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Chapter 2: A cook?

I approached the kid.

"Hey, this is no camping site! Go away!"

"Huh? I'm a cook! I want to apply here!"

What? What's this? Is someone out there giving out flyers for our kingdom? The castle has enough cooks already.

"Sorry kid. We have enough cooks already."

"Then I'll be your personal cook instead!"

He was taking something from his bag.

Maybe its a trap! Didn't he say he would cook me? Or was it cook for me?

I instantly put on my fighting stance. I tried to get a fire resistant potion from my pouch. It might be a huge fire spell!

He took out, a stew. A deer stew.

"Taste this, Sir Knight! If you like it, I'll cook it everyday for you!"

He put it in my hands and I was bewildered that I was not able to say anything.

"Well, I can also cook other things."

What?

"Hellooooo!? Sir Knight? Does this mean I can go in!? Yipee!"

He ran past me and left his tools.

"Please carry them for me! Thanks!"

Oi oi oi! STOP!! STOP!!!!

I quickly jumped ahead of him and stopped him in his tracks.

"Wawawaitt!!!!"

"What!? You didn't say no."

"What? I mean...."

I didn't know what to say. I still had the stew in my hand. I ate it before I do anything else.

"Hmm,,, It's good."

"Right!?"

But...

"But... I'm still not sure if its allowed."

"What!? Come on, Sir Knight! Pleeeeaseee?"

Master Nai saw the commotion and went to us.

"Oh... Is he a new recruit?"

"No.. Master Na-"

"Yes I'm the new recruit! I'm a cook! My name is Atab! Nice to meet you, Master Na!"

"It's Nai, kiddo. Come on. Let's get you sorted out. I might build you a shed of your own if you help me."

"Yep! Right away!"

There they go.... I'd better talk to Mr.Rick soon.

I was about to get the cooking materials when someone suddenly appeared. It was a person in black clothing.

Is it a ninja? I've fought a few of them in the past. This one might be looking for revenge. I look at the riverbank and there was a Huuma Shuriken planted in the ground. It's one of the Masters I've killed.

My greatsword was ready for any sudden attacks but he was just there staring at me.

After a few minutes he left. What is that? Is it some kind of scouting mission?

A whole army of ninjas might be on their way here... Can I hold out this time?

Because of this event, I stayed there watching the bridge all day, all night for the next three days. Atab had to get his cooking tools on his own.

He kept on shouting at me but it was like I couldn't hear it. I was already in battle mode. I got to stay focused. These kind of enemies likes to dish out surprise attacks.

In battles, they would always attack when I blinked my eyes. They were that fast.

Hmm....

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(Nai POV)

"Hey... its been a week now. He hasn't even eaten anything yet."

"Don't worry, Atab. I've already called Lord Rick from the castle."

A few moments later, Rick the butler came.

"Hm,,,, Ah. I know this behavior. You see, ..."

Rick told them about enemies that would try to catch him off-guard non-stop. Everyday they would launch surprise attack. Sir Atup developed a skill which is called <Guard Watch>.

"This skill puts him in alert for any enemies. He is currently checking everything, The wind, the sounds, and even the beat of our hearts. Once he notices an intruder, he would go hunt them down in their hiding positions. He hunts them as quick as he can because he can't leave the bridge unattended for too long.

"I see. Umm, Lord Rick... How long does it last?"

Atab was cooking something knew while I talked to Lord Rick.

"It lasts for at least three days to one week at most. You said that he's like that for a week, he's about to stop anytime now."

Rick looks really concerned. The battles that required Sir Atup to use this skill were battles that injured him severely. High-level enemies would be the only ones capable of doing this and even if Sir Atup was strong... he's not invincible.

"Now... Who are you people? It seems Sir Atup let you in because nobody just gets in here easily. Actually there was nobody in the last 5 years who was able to get here."

"Sorry about that, Lord Rick. My name is Nai. I helped Sir Atup build his house in exchange for letting me in. I came here to apply as a carpenter!"

"Oh... That would be great! I mean... Nobody among us here was really good at fixing things... We're glad to have you aboard!"

"Thanks, Lord Rick! I shall inspect the castle for the repairs right away!"

"Ah, yes. You don't need to call me Lord Rick anymore. I am but a humble servant here. The people you need to respect is Sir Atup and Princess Gibail."

"Understood!"

"And you little kid?"

I called Atab to have him speak with Mr.Rick.

"I'm a cook! I applied as Sir Atup's cook since he never seems to get good food!"

"Eherm.... Yes, that would be nice. Actually, we're having a hard time cooking food for Sir Atup. His share is almost as huge as the whole castle staff's share. So we rarely cook for him because it uses a lot of our resources."

Suddenly, Sir Atup stood up.

"Ahhh... It seems they didn't plan to attack... Huh?"

He was surprised to see Mr. Rick. He hasn't gotten permission himself yet and was nervous right now.

"Uhh.... ohhh, Mr. Rick. I-"

"Don't worry, Sir Atup. These men are going to be useful to our kingdom. I already accepted them."

"Oh really? Thanks, Mr. Rick!"

Sir Atup raised Mr. Rick up and hugged him.

"(Cough)"

That sure looked painful.

"Anyways, Mr. Rick!"

"Eherm..Yes?"

"What's the name of your kingdom? Sir Atup never mentioned it to me?"

"The kingdom is called "Bridge Kingdom". The name never really gets outside the kingdom so almost nobody has idea of our kingdom. Most people that come up here were thinking that this was some kind of treasure trove. A hidden kingdom or something like that."

"Oh... I see. How about trade and stuff?"

"We don't get traders anymore. I believe some news got to them that our kingdom was already destroyed and this was just a monster's den."

Well... It does look like a hidden kingdom. The way they handle guests can really turn them away. The hardest part is getting here. There's no sign or anything! The paths are also covered with vines and bushes. Its almost impossible for anyone to get here.

About that... How did Atab get here?

"I get it clearly now... but Atab?"

"Yes?"

"How did you even get here?"

"Me? I paid a ninja to escort me here."

Sir Atup suddenly speak up.

"WHAT!?"

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(Atup POV)

"WHAT!?"

He's the one who led that person here? But... he said he was escorted. They know our location already. I wasn't that surprised since one of their masters died here.

They must've sent a scout to check this place out and decided to retreat once they saw their up against.

"Why?"

"The ninjas bear hatred against us. One of their groups tried to trespass here and I killed them. Surely, one of these days they'll come back for revenge."

"Oh? I'm sorry but the ninja person was nice. She protected me from wild monsters!"

"Still!"

Before I could continue my sentence... I could feel a presence suddenly appear behind me. This one's quite good. I turned around quickly to see who it is.

It was the ninja.

She was just kneeling there. I don't know what kind trick is she trying to pull but I took out my greatsword and buffed myself up. I even used <Greater Speed Up> which slows time for everyone but me. The only ones that could move normally during my buff are the ones with the same speed as the buffed me or they might be faster than me.

"Yarrghh!"

I quickly make a slash to cut her down. I could see leaves slowly falling down while I made the attack.

But... I know she's going to dodge it so I cut the attack halfway. I sent a quick backfist attack behind me.

She was not there! I looked up, the next possible angle for her attack but she wasn't there too.

I panicked. Is she totally concealed? How can I defend from such a person!?

My eyes kept darting around the place but after a minute I calmed down. I looked in front of me.

She was still there, kneeling. The buff lost its effect after a minute.

"What are you doing here, ninja? Are you here for revenge?"

"No sir. I am not a ninja. Not anymore. I am a mercenary. I want to work under your kingdom."

"Don't try to fool me!"

I thrust my greatsword in front of her. I stopped just before the tip hits her body.

"Your kind uses all kinds of tricks to make an attack. I know you don't value honor. If its a battle... you will do anything to win."

She looked down.

"I know. I left because I could not stand it anymore. In exchange for hiring me... I could provide you information on them."

The first reason was not valid for me. But... the information. It might be a deal worth taking. Even though risky... getting information can lessen that risk.

I could make this work... As long as I don't let her stab me from the back.

"Okay... You! I accept your deal."

"Thank you."

She looked up at me with here masked face. You could only see her pale white skin through a small space where her slit eyes are located. How can she even see through them?

Her hair was long and black. It was beautiful. No matter how much they spend their time fighting and training, it seems that she still finds time to take care of her hair.

"But!!!"

I gave out my conditions. I won't let her run around here.

"You will be chained to me for at least a month. I don't trust you yet and this is a way for you to get my trust. Your opinions and what you prefer will be ignored."

She seemed a bit shocked but she still listened.

"You will eat the same things I eat. Sleep in the same place I sleep. And if you try to hurt anyone in this kingdom..."

I tried to intimidate her with a stare.

"You shall be cut down immediately."

She gulped but after a few seconds of thought.

"I accept!"

"It's a deal."

I shook her hands.

"My, my."

"How bold! Sir Atup!"

"You're a pervert, Sir Atup!"

What? What nonsense are they blabbering about...

I took a chain from the collection of weapons and equipment on the riverbank. This chain was an enchanted one. It can't be broken by normal weapons. Only magic weapons can damage it.

After ignoring the weird protests of Nai and Atab, I put the chain on both of us.

"Am I allowed to speak my mind?"

"Of course. If you decided that you can't continue, you can always talk to me."

"I understand."

"What is your name? We can't have a mercenary that doesn't have a name."

"It's Anget. It is what I am called."

"Why, what is your real name?"

"Umm...."

She was fidgeting. Why was that?

"AH! Sir Atup, you monster."

"What is it this time!?"

Anget looked at me nervously.

"Are you forcing me to marry you?"

"WHAT!?"

"Tsk tsk."

Master Nai filled me on the details about ninjas. It seems that female ninjas only give ther real name to close family or their husbands. It's tradition.

"Eherm!!! Ah... I'm sorry. Let me just welcome you... I mean... Ah.. It's nice to meet you."

"Okay, thanks for taking me in!"

I don't know what just happened. I tried to intimidate her all these time but instead she came out happy from the deal.

"You all must be hungry! Old man Nai and I got some wild deers just outside the bridge. Lets dig in on my specialty! Deer stew!"

Atab cooked the deer meat with spices and vegetables he got from the castle's gardeners. He asked Mr. Rick's help for that one. Then we all ate together. Even Mr. Rick ate some. It was good! Rick brought some home for the princess.

I ended the day by sleeping in the house. I always put on some handmade traps to wake me up when someone's there. As for Anget... She was sleeping on the huge chair.
We got some more hay outside to make an improvised bed for her. Master Nai said he'll make a new bed for her tommorow.

She looks happy sleeping there. She ate a lot earlier. It surprised us but she must have not eaten anything asides from fruits in the mountain. I waited for a few hours before going into sleep.

Slitting my throat is certainly an option for her... but somehow... I didn't feel worried. Maybe because it doesn't matter anymore. If I died, it will mean that I made the wrong decision.

I slept with these disturbing thoughts in my head.

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Idmon

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