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8 New Dawn

    Going deeper and deeper into the woods, Emma and Alay found themselves trapped in a situation where there was no turning back. It was hunting or being hunted, and they chose not to be the hunt. About three minutes had passed since the sudden attack of the Saber Dragon and, even seeing part of the enemy, the girl was still in doubt about what they were facing.

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    The creature seemed larger than she had imagined using the size of the footprints left by him as a basis. And there was also the fact that the creature once again proved to be clever enough to set traps for them, even if it was something quite rudimentary, it was still incredible for a wild animal. "What the hell were the developers thinking of putting something like this near a small village?" Emma thought as she focused on following the blood trail that the reptile had left behind.

    "Could this be another one of his traps? No... even being smart, an animal wouldn't think of a plan right after being hurt right in the eye... "

    - Emma, there's something wrong with my arm. - Alay's voice broke the fragile silence that arose during that interval.

    Concerned, the girl quickly turned and tried to look for something different on the boy's arm in the darkness. However, there was nothing new, only the injury from the bite. Confused, she looked at him in doubt

    - It's not something with the wound, it's with the limb itself! I can't feel him anymore or move him. - he said, bringing even more doubts to Emma.

    - Are you saying you don't feel any more pain there?

    - That's right, but I can't move him either, it's like a...

    - Paralyzing poison? - Emma completed, looking an answer to the problem

    - If that's it, it's not so bad. I wouldn't move my arm anyway...

    Alay's speech was interrupted by the sudden rustling of leaves behind them, which grew louder and louder and closer to them. Without needing to say it, they both ran out in a straight line, being accompanied by the sound of the frantic steps of mysterious origin.

    Not far from them, Emma spotted a point where the trees did not cover, creating a glade that was being bathed in the moonlight. Placing all her hopes in that place, she gestured to the boy, who soon understood what was to be done and followed her. When they arrived, Emma stepped on the ground in a bad way and skidded right into the middle of the glade.

    Taking advantage of the chance he had, the stalker jumped out of the bushes and revealed himself, running straight to the girl. Before he could reach her, Alay used all his strength in his functional arm and threw the spear, hitting the ground in front of the creature, who was frightened and retreated away from them, facing the young and posing threateningly.

    Panting and a little dizzy, Emma stood up and looked closely at the animal. It should have been the length of a Komodo Dragon and was very muscular, besides having big teeth projected out of the mouth like a boar, which gave its name. Its coloration blended almost perfectly with the woods behind it, with combinations of dark green, light green stripes and some brown spots. Taking all this into account, the Saber Dragon was certainly the top of the food chain in that region of the forest. His gaze expressed pure bestial fury.

    The sensations that Emma experienced in the face of that situation were the opposite. Fear tried to force her legs to the opposite side of the lizard, while the imminent threat put her on an ultimatum. In the end, she accepted that the only alternative left was to fight, choosing to follow the path of reason rather than being driven by fear. With slow steps, she approached Alay, calling him even closer. When he got closer, Emma began to whisper something, leaving the creature waiting impatiently.

    Before the conversation between the two ended, the Saber Dragon advanced against them, acting exactly as Emma had foreseen.

    - Now! - she shouted, and the two of them started running towards the animal.

    Seeing himself in the situation of choosing two targets, the lizard chose Alay, who was wounded and unarmed. However, he was intercepted halfway by Emma, who was surprisingly faster than Alay, standing in front of the reptile and stopping there. The very short time it took for the creature to process what to do next and start acting again was enough for Emma's plan to come true.

    Suddenly she lowered herself, giving Alay space to jump over her and, with the spear, try to impale the animal. However, he went faster, narrowly deviating from the mortal blow. However, he wasn't expecting Emma, just below Alay, to be waiting for him with the knife in hand, ready to attack.

    With speed and force, Emma struck the beast's jaw, drilling from one side to the other. Out of the darkness of the forest, the creature's blood gushed red. Thinking he would not be able to react to a next attack, the young woman removed the blade from the animal's mouth and raised the weapon to take another blow. However, feeling the freedom in his mouth again, the creature quickly counter-attacked, biting the girl's leg.

    For the first time in her stay in that world, Emma felt real pain. It was as if dozens of little hooks tore and pulled her flesh, causing an excruciating pain that ran through her whole body. Trying to get rid of the attack, Emma took the knife and raised it above the beast's head, which when she saw the danger, let go of the girl and ran back into the unfathomable woods, disappearing into the darkness.

    Just as she got rid of the lizard's teeth, the girl fell back on the grass and screamed in pain as she grabbed her wounded leg. Alay approached her and helped her sit down so she could better analyze the wound. Because it was a desperate move by the animal to flee, it was more concerned with causing pain than really causing serious damage to it, causing a more superficial injury than Alay's.

    Even so, hot blood dripped down her leg, staining part of her pants.

    - Do you want me to go get a grave so you can make a tourniquet? - Alay questioned.

    - I don't need... it's not so much blood that I need to do this, but I'll need something to do an improvised bandage, something clean to put over the wound and stop the bleeding.

    Seeing that it could be useful, Alay took the knife from the girl's hands and cut off a piece of his garment, handing it to her afterward.

    - Last time it was you who tore part of your clothes for me - he said, shyly giving him the fabric - now we're even. - he answered, taking the spear from the ground and wielding it.

    Emma smiled briefly and made an improvised dressing, managing to avoid most of the bleeding. With the knife in hand, she stood up with some difficulty and leaned back on Alay, both covering one direction of the woods while giving herself support to continue standing.

    - So, what do we do now? - Alay questioned, feeling the sensitivity in his injured arm return.

    - Well, in a few minutes, my leg's gonna give in and I'm gonna be on the ground, and you're gonna be the only one who can face that thing.

    - Conclusion?

    - I have a plan, but I don't think you're gonna like the idea very much.

    - And what choice do I have? - spoke, disenchanted with Emma and directing his gaze to her. His eyes gave confidence and faith, everything the girl needed to feel motivated - Go at once, I'll be waiting for you here.

    With her last strength, Emma decided to bet everything she had and went out into the forest without fear and doubt, carrying with her a great feeling of determination.

    As she ran through the woods, the smell of her blood was felt by the lurking predator, who began to run after the young woman, determined to end it all at once. When Emma realized she had captured the interest of her stalker, she began to turn around and feel her leg begin to fail. Sweat was dripping down her face and she felt her lungs were almost reaching their limit.

    When she reached the clearing, she ran towards Alay, who threw the spear for her. Using all her strength, Emma threw her knife to the ground and grabbed the handle of the weapon, feeling her leg give in to the effect of the toxin. So she turned his body the other way around before he fell to the ground. After that, the Saber Dragon jumped from the bushes in the direction of the young woman, who raised the spear in the direction of the animal, which, consequently, was impaled by the tip of the weapon, crossing it.

    The animal cried out in pain and squirmed to try to get rid of the attack, which made him go even deeper into the metal tip. Because she couldn't bear the weight that the beast's body exerted on the spear, Emma released the handle and dropped it on the ground

    Even without the movement of one of her legs, she dragged herself to the creature, which continued to struggle frantically, desperately trying to escape death. However, it was already too late.

    To finally end it, Emma took her knife from the ground and struck the reptile's neck, tearing it at once. A lot of blood squirted on the girl's clothes, who retreated, watching the Saber Dragon agonize to death from afar.

    When she realized it was all over, the girl dropped herself with her back to the ground, feeling the grass give her a cold and comfortable hug. For her first real battle in Yharag, that had not been such a bad experience. The time they had spent in the woods had not been so long, but to Emma, it seemed like an eternity. After all the heat of battle, the mere passing of the cold breeze through her body was like a rewarding miracle.

    In this mixture of sensations, she heard Alay's footsteps approaching her. When he arrived, he knelt and gave him a calm, cheerful smile.

    - How did you know what I intended to do? - the girl asked, returning the smile with another.

    - To be honest, I just imagined the most unpredictable thing you could ever do. In the end, I only threw my spear at you for believing it was the right thing.

    - A guess that saved my life. Thanks.

    - But... what part of the plan did you say I wouldn't like?

    - The part where you have to carry me to your home because that way I can't walk. - she said, laughing. Contrary to her expectations, Alay did not complain, but he also laughed and helped her up.

    - Are you gonna tell me even this was planned?

    - I'd like to say yes.

    After that speech, Emma gave in to fatigue and closed her eyes, napping right there

    ⥏☉☉✡☉☉⥑

    Emma opened her eyes slowly, blinking several times to get used to the sudden lighting of the place. As she recovered her normal vision, she found herself lying on a bed in a room she had never seen before. The golden light of the sun entered through the window of the room, flooding the entire room with light and revealing the dust splashes that hung in the air.

    Her clothes from the previous night were changed into cute and cozy pajamas, which had a set of embroidered flowers that went from the beginning of the collar of the shirt to the end of its extension. In the pants, the same style of sewing, but this time without embroidery. "Whoever did this is very good at what they do."

    Looking around, she noticed she wasn't alone. Sitting on a bench next to the bed was Mr. Paul, who was looking at the bedroom door. Next to him, hanging from a wooden rack, were her overcoat and trousers, totally clean and sewn. Also, the clothes she was wearing under her overcoat had been replaced by a simple black blouse.

    - Mr. Paul? - she said, in a somewhat husky voice.

    Surprised, the man turned to her and sighed with relief. He stood up from the bench and stared at her with a smile that reminded him of Alay.

    - Good morning, Miss Adams. Did you enjoy your sleep?

    - Yeah. What happened? Why am I here?

    - Well, you and my son arrived last night, injured and completely exhausted, especially you, who were already asleep before you even got here on the farm. Seeing that, my wife and I mobilized to help you as much as we could. In the end, I treated your injuries and then we split up to help you both, with Trish looking after you and me looking after Alay. She also sewed your clothes, as a courtesy.

    - Thank you, I don't know how I could repay you.

    - You don't have to, you've done enough. You killed the creature that devoured my chickens and still brought my son home safe and sound. You've done enough for our family. - The man gave the girl a brief caress on her head, further messing up her already disheveled hair. - Anything, ask me or my wife, we'll be more than happy to help you. - said, turning around and heading towards the door - We're waiting for you in the kitchen, get dressed and take your time to leave the room. - Having said that, he opened the door and left, then closed it.

    Emma lifted the blanket that was over her body and looked directly at her leg, which was covered by her pajama pants. Removing it for a moment, he saw that his wound was bandaged and without much pain. She tried to move it, and she responded perfectly to her command. Sighing with relief, she got out of bed, invigorated and appeased.

    She then put on her clothes and took her knife, which was on the pocket of her overcoat and left the room, being welcomed by a pleasant smell of seasoning and freshly prepared food. Guided by the scent, she arrived in the kitchen, where she found all the family that hosted her sitting at the table, living as if it were any day. Mom and Dad were divided into taking care of the smaller children who ate from the wooden bowls, while Alay laughed casually. When they noticed the girl's presence, everyone smiled at her, which filled her with peace and joy. Even after going through several tense and doubtful experiences, she had finally been rewarded with the peace she so dreamed of. That family atmosphere brought her more fragments of her childhood memories, which filled her with a nostalgic and good feeling.

    - What are you waiting for, Emma? Come eat with us! - said Trish, inviting her with an even more radiant smile than the previous one.

    With a certain hesitancy and shyness, Emma approached the table and sat down in the vacant chair. In front of him was a steaming bowl of what looked like soup with meat and vegetables. The smoke danced through the air, entering the nostrils of the girl, who enjoyed the smell with pleasure.

    - Thanks, all of you. You don't know how well you're doing for me.

    - It's just a way of giving back what you did for us. Now you don't have to be shy, try some of the soup! - Trish said cheerfully as he nested one of his children in his lap.

    With the wooden spoon that was placed next to the bowl, Emma took some of the orange liquid with some pieces of vegetables and took it to her mouth. Even with the simple appearance, a surprising explosion of flavors filled the girl's mouth, which melted as she felt the soft taste of the soup mixed with the accentuated taste of the meat diluted in the liquid.

    - That's good! Good! - she said, giving another spoonful.

    - I'm flattered you liked what I did so much, sometimes I try to teach Paul how to make that soup, but it always tastes different.

    - It's because no one can do something as good as you, honey. - Paul responded by kissing his wife on the forehead.

    After swallowing some more of the food, Emma turned her gaze to Alay, who was also focused on her plate until she saw herself staring at the girl too.

    - How about you? Must have had a hard time bringing me here. - Emma said, laughing.

    - Actually no, you're not that heavy.

    - Hey! I´m only 60kg!

    - Don't talk about the weight of a woman, my son, you may regret it later. I found that out from experience. - Paul spoke, laughing as Trish gave him a threatening look.

    The rest of the family lunch was something that made Emma forget everything that was to come for a while, letting herself be carried away by the happy feeling that surrounded that place. The conversations, the laughter, and the soup from Mrs. Trish were something Emma could never forget. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before lunch was over and the time to say goodbye arrived. Before passing through the door of the house, the young lady said goodbye to everyone in the house except Alay, who had disappeared for a moment. When she closed the door behind her, she felt that she was leaving behind something very good, but she remembered her goals and what she should do.

    However, already at the foot of the stairs, she was surprised by Alay opening the door, equipped with his armor and spear and carrying his usual calm smile.

    - What do you think you're doing, Alay? - she asked, worried about what might happen

    .

    - I finally found my place in this world. And that place is on your side, having new adventures and experiences. I know that I was born for it! Don't you agree? - he questioned, anxious for a positive answer.

    However, what he received was a sad sigh from the girl, who faced him with a sad look.

    - No.

    - What?

    - I said no, you're not coming with me on my way.

    - But why not?! You've seen what I'm capable of, you've seen that I can be useful to you!

    - But it doesn't matter now, damn it! - she said, letting herself be carried away by emotion. - I can't let you come with me, I can't guarantee you'll come home!

    - And what's wrong with that? I don't care about facing danger and that kind of thing, we already faced a dangerous beast yesterday!

    - The thing is that I cannot guarantee your life, even mine! - These words shocked the boy, who did not expect such seriousness from someone he considered a companion. - And if you die, I could never face your family again.

    A brief silence settled between the two. The climate suddenly became heavy and tense.

    - Understand that, please.

    After thinking about everything that had happened and what could happen, Alay could only say one thing:

    - So you promise you'll come back? You promise me you'll take me on many adventures someday? - His question made Emma's heart break, for she knew that the path she would follow might never come back. However, even though she knew he would understand, she decided to answer.

    - Yes, I promise. - she replied, with the same smile Alay had seen before. The smile of a liar.

    So Emma walked again and left the Morgan farm, a place that would mark her life forever. Coming out of the farm gates, a cold breeze made her black hair fly backward. Her gaze before the path exhibited determination and will, things she could never feel if it weren't for Alay and her parents.

    So her second day in Yharag had begun. However, she wasn't alone on that path. There was not something, but someone lurking in the shadows, watching the girl's every step carefully.

    And so she left with the wind on her back.
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