Chapter: 7

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For the first time I had something that was mine to exchange for food and shelter, and so I lavished: apparently the trinkets Arapaima gave me were worth a lot, and not only I was able to rent a place to stay until the Selection Festival, but to buy a lot of food. And I surely was a lot hungry!

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“You surely… eat a lot”, Ike smiled while I crushed the deer bone with my teeth. “Even bones.”

“Coyotes are omnivores!”

“I see… In any case, since your legs seem to have healed already, and you don’t need my help anymore, I’ll get back to the place I’m staying too, then. Maybe study medicine some more so as not to give such wildly mistaken diagnoses as I did this time, hehe… Still, if you need me, I’m camping close to the totem pole to the east. Good bye, Coyote.”

“Good bye, Ike”, he was a nice guy. Even more hesitant in the use of violence than I was, but still. I hoped I’d see him again in The School!

I was already repeating my meal for the third time, when someone else sat before me in the triangular leather tent:

“Hey, how are you doing?”, it was a human girl with shoulder-length green-hair, and an easy smile. Had I seen her somewhere before? Either way, she answered her own question when I hadn’t even swallowed yet: “cool, cool, good to hear that.”

“I didn’t say a thing yet, though?”

“Anyway, how was it in the cave?”, she pressed on, taking a piece of meat from my plate.

“It was pr… wait, how do you know about the cave?”

“Anyone can see the wind magic coat over you”, she shrugged. “Plus, we came across one another, back in Arapaima’s fortress. He takes everyone there”, ah, so that’s why she looked familiar, she was the same green-haired girl from that time.

“What do you me-”

“Cut the crap”, I heard a voice coming from behind me, and turning around, I saw a frowning man with a white mohican hairstyle. There were a few more tough-looking guys beside him, but they kept quiet. “We know you bought your offering.”

“Yes, I did. So what?” my honest question seemed to throw the man aback.

The green-haired girl, however, laughed out loud. When she finally calmed down, still holding her hurting belly and panting, she explained:

“So what that this is very illegal, dude. You may be banished from this place forever if this becomes public.”

“Oh.”

“’Oh’, indeed”, she copied me, smiling. “Don’t worry, however. We, actually, work for Bear Mountain, and are willing to overlook this ‘naive misbehavior’… if you help us with something, that is.”

“I will help you!”, I absolutely could not afford to not get into the Bear Mountain. Where else could I learn about the origin of that mysterious chain tattoo, and get healed from it, after all?

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“Good. Why don’t you start by telling us all about the business you did with Arapaima?”, the green-haired girl crossed her arms and put on a relaxed smile.

I told her everything, taking care only to not get Spruce involved in that.

Her relaxed expression, by the end of the story, had become one half astonished, half terrified.

“…And, if we get back to this section of the cave, we’d still find these bones in there?”

“Sure, I guess?”, I shrugged.

I couldn’t imagine a reason why the bones would vanish, after all.

And so, the green-haired girl quickly got up, putting on a frown even deeper than the mohican guy, and moved away from the food-selling tent I sat by.

“Captain! Captain, you don’t really believe this guy’s story, do you?!”, the mohican man called the green-haired girl.

“We go to the cave, and if he’s lying, he gets banished from here, and at worst we lose a single day of investigation. If he’s telling the truth, we can finally get Arapaima… and save the next despaired fool that dares to employ that man’s services. We are going in there right now”, she didn’t leave space for discussion. Seemingly remembering something, she turned back to me, and though she tightened her fists and frowned, the contempt didn’t reach her eyes, but only concern: “Oh, and if you’re telling the truth, you should take care until we deal with Arapaima… and that swordsman friend of yours should too.”

Then, the green-haired girl and her subordinates left me alone, moving as one to the Wind Cave, as I questioned myself what she meant by all of that.

…Well, my food wouldn’t get any hotter or tastier, so I got back to eating.

Finally with a full stomach, long after night had already fallen, I asked the cook where I could find a place to stay, and he pointed me to the nearest inn. I thanked him, and strolled away.

“See, Coyote? I knew things would get better in the city!”, I told myself, satisfied.

Then, from my back, a hand covered my mouth, and a frigid blade sliced my throat open, a geyser of red blood gushing from the wound with much pressure, drenching my clothes and the road before me with my own gore.

In seconds I lost all my strength, my vision went dark, and I fell on the ground, as the world went cold, and I gagged on my own

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