Right, so hiiiiii there! ;w;

I'm ready for the rocks hurled at my face! I've got my trusty helmet and hockey stick to deflect 'em, but I probably won't because I pretty much deserve it! l;dfjskdf I'm doing school full time and working part time, but during each break I have at work I've been working on chapters! xD I don't get a WHOLE lot done because my attention span is poop and it takes me a bit to get into focus-mode of anything, but I'm trying, so hopefully the update time will be shorter than almost two months! :c

I'm so sorry, you guys! But I am ultra grateful for everyone who's waited me out and read the chapters, despite how long they've taken to come out! ;w;

Smashing Skunk53, Strawberry Eggs (x2!), Darkened Dusk, Lilybud, Mr-Watch, and selenia-sopheria, thank you guys so muchhh! You're all fabulous and wonderful and I appreciate you more than you'll ever know! :3

MY PREVIEW IMAGE IS DRAWN BY CALLIPTUS SHE IS AMAZING THE END! :D

Thanks again guys, and happy reading!

c:


Chapter Nine: Charade

My lungs heaved, my breath was short, my arms were pumping, I was doused in sweat, and for probably the fiftieth time since I started, I remembered that I was running.

I hated it more than most things, but for the sake of this mission, I had to. Three days in total; one to get there, one to spy, and one to get back was insane, but when I mentioned a week, Blue couldn't wait. Even so, he was nervy about letting me go by my lonesome. Said "we don't ever send anyone off alone; we fight as a team, struggle as a team, and live as one." I just told him there'd be no fighting because I wouldn't get caught.

"I don't want to risk it," he replied. I was about to ask him why he bothered calling me up there at all, but he went on. "but Rorie says it's absolutely necessary."

"Yes," she said. "in order for us to understand what moves we make from here on out, we need to gain a grasp on Emmeryn's position."

After that, he tried to send someone along with me, like Slim or Starchy, but the thing was, he didn't realize how much more efficient operations like these were without some extra lump holding you back. When your intent is to weasel your way into enemy ranks and pilfer information, you're only sure of yourself and your own capabilities. But with another person... that was just asking for failure. Sure, the two of them were able in a fist fight, but as far as I could tell, no one would be light enough on their feet or sneaky enough to pull something like this off. I mean, besides that ghost guy. He was something else. If I could've found him before I left, he might've been an ally worth bringing.

In any case, Blue's speech about togetherness was corny, but it did give me more of an idea about the kinda person he was. Let me know what his values were and from there, it was easy to tell that he was one of the selfless types.

Ugh. Whenever I exerted myself, I had the attention span of a tot. I could hear my panting over anything else; over the crunch my shoes made in the snow, the twigs I'd break under my steps, and it even flooded out my thoughts. Was pretty sure I was about to die because my entire body felt like quitting; was heavy and sore and all that, so I slowed to a walk and gasped for air. I would've broken out that little vile of wine I had stuffed in my cloak, but I knew that stuff'd knock me clean off my feet, and I was not a lightweight. Instead, I took that fancy snot rag Stumbles had given me that I'd stained to hell, and wiped it across my forehead. Even covered in blood, rinsed off and wrung out, it still held this particular smell that wouldn't go away. It was nice and I liked it, but I was surprised at the persistence of it... speaking of, this break needed to be quick. I was one of those people who had to do their job all in one go, or I'd get lazy. Not to mention, three god-forsaken days was an impossible window for someone who had to mosey their ass across the border and trek through rivers, so I needed to make the most of my time.

I pulled the compass I got from B for my twelfth birthday out of my pocket and tried to catch the moonlight on the face-side, in case I managed to drift off course in the last two hours. Sure enough and thankfully, north was to my right. As long as I continued in this direction for forever and a day, I would make it to that Plegian group that'd been waltzing around.

The canteen of water that was latched to my belt was next, and after prying it from its spot, I unscrewed the cap. Right as I was about to take a drink though, I heard a strangled screech from not too far away. I figured it was a bear or something at first but that noise... didn't sound like any animal I'd ever heard before. I stayed quiet and tried to soak in my surroundings as best I could, but the moon only illuminated the places that didn't matter at the moment, and shadowed everything else. I grimaced into the black for a minute and left my hand on the hilt of my sword, but my brain finally caught up with the situation and I decided not to stick around. I wasn't much for curiosity, anyway. I shoved the rag back into the button compartment on my chest guard, wrapped the compass chain around my wrist and clamped it in my left hand before sprinting outta there.

I was still out of breath, but I knew it was for the better. After all, I didn't have to look back to know that whatever was making that noise was hot on my trail. Was thinking it'd be a piece of cake to shake it at least, and I probably would have been right if I didn't get... caught... in a damn trap. All I felt was my foot tear out from under me and my entire body hit the ground before I was dragged up. I just hung there for a few seconds while I tried to maintain my cool. So many things could go wrong if I was stuck here, and watching my precious sugar-babies fall out of my compartments around me made everything worse. Whoever set this thing was a reeeal piece of work. And damn good at setting snares, too.

Figured since the rope restricting the circulation to my ankle wasn't a bear trap or something, the culprit probably wasn't as much for hunting as much as he must have been clown. Or maybe that just meant he was some sort of sadistic creep. It didn't seem unrealistic in times like these, and in a location this close to Plegia, but it wouldn't matter after I cut myself down and skedaddled.

I gave a glance upwards and saw the snowy ground spinning probably five feet below me, which definitely wasn't as bad as it could've been. It was still a neck-breaker if I fell the wrong way, but If I could manage to scrounge up some abdominal power and sit up, saw at the line holding me, tuck, and roll, I'd be all right. Y'know, as long as the dagger that was usually strapped to my shin guard hadn't fallen out like my sword did. I didn't see it on the ground, but when I inhaled sharply and pulled myself right side-up, I couldn't find it in the sheath, either.

Shit.

I wasn't sure if it was irritation or desperation, but either way, a thought about gnawing through my leg flashed in my head. Or the rope, but only if it was made out of taffy. Without thinking past the ache in my stomach from holding myself up for so long and in my brain from this situation, I let myself flop down and felt a wave of pain shoot up my leg. I had never done it before, but I was pretty sure I just dislocated my own ankle at the very least.

I admit, I probably groaned louder than I needed to, but I wasn't sure things could get much worse. Staying calm seemed easier when there was at least a morsel of hope that I could weasel my way out of this. In fact, it all looked pretty bleak from where I was hanging. I tried to snag some candy that hadn't fallen out of my pockets, but it seemed like the ground was the place to be. I did manage to keep hold of one of them, a little, round blue one, but only long enough to unwrap it before my fingers went stupid on me and let it go.

"Ugh!" ...But I wasn't about to quit; not on these confections, especially if I was stuck here for who knew how long. Trying not to let the excruciating ache in my leg prevent me from pulling myself back up the rope and moving as slowly as possible, unbuttoned the brown pouch on my pant leg with my free hand, and watched the little stupid knife I had been searching for, along with a bunch of my smaller candies slide on outta there. I wasn't even gonna question why it was in there instead of its sheath -because I knew more than likely it had everything to do with the shenanigans I did in my sleep - and fought myself to prioritize the weapon over the sweets. In a bit of a panic, I struggled to catch the knife by whatever part of it I could and since my luck today was beyond repair, I clamped my shaking hand around the blade, and hard enough to feel it. I didn't really care much about the sting because the relief that washed over me was more overwhelming; maybe there was still some hope for me yet.

"Sorry, pals," I whispered, glancing at the ground, feeling my heart pound in my throat and my head sweat. I was about to start cutting away at the rope, 'til I realized just how much unnecessary shaking was going on and decided I didn't wanna risk anything on a crap grip. I clenched the dagger in between my teeth for the second it took me to rip my glove off to find a bit more security, and went at it again. "I'll be down in just oooone second."

A heavy snap sounded from not too far away, but I didn't flinch. I wasn't about to hang around any longer than I had to. If that screeching thing -whatever it was- had caught up, there was no better plan than to hightail it out of here. And if I did end up in a scuffle without cutting myself down, I'd be nothing more than a pinata. So I sawed, and soon enough, dropped.

There was an initial shock of pain that rippled through me, probably because I hadn't really given myself much time to even think about how to position myself, and the rest of it came after that. I landed sideways and on a rock big enough to probably leave a pretty nasty bruise, and I could feel the piece of cake I had stored away seeping out. I thought the crunching on impact was something in me, but my heart ached when I realized that it was the pile of darlings that'd slipped out of my pockets. Overall, everything, ego included, felt a lot worse than I think I was anticipating. Instead of feeling sorry for myself though, I just breathed through it and dragged myself onto my hands and knees.

My stash was my first priority, and pretty soon, I was scrambling to pick up every single piece. The dark made it difficult to find the lighter-colored babies against the snow, but I managed to put most of them back, thankfully. I was about to grab hold of my sword, put my dagger away and jet, but a gurgling sound caught my attention. It was sloshy and gross and I really didn't even wanna know what it was, but I dragged my gaze upwards anyways. I'm not sure what I saw because most of it was shielded by the shadows, but what I could see was unnatural. It wasn't every day I saw glowing red peepers after all, and how far up I had to look to see them brought back that choking feeling you get when your stomach is in your throat.

So I moved slowly, making sure I kept my gaze fixed on that thing, while I shimmied my glove back on and snatched up my sword. Was pretty sure my brain was about ready to leak out my ears at the noise it made, and when it slid out of the darkness and into the light, my first instinct was to flee. The moon only illuminated part of it, but it was just enough to show me how disgusting, and how ridiculously large it was. I didn't get time to think about what it reminded me of, 'cause I watched a hefty rock fling at it from behind me.

"Get up, Gaius," a gruff voice shouted, and another rock followed. I wanted to see who it came from, but I figured- "get up!"

I hadn't ever been a fan of that tone, but I complied; only because I knew that bark and was comfortable enough taking orders from it. I was an off-balance wreck, and had to use a tree for stability, but managed to limp a few stiff steps back. My movement and the stones seemed to set the monster off because it let out another deafening scream, and lunged at us. I wanted to run, and so did Bob -who was clenching my shoulders to guide me- but my ankle was out of commission. Instead, I vouched to tuck and roll out of the way, which brought B down, too, and we landed in a couple of bushes nearby. We watched as the creeper ran into the tree we were standing in front of and look pretty broken up and confused about where we were when he recovered. Not the smartest bloke, but that just made escaping easier on us. I thought maybe if we stayed quiet, it'd forget what it was doing or something, but it was sniffing around like it could smell us.

"Shh," B whispered, and plucked a sucker from my pocket. I was about to beat him for it, but he shoved his hand over my mouth and I figured noises of struggle wouldn't be good for people who were trying to keep quiet. I found out Benji wasn't really covering my face for giggles either, and it wasn't the "hold still." that gave it away. Sure enough, after tinkering with my ankle, he slammed the bottom of my shoe with his palm and in an instant, there was an ache there that I really couldn't handle. I squeezed my eyes shut and bit my lip hard enough to break skin, but somehow managed to stay silent. The pop gave me some sort of relief, though, because that meant he'd done the job the right way and didn't need to try again. "Atta boy."

I wasn't sure I was ready to sprint a marathon, but the shriek from just overhead let us know there wasn't much of an option otherwise. So Bob dragged me to my feet and we just narrowly evaded an arm that was thrown at us.

"I set another one of those bad boys just up the path," he said breathlessly and cracked a smile. "just try not to trigger that one, hm?"

"Shut up." Of course. I didn't exactly have an hawk's eye, but I wasn't blind or stupid or unobservant; it was just that when Benji took his hobbies seriously, he'd turn himself into a pro. And when he'd turn himself into a pro, his traps were sure to catch anything. Or anyone; namely, myself. No matter where we or they were, no matter the time, or day, or how much he hinted at their location or existence, and no matter how much, or little time he spent on constructing them. I didn't ask him, but I was pretty sure these two traps were just crude little quick ones meant to distract more than anything else.

Ignoring the throbbing in my foot, I followed Bobert, and cringed at the sludgy steps of our lovely friend behind us. He was screeching and yelping and hollering and I worried he'd bring some more of his kind to us so I considered just taking care of him now, if I could, but whatever gelatinous material it was made out of made me feel a little iffy about the success rate. So we just ran, ducking under branches and weaving between trees, and I made sure to let Benj lead so I'd avoid ruining his second contraption.

After a few minutes of breathing heavy and sweat pouring and dying some more, we reached a downward slope. I figured this must have been where he'd set the trap because he shoved me in one direction and I biffed it harder than I bet Stumbles ever had. And that was bad. I ate a bunch of dirty snow, felt my nose explode, and smacked my arm on something, but pried myself up just in time to watch B all curled up in a ball on the ground, and the monster unintentionally flying over him. Thing landed face first kinda like I did, but as soon as he hit the ground, a net swallowed him. Like a fishing pole, the rope that was strung up in the trees wound that sucker in.

I would've jumped for joy if I wasn't going deaf listening to it, and its thrashing hadn't made us question how long it'd be strung up.

"C'mon, Kid," but Bob didn't have to tell me twice. "you gotta preference?" He showed me the compass I had apparently left behind, and raised an eyebrow.

"West." I replied, and we took off again. I tried to keep close to him, but he had apparently been out and about enough to find his stamina. When we were both panting like a couple of dogs, we took a break. Bob found a big flat rock, sat down and patted the spot next to him with an eager, playful grin on his face. He looked a lot more dirty than I'd ever seen him before, his face was more scruffy, and his shaggy black hair was damp and sticking to his forehead. His icy blues were still alert though, and he was chewing on that sucker stick like he wanted another.

"So," he started. "what's west?"

"What're you doing out here?" I plopped down next to him, wiped the blood from my upper lip and took a swig of water. But seriously. He'd retired years ago, and hadn't left the city since then unless we both went somewhere together. While I was glad and relieved to see him, the context was all wrong.

"Tellin' me you ain't happy to see your ol' uncle B?" He leaned into me, and wrapped an arm around my neck. "Not even just a little bit?"

"Cut it out," I said, and frowned. "really, though."

"Vacation. Figured if your luck was run dry before you got to the fancies, I'd need it," he told me, but I knew a lie when it smacked me in the face. We'd just gone on vacation and that had flushed our funds down the drain because Benj insisted we do it 'the right way'. Minus that expensive chocolate robbery. So unless he planned to do it the wrong way this time or he put himself into some sort of high-scale heist and won out after years and years of downtime while I was gone, I doubted he was telling me the truth. "don't look at me like that."

"Don't lie, then." I replied, sourly. He was quiet for a minute, before he changed the subject.

"What about you, cool guy? What's west?"

"Plegia." I unwrapped a candy.

"Oh, knock it off," he groaned, and snagged another sucker. I oughta- "you're being a brat."

"Well you're being a-"

"-like young'un Gaius, you are," he smirked, and I wanted to punch him. "getting all huffy... got a 'tude going on."

"Yeah, alright."

"I was gonna go visit Tyler and see if he'd put me up for a few days. I've been fidgety since you left, and didn't know what to do with myself, so I thought I'd trek over there." He said gruffly.

I think my silence let him know that I still wasn't buying it, and probably hinted at my frustration with him. I was nothing like I was way back when. Not even a smidge. Not to mention, he didn't even really like Tyler. The guy was seriously stuck up and uncooperative and had no taste in clothing at all. And his hair looked like horns. And was a stickler about stupid things. But B's blunt replies made him seem really adamant about steering clear from that topic, so I decided to let him have his privacy for once... until I changed my mind.

"You going to see a lady-friend?" I asked, and his eyes widened and his shoulders stiffened. Come to think of it, there was a gal back in Valm who seemed pretty sweet on Bob... "'Cause I'll leave you to it if that's your angle."

"Er..." It looked like he was gonna decline, 'til his lips shifted into a sly smile and his eyes narrowed. There it was. "you always were a sharp one."

"I knew it," I said, and nudged his arm. "must seem like a keeper if you're pursuing her, hm?"

"Yeah... yeah, she is. Gonna hold this one as close as I should've held Daisy."

"Don't beat on yourself, Benj. You did what you could; you always do." He just kinda shrugged and leaned against me. Bob'd had a wife before, named Daisy. They had a kid, Benjamin Jr., and one night after looting for one of his regulars, he came home to something that stopped him cold and made him quit his thievery for good. Told me he found the house a mess, and Daisy dead on the floor of his kitchen with her throat cut. He was frantic about where his kid had gone, but found him hiding in a crate in the very back of their closet. They moved from that house and Bob opened a shop selling trinkets with his dad, but Ben Jr. wasn't the same. Bob told me the kid flew the coop a year after Daisy and that he hadn't seen him since. I tried not to ask him too much about it, but sometimes we couldn't avoid subject about women in general.

"So what about you?"

"Huh? Oh. Just doing a job."

"For your people? I was gonna ask how that night went. Obviously you're still in one piece."

"Yeah, it was easy as pie."

"Now who's the liar?" He scoffed. "They okay for a buncha nobles? Meet anyone especially interesting?"

I wanted to be honest and tell him they seemed more down to earth than most stuffy nobles, but I didn't want him to feel obliged to scold me for getting too close to them. He always worried that I'd suffer the same fate as he did as far as relationships went because work did nothing but get your on the wrong side of people. "Ain't only gonna end up with skeletons in your closet, but because of them, you'll lose the ones you hold closest" he'd tell me. He wasn't the bitter, resentful type, so I knew he only wanted me to be cautious, and because of that, I was. Truth be told, his reminders really did make me more careful, and Clyde and his band of thugs were fine examples of the kind of skeletons he feared.

And then there was Twinkles. In a way, she was a skeleton from my past, and that meant they were already shimmying their way to the surface. I was curious about what Benji would say if I told him she was part of the thing. Probably something like "apologize and suck up like you ain't never done before," but that was my plan when I got the chance. And not just because I thought he would suggest it.

"They're alright. Little stiff, but bearable."

"How long you reckon you'll be with 'em? How much they payin' you?"

"Enough, and..." I had to think about this. Serious stuff was going on with the sheep herders, and Ylisse in general. I wasn't sure what kind of help I could be, but I guess if they wanted me around, I 'd stay. "I guess for as long as they need me."

"Good answer," B nodded and inhaled deeply. "proud of you, Gimpy. I really am."

"Oh, don't get all sappy-"

"-I mean it," he stared hard at me and pulled something out of my hair. "I knew you'd make it big."

"Hm... well, if I do make it somewhere you can bet I'll bring whatever I can, home."

"I knew someone with a start like yours had to be tough enough to break a mold, and look at ya now," he continued, and seemed genuinely impressed as he looked me over. "going on solo missions for the big dogs."

"I only have you to thank, B. For everything. And if you hadn't told me what those mutts were up to, I would've been a goner."

"Not true," he shook his head, and stared up at the gray. "I could tell you all the things in the world, but you using your ears, your brains, your skills, and executing is what's important. That's all on you. I wasn't there to hold your hand and guide you every step of the way, but you managed anyway and placed yourself in this position on your own."

"I'd probably still be a street-waif if you hadn't snatched me up."

"If we're talkin' about that, you'd probably be dead," he said. Thinking on it, I knew he was right. I was pretty much a mess when I was a lad. While it wasn't my favorite topic in the world, B seemed strangely sentimental, today. Figured humoring could be my good deed for the day, along with my outrageous recon agreement. "like a sad, soggy little pup, you were; all slumped under that bridge."

"I don't remember," I said, but I did. "I mean, I do, but only pieces-"

"-'Course you do. No shoes, no food, soaked to the bone, all alone; how could you forget? I know I never will."

"The only good thing about that day was you," I told him. "not like it was an afternoon full of taste-testing or something."

"Right back at ya, G," this time, he nudged me, but I could see his eyes glistening in what light we had. He looked away from me before sighing and continuing on. "I'll never be able to thank my pop enough for telling me about you before he passed."

I was a bit taken aback at this, because from the day I met him until now, I thought he was just some guy who liked taking walks in the rain, happened to find me, and then felt inclined to take me home. I wasn't conscious through part of it, but I know when I came to, I was sprawled out with a bowl of soup on the table next to the couch I was laying on, and tangled in a bunch of heavy blankets that smelled like old chocolate.

"What?" I mean, I always knew of Papa Benji; knew from stories that he worked with Bob in the shop after Daisy, and was aware that he was blinder than Eyeless George up on the hill that overlooked... wait.

"Yep. Tol' me you were a good listener and had it real rough at home," that old blind man in the rocking chair. It had to be. I was an idiot for not putting it together sooner. Guy'd given me loads of brilliant advice I'd carried with me since, including the little gem about candy. It was what got me through the years. I remembered the times after school that I'd go and pass by just to see if he'd notice me, and surprisingly enough, always knew I was there. We'd chat until it got dark, and then he'd wish me "good luck" before I'd leave. "last thing he wanted, too. Just for me to search for your sorry ass and keep ya safe."

"That doesn't... why?"

"Beats me. Ol' coot had lots of grand schemes that I didn't even have time to think about. All I know is that every time you guys met, he'd yap about you nonstop," he said, and smiled. "like you were his best friend."

"I-"

"-I didn't listen much to him when he was around, and ended up wifeless and kid-less because of it. I knew I'd regret it if I didn't fulfill his last wishes, so I went and looked high and low for you." he paused, and brought his gaze back to my face. I wasn't sure what I could or should say, especially since the tears that we were never supposed to let escape looked like they were about to spill over. It made my gut tie in knots and I felt the urge to comfort him, but instead I just sat there and stared right back, waiting for him to go on. "and I'm so glad I did."

"Benji-" I started, but he latched his arms around my neck, gripped the back of my head and reeled my face into his shoulder. I wanted to know what was going on right now, so I returned the embrace quickly, in hopes it'd dismiss whatever insecurities were attacking him at the moment. "what's-"

"-I tell you things that you might not always agree with, but I don't think you know how hard it is to lose someone you care about more than anything."

"I get it, Bob," I replied. "I really do. I'm always careful about-"

"-but I never want you to think you can't fall in love."

"Bob, just wait a-"

"-you just need to take care of things before you can grow with someone enough to-"

"Benji!" I shouted, and pushed him away. He looked hurt for a second, but cracked a grin and brushed his tears away. "I'm sorry."

"Nah, don't be. I'm the one should be apologizin'. Preach to you about never crying and here I go. Guess I pretty much lost my cool when you left for that mission with the killers and I didn't know if I'd ever see you again," he sniffed. "I knew I was doing you a service when I gave you your options, but it was breakin' my heart sending you away, again."

"No, no... don't worry your shaggy, little head about it. I'm fine, and we're together now, right?" I gave him a wavy line of a smile and put a hand on his arm. I'd never seen him like this before, and to be honest, it worried me.

"Yeah, except you gotta get that show of yours on the road, don't ya?" He ruffled my hair, wiped my lip for me, took another candy, stood up, and stretched. "I'm guessing you're on a pretty strict schedule, since they're fancy and have ."

"Yes, but we can-" he cut me off again and dropped the compass in my lap.

"-Should probably part ways, then, hm?" Without much more than another toothy half-smile, he started walking. He was a fair distance away before I jumped to my feet as well. The aching almost knocked me back down, but I kept at it and limped after him until I realized just how far he'd moved.

"hang on-"

"-so," he stopped and turned towards me. "I was thinkin'. You remember when you were an egotistical snot, right?" I just stood there, recalling my preteen years. "You 'member that day I asked you if you hated me?"

That was the night we'd argued endlessly about letting me join Clyde and his band. I whined at him about how they thought I was a natural and didn't want to waste my gift, and he told me that it wouldn't be wise to make the same mistake he had, years prior. After an hour or so, he won that disagreement and asked me what turned me into such a rascal. "Did I make you this way?" he'd asked me. "You just hate me or something? You don't respect me at all. Maybe we can work something out, if you let me know what's going on with you."

Few minutes passed by, and after studying his scowling, irritated face and contemplating a couple things, I responded with an earnest "I love you, Bob," and then went on my way.

I blinked away the thought, and nodded at him.

"Yep." I replied, staring at where he was like he would vanish if I didn't keep my vision fixed, and putting most of my weight on my good ankle.

"I... I love you, too, Kid." Sounded like he was speaking a foreign language at me in that moment. I felt my heart pounding hard in my chest and I glanced down at the ground for some sort of clarity, but before my brain got the chance to wrap itself around that little nugget and I brought my eyes back up to where he was, he was gone.

. . . . .

While I ran, I thought, and silently hoped that whatever brought him out here was nothing to fret over. I figured most of the shock after he'd said his peace probably came from the fact that he'd was always stingy about giving me many measures of affection, and for him, today seemed like the right time to do so. To me, that was almost traumatizing. I was pretty sure it didn't help that the environment was weird and the little peep of a voice he'd used made it sound more like a farewell than anything.

The more I thought about it, the more frustrated with myself I became. I knew a woman in the picture seemed unlikely, I knew taking a vacation leave was a lie, I knew him telling me he loved me seemed unnecessary without reason, but I couldn't piece together what was hiding behind this charade.

My mind was a foggy mess, but I pressed onwards for at least another few hours until my lungs and legs hurt, my ankle went numb, my empty stomach was tearing me up, the scenery changed and I heard something. It was low and rhythmic, and it wasn't until I had nearly toppled off of a leafy cliff edge did I realize it was the chanting from the group that I was in pursuit of, walking in lines like ants on the trail below me.

"Haaaaaail Griiiimaaaa," they sang slowly, and repeated. Nothing like doing interior investigations inside a cult to put the icing on one of the roughest cakes I'd had in a while.


sdkfjdklgjfdkg HELLO OTHER CLIFFY I'M READY FOR THOSE ROCKS NOW.

Soooo, this turned out to be heavier than I intended and I had a really hard time deciding what pieces of Gaius' backstory I should implement. AND BENJI. I had some trouble with the extent of Benji's... ness so it took a bit to work through those roadblocks!

On the bright side, Gaius is finally getting somewhere! c:

Oyyyy! xD I just hope you guys liked this chapter even though it was a little on the emotional/weird/jhfgkjdg side and it took forever and a day to come out! xD

Alsoooooo, QUESTION TIIIME! (please just beat me up for asking you to do anything!)

I'm curious about how you pictured Uncle Benji before I described him! c: So how did you do it?

END QUESTION TIIIME!

Yay! :D

Thanks so much guys! As always, let me know if you've got any comments, questions, concerns, critiques, suggestions, or just wanna chat about life, or fangirl, or rant, or whatever, feel free to PM me or leave a review! c:

P.S MR-WATCH AND I ARE WRITING A COLLAB!

THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH! I hope everything is going well for all of you!

:)