“This place is dark and unfitting for one such as yourself. Say the words. Ask for my help, and I shall grant it.” The boy’s dark eyes stared at her as his voice weaved through the air like magic. Gentle and filled with compassion, they coaxed and reassured her that everything was alright. That all she needed to do, was to ask and to trust him.
Saadra’s mouth twitched in hesitance.
She was tainted, and after what happened last night, she had already given up. The pain coursing through her body told her that a life outside of the brothel’s cold walls was impossible for them, and that they could never escape.
Feeling Sarah’s unsteady hands clutching her arm, her mouth quivered and her vision blurred. Her sister was why she had been able to endure such a life. Why she was able to smile, despite everything that’s happened to her. The young girl was all she had, and the thought of such a daunting and desolate future for them both was terrifying. “Kaidus… please help us…” Saadra cried, releasing all her anguish and sorrow to the kindness that was extended before her.
A single word of acknowledgement echoed within the small room amidst her cries.
Through pained sobs, she thought she saw the boy’s unwavering gaze glowing dimly. A sense of comfort enveloped her as she stared into the two dark eyes, shaking her to her core and cradling her in their endless calm.
“Give me your hand.” The boy instructed, and she nervously extended a bruised hand out to him. Thoughts of recoiling such an ungraceful hand back into the blankets assaulted her, but she held the hand out. “I’m sorry, but please bear with me.” She heard the boy mutter as a hot sensation seared her whole body, amplifying the pain she was already feeling. Saadra opened her mouth to scream, but as quickly as it came, the burning vanished. Along with everything else.
She stared blankly back at him with a befuddled expression. Her mouth still agape, there were no words to explain it.
She looked at her arm and her bruises were gone. She felt her sides, and the sharp pain where she had been kicked multiple times was nowhere to be felt.
Her body was refreshed and she felt like new. Like waking up from a long torturous nightmare.
“Come.” The boy beckoned without an explanation as he turned to move away from them. She could hear the sound of Myrna and Master Coragus’ footsteps as they attempted to flee down the hall. She saw the boy look to the two unconscious men on the floor one last time before stepping towards the door.
Wrapped in the blanket, Saadra quickly stepped off the bed.
As she had suspected, her legs—too—were no longer throbbing.
She turned to Sarah who looked visibly frightened and was still clutching tightly onto her arm. “Let’s go, Sarah.” She told the girl and heard her own voice shaking with uncertainty.
The echoes of the past swarmed him, whispering and reminding him of mistakes long forgotten. Of consequences that came with such choices, and of his already bloody path.
Discarding his own thoughts, Kaidus stepped out of the room. The world he once knew was no more, yet the nature of things had remained unchanged throughout the ages. Those with power hungrily clung onto it, using it to their own benefits without regards to what or who they are hurting. He had wanted to live his life without being hindered by such pettiness, such unwarranted injustice, yet he could not turn away from those in his purview.
“Our business has yet to be concluded. Where are you going?” He spoke, tailing the two who were trying to run. With the injury he had inflicted, the owner was barely able to walk and had to be supported by the woman.
“Y-You! You will not get away with this! You don’t know… who it is you are messing with!” Coragus shouted back, gasping for air after every few words.
“You should worry more about yourself.” Kaidus replied, widening his strides and catching up to them. “How many others are locked up like Saadra?” He queried, “How many other girls have you forced into prostitution? How many lives have you ruined in your greed?” He closed in on the man and grabbed Coragus’ shoulder, ripping him away from the woman—Myrna. Slamming the man against the wall, “No, don’t bother answering. I might be unable to hold myself back, and I would not wish for you to go so soon… not yet.” He tore the chain of keys away from the man’s waist.
“Th- The guards… they will hang you for this! They will skin you alive! Don’t think you can get away! I- I own this town!”
“They can try.” Kaidus smiled darkly and pushed the man away before turning to Myrna. “How many other girls are here in this brothel?” He gave her an unforgiving glare.
“Fo-forty-seven.” She immediately replied, and he could see that she was trembling. No longer was she the abusive and intolerant lady from last night or earlier, but a frightened aging woman.
“Saadra.” He turned back to the sisters who were following behind. “Are there others who would like to leave?”
The girl timidly nodded.
“I see…” Kaidus turned his attention back to the woman. “You will go and bring everyone out to the front hall.” He tossed her the keys, and she failed to catch it. “I see a single one not in attendance, and we will have trouble.” He threatened, not taking another look at her before grabbing the owner and forcing the man to move forward.
“You think this is the only brothel in the world!? That I am the only one who does this?!” Coragus shouted loudly. “Those girls are mine! I picked them up off the streets! They are mine to do with as I will!!”
Kaidus pushed the man forward.
“You’re not some storybook knight saving damsels in distress you uncouth savage! You are no knight, and these are not damsels! That little whore would take my cock just as happily as she would yours, and she knows it! She’s a whore, and she will always be one!”
“You are correct about that. I am no knight,” jerking his arm, Kaidus slammed the man’s head into the stone wall. “Regardless, you will keep your filth to yourself unless you would like that tongue ripped out.” He rebuked as blood began oozing out of the groaning man’s forehead.
Kaidus glanced back, and saw that Saadra was looking down while Sarah held onto her sister and was looking at him with a terrified face. He turned around and continued pushing Coragus through the long hallway.
As they approached the stairs, the muscles of the brothel saw them.
“W-What the fuck are you all waiting for?! Save me!” Coragus shouted upon seeing the men.
“Stay here.” Kaidus quickly instructed the sisters to stay put as he walked forward—holding Coragus hostage.
“URAAH!!” A man at the front charged at him with a metal rod.
Kaidus pushed his hostage toward the man and drew his xeberite sword. With an arching slash, he easily sliced the rod in half as his attacker pulled back to catch Coragus. With a quick flick, he struck the man’s head with the flat of his blade, concussing the man and knocking him against the wall.
Seeing two men moving in and blocking the corridor, Kaidus swiftly moved to engage them. Leaping onto the side of the hallway, he kicked off the wall and shot toward one of them, knocking them backward with a solid punch to the face.
An upward-slash came at him from the second man, and he easily deflected it with his own sword. The attack pushed him backwards and he landed on his feet with his sword extended out toward the group. “Your swing was wide and sloppy. I can see that you are untrained and unpracticed. Come at me if you would like to see how this ends.” He dared, glaring at the man in front and those behind. The group shuffled forward, but none moved to attack.
“What are you all doing?! What am I paying you for?!” Coragus shouted, snapping them out of their hesitation.
A man quickly slipped through the center of the group, charging at Kaidus.
Standing still, he relaxed his posture and lowered his sword.
Kaidus watched as the man swung at him with a horizontal slash, going for his stomach.
Fifth form, Alvue. His muscles tensed, and power coursed through his body.
With a quick swing of his sword, he parried the attack with an arched counter, slapping away the sword that was coming for his left side.
“GYAH!!!” The sound of metal against metal resounded through the corridor, followed by a howl of pain. In a flash, the man’s sword arm had been lopped off at the elbow.
Another sword came straight for his face and Kaidus twisted his body to the side. While simultaneously evading the thrust, he moved in on the new attacker with a wide step. Rotating his whole body as he closed in, he planted a firm fist into the man’s chest, shattering bones and shooting the man back into the others.
Taking a step back himself, he lowered his sword once again and stood vigilantly. The man whose forearm he had severed was screaming as blood sprayed everywhere, while the other was writhing on the ground gasping for air and life. “Anyone else?” Kaidus taunted, glaring at the group before him in a show of absolute dominance.
The men stopped and none dared to move forward.
Watching the frozen thugs, Kaidus moved back and grabbed his hostage once more. Coragus had gone deathly pale.
“What do you want?! I’ll pay you! If it’s money, you can have it! If it’s that whore, y-you can have her!”
“I believe I told you to shut up.” He replied, shaking the man forcefully. Gesturing for the girls to follow, “Any sudden movements, and it will be your lives. Now get back before you regret it.” He threatened.
Walking forward, the group of armed men grabbed those who were injured and swiftly backed off to make room for him and the sisters.
*Crash!* someone fell from the second floor and smashed into the tables below.
Everyone looked up to see a group of men retreating down the stairs. A young man also slowly descended, dragging someone beside him and followed closely by two girls.
““Master Coragus!”” Those idling on the first floor shouted upon seeing who the man was.
“Mister Coragus. What is going on here?” An aged man with graying green hair questioned, walking over to them as they descended the stairs.
“What do you-!? GUAH!” Coragus cried out in pain as he was smashed into the handrails.
“Kyaaahh!” Some of the girls cried out upon seeing the vicious spectacle.
“What he was trying to say, was that it is time for you all to leave.” Kaidus interjected, speaking loudly so that everyone listening could hear. “This establishment is going to be closed for the day in anticipation of changes in owner and services. Now, if all of you gentlemen could be so kind and leave in an orderly fashion, it would make what is to come a lot easier.”
“What nonsense is this?! Release Master Coragus at once!” A man stepped from the crowd toward Kaidus, pushing through the others.
Kaidus pulled Coragus forward. “Do not test me again. Tell your men to stand down at once.” He commanded, and the man grudgingly obeyed.
Seeing and hearing what was happening, a few of those who were patronizing the brothel began scrambling towards the door while others ignored his words and stayed to watch.
Kaidus scanned the room, then walked to the center and sat Coragus down onto a chair. The sisters wordlessly followed behind him, not leaving his side.
The room became silent, watching his every move. As if waiting for something to happen, the silence prevailed until confused muttering came from the second floor and a group of young ladies and girls appeared.
The remaining customers began asking if it was some sort of special event, even calling out to a few of the girls who were coming down.
“Now that they’re here, let us talk.” Kaidus spoke, and the stone floor rose up from underneath him, forming into a chair. He smiled, seeing the shock on Coragus’ face.
“!!!” Those who were watching became alarmed, having observed the unnatural event.
“Mage!” The word started being whispered around the room as fear became visible in the eyes of the audience.
Vick strolled through the streets, curious to see if the town had a mercenary guild. He had already exhausted what little gossip he could get from the inn, and needed a more substantial source, which a guild would be able to provide.
He passed a few taverns and the thought of eavesdropping on the morning drunks while he enjoyed himself crossed his mind, but decided against it.
He continued down the street until he got to a large red building.
There were no signs on the sides or in front of the building, and people were starting to gather around it. There seemed to be some sort of commotion going on, and he could not pass up the chance to observe something interesting.
Pushing his way in, upon entering the doors, he quickly realized that it was a brothel.
Yet instead of being welcomed by beautiful girls, an unusual spectacle was unfolding before him. There was a group of women standing on one side of the large room, while another group of young girls and women stood on the opposite side. The room had a tense atmosphere, and it felt like some sort of preparation for a fight or an all-out brawl.
He wasn’t sure what was going on, but as he scanned the groups, ‘Kaidus?!’ His mind shouted, seeing the boy in such a place.
Kaidus was sitting on a stone chair that looked very out of place in the middle of the room. Across from Kaidus was an unknown man who look to be sweating profusely.
Lowering his posture, Vick slipped into the small crowd of people standing by the door.
Behind him were seventeen of the girls who wanted to leave.
Including Saadra and her sister Sarah, the group consisted of all the younger girls and two grown women in their twenties.
Mixed in with the group were also five young boys—younger siblings of a few of the girls.
Totaling twenty-two altogether, the number had surpassed his expectations.
A handful of them were around Saadra’s age, and had probably been forced into working already. The other half were too young, but old enough to know what they were being groomed for. He could see that many of them were afraid of their fate and had quickly voiced their desire to leave when he offered them the choice.
Even two of the older girls had voiced their wishes to escape, joining those behind him.
None of them knew what was in store for them. He had only promised them a way out of such a life, and to get them safely away from Karpes. He did not know where they would go yet, but even without a proper destination, they had clung onto his words in desperation.
Kaidus stared at the man sitting across from him. Coragus was glaring back at him angrily. “You are not satisfied with the outcome of our negotiations?” He questioned.
“You call this a negotiation?! This is nothing but outright robbery!”
“I disagree. If anything, this is quite the favorable agreement for you is it not?”
“You expect me to accept such one-sided terms?!”
The terms were that he would allow Coragus to keep his life, and in return, the man would relinquish his hold on those who wished to exit his employ. That there would be no retaliation against any of the girls, and that the man would see them off with an appropriate amount of money, allowing them a fresh start on their new lives.
“Why not? Was it not you who forced these girls into doing what you wanted? Using fear and threats you abused them into this sort of life, even going so far as beating and blackmailing them so that you can line your own pockets at their expense.” Kaidus calmly replied, staring back at the man. “I am merely offering you the same. Take my offer and keep your life, or I can rip you to pieces and burn this place to the ground. Either way, these girls will be freed from your grasps. I can assure you of that.”
“I what? What is it you wish to say?”
Coragus looked around the room. He looked to some of the customers, and they looked away from his gaze. He saw the dozen men in his service, but none dared to move in to help him. Counting them, he noticed that a few were already missing—undoubtedly fled or gone to call for help. “Two thousand erns and two girls of your choice for anyone who can kill this little fucker!” He stood up and shouted, hoping to entice someone to help.
A few of the men turned and looked at each other; their faces showing willingness and hunger for the riches promised.
“Do not even think about interfering, as it will not end well for any of you.” Kaidus warned.
As soon as his words faded, the room lit up with dozens of embers, hovering above them. Swirling throughout the air, they hovered toward him and flared up in a blaze of golden red. Extending and molding themselves, eight fiery daggers took shape out of the flames and surrounded him in a protective circle.
Before the display of magic, Coragus recoiled in fear, stumbling over his chair and the others quickly froze. A few of the men bolted for the doors, afraid of what might happened.
He could feel horrified stares upon his back, and knew that some of the girls were probably questioning their choices after seeing what he was. Yet amongst the stares, there were also those that were filled with awe and relief.
“I see that three hundred per girl was too light. For that foolish outcry, it will be doubled. Now, will someone bring it out to us, or will I have to go and get it myself?
“S-S-Six hundred each?!!”
“Of course. Be thankful for such a low cost, considering the amount you’ve put them through.”
“Those worthless bitches are not worth that much!!” Coragus screamed, glaring at the group of young girls.
“The price is for your own life, Master Coragus. Not theirs. Is your life worth thirteen thousand erns?” Kaidus calmly replied, as if speaking to a child. Seeing the man’s hateful stare, “Such ferocity and resentment… is this not how business is conducted around these parts? I’m quite sure I was subjected to such extortive forms of conduct earlier.” He added, giving the man no way out.
“Grrr… You think I have that kind of money laying around? You must be delusional! That amount will ruin me!!”
“One hundred per night wasn’t it? You expect me to believe such a paltry sum would ruin you despite the amount you charge?”
“That is quite regrettable. It looks like I will just have to take a look at your coffers myself.” Kaidus replied somberly.
The eight flaming daggers shifted in mid-air, and pointed at Coragus. The air hissed and one flew at the man, missing and stabbing into the chair beside him. From the point of impact, the dagger burst into pieces, covering up the chair and slowly consuming it.
“Forgive me, my aim was off. You can be sure I will not miss on the next one, and it will be extremely painful.” Kaidus reassured, seeing that the man had jumped away from the chair in panic.
“Myrna! M-my keys!” Coragus shouted.
Before long, each of the twenty-two people behind him had a sizable pouch of money. Seeing the demands pulling through, three more women who had hesitated to abandon the brothel switched sides, adding to their group for a total of twenty-five people overall.
After all the girls and the few boys had received their remunerations, Kaidus turned to the group. “All of you, please go outside and wait for me.”
A wave of protest came from a few of them.
“It won’t be long.” He consoled, giving them a steadfast gaze.
“But what if…” A small frightened voice came out from Sarah in protest along with the others. He could sense that she was afraid something might happen to them outside.
‘Zion.’ He commanded wordlessly.
A tempest erupted from his vicinity, blowing through the room and throwing small objects into the air before settling down as a gentle breeze. It circled the room twice with an unknown purpose, then wrapped itself around the group of girls. “Go.” Kaidus told them once more.
There was fear, then panic, then seeing that the wind was harmless, the group hesitantly followed each other out.
He waited until they had all left. “I thank you for your cooperation.” Kaidus made a curt bow to Coragus, then turned to a woman standing with the two dozen others, who did not wish to leave the brothel. “Lady Myrna. You are now the owner of this establishment. Congratulations.” He added, appointing the objectionable yet dutiful woman.
She stared back at him with a stunned expression.
“I- I will not stand for this even if you are a mage!” Coragus shouted in defiance. “You cannot do this to me! We had a deal!”
“I can, for you will be in no shape to manage such a place again after today.” Kaidus stood up from his stone seat and took a step toward the man.
“You thief! You will never get away with–!”
Coragus’ eyes bulged out in surprise as his mouth locked up and his body became unable to move.
“Thief? No… I am much worse than that.” Kaidus approached the frozen man. There was a reason why he had sent the girls outside. “Terrifying isn’t it? The knowledge that your life is in the hands of another, and you cannot do a single thing about it.” He spoke with the same voice and tone, but now, there was bloodlust in his eyes and power coiled around his arm like an angry beast.
As he reached for the man with his hand, someone jumped out from the crowd of motionless spectators.
Something flickered, and Kaidus immediately pulled his hand back and retreated a few steps.
“That’s enough.” Vick stood between them. There was a grin on his face and he was holding onto one of his azurite swords.
Kaidus smiled. “I was wondering when you’d make yourself known.” He replied, not bringing up Vick’s name.
“Exactly what were you about to do?”
“Just a little cleaning up. Don’t get in my way.”
“You don’t have to do that. He already gave you what you wanted.”
“What I want, does not matter. People like him will never change. They will never understand the consequences of their actions, or allow those they can control to live peacefully. Should I leave him alone, he will go right back to doing what he’s been doing all along. You should understand this as well as I do. You should know that the only course of action is to render him incapable of committing such vile acts ever again.”
“Yes, but to kill a man after giving him your word? After he’s literally paid his price? I cannot allow you to do that.”
“Kill? No, I won’t kill him.”
Vick looked to Kaidus curiously, then to the frozen man. “You expect me to believe that?”
“I do. Death is too good for those like him.”
Vick shuddered visibly at the apathetic reply, and his eyes narrowed. He slowly sheathed his sword and stepped aside. A cold chill ran down his back.
Kaidus approached Coragus once more. Reaching out, he tapped the man’s chest and willed his mana into the man’s body. Taking two steps back, he began concentrating on his mana.
He saw Coragus stare back, his face filled with pain. The man’s eyes and mouth began emitting rays of bright light into the room before vanishing, leaving nothing but burnt out cavities. The sound of flesh ripping apart and bones unhinging followed, along with the crowd’s cries of horror as Coragus’ limbs were torn from his body. The torso and head fell to the ground, and people began screaming and tripping over each other as they attempted to flee the building.
Ignoring everything happening around him.
With a thought, Kaidus willed his mana—still within the man’s body—to heal and seal the fatal wounds, denying Coragus the embrace of death.
He approached the dismembered body on the floor. “As per our agreement, you will live… but you will never truly be living. Your arms, your legs, your tongue, and your eyes. I have taken them all. From this day forth you will exist at the mercy of those around you, just like so many others who had been at your mercy up to this point. Whether you continue existing or not, will be up to them.”
He looked over to the group of women who were huddling together and staring at him in horror, like he was some sort of flesh eating monster. “The rules have changed. Should anyone else be forced into working against their will again, I will be back. Do not forget what happened here today.” He warned the women, making his intentions crystal clear before turning around.
Vick was staring at him in complete shock. The man looked out of character, and Vick’s left hand was gripping tightly onto an unsteady right hand.
From Vick’s body language alone, he could see an abundance of questions. “Let’s go. There’s something I would like you to help me with.” Kaidus voiced as he walked toward the doors, not taking a second glance back at what he did, or waiting for an answer.
A group of armed men wearing painted leather armor and wielding spears surrounded the front of the brothel, walling in the group of young ladies and boys.
Behind the line of armed men, a cluster of people had also gathered to ogle and inquire about what was happening.
Exiting the building, Kaidus scanned the problem before him.
Standing by the walls to the left side of the brothel, the girls watched him with eyes filled with trepidation and unease. They had undoubtedly heard what happened to Coragus from those who fled earlier, and many were watching him cautiously.
A large force of spearmen stood at attention, surrounding and blocking off their paths. “Spears forward!” Someone commanded, and the wall of spears came down, pointing inward toward them.
A broad-shouldered man wearing light plate armor cut into the encirclement and stared at the group of girls. “Who is it? Who dares to disturb the peace of Karpes?!”
“That would be me.” Undeterred, Kaidus stepped forth toward the man.
“A child?” The armored man glanced back to someone, then to Kaidus again. “For your crimes against a valued member of this town, you are hereby under arrest! Men, restrain and disarm him!”
Some of the spearmen wavered, seeing they were up against a child.
Kaidus almost laughed at hearing the words “valued member of this town”. By his will, the ground began rumbling and people stumbled in surprise as a barrier of stone spikes emerged from the ground, obstructing the wall of spearmen and preventing them from moving forward. “Do not waste my time.” He spoke softly, yet his voice thundered outward. “This matter has already been resolved, and I would hate for it to escalate any further. Stay back and allow us to leave peacefully. Consider this my only warning.”
The armored men’s face drained of all colors and he scowled at a man behind him. “M-Men! Fall back!” He shouted, retreating a distance from the spikes.
Kaidus turned to the girls. “I apologize for the delay. Let us go and procure you all some supplies and equipment before we leave this town. Please let me know of anything you may need.” Yet instead of answering, most of them shrunk back at his words.
“Cl-clothes…” A small and frightened voice answered courageously. Sarah peeked out at him from behind her sister Saadra—who was still wrapped in a worn brown blanket.
“Of course.” He smiled softly, trying not to scare her or any more of them.
Without another word, he began walking away and the spikes submerged back into the ground. The wall of spearmen nervously parted for him, and Vick followed along with the group of boys, girls, and women. A gentle breeze circled around them, ever watchful for any unexpected trouble.
As evening rolled around, a group of twenty-seven people were outside the town of Karpes—away from the main entrance.
Using a collective sum of money from everyone, they had been able to procure four large dolshas—strong resilient work horses—along with two old but sizable caravan wagons, and two fat dronnons for 4,287 erns. With another three hundred, they had bought a large amount of enduring provisions for the road ahead, saddling most of them onto the dronnons.
There was excitement abound, and the younger children ran together, happily chasing one another while they waited to leave.
Even the frightened older girls were showing signs of life. Some gazed back at the town with lonely expressions, while others were eager to depart and see the outside world.
Many of them carried small bundles of belongings that they had either went back and retrieved from the brothel, or bought during the day’s preparations.
Loading up the last of the supplies, Kaidus got off the wagon and began looking around. A few of the girls avoided his line of sight as he scouted for Vick, and he could see that they were still afraid of him.
“Are we going to leave now?” Sarah questioned, popping out from the side of the wagon. Unlike some of the others, the girl had already gotten over her fear of him, and her behavior was very reminiscent of Anise’s.
He could not help but smile. “Yes.”
“Where are we going? Do you know?”
“We’re going to a small village with lots of fields and open spaces.”
“Is it far? Are the people there going to be–”
“Sarah, please don’t bother Kaidus.” Saadra interrupted as she joined them.
Wearing a long blue skirt that had three black stripes running from the waist to its hem, and a brown tie-up blouse with white lining and strings, Saadra was looking rather lovely in her new clothes.
“It is not a problem. Is everyone ready?”
“They should be.”
“Good. Please tell everyone to get on the wagons then. It’s time to leave.”
The two girls looked at him quizzically, but went along with his request.
He found Vick at the front of the wagons taking a last look at the harnesses on the horses.
“So back to Esperen huh?” Vick questioned without looking back.
“Yea. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but thank you for going along with this.”
He wanted to send them to Lord Shradech because the old man would definitely help them, but he wasn’t sure how the girls would fare in the forest. Instead, he had decided to send them to Esperen and asked Vick to go with them. From their time there, the place looked relatively safe. Being a farming village, the girls would be able to work and live in a different environment.
“Not much of a choice there for me, you brat. Your selfishness is beyond all manner of reason, you know that?” Vick replied, turning to face him with a half-smile.
“I’m sorry for putting you through all this.”
“If you were truly sorry, you’d tell me everything you’re hiding from me right now.” The man grinned jokingly.
“Maybe someday.” Kaidus returned a wry smile. Vick was like a brother to him, but there are secrets that were better off locked away.
“I see. Someday then. As for this task, I’ll make sure the girls are safe before I do anything else.” Vick replied compliantly.
“You sure you wouldn’t rather join us instead? Being surrounded by a group of girls, it’s every man’s dream you know?” There was a big smile on Vick’s face.
“You do know what will happen if you force yourself on any of them right?” Kaidus joked back and saw the smile twisting.
“I- I would never!”
“Just making sure we’re clear on that subject.” Kaidus gave a devious smile.
“Dammit, what do you think I am?” Vick leaped over to him and put an arm around his neck, choking him playfully.
“I got it. Stop, it’s time to depart already.”
“Alright then.” Vick released him and jumped onto the driver’s seat, taking the rein. “Good luck, and don’t forget. Every day at noon.”
“Good. Go and check the others. I’ll wait for your signal.”
With the group consisting of mostly children, the two wagons easily accommodated them all. Both wagons were tied together and pulled by all four horses and the two dronnons. The plan was to get away from Karpes quickly, then move at a slow pace to help lessen the strain on the animals.
Taking one last look around the wagons, he found Saadra and Sarah standing by themselves at the back. Everyone else had already boarded except for them.
“What are you two doing? It’s time to go.”
“Kaidus… you- you’re not coming with us are you?” Saadra questioned, sounding almost worried.
He smiled. “I am not.” Upon his reply, the girl went quiet.
“Why?” Sarah spoke up for her sister.
“I apologize for not helping until the end, but Esperen is only a handful of days away, and Vick will make sure you all get there safely like I promised.”
“What are we going to do in Esperen?” Saadra interjected.
“That will be solely up to you. Whether such a life as the one you had here in Karpes is what you desired, or a different one, the choices will be yours to make. Should you or anyone choose to leave this group to go and find family or friends, no one will stop you from doing so. Your life is your own, and you may choose to do as you wish.”
“I-… No. Thank you Kaidus. For everything.” Saadra thanked, giving him a bright smile and lowering her head gratefully.
“Thank you.” Sarah imitated her sister.
“Take care of yourselves.” He replied, and they both raised their head.
“Thank you mister!!” Two young boys shouted from the wagons, and he looked over to see some of the girls nodding nervously in his direction.
He waved back to them as Saadra and Sarah climbed onto the wagons.
With a shout to Vick, the horses protested loudly and the group began rolling away.
Kaidus waited until they were out of sight.
Digging into his pocket, he brought out a metal ring and began concentrating on it, expanding his mana outward. The corresponding ring’s position had changed as he suspected. Tal’hrus was on the move, and had been moving nonstop ever since he made contact with them four days ago.
Stowing it back in his pocket, he began walking in the opposite direction of Vick and the girls.
After getting far enough from Karpes, “Let’s go.” He whispered, and the trees rustled violently as the wind gleefully picked him off the ground, shooting him towards the north.