Female Warrior Prologue Volume 1: Light and Shadow
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 1: Light and Shadow Part 1 – translated by Doza
“You really are a good person!”
The wandering bard happily surveyed his room. That’s right! It was a room for him alone. He had not expected that the eccentric Red Cloak would not only take him in, but even help him book another room. Initially, he had felt that even sleeping on the floor would be good enough! Sure enough, his luck today was pretty good.
“… Ramble on any more and I’ll slaughter you with my blade.”
The bard exclaimed in surprise, “Eh? You use blades? Normally everyone wants to use a ‘sword’ to chop me up!”1
Looks like this fellow has frequently angered other people. Red Cloak didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“Since you have treated me so well, I will sing the Ballad of the Warrior Queen to you once more as a lullaby before you go to sleep!”
However, the bard had already opened his mouth and started softly singing the Ballad of the Warrior Queen which had an extremely mellow melody. “The Warrior Queen, is what she’s called…”
Since he had already started singing, Red Cloak also stopped protesting. He simply sat on the bedside, quietly listening to that song that was as tranquil as still water.
Hee! I knew this person likes the Ballad of the Warrior Queen. Looks like I may have all three meals provided for me for the next three days! The bard sighed delightedly in his heart.
Ah! Sure enough, fate is in my favor at the moment.
There was evidence to confirm that Red Cloak was, as expected, a generous host. Not only did he provide three meals, he didn’t mind even when the bard additionally ordered some expensive wine along with his meal. He seemingly did not have much of a notion about money.
A silver ducat for a glass of wine. Even some of the lesser nobility could not afford to drink at these prices. However, when the bard asked if he could add on an order of one glass of wine, Red Cloak merely replied, “Do as you wish.”
He is definitely super rich! And thus the bard decided to latch on to this person till death.
“You really take a mile when given an inch!” Red Cloak glanced at the wine in the bard’s hand, but as usual used an unconcerned tone to say, “I don’t suppose you’ll still want dessert after this?”
“Ah!” The bard sighed over the good wine, and replied very politely, “Actually there’s no need for that. I’m not interested in dessert.”
Red Cloak reclined against the back of the chair and said in a calm tone, “That’s quite strange, I had thought you would like dessert a lot.”
“Why would you think so?” The bard asked curiously.
“Because the impression you give is like a slice of cake.”
The bard smiled sweetly. “Oh, are you saying I’m as sweet and beautiful as a cake?”
Red Cloak let out a quick “Haha” and replied, “You are just like a cake, all show and no substance. Eating an apple is more filling.”
“This is a total misunderstanding. I am indeed showy, but also very dependable.” The bard strongly protested.
Without a trace of politeness, Red Cloak reprimanded, “A guy who spends all his money on hair oil to the point where he has no money for food has absolutely nothing to do with the word ‘dependable’!”
“That…” The bard’s face turned pained, the merciless example rendering him absolutely speechless.
With nothing to say in response, all he could do was rub his nose. In any case he couldn’t do anything to Red Cloak.
The two of them silently bowed their heads and ate the food on their plates. When Red Cloak had almost finished eating, he looked up to ask, “Are you still going to the tavern to sing the Ballad of the Warrior Queen? Is today the second day?”
“That’s right!” The bard nodded his head, and could not help asking out of curiosity, “How about you? What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to the Adventurers’ Guild to see if there are any missions I can accept!” Red Cloak shrugged, saying, “If not, then we might have to starve.”
“… Aren’t you very rich?” The bard froze. How could it be different from what he had assumed?
Red Cloak casually took out a wallet, turning it upside down and producing just a single clink of ducats.
“One gold ducat and one silver ducat?”
The bard counted again and again. The amount was so straightforward that counting wrongly would really require some talent… Goodness! They hadn’t paid for their food yet, and just now he had even ordered a glass of wine worth a silver ducat! Furthermore, they had eaten two plates of minced meat noodles, two bowls of thick soup, two rolls of white bread and a plate of beef. None of these dishes come cheap, and they probably add up to almost another silver ducat? If that’s the case…
“We are left with only nine silver ducats?” The bard cried out in alarm.
“It is ‘I’ who am left with only nine silver ducats,” Red Cloak emphasized clearly.
“The r-room…” The bard was panicking so much that he stuttered.
“Relax, I paid for a week of the room’s fee in advance,” Red Cloak replied very understandingly.
The bard heaved a sigh of relief, pleased with the additional wealth as he patted his chest. “Then having nine silver ducats is enough. I’ll sing the Ballad of the Warrior Queen for two more days, and then I can start earning money.”
He shot a glance at Red Cloak and could not resist commenting, “But then again, you are also too careless about money. Since you only have one gold and one silver ducat left, why did you still let me order that glass of expensive wine? Ahhh! Don’t tell me you booked two rooms for the entire week?”
After receiving Red Cloak’s nod of confirmation, the bard tossed both hands in the air with a sage-like expression of lamentation on his face. Then he bowed his head and continued mumbling to himself, “There was absolutely no need to book an extra room. It would have been fine for two people to cram together a bit, right? It’s really such an excessive waste of money. Now I don’t know whether the innkeeper is even willing to give us a refund. Probably not… Did you know, a gold ducat is actually enough for a family to comfortably live for more than half a year? If it is a thrifty family, it could be enough to last even eight or nine months. How can you spend it all just like that? If you were very rich, then it wouldn’t matter, but you already have no money, so how can you still be so extravagant?! Even though it is hard to live frugally after being accustomed to luxury, since you’re already out of funds, you still have to learn to be thrifty…”
“Why don’t you order another glass of wine?” Red Cloak calmly asked.
“No way, how can I still drink wine? We’re going to run out of money soon!” The bard was very anxious. There was only a gold ducat and silver ducat left on the table… No, it was actually nine silver ducats!
“Don’t say that. We got acquainted for better or for worse, so it’s a must to give a glass of farewell wine.”
“Farewell?” Stunned, the bard asked blankly, “Ah, but I’m not leaving? Don’t tell me that you are leaving?”
“I know you are not leaving, and I am also not leaving.” Red Cloak finished speaking collectedly, then suddenly grabbed the bard’s collar, and fiercely growled, “But if you start complaining again, then I’m afraid I’ll be unable to resist hacking you to death with one strike of my blade, sending you to the netherworld!”
The bard obediently closed his mouth. “I won’t complain anymore, so let’s eat!”
Red Cloak didn’t respond at all.
“Will you come to listen to the song?” The bard still couldn’t resist asking another question. Having a person who liked to listen to the Ballad of the Warrior Queen sitting in the audience was always better than having the whole place filled with booing, though as a rather cold fellow, Red Cloak probably wouldn’t applaud.
“I’ll see if I can go later.” Red Cloak looked outside the door, saying, “Besides going to the guild, I still have some other business to take care of.”
The bard didn’t dare ask Red Cloak what he was going to do, because when Red Cloak had spoken, his voice had dropped several pitches. He thought it definitely couldn’t be anything that would make the listener happy.
“Since you aren’t leaving, I’m going to go first.”
As Red Cloak spoke, he seemed to have shot a glance at the bard’s wine. The wine glass was still one-third full, but he had no intention of waiting for the bard to slowly finish it. He pushed away the plate in front of him, left his seat, and headed for the door of the inn.
“See you later!” After loudly bidding Red Cloak goodbye, the bard continued to drink his wine, but when he looked down he saw two shiny ducats on the table. He hastily stood up and yelled, “Wait, you didn’t take your money!”
Red Cloak didn’t even look back and just replied nonchalantly, “Keep it for your lunch money!”
“Then what… about you?”
The bard’s voice grew softer and softer as he spoke, as Red Cloak had already walked out. Even if he were to call out again, Red Cloak wouldn’t be able to hear him.
Why is he being so nice to me? Is it really just for a performance of the Ballad of the Warrior Queen? The bard pondered over Red Cloak’s every action, but still could not reach a verdict.
“Maybe it’s not so much that he’s being nice to me than the fact that his character is simply rather casual?”
Believing that he had already figured it out, the bard beckoned a waitress over to finish settling the bill and then inquired about taverns in the vicinity where he could perform the Ballad of the Warrior Queen.
The night was dark, and the moon had risen up high. Red Cloak returned quite late and went to his own room unaccompanied, having no intention of greeting the bard in the neighboring room.
While removing his cloak, boots and other things, he looked at the list of missions in his hand. The more he looked the more his head started to ache… It was not contemplating how to complete the missions that made his head ache, but merely thinking about how to reach his destinations.
At first, he had also used the sun, the moon and the stars to guide him in his journeys, but later on there were always people by his side. Since they were always better than him at navigating, this essential adventuring skill was shelved. He had never thought that many years later there would be no one by his side. Not being able to get his bearings had suddenly become the biggest obstacle in his adventuring life!
Not long after, there were a few knocks on the door.
“Who is it?” Red Cloak didn’t even lift his head to ask.
“It’s me…” Upon saying this, the person outside the door suddenly realized that he himself was apparently not so familiar with the person beyond the door as to be able to use “me” as a substitute, so he quickly clarified, “The bard who sings the Ballad of the Warrior Queen.”
Red Cloak looked at his cloak, unsure of whether or not to put it on once more, though he felt that it was unnecessary since he didn’t have any particular intention of hiding his appearance. He felt rather annoyed as he asked after much thought, “Is something up?”
The other party stammered a bit and inquired, “Do y-you have any medicine to treat wounds?”
“Medicine to treat wounds?” Red Cloak laughed. It couldn’t actually be that because he sang the Ballad of the Warrior Queen, the supporters of the Holy King and Queen beat him up, right?
Red Cloak pondered for a moment, but still grabbed the cloak and draped it on. While rummaging through his luggage for wound medicine, he shouted, “I have some, come in.”
Red Cloak had found the wound medicine right when he heard the sound of the door opening, so he turned around to look…
“What happened to your face?” He blurted out, astonished.
The bard had a bloody nose and a swollen face. Compared to his comely appearance in the morning, he almost seemed like a completely different person. If it wasn’t for that head of blond hair and the fact that he was dressed in the same clothes, Red Cloak truly would not have recognized him. His face already looks this bad. Who knows how severe the injuries hidden beneath his clothes are?
But then again, no matter how one looked at the bard, he didn’t seem like the sort to clash with others. This was apparent from everything ranging from his personality and profession all the way to his equipment that was entirely ill-suited for fighting. There wasn’t much of a difference between allowing the bard to fight and letting him die.
How could a bard, that practically has no fighting strength to speak of, end up with a bloody nose and a swollen face, looking as if he went through a desperate battle? Even singing the Ballad of the Warrior Queen shouldn’t have caused people to go as far as to beat him into this state, right?
“Could you help me apply the medicine?” The bard walked in, saw the wound medicine in Red Cloak’s hands and pleaded, “There are also wounds on my back, so I’m unable to apply the medicine myself.”
Hearing this, Red Cloak frowned and bluntly shouted, “Come here, take off your shirt and pants and then sit on the bed.”
The bard obediently did so. After taking off his shirt, the wounds originally hidden beneath his clothes became apparent. As expected, they were not much different from the wounds on his face, black and blue all over.
Red Cloak felt up the bard’s body all over until the latter felt an unnerving sensation from head to toe and retreated several steps to withdraw into the corner of the bed, both his hands crossed over his chest. He asked with a shaky voice, “W-what are you doing… Don’t tell me that you have some strange fetish?”
Red Cloak rolled his eyes and grumpily said, “I was just ascertaining whether or not your bones are broken, so don’t give me that strange look. Furthermore, you don’t look much different from a plate of minced meat noodles right now. No one would have any interest in you! Also, what kind of man tries to cover up his chest? If you want to cover something, then shouldn’t you be covering down there?”
The bard instantly lowered his hands and switched to covering his nether regions.
Seeing this, Red Cloak almost threw a punch. However, the bard’s face simply did not have any uninjured areas for him to punch, and he was not cruel enough to add injuries to already existing wounds. He could only clench his fists tightly and growl sternly, “Get over here so I can apply the medicine!”
The bard glanced at the other party’s tightly clenched fists. Although Red Cloak’s hands were not large, and could even be considered small for a man, his finger joints were thick and rough, proof of his extensive training day in and day out. It was hard to say whether he could beat up a strong man, but at least it was no problem for him to beat up a bard. So the bard meekly shifted back to Red Cloak’s side, and allowed the latter to apply the medicine on him.
Red Cloak did his best to apply the medicine gently, but it was impossible to make it painless for this sort of wound. However, going beyond his expectations, the bard actually didn’t yell out in pain… Although there were tears hovering at the edges of his eyes the entire time.
“What happened?” Red Cloak asked as he applied the medicine.
“Got beaten up.” The bard answered obediently.
“I’m not blind, I can see that!” Red Cloak glared at him furiously even though the cloak was in the way, and the bard couldn’t see his expression either. He coldly asked, “Why did you get beaten up?”
“I sang the Ballad of the Warrior Queen, and was seen by the city patrol…”
“So just because you sang the Ballad of the Warrior Queen, the patrol beat you up until you became like this?” Red Cloak frowned. This was different from what he had thought. Could it be that the patrol just happened to be fanatic worshippers of the Holy King?
“No, they said that within this city, one must pay money to earn money. They even said that because I insulted the Holy King, I had to pay double the amount. But as you know already, I am unable to hand over any money at all, so they beat me up.”
Generally speaking, patrols naturally didn’t have any authority to extort money at all. It was just that every city’s patrol more or less had these sorts of corrupt practices, making up strange rules in order to take money from weak-looking foreigners. These sorts of happenings were not uncommon at all.
Under the rule of the Holy King, these happenings had been eradicated from the vicinity of the capital city. However, this place wasn’t near the capital, so unfortunately no matter how wise and capable the Holy King may be, at the end of it all he only had one pair of eyes. Thus, there was no way he could oversee places like this.
“What about the money I gave you?” Red Cloak quietly asked, “Why didn’t you give it to them?”
The bard fiercely retorted, “How can I give it away? Had I given it to them, we wouldn’t have any food to eat today and tomorrow. It doesn’t matter if I don’t have any food to eat, but how can I be responsible for you not having anything to eat as well?! It is your money, after all!”
“I still have a lot of rations.” Red Cloak replied mildly, his tone already becoming much softer. He was now applying medicine onto a palm. This palm was too appalling to look at, swollen to the likeness of five sausages. This also pained the bard so much that he inhaled sharply.
Red Cloak frowned deeply, criticizing, “They have gone too far, dealing blows as heavy as these just because you were unable to pay any money.”
However, the bard spoke up on behalf of the patrol, “It wasn’t like that! I wasn’t beaten up this badly at first.”
“Then what exactly happened? Can’t you say it all at once?” Red Cloak was finally starting to fume a little. In his whole lifetime he had never before seen a man that was as wishy-washy as this!
Feeling a bit indignant, the bard said, “It’s because they demanded all my money from me, and then laid their dirty paws on a lady dancer… I couldn’t just stand by idly and watch! So I went up and helped shield her for a bit, shouting at her to quickly leave. After that I was beaten up until I became like this.”
Upon hearing this, Red Cloak grinned with a trace of ridicule. He already knew the answer, yet he still asked, “Did that dancer escape?”
The bard fell silent for a while, then spoke, “No.”
Red Cloak mildly chided, “You’re really foolish. Is this a world where a woman can walk alone? Most likely that lady dancer came out to sell herself. There would certainly have been men following her, ensuring that money could be collected afterwards. She also has to continue earning money in this city, so she cannot afford to offend the patrol. It looks like she probably went off with the patrol, paying them with her body.”
The bard turned silent, and Red Cloak also stopped his interrogation. He knew very clearly that the situation had unfolded just like this. There was no mistake about it.
He wordlessly finished applying the medicine and then patted the bard’s shoulder, saying, “Done.”
The bard stumbled from the pat, but more than that, a burning pain passed through his shoulder. He complained, “Can’t you be a bit gentler? I’m wounded…”
Red Cloak replied coldly, “Since you know that it’s painful, then don’t do this sort of stupid thing again! Now return to your room, sleep well for several days, and don’t go out at all for a while. If you bump into the patrol, you would get more than your share of pain!”
The bard let out an “Oh.” He stood up, gathered his shirt, and then walked towards the door. However, he suddenly stopped in his tracks halfway, hesitated for a while, and finally turned his head to ask, “Do I really look a lot like minced meat noodles at the moment?”
As he spoke, he touched his own face. It stung very painfully, which made him even more worried.
What would happen if he ruined his face? He was a bard whose livelihood depended on his singing voice and good looks.
“It’s slightly better than that.”
Considering that the bard was beaten up because he wanted to do a good deed, Red Cloak didn’t want to continue berating him, although in the end he was still a fool.
“Really? I’m still quite handsome, right?” Upon hearing this, the bard beamed with delight.
Red Cloak glanced at his face and flatly said, “As handsome as rainbow-colored bread.”
1 “Eh? You use blades? Normally everyone wants to use a ‘sword’ to chop me up!”: What the bard means is that normally, people threaten to use double-edged swords on him, while Red Cloak uses single-edged blades. Red Cloak’s weapon is essentially a type of dao, but as Female Warrior is more of a European setting, we will not be calling it a dao.