Chapter 27:

Chapter 23. A Night Out.

Another Story [Hiatus]

As Ono is preparing the camp area where we will temporarily be staying the night, Liliana scooches herself over to my side of the bonfire we have set up. I still am thinking about what happened with Ilya and Olen. They have been somewhat of a close set of friends for May and I, not just neighbors. Did they really die? Who killed them? Why did they kill them? Why would someone kill people who do nothing? More and more questions just keep popping up.

"Hey, Aura. Are you calming down?" Liliana said, trying to console me.

I do not want to lie, but I have to: "Yes, I think so."

"You think so?" repeating my phrase quite questionably. She doesn't seem to believe in my lie.

"Well, I have lots of things in my mind. Ilya and Olen ーthe people who live in that house were close friends," I opened up to her. She seems to be someone I can trust.

"Oh, they were the ones who used to live in that house?" she asks politely.

"Yes, they were the ones. To think that they're dead. . ."

"Don't be sad that they're gone, be happy that they have lived," she says. "Maerten, have you caught any fish yet?"

"No, ma'am," he replies from the edge of the creek. He has been trying to catch fish for some time now.

"But I don't even know how they died," I tell Liliana.

"Only time will unfold the truth. Don't sob about the past and let it hinder you in the present. We have to focus on the mission for now."

"I'm sorry. . ."

"Don't be, I completely understand how you feel."

The logs we placed on the bonfire crackles itself and the fire blazes once more. I feel somewhat voided about what happened. I have new questions to ask May once I see her again. She did tell me that she was going to the mission as well. So, I think I can tell her about it.

A few moments pass as I sit by the bonfire looking at its flames, its warmth rousing my skin with its gentleness. The flames dance flawlessly, as if embracing the surroundings, and enlighten the dark areas of our camping site. We were lucky enough to find a piece of flat ground. The area isn't that big, but just enough to set up a little tent for tonight, according to Ono. Ono is still busy setting up the grill, he gathered some dried logs and put them all up in a neat pile.

Liliana and I sit next to each other looking at the dancing flame, her face illuminated by it beautifully. Despite her strong personality, she is very beautiful. Anyhow, she is right, I have to think about the mission as well. I have to find out what happened, but also try to help my group. I cannot possibly burden them with my emotions.

"Guys, I found some really good wild greens we can eat," Andri finally comes back from his foraging. He said he will be cooking today's dinner alongside if Maerten manages to catch a fish.

"Great!" Liliana stands up and checks what he got.

"Ma'am, I caught one," Maerten also manages to catch a fish from the creek. He shows it and it seems to be a decent-sized fish with grey-ish scales.

"Nice! Everything is coming together," Liliana seems to be very pleased. "Everything going well over there, Ono?"

"Uh-uhm, yes!" he says shyly. He showed a small cooking grill made of stone, with a pit underneath to put some logs. He seems to have made it with his Kraekan incantations. Despite him being so small and frail-looking, he is very talented with crafting. He even crafted a few bird sculptures earlier, trying to cheer me up. The sculptures were very detailed and life-like, as if actually ready to flap their wings and fly. "The tent, I will do after, if you don't mind."

"No problems, I am just making sure that we have a place to actually cook," Liliana told Ono. She is really taking her job seriously as the group leader. I admire people like that. People who keep a face on as well as do good at their job.

"How do you all want your fish cooked?" Andri asks everyone.

"It doesn't really matter to me," I say.

"As long as it is safe to eat," Liliana orders anyway.

"Alright," Andri then soon starts to cook on the stove Ono prepared and takes out a metallic pan from his sack on the cart. He also takes what seems to be spices and some other herbs for ingredients as well. He also likes cooking, I guess. But he doesn't talk about it as much as Jayde does.

"Do you need help with that, Andri?" Ono asks politely.

"No, no need, but if you want to, you can!" Andri replies pleasingly towards his request. Both of them seem to be really friendly people.

While those two are cooking, Liliana tends to the horses. Apparently the horses are from her family, so she must know them quite well. She pets the horses gently on their necks as well as brushing their hair with some kind of brush. The horses seem quite pleased and signals for more. She giggles a bit from the horses' reaction and continues.

While everyone is doing their own things, I still sit there by the bonfire getting captivated by its flame. So pretty from afar, yet harmful if you get too close. The flame slowly getting weaker only to get bigger again when I put another log on the pile. The smoke of the flame slowly going up to the night sky. The sky is very clear, one can seemingly see each star. Every time I look at the stars, it shows me how small I am compared to the world, but despite this, the world still gave me this strange power. Why did they give me this power, anyway? Why me? What is the meaning of this power? This power never gave me anything good.

I see Maerten catch another fish by the creek, he quickly informs the others and adds the newly caught fish onto the grill. Everyone seems to be ecstatic about the food, the fish starts to smell really good as well. Not to add that the herbs are also adding that slight tinge of spicy aroma to the air.

Ono prepares some wooden utensils to eat on and once the food was all done, the rest of the group continues their conversations by the bonfire, safely placing all their food-filled plates on their laps. Liliana scooches herself next to me again while Ono and Andri are sitting down in the opposite direction. It seems that Maerten eats on his own by the horses, tending them every now and then.

I also then stand up and take my own portion of fish from the grill, and then take out my own utensils which I bought last night with May. The wooden plate that Ono gave is beautiful and intricate, showing a neatly placed carving on the sides. I go back to sit down next to Liliana who invited me to sit next to her.

"What time do we arrive tomorrow?" Andri asks while eating his portion of grilled fish.

"If everything goes well, we will be there around the second quarter of the afternoon," Liliana replies.

"If everything goes well?" I ask.

"Well, we are in bandit territory," Liliana says as if this were common knowledge.

"Oh," I say, trying to swallow the information she just gave. So, we are basically in dangerous waters already.

I start to slowly eat my grilled fish. The flavor is somewhat wild and delicious despite it being very simple and fresh. The skin of the fish is my favorite part while eating it, it is super crispy. The meat has a lot of juices oozing out of it and the aroma is very lemony.

"Andri, how'd you cook the fish? It's so good!" I compliment his cooking skills.

"Ah, I just took some lemon juice which I pressed from fresh lemons before. Then, I added some other spices such as oregano and pepper, and little salt to enhance the flavor further," he explains.

"It's really good!" Ono also compliments.

"I agree, how'd you learn how to cook?" Liliana asks him quite curiously.

"Making medicines and potions is somewhat close to cooking. I have learned how to cook in the process of learning how to make different potions."

"Oh, I see," Liliana replies, "that is one way to learn it, I guess."

"Do we have any further plans tonight?" I ask Liliana who seems to be in charge, after all.

"Well, we are to set up the tent for tonight, so only that and if you want; you can take a bath at the creek before going to sleep," she replied.

After finishing eating our food, Ono tries showing us how to set up the tent without even touching it. Of course, we all couldn't do it ourselves as it requires a Kraekan incantation. He takes all the supplies for the tent and lays them all neatly in a stack on the patchy grass.

"Uh, I will show you now," he says gently while we admire his soft voice and cute expressions. He then went on his knees and chanted "Igur Haruy Uruh Oliagu," while keeping his eyes closed. It seems that the Kraekan language is very bluntly spoken but Ono still manages to make it surprisingly soft. After some time, the log that is meant to be the core of the tent holding up the sail levitates and digs itself on the ground sturdily. Afterwards, the sail goes over, gently placing the center of it on the log and making it all look more like a tent. Lastly, the nails that were to hold down the sail would levitate on each side of the it, and dig itself on the ground securing everything.

"Wow!" says Andri. He seems to not believe what he just saw.

"That's really cool!" I also add on to complimenting Ono for his incantation. Everything went really smooth during the process.

We all put our things under the safety of the sail, it seems that Maerten will sleep on the cart. I think that's how servants sleep, though. We all put down our sleeping bags as well, I see that I would sleep next to Andri, and on the opposite side next to Ono would be Liliana.

The sounds of nature start to get more apparent as the night fully took over, the fire of the bonfire is also getting weaker. I could hear the crickets, the birds as well as mammals off in the dense set of woods around us. It is somewhat scary knowing that we do not know what is beyond what our eyes could see.

"We have time to take a bath in the creek before sleeping," Liliana informs.

"Oh! That's cool! I'd take a dip," Andri seems to be ecstatic as he started to take off his uniform and shirt, "But, will you join us too, though?"

"Of course not!" she replied, "I'll take my bath at the camp, I heard that they have set up a proper bath."

"Oh, okay," said Andri. "Are you joining, Aura? Ono?"

"Oh, yes. I will join," I replied. I can't possibly leave him alone while he is out in the open. I slowly take off my clothes as well, feeling somewhat naked. I haven’t actually been naked in front of a man before. It feels somewhat awkward showing my upper body. But, I think it's normal, I am a man, after all.

Ono joins as well and soon enough, we take our dip in the creek which was cold at first, but our bodies got more used to the temperature as time went by, making it surprisingly pleasant, and refreshing. Slowly dragging out the weariness from the venture. We find an area where the water seems to be welling up, making no current whatsoever. We then relax in this area where we all just sit down on some rocks, feeling the water on our half-naked bodies. No one seems to talk during our soothing bath. Maybe because we think that Liliana is trying to sleep.

After taking the bath, we then dry up all our wet undergarments which we all hung on a low-hanging branch. We changed in some dense bushes we found where one can change and not be seen. Once I have been fully changed, I then slowly take my place next to Andri who also after some time, changes himself and tucks himself in his sleeping bag.

"Aura," Andri whispers. I look at him and he seems to be smiling at me, "Good night," he says finally.

"Good night," I tell him as well.

But it's far from a good night for me. Thoughts circling my mind keep me up and I do not know when to sleep. The moon filtering through the seams of the canvas sail on top of me transforms into spotlights, seemingly projecting each and every problem that arose today. The sounds of nature silencing a little as if all of nature is asleep. Well, except for some who I actually hear hoot-hooting and some flapping their wings of mammal skin making shadows on the sail. I lie there watching the show of nature unfolding itself before me. Unraveled questions seemingly appearing on the surface with which only comes my frustration even clearer. Olen and his wife are dead. And it might even be my fault. I just don't know why.

I fall asleep. With difficulty. Some rumbling noises from the woods, but I don't mind it. It's probably just some animal. . . Bookmark here

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