I yawned and stretched on the wagon.
I was once again back in my child-like body. Two large wagons followed behind us pulled by a couple of horses. A few townspeople came along with us.
The winter days were cold. The year was ending, and today was the day that Phil, Don, and I would arrive at the nearest city. Luckily, we didn’t meet a single goblin on our way.
“Berry, if you yawn any wider, a bug is going to fly in,” Don smirked. He stopped drawing and laughed. I quickly closed my mouth and glared at him.
I didn’t like bugs, and the thought of them entering my mouth sounded horrible.
“It has been three days since we left the town. We should be arriving in the nearest city,” said Phil.
“Finally, I thought my butt would fall off,” I complained. I disliked sitting in the wagon for long hours on end. What I did look forward to is someone figuring out how to create a car in this world. Hopefully, one day my prayers would be answered.
“Your butt is fine.” Phil shook his head.
“Don, are you done with your new building concept?” I scooted over to see what he completed and leaned over. I was amazed at how realistically he drew.”Wow, you draw so well. I’m so jealous. All I can do is draw stick figures.”
In his hand was his sketchbook that he had bound together to make. A detailed picture of a beautiful house and a garden was neatly sketched out with pencil.
“It takes time and practice.”
“I can tell. It must have taken you ages to get to such a point.”
“Not really. It took me five years.”
“Five? Is that even normal?”
I was awed at his genius-like skills. “I have been drawing day and night in hopes of getting a lot better. I sweated tears of blood to get to this point.” Don shrugged his shoulders, tapping his pencil on his sketchbook before he started to scribble something done quickly.
“How long do you think you will get the blueprint ready for this house?”
“I’m done with it. This was just a concept. I’ve got a dozen more sketches of other buildings ready to be made.”
“What? Already?” Don nodded.
“You do know that there is barely anything to do on this ride except to draw.”
“Still, you got so much ready. It’s amazing.” I couldn’t help but gape in awe. “Do you mind?”
“Sure.” Don handed me his sketchbook, and I slowly flipped through the pages. Each drawing was neatly drawn with exact details written on the side. I had seen Don’s work in the past and had even witnessed the buildings that were built. Everything that he had written on the paper was the exact measurement and the directions to how to construct it.
“You truly are amazing.” I enviously said. I didn’t have a talent, and seeing him engrossed in one made me jealous.
“I honestly don’t think that I’m that good. They are others better than me out there.”
“Even still, you are considered one of the best that I know of. “
“You are too negative.”
“Not at all. Broaden your mind and see past oneself. Sometimes, one needs to challenge oneself when you see someone better than you.”
“That is another way to see it.”
“It is, isn’t it.” Don reached over to get back his sketchbook. “I can’t wait until the Academy is finished being built.”
“Oh, yea. You did design the school buildings that the townspeople are building now. Though, I have to wonder why you’ve to make it so extravagant.” I asked curiously; some of his buildings were so grand that it made me wonder how he was going to finish it.
“Hardly. Fantasy worlds should have fantastical buildings just like the Japanese manga and anime.” My eyes twinkled.
I knew exactly what Don meant. We were both avid fans of Japanese anime and manga, and on such subjects, we were like two peas in a pod. All those fantastical buildings that one would never see on Earth could be created here. This was like a dream world for Don when it came to building his fantasies.
“Plus, it’s the soul of the townspeople itself. One day, it’s going to be known as the most prestigious school in the whole world. From Elementary schools, Middle School, High school, and finally, College. All in one. My next goal is to find the most brilliant minds in teaching for the school.” Don was getting excited about the future that he had planned. His mind raced with dozens of ideas of what to implement with Duke Hon.
“Are you sure you’re not overworking the people like slaves?” I jokingly said, nudging him.
“Slaves? No. Everyone is doing it, plus you’re paying for the construction. You agreed on it when you signed the contract to build it. I wouldn’t have brought it up if I didn’t.”
“W-what?” I stared stupefied. Wait, when did I agree to this? Confused, then it suddenly dawned on me. It was that time when the townspeople celebrated for three days and nights. I was so tired that I signed anything that was handed in front of me.
“What?” Don innocently stated. “It’s not my fault. I’ve been bugging you about investing in my plans. You agreed.”
I couldn’t help but sigh and nod in agreement. It was my stupid fault for signing things without reading it when I was tired.
“How long until it is finished?” I wanted to see these buildings come to life, and the thought excited me.
“Well, I believe in about three months. You won’t believe how useful the magic stone that Phil created was. If it weren’t for that, it would possibly take five years. It has become the number one hot project, besides the apartments that were finished.”
“Wow, What about you, Phil? Do you have something that you’re good at?”
Phil was silent for a moment. “Everything.”
Both Don and I were silent. Looking at him if he was joking, but I secretly knew that he was just good at everything. He felt like the main hero vibe that knew everything sometimes.
“What? It’s just a joke.”
“I highly doubt it. He does fit that persona, doesn’t he?” I leaned over, whispering loudly towards Don.
“You know, you’re right. Everything that Phil has been doing has been immaculate to the point where I haven’t seen him make a single mistake.”
I nodded. Phil was truly a Demon Lord in the making. Has there ever been a history where a perfect Demon Lord ever existed? Probably not. He might be the first one.
Looking up at Phil, I unconsciously gave him a thumbs up.
“What is that for?” Phil stared at me strangely. “Did you curse at me?”
“Uh, what?” I stared at him, unsure what he was saying.
He pointed at my fingers.
I looked at my thumbs up pose and quickly hid it away. Damn it. I don’t know why I just did that. Maybe I was just stupid enough to give Phil a thumbs-up sign for how great he is? I don’t know.
“C-c-curse? No way. Never in my life would I curse a demon lo-” I caught myself before I spewed out what I was just about to say. How stupid I was to think that I almost slipped about him being a demon lord. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
“Demon? Please continue. I would like to hear what else you have got to say.” Like a tiger that caught his prey, he stared down with menacing eyes. I could not help but shiver from his deadly stare.
“You a demon? Hardly more like an evil torturer that likes to destroy the soul of a lowly dr-” Ah, crap. I just did it again. What the hell is going on with me today? Why don’t I just tell him my whole life story in front of him right now? Hey, demon lord, flay my skin here and now so I can end my life. Was this mouth a loose cannon that could just one day end it all?
“An evil torturer that likes to destroy souls. I didn’t know you saw me like that, Berry.” Phil slipped over next to me. His arm was already wrapped around my shoulders and pulling me close.
I could smell the sweet scent that tingled my nose and made my cheeks flush a bit red.
Phil was getting way too close that it made me uncomfortable. I felt a dark energy coming from Phil that I wanted to scream help.
“I mean, you know.” I twiddled my thumb, getting super nervous. I couldn’t get away from his intense gaze. “I was just playing. You know me. I’m a kid.”
“You said you’re a kid now?” I nodded furiously. Any moment now, I swear my head would fall off.
“So you’re saying you are a kid, but when I first met you, you said you were older than me. I swear, I heard you say that.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.” I flatly denied everything he said—my life. Please god of fortune. Please. Please throw me some good luck here and now. I’m about to die today.
“Really? Then, should I treat you like a kid today?”
“W-what?” I was dumbstruck by his words. I wanted to smack myself many times for the many blunders I was getting into. The fierce look from Phil was staring at me as if he was ready to swallow me whole into the bleak darkness called hell.
“Aww, you guys look so cute.” Don broke the silence, laughing. “Almost like I’m seeing a brother and sister having a disciplinary action. Stay like that for a moment so I can draw this.”
I stared at Don, giving him a pleading look to save me. Was he also mental as well? Doesn’t see how bad this situation was turning out to be. I could die, crying out loud.
Don was leisurely sketching in his sketchbook as if nothing was wrong.
My party that I have here was all crazy.
“This drawing for sure is going to sell well.” Don’s smile seems even more dangerous than Phil right this moment. “I should start a trend here. Kuhuhuhhu.”
Was he also trying to sell me out too? What kind of messed up situation did I land myself in?
With a flick of his fingers to my nose, Phil scowled. “Massage my back until I say stop.”
“M-m-massage your back?” I was too dumbfounded to understand what he meant. Was this a new kind of torture?
Phil turned around, showing me his back. “If you don’t want to do it. I have other activities that you can take part in. For example, trading spots with the horse and pulling the carriage.”
“P-please, sir. Let me massage your back.” I reached over and started squeezing his shoulders. Silent tears began to erupt on my eyes as I cursed in my head, wishing to bury Phil in the ground.
Phil let out a relief as his muscles were being kneaded like a dough.
“How is the guild coming along?” I asked with a bit of a whisper. Phil finally spoke without opening his eyes.
“Grandma has been working like a madman. Asking her to start an Adventurer’s guild sparked a fire in her. I swear, it feels like she’s getting younger day-by-day.” He chuckled happily.
“That’s good to hear. Though the new Heroes can be quite a handful these days.”
“You’re telling me. The Heroes have been blazing through the quests like fire. Quite surprised to see that your people seemed to adjust pretty well.”
“I agree,” I spoke.
The Heroes were all doing well with the new task and new weapons. They seem much more energetic than before, giving her less of a headache.
For an hour, Phil did not stop once and instead nodded off into asleep. Damn it, you vile Demon Lord! I’m not your slave! My hands desperately tried to scrunch up into a fist. Ready to smack him once, but my poor hands were shaking from massaging.
“Can I please stop now?”
“Pleaseeeeeeeeeeee. My hands are cramping up.” I whined. I knew any longer, and I would have a stiff hand that I wouldn’t be able to move for hours.
“Really? Good. You can stop now.” He casually said as he was pleased with what I had said. I wanted to cry. I played right into his hands and once again was played the fool. Were boys always this mean? I sniffled and gently rubbed my hands, hoping to relieve the pain, but instead, it made it worse.
“Give me your hands.” Phil gave out his hands for me to place.
“You’re not going to do anything bad to it, right?” I scowled at him, worried that if I handed him my hands, he would ask for more massage.
“Just give it to me now.” I wearily placed it on his hand. He gently grabbed it and started to massage it. The pain that was shooting up my arms slowly started to ebb away. Green magically light appeared around his hands and onto mine.
Startled at the sudden increase in magic power, I couldn’t help but gape at what he was doing. Was he patching me back up to make me work again? I felt compelled to run away here and now.
This Demon Lord is true to his name and heals and makes the work twice as hard! I couldn’t help but start to regret immensely for saying what I said. I felt foolish for allowing myself to be trapped by Phil’s game. I pray to the lady of light that I can control my damnable mouth.
“You’re all healed.” Phil let go and turned his back towards me.
I sobbed on the inside. With reluctance, I went over and started to massage Phil’s shoulder once again.
“What are you doing?”
“Massaging your shoulders.”
“Didn’t you heal my hands to continue massaging it?”
“Uh….” Phil went silent. “Yes, I did, but I changed my mind. You can stop now. I feel better.”
I sighed with relief. He truly was a Demon Lord to the last minute. Whimsical, aloof, and selfish to the last second.
“We’re here,” Don spoke, and he was glancing towards the city that was before us.
I couldn’t help but stifle a gasp. It was nothing compared to Phil’s old town. Everything about it felt magical and grand.
“There is a castle in the middle.” My eyes sparkled. I was thinking about the many fantastical situations of a handsome prince roaming on the castle ground.
“A prince is living there, right?” I pointed in excitement as my delusional fantasy was acting up again, creating a fantastical story.
“There is. The most ruthless one in existence.” My dream was shattered in an instant. “You broke my dreams.”
“What dream?” Phil stared at me strangely.
“It’s nothing.” I gave out a sigh. So much for a handsome kind prince. Instead, he stated he was considered ruthless, possibly even evil. That was a big no in my books.
“I do not like this.” Phil’s voice rang out with unease.
“What’s wrong?” I turned my gaze towards where he was looking. Large sentries of guards were stationed at the gates examining the wagons and the people.
“The security is tighter than I last remembered. It must be because of the goblins and the increase in refugees. Though I have to wonder why so many? It doesn’t take such a large force.”
“I hope it won’t bring us trouble.”
The wagons continued to push forward until finally, we arrived in front of the group of soldiers.
“Halt! Show me your pass!”
Phil had in his hand a pass and gave it to the guard. He was sitting in the front with the horse’s reign in his hands. Even if Phil looked like a commoner in the clothes that he was in, he still looked like nobility in the way he carried himself.
“Household of Zemrick.” The soldier spoke out loud. “I am surprised that you are still alive.”
The soldier handed him back the pass. “We heard your town had been overrun. When scouts arrived, they were surprised to find the place deserted.”
“That’s true. We left to go move to a safer location. If we had stayed any longer, we would’ve all been wiped out.”
“Where have all of you guys moved too?”
“The Forgotten Forest.”
“What?” exclaimed the soldier in complete shock. “You don’t actually mean the actually Forgotten Forest?”
“What else would there be, but that one?” Phil asked, annoyed. “I would like to sell my goods and leave in three days. If you don’t mind, I have three cargos of wagons that I’ve brought with me.”
“Do you mind if we inspect it?”
While the guards were busily inspecting from the back, I slipped into my blanket. I dove in to find my small purse filled with gold. My stomach was rumbling so loudly, telling me to feed it. This only happened when I neglected my eating gold for a couple of days.
Fishing out one gold coin, I quickly popped it into the mouth.
Crunch! Mmmmmmm. So good. It tasted so sweet that I wondered if I would ever catch diabetes if I’m not careful. Wait, I shouldn’t even be thinking like that. The thought actually horrified me.
“What’s that sound?” One of the soldiers that was done looking through the wagons was examining the one we were in.
I peeked out of the blanket to see that both Don and Phil were giving me a glare. Seriously guys? You have to give me that look right now? I really didn’t do anything wrong, you know.
“Who’s under the blanket?” The guards were tense.
“It’s just my little sister.” Phil quickly spoke.
“The Zemrick family has a daughter? This is news to me.”
I slowly chewed the gold as if nothing was wrong, and every time I did, the sound of grinding metal could be heard. The guards looked at the lump of blanket as if it was a strange animal ready to pop out and eat them.
I gulped and pulled back the blanket in hand.
“Hi.” I chirpily replied. Standing tall and proud, I was not scared of a couple of guards.
“You guys don’t look alike.” The soldiers replied, looking back and forth at Phil and me.
“Ahaha….” Phil weakly laughed. He gave me an evil stare saying, ‘you should’ve stayed under the blanket doofus!’
Keh, this damnable demon lord. I, for one, felt stupid that I had even shown my presence. I thought it would help out the situation, but by the look of Phil’s face, I wasn’t sure now.
“She is from my mother’s side of the family. Duke Hon’s had adopted her into the family recently.” He quickly replied.
“What are you talk-” Phil covered my mouth and gave me a glare to shut up. I slowly nodded and kept silent.
“I’ve been watching over her, and she’s been learning the trade.”
“I see. Go ahead then. Remember, you are only allowed to sell in the market. Anywhere it will cause revoking of your permit.”
“I understand.” Phil gave him a gentlemen’s smile and let the horse pull forward. I sat down quietly next to Phil, trying not to piss him off anymore.
“Um, Phil.” I finally spoke in a soft tone. I could see that he wasn’t so happy.
“Can we browse around the market and buy up all the Magic stones?”
“I was planning on doing that.”
“After we set up our shop and sell some.”
We silently continued onwards. The voices of the people could be heard intensifying around us. Large bustling crowds moved from stall-to-stall, buying up products that were on display. Phil moved the wagon to an open space and stopped. He jumped out and motioned the others to begin to set up.
“Is there anything that I can help with?”
“No. Just sit.”
“I can bring business.”
“No. You’re going to break people’s eardrums.”
“I’m the mascot, though!” I cried out in outbursts, realizing that I had nothing to do and was bored.
“The Loli-mascot.” Don chuckled.
“I heard that,” I growled. I was not a child. Just someone stuck in a child’s body.
I quietly sat in the corner, mumbling to myself. That wretched Demon Lord. I brought all the business like last time. Why won’t he let me help? Was it that bad last time? I couldn’t help but grumble. Throughout the whole afternoon, both Don and Phil were busy selling the things that we had created from the magic stones and even the townspeople’s items.
The main attractions were definitely the magic lamps, but even still, all the other items were being sold off quickly. I couldn’t help but be pleased by the large amount of luck we were having.
Still, I couldn’t sit any longer and got off the wooden crate. I wanted to explore the busy streets, and especially check out all the stalls before the sun went down. Quietly sneaking out through the back, I left when Don and Phil were dealing with a lot of customers.
My eyes were sparkling at the sight of new things out before me. It was endless, like a festival. Each stall had unique trinkets that were sold, and some I had never seen before. Even still, when I came across magic stones, I quickly bought it all. We needed so many of these stones that I was running out, especially the lower level stones.
As I continually walked through the market, I couldn’t help but stop in front of a strange tent. It was dark and musty with a smell of urine. I covered my nose from this awful stench.
“P-p-please. I want some water.” A hand appeared out from the dark and reached out towards me.
I jumped back in fright when I noticed a girl locked up in a cage. What the hell is this? I couldn’t help but muffle a shriek. It was like I was looking at a malnourished girl with dog ears and a tail. My guess is that she was probably around the age of fourteen, but I was not sure.
“Please, water.” the girl’s hand flopped down weak. Her raspy breathing sounded like she was suffering horribly. Even her legs were chained up with heavy shackles, cutting into her skin. It left behind an ugly red, festering with sickness. Next to her was a shaggy looking man with cat ears. He was sitting with his hands wrapped around his knees.
I quickly rummaged through my bag and pulled out a water bottle. Handing it to her, she slowly lap up the water with greed but stopped realizing that she drank too much. She bashfully gave it to the shaggy looking man, and he too took a slow sip out of the water.
“T-thank you.” The girl stared with the most adorable eyes. I swear it reminded me of a lost puppy. Any longer and I would swoon. It wasn’t until her stomach rumbled loudly, catching me off guard. A smile appeared on my face, her gaze was cast down in shame.
Well, nothing was wrong in feeding her anyways. I quickly pulled out a biscuit and handed it to her through the metal bar. “What’s your name?”
“Siva.” She glanced at the biscuit in hand and looked up towards me.
“Siva? That’s a pretty name. Here you can have it. I’m not going to bite.” I shook the biscuit in front of her.
Siva snatched the food out of my hand and devoured the food in one bite.
“What’s your name?” I looked towards the man sitting still next to Siva. I rummaged for another biscuit and handed it towards him. He did not move and instead stared at the food. Compared to Siva, who was a dog type, Seth looked more like a mix between a tiger and a human.
“He’s Seth. My friend and brother.”
“Brother?” Siva stared at the second biscuit. They did not even look anything alike, but then again, I did not know the Beast-kin well enough. Honestly, this was my first time meeting a Beast-kin.
“Go ahead, take it.”
Siva took it gleefully and devoured it in hunger.
I couldn’t help but feel sad at the predicament that these two were in, I got the feeling that this whole tent had a variety of different slaves, plus they were not even properly maintained.
“Hey!” An ugly fat man walked up towards me with a cold demeanor. His potbelly jiggled from moving up and down. “What are you doing! Step away from the merchandise!”
I got up and stood my ground. This fat turd of meat is not going to boss me around. “Is that how you treat a customer?” I glared angrily at the fat man. My anger flared to the point where I could feel it seeping out of my skin. Silence followed after from my overbearing aura that I don’t usually use.
The fat man froze and took a step back. “You, a customer?” The fat man rearranged himself. His face brightened up when he noticed the clothes that I was wearing. I could tell that he was already thinking about different ways to fatten his own pouch.
“I’m sorry. Please excuse me. I did not know someone so young would be coming to my humble shop.” He rubbed his greasy hands together.
I clicked my teeth at the disappointment in his behavior. “What do you have to sell porky.”
For a split second, I could see the fat pig lips twitch. I did not care if I offended this rude bastard.
“I have lovely ladies, boys, and men. I specialize in beast-kin. What kind of quality are you looking for? For a noble lady like yourself, we could sell you a beautiful man that can become a great butler.”
What the heck is this guy even saying? Does he want me to start collecting a harem or something? I shook at him with disgust.
“How many do you have?”
“I’m asking how many slaves do you have for sale?”
“Fifty-five beast kinds in total.”
“What’s the total to buy them all?”
“Are you deaf? How much is it to buy them all?”
“1390 g-g-gold coins.”
The fat man was flabbergasted in how naturally I stated that number. “I-“
“Shut up porky and draw me a contract. Now.” I demanded. Where the heck was I getting all this confidence from? Well, honestly, the way porky was treating this beast-kin made me infuriated.
“Why, you little cheeky brat.”
“Are you going to sell me the slave or not. I’m offering to buy them all of your hands in the amount you specified. This is a once in a lifetime deal. I’ll also throw in one more gold coin, and this gold coin is worth three times as much then one gold coin.” I fished out a golden coin in hand and twirled it in my hands.
The greedy man was salivating at the sight of the gold coin. The fat man was silent. He quickly ran toward the back, where he brought out a paper and pen. Pushing aside the stuff on the table, he placed the paper down in hand. Quickly jotting down the information and signing it, he turned the contract over for me to sign.
“This is a magic contract. The moment you sign this, you are bound to set an amount of price.”
I quickly look it over. “Before I sign this, what would I be getting for buying off all the slaves?”
“I would personally throw in two more slaves to the deal that I have been personally keeping.”
“Really? What’s so special about them?”
“Well….” The fat man went silent.
I knew it. He was selling a defective product to me. Either way, I did not care, my goal was one thing only to buy them all. “Like I said, this gold coin is not like any other gold coin that you will ever come across in your life. I only have one.” I continued to twirl the Draconian Gold coin in front of his face. I could tell that greed was setting in on the fat man. “Give me one of your finest, expensive, and most powerful slaves and all the slaves in this tent, and I’ll give it to you.”
The gold rolled around in my palms. With a twitching hand, the fat man grabbed towards the gold coin. Before he could snatch it out of my hands, I held onto his, and we shook.
“W-w-what did you just do?!” The fat man exclaimed in horror.
“We made a porky contract. And do you understand what it means to make a contract?” I evilly grinned. This poor fool was so full of greed that he forgot to pay attention to his opponent.
“No! You can’t! My Slaves! You dirty rat! I will not-” The fat man started to hyperventilate heavily. He clutched his heart as he kneel forward. “I-I will not g-g-give you my sl-” With a horribly spazzing like sound, he fell forward dead.
I couldn’t help but stare at him in shock. Was the handshake contract that deadly to the point it kills someone? I absolutely had no words for what just happened.
Gently kicking the fat man on the side, I probed if he was still alive. There was no movement, except silence. I quietly picked up the pen from the desk and scratched out the total amount of gold coins offered for the whole amount of slaves. I wrote with the pen one Draconian gold coin as close to the fat man’s handwriting. Bending over, I pulled out a knife and pricked his thumb.
Picking up his bloody thumb, I pressed down onto the paper with his fingerprint. Then I quickly signed the paper. The paper swell in golden light, and my signature floated out of the paper. Like a flash, the signature broke into many small pieces of black line. It flew towards each of the slave collar in the whole tent. I couldn’t help but look down with awe at the paper in front of me. This was even better than I had thought. The proof of ownership was not in the form of a paper at all.
Leaving the one Draconian gold coin in his hand, I rummaged through his pocket for keys. I did not want to stay here any longer. Quickly, I ran to the first cage, where I met Siva and Seth.
Their eyes were glued towards me with curiosity and unease. Going through the key, I opened the door for them to come out.
“Come on. I need your help in gathering everyone out of their cage here.”
“Gather everyone?” Siva tilted her head confused. Her ears flopped to the side, giving her the most adorable look ever.
“Yea, we are all leaving this forsaken hell hole.”
“Leaving? You are our master?” Siva was awed at how fast things were happening.
“Well, more like freeing you instead of keeping you here. I’ll take you back to my place and get those collars off. Seeing people selling others just leaves a bad aftertaste in my mouth.”
Seth quietly excited behind Siva. I quickly handed him half the keys for him to open the cages.
Seth nodded and left. Siva, on the other hand, stays close to me. Gazing at me with curious eyes. She really did remind me of a lost golden retriever puppy because of her hair and ears. It just looks adorable. Though I couldn’t help but look up at her. She was a lot taller than I remembered inside the cramped up cage.
“Are we really going out of here?”
“Did you really buy us all?”
“Are you a princess?”
“A daughter of a rich merchant?”
“Well, none of what you stated.”
“Then what are you?”
“Just a smart kid that tricked porky.” I winked.
For the first time, I saw her smile brilliantly. Even though her body was thin and bones, she still held herself up pretty well. If I look closely at her, she was gorgeous, it was just that the clothes that she wore, dirt, and messy hair covered her beauty.
“How did you and Seth end up as slaves?”
“We were captured by humans.”
“Ah.” I went quiet. “I’m human as well.”
“You are?” Siva started with a questioning look. “But your ears are pointy, aren’t you an elf?”
I shook my head. “My ears are just like that.”
“Oh.” She quietly whispered. “But it’s alright, I can tell you are a good person.”
“So you don’t hate me?” My voice squeaked unexpectedly. I must’ve held back some worry that I did not know about until my voice cracked.
“No. Why would I? You gave me food and water.”
“I see.” I went towards the next cage and opened it.
We continued to go through the tent, opening up more and more. From young to old, the total number of Beast-kin all surrounded me quietly. They all stared down at me with lifeless eyes wondering what I would do next.
“Is that the slave merchant?” Siva asked. Her voice quivered as she looked at the dead body lying on the floor. “Is he dead?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know, natural death.”
Siva stared at me when I said that. Even I don’t know if that was true. Looking down, she saw the gold Draconis Coin in the dead man’s hand. She reached down to pick it up.
“Stop!” I yelled, afraid that the curse of the contract would affect her.
Pulling back her hand in fright, Siva looked at me in fear. “I-I-I’m s-s-sorry.” She stuttered, holding back her hand in shame. Her sorrowful expression even wounded my heart and made me feel like a horrible person who just smacked a puppy in the face.
“That coin is cursed. I highly suggest you not to touch it.”
“It is?” Siva eyes became wide in fear.
“That was the last thing that he was holding when I saw him die.”
“Oh….” Siva’s voice became quieter.
Everyone present was also fearful of the golden coin that was lying in the hands of the Slave merchant. None of them dare to pick up the coin. I was glad that I prevented a possible death. I wasn’t even sure if it was even possible to get a curse transfer down to them, but it was something that I did not want to take. This was a fantastical world, and curses could be a real thing here.
“You know you guys can take off the collars. You won’t need it anymore.”
Everyone stared at me in disbelief. They could not believe what I just stated. I wondered if I said something wrong. I couldn’t help but voice my opinion. “Is there something wrong with taking off your collars?”
“Well….” Siva’s voice became soft. “We can’t take off our collars. It is imbued with magic. If you look closely, you will see that the owner’s name is written on the collar itself. If we forcefully take it off, we will be killed in seconds.”
“It’s that bad?” I was appalled at how inhumane the collar was. “I didn’t know anything about that. I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to tell you to commit suicide.” My hands were rubbing against my fingers, worried. “Is there no way to get it off?”
“What would that be?”
“A high ranking mage can take it off.”
“Oh…” My head was spinning. This could be a serious problem. “There is nothing that we can do except find a mage. That’s going to be a bit hard.”
“It’s okay,” Siva spoke. “I know you will treat us well.”
Everyone was nervous about what I had to say. I could tell that each one of them had a light of hope that could be seen. I breathed in deeply and let it all out. “I promise to set you all free.”
“We will be waiting patiently, young mistress.”
Everyone slowly bowed. I couldn’t help but feel an ache in my heart. This was all too surreal, as I did not plan this at all. Now that I think about it, the next problem was getting everyone here back to the wagon. The most challenging problem was to explain this all to Phil. I swear I could feel a cold shiver thinking about him now.
I froze like a deer. It couldn’t be, could it? It is. I bolted for my dear life out of the tent and into the crowded street.
“Berry!” Phil called out in anger, storming towards me, relentless out for vengeance.
I couldn’t help it. I ran without stopping once, weaving in between the crowds like a snake. This was one time when I was happy that I had a small body.
Out of nowhere from above, I was slammed down onto the ground with large familiar hands.
“Gah!” I squirmed underneath the pressure.
“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” I screamed out in despair. Some of the people stopped to stare at the odd predicament we were in. Phil slapped his face and let out a deep sigh.
“Calm down pipsqueak. You’re screaming as if I’m going to eat you alive.”
“You are.” I hiccuped. This was the most embarrassing and worst position to ever be in. Phil was sitting on my back, not letting me run away, his heavy body made it impossible to squirm out. I could already see my life flashing before my eyes. It was something that I dearly wished never happened in my life.
“Why did you run away?”
“I don’t know.”
“You do know that you did something wrong.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Stop acting like a child and trying to run away. Your screams sound like I’m some kind of monster.”
I gulped. It was true. Phil was a monster called a Demon Lord that will get me killed one way or another.
“So explain to me why you left when I told you to stay seated.”
I got up slowly as he got off of me. I twiddled my fingers. “I got bored.”
“Okay, fine, you got bored. I get that part, but why were you at the Slave Market.”
“Because I saw a cute golden retriever, and I was feeding it.”
“A dog? There are no dogs-” Phil stopped and thought it over. “You were talking about the beast kin, weren’t you.”
I nodded. “I bought everyone’s freedom.”
“What!?” Phil’s voice rose an octave in complete disbelief. “Did I hear you correctly? All?”
“Yes, porky was trying to sell them for 1390 gold coins.”
“1390 gold coins?! Are you out of your mind?”
“No. No. No. I didn’t buy them with 1390 gold coins.” I couldn’t help grinning from ear-to-ear. “One Draconis gold coin did the trick.”
“Handshake.” My answer was simple and concise. “Though do people normally die from breaking their contract?”
Phil looked at me, speechless. He straightened his face and spoke. “Possibly.”
“Possibly? You don’t know? That means it can happen for real?” I couldn’t help contain my worry from bursting out. If this was true, then that means if I don’t follow one more favor, I could die. I had begun to sweat from worry. My mind was in complete turmoil from what Phil had stated.
“Pft. Hahaha.” Phil chuckled out loud, throwing back his hair. His smile sparkled, dazzling everyone who looked at him: even me.
I stare at Phil strangely. Did he trick me, or was I just a fool? I couldn’t tell the difference from this demon lord that was sitting on top of me like a cushion.
“Berry, you never cease to amaze me.”
“Oh.” I silently spoke. “Then I’m bringing all fifty-five Beastkin back with me to the town.”
“Weren’t you listening. I said that I made the offer for one Draconis Gold coin. I’m not going to give up 1390 precious gold coins to that fat pig. He doesn’t deserve to be called a human.” I angrily retorted. There was no way that I would allow the other Beast-kin to become a slave again. Not when I was alive and breathing.
Phil sighed. “Berry.”
“I would like to use my last favor today.”
I gulped. I could already feel my hands sweating and becoming hot. “That would be?”
“You are forbidden from buying slaves without me being with you from now on.”
“Why?” I threw up my hands in exaggeration to show my outrage. Was he trying to control my life?!
“What do you mean, why? Didn’t you know you could’ve almost got sold as well?”
I quietly stared at him, confused. I didn’t really get him at all.
“You look like a kid. I can guess how you tricked the slave merchant, but if you met the wrong kind, you would have been captured today. This world is not a kind place.”
What he said bothered me. Wasn’t I really lucky to meet porky that was too infatuated by gold? What would happen if I met someone different? The thought made me shiver.
I smiled. I was finally free. No more deals.
I was FREE!
My heart leaped out in joy. The words free did not hit me until now on how precious it was. Throughout the whole time, I was overthinking and worrying about what he would ask for. There were times when I worried that he would ask something outrageous that I could not uphold, but luckily he did not.
“Now, let’s go and sort out this ridiculous mess that you have created.”
Phil got off of me and picked me up easily. I couldn’t help but follow quietly behind the Slave Tent.
We arrived next to the wagon with all fifty-five Beastkin in tow. They quietly followed without causing any trouble. Their tattered clothes made them cold as they shivered. I had wondered why all of them did not run away, but later I found out the collar restricted them from running away.
As we made the trek back, we had bought a large amount of food when coming back towards the wagon. Phil stated that we did not have enough to feed all fifty-five without replenishing our supplies. Not only that, I made sure to buy some extra soap and cheap clothes.
I spent over 123 gold coins in total. I felt the color drain from my face when the sum of gold coins all added up to such a large amount, though at the same time, I was glad that my haggling skills cut off a good 50 gold coins overall. The thought of sweetness of the gold coins being spent made my stomach tighten. All that wasted material for food for myself made me want to cry.
People stared when a large group of Beast-kin followed a small kid. They all could not help but wonder where such a large group of slaves of Beast-kin, in particular, came from. They moved away in disgust when they saw the Beast-kin come closer to them.
With the most fit and well-nourished Beast-kin, I asked them to carry the heavier luggage of food, while the weaker body ones I made sure to feed something very light in their stomach. I honestly wasn’t sure if they were even strong enough to follow.
“Yes?” Phil spoke. He was busily packing the things we bought away. With the fifty-five Beast-kin helping out, everything was complete in minutes. We had to move outside the gates because of the large number of slaves.
I could tell that the spirits of the Beast-kin were a lot more upbeat than before. Siva and the female Beast-kin were cooking up a meal, while the males were helping out in setting up the tents.
“Are there any lakes or rivers nearby?”
“They all smell so bad, my nose is hurting.” I scrunch my nose, the smell of their stink was painful, and I was starting to have a migraine.
“No. Plus, this is winter. Are you trying to freeze everyone to death?”
The heavy stench of body odor clung to the beast-kin furs making me want to puke. I completely forgot that it was the winter days and cold was settling quickly. “This is not good.” I thought over the predicament we were in. I didn’t want to track the rest of the way back home with a stinky ragtag bunch of slaves with me.
My mind was formulating a plan. Quickly taking out my pen and five-level E common stones, I began to inscribe codes onto the stone. Like a mad scientist, I promptly finished coding what I needed. Walking a good while forward, I place the Brown magic stone onto the ground.
A large gaping hole appeared on the ground the size of a large pool. A couple of the beast-kin came over to see what I was doing. They stumbled back in surprise when the ground temporarily shook. I jumped in the hole and grabbed the stone.
Climbing out, I walked not too far away and did it once more.
Two large gaping holes were present next to the camp. The Magic Stone cracked and broke. I noticed that when using the Magic Stone in one large burst caused the Magic Stones to break, especially of the lower levels, it happened more often.
With the two blue magic stones in hand, I threw one of each into the hole.
A slush of running water erupted out from the magic stones, quickly filling up the hole. The stones broke before completely filling the hole all the way. Clean, pristine water that glimmered underneath the moonlight gaze. The water was slowly starting to crystallize from the cold.
“What sorcery is this?” The beast-kin stared at the strange display that happened before them. Even the guards that came with us were shocked.
“You did it again.” Phil came up from behind. He stared at my satisfied face of accomplishing a difficult task.
The magic consumption of activating the stones did not take as much magic as I thought. In actuality, it felt like it only took a trickle of my power.
“Clean bathwater. Now I just need to throw in a firestone to heat it up.” I proudly stated, puffing up my chest at the accomplishment I had made: an outdoor sauna. “It’s time for all the beast-kin to take a bath. I can’t stand the awful smell.” It reminds me of the smell of wet dogs.
Phil crossed his arms, looking at me for a good moment. He didn’t know what to say as he just continually watched me.
With the last two red magic stones, I threw each one into the water.
“Activate Heating!” The stones plopped into the water and glowed red. Bubbles began to form, and it started to heat the water. Heat began to rise from the water, creating it into a nice hot bath.
“You do know that there is no privacy for any of these pools, right?”
“You’re right….” I was deeply thinking about what to do when Phil walked over and placed his hand to the ground. The ground rumbled, and the ground formed a wall around each bath covering most of the sides.
“You can do that?” I gaped, realizing how powerful he was at times. The magic control that he had was superb.
“It’s not too difficult, but fighting and using magic is a lot harder than you think. So I don’t always use magic.”
“But still, you would’ve looked so cool!” I couldn’t help but voice my opinion. I was having difficulties controlling magic, but Phil, on the other hand, was doing it just fine. There was a difference in night and day between Phil and me.
“Looking cool and using it for practical use are two different things. Remember that.”
I couldn’t help but stare in jealousy. Still, Phil did have a point, magic in this world was a lot more challenging to control. Satisfied, I walked back towards the tent where the large group of Beast-kin was present. They were all huddled together, wondering what was going to happen next. They looked at me with curiosity and some with fear.
“Everyone, you all are going to take a bath now,” I commanded. “Each one of you will receive new clothes, a towel, and a bar of soap. Please head towards the waters.”
Everyone stared at me, confused and surprised.
“Bath? Now?” Siva asked. “In this weather?
“Yes, You guys are not eating until you are clean. Don’t worry, the water is heated so you won’t become cold.”
“We’re eating too?”
“Why do you think you were cooking such large meals?”
“I-” Siva went silent. She felt embarrassed for asking such a stupid question, but it was understandable. She probably did not have a decent meal since her capture.
“Come on. Let’s get this over with.” I quickly went over to the pile of soap and towels. “Take one of each. When you finish washing, come back this way, and I’ll give you guys a new pair of clothes. One pool of water is for females, and one is for males. Please divide yourself accordingly.”
A line was forming in front of me. I was busily handing out the items for each Beast-kin. While handing things out, I noticed that they were different types of Beast-kin present. From tiger, dogs, rabbits, and even lizard types were all present. Every single one of them was a blend of human and animal. The majority of the slaves were quite young. With the last of the soap and towels handed out, I too went to take a bath,
I quickly changed into the towel that was hung up. Wrapping it around me, I ran in. I noticed that all the female beast-kin was quite voluptuous and muscular. Almost half of their bodies were covered in fur or scales. I took a quick bath and even ran out. I got dressed, and I went to the crate of clothes.
Some of the Beast-kin was coming out from the Bath and making their way towards me.
“Need some help?” Don appeared out of thin air, and almost scared the crap out of me.
I nodded, unable to say any words.
The first one to arrive was Seth, who was wrapped with only a towel on his waist. I couldn’t help but ogle at his spectacular muscles. Every ounce of his body was ripped. He did not look a bit mangy and starved like Siva.
“You’re drooling,” Don spoke.
I quickly snapped out of the stupor and blushed. Crap, I was caught red-handed. “Here you go.” Don gave Seth clothes, trying not to stare. He quietly took it without a word.
“Berry!” Siva was running towards me with a bright smile. Her golden hair fluttered behind her with a towel wrapped tightly around her body. “I’m finished!” Underneath the moonlight, Siva looks completely different from before. She looks more graceful and exotic.
“Siva, are you done?” I thought she would have taken a bit longer in cleaning herself.
“Mhmm. I was hungry.” She bashfully stated. Don was eyeing at her ears.
“I love your ears,” Don spoke unconsciously.
Siva turned red and smiled. “T-thank you.” She didn’t know what to say.
Was Don one of those animal lovers? I couldn’t help but wonder if he was a huge player. Already he was making his move towards Siva. Maybe a ship was building between the two? I smirked at them.
I even heard her stomach grumble in protest. With a gentle smile, I handed her clothes. “Well, the food is ready. Grab something to eat when you change into your clothes.”
“Thank you.” She ran towards the trees and quickly changed into her clothes. Then she sprinted towards the food, where a couple of the guards were eating. They did not give her the same disgusted look as the people in the city. Instead, they welcomed her with delight.
More and more, Beast-kin came out from the Bath and made their way towards me. Don and I diligently work in handing out the clothes to the Beast-kin. With our job done, I made my way to the food. I didn’t know how hungry I was until now.
Grabbing myself roasted chicken and a drink. I made my way over towards the fire where Siva, Seth, Don, and Phil were also present. Sitting down, I began to eat.
“So how many types of Beast-kin are there?” Don asked. He was sitting next to Siva. Seth was observing Don, making it difficult for Don to advance.
“Six in total: Tiger Clan, Wolf Clan, Lizardmen, Blue Clan, Rabbit Clan, and the Hidden ones.”
“Hidden ones and the Blue Clan? I get the other four, but those two don’t make much sense.”
“Well, the Blue clan are Beast-kin that have blue skin with tattoos that decorate their body. They are the only ones that can use magic. The Hidden Ones we don’t know who they are. Everyone believes that they don’t exist. The Tiger and Wolf Clan are known for their combative abilities, while the Lizard and Rabbit Clans are known for their technology.”
“That’s quite fascinating.”
Siva turned towards me. “Why did you buy us all?”
The question caught me off guard. Everyone went silent to hear what I had to say. I swear that even the crickets were quiet at that moment.
“It was a spur of the moment.”
“Was that really all it was?” Siva was looking at me intently. Even Seth was staring quietly, waiting for a better explanation.
“Honestly, it was, at least until Porky came over. I disliked his whole attitude and wanted to give him a piece of my mind. Also, I could tell you guys weren’t being treated well, and I’m against the whole slavery issue. It’s not something I see every day.” I replied. I was against animals, or was it beast-kin cruelty?
“Is it true you will free us?”
“Yes, I’m not the type to go back on my words, you know. Though, I would like to take a closer look at your collar.”
Siva came over and sat in front of me. I leaned in to examine the collar around her neck. Golden words appeared around the collar as I reached over.
“Owner Berry Drakel. Death magic incantation when one attempts to take it off and total obedience.” I read it out loud, realizing how serious that the magic was. If one wrong move, this collar probably snapped their neck in half or choked them out into suffocation.
“You know how to read it?” Phil asked with a wide eye. “When did you learn how to read magic?”
“What are you talking about? I can read it perfectly fine.” I gave him a strange look. Wasn’t it a normal everyday thing?
“I didn’t know your knowledge of languages was so extensive.”
“It’s Magic Language, just like your Ancient Draconian Language. Even though the Magic Language, the root is derived from the Ancient Draconian Language, it’s still considered different.”
I stared and realized that my skill had activated, allowing me to read and learn new languages at a rapid pace. When I look upon it closely, I could see where the familiarity between the languages were. Reading was a lot easier than I thought.
An idea struck me, fishing through my pocket. I pulled out the box of magic stones and a level C Common Magic. It’s multi-colored stone glimmered, gently catching the rays of moonlight. The Magic Stone took a lot more magic and time to create. It had drained almost all my magic for three days straight, which caused me to sleep for days. This specific stone was a lot harder to create than any other Magic Stones that I have made.
“What is that?” Siva stared curiously.
“Well, you could say something like a Hacking Magic Stone.” I held it up towards the collar.
“You made another type of stone?” Phil looked at me curiously, wondering what I would do. He scooted closer.
“Well, it’s just a test trial. I really don’t think this stone should be taught so easily.”
“Why is that?”
“It’s a stone that can unravel and bypass all the magic defense. Though it only works on contacts.”
At that moment, a message shot through my mind. Would you like to bypass the enchant? The chance of success is less than 30%.
Only 30%? That was a lot lower than I thought. Yes. I thought, and the Hacking Magic Stone turned bright red causing my hands to feel hot. The magic from the stone pulled a heavy amount of magic out from my body and into the stone. Even the collar turned bright red.
“W-w-what’s going on?” Siva stuttered in fright. Her hands quickly lifted towards her neck in the hope of stopping whatever was going on, but the magic energy pulse shot throughout her whole body, causing her to stiffen.
“Just keep calm,” I had difficulty even speaking out those words to her. The hardest part was keeping my focus.
My mind dived into the magic stone. Words that I had never seen before fluctuated and zipped all around me like a train. Out of all the words that flew by, only one out of the whole group was red in color. Reaching out, I touched the word in red.
A burst of bright red light erupted from the word blinding me in seconds. I could not help but cover myself in the hope of stopping the pain. Just as the flash of light appeared, the world around me began to crumble like broken glass. It was an oddly surreal sight that made me wonder if this was what all magic looked like. In a jolt, I was brought back to my senses.
“Berry, are you okay?” Phil asked, looking down on me concerned. He looked at me with a concerned gaze. I was on the ground staring up into the sky.
“I’m okay.” I let out a sigh. This whole hacking into the magic itself was a lot more difficult than I thought. I felt quite a bit drained.
With a clatter, the first collar broke apart and fell onto Siva’s open hands.
“I-I-I,” Siva stuttered. Her eyes began to tear up from shock and relief. A burst of tears erupted from her face, and she wailed in happiness.
“Siva? A-a-re you okay?” I couldn’t help but stutter. I mean, she is crying. I honestly don’t know what to do, mainly because she was crying so hard.
Throwing out her arms around me, she bawled. “T-t-thank you!”
The words gave me a warm tingle in my heart, and I could not help but feel happy. Was this what it felt like to help someone who is in dire need of help? The blissful feeling was something that I could not easily forget.
“I promise to repay you for everything that you have done!”
“Well, you don’t have to go that far. I wasn’t expecting anything in return.” I bashfully replied. I wasn’t so used to this extensive amount of compliments.
“No! I will follow you till I die!”
“Woah, calm down. I expect you to have a family that you want to find, don’t you?”
Siva’s smile faltered. “All of us who are captured do not have a family to go back to. They have died in the raids made by the slave traders.”
I couldn’t help but feel anger boil inside of myself. Not only did the slave traders force them into slavery, they even killed their family. I was glad for once that Porky got what he deserved: Retribution.
With a gentle kiss to my forehead, Siva smiled. Her hair smells like chamomile and lavender. I couldn’t help but be embarrassed at her loving display.
“You are now free, though I don’t think you should leave right now. I strongly suggest you keep the collar back on till we leave. You don’t have to worry about it activating or anything like that. It’s broken anyway.”
Siva nodded with understanding. She picked up the collar and hooked it back into place. Nothing happened when Siva put on the collar; everything was the same. The name written on the collar was still visible for everyone to see, but Siva could take it on and off without any worry.
“How?” asked Phil, amazed. “You just undid a high-level magic. This is unheard of.”
“It’s Berry; everything doesn’t make sense when you are around her.” Don chuckled. He was busily drawing us on his sketch pad.
“You’re right. I should’ve just expected as much.”
“It’s not that difficult.” I threw the Hacking Magic Stone towards Phil. “Why don’t you try it?”
“Are you sure?”
“Why not?” I handed him the stone as if nothing bad would happen. Honestly, I kind of wanted to see him struggle for once. Everything about him was too perfect. So far, I had never seen his stoic face crack.
“Oh, and a small advice look for the red word. All you need to do is touch it, and everything seems to unravel itself.”
“That’s the simplest way she can explain a difficult understanding of magic, isn’t it?” Don asked as he looked quizzically towards Phil.
“Better than nothing.”
“It’s your life.” Don shrugged.
Phil turned towards Seth. “Seth, you don’t mind if I try it on you?”
Seth shrugged his shoulder. He walked over towards Phil and flopped down onto the floor. Phil raised his Magic Stone and placed it on the collar. For the next five minutes, I could see Phil breaking out into cold sweat, but not a single break in his perfect posture and face.
“Haaaa,” Phil let out air from his mouth. Even the way he used his magic made him look cool. How is this possible? I mean, do all Demon Lords look this cool when they are doing a difficult task? What does it take for them to see some resistance or something?
Click. The collar fell onto the ground in Seth’s hands.
“That was a lot more difficult than I thought. I used up half of my magic just doing one. How the heck are you not tired?”
“I don’t know.”
“Okay, then, I can do a couple more before I’m wiped out like you.” I went over and picked up the Magic Stone in Phil’s hand. Walking up to the next group of Beast-kin, I tirelessly worked on freeing the collar. I only could do five more before I too hit my limit and was crawling on the ground too weak to move.
The five cried out in happiness, and they all shook or hugged me. The others were shocked at what they saw. They all stated that they wanted to stay with me until they returned the favor, but even still, I told them I didn’t mind if they left here and now.
“We cannot.” The last Beast-kin spoke. “An oath to pay back a favor is of the highest importance that all our kind upholds.”
“I didn’t know that.” I learned something new about the beast-kin’s culture.
“So please, let us return the favor to you one day.”
“Okay,” It was difficult to persuade them otherwise. My head and body ached from the ordeal, and I slumped forward from exhaustion.
“Miss Berry!” Siva ran over with a worried look. “Are you alright?”
“Yes,” I pushed myself onto my arms. “I need some rest.”
“Please, don’t push yourself too hard!”
“It’s alright, the sooner I get this done, the sooner it will be out of my hair.”
“B-but miss Berry.”
“My name is Berry. Not miss. Got it?”
Siva nodded. Seth came over and bent down and scooped me over onto his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
“Gah!” I squealed in surprise.
“Don’t worry. Seth usually doesn’t talk much. He only does it when he thinks it’s necessary.”
My hands and arms were like jello, even though it was not used. I could not resist but stay on Seth’s back uselessly.
Seth took me into a tent and gently placed me on the ground on top of fur blankets.” He got up, and before he left, he turned around and smiled. “Thanks.” His words were light but deep.
I couldn’t help but be surprised at how sweet his voice sounded. It was deep and musical but not harsh to the ears. I wouldn’t say that he had a girly voice, but to females, it was alluring. His shadow moved underneath the light and stood guard in front of the tent. A second shadow passed in front of the tent, and Phil entered.
“Phil?” I was confused at his sudden entrance.
“You got a new guard situated in front of the tent, don’t you.” Phil pointed over his shoulders. He was already taking off his shoes and extra accessories.
“What are you doing?” I stared. He was taking off his shirt and grabbing a new pair. I saw his muscles flex underneath the clothes, and I could not help but gulp. Oh man, this is like a striptease eye candy. Whoever sees this might get the wrong idea if you know what I mean. “Don’t you have a tent of your own?”
“This is my tent,” Phil stated without a care in the world that I was in there.
“I’m a woman.”
“Really? Now you are a woman. I swear you’re flip-flopping between one to another too quickly. How I see it, you are a girl. I met you as a girl, and you have always been a girl. Deal with it and let me get ready to go to sleep.” Phil rolled his eyes. He was phased at my words as he sat down.
“In here with me?”
“Where would I sleep? Outside?” He pointed behind him where Seth was.
“Yes.” I bluntly spoke without realizing it. Phil stared at me with an intensity I shrunk in size.
“What do you see me as your servant? Hell no. You can go out and sleep for all I care.”
“Be quiet and move over. You’re sleeping on my blanket.”
I couldn’t help but close my mouth. Was Phil going to sleep here with me? But then when I looked around, this tent was not mine. This whole time, I thought Coco had packed this tent for me. Then it hit me. She did it on purpose by packing only a couple. I ground my teeth and moved over.
“Fine.” I pouted. I picked up a blanket and was ready to go out when Phil grabbed my arms.
“I’m telling you now; the bugs are worse out there during this time of night. Plus, Don has the other one using it for his studies. He already created quite a mess, and I’m not sure if you’ll even find space to sleep. Not only that, but we also shared a room before.”
“B-b-ugs?” The thought of mosquitoes biting me did not sit well with me.
“You are free to leave. Don’t worry. I’m not going to jump on you. I don’t like kids; it’s not my preference.” He casually said as if it was nothing making me conscious of myself.
I stare at him skeptically. He flopped onto his back and covered himself in the blanket. I was in a dilemma: Stay here with a half-naked Phil or go outside and get eaten by the bugs.
Nope, I don’t want to get bitten. I had enough of those in the past couple of days, but the trap in front of me was another problem. This is one of those wildest delusions that any young female could have. My heart was beating so fast that I thought it would burst out of my body any second—one wrong move, and who knows what would happen to my weak heart. With my resolution confirmed, I decided to stay.
I breathed in deeply, allowing myself to take control of my beating heart. “I could do this.” I kept repeating these words over and over again in my mind. This is just going to be another night of peaceful sleep. Yep.
Pulling up one of the smaller blankets, I cocooned myself and made sure to divide us perfectly in the middle. I wasn’t going to take any chances. Satisfied, I closed my eyes and let sleep drift over.