Chapter 4: Alive
Much to my surprise, I woke up. I actually woke up. I just sat there, wondering if I was actually dead. Was I just a ghost? I tried to stand up and confirmed I wasn’t a ghost. Unless ghosts could feel pain. I looked down to see how bad it actually was, but couldn’t because of all the ashes that covered everything like a blanket. I tried to climb out but my legs could barely hold me up. I used one of the charred support beams to hoist myself up. The hole that the spear made was still throbbing with pain, but it was suspiciously better.
“He-hey. I-is that?” I heard voices from the side. I looked out to see three kids, a little younger than Haroj standing there, staring at me as if I had horns growing from the top of my head.
“It is,” one of the other kids nodded. He caught my eye because he wasn’t like the other girl, who looked Pyrian. He looked pure Terratin, dark skin and curly black hair and everything.
“What’s with her hair?”
I furrowed my eyebrows and I pulled at my hair to inspect it. It went from reddish-brown to pure red. I fell down after looking at the red glowing hair. I know my hair wasn’t this red before. So how was it red? It made no sense. How was I supposed to be blending into the crowds now? Before it was my clothes and tiny body. Now my red hair was a beacon for those damn guards. Unless they aren’t looking for me because my hair is different. That could be useful. The shock factor would be great for the first guard shift, but after that, I have a target on my head.
That was only the beginning of the problems I had with that change.
“Is Haroj going to be happy or pissed?” The next kid was just a mutt of Vitian, Aquarian and Pyrian.
“You guys know Haroj?” I asked. That was weird. I had never seen them before. They must’ve changed slums recently. Haroj, being the weirdo he was probably took them underneath his wing, which then went underneath my wing so I was probably going to see a lot more of them probably
“Yes. . . ?” They looked at each other. The girl hiding behind the two guys.
“Sweet. Take me to him,” I walked down the remains of the house with as much grace as a mule with a broken leg, all three turning their backs to me to have a secret meeting with each other. Or so they didn’t have to look at me naked. “What’s the hold up? C’mon.” I patted their shoulders as I walked in front of them.
“Um!” the girl shouted at me. I turned around, waiting for them to talk. “Are you sure it’s wise to walk around like. . . that?”
I looked down to my scarred, naked body. “Not really, but what can I do? My only clothes were destroyed in that fire.” I pointed back to the rubble.
“That begs the question: how did your clothes burn, yet you’re completely unharmed?” the Terratin boy asked me. His eyes went down to my side. “Well, almost.”
“If I knew how, I would’ve taken advantage of it a long time ago,” I laughed.
“Enucia, stay here with her. We’ll go get Haroj. He’ll know what to do. Until then, stay hidden. The Fire Seeker hasn’t given up his search for you,” the Terratin boy ordered us around.
“He’s really weird,” mutt boy added in. “I mean, everyone was so sure you were dead, but he was sure you were alive and kept looking for you. I mean, I thought you were dead too! I didn’t meet you until now, but I’ve heard stories! I mean, you’re a legend! After you died, or kinda sorta died, we moved into you slums to help Haroj cope because he was so sad and couldn’t handle all the kids! He is going to be so happy when you’re--”
“Yulik. Shut up,” Terratin boy said.
“Okay.” Mutt boy, or Yulik, smiled brightly.
“Is he okay in the head?” I asked the other two.
“We’re not sure,” they replied in unison.
“Hey!” Yulik shouted.
“We’re not wrong,” the other two replied.
“But you have no proof that you’re right either!” Yulik looked so triumphant.
“Yeah, could you guys stop and get Haroj? Thanks,” I reminded them.
“Sure thing, Kaira!” Yulik got eerily close to me.
I pushed him away from me. “Go.” Thankfully, they actually went to get Haroj.
“So, how come you didn’t want to be caught?” the girl, Enucia I think, asked me after a long silence.
“Okay, I’m a wanted thief who is probably the one that the Fire Seeker is looking for,” I said.
“How do you know you’re the one he’s looking for?”
“Paranoia. . . ?”
“If you weren’t paranoid, would you have not run?”
“Still a wanted thief.”
“Ah,” Enucia said before leaned her head into her knees. We went into another long silence before she racked up enough courage to talk again. “So. . . about your hair. . . .”
“Imma stop you right there. I don’t know. Before I went into the fire, red-brown. Now, just red. It’s weird. I know.”
“Do you think that the fire and your hair might be connected?”
“Are you suggesting that the fire made my hair red?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never been in a fire before.”
“Now I can say that I have.”
“Were you scared?”
“I think I was more afraid of the guards than I was the fire itself. I think I was just so tired to actually be scared, y’know. But I guess if I wasn’t bleeding out on a bed, I would’ve been scared. I’m not completely insane,” I chuckled.
“I beg to differ,” I heard a very familiar voice say. I looked up and saw his annoying face twisted in a very unflattering way. Then again, no face was flattering when it came to Haroj.
“Great to see you again.” I smiled.
“I thought you were dead.” Haroj was unusually cold. “What’s with the hair?”
“First, I don’t know about the hair, it’s weird, I know. Second, I thought so too, but look at me. Not dead.” I stood up and motioned to myself. “Did you get taller?”
“Yeah. You miss things when you’ve been dead for a month.” Haroj sniffed haughtily.
“Month and a half,” Enucia quietly corrected Haroj.
“‘A month?!’” I repeated. “I’ve been lying in that rubble for a month?!”
“Month and a half,” Enucia quietly corrected me.
“Wait, you’ve just been in that rubble until now?” Haroj asked.
“Yeah, where else would I be?”
“I don’t know, maybe dead?”
“Well, surprise, surprise, I’m not! And death is not somewhere I could be!”
“You should be dead! You should be rotting in the place where dead people go!”
“Rude! I did not crawl my way out of that rubble to be treated this way!”
“What else were we supposed to think, huh?! What else were we supposed to think when you were stabbed, left in a house fire which kept setting itself of fire each time anyone even tried to sift through the ashes?!”
“Why was the ash lighting itself on fire?!”
“You think we know?! We stopped going near that wretched house! Which reminds me, why the hell were you guys even close to there? I made it very clear that you weren’t to go anywhere near that thing!” Haroj snapped at the three who immediately sank back.
“Who died and made you Lord of Fire?” I scoffed.
“You! You died!” Haroj screamed at me. “You died and left me alone! You left me scared and alone! You left me behind!” Haroj sank to his knees, his shoulders shaking violently. “I hate your guts.”
I bent down and patted his head. He kept sobbing grossly. “Sorry I died. . . ?” Haroj jumped up to tackle me with a hug. “This is weird. This is really weird. Just like my new hair.”
“If you ever die again, I’m killing you.” Haroj sobbed grossly some more.
“Yeah, yeah, because that’s how things work.” I patted his back.
“So my ‘house’ is just everyone’s ‘house’ now?” I asked as I ripped some of the cloth to make a makeshift dress so the older kids didn’t have to keep shielding me from the younger kids. It was really annoying. Along with all the questions about my hair. I guess if I wanted to steal as per usual, I would have to wear a hood or something to hide all the hair, but that would still draw attention to me. I scowled to myself as I thought of all the extra steps I would have to take just to be back in the swing of things. If only I knew what made it so freakin’ red.
“Well, you weren’t here to kick us out, so yeah,” Haroj shrugged as I tied a shred of cloth around my waist to keep the ‘dress’ up.
“And you guys didn’t take care of any of it?” I said as I dusted off my new ‘dress’.
“Like you do?” Haroj raised his eyebrow.
“Shut up.” I jumped into the hammock, probably the only thing Haroj didn’t allow anyone touch. “So, what did I miss?”
“Well, the Fire Seeker was flipping his shit--” Haroj started.
“Like you weren’t?” the Terratin boy, Tyor apparently, called out.
“Shut up.” Haroj glared at Tyor.
“So, how did you three come to know Haroj again?” I pointed to Yulik, Enucia and Tyor.
“He recruited us from the western slums. He thought we could become a team with you or something,” Tyor explained.
“Yeah. He thought that we could--” Yulik started up again.
“No,” I cut him off.
“He was bringing us to meet you that day, and we followed your chase,” Enucia finally piped up.
“He was a baby when the house lit on fire,” Yulik laughed.
“Most people would be when they would see their friend burning in a building,” Tyor looked at Yulik.
“Yeah, but not that much. I mean, he was crying for hours and hours and hours and when he finally stopped crying, he tried to dig you out before the guards would, but he couldn’t because the ashes would keep lighting itself on fire. Then he just gave up and decided he was the leader now.” Yulik smiled.
“Does he know how to shut up?” I asked.
“Unfortunately, no,” Tyor groaned.
“Unless you do this. . .” Haroj got up and punched Yulik really hard in the head. Yulik then fell to the ground.
“Ah, silence,” I sighed with relief.
“He’s a liar anyway,” Haroj said. “Don’t believe what he was saying.”
I looked to Tyor and Enucia, who both shook their heads. Who were they shaking their heads at? Haroj or Yulik? Tyor pointed to Haroj and shook his head again, then pointed to Yulik and nodded his head. “Oh.”
“What?!” Haroj snapped at us.
”What?” I asked innocently. He glared at me before flopping onto the ground. That was the signal for everyone into the ‘house’ to flop down. It was creepy how in sync everyone was.
“Kaira. . . ?” Haroj said after a little while.
“Hm?” I hummed.
“I’m glad you’re not dead.” That’s all he said before falling silent.
“Thanks buddy,” I chuckled. “I’m glad I’m not dead either.”