Now, why did it end this way? Why did he die, and not me?
Was it because I had a weapon, and he did not?
Was it because I could move flexibly, while he lost both of his arms?
Was it because my will to survive was stronger?
Well, it's all of the above, with some additional spice.
Right now, I laid weakly in the luscious grass. My chest was evenly rising and sinking. My arms were spread in one direction, while my legs went another.
Even though there was no pain, I couldn't move a single finger. Ok, I could, but I didn't really feel like doing it.
Surrounding me were the stones and flowers I had placed. Some were kicked away, and some were crushed, but surprisingly most of them hadn't moved from their original place. Even more surprising was that those who were, had been destroyed by myself. Meaning that the leader tried not to harm my creation.
It wasn't because he found my setup endearing, though. At least I don't think that's the case.
However, when in a fight, what was the most important thing?
It was the ground. Specifically, it was the stance.
To stay steadfast, or to move with agility, both are linked to the stance.
If there were an obstacle such as a stone or a flower on the ground, what should be done?
Naturally, it was to avoid it.
It was something everyone knows. So the leader, who was supposed to have the most experience in their group, obviously does too.
Since that was the case, I could more or less use it to predict how he would react.
If a bird was flying above me, it could see that the stones and flowers around me actually formed a pattern. They were neatly arranged and former a circular array that resembled a crude mandala. Some parts repeated itself while some were different.
I had build it in a way which made it perfect for me to learn his behavior.
I could see how he would react with this stone that way, while that flower was on the other side. Or one flower faced towards the stone, while another was next to it.
It kept repeating itself, but still left an option for change.
Through reading his movements and seeing his reactions, I could learn how to predict his next actions and see what his habits were. Thus, it did not take long until I had gained the upper hand.
I did say we would fight fair and square, but really.
I may have killed him without those tricks, but why take the risk?
Was my way of handling things dirty? No I didn't think so, because everything was fair in love and war, after all.
If they hadn't crossed paths with me, I would have no intention to do it either.
Since they wanted a mud slinging competition, I could only give them one.
Too bad I was a professional at this game.
If that was the way I had to live, then so be it.
I turned my head towards Estella and tried reaching out, but I had no strength left, so in the end I could only silently gaze at her.
It's not that different from my old way, anyways.
I've been in this world since maybe three days. Since then, I had to complete one impossible mission after another.
I had just died, so why did I have to fight for my survival again, didn't make any sense.
If there was a god in this world, I was sure he hated me.
I said so, it didn't matter, what comes at me, it wouldn't sway me. Whether it was the deplorable world from before, or the vicious world I was in now. How bad could it really be?
"Hey, you. The one who's just standing there. Yes you, who else? So are you going to kill me or what?"
The one I was referring to, was the sole survivor from the calam- I mean, from our little stand-off.
Now that the sun had risen, I was able to make out his features. The boy was only a few years older than the current me. Maybe eighteen or nineteen at most. His beardless cheeks were flushed with a tinge of red, while the rest of his skin was white and freckled. His blond hair was long for a guy, short if he was a girl and fell without style. He was about 5 feet 10, but somehow he felt smaller.
As of this moment, he stood listlessly and unmoving. Only when I talked to him, did he show a reaction.
"Snap out of it. If you aren't going to kill me, then help me up."
His eyes widened in surprise, "why would I do that," he asked.
I was still lying on the ground, with my body stretched afar. If I wanted to face him, I'd have to turn my whole body, which seemed to troublesome, so I urged him to come closer.
"Well, you're not going to kill me, you're not going to help me, so are we just gonna stay here until we die?"
He loosened his grip, unsure what to do.
"Look me in the eyes," I instructed, and he followed, so I smiled, "give me a piggyback ride."
As if I said something incredulous, he went into another standstill.
Why does he have to react like this to everything I say. Try to keep it together.
In the end, he did sheath his sword though, and approached me, albeit reluctant.
Still it was a start. With his hand he slowly reached out to me, keeping his vigilance. The moment he touched my skin, he shrunk away.
"It's cold," he exclaimed.
Anyways, like a small animal, he sized me up, and finally when he felt that I was no danger, he picked me up.
I frowned and told him, "a bit more gentle, please."
Flustered, by the idea that he might have hurt me, he tried putting me down again, but then decided against it, causing him to be in a state where he did not know what to do.
In the end, he carried me on his back with the most delicate touch.
While I was on him, I could feel the warmth emitting from his body. His hair kept falling on my face tickling my nose, but he was very steady so I didn't voice any complains.
That reminded me, it's been a long time since I had someone carry me. Most of the time, it was me who took the burden. I was not complaining, though. I was really not. However, sometimes it felt nice to let someone else take care of these problems. So even though he moved a bit slow, I let him off.
"Hey, don't forget the skull," I reminded him.
Immediately after I said that, he showed an expression similar to eating something disgusting. His face scrunched up in disgust. Unwittingly, he let a groan.
"What's with the reaction. Just wrap it in a cloth, if you are so abhorred by the idea."
As if he was granted mercy from the highest order, he let out a sigh in relief. With movements that were even softer than the time he lifted me up, he took a piece of his cloth and fully covered Estellas head.
The actions of this boy really made me wonder what went through his head.
It didn't matter though, there were more important things.
I pointed towards the sky and imposingly shouted, "let's go to the D'Anelé territory."
I didn't look as grand as I hoped, though. Since it was still hard for me to move around.
"Ah yes, you're right."
And so we did. At least I think, I didn't actually know the way.
But he walked anyways, he walked and walked, and then he stopped.
Wasn't that a tad bit short?
"Agnes, didn't you guys have horses?"
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. It's been happening quite often recently, I wondered what the cause was.
"How did you guys make it here, shouldn't you also have horses or something like that?"
"We walked the distance."
"Ah, I see, what a pain."
I hoped I wouldn't have to use a horse again. They scared me.
I guess it's faster than him carrying me all the way. Also, the horses were expensive. In addition, I should take the stuff I had taken with me.
Damn, why were there so many good points?
In a safe pace, we made our way towards the place I was ambushed at.
It didn't take long for us to arrive there, as we weren't too far away. The place in question still had makeshift beds made out of wheat next to a smothered campfire. At some places, the grass was flattened, while the dirt was riddled with footprints. Given these circumstances, it was hard not to find the place.
Still, no matter where we searched, the horses could not be seen. The hooves in the ground and uprooted patches of greenery were a clear indication for their existence, but they could not be found. Truly peculiar.
We tracked the traces they left behind only to see them diverge into messy branches, leading out the forest.
"I think they might have run away," I suggested.
"That seems to be the case here," he relied with a hollow laugh.
Which idiot forgot to tie them up?
Well, it was reasonable, though. No one would have expected for this situation to occur. What was supposed to happen was that at least one person kept watch, while the others were sleeping.
And if something unexpected were to happen, we could immediately ride away, so there was no reason to tie them up.
Who could have guessed that we would be the victims of a targeted kidnapping.
The horses, with no one to tend them, thus went away.
"The only option left is to walk then," I said.
"Why do you not sound sad at all."
"Oh is that so, I think it might just be you imagination."
Now that this had been cleared, I thought about whether there was anything else that had to be done.
It's too bad that I had no strength left. I would have liked to check if the leader also had a tattoo, and in that case, what rank he was at.
However, it's not that big of a deal. There's a high chance, that he had. Or well, he definitely had. Since he was the leader, he should also have a higher rank. If I had to guess, I would presume that he was a Rook or higher. It's just that having definite proof would have been better. Nothing was certain after all.
"Do you want to do anything with these corpses," I asked.
He contemplated for a bit, and in the end decided against it. It appeared like there was no real bond between him and the other three. Made me wonder what kind of organization they were from. This was also a question for another time, though.
Since there was nothing more to do, it was time to set out again.
Not discouraged by my setback minutes ago, I pointed at the vast horizon again and yelled, "okay then, let's start our travel towards D'Anelé territory."
As if used to my actions, he started marching without any words while holding me tightly.
With a sheathed sword on one side, and a skull hidden in fabric on the other, he began leaving the forest, moving towards the flatlands.
In my sight, we passed one tree after another. Some were big and strong, while others were small and wallowy. The wind brought their branches in motion and the longer I looked, the more I felt as if they were waving to say goodbye. The birds that kept singing grew quieter, until it was faint, and then disappeared. The rustling too, became less prominent and as we got closer towards the exit, the smell of nature gradually dissipated.
The flatlands, hidden behind the towering trees, began to take its place.
As we stepped out the forest, I felt a huge pressure, which I had never even noticed until now, lifted from my shoulders. I could taste the sweet air again, now that the stifling sensation disappeared.
I felt that I had began to acclimate to this bizarre world and for the first time breathed, not as a transmigrator, but a citizen. It was a weird feeling, kinda like my first step into the unknown, not knowing what the future holds. Like undergoing a metamorphosis. Like a butterfly, but a bit bloodier. It wasn't a bad feeling, though.
If only Estella was with me to witness this moment, that would have been for the best.