Chapter 12: Coins

Karin had to leave but it tore her heart open to do so. She packed her belonging quickly into her two bags, one of them still had the musty smell of the last swamp she had crawled through and the other was freshly repaired.

The clothes wouldn’t remain neatly folded for long, but that was the price of being a hunter. On top of the pack, she put her set of backup knives among the fabric.

When she finished, she looked around the room until the memories rose up. Choking bcak a sob, she dug into her pack and pulled out a handful of coins to put on the table.

There was already a stack there, covered in dust.

Karin froze, trying to remember when she put them there.

It was the first day, she had given a stack of crowns to give to Suras for her troubles. The young woman had ignored them and took her bags to clean her clothes instead.

Another sob rose in her throat. She closed her eyes tightly and added a second stack of coins. It was pitiful, but she wanted to leave something.

She turned to leave.

Suras stood in the door of the room, tears rolling down her cheeks and her bottle of whiskey in her hand.

Karin froze as her heart pounded in her chest.

“Y-You’re leaving?”

Karin found her own emotions. “I have to.”

“Was it because of Mal? He told me he talked to you.” Suras’s voice was quiet and broken.

“Yes… no, not really.”

“I thought we had the week.”

They did, or would have. Roal wouldn’t pick up Karin until fifth day and it was only third.

Karin shook her head. “We… I have to.”

“Why?” The bottle in Suras’s grip shook, sloshing the liquid inside.

“I… I’m just going to hurt you.”

“No, you aren’t.”

Karin wiped at the tears in her eyes. “Yes, I am. I don’t think I can stop being a hunter and I can’t… I can’t hurt you every time you leave.”

“I don’t mind.”

“You should.”

“I don’t, I’d rather have a night with you than lose you.” Suras gulped before she came into the room. “Please, don’t leave.”

Karin sobbed and shook her head. “That’s the first time you asked me to stay. Would you have said that earlier?”

“I was waiting for you to decide.”

“I… I…” It was getting harder to speak. “I have to.”

A storm of emotions flashed through Suras’s eyes. Karin felt sicker with every passing moment. She couldn’t help but stare at the tears rolling down her cheeks or the way her hand clutched the bottle.

Karin tensed, waiting for the screaming or begging.

Suras held out the bottle. “Take this with you.”

Stunned, Karin stared in shock. “W-What?”

Hurrying forward, Suras pressed the bottle into Karin’s hand. When Karin couldn’t get her fingers to grip it, she reached down and carefully stuck it in Karin’s bag. Then she stepped back, her eyes shimmering and her lower lip trembling.

“Sur—”

Suras shook her head and held up her hand. “This way, you’ll always have part of me with you.”

Before Karin could say anything else, she turned and raced away. Her footsteps rang out in the hallway.

Karin felt like a monster. She looked down at the bottle of whiskey nestled in her back. “Suras, Number Two.” Probably one the most precious things Karin had ever had in her life. She felt like a monster but she had to do it, otherwise she would feel like this every time she went out on a hunt.

When Karin entered the common hall, there was no one there. No farmers drinking away the hours, no one behind the counter. She could hear sobbing in the kitchen and someone speaking soothingly. The feeling that she was one of the monsters rose and she headed toward the door.

It opened before she reached it. Roal came in, his beard sparkling with moisture. “Oh, there you are.”

Karin stopped. “You’re early.”

“No, I’m never early. I only show up when I’m needed. That’s my talent.”

“Yes, in two days.” Karin realized she was hesitating herself, but it was too late. She had already said goodbye.

He patted his ax and looked her from head to toe. “Then why are you dressed to leave? Your peach ended up being an apple?” He grinned. “That mean I have a chance or did you spoil this town for the both of us.”

Fighting the tears, Karin shook her head. “No, I’m was going to the next town over to wait for you. Please tell me there is a job.” Her breast ached with the idea of a fight.

Roal started to smile but then frowned. “No, there isn’t. I mean, I was pulled here so I assumed it was to pick you up. The rest of the Rat Hunters are in Goril, we riled up a massive blood nest and we are probably a few gallons low of blood.”

He turned and looked around. “Though, the pull to pick you up was pretty strong. I figured it meant we’re about to get a really big one.”

Karin sighed. It was going to be a long few months before she enjoyed another soft bed. She shook her head. “We better get going.”