The Selection

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Chapter 7 - Princess Irene - Paranoia

We arrive at Neso, the closest village from the border of Xantho to Elbar. The sun has almost completely set, and it’ll be getting dark soon; judging from how little light there is and the time of year, I’d say it’s about 8:00 p.m.

I approach the town’s gates riding the convoy. One of the four guards standing there exclaims, “Halt! What are you doing at this hour? Name your purpose!”

“We’re adventurers headed to the capital, Byzia. We need a place to stay for the night.”

Two of the guards approach us, one on each side.

“What is in the convoy?”

“Ah, just my companions.” They walk to and stand in front of both doors.

“We need to confirm.” The guards simultaneously open the doors without warning.

“An Elf…and a girl? The girl doesn’t seem to be an adventurer… Who is she?”

Why do guards have to question every little thing…? This process has gotten tedious. It’s a good thing I prepared several answers for these kinds of situations. I turn my head around the front left corner of the wagon while still sitting down. “Actually, we received a job at Byzia. We were asked to escort their niece from Elbar to Byzia. We’ve been traveling a long way, you see, and the girl’s exhausted. Can you just let us through so we can rest?”

After a few seconds, one of the guards makes some kind of hand gesture. I quirk an eyebrow, but when I face the front, I realize that he is signaling the two by the gate. The two whisper to each other while making some occasional glances in my direction. The two by the convoy go back to the gate and continue to whisper amongst themselves before knocking on the door in what appears to be some kind of code. They turn around and declare, “You may pass!”

I guess that the gate is probably opened by a switch device located in the town. The gates slowly rise higher; massive, durable gates that are made out of iron, probably weighing several tons. When they stop, I signal the horses to move forward. One of the guards takes out a Klam, a magical device for long-distance communication.

I knit my eyebrows. Is he alerting the town that we arrived? But why…? Hmm… This must have something to do with what’s going on in the country… I should try to find out more when I can.

We enter the town which is still bustling with villagers out and about. The land here is lush in cultivated fields and blossoming angiosperms. Up ahead, bright lights illuminate the heart of the village. We arrive there in a few minutes.

While wondering where the local grub is, I point my head towards the nearest villager, who happens to be a young man. “Excuse me, where can I get some food and lodging?”

He stops walking and turns around.

“Oh, are you travelers? I think your best bet would be to go to the local inn. You’ll see it at the end of this road. It’s the building on the right corner at the intersection,” he says as he points in a direction in front of me.

“Ah, thank—”

“Wait!” someone suddenly exclaims from a crowd of villagers in front of the convoy. A man waving his hands appears from the crowd. “The local inn is probably not serving food at this hour and may even be booked for the night. You should head to the tavern instead. It’s that building right there.”

The man points to an old looking building on the left side of this road. It is just two buildings over from the one we are currently next to.

“What’re you talking about? We don’t get many…” the first man says but doesn’t finish his sentence. His eyes point to a direction on his left. I don’t know what he was staring at, and there’s nothing suspicious around us. “Oh! I completely forgot! Normally, we don’t get many travelers at all, but it’s that time of year again, and we have a lot of travelers stay overnight at Neso!”

He forces an awkward laugh. I skeptically raise one corner of my lips. “Is everything alright, sir? You seem nervous…”

He laughs again, but it sounds forced. “Ahh, the heat stroke probably got to me, and I forgot something as important as that. Actually earlier today, I forgot where I lived and walked into the wrong building. It was really silly of me.”

What the hell? I pretend to laugh merrily alongside him.Don’t worry about it. I’ll head to the tavern then.”

I smile and bid farewell to the two men. I look around failing to notice anyone that appears to be an outsider other than us. What was that about…? Something’s wrong here… Clearly, none of these outsiders he spoke of is outside right now, but they could just be resting at this hour…or he was lying…

I laugh at the thought of someone lying about something so trivial. I signal the horses to go forward. The name of the tavern is “White Bison.” Ironically, an image depicting a bison’s head painted brown can be seen under the name. The rowdiness of the tavern drowns out the random conversations villagers have as they pass by me. I park the convoy right outside the tavern.

I get off and open the convoy door. It takes ten seconds before Leila even begins moving out of her seat. Her eyes are barely open as she stretches her arms and yawns. Someone’s stomach grumbles and Leila blushes soon afterward while covering her stomach with both of her hands.

“Don’t worry Leila, I’m really hungry too… Kai, can we eat yet?” Irene asks quietly as she exits the convoy. Both of them barely have their eyes open in a slouched position with their arms hanging lifelessly under them. It doesn’t appear they rested well in the slightest.

“Yeah, we’re here. We can eat and lodge at this place, according to the villagers,” I answer as I walk towards the entrance, but stop when suddenly a heavy weight falls on my shoulders. I frown and turn my head around, finding Leila holding onto me.

“I’m tired… Carry me there Kai,” she demands as she has her arms around my neck.

“What do I look like, your mule?” I stare at her puppy dog face inches away from my face for a few seconds, gradually feeling guiltier as time passes. I sigh loudly and sweep her off the ground with one arm while supporting her upper body with the other. She keeps her arms wrapped around my neck as she rests her head against my arm all while closing her eyes. My eyes meet with Irene’s as she smiles and giggles. Damn, why do I have to do this so she can sleep for just a minute longer…?

I reluctantly walk to the entrance of the building and stop when I realize I can’t even open the door now. I open my mouth about to ask Irene to handle this matter, but I want to avoid waking Leila up. Instead, I turn around and gesture my head towards the door. Irene looks at me while frowning and cocking an eyebrow, but moments later a smile emerges from her face as she seemingly understands the situation. She walks forward and lifts her hand. I bitterly frown at her when she pats me on the head while her smile melts into a grin. I can almost feel my eyes popping out when I gesture my head towards the door again with narrowed lips. She giggles and opens the door soon after.

Don’t mess with me… I follow her while still bitterly frowning. Before I cross over to the other side, I ponder whether or not I should wake her up by “accidentally” hitting her head against the door hinge, but I refrain. My eyes focus on her face, lingering on her partially parted lips. I smile as I think back to a sweet memory.

A bell rings as I enter the tavern. There’s a staircase directly in front of me along with a large room toward our left side. A young waitress greets us, “Welcome to the White Bison!”

She’s shorter than me wearing a revealing black and white apron dress, black stockings, heels, and a white hair band. “How many…”

She cuts herself short and looks at me with a forced smile. The tavern suddenly becomes quiet. I blush, feeling like everyone’s eyes are glued on me. “Yeah, that’ll be three…and we also need a few rooms for the night. Actually, if you’re too busy just one room is fine.”

“Sure, come right this way,” she says as she leads us into the large room. As we follow her, the rowdiness resumes, and she seats us to a round, empty table. I look around. The place is packed. I wonder if we’ll be able to find a room here. “I’ll have to talk to my boss about those rooms… Decide on what you want to order in the meantime.”

She leaves the menu on the table and leaves.

“Hey, wake up,” I say as I fold Leila’s body into a sitting position on top of a wooden chair at our table.

She yawns again, stretches her arms, and rubs her eyes before declaring, “Alright, I’m wide awake now!”

I shake my head in disbelief as I take a seat next to her. “How can that be possible? You only got two extra minutes at most.”

She smiles as she straightens her posture. “Elves are special, you know.”

I shrug my shoulder as I shake my head and sigh. I don’t wanna argue with this woman anymore…

“Are you two lovers?” Irene suddenly asks, taking me several seconds to process in my head.

My head becomes stiff in the current position and heat radiates out from my cheeks. I turn my head slowly like a robot toward Leila. I wonder what she thinks…?

“O-of course not! Who would be in love with this shameless pig?” Leila answers in a harsh voice as she crosses her arms all while looking away from me. I don’t know why, but I feel slightly disappointed, and I sigh.

“Yeah, we’re not like that. We’re just partners; that’s all,” I say with a forced smile.

“I see… Okay, I understand now!” Irene exclaims, smiling back, but I feel she’s misunderstanding something here. I’m a little hungry here, myself, so I don’t think much of it.

I grab the menu and glance through it. Hmm… bison, bison, bison… Oh, they have bison soup… I guess I’ll get that. I glance over to Irene. “Irene, have you decided on what you wanna eat?”

“Yes, I think I’ll have the bison burger. What about you, Leila?”

She doesn’t respond even after several seconds have passed. I turn my head toward Leila. She’s frowning while looking down on the table. What’s up with her now…?

I put my hand on her shoulder. “Leila?”

“Oh right, uhh… I’ll get bison fried rice,” she finally answers.

An awkward silence follows, but luckily the waitress comes back to our table. “You three, you’re in luck, my boss tells me that there are three single rooms available, one silver coin per room.”

I smile and respond, “Ah, we only need two rooms. I’ll be together with that beautiful young miss over there, and the other room can go to my com…”

I stop mid-sentence when I feel a strong force stepping on my left foot. I turn my head towards Leila, who has become lively again. She smiles as she glares at me. “Actually, he will be by himself, and us two will be together…”

“Well, if you’re sharing, it costs a little more…”

Leila takes out her pouch of coins and then hands three silver coins to the waitress. “This should be sufficient. I do not need change.”

“Yes, thank you very much!” she exclaims.

We also give our orders to her, and as she walks away, I ask, “Wait, can you also get me some beer?”

“Then… I will also have some wine as well!” Leila calls out to her after me.

“Sure, I’ll be right back.” I check out her entire back frame as she walks away. I start at her head and slowly go down, gluing my eyes on the back of her thigh where her skirt ends. I flare my nostrils and smile while hugging the air in front of me and getting lost in my fantasies. They end prematurely when the force on top of my left foot suddenly increases, and I reset my facial expressions.

“That hurts, you know.”

“Huh? Oh, that was your foot? I didn’t know, sorry,” she claims, eventually taking her foot off.

My lip twitches as I smile bitterly. “Is that so…?” What’s with her lately…? I don’t understand her these days.

When there’s silence again, I clear my throat and turn my head towards Irene. “So Irene, can you tell us a little more of what you know about your father?”

“I don’t remember that much…”

“It’s okay, just try your best and tell us what you remember.” Irene closes her eyes; I presume that she’s recollecting her thoughts.

“I first met him ten years ago in my hometown, Maera. A man I didn’t know came, and my mother told me it was my daddy… He lived with us for a few days, and he was really nice, I liked him. It was sad to see him leave, but he visited me once a month. When I turned 13, he stopped coming all of a sudden. My mother didn’t know anything about it… He suddenly appeared again last year, but I don’t remember much of that day… I recall my mom arguing with him, but other than that I can’t remember. After that day, he never came back.”

“I see… Do you think your father’s a bad man…?”

“No! Not at all, he’s a good person, like you Kai! I love him…” she says in a raised voice as she stands up, but sits back down shortly afterward, in low spirits. “When mister Dae came to get me, he told me that Daddy was in trouble… I wanted to go and help him, but my mother was strongly against it for some reason... I decided to go with him out of my own will.”

Everything she said so far doesn’t indicate anything too far off from the information I had… A rebellion would definitely indicate that the king is in trouble, but why would the people rebel against a good king? Irene seems to be excellent at judging people, but what if she… No, I can’t doubt her, or I would doubt myself.

A large, bulky man sitting at another table stands up and walks toward us. While standing directly behind Leila, he says, “Hey you, the Elf.”

Leila turns half her body around and faces him with her head before responding in an irritated voice, “What?”

“You’re the first Elf I have ever seen… A very cute one at that.” He explicitly licks his lips before continuing, “How ’bout you ditch that scrawny guy next to you and join me for some drinks, and have some fun with me later. Local women call me ‘Quick-fingered Horith.’”

How lame…

Leila points her eyebrows downward as she frowns. “All of you Human males are the same, are you not?”

Hey… Don’t compare me to that guy…

“How about you take that sword and shove it up your ass?”

Horith frowns as he narrows his eyebrows and draws his sword. “What the fuck did you say to me, you bitch?!”

Is it finally time to knock this guy out…? I sigh, but before I get a chance to stand up, someone else intervenes. He puts a knife to Horith’s throat.

“Sheathe your weapon and you won’t get hurt.”

“Who the hell?!”

He puts the knife closer to his throat, cutting him slightly. Horith sheathes his weapon. “Okay, okay! I give up!”

Horith backs away, revealing a young male Elf behind him.

“Get out of here.” Horith clumsily picks up his weapon and runs out the entrance. “Sorry about that, my name is Tariel, I work here as a bodyguard. It’s rare to see another Elf here, may I sit?”

Before receiving an answer, he smiles as he sits down next to Leila. “What’s your name, miss?”

“Leila.”

“Don’t you find it hard to be surrounded by only Humans? I’ll join you for your meal.”

As Leila converses with Tariel, I notice several men whispering to each other behind the bar. I try not to make eye contact with them while still focusing on what they’re doing.

Strange… Why’s it seem like we’re being watched here…? Even those villagers said that having travelers during this time of year is normal. Horith didn’t even seem to put up a fight. I’ve seen his type before and they usually never go down quietly like just now…

“Order up!” While I’m lost in deep thought, our waitress arrives with our meals. She takes the plates on the cart she previously rolled over and puts them on our table along with our drinks. There seems to be one extra meal and drink. “Well, since we’re closing soon, and we won’t be serving anymore… I’ll be joining you guys!”

What the hell is with this tavern? I cock an eyebrow as she passes me. Her hand lightly brushes the back of my neck, and she sits down in the seat next to me. She stares into my eyes as a suggestive smile appears on her face. My suspicion breaks its limit, and before everyone digs into their food, I stand up. “Leila, can you check with your magic if our meals and drinks are spiked?”

“What on earth are you talking about? This is crazy… We wouldn’t poison our guests,” the waitress rebuts, but Leila nods. She closes her eyes as she envelops her Mana around the table. The waitress fidgets with droplets of sweat appearing on her forehead. Everyone is stiff and silent while Leila checks the food. Was I right, after all?

I put my hand on my sword while preparing to draw it at any moment. Leila opens her eyes before informing, “There is nothing.”

Everyone drops their shoulders and sighs.

“See, there’s nothing wrong, now enjoy your meal!” the waitress exclaims as she pats me on the back.

I guess it was just my imagination… I sigh and finally relax my muscles. Wait… Does this waitress have the hots for me?

I watch her enjoying a bison soup next to me. She catches notice and smiles back while lightly bumping into my foot with hers. I smile lewdly as I play out more fantasies in my head. For now, I pick up the spoon and devour the soup in front of me. Time passes, and I end up slightly drunk from the beer.

Irene doses off on the other side of the table. I think about calling out to her, but something is rubbing my right thigh. I turn my head toward the waitress and get pulled into her penetrating smile. With a smile, I rest my hand on top of hers.

My eyes wander, eventually stopping on her glass of wine. I turn back to her and gesture my head and eyes toward the glass. She seems to understand immediately unlike someone I know and picks up the glass chugging it in one go. I cheer and clap my hands as she chugs. She slams the glass loudly on the table. Soon after, I hear another slam on the table. Leila also just finished her drink with her eyelids twitching for some reason. I face forward again when I hear the sound of a chair move.

“Leila, Kai, I think I’m going to rest now… Where’s our room?” Irene asks with little energy and yawns.

“Oh, that’s right I never gave you guys the keys! This one is for the first room on the right at the top of the stairs,” the waitress informs and hands Irene a key.

“Leila, are you not coming?”

“I’ll come soon, I still haven’t finished eating. Go on without me.” Irene waves and walks up the stairs.

"Hey~” The waitress suddenly slides her hand up my arm while bending forward. Her breasts are nearly bulging out of the dress. I blush and gulp as my eyes stare at her cleavage.

“What?”

“You have something on your cheek…”

“I don’t have—” Her warm tongue touches my cheek, causing me to lean backward. A chair falls making a loud noise beside me.

“Wh-what are you doing, you shameless waitress?!” Leila demands while pointing at the waitress.

The waitress blushes as she puts a hand to her cheek all while tilting her head sideways. “Well, I couldn’t help but overhear…you guys aren’t lovers, right? So I’ve taken an interest in him instead!”

Leila’s lips only shake, and no words come out. I snicker and exclaim, “That’s right you said it yourself! I’m nothing more than a shameless pig! So, we will make the perfect match together!”

I feel my beast within me take over my brain completely, and I stand up grinning while holding onto the waitress’ hand.

“And so, I’ll call it a night here. See ya in the morning!” I finish the sentence in a hurry as I drag along the waitress towards the staircase. Leila curses at me, but it sounds like her companion will keep her occupied. I frown. I’m gonna get an earful later…but…this is for the best, since Elves and Humans are not compatible… She said it herself.

We head up the staircase, and I stop at the top. I stare at the room towards the right for a moment, wondering if Irene has fallen asleep yet.

“Come on, let’s go!” As the waitress pulls me towards the room we are going to stay in, a smile surfaces on my face again. She takes a key out and moves it towards the door, but I take the key from her. She cocks an eyebrow.

“Today, I’m the key, and you’re the lock,” I say as I insert the key into the door unlocking it. Her smile shakes as I open the door. I let her go in first as I have my hand on her back, then I close the door behind me. I hug her from behind, eventually sliding one hand up her inner thigh while grabbing one of her breasts with my other as my rod presses against her bottom. She lets out a small squeal as she breaks free from my grasp. I quirk an eyebrow before asking, “What’s wrong…?”

“Oh, nothing… Umm… Let’s save that for when we’re in the bed…”

“Okay… Then…” I take both of my scabbards and then drop them on the ground. I quickly take off my armor and the shirt under it. She blushes and looks away. Intending to undress her, I touch her again, but she stops me.

“Oh, I can do that myself! So ca-can you turn around…? I don’t wa-want you to see me undress…”

So cute! I smile before exclaiming, “Okay, but don’t make me wait too long!”

I turn around and listen to her undress. First, her heels drop to the ground. Next, something unzips, presumably her apron dress. It falls to the floor. I can’t help but flare my nostrils in anticipation and gulp. Her footsteps slowly approach me. I turn around while spreading out my arms wide in front of me. Huh?

She has undressed, but her bra and underwear remain. There’s something in her hand that’s rapidly approaching my face; a dagger. By reflex, I grab and squeeze her right wrist. She lets out a small sound as she loosens her grip on the dagger. I take the dagger with my other hand. I grin before saying, “Aha… I understand now, so you like it rough, right?”

She cocks an eyebrow seeming to be genuinely confused, but that doesn’t faze me. I throw her onto the bed and pin both of her arms down with one hand. “Don’t scream or else.” She’s a strange one… Is she really into this kinda role play?

She stares into my eyes as she nods her head while frowning, but she stops resisting at the same time. I gasp while I use my other hand to cut her bra down the middle using the dagger. I open my eyes wide as my heart beats quicker progressively. I toss the dagger out of the way and slowly slide my hand down her stomach when suddenly the door bursts open.

“Kai!” Leila’s standing at the entrance with her jaws dropped. A cold chill goes down my spine. I crack a smile, but I feel her murderous intent, practically pouring out of her body. “Kai...”

She raises and clenches her fist as she frowns all while slowly walking towards me.

Oh shit, this time she’s gonna kill me for real! Before I die, I’ll… I slowly slide my hand, further down her stomach. I hear my heart pounding like crazy. Despite how close I am to the goal, I stop when I realize Leila’s murderous intent disappears.

“Kai, there’re more important things to do right now! Irene’s gone!” Leila exclaims with an alarmed face. I regain my senses and reset my facial expressions as I take my hands off the waitress.

“What did you say?”

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