CH. 7

I woke up to the sound of little birds singing cheerfully.

"Oh, bugger off! Go choke on some earthworms or something, why don't you?" I muttered, opening an eye to glare menacingly at the culprits of my premature awakening.

I was not in a good mood this fine, sunny morning. I rolled over and blinked. Everything was a blur, and I felt like I had the world's biggest hangover.

Groaning, I got up, shaking dry leaves off of my torn and tattered dress. The events of the night before were hazy and just coming back to me. I wiped my eyes and blinked, allowing the memories to trickle slowly back to me through my exhaustion. Wolves... near-death experience... cottage...

Troy.

With that thought, I snapped back to reality, waking up fully. I felt his eyes on me and I span around. He was looking at me from his seat next to a crackling fire. I looked back at him, slowly remembering all the details of what had happened, including my nervous breakdown he had helped me through, and how he had held me so closely when he had scooped me out of harm's way.

I felt my face heat up and I turned away, his gaze still on me. It was starting to creep me out; along with pretty much everything else about him.

"Is there a river or something near here?" I asked abruptly, wanting him to say something; even if it was just directions.

"No, I don't believe so. We'll eventually get to one, I'm sure, on the way to One. Why do you need it?"

Huh? Since when were we going to One?

"What about One?" I asked, voicing my thoughts and avoiding saying my answer to his question, which would go something like this:

"Well, if you haven't noticed, and I'm sure you have, I smell like I've just spent a month in a pigsty, and most likely look like one of its inhabitants. I'd like to cure that if I am to spend who knows how long in your hardly-looking-disheveled, irritatingly gorgeous presence."

That is, assuming I'd answer truthfully.

He didn't even look up from what he was working on before I had woken up, which was a breakfast of berries and what looked like Mystery Meat of some kind.

"Well, I figured that since you aren't on best terms with a well-known and prominent vampiress, we should get you some real protection. One is the best place to get it."

I was still confused.

"Why is it the best place to get it?" I asked, running my hands through my hair, or at least trying to. It was disgusting; matted with leaves and dirt and who knew what else. I could only imagine what my face looked likeā€¦ although, now that I thought about it, I'd rather not.

He looked up at me this time as he replied, "It has the lowest amount of crime due to the amount of strict policing in the area. The Duke who runs it has no tolerance for evil. It used to be a huge shrine to the god Iola, and is said to be blessed."

Oh, okay.

"Wait, if you've been sleeping for so long, how do you know all this?" I asked.

"When I was sleeping, I saw it all."

Way to answer my question then make more questions pop up from the answer.

Does that even make sense?

"Okay, to One we go, then!" I said with a forced smile as he handed me some berries.

I ate them with amazing speed and he laughed. He was about to hand me more when he suddenly jerked his head up, my grumbling tummy forgotten. I made a little noise of irritation, but he didn't hear me. He was focused on something else.

He stood up and stomped out the fire in one fluid movement, handing me some more berries as if just remembering that I was nearly faint with hunger. His odd behavior was forgotten in an instant and I clutched the berries possessively. It was about time-

I heard soft footsteps, and before I could even shove some more food into my mouth, an arrow zinged through the trees and thudded into the trunk behind me, barely missing my head.

I just stood there, my eyes wide and berries forgotten, as Troy swept me off my feet and soared into the sky. I could see a big, burly man appear from behind a tree and shoot another arrow towards us, even though I'm sure he knew it wouldn't hit, which it didn't.

"Who the hell was that?!" I yelled, panicking. The last thing I needed was another person wanting me dead!

"I don't know!" He replied, looking worried and agitated.

He was also a very bad liar.

"That's bull, Troy! Who is he?" I yelled back, getting even more annoyed.

"Bull? What do you mean, bull? There was no bull back there!"

"Huh?" I said, confused.

Oh.

I seemed to have forgotten the fact that he's been sleeping for five centuries, haven't I?

I burst out laughing, forgetting my distress.

"What's so funny?" We were still flying over the land at this point, and he was still carrying me. I am not light, so I had no idea how he could effortlessly carry me over this great of a distance with no signs of tiring. This being thought, he slowly began descending down towards the ground, finally landing right next to a stream. He dropped me unceremoniously. I was still laughing, not stopping as I hit the ground, pain shooting through my poor ankle.

"Bull... is a... figure... of speech..." I said between fits of giggles. I couldn't stop, it was so absurd.

He just looked at me, still incredibly confused. The look on his face made me laugh even harder.

I finally calmed down enough to explain, "Bullshit. It's used to say 'your definitely not telling the truth' or whatever. Speaking of, who was that guy?"

He leaned against a tree (we were still not out of the Never-Ending Forest of Many Unexpected Attacks) and sighed, "I don't know, all right?"

I looked at him hard, even though his eyes were downcast.

He was lying again, I could tell.

But I let it drop. I was still feeling like a train wreck, and I did not want to spend my day questioning the guy who had saved my life not one, but twice.

"At least we found a stream, right?" I asked, trying to lighten the mood a bit.

He finally looked up.

"What did you want it for, again?"

"I want to take a bath. I feel really filthy, and probably look it, too." I carefully avoided any mention of pigsties.

"Okay, fine. I'll be back soon." With that, he flew off.

I quickly shucked my dress and corset and dipped them in the stream, only dressed in my slip as I started to claw off as much dirt as I could without any soap to aid me. When I got it as clean as I would ever be able to, I examined my shoes. They were totally wrecked, but they were all I had. I then took off the rest of my clothes after looking around carefully to make sure no one was looking. It was absurd, I know. I was probably the only one around for miles, besides Troy, that is.

I jumped into the middle of the water without further delay, and was not too happy to discover that this little stream was actually a river with a current so strong it swept me right off my feet.

"Ah!" I screamed before I was dunked under.

I was terrified. I couldn't get to the surface. I kicked with all my might, but I couldn't tell which way was up or down.

If I didn't get air soon, I would... I would...

I would die.

With that mind-jarring thought, I snapped into focus in my less than appealing state. I let the water take me for a few seconds, and then opened my eyes. I was running out of air, but I pushed that thought away. I saw the sun, bright through the crystal clear water. I kicked my legs frantically towards it, my lungs beginning to burn. I broke the surface seconds later.

I gasped in a huge breath of air before the current jostled me again. I had to get out of the water.

I swam with all my might towards the shore, but the current kept pushing me back. I was losing my strength, and I knew I needed someone to save me or I was a goner.

"Troy!" I screamed, hoping he was somewhere near. He could save me. He could fly. Of course he would save me.

Wouldn't he?

I was pushed under again, much to my agitation. The rivers current was too fast, and everything was too chaotic for me to concentrate. I gulped a huge mouthful of water and nearly choked trying not to breathe it in. I broke the surface again, coughing.

"Troy! Anybody!" I screamed again. I sounded so pathetic and terror-stricken, I hoped that somebody, preferably a really hot knight in shining armor, would come and save me.

Just then, as I was fighting to stay above the water, I saw I sudden dip and a whole bunch of mist rising up...

It looked a bit like Niagara Falls.

Holy fucking shit me a piglet.

I screamed in pure horror.

Forget a knight in shining armor! Anyone, I repeat, anyone will do right now!

No one was coming.

The drop was now approaching fast, and I lost all hope for the second time in twenty-four hours. However, I seemed to have forgotten that every time I lost hope in this world, something always managed to save me at the last moment.

"Come one, world! The last moment is fast approaching!" I screamed as I could feel the water sweeping me closer to the edge.

Troy must have heard me, because a second later he swooped down and snatched me out of the water. He clutched me around the waist and I hugged him close.

About fucking time! My inner voice screamed out at him.

I however, was so deliriously happy to be alive I didn't even think about how late his timing was.

When we landed on the gloriously dry ground a moment later, he gently placed me on the ground. I finally understood why all those cartoon characters would kiss the ground after a perilous journey they didn't believe they would survive. I almost did it myself, but stopped myself short when I realized Troy was watching.

"Thank you for saving me. Again." I said shakily, putting my head in my hands.

"No problem. Would you like some clothes, Evie? I personally don't mind whether you have them or not, but I'm sure you do."

My eyes widened as his words sunk in. I had totally forgotten my nakedness. I crossed my arms over my chest and raised my knees, trying to cover myself as best as I could.

"Oh, my god... Turn around!" I said angrily. He was looking at me blatantly without a hint of shame in his gaze.

He smiled and turned around. I could see his shoulders shaking as I scurried over to my clothes, which were still slightly damp.

Why would his shoulders be shaking like that? I asked myself as I hurriedly put on my slip. I left the corset undone.

Was that laughing I heard?

He was laughing at me!

"What's so funny?" I asked in a certainly unfriendly tone of voice.

He turned around, taking my speaking as an indication I was decent.

"Nothing really..." He began to say, a hint of his laughing fit still in his voice, "It's just that you looked so panic-stricken..."

He burst out laughing again, and I smacked him on the arm; hard.

That just made him laugh harder.

I groaned and huffed away, sitting on a boulder nearby.

His giggles finally died out.

"I wasn't laughing at you, Evie. It's been so long since I've seen a female's form; you must forgive the rude staring. I meant no offence."

I looked at him. That had to have been one of the weirdest, most polite explanations I've ever heard in my life.

And I wasn't exactly confident whether my 'form' was that great. That's why I was so embarrassed. No one likes to be caught in that situation.

I, like many girls my age, didn't much like my body. I hated my hourglass frame. No girl living in America these days would love their figure to be described as 'womanly', when there were women like Gisele Bundchen dominating fashion (not to mention kinky Victoria's Secret ads). I wasn't fat, at least. But my legs were too muscular, my hips too big... Not to mention I was also short. I did not like it one bit.

He must have thought my silence meant I accepted his answer, because he began to speak again.

"We should get going to One, if you're feeling better." He said, smiling.

As I looked at him, I realized that I wasn't really sure if I liked him or not yet. He'd saved me three times since I met him, but it occurred to me that all I knew about him was that he was an apparently heterosexual demon. Sometimes he seemed so sweet and nice, other times so distant and... emotionless.

I needed to know him better before I could decide my opinion on him. Although, I admit that his heroics certainly gave him a boost in my esteem. Maybe it was time to pry.

"Tell me about yourself, Troy." I said, meeting his eyes.

He looked surprised. I didn't exactly blame him, either. The question was a bit random.

"What do you want to know?"

"Well, for starters, where are you from?"

"Yu."

"What's Yu?"

"The Hell dimension."

Oh, fun.

"Who are your parents?"

He looked at me funnily before answering.

"Do you really want to know this now?"

"Why wouldn't I, Troy?" I replied, puzzled by his answer

He laughed, sounding a tad bitter.

"You don't want to, believe me. Or at least I don't feel prepared to tell you- or anybody, for that matter- that little bit of information."

"Why, are you the son of Satan?" I asked uneasily, only half joking.

"Next question." He smiled at me creepily, the same as yesterday in that stone house.

It occurred to me that I may have been saved three times by Satan's heir.

I swallowed hard and continued.

"How old are you?"

"Three thousand, one hundred and nineteen years old."

"Ha-ha, you're old enough to be my father." I joked weakly, trying to cover up my awe, "Why were you trapped inside the house?"

He looked down and sighed, "Not now, Evie... Another time, okay?"

I could definitely state with absolute certainty that my interrogation of Troy had been an utter failure. I only learned two near-useless things about my unofficial protector. He was as much a mystery now as he was five minutes ago.

I nodded in reply to him and started to loosely tie up my corset. My beer-wench dress was still torn and wet, but at least it was relatively clean. I felt a pang as I remembered the joy of pants. I really missed them.

"Let's go to One now." I said when I was done.

He picked me up and launched into the clear blue sky.