East (Chapter Six, page 1 of 18)

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Batu's arm was extended to keep me behind him. His uncle stood a safe distance away, a crescent of warriors flanking him while Batu's cousin, Khulutei, stood grimly farther behind the group.

Batu was tense like he had been at the castle before he started his mass murder spree. His weapons were sheathed, still, which was good. He was a badass in every way, but even I didn't want to see him take on an entire army.

"Do you accept my challenge, Uncle?" Batu asked in a hard voice very unlike the one he used with me.

It struck me how dangerous he was. How I managed to forget, or maybe block, what happened at the castle and mouth off to him left me wishing Carter had implanted a cultural sensitivity chip in my brain along with the others. I could've been dead a million times over at Batu's hands. He was serious about his duty.

"No one has defeated my champion, Batu," his uncle said. "You are my sister's son. I do not wish you dead."

"But you wish me dishonored?" Batu returned with no sign he was considering turning me over.

I didn't fully comprehend what they were talking about but didn't ask. It was one of the times he mentioned where wisdom prevailed over candidness.

"Very well," Chaghan said with some resignation. "Are you prepared to face him?"

"I am."

Chaghan studied his nephew for a long moment before his gaze slid to me. I held my breath, praying he decided to let us go after seeing the dedication of his kin.

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