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The Mist and the Lightning. Part 9
  • Текст добавлен: 26 сентября 2020, 15:30

Текст книги "The Mist and the Lightning. Part 9"


Автор книги: Ви Корс






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Текущая страница: 1 (всего у книги 3 страниц)

Chapter one

A dream

Yellow autumn leaves circled and fell from the trees. Arel recognized this place – exactly there Nikto brought him long ago. There, for the first time, Prince Arel knelt down, asked Nikto to make him his slave and accepted slavery of his own free will. And he agreed to the brand. He agreed to wear a black tattoo on his face forever and received a dog collar on his neck as a gift. This time there was neither Amba nor her dog. It was this time autumn there, and the trees were all adorned with golden foliage.

Arel suddenly realized that he was wearing a woman’s dress, white with a pile of fluffy satin skirts and a tight corset laced up in the back so it was hard to breathe. At the same time, his chest remained open, the corset began a little lower. On the rings inserted into his nipples, large teardrop-shaped pearls now additionally hung, and strings of mother-of-pearls were beautifully stretched through the rings, encircling his chest and hanging down in semicircles onto the corset.

Arel wore a woman’s dress a couple of times in his life as a joke or for a loss at cards, so he knew these sensations, but he never tightened the corset so much that it was difficult to breathe. He was sitting on the ground covered with fallen leaves, dazed, breathing convulsively, pearl drops quivering on his chest. Nikto stood before him.

“Hug me,” Arel asked. Nikto sank to the ground, pulled him to himself and gently touched his lips to his. Arel reached out to him, kissing him back and taking his lower lip towards him, stroking his tongue and touching the rings that were threaded through it. Nikto closed his eyes, thickly painted black; his eyelids twitched.

“I’m your bride,” Arel whispered, barely audible.

No one threw him to the ground, continuing to hug him with one hand, and with the other lifting up the fluffy skirts of the white wedding dress. Yellow leaves rustled beneath them, surrounding them with the tart scent of ripe autumn.

“Just don't leave me! Just don't leave me anymore! Nik, I beg you!”

Nikto turned him over, burying his face in the fallen leaves. Arel’s shoulders trembled from the jolts, and the rigid corset didn’t allow breathing. He didn’t see that Lis was standing very close to them, near the orange tree.

He only noticed him when Nikto let him go, but maybe Nikto noticed Lis before?

“Fox, don't be jealous, I fell in love with Nik,” says Arel somehow lifeless. “Sorry,” the last word sounds guilty.

But contrary to his expectation that Lis would understand, his face twisted into a grin.

“I'm jealous?! Advice and love!”

Nikto doesn’t move, but Lis falls as if from a blow. His red hair mingles with red foliage. He lies without moving or getting up.

“Don't do that,” Arel pleadingly asks Nikto. “Let him say what he wants. I'm not offended at all. Don't punish him.”

Nobody pulls out his box of “medicine” from the bag. It is not a syringe that he pulls out of it, in his hands there is not a glass rod and steel, but a beautiful and thick gold ring. It is smooth and shiny. Engagement?

“Well, come to me,” Nikto calls, and Arel gets up, comes up, not taking his eyes off the golden ring. But contrary to his expectations, Nikto doesn’t take his hand, he is not going to put the wedding ring on his finger as his bride, but stretches out his hands, raising them higher and unclenching the ring, and tries to insert it into Arel’s nose, right into the nostrils. Arel recoils in confusion, not wanting to have a dubious adornment, and then Nikto pushes him, throws him to the ground, leaning on his back again with his whole body, and, opening it, inserts a gold ring into his nose, pushing it into his nostrils. Arel feels how the decoration painfully tears the septum in his nose, feels how it widens his nostrils, interferes with breathing, feels heaviness.

Lis slowly rises from the ground, several fallen leaves tangled in his wavy hair. He looks at Arel, who now has a gold jewelry sticking out of his nose, with some horror, and Arel feels a burning shame.

“Nik, don’t,” Arel tries to say, but his tongue twists, as if it’s swelling in his mouth, and all he gets is a kind of mooing through force.

“Don’t…”

“Prince Arel! Arel! Wake up!” Lis shakes him by the shoulders. Dear Lis, so dear and homely, sleeping in bed nearby.

“What are you humming there? More nightmares? It's the same every night!”

Arel looks at Lis with eyes still dull from sleep, not understanding:

“Lis,” he finally says, and his gaze clears up, “Nikto will return in autumn.”

“You’re delusional,” he chuckles and at the same time asks, “but what, the man you sent to the Royal Route for news has not returned yet?”

“No,” Arel shakes his head, “he hasn’t returned, but I think he will return soon. And Nik, Nik will be back soon too!”

He jumps out of bed:

“I dreamed that I was in a white wedding dress…”

“Oh no! Not that! I'm not going to listen to your nonsense!”

A tattered piece of “Upper Messenger” lies on the table in front of Lis: “The Son of the Devil, nicknamed Nikto, made a daring escape from the Royal Prison, using the Black Sorcery… je opened a mysterious portal leading straight to the Underworld… hidden in the depths of the ancient catacombs, where no man has gone…”

Lis looked up at Valentine, who was standing next to him.

“Has the owner already seen this?”

Valentine nodded in dismay:

“Yes, he told me to show it to you as soon as you return from the hunt.”

“I see. What else did he say?”

“He ordered to bring wine,” Valentine trembled. “And this … this Son of the Devil, will he come here? Sir?”

“I don’t know!” Lis got up. “It's not your concern!”

“Yes, of course, I'm sorry,” Valentine, bowing, scared back to the door.

Lis entered the prince’s room without knocking and saw the already pretty drunk Arel.

“Are you drinking?” He winced with disgust.

“I celebrate the victory!” Arel raised his glass. “Join!”

“Hmm, a victory?”

“Don’t play the fool, Lis, you understand everything perfectly! My Nik made them all and escaped from prison, right from under the noses of these pouty sirs! And they thought they were so smart! He'll be here soon, you'll see! He will return! Soon!”

“Do you believe in this nonsense?” Lis threw the “Messenger” sheet on the table. “The Son of the Devil bewitched Karina, daughter of the head of the Royal Security Service, when she brought him medicine and food. This is complete nonsense!”

“No-no,” Arel happily shook his head, “this is not nonsense! I was there, Balthazar asked her to go down to Nikto’s cell and make an injection, since he himself didn’t want to climb the stairs!”

Lis looked at him incredulously:

“Why didn't you tell me this before?”

“I didn’t attach any importance to this then, and to be honest, I felt bad, Lis, since Kors crushed me a lot.”

“And he bewitched her?”

“Well, it was probably invented for beauty, of course, that Nikto bewitched her. But obviously they somehow got there in the cell and came up with an escape plan, although, who knows, maybe he bewitched her, I don't know, it doesn't matter! Drink with me, Lis! Drink!”

“Maybe you have had enough?”

“No! I will drink, I am happy! My Nik is coming soon!”

“Where did the portal take him to? Maybe he’s in his Unclean Limit. Two months have passed!”

“He will come. He will come to me. He promised!”

“And what about Karina?”

“What Karina? I shit on this bitch! Who cares?!”

“Well, then you asked me: “How will he take revenge on Kors? How will he take revenge on Kors?” You see, he took revenge. He ran away, making a fool of him, and grabbed his beloved daughter!”

“Yes! He's cool, right?!” Arel laughed.

“And you whined, you were afraid that nothing would come of it.”

“I believed. I believed, and…”

“What?”

“We need to prepare for his meeting! We need to meet him properly!” Arel opened a drawer and took out a box of dyes, smiled a drunken smile, looking at Lis.

“What are you up to?” In the voice of Lis there was tension.

“I don’t have a bell strip here, otherwise I would put it on you again.”

Lis said nothing, but a look of doom appeared on his face.

“I have here a lot of muzzles for slaves,” Arel threw a muzzle mask consisting of thin straps at Lis.

“Do you want to put it on me?” Lis asked somewhat defiantly.

“I wanted to. You're a slave of Nikto, and I thought that such a meeting he would like. Twenty years ago, all the slaves here wore such. They are slightly different so that you can immediately identify a slave from a plantation or a slave from a barnyard. This is the muzzle of the slave who served in the house.”

“And, that is, it should be an honor for me? Well, Arel, give me the muzzle of the slave of the cesspool cleaner! I'll put it on!”

Arel laughed:

“Lis, I wanted to do it, but I changed my mind.”

“It's strange. I can't even imagine why?”

“They all have a leather flap in place of their mouths. When the slave ate, he could lift it a little, and still he always walked with his mouth shut so that his rotten teeth were not visible and so as not to offend the sirs with the stench.”

“And? What confused you?”

“I like to see your mouth, your lips. How you twist them, even now, in an attempt to seem indifferent. This is so funny! You make me laugh, Lis. And I remembered, remembered something that will hook you much more than a banal slave muzzle.”

“You…” Lis looked at the box in his hand.

“Who are you, Lis?”

And Lis lowered his head:

“I'm a jester, I'm a fool,” he said quietly. And the drunken Arel laughed.

Chapter two

Black Bey

“The old man said everything right,” said Mike Rout, “as he said, there they went out.”

“Well, like this!” Edin Ol, sitting next to Black Bey, grinned, content.

“There are not many exits from the Great Quagmire. Everyone knows that!”

“And from there to the Royal Route in the most remote place,” Mike continued.

“So we'll meet them at the abandoned cemetery,” Bey said.

“Yes,” Mike nodded, pouring local muddy liquor into a rough earthen mug on the table. He drank it all down in one gulp and winced, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.

“We grazed them all day, they are heading in this direction, as the old one said.”

Bey grimaced as if he had also taken a sip of the moonshine of the marsh, although he didn’t take a sip:

“Don't remind me of him once again, this vile old man pisses me off!”

He looked around the squalid little room of the low hut in which they were. The scarce furnishings of the dwellings of the bog dwellers didn’t favor a cozy pastime. Bey slanted down, looking at the dirt floor and the rotten straw heaped in the corner.

“There's something there! I swear in the name of Gods! And I don't like it!”

They stared at the pile of straw.

“I also hear some sounds from there, especially at night,” Toby said carefully.

“They are rats rustling in the straw,” Edin Ol replied.

“You shouldn't have quarreled with Gregor,” Toby said.

“I didn't quarrel with Gregor,” Bey objected, forcing himself to tear his eyes away from the corner he hated. “I simply explained to him that I was no longer able to pay for his expensive magical experiments and so-called “ingredients”. We had to choose: either this outing, or dubious magical rites!”

“No more dubious than this outing,” Toby said, shivering and looking away from the dark corner too.

“Just rats!” Edin Ol repeated angrily, as if he wanted to convince himself of this first of all.

“We've been in this damn swamp for a month now, and I don't like the way these locals look sideways at us. I don’t understand what’s on their minds!” Bey was reaching for the mug, but, feeling the pungent smell of bad moonshine, grimacing, set it aside.

“And we came across a skeleton again, this is the second,” said Mike Rout.

This one is much further and not so tangled in thorns.”

“And?” Bey interrupted him skeptically.

“He also has no arm. Again the same as the first one. Have the animals eaten one arm?”

“I don’t know!” Bey flared up. “I don’t care! I also want to get out of here as soon as possible, like everyone else!”

“Gregor would have been better with us, Bey,” Toby said. “The old swamp man has snake eyes.”

“Well, if they put up with us, then they need it,” Edin objected. He got up from behind a roughly put together low table and, going up to a bench in the corner, pushed it sharply to the side, threw away the straw.

“Edin!” Bey shouted at him, “don't touch anything there for the sake of the Gods!”

“There's nothing here.”

“What's there? Under the straw?” Mike Rout asked curiously.

“Planks of some kind, everything rotten. If you try to pick them up…”

“Edin! Sit down!” Ordered Bey, turning to the rest of the soldiers sitting at the table:

“Okay, we've been sitting here all summer, and where were they sitting? In the quagmire? Locals claim that there is nothing there but mud and water. Where?! Where have they been sitting all this time?!”

Edin Ol returned to the table:

“Now it doesn't matter, Bey, where they were sitting, in the quagmire they ate dirt or in the same hut. They showed up, and this is the main thing. We must go out at dawn!”

“Don't worry, Edin,” Mike Rout said. “They walk so slowly that it won't be difficult to ambush them.”

He chuckled:

“They barely move their legs. It's a pity to watch the girl. Very thin. Maybe they really ate swamp slurry alone. Remember her in Lower, huh? Such a beauty she was, and now she is barely alive.”

“She had to run far from them then,” said Bey, “well, it’s her own fault.”

“Yes, she drags around with him, like tied,” agreed Mike, “thin, he seemed to suck her!”

“Damn Devil!” Bey shook his head.

“We grazed them all day until they made a small fire and lay down for the night. They walk slowly, but he keeps the direction right, she trails after him, well, just like on a leash. We came close, close to them, they seemed not to understand anything.”

“What were they talking about? Have you heard?”

“Who?!”

“They!”

“They didn't speak at all! They walked in silence, lit a fire in silence and lay down. I say it looks like both of them don't understand anything. Come and take with your bare hands.”

“Well, so many days to spend no one knows where, exhausted,” said Edin Ol happily, “the easier it will be for us to deal with them.”

“He is alone, and the unclean ones didn’t come to his aid,” Mike said. “We checked everything to see if the accomplices were hiding in ambush. There’s nobody there.”

“How do you think, why is it so?” Toby asked.

“And how do we know,” Edin waved him off, “it's easier for us!”

“I can't wait to be able to cut off his stupid head!” Bey slammed his fist on the rough tabletop. “How tired I am of him, this damn Son of the Devil! I can’t think about anything but about him! And how to take revenge on them all! For the streets, for my girl! I will cut off his head and take it to the prince's estate! I would go out with this Nikto for a one-on-one battle, he was tempting me, but I just don’t want to waste time. So we will just shoot him!”

Bey turned to the warrior with the crossbow, who was sitting on a bench by the entrance.

“Shoot and that’s done!”

“Okay,” he nodded.

“And then we will cut off his head and take it to the prince! And let's see how he suffers. Just as I suffered for my Jazmina, the prince will suffer for his lover! Yes, Toby?” And Bey laughed unpleasantly.

Toby turned pale, but nodded in agreement.

“And then we will kill Prince Arel.”

“What about the girl? The crossbowman asked. “Should I shoot her too?”

“No. She is noble. Yes, nevertheless you know who her father is, we will return her safe and sound, I have no business with this sir from the Upper and I don’t want to have. We must stay away from him, otherwise you won't end up with problems!”

“That's right,” nodded Mike Rout. “We will return her, he will not touch us.”

“He has his own business, and we have ours,” agreed Edin Ole.

“Why this revenge,” Tobias Bat said timidly, “all the same the streets are occupied by Tol and Coal. Nikto and Arel have nothing to do with it now.”

“It is a revenge! Revenge for my Jazmina!”

“But she refused you!”

“Sh-h-h”, Mike Rout hissed, eyes widening.

“She didn’t refuse me, you are a stupid boy and don’t understand anything in the relationship between a man and a woman! She was just humble and clean so that she could agree right away. Therefore, she refused and ran away! This is the usual female coquetry! It is clear, you are still green!”

Toby thought it best to remain silent.

And Bey bared his teeth. He looked sideways at the straw scattered by Edin Ol and the boards lying on the earthen floor, as if covering something.

“Damn this place! I am glad that at dawn we will finally leave here!”

Chapter three

The meeting

At about noon, they went out to an abandoned cemetery. Karina felt uneasy. But not from the sight of cracked gravestones overgrown with weeds and collapsed crypts. No. Some kind of anxiety lodged in her chest, like a premonition of something bad. Something was about to happen. Nikto walked as usual in silence, and she didn’t want to ask him, she felt some kind of evil as if thickening around them, hovering in the air. And yet, despite all the premonitions, Karina cried out in surprise when from behind the ancient crypt several soldiers suddenly came out to meet them.

One of them had jet-black hair tousled, and equally inscrutable black eyes. The pupil in them merged with the iris. Black Bey! This man really had some devilish ability to appear suddenly in the most unexpected place and at the wrong time. He looked at her, clearly hearing her exclamation, and grinned contentedly. His warriors were with him. Karina recognized them: half-blood Toby, Edin Ol, and the man she'd sworn she'd seen several times among the visitors at Backara.

All this lasted literally a few seconds, and then one of Bey's men threw up a crossbow and shot at Nikto. Nikto, who stopped slightly in front, jerked sharply to the side and, bending down to the ground, grabbed his right forearm. At this moment, without hesitation, Karina rushed forward, blocking him from the shooter. She screamed, trying her best to give her voice courage:

“Stop it! Bey! My name is Karina Kors, and my father is the head of the Royal Security Service, he will pay a big ransom for me!”

She spread her arms, trying to cover Nikto with herself as much as possible:

“For me alive!”

“Get out of my way!” Bey growled.

“Order him not to shoot!”

“What are you doing?!” Nikto hissed and, clutching at the shot-through forearm, he tried to move away from Karina.

“I’m returning the debt,” she said abruptly, continuing to shield him with herself, “stop, don’t twitch, you’re injured.”

Bey signaled to his warrior, and he, obeying, lowered his weapon. Karina didn’t take her eyes off him, feverishly assessing the distance. If Bey's people go on the attack, trying to take her alive for ransom, the first thing to do is to try to deprive him of the crossbow, better to take it. It's difficult. What was Nik thinking about? But he stands behind her and waits. Like during their escape from the prison tower. He also stood behind her while she tried to negotiate with the patrolmen. Then nothing came of it, but now? What should they do now?!

Bey's man, although he lowered his weapon, took several steps to the side in their direction, trying to get around. Karina recognized his maneuver instantly.

“Stop where you are!” She moved to the side after him, trying to always be completely turned towards the enemy.

“Crazy, what are you doing!” He shouted, annoyed.

“Shoot her to hell!” Edin Ol swore.

“You don't need a ransom? Big money.”

Karina watched Bey's reaction with a sinking heart and saw that he doubted, the desire to end it immediately with Nikto fought in him with a thirst for money. He slowly raised his sword.

“Take the girl alive!”

Well, at least, the threat of being shot has passed for a while.

Now, as never before, Karina understood what she was doing. If earlier joining Arel’s team, the salvation of Nikto from the prison, all her plans and actions were not fully thought out, and were often taken by her simply under the influence of the moment (the salvation of Nikto from the chamber was a vivid proof of this), now she clearly knew that she couldn’t allow them to shoot him. And not only because she promised to deliver him to Arel safe and sound, but because of her personal interests too. Wounded or even worse killed, Nikto will not be able to protect her, and what will come to Black Bey's head is unknown, and she didn’t want to remain alone with him and his people, even with the promise of ransom. And what kind of inglorious end awaited their journey? Did they come all this long, too long and difficult way to get into the clutches of Bey? Therefore, in no way can they be allowed to get Nikto. They need him, not her. And the ransom beckons Bey, she saw the greedy gleam in his black eyes. Let him go on the attack. Karina will try to neutralize the crossbowman, and Nikto will deal with everyone else. She had no doubt about that. Even though he was wounded in the right forearm, Karina was sure it would not interfere with him. Black Bey and his people were very wrong about the son of the devil!

“Why are you such a coward that you hide behind a woman's back?” Shouted Edin Ol.

“And you?!” Karina immediately didn’t remain in debt. “Go, fight him one on one! Why are you covering with arrows?!”

And Bey rushed to the attack, and Karina to the shooter. She was not afraid, fear faded into the background. He was ready to fire again, his hands trembling with tension, but she rushed to him, so straightforwardly substituting, continuing to block the view. It didn't take any trouble to shoot her. But Bey ordered to take her alive. Blocking the view, she prevented him from shooting at Nikto, and besides, she had a sword in her hands, and the warrior threw back the crossbow and drew his sword.

“Mad bitch, how fucking tired I am!” He growled, unable to get rid of Karina, he only defended himself, remembering Bey's order, and at the same time not knowing what to do with her. She was as possessed, as if the devil had possessed her, or rather, so the woe-shooter thought before falling with a mortal wound in his side.

And Nikto came together in a fight with Bey and his people.

Turning around, Karina saw that it was quite difficult for him, but he coped. And it looked very powerful and scary. It finally began to dawn on Bey's warriors that everything was not so simple, and he and the girl were worth a dozen warriors. The circle that was compressing him began to expand. The remaining soldiers were in no hurry to attack. Surrounding Nikto, they just kept him inside. Blood poured down his hand in a stream, flowing over his fingers, but he gripped the sword tightly and, finally getting a respite, turned to Black Bey. Unwittingly, Bey got involved in a kind of one-on-one duel. To give him his due, he did it without hesitation, fiercely and fearlessly. And it was so powerful that at some point his soldiers and Karina, who was trying to distract Edin Ol from Nikto, froze, looking at them. Without interfering, watching with bated breath, as if this was happening not in a deep forest in an abandoned cemetery, but in the arena of the Coliseum.

Nikto’s movements were fascinating, each was brought to automatism, Karina, who studied at the Academy, saw this and understood how he, having made a lunge, returned to a defensive position. It lasted for seconds and the inexperienced viewer, perhaps, didn’t notice such trifles. But Karina saw it. Previously, she didn’t notice them either, in the heat of escape there was no time for that. And she didn’t take his battles in the Coliseum seriously, considering them staged through and through. Now she realized that in a real battle he acted as in a production. This meant that these movements were literally hammered in his subcortex. One –attack, two – starting position, three – defense. One, two, three. One. Two. Three. Like a dance. Karina regretted that the owner of the Lower Coliseum and Dim Al, in pursuit of money, forced him to play, not allowing him to open up.

The frantic fight between Nikto and Bey continued. And despite the mechanical movements of Nikto, the worst thing was not this, but the fact that his face didn’t change expression, it was like a mask. Not a single muscle flinched, and the lips were not compressed, maybe even relaxed, not a sound escaped from them. The detached face. This frightened and delighted Karina at the same time. Not human, she thought. Without emotion and impeccably perfected technique, his father would have been proud of him. But he is not human. No improvisation, no risky actions dictated by human emotions, anger or impatience. In her opinion, he missed a few good chances to take risks. But he didn't take the risk. Slowly but surely, step by step, bringing the enemy to the idea that he cannot win. Well-thought-out movements, well-thought-out tactics. Boring, but no risk. Why does he do this? “I'll ask him about it later,” thought Karina. While everything is clear anyway, there is too much at stake. And Nikto interferes in the course of events, and Bey's people don’t interfere, seeing that there is no direct threat to their master. And Bey is gradually getting tired. Karina, Edin Ol, Tobias Bat, Mike Rout and other remaining warriors stood as if enchanted and looked at this endless duel, which was becoming more and more sluggish, and in the actions of Nikto and the tired Bey, nothing foreshadowed any sharp development of events. And suddenly the observers didn’t understand how it happened, but a furious cry, almost an animal howl of Bey, as if brought them out of their torpor or confusion. Bey, who fighting a second ago, was lying on the ground, and his hand, still gripping the sword, lay at a distance, and blood gushed from it like a fountain.

Finally realizing what had happened and will now begin, Karina again rushed at Edin Ol, but he didn’t even think to attack. He rushed to Black Bey, picking him up, dragging him away from Nikto. The rest scattered disgracefully. And Nikto was standing. Karina sank to the ground with an exhalation. That was all.

However, she hastened a little in her conclusions, not all of them fled. Toby stood in front of Nikto in a classic stance with a twisted face, his sword tightly gripped in his hand. And Nikto, looking at him, without changing his face, raised his sword too. Their duel, according to the canons of the Academy, didn’t last long. Disarmed, Toby was lying on the tombstone in front of his opponent with his hand twisted in a classic manner. For a while they looked at each other as if examining.

“Well? Kill!” Fear flashed in Toby's eyes, but he held out with all his might, trying to look at Nikto with a challenge.

“No,” Nikto shook his head, “you are not my enemy.”

Toby involuntarily glanced towards the runaway friends.

“Letting go? Are you keeping alive?”

Nikto caught his eye.

“If you want to stay alive, forget about them. And in no case return to the village of swamps.”

Toby's face twisted in fear.

“What? What's there?!”

Nikto didn’t answered this question.

“Go out on the tract,” he waved his hand, “this way. And go back to town.”

“What should I do there?!”

“Start a new life. Go to Tol and tell him everything. Say that I asked for you.”

“As if he will believe me!”

“Tol will believe. Return to the “Upper” to the Academy and finish your studies. Find yourself a good girl and forget everything that came before. Forget Arel!”

Toby chuckled bitterly.

“It's easy to say,” he involuntarily ran his fingers over the disfigured mouth. He rose from the slab, looked at Nikto without fear:

“Is it easy for you to forget what's on your face?”

They looked at each other. Nikto bowed to him. Almost face to face. Letting him see himself, his scars, his tattoos on the cheeks.

“This is not about me,” finally said Nikto calmly. “But…” he hesitated, “I'm trying. I'm trying, Toby.”

He flinched when Nikto called him by name.

“You need a family,” Nikto pulled away from him, stepping back and letting him get up.

Toby chuckled bitterly, brushing dust and moss off his clothes.

“And where would you advise me to look for a family? Maybe at the market on a market day?” And he laughed sadly.

“If only so. Good luck!” Nikto turned away from him, leaving.

“And… and to you…” Toby, who had become very serious again, barely uttered.

Nikto approached Karina:

“Let's go,” he said simply.

Karina got up.

“You know,” she said a little later, as they left the woodland cemetery and almost reached the Royal Route. “This is some kind of nightmare, Nik! And the feeling that we were like the heroes of some adventure novel never left me all the time. A very bad novel, I would say!”

Chapter four

Encampment

“Let's stop here,” said Nikto, heavily sinking into the grass.

“Yes. Okay,” agreed Karina. She herself liked this cozy forest clearing, surrounded by bushes on all sides. “Here is a small lake, we can wash ourselves.»

“Yes,” Nikto said, and in his voice she felt the fatigue. He sat down on the grass, as usual stretching out his lame leg, and his healthy leg slightly bent at the knee, and, slightly lowering his head, stared blankly in front of him at one point. She saw that he was not at all looking at the clover leaves that grew in abundance there, but was looking at the grass as a background that helped to delve into his thoughts. His eyes were blank, and he stared ahead unseeingly. And Karina, looking at him and remembering what happened to them today, once again thought that his sweet and so soft appearance with delicate neat features, devoid of any brutality and rigidity, didn’t at all fit with his actions, with the way he behaved – tough and fearless.

“How can you be so soft on the outside and so strong on the inside!” She thought. “This body doesn't suit him at all. All the same, the men of the “upper white race” are too cute, however, this is not surprising, because they are absolutely peaceful people, not at all like “black” or “red” ones.”

She said:

“You fought so hard now, one against all! Was it very difficult for you?”

“Yes, this was a fucking disaster,” he said, still looking in front of him, in a voice devoid of any intonations, so simple and everyday.


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