Having taken care of the most troublesome fellow, we stayed the night in his home. The next morning, Eddison kept to his word and began rallying the men of his village. All in all, he swiftly recruited 120 hunters of which 17 were two-stars while the others were one-star.
The same situation repeated itself for the other two villages bringing our total hunter count to 516 two-star and one-star hunters.
According to George, Dawson should arrive in Plateau Village within a day, so we gathered there and prepared for the final showdown.
Everyone gathered here was a hunter and thus had a lot of experience with archery and trap laying. With that in mind, Io volunteered to bring the hunters to prepare the battlefield. While the bandits were proficient in trap laying as well, these traps should still be able to cause some casualties and dampen their morale.
George’s plan was to settle this battle outside of the village. Therefore, he chose a nearby forest with a clearing within it as the battlefield. The hunters would place traps in the bandit’s path and lay in wait for them at the opposite side. In order to leave the trap field, the bandits would have to step into the open clearing where they would be vulnerable to a volley of arrows from the hunters.
All the while the trees would provide us with a natural cover and defense against their long-range attacks and charges. Of course, the bandits might just decide to retreat back into their side of the forest.
As for the trained wolves, while these mutts were pretty smart, their intelligence couldn’t be compared to a human in the end. They might be smart enough to avoid some basic traps, but the traps the hunters had set were anything but basic. All that awaited them was certain death.
The first thing we did once we returned to the village was visit Regine. As she refused to eat without me feeding her, she ended up spending all this time locked up in the carriage without touching the food the villagers had sent her. By the time we returned, her stomach was already rumbling in protest…thank god she knew how to go to the toilet herself.
Thus feeding her was the first thing I did upon returning. The last thing we needed now was a starving Regine. Because of this, we ended up wasting some time in the village, during which George led the hunters away to prepare the battlefield.
Probably out of consideration of all the gear and tools I gave to them, George seemed to trust me a lot more than before. He no longer watched me as closely, leaving only his brave potato of a brother, Dioh, behind to follow us. For some strange reason though, this kid kept giving me a strange look throughout this journey, and it severely creeped me out.
Having finished feeding Regine, we hopped onto the carriage and left. For this journey, Dioh was our driver and tracker. Without much difficulty, he drove the carriage along the tracks left behind by the hunters, and soon we came upon the temporary base set up by George.
As they weren’t an actual army, the base had a haphazardness to it; all they did was find a spot with water and cover. Thankfully, the hunters all had a wealth of experience living off the land, so they knew which areas to avoid while pitching their tents. The hunters pitched their tents as close to each other as possible, then scattered an insect and snake repellent powder around the base.
Being so close to the forest, this camp was particularly vulnerable to a fire attack. But…considering that the bandit’s had no mages and that battles in the Western Human Realms basically revolved around sword and spears, I guess it was understandable that George forgot about this matter.
Sigh, there goes that dream of being called a military strategist in my first large battle while waving a feather fan…
According to George, Dawson wasn’t one to rely on dirty tricks, sneak attacks and the like. If he decided to attack you, he would give you sufficient time to prepare. So this was where he got the idea of two to three days…he based it on an estimate of his understanding of Dawson’s personality. But weren’t we fighting a war now? Was it really alright to leave your own safety in the hands of your enemies’ morality…weren’t they bandits?!
Throughout this preparation period, I had this nagging concern that the bandits would suddenly launch a sneak attack on us seeing as, at the end of the day, they were just a bunch of despicable cutthroats. Not doing so would be the biggest surprise instead.
On the day we killed those trained wolves, the Third Chief came looking for us at Plateau Village the very next morning. This meant that their mountain hideout must’ve been extremely close to the village; probably several hours away.
Seeing as we were the underdogs here in terms of quantity, George’s tactics of using traps sat well with me. But…exactly what were these two potatoes doing!?
Ever since we left the command tent, Dioh and Moranthal, these loafers, would stick to me wherever I went. At the start I thought that they were merely interested in Ancarin, seeing as she was pretty and thus naturally attracted men; anyone who didn’t fantasize about her was either impotent or gay…I guess they could just be a gentleman as well.
Who would’ve thought that their target wasn’t Ancarin but me instead!
It was then that I was hit with the fury of a thousand f*ck yous.
It might’ve been that “cuckold” remark at work here, but ever since that day, these two potatoes hadn’t seen eye to eye with each other. Flanking me on both sides, they would follow me wherever I went. In the off chance that their eyes met by accident, one could see the daggers flying between their gazes.
Originally, I merely wanted to take Ancarin out for a stroll to calm my nerves, but then these two potatoes came along with their potato antics. While we walked, one of them plucked a flower for me and the other grabbed a couple of fruits for me to eat…Naturally, I rejected these offerings. Yet whenever I did so, the other person would throw a mocking grin at their counterpart along with a few choice words.
Didn’t I tell you that I’m a guy already? Can’t you guys even get my gender right? And what’s with that flower and fruit!
Feeling my obvious displeasure, the pair immediately blamed the other for angering me and began arguing. They almost ended up coming to blows. That’s right, almost…because Dioh was defeated within the first two moves.
The two had an entire grade separating them after all; how could the two-star Dioh even stand up to the three-star Moranthal. Being the hot blooded kid he was, Dioh was naturally the first one to attack, yet Moranthal’s retaliation ended up hitting him first. With a swift grab of the boy’s hand, Moranthal immediately blocked his attack and twisted it behind his back.
Subdued in a move.
Dioh immediately tried to fire off the mouth cannon, but he was promptly interrupted by a kick to his butt…
You guys have fun with yourselves, I’m leaving…
With Ancarin in tow, I returned back to the carriage where our resident thief girl stood guard. As we still had the slumbering Duran to worry about, she remained behind to guard the carriage while we went for a stroll. She must’ve been bored to death by now.
As night fell, the hunters stopped their trap laying and returned to camp where a piping hot meal was ready and waiting for them. Tomorrow was the day of the battle, it could be at dawn or even in the afternoon, but either way, Dawson would definitely attack us tomorrow.
At night, Ancarin came to my tent unannounced and sat down uneasily beside me. She seemed slightly shaken up, her body and lips quivering silently for a while before finally managing to force out a question.
“Master, are we really staying behind?”
“Mhm.” I nodded at the quivering girl.
By now, all the low-grade enchanted gear that we didn’t use were all given out to the hunters for them to distribute amongst themselves. The four three-star warriors naturally had first pick after which the remainder was given to the strongest two-stars amongst them. George and the other three warriors all received an additional tool in the form of recovery potions and aura recovery potions.
It’s said that potions had a number of wondrous effects as well. There were potions that could strengthen one’s body temporarily, for example, your speed, endurance and power. Not only that, there was even a potion that boosted your defense by creating a layer of stone on your skin…etc etc. In short, there were a ton of potions with an equally large price range starting from ten gold coins to over thousands.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have such potions on hand otherwise our victory would’ve been even more assured.
The frightened girl leaned in hoping that would alleviate her worry. “But the enemy is so strong and…this matter doesn’t have any relation to us anymore…we’ve already given them our precious magical tools and potions, that’s more than enough.”
“But this matter started because of us so we mustn’t be too selfish, that’s wrong of us.” I smiled gently and softly ran my fingers through her hair. As she had just showered, her body still gave off a faint fragrance. Even though she was pregnant, it had only been one month since, so there was still no visible change to her stomach. Based on appearances alone, she was nothing but an adorable little lady.
Her mouth fell open at my unexpected reply. A second later, her surprised look changed to a slightly touched one: “Master doesn’t seem like a devil at all, you’re the kindest person I’ve ever known!”
“Devil…that’s right, I’m a devil.”
Speaking of that, it seems like I still thought of myself as a human. Facing off against devils, I barely batted an eye even after killing so many of them…yet when it came to humans…I tried my best to save those in need. Whether or not I was able to do so, I didn’t wish for anyone to die as a result of my actions. That was why I decided to stay behind; not just because of some sense of responsibility but also because of this bit of compassion.
Compassion…a friend from China once told me: What makes a human a human is not his appearance but rather his compassionate heart. Without such a thing, what makes us any different from a bunch of beasts?
Back then, I didn’t understand what he said…but now…I think I do.
Just think of how we categorize benevolent people as “good people” and psychopaths as “beasts” or “monsters”. That’s roughly what that phrase means, at least in my humble opinion.
“Can I have a look at your face?”
I paused for a moment, pondering her request. In the midst of that, she reached forth and took off my mask. Staring at my crimson red skin, she sat there in silence for a long while before gently caressing my face, the tenderness in her actions showed just how much she cherished me.
“You’re always that beautiful…whether it’s your appearance or your soul…”
Before I could reply, she closed her eyes and leaned in with her face slightly raised and her back straight. As her lips got ever closer, I could distinctly feel her warm breath washing over me. She had the distinctive scent of a woman on her. Perhaps it’s because she was no longer a virgin or perhaps it could just be my mind at work, but either way that scent didn’t seem as pleasant as Nicole’s, not that I hated it.
Was she trying to kiss me? What should I do…should I reject it or accept it?
Feeling her lips close in, I anxiously tried to come a decision. Whether I was going to avoid it or accept it, I should take a stance either way. Yet all I felt for her was compassion and not love. Even if I really wanted to experience the embrace of a female, I just can’t bring myself to take advantage of her…plus….my pee pee is still…should I reject her?
Just as I was about to make my choice, she didn’t pulled away from me, her eyes opened and glistened in the dark as drop after drop of what looked like pearls fell from her eyes…she’s….crying…?