East (Chapter Six, page 2 of 10)

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It didn't make sense to me that he was so calm discussing what happened if he ended up dead. It was even less logical that he thought I could escape an army if he couldn't, not to mention hunt animals or fight off brigands. Hell, I didn't even know which horses in the herd of thousands were his.

Twisting, he waved his cousin forward. "Khulutei will accompany you."

"You are wise, Batu," Khulutei said and approached. "I've prepared your horses. Should the match not go in your favor, I'll do what I can to help the goddess."

"Hang on. You're talking about dying," I said, staring up at Batu's strong features.

"Only if I fail to win," he replied.

"That doesn't disturb you?"

"Why should death disturb me, goddess?"

He was serious. He didn't fear death. I was unable to understand this mentality, either.

"Ah, you fear my death," he said with a small smile.

"I don't fear your death." Hearing the words, I felt my face warm. "I mean, I don't want you to die, especially not for my sake, but it's not your death. It's anyone who dies on my behalf."

"I am honored, Moonbeam." He was amused again. "Come, Khulutei! I have a champion to slay."

The two of them started away.

I stared after them, flustered that he thought once more I was concerned about him. I sort of was … and fighting it hard, because it made no sense. While true I didn't want anyone anywhere ever dying for me, I also specifically didn't want him sacrificing his life because he considered it honorable.

It wasn't. It was stupid to get into a fight instead of running away.

"Do you come, Moonbeam?" he called over his shoulder.

I followed, dreading whatever was about to happen.

They led me back to Chaghan's tent in the center of the army. Two neighboring tents had been moved and lines drawn in the dirt to create a space the size of a boxing ring. Warriors already bunched around the place eagerly with the commanders in fur towards the front of the crowd.

The men parted for the three of us. I moved closer to Batu and Khulutei. One corner was designated as his. The Persian caught my eye and nodded his head. Before I could wave of make my way towards him, Batu rounded on me and took my arms. He bent until his face was even with mine.

"Listen, Moonbeam. If this does not go in my favor, you must leave before I am dead," he told me firmly. "Khulutei will take you somewhere safe. You cannot wait for me to be declared dead before you flee."

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