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We left Silvester’s house and walked our way towards the old tavern in the corner of the village. We hadn’t had any time to have any food and our stomach was growling with hunger.

The Tavern was made of wooden foundation which looked quite unstable, but it was old. So, we weren’t surprised to find it in such condition. It wasn’t like we wanted to live in there, it was just a half-hour thing. We will have our meal and then make our way out.

Every village had a Tavern of their own. It was the place where farmers, miners, merchants would find Adventurers. It was the place which made sure Adventurers had enough food and living accommodates. Back then, at the Tavern of ,y village. I would often be in there in search of jobs, but I wasn’t that successful.

‘Clink,’ the doorbell ringed as we entered the Tavern. It was full of people. Mostly men. I looked around and concluded that majority of them were Adventurers. I walked down the path and stood before the owner. He wore an apron with a napkin on his shoulder.

“What do you want?” he asked hastily. It wasn’t arrogant, but his voice made it sound like he was pissed to see us.

“Um--How much for a meal?” I asked him. Maria was busy checking her surroundings and ran over towards an empty seat.

“Meal’s five gold,” he answered.

“I’ll have two,” I said as I removed the gold coins from my pocket and placed it before him. He took them and threw them inside box and handed me two bowls of rice with spoon and some curry.

I took them and walked towards Maria who spread her legs over the table, leisurely relaxing her body.

“Here you go,” I said as put down her bowl in front of her. She looked at me and then at the bowl. She excitingly picked up the spoon and took a bite.

“Umm,” she made a sound as she was eating which I figured that she liked it, “It’s good.”

I nodded and had my bite. It wasn’t that good, but given the situation you had to accept it. Tavern’s were a place which ensured Adventurers daily needs to be fulfilled,bu it wasn’t a Haven or something. The food would sometimes be atrocious because it was suppose to be for those adventurers who can’t make a lot of money.

Although the food could have an awful taste, this is good. So, I took another bite, but then looked at Maria. She wasn’t used to his situation neither was I. But it felt like I was taking it more casually as if I had already been in these situations and she was more like new learner.

I felt sorry for her and then, “I AM sorry,” I apologized again.

She put down her spoon and stared at me angrily.

“Now, don’t make that face. I am wrong to apologize?” I asked her.

“You should apologize if you are at wrong, but if you aren’t….You shouldn’t,” she answered as she took another bite.

“.….”

I sat there in silence as I wasn’t convinced. It wasn’t a normal thing to run away for your whole life. We were being treated like criminals and had to run to save or skin.

She looked at my face and then understood that I wasn’t satisfied by the answer.

“If anyone is wrong, then it is them. The people who are trying to end you just because they can’t accept who you are.”

It wasn’t all wrong, but wasn’t all right too. ‘Darkels’ have said to terrorize these lands for more than 500 years now. If they suspect me being one of them and are trying to kill me…..I can’t help, but see a reason in it.

“Why are doing this?” I asked her with a serious face.

She quickly averted her eyes and said, “There are ones who fight for themselves and ones who fight for others. I am neither. I tried to be one of them, but you did save the others. I wouldn’t mind even if you did it out of pity, but what matters is you did it.” she answered as she lowered her eyes, “And I don’t know why I just want to help you. That’s all.”

She looked at me with a smile, but I could see her sorrow in those eyes. It felt like she wasn’t trying hard to hide it but was trying to get it out, but she couldn’t. I had no choice, but to smile back and continue with eating the rice.

As we were finishing our meal, I started to investigate our surroundings and I felt every gaze towards us….or more like towards her.

It was to be expected as she was the only woman in the whole and tavern filled with a men who were drunk till their core. I was just expecting to not cause a ruckus, but the thought was in vain.

“Hey, Lady~~” said a man who walked towards her. He tried sitting beside her, but she rejected by moving towards the corner of the seat. This wasn’t enough for the man as he continued to speak, “How are you~~Would you…Do you…want to--”

“Excuse me,” I butted in. I wanted to and it was the right thing to do, “Could you mind leaving us alone?”

The man wasn’t furious on my request and rather started laughing, it was something I didn’t expect, but you never really what someone will do when they are drunk.

“Haha! Don’t sweat it boy….The here Lady will us answer,”

No that wasn’t a riddle. It was him and drunkard mind speaking. I mean, sure Maria looks great. To be fair, she is one of the most elegant looking girls I have seen, but then also being in a situation could never really please someone. I saw it in Maria’s eyes; the murderous intent.

‘I need to do something,’

As I was thinking, my eyes locked on a person. He had brown hair, with brown pants and an overcoat, but nothing in it. He was bare naked, and his chest had Flame symbol on it. He was sitting in the opposite corner of the Tavern and was grinning. He stood up and walked towards us.

“Hey!” he said as he waved his hand in excitement, “Long time no see…”

He said as he sat next to me on the empty seat, “Just play along.” he whispered in my ears.

“How are you?” he asked immediately.

I didn’t how to react or what to do and the only option I had was to follow his lead.

“I’ m fine.” I tried answering with a straight face and tried hiding my anxiety.

“Man, I am so happy to meet you again…..” he said as he looked over towards Maria who sat just as clueless I was or even more than I was, “Who is she? Your wife?” he asked out of nowhere.

Maria and I blushed at the same time, “N-No!” I said in a panicking tone.

“Yeah, I know.” he replied with a teasing face, “I was just joking,” he said and turned towards Maria, “Mikhail Reiss,” he said as he introduced himself.

‘Mikhail? I think I have heard that somewhere,”

For a moment the atmosphere around us had become heavy as everyone’s eyes had averted towards me.

‘Your joke would have led me to my grave,’ I thought as people were really into her. I wondered how she was doing, but she looked calm and composed. Maybe, she had been in these kinds of situations before.

But I was glad that he mentioned he was joking as everyone settled down a bit and resumed with their work. But the guy who was asking Maria out(I guess) won’t budge.

“Let’s go….I’ll show you around the village,” Mikhail said in an attempt to escape.

I agreed and nodded. As I was trying to get up, the guy blocked our path and said, “Where you going?” and then faced Maria, “Miss?”

It was genuinely creepy and I could see Maria anger piling up, but personally as much I wanted to avoid fighting him….I just wanted to hit him so hard.

“Towards the exit,” answered Mikhail. He was bold enough to point the way out acted in a complete mocking way, “If you are against doors….then how about windows?”

I just wanted to leave and so did Maria, but the guy wouldn’t move. I don’t know what were his reasons, but we were certainly drawing a lot of attention because of him.

So, I just shot him a glare. A pure glare of rage, indicating that I am ready to fight but we don’t need to.

This changed something inside him, he started trembling as looked at my eyes. “O-O-Okay!” he answered with a stuttered voice. It was unusual as he was acting all high and mighty a minute ago and now was trembling.

‘Maybe it is because of the alcohol,’

He gave us some space to walk and we exited the Tavern.

‘Ushhh!!” sighed Maria with her hands on chest. It was tense situation in there after all.

“Thanks,” she said to Mikhail with her hand stretching for a handshake. I was glad that he helped us and he seemed to be a local, that is why he handled the situation quite casually.

“Yeah, that’ll be 500 gold,” he said as he shook hands with Maria.

“What?”

“Yeah, 500 gold. I helped you….So….”

He said it excitingly and saw as we stood in front of stood with stunned reaction. We were dumbstruck. He realized that we didn’t assess the situation.

“Wait, you guys don’t have any…” he asked as he saw our faces and put his palm on his forehead, “Not again. I haven’t had a chance to earn money.”

‘Money? You earn money like this?’

Probably was the question in both of our minds.

“Well, enjoy your freedom,” he said as he left giving us a disgusting look as if we knew he was going to ask for money. On the other hand I had some money which I could have offered to him, but I decided to stay quiet.

He walked his steps and looked back as he saw us. We didn’t move a inch and stood right where he left. We didn’t know where to go.

“Come with me,” he said as he tried not to look at us, “Just come. I won’t rob you or anything,”

Maybe he understood in which situation we were, “I have a place you can crash at….”

‘What? On one hand you ask money and on the other you give us shelter? Who really are you?’

I had several doubts in my mind, but we still ended up following him. To his home.

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Asukai Jin

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