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The first light, we saw the sun rising. the light penetrated through the trees.

‘Truly magnificent,’

It was the very first thought which came in my mind. I had always been a sucker for great views and scenery.

I averted my eyes towards Ishi who was sleeping like an elephant. I tried waking her up and in the process not her, but Maria was the one who woke up.

“Oh! Good Morning!” she said with a blistering smile of hers. I don’t know how she manages to do that, but looking her smile always just makes you captivated to her and gentle attitude.

“Good Morning!” I replied as I turned towards Ishi, “Hey, wake up!”

“Um….” she made a noise as a small infant.

“Ishi?” I screamed in her eyes which made her jump. She was frightened and started looking around.

“Well, at least she’s awake.”

“You!….” she said with an angry face as she realized that it was me who just scared the living hell out of her.

“Guys?” said Maria as she foresaw the potential verbal fight, “We should be preparing. What’s the plan?” she asked as tried taking a close call at the guards.

“Can’t you just take inside through walls?” asked Ishi.

“Nope,” I answered, “We don’t know the inner landscapes and so, its dangerous.”

Maria nodded in my response.

“So, what do we do now?”

I had no ideas and so was Maria. Going through is necessary as staying out here was dangerous. I had to secure Ishi at all cost, because it was my mess. I dragged her into this and only I am supposed to be trapped in this cat-n-mouse chase.

As, we tried scratching our heads trying to come up with ideas; we heard some noises. Noises which sounded like animals, like horse. I peeked a little and tried to conclude from a distance.

“What is it?” asked Maria.

I signaled her to wait as I wasn’t getting any clear look. I jumped off the cart and tried going a little closer, there were four men riding on a horse and a large cart with a trailer attached to it.

“It’s a Merchant, I guess.” I answered Maria, “Four horsemen: they look like Adventurers and a trailer attached to a cart,”

The merchants were the only trade connectors and only people authorized to buy and sell stuff to local shopkeepers. Of course, their work included them to travel through the deadly forests. Usually, they hire Adventurers to protect him and his cargo.

“Can we sneak through using them?” asked Maria.

It was possible, but was way too risky and I would always prefer that as my last resolve.

“No, I don’t think--”

As I was saying, a sound came from my left side. It was a sound of a sword brandished in air. The path that sword followed lead towards my neck.

I was stunned and didn’t move an inch.

“Peeking? Trying to attack? They saw humans have become monsters, maybe they’re right.” a voice said, It appeared to be a man’s voice. I looked over to the left and found a man standing straight: six feet tall, with orange dyed hair and an armor made of bronze. He was a ‘Swordsman’-- one of the classes of Adventurers.

The sword nearly touched my neck and I wasn’t in a position to move, “We’re not thieves,” I said to clear out the misunderstanding.

But, it seemed that he wasn’t in a mood to listen and so, Maria decided to take small steps towards my spear and make a little diversion. But, he saw right through her and said, “I wouldn’t suggest that,”

She took and pause and looked at me with a helpless face. I had to find a way. Somehow, negotiate with him.

I was trying to think and then Ishi stepped up. She had a curious face, “Brandon?” she called out to him.

He quickly averted his eyes towards her, “Ishiki?”

“Its you!” Ishiki jumped in joy and launched herself towards him.

“What are you doing here?” he asked her and watched us, “Are they abducting you?”

“Yeah, we are trying to abduct her by keeping her loose,” I replied with a sarcastic tone as it was a common sense issue.

‘How could he even think of us abducting her?’

“No, they aren’t,” Ishiki supported me.

As Ishiki started talking with him, he took his sword away from my neck. I had an uneasy feeling of him turning onto me again.

So, I started walking towards my spear which was kept near the cart. A step after a step, I was closing in to the spear and then she did it, “This is Mortis, remember?”

The face expressions changed. The face which was filled with joy was turned to a menacing face that of a deadly creature. He picked up his sword again, but in the meantime I picked my spear and pointed it towards him. Maria with some quick reflexes grabbed the whip and used her gift- Transition to transfer energy in it. She used it to tie down his sword as firmly as possible.

“I don’t want this,” I said with a clear intention of resolving the matter with a talk.

“Brandon? Do you not remember?” asked Ishiki with a concerned face as she would have thought that he would just hug me. But, the truth was that I was a Darkel and my name was spread across the Pentacross. Everyone was a potential enemy. I was not surprised but she was as she never thought that the situation was so dire.

“Yes I do. Ishiki get behind me.”

‘He knows me? I never knew him or maybe I forgot who he was?’

“Not step ahead, Ishiki.” I said as I straightened my spear.

I could see Brandon becoming more angry but, the situation was same for me. I couldn’t trust anyone.

“She isn’t a part of this. Let her go,” said Brandon with a resolute face.

“I know that, but I can’t leave her. Not with you,”

“What is that you want?”

“I just want her to be safe,”

“Really?”

He tried mocking me, but I never let my guard down and I was prepared to face anything, so that she is safe.

“Yeah,”

“Why do you even care?”

“I don’t care about myself. She’s not a hostage, but is a victim. As you said she is not a part of this, she shouldn’t be. But you guys made her, didn’t you?” I said with an absolute determination, “Calling her a witch--burning her alive. I can’t trust you--them--anyone.”

The situation was surely tense, but I could tell that he was understanding the way I feel.

“He was with me for more than 10 years,” Ishiki started speaking in order to support me, “Do you really think he could harm me. He didn’t know that he was--”

“Doesn’t change the fact that he is,” argued Brandon with a firm mind.

“Look, what do you want?” asked Maria who was silent till now, but she had an idea of what Brandon actually wished-for.

“I just want her to be safe,”

“And we too. We have similar goals….” she tried convincing him. It was working as he lowered his weapon a little bit.

“Don’t do it for me. Do it for her.” I added.

He slammed his sword on the ground and then put it back in his slot behind on his back.

“Hey, you found anything?” came a voice from the road. Must be his fellow Adventurers.

This was the moment that would tell whether he is with us or against us.

“Nothing, but I am going to check again. Go ahead without me.” said Brandon as he looked at me indicating that he meant no harm to us anymore.

I sighed a relief and looked at Maria and signaled her to lower her weap--Whip.

At least now we had someone to support us. With his help maybe we could go in.

Maybe.

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Asukai Jin

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