“Don’t get in my freaking way!”
“You’re the one who’s in my way, dammit! Move!”
Serena sighed, listening to Kakane and Takeru bicker in the background as she measured mineral levels in spring water. The Dagaalyahanno had moved the other day, and this river was much murkier than the one she had bathed in before. Serena tuned out Kakane and Takeru’s fighting for a moment only for her ears to be met with the rough clanging of steel. It seemed their arguing had turned into physical violence in the mere passing of a second.
“Don’t worry; they’re just rough-housing,” Mira said from across the river.
“…If you say so.”
“Let boys be boys.”
Serena didn’t remember the boys back in Zetreum Village ever playing like this. But then again, Kakane and Takeru were completely and fundamentally different from those boys. Takeru had his giant sword unwrapped from its linen lining while Kakane had borrowed a scimitar from the Dagaalyahanno. He was surprisingly adept at wielding the blade, parrying Takeru on an equal playing field. It reminded Serena a bit of her sister’s swordsmanship. But she knew for a fact that there was something that all boys had in common.
“You know something about guys?”
“What is it?” Mira asked.
“They are way too easily distracted by food.” Serena waded out of the river and picked up a woven basket. “It’s time for lunch!” she hollered. Immediately, Kakane and Takeru ceased fighting and after a brief glance at each other, began racing each other to the water’s edge.
“Wow. It’s like clockwork,” Mira observed.
“Are you calling me a clock?” Kakane snapped. “I am a king, not a mundane mechanic instrument!”
“Eh, I don’t know. With all that blood and dirt, you look more like a battle-crazed warmonger than a king.” Takeru shrugged.
“Battle-crazed warmonger!? Anyone would get this battered from dueling a maniac with a dumbass giant sword! Even a king!” Kakane seethed. “You are below me, pathetic ponytail-sporting nomad!”
“Did you just call my Gladion a ‘dumbass giant sword’? That’s it; you’re dead,” Takeru growled, grabbing the hilt of his blade.
“Both of you shut up and eat,” Mira said calmly with a serene yet irked smile on her face. Startled, Takeru and Kakane glared at each other before settling down and accepting sandwiches from Serena.
“This is really good! Who made this?” Takeru gushed.
“I did,” Serena said.
“Not bad… I suppose it’s befitting of a king,” Kakane muttered.
“Quit being so judgemental. Shut up and just enjoy it,” Takeru said, rolling his eyes. “Not everything has to cater to your stupid kingly tastes.”
“Even if it weren’t up to my kingly standards, I would still eat it,” Kakane sniffed. “I’m just saying it’s good enough to be eaten by a king, which I am!”
“Speaking of kings,” Mira said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you; Kakane, why do you always wear that cowl? Is it for a religious reason? Is there perhaps a New World god your people worship that I am unaware of?” Kakane stopped eating.
“It’s none of your business,” he grumbled, tugging the fabric down.
“Oh, hell, just show her.” Takeru yanked the pink shawl off Kakane’s head. “It’s just some stupid headdress with cool-looking horns. Probably has a magic charm on it or some crap like that, but I could care less for all that sorcery mumbo-jumbo.”
“H-Hey! That’s harassment,” Kakane snapped nervously. “For gods’ sake, leave me alone, will you!?”
“Kakane, you’re starting to worry me,” Serena said. “Mira is taking us to Poseidos,” she added quietly, “you can’t hide those horns from her forever.”
“You don’t understand,” Kakane grumbled, reassembling his hood. He briefly touched his scar, refusing to meet Serena’s eye. “It’s nothing, really, just ignore what you saw,” he told Mira sternly, though it sounded more like an order.
“I… I see. Forgive my impudence.”
Muttering to himself, Kakane downed the rest of his sandwich and stalked off into the open fields.
“Wait, Kakane! …And he’s gone.”
Serena sighed, watching Kakane run off into the distance. Whatever the deal about those horns and scales were, he seemed determined to keep it a secret. It was slightly concerning, but Serena didn’t want to pry. Besides, Kakane was still very keen on going to Poseidos to fix REAN, so Serena didn’t see any problems as long as he held on to that objective.
Everyone else finished their meals soon after Kakane. Takeru grabbed his sword, Gladion, and chased after Kakane while Mira and Serena returned to the stream. Gathering her skirt into a basket shape, Serena began picking up stones from the river. This dress had not been cut to size yet, but it made a useful tool for storing stones. The rocks were going to be used to determine the geological history of the Bannaanka Weyn by looking at their mineral content. Mira was trying to figure out the way magic was recycled in the natural life cycle of the plains, so every factor had to be considered.
Serena had never quite seen stones like these. On the outside, they looked like ordinary rocks with a peculiar metallic sheen to them. On closer inspection, they actually glittered with all the colors of the rainbow, indicating the presence of rare metals or gemstones inside. Yet, how were they all so easily found on the banks of a mere stream? It certainly was an interesting question.
This had become a sort of “normal”. Serena and Mira would do research as Kakane and Takeru bickered in the background. Serena wondered how long it would take Mira to finish her research, but at the same time, she had been growing rather accustomed to this new lifestyle. The Bannaanka Weyn was peaceful, and the Dagaalyahanno were friendly. It almost made Serena forget she and Kakane had been chased by soldiers just a few days earlier.
Speaking of the soldiers, she could still tell that Kakane was on edge, growing impatient with every passing day. Despite that, he was compliant for now in waiting, as Mira was their best option to Poseidos. He just had to hold out for a little longer; that Serena was going to guarantee him.