Chapter 9

I went back home after my early morning excursion and found my yawning sister at the kitchen. I placed down the jar of bark juice on the table carefully.

“It was quite a long night. It was so nice!” she said dreamily. Her smile was from ear to ear. It was kind of different, which I immediately noticed.

“Right. You came in late,” I pointed out to her gently. She told me to go ahead because she wanted to stay longer at the wedding party, so I let her. I was exhausted, that’s why. Well, not physically but more on mentally speaking.

‘It was because of that stranger who gave me a guabula!’

“Yes, you were so rude. You left me at Oleifa’s!” She turned round to face me, with accusation in her beautiful green eyes. She wasn’t at all dismayed but rather enjoyed her freedom.

I rolled my eyes upward. “You said I can go ahead, so I left!” I sat down in the chair and crossed one foot over the other. I put down Ponpon on the table and rested my elbows on the armchair. He was looking at Shahrae with his piercing red eyes. “I heard you mumbling about a man’s name in your sleep,” I muttered, giving her a quizzical look.

Shahrae blushed. Her cheeks went pink.

I looked at my sister with a teasing smile on my lips. “So, what was his name, Ponpon?” I added with an inquiry, glancing at Ponpon.

“Oh, some name! I even thought it was even ridiculous!” His red eyes moved in my direction. His mouth pouted, like his non-existent brain was racked.

I grinned. “Hmm… perhaps your three-day memory has taking its toll, huh?” I poked his tiny forehead playfully. “You can’t even remember it.”

“Hey! It doesn’t mean that I only have a three-day memory, I’ve already forgotten where I came from,” he argued pointedly.

It was true. Even though with his short memory, he knew that my father gave him to me when I was seven. It was eighteen Aryan years ago. My father revealed that Ponpon could overall remember all those things he considered important to him aside from his short-term memory.

“Poor Ponpon,” my sister cooed sympathetically. Then she turned her head to look at me with a dreamy smile. “Anyway, his name’s Luick. He’s from the Nazian tribe.”

I sighed in relief. At least, he wasn’t from the north. It would be troublesome to know someone from up there as the King had somehow eyes and ears everywhere. We could get in trouble if we knew some Furezo and we didn’t report it. I didn’t want my sister to have any kind of trouble with the warmonger. As much as I hated him for sending us the dead body of our mother, and maybe the cause of it, I did not want my only beloved sister to suffer. Now that it was only us left, I would do my best to protect her.

“And guess what? He’s an elite warrior! Isn’t that nice?” she added excitedly, taking the chair that was right across from mine. “Perhaps he can help you join the army, Xerra.”

I instinctively put my feet on the table and crossed my ankles. My arms crossed, as I was contemplating.

“The annual Banatan is fast approaching, Shahrae. I’d take my chances there instead of relying on someone’s influence,” I said after a few dots.

“What? By disguising yourself as a man? Xerra, the King himself would be there. What if he discovers that you’re a woman then?” she said worriedly.

“Of course I won’t pretend to be a man, Shahrae. I’ll join without pretense. He can make me fight more than three rounds if he wants to just eliminate me from the recruitment process, but I will do everything in my power just so I can join the Elite Aryan Army!” I looked at her with conviction.

Her mouth hung open. She sat back in her seat with a sigh and shook her head. “What you’re planning to do is dangerous, Xerra. What if the King…?”

“Of course, he’ll recognize me. I’m that unique, right?” I chuckled bitterly.

“It’s not what I meant, Xerra. What if he’s going to punish you or something?”

My brows knitted. “I don’t think I’ll commit any crime if I want to join the Banatan, Shahrae. It’s just a traditional recruitment for new warriors to join the army. It’s never been said that a woman is not allowed to join the recruitment. It is just that no woman had has the guts to participate in it yet!” My hands gestured in the air as I reasoned to her.

“It’s because it’s very dangerous, Xerra! You could lose your life…” She was too concerned, I knew it. She shook her head helplessly.

Of course, I understood what my sister was trying to say. She was afraid that I’d die right in the middle of the Banatan… and maybe right before her eyes. We both saw for years now how bloody and deathly it could get. Men out there, once in the ring, they were somehow turned into beasts, fighting for their lives just so they could join the Elite Aryan Army, the King’s army. And many had died in front of those people who loved and cared for them. It was truly a barbaric way to die.

But so was war. And we were still in the middle of it even though some had the normalcy bias about it.

I smiled at my sister. “Now, that’s not very supportive of you, beloved sister.” I stood up gracefully from my chair. “I’ll join the deathly recruitment. Just remember that I’m doing this for our mother. Okay?” Then I left her to her own thoughts.

I extended my arm and Ponpon was like magnetized by my hand. I put him in the scabbard and went out of the triangular house. My thoughts were filled about the Banatan.

Could it be that stranger already knew my plan? I could not stop but ask myself again this same question over and over again. Why did he approach me anyway?

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