Speaking of following and chasing someone, wouldn’t Regine know the most about such matters, being a thief and all? I immediately turned towards the blonde girl and gave her an inquiring look.
She turned towards me with a knowing look in her eyes and shook her head. However, two seconds later, she nodded instead and threw me a confused look. So are we being followed or not? Work me with here…
In the midst of my bewilderment, Ancarin stepped forward to clear up the miscommunication: “The wolves possess a keen sense of smell so they don’t need to physically follow us. Just by following our scent, they are able to track us down.”
Ah. Now that she mentioned it, that made perfect sense…damn it, does this mean we have to rush through the night? A fight was unavoidable if we waited for those bandits to arrive.
Seeing the worried looks we gave each other, the village chief immediately guessed our intention to leave and anxiously interrupted us: “If you leave now, our village will be…those bandits aren’t the sort we can reason with. You might be able to evade their pursuit if you leave now, but once they discover that you’re no longer in the village…our village will…*sob sob*…”
As the old man rambled on, his words became garbled as he began sobbing in front of us. Some of the villagers who had gotten wind of the impending danger from the village chief’s impassioned pleas, stepped forth to comfort the chief while the others pleaded with us to find another solution.
The so-called solution they wanted was probably to have us wait like sitting ducks in the village…but then, this whole mess was caused by us in the first place…expecting these innocent villagers to bear the blame for us wasn’t right.
While the chief’s wailing wasn’t particularly loud, it was the dead of night after all; even a pin dropping would sound loud let alone the chief’s grief-stricken sobbing. Soon, the villagers who had previously gone back to their homes came out once more, attracted by the chief’s wailing; which must’ve sounded terrifying the in dead of night.
As the gathered villagers whispered amongst themselves, word began to spread that our sudden arrival had brought danger along with it. The informed villagers turned to stare at us one by one with mixed emotions on their faces.
Naturally, the villagers didn’t dare to openly offend us. Thanks to our showy appearance and carriage, they had assumed that we had a powerful background. However, this didn’t stop them from worrying or throwing us a silent but pleading look. They desperately wanted to ask but kept silent out of fear of getting rejected.
“What should we do?” asked the soft-hearted Ancarin as she looked at the worried villagers. While it was technically a question, I could tell just by looking at her eyes that she wanted to help them.
I turned around to seek Regine’s opinion but was instead greeted with an expressionless silver mask that barred me from doing so.
Forget it…since this mess was created by us, we’ll be the ones who fix it..
Having made my decision, I let out a slight cough to attract their attention. As their eyes swivelled towards me simultaneously, I took a deep breath and said:
“I know that our appearance has brought trouble to this hamlet, however this wasn’t our intention. Since this matter was caused by us, we’ll be the one to end it as well, you have my solemn word on this.”
“To make up for our mistake we’ll stay here until the bandits arrive, and until this problem has been solved, we won’t leave. Please be at ease everyone, this is solely a matter between us and the bandits so we’ll be the one to end it. You won’t get dragged into this matter.”
As I said that, I tagged on another line in my head: assuming the bandits don’t blame you for this.
With my clear assurances, the villagers were visibly relieved. At the side, the village chief busied himself with persuading them as well. Despite his embarrassing display just now, this old man still had some say in the village as he was able to send the villagers off to their homes with just a few words.
As they left, I caught snippets of their conversations about how this excellency had a wonderful voice or how they wanted to see what was underneath the mask…etc. In the end, only the old village chief stayed behind.
“This old man is eternally grateful for Your Excellency’s aid.”
“It’s nothing, we caused this problem to begin with.” I replied tersely, not wanting to continue this topic. “We’ll spend the night here, if you notice the bandits, you may contact us then.”
“Understood, I’ll be sure to pass on the instructions.” He replied while bowing respectfully.
“May I know how to address Your Excellency?”
Hearing my name, he let forth a deluge of praises till his face reddened from the exertion. “ So it’s Lady Mo Ke, your voice is truly exquisite, I’m sure that underneath that silver mask is an equally exquisite face…”
Due to my mask, the chief was unable to see my darkened expression and continued on, not sensing the awkward mood. “From the moment I first saw you, I had a hunch: underneath that silvery mask must’ve been a goddess made flesh. If not, why else would your voice be so alluring…”
“I’m…” I took a deep breath and continued: “…a guy.”
Village Chief: “…”
“Hahahaha…” Ancarin burst out laughing at the spectacle but immediately cupped her mouth after a furious glare from me, her eyes averting their gaze from mine as if they were saying “it wasn’t me”.
Regine on the other hand had a more muted reaction, not that I could it see thanks to her mask…but then I doubt this stone-faced girl would’ve shown any expression even without it.
Having dug his own grave with his bootlicking, the old man awkwardly switched topics, asking if we wished to stay at his home for the night. However, we politely declined his offer after which he left with a dry laugh.
His offer was an attractive one but our carriage still had that ticking time bomb, Duran, inside it. The last thing I wanted was for his existence to be exposed while we weren’t by the carriage’s side.
As the Grimoire of the Dead didn’t require sleep or it could just be that I didn’t know when it did, night duty was usually done by it. If there was any suspicious movement, it would wake me up with a forceful love tap to the face. However, tonight was a different story, with the threat of the bandit troupe looming over the village, I decided not to take any chances and so night duty was taken over by the three of us living beings.
Watch duty rotation started with Ancarin followed by me and finally Regine. I wasn’t particularly worried that they would not show up, after all the impression that wolf pack gave me was that they had undergone strict training. Not only did they know how to dodge magical attacks, they even knew when to retreat.
Even if these wolves were merely scouts, all they had to do was report to their master about our expensive looking carriage and that would send those scoundrels scurrying to raid us. Although…how did a bunch of wolves communicate their thoughts? Don’t tell me they spoke.
At roughly six in the morning, I was awoken by a commotion at the village entrance. Just as I started putting on my robes, Regine crawled into my tent.
“Enemies. 89 people.” She reported with her usual terseness.
I stared blankly at her with a pair of eyes that were still glazed over from sleeping. A moment later, I finally remembered what our situation was and asked: “The Wolf’s Fang are here?”
I briskly threw on my robes, put on my mask, shoved the grimoire into my robe’s pocket and walked out with Shadowfang on my back and the straight blade in hand.
“Ancarin get up. The Wolf’s Fang are here.”
I reminded a groggy Ancarin who was in her tent as she peered around with glazed eyes.
While she was still slightly groggy, my reminder had mostly woken her up. She dressed with the same haste and walked up to me with her magical staff in hand. With her necklace and rings worn on her self at all times and her tools stored within her robes, her preparations were completed significantly quicker than my own, that is, if you didn’t count the time she took to put on her makeup.
By the time we reached the village entrance, it was already surrounded by people on both sides. On the side of the village was ten villagers dressed in a hunter’s garb with a simple bow and spear in hand. At their feet was a pile of dead game; boars, hares, chicken, deer etc. From the looks of it, they had just gotten back from hunting when they bumped into the bandits tracking us.
Behind them, the rest of the village hunters could be seen dashing in to reinforce them. The hunters must’ve thought that these bandits were here to raid the village.
Facing off against them were a hundred odd bandits accompanied by ten plus wolves growling menacingly at the side. The bandits stood there with their weapons brandished and ready to strike, clearly confident in their number superiority. Leading them was a 25 year old dressed in the typical small fry bandit getup as he heckled the villagers.
Judging by their actions, this wasn’t the usual display of dominance.
“Last night, we, the Wolf’s Fang Bandits, lost a pair of trained wolves. We know that the culprits are hiding within the village so if you know what’s good for you, hand over them over and fork out 500 gold coins as compensation. If you don’t, we’ll just to take it by force!”
Well…isn’t this a confident potato…but he seemed to be biting off more than he could chew. Putting aside the part about the culprits, what’s this I hear about 500 gold coins? That’s right, GOLD not silver coins! That’s the Earth equivalent of 500,000 yuan (75,000+ usd). That’s more than enough to buy a 200 meter square house in China!
All that for a pair of mangy wolves? Who do you think you’re fooling here.
“I don’t know any such culprits but this whole issue of two dead wolves…that’s just an excuse isn’t it?” said one of the hunters. The one who spoke was a burly man roughly thirty years of age and clad in a set of leather armor. He pointed his bow at the small fry and said: “Plus, even if what you said was true, there’s no way those two wolves were worth 500 gold coins.”
The smallfry stepped back in fear as he saw who it was that spoke. However, he immediately stepped forth once more having remembered who it was that was backing him and said in a tone harsher than before.
“I was wondering who this arrogant prick was, so it’s you George. How’s your bones faring after being broken by one of our heads? These wolf killers I speak of truly exist and I know they’re in your village so shove off. If you anger our chief, your beautiful wife is in for a world of pain.”