Blinking, I stand and watch as Man Giao leads the way through the Defiled ranks, the sun already high in the sky, and starting to dip down. It's after noon? Shit, we started this in the morning, when did so much time go by? A high-pitched ringing in my ears drowns out all other sounds, but I can see that we are winning, the Defiled being pushed back. Arrows rain down upon them from the east, the Sentinels firing from on high. I should be there with them, killing from afar, ready to lend aid if the soldiers begin to crumble. Why did I even come down here?
A hand pulls me by the arm, turning me to face Fung. His mouth moves but I hear nothing, his face lit up in obvious elation. Shaking my head, I say, “I can't hear you.” It's weird, speaking but not hearing the words. I repeat myself a few times, but I still can't hear my own voice. Fung motions for me to stop speaking, and moves his mouth slowly, pointing at my chest, then my ears. He taps his own ears a few times, gesturing for me to do... something.
My head feels like it's in a fog, unable to think clearly. What the fuck just happened? Fung tries to lead me away, but the world spins and I fall to my knees, feeling nauseous and unable to stay upright, the world spinning around me. Two of Fung's guards help me up, and together they march me back while I try not to vomit, following Fung for a short jaunt until we reach a tent. Inside, several injured soldiers lie on tables while healers and physicians treat them, with more injured waiting at the sides. The soldiers sport a wide array of wounds, from bites to cuts, missing limbs and punctured lungs, I see them all lie about in various stages of pain. I can almost hear their moans and screams as I watch them writhe in pain, but it is only my imagination, my brain filling in the sounds I expect to hear.
Fung's guards seat me on the ground, and Fung gives me a thumbs up, patting me on the shoulder. Motioning for me to wait, I return his gesture, and he turns to leave, likely jumping back into the fray, a battle maniac to the core. Slumping in my seat, I cradle my head in my hands, exhaustion settling in as the adrenaline rush fades. Unable to control it, my body begins to shiver, starting with a small shudder and escalating into full body quaking. What the fuck was I thinking, just charging into battle like that? My mind goes back to the scene, but this time I see all the dead and dying, the soldiers I left behind, the Defiled I crippled and let bleed to death, the savagery I displayed as I cut through the Defiled.
I was just so angry and hateful... and so powerful. I was strong, almost as strong as Huushal, my sword crashing through weapon and armor. Crashing, not cutting, I wasn't Honing my sword, it was just pure, unadulterated power. How did I fucking do that? And how did I survive killing that bear thing? I wasn't even thinking, just fighting on auto-pilot, like watching through my own eyes as my body went on a rampage, my mind clear through it all, feeling every action, every emotion. That isn't who I want to be, violent and savage. All of a sudden, the day's fatigue just hits me and my mind feels drained and my arms like wet noodles, so I lower them into my lap, my head hanging as I close my eyes and drift asleep. Answers aren't important, introspection can wait, you just need to sleep.
It feels like I only just closed my eyes when a hand roughly grabs my chin, bringing my face up to see. Blinking the sleep out of my eyes, I watch a bearded man's mouth moving, but all I can hear is the same high-pitched ringing. Motioning to my ears, I speak once again. “I can't hear anything.”
The man makes a face, and his mouth moves once again, but this time, I can hear it. “Ruptured eardrums, too close to a shock wave, it happens often. Can you Message? I don't need you yelling at me.” Shaking my head, he grimaces. “Well, can you heal it yourself? It's not exactly life threatening. If you can't, then wait until we have some spare time and energy.”
He leaves after I acknowledge his instructions, moving on to another patient. Fuck, I should have healed my injuries earlier and helped out in the tent. I can do things, stitch wounds, wrap bandages, create medicines. Okay, heal my ears so I can walk, then help out. Closing my eyes, I reach for Balance. The ringing in my ear is distracting me, my exhaustion stopping me, or something. I can't find Balance, and it isn't the first time. Shit. My entire fighting strategy depends on me being able to fix myself after I take massive injuries. This is not a good sign for my future. It's been like this since... since when? I was healing fine while running from the Society. It isn't important.
Taking a deep breath, I try to focus. I can do this, I just need to relax. I've been too tense, too angry lately, with good reason, but it isn't helping. Find Balance, then go kill more Defiled. Simple plans are the best. Aware of nothing, but awareness itself. And that god awful ringing, holy fuck. I almost want to dig out my ear with a knife, that shit is infuriating. Stop, stop, I need to center myself, distract myself from my anger. It will still be there where everything is over. Just think happy thoughts, of relaxing in a bath, surrounded by lovely ladies, like Yan, Mila, Song, and Lin. Yes, relaxing.
My ears tingle and the sound cuts out as I begin to heal. Odd, I didn't even examine my injuries yet. Well, it's working, so no need to worry. Just go back to the imaginary bath, with all the ladies. Ever since I gave Yan her weapon, she's slowly become more and more feminine. It's the way she walks, back straight, shoulders up, hips swaying, and feet light. Confidence does wonders for a woman. She has a nice ass, a little bony for my tastes, but a nice shape, peach-like and rounded, accentuated by her swinging hips. It's been too long since I've fucked anyone, and she is starting to look tasty. The next time she mouths off to me, I should just grab her by the horns and shove her cute little mouth down to where it can be of use. It's not soap, but it'll do nicely for my purposes, and it'll teach her not to talk to me like that. The little horny bitch needs to learn respect, and I'll gladly teach her all about it.
Mila is another sexy little delight, with more meat on her bones, firm and toned, her freckles giving her a cute look. She's not gorgeous like Akanai, more of a girl next door type, but far too bossy as she is. I should show her who's really in charge. She'll enjoy being docile, being dominant doesn't suit her, she needs a man to take control and I am more than willing. It'll take a few spankings, maybe even a few beatings, but she'll see things my way in the end, and be happier for it.
It would make things too complicated though, dealing will all the 'relationship' crap. I've already got everyone nagging at me about Lin, I don't need them nagging about Mila as well, and Akanai will do more than nag. While there's no one to bother me about the orphan, I don't need to listen to Yan's whining either. I should just ask for the chain. Why bother with relationships or whores when I can just fuck the slave for free? She's everything I like in a woman, strong yet docile, long hair, long legs, curvy hips and just the sweetest pair of tits I've ever seen. Seeing her makes me think that there's a local form of plastic surgery, no one can look that perfect. She would make the perfect companion, just there for me when I want her, out of the way when I don't. I bet the little cat-slave knows all sorts of tricks to please her master, and after the last few weeks she probably needs it bad. Who knows what sick, twisted shit she's used to, but I would like to find out. I'd be doing her a favor anyways, she's always asking to serve, looking for purpose in her worthless life.
Honestly, why don't I just agree to marry Lin? I should enjoy the tasty little treat before she changes her mind. She'd be willing no doubt, desperate to do anything for my approval. It would be simple, having her learn exactly what I like. Isn't that the dream of every man? To have a sweet little wife that knows exactly what you want, and is happy to give it to you. Besides, age of marriage is 20, I have three years to make up my mind. There's no harm making an informed decision, don't want to go into this blind. Too bad she isn't here though, that would solve so many of my current frustrations. I'll write her a nice letter, keep her on the hook for when I return.
“Rain.” A familiar voice snaps me out of my thoughts, Fung standing before me with a grin on his face, his armor in tatters, blood staining his face. “Oh good, you can hear me now. We found your sword, it was quite a search. Come, let us eat!” I follow him out of the healer's tent, where his guards stand waiting, looking tired but whole. I could do with a meal, and the healers here seem to have things under control. You've earned it, Rain. “By the Mother, you were incredible out there!”
“Just killing Defiled, nothing to be happy about. It's fucking exhausting. I shouldn't have even been there.” Blinking a few times, I try to clear my head. What the fuck was I just thinking about? The girls are way too young for me, I shouldn't even be thinking of them like that. I shouldn't be thinking of anyone like that! What the fuck. I'm just tired and worked up from all the fighting. Yeah, that seems right. And I'm only a year older at most, I think Yan and Song are the same age, or maybe even older than me.
Laughing, Fung slaps me on the back. “You were out there for almost seven hours, Rain. Of course it was exhausting. I watched the Khishigs ride down the mountainside, and then saw you head straight for the thick of battle. You madman, running into the front lines like that.”
What? That doesn't sound like something I would do. “I don't know what came over me, I just... lost my head.” I wanted to be there, it was fun. No, not fun, but I was being useful.
“Oh you were a sight to behold, Rain. Wherever you moved, the soldiers followed, hacking and slashing your way through the enemy lines, you're a natural leader of men. And your fight against those Ursagons!” Fung continues to extol my accomplishments, and normally, I'd be incredibly interested in listening, but I need to figure out what the fuck is wrong with me. Aggression, anger, sex, my mind is a mess. What the fuck was all that? Is that who I am now, a murderous, sexual psychopath? Either I need to get laid, or I need to be abstinent for a while, I can't decide which. I feel gross just remembering it. If I were another guy, I'd kick him in the nuts.
Fung's enthusiastic chattering snaps me from my thoughts. “I watched your duel with that Defiled Champion from start to finish, and you controlled your opponent so well! Tell me, where did you learn to fight like that? He looked so foolish, swinging at nothing, it was a masterful feint!” Fung is ecstatic, under the impression that I intentionally feinted, rather than slipped in the mud, earning me my victory. No need to correct him, that would just make me look bad. Just bask in the glory, accept the praise, you deserve it.
Swelling with pride, I answer in an offhand manner. “It was just a worthless Defiled, maybe a bit taller than the others but no different from the rest. The trick to feinting is to at all times be ready to turn an attack into a feint, and a feint into an attack.” See if he can parse that out, stupid, mystic, backwater half-answers.
Fung repeats my words a few times, ruminating over it for a moment before laughing out loud. “Poignant and insightful as always.” It's astounding how quickly he can go from homicidal warmonger back to eager young man, laughing and joking, friendly as ever. He was every bit as bloodthirsty as I was, and far more well equipped to kill. My eyes narrow in annoyance, looking at his spear being carried for him, a magnificent weapon. The things I could do with a weapon like that... And servants, I need an entourage of servants, just like he does.
We reach Fung's personal tent, a large, round shelter made of cloth and leather, that could easily fit twenty people inside, one side completely open to allow servants to enter and exit at ease. Fancy, I just get some cloth overhead to keep rain out, while this bastard has a table arranged in the middle of his tent with a feast lined up, a dozen dishes already waiting and more to arrive. It pays to be friends with the Magistrate's son. If I went back to camp, I'd be eating tough jerky and dried fruit. I need this, wealth and power. It should all be mine.
“Oh, Young Master Fung, at least have the decency to wash yourself off before traipsing through our tent.” The sexy little Ong Jing Fei arrives before we are seated, wearing a lovely, red silk dress, her pale shoulders poking out from her shawl, her neckline showing off her lovely, large breasts. Noticing my gaze, her face darkens as she covers herself, while avoiding eye contact. Little bitch tease. “Are we to dine with your barbarian tonight? I shall have a servant teach him to use chopsticks. It will be an entertaining sight.” Narrowing my eyes at her, I open my mouth to speak.
Fung jumps in ahead of me. “Unlike you, Rain is an invited guest.” Ignoring her, he moves to the interior of the tent as his servants help him remove his armor, while one helps me out of mine, tattered and dented, covered in blood. A wash basin is presented for me, and I clean the gore out of my skin, scrubbing it away as bits of dead flesh drop into the water, turning it dark red and cloudy, a wonderful sight after a hard days work. A second washbasin of water is required, and soon I feel refreshed and somewhat clean, after changing into some provided clothes.
As we sit down at the table, I smile at Fung. “Thank you for the clothes. I hate when blood dries on cloth, it's incredibly uncomfortable.”
“Young Master Fung, seeing your savage is upsetting enough for a frail little lady such as myself. Could you ask your barbarian pet to keep silent? My appetite will be ruined if he were to continue on about blood and war.” Jing Fei sits at the table, refusing to speak to me directly, as if I were a slave again. This little prissy bitch, how fucking dare she? I should gouge her eyes out and rip her ears off, then she won't have to watch or listen. That would ruin her looks, but she could still serve, with a bag over her head.
“Ignore her Rain. Let us eat.” The servants begin uncovering the plates, as we chat about the day's events, now my turn to talk about his accomplishments. I need to get a bigger spiritual weapon, if only to fight from Zabu's back easier. Fung's spear should be mine, something I would have earned. I could have won that whole damn contest if it weren't for the Society getting greedy. Nothing I can do about it now, killing him won't get me a spiritual weapon, just a useless metal polearm, maybe a bit heavier than most. We feast lavishly and drink moderately, relaxing after a long day's battle, but the battle still not won and combat possible at any moment. It doesn't really matter, I could probably kill Defiled drunk off my ass. Weaklings, all of them.
“I still cannot believe you attacked a fucking Demon, Rain! Such bravery, I could barely quail before it, and I was within Man Giao's protection! But you, you just roared in challenge, and threw your sword at it, a true Young Hero. I thought it would just collapse and die, and damned if I won't tell that story to everyone I know.”
“Oh, Young Master Fung, you are likely mistaking bravery for foolishness.” Jing Fei sniffs, the pompous little bitch still not looking at me. “As if a barbarian like your little friend could overcome the aura of a true Demon. I've heard it can render even the most stalwart soldiers into a crying mess, and this pet of yours is only a savage. However, it would not surprise me if the barbarian were more attuned to the Demons, accustomed to their presence.”
Swallowing my anger and smiling sweetly at her, I speak in a cordial tone. “Call me a savage again, and I'll give you a reason to name me so. You're a pretty young thing, and I will delight in ruining you.” She pauses to finally glare at me, probably looking into my eyes for the first time. Lovely brown eyes, I'd like to see them full of fear. “I will do things to you that will make you curse your grandmother for a whore for spreading her legs to your grandfather.”
Slapping the table, she continues to glare at me, as I ogle her tits, knowing it makes her uncomfortable. I really would like her to call me savage, just one more time, so I can act, tear the little bitches clothes right off, show her that I am to be respected. She backs down, glaring at Fung instead. “Well? Are you going to let this – your friend speak to me, your betrothed, like that?” Close. She's spirited, too scared to say savage, but her intonation of 'friend' says it all. She'll be fun to break.
“Fung! You never told me you were betrothed to such a lovely little creature. You really must share once you are married. She is a little headstrong perhaps, so I recommend that you have a wedding in the style of the People. That will properly teach her, that the weak are here to obey.” My eyes never leave her, and finally, she quails visibly, which does interesting things to her breasts. I love how everyone thinks we're terrifying and feral.
Fung remains silent, and after a long pause, Jing Fei storms out of the tent in anger. After another pause, Fung asks, “What happens at a People wedding?” I can hear the trepidation in his voice, and I delight at his discomfort.
Shrugging at him, I laugh. “I have no idea, actually. I don't think there actually is a ceremony, or at least I've never been invited to one. The imagination is a wonderful thing. Say a few words and they imagine the torture all by themselves, far worse than anything I could do.” Well, not without preparation, at least. I'd need some tools to really get to work.
He laughs with me, shaking his head. “It seems I will need to rely on you to keep her at arm's length. She has caused me no end of troubles lately, always needling me with her words, following me about.” He sighed. “It is a troublesome thing. She has been trying to become pregnant with my child, and then I fear she will have me killed or crippled. I cannot let my guard down, even for a moment. She is a vicious child, at odds with me ever since we were young.”
“Then why not -” I draw my thumb across my neck. “Strike first. Strike hard. No Mercy.” And... Sweep the leg? That doesn't make sense. “I'd be glad to take care of it.” I'd have some fun first, of course.
“Falling Rain, you are a good friend, and a terrifying enemy. Forget her, let us eat and be merry now that she is gone. Remain here for the night, I've some lovely courtesans to keep us company.”
A little debauchery will do me good, and a lot will do me better, and we return to feasting, intent on stuffing myself full until I cannot eat anymore. Before we finish dinner however, lovely little Mila arrives with Zabu in tow. “Rain! What the hell were you thinking? You disobeyed orders and broke formation. You could have been killed.” She is far too stressed about being in command, like I said, it doesn't suit her.
“I don't need your worry, this is war. Grow up.” My tone is harsher than intended. She's only looking out for me. Softening my voice, I continue, “Here, eat some food, have a drink.” Or five. Maybe she will join in the debauchery, that would be fun. “I'm going to rest here for the night. I'm too lazy to make the trip up the mountain, and I'll likely fight on the front lines in the morning.” I mean, I killed a Defiled Champion and attacked a Demon. I deserve to sleep on something other than dirt. What's the point of going back, just to get bitched at. Fuck that.
Her eyes narrow at me. “You are a Khishig, Rain, so you will camp with the Khishigs. If you do not return with me right now, I will ride to Mama – to the Lieutenant General instead.”
Tch. Little brat, ordering me around. Nothing I can do about it right now, I need to play my part of the dutiful Khishig. “Fine, threaten to run to mommy, that's very brave of you.” Standing, I say farewell to Fung. “Remember, if you ever need an ear to listen, or a borrowed sword, all you need to do is speak.” I'd love to get my hands on that pretty little bitch. “I'll find you on the battlefield in the morning, we'll kill some Defiled together, it'll be fun.” He smiles at me and I leave to follow Mila up the mountainside, the cold summer night refreshing and comfortable. There will be more bloody work to be done in the morning, and I can hardly wait. I will make the Defiled fear my name, and drive them out of my home, the lands where I was born.