I'll Always Be with You
"I really didn't think I'd meet you here," said Daver in an elegant and confident voice.
He was fully certain he could take on the two, given the five mid-order warriors behind him and the fact that he himself was a mid-order magus.
"I didn't think so either," said Leguna as he stepped in front of Annelotte.
Though he knew even three of him couldn't match Annelotte, as a boyf-- as a man, he felt it his duty to protect the girl. Annelotte didn't say anything about the gesture, she merely looked at him quietly.
Daver glanced at him oddly. He didn't think a kid he hadn't cared for in the least would step forward with such bravado.
"I wonder what you two are doing here?" he smiled, "Is this a rendezvous? A tour? A training trip? A hunt? Or..." Daver said as his gaze intensified, "Are you looking for something?"
Leguna's heart skipped a beat. They were indeed seeking something on the mountain. Given how Daver acted, he seemed to be doing the same. Could he also be looking for millennium snowlotus? If there was a conflict of interest, it appeared they wouldn't be able to walk away without a fight. While his mind stormed over the possibilities, his expression belied his panic.
"Our business is none of your concern," said he calmly.
"Young Master, I think they're here for that," reminded Kuger.
"I agree. What do you think we should do?" asked Daver.
Kuger gave it some thought.
"It's far too important to you. It's best if word of this doesn't get out. We should kill them."
Daver shook his head.
"I told you already the woman isn't someone with whom we should mess. If we want to kill them, she might injure us gravely. That isn't acceptable considering what we would still have to afterwards. Besides, don't you think it'd be a shame to kill a such a pretty blossom?"
"What do you intend, Young Master?"
"Just watch," Daver said before he turned to the two, "Since we met in these caverns, it must be fate. Why don't we travel together? I believe you two have seen the great snowfiends lurking in these caverns. It'll be easier if we watch over each other."
"If I say no?" asked Leguna coldly.
"I must apologize ahead of time then, but I'm afraid something unpleasant will happen between us," said Daver sharply.
Leguna hesitated. While he hadn't his two opponents' discussion, he knew it wasn't anything pleasant. Given their current situation, nothing good could come of angering Daver. But, if they traveled with them, they also ran the risk of being ambushed. Since time was of the essence, it wasn't a tough choice to make. He crossed gazes with Annelotte before nodding.
"Alright, we accept your invitation."
"You're welcome to join us," responded Daver with a smile.
His gaze trailed on Annelotte, however, he didn't spare even a glance for her companion.
Kurdak slapped Vera's pale cheeks but got no response. She was currently breathing rather weakly. It seemed if he'd slept just another hour he would have just a frozen corpse for company. Worst case, he would've joined her. He hurriedly took out a bottle of healing potion from his pouch. He'd made sure everyone had at least one potion bottle with them at all times since Cyranos's death. His diligence paid off this time.
He applied the potion as he'd learned from Leguna and dabbed some on Vera's temples. While he didn't have any stimulant to mix in, he still managed to wake her up.
"Kurdak? Where are we? We're... not dead?" mumbled she extremely weakly.
"Stop talking. Drink this," said Kurdak as he fed her the rest of the potion.
It was too bad he didn't have bloodclot grass and trigreen leaf, all he could do was feed her the potion. After ingesting the bottle's contents, some color of blood returned to Vera's face. Even so, it couldn't help her heavy injuries much. Though it wasn't their top concern. They worried more about the nigh-uninhabitability of the place in which they found themselves.
To escape the great snowfiends, the two had cast away their rucksacks. They currently had no supplies and no way to stave off the cold. Kurdak wore a cold suit of plate and some undergarments, so he was still fine. Vera, however, wore only leather armor and was currently injured. Without sufficient food, her body temperature would continue to fall. She would fare even worse if her wound frosted.
Kurdak carried her to a small cave, just enough to shield them from the snow. After treating her injuries lightly, he started a fire. When he ascertained she'd be fine, he went to look for food. While he could resist the hunger, he needed to find some sustenance for Vera.
"I'll go look for food. Wait here. Don't move around, okay?" said Kurdak as he took her enchanted bow and prepared to leave.
"No, Kurdak. Stay with me, please?" Vera countered, shaking her head slowly, "I know I might not make it this time. Stay with me for a while."
Seeing her pale face, Kurdak's heart clenched painfully. He knelt down and caressed her cheeks lightly.
"Hey, girl, this isn't like you. We've been through many times as bad before, we managed to make it this far, right? Trust me, I'll deal with this. I won't let you die just like that. Do you trust me?"
Vera looked at him. She felt warm tears stream down her cheeks. She nodded solemnly. Even though she was usually headstrong and defiant, she was just as soft as most women her age would be in a dire situation. She knew their predicament was not as light as Kurdak made it out to be. They had no supplies, no help, and no map. They were completely lost and trapped in the mountains. Whether he was able to make it out by himself was uncertain already, not to mention her, injured as she was. But she couldn't just refute him. If a man made such a promise to a woman and asked her to trust him, would anyone be willing to refute him? Kurdak combed her messy hair together and cradled her head in his bosom.
"Wait for me. I'll be nearby. Just give me a shout and I'll hear you. Don't worry, we'll definitely get out of here. Even if we don't, I'll always be with you, hell or otherwise."
"Oh, so Miss Annelotte stays at Starfall. Perhaps I could pay you a visit during one of my business trips?"
Daver kept his elegant smile up and incessantly asked Annelotte all sorts of questions. Though he didn't intend to leave the two alive for long, he thought it beneath him to commit violence against beautiful women when it wasn't necessary. It was a principle to him.
"Whatever you like," replied Annelotte coldly.
Leguna looked at her in a stupor. Since they'd begun traveling together with Daver, he'd talked in a roundabout manner to extract information from them. But while Annelotte responded to all his queries, most of what she said were bold-faced lies. Yet, the words flowed from her mouth liquidly. He didn't want to believe the cold, glacier girl was able to lie without batting an eye. Her cold expression spoke volumes about her willingness! All of a sudden, he realized he'd underestimated how dark she probably was. Thinking about the times he'd annoyed her, he couldn't help but feel chills run down his spine.
As he was flexing his imaginative muscles, the bellowing of the great snowfiends echoed up the cave. Great snowfiends had a great sense of smell. They'd already picked up the unique human stench.
Daver's face didn't reveal even the slightest hint of panic, even when he saw the snowfiends approaching. He glanced at one of his subordinates. They took out a piece of raw meat, whitesnow ice-bear meat, and irresistible treat to great snowfiends. The two great snowfiends' attention was instantly drawn to it. The group prepared to leave carefully. While the cavern was a complicated labyrinth, they had already memorized the dead ends and could quickly find the route to their destination even if they had to turn back.
But the moment their backs faced the great snowfiends, their angry roars rang out. Leguna had flung his knife at the two as they'd started their meal. He was well aware of the situation. While the two were traveling as a group with Daver in name, the young man wouldn't hesitate to get rid of them given the chance. He had to create confusion for their escape and the snowfiends' arrival was the perfect chance.
Just as Daver prepared to rebuke Leguna, he realized the youth had already started running for his life with Annelotte. When he turned back to look, he saw the two great snowfiends scrambling over as they shrieked.
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