The Selection

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Chapter 28 - Academy Year 4 - Lost

“Woo!” I interject as I force my eyes open despite the water in my eyes and wind blowing against me.

“Fuck, get that away from me!” Sitos exclaims. My sword is next to Sitos’ face. I rotate the direction of the blade away from him. I grin while staring at his face.

It’s almost four years late but… I squeeze my right hand into a fist. There are only a few seconds left before we will land in the water. I punch him on the left side of his face, hold my breath, and then close my eyes.

“Kai, what the—” A splash resounds as we all dive into the water. The current pushes me downstream. My body inverts upside down and faces the cliff. I open my eyes, finding rocks along the cliff falling to the floor of the river. More fish than I can count swim in random directions, including against the flow of the river. I invert myself again and then swim toward where the others are heading. I dig my sword into the ground next to the stream and then pull myself up. I lie down on the grassy surface and sigh.

“Kai, ya bastard!” Hiro shouts with narrowed eyebrows and a frown. I grin and laugh.

“You alright, Sitoster?” Drugo asks as Sitos coughs out traces of water.

“You don’t have to be so mad… We had to make it down one way or another,” I say.

“Yeah, but… I wasn’t prepared!”

“Don’t worry. That feeling’s nothing compared to how I felt when I thought I was gonna die because of something completely outta my control…”

I say with a smile while releasing murderous intent. Hiro doesn’t talk back and only makes a small sound as he looks down. Sitos finally stops coughing. “Kai, why the hell did you punch me…?”

“Oh… I thought I might’ve hit you… My hand slipped. Sorry,” I say with no remorse.

“I do not think your hand—”

“So, we never got around taking a second look at that statue,” I mention as I stand up and then pull my sword out of the ground. I jump up and then cut off a small branch off a nearby tree. I pick it up and then bring it back to the others. “But we probably don’t need to. I bet that was the ‘Harbinger of Death.’”

“Sounds reasonable. Could it be that those blue slimes wiped the remaining Leps out?” Drugo asks as he cuts the branch into smaller pieces.

“I think not. We were able to outrun those things on multiple occasions,” Sitos says as he gathers the small pieces of wood in a pile.

“Yeah, the Leps would’ve had plenty of time to write something down in the library if those things appeared,” Luna says as she herself in a circle around the wood. Sitos sighs as the rest of us do the same.

“It does not matter how they fucked up and died. What is important is why those glowing blue books were the same color as the slime.”

My limbs go stiff. Luna ignites the wood with her magic. I gulp as I stare down into the emerging fire.

“Yeh! It was like those things used magic or somethin’.”

“Marin, did you figure something out?” Luna asks.

“Yeah…no I was just thinking about something… So I thought…those things that caused the glowing blue… Like…they understand both the Lep and Human language…but they don’t talk. So I was thinking they used Runic magic on the books…or something...while we weren’t looking… I don’t know.”

“That sounds like a stretch. How is it possible to translate a language without any knowledge of it? Kai, you have been quiet… What do you think?” Sitos asks. I look up, finding everyone’s eyes on me.

“Uh…maybe there exists magic that we don’t know about that can transmit knowledge to anyone? Maybe the glowing blue would appear differently depending on who was looking at it,” I respond.

“Ugh!” Hiro interjects. “I don’t wanna talk ‘bout this anymore. We’re just 4th year Academy students… Let’s tell a teacher about everythin’ and be done with it. I just wanna go home.”

“Yes, enough of this nonsense. We need to figure out how to get home. Kai, I assume you got a good view of everything when you pushed everyone over?” Sitos asks with piercing eyes. I smile.

I’m not that absentminded like someone I know…

“Well, I tried looking, but the trees were really tall. Thickets surround this entire place. I didn’t see an end to them…but how hard can it be? We simply have to follow along this cliff until we get back,” I say while pointing to the direction of the cliff. “We know we fell several times from somewhere up there.

“Kaister’s right. Following that general direction while going higher in elevation will get us home,” Drugo adds. My stomach growls loudly. Everyone stares at me.

“I guess we should eat first!” Luna exclaims.

Marin giggles. With a smile, she says, “I’ll start preparing while everyone collects ingredients.”

My eyes linger on Marin. Luna asks, “Some fish from the river would be great!”

“Leave that to us,” Sitos says.

“Ehh…but why do all of us have to do that?” Hiro asks.

“If you prefer to have your guts mauled out by some passing monster in the forest, feel free to explore.”

“We have Kai! He can take out anythin’ with his magic! I’m not scared of anythin’ with him around! We can eat somethin’ new for a change. Right, Kai…? Kai?

I turn my head toward Hiro.

“Huh? Yeah, I’m gonna look for something over there,” I say as I point and walk toward the cliff. I shake my head and then gulp. My heart is racing. Shit, why’s this happening to me now?

“I’m goin’ too!”

“Stay here, Hiroster,” Drugo says. “You can help us catch different fish and other creatures from this river.”

“But I wanna go monster huntin’…”

“Basically, you are scared that I will catch more fish than you.” Sitos says and then chuckles. “I understand.”

Two splashes resound behind me. “What?! I can catch way more than you! Just watch!”

Another splash resounds.

“Kai! I’m coming with you!” Luna exclaims, running by my side with a smile. I smile back, feeling like I shouldn’t evade her for now.

“Sure.”

“Where’re we going?”

“I don’t know, somewhere over there I guess,” I say while pointing to a direction and then turn toward her. My eyes linger around her chest. Specifically her bra that’s visible. I face forward as she turns her head toward me. She makes a small noise and says nothing else. Several seconds pass.

“I don’t mind if you see, Kai…” she says quietly with a sweet smile that makes my heart skip a beat. It takes me several seconds to process what she said. I blush and look away.

“I-I see…but I’m not gonna look…”

I cock an eyebrow. There’s something at the bottom of the cliff next to the stream. I walk toward it, quickening my pace as it becomes visible. A turtle is struggling to break free from rocks atop it. I drop my sword, kneel down, lift up the rocks, and then move them aside, eventually freeing the creature.

Its shell measures about a foot from its tail to the head and has a complex pattern consisting of various shades of blue. The skin has tints consisting of two shades of dark green. There are multi-colored stripes consisting of red, orange, and yellow along each side of his head. It keeps its left eye closed as blood leaks out of it while its right eye stares at me with a green glimmer. “Wow, you found something amazing! I heard turtles are great in soup!”

My mouth waters as I imagine the dish in my mind. The turtle retracts its head and limbs into his shell as Luna approaches it. It hisses. “Luna, wait.”

“Hmm?”

“Maybe we shouldn’t eat it… I mean…it probably thought he was gonna die slowly under those rocks, and then I saved him. It would be cruel if we took him back and ate him…” The turtle comes out of its shell and then crawls closer to me. It extends its head to my hand and then blows air on it.

“That tickles!” I exclaim and then pat it lightly on the head.

“Hmm…maybe it is kinda cute…” she says as she reaches out her hand. The turtle retracts its body parts again and hisses.

“Don’t worry; she won’t hurt you now!” The turtle comes out of its shell. Luna pets him on the head.

“That’s amazing, Kai! It understands what you’re saying. You should name it. Is it a boy or a girl?”

“Hmm… If I were to guess… I would say it’s a boy. Guys don’t forget their debts to people.”

She narrows her eyebrows and asks, “What’s that supposed to mean? Are you saying girls can’t be grateful too?”

“No, I didn’t say that…”

“Well, okay… What’re you gonna name him?”

I sigh and then say, “Hmm… How about Rocky? I found him under some rocks, after all…”

I laugh. “You should put more thought into it!”

Rocky rubs his head against my leg. “Well… I guess he likes it. What’re you gonna do with him? Take him back with us?”

“I’m not sure… I suppose we’ll keep him company for now,” I say as I get up. I pick up my sword. “Follow us, Rocky.”

We lead him to the campfire, where Marin has completed her preparations. There are several fish in a pool of blood in a large pot next to the fire. I presume it goes on top of the stone pillars surrounding the fire. Marin cocks an eyebrow and asks, “You two are back already? What’s that behind you?”

“Marin, let me introduce you! This is Rocky, a turtle Kai rescued,” Luna says as she strokes the top of his shell.

“Oh, it’s so cute! But his eye’s injured…” Marin pets him on the head, avoiding the injury. Something splashes in the stream next to us. Hiro’s holding onto something that’s not a fish.

Is that an otter…?

Drugo and Sitos resurface soon afterward. They’re holding onto bloody swords with several fish pierced through it. They swim onto land and then deposit into the large pot. Hiro exclaims, “This doesn’t mean that I couldn’t catch more fish than ya, just so ya know! Catchin’ fish was too easy.”

“Is that a fucking turtle?” Sitos asks.

“His name’s Rocky. I decided not to eat him and be his friend instead,” I say with a hand on top of his shell. He lounges on the grass with his limbs fully extended.

“What’re ya guys makin’ a fuss about over there?”

“Kai’s new friend. His name’s Rocky!” Luna exclaims.

“So I bring back this amazin’ creature we’ve never eaten before, and Kai brings back this turtle we can’t eat…” Hiro says as he prods Rocky in the head several times with his foot.

“What the hell is your point? It is impressive Kai has managed to tame a wild creature so quickly,” Sitos says.

“Well, this otter that I just caught can be tame too!” Hiro exclaims as the otter continues to struggle in his grasp.

“Make him lie still on the ground like Rocky, and then I will believe it.”

“Done!” Hiro exclaims. He bends slightly over and then slowly drops the otter to the ground. It continues to struggle. “Otter, stop moving for a second!”

It breaks free for a moment and runs away. Hiro catches it again with his back facing us. A crackle resounds. “Okay, otter, sit!”

Hiro turns around and drops the otter to the ground. It doesn’t move. “See? He’s tame.”

“Great, now tell him to run to me.”

“Otter, run to Sitos!” The otter doesn’t move as expected. “I give up. So what! I bet Kai couldn’t make that turtle run to me either!”

“Well, Kai?”

“Let me try. Rocky, run over to Hiro over there,” I say and point to Hiro. Rocky stands up and then slowly makes his way to Hiro. “Good job!”

Hiro frowns, bends down, and then repeatedly pokes Rocky in the head. “Hey, Rocky… Run over to Sitos and bite him in the leg,”

Rocky hisses but Hiro keeps poking him. He opens his mouth and then bites his finger.

“Ow!” Hiro interjects and then tries to pull his arm back. Rocky opens his mouth. “Damn turtle!”

I laugh and then exclaim, “Good job, Rocky!”

Rocky makes his way back to me. I lie down, spreading my limbs across like Rocky while waiting for our meal. Murderous intent seeps out of Hiro. I warn, “Hiro, just leave him alone. Don’t you dare do anything to him.”

“Don’t worry I won’t hurt ’im…” Hiro says as he suddenly picks up Rocky. “But I’m gonna get ‘im back for bitin’ my finger.”

“It barely left a mark anyway. If he really wanted to bite you, he probably could’ve tasted your blood.”

“Come on, Rocky! What’re ya gonna do ’bout this?” Hiro asks as he violently shakes him back and forth in the air with a dumb grin on his face. Rocky spits a ball of water at Hiro. I widen my eyes as it splashes on his face. He drops Rocky.

“Drugo, did you see that?” Sitos asks as Hiro coughs.

“Yup, that was quite something.”

“My eyes! They’re burning!” Hiro yells as he covers his eyes with his hands.

“Get a grip, Hiro. It’s just water,” I say.

“This ain’t just water! Shit!” Hiro shouts and then dives into the river. Rocky makes himself comfortable next to me again.

“What happened to Hiro?” Luna asks.

“He was bullying Rocky when suddenly Rocky spewed Water magic in his face,” I explain.

“Rocky did that?”

“Yeah, isn’t he amazing?”

Hiro resurfaces and climbs back onto land. He exclaims, “Did ya see what that turtle did to me?! He’s a monster! Kill ’im!”

“Calm down, Hiro. He’s not a monster. I mean, look how harmless he is,” I say as I turn to him, who is simply lounging on the grass.

“Even I remember a simple fact like this. Only monsters and people can use magic! He’s not a person, so he’s a monster!”

“It’s true that we learned that, but we also learned that all living things have Mana. He could be one of the few creatures who don’t follow that rule,” Luna deduces. “Rocky’s pretty amazing! By the way, someone needs to help us cut some of this since we don’t have our usual supplies.”

“I will do it,” Sitos says immediately.

“I’ll help too,” I say, stand up, and then grab my sword. Hmm… This guy might be hungry too…

“Hey guys, you mind if Rocky takes one of those fish?”

“What?! You’re gonna let that thing eat our food too? My hard work…”

“Shut up Hiro. You did not catch any fish. Go ahead and take one, Kai.”

“Thanks,” I say and then skewer one of the fishes.

“Kai, take this too!” Marin exclaims as she hands me an extra large bowl. “It’s just temporary, though.”

I take it and then put the fish inside. I run my sword through the fish on each side, filleting it. I toss out the leftover skeleton and leave the flesh inside the bowl. I cut the two fillets into smaller bite-size pieces and then set the bowl in front of Rocky. “Here you go.”

He stares at the bowl for several seconds while staying completely still. He opens his mouth and then water spills into the bowl. He chows down the pieces of fish in a matter of seconds. I wonder if that’s enough to fill him up.

The others finish preparing the remaining fish and the otter Hiro caught. The girls decide to throw all the fish into the giant pot and then move it over the fire. When it’s ready, each of us gets a bowl of soup along with a whole fish. As we enjoy it, pieces of the otter are cooked dry over the campfire. We spend nearly an hour eating and regaining our energy.

“It is starting to get dark. We need to get moving,” Sitos says as he gets up.

“Kai, what’re you gonna do about Rocky?” Luna asks.

“I’ve been thinking about it, and I think it’s better if we leave him here. He should probably stay in his habitat,” I say as I stand up and pick up my sword.

“Ya hear that Rocky? Kai’s abandonin’ you! I’m glad we can finally be rid of this thing,” Hiro says with a smile. Rocky charges toward Hiro’s legs and then knocks him over. “Ah!”

We laugh. He stands back up and says, “Damn, this turtle bullyin’ me until the very end…”

“I think that’s his way of saying goodbye,” Marin says.

“I should show him my way of expressin’ goodbye…” Hiro says with murderous intent creeping out of his glare.

“Forget him and let us go,” Sitos says as he walks toward the side of the cliff. The others follow.

“Well, this is it, Rocky. Go back to where you came from and enjoy the rest of your life,” I say and then follow behind everyone else. I stop and turn around as his footsteps follow me. I plunge my blade into the dirt between us. “You can’t follow me, Rocky. Seriously, go back to where you came from.”

He doesn’t move for several seconds. I sigh. He stares at me motionless with his green eye. I pick him up and then walk toward the river. He exhales small bursts of air on my face. I drop him into the river. He resurfaces, swimming in place with his head fully extended toward me. Hiro exclaims, “Hurry up, Kai!”

“Yeah, coming! Well. This is goodbye, Rocky. I hope you find some friends, so you don’t have to be lonely,” I say, turn back, grab my sword, and then run to where the others are waiting. I glance back briefly, finding that he’s still in the same position. I catch up with the others and then look back. He’s gone. I smile.

“You liked him, huh?” Luna asks as she walks by my side.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“You should be more enthusiastic! I know you liked him a lot.”

“Wha-why do you say that?”

“Why? Well, that’s obvious.”

“It is the first time you have been passionate about something since our second year,” Sitos answers. I knit my eyebrows.

Hmm… Now that I think about it, they’re right. We travel along the cliff for nearly two hours with no end in sight to the thicket. Luckily, we don’t encounter any monsters along the way. It gets completely dark, though, so we stop. While the others are gathering some wood, I rest on the ground.

Suddenly, it feels like I forgot something. I raise my eyebrows as I remember I’m still wearing the backpack, but it’s light. A very cold shiver goes down my spine. No… Please, no…

I take off my backpack while no one is looking. I keep my eyes widened as I gulp and then look inside. My mind becomes blank as I find a large hole on the bottom. Traces of the thread holding the backpack together is broken. Did it fall out when we fell the first time…? No, I definitely still had the book when we were reading those books…

I gape as I think where the book might be. Luna asks, “Kai, what’s wrong?”

I turn around, finding Luna looking over my shoulder. I twitch my body once and then reply, “No-nothing…”

“That doesn’t look like nothing! That’s a big hole… Did you lose something?” I look down and grit my teeth.

“Yeah, something like that…but don’t worry it wasn’t anything important!” Her facial expressions tell me that she has more to say, but she doesn’t say anything. Eventually, everyone retires for the night and falls asleep. I stay wide awake, still thinking about the book. Something rustles near me. Luna’s walking away from the campfire. I stand up and then follow her. Where’s she going…?

She stops behind a tree. I quietly say, “Hey Luna…”

She’s crouching with her shorts down by her feet. I stiffly still and blush. I turn back around and say, “Sorry.”

“Wait, you don’t have to leave. You can’t sleep, right?”

“Yeah…” I respond as I walk backward carefully, resting my back against the other side of the tree Luna’s against.

“Were you thinking about the thing you lost?” I don’t say anything. My heart beats faster. “Are you trying to keep a secret? I won’t tell anyone.”

I gulp and then answer, “Yeah… Emdos entrusted me with something important, and I lost it.”

“We all can look for it together… If you tell us what it is.”

“Even if you knew… I don’t think we can find it. I’m sure I lost it back at that Lep village.”

“I see…but when we tell the teachers about this, they’ll send people down there. Then, they can look for whatever you lost.”

“Maybe…” I say with doubt, knowing that I shouldn’t take that risk. My heart skips a beat when Luna jumps out in front of me.

“All done.”

“I-I see… So are you going back to sleep now?”

“Nope. I couldn’t sleep either. I have nights like this a lot… I stay awake while thinking about stuff.”

“Stuff?” I ask and cock an eyebrow. She has a strange smile. It’s a smile I saw once before two years ago as she made the punishment soup for Sitos.

“All kinds of stuff, like…why do bad people exist? Why do people do bad things? Maybe monsters are the same as us… Some are bad, and some are good, like Rocky,” she explains as she rests her back against another tree trunk in front of me.

“Maybe some of those bad people aren’t really bad… They might have a reason where they have no other option except do bad things.”

“What about the people that are actually bad? Should you feel sad if they die? I know bad people kill good people and don’t feel guilty…but what if a good person kills a bad person? Does the good person become a bad person? Should that person feel sad or guilty after killing a bad person?” I think about her questions in silence. I can’t come up with an answer. Nearly half a minute passes.

“I don’t know… Bad people wouldn’t hesitate to kill a person or do bad things to people. I think good people shouldn’t have to stoop down to their level. They don’t have to kill the bad person… They could throw them behind bars instead. I’m sure there are other ways to solve a problem other than killing a person. But if they don’t have any other choice other than to kill the bad person, I don’t think they should feel guilty or sad. To begin with, they had to kill them because they were bad…”

The strange smile on her face melts into a grin. “I understand now! Thanks, Kai!”

“Sure,” I say with a smile. I’m not sure how I helped her, but I’m happy to see her smile. “By the way, what—”

Something rustles nearby in more than one direction. It closes in on us. Two boars appear from afar, charging toward us. I yell, “Run!”

I run back to the camp. “Everyone, get up! Monsters!”

I pick up my sword from the ground. As everyone else gets up, I point my right palm forward toward the boars charging at us. Their skin is red, and their husks are shaped differently than the boars we fought at the Academy. ”Fireball! Fireball!"

I shoot a ball of fire at each of them. They explode into flames directly on its face, but they don’t stop charging. It only leaves behind a minor burn mark. What?!

“Kai, dodge!” Sitos warns. I snap back to reality and jump off to the side to dodge the boar’s charge.

They’re faster too! They turn around and then charge back toward us. Hiro stands in front of them.

“All right, my turn! Water ball!" A globe of water appears from his palm and heads toward them. The boars dodge it. ”Water ball! Water ball! Water ball!"

Hiro shoots more balls of water at them, but none of them land. The second boar turns to another direction as the first one continues forward. “Damn it! Ya can’t dodge it at this range! Water ball!"

Hiro shoots another ball of water from his palm ten feet away from the first charging boar. Something red sparkles from its mouth. I raise my eyebrows. A breath of fire comes out of the boar’s mouth. The ball of water goes through, extinguishing some of the flames and drenches the front of the boar. More flames come out of the boar’s mouth forward by five feet and increasing. Hiro jumps to the side at the last second. “Argh!”

A small part of the center of Hiro’s shirt is burnt away. Sitos moves in on this boar with his left palm out and shouts, ”Lightning!"

A yellow bolt of lightning comes out of Sitos’ left palm toward the first boar. Electricity sparks on the surface of the boar’s skin as it stops its charge. I knit my eyebrows as I look closer on the drops of water falling from the boar. They fall perpendicular to the sides of the boar instead of dripping down to its legs. I raise my eyebrows. Wait a minute… That’s not skin…that’s fur!

“Sitos, run!” I warn, but Sitos is already charging in. The second boar appears out from wherever it went and then flanks Sitos on the side. Luna blows it off course with a burst of Wind magic. Drugo runs alongside Sitos, blocking one of its tusks while Sitos blocks the other. I charge toward the side of the boar they’re fighting now that it’s still. I prepare to attack, but before I land the blow, the boar suddenly tilts his head up with a jump. It pushes Sitos and Drugo away. I stop my charge and then jump back.

“Everyone! Come up here! I don’t think they can get to us that way!” Marin exclaims from above me. I raise my eyebrows.

There was that option too! Okay… I run to the tree Luna’s climbing and drop my weapon on the ground. I climb at least 15 feet where the two girls are, and the others follow right behind me. Tremors vibrate the entire tree as the boars repeatedly bump into the tree.

“Hey, ain’t stayin’ up here actually bad? They’re gonna use that breath of fire again. Here it comes!” Hiro exclaims as both boars use their breaths of fire aimed up the tree. It only reaches about half the distance up. The tree doesn’t burn.

“We’re fine. The tree has some Mana to protect itself from the effects of the fire,” Drugo says.

“So, we’re just gonna wait up here until those things go away…?” Hiro asks.

“Probably until the sun comes up again…” I say while yawning. “It’s not so bad up here. We can lean against the trunk of the tree to get a resting position for sleep. We just need to climb onto different branches for it to work.”

“What happens if I lose my balance and fall?” Hiro asks.

“Is it not obvious? You are fucked,” Sitos says.

“Someone needs to keep watch for any new complications to our situation too. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m gonna stay up and keep watch,” I say.

“We’re both gonna stay up too, right Marin?”

“Sure.”

“It cannot be helped… I will stay up too.”

“Friends, we’ll endure it together.”

“Count me out! I’m gonna sleep here, good night!” Hiro exclaims as he puts his back against the trunk of the tree and then closes his eyes. Everyone silently watches the boars continuing to bang their heads against the base of the tree.

“How about we play a game to pass the time?” Marin asks. “Sheila taught me this word game a long time ago, and we played it all the time!”

“Who’s Sheila? The maid who’s like your second mom?” Luna asks.

“Yep, that’s her. Basically, we take turns in order saying words. The next person has to say a word or name that starts with the letter of the last word without ever repeating the same word. You only have five seconds to answer or you lose.”

“Sounds interesting!” Luna exclaims. “I guess you start, Marin.”

“Okay… Hmm…Tree.”

“Eleven,” Luna says.

“Night,” I say.

“Trunk,” Sitos says.

“Kitchen,” Drugo says. We continue playing our game for about five minutes, and Hiro makes a fuss about leaving him out. In the end, he doesn’t sleep and joins us. Eventually, the two boars leave, but we keep still, only playing our game to pass the time. Around 10 hours pass.

“Fireball…” I say weakly. Luna doesn’t say anything as her head bobs forward. My eyes widen as she tilts further forward. “Hey, Luna!”

I move my arm in front of her, stopping her from falling. “Oh, sorry…umm… I guess you win that one. Marin, start us with a new word… Marin?”

“Huh?” Marin interjects.

“House!”

“Luna, I don’t think that was her word…” I say and then yawn. I rub my eyes and suggest, “I think we can get off this tree and continue our way back to the Academy. It’s bright enough now.”

My eyes feel sore, and they’re hard to keep open. My entire body aches and my joints are stiff. It takes a while for us to climb down the tree with our joints stiffened up. It takes ten minutes for everyone to get down.

I pick up my weapons before we continue our travels. We wander aimlessly along the cliffs for what feels like hours, but we find our way out of the thicket. If by some miracle, we don’t encounter any monsters along the way.

We go in the direction that leads farther along the edge of the cliff we followed the entire time. We find ourselves in a big open area with few trees in sight. There are numerous amounts of hills and lush florae atop the grassland. Several different types of creatures are in sight, but they don’t appear to be hostile. We ignore them and continue along the trail.

“Hey! There’re some people up ahead!” Hiro shouts and quickens his pace ahead of the group.

“Hiro, slow down!” I shout as I try to catch up with him. Hiro stops running and stands still. As I get close enough to the people, I stop too and gape. Two people in armor lie on the ground in a pool of blood. There’s an unarmed middle-aged couple surrounded by three shady-looking men who have both armor and weapons equipped. One of the three men turns toward us. I gulp.

“Hey! It looks like we’ve got company! It’s a group of kids. One of you, come with me to take care of ’em!” Two of them charge toward us wielding only a sword.

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