Chapter 38 – Journey

Two weeks had now passed since Zilan and Jeza’s escape.
After gaining access to Ficha’s memories, Zilan had learnt of the trap Jibral was planning on setting. Therefore after meeting up with Jeza, who happened to know a secret passage way, they immediately left the city.

Unfortunately though, that did not mean that they were no longer in danger. Instead, Zilan was witnessing for the first time the sheer man power and authority that Order of killers possessed.
For every day that passed by, it seemed that the number of people searching for them had increased. It even got to a point where each small town they passed along their way would have information on a neighbouring town that had been attacked by crazy bandits.

In normal circumstances, of course Zilan wouldn’t have paid attention to news of bandits raiding towns or villages. He would have done what every other person would have and been thankful that it wasn’t happening to him.

The problem was these weren’t normal circumstances and after inquiring a bit on what exactly warranted these bandits being dubbed crazy, Zilan instantly became thankful that he did so.
It turned out the “bandits” would raid one small town after another, but strangely seemed to be in so much of a hurry that they didn’t bother to steal anything. This action however wasn’t what made them look crazy, rather it was the fact that they would grab a dozen or so people from each town and drag them all the way to the town square before shouting out,

“Show yourself and these people will be spared! Zilan!”

Some times random people would jump forward claiming to be Zilan with hopes of saving their loved ones however, after being examined and finding out they were lying, those people along with the ones who had been taken were all executed. Some bandits would then remain behind to slowly search for Zilan while the majority continued to another town. This was done to make sure no one slipped through the cracks.

These gruesome yet mysterious occurrences left many baffled as to who this Zilan actually was and what he had done to be pursued so intensely. In the end no one had answers to these questions.

As for the man in question, Zilan was thinking of something else. If it was the Zilan of old, then he would have probably been barraged with thoughts of the people who were dying because of this wild man hunt. But for better or worse, that Zilan was being suppressed by the power of the Gift of Love’s second level.

In his place was the now cold and calculating Zilan, devoid of any emotions that would prove to be a hindrance. And what this Zilan was thinking was,

“Hertic is still of living and probably fine.”

It wasn’t really that difficult for him to come to this conclusion, after all there had been a few black robed men around when he had gone to meet Ficha disguised as Shiur. Knowing Jibral though, he would probably have killed them upon sight of Ficha’s corpse and then the only way they could know about Shiur’s arrival was if Hertic used the spell to dig out their memories.
Some of these assumptions by Zilan were wrong but the end result still remained the same. The only difference was that instead of Jibral killing them, they had instead taken their own lives.
……………….

Now it looked like the people from the Order weren’t searching for a young ordinary looking fifteen year old. They were simply viewing everyone no matter their physical appearance, as a potential Zilan however, for them to actually have a method for testing whether or not someone was Zilan or not, was another reason why he had come to the conclusion that Hertic was alive, well and most likely leading this hunt.

Currently, the two people were in a rather small mud hut that they had rented out located in a village town quite some distance from Morning Dew city. Both of them had been on the move constantly and had little or no time to rest thus after making sure there were no traces of themselves left, they found this tiny secluded place.

In the middle of the hut was a saucepan placed on the fire, inside it were a couple of eggs boiling in hot water.

“I never asked you but where do you intend to go and what will you do from now on?” Jeza’s sparkling brown eyes looked towards Zilan whose appearance was currently that of a middle aged man with a gruesome scar above his nose.

Zilan simply took one look at Jeza before saying,

“I’m going to work on enacting my plan and when I’m done everything will forever change. What of you?”

Listening to the mysteriously cryptic words spoken by Zilan, Jeza could only helplessly shake her head in a, “I expected no less” manner.  During this time of hardship, the two had gotten to know each other a little better and the impression Jeza had gotten from Zilan was that he was a man of many faces both literally and psychologically. Sometimes he was cold, other times he would change into a warm hearted youngster but what remained the same was that, everything he did had a purpose.

“Me? I intend to report to the seventh Lieutenant and get him to fulfil his promise.. then I’ll go back home and leave this fight for good…”

Zilan raised his eyebrows in an intrigued manner. Seeing this, Jeza smiled and elaborated.

“I’ve been meaning to tell you this for some time now since it also concerns the debt that you owe me.”

“Oh!”

“Six years ago, my twin brother and I chose to join one of the largest military factions in the whole of the Beast lands. He stood out as a gifted archer and scout so it was only natural that he would continue to rise in rank. However, a mission was one day forced onto him by a superior and a few days later I received word that he’d been captured.” Jeza stopped as she steadied her breath.

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“I didn’t know what to do and no matter how much I pleaded, no one would tell me anything about the mission. It was only until Tort approached me and promised that if I escorted them and successfully acquired explosives from an Alchemist, that information on the mission would be disclosed to me by the Lieutenant. Now I have you, so all I need are what you promised and I can finally know what happened to my brother.”

She then looked at Zilan with a pleading  expression but she unexpectedly noticed a small frown on his slightly wrinkled face.

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“What’s wrong?”

“Jeza, you were most likely decieved!” said Zilan resolutely.

“Eh?…. How… do you know?”

“I know nothing, I’m only speculating. But from what you’ve described everything is almost the same to stories of desperate individuals who’ve been taken advantage of. In your case, Tort found a weakness and used deceit to motivate you into working hard on his behalf. The hostility you showed when I was first captured by you, is now understandable. You were the most motivated person in the group.” Said Zilan.

“Think about it yourself, why would Tort give you information that no one else dared divulge in exchange for a single escort mission. For someone you barely knew, would you risk harsh punishment in exchange for a small task completed?”

Zilan’s words were very logical. Imagine a child who wanted to skip his chores, so he tells another less fortunate child that as long as she does it for him, a reward in the form of candy would be given.  The twist however, was that the boy knew that if he gave out that candy his mother would beat him severely therefore he was simply tricking the girl into doing his work for him and he had no plans of handing over the candy.
The girl is Jeza and the crafty boy is Tort.

“No…That can’t be….Tort wouldn’t….he…”

Seeing Jeza slowly drift into a state of endless confusion, regret and rage, Zilan could only say,

“I can help you though….if that is the wish you want!”

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