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    Once the meeting ended, everyone went their ways, starting to work on what they were assigned. Time flew and just like that, another day went by. This meant that it was finally time to meet Alma and open the market!

    The announcement, written by Lacha, had been posted downtown, with shout casters reading it aloud for those who couldn't.

    At first, people whispered about it, wondering if it was exaggerated, but when people pointed out the giant empty building that had remained vacant so far, people started connecting the dots and a frenzy soon emerged.

    Everyone couldn't help but get excited. They had been forced to live in this area, without any of their home's comfort. The fact that a market would soon remove that "unfamiliar" factor from the equation thrilled them to no end.

    There wasn't only the citizens that were excited. Even Lacha fidgeted constantly at the idea of getting new clothes. It had been too long since she felt soft fabrics unto her skin...

    Dawn showed its head and Derrick immediately set off in Terra's direction, intending on picking up Alma on the way. Her trip must have been perilous, and he figured that saving her a bit of it was the right thing to do. He also couldn't wait to see the state in which she was.

    During the night, he had also thought of an issue with the market, which he would have to remedy quickly. Everything was priced into gold coins but... Akata only had iron coins at the moment! He would have to determine a ratio that wouldn't put a strain on the city's finances, and he would also have to incorporate it into the already established currency. He figured he would consult Kuro on the matter when he came back.

    After getting airborne and on his way, he asked Io to use echolocation in the corridor where Alma should be located.

    [Echolocation in progress... 8 entities found]

    The map appeared in Derrick's mind, and he eliminated the dots who didn't move, associating them to lurking monsters. However, to his surprise, he discovered that there were 4 dots moving towards him, and one of those was surely Alma.

    Did Brigand send more people? Absolutely not. The burly man was under surveillance, and the only person he really trusted was the elf. If it wasn't him...

    Soon, the realization hit him like a ton of bricks... Alma had been tailed! Which meant... They had been discovered by someone in Terra.

    Was it when he went to Terra last time? The necromancer chased all those thoughts as it didn't matter right now, and his brain went through every scenario possible.

    Without any delay, he asked Io to dive towards the elf. There was only one option : kill them all.

    After all, the forest was a hostile environment. Dying in it was way more common than surviving.

    The first thing to do was to pick-up Alma. Based on the map, they didn't have her in visual and were simply tracking her. It appeared that the commotion he had caused at the auction still wasn't forgotten. He didn't know which party was brazen enough to chase him all the way here, but they were surely powerful if he and Alma didn't notice.

    ***

    Alma's rhythm hadn't slowed down since beginning her journey in the forest, pressed to arrive at Akata. She couldn't lose Brigand's cargo, who had invested pretty much all he had in this venture, which added to her hurry. She had met many dangers, but ultimately survived due to her skills. Avoiding attention was, after all, her calling card.

    Based on her current speed, her arrival would be around noon, which would allow her to rest before beginning her journey back tomorrow.

    *BANG*

    Out of nowhere, a gigantic creature crashed in front of her, stopping her in her tracks.

    "What the **?!"

    She had paid attention to her surroundings and this was as unexpected as it could be. Before she could identify the threat and assume a stance, an arm grabbed her waist and swung her unto the back of the beast.

    "Have you missed me?"

    The voice was all too familiar for Alma, who lowered her guard immediately before letting out a loud complaint followed by a punch in the gut of her counterpart.

    "You bastard! What's with the sudden appearance?"

    "You've been followed"

    The revelation shocked Alma, and her face became ashen.

    "Are... Are you sure? I've checked multiple times and found no one"

    "Yeah. They must have known for quite some time. When they saw you enter the forest, they decided to act and follow you"

    Alma's confidence, at that moment, was like a vase dropped unto the floor, shattering into a million pieces. She was an assassin, who were praised for their anonymity. The fact that she had been tailed without realizing at all was disgraceful, not only for her, but for Brigand who had invested so much into her.

    Derrick noticed her distress and lightly tapped her back.

    "I didn't know either, so don't beat yourself up. Now we've got another job to do, and it's to get rid of all of them. They know too much to be left alive"

    Alma quickly shoved her personal feelings aside and agreed with Derrick's assessment. Even if they simply fled from here, it wouldn't take long for the unknown party to find Akata based on the information they already gathered from this trip.

    Derrick ordered Io to take flight once again and go in the pursuer's direction. Derrick couldn't wait to see how strong they were if they had managed to evade him.

    ***

    "Trevor, we've been at it for three days straight. We should rest before continuing. It's not like we'll lose track of her. She can't even find us..."

    "He's right. If we exhaust ourselves and get found out, we won't be able to do much and even fleeing would become difficult"

    "Shut up you two. You weren't there when I was crushed to the ground, on the verge of death. This mission is of utmost importance and the chance of losing her trace is still there, although slim. I'll never forget the Official's face when we failed to report..."

    The last part sent shivers through the three men's spines, and they accelerated their tempo. Failing this task probably meant death.

    *BANG*

    The three men, caught off unprepared, were blasted backwards by the unknown force. Dirt and leaves were also blown away, creating a miniature storm of vegetation around the crater.

    Once every settled, they couldn't believe what was in front of them.

    A dark, half-eagle half-bat creature with glowing red eyes stared at them, its shining teeth out.

    "Welcome to our humble forest!"

    They turned their gazes away from the beast and unto its back where laid the elf they had been tailing and the men they had identified in their report. It appeared that the situation had been reversed.
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