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As Ren took her first step out into the sunlight, she looked up at the sky in wonder. “I’d heard what it was like, but seeing it for myself… It’s so vast. This is nothing like being indoors... Honestly, it makes me a little uncomfortable.”

“Are you okay?” Kano asked. “Should we go back inside? There’s no need for you to rush it.”

“No, I’m fine. I’ve already spent more than enough time inside.”

As they walked through the town, with Ren constantly asking what something was or how it worked, Kano was reminded of when she’d left Gresitosis’s lair with the children in tow. In a way, Ren wasn’t so different from them, though probably far less useless. Kano hoped so, at least. Either way, Ren should be similar enough to get along well with them.

Most of the ghouls they passed stopped to stare at Ren’s strange form, but there weren’t many people out and about today. Probably still worried about Eomonsa’s slime and the havoc it had caused. And could still very well be causing for all she knew. It was hard to say what he was doing now or planning to do in the near future.

He might very well have already unleashed it somewhere else in Shorinstown, despite her suggestion. Kano sighed. If he had, hopefully she wouldn’t have to deal with it for a while, if at all. She was getting pretty tired of chasing after necromancers.

Putting that out of her mind for now, Kano turned to Ren. “Where are you going to live now, anyway? Are you just going to stay in the citadel?”

“I hadn’t really thought about it. I guess only if I have to. I think I’d rather stay somewhere else, at least for a while. I’ve been living there my whole life, so a new home would be a nice change.”

Though Ren hadn’t asked anything of Kano, she already felt obligated to find her other self a home. Could Ren stay in the old barracks with the others? The Red Company would probably agree to it, at least if they knew what was good for them, but there might not actually be enough room. Maybe she could just stay at Kano’s house. There was plenty of space there without the children, and Ren should be fine on her own. But having spent almost her entire life in isolation, maybe she’d prefer to live with other people. “You could always stay at my house, though I’ll see if I can’t find you somewhere better.”

“Your house? You mean we’d be living together? That sounds great.”

Kano hadn’t meant it that way. She wasn’t actually living in her own house right now. Then again, where was she living? The citadel? The barracks? None of those seemed right. It was impossible to say where she was going to live in the long term, as there was still too much up in the air. Once things had settled down, she’d reassess her current living situation along with the rest of her life.

But it seemed imprudent to think about that now, not when there were three necromancers in town, doing whatever they pleased. There might not even be a town tomorrow. Compared to that, worrying about where she was going to live was silly. She may as well just enjoy her reprieve while she could. The future would still be there for her to fret over later.

Nearing the street where the barracks stood, Kano hummed a quiet tune. She couldn’t place how she knew it, but there was something profoundly soothing about it. Ren, focused on taking in all the new sights and sounds around her, didn’t seem to notice Kano’s humming.

Though she wasn’t exactly embarrassed about it, Kano still preferred to keep the tune private. It didn’t feel like something to be shared with others. Reflecting on that, she reluctantly stopped. Though the loss of it felt surprisingly poignant, she figured it was better this way. She could always enjoy it on her own later. Maybe then she’d be able to remember where she’d picked it up from. With a wry smile, she reflected that it must be near the bottom of her list of priorities when it came to unsolved mysteries in her life.

But she couldn’t spend all her time obsessing over weighty issues. She was liable to drive herself insane. Was that what had happened to the necromancers? They didn’t seem to think about much besides their work, and that certainly was important. If only because of the potential, and largely inevitable, fallout it caused. With the barracks in sight, Kano once again suppressed her irrelevant thoughts. They were greeted at the front by one of the Red Company soldiers, who gaped at the massive creature beside Kano.

“This is Ren,” Kano said, pausing as she tried to think of how to explain their complex relationship. “She’s a friend of mine.” That should suffice. It wasn’t as if Ren’s history was anyone else’s business. Though Kano did wonder what people would think of a failed copy of a necromancer. What did they think of her own origins, for that matter? She was also a copy, but was she a failed one?

“Oh, okay.” The soldier still sounded nervous, but he saluted and let them pass. Unthinking discipline. What a blessing. In Kano’s view, it was perhaps the only way to redeem otherwise abhorrently stupid ghouls, which happened to be almost all of them.

Ignoring the soldier like she would part of the furniture now that he’d served his purpose, Kano went in and waited for Ren. It took a bit of doing for Ren’s much larger form to get through, but she squeezed inside without breaking anything. Though watching her soft, malleable body undulate in waves during the process wasn’t exactly something Kano was fond of, she found it hard to look away. There was something mesmerizing about the process.

“Wait here,” Kano said. “I’ll be right back.”

She left Ren at the entrance, under the watchful eye of the door guard, and went to find Nove. After getting a passing Red Company soldier to point her in the right direction, Kano found the abomination down on her knees, wiping the floor with a damp cloth.

Kano announced herself, and Nove said, “Give me a few moments. I’ll be right with you.” She finished cleaning whatever liquid had been spilt there and stood up, towering over Kano. “Welcome back.”

“Thanks.”

“What happened out there? I wasn’t sure you were going to come back at all.”

“Neither was I for a while,” Kano said with a wan smile. She gave Nove a brief outline of what had happened, leaving out most of the stuff about the necromancers and her own transformation.

There wasn’t much Nove could do about either, and there was no point worrying her unnecessarily. Kano was doing more than enough of that on her own, and Nove was probably busy looking after the children, or whatever else it was she did.

When Kano reached the subject of Ren and asked if Nove and the children wanted to meet her, Nove said, “Of course we would. Bring her in.”

“You’re sure?”

“I’m sure. Unless there’s something you’re not telling me about her?”

“No, nothing like that.” Kano wasn’t sure how to articulate or rationalize her objection, even internally. Maybe there was nothing to worry about.

“Then don’t keep her waiting any longer.”

“Fine, I’ll get her.”

Ren was right where she’d left her. The replica of herself that Kano thought of as Ren’s actual body didn’t even look bored, despite the wait. Her confinement had probably taught her patience, if nothing else. The Red Company soldier who’d been keeping an eye on her looked relieved to see her go. Probably just because he wouldn’t have to be around her anymore.

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LWEndless

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