|The Last Trilogy: Hate
Author: Jumbus PM
My name is Lyren, I'm thoroughly shunned and oppressed by the people around me. But they don't know who I really am. They don't know the dark secrets that I keep and protect with everything I've got. They don't understand my actions, so they think that I'm evil. Maybe I am. But I have job to do, and if I fail, everyone here will suffer a horrible fate that's waiting for them.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Chapters: 8 - Words: 38,833 - Reviews: 11 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 05-26-13 - Published: 12-18-12 - id: 3083965
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
CHAPTER 2 – RUNNING AWAY FROM "HOME"
The counter on the west of the pick-up zone was where I should go. A short, plump woman standing behind it was impatiently tapping its surface with her fingers. Seeing me, she quickly went to the shelves containing the different items that have to be delivered. She pulled out all those things while muttering insulting things about me the whole while. Then she went back to the counter and put all them inside a sack which was from one of the drawers underneath—then tied it with a rope so I can sling it over my shoulder and carry the sack more easily.
She shoved the sack into my hands and said in an irritated tone, "Make sure you make the deliveries on time or else the boss will gladly fire you." She then gave me a list of people whom I should deliver each of the specific things inside the sack, huffed, and turned her back towards me, her arms crossed.
"I'll be going now, then," I replied then went out of the building, glad to be finally away from the people in it.
The day went by pretty fast—me sending the deliveries in a timely and orderly fashion. Once I emptied the sack, I'd then go back to office to repeat the process of, well, what I have to do. All of the people who received their deliveries clearly didn't like me carrying their would-be stuff. But I didn't care—all I wanted was to finish the job and get the day over with.
Finally finishing my last delivery, I went back to the service building so I could finally end my shift and collect my pay from the boss. The employees were already either leaving or preparing to leave. Not wanting to go home during the night, since it was already dusk.
I found the boss where I usually find him—in his study on the second floor of the building. Even though he was a major bastard like everyone else, I'll have to admit that his busy room was pretty impressive. It was a large, rectangular room. Various tapestries hung on the gold-painted walls. A massive bookshelf was positioned on the left side of the room. It was filled with so many books that I wondered if the boss even managed to read all of them. A big, rectangular window with a dark-brown curtain draped over it covered most of the wall beside the bookshelf. A lush, red carpet covered the middle section of the floor.
The boss sat on a high back chair behind a long oak desk that was beside the large window. He was a fat, greedy-looking man named Brunt (behind his back, I call him Runt). He was signing some paperwork with a lighted candle beside it when I moved towards him. He looked up from the papers and was about to smile in greeting when he suddenly realized who I was.
He glared at me and spat, "What do you want?"
"It's my payday today…" I replied with a hint of venom in my voice.
He sneered. "Well, it is? I didn't know wild beasts get paid," he scoffed. He was always saying this every time he gave me my pay. If he wasn't my boss, I would've already tore him apart and put his head on a spit.
The boss then pulled open one of the drawers underneath the desk and took ten bronze coins from beneath it. The Frontier symbol was stamped on the middle sections of the coins. It was a knight's sword turned upside down behind a round, silver shield, though the shield images on the coins were the same color as the bronze pieces.
He shoved coins into my hands and said, "Now go away. I can't really work well with freaks of nature like you standing in front of me." He then continued signing the papers, grumbling to himself the whole while.
I pulled out my pouch and stuffed my salary in it. I then quickly walked out of the study, eager to get outside and spend the rest of the day how I wanted to spend it even though it was already near evening—a perfect time for a walk in the city.
Finally getting out of the building as I always do, I decided to go to the inner parts of the city and buy that book that I've wanted to buy. By this time of the day, the people on our part of the city would've already been inside their homes—preparing themselves for dinner and, eventually, for sleep. The people on the inner parts though, saw the night as a time for having fun and, especially during festive nights, going into the bazaar.
The bazaar was the actual place I was going to. I used to always go there whenever it was my payday. It was only half a mile west from the orphanage, so it was pretty easy to walk there.
After passing by some people who veered away as they saw me walk down the side of the path, I finally reached the big plaza where the bazaar was situated in. I took in the scent that came from the different kinds of food being cooked and sold and the sight of the colorful stands and small tents scattered throughout the place.
I then spotted the blue tent where I usually bought my trusty, essential items. The tent was round, and was just tall enough for an averagely tall person to stand upright.
Slightly smiling at the familiar sight, I slipped inside the flaps that served as its entrance. I didn't bother asking its owner permission to get inside. Besides, I was his most valued customer, his MVC, as he called me.
The interior was filled with open chests with different kinds of strange items and trinkets and small (portable small, by the way) bookshelves crammed with books of different topics arranged in rows on the floor. A small desk was shoved at the far side of the room. Sitting behind it was a tall, skinny man in black merchant's clothes. A dark scarf was wrapped around his neck which was traditional wear in his homeland. He had caramel-colored hair and a neatly trimmed beard. He was reading a book about a topic that I apparently didn't know about.
Without looking up, he greeted warmly, "Well, if isn't my MVC. How are you Lyren?"
"I'm good, how about you Samar?"
"Fine. Now, what can I do for you?"
"I was hoping that you had a book on how to fight with weapons."
Samar finally looked up from his book and studied me intently with his sea blue eyes. "Life's… getting harsher to you, isn't it?" he asked softly.
I sighed tiredly. "You don't have to be concerned, Sam."
He narrowed his eyes and continued to stare at me for a few more seconds. Then, seeing that I wasn't going to give out any information, he looked down and shrugged in resignation. "Well… alright, but you don't have to hide it."
He stood up and walked over to one of the many small bookshelves then pulled out an old dusty tome with a red cover. He presented it to me and said, "As usual, you came to the right place."
The title, On Using Weapons, was engraved on the upper part of the cover in silver-colored lettering. I took the book from his hands and scanned the pages. "You'll find there everything you need to know about using swords, bows, pikes, spears, daggers, and the like," he explained.
"This is good, how much for it?" I asked
"Two gold pieces."
I almost gulped and felt a cold tingle run up my back. My savings weren't enough for that kind of price. But I tried to hide my emotions as best as I could. Luckily, Samar must've seen my face a split second before I managed to fix it because he chuckled and said, "But, since you're my MVC, I'll lower down the price to one gold coin."
My eyes slightly widened. "Are you sure? That's half the price!"
He rolled his eyes and asked brusquely, "Look, do you want it or not?"
I sighed in defeat with drooped eyes before answering, "Okay, okay."
Fetching my coin pouch hanging at my side, I took out five silver coins from it, which were worth one gold coin, and gave it to Samar. "Thanks," I said quietly but gratefully.
He smiled. "Anything for a friend, am I right?"
Then he grasped my shoulders, looked me in the eyes, and said in a hard voice, "Stay alive and strong, alright?"
"Yeah…sure." I replied in a slightly surprised voice.
We shook hands and said goodbye to each other. I then went out of the tent and started for the orphanage. Reaching our part of the city, I found that all of the people there were already inside their homes that early evening and that I was all alone outside. I decided to take the shortcut, which was a dark alleyway to my left that was a straight path to the backyard of the orphanage. It intersected with the path I was on like a T. Most people didn't use it, but some, like me, do.
Unluckily, before I even got through the small gateway that served as its entrance. Five figures blocked the way. "Well, well, well," a deep, gravelly voice said, "if it isn't the little runt."
Aw, hell, I thought. Them again... Not now!
Before I could run away, more men suddenly blocked the two other paths. Two on the left side, and two on the right. The five who were blocking the alleyway suddenly walked out of the dark, revealing their features. The other eight had body frames of different shapes and sizes, but most of them were taller than me. Their leader, the one who talked, had a burly body. Like me, he had messy hair—only that it was brown instead of raven. His face was long, and he had a crooked nose and thin lips that was bent in a cruel, one-sided smile. His dirty beard was shaggy.
"So you decided to come stupidly to one of our special hang-out places. Now we can finally give back the beating you gave me the last time we met…and more…" he said in a smug, menacing voice.
"Hey, you're the one who tried to steal my stuff, Reynold." I replied in a cold voice. Reynold was the leader of some apparent gang that was widely-known in this city. I think their name was The Truss-up gang. I bumped into him once. He tried to steal my coin pouch, but I managed to beat him down—though he was alone then, and he brought his thugs so that he can probably exact his revenge on me. It was happy fun time for me again.
"Hey! I do whatever I want!" he snarled. "Whatever I like, I take. You should know to bow down to those who are higher than you, runt!"
I wasn't really a runt, but I guessed a big guy like him thought so. "Riiiiight," I said mockingly. "So you think like that when you have your goons hanging around you, huh?"
He glared at me hatefully. "So, the runt likes to play rough huh? Alright then…" He gave me another cruel smile and said to the other gang members, "Well boys, I think it's time to show him a lesson, huh?"
I began form a plan in my head, fast. Okay… fighting these guys is really not recommended for my health. I'll run between the trees of the small forest that's near here. The canopy should give me enough darkness for my cloak to hide me from these guys. I'll then move to the strangler fig tree. No one else here but me has the guts to go there thanks to the many superstitious people who live here. I'm pretty sure these guys wouldn't think that I'd go to that "cursed" tree.
They all started for me slowly as if they were sure that they could take me down easily and were savoring that fact. Well, let's just say that I wanted to prove them wrong. The moment they started moving, I ran opposite from the gateway and made for the small forest from a distance—knowing that my only hope of escape was the big, dark-brown tree that rested on the center, towering above the others.
I didn't look back since that would really slow me down and (slightly) smirked when one of them cursed as he tripped on the root of a random tree. I don't know why, but somehow, I can see in darkness—not much, but just enough for me to avoid tripping over the foliage. The gang split up, thinking that they can catch me by flanking me on the sides. They only succeeded in tackling one another, though—slowing them down and making my chances of escape higher.
Managing to put myself in a good distance from my pursuers, I finally reached my destination and started to climb the tree real fast—first using the strangling roots as footholds, then climbing from branch to branch while making sure that each of them can support my weight and reaching the one that was near the top of the tree. There, I sat and leaned back—not even tired since I already did that all the time ever since my kiddy days. Or maybe it was because of something else? I just put that thought aside.
Eventually, I heard the faint sound of the gang's footsteps given the height where I was. Then they all eventually stopped. They couldn't get nearer than ten feet from the massive tree. Their voices were almost too far for me to hear, so all I could get from what they're saying is "Are you stupid!?" and "He can't be hiding on that cursed tree!" and "C'mon! You really believe that kind of garbage!?" before they eventually began to shouting, yelling and arguing all at once.
Finally, Reynold shouted angrily over the noise, "Stop fighting, you morons!" The others stopped talking. "We won't find him here! Besides, if he is there, he's probably gonna get taken and smashed to bits by the horrible monsters or spirits that live there! Let's split up and look for him in other places! He couldn't have gotten far from here!" And on that final note, I heard footsteps going in different directions and away from the tree.
Once they were gone, I slightly sighed and closed my eyes. This wasn't the only time this big tree saved my skin. I stared fondly at the brown vines that hanged from other branches, then at the roots that weirdly wrap around the tree. As for why the people here thought it housed some evil being or something here—no idea… so I just stayed there letting my thoughts wander off.
I didn't know how long I was there. It could have been hours, but it was hard to tell. Finally, I decided that I've been there long enough and started to climb down the tree. I then ran for the orphanage as I got down.
Reaching the end of the forest, I changed my stance to a half-crouch and resumed running—stopping each time I reached a side of a house and peeked around the corners to make sure that the coast is clear. I went for the shortcut again since the gang wouldn't think that I would decide to take that route again. I stood up looked around again when I reached the front of the alley's entryway, then pulled my hood tighter over my head and went past the open gate, trusting the darkness again to hide me from unwanted eyes.
As I walked, I tried to think of what time it already was. All of the houses I had no light or sound inside. All the street lamps' lights were also out. Those meant that it was already past dinner and that surely everybody was already asleep. The rules of the orphanage state that nobody should be out before curfew hours. But I was pretty sure that all they cared about was getting their "share" of my salary. They don't give a damn thing of what happens to me.
At the end of the alley, I saw the backyard of the orphanage a few yards away. It was surrounded by a wooden fence with a small wooden gate that served as its entrance (which was locked). Swings, slides, and various toys were scattered throughout the grass. I looked around to make sure that no gang members were there to give me a nasty surprise.
Sure that I was alone, I continued to walk towards my destination. The fence's height was easy to jump over, so I did just that. I went up the small porch and then to the backdoor. It was also locked, so I reached under the small rag that was spread out neatly on the floor in front of the door and took out the spare key which was hidden there for emergencies. I turned and pulled the key from the lock after unlocking the door.
I twisted the doorknob—the door had to pulled open instead of push. But before I even managed to do that, somebody kicked it and it slammed hard on my face. I staggered back and fell back from the porch with my eyes tightly shut, dazed. Once I recovered, I opened my eyes and found myself staring into the starry night sky that also contained those mysterious constellations. I turned myself face-down and pushed myself up with my hands.
Suddenly realizing that I was surrounded by the gang in a circle, I looked at Reynold leaning by the side of the door frame with his arms crossed. There was a smug smirk on his face. He walked down the porch and stopped between two of his goons standing in front of me.
The sad part?—I was only a bit surprised at the ambush because three days before that, I remembered getting into a fight with one of the orphans. What was his name…? Randalf? Yeah, that's it. He was around fourteen years old. Anyway, during dinner he was talking with a group of orphans at the dining room after finishing his food earlier than the others—including me (shocking huh?). He said in a loud voice (probably so I could hear since he was just two tables away from me) that I was probably just a weakling of a beast that he could easily beat down to a pulp. Stupidly enough, one of the orphans listening challenged him to try and take me down—without my consent, of course.
Accepting the challenge, which annoyed me, he stood up and went to me in a cocky stride. He then stared at me up and down as if sizing me up, which was a bit funny since he was a few inches smaller than me. He was bigger than other guys his age, though.
I kept eating without looking up from my food, pretending not to notice him. He shouted a few insults at me, but I ignored him. I stood up, picked up my finished meal, and without a word, began walking toward the counter where Lorein was waiting for our empty plates and dirty utensils.
Apparently he got mad at me not even acknowledging him and charged, trying to tackle me to the floor while my back was turned. I expected this. Before he managed to slam into me, I calmly sidestepped. He missed by inches, then stumbled and fell in surprise when he tried to stop himself.
Then, before he recovered, I quickly tossed my empty meal to Lorein since I was already near the counter. She caught the plate and cup with a surprised yelp, but dropped the spoon and fork, which was fine. I then faced Randalf as he got back up to his feet. He made an angry and frustrated snarl and charged at me again, fists ready to hit me.
Slightly leaning sideways, I easily avoided his left fist. Then as he tried to punch me with his right arm, I quickly grabbed it and twisted to the side, making him scream and arch his back in pain. I swept his legs out from under him and slammed him on the floor, the wood making a slight cracking sound at the impact.
I stepped on his chest, Randalf wincing when I added painful pressure. I gave him my infamous stare for a long moment, and he stared back—his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open in shock, humiliation… and fear. Finally, I took off my foot and walked out of the dining room as if nothing happened. Though I was pretty sure all the other orphans had horrified expressions on their faces. But really, I didn't care.
So that's that. I was pretty sure that Randalf wanted revenge on what I did. So, he probably helped these guys who were trying to beat me up or kill me out of the same thing, too. Besides, who else would let these thugs get in the orphanage? Even the people there weren't that stupid.
Now where was I? Oh, right… the part where I was surrounded by Reynold's gang. I (again) quickly started to form a plan in my head. Okay, so now I'm really in trouble. I'll get a better chance in either me not being beaten into unconsciousness or not being killed if I get all these guys in front of me. I hate backstabbers. Then, I don't know—it's time to stand and fight. I'll just have to trust my experience and instincts to get me out this situation. Okay… here we go.
I close my eyes, cleared my mind and concentrated on what I had to do. After that moment, Reynold finally spoke. "Awww… is the runt gettin' scared? Tell you what, if you kneel, bow down and beg for mercy in front of me, maybe we'll let you go."
Opening my eyes, I gave him The Stare. "Not a chance, Reynold. You think I'll do that to a piece of trash like you?"
The calmness in my voice must've angered him since he growled, "Fine then! Boys, let's get 'im!"
His goons chuckled maliciously and they moved towards me in slow, savoring steps. Luckily, this was what I was waiting for. The circle the gang made to surround me had openings between the members wide enough to maneuver to a better position.
I took a calm, deep breath then ran opposite from Reynold rolled between two of the gang members who were holding short metal rods that they used as weapons. They tried to hit me, but missed since I was too fast. I turned and faced them. Good—that'd give me a better chance in that fight. I wasn't going to lose.
The members spread out and came at me from different directions on my front. The guys with the metal rods came at me first. I dodged their heavy swings, using my quickness to my advantage. I then gave an uppercut to the first guy in the jaw, hitting a pressure point and making him instantly unconscious. Next, I launched a sideways kick at the second guy in a straight angle, hitting him on the stomach. He fell on his back, the air forced out of him.
Two down, seven to go.
I felt someone punch me on the cheek, and I staggered back. My hood slid down from my head. One of them managed to flank me—he threw another punch, but this time I grabbed his arm, twisted and, using it as leverage, threw him at two more goons running at me on the front. They fell in a heap, groaning in pain.
Somebody kicked me at the back, which made me stumble forward. I quickly recovered and turned to find two guys who got behind me. One of them managed to grab and hug me by my upper arms to restrict my movement. Then the other tried to punch my face. But I ducked my head and he hit the guy holding me instead. The grip on me loosened, and I managed to break free and hit the guy behind me hard on the face with my elbow.
He grunted in pain and clutched his bleeding nose as he went down. Then the other one who punched him accidentally threw another fist, which I ducked in reflex. I brought my knee to his groin and he gasped, landing on his side.
Two left, which was another goon and Reynold himself. The former charged at me recklessly and when he was near enough, I spun and kicked the side of his head with my heel. He staggered sideways before falling face-down on the grass.
Finally, I faced Reynold who was a few feet away from me. His smug smile turned into a jaw-drop—then it turned into a snarl as he narrowed his eyes in frustration. He reached into the pocket of his pants and pulled out a small triangular blade—a dagger, then closed the distance between us.
He tried to stab me on the stomach. But I jumped back. He then brought the deadly weapon to chest level and tried to hit me with a backhand slash. I ducked and, as fast as I could, gave him a punch in the stomach. He grunted, staggered back a few feet and was forced to kneel on one knee holding his gut while trying to catch his breath with his head bowed down.
I saw this as a chance and started to move forward to finish the idiot off. He swung the blade wildly in front of him. I again jumped back to avoid getting slashed to pieces. He then recovered and stood up, looking like a wide animal obsessively trying to kill its prey.
Like his last thug who I kicked in the head, he charged at me recklessly. Determined to finally either kill me or incapacitate me with a well-placed blow of his dagger. That was my chance. I crouched, and got ready.
As Reynold pulled back his stabbing arm when he was almost in range, I jumped, spun counter-clock wise in the air, and with my right foot, kicked his right hand which was holding the dagger with perfect accuracy and painful force. His right arm jerked to the side, and the dagger flew out of his hand a few feet away.
I landed in a crouching position again, my right foot stepped back and my right hand on the grass underneath me. Reynold stared at his fallen weapon in shock, and I again hit him on the stomach with my right knee. That time he fell on his back, trying hard force air into his lungs. I moved up to him to finish the job.
Unluckily, before I managed to do that, someone behind my back hit me on the left side of my head with probably one of the metal rods. I dropped to the ground, groaning painfully. Black and red spots danced in my suddenly blurry vision.
I was surprised that I wasn't even unconscious yet. A large bump was starting to form on the place where the rod hit me. I suddenly saw figures surrounding my prone body. I just had enough time to register Reynold's command to his goons finish me off before they started beat me up and send wave after wave of pain throughout my entire body. Finally, I couldn't take the pain anymore, and I blacked out.
I didn't know how long I was unconscious. But I woke up with the agony slowly fading from my body. I found myself with my back against the wall. The room I was in was small. Stacks of drawers were crammed on the wall. Three round windows on the right were letting in a cool breeze. It was already early morning, judging from the slowly rising brightness outside. A desk was in the middle of the room. A burning lantern was placed on top of it, giving the room enough light. Behind that desk was an old, gaunt woman with short, stringy gray hair with many of it sticking out different directions. Her face was filled with wrinkles, and it looked like that she had a permanent scowl and frown. She was smoking a pipe (definitely not good for her health), and was clearly waiting for me to wake up. She was none other than the head of the orphanage. She looked just as horrible as her attitude. Well… wisdom doesn't always come with age, anyway.
"So," she said in raspy voice. "You've finally decided to wake up from your undeserved rest."
She was clearly irritated, and maybe even angry. But I was used to dealing with her.
Uttering a soft groan, I got up to my feet (though shakily). My outfit was really dirty. My cloak and cheap tunic were torn in many places. The coin pouch that was usually hanged at my side was gone and was probably stolen (courtesy of Reynold and co.). My whole body was throbbing in pain, probably because of the many bruises I got from the beating. My left eye was swollen shut, and when I touched the fully formed bump on the side of my head and almost winced as I immediately moved my hand away from it.
"You couldn't really give me a break now could you?" I said in a calm but deadly voice. "So I'm guessing that you're gonna punish me for fighting those guys that tried to beat me up for some stupid, petty reason?"
She smiled in an ugly, twisted way. "No, I will not punish you for defending yourself against a street gang. But I will punish you for coming in late and not bringing back the money you owe us."
"The money I owe you? This orphanage has been a living hell for me as long as I can remember. I almost even starved to death if that former cook wasn't replaced by Lorein. And you expect me to owe you money? I expected better, even for an old hag like you, Larzin."
"You—insolent, devil-like beast! I'll—"
"Save your breath. I won't listen to you. I know that you're only milking me for money since you're all lazy to the point where you steal hard-earned money from a working beast."
I began to walk, each step making my body throb even worse. But I ignored the pain. All I wanted was to get a good rest. But before I got to the door on the far side of the room, someone went inside and ran towards me at full speed. Too battered and bruise, I couldn't help myself as Randalf… gave me a running punch in the gut. This time my vision turned completely red from the pain, and I slammed into the wall. I fell on my butt, struggling to gasp for breath. Randalf then grabbed my shoulders, forced me to my feet, and shoved me to the floor. I lay there sprawling facedown.
"I've been itching to do that to you, freak," he said in a smug voice. "I finally got my revenge from that humiliation you gave me three days ago and all the more for me since you're too weak to fight back!"
I heard the footsteps of people entering the room. I turned my head weakly and saw that Randalf's "friends" were standing behind Larzin. There were (a bit) many of them, and they all had the same smug smirks like Randalf's. I already knew that they would surely enjoy seeing me tortured and humiliated by Larzin. Oh… and Randalf too. The old hag gave me another twisted smile and said maliciously, "Randalf, dear. I think you should start making this beast learn to stay in his cage now and be tame, shouldn't you?"
Randalf grinned wolfishly. "Yes, Miss Larzin."
Larzin puffed smoked from her pipe before she opened one of the drawers underneath the desk and pulled out a small whip that she always used on me when I was little. I had a good collection of scars on my back to prove that. Back then I always quivered in fear at the sight of it. But now it was nothing but a brown lash made for pointless punishments that I "deserved".
Randalf caught the wicked whip in the air after Larzin tossed it to him. He was still grinning when I looked at him again. "You ready, punk?"
Oh, I was more than ready. "Yeah," I replied. "Just don't start thinking that you've won just by beating me up when I'm already beaten up."
Randalf's grin turned into an angry snarl. He ripped the remnants of my cloak and tunic, leaving the upper part of my body bare. He raised the whip above his head. Then he brought it down on my back yelling, "Eat this, freak!"
My vision turned red again and I clenched my teeth and closed my eyes. It was as if my back was being burned with something really hot. Randalf continued to whip my back again and again until my body already couldn't take the pain. The last thing I heard was the jeering and mocking laughter that everyone in the room was making and decided finally the one thing I should've done long ago.
I woke up still lying face-down. So I thought that I was still in Larzin's office. But a pillow was in front of my face and I was lying on a mattress. Turning my head to the right, I saw the familiar sight of my room. My back was bandaged, which surprised me.
"You're lucky to have a tough back. Otherwise those wounds will scar badly," a woman's voice said to my left.
Again I turned my head, but this time to the direction of the voice. Lorein was sitting on a chair beside the bed (it was the chair that I kept under my old desk). She was wearing her usual outfit which was a green cooking dress that matched the color of her bright eyes. The sunlight coming from the window of the room behind her seemed to make her light brown skin glow. Whenever I looked at her, I always felt a warm connection. I didn't know why, but I decided to push that aside.
"So… how long was I out?" I asked in a rough voice.
"You've been unconscious for hours. It's already sunset, as you already see from outside."
There was a long, awkward pause before I decided to ask another question.
"Were… you the one who patched me up?"
She twitched and widened her eyes in surprise at the sudden break of silence. "Oh, um… yes. Well… I couldn't stand looking at your unconscious, back-bleeding body. So I decided to fix you up before your condition got worse." She smiled that cheerful smile that she usually gave to someone she was friendly to, but I saw a worried and protective look in her eyes.
"Why are you looking at me too… worriedly?"
Her smile disappeared and her eyes widened in alarm again. "W-what? I don't look worried!"
I raised my eyebrows knowingly. "I could see it in your eyes and your startled expression is a dead giveaway. Don't lie to me."
She sighed and looked down in defeat. "Oh, alright," she said. "I'm just fond of you since you're the quiet and shy type."
My voice was slowly returning to normal as I asked, "'Quiet and shy type'?"
She suddenly looked wistful "Yep. You also remind of someone very precious to me once." She was looking at the side distantly. "I wonder what he'll say if he meets you. But…" Tears were starting to form in her eyes. Her voice was starting to shake a little. "I guess that's not going to happen isn't it? Because he's already…"
I was surprised at her sudden mood change—then felt the urge to comfort her. Whoever she was being sad about. "Hey, it's okay," I said in a gentle voice. "Don't cry. I'm sorry if I made remember something painful."
At the sound of my voice, she blinked away her tears and shook her head vigorously as if coming out a trance. "O-oh… I'm sorry. I'm so sorry you had to see me like that."
I gave her a small smile. "No harm done."
Her cheerful look was starting to return. "Well, true. Anyway, how do you feel?"
"A lot better, thanks to you." I frowned slightly. "How long d'you think 'til I'm up and running again?"
"Judging from the look of those wounds…" Lorein paused to think. "I guess they'll completely heal in around three to five weeks time. Why are you asking?"
I sighed tiredly. "I guess it wouldn't hurt to tell you this, but, after what happened this morning, I think it's time for me to hit the road."
"Oh… you mean… run away?" A dejected look suddenly crossed her face, but then a mask of (too much and obviously fake) cheerfulness covered it a moment later. "I guess I better help you packing then shouldn't I? That way, you'll be ready far before you leave, right? I'll also take care of you until your back is good enough for you to stand and walk."
Why did she suddenly (again) looked so depressed? I was going to ask her about it, but I decided against it at the last moment since I had the feeling that the results won't be good. Instead, I asked her another question. "Why? I mean, sure—treating and taking care of me while injured is one thing, but helping me run away? I think that's a little too much."
She sighed mournfully. "I just like to help others, especially good people."
"You think I'm good?"
"Yes. Please, will you let me help you?" She asked hopefully.
"Well… okay then. I guess it wouldn't hurt." I conceded reluctantly.
"Thank you! I can't tell you how much I appreciate it!" she exclaimed gratefully.
I raised an eyebrow, confused. "Shouldn't it be me who's saying that?"
Lorein only chuckled warmly in response and stood up from the chair then started to go out of the room. "I'll get you something to eat!" she chirped, giving me a wink.
I shook my head confusingly and then let it fall down on the pillow. I tried to understand why she was so sad a moment ago. I thought about some possibilities, but they were all too far-fetched to be true.
Apparently, I was good to go in four weeks with Lorein taking care of me and complimenting my healing progress. But there was always a hint of dread in her voice when she talks about it. It was as if she didn't want me to go. I wanted to find out why, but I knew that I should respect her feelings and privacy. Her intentions were hers alone.
So, in the early morning, I snuck out through the back of the orphanage—already standing outside the fence of the place where I got beaten up. Now I wore pants for travelling instead of trousers, a long-sleeved shirt instead of a tunic (I decided that the former outfit didn't work for me), lightweight but durable shoes, leather gloves that kept my fingers bare, and another cloak that reached down to just a bit beyond the back of my knees. And, of course, they were all the same color as my hair. A sack (also black) was strapped across my back. It contained a few spare clothes (which consisted of the same outfit), the book that I just bought from Sam, a water skin (filled with water, of course) and some food.
Maybe you're wondering what I would do if I run out of food. Another secret that I keep from everyone but me: Ever since I was around eight, I've taught myself how to fight with a spear, handle a bow, and use a dagger. The spear was about seven feet with a crude wooden shaft with a stone shaped and sharpened like a spear blade secured at the top. My bow was as long as my height was. The single shaft was made out of softwood. It's a flexible type of wood that I got from that good old strangler fig tree. Though, the tree's wood doesn't last that long, I thought that I'd probably find a way to make another stronger and longer-lasting bow. The string tied to the notches were made of leather strips that I bought from (you guessed it) Samar. As a bonus, he gave me a small quiver which was also strapped in a diagonal direction under the sack. The same went with my bow only that it was over the sack.
Lorein gave me a map of Vreensten (much to my protest. I told her that I'd just buy one [even though all my money was stolen] but she insisted. So, I took it.) Eventually, I decided to just go past between Fortress Delta and Omega and then just decide where to go again from there (though I wasn't sure if that was my final decision). All I wanted to do was to get out of not just the Ziran orphanage, but also the whole Frontier Lands.
I was about to start moving when I heard a familiar voice behind me. "So you'll just leave without saying goodbye to me?" I turned to find Lorein standing directly in front of me. How did she manage to sneak up on me?
"Lo—rein?" I stammered. "How did you—"
"Sneak up on you? I have my secrets Lyr," Lorein said in a sly voice. There was a smile on her face, but there was tinge of sadness in her voice. Her eyes were glassy as if she was holding back tears.
For probably the first time in my life, I felt guilt rising in my chest. "Oh… sorry—well, thanks for everything. I really don't know how to repay, so—" I was suddenly cut off when Lorein hugged me fiercely.
"Be careful out there, okay?" her voice trembled. Her touch sent an alien feeling into me, and I felt like dropping to the ground and sleep like a baby. She broke the hug, but she still held my shoulders, looking down into my eyes with tears streaming down her face. "You're so much like your father," she sobbed softly.
She let go of me and I stepped back a few steps, my eyes wide. She stared at me for a few moments, and, with her voice full of emotion, she said, "I love you… my son." Then, like me, she jumped over the fence easily, went up the porch, and got back in the orphanage.
I stood there like a statue, until emotion finally filled my entire being. I closed my eyes tightly shut. A single tear rolling down my cheek, and I whispered, "Goodbye… mom."