"Kresi, you are alive."
When we come to the forest, the first person that greets me from the group of the survivor is actually a girl in her late teen. She has a long face and a small mouth. Her hair is unruly and dark. Her eyes are beady, grey, and cute. She has a strong scent of flowers on her. Her dress is torn in some places.
Anyway, I have never seen her before.
"I didn't expect to see you." The girl raises her hand to touch my head. A white pale hand slaps her hand away. Both of us look at Kyo who is glaring at the woman.
"This boy is cute." The girl chuckles lowly. "Where did you pick him up, Kresi?"
In a forbidden prison. "He is my younger brother."
"You have a younger brother?" She scrutinises our faces. "You don't look alike."
"I adopted him." I keep my tone calm.
"Dalia, do you know these kids?" A middle-aged man comes behind her. He and others are wary of us.
"My lord, they are from the city." She gives him a slight bow. "They are the people of the Beggar King."
His eyes become round. "His people? They are young."
"Our king only cares about strength." Dalia beams. "Age, gender, race, or status do not matter to him."
This Beggar King is an interesting person. King of Beggars, huh? It's only a name.
"If you are one of his people, then it is alright." The man leaves after giving me a respectable bow. Kyo is clutching hard on my arm. I realize that we have not eaten anything.
"Kresi, why are you here?" Dalia asks me after the man is gone. "You should have gone to the hideout."
Life would have been easier if I knew where the hideout was. Tiredness is taking over my body.
"Do you have food?"
Dalia is surprised by my words. "Wait here."
Kyo, Mogrok, and I sit under the tree. We keep a distance from the other survivors. Women. Men. Children. Old People. Some beasts. Dalia is talking to the lord. He gives her a creepy smile. An old man like him is flirting with a girl who has not reached half of his age.
I hear the crunching sound. It's Kyo who is holding a small rabbit in his hands. The rabbit is translucent, dimly glowing, and smooth. It has no fur. If it hasn't been struggling in his hands, I would have thought that it was a toy.
Kyo takes a bite out of the rabbit. He chews slowly. There is no blood oozing out of the rabbit. Nothing at all. Is it a jelly rabbit? Can I eat it too?
"He is hungry." Mogrok stares at him. "Master, we need to find more spirits to feed him."
"Spirits?" I look at the rabbit. "That's a spirit."
"A low-level spirit beast." Mogrok's eyes have a strange gleam. "Though the flow of Ehr is low in this realm, these spirit beasts have a higher flow of ehr. I want to eat one too."
"If you want one, find one by yourself."
Kyo has already finished the rabbit. Dalia just comes in time. She hands me a basket.
"That's all I have right now." She sits near me. "Kresi, you didn't see Beggar King?"
"No." I open the basket. Bread and pickles. "Thank you for the food."
"It's nothing. Put in some good words to the King's ears for me." She gives me a refreshing smile.
"I will." I break the bread into four portions. I give one to Kyo who frown when he holds it. Mogrok refuses with his one leg. Dalia refuses by saying, "I am full."
If nobody wants it, I will eat it then.
"Did you see Pom?" I ask Dalia. "Or a girl with pink hair?"
"No." Dalia shakes her head. "I have not seen Pom since yesterday. I haven't seen any girl with pink hair. Are you looking for him?"
Did they get out of this city? Are Raye and Quinn still in Belan? I am worried about those punks.
"If you ever see him, tell him that I have been looking for him."
"I will." Dalia gives me a nod and leaves. I take a bite from the cold bread. The pickles are too spicy. It's dark. Some of the survivors are laughing and singing. It looks like this is just another day for them. It's a beggar city. The cost of life here is cheaper than mud. Dalia and the Lord go inside the makeshift tent. After a while, most of the survivors fall asleep. Kyo and Mogrok fall asleep. We can't stay here. We have to leave before the Renasir arrives.
There are two men talking in low and serious voices. Their suspicious gazes and acts attract my attention. I can hear their voices clearly.
"I heard that people from the higher realms are coming."
"Last time, one of them burned the city to the ground when they were looking for those evil creatures."
"It's the same this time. No one was found."
"It's not safe here. We should head to the capital."
"How should we go? The gates are barred."
"There is a way, Son." The old man lowers his head. "Now that things are bad and people from the higher realms are coming, the general will send away the precious mining resources before they arrive. There is a gate. It's not far from here. He might be using that one. If we make it in time, we can hide inside in one of the carriages. They will be in a hurry and won't check."
"Can we make it in time?" His son is agitated. "Why didn't you say it earlier?"
"We don't need other people to know. If we run now, we can make it in time." The old man smirks.
The old man and his son do not leave immediately. They collect food and coins from sleeping people. They are professional thieves. Nothing is shocking to me anymore. I wake up Kyo and Mogrok.
"Don't speak," I tell them in a low voice.
"What's wrong?" Mogrok rolls on his back. "I am sleepy...Master...."
The old man and his son are leaving with a small lamp. They have not noticed us. When they turn around and walk, I start following them with Kyo and Mogrok. They are quite confident because they never turn around and look once. Maybe, they don't care. We walk for a short time in the dark. There is no noise in the forest. But, Kyo and Mogrok have caught and ate five spirits in a short time.
"Ooooh!" Mogrok looks ahead and whistles. "That's a gate, Master."
The old man and his son stop in front of a cave. There is nobody here other than us. They look around and then, they go inside. I try to hear what's going on.
"Father, there is no one here."
"They could be using the other one." The old man sounds nervous.
"Argh!" The son sounds frustrated. "Should we go back to the city?"
"No, going back to the city is out of the question. We should go back to the others."
After they leave, we go inside the cave. Red runes are drawn on the walls of the cave. The runes shine and flicker on the walls.
"They are reacting to you, Master."
"Is it normal?"
"I don't know." Mogrok points at the ground. "The gate is here. If you put in the key, you can go to the place where it leads to."
Getting out of here is a priority. I will think of other things later. Hopefully, it won't be a bad place. I open the gate using the universal key. The ground disappears under my feet. I scream when we fall in the hole.
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