~ Chapter 5: Teyun Village ~
Sheathing his sword, Anwen glanced back at Lira. She was holding the weakened Knox in her arms and staring with big, opened eyes at the young elf who until earlier that day had never heard of the word Pendrax. Even if him using his ability was nothing more than a fluke, the fact that it was so powerful took Lira by surprise. Unfortunately, it was too late to save Luca, the lieutenant who was supposed to judge their abilities as new recruits. This also meant that their test was left inconclusive.
The bloody remains of the slaughtered Dayuk and the unlucky elf who fell as his prey marked this area with the scent of death. Turning a blind eye to the gore and hoping his stomach wouldn't start to act up, Anwen walked over to where the cut horn of the beast fell and picked it up.
Hm? Is that... he thought when the hilt of Luca's broken sword came into view.
The other half of the blade was still stuck in the Dayuk's flesh. It was the proof of how the brave elf fought until the end, trying to protect his recruit, Lira. If he had ran away and left her there to fall prey to his jaws, maybe he could have survived, but he didn't.
They say a man's true nature is revealed through their actions. That's why I wonder if in the end, maybe you were hero, Luca? he thought as he picked up the broken sword and looked at its damaged blade.
Letting out a sigh, he tied its hilt to his belt and then turned to check on the other two.
“How's Knox doing?” he asked Lira.
Looking down at the unconscious boy, she combed her fingers through his hair, and a small smile appeared on her lips.
“Good...” Anwen nodded.
“We shouldn't wait here for too long. There could be other Dayuks waiting to jump at us.” she told him as she raised her head and looked up at him.
Anwen nodded and helped her carry Knox. At a slow pace and without turning to look back, they left the scene of the tragedy on which the beasts of the forest would feast upon later.
As they walked, their steps were heavy, their clothes stained with blood, and there was a looming sadness in their hearts. It was natural to feel that way, especially for Anwen, who came from a modern world where mostly lived a sheltered life.
Within the young girl's heart, dangerous feeling began to brew, which if left unchecked would surely plummet her into depression; self-doubt towards her own strength and guilt for being the only one responsible for Luca's death. In her mind, she believed that she wasn't there or if she had paired up with one of the two boys, then surely the man would have survived.
Meanwhile, Anwen only saw himself and the other two as simply lucky for being able to come out of that dangerous event with all of their limbs intact. At the very least, he was glad he wasn't there when the poor elf died.
Thanks to Lira, they were able to safely leave the forest. If it had been left to Anwen, they would have certainly gotten lost already several times over. At least, he wasn't a fool with a big inflated ego trying to show off in matters he had neither knowledge or experience.
By this time, the sky had turned dark and the stars were shining brightly above them, yet none of the constellations looked familiar to Anwen.
This really is another world... he thought.
The village was still at quite a distance away, maybe an hour or so of walking at their current pace, but the bright torches lit up here and there acted as a guiding beacon to safety
“Lira...” Anwen said not long after they left the forest.
“Hm? What is it?” the elf asked.
Carried by one arm on each side, Knox laid between them, unconscious but outside of any danger.
“Is there any place where I can spend the night in the village?” he asked.
“The Traveler's Inn usually has a room or two free.” she replied tilting her head to the left.
“Unfortunately... I'm sort of broke. The only things I have are the clothes on my back and this sword.” he patted the trusty weapon that saved his life today.
“That must be harsh...” she showed him an awkward smile.
“Yeah, I'm not much of a noble rich boy, am I?” Anwen made a wry smile.
“Nope!” she shook her head and then giggled “Don't worry, you can sleep at his place. You saved us, after all...” she then closed her eyes and looked away.
The painful memory of seeing the elf Luca die like that resurfaced for a brief moment and brought a sharp sting to her heart. In this battle, she couldn't have seen herself as anything else but useless. Unlike Anwen and Knox, she had yet to awaken her Pendrax, and simply gazing at the Dayuk monster made her tremble in fear. In a few words, she was unable to offer her friends even the most minimum of support, and this fact alone troubled her greatly.
The young elf girl kept these matters hidden in her heart and didn't share them with Anwen.
I will not let this happen again! I can't... Next time, I have to be there to help them... I have to... she thought as she slowly steadied her resolve.
“Over there! We're not that far now!” Lira pointed at the two guards at the entrance of the village, who also took notice of them.
“I can see it!” Anwen replied with a smile.
“Welcome to Teyun Village!” she showed him a soft smile.
“Thank you. Erm, do I need some sort of identification card?” the boy asked scratching his cheek.
“Normally, yes... but I lost mine too in the battle in the forest, so we'll make a new one as soon as we can. It costs only one silver. Not that much if you don't lose it too often. Unfortunately, we can't do it in Teyun.” she shook her head at the last part.
“Why?” Anwen asked tilting his head a bit to the left.
“We don't have an identification crystal here. Ah! If I remember right, the closest one should be in Tharasin city...”
Whatever Lira said afterwards wasn't registered by the young boy, his mind went straight to the Goddess of War who promised to join him on this journey. Just by remembering her face, he felt his pulse speeding up and cheeks turning red.
In Tharasin... That's where she said I will be able to find her... I guess by 'find her without dying' she meant this? Surviving the battle against the Dayuk monster? he thought as he kept picturing her tempting lips in his mind.
“Hello! Anwen?!” Lira shouted in his ear.
“Huh?! What?!” startled, the boy looked around surprised.
“Geez! You were spacing out, and I got worried there for a second!” Lira said puffing her cheeks and glaring at him.
She was sort of cute like that, but Anwen didn't let such a thought slip out, instead, he merely showed her an awkward smile and rubbed the back of his head with his hand.
“Sorry...” he said.
“Anyway, we're here.” she shook her head and pointed ahead of them.
Following her hand, Anwen saw the two guards laughing at the two. Maybe they acted a bit funny from their point of view.
Letting out a sigh, the boy got up on his feet and approached them together with Lira.
“Welcome back, Lira. What happened to Knox and where's Luca?” one of them asked as he wiped off a tear.
Was it really that funny? Anwen thought as he squinted his eyes at him.
“Erm...” Lira looked down and showed him a sad expression.
“What's wrong?” he asked kneading his brow.
“Luca is dead... A big Dayuk came and attacked us. We were able to somehow defeat it, but... he didn't make it.” Anwen replied and showed him the broken sword as proof.
It was a painful event for all of them.
“I see... That's tragic... Well, what are you going to do now?” he asked them.
“We'll report to the village elder after we leave Knox at his house.” Lira replied.
“Is he alright?” the other guard asked.
“Yes, just exhausted.” she nodded and showed them a pure smile.
The two men blushed and nodded.
Stepping out of the way, they allowed them to enter the village. Anwen and Lira headed towards Knox's home, which was located on the west side of the settlement. While they walked there, multiple villagers cast their gaze at them and Anwen especially, who was a stranger. Despite this, nobody approached them to ask who he was. The same thing happened to the guards, but unknown to the young elf, this was all because of Lira's influence.
Since everyone there knew her, as long as he was with the young elf girl, nobody would suspect him of being an evil individual.
“How many people live here?” asked Anwen.
“Around 164...” she replied.
“That many, huh?” he said surprised.
Having lived only in the city, Anwen's concept of a modern day village was that of a small settlement formed out of just a couple of families. With a population of one hundred, in some places, it was already considered a big village, but in this world, this was probably one of the smallest around.
“Many? Hm, that's a first anyone said about this village.” Lira giggled, but Anwen just looked at her confused.
A few moments later, they arrived at Knox's home. It was a house with a single floor and a big, pointy rooftop. To the left was a big barn and to the right was the entrance to a vegetable garden. A rather typical and simple looking farm house.
All the other houses in the village shared a similar European architecture, with only a few of them having two floors instead of one.
“I'm hearing a lot of chickens...” Anwen remarked when they passed through the front gate.
“Of course! Knox lives at a chicken farm!” Lira said with a smile.
“Unexpected.” said Anwen.
After knocking two times, a tall man with a bushy beard and bloodshot eyes opened the door. He looked to be about the same age as Luca if not older by a bit. He wore a simple linen shirt stained from the field work and a pair of brown trousers tied with a rope at the waist. That was the simple farmer getup one could find when looking at almost all the villagers in Teyun.
“Hm? Little Lira? What's wrong? Weren't you supposed to be taking a test with Knox today?” he asked.
We showed him a wry smile and then raised Knox's head.
“Gubuuu... mmm... food... Lira...” the boy grumbled in his sleep.
The girl turned red and elbowed him in the ribs, but he just groaned and returned to sleep.
“What in the name of the gods is this idiot dreaming about?” she grumbled.
“Did he fail? Especially after making such a ruckus about it. Give him here.” he said and then pulled Knox up by his shirt and lifted him up with ease.
Anwen watched him with big eyes, while Lira followed him inside.
“Come on, we need to explain to uncle what happened.” she told him.
With a nod, the boy followed her inside.
After putting Knox to bed, they explained in detail how the battle went and how the Dayuk was ultimately defeated. All this time, the man listened carefully.
“I see... so that's what happened.” he said as he rubbed his big beard. Leaning back on his chair, he looked up and sighed “To think Luca would go down like this. I always told him to be careful... but that man had too much fate in his own Pendrax.”
“I don't think that was it... We tried to retreat, but the monster didn't let us. If Anwen and Knox didn't reach me in time, even I would have met my end in that beast's jaws.” Lira said and clenched her fists.
It was hard for both of them, but at the very least they managed to survived without losing any limbs or suffering any dangerous wounds. Of this, the man was thankful, but the two young elves had yet to reach such a conclusion.
“I guess, Anwen, I should give you my thanks for saving my son.” the man bowed his head in front of him.
“Huh? Son? Knox is your son?” Anwen said surprised.
“What are you saying now? Of course he is!” Lira said and pinched his arm.
“Ow!” complained the elf.
“I also understand that you have no place to stay for the night. If that's so, please stay at my house until you decide what to do from now. As for your results from that trial, I believe that by simply returning alive would have been considered a pass. By defeating the Dayuk who killed Luca, you also avenged your lieutenant, which is another plus. For this accomplishment, you will surely be raised in rank from Recruit to Soldier.” he nodded with confidence.
“Thank you...” Anwen said.
“I'm going to leave now and go report to father what happened... He needs to know as well. Tomorrow, we will talk with the village elder and see if we're going to be sent towards Tharasin or not.” Lira said as she got up.
“Thank you again for bringing my foolish son back home.” Knox's father told her with a soft smile.
“No, I should be the one to thank your son for saving my life.” she replied and then made a small bow.
“Good night, Lira.” Anwen said.
“Good night.” she replied and then left the house.
Knox's father led Anwen to the spare room and was offered a bucket of clean water before heading off to bed. Although a bit clumsy, the boy managed to take off his armor and wash himself of all the blood, sweat, and grime gathered throughout that day.
Meanwhile, Lira returned to her home and told the story of her adventure to her parents as well. They were glad to know she was safe and knew that the passing of Luca would be seen as a tragedy for those who knew him, but with the Dayuk dead, there was no need to pursue a hunt for revenge. It was a bit anticlimactic, but the lieutenant's story ended there.
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