The Arechi

3. Variables

The town around me was simply put, trashed. It was unclear whether bandits had struck this place or if damnation had swallowed the town.

Nothing appeared out of the ordinary, nevertheless, my guard remained vigilant. Briefly taking in the town before entering, it all was sorrowing to see, especially due to the fact, that this town was no doubt at one point a time a place where children used to play and frolic with happy smiles across their spaces, parents grinning and being upset for their children being late to get home for supper.

Now, what most likely was, now gone. Garbage littering the ground, wooden signs that hung on walls all half off their spots, wooden boards with nails over windows of homes. It was surely not a sight for sore eyes.

My feet dragged on the soil of the town, the first priority was to find some food.

My body´s composition and rigorous training since a young age meant the physiology was equivalent to, physically no longer upholding the requirement of food, however, it was nice to have a meal every once in a while.

Proceeding to walk right down the middle of the entrance through the town there was almost nothing, but, there were two things within that almost nothing.

One, a sign that mentioned that any vendors who wish to sell with shall come to said spot where the sign was at noon, which was hours away from now. Secondly, there was a tavern with another sign that stated it was open. Between the two options of waiting or going in, going in seemed to be the best course of action.

The reason for this is because the tavern was most likely empty this early and the morning, and well, it would look abnormal for a stranger to be wandering around the town at such an early time in the day.

Not to mention my appearance either came off as covert to where no one noticed or it blatantly stood out. Pushing the tavern door open the building appeared to be empty, the second that it seemed empty a man clearly inebriated irately said,

”Yeahh, Im tellin ya Jahad, these little punks cant except us heroes. They can even give us some type of reward for helping them, for cryin out loud we
e the red cross knights after all! ”

The man was fitted with white-clad armor with a red cross on the front. The mans physical traits though were rather bland. His stature was small, his physique was clearly not the best, a brown beard with hair to complement it, and the mans cheeks were currently red, most likely from the drinking.

There were three other men with him, the one called Jahad spoke in a hushed tone,

”Barry, don you think we shouldn be speaking like this, what if word gets back to master Akukami? ”

”Don worry, there isn anybody around but the barkeep in the back anyways ” the man said leisurely

Wait, that man just said Akukami… that bastard! Anger circulated all throughout my body, it was begging to be let loose.

The third man spoke but his voice was too light to the point where it was almost incoherent to the point where it appeared no words left his mouth except one word, that word being Tenshi.

I lost patience and all composure, my body had simply begun to move away from the front door and slowly toward the four men sitting at the tavern table.

The men noticed the approach and the one with the beard roared,

”You got a problem pal?! You were starin at us weren you, and now you dare walk towards us? ”

He couldn even maintain his balance as he still clearly was intoxicated. No words formed, my body only continued to move.

”Brat, did you not hear me?! I asked you a question! We are a part of the red cross knights, if I wanted to I could get you executed for att- ”

I cut the man short, finally reaching him the hand from my side thrust to his neck. He dangled off the hand that was thrust at him, suffering for air he pleaded for mercy.

Two of the other three men withdrew their weaponry. One man with two twin daggers, another with a sword, and one with a bow.

They were of no importance so I paid them no mind. The man still dangling from the hand outstretched on his throat pleaded once more for mercy. My eyes with icy-cold eyes that emanated like daggers were fixed on the man, then the three other men declared in unison,

”Let him go or well kill you! You bastard! ”

Out of patience, it began, the anger fully unleashed. The kizuha step erupted throughout, with amplifications this time, enough to go intangible before the atom disintegration and reconstruction occurred.

Blue light illuminated from my body, my whole frameshifting rapidly from left to right. One, two, three. All three opposing men layout on the ground, simply hitting their carotid arteries did the trick, although anger was fervoring throughout my very being, there was no point in killing these men.

Repositioning myself once more, the man dangled from the same right hand that was again propelled at him. His eyes widened, yelling in distress,

”How did you?! Thats not possible! Three of the four knocked out? There was no sound from you, let alone any visual detail that you even shifted your position ”

The man was perplexed by the kizuha step, which made sense, it wasn perceivable to the entirety of this dimension, it physically didn exist in a sense.

Ignoring the mans baffled queries I finally spoke,

”Who are you? ”

”Why should I have to te- ”

Interjecting, before the man could finish his sentence I slammed his back against the table in front of us.

The man yelped in agony

”I said, who are you? ”

”Fine, fine! No more! Mercy! My name is Gordon Trodstell ”

”Who do you work for? ”

”Im a proud member of the re- ”

I jabbed my hand into the mans seventh true rib and snapped it.

The man roared

”STOP! AGGH! ”

”Im done playing games, who do you work for? ”

”Th- I work for a man ”

Growing impatient even more than I was already before, without even thinking, I grabbed the mans right hand and twisted it, clearly breaking all of the bones in his phalanges.

Before the man could let out another sound, monotony with a little bit of hostility my lips parted and I whispered,

”Listen to me very carefully, this is your last chance to answer my questions and anything I want to know, if not, then lets just say youll be visiting a friend who yearns to confine you to the depths of Hell ”

The man gulped,

”Okay, fine, Ill talk. As Ive said, my name is Gordon Trodstell. I serve the red cross knights and have been working for a man who calls himself Akukami the Shinigami ”

He finished speaking and once more my eyes glared at him and he reluctantly spewed the words

”A- and he hired me to sit in this tavern and wait for a man to come over to me and have a confrontation with me. I don know anything else I swear! ”

Satisfied with the information given to me the last thing to ensure my presence wouldn even be remotely relayed I knocked everyone out and caused their memories of this to be non-existent.

The man still dangling from my hand passed out from shock, the only thing left was to clean up the mess. In a blinding rage, I had neglected the other man within their party who had just observed all that has happened.

The young man simply still sitting there had a facial expression of nothing, his face was emotionless.

Then, in an instant the young man who had an expressionless face one second reached into his right coat pocket, pulling out a knife, ready to defend myself I pulled out Shou.

Instead of the man engaging in combat or even pivoting his feet in a stance of defense, he lifted the knife to his throat.

Wait, why?

Why was this kid putting his very own knife to his throat?

¨Hey, kid I´m not going to hurt you, put the knife down and I´ll put mine down too. There´s no need for bloodshed here, your buddies are only knocked out they´re fine¨

His expression had not changed, there was no harboring of anger, sorrow, or any emotion.

He simply took the knife angled at his throat and did something unspeakable, the sight was unnerving. I´ve seen death before, nearly have experienced the feeling, but this feeling. I didn like this feeling one bit, something was more than meets the eye here.

He lie on the ground his body lifeless with blood spattered around the corpse.

Why?

Suicide?

This wasn´t making any logical sense.

Sure, they got asked a few questions and their leader of the group was roughed up a little by me, but why resort to such dire measures?

They all mentioned Akukami and the leader acknowledged that he worked for him, it was fair to insinuate that they all were working for Akukami.

No, this is senseless, pondering here would do me no good, taking one last look at the body of the young boy feeling grief for my not doing something. I turned toward the tavern door taking in the bland tavern one last time, muttering.

¨My condolences, I should have saved you¨

Those people were hired by Akukami, theres no way that there isn´t someone waiting to ambush me.

The question is, how did they know I was even here? Akukami, known as, ¨the shnigami¨ was a man who only reaped death and destruction, but shinigami wasn the only nickname that people knew the man by.

The probability that he has someone tailing me is rather likely, if I attempt to go around civilians, no doubt that the people in servitude to him would jump in to attempt to neutralize me at the very least.

It was something that presented dangers of unprecedented calibers. Although it was my best option, personally I tend to leave civilians out of any personal affairs that may cause them harm or worse.

The idea that they could and would be used as collateral damage in a fight erected shivers in my spine, but, my survival comes before anything else

Leaving the tavern the Ghosttown came back into view, there still wasn much about the town that was notable, nor people.

However, there was one young woman who appeared to be in her early twenties at a food cart.

The young woman seemed to be nothing near abnormal, with brunette hair, wearing an apron, and her hair tied back in a ponytail. Walking over to the young woman I removed the wrapping encasing my head, this wasn an ideal move on my part, but it was riskier to raise suspicion and gain somebody elses unwanted attention here.

I smiled and jovially said,

¨Hello, are you selling fruit?¨

The young woman looked startled but then regained composure of herself and replied,

¨Yes, I am, are you interested in purchasing some?¨

¨Perhaps, do you mind if I view your selection first?¨

She nodded, raising her right hand to hover above the cart to open the wooden slat that lined the top of it.

As I appeared to look engrossed in the selection I observed the womans body language or any other indicator that would provide me with information on if she harbored hostile intent or not.

¨Pardon me, sir, you dont appear to be from around here, you aren , are you?¨

I continued my facade of being engrossed with the fruit selection and simply replied,

¨No, you
e correct, Im from back south, Estarizure, if youve ever heard of it¨

The young woman paused and posed a question that surprised me even though it was a rather basic one,

¨Forgive my impertinence if this is out of line, especially because we just met, but, what
e you doing all the way out here then? ”

This presented a dilemma, should I tell the woman where I truly came from?

It would endanger her and myself, but if word got out that someone as conspicuous as me appeared in a town where Akukami´s people were, that might play right into his hands, due to the fact Akukami is the only one who plays the hunting game around here.

¨I came from Esvaria, a place near Estarizure, back southwest if you know where that is¨

The woman smiled and nodded at me,

I didn like this one bit. Her expression was not genuine, something wasn right. This place is more dangerous than I had calculated it to be, this wasn ideal, no perhaps there has just been talk of the recent activity in Esvata, just because her body language changed doesn mean that it was a casualty based on my words or where I came from

¨Oh, do you mind if I ask your name?¨

The young woman requested

¨My name is Dante, Dante Kitagawa, pleased to make your acquaintance, miss?¨

¨Reiyala, Reiyala Tatamachi¨

¨Very pleased to meet you, Miss.Tatamachi¨

The tension from before had subsided, picking up a watermelon and placing it on the top wooden slat, I reached into a pocket to grab the appropriate amount and before my hand could retract from the pocket the action was interrupted.

Ms.Tatamachi reached forward and placed her hand on my wrist

¨No need for that, it´s on the house, Mr.Kitagawa¨

¨No, I insist, it would be curt of me to not pay you for produce. I also would not like to be indebted to anyone here¨

¨Then I have an idea, how about you take me out to a tavern some night if you
e in town still¨

She wants me to accompany her to a tavern? Why? If I refuse would it circulate rumors of my being here, but, if I go will that cause an even bigger dilemma. Perhaps it would be easier to just take her tonight, then there would be no further confrontation required.

¨Im only in town for another day, would tonight be an appropriate time for you Miss. Tatamachi?¨

¨Yes, if youd like I can meet you wherever you are staying¨

She doesn know that I dont have a place to stay, so Ill just kindly refuse and ask her where to meet, that would be the safest and the action with the most leisure.

¨I can manage, but I appreciate the proposal, Miss. Tatamachi, how about you tell me where the tavern you would like to meet is, we can meet at 18:15 if that is of course acceptable¨

Her face illuminated with a smile then she replied to my request by saying,

¨Yes, that would be lovely, on the main street where the town entrance is, where the large silver gate resides, on the right side three buildings down, theres a tavern there, only one on that street you can miss it¨

I nodded as she gave me the direction, the thing was this tavern was not unfamiliar, this was the same tavern where the confrontation with the guys who worked for Akukami were, that encounter was only a few hours ago.

Going back there would not be ideal, it would be a disadvantage, but, wouldn it seem rather conspicuous for me to reject the offer and insist on a different tavern? This was a tight spot, one that was worrisome, guess therell be no downtime after all.

Finishing my conversation with. Ms.Tatamachi my next objective was to secure some other type of appearance, although, the idea was more than a drawback, it had to be done, raising further suspicion here was something that could not occur.

Surveying the area for a place that offered the service of obtaining clothes, I found a vender diagonal to the stand where me and Miss. Tatamachi spoke.

The location was suitable, roughly fifty meters passed the diagonal curve that lead to the right of the street, which would fit the circumstances.

The shop stood on the side of the road, it was a small shop, nothing more than five yards for the entire shop. There were cloaks sold there, all of the different colors, sizes, and various uses. However, I picked a simple snow-white colored cloak.

Grabbing the cloak from the aged wooden rack where it laid dormant, proceeding to walk several feet from the rack to the counter where an elderly woman with white hair and a baize ragged dress stood smiling.

Plopping the cloak onto the counter the elderly woman smiled and jovially said,

”I know you aren from around here, and you clearly are a nomad, its on the house dont worry about paying me ”

This certainly caught me off guard, she did seem like someone of a benevolent nature, but giving a stranger merchandise simply because they look like a nomad?

This was puzzling, it could easily be a trap of some sort, this was a possibility, but it didn seem likely. Instead of attempting to insist on the elderly woman taking the money I simply nodded and left the shop, returning to the street.

The sky still illuminated with rays of light that peered over the Ghosttown.

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