Eternal Courage

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Chapter 6: The Stalwart and the Barren Heart

It was morning time at Green B.U.S academy. Marina was in her room, sat on her blue duvet bed typing rapidly on a laptop “let’s see, no…no…no…where is it? (knock, knock) Come in” Scarlet entered the room

“Marina…there you are. Vamos a llegar tarde, we’re going to be late hurry up”

“Just a minute” Scarlet walked over to Marina

“What…are you doing?”

“Trying to find the video of Saku’s rank test” Scarlet had a look and noticed she was scrolling through videos “I had to go through a few security checks but I needed to find it”

“Why are you doing that? ¿Por qué haces eso?”

“Something has been bugging me. Saku said he was tested and found to be rankless”

“And that bothers you why?” she said with a tone of curiosity

“He should at the minimum be a Rank C. Even with no fighting talent, his energy is overflowing, you’ve seen it before. And there’s the fact his energy mimics that of an element, in the manner of how it’s produced and used. So he could be technically be a rank B” she then found the right video “Ah here it is”

Scarlet sat down next to Marina as the slightly distorted video played out. Marina watched Saku performed three tests “they first check fighting style, then aura use…and B.U.S rating” from the camera’ view though they couldn’t quite see Saku, just his feet and hands. They did see a person with a clipboard crossing something out

“well, Saku failed his fighting style and aura use” said Scarlet “and…they should now be attaching the machine which measure’s B.U.S” they saw the man attach a sort of band on his forearm with a clear green display. They saw Saku begin to concentrate

“This will show us his B.U.S read out” said Marina watching “There are four spaces. The first space shows a W if they have a weapon nature, the second displays the first letter of their element and last two show the power of the aura. Let’s see” they watched the band come on and display __05.

Scarlet looked at it and pointed at the numbers “the blanks mean he is neither a weapon or element user and the last two numbers show strength. But only 5?”

“no wonder he was considered rankless” said Marina “the average is around fifty. I scored a sixty-six”

“A little higher than me, I got fifty-nine” they watched the man walk away and Saku’s hand clench “well…this doesn’t give us any…” they noticed for a mere moment the display change “Marina, did you see that?”

“yes I did”

Marina rewound the video “now to very slowly play it” their eyes peered closely at the band and as Saku clenched his hand “and…stop” they saw the band had changed much to their disbelief “This…is…unreal”

“¿Es eso correcto?” said Scarlet “is that right?” they couldn’t see the first two but saw a number of 99 at the end “ninety-nine!?”

“I find myself believing this somehow. You saw for yourself, the power he has displayed. Still, we can’t quite see the first two. We can’t even tell if they are blank of not”

“Now this begs the question. Why could the machine only pick it up at that one moment?”

“I…don’t know. B.U.S flows naturally and, you can’t exactly keep it hidden. Well not by that much” the chime echoed throughout the school

“well, work it out later let’s go” Scarlet nearly dragged Marina away but her thought remained fixated on that number

“Not even Saku’s father registered that high. I don’t get it”

Elsewhere, a fair distance away from the academy, Mia with Saku and Aureline were going through a mildly thick forest. Each of them were wearing backpacks as they navigated through the forest. Mia was leading the way “I have to thank you two for accompanying me” Aureline didn’t reply but Saku did

“Oh it’s no problem” said Saku “This kind reminds me back to when I went camping” Mia gave a small smile

“You’re an interesting one you know” Saku tilted his head

“why is that?” Mia shook her head

“no it’s nothing”

“Oh okay. So…could you remind me what is we’re looking for?”

“well…there’s been reports of something disturbing the wild-life in an area, at least a day from here. The reason for your assistance was, I wanted the company on the way there” Saku gave a nod while Mia thought back to a conversation with Ms Reapa.

Mia outside the front of the academy talking to Ms Reapa who had a serious look on her face “so…that’s what you require me to do?” said Mia

“yes. It’s only rumours but, we can’t afford to miss this opportunity” said Ms Reapa “we have very little time so I need you to go as soon as possible”

“Will I be going solo?” Ms Reapa shook her head

“No. For this mission I would prefer you to have some assistance. You’ll need someone with outdoor survival experience and the second, with a particular trait”

“What do you mean a particular trait?”

“The nature of this…mission is delicate. So you’ll need someone with the correct trait or it may not work. I do have one person in mind” the memory went away as reality returned. Mia thought about Saku

“He does possess the right trait, hopefully this will go smoothly

As the three walked along, Aureline suddenly stopped “everyone stand still” Saku and Mia froze

“What is it Aureline?” asked Saku

“We’re not alone” the sound of grass rustling alerted them to wolf which came prowling towards them, with sharp teeth and glaring eyes “as I thought” the wolf suddenly pounced on Aureline

“Look out!” called Saku but Aureline simply punched the wolf’s head knocking it to the ground

“Yeah have that you mangy mutt” The wolf quickly rolled over and ran straight back at Aureline. Aureline was ready to defend herself as she taunted the wolf “yeah come get it” but failed to notice a tree root which she tripped over. The wolf pounced and pinned her to the ground. Aureline had hold of its neck but it was strong as it continuously tried to bite.

As the wolf was about to strike, Aureline saw a beam of white hit the wolf knocking it off her. Aureline turned to see Saku with his arm armed towards her. The wolf shrugged off the hit and with a whimper ran back into the forest. Saku let out a sigh of relief “phew that was close”

“Are you unharmed?” asked Mia but Aureline just gave a nod

“That’s good” Aureline turned to Saku as he walked towards her offering a hand “come on let’s get you up” she looked confused “What’s the matter?” she shook her head and ignoring his hand got up herself

“The help wasn’t necessary. I could’ve handled myself without your interference. I had that under control” with that she walked ahead leaving Saku a bit bewildered. Saku turned to Mia

“was it something I did?” Mia shook her head

“No you reacted as you should have done” Saku looked troubled as Aureline walked ahead “don’t think about it too hard. Come on let’s go” with a reassuring hand on his shoulder she guided Saku forward.

The sun was starting to come down with the three of them walking up a stone path next to a downward flowing river. Saku looked at the sky to see it was a light orange “so Mia how much further?”

“Well…if we could keep going we’d be there by midnight but it’s dangerous going out in a forest during the night. So we’ll make camp a bit further up” Saku replied with a nod as they came onto flat ground. They then saw the river curved to the right blocking their path

“we’ll have to work out a way to get across” said Mia

“But” said Saku looking round “I don’t see a bridge anyway”

Saku was startled as a fairly large tree fell next to him “found one” said Aureline pointing at the fallen tree “we can use this” she then pushed the log over the river. The log was only just long enough to reach, almost scraping both sides “This isn’t going to hold for long” said Aureline as the water pushed against it.

“alright I’ll go first” said Mia climbing onto the shaking log “It’s sturdy enough but be careful” Mia with her arms out starting walking across the shaking log. After Mia walked a few steps Saku climbed up. He felt the log slightly stir underneath making him sway a little.

Aureline followed shortly afterward but as she stood on it the log began to shift “we have to be careful” Mia warned The log won’t hold for long” it was then the log jerked making her lose balance and fall backward but Saku put his hands out, to catch her and then push her to her feet Aureline looked at him oddly

“Careful Mia” said Saku “This log is going to go any moment. Let’s get off it” Mia gave a nod and with a few more steps she jumped onto the other side with Saku shortly behind “That was close”

“I must thank you for helping me back there” said Mia with a smile

“no worries” Saku turned round to see Aureline making her way over “alright now you” he offered his hand out which Aureline just sort of stared at “come on grab on” as Aureline began to move her hand but log started shifting.

The log, being pushed by the fast-flowing river, was giving way. Time slowed down as the log gave way and Aureline fell off. She felt her feet leave the wooden tree only to be replaced by a sharp and rushing sensation, as she felt the cold water hit her body. As the water began to push her, a memory flashed through her mind.

She had fallen into another river and was desperately flailing around “someone help me…please!” she said loudly calling for help, as her head bobbed in and out the water but to no avail as she headed for a water fall “no…no” She then snapped out of it, as she felt a tight but warm grip on her hand. Aureline tried to look against the rushing water and could just make out Saku holding onto her hand with his other hand gripping the ground “Saku?” Mia then joined in pulling on Saku’s arm bringing Aureline out of the water safely onto the bank.

Aureline on her hands and knees was breathing and coughing as water dripped from her. Saku was sat down panting “Ah…ah…phew that was too close” he looked at Aureline “hey…are you alright?” Aureline just gave a nod “good”

“Why?” said Aureline drawing his attention “why did you do that?” she looked at him with some anger in her eyes

“Well…why not” said Saku which made her eyes widen “I just…responded out of instinct. I mean you were going to get hurt so…I just helped you” Aureline didn’t know how to respond “well…we’re across now” he said slowing down his breathing

“Indeed we are” said Mia helping up Saku and the dazed Aureline “let’s proceed onwards. We can still make some ground before night fall” with that the three continued but Saku’s action still remained on Aureline’s mind

“I…don’t understand. He helped me…just because he wanted to? I…don’t get it. Why?”

Daylight was starting to wane as the sun set into the distance. The three had come to a large clearing. The area was quite open lined with trees and overgrowth. Mia looked round and then to the sky “we’ll rest here. We’re better off building a camp while we’ve got daylight left”

“Yeah alright” said Saku while Aureline began to walk off “where are you going?”

“to get some firewood” she said simply going towards the woods

“Do you want any help?” asked Saku

“It’ll be better if I’m by myself. So leave me alone” and with that she vanished into the forest.

Saku looked a bit troubled as he turned back round “Doesn’t Aureline trust me or something?”

“It’s not quite you” said Mia “don’t worry” she said as she took off her back pack “come on we might as well roll out the sleeping bags” Saku gave a reluctant nod and took down his pack too

“So what’s your story?” asked Saku “I mean I overheard people talking about you being hired for jobs” Mia looked a bit annoyed

“Those are just rumours. They seem to think it’s wrong for a girl to take part in missions with adults”

“What do you mean?” asked Saku “sorry I’m just curious that’s all. If it’s personal then I won’t intrude”

Mia shook her head “no it’s quite alright. I often take part with trained security to take-down wanted men. A lot of people seem to have a problem with a girl working alongside professionals”

“I don’t” said Saku pulling out his sleeping bag while Mia looked at him with a curious look “if you can perform with the best, that means you’re just as good”

“You think so?” she said curiously

“Well yeah. I mean…I’m not in much position to know what strength it. But I do know just being able to wield an aura weapon means you’re diligent. And if you can work with professionals it means you’re really skilled and strong” this seemed to make Mia a little shy.

They were broken off as they heard the crunching of fallen trees and heavy thumps “yeah…that’s it. Come and get it” they heard Aureline’s voice getting closer “yeah…have some of that” Saku looked curiously where the sounds were coming from

“Aureline?” he walked towards the sounds and saw Aureline walking backwards waving around a large white knife

“yeah…yeah…come on”

“Aureline…what are you…” Saku was cut off as a large black bear emerged through the undergrowth “whoa” it was growling and glaring at Aureline with vicious eyes “What the hell?”

The black bear was at least six foot, on all fours, and prowling towards Aureline. Saku saw Aureline had the impression she had the upper hand “yes that’s right you big brute” she said still waving her knife “do you want some?” she thrust forward cutting the bear’s nose making it recoil “yeah…have that you big brute” this only seemed to aggravate the bear as it bellowed, vibrating the very ground around them. The sound was of such force everyone was forced to cover their ears which made Aureline stumble. The bear showed it’s sharp razor like teeth and vaulted forwards.

Aureline could only watch as the bear approached but then Mia appeared blocking the bear’s teeth with her blue aura sword. Mia looked back at Aureline “move!” Aureline snapped out of it as Mia swiped the bear with a kick to its head. The bear however simply shrugged it off and swiped at her.

Mia barely blocked making her staggered side-wards. The bear then stood on its hind legs, towering over them, ready to pounce on Mia. Just as Mia prepared herself to guard, the bear started to come down to which she heard a voice

“Mia” called Saku running towards her with a white fiery fist “give me a boost!” Mia turned towards him and put her hands together on the ground. Then as Saku stood on her hands, she threw him up in the air, he then punched the bear to the side with a powerful blow.

The bear landed with a heavy blow while Saku landed on the ground with his fist still glowing. Saku looked at her with a smile “not a bad team we make right?” Mia gave a happy nod but her attention turned to the bear as it got up.

“Saku the bear!” The bear looked a bit dizzy from the blow as it was wobbly on its feet “I don’t like this. In the state it’s in…it’s unpredictable” the bear then looked at Aureline and gripped the ground “Aureline…move!” the bear suddenly charged forward, not quite in a straight line, to Aureline who had an odd, almost blood-thirsty, look in her eye

“yeah that’s it come this way” she once more produced the large white knife “come on get it!” as she ran forward slashing at it, the bear sort of stumbled to the side making her miss. Then the bear quickly reacted and swiped at Aureline with a powerful strike.

Aureline was sent flying by the bear through the air “Aureline!” called Saku as he ran towards . Saku jumped and managed to catch her but was also sent flying by her momentum smashing into a nearby tree. Mia saw this and felt a tone of anger summoning

“It’s time to cut you down” with her aura sword in hand, ran at the bear and jumped towards slashing her sword in four directions. She landed softly while the bear slumped to the ground.

Mia relinquished her sword and ran over to Saku as Aureline got up “are you two unharmed?” Aureline gave a silent nod

“I’m fine” said Saku as Mia helped him up “just winded” he leaned forward slightly holding his stomach “What about big and grizzly?” Mia merely gestured to the fallen bear

“He has become tonight’s dinner” the night was starting to set in “Night is approaching. I’ll go collect some fire wood. You two rest and recuperate” with that Mia went into the woods leaving the two alone. Saku then turned to Aureline

“Aureline…are you alright?” she turned to him with a vacant expression “the bear didn’t hurt you did he?” she shook her head “That’s a relief” she looked shocked by this comment “I’m going to get the beds out” Aureline watched Saku walk, slightly limply, forwards to the backpacks

“he…risked his own safety to ensure my own. Why? Why would he?”

Night had fully set in with the pale moon gently basking the land in its milky glow. In the clearing there was a small fire now burning and a spit over it with meat. Saku and Mia were tucking into their dinner of bear “Oh…this takes me back” Mia looked at him “Do you remember when I said I went camping. When I went we would take frozen steak and then cook it over the fire”

“Who did you go camping with?” asked Mia

“Kust…me and my Dad” Mia detected a slight tone of sadness “before…the accident we would always do stuff like this. It was just us two because my sisters didn’t really like it”

Saku laughed a little making Mia smile “So Mia random question. How does weapon wielding work anyway?”

“Well…it’s a bit difficult to put into words” said Mia producing her blue sword which glowed in the dark “it just…comes to me you know”

“Is the sword even real?” Saku reached for the sword to which Mia just watched. Saku slowly put his hand down, expecting to feel solid but his hand went through making him recoil “whoa…this is so weird” Mia just smiled

“He’s rather innocent. Almost like a child” Saku was waving his hand up and down through the sword “Another random question. Would you like to be a weapon wielder?”

“For now I’ll just try and be an aura fighter”

“let’s say you could be a weapon wielder…what weapon would you form?”

“ummm…If I could use a weapon. What I’d like is a boomerang” Mia tilted her head “so you could throw it at the enemy and then it hits them on the head when the boomerang comes back” mimicked the action which made Mia laugh

“You definitely are an interesting one”

“You think so?” said Saku rubbing his head which made him notice Aureline sat by herself “I’m going to check on Aureline” as he stood he flinched slightly “I’ll be back” Mia watched him go.

Aureline was sat on a tree root watching the night sky. She heard Saku coming and turned round “Oh…Saku…what do you want?”

“I just” said Saku awkwardly “wanted to make sure you were okay?” she looked bewildered “That bear didn’t get you at all”

“No…I’m fin…” she flinched and clutched her arm

“hey what’s wrong?”

Saku ran forward and gently took her arm which she shook off “What are you doing?” said Aureline angrily “would you just leave me alone?”

“This no time to be stubborn” said Saku adamantly surprising her as he retook her arm “You got swiped by a ten-foot bear. So you won’t get away with a small injury” he rolled up her sleeve and saw two deep cuts which were still bleeding “I thought as much” Saku ran back to his backpack and then back with a bottle of water and bandages.

Aafter pouring water over her cuts to clean then, making Aureline flinch, he wrapped the wound. Aureline just watched him until he finsiehd “there…that’ll do. You’re all wrapped up” he then flinched himself

“What’s wrong with you?” Saku pulled down the collar on his neck to show a large bruise on his shoulder making her stare

“This is from when we got smashed into that tree. It’ll be fine in a day or two” Saku let go of his collar “well…I’ll leave you alone now” Aureline looked a bit sad “Good night” As Saku walked a couple of steps

“no wait” he turned back round to Aureline who had a touch of fear in her eyes “don’t go” Saku looked at her “do you…mind if we talk for a bit?” Saku nodded

“Yeah sure” he walked to her and sat down next to her on the tree root.

Aureline looked confused “What’s the matter?” asked Saku

“I…don’t know. I guess…” she gripped her knees “I just…don’t want to be by myself. Before…you said, you helped me just because you wanted to…I don’t understand. I mean…you didn’t really know me”

“Do you need a reason to help someone?” Aureline looked at him “why…did I do something wrong?” Aureline shook her head but saw him flinch again

“That injury is rather painful isn’t it?” Aureline then saw a blue glowing flower “This will do” she pluck the flower and took out a small handkerchief. She tipped the flower to which a yellow drop of fluid went on the cloth “there we go” she then knelt in-front of Saku, pulled his collar to the side and gently put the cloth on it.

Saku recoiled slightly but relaxed “That feels…rather soothing. What did you do?”

“the flower has nectar which is rather good on bruises. It’ll help to soothe the pain”

“Thank you” said Saku surprising her “for helping me” She looked at his smile and felt a strange and new sensation

“No…it’s…okay” replied Aureline while Mia who watched from her place smiled

“This is…the power of which you spoke off…Ms Reapa”

The next day the three continued onwards…but not very far as they reached a large lake which split off in two directions. Mia was looking round the area “well…this is the place”

“are you sure?” asked Saku “because unless this disturbance is fish related” he said pointing to the lake “We’ve reached the end”

“It appears we have” said Mia breathing out in disappointment “Oh well, they were only rumours. Come on we might as well head back” as they walked back the sound of a metal thud stopped them in their tracks “did you two hear that?” they both nodded

“What was” Saku took a step back and heard the same sound “That?” he stepped in place and found he was standing on something metal “Okay…this is odd?”

Mia bent down and knocked on the metal ground “it sounds hollow” said Mia “I wonder” Aureline out of curiosity joined them

“if it is metal. It’s perfectly camouflaged” said Aureline looking at the floor beneath their feet “You wouldn’t be able to tell it was metal until you stood on it” then the metal creaked

“I don’t like the sound of that” said Saku but before anyone could react the floor gave away to which the three fell inside into the darkness below.

Saku was on the ground. As he stirred he heard the echoed and muffled sound of running water above him. Then he got up and saw he was in a dark corridor only partially lit up by the odd light “where…am I?” his voice slightly echoed down the hall “Oh…Mia…Aureline?” he looked round and saw Aureline on her knees and Mia just getting off the ground “hey…are you two alright?”

“I’m fine” said Aureline

“I’m fine also” said Mia getting up but then she clutched her arm “scratch that last comment” Saku saw her cringing “I landed rather badly on my arm” Saku got up and walked over to her.

Saku carefully took her arm and rolled up the sleeve to see a dark black bruise covering a good area of her arm “tell me. Does it hurt just by me holding your arm?” she shook her head “then it’s just a sprain at the very best” Saku looked round “we lost our backpacks from the fall dammit. If only I had some….oh wait” he felt his pocket “I still have this from yesterday” Saku produced the roll of bandaging he had used for Aureline from his pocket

Saku then pulled out a large strand of the bandage, and tied a knot making a loop “Okay…sorry this is going to hurt a little” said Saku. As carefully as he could, Saku bent her arm although Mia still winced “sorry…I’ m trying. Now, one end on the arm…and the other over the shoulder. There you go, a rather crude sling. I know it’s not very decent but it should do” Mia looked very grateful

“No I am most appreciative thank you” with that the three stood up “I have no idea where we are right now. It’s reminds me of sewer pipes”

“I think we should go this way” said Aureline pointing north “I can feel a light breeze” with a nod the three walked down the corridor.

The hallways seemed endless with no clear indication of direction. Saku looked round “What is this place? It kind of reminds me of subway tunnels”

“Your guess is as good as mine” said Mia “it looks abandoned” they came to a T-junction “Okay now which way?” Aureline looked between the directions

“to the east” said Aureline pointing right. As they walked down the hallway they then heard they heard the quite sounds of sobbing “do you two hear that?” they nodded as they approached the sound but couldn’t see the source “It’s too dark to see anything”

“Hang on” said Saku. After concentrating he produced his aura-coat which illuminated the area around them “It’s not much…but it should do” the light revealed a rather small hole “and there we go”

Saku and Mia bent down to the hall and with the light from Saku’s hand they found a rather small and scared girl huddled and crying. The girl had a short but thick pink hair. She was wearing a sort-of long black Hikama down to her feet, over a white t-shirt. Her outfit however appeared tattered as many tears covered her clothes. “hey there little one” Mia said calling out making the girl jump and look at them with frightened red eyes “are you okay?” the girl simply froze “come on…it’s okay” the girl shook her head and shifted backwards “she’s really frightened” Saku then spoke

“hey there…it’s okay” said Saku gently “I’m Saku…what’s your name?” the girl looked at his face and replied

“Mo…chi” she said slowly in a young and innocent tone

“Mochi…that’s a cute name” the girl jumped a bit “look it’s okay” Saku gestured his glowing hand forward “we’re not going to hurt you” the girl looked between his smiling face and then his white hand and very slowly she crawled forward reaching out, shakily.

Mochi hesitated a little but then she grabbed onto Saku’s hand “there’s a good girl” Saku very gently guided her out until she was out and in the hall “there you are and out” said Saku happily to which Mochi then stood up. She was only a little taller than their waists “Now then are you okay? Are you hurt?”

“No…I’m okay” she said a little timidly

“Well like I said I’m Saku. This is Mia…and Aureline. They are both quite nice. So…you don’t have to worry” Mochi’s eyes than began to water “What is it?” she then launched into Saku lightly crying “there, there” Saku embraced her back “It’s okay” Mia looked especially happy

“I think it’s time we got out of here” Saku nodded and tapped Mochi on the head

“Hey Mochi listen. Do you want to come with us?” she gave a small nod “Okay then” Saku offered her a hand “shall we go?” Mochi looked at his smile

“yeah” she said smiling a little and taking his hand “let’s go” Mia had a look of relief on her face while Aureline looked bewildered

“he…thinks…I’m nice”

The group of four were walking down the corridor to a three way junction up ahead. Saku looked at Mochi who appeared a bit nervous “hey Mochi?” she looked up “What are you doing here anyway?”

“I was…I was…I…don’t know” she replied sadly “I can’t…remember”

“Well it’s okay you’re with us now” said Saku encouragingly brightening her up a bit

“once we get back” said Mia “we can then find your parents or guardians” Mochi looked sad

“I…don’t have a Ma-Ma or Pa-Pa” this shocked Saku and made Aureline turn round “I…don’t have…anyone” Saku felt her grip tighten but before he could say anything the sounds of many footsteps echoed from the west and North directions.

The group froze at the junction, Mochi hid behind Saku as the footsteps grew louder. Then the silhouettes of many people came into view until they stopped a short distance before them. All the people were covered in black garments covering their whole bodies. “Who are you three? Identify yourselves!” called one of them

“look…we’re just lost and looking for a way out” said Saku honestly while Mochi peeked round

“Look it’s the girl” this made every-one of the garbed people ready themselves “You…hand over the girl now!” Saku looked at Mochi who appeared frightened

“It seems to me” said Mia angrily “That she doesn’t want to be with you” suddenly two beams of white appeared at the men’s feet covering them in smoke. Mia saw Saku in pose

“I don’t think these men are in much mood for talking” Saku scooped up Mochi “come down this way” they took the west junction running as fast as they could.

“hey…don’t let them get away” but the men were right behind them.

The group came to another four-way junction. Saku looked ahead “Ah…ah…which way to go?” but then Kieran strode out to the centre “hey…that’s Kieran” Kieran noticed them

“hey…what are you doing here?”

“Running” simply stated Aureline “we’ve got company” Kieran just noticed the small army of people in the dim light

“Then this way” said Kieran guiding them west. They ran the hallway to see downwards sloping tunnel “take this and it’ll take you back to the academy. I’ll hold back the soldiers”

“Alright Mia you first” said Saku to which Mia got on and slid down “Okay now you Aureline” Aureline nodded and also disappeared down the tunnel. Saku carefully put himself down and put Mochi on his lap “alright we’re off. Thanks for the help Kieran” Kieran gave him a thumbs up “hold on Mochi” with that the two went down the tunnel two. Kieran breathed a sigh of relieve and turned to the men

“halt!” they did as instructed “withdraw at once and return to your posts” the men nodded and walked back “That was…too close”

As Saku went down the tunnel he came outside and dropped a little into a river. The river was just deep enough for him to ride on as it carried him downwards. Saku watched as the forest flash before him as the two of them rode down the river along with the mild screams of Mochi. The river just seemed to carry on and on without end as the minutes rolled by. Eventually the two came to a stop as the river levelled out onto a shallow river slowing them until they sat still in the water.

Saku and Mochi looked between each other and then “Again, Again, Again” they both shouted as they laughed

“it looks like you two had a lot of fun” they turned to see Mia gesturing a hand towards next to them on the bank “you first Mochi” Mochi took her hand and got out of the water “and you next” Mia then helped Saku out of the water “I take it you enjoyed the ride”

“Yeah it was really cool” said Mochi happily “it went all, swoosh, woosh and everything” Mia chuckled while Saku noticed

“Where’s Aureline?”

“Heading back to the academy” she pointed to the building clearly visible from where they were “she’s gone ahead to tell Ms Reapa and get us some treatment ready”

“Okay” Saku offered a hand to Mochi “let’s go together” Mochi smiled and took his hand.

A short while later in the nurse’s office, Aries was bandaging Saku’s bruise while he flinched “will you hold still…for one moment. And…there” she then put on his white t-shirt “You’re a baby when it comes to these things” Mia from an adjacent bed was giggling to herself when the door opened. The door showed Ms Reapa with Mochi who excitedly ran to Saku

“Saku!” she ran to him “are you okay?” Saku nodded and rubbed her head “That’s good” she turned to Aries who had a sweet smile

“so you’re the cute girl I’ve heard about. I’m Aries” she held out a hand “It’s nice to meet you” Mochi took her hand and shook it with a smile.

Ms Reapa than spoke “I’m glad you three all came back safe and sound. Aureline told me all the details about the one extra you were bringing back” Ms Reapa had a troubled expression “and…I have some bad news. The child has no parents. Or any guardians” Saku looked at Mochi depressed face “we tried tracing her family but nothing came up and…there have been no reports of missing children matching her description”

“so…that’s what you meant right? About not having anyone” said Saku turning to her to which she sadly nodded “well…that’s not true” said Saku drawing her attention “You have a big brother”

Mochi’s face widened as Saku looked to Aries “Aries…do you think we could squeeze one more in? I’m sure we have room for another member”

“I don’t see why not” Aries said beaming “how about it Mochi, do you want to stay with us?” Mochi face slowly turned to absolute delight

“Yeah, yeah” she said jumping up and down “I have a big brother…and a big sister” she said in sing-song but Saku shook his head “I don’t have a sister”

“Well” said Saku “not one anyway” Saku then displayed three fingers

“I have three big sisters!?” exclaimed Mochi as Saku nodded “hurray!” Aries and Saku smiled and chuckled while Ms Reapa spoke quietly with Mia

“good job Mia. The mission was a great success”

“The thanks lies with Saku” Ms Reapa gave a small smile while Mia spoke “Saku…I’d like to thank you today for all your help. And” Mia blushed slightly “I like to consider you as a trusted friend from this day on. I hope we can get along” Saku smiled as did Ms Reapa.

Elsewhere Aureline was in her room. She rolled up her sleeve and looked at the bandage “Saku…he felt…so warm. I…don’t get it” she then felt her chest “What is this…warmth? It feels…nice” she was left to ponder as the day drew on.

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