Chapter 2: The Fifth Match part 2
|"Come with me where, don't you have to look after this shop?" Christine asked.
Hans murmured "Well that's certainly true, uhhh, how... how about tonight?" He spoke loudly.
"Well now, you don't have to be so hasty, tomorrow, around this time by the river. How does that sound?"
"Okay!!" Hans said and they both parted ways.
Hans was in a dream-like state after that, constantly thinking about the next day. He barely slept that night; the foĺlowing morning, he didn't go up to the roof to view the sunrise, he didn't need that anymore. Alan was puzzled by Hans' behaviour and joked about him not going upstairs but Hans didn't give heed. His dream-like state had still persisted.
He managed to complete his chores before mid-day, the time that was decided for the meet. By the time he was on his way to the riverside, he could barely control himself, but along the way the the excitement subsided as he realized that he virtually knew nothing of Christine, she could turn out to be a bad person or one that lures people in and sells them to pirates or something even more horrendous, what if she was a serial killer.
Lost in his thoughts, he managed to reach the riverside and he could see Christine down by the river, standing alone wearing the same dress from the day before. It acme to him that he should hide and observe for a while but before he could act on his thoughts Christine caught sight of him and waved at him. Hans waved back and started to come down, she was alone and that fact provided some relief.
"You are late" Christine said to him.
"Ah yeah, I had some work come up, sorry about that. So... tell me about your plan." Hans said
"I should get straight to it, when I came to this village, someone else also came here though not with me. And I have to find that person. I don't even know whether they are a man or woman, I have just assumed them to be a he. I have been pursuing him for quite some time now, for reasons that I can't tell you. Just know that this man is dangerous, him coming to this village means that he intends to destroy it. I need your help to locate him."
"How long have you been here, both of you?" Hans asked thinking of something.
"I've been here for three days, he might have here for a day or two before me."
"Weird, because I have not seen anybody foreign besides you, neither have I heard anyone talking about him."
"Well, have you heard anybody talking about me? He wears a black cloak that covers his body from head to toe and is very elusive, you might never know of his presence unless you are intentionally looking for him."
"Got your point. Where do you want to start then?"
"I want to check the inns for starters."
"See, I told you that this is a small village in the middle of nowhere, we don't really have visitors, there are no inns."
"He might be staying somewhere!"
Hans sat down on the grass, "It cannot be that there was new person in someone's home and nobody knew about it. Except mine and the new Chieftain's the other houses here are also not big enough for someone to hide there for days. And I don't think he'd be in either of the houses. That would mean that he is living like a normal family member with some family, but then again, he cannot be a family member of one the families if he came from outside, that could only mean that he can use magic and make the people believe that he is family most probably the old of the village who live alone. Lets start with them."
The started towards the village when Christine asked him, "When I talked about the village getting destroyed, you didn't even flinch."
"Oh... I had skipped over that part and focused more on your description of that man, when I later realised what you had said, the moment had passed for shock. Moreover, I don't think that I will be that sad if the village is destroyed, I would get sad or angry but that would only be for a moment and I would soon return to normal. I just don't feel like there is a thread binding me to this place."
Both of them started the search of the thirteen houses which were inhabited by either a single or a couple of elderlies. By the time they finished with the first eight, night had already set upon the skies and they decided to continue the next day.
Hans approached the house and saw Alan lighting a lamp in the balcony. He didn't think in the least that there might be someone in their house but he had heard that magic can make you believe all sorts of things, it might be a magic that makes people forget about the caster once the person goes out of perimeter. He saw the darkness that was engulfing Alan and he couldn't get the thought of the cloaked man hidden in the darkness from out of his mind. He rushed to the house and took a lamp to every corner of the hose to make sure that no one was there.
The next day, both of them decided that off the five houses Hans would check the two at the far edge of the village while Christine would search the three in the inner parts of the village.
Hans didn't have any luck at the two houses and by the time he reached back, it had already been evening. He found out that Christine had already visited two of the three houses so he headed for the third and last house hoping to find Christine. On his way he thought of their next step if they fail to locate the mystery man.
"Mr. Rook, good evening." Hans greeted the owner of the thatched house, an old man in his late 80s. Mr. Rook showed no response and kept smoking his pipe.
"Ah... have you seen a girl, with blonde hair, she's the same height as me and is wearing a frock." Hans asked.
With his shaky hand, the old man took his pipe out and pointed in the direction of the farmland at the back of his house with it.
"Thanks", Hans said as he went towards the back.
He first laid eyes on Christine, he followed her gaze to find the cloaked figure. Standing in the middle of the farmland, he resembled a scarecrow but the aura around him made him appear to be much more, more sinister.
Christine turned towards Hans and as soon as she did so, the cloaked figure vanished.
"It got away..." Hans said to Christine, he was shocked to see the scene, both Christine and the cloaked figure were staring at each other before he had arrived at the scene, he was at a total loss, he wasn't able to grasp the situation.
"Don't worry, I can find him wherever he will be from here on." Christine said still standing in the distance.
"That... that is good, we shouldn't waste any time." Hans said.
"Hans, you have been a great help till now, please go back now, this is going to be dangerous."
"What! What about the adventure that you promised me, its only been two days, you use me and now you are getting rid of me?" Hans shouted.
"You wanted a taste of adventure and I gave it to you and besides, this is my journey and I have to travel this path, just go away."
The crass croak of the crows on the dried up trees behind him and the bloody evening sky in front of him broke the illusion that he had built up for himself and dropped him down to reality; there was no adventure for him, nobody loved or cared for him, that girl whom he had mistook for a ray of hope for his bleak life had used him as a tool and discarded him as she saw fit.
As his dreams shattered, tears were welling up but he didn't cry, he had never cried, not when his father died, not when he got bruised, not when he felt lonely, never. Even now, he just smiled like he always did when he would be in front of others. He said his goodbyes and left for his house.
Back at home, he quietly drifted into sleep gazing out from the window.
"Wake up! Master Hans!"
Alan's voice reached Hans' ears. Before he could ask Alan about the reason for his restlessness, something he saw from the window gave him the answer.
The village was burning.
"I have packed everything, let us leave." Alan said bringing the cart with their stuff out to the main hall.
Hans helped Alan push the cart out of the house and to a place where the fire wouldn't reach them. The other villagers were gathered there too. The fire had started slow and had allowed the villagers to evacuate with almost all of their belongings. The only things that would be damaged would be the houses but the important thing was that everyone was safe.
The new chief was calling out for people to check if anyone was missing. Hans looked around but Christine was nowhere, "She's not here" he said to himself..
"Who is not here?" Alan heard him and asked. It would have been a matter of concern if someone was stranded in the fire.
"Wait for me, I'll be right back" Hans said to Alan before running back into the village which had started resembling a pit of fire.
"Christine!" Hans shouted all around, he scoured every alley but Christine was nowhere to be found. He had no idea as to why he was endangering himself for a girl like her, maybe there was some part of him still yearning for answers.
In the same alley that housed the butchery, Christine was lying on the floor, her dress was sullied and torn at places and visible bruises covered her arms and legs. The cloaked figure was standing with a stone just above Christine, but she had no fear of death, the anger in her eyes was burning brighter than the flames surrounding her.
A shovel struck the Cloaked figure's head causing him and the stone he was carrying to fall down. As he fell, Christine saw that it was Hans who had hit him. Hans felt his heart pounding with a hundred times more intensity and his arms trembling like they have been shocked.
Christine didn't waste any time, she took out a match-box, lit a match and dropped it on the Cloaked figure. Instantly, a large pillar of light rose from his body and the body itself disappeared. The flame change colours from yellow to pure white.
Christine hugged Hans, thanked him for his help saying, "Hans, I owe you so much, I'm sorry that I used you but please try to understand. I will always be grateful to you, it is time to part ways now."
With that Christine entered the white flames.
"Like hell I am going to let you get away!" Hans grabbed Christine's wrists and entered the flame with her.