-Evelyn Aubrey’s POV-
A few twigs cracked under my feet as I walked through the alley on my way home. I picked up a small bag that hung in one of the shrubs and soon encountered two children searching for it. The late hour bothered me, especially after I noticed the blue pins in addition to their worn-out clothes. So they’re orphans - guess that may also explain the jumpy old man, it finally clicked in my head. They were probably in their pre teens. The boy’s leaf green eyes observed me carefully as I stepped closer, looking a bit scared and...tired. An awfully cold shiver ran down my back when I reached out my hand to return his lost bag - or rather, it felt more like a cold hand gripping my spine. It wasn’t strong, but so abnormal that it made me uncomfortable. Trying to ignore this sudden feeling of cold boney fingers brushing over each individual vertebrae, I also noticed the girl’s cautious gaze on us. Her dark purple hair fell down to her shoulders, which were covered by a knee-long black dress, while her ruby-red eyes burned through me.
What is going on? I wondered, feeling more and more uneasy.
Much to my relief, the cold envelope around my spine weakend once the boy had his bag, yet something inside me appeared to be out of place. I escorted the kids to the old man, then went back home.
As soon as I stepped through the narrow door into our apartment, the smell of boiling meat soup, herbs and potatoes reached my nose. Alan must have gotten home earlier from his part-time job today. Normally, he’d be hunting stray beasts at the outskirts of town until hours after sunset. The payment wasn’t high since the beasts here weren’t all too dangerous, but it was enough for our little life. I swallowed the uneasiness in my body and took off my shoes in the dark corridor, went into the small open kitchen, then kissed the cheek of my husband. His face turned red, causing a chuckle to escape my mouth. I let myself fall onto the couch which stood in the small living room next to the counter. The grey walls around me drowned in a warm orange light. Closing my eyes, I listened to the crackling of the fire above which my husband prepared dinner in a large black pot. It was peaceful and warm. So why doesn’t my body stop shivering? I had suppressed it until now as I didn’t want to worry Alan, but I wasn’t able to do so any longer. Taking deep breaths, I placed the back of my trembling hand on my forehead.
“It’s been a bit over four years since our last mission,” I reminded myself out loud.
“Four years since we’ve been a family like this,” Alan revised in a warm, soft tone.
I hastily straightened myself up again, “Is Mae already asleep?” I asked with a restless voice that sounded unfamiliar to myself. I was afraid that I couldn’t read her a good-night story. Mae was our four year old daughter and the reason why we had decided to quit our squad including the missions that came along with it. I felt bad for her. My husband and I struggled to grab a hold in this new life, which was also why we had to move rather often. Hopefully, we'd be able to settle down long-term soon - at least when Mae would be old enough for school.
“Nah, it’s just early evening hun and dinner isn’t even finished,” Alan comforted me. “Anyway, is everything alright? It isn’t your soul injury, right? You want a hot bath? Or anything else?” he asked, worried.
I stood up and hugged my husband from behind, “Nothing I couldn’t handle, dear.” Pressing my face against his back, I slowly calmed down as my body felt his warmth. “I’ll call Mae for dinner.”
Mae was picking the mushrooms out of her soup when Alan started talking, his voice sounding a bit nervous, “I got a letter from him. He has arranged a new job for us.”
A sharp ache pierced my heart, “A new...job?”
“He hasn’t stated any details, just that it isn’t anything dangerous. He will even cover our living expenses and procure a place at an academy once Mae is old enough,” Alan added. His words soothed my anxiousness, but the thought alone was still unsettling.
“We… I retired four years ago. If this is just another one of his missions he can shove it down his…” I stopped myself just in time, remembering that Mae was right beside me, “Isn’t it utterly distasteful to ask us for such changes? We just recently settled here. What benefit would he have if we followed his wish...” I paused - his offer pretty much forced us to accept since it would be the best for Mae. She’d be able to attend a good school, and we could spend more time with her, without having to worry about finances.
That damn four-eyes.
“Well, he was short on words...as always. I guess since we are acquainted he wants us to keep an eye out on something?” Alan held his chin between his fingers while he thought out loud, “There probably aren’t many trustworthy people with a low profile after all, I guess. Anyway, getting to live in Anuit-City for free is a pretty damn good offer I think,” his lips rose into a smirk.
“Anuit-City?!” I echoed in surprise. Anuit-City was a renowned metropolis with a prestigious academy for noble or otherwise wealthy students from all across the country. A showcase city of our nation - just what in the world was that guy thinking? We went silent as we watched our daughter. The dim candlelight fell on the wooden table and got absorbed by her curly black hair as she loudly slurped down the rest of her soup. Stopping midway, Mae froze in motion when she noticed our amused expressions.
“Mae…”, Alan spoke softly, “would you be okay with moving to a new home once more? It’ll be the last time I promise.”
“Only if I get a large room with as many toys as I want!” Mae demanded determinedly.
“Of course my princess,” he answered playfully with a warm light in his eyes. “Well, someone will stop by in a few days to talk about our relocation in two weeks - probably Rika I assume,” my husband threw in casually while he picked up our dishes and rushed behind the kitchen counter.