Chapter 13: End of the Road
I was cornered from all sides and I had no way out. What concerned me the most was the tracker who was watching me. I knew that I would have to face him eventually, so I leaped forward and attacked the soldier who was in front of me first. They were not as strong as knights. I pitied them as I killed them, but it was either their lives or mine. I quickly dispatched two of them. Some even ran away in fear. The whole time, I kept on wondering why he brought such useless people with him.
Then, I remembered something: I was supposed to protect Alex. What if these soldiers were part of his plan to distract me? I couldn’t take any chances, so I sprinted back towards the cottage. By the time I got there, I found it surrounded by soldiers, who were trying to get in. As I pushed my way through them, I waved my ax, killing more soldiers and causing blood to splash all over the area. Once I had incapacitated every soldier in sight, I entered the cottage and found Alex. He still lied peacefully where I had left him. With the cottage discovered, I urgently needed to move him to a new area, so I carried him out of the cottage.
Outside, the tracker merely stared at me, then revealed his sword. If I fought him, I might fail and lose my life in the process, so I bolted toward the river, with him following behind. I was already tired from killing all those people. On top of that, I was carrying a body. Suddenly, the tracker appeared like a flash in front of me and stood in my path. His sudden appearance forced me to pivot towards a new route, continuing our chase, delaying the inevitable.
My mind was so occupied with escaping, that I failed to notice the trees steadily decrease in density, as well as a roar from water hitting a rock crescendoing. By the time I realized my location in the dark, I was too late. I was cornered against a waterfall. With no place else to run, I was forced to face him. I placed Alex down on the grass and faced the tracker, unsheathing my sword.
Abruptly, I approached and attacked him, but he gracefully blocked my attack. Undaunted, I stepped back, calculating my next move. That was when he spoke.
[The Tracker]: You did well, but this will be the end.
[Ezra]: I will be the judge of that.
[The Tracker]: Sometimes, focus blinds your other senses. Then, you fail to keep your true purpose in mind. Like now, you were too occupied with killing me. You forgot your objective.
[Ezra]: I know, goddammit. You don’t have to mumble about your wise nonsense.
[The Tracker]: I normally don’t talk much, but His Highness asked me to classify your capability. This is the last test.
He slowly walked towards me, as calm as still water. Then, he abruptly leaped and attacked me. Although he took me by surprise, I recovered and regained my posture. I answered his attack with a thrash from the side, but he jumped back. I was already injured slightly from the previous fights. This would have been a different story if I wasn’t injured so badly. I refused to die this easily. I lunged forward and swung my sword fiercely.
Our swords met. The vibrations numbed my fingers, so I strengthened my grip. I decisively attacked again with more power. Unfortunately, he also blocked me again. None of my moves fazed him. Defiantly, I removed all thoughts of helplessness from my mind and attacked again. In reaction, he pivoted, throwing me off balance mid-lunge. I quickly got back up to jump backward. I was tired. My hands hurt. Fatigue, from the night of fighting, plagued my body. Did he have all those useless soldiers attack me as part of his plan to fatigue me for this duel? I needed to get out of this soon, but the only way left was down the waterfall. For now, I continued to fight with him, pushing on despite that the fight was strongly one-sided.
[The Tracker]: Allow me to put you out of your misery, you piece of failure.
I backed up closer to Alex. As the tracker approached closer, he slashed hard. I tried to match his sword with mine. However, even as his sword hit mine dead center, my blade shattered on impact while his blade proceeded to pierce me. Blood gushed out, even through my armor. Arduously, I grabbed Alex, stepped on the edge, and fell, pulling Alex with me. Once we splashed into a river at the bottom of the waterfall, the river swept our bodies downstream. Although I held Alex close to me, I lost consciousness as the waves carried us.
I woke up shortly after reaching the shore. Not far from where I woke up, I found Alex’s body. I dragged him, with whatever strength I unknowingly had left, and placed him down near the shore. I ripped a makeshift bandage out of my clothes and covered my wound. Then, I collected firewood and made camp.
We were both drenched, so I had no choice. I stripped to my skin and did the same to Alex. I was taken aback by the scars that covered him. I followed them with my finger and mapped his entire body. I wonder what happened to him? Hugging his bare body tightly to give him warmth, I slept through the night.
* * * * *
I woke up with a pounding headache, as if something had hit my head repeatedly. The sky shone brightly and beautifully, clear and blue. I felt something soft lean against my arm. I turned my head. Ezra’s face greeted me.
[Alex]: WHY AM I NAKED…? WHY ARE YOU NAKED…..? WHAT HAPPENED?!?!?!!
[Ezra]: Quiet down. It’s still morning. Who knew that a monster like you could be so gentle?
[Alex]: NO, NO, NO! I must have been dreaming. I’ll take full responsibility.
[Ezra]: Hahaha nothing happened. I am just joking. You were out cold the entire night. Now, if you don’t mind, I shall put my clothes back on.
She stood up, revealing a wound on her chest as she did so.
[Alex]: Were you tested?
[Ezra]: I was hunted all night long. My duty was to protect you.
[Alex]: Let me take care of your wound.
[Ezra]: I like my doctors clothed.
I quickly stood up as well, fetched my clothes, then walked to a nearby bush to get dressed.
[Ezra]: What do you think you are hiding? I have already seen it all. You’re not that bad, fufufufu~
[Alex]: Stop it already.
[Ezra]: So cute.
After we dressed properly, I approached Ezra to inspect the wound. It wasn’t too deep, but a few more inches would have killed her. I looked up at her face, then back at the wound.
[Alex]: If we return to the capital, we can treat your wound. I will have to clean it again to prevent infection.
Her face flushed weirdly, but I paid it no notice. I got up from the ground and surveyed the surrounding area. Suddenly, a masked assassin appeared. He walked closer, but he passed by me. Instead, he approached Ezra.
[The Tracker]: You pass. Your training starts tomorrow morning. Both of you, don’t be late.
We looked at each other with puzzled expressions, but then we got an even bigger shock when the crown prince showed up, together with two other people. One of the two people was James, the other was a large man I had never seen before. He wore a proud smile on his face. Ezra appeared more confused than I felt. It was understandable, provided that she was just thrown inside the chaos.
[Edmond]: Now that you’ve both passed, we shall begin the second phase.
Author’s Note: If you enjoyed reading this, we welcome you to join our discord server: https://discord.gg/Yz4YQB5.