“Are you sure about this?” Terra asked Miles and Kota as they stood outside of the Last Inn in the growing twilight.
Miles looked at Kota, who shrugged silently, and said, “I suppose so. You’ll pass the news on to her?”
“Do I have to?” Terra asked, and the vampire put a hand on his shoulder and wished him luck, as they both knew he would need it.
Four days after Wen had left town, and still no one had come to the inn looking for Kota. That is, except to seek help. With his assistance, along with some food, they managed to lure the griffin out of the clock tower, and she was already on her way to becoming something of a town mascot. Even Joe Farmer had sent some workers to ask him how to deal with the mud badger Junta that had taken up residence in one of his fields.
No one mentioned the wolf. It was as if they were all afraid to upset him, or more likely, incur the wrath of the blacksmith who had become something of an interim leader, or at least the one they all went to for advice until a new mayor could be found. Truth be told, the arrangement wasn’t that much different than before, other than cutting out the middleman.
The hunter sighed and went back into the inn to keep an eye on the guests who had just arrived, only stopping to wave at them one last time before he closed the door behind him.
“Kota,” Miles started, but he just shook his head.
“Let’s go. You want to make it to the capital before sunrise, right?”
Kota started to walk away from the inn with his shoulders bowed under the light burden of his small pack that held all he had in the world. Miles watched him walk and sighed, but said nothing as he followed.
They made it some way down the road before Kota stopped and turned, narrowing his eyes so that he could better see the figure racing to catch up with them. He barely had time to brace himself before Erin ran into him and nearly knocked him off of his feet.
“How could you?” she yelled as she stepped back. “How could you just try and leave without saying a word?”
“I’m just going to take a little walk over there,” Miles said, and edged away so that Erin could not turn her wrath upon him.
“I’m sorry, I–”
“If you were sorry, you wouldn’t have done it.”
Kota wilted under her accusing glare and said, “I don’t want to leave, I swear. It’s just…My time is running out, Erin. There’s no cure to my curse here, whatever the witch said, and maybe someone in the capital really can help me.”
“You’re not scared to go anymore?” Erin asked, staring hard to make out his expression in the growing darkness.
“I’m scared to leave,” he whispered, but Erin pushed him away.
“You could have said something, anything,” she protested. “Instead, you just sneak away with Miles like I wouldn’t care at all!”
“Please don’t bring me into this,” the vampire called from off in the distance.
“Then don’t eavesdrop!” Erin yelled back.
Kota sighed and said, “I know. Look, I talked to your dad, and he said your brother Arthur could come to the inn with you and take my place. Terra even agreed to stay around, in case Lani tries to come back around. Not that you need any help, of course. You can keep the inn open, you don’t need me anymore. That’s good, right?”
Erin groaned, and from out of the darkness Miles yelled, “It was never about the inn, you idiot!”
Erin smiled at his baffled expression and said, “The inn can take care of itself, Kota. I can always go back, but if it’s okay with you, I want to go with you and find a cure for your curse.”
“It could take a while,” Kota said, and winced when a pebble hit him from out of the darkness. “But, yes, if you’ll come, then….”
He cleared his throat and noticed for the first time that Erin had a pack of her own on her back. “Wait, you knew?”
“I packed two days ago,” Erin said. “And yes, I knew you would try and leave me behind.”
“Well, this is great, isn’t it?” Miles said as he suddenly reappeared on the trail in front of them. “The witch sent you for a cure and you ended up with a girl, which I suppose is a fair enough trade. And, if all else fails, we can always go back to your village and watch Erin knock a cure out of them with her broom, right?”
He avoided Erin’s swing and chuckled as he walked ahead.
“Do we have to go with him?” Erin asked and Kota smiled.
“Thank you,” he said.
Erin returned the smile. “Well, it’s not like I can let my partner go running off by himself.”
She leaned forward and kissed him, right on the mark.