“Runi? I think we need to talk about this,” Cetas said as he walked to the bottom of the hill and stood near him.
“I told you how I felt already,” Runi said without looking up at him. “Just give me a moment to gather my thoughts.”
Cetas nodded a little, but he knew he had to bring up what Darya mentioned to him. It was itching in his mind too much for him to just brush it off. He cleared his throat and looked up at the stars. “Do you still have feelings for Elidi?”
Runi looked up at him this time and then he pushed himself up to his feet. Runi was probably just an inch shorter than Cetas, but he was no less intimidating. In fact, he was probably more intimidating because of his personality.
“I’m asking a perfectly valid question,” Cetas said. “Your reaction back there just didn’t seem normal.”
Runi scoffed and then shook his head. “No, Cetas. I do not,” he said sharply. “Elidi and I dated when we were twenty, and I’m twenty-six now. I definitely don’t have romantic feelings for her anymore.”
Cetas hesitated and then tilted his head. “But...Darya said…” he scratched the back of his neck. He couldn't understand. “I mean, your reaction was just really out of the blue. Why are you that worried about her? You know she’s perfectly capable.”
Runi frowned at him. “Elidi is my best friend. Did you not hear me say that before? Because when I lied about the poison and everyone got sick, she was the only one that did not turn her back on me. All of you were ready to throw me to the wolves. Not that I blame you, but she’s the only reason I didn’t throw myself off a bridge after that happened. She’s important to me, and you two are being careless. I know she’ll love being a mother, and I just think it’s stupid that you’re both risking that dream because of this situation,” he said. His tone hadn’t cooled down at all, but at least he was explaining himself better.
Cetas felt sheepish yet again, and then tucked his hands into his pant pockets. “Runi, I’m sorry. Darya just said some stuff about...well, never mind. I’m sorry. I know you just care about her and everything, but I really think she’ll be okay. You’re close to her so you must know that she wouldn’t have stayed back even if we both demanded it,” he said. “She did promise me that she wouldn’t do any fighting, though.”
“But I sense something bad is going to happen,” Runi said indignantly. “And I can’t see what it is. But knowing Elidi is out there and pregnant...I just wonder if it has something to do with that.” he glanced at Cetas with a cold stare. “And don’t ever bring up my past relationship with Elidi again, thank you. We’re friends and that’s it. I never had any delusions about being with her forever. We were never going to work out.” He started walking back up the hillside. “I’m waking up Royse. We’re going after the gunshot sound.”
Cetas hesitated. He felt more confused about Runi now than he had before he came down here to talk to him. It was strange because he had lived with all of them for ten years now but it felt like there were still so many things he didn’t know about Runi. Well, he was a difficult one to read anyway, and he kept his emotions close to him. That’s why it was so confusing and worrisome to see him so angry over this.
He probably was just being protective, though. Cetas didn’t want to put too much thought into what Darya said, especially since Runi didn’t seem to appreciate him bringing up the past.
Cetas hurried back up the hillside and saw that Runi had woken most of the camp and seemed to be getting ready to move out.
“Maybe Runi and I should go on ahead,” Laguna suggested. “Just to scout out the area and see what’s going on.”
“No,” Cetas said firmly. “Separating is a bad idea. We’re not going to do that.”
“We are safer in numbers,” Runi agreed as he glanced at Laguna. “So, let’s all go together. Royse! Come on, hurry up!” He walked over to the tent, clearly ignoring what Cetas was really trying to say.
“Hey! Runi Hara!” Cetas stood up and followed him. “Stop, stop. We shouldn’t travel in the dark and you know that. It’s not safe out there.”
“If we wait until morning, then those shadows might take Jeriah out of our reach. Is that what you want?” Runi asked. “Prudentius isn’t going to wait much longer for the contract to be fulfilled. We have to capture Jeriah, or we’re screwed. Besides, we need to finish this before any danger comes to Elidi and her team. You should at least agree with that, oh great leader.”
Cetas watched him for a moment, then he sighed softly and rubbed the back of his head. “Fine,” he said. “Laguna, put out the fire. Runi, gather our main supplies. We’ll leave the tents here. We can plan to return here once we have captured Jeriah and the others.”
Runi nodded and immediately began gathering their weapons and supplies, and Laguna dumped some water onto the fire, and then started throwing dirt onto the branches they were burning. Darya was making sure all of their flashlights were working, and packing up some food they could eat later.
Cetas walked over and reached into the tent and shook Royse’s shoulder. “Hey, Royse, we’re moving out,” he said.
“What’s going on?” Royse asked in a deep groggy voice.
“We heard a gunshot just up in the hills and Runi said it has something to do with Jeriah, even if he doesn’t really know what it is. He said, um...there were shadows and he’s worried the shadows are gonna take Jeriah away, I guess,” Cetas explained as quickly as he could. He saw Runi and Laguna were already ready to move as he looked over his shoulder. They had their backpacks on, but both had their weapons at the ready. Runi was holding his rifle and Laguna had her scythes at her sides. Darya even had her quiver strapped to her back and her bow slung over her shoulder. She kept glancing at Cetas. She must have been worried about what he had said to Runi.
“We’re going to leave the tents up,” Cetas said to Royse as his friend slowly got up. “We’ll come back this way once we’ve investigated.”
Royse nodded even as he yawned and began following the three oldest into the night. They still couldn’t hear anything, but Runi seemed certain that there was a strong energy to follow, and so he became their official leader for this piece of their adventure. Cetas still wasn’t sure it was a good idea, but he did have to admit that he sensed strange energy as well. It certainly had to be guardian energy.
“Do you see anything?” Laguna asked.
“Not with my eyes, yet,” Runi said. Royse had a flashlight which was lighting the way for them to see, but it was still hard to make out a lot of the environment. “But Jeriah has to be here. There’s an energy that feels very similar to Jakob’s, so it must be him. We’re on the right track. Cetas, you should text the others and tell them they can stop their travels and head back home. There’s no need for them to wander all around when we’ve found him.”
Cetas looked at Darya for a moment, and she just gave a little shrug. Obviously it was up to him to make the decision. He felt like Runi was saying this only because of the fact that he now knew Elidi was pregnant and out there traveling with the other group, but he couldn’t deny that it seemed best to do as he said.
Cetas nodded and removed his phone from his pocket. They had split up because they only had a vague idea of where Jeriah might be and they were running out of time to find him. Prudentius was likely getting impatient and if they didn’t bring Jeriah to her, then one of them were going to have to surrender their soul. They just couldn’t have that.
“We’ve found Jeriah. We’re on his trail right now. You can head home.”
Elidi was the first to respond, “Oh good. Do you need some of us to come and help you out? Are you having any trouble catching him?”
Cetas wasn’t totally sure how to respond, because he wasn’t sure what the gunfire meant and he wasn’t sure what the danger was. “I’ll let you know.”