8 👣 The Night

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"You'll come with me instead. Hurry."

The white-masked woman still grabs his shivering hand despite his constant yelps. Never once have they stopped to refill their entire lungs. Neither does she heed Raiden's agonized injuries, which beg for medical treatment.

As they weave through the lonely streets, where thugs snore within the dumpsters, Raiden's brain pieces up the scattered puzzles together.

His sister is a thief meddling with the unexplained. The onyx jewel buried in her palm isn't any ordinary jewelry. Especially when it comes from Kirminai, the sacred site.

The glow-worm cave, according to the stories Grandma Quartz provides weekly, stores objects beyond men's mere understanding.

Can this gypsy-like stranger know something about that onyx and its capabilities?

They continue their escapade under the street lights which cast shadows behind them. Above the puddles of alcohol, through the narrowest gaps where a stray cat daren't cast a trial upon, and behind the abandoned buildings littering the edges of the city.

When Raiden turns back to glance, Privilegiu's vibrant and bizarre-shaped buildings peak from the distance. Their lights are like flecks. The midnight overcast their beauty.

"Where are we going?" Raiden collapses on his knees, hitting the deserted sidewalk with some dog-like pants. His fatigue just set his limbs on fire.

The woman scans their surroundings thoroughly, like a mechanical robot. A sack is secured within her cradle, the same one like she carried during their first encounter.

Sandbags. Unless the golden sewings trailing alongside her trousers catch his eyes, he would've thought she's wearing a colored version of those. The sewings trail on, farther above her waist and embroider the white sleeveless top on its edges.

Why is he observing her attire? He should've stolen the moment to shut his eyes.

Lamps look like fireflies within his glasses-less vision. The permanent scars caused by the candelabra gnaw on his cheeks. And his back is inflexible like iron after the harsh encounters with the walls and floors.

"Excuse me? Where are we going? You never told me." It's as if the mute stalls and lightless buildings are listening to him intently.

The woman turns back, her white mask conflicting the pathetic surroundings. She looks like a frowning Pennywise, minus the clown attributes. "I can't answer now." It's delivered by a mossy throat. "You'll know. Stay quiet."

"I'm tired. Give me a break now." The sidewalk's pavements have entirely absorbed Raiden's strength. With his knees folded, he crawls to the nearest building, which has no levels and rests his back there, soothing its aching tremor.

His on-and-off instincts state that this is the city's outskirts.

Minimum public facilities like streetlights; unfixed access like this half-asphalted road; and the pedestrian bridge missing its original design, now losing its semicircle monument; are the evidence.

Raiden may have been suited living here, shall Ece's pride isn't that high. He prefers the cheaper items, closer and decent social relationships, higher tolerance...

"Come. We'll go that way." The approaching footsteps are like stones thrown across the river, just as she extends her free arm to hoist him up through the shoulders.

"How can you be so sure?" He blurts out, unaware of the woman's hand hovering slightly above his scarred cheeks. "What if you're fooling me?"

"I may look like a jester," she tilts her head aside, causing the bells showering down her hat to jingle in a motion, "but I don't fool people. Especially weakened ones like you."

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