Did someone discover that I killed Bryant? That shouldn’t be the case, right? If they’re able to track me down, then either a miracle or a shitty plot must be guiding them because even I have no clue where I am right now. Mm. It must be a few random strangers passing by: some young village children or a company of merchants. We haven’t seen any wild beasts, so this forest shouldn’t be a hunting ground for mercenaries. This will be a totally peaceful encounter, right?
I turned to look at Durandal. Why was he staring at me? Shouldn’t he focus on the approaching people?
Durandal pointed straight ahead. “Shouldn’t you focus on the approaching danger?”
You stole my line! You get to stare at me, but I don’t get to stare at you? I see how it is. Hmph. Wait. He said approaching danger? Did he know something that I didn’t? My hand tightened around the hilt of Durandal’s weapon body. Ah, it’s so inconvenient referring to my weapon as Durandal’s weapon body. “Hey, Durandal?”
“Lucia…. Did you lose focus already?”
“Erm. No? I just wanted to know, can I call your weapon body mini-DuDu?”
Durandal’s expression stiffened. A vein bulged on his forehead. “What am I, a piece of shit!?” The world froze over. Even the approaching people stopped.
Eep! I wasn’t expecting that! It sounded a lot better in my head, I swear! “S-sorry! Sorry! I mean, uh, mini-DalDal?” Why does DuDu sound so much like doo-doo? “I-it’s just awkward when you say things like grab my hilt firmly, or hold me gently, or thrust me harder, or hide me underneath your clothes…, you know?”
“Is this really the time to be discussing this?”
Ah, I really pissed him off. He looks super angry. I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s alright mini-DalDal. We’re in this together. You won’t yell at me, right? Maybe if I get on my knees and beg for forgiveness he’ll be in a bett—!? Mini-DalDal! Why have you done this!? You can’t turn into a four-hundred-pound slag of metal right now!
“Didn’t I say training resumes when you wake up?” Durandal asked and smiled. A shiver ran down my spine. “Oh. I think it’s also a good time to increase the weight to five hundred pounds.”
“But there’s people coming!” Mini-DalDal turned seriously heavy. I can barely prop myself up with my elbows and knees.
“Didn’t you learn to circulate your qi yesterday?”
Oh, right. I did. That’s much better, but I feel weird. Like mentally exhausted. Maybe I should take a nap?
Ah, I almost forgot. This feeling will take a while to get used to. Well, at least this time I don’t have to worry about a spike flying up my ass if I lose concentration. That horse stance training was really cruel. I think I’ll sit next to Durandal for now until the danger arrives. It’s safest here.
“Is that a fighting stance?” Durandal asked, narrowing his eyes at me.
“N-no, but, uh, I’m lowering their guard! Yeah, lowering their guard.” Please believe me. I’m not trying to use you as a shield or anything. Not to mention it’s a lot easier to sit than to stand with a five-hundred-pound sword hanging off your waist. This kind of weight training won’t give me back problems in the future, will it?
Durandal’s expression softened. “Acceptable.”
Is he evaluating me? I guess he always is, isn’t he? The sound of footsteps became clearer. How many people are there? Ten? Twenty? Please be friendly, please be friendly, please be friendly.
“Hello, is there someone here?” A human man appeared from between the trees. He wore a cuirass with a chainmail jacket underneath and plated leggings. There wasn’t any visible crest on his armor. A sword hung from his waist. A group of similarly dressed people appeared behind him. “Would it be possible to share your fire?”
They’re friendly? What. I usually never get what I ask for. Something’s off.
“Of course,” Durandal said. Why was he smiling like that? “Have a seat.”
The group of armored men walked into the clearing. There were seven of them. The person in the back was holding onto a rope that was attached to a pair of furry hands. Furry hands? That’s a beastkin! They’re slave traders!
Just like I thought, there was a scrawny, long-haired, beautiful, rabbit-eared beastkin being dragged along by the rope. Pure-white ears pointed directly towards the sky even though the beastkin’s gaze was glued to the ground. A white pompom-like tail stuck out of the dirty rags that was a dress. He … He!? That’s a terrible candidate for a slave! What the hell!? Rabbits are usually prized for their looks: The males are super handsome and the females are extremely beautiful, but he’s clearly a male dressed as a female…. Unless there are some nobles who are into that…? A shiver ran down my spine. I looked at Durandal to gauge his reaction. Why was he staring at me with those judgmental eyes? I feel like I should be offended. Don’t categorize me with cross-dressers please.
“Many thanks,” the leader of the group said as he took a seat on the ground across from us. “We’ve been traveling through these woods for many days now, but … I’m ashamed to admit we ran into trouble and our fire array was lost. Do you mind if we cook using your fire?”
“Oh,” Durandal said. His smile creeped me out. Was he mad? That’s his I’m-going-to-kill-someone-while-smiling smile. “That’s fine. Do you know the general area of where we are?”
The leader raised an eyebrow. “This is the border separating the fae from the humans.”
Holy crap. That’s way off to the east. But I don’t recall following the sun? How did we end up here?
“I see,” Durandal said and nodded. “Which way is south?”
The leader pointed in the direction opposite of the way we’ve been going the whole time. “That way,” he said. “I assume you’re a mercenary? The only thing to the south is the southern pass. It’s quite dangerous to travel there by yourself.”
Hey. Don’t talk as if I don’t exist, you filthy slave trader. Ugh. They make me so mad.
“Mm.” Durandal nodded. “How far away is the southern pass?”
The leader furrowed his brow but shook his head. “Forget it. I won’t try to stop you since you’re so determined to go,” he said as his subordinates took out their rations. “The southern pass is about twenty days away at a relaxed pace. You know there’ll be beasts as you get closer, right?”
“Of course,” Durandal said and fell silent. The leader didn’t pay him any mind and began cooking alongside his companions. I glanced at the perverted rabbit. Did the slavers dress him up like that? He’s even cuter than I am! What the f***!? How is this even fair? Don’t smile at me!
I snorted and turned my head away. What’s Durandal planning? Didn’t he say there was approaching danger? They don’t seem dangerous at all.
“You aren’t going to ask who we are?” one of the armored men asked.
“Not interested,” Durandal said. Don’t cut me off! I’m the owner here! Jeez. Durandal ignored my glare. “We didn’t know you before. You didn’t know us. There’s no reason to change that. Let’s go, Lucia.”
“Huh? We’re leaving just like that?” Don’t ignore me and walk away! “Hey, Durandal, why—”
Durandal whirled around and glared at me. My body stiffened. A sigh escaped from Durandal’s mouth as he faced the armored men. “I’m sorry, folks,” Durandal said and folded his arms over his chest. “Lucia, kill them.”
“You just said my name out loud. Do you not know what that means?”
Shit. I forgot. This is why I should’ve called you DuDu! “I don’t want to kill them.” I’m not a murderer, at least, not in my heart. Bryant didn’t count, okay?
“You’re too soft,” Durandal said as the armored men rose to their feet. He took the spear off of his back and stepped forward.
“What are you doing!?” the leader asked as he drew his sword.
Durandal answered by planting his spear into the man’s face. I didn’t even see him move. The rest of the men charged at Durandal, rushing him with their swords. He didn’t take a single step. He deflected the swords with no wasted movements and thrust at their vitals. In an instant, the only one left alive was the captured beastkin.
“S-stop!” I couldn’t react before, but I’m not going to let him kill a defenseless beastkin!
Durandal’s spear halted in front of the beastkin’s face, dripping blood onto the rabbitkin’s cheek. “You want to spare him?” Durandal asked. “And what are you going to do if he starts a rumor about us?”
“I, I won’t.”
Durandal laughed. “I don’t believe you.”
I screamed and ran towards them, but the spear advanced faster than I could and stabbed into the poor … ground? How did he dodge that?
“Not bad,” Durandal said and raised an eyebrow at the pale beastkin. The ropes around the rabbitkin’s arms and legs fell to the ground. “I knew you were dangerous.”
Dangerous? He was talking about the slave? I grabbed mini-DalDal and readied myself for a fight. Ugh. It’s really heavy. Oh, right. Qi.
“You’re really Durandal? The Godking’s legacy has been found?” the beastkin asked and tilted his head to the side. His bunny ears twitched. “You chose someone like her?”
Hey! What’s wrong with someone like me!? I’ll teach you! Mini-DalDal swung through the air and crashed against the beastkin’s head. Crashed? Wasn’t he supposed to be sliced? Wait, before that, how did I even hit him? He dodged Durandal’s attack.
“Lucia…, you’re supposed to use the edge of the blade, not the flat part….”
I knew that. Totally. “But it worked?”
We both turned to stare at the whimpering beastkin. “It hurts!” he shouted as he rolled back and forth on his sides, clutching his head. Wow. His head must be pretty solid. Mini-DalDal weighed five hundred pounds, and the only wound he suffered was a large bump. “What the hell!? How heavy is that sword!?”
Durandal and I stared at each other as the beastkin continued to mutter ‘it hurts’ over and over again.
“Don’t you think you should put him out of his misery?” Durandal asked.
Yes. It wouldn’t be right to leave someone suffering like this.
“W-wait! Don’t kill me! I can be useful.”
“How?” Durandal asked.
The beastkin gritted his teeth and sat up before sticking his flat chest out. “I can seduce nobles!”
Oops. Mini-DalDal slipped. How careless of me. “Accident.” How dare you look prettier than me and say those words with a straight face? Are you saying I wouldn’t be able to seduce nobles!? Hmph.
“You used the wrong part of the sword again.”
“I said it was an accident!”
The poor rabbitkin looked like he was in a lot of pain. Was that my fault? He gritted his teeth and said, “I’m willing to follow you, so please don’t kill me! I swear on my ancestor’s grave—I will never do anything to harm you two!”
Follow us? Don’t you have a home to go back to? Don’t tell me someone as beautiful as you is homeless. I’m totally not bitter. Why would I care if a male was prettier than me?
“Why?” Durandal asked.
“My great-grandfather was the Godking’s second-in-command! His name was Cottontail Flopsy. It’s been my dream to follow in his footsteps, which is why I adopted the path of the bandit.”
“Eh? You’re not a slave?” What? Did we just kill a group of righteous people escorting a criminal?
“That’s right. My name is Snow Flopsy,” the rabbitkin said. “Have you heard of me?”
Hah!? “You’re the leader of the Flopsy Gang!” I knew people from different regiments in the army who were assigned to apprehend the Flopsy Gang, but there were never any results.
“Was the leader. The gang no longer exists,” Snow said and stared at the ground. “Everyone’s dead except for me.”
Wow. We really did save a criminal. Maybe I’m not destined to be a good person. I should’ve figured that out when I killed Bryant.
“I have one question,” Durandal said and narrowed his eyes. An invisible pressure pressed down on everything. Even the trees began to bend.
“Y-yes?” Snow asked and gulped.
Durandal rubbed his chin. Snow and I waited with bated breaths. “Which way is south?”
Snow blinked three times as his mouth dropped open. “Uh. That way?” He pointed somewhere. I say somewhere because I don’t know which direction is south.
“Very good,” Durandal said and nodded. Wait. How did he know Snow was pointing the right way? “Welcome aboard, Cottontail Jr.”