Chapter 34:

A Chat

A Tour of the World Between Worlds

Lerato rolled his shoulders a moment before standing up. He made his way to a small table between the metal contraptions and picked up a bottle to drink from. With a satisfied ‘ah’ from the drink, he turned back to me.

“Guess you stumbled on my training ground!” he said.

Training, he said. I could not see how this was training. There wasn’t even a target to throw knives at or a poisoned spear to dodge. It was probably best not to raise such concerns to Lerato; however, he was large enough to easily throw me into a random world-lake.

“I see,” I replied. “Do you… train often?”

Lerato made a proud smile.

“Of course! It is a hero’s duty to be in top shape at all times.”

“To do what?” my eyes grew wide after I spoke. I had meant to keep that in my mind but spoke freely instead. This time in this grey world had severely hurt my discipline.

Lerato chuckled.

“Well, the ultimate hero will risk life and limb to protect others! You must be ready to face any foe at any time and have the strength to back up your will,” he answered as he grabbed a towel and began to wipe his bulky neck.

His idea was odd; I’ll give him that. I pondered for a moment about whether I ought to respond. He wanted to be strong enough to protect people head-on, with brute force, which didn’t make any sense—it would be much easier to stay in the shadows and stab from behind, and even more logical, everyone would be protected, and he wouldn’t have to risk a thing. I suppose it was a good chance for conversation, but I had little desire to start one. There was no telling what such a discussion would lead to. In the worst case, we might grow closer, and a voice similar to the mother in my dreams seemed to say, ‘that is what assassins should not do.’

It was odd being disconnected from my memories but still hearing the possible echoes from them.

I nodded to show I had received what Lerato said, even though that was furthest from the truth, and quickly changed the subject.

“The blob thing came back out of the myst.”

What I said might have been jarring, but Lerato seemed to understand the severity enough to not care about how it was delivered. His brown eyes grew wide a moment, and his smile fell into a frown.

“I see,” he said after a moment of silent contemplation, “that is not good. Do you know where it went?”

“It went back into the myst.”

Lerato rubbed his chin while looking off into the distance. It took him a moment to reply.

“Did it get driven off, or simply come out and retreat?”

“I fought it, and my daggers burned it,” I explained. I had a feeling that I knew what Lerato was thinking. If it came in and ran, it might have been scouting, but if it had been chased off, then:

“We should have some time before it comes back,” he finished my thoughts.

I nodded in agreement. Whatever that thing was, unformed dragon or not, it had some intelligence. Scary as the thought was, I would expect that the fight with it would keep it away, at least until the creature thought it had a plan to counter me.

Still, there was no telling how long that would be, and the creature had given us much trouble the first time.

Honestly, it might just be best to leave it alone. The monster could drop into a world somewhere and be their problem. At the very least, I didn’t see why I had to fight it. I should just be able to slip away.

I say that, but when faced with the monster earlier, I still attacked. My thoughts and actions were certainly not aligned. Was this due to my memory loss or just a part of my nature?

Fortunately, Lerato pulled me out of my thoughts.

“We should head back and inform Pythagoras. Without the others, we could be in for a hard battle if attacked.”

“Do you think it will attack?”

“I hope not, but….” Lerato’s voice trailed off as he stared at the grey sky. As if to answer his gaze, a stream of water from a world lake flew overhead at that exact moment. The timing should have surprised him, it did for me, but instead, he frowned. “Yes, let’s head back right away. We will set up a perimeter around the base camp and hold out there until the others return.” His voice was calm, but he spoke faster than usual as if he needed to rush.

“What is going on?” I asked.

“I can’t say for certain, but my hero sense tells me something major is about to occur.”

What In any world was a ‘hero sense’? I held my tongue a moment before blurting out my thoughts. It wasn’t easy; I would have to get back into a disciplined cycle once Azul got me home.

“I don’t quite follow,” I finally said.

“It feels like there is a crisis about to occur.” Lerato attempted to elaborate, I think he had something in mind, but it was still unclear. At the very least, I understood what a crisis meant in the ordinary sense.

I didn’t get a chance to ask another question. He waved that we should leave, and we returned to the base in silence.