The night dragged on longer to the waking mind than the sleeping form, but Mako couldn’t leave post until Saphira was awake. He rested with his arms folded and hood pulled over his head. Simulated sleeping, shutting himself off to pass time. A crisp orange hue burned Saphira’s eyelids, causing her to stir. Saphira sat up. Leaves and twigs stuck in her hair as she gave a large yawn. Mako peeked from the safety of his hood and rolled his eyes at the sight of the debris in her hair.
“You’re a messy sleeper.” He huffed.
“Says you.” She muttered with a groggy and weak slap to his arm. Mako stood and folded his arms with a small stretch. His wings extending and back slightly arched.
“How does your… body feel?” He asked. Saphira took his hand and got to her feet. She rolled and stretched every muscle, testing for pain. Her eyes widened when she stretched her arm. It didn’t seem true, but when she pulled back her sleeve nothing hurt. Her arm looked nearly pristine.
“Wow, what?” She laughed.
“Ah, good. The spell took longer than I hoped it would, but it seems you’re good to go.” Mako explained.
“Now I can pull my weight,” Saphira smirked, clenching a tight fist and planting her hands on her hips, “where are we headed?” she tilted her head and shifted her weight from leg to leg, rocking with impatience.
“I looked over the poster we got. Looks like some queen put it up. She wants your stuff for some reason.” Mako explained, stepping past her and gesturing for her to follow him. She trotted behind him, simply nodding without a word. The forest was much easier to navigate during the day. Especially without hunters pouncing out. The two traveled to the treeline with little conversation. It was a comfortable kind of silence, though Saphira was newer to this kind of companionship. Near strangers just walking and working together. She couldn’t say she disliked it, but something about Mako put her off. It could easily have been his 7ft full height with burning fires in his eye sockets that pierced her soul, but it couldn’t be pinpointed.
“So what’s the name of the kingdom?” Saphira asked.
“ I didn’t find a name on the poster. It’s just a hunch I have that the queen and hunters come from this place. Miano.” Mako answered. Saphira nodded and watched her feet. Mako shoved bushes and branches aside, holding them away for her until she was passed.
The cool spring breeze carried through the trees, lifting stray petals through the air and dropping them on Saphira’s shoulder. She brushed them off with an amused breath that caused Mako to look over at her. Her head poked out of the thick hood bunched around her neck, almost like someone placed it there without the rest of her body. She was downcast and fiddling with her hands in the kangaroo pocket.
“I guess whatever it was must’ve been important?” He started, watching the trees ahead carefully. Saphira shrunk further into the large hoodie, the folds covering her mouth.
“Very. I need it back as soon as possible…” She admitted, voice somewhat muffled.
“Do you know what it is?” Mako hummed.
“Kind of. It’s an important heirloom and I need to get it back. I hope all I have to do is find it.” Saphira shook her head and breathed an exasperated sigh. Mako nodded and bent a branch out of the way, allowing her to duck under his arm before letting it whip back into place.
“Huh, do you live around Miano?” Mako raised a brow and paused for her to catch up. She hopped over a gnarled root and stumbled a bit, stopping when she reached his side. She never lifted her gaze. He awaited a reply that never came. Mako waved the question away and shook his head, “never mind.” he muttered. He stepped out of the thicket onto a designated path paved with cobblestone and lined with unlit lanterns. Saphira hesitated before exiting the brush. She gripped her opposite sleeve tighter, cautious. Staying close and jumping at every slight movement in the forest. It wasn’t safe for a wanted individual to be out in the open.
“If you’re scared we can take the long way around,” Mako suggested. Saphira shot him an annoyed squint, pressing into his back with an anxious glance to the streets behind her. The sudden warm touch on his spine startled him. His wings clattered as he flinched, a low noise leaving his dagger-like teeth. He cleared his nonexistent throat and ushered her out from behind him.
“It’s going to be hard to keep an eye on you back there.” He offered a small laugh, the gesture odd to his own body. She refused to walk in front of him, gravitating back to his side and folding her arms. She pursed her lips in a childish pout. Mako clicked his teeth. He refused to acknowledge how cute it looked.
“Fine, I’ll walk here then,” she muttered, “I just don’t think it’s a good idea to be taking the street. I’m not exactly safe here.”
Mako frowned, pulling his arm away from her and walking faster. Saphira’s short legs couldn’t keep up enough to hang onto him, allowing Mako to return his attention to the task at hand. The words stung a little. He wasn’t expecting that. The duo left the crowded forest behind. Saphira could still hear the dangerous creatures breathing in the distance, her shoulders tight.
“Isn’t it weird that no one is using the street? Like, not even a single cow.” Saphira huffed, pulling the hood over her head, her blonde locks sliding down all over her face.
“That’s why I like these woods. No one comes through. Too many whispers of curses and hauntings.” Mako chuckled. Saphira side glanced at him with a curious hum. He paused, wondering if it was worth explaining. Shrugging, he decided otherwise and left it at that. Saphira thought about the ghosts and monsters residing in the woods. She tingled at the idea, but she couldn’t place if it was out of fear or otherwise. Mako raised his head and stopped, watching the horizon. Saphira flinched, gripping his sleeve.
“What is it? Did you see something?”
“Shh…,” He waved a hand to the bushes on the side of the street, “get down.” She hurried to the directed spot and ducked, pulling on her drawstrings and watching him stand tall, waiting. He turned in a slow circle, opening his Reach and finding no undead spirits nearby. This noise came for her. The weight started to form on his shoulders, his scythe appearing in hand. Every sound in the thicket made him tense and grow angrier.
It was already an issue he revived her, he wasn’t going to let the hunters kill her again.
“About time.” An unknown voice growled. Saphira froze in her spot, eyes darting for the source of the voice. Mako pulled her out of the line of fire, the trunk behind her took the bullet and splintered. Sharp shrieks split the still air as she staggered away from the bush, Mako putting himself between her and the hunter.
The man’s gaze focused not on her but the reaper between. She winced and gripped her arm, finding a cut in her hoodie sleeve and a shallow gash. Neither had realized he grazed her successfully. Mako growled, drawing his weapon and lunging at the man, swinging the scythe in a full arch. The hunter rolled out of the way and aimed for her.
“It took me all day to find you. I’m not going to let some sack of bones keep me from my pay.” He growled. Saphira balled her fists and glared at him, trembling in the line of fire. Once the man fired, she ducked and slammed into his torso in an attempt to knock him down. She wasn’t as strong as she had hoped, but it was enough to distract him as he attempted to grab a knife and finish her off.
Mako took the chance to slice through the rifle and kick the man square in the back. Saphira released him and rolled on her side. The hunter hit the dirt face first, picking himself up and spitting.
“Who’s paying you, huh?” Mako demanded.
“Why don’t you ask her?” He growled, getting to his feet.
“Who wants me dead?!” Saphira barked.
“How could you not know? Hand over that damn box.” He shot back. Mako made another swing, the man side-stepping it and grabbing the scythe, wrestling against the reaper for control over it. Saphira stamped her foot, getting frustrated over her lack of any real ability to contribute. She looked for a replacement. Snatching a branch hanging off a nearby tree and yanking at it with all her might.
Mako dug his wing claws into the man’s shoulders and ripped the scythe away from him. Hunter groaned and staggered away, whipping a pistol from his jacket and firing a blind shot at Saphira. It didn’t catch her, but the sound gave her the extra frantic strength to rip the branch off the tree. Mako stretched his wings out, scythe glinting in the sunlight as he twirled it in hand. Saphira was grazed again, a cut leaking a small streak of blood on her cheek. She raised the branch overhead.
“You won’t get your filthy hands on it!” She cried, cracking the wood over the hunter’s head. He grabbed his bleeding skull and groaned, swiping at her and growling, teeth grit in pain. Saphira swung the branch again, but the hunter caught it and pulled her towards him. She yelped as she was yanked.
Mako pushed Saphira away from the hunter and sliced through his torso, making a terribly deep gash in his stomach. The hunter staggered back, holding his spilling gut, staring in shock at the cleaved tubes wriggling from their place. He gave a sharp, unfocused, furious look at Saphira before falling to the stone path, limp.
“Mako!” She squeaked. Saphira covered her mouth, staring at the pile of meat laying at Mako’s feet in shock before finally pulling away, her stomach flipping immediately.
“He was going to kill you,” Mako stated simply, attempting to defend his action. Saphira held her head and kept her eyes to the ground unblinking. He frowned, putting an arm around her shoulders and leading her away, finding a place for her to sit just off the path but well within sight. It wasn’t safe enough to be too far apart. Mako hooked his scythe around the hunter’s spirit, dragging it towards him. The spirit struggled against the cursed blade spitting curses that were silent to mortal ears, but Mako caught every foul word it hurled at him. A silent cut cleaved through the spirit’s throat. It fell away into a mist and clung to Mako’s bones, merging with the flowing green soul that coursed through him.
“What are you doing?” Saphira asked in a hush. Mako waited for the salmon pink of the foreign soul to dissipate, rolling his neck and sighing. He spotted her in the corner of his eye and stepped away from the body.
“Don’t worry about it. We should look for your package before we hit the town.” He waved a dismissive hand and glanced at the amount of daylight left, “we have some time. You fell around this area, more in the thicket, but nearby.” Saphira dragged her hand down her face and closed her eyes, taking some heavy breaths to relax her stomach, it wasn’t so quick to ease. He tapped his foot and awaited a decision.
No response. Sitting next to her, Mako let the sun crawl ahead without them for some well needed time to get over the ordeal. He forgot that such images weren’t very commonplace outside his line of work. It took decades for him to get so desensitized to it all. Saphira sharply inhaled and pressed her palm to the graze on her arm. Mako brushed a finger over the graze on her cheek, gentle and careful.
“They’re just going to keep coming.” He hummed, the small drop smudged onto his thumb and lingered on her skin.
“I know,” Saphira nodded, “I need some protection.”