The next morning, Sorrel and Acacia purchased a few provisions, and we then set course to Capilla. Not long after we had left the town, we all noticed that we were being trailed. Putting two and two together, I assumed it was the ‘Vegetable Bunch’ out for revenge. We were traveling through a forest, so it was not hard for them to keep to the shadows. Looking at my travel companions, we all had noticed that we were not alone. Even though we seemed relaxed and carefree at first glance, each one of us was tense, prepared to defend ourselves immediately. But the situation carried on. And on. And on. The sun had already passed its peak for the day, yet the ‘Vegetable Bunch’ hadn’t ambushed us. The twins kept a cheery facade, talking to each other about the weather, who sold the best liqueur in Capilla, and why it was important to clean the space between your toes. Violet, the ever-quiet, walked quietly behind us, her presence felt, but not intruding. Her emotions she usually shared with me were empty as if she had changed the frequency. This irked me more, as I nervously glanced from right to left and back again.
There. The reflection of a blade caught my attention and I pounced right at it, chopping the shrubs before me to pieces. But the only fearsome foe hiding there was a small squirrel that quickly stole away from our sight into the next thicket. Around me, utter silence. The twins had stopped talking, and even Violet seemed to question my state. In the distance, I could hear somebody desperately trying to stop themselves from laughing out loud. Yes. I not only looked like an utter idiot, I felt like one as well.
Sorrel cleared his throat before stepping up to me and gently petting my head. On normal occasions, I would have boxed him in the gut for treating me like a child, but I realized at that moment that I was, in fact, still a child, and his warm hand felt so soothing. I resisted the urge to turn around and run into his arms. And I’m pretty sure he would have gently hugged me as well, maybe covering up his embarrassment by chuckling. But this was not the place, nor the time for bonding. We still had the ‘Vegetable Bunch’ watching our every move. And they had managed to get the best of me.
“They’re doing this on purpose,” Sorrel explained in a low voice. “All we can do is carry on until they feel like confronting us.”
Just as I was thinking of something to say, the ‘Vegetable Bunch’ finally revealed themselves. Out of the treetops and from behind a few bushes, a large group of green-robed practitioners emerged. They all had different ages; however, you could immediately sense they were incredibly strong. Not only were they quite differently aged, but they all also wore their green robes differently, some just draping the cloth around their necks like a shawl and wearing leather armor instead, others wearing only green tunics and running barefoot. Their weaponry was equally unique; some wielded expensively crafted blades, some carried DIY weapons that looked like the artwork of a toddler. A young woman with long, dark unkempt hair and many deep scars running across her face separated from the group and took a step towards us. From her posture to the aura she emitted, she seemed to be the strongest among the green fellows. Her weapon of choice was large metal claws strapped to her hands, making her look like a fierce large cat.
“I really enjoyed traveling with you guys. However, we need to take a few heads with us.” She pointed at both me and Violet. I grabbed the hilt of my blade, but Sorrel stopped me.
“I’m sorry, but in this case, it’s first come, first serve,” Sorrel responded in an over-dramatical way, putting himself before me.
“I see.” With these words, she slipped back to her group. This woman was clearly not interested in talking and knew full well that the twins wouldn’t hand us over that easily.
The next moment, we saw the entire group attack us. All at once. I had a hard time deciding which attack to block first, but by dodging the blows coming from above and using my blade to parry those from below, I seemed to have made the right, life-saving choice. I felt my blood boiling. The longer the battle went on, the more dangerous it became for me. Even though we were terribly outnumbered, nobody had the upper hand. I was the only one actively wielding a sharp blade, yet I was not able to strike down any enemy. I wanted to see them bleed. Just as the power was about to overwhelm me, suddenly, I felt completely drained and exhausted, dropping to my knees winded. As I looked up, I saw a man, more akin to a rabid animal, jump at me with a large whip spiked with large canine teeth. Thinking this was it, I closed my eyes when I felt something of an electric current buzz before me. I low-pitched explosion noise rang through my ears and I opened my eyes again. All attackers who had reached a certain range around us had been sent flying in all directions — even trees and shrubs were pushed out of the way as if they had hit an invisible wall. Violet stood in the center of us all, her hand held up as if she wanted to say, “Stop!”. I could feel the deadly aura emitted by her, and it was strongly reminiscent of the day I broke her chains. Slightly intimidated, I took a few steps to the side, inadvertently stumbling back into the arms of Sorrel, who gazed in awe at the shield she had erected around us. Only now I was able to notice it as well; it was not properly visible to the eye. Slight shimmer and a few small lightning sparks were the only tell-tale signs something was amiss.
Paying no heed to us three, Violet leisurely walked out of the shield, going into a stance with her entire blade, sheath and all. Her presence was so strong that all the weaker ‘Vegetable Bunch’ attackers were forced to kneel under her pressure. Even we, who were well-protected in her bubble, felt the enormous power she emitted. My vision began to blur, but I recall her being enshrouded in dark red mists. When she turned around to give us a quick glance, we saw her eyes were ablaze. This was the first time I felt terror. Violet wasn’t just ‘annoyed,’ no, she was livid. The only reason that she hadn’t turned the area into a lake of blood was that she had never unsheathed her sword. There she was, facing the last woman standing, who visibly was shaken just by the sheer power Violet was emitting. The leader of the bunch, ‘Last Vegetable’ tried to maintain her composure, but even for a seasoned practitioner like her, it was difficult. Yet she bravely charged on to fight Violet. And what a fight it was! I was deeply impressed by the bravery this wild woman put forth. She knew full well that Violet was much stronger than her. But she decided to fight her anyway, thrusting her claws, again and again, only to be easily repelled by Violet’s sheathed blade. Violet, on the other hand, just swatted off every attack easily, as if the foe was nothing more than a pesky fly. The battle continued on, and the last light of the sky slowly faded away, when the ‘Last Vegetable’ had to admit defeat, spitting blood from all the blunt blows she had received and overexerting herself. None of her allies intervened. They were all too crazy scared of Violet. She hadn’t set the world ablaze yet, but everybody understood by now that she was very capable of doing so.
As Violet towered before ‘Last Vegetable’, I suddenly felt a tug, and before I knew it, I was standing next to Violet, my mind going blank. What in Nu’s name was going on? Her eyes were still burning and I still remember feeling a sense of heat within my small body. The power Violet emitted was so strong, I was shaking. She turned me around to make me look at her straight into those burning eyes. At that moment, I felt a sudden surge of power run through my body, all weaknesses that I felt was suddenly gone. But now, I felt the opposite, the power inside me was so overwhelming, I was afraid I would burst into flames.
“I am tired of this child’s play,” I heard myself bellowing into the early evening. “Play with open cards, or I might reconsider being kind!”
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