The Selection

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Chapter 6 - Princess Irene - Scar

“Kai…” someone says in a familiar voice.

I open my eyes slowly, noticing that my vision is blurry for some reason. I smile in front of a warm nostalgic face before saying, “I missed you…”

I lean towards her while preparing my lips for a kiss.

“Eh?”

I stop right before I reach her lips. Suddenly, the clattering of a wagon resounds in my ears, and I feel small vibrations from under my bottom. Am I in…a wagon…? That’s right… I decided to take a nap and…

I close my eyes and open them again several times, slowly realizing that the person in front of me is Irene. My face gets progressively hotter. I lean back towards the right corner of my seat in a hurry, still feeling my heart beating abnormally loud. That was a close one… I almost kissed Irene thinking it was her in a dream. Oh shit, was I awake when I said that?

I gulp as I make eye contact with Irene. “Irene, did you call my name?”

“N-no… Why?” Irene asks as she sits back in her seat. She’s looking away from me.

What’s she so nervous about…? Did she hear what I said? Why would she lie? I avoid looking at her directly. “Ne-never mind… What were you doing just now anyway?”

“Um, I thought you were crying, so I leaned in closer to make sure. Then suddenly you leaned forward…” Irene blushes as she puts her hands on her cheeks all while turning completely away from me.

My face cools down when I make the connection. Oh, that’s why she’s nervous… I’m being too paranoid about this…

I sigh. Wait… I’m crying…?

I knit my eyebrows together as I touch my face with my hand. Huh…? Tears…? Why was I…

I look down on the ground and discover the white mask I wore earlier. I furrow my eyebrows and stare intently on the mask. We use these masks whenever we carry out our mission. It’s a white mask with open eye sockets with a black snake on the right side. The tail of the snake starts on the same level as the mouth, around the cheek it has one curl, and the rest of the body runs upward towards the top portion of the mask. The head is turned towards the center of the forehead with its tongue out.

I grit my teeth and gradually snarl, progressively biting my teeth harder as I clench my fists all while remembering my first encounter with it.

“Kai, you’re making a scary face…”

I look up and find Irene frowning. I relax and wipe my tears with my hand. “Sorry, I was thinking about something…”

“Did something happen?”

“Yeah… I guess you could say that.” Her lips are shaking. I sigh, knowing what she wants to ask. “I don’t wanna talk about it, so don’t ask me.”

“Sorry…”

“You don’t need to apologize,” I say in a slightly irritated tone.

“Sorry…” I frown as I feel veins popping out of my head. I rapidly tap my finger on my lap as she switches between looking at me and the open seat next to me.

What does she want from me? I open my eyes widely at her as I turn both of my palms upward all while signaling my body that she has my full attention.

“Oh, um… I just wanted to say that you don’t seem like a bad person… I saw your sleeping face, and it seemed so gentle.”

For some reason, the tension eases from my shoulders. I sigh before asking, “What part about me is gentle? I kill people without a second thought, and I work for the most wanted man in the world. I’m a bad person…”

Irene crosses her arms as she looks away and pouts. “Nope, I think you’re a good person.”

“Listen here…”

The convoy stops as something loud rumbles outside. As Irene falls forward, I slide towards the left side of my seat, catching her before she collides with the empty space on my seat. Her feminine, fragrant scent enters my nose as I feel her chest pressing against mine. I smile shamelessly as I unconsciously flare my nostrils.

She blushes when she raises her head with her hands on my chest. “Oh, thank you.”

“No problem,” I say with a smile. What was that sound? I better check with Leila. I wanna stay like this for a while longer, though…

“Umm… You can let me go now…”

“Ah, sure,” I say and sigh. Fun time is over…

I let go of my embrace. After, Irene sits back in her seat and looks away.

“Stay in here and don’t make any noise,” I instruct. Irene nods. I get up, quietly open the door, and then close it. I walk towards the front of the wagon.

“Leila what’s going…” I stop mid-sentence when a familiar scene plays out in front of me. There are at least 30 of them, equipped with mostly leather gear. They wield various types of weapons including swords, axes, clubs, bows, and shields. Magicians are included among them, who probably caused this crater in the middle of the path.

One of them asks, “Hey, I thought there were supposed to be like around 15 of them?”

And another says, “Who cares, this’ll be easier now, and now there’s a bonus.”

Bonus…? Ah, they must be talking about Leila. They snicker at us as they slowly approach us on both sides of around the crater; into the forest. I purse my lips as I turn my head towards Leila, who appears to be calmly collected. I’m surprised that didn’t hit the wrong nerve…considering…

“Just give up, we have you outnumbered by more than 30. Give us the princess in the convoy and we won’t kill you.”

I drop my thought and ponder about what he just said while frowning and knitting my eyebrows together. How do they know…that Princess Irene is in the convoy…? It appears they knew of Dae’s group coming back to Xantho, but how’d they know he was bringing back the princess?

I flush out my thoughts for now and draw my blades. I won’t even need to use my magic for this.

“I’ll take the left side, stay here and protect Irene.” Leila nods and I rush into the left forest. I jump high into the air towards my first target, who is full of openings. I prepare my strike with both arms behind my head. With full force, I use the combined momentum of my fall and arm strength to make two clean deep vertical cuts through his entire torso. I land on both of my feet with bent knees.

I don’t give them any time to prepare for my next attack as I kick forward, quickly accelerating into a sprint again. When I see a small volley of arrows heading towards me, I dodge using sidesteps while still running. After I dodge the last arrow, a blade approaches me from above. I react quickly enough to redirect the force of his attack with my left sword so that it misses me. Immediately afterward, I cleanly cut through his abdomen with a horizontal slash. At this point, I realize that he was hiding on top of a tree waiting to ambush me. Sneaky bastard.

I sidestep to avoid colliding with his body and charge into my next opponent. His eyes widen as I redirect his attack with one blade and slide the other through his throat. I repeat this pattern with the enemies afterward. Within a few seconds, there are only two left on this side. The one closer to me suddenly drops his bow.

“Mo-monster! Run!” he screams as he turns his back to me. I quickly catch up to him and stab him through the heart with my left blade. I pull out my sword as he starts losing his balance, eventually falling forward revealing the last bandit behind him. I slowly walk towards him as his comrades’ blood continues to drip from my blades. He drops his weapon and falls backward.

“Wa-wa-wait! I don’t know ho-how much you’re being paid, but we’ll give you half of what we received! No, we’ll give you all of it! Do-don’t kill me, please...”

I ignore him and continue to walk towards him. Screams and explosions resound from the other side; it must have been Leila taking care of her side. I should probably ask him how he knows about Irene. I think of something to say before opening my mouth. “Hey ho—”

“St-stop! Lo-look I know someone who can make a fortune selling female Elves. Just betray her and you’ll be set for life!”

I close my eyes as an old memory flashes through my mind. I grit my teeth as I feel an old scar from my chest tingle. While frowning, I narrow my eyes in disgust. I stare at him for a few seconds then kick him in the face to lay him flat on the ground.

“Argh!” When he covers his face with both hands, I proceed to step on his abdomen with my right foot. I reverse the grip on my right sword, lean forward, and slowly pierce his right bicep. He instinctively tries to cover his arm with his left hand that reveals his bloodied, broken nose.

“Ahhh!” He cries out as I dig my sword deeper into the ground. I kick and step on his left arm, and slowly pin it down like I did with his other arm. While sweating and gasping for air, all other noise from the world disappears from my mind, including his screams, and I focus only on making this man have the most miserable death possible. When I take out my skinning knife, I grin and laugh sinisterly.

He struggles in vain as I tightly grab his left hand. With the skinning knife, I slowly and carefully cut off the fingernail of his thumb while minimizing the amount of flesh that needs to be sliced. His veins pop out of his hand as he violently twitches his fingers. He squirms his body around, wasting energy by thrusting his lower back off the ground and meaninglessly kicking his legs.

I repeat the same process with his other finger nails, eventually moving to his other hand and doing the same. He struggles even harder when I grab his left boot. He manages to kick me in the face when I’m focused solely on his left foot. I touch my left cheek with my left hand and then look at my hand afterward. There’s muddy filth on my fingers. I grit my teeth and scowl. Damn bastard!

While running out of patience, I reverse the grip on my knife, and I slam it down on top of his right knee. I don’t hear it break while I only hear ringing in my ears, but I know that it’s broken because he stops moving that leg. I do the same with his other leg, take off his boots and then start cutting off his toenails. I cackle as I finish the last nail.

I sheathe my skinning knife and crawl over to his right hand again that seems to be lifeless. I grab the first joint on the tip of his index finger and then snap it in half. A smile emerges on my face when I see that his hand is lively dancing again. I take my time to break all the bones in his hand, starting with the fingers and moving down toward his wrist, one by one. I repeat the same process on his other hand, but he isn’t as lively anymore. I raise my eyebrows.

Oh yeah… I should probably ask him what he knows. I slap him in the face before asking, “Hey, who ordered you to do this?”

His lips move slightly, no words come out. “Answer me!”

He opens his mouth wider this time, but still no words come out. “Bastard, answer me when I ask a question!”

In a fit of rage, I slash open his abdomen while preventing injury to his organs. “How’d you know about the princess?!”

I still hear nothing, except the ringing in my ears and my own voice. I reach into his abdomen wound with my left hand, grab a handful of his intestines, and then pull them out. “Say something, you fucker!”

Losing my patience, I take out my skinning knife and repeatedly stab his chest with all of my strength. Blood splashes onto me with every stroke and oozes out of each gash. Suddenly, something grabs my arm before the next puncture, but I shake it off and continue slamming down my knife.

"Kai!" someone exclaims. I slowly turn my head around. Irene stands there with tears welling up in her eyes while she frowns with a pained facial expression.

The ringing in my ears stops, and I relax my arm. I drop the knife, and subsequently, Irene lets go of my arm. I make eye contact with her and smile. “Irene? What’re you doing out here, it’s dangerous!”

Irene is silent as she continues to stare at me with the same expression. “You should leave. I need to keep interro…”

I turn around and widen my eyes. The man is already dead. His eyes are bloodshot red with traces of moisture below and around his eyes. Blood flows down his nose and leaks from the puddle of blood in his mouth.

My heart beats rapidly. I stand up and continue to stare at the man’s corpse without blinking, remaining motionless. I close my eyes as I remember a painful scene from my past. “Weak…too weak, Kai. But I know you want to be stronger so I’ll teach you a trick… The secret is rage… Let it consume you and you will become much stronger…”

I shake my head as his laugh resonates in my head. My hands quiver. I’m afraid of reverting to how I used to be; a cold-hearted, brutal murderer. I killed anyone and did whatever it took to achieve my goals, even the things I initially hated him for. Before I know it, my entire body starts to tremble. But the trembling stops when someone suddenly wraps their arms around me; it’s Irene.

“Kai, it’s okay…” Irene says, sounding like a guardian angel saving me from the depths of hell. When she tightens her embrace allowing me to feel her warmth, my tears well up. I turn around and embrace her back while tears flow my eyes down to her back, holding this position for several minutes.

“Thanks Irene, I’m okay now.” I let go of her, but she doesn’t.

“You’re not a bad person…”

I almost break into tears again when I hear her sniffling, but I hold them back. Damn…she reminds me too much of her.

“Fine, fine… I’m not a bad person. Can you let me go now?”

She hugs me tighter before saying, “You’re not a bad person… So never do that again…”

How can she be so sure…? She’s known me for less than half a day and has only seen me commit murder… With her warmth and purity embracing me, I feel like my sins can be washed away. I close my eyes for a few seconds and open them again. In a gentle but firm voice, I say, “Alright, I promise. I won’t do that again.”

She finally lets me go, wiping her tears with her dress.

“We should get back to the convoy, Leila is probably wai…“I say as I turn left and stop mid-sentence when I see Leila standing against a tree with her head down and arms crossed. I frantically wave my arms around while saying, “Ah, Leila…this is…uh…not what it looks like…”

Leila slowly approaches me with her hands raised in front of her. I nervously close my eyes fearing for my life. She’s gonna kill me!

She grabs my left arm. “Kai… You’re a mess… Let me get you cleaned up with my magic…”

I open my eyes and stare into her face. I don’t sense any malicious intent from her, which I find strange. In fact, her eyes and lips droop, as if she is extremely saddened. “Are you okay, Leila?”

She looks into my eyes as tears appear to form in her eyes and says, “That’s what I should be asking you…”

I wrap my arms around Leila and caress her while stroking her hair with my right hand. “I’m fine… Thank you, Leila.”

She smiles as she blushes and pushes me away while lightly sniffling. “That’s good… Now turn around so I can finish wiping the blood off you.”

I turn around and let her do the work with her water magic. I don’t know what I’d do without Leila… I would never be able to walk around in town after battle otherwise.

“There, all done. Come over here Irene, I’ll clean you too. He got some blood on you too, right?” I turn my head toward Irene. Blood smears stain over half of her dress. I blush and turn away realizing that I shamelessly got all the blood on my body on her when she comforted me.

“Well, I’ll be waiting at the convoy. You can switch with me and get some rest in the back. I’ll take the reins,” I say. With that, I head back to the convoy and sit at the front edge of the wagon while waiting for them to come back. I wander my eyes around the wagon. No one would ever guess that a battle ensued here… There are no corpses, blood, or even damage to the environment, despite all those explosions I heard earlier. Well, she is obsessed with being secretive…

I sigh as I look on the ground in front of me. The crater has returned to flat terrain as well. I pick my nose to pass the time, wiping my boogers on the unfortunate horse next to me. I scoot over to the left front edge of the wagon and aimlessly stare at trees.

They sure are taking their time… Isn’t she just cleaning the blood off…? The thought of Leila erotically cleaning off Irene’s blood appears in my mind. Maybe Leila is into…

I close my eyes as I visualize Leila and Irene playing out this fantasy. I shake my head trying to clear these ideas out. Nah it can’t be… Or is it…?

I grin lewdly as I imagine them kissing and groping each other while fully nude.

“What are you grinning about, Kai?” I open my eyes, immediately perceiving Leila in front of me.

“Ah!” I scream as I flail my arms and legs around. I lose my balance and fall on the ground next to Leila’s feet. After taking a few seconds to gain my sense of reality back, I find my swords, blade first, next to my face.

“What are you doing…?” she asks as she looks down on me.

“You scared me… Thanks for getting my swords. I forgot about those,” I say as I stand up. Leila’s blushing as she hands me my swords. I grab both of them, one in each hand while inspecting them. Apparently she has cleaned the blood off them too. I smile.

“Yeah…” she says with her eyes pointing down. Irene opens the door to the convoy and goes in. Leila’s face flushes red even more before she finally turns around and goes into the convoy without another word. I quirk an eyebrow as Leila shuts the door behind her.

What was that about…? I look down and see it. My face flushes red while I stand there. Shit, how long has it been like that that…? I think it was outta position after I fell…and I let Leila see that…

I fix my thing before getting on the wagon again, eventually signaling the horses to start running again.

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