."
That makes me lose control of my mana for a second, but I quickly regain control and continue to move it in my body, ready to at least try to fight back. I am sure she knows about it. There is no way she doesn't.
Yet she looks totally unbothered by it. Is she finding that funny?
"What do I need to do to stay alive?"
"Good question. If you asked anything else, I would kill you." There isn't a single hesitation in her voice, and I am sure she would do just that. "I paid 100 gold for you. How can you pay me back?"
Is she messing with me? Why did you tell me to ask a question when you aren't even answering it? What can I even pay her back with? How much is it even worth? A lot? Not that much?
"I don't know what I can do for you, but I am good at fighting and have some talent with mana," I say slowly after a bit of consideration.
Her eyes are piercing me, and she finally stands up. Mana around her hand disappears.
She is slightly taller than me, looking to be 60 years old. Gray hair tied in a ponytail and neat black clothes remind me of a man's suit without a jacket. Only her shirt is gray. It makes her seem even slimmer and taller. She moves the way a trained warrior would. Every move seems sharp and dangerous, yet confident and slow. It's hard to explain.
"That's another reason why you are alive." She steps closer, and I realize that I'm immobilized, unable to move even a single finger. My eyes cease blinking. My lungs don't draw breath, my heart refuses to beat, and even the flow of my blood and mana comes to a standstill.
I can only stare as she stops in front of me and gently pokes my forehead with her finger. Her mana enters my body with the force of a tsunami and totally destroys my defenses. Then I feel it squeezing my mana heart and doing something with it.
She leans in closer, her eyes unwavering. I can see the glimmer of curiosity in them, mingling with a hint of amusement. The mana around her forms intricate patterns, almost beautiful if it weren't so terrifying. The blunt truth hits me and I realize that just like that, my life is likely reduced to a mere source of amusement for this woman. This realization is chilling, but I have to focus on survival so I swallow hard, forcing myself to maintain eye contact, showing her I'm not easily scared.
Immediately after that, it stops, and I can move again.
I drop to my knees, taking a breath in and shaking as I look at her. With great effort I control my mana and force myself into [Focus], using both parts of my mind to calm myself down.
"There is something weird about you and other drifters," she looks down at me and then turns to her attendant. "Take care of him for now." When she is about to leave the room, she turns back to me for a second. "It's an interesting thing you have on your brain. Rudimentary, but interesting."
Then she leaves and her attendee finally moves.
"Oh man, that was the first time in months I saw her laugh out loud. It really shocked me, you know," the redhead woman helps me stand up.
[Phase Warden - lvl ??]
Unlike her master, she is smiling brightly now that the monster of a human being has left.
"Listen, how did you kill Emeric? I saw your papers, and you are what? Level 24? I think Emeric was close to 100 or something like that? Did you kill him in his sleep? What did you do with his body?"
Do I have to answer that? Can I lie now?
"You know, he was a distant family member of the master." She flashes me another bright smile, not even waiting for me to answer.
Ah, I see. She's one of those types - an extrovert. The sort who relishes in the sound of her own voice.
My worst enemy.
"By the way, drifters are really expensive, right? 100 gold is a loooot of money." Her tone is weird as if she is telling some joke only she understands. Then she pulls me towards the door while chirping away.
I slowly regain my calm now that I am getting my mana back under control, and it doesn't seem that I will die right away.
"Oh, but don't worry, we didn't tell anyone that you killed him. It's not like they would believe that anyway, and it seems like you did a good job with covering it."
We pass by a pigpen, and I look towards it for a second before looking back at the terrifying woman's attendant. She still continues to talk.
Actually, isn't she more scary than the woman from before?
I slowly feel my energy drain away as I am forced to listen, in case she says something important.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Oh, finally you talk. Sure, go ahead! But I won't answer most of them anyway."
Why would you… whatever.
"Why am I still alive?"
"I will answer this one because you look so pitiful," She giggles. "It's most likely because you are interesting and the master found it amusing. She won't show it, but she is super bored all the time and rarely something catches her interest. That's why!"
Huh? Is that a good enough reason to glance over the murder of your family member?
Please, leave me alone.
"How much is 100 gold?"
"I almost forgot, you are a drifter, so obviously you won't know! A level 50 soldier makes 1 gold a year! 1 gold is 100 silver, and one silver is 100 copper. Bread costs 1-3 copper. A glass of ale costs 2 to 4 coppers. Farmers make 15 silver a year? Something like that. So yeah, it's a lot of money."
Oh dang it.
"Why would they want to throw me to the frontlines if I am worth that much?"
Her laugh is the loudest I've heard from her up until now.
"Of course, you're not! Drifters are rare but not worth that much. The master is too busy to deal with little things, so I bought you instead of her! Henry sold you for 2 gold to the frontlines, and Emeric paid him 5 gold to let him take you 'under his wing'."
Then where did the 100 gold amount come from?
A strong suspicion hits me.
It can't be, right?
"The master is super rich and bad with money."
"I told her you would cost 100 gold!"
Yup, it's just as I thought.
"I actually paid only 8 gold for you!" Her smile is victorious and proud as she looks at me. "Oh, and it's expected for you to pay double. 100 for the money she spent and 100 more for her to have a return on investment."
She is totally shameless as she says this.
For heaven's sake.
Ahhh I want the moments he killed emeric
Thank you for the chapter.