Chapter 22 – Pigs Who Want to Eat the Tiger
At nightfall, the caravan halted in a clearing. Servants busied themselves with setting up the camp, while guards spread out to secure the surroundings. They pitched several tents and list fires to illuminate the night.
Rikku took a walk around, while Ran sat under a tree, knitting. She focused steadily on her task; she knitted a bit, unreeled what she did, then continued knitting again. Each time, the design would change slightly. She focused on each link, each move. Under her tree, she remained oblivious to her surroundings. At least, she appeared oblivious. Belle stood beside Ran, her head lowered in sullen silence. She was dreading her report to Kan Yune, and she couldn’t repress the resentment accumulating in her heart. This is all her fault! If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have suffered such humiliation. She loathed that Ran questioned her. She loathed her inability to retaliate.
“Ran-sama, why don’t we also go for a walk around the camp?” Belle offered gently.
Ran promptly ignored her. Clenching her hands into fists, Belle harrumphed coldly, turned around, and left. Ran didn’t bother with her. She needed to busy herself and clear her mind. Knitting was mechanical. She didn’t need to think to knit; she just needed to move her hands.
Dorian’s tent was the first one the servants completed setting up. As soon as they finished, he refused to leave from it, nor did he accept any visitors. He paced around endlessly, still struggling to keep his temper under wraps.
“Go away!” he yelled at the sound of someone approaching.
The person paused, then entered the tent regardless of the opposition. In front of Dorian stood an androgynous elf, who appeared to worsen his mood further.
Parvian ignored him, located a chair, and sat down, “We’re fucked.”
Dorian jolted in surprise. His eyes bore down on the elf in an effort to guess his intentions.
“The ring…” Parvian started. “That damn Kan Yune got us good.”
Dorian squinted his eyes, “Can you take it off?” He saw the elf shake his head.
“If it wasn’t for Rikku, I would have remained in the dark.”
Dorian scoffed, “As if a free lunch existed in the world. I was apparently right about that guy. Did he manage to avoid putting it on?
“No. That damn priest made sure that Rikku and the girl wore it,” Parvian clenched his teeth.
“That bastard! And those damn servants!!
“Why are you here? I don’t need them to tighten up their surveillance around me!”
Parvian extracted two bottles of alcohol from his item box. “I already made a fuss in front of my maid. She believes I’m mad, because Rikku – very ungratefully – criticised my appearance. I appear rather vain, don’t I? I also mentioned that I refuse to ally with a as creepy as him. Most likely, they must presume that I came to vent about him and pull you over to my side.” He tossed one bottle towards Dorian.
Dorian caught the bottle, sipped a bit, and added, “There is nothing we can do about and nowhere we can go regarding the ring for now. The only thing good for us is that we are aware that there is a conspiracy among us. We can only wait this out.”
“Should we inform more people?”
“Nah, telling them would be too dangerous. Look at them. The rest are too immersed in the whole “Hero” and “saving-the world” mindframe. If they weren’t so engrossed, they would be as unreliable as Nora. Saying something this early, without concrete proof, will just be counter-productive,” Dorian dragged another sip.
Drawing his brows together, Parvian replied softly, “Are we actually pigs on the road?”
“This is what Rikku told me, ‘We already had watchdogs. Now that we have a GPS on, we resemble pigs on the road to be slaughtered,’” Parvian sighed.
Dorian remained silent. His heart trembled. He had powers, a new body, a new lease on life. He refused to live as a mere dog waiting to slaughter or pig waiting to be slaughtered. He bottomed up the bottle and broke it. His eyes were calm and his body reeked of killing intent.
“Pigs on the road to the slaughterhouse? Wasn’t there a saying about dressing up as pigs in order to eat the tiger? Let’s see who kills who first!”
The moon rose, and the stars shone exceptionally beautifully in the night sky. Over an open fire, fresh game meat roasted on a spit, and almost everyone in the group sat around that fire. They had confined Nora in her tent, with two soldiers guarding the entrance. Dorian drank alone on the side. Parvian socialized and conversed with the otherworlders. Rikku sculpted a piece of wood, using a decorated knife of unknown origins. Ran still absorbed herself into knitting her scarf. Belle was nowhere to be seen, and Kan Yune did his best to mingle with the people.
The priest constantly kept Rikku in his sight. He feared that Rikku pitched Parvian against them, when, in fact, it turned out to be a childish dispute. Kan Yune didn’t know how to deal with Rikku. He was afraid to leash him tightly before entering the Capital. Allowing Riku to roam in such close proximity to Ran also concerned him. He could afford to get rid of Ran, but who knew how Rikku would react to that? The high priest massaged his temples gently. So hateful! Further back, he noticed Belle talking to Sebas, Nora’s butler. Those two! If they had done their job, we wouldn’t have had to deal with the fiasco from this morning!
Abruptly, he stood up and walked to his tent. On his way, he passed by the two and beckoned, “Follow me. Now.”