Chapter III : The Desert Beyond III

Chapter III : The Desert Beyond

“ Defiance “

“ Hmmm… “ Rina was lost in thought as the group continued their journey.

The girl looked at her own map as they walked on under the aurora. Occasionally, they would stop and eat some traveler’s meat which was tough, dried animal flesh, or a bit of fuzzyworm soup. When someone was tired, they took turns and kept watch. Jackets and cloaks weren’t just for protection; they were also portable beds and blankets.

“ What are you writing? “ Thyme sat beside Rina as they kept watch while the farmer slept.

“ Errol’s map… I remembered some of what I saw, “ she showed her own map to her fiancé and pointed to an area below Town #27, “ I think we’re here but… “

“ But what? “ the guard sounded agitated, “ Is he leading us around in circles?! “

Thyme’s voice was a bit loud, so Rina put a finger over her own lips which meant that he should be quiet. The young man complied, but he still shot an angry glance at Errol who seemed to be writing something on scraps of paper.

“ … I saw a number here. It was 135, close to a drawing that looked like a tardigrade, “ she looked up at Thyme, “ I think we’re near Town #135, but we’re going around it instead of through it. “

The young man was thoughtful for a moment. He then walked over to Hunter who was jotting down his own notes about tardigrades. Rina heard a bit of their conversation-

“ … into a town… “

“ – bad idea! “

“ – don’t trust him… “

“ My father said… “

“ – Rina knows the way. “

It ended when Hunter sighed and went back to what he was doing, and Thyme angrily went back to Rina’s side.

“ Let’s go, “ the red-haired young man said as he picked his bag up.

“ Go? Where? “ his fiancée asked.

“ You know the way, right? “ Thyme picked Rina’s bag up as well, “ To 135. “

The female historian didn’t want to be separated from the group, but at the same time, she wanted to get a peaceful moment’s sleep. Rina did rest every now and then, but she was never at ease; the sandy desert was nothing like a comfortable bed. So, despite her better judgment, she used her knowledge of the positions of stars to lead the way to Town #135.

“ Steel! “ the brown-haired tamer woke the sleepy man up, then he turned to Errol, “ Thyme and Rina are leaving! Do something! “

The young historian sighed and smiled at Xing’s son as if all was well. He stuffed his drawing items into his hat and stood up without the faintest hint of urgency, and then he stomped on the ground twice. Puppy emerged from beneath the sands of Desert Beyond and began to follow the couple who went ahead.

“ He’s the kind of person who will do as he pleases, “ Errol said as he helped Steel pack his stuff, “ Better let him learn from his mistakes. “

Hunter was very worried about Thyme and Rina, both of whom were his childhood friends, but the black-haired one was right. He was surprised at Errol’s maturity despite the unnatural smile on the historian’s face. Steel grumbled something that sounded like those darn kids before he got up and followed Puppy. Their pace steadily grew faster and after a while, Rina collapsed. Her fiancé rejected the others’ offer to help and instead put the girl on his back as he carried their bags in his hands.

“ You could just hop onto Puppy, “ Errol suggested.

“ Like hell I will! “ Thyme yelled, which earned him a loud grunt from the tardigrade.

Steel grumbled again but he knew better than to agitate the guard any further. After a bit more walking and just as the first rays of the sun emerged from the horizon, the group saw large, white stone structures in the distance. They were houses.

“ A town? “ the farmer was surprised. He turned to the little one, “ Errol? “

“ Thyme said something about a town around here, “ Hunter explained, “ I thought he was mistaken… I guess he wasn’t. “

Errol did not explain. He did not defend himself. Instead, the black-haired guide followed Puppy and the couple into the town. As the aurora vanished from the sky, it was replaced by a familiar clear blue color. Hunter sighed and just followed Errol; the farmer, on the other hand, was hesitant. Something in his gut told him not to go forward, and that feeling never failed him before. The deep, massive slashes on the sides of the houses only served to strengthen that horrible feeling inside him.

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