Chapter 47: Adventure

Miracles. What were they?

Back in my world, I always thought miracles and magic were basically the same thing. Just that one was the power of God, and the other was the power of… something else?

Depending on who you asked, it was either some innate power people had, or it was the work of the Devil. Or both were fabrications, and neither magic nor miracles truly existed. Different people believed in different things, after all.

But that was back on Earth.

In this world, magic and miracles were as real as Demons and Monsters. I knew it was real: I had seen a Saint— watched him perform the miracles only he could do. So I knew it was real. And magic was something I was capable of. So there was no reason for me to doubt the veracity of both.

But just as they were real, so were the parameters that defined them. Magic was something anyone could do; it was the manipulation of mana to alter reality to how you saw fit. Or something like that.

There were also supposedly side effects in casting magic en masse. Apparently, magic slowly killed the world, since it drained mana from the surrounding environment. That was how Hell became what it was today.

At least, that was according to the Church. What Hell actually looked like, and whether that was limited to only certain types of magic, all completely evaded me. What I knew for certain was that magic was entirely possible by anyone. Miracles, however, was a completely different story.

Miracles were the manifestation of the Goddess of Light’s powers in the world. Before the Great Hero Xander came about, miracles were never recognized by the Church. They were random events which happened to a very small number of individuals, which could never be replicated by anyone; so they were thought to be either complete lies but said individuals, or a form of magic that came about accidentally.

But after the Great Hero Xander enlightened the world— after he performed his Seven Great Miracles throughout Soli to unite the continent— only then were miracles officially recognized by the Church. According to his teachings however, only truly good individuals could perform miracles regularly. Because they were so good, the Goddess would channel Her powers through them. Everything else was an isolated act of the Goddess

It was said he did not so much as teach the First Saintess Xanthe how to perform a miracle, as he did teach her how to be pure of heart. Allegedly.

So only Saints and Saintesses could perform miracles. For they were the ones cleansed by the Church’s teachings. Taught all of the virtues to uphold, and sent on all of their righteous tasks to accomplish.

And yet, last night, I witnessed the third person not affiliated with the Church or the Holy Xan Empire performing a miracle. The first was my mom, on the day she died. The second was myself, after I killed Victor. And the third was the Plague Doctor.

He told me he could not teach me how miracles worked, for he himself did not know. It was less defined than even magic— more of a feeling he unlocked one time when he was younger. And he could simply do it ever since. So I thrust a hand out, and—

Why isn’t it working!

I had done a miracle before. I knew I did. Or at least, I thought I did.

Unfortunately, I was exhausted. Too tired to even remember what happened. And a lot of things happened that night. I only remembered a swirling of emotions, feeling a lot of things inside of me, before I suddenly was fine.

So there was no frame of reference for me to work with; I could only throw my hands up and sigh, as I had wasted the last hour trying to perform a miracle. It was probably a few hours past noon by now. And I was feeling hungry.

I only took a few hours to nap after I got back from the orphanage— I quickly left after Ms Sharity thanked me, because I would have died of embarrassment if I stayed there any longer. Receiving their gratitude felt amazing, but it would have gotten overwhelming too soon. And now, it was time for me to leave.

I packed up my bags, grabbing my satchel from underneath the bed, and made sure I had everything I needed. Once I was certain I was fully ready to leave, I exited my room and made my way downstairs.

“Finally leaving, little Miss?” the Innkeeper asked, as I handed him some coins. “Going to miss you clearing out our pantry everyday at lunch.”

“Give your cook my commendations. His meals were always a treat.”

“Of course,” he said, reaching for something under the counter. “And here’s a meal for the road. Don’t eat it all at once, ok?” He handed me a container packed with dried meats.

“Thank you.” I gratefully accepted the box, and headed off.

Now to find that Plague Doctor.

When we parted a few hours ago, he gave me half of the gold we managed to find in the gang’s hideout. It was not much— around 9 gold total worth of coins for me; apparently they were falling on hard times since their only business model— selling slaves to the Free Lands— was not so profitable anymore.

Extorting poor people did not count, by the way; they specifically did it not expecting to make any money, using it as a method to support their primary income. But they did seem to be branching out to selling illegal drugs, which was a recent thing, and was probably the reason why they did not have as much money as I expected them to have.

But after the Plague Doctor handed me the gold and a weapon off of a dead body— just a pistol, to keep on me at all times— he said he had to settle some things and took off. We arranged to meet again later, although he did not exactly tell me where—

I walked out of the inn and was faced with a beak-like mask.

“Well then, took you long enough,” the Plague Doctor casually remarked.

Blinking, I raised an arm and pointed at him. “Wait, when did you get here?”

“About an hour ago,” he said, pulling out a small pouch from his coat. “Come. And here, this is for you.”

I heard some metallic clinks as he placed it on the palm of my hand. Loosening its strings, I peered inside of the pouch. “Coins?” I pointed out the obvious, as we started down the mostly empty street. “But didn’t you already give me my share of the loot?”

“That was what we took from the thugs. However, they are criminals. Wanted by the local government— and some townsfolk all over the area too, I presume. I went to the Mercenaries Guild in the next town over to collect the payment for their bounty. It’s not much. Not even a gold coin for each of us. But if they were actually worth something, they would have been wiped out long ago.”

“Oh, uh, thanks. You didn’t really have to give it to me.” I appreciated how fair he was being towards me, but there were a lot of coins. Mostly copper, with a handful of silver. But the weight of it all added up, and it was not even worth that much. “So where are we going?”

I was following him; he was not exactly leading the way, but the Plague Doctor was just ahead of me, tapping his cane on the cobblestone road with every other step. “To talk. Over a meal, of course. My treat.”

I nodded excitedly at that. We walked for a bit down the road, as I counted out the coins he had given me. It was, in total, worth less than a gold coin— not much, but I was not surprised.

We strode through the busy streets; it was not packed per se— there were just a moderate amount of people going about their business. People who lived in the town, merchants, refugees. I eyed the ragged men and women huddling in the corners and alleyways of the streets, some were begging, others were just laying down there doing nothing. “So you’re a Bounty Hunter?” I asked, handing some of the bronze coins as we passed by a beggar.

“Correct,” the Plague Doctor remarked, “even though that is simply a misleading term. Bounty Hunters are just those affiliated with both the Mercenaries and Hunters Guilds, since those are the ones more likely to accept bounties on people.”

“I see. And you don’t like that term because you didn’t go out of your way to kill them for the money, right? You were just helping the orphanage, and earning money while doing so is the practical thing to do.”

“That is one of the reasons,” he said. “Another is that it helps in clearing things up with the local authorities, of course. I did not just go to get paid— I also went to make a report to those that need to know about the destruction of a wanted gang in the vicinity.”

“And if they aren’t wanted?” I knew the answer to the question, but I still felt the need to ask it.

“Then no one needs to know about it, now do they?”

“Thought so,” I sighed. “So what did you want to talk about? You said you had to speak with me earlier.”

“Yes I do,” the Plague Doctor said as he led me into a tavern. I followed him in, greeting the tavern wench as I did. “And before you ask— no, I already told you, I can not teach you that. I simply don’t know how,” he added.

“I wasn’t going to ask!” I lied.

The Plague Doctor gave me a blank look. Well, with his mask, he always had a blank face on. But this was somehow especially blank. After a moment of awkward silence, where I could only shift uncomfortably in my seat, he continued.

“I needed to speak with you, to ask you what you were going to do now.”

“What am I going to do now?” I parroted him.

“What are you plans,” he elaborated, waving his gloved hand up in the air. “From what you told me yesterday, you are not a Dark Crusader, no?”

I hurriedly cast a glance around the room, but no one was anywhere close by. And he said it soft enough that even I could barely hear him; so it was unlikely someone heard it. But I still raised a finger to my mouth and gave him a glare.

“I am not. Because of complicated reasons. What does it matter to you?”

“For the same reason I am the Plague Doctor— I want to help you like I help everyone else,” the Plague Doctor stated simply.

I scowled. “And how are you going to help me? I told you last night, didn’t I? I’m never going back to the Free Lands.”

That was right; before we separated last night, we had a brief conversation. The Plague Doctor told me he was heading to the Free Lands after this— to help all the people there dying from the Noxeus. He asked me to join him, and I turned him down of course. I left the Free Lands for a reason— I hated just being there. There were too many unpleasant memories, and I had suffered too much trauma.

“I am aware. Which is why I’m asking you for your plans. You’re not just planning on wandering the world aimlessly, are you? Because from what you have seemed to imply, I don’t think you’re exactly liked by a lot of very powerful groups.”

“The Holy Xan Empire doesn’t even… oh thank you,”— the tavern wench plopped our orders down on the table, and I began to dig in— “they don’t even… mmm this is delicious, you sure you don’t want some?”

“I’m good,” the Plague Doctor said, indicating his mask.

“More for me, I guess. But listen,” I said, chewing on a piece of meat, “if they knew I was alive, they would want me dead. But they don’t even know that… yet.”

“And it’ll only be a matter of time before they find out and send some Inquisitors to kill you. After all, you are not very… subtle.”

“It’s not my fault I have black hair and silver eyes, and no other Human in the world but my mom had it!” I threw up my arms in protest.

“I was talking more about the fact that you’re a child traveling by yourself. But your similarities to the Fiend is quite conspicuous too.”

“My mom is not— wait, how did you know she was my mom?” I asked stupidly.

“It was a guess. Since you mentioned your mother, and basically told me that she was rather famous. I listed the only woman I know of who has that appearance. Although black hair is not exactly unique, either. Everyone in your mother’s family shares that trait, as well as those with some Elf blood in them.” The Plague Doctor hesitated, then he bowed his head. “I’m truly sorry for your loss. I heard the news a few months back. And the Holy Xan Empire keeps on broadcasting it— trying to distract from all the criticisms they have been receiving for keeping their war against the Abominations a secret.”

“I… thanks. I was devastated when it happened, but I’m… better, now,” I said it, and I meant it; even if my mom’s death still hurt me, some time had passed, and I no longer felt like breaking down at just thinking about her.

I continued eating my meal in silence for a bit, before the Plague Doctor finally spoke up again. “But that is the reason why I need to know what you’ll be doing. If they come after you—”

“They’ll kill me,” I finished his sentence for him. “And I don’t want that to happen, of course.”

“Right,” the Plague Doctor said. Then he leaned his head forward, and whispered. “And if you can’t find protection from anyone, then your death would become an inevitability. You are going up against an empire, Melas. The greatest one the world has ever seen in its entire history. And it’s backed by the Church, an institution that has been around for thousands of years. Since the First Holy War. You can not run from them forever, nor can you fight against them alone.”

“How about you?” I asked, frowning. “You’re obviously running from them too. Otherwise you’d be a…” I mouthed the word ‘Saint’.

“My situation is… complex. If the Holy Xan Empire found out about my abilities, they would not hunt me down like they would if they found out about yours. They would seek me out, yes. But they’ll do so to recruit me— by force, if necessary.”

I raised an eyebrow at that. “And that’s a bad thing, because…?”

I did not see what was so bad about being made into a Saint; they were, from what I knew about them, treated incredibly well and almost even worshipped within the Church. Like celebrities. Except they slayed all evil and protected those in need. Remembering Saint Theron, I was pretty sure that depiction was a lie.

“I have my reasons. First and foremost, I would no longer be who I am if they indoctrinated me into the Church. They would force me to…” The Plague Doctor sighed, then gave me his usual response when he did not want to give me a proper answer. “More than that— no comment.”

I expected that reply. In fact, I did not expect him to even tell me as much as he did; so I decided not to press him any further and let him continue.

“Regardless, I have survived thus far, but not on my own. I have made my fair share of enemies, of course. However, I made many allies too. And from my experience, I can tell you that if it were not for those allies, I would be long dead by now, or kidnapped to Soli.”

He was making a good point. Really, I knew from the start of this conversation that he was keeping only my best interests in mind. I took a deep breath and acquiesced. “I don’t really have a plan. I mean, I have thought about it a little. I was considering… becoming a Hunter. To survive— put my skills to good use. And it’s not something that tied me down to a place. If anyone searching for me showed up, I could always just run away.” My eyebrows arched darkly over my eyes. “But beyond that? I don’t have a concrete plan.”

“And neither do I,” the Plague Doctor said, surprising me a little. “I noticed this when we met last night. You and I are kindred spirits. Outcasts. But even outcasts have someone to turn to. No one is ever truly alone in the world.”

He placed a hand on my shoulder, and I felt my lips curl into a slight smile.

“I would have suggested you join the Dark Crusaders, Melas. I am familiar with them, and I know they have connections in the underworld almost anywhere you go. They would have offered you protection. But now that I know you can’t…” The Plague Doctor drummed his gloved fingers on the wooden table. “Have you ever heard of the Taw Kingdom?”

“Yes. They’re that big Dwarf Kingdom up north, right?”

“They are. And I feel like you could find yourself something of a home there, if that’s what you’re searching for.”

I blinked. “But aren’t they allies with the Holy Xan Empire? That’d be even worse than hiding out in some random town in the middle of some random country!”

“Traditionally, the Holy Xan Empire and the Taw Kingdom are allies. However, their alliance was born from their cooperation against the Demon Lord during the Final Holy War. Since then, their pact has maintained little more than in name. The last time the Taw Kingdom helped the Holy Xan Empire was during the Free War. And that was more because of their own personal distaste of the Free Cities, than out of their friendship with the Holy Xan Empire.”

“But still, that doesn’t mean they’ll like me or anything. They were against the Demons for magic.” I let the implication hang in the air, as I finished up my food.

“Yes they were. And they also currently have a Dark Crusader problem, which is one of the main reasons why they have not ended their treaty with the Holy Xan Empire. But, in that same vein, they do not see magic users as evil because the Church says so. Their issue lies more in the spellcasters that bother them, rather than spellcasters in general as evident by some of their… recent methods.” The Plague Doctor shook his beak-like mask. “If you, a spellcaster, offer your services to them in exchange for protection, I am certain they would be willing to accept.”

“And how can I guarantee that happens?” I inquired, wiping my mouth.

“It would not be the first time they’ve offered asylum to an enemy of the Holy Xan Empire, and neither would it be the first time they’ve worked with magic users. Both are rare, but both have happened before,” he explained, not exactly instilling any hope in me. Then he pulled out a piece of parchment from his coat. “And their current King owes me a favor.”

I jerked in my chair. “Their King owes you a… what?!”

The Plague Doctor looked up at me for a moment, as if he was winking at me from underneath his mask. “I told you, I have made many allies in my time.”

“How did you get a King to owe you a favor?” I asked in disbelief.

“I saved his daughter’s life,” the Plague Doctor said nonchalantly. “And other such deeds when I was there. He wanted me to marry his daughter, but… I declined for personal reasons. So he should still feel indebted to me, even if some time has passed.” He began scribbling down something on the piece of paper.

After he was finished, he folded it and inserted it inside an envelope. He took out a vial of green mixture, and poured a single drop of it over the flap. Taking out a stamp, he pressed it over the liquid, sealing the letter.

“Here,” he said. “Ask for an audience with King Adilet. Have this letter delivered to him, and he will summon you to his court personally, and give you a response. And if they won’t send this to him, say it’s from the Plague Doctor. That will ensure it reaches him.”

I took the envelope, and looked over it. “What happens if he refuses? Or if I lose this somehow?”

“I send a message to him telling him that I have sent a friend his way. So even if you lose the letter, it does not matter. That is simply a formality. And no matter what happens— even if he chooses to turn you away— I have made it abundantly clear that he is not to let word a single word about you slip to the Holy Xan Empire. So if he rejects you, he will reject you in silence. That, I am certain he will follow through with no matter what happens.”

I leaned back in my chair, and sighed. “You know, I just met you yesterday, right?”

The Plague Doctor nodded. “We did.”

“And I have very little reason to trust you, since we barely even know each other, right?”

“Yes.”

“And because of that, I should be suspicious of you, right?”

“You should,” the Plague Doctor agreed. “And please stop asking me rhetorical questions.”

“Alright, I’ll stop.” I stood up, holding the envelope in one hand, and my staff in the other. “I don’t know how much I should trust you, Plaguy,”— I ignored the odd look he gave me at his nickname— “but I don’t even know your name, nor do I know much about this King. I am not just going to waltz into what could possibly be a trap you’ve set up for me, and even if you’re telling the truth, neither am I going to simply trust you, a complete stranger to me, when you tell me to trust another complete stranger to me.”

“That is a fair assessment.”

“However,” I said, holding a finger up. “It’s not like I have anything else planned in mind. So while I’m not going to just do as you say, I am going to scope this place out. Make my own judgement on whether to approach this King. And decide what to do from there.”

With that, I slipped the envelope into my bag.

“I see,” the Plague Doctor stood up as well, following me out into the streets. “So would you rather me withhold my message telling him of your arrival?”

“No, then I’d be screwed if I lose this letter you gave me.”

“Then what am I supposed to say, Melas?”

I chewed my lips for a moment, hesitating. Then I shook my head, casting aside my worries.

“Tell him— instead of telling the King of my name or appearance, tell the King that… the [Witch] might come to him. And that she’ll need his help.”

I almost felt embarrassed saying that; but I had already decided that that was what I was going to call myself from now on. I even bought the clothes to match and everything too!

It was better than just telling everyone my name— especially if the Holy Xan Empire decided to do just a little bit of investigation about me. Ask anybody in Villamcreek what my name was, and they would have made the connection in an instant.

“Very well,” the Plague Doctor said. “I will let King Adilet know that my friend, the Witch, might seek him out for sanctuary.”

“I— yes. Thank you, Plaguy.” I smiled.

I heard a muffled snort underneath his mask, and he retorted. “My name is Felix.”

“Alright, Felix,” I said. “Thanks. For doing this for me. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t really know what to do after I leave this town.”

“And I am glad to have met you, Melas. I don’t know your story, and neither do you know mine. But that is the beauty of secrets, is it not? It makes you curious. It makes you want to learn more about others. And maybe one day, we will meet again.”

“Is this supposed to be a goodbye?” I asked, my smile withering away. “I’m not good with goodbyes. I don’t think I’ve said goodbye to any of my friends when I left them.”

I thought of the people I had met in this world. All the friends I had made— however briefly we knew each other. From Rin, to Ihsan; Gessitt, to Theodore; or Karna, and Adrian. Even someone like Mr Walden, whom I barely even knew anything about, was included in that list. I never had the chance to say anything to any of them before I left, and I felt a tinge of regret about it.

“Perhaps that’s a good thing. Some believe that goodbye is final. That you only say it to people you’ll never meet ever again. If that’s the case, then by not saying anything to them, it means that you’ll eventually see them again. Whether that means sometime long in the future, or tomorrow, is something that only you’ll find out.”

“That’s a nice way of putting it,” I said, leaning onto my wooden staff. Still not smiling. But not feeling as bad as I did about it.

The sun stood high in the sky. Our shadows were mere specks on the ground. I watched as people came and went, passing us by every second. I saw faces I had never seen before, and names I would never get to know. I held my breath for a moment. And when I opened my mouth to speak—

I smacked a hand on my head.

“I forgot to collect my hat!” I exclaimed.

“Your hat?” the Plague Doctor asked, quirking his head to the side.

“My pointy hat— my [Witch’s] hat.” I spun around, briskly making my way for the hat shop.

“…pardon? Do you need it now?”

“No,” I said. “But it’s important for the mood of this scene! I mean, look at you.”

I gestured at the Plague Doctor, dressed in his full plague doctor outfit. Meanwhile I was….

“You look cool in your costume, while I’m not even wearing mine! It’s the same as if I’m half naked, talking to a fully clothed man!”

“…I don’t think that’s equivalent?”

“Yes it is,” I insisted, walking around a group of people blocking the way. “The hat is the most important part. And I want to look cool too!”

“Most important part of what? You being a Witch?”

“Mhm,” I made a sound in agreement. Then I stopped, and pointed at him. “And by the way, it’s pronounced [Witch],” I corrected him.

“That’s what I said?” the Plague Doctor— Felix— just stared at me in confusion.

“No, no. You said Witch.”

“Yes.”

“But I’m saying [Witch].”

“What’s the difference?”

“You’re pronouncing it wrong! Look, you need to move your mouth like this— see? [Witch].”

“Wit[ch].”

“No, start with an ‘O’ shape—”





We arrived at the hat shop after we finished our entire discussion on Witches. I gave up trying to correct Felix after he inquired on how he should spell the word in his letter to the King of Taw; I obviously did not know what to tell him, so he ended up settling on sending an audio transmission via radio when he got the chance. It was better for him to pronounce it wrong, than for me to try and spell out a word that did not exist.

After we decided on that, we moved on to a different conversation as we stepped into the small building.

“…and the merits to getting a mask far outweigh the cons.”

“But it’ll be stuffy and difficult to breathe!”

“And your identity would be better protected,” Felix said, voice flat.

“I…” I cast a glance at the young woman looking at us from the counter. “I’ll think about it. Just let me do this for now.”

“Hey, you’re back! Here to collect your hat?” the milliner asked.

“Yes, is it ready?” I politely inquired.

“Yep. Have it in the back. My apprentice will get it.” The milliner turned around, and called to a room at the back. “Hey, Jay! Fetch me the purple hat on my desk, will you?”

Jay? I exchanged a look with Felix; it could have been another boy named Jay, but when I remembered what the Jay from the orphanage mentioned the day before…

And my suspicions were proven correct. Jay— the boy who tried to rob me a few days ago— walked out carrying a purple hat in his hands.

“Is this it, Ms—” He blinked at me. “Melas? Is this supposed to be yours?”

The milliner paused, pulling out a receipt. “You two know each other?”

“Yeah, we’re…” the boy trailed off, glancing at me uncomfortably. “Uh…”

“Friends?” I suggested with a shrug; that was the closest descriptor I had for our relationship.

I reached into the coin pouched Felix gave me, and handed the milliner the rest of my payment to her. As Jay handed me my hat, I asked him. “You’re… apprenticing here?”

“Oh, yeah,” he said with a bit of apprehension in his voice. “I just have been a bit of a troublemaker, y’know? I had been thinking for a while. If maybe I got out of Ms— my mom’s hair for a while, I could come back more grown and she’d be proud of me.”

“Come on, Jay. I’ve spoken to Ms Sharity. She showed me all the things you’ve made. She’s proud of you.”

The boy looked like he was about to retort, but he bit back his tongue. “…maybe. But I just wanna be better, y’know? I’ll just be living here, working and learning how to make hats and sew in general. I’ll go back and visit whenever I can. But I wanna be an adult. Help out, and not just be a nuisance.”

“It’s good that you’re trying to improve,” I said, putting on my purple pointed hat on my head. You were a bit of a jerk before, I left the words unsaid.

“Hey, uh—” Jay shifted uncomfortably where he was standing. “Thanks. For helping save Hannah.”

“I— you’re welcome.” I recalled what happened this morning; before I could get overwhelmed with embarrassment again, I took a step back and began excusing myself. “Now if you’ll…” I began.

“Wait, are you leaving?” Jay asked, calling after me.

I stopped right at the door. Not because I wanted to, but because a gloved hand grabbed me. Felix— the Plague Doctor— was motioning at Jay with his beak-like mask. I frowned. “You want me to— fine.”

“Melas, what’re ya talking about? Why’re you with the Plague Doctor, anyways?”

“Listen, Jay. I’ll be leaving town today. No— not today. Right now.” I took a deep breath, then turned around to face the boy. “So, uh, bye?”

That’s absolutely horrible! You can’t just say bye to a kid without any buildup to it! That’s too sudden!

Unfortunately, the damage had been done; Jay took a moment to register my words. Then he took a step forward. “Wh— but you can’t—” the boy caught himself from grabbing me. He looked me in the eyes. “Do you need to go right now? You can’t stay?”

“I’m sorry, but I only ever planned to stay here until I got this,” I answered his question truthfully, lifting the brim of my purple hat as I did. “I enjoyed meeting you, Jay. It was fun… maybe. But I have to go.”

“Where are you going?” he asked meekly, distraught by the news.

“Uh—” I wanted to lie, and tell him that I was going with the Plague Doctor. However I decided against it. “I don’t know, just— anywhere that isn’t in or near the Free Lands. Maybe the Taw Kingdom. Or maybe somewhere else. We’ll see.”

“Oh… ok.” Jay looked disheartened, and I felt bad about it too. “So this is… goodbye?”

“Maybe,” I hesitated. It probably was; I had no reason to ever return here. However, it was always nice to leave things open ended, right?

So I gave the kid my most gentle, reassuring smile.

“But, hey, if we ever do meet again, I’ll be sure to buy my hat from you. And tell Ms Sharity and the others I said goodbye, too!”

“I will,” Jay said, resolving himself.

“Bye.”

I gave him a farewell hug, and he froze. When I let go, I did not rush off to leave; I slowly walked away, waving at him and the milliner as I did. And he waved back, even until I exited the hat shop.

For a while, I continued heading down the road without saying anything. It was only when I was a bit aways from the hat shop, did I breathe a sigh of relief.

“That was difficult.”

“But it felt good, didn’t it?” Felix remarked, popping up beside me.

“I guess?” I cast my gaze heavenward, as I stopped at an intersection. “It definitely made me feel something. But I don’t know if I liked the feeling.”

“Well, whether you liked it or not doesn’t matter. You’ll have to get used to it.”

“Mhm.” I clenched and unclenched my fist. “Thanks for helping me with that, Felix.”

“It’s not a problem, Melas. I am the Plague Doctor, after all. That’s what I do— help people.”

“I know,” I laughed cheerfully to myself.

I shook my head, and glanced down at my hands. Opening and closing my palms as I did.

“Say, are you sure you can’t come with me?”

I felt a sense of deja vu; as if this happened before. And it did. Just a few minutes ago. Except now, my role was reversed. But unlike Jay, whom I politely let down, I never got my response.

I looked back up, and just as I expected, the Plague Doctor was gone.

He was nowhere to be seen. Not anywhere in the emptier street than before. He had left before I even asked my question, as if he knew the question was coming. And he did so without saying even a single word.

“Stop being so cool,” I muttered under my breath.

It would have been nice if we could have hung around each other for a bit longer. I had only just met him, but I liked him a lot. It would have been nice to get a companion; to have someone whom you knew and could talk freely with. And I was going to get one, eventually. It just was not Felix. Not now, at least.

Because this was a passing encounter. We met at a crossroads for a moment— and only a moment. Now we had to continue down our respective paths. There was a chance we could meet again in the future. But this was not the future; it was the present.

And the present held one thing, and one thing only for me:

I’m going on an adventure!

With a goal in mind and a place to go, I started down the road ahead of me.




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