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We rested our arms and sat down. I watched Brandon closely as I wasn’t sure of him yet.

But, he is willing to provide the help we need; we might be able to secure Ishi. It seemed that he wasn’t hostile, but he still had doubts about us which was fair.

He sat down with us and rested his weapon on his right side.

“So, what’s the plan?” he asked diligently.

“There is a person named ‘Silvester’ in there who can help us, but for that..” said Maria as she pointed the entrance of the village, “We need to enter the village.”

“Are you certain that this man will help you?”

“Yes, pretty sure.”

“That doesn’t sound like certainty, does it?”

It was obvious of him to doubt and I understand why he was so cautious. If I had been in his place I would have been too.

“He is a close person. I can trust him,” she replied with a straight and apodictic face. She certainly trusted this person a lot, maybe because it was Nemu; her friend’s uncle.

“Fine, if you say so.” Brandon replied as he stood up and lend a hand to Ishi to get up with him, “But I will conclude whether or not she will stay with him.”

I nodded. I had no choice, but to agree. He was the only chance for us to get Ishi inside the village.

“I’ll take her with me. I’ve been a regular traveller, the guards won’t doubt me. As I am going, I’ll try and gather their attention ….You sneak in that moment,” he said.

I was a little skeptical about it. Brandon noticed it and said, “Don’t worry, I have heard that no one is allowed in the village for some reason. So, there won’t be any harsh checking. If I just state that she is someone with me. They’ll leave her.”

I was little relived as I could finally led her to safety.

We agreed. I took my spear and got ready with some gold in my pockets as an insurance for if we run into trouble. Most of the times you can bribe the guards for letting you in. If we were about to caught and have no other option left, only then I will assort to this plan.

“Here,”

Maria threw a black scarf at me.

“Just so you won’t need to use that,” she said as she pointed the gold I kept in my pocket.

I always knew she was a witty one but I had to agree she had some fine observational skills. That is the reason why I always feels terrible for dragging her into this. It was my problem and I was sought people’s help. Not that I didn’t need it, but I endangered their by doing so.

“I am sorry,”

“Hmm?” she looked at me with a confused look as she put on her red scarf and picked the whip, which sort of had became her weapon now.

“For dragging into this…” I said with apologetic yet a pathetic face.

She walked towards me and placed an arm over my shoulder, “You don’t need to apologize. I dragged myself into this,” she said with the same blistering smile.

That was the one thing I admired about her the most: whether the situation be bad or good, she always managed to keep a happy face. It didn’t help her, but everyone around her.

“But..”

I was interrupted as Brandon came with an horse and helped Ishi climbing on it. He sat behind her.

“Are you guys done?”

We nodded and walked fast towards him.

“Walk slowly. Use the bushes to hide yourselves,” he said as he pointed some large roadside bushes, “Walk inside only when I give you the signal and remember if you get caught, I won’t help you.” he said with a straight face.

It was a wise choice because, if we actually get caught, it will be due to our incompetence and moreover, it would put Ishi at great risk. So, I agreed with his plan and decision.

He took away with his horse. As he rode we followed him through the bushes. With soft and quiet steps we proceeded and tried not drawing any unusual attention towards us.

“Hey!” said Brandon to the guards as he waved his hand. He stopped just a few steps before the guards.

“Hello, Mr. Brandon.” greeted one of the guards. It was as Brandon said, it seemed that the guards weren’t heavily armored. They were taking it very lightly. Maybe, today was our lucky day.

There were two guards at the door and as soon both of them walked towards him. He signaled us a thumbs-up with his right hand downwards. We took the opportunity and carefully ran past the door and hid ourselves behind a shop waiting for him to arrive. Watching us enter, Brandon exchanged some pleasantries and then walked inside. As he entered in, he looked for us.

“~~~~” Maria whistled. Brandon immediately followed the voice and looked at us. We were hiding behind a wall of the shop. He walked towards us.

“Everything’s fine, for now at least.” he said.

I was at ease but I know I have to work fast, ‘Cause you never know what or how the adversary will present itself.

“Good,” I said, “Let’s search for Mr. Silverstar,”

“Silvester,” Maria corrected me as she let out a little laugh.

“Yeah, I know.”

I couldn’t hide my embarrassment, but there wasn’t really anything to be embarrassed about. But it was more than a relief to see her laugh.

“How are we going to find him?” asked Brandon, the question of the hour.

“He is pretty popular,” Maria quoted and walked to the nearest shop. It was an fruit stall. She called out the person sitting inside, who would most probably be the owner of the stall.

“We are looking for Mr. Silvester,” she asked him, “Do you where we can find him?”

“Oh! The Creep,” the man exclaimed.

Now, here is when the statement of him being popular really backfires you, because you start wondering that if he is popular, then in what way?

Maria noticed daggers pointed towards her. She looked back and saw Brandon’s face growing grim by each second.

“Popular? Creep?” he said with his arms spread as a weighing scale.

Maria turned towards the man with an expression of a frightened lily and asked the man, “Creep?”

“Oh! Don’t worry, he is not some creep. He is my friend and…..that’s what I call him,” the man answered seeing our facial expression he must understood that we were misunderstanding, but we were,’t really at fault here.

“He’s a friend,” said Maria as she looked at Brandon, “ So….”

She tried giving a laugh, but with a stone cold face…Brandon rejected and more like ignored her.

“It better be that way,” he boasted as he gave off a devilish smile. Ishi on other hand had no clue whatsoever. Well, that’s the least I would expect from her.

“Follow the path till the end and you will find him in one of the shacks there,” the man told Maria.

She nodded and thanked him.

We started walking down the alley and at the and of it was a simple small house. Maria went ahead and knocked the door.

But as she raised her hand to knock, the door opened.

“Um…who are you?” said a man as he opened the door. It seemed that he was going somewhere as he had bag, by which I concluded that he may be going out to by some groceries.

“Hello, I am Maria,”

He was obviously surprised and it almost felt he knew her or had heard that name before. Maria stood in front and explained him everything. I watched his reaction and it did seem that he sympathized with us.

“Come in,” he welcomed us.

It was odd to find someone who was willing to help someone like us, but there were people who are different and I knew that because of Maria. She did get dragged into this, even though she shouldn’t be a part of this.

“I feel like I understand your situation now.” he said as he rubbed in head with his palm, “You can stay here.” he said, “The room in the attic would be fine for you, I guess.”

“Are you sure? Taking us will mean….” I said, but was interuppted.

“I know, but if Nemu sent you then I am left with no choice and also I’ve got nothing to lose,” he said and walked away. Opening the door he went outside for a casual stroll.

I was surprised by his answer. I tried explaining things on my part as if I don’t then he would get caught in everything. It could also pose danger to life. People around here don’t really accept Darkel and to give shade to one who is suspected to be could lead to harsh consequences.

“She will be safe here.” said Brandon as he stood and started walking with his sword, “Now, you two. You should leave as early as possible.” he said and went outside.

I looked at Ishi and she looked sleepy and so I helped her to get to the room. It was a small house, so I didn’t expect it have an attic. But it had a nice cozy attic.

‘This is nice,’

There was a bed in the middle and other were some extra utensils and other sorts of things. I cleaned the bed and tidied the room a little bit.

Ishi jumped on the bed and asked me, “Sleep with me?”

I turned my head towards her in pure disruption. “No, no….” I said rapidly. I know there was only one bed for only one person. So, I had to manage with something else, but being in a bed with her was a different thing. “No. I will not.” I shook my head sideways.

Watching my reactions she started laughing. I was little abashed; I started scratching my head and laughed with her. Listening to our laughs, Maria came upstairs and asked,

“What are you laughing about?” she asked curiously.

“Oh, nothing.” I replied and put my finger over Ishi’s mouth to avoid any subtle misunderstandings. She removed my finger and looked at me with watery eyes.

“What are you going to do now?” she asked me, “Where are you going to live?”

“Not here, of course.” I answered, “Taking you in, he already has invited trouble. I don’t think we should create more problems for him.” I explained.

Silvester was kind. I surely was in debt to him, but being kind didn’t mean that I would like to be a burden on him.

“We will find a shelter elsewhere and leave the town as soon as possible, roam outside, do some odd jobs and come here to meet you once in a while,” Maria supported me.

Listening to our reasoning and our resolve Ishi became sad and like a cat, she came close to me and hugged me. She had tears in her eyes and that was to be expected, she had never lived alone. It was always me or someone else. This should be way harder for her than it is to me. I almost had a feeling that I shouldn’t leave her alone, but it was the only way I can keep her safe.

I hugged her back, “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine and when we will be back, we’ll have a great dinner together…”

She hugged me more tightly and then said, “Okay,” with a stuffed voice as she buried her head in my chest.

“So cute,” said Maria as she saw us.

I asked Ishi to have some sleep and left the house.

“It is hard, I know.” said Maria as she saw my troubled reaction, “But for what it’s worth. This is necessary.”

I nodded. I agreed and sighed a relief as now at least Ishi was safe now.

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Asukai Jin

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