Chapter 20:

The death never really left everyone's minds over the course of the next few weeks and it showed. Others started returning earlier than usual. Half a room of our guild would jump at the slightest noise out of place only to realize that it had been one of them talking.

While Jace and I may have managed to get past finding the dead body, there was always a thick midst over the town like it had never really past. People were hiding the pain, hiding the fear. From the safe town that this place had once been to this- it had been more than a simple transition.

Of course, there were always the moments that others could slip away into a happier time like a simple game of tag with friends, but they were few and far between, and when they were over they became less and less real with each moment that we would be forced to live under the sober feeling.

And then there were the rumors. While most were fairly harmless given the situation, others would blame the occurrences on the season change, which still had some truth to it; with the fall slowly deteriorating into a long and drawn out winter, the concealing darkness of the nights would get earlier every night dampening the mood even farther.

At one point, someone had shared a suspicion that Jace and I were behind the attacks, but that had been quickly put to rest by most of the guild folk pointing out the lack of logic in the accusation. To the guild's credit, they had managed to remain fairly level headed even as more and more would take root as another attack, but the guild wasn't the only place affected. Going into the town managed to alleviate some of the tension that started building after days in the guild or on missions that would end fruitless after days of exploration, but that wouldn't change the fact that a simple walk around town would leave you with another one of the songs of fearful children haunting your thoughts. That, I think was the worst part. Well, there was that, and then there was the fact that no one seemed to be able to describe what was happening or who was behind the attacks. It was a who. That much we could confirm. Of course, maybe that had become evident with the surplus amounts of blood. Something told me that it wasn't just a bunch of people disappearing on their own accord.

"Ooff," I snorted as I collapsed into a heap just barely missing the table and instead landing on a bench. Jace and I had just arrived back from the third day of finding nothing which meant that it was time to pick a new mission, but progressively over the past few weeks more and more have been ending fruitless all starting with little Abi.

"Guess this one goes to the higher-ups too," Jace sat down with a plate of food enough to fill both of our stomachs. God knew we needed it, but honestly, neither of us had the spirit to endure much more than what we needed to wake up in the morning.

Tossing a small crescent of bread across the table, Jace just managed to take a mouthful of some type of tropical-looking fruit. I started at the bread unhungrily.

Since Abi's death, we had had to forfeit three different missions to the higher ups. Anything that took longer than three days to find was what was going to the guild's graduates according to Maeve, but it hadn't really been taken seriously until just recently.

"Another one?" Jay placed his plate and began eating next to Jace on the circular table.

"Yup, you?" Jace glanced up. He had long since decided that as long as we didn't find a dead body again, there was nothing to worry about. On the other hand, I found all these failures irritating to a new extreme, and it wasn't just the fact that we hadn't been able to finish.

"No, actually," The Mime Jr. trilled in a ghost of happiness. "Today we managed to track down one. Good thing too, we were running out of funds."

"Yeah, but if it hadn't been for that, we would have left that poor Starly to starve," a Happiny skipped up and took her place to my left across her partner with a sarcastic smile plastered on her face. I smirk forced its way onto my face.

"Oh no, Casey. Because we didn't join the guild to rescue pokémon. We're in it to get stinking rich," Jay nodded quite agreeably, his voice taking on the same sarcasm as he shook a small leather bag above his head holding maybe six gold pieces. "Lotta money in rescuing, you know."

"Well," Casey took on a 'perfectly serious' expression that looked like she was just about to crack up, "That's what I've been trying to tell you this whole time, but nooooo. 'We can't just leave them to die, Casey. That would be bad.'"

"I don't know what you two are talking about," a Skiploom spoke up from in between Jace and Casey having arrived there only a few moments before. "But I'm pretty sure I'm the one that's in it for the money. You two are just my slaves I've forced to work under me."

"And I thought I was the delusional one," the Happiny leaned over and whispered to me just under her breath as the Skiploom stretched out and demanded her slaves rub her feet.

"So, you guys going for another job after dinner too?" I prompted in between a few amused snorts.

"Yeah," Kara sighed contently setting down a glass of orange juice. "We've got training on Wednesday so nothing too hard. Probably just some type of delivery assignment."

"If we can get a delivery mission," Jay interjected. Deliveries were easy, usually just some old used up task that someone was too lazy to do themselves. Recently, though, they've seemed like the safest bet for getting anything done around here.

"Yeah, 'if'," the Skiploom sighed. Then, her voice taking on something noticeably more upbeat, she shook her head. "No, we'll find one."

"Well, what about you guys?" Casey cut in sensing a snide remark coming from Jay's direction. "Going to work on another rescue mission?"

Well, originally, that had been the plan, but Maeve had managed to intercept us on our way in for dinner telling us that we were needed in the planning room tomorrow. They were doing something in there that apparently we were needed for, though the reason managed to escape me. Why they would need two new recruits in a meeting that would most likely be filled with aged explorers and law enforcement?

Shaking my head, I realized that Casey's question still lingered in the air.

"Pretty much," I nodded much to Jace's satisfaction. Maeve also mentioned that no one was supposed to know about the meeting and that she would have to kill us if we told anyone. Or maybe the threat had been of my own device? Regardless of Maeve's warning, neither Jace nor I thought it to be wise to share our invitation with others anyway.

"Well, good luck," she grunted with a tone of exasperation on her voice. No one at the table blamed her; it had been a hard week.

Puffing out an equal amount of air, I just agreed with a, "Yeah," that had been more pronounced by the amount of air I let out than the actual word. Yeah, we were going to need some luck.

"Any advice?" I muttered under my breath before realizing what I was saying and that the people I was asking had no idea what I was talking about.

Excusing herself from the table, Kara just shook her head and gazed at us with her dark brown eyes. "Nothing you don't already know."

"You guys might want to get to bed. It's gonna be another long day tomorrow."

"Good luck tomorrow," I nodded to the trio who had began to make their way out of the dining hall.

"Yeah, you too," Jay smiled from the back of the line-up as Jace and I just exchanged glances and headed to the dormitories.

Author's note:

Sorry for the delay, but here it is and hopefully I can get another one up sooner than I did this time.

Towards the beginning, I decided to try a writing style that I don't usually use. Tell me what you guys think please :)

As always, I love to hear from you guys, especially as the story progresses.

~ Flubby48