The Paladin Order Reformed Chapter 27: Recovered
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I ran until I couldn't run anymore, only stopping to retrieve my stashed supplies in the forest. I was weighed down by my equipment, supplies, and the girl on my back, but continued on none the less. Even when my legs were close to giving out and my breaths came in ragged gasps. I kept running, again finding hidden pools of energy, my body losing its feeling.
I headed farther south, knowing that they wouldn't risk entering too far into enemy territory. I needed a plan, the sun was setting and I didn't have much time. If we were going to make it through the night, then I needed to find shelter.
I followed a river south, I couldn't risk traveling on the roads since that's the first place the patrols would be. I give a silent thanks to Sir Richard for pounding geography into me during our lessons, as I estimate my location with a mental map. I traveled down the banks of the river until the last golden rays of dusk shone at my side.
The closest town was a few miles down the river, it was conquered close to the start of the war along with much of land to the south. If it's abandoned then it might be a good location to take shelter, but if it's still occupied, then I don't know what we'll do. I don't have enough strength to fight and almost all of my energy is gone, so I can't run away. I mentally cast [Arcanum Script: Status], it's arcanum script just specifically my health and condition.
Name: Christian [No last name awarded]
Fatigued (Close to collapsing)
Injured (left side) +Infected
Mana deficient (low mana/no energy)
"This isn't good." I think, I was too busy running to think about the wound on my side. It wouldn't matter anyway, I used almost all of my mana during our escape, so I wouldn't have been able to heal my wound even if I tried. I can't even heal it now, you can't cure infections with magic.
The way that regular wounds are healed magically is by speeding up the body's natural healing process many times with mana. So if a wound becomes infected you have to have it heal naturally or with medicine, if you try to heal an infected wound with magic then it grows the infection at an extremely high rate. This almost immediately kills the patient.
I start to feel the weight, it drags me down, I have to concentrate just to take a step and I'm fading in and out of consciousness, staggering with each step. If we don't find shelter soon, then we'll be completely vulnerable when I eventually collapse. I feel struggling on my back, I look back wearily into the girl's alert face. I can't hold her anymore and she slid off my back, the darkness enveloped me as I fell to the ground.
I floated aimlessly through a dark void, wading through thick inky blackness detached from reality. I don't know how long I stay in that state, time passes hazily. I float aimlessly through a fever dream state, my body ablaze making me swelter helplessly. But even in that state, I can feel a cool touch on my head, bringing me some relief.
I don't know how long I stay in that state, what seems like an eternity passed as I sweated through the scorching heat from my own body. Eventually, I escape the void long enough to open my eyes. I tried to open my eyes, they were raw and my eyelids were swollen, I had to blink for a few minutes to fully open my eyes.
I tried examining my surroundings, it's too dark to see much, but it seems to be a mostly empty room with stone walls and floors. I felt something warm and wet brush my left side, I looked down to see the wolf-girl laying beside me licking my wound. In my mind I know its odd, but I'm too tired to oppose it. I try to pass words through my dry throat, but only a croak sounds.
She stops, her cheeks redden slightly, then leaves the room for several seconds. She returned with a ladle of what I assume is water, I try to reach up to grab it, but my arms weakly remain at my side. Gingerly, she lifts up my head slightly and trickles water down my parched throat. The water soothes me and alights a primal thirst, I grab the ladle to drink more, but she pulls it away.
She waits until I lay back again, only then she allows a thin stream of water to pass through my cracked lips. I try speaking again, my voice cracks as I weakly asked. "Thank you, have you been taking care of me?" She frowns, not understanding. "Right." I think, "She speaks the beast tongue." I try again, this time saying it in the beast tongue.
She jumps back letting go of my head and retreats several steps staring at me with surprise, then asks in the beast tongue. "You speak my language?"
"Yeah, I think that's pretty obvious. Why are you so surprised?" I replied.
She didn't answer for a few moments, then sat back by my side saying. "I've never known of a human soldier that could speak our tongue, I guess it was just jarring."
I looked at her wearily, not from her reply, but just from my condition. Although my fever has seemed to go down, I still feel terrible. The tendrils of sickness are still wrapped strongly around my body, leaching my energy with every second, every word.
"It was something I studied, along with 6 other languages," I say indifferently, then ask. "Why were you licking me? I don't mind, but I would have preferred you to ask me first," I say jokingly. She flusters, quickly saying.
"If you were continuous, maybe I would have. You should be grateful, It was the only thing that kept you from dying, wolfmen's saliva helps fight infection. You're fever broke, so you should start feeling better soon, although I imagine you're still going to be tired for some time." She looked at my side with a tender expression, I managed a thin smile.
She was right, even now I can feel the abyss pulling my back. I needed to know before I was stuck in that state again. "My name is Christian, Paladin Knight Christian. What is your name?" I asked wearily.
She cocked her head with inquisitive eyes, and said. "My name is Lilith of the Moon claws, but you may call me Lili." She said while smiling. "Lili," I played with it on the edge of my tongue. I smiled, as darkness came to claim me once again, I said while falling back into the void. "That's a beautiful name."
This time my rest was dreamless, time passes quickly and before I knew it, I was forced awake by glaring lights. My eyes open slowly to harsh daylight streaming through a small shattered window. I tried sitting up, I'm able to easily now, I get up off the floor and look around. I'm in the same room as I was before and now I see that the room is filled with nothing but smashed furniture and dust. I staggered to the doorframe, leaning against it for support. Then I used the walls to slowly walk outside.
I step outside the small cobblestone house, my skin prickles against the bite of a fall evening. My upper body was exposed, the only clothing I wore was pants and boots. "Did I go to sleep like this? Actually, how did I get here in the first place? The last thing I remember was running along the banks of the river, then...Lili, her name was Lili, right?" I thought.
The smell of woodsmoke brought me back to my senses, I looked up to see the thin column to the back of the cobblestone house. I walked around and saw Lili slowing turning a rabbit on a spit over a small campfire, the skinned haunch of the rabbit glistened with grease, dribbling into the fire with sporadic pops.
I walked closer, she seemed to sense my presence, but her focus remained on the rabbit. I approached her saying. "Hey, Lili, what are you doing?" She looked up smiling proudly. Then said.
"I'm cooking us a rabbit that I caught earlier today. I'm sorry, I'm not good at cooking anything else but meat." I sat down saying.
"That's fine, thank you for making something at all." I tried getting my bearings, I was still disoriented from sleeping all that time, I asked Lili.
"How exactly did we get here? All I remember was collapsing near the river and waking up with you."
Her attention was on the rabbit, but she answered me easily. "About when you collapsed the paralysis wore off completely. You collapsed close to this town, so I was able to carry you inside that house and treat your wounds. Honestly, I was amazed by how strong you are, I was continuous the entire trip but I couldn't move my body. I saw how far you carried me, you even had armor and supplies and you ran almost the entire way. It's something I never thought was possible for a human."
I replied humbly. "I was trained harshly, but I had a good teacher." This made me stop and think, I stoked my chin thoughtfully before asking. "Wait, didn't you grab my foot after I paralyzed you? Why weren't you able to move after that?"
She looked at me with the same question in her eyes. "I don't really know either, but when I grabbed your foot my body wasn't completely affected yet. After that, I couldn't really move, so I suppose it just takes a bit. That's my best guess."
I thought back to that crazy confrontation that seems so distant now, then I continued further. "I guess I should thank you for keeping me from being consumed by my rage, but I must ask, how did you know I needed to be stopped? You shouldn't have known what was happening, right?"
She stopped turning the spit to look at me. With understanding eyes she said. "I could tell from your body language and tone, that much was plain to see, even if I didn't know what was happening. When those men approached you, I thought that you were going to allow them to ravage me, but you stood firm. But I don't understand, why did you betray your friends for me?"
She tries to ask casually, but there's a tinge of emotion in her tone, some doubt or suspicion. She waits for my answer expectantly while rotating the spit.
"It's not that simple, but I guess you could say you reminded me of a friend. I couldn't stand idle when I saw the fear hidden in your eyes, she had the same fear in her eyes too." I say laced with regret.
"Did she...." I answered for her, "She's dead, she died in a demon counter-attack. I wasn't able to save her or the rest of my friends."
We both sat in silence looking at the fire, listening to it crackle. I apologized. "Sorry, I didn't mean to ruin the mood." She shook her head.
"No, I understand how you feel. I've lost many of my friends and family, actually both my parents died in this godforsaken war, and I don't even know if my siblings are still alive." She shakes slightly, her lips quiver and her eyes glisten threatening to rupture. Hesitantly, I put my hand on hers, she looks to me with surprise but smiles warmly at my intentions.
We both sit quietly looking into the fire, before I ask. "So what will you do now?" She replies simply.
"I don't know. How about you?" My answer is the same.
"I've just become an enemy of the New Paladin Order, they've taken over everything and will probably hunt me down until I'm dead or in prison."
She looked sadly into the fire. "I can't go home either, If you don't fight until death, then you become an outcast. Beastmen are proud warriors, so if someone tries to flee from battle, then they're exiled from their homes or even killed upon returning home. I guess I don't have anywhere to go either."
She looked at me inclining her head. "Christian, I don't have anywhere or anyone to go to. I don't have anyone left, you're the strongest human I've ever met. You're the only one I can rely on upon anymore, I know this is sudden, but would you please allow me to accompany you?"
She waited, trying to read my expression after her earnest request. My cheeks redden, and I stammer. "w..well we might want to get to know each other first, I mean I wouldn't be opposed to it. I think you're very beautiful, Actually the most beautiful girl I've ever met, but I don't think we should rush into anything. We can take things slow and see where they take us."
Her face combusts, she's left speechless. She tries to respond but she's too stricken with embarrassment. Hiding her head in her arms she says muffled.
"That's not what I meant, I was talking about accompanying you as a traveling companion!"
Embarrassment fills me until I'm almost bursting with self-loathing and regret, I'm forced to stare at the ground, feeling like the worlds worst fool. I'm such an idiot, I can't believe I jumped to that conclusion, seriously how stupid am I? I closed my eyes mentally berating myself for my stupidity, then I felt a finger under my chin lift up my face.
She brought my eyes to meet hers, she looked at me still slightly flustered, but she smiling with delight.
"..... You're the first person to give me such a compliment." She looked away shyly and said quietly. "I don't find you undesirable either." Before I could comment on that she jumped up saying.
"So Paladin Knight Christian, would you have me as a traveling companion. We can work out my pay and such later." She says as though I've already hired her, but my answer would be the same either way.
"Sure Lili, I would be overjoyed if you would accompany me, let our time together be long and memorable." We shook hands, she smiled, her flawless white teeth and pronounced canines made my heart skip a beat.
Was this a chance encounter? Or something destined from the start? I may never know, but I do know it was worth the wait.
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