Shaar had enough of this crap!
The hillbilly was done! Absolutely done!
He had not been able to sleep a wink last night, for every time he tried to lie down, another idiot who wasn’t afraid of death came rushing in.
At midnight, he finally started to kill these challengers, killing one guy instantly by shattering his ribs with one punch. This victim was already sputtering blood violently when he flew out of the compound and could not be saved. Everyone else had been stunned momentarily by this and so the hillbilly had half an hour’s worth of sleep. But those idiots changed strategy in half an hour!
A piece of rock that came from nowhere was thrown into the yard, breaking the front door once again. The people outside kept throwing rocks until Shaar could stand it no more and rushed right out. The crowd dispersed instantly while two or three stragglers were beaten up by Shaar.
Cursing to himself, Shaar went back to his room to sleep… they did not dare throw rocks anymore.
About a hundred steps away from the gates, far away, those men shouted and cursed, basically cursing all the hillbilly’s past eighteen generations of ancestors to hell. Some more creative ones found drums and horns and started to play music, making a huge commotion. Inside, Shaar covered his ears with a pillow, tossing and turning…
Their intentions were clear: We’re here to exhaust you! You don’t get to rest! You don’t get to sleep! I hope you get tired! Once you do, it’ll be our time to shine!
“Master, to be honest, many of those people from last night were paid to bother you. Someone has been spending money to stop you from getting proper rest…” Tatara had not been able to sleep well either, looking at Shaar with eyes as dark as a panda. “Uh… so if they’re paid, they’re going to be coming forever…”
“Come on, aren’t there law enforcers in this city? Where the heck are the patrol guards? How are they even allowed to do this…” Shaar wanted to cry at this point.
Tatara had spent time in the city before and knew the tricks city folk pulled. “These people who earn their living on the streets definitely have private deals with the patrol guards, that’s why… Ugh, plus, you don’t have any relations with anyone here so the guards aren’t going to be on your side…”
“So… that’s it then?!” Shaar was furious.
“Public challenges to duel are legal in the eyes of the empire’s laws.” Tatara sulked. “The empire allows warriors to duel for glory, and similarly, magicians can do the same. Deaths from duels will not be questioned either… Unless you don’t accept their challenges, then it means you have surrendered.”
If Shaar had known this yesterday, he would have automatically admitted defeat--- come on, he didn’t even want to defeat Hastings in the first place. Then again, it was not a true defeat. Fine, surrender then! He was a practical person and would not kill himself over matters of dignity. He just wanted proper rest.
But… at this point…. He could not back down now!
Thinking of all the people who harassed him last night… Admit defeat?! It would be an insult! These idiots would be able to take advantage of this!
In the morning, Shaar walked out onto the street and heard a yell, “Shaar has come out!”
The crowd outside immediately dispersed. Shaar looked at them carefully and indeed, most of them were in plain clothes and few actually wore warrior attire. Looks like they were mostly hired by someone.
Looks like he could not have a proper breakfast either. Some imbecile had thrown cow dung wrapped in oil paper into his yard this morning, all Shaar could do was pinch his nose and bring his servants somewhere else to eat.
He had just made a turning when the crowd erupted suddenly. All the spectators from the streets seemed to know something, for they backed away.
Countless stones rained down on them, including several packs of dung. Shaar kept deflecting everything, running towards the side of the road. He then took a shop’s door off its hinges and used it as cover for his head. Stones and dung battered the door noisily, and some suspicious substance that smelled absolutely awful even hit him.
Tatara and Soythe crouched aside bitterly, the poor magician’s head was bleeding. They could not even cry if they wanted to.
When Shaar chased the attackers, they sprinted and slipped away. Although Shaar was mad, he could not do anything.
He finally led them both into a restaurant to sit down when someone yelled, “Where is Shaar? Do you have the guts to fight me?!”
Shaar was sitting on the second floor, looking down at a muscular man out on the street, so he threw a chair out of the window. The man hit by the chair collapsed instantly.
During the meal, the waiter carrying his tray of food suddenly flipped the tray over and poured a sack of powder on him.
After they walked out of the restaurant, several men with covered faces shot at Shaar with crossbows.
On the main street, random arrows were fired at him from seemingly nowhere.
Shaar thought he had seen it all, after going through major battles on the plains. He knew he could kill entire armies and he had even survived the Berserkers from the Odins.
But now, on this street, a threat came his way at every second. Every step was a trap, every face was suspicious…
The only time Shaar had time to catch his breath was when he met a team of patrolling guards on the streets. The attackers finally left him alone for a while so he got his momentary peace. The hilbilly then had the sudden idea to walk behind the patrol guards, taking the chance to buy two meat patties for Tatara and Soythe to eat along the way.
The guards looked at Shaar with pity, some of the merciful ones could not help but whisper, “Next time, be more careful before buying food. They might just poison your food… You won’t be the first master to be poisoned in this city.”
Through the morning, a very sweaty Shaar led Soythe and Tatara through the twists and turns of the cities, using small alleys to escape the attackers. In the end, at a crossroads near the city pier, Shaar finally saw the fat General Ruhr and his men. Shaar burst into tears and leapt towards the fat man, refusing to let go.
Ruhr did his best to hold back his laughter when he saw Shaar panting as if he was about to die soon, patting Shaar’s back hard. “It’s alright, it’s alright. I sent a messenger this morning for you but they could not find you in the house and that’s when I knew--- these people are too arrogant! I thought they would not act so recklessly but how could they do all this in broad daylight?! Don’t worry, with me and my men here, they won’t do anything now.”
Shaar shook his head vigorously, panting hard. “I finally freaking understand how impressive those city scums are! They’re like a locust plague! I’d be able to endure weapons and arrows but they threw poop at me!”
Ruhr quickly shoved Shaar away, taking a step back as he pinched his nose. “Poop?! Ugh, why didn’t you say so?! I just changed into clean clothes this morning!”
Shaar raged, “Why did you not tell me if you knew this would happen?!”
“Nonsense, I just told you yesterday! Weren’t you acting all brave, saying you’ll defeat them all?”
Shaar was so angry his face turned red as he scolded, “Hmmph! I did not know how vicious they were! I thought they’d be scared after I killed two people but… I didn’t think… Ugh! I can defeat one or two but how can I fight if they’re coming by the hundreds?!”
The hillbilly vented his anger but suddenly had an idea, “Wait! This city is filled with hidden masters, there must be many experts here! Why are these people targeting just me? Are the other warriors in the city living like this?”
Ruhr smiled. “Hmm, you finally understand.”
Shaar panicked, shaking the fat man by his neck, “Tell me! What is going on?!”
Ruhr shoved Shaar away and smirked, “Do you think being a master is a simple thing? In this world, millions of people want to get rich, get famous and be better than everyone else! And do you think everyone is a kind person? Many are lowly scums that are willing to do whatever it takes. No matter how powerful a warrior is, they’re human too, they must eat, sleep and poop, right? They’ll harass you until you exhaust yourself, that would be the time for them to attack! So do you think all those legendary masters of history worked alone? Hmmph!”
“...” The vein on Shaar’s forehead pulsed. “You mean…”
“The only way to survive is to have someone to depend on, my brother.” The fat man patted his shoulder and grinned, “Stories of heroes fighting solo are just stories, how could they say being at the top is a lonely affair… Ptui! He would have to watch out for assassins on the toilet bowl, I don’t think that’s a lonely affair! Even if you’re made of steel, how many nails can you deflect? Those scums are evil and even if you killed one thousand of them, you’ll eventually tire out and that’s when the 1001st person strikes. They’ll yell ‘I defeated the legendary Shaar!’ and step on your shoulder to get to the top!”
“So… how did the rest do it?” Shaar sighed.
“There are only a few solutions to this. The masters could take in many disciples to protect themselves through numbers- to defend them against harassers, or just get support from major aristocratic families. Those aristocrats are very powerful and no one would want to cause trouble with them. Some… who are unwilling to take disciples or depend on aristocrats… can only choose to hide themselves, living in seclusion in a place where no one can find them.”
The hillbilly cursed. “So that’s why some masters live in seclusion, they had no choice!”