Qasin, even riding the horse, couldn’t keep his right hand from the sword hilt. They were almost at the village, and all Qasin could think about was the fight Eve had ended prematurely. The taste of combat, the exhilaration he felt as he spun his blade through the enemies, and the disappointment he felt when it all went away. It just rolled through his head over and over again as he rode.
“If it’s bothering you that much, dear, you should just stab a few peasants along the way,” Eve said, straightening her back as she rode a little in front of him. “Or is that not how the noble King acts?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Qasin said, pulling his hand away from the hilt. “What could possibly bring me to behave in such a barbaric manner?”
“Oh, don’t be coy with me, dear,” Eve reached a hand out and touched Qasin’s shoulder as the two now road side by side. “You’re positively dripping with the desire.”
“Nonsense,” Qasin stiffened. Between the touch and the thought of killing, he was doing his best to not hop off the horse and charge at the nearest living creature just to ease the tension.
“Come now, weren’t you the one who made me ruin a good boat just so you could kill some pirates? Don’t act innocent now; we’ve all seen your colors.
“I merely wanted to save innocent people from a gruesome fate. There is nothing wrong with that,” he said, satisfied with his character defense. “I was helping people.”
“‘Save,’ ‘save,’ ‘save,’ ‘save.’ You keep saying that word, but if that were really the case then what was with that sour face you had when I finished off the pirates?” Eve further taunted the troubled King.
“I was merely upset that we lost a good boat. I know how much the thought of losing time troubled you,” Qasin lied. “It had nothing to do with you finishing off the pirates.”
“Oh, then it was for my sake? How touching. Perhaps my dashing Prince Charming shall whisk me away from all my troubles,” she laughed. “Or perhaps he will just carry me off to more combat.”
“It’s not like that, and I don’t need to explain myself to you,” Qasin said, deciding that he had discussed the subject enough for one day. He had gone years without killing anyone when he ruled as a King. This wasn’t an urge that he needed to sate.
“Of course you don’t, dear.” She sped up and pulled her horse in front of his again. “It’s you that needs convincing. Now, come along. Chop chop. We have places to be.”
Qasin sighed. Her words had teased out his desires too much, and now he found himself wanting to fight even more than before. The closer they got to their destination, Eve now riding squarely in front of him, the stronger the urge grew. He even closed his eyes a few times as they rode and imagined he was still ripping through the Black-Wing lines in the battles days ago. Mere days ago . . .
“Oh, look, dear Qasin! It’s a perfect development for you!” Eve shouted out from ahead of him, laughing and pointing to something up ahead. As Qasin struggled to see what she was talking about, her horse blocking his view, she described the situation. “See, there is a poor little Human girl being bullied by three big evil Feline men. They’ve even pushed her to the ground. It’s absolutely perfect for you. Now you can kill someone for a nice, noble reason. I mean, pushing a girl to the ground–that’s most certainly a crime worthy of death, is it not, my dashing hero?”
“No, it’s not,” Qasin frowned. If she hadn’t put it in that way, he might have chopped them up for attacking the girl without listening to both sides. Why does she have to keep ruining my fun, he thought grumpily as the two rode closer to the surrounded girl. “I am sure this can be handled diplomatically.”
“If you say so. By all means, rescue the girl in a peaceful manner. Flex that restraint of yours,” Eve giggled, letting her horse slide back behind Qasin’s as he galloped ahead to the place in the road where the girl was being harassed.
“Excuse me,” Qasin said, approaching the three Feline men. “Could you perchance explain why you have assaulted this young lady?”
“Young lady? The boy called this trash ‘a lady.’ That’s cute,” the biggest Feline man, a cheetah-spotted Feline with his chest pushed out twice as far as his friends’ said. “A hairless chimp spawn can be a lady? That’s rich.”
“Oh, but this one’s also trash, so maybe it’s just that garbage can’t tell the difference,” another one of the Feline men, looking to have originated from cougars, spoke out. “Perhaps there is a dumpster nearby that we missed, and that’s where these two came from.”
“Ugh, I thought this reeking smell of man flesh would pass when we left that putrid town, but here it is, foul smelling dumpster waste bothering us on the road,” the cheetah Feline spoke again.
Qasin, who had patiently put up with their degrading remarks as he dismounted and approached the group, gripped his sword as tightly as he could. He wanted to kill them. He even had it planned out, but one glance from Eve told him that he wouldn’t hear the end of it. “Gentlemen, perhaps you could show us your civility and let us and the girl pass without trouble. I’m sure we’re not worth your time,” he said through tightening jaws, yet with a gracious air as he did his best to swallow his pride and avoid bloodshed.
“What? Do a favor for trash? Not likely. We’ve got a long ride back, and we’ll be taking this girl for a short ride on the way,” the cougar Feline spoke. The third, a cougar Feline too, just chuckled with each of his cohort’s comments, his eyes less concerned with Qasin and more with the flesh of the girl Qasin hadn’t particularly noticed yet.
“Actually, it looks like you brought us an extra morsel too. Tell your girl to hop off her horse and join us. Who knows? Maybe she’ll walk away with a child that is–” The cheetah Feline’s taunt was cut short by Qasin’s sword.
Qasin, who had drawn the blade to cleanly cut the cheetah Feline right down the middle finished off the other two in just as quick a swing. He forcefully swung the blade a few times to shed the loose blood off of it and then sheathed it. Why couldn’t they have been more tolerable, he grumbled, staring at the pieces of rude pests he had been forced to exterminate. Why couldn’t you scum have just been a bit civilized? How is it that I’ve managed to travel to an entirely new continent, and yet I’m faced with the same racial tensions and social dynamics the White-Horns, Black-Wings and the Humans had back home?
Looking at the bodies of the Felines scattered across the ground, he just sighed. Will there be another White-Wing invasion or some other catastrophe to push Humans into an amicable relationship with their neighbors, or does someone have to slaughter thousands just to bring about another unified Kingdom? Is it inevitably bloodshed every way? Qasin struggled with the thought. Half of his annoyance with the violence was because he didn’t want to justify Eve’s smug smile, but the other half was because he had wished things could have been different back on the main island. He wished he could have been the right and just King that his people would have praised, the King that united peoples and cultures. But, in the end, he was the conqueror, not the King. Just another petty witless thug sticking up for his family with clubs and swords in lieu of discourse.
“World class diplomacy, Qasin. Well demonstrated,” Eve said, clapping softly from atop her mount, “Bravo, indeed.”
“Violence is still a tool to be used in diplomacy when talking proves unfruitful,” Qasin tried to use semantics to escape admitting his failure.
“If you say so, dear. Now, since you’ve had a little fun, can we carry on?” Eve motioned to Qasin’s mount. “We have a lot of riding to do.”
“Umm, excuse me,” interjected the girl, a brunette in a light brown sundress. She was still sitting in the mud a few paces away, where she had backed herself up against a boulder in an attempt to distance herself from her attackers once Qasin had drawn their attention. “Excuse me, ummm . . . Sir,” she continued feebly, “th . . . thank you.” Then, regaining her strength, she stood up and started brushing her dress off, “Thank you so much . . . Thank you so much! What can I ever do to repay you?!”
Qasin looked at Eve, shrugged, then looked back at the girl. “Just have a good day and try not to get in trouble. Perhaps try to find someone to walk with you when you travel so you don’t run into the same problem again.”
Eve chuckled as the girl called out more thanks while the two resumed their journey to the town. The second they were out of earshot though, Eve just turned to Qasin and smiled. “That girl was rather pretty as far as excuses go.”
“She wasn’t an excuse.” Qasin stood by his objection.
“Sure, sure, and that’s exactly why you had forgotten she existed altogether as soon as your blade was drawn.”
Qasin’s face slumped. I did forget her.
“Oh, don’t be sad. I won’t judge you, my dashing knight. I’m just saying you shouldn’t lie to yourself so much.” Eve trotted her horse ahead of Qasin’s again, and the two made their way towards the town.