Making a Grand Entrance
Leguna put his documents down and looked out the window. Several dozens of barbarians stood in front of their convoy. The world was white outside, but the barbarians were still as bare as ever. A few of the weaker ones wore fur, but most had leather pants on, all were chest-bare, however.
While Leguna didn't fear the cold, he still shuddered at the sight of the newcomers’ nudity in this weather. He knew how cold bare skin got in winter winds from his childhood, even now he still avoided the cold like the plague, even though normal cold weather barely registered.
The others were incredibly anxious. Most were bureau agents. Few had interacted with a barbarian before, however. They had heard the savages ate human, and it was an unsettling memory given their current predicament. They could kill without mercy, but meat-eating demons still terrified them.
"What happened?" Leguna asked.
He, for one, didn’t much care about what was going on. He could kill all of them if they decided to attack, after all. Not to mention Arikos was there as well.
"Sir--" The coachman turned back and bowed to Leguna,"--some barbarians had come to welcome us. They asked whether we’re Hockian."
Leguna stepped out and cast a furtive glance at their visitors.
"Tell them who we are, and introduce me as your leader."
The coachman nodded spoke to the new group. They conversed for in Dosrakian for a moment.
The leading barbarian, riding a snow bear, glanced at Leguna and spat something that made everyone else laugh.
"Translate." Leguna said, frowning.
He could guess what the barbarian had set guessed that whatever the barbarian had said.
The coachman hesitated, but he understood Leguna's temperament and forced himself to continue.
"They said a brat not even able to grow hair yet won't survive in their lands. They say we’re way too weak to continue."
"I know I'm slender and all, but calling me prepubescent is a little too much." Leguna said self-deprecatingly.
A glint flashed across his eyes before the carriage shook.
Everything happened in a split second. By the time everyone noticed, the carriage stabilized and Leguna had vanished completely.
"Hey, kid! Be careful! What if you flip the whole carriage? You want to bury me under here alive?! You woke me up from my pleasant dream!" Arikos cursed.
"Uncle’s been asleep for more than twenty hours. Isn't that enough?" shot back.
The barbarians were shocked to hear Leguna's voice coming from behind their leader, a black dagger against the man’s throat.
The snow bear shook and moved unnervingly, but Leguna stood as if on solid ground.
"Tell them to get Legg out here. I’m not interested in talking to ants."
"Sir..." the coachman gulped, "You might anger them."
"They don’t get angry in front of power, they submit to it," Leguna retorted confidently.
One of his main research focuses since he’d taken over the bureau had been barbarians. He was confident he could predict their reactions pretty accurately.
"--Don't make me repeat myself."
The coachman was afraid of the barbarians, but he was terrified of his boss, so the choice was obvious.
Confident of his predictive ability or not, Leguna could not make the future. Rather than making them obey him, Leguna’s words sent the barbarians’ hands to their axes and blades.
Leguna, for all his faults, was no longer an amateur, however, and the enemy’s brash attacks neither phased nor moved him. He vanished before the blades could touch him. The leader’s bear, however, was not so agile. The barbarian leader followed his struck mount and made acquaintances with the ground.
Leguna’s arc continued and his blades knives danced at his attackers. Each struck a weapon-wielding palm with unwavering accuracy and cruelty, and weapons clanged to the ground like water off a waterfall. He was careful not to inflict permanent injuries, however. His intention was purely to make a grand entrance, not to maim. His aims were diplomatic, after all… well, as diplomatic as diplomatic was when it came to barbarians.
Arikos watched his junior with interest, and several surprised glints flitted across his eyes during the fight. The kid was on par with himself in most regards. He lacked a certain finesse which came only with age and years of training and experience, but other than that, he was Arikos’ equal. And that was not considering his gifts. Were those to be accounted as well, Arikos had no doubt he would lose. His thoughts were driven inextricably to the landmine he’d planted for the kid a couple days earlier, and his face paled.
It was over for him. If he really ended up in a fight with the brat, he’d be dead within the hour. He’d been at the 18th stratum for several years now. This was his bottleneck. Laguna was his equal at just the 15th, and at his tender age as well. Ready for it or not, Arikos was going to lose any fights the two had.
If he was to survive, he had to leave, and that was exactly what he was going to do. He’d leave as soon as they got back to Melindor. He’d leave Chino and never look back. Slip into the night like a fox red with the blood of a farmer’s chicken.
Leguna was blissfully unaware of the change in his senior’s heart thanks to the demonstration of his abilities. He cursed himself for thinking things would go smoothly.
He’d completely forgot that, besides worshipping the powerful, barbarians were gluttons for fighting. He’d hoped to show Arikos how familiar he was with barbarian customs, instead he’d only ended up making a fool of himself.
"Don't move!" Leguna shouted, landing on the barbarian leader’s back again and stomping him to the ground.
He planted his foot firmly on the man’s head to keep him down, and his blade found it’s mark against the man’s back, mere inches from his heart.
"See clearly the difference in strength between us. I do not wish so shed blood unnecessarily out of respect for Legg, but I will not hesitate to kill idiots!" Leguna shouted as the tip of his sword broke the leader’s skin.
The blade did not damage anything besides his skin, but Lighteater began doing what it did best, and sapped his strength, leaving him as weak as an infant.
The coachman tried his best to translate Leguna's words, then waited anxiously for their response.
Now that they’d felt his power first hand, the barbarians suddenly knew manners. Well, what they called manners, anyway. They glanced at one another for a moment, then picked a representative, who stood out and spoke on their collective behalf.
"You are a brave. The ancestors tell us to show braves respect. We failed to do so earlier. We apologize," the coachman relayed, "But please have mercy and let Dodoro go. He isn't as strong as you, but he is our leader. Please respect his leadership."
"I will kill no one if you do not cross me again," Leguna promised, then withdrew from the poor sod beneath him.
The man remained in the snow for several long moments, as if waiting to be certain he would not be stomped again, then got up. It was a laborious ascent, but eventually he stood upright again. Surprisingly, his face showed no fury, instead, it bore respect. He bowed.
"He said the barbarian king, Legg, sent them to welcome us."
"Tell them I want Legg to come himself," Leguna said plainly. He was not going to be shunted around by mere barbarians. He was the empire’s emissary, for goodness’ sake! Not to mention that he was dealing with the barbarians. Playing nice was being weak. He had to be straight and hard from the getgo or he would get nowhere.
"He said we’re a day's travel from the settlement. They can’t tell the king anytime soon.”
"I didn't think we were still that far away."
For all his knowledge of barbarians, Leguna did not expect Legg to send a party this far out to greet him. Did he want to see him this badly? That said, he was not about to sit around here and wait several days for the man to come out to meet him, hardball or not, so he headed onwards to the settlement behind the barbarians, who continued on foot, bare to the elements as when they had come.
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