“We make camp here tonight!” Camden shouts from atop his Jelen.
“Why are we stopping so early?” I whisper to my left. Father doesn’t look tired either and he’s carrying both of our gear.
“Look around, sweety.” Father moves to a flat spot up against a large tree and sets our luggage down.
Looking around, I can’t spot a reason why we’re stopping. The hunters around us are starting to prepare their own campsites.
Wait! Where’s everyone else? I turn around and try to spot the rest of our group through the trees. It takes a few minutes but the first man stumbles into sight looking ready to pass out. I’m reminded of a zombie movie as the second half of our group emerges from the forest.
“Why are they so tired? We only walked for like eight hours. I can understand if they focused their stats for crafting but why are the farmers just as tired?” One of the hunters who was herding the zombies laughs as he walks by.
“Help me set up the tent while I tell you.” Father calls me over to the base of the large tree where he’s started to unpack our tent. “They’re tired because they’ve never walked through the forest this much. Farmers may put some of their status points into strength but even someone with 50 strength will still find eight hours of marching through the woods quite a challenge.”
We bind the poles we brought together and tie one end of our canvas to the large tree. Using the poles, we rig the other side of the canvas to create a canopy over where we’ll be sleeping tonight. Looking around at the other camps, I see most people are setting up full tents. We don’t need to use a full tent because father’s and mine stats are high enough that our blankets are more than enough to keep us warm tonight.
Have I become disillusioned to the plights of normal villagers? The trek through the forest was easy and even the fall weather won’t pose a problem for me. I haven’t thought about it much but I’ve already reached a level most never obtain in their lifetimes.
“You build a firepit and I’ll get the wood?” I nod my head to father and go to check the surroundings for some stones while father disappears amongst the trees.
Most of the villagers are gathering close to each other, choosing to camp back to back. They’re forming a large campsite together probably feeling safer in higher numbers. The hunters are making their own camps like we did, spread out around the perimeter of the normal villagers. I walk around the surrounding campsites, picking up any stones I can find. I try not to laugh at some of the people trying to ask the hunters for help with setting up their campsites.
I’m surprised to see Camden and Braddon setting up their camp much further south than the rest of the hunters. The two of them are camped at least 30 feet in front of the group. I would think the headman would be in the middle of camp, not at the spearhead of our little army.
Once I have my arms filled to the brim with rocks, I make my way back to our campsite. I’m not even surprised at who I see laying on the forest floor under our canopy. Master Del is lying on the floor in the same manner he sleeps on his favorite stone bench. If he can sleep on a stone slab, the forest floor must feel like a Tempur-Pedic bed.
“Is that everything you brought with you?” As usual, master doesn’t even open his eyes when he responds to me.
“Yep, everything I need.”
“I hope it didn’t take you too long to pack everything. God’s forbid you accidentally forgot something.” Every word is dripping in sarcasm.
Master looks comfortable laying in his armor. His hammer and pickaxe are resting beside him but it’s his other gear that exasperates me. Clipped to his side is his normal flask alongside the bigger one he told me he would bring. The booze can be forgiven but the only other supplies I can see is his bag of jerky.
“You better not try and ask for any of our supplies.” I move to a space just outside our canopy and deposit the rocks.
“If I need anything, I’ll ask Camden. He’d let me use his campsite if I asked.” Del talks in a low tone. We’re far enough away from the other villagers that as long as he talks quietly, they won’t hear him without an accent.
“You’re probably right,” I say over my shoulder. I start to pile the stones in the shape of a crescent wall. The wall will be used to block the wind and direct the heat towards us while we’re sleeping.
One stone after another, I quickly have my impromptu firepit ready. Leaving Del by himself, I search for some kindling. I saw plenty of twigs I could use to start a fire while I was collecting the stones earlier. I notice others are foraging for kindling but most are grabbing any wood they can find. I have to stop a few people who are gathering the wrong type of wood and warn them that the wood they’re picking up produces toxic smoke when burnt.
Shuffling around the camps, I gather some dried moss between some tree roots and find enough wood to start a fire.
Once I’m back at our campsite, I look through our supplies and find the fire starter. I take my time to carefully build my fire. I separate the different twigs into two piles. One pile is made up of the ones I know that will burn quickly and the others that I will use to build a lasting fire. I place the moss in the center of firepit, reaching over, I grab the flint and steel.
Striking the steel against the flint, I watch as small embers land on the dry moss. I need to blow some air to make sure the embers catch. It sucks that I have to be frugal with my magic. Anything can happen in the forest and the closer we get to the goblins the more likely we will encounter their scouting parties.
The embers catch in the moss and I can start building my fire. Glancing over at Del, who still has his eyes closed, I try and estimate how many fires I’ve started since I started working for him. “At least a thousand.” I mumble under my breath.
Hearing something moving behind me, I twist around, scanning my surroundings. I use my axe’s strap to swing my weapon off of my back and into my arms.
Before I can see anything “Easy… it’s your dad.”
I relax the grip on my axe when I hear Del. A few seconds later, I can see dad walking through the trees with a large load of wood on his back.
“Is that anyway to greet your father?” Chuckling to himself, dad enters our camp and notices master. Fathers smile fades to a neutral expression. “Del.”
Master finally opens his eyes. “Just making sure my apprentice was doing fine.” Father and Del stare at each other until Del climbs to his feet and moves out from under the overhang, moving a few feet away before he finds a new spot to lay down.
“I’ll be back in a minute.” Dad walks towards the center camp and dumps the wood he collected into a large pile. Before the villagers start grabbing logs, dad grabs enough wood to last us the night.
As dad walks back to our campsite, I make sure the fire has grown enough to add one of his logs that he carried back.
I can see almost every villager opening bags and pulling out some form of jerky. Me and dad have been snacking on any berries and fruits that we’ve scavenged from the forest all day, so we’re not that hungry.
I sit and watch the fire in front of me. I’m used to adjusting a fire for smithing but this is just boring. I know it’s considered good that we didn’t have any problems while traveling but other than a change of scenery the march today was too monotonous.
“Everyone! Gather around!” Camden’s voice echoes throughout the trees.
I place an extra log on our fire incase this takes too long. Followed by father and Del, I walk towards the headman.
“Hurry up! You don’t want your fires to go out, so gather quickly!” Nobody wants their fire to go out so even the most tired villagers hustle to gather around the headman.
“I know most of you are tired but we need to be prepared for tonight. We most likely won’t see any goblins until we get closer to their camp but that doesn’t mean we can let our guards down. Ronald will visit everyone and divide you into one of three guard shifts. Ronald also observed our progress today and we decided that we will try to move in formation tomorrow. When we break for camp tomorrow the hunters will then help me evaluate everyone’s fighting skills and we will form ranks. If we work together, we can overcome the goblins. Try to get some rest.”
Not the most inspirational speech I’ve ever heard.
The three of us make our way back to our camp. I need to pass the time without wasting my mana. I find a spot under the canopy and spread my blanket. Laying down, I pretend that I’ve fallen asleep and enter my meditative state.
I pull up my status page but ignore the information that appears in my head. The small translucent flame that has moved into my head is what I’m after. If I don’t look at my complete soul in my chest there’s no chance that I might accidentally knock myself out. Focusing on the representation of my status page can still help me raise Mental Resistance and Sense Soul.
First, I check how close I am to passing the tests I’m stuck on.
Inject Mana (LV40)(90%)
I’ve felt that Inject Mana and Blacksmithing have been close to passing for a while. Master said I just need to push myself really hard to pass the first Blacksmithing test. That’s why I want to try and make a katana when I get… when I make my next sword. A Japanese katana has a soft core and is then covered in stronger metals, and treated with differential hardening. Forging a sword that looks like a katana would be easy but trying to authentically replicate the iconic weapon should be enough to finally push Blacksmithing into level 51.
I also need to talk to Kervin when he comes back to the village. I promised him some more weapons but depending on how long this expedition will last, I might not be able to supply him with half the amount I usually make.
Stuck in my thoughts, I feel a hand gently shaking my shoulder. I make sure to slowly open my eyes. Pretending to wake up is harder than it sounds. Slowly cracking open my eyes, I see father bent over me.
“Wake up sweety. Ronald is here.” Dad explains to me as he sees my eyes fully open.
Sitting up, I notice Ronald scanning the forest behind our campsite. We make eye contact and I try to not turn away from his gaze.
“Darrius, Aalyiah, first watch. Del-Razen, you have the third watch. First shift starts at sundown. Report to the headman’s camp for the first shift.” It’s rare to hear Ronald speak this much. His soothing voice has an even tone that’s a sharp contrast to his piercing looks.
He must assume we understand because he turns around and starts walking towards the closest hunter’s camp. I look over at the center most camp and can see Camden talking to the regular villagers. The villagers have unsure looks on their faces. The idea of standing watch must be terrifying for them.
I must have been meditating longer than I thought because the sun is already disappearing behind the trees.
“We should make our way over to the headman’s camp.” Father leans over and offers me his hand. He easily pulls me to my feet in one smooth motion.
Double checking my axe and knife, I follow father over to the headman’s camp. When we reach the headman’s southernmost camp, I can see Braddon and two of the other hunters standing ready. I can see eighteen other villagers standing around holding their impromptu weapons. Wait, some are holding spears and swords. The headman must have passed out his weapons to those he thought worthy.
One of which I can see holding a spear is Ezekiel. The man is holding the weapon like it’s a snake. Most of the villagers are wielding the same farm tools that I usually see them using in the fields.
“Listen up!” I stop examining everyone when I hear Braddon’s shout and turn to face him. “We will be taking the first watch. Myself, Arash, Hayk, and Darrius will patrol the woods surrounding the camps. The rest of you will fan out and stand guard just outside the perimeter camps. If anyone sees anything make sure you whistle. Only shout if the threat is great enough that we have to alert the whole camp. If you hear a whistle only the closest to the disturbance should respond. Everyone else needs to remain alert even when we’re dealing with a threat.” It sounds like he’s thought a lot about this.
“How do we see anything? It will be too dark for us to spot our feet let alone a hungry farkas.” Ezekiel asks nervously.
“Did you not bring a torch?” Braddon motions to the villager standing next to Ezekiel. The man is holding an unlit torch in his left hand. Ezekiel and a few other men look troubled realizing they forgot something important. Braddon reassures the men who forgot torches before they can complain.
“You won’t be that far from a hunter’s campsite which will have a fire going. You are only our backup if something decides to attack our camp. It will be the four of us who will have the job of scouting the area. Go and spread out, we only have a few more minutes of sunlight.”
With that we disperse and take positions in the surrounding area. I take my position close to our campsite so I can keep an eye on our fire.
The last rays of sunlight disappear over the horizon and night swallows the forest. The night sky is partially cloudy, obscuring the moons rays and the distant starlight. The lack of light doesn’t affect me, the mine is darker than this. The multiple campfires cast enough light that I can still see twenty feet into the forest.
The silence is another thing. I can tell most of the villagers haven’t been able to fall asleep out here and they’re too scared to make a sound. The gentle thumps of people adding wood to their fires resonates throughout the camp reminding me of public restrooms and the silence that always seems to happen when you need to go number two.
It takes a few hours but the forest adapts to our presence. Bugs and other small critters start chirping and I swear half the people trying to sleep stood up when the distant call of a farkas pierced the night. If they’re like wolves from Earth then they wouldn’t be howling if they’re hunting.
Or maybe I’m wrong. Activating Double Step, I shoot through the dark forest, stopping when I stand next to Braddon.
One, four, six, six pairs of glowing yellow eyes are staring at the two of us. I’m deep enough in the woods that the campfires are no longer helping me see. The moon and stars are barely bright enough for me to see the outlines of the farkas pack.
Braddon whistles again causing me to flinch, surprisingly I’m not the only one. The whistle causes the pack of farkas to retreat a few steps.
I check over my shoulder as I hear two people approach from behind me. The two villagers that were stationed the closest to me have shown up. One is carrying a torch, lighting up the surrounding trees. The farkas look scarier now that I can see them clearly. The light starts to tremble and I can see that the villager holding the torch is preparing to run.
The wolves face to my left and start growling at a distant tree. Father walks out of the night with his usual confident look. The pack takes another couple of steps back and closes their ranks.
We need to hurry. If one of the villagers turns to run it will probably signal the farkas to attack.
“Aaliyah.” I ignore Braddon’s hushed warning and step in front of our small group.
My right hand tightly grips my axe handle. If this goes wrong, I’ll be the first one they attack. Straightening my back, I suck in as much air as I can.
With my lungs bursting with air, I howl as loud as I can while activating Intimidating Shout.
Two of the farkas respond with their own howls while the other four whimper submissively. The two biggest farkas bare their fangs and I prepare for their attack. They hunch their shoulder ready to launch themselves at me… then they abruptly turn and run into the forest.
As the back of the last farkas disappears my legs turn to jelly. Before I topple over, father is standing beside me, lending me his arm.
The two villagers are pale and Braddon is standing there with his mouth open.
“Is our shift almost over?” I weakly smile at Braddon.
*Crack* *Crack* *Crack*
*Crack* *Crack* *Crack*
The four of us turn to see everyone from the expedition rushing towards our position.
Maybe the Intimidating shout was too much?
“Stay in formation! Match your neighbor’s pace!” God’s, I want to throw a rock at Camden’s face.
I thought yesterday was bad.
It took a while to settle everybody back in after the farkas left last night but the rest of the night was rather quiet. I managed to fall asleep for four whole hours before the camp was ordered to pack up before the sun had even risen.
After everybody had their supplies packed, we were herded together into what could be counted as a formation. Frontlines like father and I were at the forefront of the formation while the villagers tried to stay in organized lines behind us. Anyone who had a bow was stationed in the far back. We marched like that for half a day before the hunters moved from the backlines and started scouting our surroundings again. Though the hunters were allowed to leave their post the rest of us were required to maintain the formation till we broke for camp again.
The path we’re marching on has slowly started to incline. Most people are grouchy from the lack of sleep and everyone is probably thinking of ways to knock Camden off his high jelen. The man is obviously not a commander and can only shout at people to form up. He’s been shouting about how our formation will crush the goblins but I think he’s trying to convince himself that his plan will work.
“Come on! We’ll make camp just up ahead. I’ve been told there’s a clearing we can use.”
Those behind me yell for the front to speed up. They can’t see where the headman is pointing. His “camp site” is at least another mile up this incline. The donkeys see a carrot, so they take off running not caring about what lies ahead.
I swear, if another person pushes me from behind, I’ll toss them back down the hill with my bare hands.
I try to distract myself by listening to people gossiping about their skills.
“I unlocked the Marching skill.”
“That’s not fair!”
“I unlocked it too. You just need to try harder.”
They’re so happy over a single tier 2 skill? I could feel that I got the skill after an hour of marching. If they thought about it, they would realize it’s all about pacing yourself to someone’s command. If everyone wasn’t shuffling around all the time and properly stayed in line everyone would have unlocked the skill by now.
I started off being annoyed by the constant chatter behind me but as the day dragged on, I welcomed the distraction. It’s pretty funny how quickly the villagers would shift conversational topics. The best was when they were talking about food and someone brought up his aching feet. The conversation switched from everyone’s hunger to everybody’s aching feet so fast people were complaining how hungry their feet were.
I almost started to yell at everyone when they started raising flags about what they would do when they got home.
“Almost there!” Camden shouts again.
The group must have been slowing again. I can see the slope tapering off up ahead. Those of us in front have the most strength, so we have to hold back our strength to stay in formation. I don’t know if the others also saw that we’re getting close but we all move just a little bit faster.
Finally, after six hours of marching together, we reach our second campsite. While the backlines collapse in a tired heap, I look for the clearing Camden mentioned.
Father walks next to me, not tired at all from the march. As we move closer to the end of the hunting grounds the forest has slowly become denser and the trees themselves thicker. I don’t doubt the headman’s words but why would there be a clearing this deep in the woods?
My breath catches in my throat when we walk past a large tree and see the promised clearing. Small vines cover the clearing’s floor but that’s not what catches my eye. Growing out of the top of the vines are beautiful purple sunflowers. The vines only cover the ground by six inches but their flower stalks reach two feet off the ground.
I wonder if I can pick one of these for mother?
“A clearing full of dung weed… that’s his idea of a clearing.” Glancing over at father, he complains with a cheated look on his face.
What’s wrong with the clearing? The vines don’t appear to have thorns. We could probably sleep right on top of them.
I want to ask what’s wrong with the clearing, but the breeze that’s been following us up the mountain stops for a moment.
When the wind stops, the worst smell ever invades my nose. I try to cover my face with my hand but the smell is already stuck in the deepest parts of my nostrils. It smells like someone combined a pile of fresh manure with hundreds of rotten eggs!
“What is that smell!?” I yell at father from behind my hand.
With a scrunched up look on his face, father points at the clearing. “Dung weed; it grows in clusters like this, though this is the largest patch I’ve ever seen. The flowers attract insects with their horrible smell. The bugs come thinking there’s food, only to die when they bite into any part of the plant. The dead bugs act as a fertilizer. Parts of the plant are used in alchemy but no one wants to harvest them. The plant secretes a white substance that smells even worse than the flowers. The sap will cling to your body for days, no matter how hard you wash yourself.”
“The headman wants us to practice sparing here?” Just because the space is open doesn’t make this a good training spot.
A few of the more adventurous villagers walk up beside us and look at the smelly clearing.
“I know it smells bad! But make no mistake, the stench of battle will be worse. Make your camps around the clearing. The dung weed will help keep the wildlife at bay. I want everyone back here in an hour, we’ll assess your combat potential then!”
Everyone disperses around the clearing but father, Del, and I start setting up camp where we are. The hunters gather and start to play arrow-magic-sword, it’s this worlds form of rock-paper-scissors. An arrow beats a sword, sword beats magic, and magic beats arrow. The hunters need to spread their camps out and they all know the wind blowing against us will push the smell south. No one wants to camp south of the clearing. Unlike earth, arrow-magic-sword is played with skill more than luck. The hand signals look close enough to each other that you can change your throw at the last second.
High stats make the game even more challenging. Strength, Dexterity, and Senses make the game extremely fast for high leveled people. Kids play games of three, adults do games of nine, and high leveled people…
I turn my head and watch Ronald’s hand blur forming a sword at the last possible moment. I couldn’t watch his throw. I heard that high leveled people play games of 99 matches, with each round lasting only half a second.
In a few minutes the winners are decided. Ronald makes camp a few feet from us while the others spread out to the sides and opposite end of the clearing.
Just like everything else, the highest leveled person usually wins.
“Enough!” Camden’s voice booms through the clearing.
Ronald, Arash, and Hayk distance themselves from the three villagers. The three men would probably drop to their knees if they weren’t afraid to land on the dung weed. Others have already paid the price during the previous sparring. Sticks were substituted for our weapons and only light blows were allowed.
“That should be everybody. I’ll discuss with Ronald on how we will position everyone during our assault on the goblins.”
“How come they don’t need to be tested?!”
“Yaa, I understand Del and Darrius but why does she not need to spar with us?!”
Lucas and Andre have been eyeballing me since the sparring has started. Even when they were helping the hunters test the villagers, they would send me challenging looks whenever they could.
“Stop your whining! She’s already shown her abilities to me.” Surprisingly it’s Braddon who steps forward in my defense.
“Sounds to me like you’re playing favorites. She shouldn’t get a free pass because she’s friends with your sister.” Lucas doesn’t give up his challenging look.
Surprisingly, Andre doesn’t immediately agree with Lucas’s statement. It takes an angry look from Lucas before Andre agrees with him. “T-h-a-t-s ri-ght.” His stammering portrays his confidence against Braddon.
Braddon challenges their resolve with a look that could shatter glass. Both of them deflate at his gaze but neither take a step back. At least they have courage.
Braddon casts his gaze towards me and gives me a single wink. What’s he planning to do?
Turning back to the troublemakers, they flinch at his voice. “Alright, fine. You want to test her? Go ahead.”
The two just look at each other, unsure which of them should step forward. So, this is Braddon’s game. Does he think this is repaying me for his attack? He must have seen that the two of them have been targeting me. He looks happy with himself, what a pain.
I take a few steps into the clearing, facing down Lucas and Andre. “Let’s get this over with.”
My nonchalant attitude angers Lucas the most, causing him to step forward. “I’m going to wipe that…”
“Both of you please. I don’t want to waste my time.” The two share the same expression as many of the villagers, pure disbelief. It dawns on them that I just insulted the both of them in front of everybody. Andre steps up next to Lucas and they both draw their sticks. Their sticks are the same length as daggers. The two of them have a handicap without their bows but every hunter practice’s their knife skills in case a beast gets to close.
“Pick up a stick!” Andre shouts at me. Lucas looks ready to charge me regardless of the rules. Andre hasn’t put as much effort in annoying me so I’ll go easy on him, mostly.
“I’m good. Come at me.” I raise my fists, guarding my face while bring my right foot back, taking a fighting position.
They run together, straight at me in their rage. The goblins will probably charge us the same way.
I use Intimidating Shout and Double Step at the same time. The two freeze in place, just like the farkas did last night. Only this time I intend to attack, not bluff.
I move in front of Andre first and deliver a punch with my right fist using Precise Strike to his left cheek. It’s almost like watching a slow-motion movie. While Andre is falling backward, I see his eyes roll over, one down. Lucas is shocked at my sudden arrival but he still has his training as a hunter.
Brandishing his wooden dagger, he shakes off the lingering effect of Intimidating Shout and thrusts his imitation knife at my neck.
I bring my right foot back shifting my stance towards Lucas, helping me avoid his thrust. He doesn’t overextend and takes three steps forward, slashing at my face with each advancing step.
I see a small opening when he goes to take his fourth step. He stays just out of my reach, avoiding the same fate as Andre.
Unarmed combat is considered a last resort to most warriors in this world. With skills aiding the production of weapons and the skills boosting weapon use, everyone can buy and use a cheap dagger.
To some degree I have to agree with those ideas. Most of my training with dad has focused on my axe skills, so without an axe in hand I’m just as handicapped as Lucas.
The strike with my fist against Braddon in his family’s cellar was the usual result of using unarmed combat against a high leveled person.
Lucas could not even be level 30 yet. His training may have given him the skill required to judge a weapons distance. And without a weapon in hand, he has the utmost confidence in his victory now that I can’t sneak attack him like Andre.
Too bad unarmed combat is looked down on so much. In between his third and fourth step, I can’t reach him with my fists…
…So, I kick the shit out him with my back-left leg. Pivoting on my front-right leg, I twist my body increasing the striking force. He only considered the range of my fists not my legs. I land a clean hit right where his gut should be. I thought about using Double Strike but that would have been overkill.
I held back quite a bit when I struck Andre in the face, using only a half of my strength to knock him out. I used 100% of my strength when I struck Braddon and he was able to get up quickly enough.
Just to be safe I used 70% on Lucas.
The sound of my boots impacting his hide armor sounds like a low-caliber gunshot. Unlike Andre who fell straight back, the force of my kick sends Lucas tumbling across the dung weed clearing. Once he finally stops rolling, he empties what little contents of his stomach on the forest floor.
Unlike Braddon, Lucas doesn’t get back up. He’s supporting himself with one arm while on his knees and the other arm is tightly holding his stomach.
“Was that necessary, Aaliyah?” Why is Braddon questioning me now? He knew what was going to happen when he let them fight me.
“Sorry, I thought I held back enough.” I try to make myself sound innocent for the audience’s sake. Everyone is already whispering to each other about the fight.
“You hear that Lucas! She went easy on you. People are quick to forget she’s Del-Razen’s apprentice. Her Strength stat probably rivals the senior hunters. Multiple high leveled people vouched for her before she even agreed to join this expedition. I allowed this fight to try and beat some Senses points into your big head.”
Braddon takes a step back and his father walks to the front. “I didn’t order you all to spar just to watch the hunters throw you around. We need to work together in the coming battle and knowing what each of us can handle will be paramount to our formation. We will adjust the formation tomorrow based on what we observed today. We still have another half day of marching before we reach the spot that we’ll use for our assault. The front lines will soften the goblins and the middle guard will provide backup for the front as well as providing protection for the archers. We’ll use the same watch system as last night. The rest of the time is yours, make it count.”
Bruised and smelly, people hobble off to their individual camps. A senior hunter caries Andre out of the clearing and another supports Lucas, allowing him to limp into the tree line.
I nod to father and Del, letting them know I’m staying for a minute.
When only Camden, Ronald, Braddon, and myself remain in the clearing I walk up the men.
Braddon greets my approaching figure first. “You sure showed them. That blow was pretty strong.”
“I didn’t think his defenses were that weak. Thanks for ruining my day by making me kick two snarling puppies.” I never wanted to fight them. They had a right to complain and challenge someone they thought was getting special treatment. My ego isn’t large enough that I need to show my superiority.
Braddon looks utterly confused by my statement. “I thought you would want to put them in their place? When I got on your bad side you dealt with it the same way.”
“As I said, they were barking. You tried to bite me.” Braddon winces at my words.
“No need to bring up the past, you two. What can I help you with, Aaliyah?” Camden interjects in case we start to argue.
“I had some ideas about our formation. I would like your opinion if it’s not too presumptuous of me.”
The three of them raise their eyebrows together.