THE DISTRESSED DAMSEL, “SOMETIMES, IT REALLY FEELS GOOD TO BE SAVED.”
Because after some time had passed, the Bear’s strike never arrived and Asari was still alive, she opened her eye. When she does, the first thing she seen was a scene of a man standing between her and the ever so menacing Mountain Bear.
‘White-Blue’ that what first cross Asari mind. A Man with a travelling mantle colored cloud white and day sky blue.
The Man seems had done something to the Bear. Asari thought that the Man threw a mist or fog (at least it seems like that) to the Bear’s face. The Bear then was in great agony and keep rubbing its face.
「A Mage?」 Thought Asari.
The Man turned his face (and he was quite a good looking too) to Asari and said in an accent that Asari think his funny.
“Can you rise?”
Asari was still digesting the situation, so she was only sitting quietly and stares blankly to the man.
Behind him, the Bear just keep thrashing here and there in agony. It then roars once again,
The Bear tried to smack the Man but it only hit the empty air. It looked like the Bear had difficulty to locate the Man accurately since it keeps rubbing its eyes. Maybe because it was angry, irritated, or because of pain, it roars again.
Hearing this loud roar, the Man without talking anything, took hold of Asari’s hand and just like that pulled her to run.
Asari could only half screamed.
After her mind clarity came back, Asari found herself had already running following the Man. She couldn’t remember clearly how long or far they had ran. She looked back; it seems that the Mountain Bear didn’t pursue them. Whatever the Man does to the Bear, it pretty effective.
Suddenly the Man burst with laughter.
Asari also laughed without thinking. Laughter is a contagious thing or maybe it is just a expression of ‘glad to be alive’ kind of feeling. Her heart beating fast, a sign that she, now, was still alive.
Their laughter for some time became the dominant sound in the forest. A lively forest.
They keep running until they reach the side road exit near the road to Charcoal Hut.
Asari really can’t run anymore, her feet felt like they were detached; also she really embarrassed because her hand is held by an unknown man. So, she spoke with pleading voice,
Hearing what Asari said, the Man let go Asari’s hand.
The tired Asari then find a place so she could rest and take a breather. The Man who choosed to sat on a rock formation on the roadside only look a little tired even after run for a long time, he must be really fit. Asari really envy his stamina, her body felt like it was undergoing a dying process. Although Asari had climbed the mountain slope not only once or twice and sometimes helped with field chores, most of her time is spent reading books or helping her father to concoct potion; that’s why her stamina is not that great and lower than a girl of her age. This had nothing to do with her small body stature. Again, absolutely nothing. She would get mad if this was mentioned for the third time.
The Man took what looked like a tube container and drank from it. When she looked at him, she remembered what thirst feels like and unconsciously tried to take out her water skin from her sling bag. But then she remembered that her sling bag was still lying near the stone where she had lunch before. Yep, she forgot to take her bag and in a place where the Mountain Bear are. After worn-out from climbing and gathering the herbs and get into a life threatening situation, she came home empty handed and she couldn’t drink.
「This is unpleasant. oтz.」
Asari saw that the Man looks at him.
「This is bad; my tired face must be awful to look. It must be the sweat and dirt. I left my face powder on the bag…」
Asari wanted to cry. Asari was a young girl after all, a rather self conscientious young girl.
The man, suddenly offered his tube to her. She unconsciously took the tube and sip one two gulp of the unknown liquid inside. ‘Unknown’ because it wasn’t water. The liquid tasted a little salty-sweet, but wasn’t bad but rather refreshing. It was not a tisane or fruit water. What a strange drink. Unknowingly, Asari drank all the container content and when she aware of it, she become embarrassed. This is an improper conduct for a girl so she timidly gives back the tube to the Man.
“I apologize for drinking all the content, Mister.”
Reply The Man.
Asari didn’t catch it well.
“Esuto. My name is Esuto. What is your name?”
“A... I apologize.”
Asari stands then lowered her body by bending her knee and carefully positioning her hand in front of the stomach (posture for respecting the other party).
“Allow me to introduce myself. My Name is Asari. Asari di Rogi.”
“Can I call you Asari then?”
In Orena Culture that Asari belong to, a male calling just a name to maiden means the male had a substantial degree of closeness to the maiden or the male had a higher social status. Esuto just meet Asari, but he wants to call her name? Did it means that Esuto wanted to be had a closer standing to her?
She knew she had a cute face, but still to call a maiden name who he just met, how bold is he! Asari guarantee her face is blushing red by now. Although the other valid interpretation was that Esuto had higher social status, but Asari choosed to ignore this version. Even if we set these things aside that, Esuto was still a man who saves her that she owes her life to. So, to let him call Asari with her name could be considered as a way to express her gratitude.
“Of course, Mister.”
“Now then Asari. Still want to drink, had another?”
Esuto took out another tube container. She wanted to decline but her body screamed THIRSTY and she still wanted to drink the refreshing salty-sweet liquid so reluctantly(?) she received his offer. But her hope was crushed because the content of this tube is just plain water, but it was still all right. She then passed the empty tube once again to Esuto. On the other hand, called by just her name, Asari strangely feel excited. This must be the maiden road.
“My gratitude for the refreshment that Mister gave and the help that Mister provide before.”
Asari once again lowered her body.
“Ah. Yes. But no need to say Mister. Esuto is enough”
Esuto seemed to be a little uneasy. What a modest man to say that he didn’t need Asari to show basic courtesy, but maybe there was another implication.
“NO, MISTER. That is something that improper for me to do.”
Asari raised her tone a little.
To let Esuto call Asari by her name was not a problem for Asari. But for her to call Esuto just by his name is a rather big problem. Asari had several qualms about it.
First, you see in Orena Culture, calling an older man with his name without honorific is a rude thing to do;
Second, as a person who saved her, Asari feel enormous gratitude, so honorific is a must;
Third and the biggest one, if two people from opposite sex called each other with just their name it can mostly be interpreted as they are in a serious committed relationship.
「It is out of option for now, my heart is not ready yet. Oh my… Did he just confess to me?」 Asari maiden head is spinning around wildly. But we just met! Cuteness is a sin. It must be!
Oh God. Why is he so assertive, but it wasn’t that bad. Asari thought that this is going too fast, he jumped over several steps.
“My apologies, Mister. I can’t do things that would disrespect you…”
“Hmm… Fine, I think.”
Esuto is smiling but had a dejected looks in his face. Asari found that she somehow enjoyed his dejected expression. She was surely a bad girl.
But then Asari calms down a bit and started to organize her thoughts and seeing this situation from an objective point of view and pushing her wild maiden delusion to the dark corners of her mind. Let examine the person named Esuto first.
Just by his appearance somehow Asari can deemed that he was much older than Asari but not older than her father. He had an average looking face that you can found everywhere (not that bad really); a short straight brownish black hair; rather tall, maybe one Hand (~20 cm) taller than Asari, not that she was short (yup. Not a lie). His body was not fat, nor muscled, nor thin, in other word, nothing exceptional.
He was wearing a white-blue colored traveling mantle, an outer shirt with the same color scheme, a long blue trouser, and a really big sling bag with a lot of pockets. A long sword with blue handle is hanging in his waist. Even though if the equipment he wore look more expensive than usual, but not that much different than the standard gear that can be found commonly on common traveler. A little detail that Asari laments about was that Esuto didn’t riding a horse, a white one if she can choose the color.
(Wouldn’t it be strange if he is riding a horse but goes deep inside the mountainous forest where you met, Asari?) 「A girl had a right to dream, right?」
The other thing Asari noted was that Esuto had a strange accent and weird speech style. Not only he speaks more slowly, his word choice, order and break was quite unusual and awkward. As this kind of speech style is markedly different than the colloquial dialects of Orena language that were used in Ekoli River Valley settlements, Asari can surmised that Esuto came from outside the Valley. She sure that Esuto speech was not from King’s City dialect since Asari is familiar with it, as it was the standard register used to write books that Asari read.
In short the conclusion that Asari had about Esuto was: ‘a traveler that come from outside the Valley, save me from perilous situation, and is very interested with me.’ The last point maybe was just only inside Asari head.