Chapter 73 – Confrontation

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The wagon continued forward for several paces while I was expecting them to stop. When I realized the driver intended to carry us all the way up to the not-so-hospitable-looking skirmish line facing us, and had possibly been instructed to do so in advance, I stood and whipped out my sword.

“Stop,” I ordered, mixing in a bit of Command for effect, as I laid the blade on his shoulder.

He immediately stiffened and pulled back on the reins.

Ryuu hopped over the side and strode forward past the horse team. I sheathed my sword and did the same on the other side.

I could feel the mana begin to flow through me as Ceria began preloading her staff with spells. She was already certain a fight would break out. Well, judging from the expressions of those looking at us, I suspected she was right.

The complexity of her spells was well above the first level magic she had been teaching me. Which made sense, I realized. It would be pointless to preload castings which required no time to cast.

The mines office employees thought a battle was about to start as well. They dove into the passenger bed for cover.

I didn’t want the unattended horses bolting, so as I passed them, I used a Command on them with as much weight as I could muster. “Stand still.”

I had no idea how well it would work on a horse, but I figured it was worth a try. Horses are pretty smart critters.

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When I joined Ryuu, he said, “I am still the leader, Tiana.”

I answered, “You are the leader of your team, Mr. Kowa. I am the leader of mine.”

He came to a stop facing the line, putting his hands on his hips, and demanded, “Well? What is this about?”

The line consisted mostly of footsoldiers dressed in leather armor similar to the ones who had admitted me to the town, but a handful of horsemen sat on their mounts at the center. One of these, a slightly gaunt, hook-nosed man wearing a cloak and much nicer armor than the footsoldiers, snapped his reins lightly to advance his horse at a walk toward us. He came to a stop, giving me a sneering stare.

But, in the background, behind the soldiers and almost directly behind the horse, I saw a strange sight. A trio of familiar people had appeared in the open gate. Nobody else was looking their way, and I realized it was because only someone with fairy sight like myself could see them without a spell. They were using low-level stealth magic.

It was a favorite trick of Arken’s. He uses low level stealth, that doesn’t really make one invisible, in cases where others are not really aware that you are there. The magic will just keep them from noticing you, as long as you avoid drawing attention in some way. And the magic is light enough that strong magic users will probably not notice it. Of course it was Arken’s trick, because Arken was one of the three who were slipping out of the gate and moving between the wall and the backs of the soldiers.

I decided to avoid looking at them and returned my eyes to the unfriendly man staring down at me.

“Baron Ricard,” Ryuu stated in a very unfriendly tone. “This is a strange way to greet a wagonload of tired adventurers.”

“When the perpetrators are armed, it’s normal to meet criminals with soldiers,” the baron replied, still staring straight at me.

A chill ran down my spine, because the first thought I had was about what I had done to Melione, and there she was, sneaking along the wall with Arken and Lute. But, they were sneaking, not standing there as accusers.

I recalled the persona I had worn while in public in town, and put it back on. I had used it occasionally while journeying with the Hero’s Party too, and it had become easy to slip into that character.

But Ryuu, darn his foolish self, shot me a look of distrust. “Criminals?”

I rested my hand on my sword. “My Lord, reckless accusations can result in unnecessary death.”

His eyes narrowed, “I can take that as a threat and have you arrested immediately.”

I gave him a tight-lipped smile and answered, “It’s a bad habit of my kind to point out facts to those who do not understand them. Your eyes say I am the criminal you seek. Make yourself clear if this isn’t the case, My Lord.”

He waved his hand, and a trio of adventurers appeared from behind the soldiers, walking forward.

I heard a sharp intake of breath from Ryuu. He growled at the baron, “Those bastards were working with the demon.”

The baron laughed. “What demon? We’ve long since determined it’s just a nonsense story being repeated by low-level adventurers.”

“That’s not what you told us the last time we met,” Ryuu answered, his hand going to the grip of the sword hanging on his back.

“Draw that sword, adventurer, and the archers aiming at you will loose their arrows,” Ricard noted.

He seemed incredibly calm to me. But, my fairy sight was telling me something very important. This man was not a man. We were looking at an illusion.

“That’s the bitch who attacked us and stole our stuff!” one of the adventures yelled, pointing at me. “That’s my spear on her back!”

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That one wasn’t any kind of mortal, either.

“She took our swords too! My elven steel blade and his nightsteel blade.”

None of the three were mortals. They were all wearing high-powered illusions. Probably strong enough to even fool Arken.

I laughed and told the baron, “I’ve never seen these men before. And the weapons they just described are ones we took from a couple monsters and a demon. The demon you claim doesn’t exist, incidentally.”

“She’s a vampire too! She was sucking some beast girl’s neck!”

I sighed as I felt Ryuu’s eyes glaring at me.

“She volunteered, Ryuu,” I stated, shooting him an irritated glance before turning back to the baron. “My Lord, I’m now very intrigued. We killed a spy-eye demon right after I fed, and that’s the only possible witness. Are your friends here dealing with demons?”

“So you admit you’re no fairy knight,” the baron answered, with a grin. “You’re just a half-vampire masquerading as one.”

I raised my eyebrow and gave him a dark smile. “I admit nothing of the sort, My Lord. I am a legitimate fairy knight.”

He laughed and raised his hand again. “We will see.”

My fairy sense brought my attention upward, where my physical eyes saw nothing, but my fairy sight saw…

I sprang into the air, my wings nearly striking Ryuu with the downstroke as I drew my sword, my eyes locked on the hidden entity hovering in the air before me.

I stayed with a one-handed grip and raised my free hand. “[Fireball.]”

Becoming visible with a bright laugh, the figure blew away my oncoming attack with a wave of her hand. It had been a very light attack, so it wasn’t a surprise she could brush it off. She was, after all, able to stealth herself, however poorly. That was a far harder magic than dispelling a weak fireball.

I was facing a purple-haired, crystal-eyed fairy with gorgeous, clear wasp wings that had at least a two pace span. She wore armor much more revealing than mine. She did wear greaves and sabatons like my own, and gauntlets and vambraces. But the rest? Honest-to-goodness bikini armor. Actually, I’m not sure if it even qualified as ‘bikini’.

The top was nothing but a short bib of very thin mail– low-cut on top and short enough to show underboob– hold on with nothing but single strands of thin silver chain across the back and behind the neck. The bottom was a bit more substantial, but it was still simple flaps of mail front and back connected with triple strands of silver chain across otherwise exposed hips. I wondered if the pieces were designed to be ‘accidentally’ lost during battle.

Mother would approve, I guess. But seriously, how do you show yourself in public in something like that?

“Ëi onar lâ,” she greeted me. “Ardana lagili danmema?”

So she wanted to talk. I continued circulating fire mana, letting it slowly build.

Tiana had been learning the Fairy tongue since birth, and both Mother and Benedetta regularly spoke to me in it. The young fairy knight facing me– really young, possibly younger than Tiana– had effectively said, ‘Greetings. What are you called?’

Mother had also pounded Fairy etiquette into me, also with Benedetta’s help. I scowled at the girl and answered.

“Oëe, mianpave alindoen anneëoddavo ma? (You, shouldn’t you give your name first?)”

Her eyes grew wide, then she muttered in Dorian, the language that was more probable as her everyday language, “She actually speaks Fairy?”

I grew a dark smile again. The girl had thought she would ‘prove’ I was fake by not knowing the language. I answered in Dorian, “I speak Dorian too.”

She frowned, then stated, “Hide Ëononle Aenëe (Aenëe of the Old Grove.)”

With a small bow of the head, I answered, “Semöan Cenole Tianà ci cyralinëo (I am named Tiana of the High Forest.)”

Again, her eyes grew, then narrowed. “Hefe cirnëa… Ar cidarvo mo? (Making such a claim… by what ancestor?)”

I didn’t know what was bothering her about it, but I answered, “Didinnedoá Semöan Cenole Deharè ro (My mother is Deharè of the High Forest.)”

She broke into another merry laugh, then switched to Ostish and called out. “My lord, she knows the fairy language, but the birthright she claims is a ridiculous lie. She’s a half-vampire fake, just as you predicted.”

By the way, I didn’t lie when I gave Mother’s name. Her real name is Deharè. ‘Sasara’ is the alias she uses in Orestania, as that supposed ‘powerful human mage’. In Fairy, it means something like ‘Super beautiful’.

I had no idea why it would be ridiculous for my mother to be who she is, though. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Mother was famous amongst fairies. She’s quite strong, after all. Maybe she thought it was ridiculous to claim to be a famous person’s daughter?

I tipped my head and smiled. “I never said I wasn’t half vampire, though? And I’m curious why you are saying ‘half-vampire’ instead of ‘vampire’.”

“My Lord has that knowledge from an excellent source,” she declared. “My Lord is wonderfully well-informed!”

I humphed, my smile curling into a smirk. The ‘excellent source’ was almost certainly Trisiagga.

“I’m curious about one other thing,” I answered.

She responded by just raising her eyebrows.

I asked, “Those eyes, exactly how weak are they? Do they not see through your ‘lord’s’ disguise?”

“What disguise?” she demanded.

Is her fairy sight that weak? Incredulous, I retorted, “You seriously can’t see he’s a demon?”

- my thoughts:

Tiana meets her first fellow fairy knight.

By the way, I really am enough of a language nerd to sit around concocting my own languages. Most of the time I don't inflict them on my readers. If you'll indulge me showing one off just once in a while, I promise not to do it too often.

Edit: I went in and fixed a lot of the Fairy language. I discovered later that I had pulled out an older version of the language with a lot of problems that I had since fixed. Didn't discover what I had done until I was in the middle of editing volume 3

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