The girl kept squirming. Frey was at a loss for words. Why, she was tied to a tree, and even if she wasn't, she still can't run away, not with a cut tendon in her ankle. Yet she acted as though she'll get anywhere by wriggling like a worm. He was beginning to think her an idiot.
"I wouldn't flail around so much, if I were you." So far Frey had asked her if she was Liezel Magtala, and the only response he got was a growl of "Let me go!" and a lot of thrashing about.
The shadows surrounding them grew thicker as the night deepened. The dry air got colder, and he had snuggled closer to the fire to battle the bone-piercing chill. He thought of lending the girl his long coat--thinking she might catch a cold, wearing nothing but rags--but then the asshole side of him argued she was moving enough not to freeze over.
Frey rifled through the rest of her book, finding blank pages until the back cover. Just like his book, hers was devoid of a lot of information. Victorina sure enjoy keeping her Players in the dark, doesn't she?
Still, that God Crest worried him. He'd heard of it from Shin before, the ability to use powerful magic, A.K.A. God Crest. It differs from Player to Player, some allowing the user to spit out fire, shoot blasts of wind, or even become invisible and undetectable. The speed of realization also varies from each Player, with some realizing it as early as few weeks into the game, to months. And that's his problem: his God Crest hadn't showed up yet. He was lucky that the enemy he first encountered was a skinny girl with seemingly no knowledge at all in combat. He might not be so lucky next time.
He closed the book and tucked it in his pocket. He looked over the girl, thrashing and grunting about, worry drooping over his eyes. He was worried not for her sake, but for him. His magic better show up soon; Player magic was nothing to sneeze at, and even the sword skill he learned from Shin might not be enough against an awakened Player. Even this idiot of a girl might kick his ass once she realized she had awakened. As he thought, he really should kill her now.
But... can he even do it?
When his sword was raised, when he was inches from eliminating the girl, something tugged on his heart. When he was peering into her eyes--her brown, murky eyes, it was as though he was staring into her very soul. He saw longing, fear, anger, bitterness inside, underneath the pity for her self. But more than all those, more than her, he saw the reflection of himself. It wasn't the reflection of what he was then; it was a reflection of who he will become, after he crossed the line.
Frey rested his face on his palms. Killing was the only way to win the game. The only way to go back home and feel Elise's warmth again, was to be the last Player standing. Frey knew that, and he was prepared to kill this girl, all the other Players, for Elise, but had he ever thought about what Elise would want? Would she want him to be a murderer, just for her sake? No. Of course not. It was one thing if he was just defending himself, but he was about to kill an unarmed girl, just for his selfish cause Elise never asked of him.
This girl before him already have magic. She's a Player, and she might use it against him. Frey will kill her then. But not now. It's stupid and unpractical--he knew that. He was keeping a time bomb by letting her live. But he can't just kill someone who did nothing wrong. He knew Elise won't let him, even if he's all too ready to sacrifice his humanity for her. Elise is kind, behind the sassy attitude she always wanted everyone to see.
The girl screamed, jerking Frey out of his head. It was more of a screech, ear-grating and shrill, blowing crows out of their nests as it reverberated throughout the shadowed treeline.
"The hell was that?" Frey asked.
"It, it hurts..." The girl hissed, her face contorted in pain. She looked down her wounded foot, biting on her lower lip. The bloodstain on the bandage wrapping her right ankle grew wider and redder. Beads of sweat trickled down her forehead as she stressed all her nerves not to twitch so much as a muscle in her leg. Smart move, Frey thought, though the cut wouldn't have bled out again if she didn't accidentally--and comically--stomp with her wounded foot in her mindless fit.
Never mind killing her: she could do that by herself just fine.
Frey stood up from his seiza and walked over to the girl. She looked up at him, seeking help. Her hands were still tied behind the tree, and she couldn't do anything about her reopened cut which, by the cramped look on her face, must've hurt like hell.
"I told you not to move so much, didn't I?" Frey crouched at her feet and hauled her injured leg atop his knee. He could hear the girl's heavy breathing as he carefully uncoiled the bloodied bandages from her ankle.
The fresh cut cried out drops of red blood from its reopened crevice. It spanned as the width of his throwing daggers, about an inch and a half. His throwing daggers were sharp, therefore the cut was clean. It's less trouble to sanitize than a rough cut, at least. With his gloved right hand he applied pressure to the wound until it had stopped bleeding profusely. He reached beside the campfire where a bowl laid full with clean water from the nearby stream.
The bowl was the half shell of a giant fruit resembling chestnut, but was big as melon. Although it was a fruit, he doubted it was edible due to the fruit flesh being tougher than the shell. With how big and heavy the fruit one can even use it as a throwing weapon, or to bash the enemy in the head.
He tipped the bowl and let a steady stream wash her wound. The girl let out a sheepish moan as lukewarm water ran over her skin, arching her back in pleasure.
With the rinse done all that was left was to wrap it again. Frey kept a roll of bandage in his side pocket, which he used to cover his mark before slipping on his black gloves. He drew a clean strip from the roll and cut it with his ornate black Japanese knife. As he wrapped the bandage around her ankle he looked at the girl. Their gazes met. She turned away in reflex. That's fine, he thought. She didn't need to like his face. He was her captor, after all.
When the bandage had been tied and the girl already calmed, he circled behind the tree the girl was tied to. Frey drew his black knife and with it severed the thick vine binding her hands to one another. He hauled up the small sack of Corberries he had picked earlier and dropped it beside the girl.
"Eat," he said. "if you don't want your wound to fester."
The girl looked up at him, puzzled, then down on the sack. She took one fruit gingerly and inspected it. She cleared her throat. "This isn't... poisonous, or anything, right?"
Frey sighed and picked one. Without hesitation he sunk his teeth into the Corberry's black, juicy flesh. Bitterness exploded in his mouth, the prologue to a flood of strong seaweed taste over his tongue. It wasn't exactly the most delicious experience, but it reminded him of his training under Shin, how he made him eat the same bitter fruit every morning until his wounds healed without a trace. It's only been three days since, but he missed the old man already.
The girl followed his example and bit into the fruit. The face she made was priceless.
"Ugh..." She grimaced as if she was chewing a bitter bug. Or fruit, for that matter.
"You're gonna eat two more of those."
"Don't what me. That's medicinal." Frey pulled the girl's booklet out of his coat and handed it back to her. "Here. You dropped this." She eyed him cautiously as she took it. "Thank you."
Frey clicked his tongue. "I'm leaving. If you know what's good for you, pray we'll never meet again. I can't guarantee your life."
He turned his back and left for the road. He can't be traveling and taking care of an immobile person at the same time. And she's a Player--that hasn't changed. He vowed not to kill her, but he didn't need to help her. Even if she's a wounded girl in the middle of the wild. He'd done enough by treating the wound he had inflicted and giving her food. He walked, shaking the guilt off with every step he took away from the girl.
"Wait." He hadn't gotten very far when a shaky voice called interrupted him from behind.
He turned around. The girl's right hand shone green as she waved around the partner of the glove he wore on his right hand. He completely forgot he used his left glove earlier to mute the girl's glowing mark. He took it from the girl and slipped it on his left bare hand.
"Where are you going?" The girl asked.
"It's none of your business."
"You're following that road, aren't you?" She pointed east, where the dirt road to Redel laid.
"What if I am?"
"Don't!" the girl warned. "Don't go to Redel. You're a Player. They'll... The royal guard, they will kill you."
He drew his blade--there was rustle ahead.