Two hundred qi blades in a day…, all before dinner. I think I may have underestimated Lucia. …Or she cheated and reduced the weight of my weapon body. “Lucia.”
Lucia stopped staring at the simmering pot and turned to face me. “Hmm?” Drool leaked from the corner of her mouth.
“How heavy was my weapon body?”
Lucia puffed her nonexistent chest out. “Three tons.”
Okay. Maybe she didn’t cheat.
Snow tilted his head. “Is it always at three tons?”
Lucia nodded. “Usually. Sometimes I bring it to four, but I get tired really fast. Three is a good balance.”
“…Even when you eat?”
“Especially when I eat! It helps me digest faster so I can eat more.”
Your priorities are a bit skewed, Lucia. Use my weapon body for training, please, not for a digestive aid. Disregarding the incorrect usage of my weapon body, it’s impressive how much Lucia can carry despite her thin frame. Even Roland didn’t have as much raw strength as her and he was at the peak of high-ranked spirit warrior. He could lift a ton at most. I wanted Lucia to get close to a ton, but I never thought she’d reach it or surpass it. It’s amazing how head pats and ear rubs can cause her to reach past her limits. I really chose a good master—it’s a shame about the lack of mana though.
“Don’t you ever want to relax? Cool down and enjoy your meal? You already finished your daily quota of qi blades, right?” Snow’s voice was doing something funny. Slowing down and slurring. Was he trying to hypnotize Lucia? “How long has it been since you last relaxed? Carrying around a three-ton sword all the time must take a toll on your back.”
“Shut up! Why are you talking so weirdly?” Lucia threatened to smack Snow with my weapon body. “I’ll hit you if you don’t focus on cooking. I promised Durandal I wouldn’t slack off. So I can’t relax. Ever!”
Snow clicked his tongue as he added some spices to the pot of stew. “I was just trying to be helpful. I was afraid you were going to burn out.” He shook his head. “Aren’t you bored after staying here for half a year? We’ve collected so many materials but had to throw so many away because we lack space! And there’s no alcohol, no dice, no women—”
Snow snorted. “You don’t count, you barbarian. Gah! Don’t swing a three-ton sword at me! You’ll never get married the way you are!”
…It’s great that Snow and Lucia get along well. It’s almost like seeing Roland and Cottontail again. But maybe Snow is right. Lucia does need to relax a bit, and we have been a bit wasteful with our spoils. I should teach Lucia how to inscribe enchantments on the bones of ferocious beasts. I could also teach her alchemy with some of the herbs and animal parts. Though I’m terrible at it, I don’t believe my teaching will also fail. Yes. Since Lucia has a lot of free time tonight, I’ll teach her after dinner.
“The meal’s ready! Stop chasing me!” Snow was still terrible at avoiding Lucia. I don’t understand why.
“Oh, food.” Lucia stopped swinging my weapon body and sat down by the fire. She stared at Snow.
Snow sighed and shook his head. He ladled her a bowl, which vanished in a flash. Before he had even put the ladle back into the pot, an empty bowl was resting in his hand. It seemed like Lucia, once again, used haste to consume her food. At least she was getting practice with it, no matter how mundane the task. Once she finished drinking the pot, she lay on her back and exhaled while closing her eyes, her limbs spreading out like a starfish.
Snow proceeded to create another bowl of stew while I walked over to Lucia.
“Lucia. Get up.”
“I’ll teach you alchemy and engraving.”
“Tired…. Stomach … cramp….”
…Squirrels and their food comas. Well, I did think to let her relax earlier. Why not now?
“Hey, Durandal.” Snow had a blank expression on his face.
“If Lucia died, what would you do?”
“She won’t die.” Why? Did Snow sense approaching danger? It was about time for someone to discover Prince Bryant’s death, but I don’t believe anyone could kill Lucia with me around.
“Hypothetically. Would you search for a new owner?” Snow continued to add ingredients to the stew. He didn’t add the spices this time.
“No. I wouldn’t.” I really won’t. “I made a promise to myself. To live and die with Lucia. Don’t tell her that though. She won’t work as hard if she knows.” I stroked Lucia’s hair and played with her ears. She squeaked and rolled her head a bit to the side. How cute.
“Why? What’s so special about Lucia?” Snow’s jealousy was showing again. His tail was puffed up. “Why not me? I can use magic. I’m more capable than her. I have more common sense. I have ambitions, goals. Why did you choose someone as useless as her?”
“You’re saying dangerous things about my master, Snow.”
“Your master’s dying. I poisoned her.”
“What the hell are you saying, Snow?” Bouncykins appeared from Snow’s socks and looked around. “Haven’t you learned your lesson about making jokes to Durandal?”
“It’s not a joke, Lucifer. This is an order: attack Durandal.”
“Eh?” Bouncykins’ eyes turned red. “Snow. Don’t do this.”
“I’m your master. You’re not allowed to disobey!”
Snow’s body disappeared when I stabbed him in the head with my spear. A clone or an illusion technique. Was Lucia really poisoned? Before I could check, thousands of wind blades formed in the sky and flew towards me. It looks like Bouncykins really did get a lot stronger in those 80 years.
“S-sorry, Durandal.” Blood leaked from Bouncykins’ mouth, eyes, and ears. “I don’t want to do this. I knew Snow’s personality, told you about it too, but I thought he changed. I really did.”
I barely heard Bouncykins’ words as I countered his wind blades. I got cut. A lot. I held back on using techniques involving qi, using my spear and body to withstand the onslaught instead. If Lucia really was poisoned, I couldn’t afford to use her energy now.
“My, my weakness…. Left hind leg….” Bouncykins’ fur stood on end as mana surged from his small body. Before he could cast another spell, I flipped him over onto his back and impaled his left hind leg. He twitched twice and disappeared, presumably reentering Snow’s socks. He hadn’t lied to me about his weakness.
“Lucia!” Her pulse was weak. There were a few cuts on her body where some stray wind blades had struck. Black-colored blood leaked from the wounds. Her body was turning green, and the tips of her brown hair were turning white. It was my fault. It was all my fault. Snow wasn’t Cottontail, yet I treated him like her. I should’ve killed him when we first saw him like I intended. “Lucia, try to hang on.”
What could I do? I’ve never succeeded in brewing a medicinal pill or elixir in my life. I didn’t even know what kind of poison Lucia was inflicted with. Snow had already disappeared long ago while I was distracted by Bouncykins. He wouldn’t let me catch him. I’m terrible at tracking people. I can’t even read a f***ing map. “Lucia…”
But there was one thing I could do. I quickly recorded a message in my weapon body with some qi. There was a lot more I wanted to add, but I was running out of time and there was a limit to the qi I could use. I scrawled out a few arrows in the dirt, pointing at a picture of the hilt of my weapon body. Hopefully, Lucia would understand. I knelt by Lucia’s side and stared at her face. It was darkening, with black tendrils crawling up her neck and cheeks. I placed my finger on her chin, knelt forward, and kissed her on the lips.
You have to live, Lucia.
And then the poison surged inside me. It burned my lips, my face, my neck, everything down to my toes. My veins were on fire. At least Lucia wouldn’t suffer through this pain. It seems like it’ll be a long while before I wake up again, if I ever do. I wonder, how much will you grow by then, Lucia…?