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The village seemed quieter than usual as I ran my morning laps. No one was in the fields, people weren’t clearing trees, and our budding wall was left unattended, just for today, that is. There were still a couple of hunters patrolling the edge of the village, but they were the only people I encountered on my run.

 

However, if you walked more than ten feet into the village, you would see that the quiet façade was only skin deep. The village was full of excitement because today was the last day of the year, and everyone was preparing for the end-of-year festival.

 

Usually, the end-of-year festival wasn't enough to warrant everybody taking the entire day off, but this year was particular. Not only had the village survived goblin attacks, magic beasts, and a change in leadership from Olebert to Scholl, but we were also celebrating Richard and Sandra’s union today. And almost the whole village was helping with the preparations.

 

That’s why I’m running alone right now. Mother was with Sarette making some last-minute adjustments to the couple's wedding tassels. Dad was out with the hunters looking for fresh meat for the festivities later. Richard was having his builders fasten together a tiny stage in front of Camden's house for the ceremony, while Sandra was being fawned over by most of the village's women.

 

I offered to help, but I was told I wasn’t needed. Which, not going to lie, I felt a little sad about.

 

But then again, I wasn’t good enough with sowing to help put the final touches on the tassel, there were plenty of people working on the stage, and I knew next to nothing about fashion.

 

The only thing I could’ve helped with was the hunting, and even then, I was told I was more of a ‘hit things over the head’ kind of girl rather than the silent hunter type.

 

So, with nothing important to do, I figured I’d stick to my morning routine and take a few laps around the village. And without Mother with me, I don’t need to hold back.

 

Pumping my arms, I finish my twenty-fifth lap around the village in ten minutes, my personal best. My stopping point put me directly in front of the village where the first part of the wall was being constructed.

 

I could get a good look at how far along everything was coming without getting in anybody’s way with nobody around. Although, of course, there wasn't much to see at the moment other than a lot of upturned dirt. But that was because all of the progress made was underground.

 

The day after Kervin left the village, Richard deemed he had enough material prepped to start laying the wall's foundation, and it was magical.

 

Mostly because Sandra used magic to dig the hole.

 

I’d seen her use magic to turn over the village’s fields, but it wasn’t exactly flashy like a fireball spell. The trench she dug for Richard, on the other hand, that was impressive. Sandra assured me her spell wasn’t always that over the top and that she was only able to do what she did because she incorporated her new Inject Mana skill into her spell. But it was still impressive.

 

Sandra was able to peel back earth like a chef peeled an onion. She couldn’t move all the dirt at once, so she did it in waves, basically turning the ground into a receding tide of dirt.

 

Sandra did in ten minutes what all of Richards's crew would’ve taken two days to accomplish, and that was with her limited mana pool.

 

I tried to copy her spell by observing how her mana functioned, but I sadly failed. She used Inject Mana to force her spell deep into the earth where it activated, but with her Quick Casting skill combined with her Chanting skill, I wasn’t able to follow along with what she was mumbling under her breath. I had tried to mimic Sandra's spell by manually manipulating my mana as her spell did, but that went over as well as I expected.

 

I'm not sure if my skills weren't high enough or if there was some fundamental difference between casting magic with incantations and physical manipulation. Of course, the latter helps the former, but that's all I knew.

 

Sandra and I love to bounce theories off of one another, but that's all we can do as we are. Plus, I can’t prod Sandra for too many answers because even though she hides it well, I can tell she’s disappointed by her lack of knowledge.

 

This is understandable because Sandra’s family paid good money for her to learn magic, and all she got in return was a half-ass lesson. If anything, the Downs’ paid more for the spells Sandra learned, with only a few tips and tricks thrown in for good measure, most of which she couldn’t share.

 

Part of me wants to pay off Sandra’s debt so she can teach me the spells that she’s learned; however, Sandra already feels like she owes me to the point she demanded we form a contract between us. I don’t think she’d agree to me paying off her debt, no matter my motives.

 

Sighing, I reach out and tap the stone wall sticking out of the ground. Since Kervin left the village, they’ve built about 200 feet of wall. At the moment, it only sticks a foot out of the ground, and anything in this forest could quickly get over it as it is now, but Richard claims from here on out, progress will be faster.

 

According to him, the villagers who volunteered to help were gaining their first skills. They were only tier 1 and 2 max, but everything speeds up the process bit by bit. I was told the foundation was the most challenging part to build, and though they were about to start building up rather than down, part of their crew was going to remain dedicated to digging and laying down more foundation to expand the wall around the village.

 

When completed, the wall will be two feet thick and should protect the village from most of the dangers of the forest. It might not protect against a strong magic beast, but it would certainly slow them down and give people time to react. And if magic beasts were that common, the village wouldn’t be here right now. This last year was truly an exception among exceptions.

 

Climbing onto the small wall, I test my footing by jumping in place. The stone under my feet doesn’t budge a millimeter, and then, when I’m positive the wall can take it, I launch myself into the air and activate Air Walk. I climb higher and higher until I can see the entirety of the village before me, and it’s a beautiful sight.

 

The morning sun was shining brightly down onto our little patch of heaven. There was no morning chill in the air, seeing how this was the last day of spring. It was getting hotter out, and things would only heat up tomorrow with summer officially starting, and I wasn't just talking about the weather.

 

Pacore told me he would settle his business with Olebert as soon as possible. Meaning I don’t know how much longer I have here.

 

It pained me to know that he could show up tomorrow, and I wouldn’t have a say in my leaving. My going protects the village, but I still have things I want to do before leaving. I want to hold my future niece or nephew before I go and make sure that they will grow up in a safe environment. As safe as they could be out here in the forest anyways.

 

The steadily growing wall below me helped with that second part, but I could still do more. I’m still designing my second set of armor, but in the meantime, I’m practicing by making various armor pieces for the village’s armory. My goal is to fill up Richard’s fancy building before Pacore comes to drag me off to Scholl.

 

And then there was the third thing I wanted to do.

 

It wasn’t as important as my first two goals, but it was still something I’ve been working towards over the last year, ever since the goblin extermination.

 

I wanted to see what was in the deeper reaches of the forest.

 

I want to see where the chameleon spiders came from with my own eyes, and I want to see what else was possibly living there.

 

My parents know I wanted to explore the depths of the Endless Forest, but I bet they thought I forgot about it with everything that’s been going on recently. I've naturally had to put exploring on the back burner between my training with Tabitha and everything else I've been working on. But now…

 

I flex my hands as I gaze off into the distance at the sea of trees beyond the edge of the village. I don’t want to have any more regrets than I need to when I leave the village, so starting tomorrow, I’ll start my preparations. I won’t mention my plans until I have more things squared away, but I will see what’s out there.

 

With that promise, I slow down my use of Air Walk and let myself drift back to the ground, where someone is waiting for me.

 

“I saw you in the sky,” Tabitha notes as my feet once again touch down on the hard stone.

 

“Yeah, I wanted to see the village,” I lightly reply.

 

Tabitha nods in understanding but honestly looks bored. She knows I won't agree to train with her today, but I still thought she would ask. The fact that we’re alone right now, and she wasn't begging to train with me, was honestly a little disconcerting.

 

“I take it you don’t have much to do today either?” I ask, trying to strike up a conversation.

 

“I’ve never been good with festivals,” Tabitha tells me without a hint of emotion. “I was required to attend them with my Master, but I never enjoyed them. Too many people looking for weaknesses to exploit.”

 

“Sounds fun,” I note with a lot of sarcasm, but then smile at Tabitha. “But you don’t have to worry about that here.”

 

Tabitha’s eyes widen just a bit, signaling she understands what I’m getting at. Tabitha is the strongest person in the village, and other than myself, no one here has any relationship with Scholl. No one was stupid enough to anger the woman in armor, let alone try anything. So if she wanted to relax for a change, by all rights, she could.

 

“Maybe you’re right,” Tabitha mumbles.

 

“If you think so, may I make a suggestion?”

 

"You may," Tabitha permits me to speak my mind.

 

“Take off your armor for a change, and leave your weapons in your room,” I tell her. “Enjoy the festival; I know I will. I've been waiting for this for years."

 

Tabitha lightly shivers at the mere mention of disarming herself, but I can see that she’s thinking it over. “I’ll… I’ll think about it,” Tabitha says, lacking her usual confident tone for a change. “I’m going to patrol the village’s perimeter again.”

 

“Alright, see you tonight. Don’t be late for my brother’s wedding ceremony.”

 

Tabitha pauses as she turns around to walk away. “I’ll be there.” That’s all she says before walking into the woods.

 

I chuckle and shake my head. To think I would openly ask her to attend my brother’s wedding. I can't help but feel we've become closer, even with all her torturous training. Even if I initially didn't like her because of her relationship to Pacore, I’d be blind if I didn’t see how much she’s putting into training me.

 

Then there’s what she’s done to help the village. People gossip about how they’ve seen her patrolling the edge of the forest now and again. And everyone knows she’s killed more than one Karhu that had wandered a bit too close to the village.

 

To me, it always felt like she spent all her time watching me, but that obviously wasn’t the case.

 

I may not completely understand her devotion to Pacore, but she personally has done enough for me and the village that I don’t despise her anymore. At least when she’s not tearing up my armor with her sword, that is.

 

“Well, now what do I do?” I ask out loud to no one.

 

Maybe I should check up on Master and make sure he’s coming to the festival. Not to bother him, certainly not. After all, it would be just like Master to not show up and blame it on not being invited. I was going to make sure Master would attend the celebrations, even if I had to drag him there myself.

 

**********

 

Most of my day was boring, and I spent most of it bugging Master until he promised to join in on the celebrations.

 

The festivities didn’t start until much later in the day, but with the sun dipping over the horizon, things were finally kicking off.

 

There was a sense of excitement in the air.

 

Everyone in the village watched as Camden made his up onto the newly built stage in front of his house.

 

I was standing with my family to the left of the stage, periodically smirking at my brother, who looked both the happiest he’s ever been as well as the most nervous. He wouldn’t take his eyes off Camden's front door, which was where Sandra was supposed to emerge from at the beginning of the ceremony.

 

“Friends! Thank you for coming!” Camden’s voice boomed over the crowd, earning him a few good-natured cheers in return.

 

“We’ll get to the end of year festivities in a moment, but we all know why we are here. Today my precious daughter is getting married, and it couldn’t be to anyone better.” Everyone erupts in applause.

 

Camden waves his hands, gesturing for people to quiet down when people don’t stop cheering. “Usually, I'd call up the bride's father to join me on stage, but seeing how I'm already here, that makes things easier.” Camden’s joke earned a few chuckles from the crowd. His joke is only funny because everyone knows what happens next. This was the part where the bride's father was supposed to give the groom a hard time.

 

“Richard,” Camden gestures at my brother. “Come up and state before me and everyone else what you have to offer my daughter."

 

“Good luck,” I whisper to Richard as I affectionally pat his back; I use just enough force to make him take his first step towards the stage.

 

Richard locks eyes with Camden, and I see a small battle of wills take place. To his credit, Brother doesn’t flinch under Camden’s gaze and steadily makes his way up on stage to stand in front of Sandra's father.

 

“Well?” Camden asks with an air of superiority.

 

Brother clears his throat and places his hand over his heart. “I Richard, do swear to you and everyone here that I will provide for Sandra to the best of my abilities and beyond. If she asks for it, I will build her a castle with my own two hands and treat her like the queen I know she is. To the end of my days, I will keep her safe and allow no harm to befall her. In the gods' names, I swear!"

 

“Wooo!" I cheer like many others in the crowd. His speech was a little over the top, with the whole build a castle thing, but when you consider it was Richard who came up with the idea to build a wall around the village, you would realize he might be able to do it. Though I doubt Master would agree to supply him with the stone if he tried.

 

“Mmm,” Camden gives Brother an approving nod. “I wouldn’t accept anything else. But let us see if your bride feels the same way. Sandra Downs, do you accept?” Camden turns towards his front door.

 

Slowly, the door swings open, revealing Sandra standing in the doorway wearing a beautiful blue dress. Unlike Earth, people don't wear white when they get married, at least not in Olebert where this ceremony originates. Her dress caught the last rays of the sunset and sparkled in the light. Sandra confidently walked out onto the stage, wearing the biggest smile I’d ever seen, even greater than Brother's if that was possible. “I accept. A thousand times, yes.”

 

I spot a tear in the corner of Camden’s eye. I’m not sure if it was because he was happy for his daughter or because he was essentially giving her away. Either way, he was fighting to hold back his tears.

 

Camden pauses to cough and wipe at his eyes, earning him a few heckles from the crowd.

 

“Too late to stop now!” One person shouts. “Don’t choke,” another yells over everybody else.

 

Camden straightens himself out and continues with the ceremony, ignoring the jokes at his expense. “Alright then, all we need is someone to act as a witness that isn't a part of the two families."

 

Earlier, I asked Mother about why the witness had to be someone not related to the bride and groom, and she told me it was to make sure the two families weren't forcing the couple together. Having an outside party witness the matrimony might not be a foolproof way to stop a forced marriage, but it helped somewhat.

 

“I’ll do it!” I hear Frank’s voice in the crowd, along with multiple other people volunteering.

 

“I already asked someone,” Camden barks, silencing everyone. “If our esteemed guest can join us up on stage.”

 

The crowd goes silent, and I hear someone sigh before people start parting and making way for the person to reach the stage. Whoever they are, they certainly don’t sound very enthusiastic.

 

From my position, I couldn’t see much of the person stepping forward; however, I could see one thing, their hair. It was blue, and that was all I needed to see to know who Camden asked to stand witness to Richard and Sandra's wedding. But though I recognized her, others didn't.

 

“Who’s that?”

“I don’t know.”

"Idiots, it's her."

 

Tabitha walked out of the crowd, and I immediately understood why some people didn't recognize her. She wasn’t wearing her armor like I suggested this morning. She still has her sword at her hip, so she didn’t take all my advice, but you could see that she was at least trying. You couldn’t fault people for not recognizing her right away, I see her almost every other day, and even I’ve never seen her without her armor on.

 

Tabitha rigidly makes her way on stage and stands next to Camden, wearing what had to be a military uniform. Her outfit wasn’t over the top, but it stood out compared to people’s everyday wear. And true to someone in a uniform, Tabitha didn’t let her posture slip, standing straight as an arrow. Her hand is resting on her sword's handle while her eyes constantly scanned the crowd.

 

She looks like she’s expecting a monster to pop out of nowhere. I didn't realize she would be this nervous without her armor on.

 

“If you can, please state your name?” Camden politely asks Tabitha as she joins him up on stage.

 

“Lady Tabitha Leres, Second captain under Scholl’s third battalion. Student of Pacore the Deathless.”

 

“She’s a noble!?” More than one person shouts. Many are surprised to hear Tabitha's full name and rank, and that includes me. I knew Tabitha was an important person, but a noble as well?

 

“Thank you, Lady Leres,” Camden bows in the way someone does when greeting a person of higher stature before turning back to a shocked crowd. "With such an important person witnessing my daughter’s wedding, I’m sure no one would question this ceremony’s authenticity. Families, please bring up the tassels.”

 

Camden doesn’t give us long to think about Tabitha’s title before he calls us on stage. While Mom, Dad, and I enter from the left, Sandra’s brothers and her mother climb on stage from the right. We then move next to the person we aren’t related to. So, we gather around Sandra while her family moves next to Brother. The act is supposed to symbolize our two families coming together.

 

“Do both families have their tassels?” Camden looks back and forth between Mother and his wife, clearly seeing the vibrant blue and gold tassels each holds.

 

“We do,” They both respond together, clearly happy to see their babies finally getting married.

 

“Present them, please.” Camden holds out his hands.

 

Mother and Sarette offer up an end of their tassels, and Camden continues the ceremony.

 

“With these,” he proclaims, grabbing the two tassels. “We bind the lives of Sandra Downs and Richard together.” Camden precedes to tie the two tassels together with a marriage knot.

 

“Take each other’s hands,” he instructs the couple.

 

Gingerly, Brother reaches to his side and gently takes Sandra’s hand into his own, all while sporting the most love-struck smile I’ve ever seen. Sandra has a similar smile, making the two look lost in their own world as Sandra’s father continues the ceremony.

 

"With these tassels, we bind not only this couple but their families as well."

 

I can't help but chuckle to myself. Our families have been inseparable for years, making the ceremony just the icing on top of the proverbial cake.

 

The village cheers as Camden wraps the tassels around Richard and Sandra’s hands, binding them together both physically and metaphorically.

 

“Let the gods rejoice and bless this union!” Camden shouts over the growing excitement of the crowd. “I now pronounce you both Sandra and Richard Downs!”

 

Because our family didn’t have a last name, Richard automatically adopted Sandra’s now that they were officially married.

 

"Congratulations, you two," Camden lets his MC persona slip as he leans forward and hugs the two of them.

 

“I’m so happy for you!” Mom gushes as she affectionately clings to Dad’s side.

 

As soon as Camden parts from the newlywed couple, they kiss to the joy of the crowd.

 

And just like that, Sandra and Brother’s marriage ceremony was complete. For a relatively short spectacle, it was pretty beautiful. Personally, I think simplicity is best. Mom said the nobles and the rich like to turn their weddings into multi-day affairs, but those are a minority

and sound like a pain to attend to.

 

It was more practical to tack a marriage on to any event already scheduled in a village-like ours. There could even be multiple weddings cerebrated at once, but that was rare in a village of our size. Moreover, it made sense considering people will drink the same for one marriage or five.

 

“Time to drink!” A man in the crowd shouted, with others quickly joining in, ready to get the party started.

 

“Not quite yet,” Camden cuts off the cheering crowd before they can move to crack open the kegs of ale. Camden shuffles around Richard and Sandra, who were still tightly embracing one another, taking center-stage. “We’ll get to the drinking in a moment. But first, we still have the end of year ceremony.”

 

Many in the audience groan but stop when Camden gives the crowd a somber look. “We mustn’t forget the people we lost this year. Those who died of old age and especially those who gave their lives to defend the village.”

 

Everyone in the crowd goes silent as Camden starts reciting names from memory. Just as he said, the first two were people who died of old age; that was where Camden would usually have to stop, but next came the names of those who died during the goblin attack.

 

I didn’t know most of them, but their deaths still weighed on my heart. Back then, if I was as strong as I am now, I probably could’ve saved them.

 

“May we all pray that they found peace and comfort in Goddess Ilia’s gentle embrace,” Camden prays aloud, and everyone repeats what he says verbatim.

 

I mumble the words and lower my head in prayer like everybody else, but it isn't to show respect to the gods. My prayer is solely for the souls of the dearly departed in hopes that they safely made their way into the circle of reincarnation. There was no reason they should be subjected to meeting with those crass beings everybody calls gods. A peaceful afterlife is what they truly deserve.

 

Everyone shares in the moment of silence.

 

Camden waits a full five minutes before breaking the silence over the crowd. “We will not forget those we lost, but we will not overlook the good either. This last year was the most trying our village has ever seen, and we came out stronger from it. My daughter and her husband returned home and brought with them waves of change. Our fields are bigger than they ever have been before, and many have leveled. You could argue our village was safer than ever, and with the wall, many of you are helping to build, Spotted Creek Village will be even safer in the years to come.”

 

“New life is coming to our village,” Camden glances at Sandra with a smile on his face. “And we have a new adult joining us as well.”

 

There is confusion amongst the crowd, but that quickly fades when Camden gestures for me to stand next to him. “Some of you might have forgotten, with how much she has helped the village, but Aaliyah turned fifteen this year. She is the pride of our village, and we all must celebrate this momentous occasion.”

 

Camden gestures to a few people standing next to the kegs; in turn, they begin to crack open the alcohol and start pouring tankards of ale. People then start passing out the cups, but no one drinks yet.

 

One woman brings multiple tankards up onto the stage and hands them to us, making sure to hand one filled with juice to Sandra.

 

Camden waits for everyone present to have a drink before holding his up above his head. “This is for the dead, and for the living; to our past, and to our future. May the next year be better than the last!” Camden throws back his head and starts chugging his ale, and everyone does the same.

 

Well, not everyone chugs their drink, some sip their alcohol, but the point is everyone drinks at the same time. So I tentatively bring my tankard up to my mouth and give it a sniff before I take a swig.

 

I wasn’t that much of a drinker in my past life, and it had been so long since I've tasted alcohol that I couldn't remember what beer tasted like. So, it indeed was like I was drinking for the first time. And…

 

It wasn’t that good.

 

The ale was warm and tasted like liquid bread. I didn’t know what to expect from medieval alcohol, but it wasn’t this.

 

I didn’t want to compare the ale to modern-day beer because it wasn’t, but I had to guess they both served the same purpose. You didn’t drink beer because it tasted good; you drank it because you wanted to get plastered. So, despite the ale’s lack-luster taste, I copied Camden and threw my head back, and chugged my beverage down to the last drop.

 

Tonight, the village was going to party, and I'd been sober for fifteen years. I deserved a drink.

 

Tonight, I was going to get drunk, no two ways about it.

 

“Let the party begin!” Camden happily proclaimed to the joy of the village.

 

The official ceremony was complete, and now everyone was free to celebrate however they saw fit. Fires were started as people started to barbecue skewers while others crowded around the kegs. People broke off into groups and sat at benches and tables people had set up during the day.

 

Many people came up to personally congratulate Sandra and Richard on their wedding, while others congratulated me on turning fifteen, even though technically my birthday was over half a year ago. Mom and Dad stood next to Camden and Sarette, content to watch their kids' first taste at marriage.

 

Everyone focused on the married couple, and only I and a few others noticed Tabitha slink off to the side. A brave few tried to approach her to wish her a happy festival, but all turned away when she dismissed them with her eyes. Tabitha didn’t exactly have an aura that said ‘come talk to me,' and I'd already had enough attention for the day, so I decided to join her.

 

When I walked up to her, I noticed that she was frowning down at the cup in her hands; she had barely drunk any of her ale. "Not up to your standards?" I chuckle.

 

“Did you like it?” She asks, raising a questioning eyebrow.

 

“I don’t have to like it to get drunk off of it.”

 

Tabitha snorts, “Good luck with that.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

"She means at your level; this stuff might as well be bad tasting water.”

 

I turn to see Master walking over to us. I had seen him in the crowd during the ceremony, but I wasn’t sure if he was going to stick around after the main part was over. But, wait, what did he say about my level?

 

Looking down at my empty cup, I was suddenly conscious of my buzz, or lack thereof. The ale wasn't that strong, but I was essentially a lightweight, or at least I was in my past life I was. I chugged almost 20 ounces of ale, and I don't feel so much as a thing. “It isn’t strong enough for me to get drunk,” I say to myself more as stating a fact rather than asking for clarification from Master.

 

Master chuckles, “Not unless you plan on drinking everything the village has. Here, let me give you a proper first drink.” Master reaches to his side where his waterskin is. He uncorks the stopper and pours a deep amber liquid into my empty mug. "Care for some?" Master offers Tabitha after he pours me the equivalent of a double.

 

Tabitha hesitates for a moment, but she eventually takes the offered alcohol. She brings the container up to her nose and sniffs. “Hmmm, not as strong as Master’s,” she notes.

 

What the hell! Pacore drinks something more potent than this? The fumes wafting up from my tankard stung my eyes. The stuff I was about to drink was probably closer to jet fuel than it was to alcohol, and Pacore drinks something stronger!?

 

Master looked a little offended to hear his homebrew wasn’t up to Pacore’s standards, but his sour expression was quickly replaced with a happy smirk after Tabitha pours a generous amount of his alcohol into her tankard of ale.

 

Tabitha sipped her newly spiked drink, and I watched as her cheeks began to flush.

 

"What about you?" Master asks me, seeing me watch Tabitha try her drink without touching my own. "Scared?"

 

“Honestly, a little bit," I joke before finally trying the stuff Del always carries with him.

 

I sip my drink and immediately regret my decision. Unlike Tabitha’s, my drink wasn’t diluted in ale, so when the warm liquid touches my tong, it feels like it is melting. My brain told me to spit out whatever was in my mouth, but I fought against that impulse and forced down the amber poison.

 

My throat burned as it went down, and when the alcohol finally made its way to my stomach, it felt like it would burn a hole through it. I reeled back and started coughing. My vision went blurry for a second as I felt the world start tilt under my feet.

 

“Whoa there,” Master moves next to me and steadies me with a firm hand on my shoulder.

 

“That’s some kick,” I wheeze.

 

Master laughs, “You handled that better than I thought you would.”

 

“Thanks, but can we move this over to a bench or table. I’d rather nurse this sitting down.”

 

“Sure, we can do that.”

 

The three of us make our way over to a nearby vacant table, and once I’m sitting down, I take another sip of alcohol. “I know I’ve seen you drinking this forever, but what’s it made oof?" I ask.

 

Master chuckles at me for some reason. “I ferment Jack berries; they're a small berry in the woods around here, mildly poisonous. It’s hard to get them to keep their taste while still having them not lose their kick.”

 

“Tasstess goood for poison," I chirp, taking a larger sip. The longer I drink it, the better it tastes, and the easier it goes down.

 

My body feels warm, and my muscles untense for the first time in what feels like ages. Why is Tabitha smiling at me? We aren't sparring… are we?

 

“Mind if we join?” A voice behind me asks.

 

Craning my neck to the side, I see Frank and Lloyd. “Ssuurrre!" I shout, waving the two over to take a seat.

 

Both men recoil from my voice, but that’s because I’m awesome.

 

“I see Aaliyah is enjoying her first drink,” Llyod chuckles at me.

 

“Anndd what dooss that mean?!” I challenge, ready to stand up and throw fists.

 

“Whoa there,” Master forces me back to my seat before I could fully stand up. Why is he stopping me? I invited them to join us, and Llyod made fun of me.

 

“I shoullld kick hiss asss!”

 

“I’m sure you could, but I think he just meant you look happy.”

 

"Really?" I turn to Llyod, who has his hand over his mouth. Is he trying to hold back his laughter, or is he struggling to breathe? I finish off what was left in my cup as I ponder this.

 

“Care for more?” Master offers me his waterskin.

 

“Yesh, pwese,” I hold out my cup. I finally realize why Master enjoys drinking so much; I feel like I could take on the world. This was my first night being an adult again, and I was going to enjoy myself.

 

And judging by everyone smiling around me, I won’t be the only one.

 

“To the new year!” I shout and throw back another shot.

 

From then on, things got blurry. But who cares, I was having fun.

 

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A note from kosnik4

5,700 words.

 

Sorry for the silence last week, but not only did I have a hard time writing this chapter, but I was also away from my computer for a few days.

 

Please tell me what you think below, and as always, stay safe.


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kosnik4

Bio: Just love a good story.

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