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Idly wandering around the camp's perimeters, Shin'an had had no luck with her foraging and, frustrated, was making her way back to the camp proper when she heard the rustling. Turning her head to check her blind side, she huffed a breath of relief when she realised there was no danger to her. More sounds came, sounds that were like combat - a blade, claws, something huge - and she slipped through the trees just as Abel called for her. Well, aren't I the little lapdog, she grimaced, but there were more important things right now than the state of her fragile ego. If she didn't act, the group that would get her mostly safely to Laccer could well be destroyed.
The first thing she did was unsheathe her dagger from its place on her arm. Against that Bug she doubted it would have little effect unless she could slip it through its armour; her poisons only worked once in the bloodstream. That was what the glass phial she was pulling from the thick leather apron was for. Shin'an went nowhere without a good number of these on her person, and while to the untrained eye it looked like water, the acid contained inside had, diluted, caused the damage to her face. It had done plenty of damage to lesser infected, but the Bug would be her next subject upon which to test its properties.
Scuttling towards Abel, she gave the Bug a wide berth while she decided the best point for the acid to contact. While she'd never fought anything so big and fearsome before, the creature had enough of a human anatomy for her to spot the discrepancy in its armour: the hole in its shoulder. If she got the acid there, that would open up a weak spot that would render the arm essentially useless and give her poisons a point to enter the bloodstream.
"Stay back when I throw this," she warns, sliding the dagger away for a moment to pull the cork out of the bottle, "or you'll end up much worse than me." She didn't mention she didn't have anything to counter its effects; there wasn't time to pack anything and she'd thought it would be safe. Of course it wouldn't be - what a short-sighted fool you are, Shin'an, she chided - but now was not the time to pity her poor choices. When the Bug charged again, she sloshed the phial's contents up towards its shoulder and darted out the way as fast as she could, stumbling and tripping on her own feet but hearing the satisfying hiss of acid that has found something to eat.
When she twisted back up, she could barely disguise the look of disappointment on her face. Her concoction had done very little to the carapace, although wafts of smoke told her it was still eating away patiently. The hole in its shoulder was wider though, and fresh blood dripped from the wound that stank of burning flesh. She did not envy the creature one bit; if enough had gotten into the wound, it would soon reach bone and that would weaken the arm enough to lop it off with a more hefty weapon than hers. That is, if Bugs were still human enough to have bone...
Isabella mumbled softly as she felt herself being lifted into the air, she held onto whoever carried her tightly. Refusing to let go until she felt herself being laid down and a body laying next to her, in which she scooted closer and rested herself against the form. As she drifted back into a deep sleep once more, for once, she wasn't plagued by nightmares.
She awoke to a yell and sat up quickly, blushing as she saw that she was laying against Rain. He looked so sweet and peaceful, and she had the sudden urge to kiss his cheek. At first, she thought she had just been dreaming with the noise, but when she heard it again, she got up quickly and peeked her head outside the tent.
Abel was strugling with something and it seemed to be another bug. With a gasp, she quickly popped back into her tent and shook Rain, "Rain! Wake up! It's another bug, Abel needs help!" She got up and started throwing his stuff to him, then quietly dissapeared out of the tent to get the ones who couldn't fight to safety.
People were starting to drift back into camp. Abel had gotten his tent set up and bedroll ready; he sat against a tree at the edge of the camp, nibbling on some bread. He wasn't very hungry yet, and there was still the possibility that someone would cook dinner with the fire, make a stew with their rations or something like that.
There was a rustling sound behind him, and he looked around, expecting to see one of the missing people. But there was no one behind him, not as far as he could see.
Confused, he put his bread into a pocket and stood. It was probably just a raccoon or squirrel--but it sounded too big. A bear? He put his hand on his sword.
"Hello?" he asked, just in case someone was hidden behind a tree or obscured by the shadows.
Suddenly, something rushed at him--something huge and black. He pulled out his sword just before they clashed, and was knocked backwards by the force of the clash. He rolled away and flipped upright, just getting back to his feet before it lunged at him again. In the moment before they met, he identified the attacker--a Bug.
Again, he was pushed back by its strength, although this time he managed to keep his feet. Just his left arm wasn't enough to match it. The Bug screamed and backed off, getting ready for a third lunge. Abel took a deep breath--and activated his right arm.
It felt as though his arm was struck by lightning--pins and needles, a thousand times over. His arm twitched, then jumped--the Bug slashed at him, and he parried. A second late, his right arm met his left and kept the sword stable. His right arm was swelling, regaining its old proportions and then growing larger, an exoskeleton crackling over his skin as his fingers hardened and curled into claws. He pushed back with new found strength as his right arm grew as strong as his left, and then stronger. The Bug screamed louder than before, and he noticed a hole in its shoulder, congealed black blood stained down its arm. He raised a leg and kicked it away, retreating just a step towards the camp to regain his stance.
"Thrush! Shin'an!" he called. This wasn't something he could take down on his own--he was lucky to have run into the others. Otherwise, he would have had to run, hope it couldn't catch him.
As night fell, Thrush came back to the camp. The air had seemed to cool considerably and she came back frowning, not liking the cold in the least; it dulled her senses and made her more likely to succumb to sleep which she so deprived herself of. Dropping her large bundle of wood -more than anybody without her rigorous training would have ever been able to carry- she let out a huff of annoyance. Too many people, too much noise. Where the average person would have been drawn to the sound and warmth of a fire, she walked away and into the darker parts of the camp to set up a tent.
After a moment of thought, though, she split the dried pelts she preferred to use in her tent making so that there would be enough for two small tents. After all, she highly doubted that the boy had brought his own. And if he had then she could always just make the full-sized tent anyways.
Sitting down near the two tents, her thoughts wandered back to the Bug that had been there and the moment of sight. Once when she'd been granted sight she had been looking in the mirror. In that moment she had seen her eyes turn from the pitiful milky white of her disability to the color they should have been; a shade of deep forest green flecked with silver and brown. But she had always wondered what people would say if they saw that, or if they knew about the things that she heard.
Either way she simply sighed, leaning back against a tree and then grimacing as bark scraped her skin. Reaching a hand back she let out an irritated sound. That damn Bug had gotten her bad enough that the part of the clothing -both cloak and fight dress- had been sliced through cleanly as if sliced with a knife. "Damnit!" she cursed through her teeth, her annoyance at the monsters growing even more.
With another growl of annoyance, she leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Not sleeping as she didn't plan on getting much if any that night, just listening to everybody move about. Just from her listening, she could tell that most everybody was back in the camp, thankfully including Luz. It was good to know that he had at least taken her order to stay at least near camp. She didn't want him getting hurt, or doing something foolish again.
Rain's eyes closed for just a second as his charge denied anything particularly related to the cloth she carried. Then he gazed at Isabella and she quickly made her getaway, almost as if mesmerized by her silvery hair.
Rain almost chuckled, thinking to himself, "It's my fault. I shouldn't have asked - why would trust me so soon? And it's none of my business anyway - I'm hired to protect, not to ask questions."
He followed Isabella back toward the camp, about 20 steps behind her. Once there, he walked to the left of the campfire, pitching the tent that he and Isabella would share. Rain felt a pang of guilt - now that they were in such a large camp, it was possible that one or more women might share a tent, and Isabella might have felt more comfortable in that situation, but his lie about their marriage forced them to once again sleep under the same sheepskin.
Of course, not that Rain minded that. After all, he would better be able to keep a watchful eye on her if she was next to him.
Putting the final stakes in the ground, Rain remembered their past night and how close Isabella's face had been to his own...
But he awakened out of his daze by Isabella, who seemed to again be having a nightmare. None of the other travelers seemed to notice, but Isabella was having a tough time of it, and it looked as if she would fall forward into the fire.
Rain ran quickly to her, crouching and grabbing Isabella from behind, wrapping his arms around her waist. Still asleep, or perhaps just waking, he picked the lithe young lady up and held her close, walking her toward their tent, along the way nodding at one of the travelers and saying, "We've had a long journey - it seems my wife needs her rest."
Once in the tent, Rain laid Isabella gently down and arranged her space. He looked longingly at her and lay next to her as well. And the thought went through him mind that even though he knew almost nothing about her, and though Isabella wouldn't share anything either, he would give up everything, if need be, to protect her to the very end.
Three days Noemi had been hiking along a trail through godforsaken nowhere. The journey itself wasn’t hard, but the time rolling past her marching feet was undesirably lost. She’d taken leave of the road some hours before, cutting directly toward Laccer rather than wasting energy walking a sloping trail. Even so, the long hours piled up, leaving too much potential for thought. Considering the nature of her goal, she had so little chance of succeeding that sometimes it all felt too hopeless. Could things have been different if she had never left? Would she even be able to protect him once she found him again?
Rather than languish on doubts, Noemi tried to school her thoughts into a more productive daydream, playing through her mind how an ambush from varying positions along her path may be orchestrated. Three enemies? Perhaps four. Infected, the lot of them, striking out with crude weapons. She could imagine ducking under the first blow, drawing her blade out with the practiced sweep, gouging through the gut of her attacker. Parrying the strike of the next before shearing its head clear from its body. Blood like grease covering her hands and trying to seep beneath her grip, to dampen the fatal strength she put into each attack.
Noemi was distracted from the imagined events by meeting the end of the ravine she had found herself in. It was shallow, perhaps an old stream now dried up. She was still headed in the correct direction and, loath to change directions, Noemi looked for a path straight ahead. She could have made the distance in a few bounds, if she put forward the effort. Her legs felt up to the task. They felt strong, capable.
But she knew better than to recklessly throw herself around. There wasn’t need to exert herself for such a small task. With a small shrug she tugged her gloves tighter over her hands and reached up for a low-hanging branch. With slow progress she hiked up the incline by process of pulling her weight with her arms and stepping forward with her feet, the latter with only as much energy as she needed to expend. Moderation was key. Only giving the Infection what it needed to carry her onward. Only letting the Infection take the least she could afford to lose.
Reaching the top, Noemi found herself looking upon raised walls, closed gates and a scattering of tents surrounding the city. Exterminators, positioned to hold the quarantine. She couldn’t see the church from where she stood. Perhaps it stood on the far side of the city, or perhaps it had been reduced to rubble.
Striding up to the first band of exterminators she saw, she struck up conversation that perhaps should have been more accurately labeled an interrogation. She tried to keep her tone polite and her intentions to herself, but she hadn’t the patience maintain small talk. She didn’t care to swap news. Ponderings on the weather didn’t’ matter. Half-baked theories on how the infected had managed to so quickly overrun Laccer were a waste of time.
“I’m not here to talk,” Noemi said coolly, her words low and grounded out with the precision of a temper ready to snap. “Have you seen a Healer named Kaius? A white-haired boy. Tell me where he is.”
She was met only with shrugs and dismissals and with every failure her demands become shorter, her voice louder and the disturbances to the camps more noticeable. Getting attention had never been part of her plan, but she was going to search every inch of this area to make sure Kaius wasn’t here.
Vladnem had watched as the other two walked off, agreeing as to where they would meet up. He tugged at the sleeve of his coat, making sure it covered the new scabbing gash he had given himself from the biting. He had always bitten himself when he truly needed to calm down, but he knew that he had bitten deep even for him during their slight stop when the Shiny Man and Kaius had helped those other exterminators.
He made sure that the other two were out of sight, then began walking his own direction. The small of tainted blood was in the very air around here, but it was easily ignored by him. Because he wasn't looking for any of that filthy blood; no, he was more focused on finding somebody with good blood. After all, he had quite a few empty flasks now, and he wanted to be ready for any period of time without another chance.
He walked around the town quietly until the moon was fairly high, mumbling incoherent words to nobody in particular. Finally coming to a stop in front of a small house, he reached into his pocket and drew out a small container of brownish cream and a shard of scrap metal shaped like a knife. The cream was for numbing the knife, which Vladnem used to... "extract" the blood he so desired. He quietly snuck to the side of the house and crawled in a window, going about the house and making quick work of getting just a bit of blood from the three inhabitants.
By the time that the sun was rising, Vladnem had gotten all his flasks full by carefully cutting people in their sleep, and was now draped over a high branch asleep. He had only been there for an hour or two when he opened his eyes, groaning softly at the light. He wanted to sleep more, since he almost never got to. But he knew that it would be unwise for him to stay there.
So he grabbed his satchel which had been hung up on the branch above him, strapped it on, and headed for the meeting place. On his way there he stopped to get a small bread roll, trading a coin sized piece of glass he had stone-rubbed into the shape of a flower for it. He usually preferred to drink strictly blood, but even he knew it would be foolish to not supplement his food choices with solid food. Blood might be where all nutrition in humans passed through at some point, but it wasn't always consistent and often depended on the person he was stealing it from.
But nonetheless, his nose scrunched up in obvious distaste as he ate the solid, bland food.
Artorias sighed as he walked down the streets of Noct. There wasn't a single merchant selling any good horses or wagons which would make this journey I but more of an experience for them. He did manage to but some blankets and materials to start a fire before heading to the place he expected to find there. Exterminators were always heading towards Noct so it was only fitting for them to have a base of some sort here. He didn't knock, rather just barged in and began looking around. It was dark, and empty, like some abandoned building although it was clean enough to see that wasn't the case. He looked around for a bit until he found what he was searching for, the evidence of the exties heading to Laccer. This made things easier, there would be a lot more help around than anyone would need hopefully, but he knew that with infected things could change drastically. He left the building quickly before someone did decide to show up and headed back towards the spot he had told them to meet up at. He moved a bit of a ways away from the spot before setting down his things and leaning against a wall, falling into his regular bumish sleep.
He woke up lying down on the ground and sat up quickly, reaching for his sword. Still there. He stood and grabbed his things, looking around to see if everything was still in order. He remembered heading a lot of talk about attacks within the city, so caution was something that had to be at an all time high. It was one thing being attacked by an infected, it's an entirely new situation to be ambushed by one. He looked around to see if the two had shown up only to see that Kaius was the only one that had shown up so far. He looked around to see if the other one was near by but he didn't really see him anywhere. "I hope he didn't get into any trouble", he says as he walked over to Kaius and greeted him with a bow.
The inn was a bit of a strain on Kaius's wallet, but he figured it didn't exactly matter much. He didn't foresee a lot of expenses in his near future, what with travelling right into a quarantined zone. Society tended to break down a bit around areas of larger outbreaks. It came as a surprise to some that healers were often fairly skint broke outside of their temples, but in truth most healers ascribed to the disavowment of material possessions even if their stipends from the churches' collected donations hadn't been so sparing. Wilderness survival was a standard part of healer training, for this reason as well as because staying in uninhabited wilderness fairly eliminated the risk of Infection.
Anyway, the point was that Kaius could afford an inn if barely, so he bought a room and was immediately out like a blown candle. It had been an exhausting two days. The next morning, he arose with the sun, refreshed and energized and very, very ready to get on the road to Laccer. Another few coins bought him a quick breakfast, and soon enough Kaius was all but skipping his way through town back to where he'd parted with Artorias and Vladnem the day before. He hoped they hadn't run into any trouble overnight. He'd heard strange tales of not one but two Infected attacks within the city limits within the past couple of days! Something strange was going on in Noct, and Kaius would as soon be somewhere like Laccer where the source of the danger was a little more obvious.
He lounged against the wall, idly crunching an apple while he waited.
"YOU...are to stay here. Do not leave until I return. As your protector, this is an order for your own safety."
Protector? Luz scrunched up his face in disgust. He didn't need a protector! He was strong enough on his own! Even though she had saved him last time... but that didn't count. He didn't know what he was facing! It wasn't fair.
Abel, the boy who'd invited them to stay, came over and asked him a few questions, but even so, it quickly got boring. Most of the travelers had dispersed, to get wood as Thrush had or do other mysterious things in the woods. Luz really didn't have a clue what was going on; the only times he'd traveled in the past, there had been convenient inns or taverns to stay at along the way. Was this really how ordinary people lived?
The pretty pale woman--he'd missed her name, somehow--came back earlier than the others. He wandered over to say hello, but she was dozing off--it probably wasn't a good time to bother her. There was no one to talk to, nothing to do. He wandered around the perimeter of the campsite, picking up little twigs just so he'd have something to do.
Isabella nodded as Rain explained himself to her. “I see... But I don't think I played the part of a distressed mother very well...” She shook her head silently. “Next time you make something up... At least consult me first.” She stroked Eidolin's neck as she drank the water Rain had drew up.
Isabella grew nervous as he moved closer to her, she panicked slightly, wondering if he was going to try something. But he began to speak to her once more in a lower voice, he thought it had something to do with her suit. She wondered how he even knew about it, he couldn't have seen it... She only brought it out once in his presence, and he was asleep. Or was he? She shrugged and acted as if she was unaware of what he was speaking of. “I know not of why these beasts are attacking me, and I also have no idea of what else you speak of.”
She turned and grabbed a couple pails and slowly made her way back to the camp. It was unfair that she had lied to him, but she doubted that the creatures attacking her would be attacking her because of the suit. Isabella sighed as a guilty knot settled into the pit of her stomach.
Once she arrived at the camp, Isabella set down the pails and sat down in the dirt close to the fire. She drew up her knees and rested her head on her arms. As she sat gazing into the bright flickering fire, her eyes became droopy and she fell asleep.
Isabella smells smoke and someone is shaking her, “Isabella wake up!” It's her mother, her face alight with fear.
“Mama... I'm sleepy. I wanna go back to sleep...” She clutches her porcelain doll and tries to lay back down on her pillow.
“No, you have to get up now!” Isabella can hear fear in her mothers voice and she sits up, starting to panic. “Richard! Come here!” She can see her father come into the room and he picks her up, rushing out of the room with her mother in tow.
“They're burning the town!” He tells her mother urgently and Isabella holds on tighter to her father. They rush down the stairs but hear a cracking sound as the front door is kicked in, she can see shadows coming in and her father quickly, yet quietly goes back up the stairs. They rush into her parents bedroom and he pushes her under the bed.
“You'll be okay honey...” He soothingly says, but she is not convinced. “Just be quiet, mommy and daddy will be right back.” She watches as their feet disappear out the door. There is the muffled sound of voices and her mothers scream. In a second it is cut off and Isabella begins to quietly cry, but stops as she sees unfamiliar boots coming into the room. They pause and leave after a moment. There Isabella stays, frightened and scared until morning.
She awakes to the overpowering smell of smoke and she crawls out from under the bed. Isabella is afraid that the stranger is still in the house, so she creeps silently through the house. As she reaches the stairs, she sees her mother and father on the ground below. Her face alights with a smile and she rushes down the stairs to them.
“Mommy! Daddy!” She tries to shake them awake but they wont move. Isabella struggles to turn them over and her hand meets something cold and sticky. She lifts her hand to her face and screams as she discovers that it's blood.
Rain was surprised and delighted that their company was starting to grow. Isabella had been correct when she tried to convince the fighter-for-hire that safety was perhaps less likely in numbers, but it wasn't exactly safety that Rain had been looking for.
In fact...he hoped to lure whatever was chasing Isabella out into a battle, and surrounded by so many warriors, their group would be at an advantage.
This was all assuming, of course, that the Bug that attacked them earlier was purposely targeting Isabella. He couldn't be sure, but Isabella's treasury made him feel as if that was indeed the case.
"Truth be told," Rain lied, "we're trying to get back to our daughter. We were separated by a calamity, and just want to be reunited again."
He turned toward Isabella, who played it cool, though her eyes were asking, "Why are you making this up?"
Later, as several of the travelers went for wood, Rain walked to a well in the vicinity to draw water for the group and the horses he and Isabella rode. He turned to see Isabella facing him.
"Ah, dear, are you here to help?" he laughed, before explaining himself. "I felt the ruse was necessary. It's best to keep ourselves as mysterious as possible. For we know not who are enemies are or if anyone here is even trustworthy. And I thought that story might buy us symphathy, a necessity, perhaps, if we get into an other battle."
He walked closer to Isabella and asked, "My lady, it's not place to pry...but since our lives have already been threatened, and I believe it's do to what you tow around with your magic, I feel the need to ask. What is the secret of the cloths you carry with you?"
The sudden influx of people surprised Abel. First the woman and her bodyguard that he'd run into in Noct, then an Exterminator and a young boy who claimed to be her partner...He hadn't expected civilians to be heading to Laccer, an infected zone, but he couldn't turn them away. If the civilians were on their own, they were only more likely to get killed or infected. With him and Shin'an, they were a liability, but at least they could watch out for them. And after all, that was their job--protecting the civilians, particularly the uninfected civilians, from the Infected.
"Why are you headed to Laccer?" he asked Rain and the woman, who had still not identified herself. "It's an outbreak zone, and dangerous to get too close to. Laccer itself is most likely destroyed--is there somewhere beyond it you wish to reach?"
The Exterminator looked familiar, and it took him a moment to remember--he'd run into her in the city, some time ago. With civilians along, they would need additional manpower, so he was glad to see her; but for some reason, she had brought along a child, a boy who barely looked old enough to leave his mother's side. He'd considered, for a moment, that the boy--Luz--was her son, but that couldn't be--Luz looked young, but not that young. Were they siblings, then? But the Luz's dark hair and Thrush's unnaturally white hair seemed to negate that.
He shook his head. It wasn't his place to pry. All Luz meant was another liability, to add to the other two civilians. Even if he was an Exterminator in training--which was entirely possible; Abel himself had been dragged out to assignments at a younger age than the boy looked--he would still be a liability. An outbreak was no place for someone who hadn't completed their training.
Thrush had run off already to collect firewood, but he had a question for her. Hoping the young boy would be some help, he turned to Luz. "Did you hear the Infected's scream earlier? Is there danger nearby?"
The boy shrugged. "We ran into a Bug and chased it off. Thrush and I hurt it, but we couldn't kill it. I injured it, though!" He smiled at Abel, but his smile dimmed at Abel's solemn expression.
So there was a Bug nearby? He glanced at the civilians once more. This was a very dangerous place for them to be, if that were the case...
"Hey! Hey! Is something wrong? What's happening?" Luz looked confused, but Abel was even more confused. The boy didn't know what it meant, for there to be a Bug nearby? Had ran into and fought with the creature, but somehow didn't understand the danger they were in? What was wrong with the child? He turned away. He didn't have the time or patience to explain to the too-ignorant boy.
With more people to split the work, the firewood was quickly gathered and piled by the fire. Some of the civilians looked at him funny, and it took him a moment to remember--there was a rumor that Infected were drawn to fire, as the bugs they looked so similar to were. And like most rumors, it was almost entirely untrue. Infected were more beastlike than buglike in their actions and mentalities; like wolves or other wild animals, they were wary of fire and typically avoided it--particularly the higher-level creatures, Bugs and the like. Some of the lower-level Infected still retained enough of their human minds to be attracted to fire, but they were dispatched easily enough. Or perhaps they were worried about bandits--but there would hardly be bandits on the road to an outbreak zone. The worst thing a fire was likely to do out here was draw civilians--as it had--but it was the responsibility of Exterminators to take care of civilians, so he couldn't complain.
Shin'an seemed to be angry at him for something. Abel looked at her out of the corner of his eye. He really couldn't get a grasp on her. She seemed polite enough, but somehow, it felt as though that were only an act. He closed his eyes, sighing internally. He'd never been good with people, and it seemed she was no exception. It wasn't that he didn't like people--he didn't really like or dislike them, to be honest. It just felt as though there were unspoken rules that everyone else knew but hadn't told him, for some reason. So he did his best not to talk, so as to avoid breaking these rules as much as possible. Whatever was bothering Shin'an, she'd tell him eventually--or she wouldn't. But that wasn't his problem.
He knelt by his pack and began unrolling his bedroll. It had been a long day, and it would be a long day again tomorrow--longer, now that he was surrounded by liabilities. He sighed. Hopefully Rain was a capable swordsman, to make up for the child and the pale woman's inability. It would be tough to guard three people with three Exterminators; having four capable fighters to guard two would be much better odds.
Thrush frowned at the child's complete lack of caution, one eyebrow twitching in annoyance. He had just walked right into their camp before Thrush could so much as blink! And to top it all off, she just then realized that he didn't even know the name of the one he'd hired to protect him.
Seriously, where had this kid BEEN all his life?! She sighed in agitation, her frown deepening when she felt eyes on her. Outwardly she had convinced herself that she didn't need to see, that the flashes of vision the voices -which were silent at the moment- granted her were merely nuisances. But in the back of her mind she knew that she was jealous. Thrush mentally shook the thought from her head; this was no time to be bitter.
She bowed slightly, saying in a voice as monotone as the rest of her "I am Thrush Vaneer. I apologize for our intrusion. Thank you for your hospitality."
When she straightened up she flinched; her back was still sore, even though it had been mainly healed by Liz before she could pass out from blood loss.
When the woman -Shin'an, by the sound of her voice and what the older boy had said earlier- declared she would go get more firewood, she jumped on the chance to get away from so many new voices and scents. "I will go help gather firewood. I may be out later than your partner, however."
With a final nod to the three people she turned to Luz, suddenly looking very intimidating and a bit frightening. She said carefully,
Without waiting for a response, Thrush took off, nimbly dodging branches and roots by the feel of the ground beneath her feet.
She knew that she could have easily gathered firewood closer to camp, but she wanted to be where her mind wasn't clouded with the jealousy and envy for so many strangers with perfectly healthy eyes.
Shin'an had no idea what she'd done wrong when she was snapped at. She wrinkled her nose and put her food back down on her bedroll, glancing around and sighing. For somebody so set on going out and killing the infected, she had no idea how to survive in the wilderness whatsoever. Fires, she thought, would attract attention. And how cold could the night get, anyway? Regardless, she'd clearly pissed off her partner and had to make it up, since people normally did that when someone perceived they'd been wronged by them. So she wearily picked up bits of stick and wood that weren't too damp and looked flammable enough, and then pulled the tinderbox from her bag and set about carefully arranging the tinder and other bits and pieces the way she'd learned to do in the wood stove at home all those years ago.
The first few tries were unsuccessful. The spark either fizzled out or didn't catch at all, but she soon caught the tinder alight and then painstakingly fed the hungry flames until they were licking at bark and eating away. Only then did she return to her sleeping bag, wolfing down the last of her food and moodily leaning forward on her hands. She wouldn't sleep yet; it wasn't dark enough for her and there were people approaching on the road anyway. Not that she was interesting in talking to them; she'd much rather watch Abel talk to them and say nothing, since clearly she was not capable of doing anything right.
The pair that approached were not nearly as interesting as she'd hoped - a dewy-skinned woman, far more beautiful than she had any right to be, and a man who looked to have seen his fair share of battles. The former rarely interested someone as bitter as Shin'an and the latter were all that really frequented the Exterminator halls, so she had little interest in disturbing their time together, for whatever reasons they were there. Abel, however, clearly had other ideas and somehow the group expanded. Her mouth thinned into a small line at all the company, Soleil damn it, but what could she say? It was not yet too late for her to be turned away so she sat there silently.
That nonchalance almost shattered when she heard the voice of a child. A child! And Abel just invited him and his minder along! Although the minder looked far more intriguing than all the others combined with her pale hair and apparently blind eyes, Shin'an still feigned indifference to everyone, crossing her legs and watching them all with distrust in her good eye. Safety in numbers be damned, she hated people. Hated people. It was no wonder nobody really wanted to be her partner back at Noct. Being quiet about her discomfort was something quite new to her, let that be everything necessary to understanding her general temperament.
"So. I suppose we need more wood," she commented, brushing crumbs off her lap. "I'll go and get some more, then." Rising as gracefully as one with sore legs could manage, she drifted off to gather more firewood and escape the noise of people.
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