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RPG Wandering "Samurai"

SJchan Mayran

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Namu yawned as he brought back more wood for the fire. Rydia was still sleeping soundly, but he was going to have to wake her soon if they wanted to get moving before sunrise.

He set the wood down and stretched the kinks out of his back, wondering briefly what crazy notion had made him deside to let Rydia come with him. They'd been travelling together for about a month, and he was surprised she was still with him. He'd expected her to run off in want of a shower after the first few days.

He allowed himself a warm smile in her direction, then he desided it was about time they got some breakfast. He'd seen a rabbit briar nearby, maybe he could catch a few. And there was a big farm right at the edge of the woods that surely wouldn't miss a few cups of fresh milk.

Checking one last time to be sure that Rydia would be all right, he grabbed the crossbow he'd "procured" at the last town and set off to hunt.
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OOC: What have we been doing this entire month? ;)

Rydia rolled over in her sleep, her hands shaking a little violently. Her eyes opened to the gentle crackling of the fire, and the first rays of the sunrise.

Namu was gone already. She had no idea how he could survive on what seemed to be an absurdly little amount of sleep. She guessed he was more used to it than she; maybe she, too, could train herself to be alert on a few hours of sleep. But until then, Namu often got up earlier than her, bringing back food for her just as she awoke.

Rydia felt a little spoiled by him, even though she had been wearing the same dress for about a month and hadn't taken a real shower in ... goodness knows when. She shuddered. At least there were plenty of clean rivers for her to dip into, while she was sure Namu wasn't looking, of course.

She sighed, shaking her head and pulling her blanket up around her. Rydia still wasn't quite sure what had possessed her, what [i]was[/i] possessing her to be travelling around with Namu like this, without a word to her father of where she'd gone. He was probably furious ... They were far out of his reach now, though she still hoped to see him one day. Perhaps when she had done some great deed and could finally beg his forgiveness ...

She turned from her thoughts as she sensed Namu at the perimeter of their fire. Pretending to stay asleep, she let him sneak up until he was almost upon her. When he was only a few feet away, she grabbed her katana, which she'd slept with, and rolled over to hold it against his neck.

"Good job," Namu said with a grin. It was a little game they played almost every morning, to increase Rydia's reflexes and alertness, even in sleep. "Ready for breakfast?"
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Rydia nodded, and Namu gently nudged the sword away from his neck. He sat down by the fire and pulled out his dagger, beginning to skin the first of the three rabbits he'd caught.

Rydia turned away from the sight that apparently didn't bother Namu and set about building up the fire in preperation for roasting the rabbits. "No milk this morning?"

Namu shook his head. "The farmer and his son were out in the pasture when I got close, so I deceided not to risk it. I did find out something intresting from hearing them talk though."

"Oh?" Rydia asked.

Namu nodded. "Two things, really. The first is that there's supposedly a big band of thieves around here, so we might want to be on our guard."

Rydia nodded and filed this away for future reference. "And the other?"

Namu sounded almost amused. "I'm wanted for kidnapping. Told ya' so."
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Rydia couldn't help but laugh at Namu's matter-of-fact tone. "I'm with a criminal," she said melodramatically. "Who would've known?"

"You did," Namu reminded her. "I mean, come on. You told me you were coming me within what, half an hour of finding out I'd killed a man?"

His back was to her, working on cooking the rabbits, so she couldn't see what his facial expression might be. She furrowed her brow. Neither of them had mentioned that delicate fact, even though they'd been traveling together for quite a while now. In fact, they'd hardly talked about his history at all.

"So ..." Rydia began hesitantly. She wasn't quite sure how murder was supposed to be discussed. "Um ... do you want to talk about it? I mean, I really don't know much about your past, I just realized."

"Well, I don't know anything about your past either," Namu said briskly, turning around with a skillet of steaming meat for their breakfast. "Except what I saw from pestering your village from time to time," he added thoughtfully.

"Namu, you appear to be avoiding the question," Rydia said.

Namu sighed. "Yeah," he said, scratching his neck awkwardly and adorably, "it was a bad time in my life, don't really like --"

He broke off and stared hard at the woods just behind her shoulder. Automatically self-aware, Rydia pricked up her ears and heard them coming an instant before someone dove out of the trees and tried to grab her.

Rydia dove blindly to the side just in time to avoid the arms coming at her, but there were only more to meet her. In a moment, her neck was being held in an uncomfortably tight grip, a knife at her neck. She couldn't see the man holding her, or the group behind him, but from the stricken look on Namu's face she could tell the situation didn't look good.

"Drop it," her captor snarled. Namu dropped the crossbow that he'd had trained on him with a sigh.

"The aforementioned band of thieves, I believe," Rydia said, making sure to keep the quiver out of her voice.

"None other," said her captor with a grin.

OOC: Don't worry *too* much about getting her out of harm's way. I'm sure she can handle it. ;)
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"What do you want with us?" Namu asked, putting his hands on his hips and schooling his face into a look of boredum. "As you can see, we have practically nothing."

"Oh yeah?" the captain asked with a snicker. "Then I guess you haven't seen these yet, plastered practically all over the whole country." He tossed a small wad of paper at Namu, who automaticly caught it. He uncrumpled it, and then groaned.

"What is it?" Rydia asked, trying not to squirm too much in her captor's grip lest he realize that she was getting into a possition to get out of his grip.

Namu sighed and read aloud from what Rydia decided had to be a wanted poster. "'Wanted: dead or alive, Namu Kumura-Kaeru. Charged with kidnapping, several accounts of murder, and possible rape. Ten-thousand yen reward for information, forty-thousand yen reward for body.'" He read it in a strange, dead-pan voice, as if it were talking about someone else.

He crumpled up the poster and let it fall to the ground. "Unhand Rydia, and I'll go with you." He said.

Rydia's mind was working franticly. Kumura-Kaeru... She'd heard that somewhere before, she knew she had. If she could just remember where... Namu's last words registered in her brain. "What?!"
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Namu was ignoring her outburst, still looking steadily into the eyes of the thief. By craning her neck slightly and rolling her eyes in her captor's direction, Rydia could just see the glint of greed in his eyes.

"How do we know you're telling the truth?" the captain snarled. "You could be trying to set up a trap or something."

Namu put his hands up in a sign of surrender. "There's ten of you and one of me," he said. "I promise to go with you peacefully. Just let her go."

Rydia rolled her eyes. [i]Ten of them, huh?[/i] she thought to herself. [i]Well, if Namu's going to be no help ...[/i]

Namu and the captain had stopped talking, glaring at each other appraisingly. Rydia closed her eyes and began moving her lips, as if in silent prayer. The world felt hushed around her for a few moments ...

Suddenly, a rush of noise rose up behind the thieves. They looked back, surprised -- then yelled in alarm as a gigantic wave of water crashed down on them, each speeding drop feeling like a tiny dagger. The nearby river seemed to have risen up to plunge down upon the band of thieves. Taking advantage of their pain, Rydia elbowed the captain in the stomach and rolled out of the way of his knife. She ran through the water, which separated around her as if she had some invisible barrier, towards Namu. Namu, some distance away, had his mouth open as water slowly puddled by his feet.

Once she'd reached him, Rydia turned back and stretched out her hands towards the thieves and the wave of water. She made a quiet noise with her mouth, sounding like a coaxing whistle, and the water moved and swirled around the thieves, trapping them as if within a whirlpool.

"That'll hold them for now," she said, grabbing her pack from the ground. "Get your stuff."

"What --" Namu spluttered.

"Get your stuff and let's go!" Rydia yelled at him, and they hastily gathered up their things -- including the cooked rabbits -- and sprinted into the nearby forest.

They'd run for some time when Rydia panted, "All right, this is probably far enough, don't you think?"

Namu stopped immediately. "Are you all right?"

"Fine," Rydia said. "Just a little -- out of breath." She dropped her pack on the ground and sat down next to it, stretching her arms towards the sky. "Ahhhh."

Namu turned towards her. "You're -- you're an Elemental?!" he said, not able to hold in the questions any longer.

Rydia raised an eyebrow. "I believe the technical term is [i]butaisouran[/i]," she said. "And of course I am. Couldn't you sense it?"

"Wh -- why would I be able to sense it?" Namu stuttered.

Rydia shook her head. "Don't try and hide it, Namu," she smiled. "You're one too."
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"...How come you can sense me, but not the other way around?" Namu asked, fiddling with some sort of pendant he wore around his neck.

Rydia shrugged, leaning back against a nearby tree. "Who knows? What's your power?"

Namu grinned and spread out the fingers on his left hand, and Rydia stared in amazement as little crackles of electricity jumped between his fingers. "I can't control it very well though, and I can only seem to be able to use it in large amounts when I get really angry." He said, and shrugged a little.

Rydia studied him for a moment. "I know water and lightning are totally different things, but maybe I could tutor you a little. It seems only logical that even if they are different elements, they would still be controlled the same way."

Namu nodded and was about to say something, when suddenly Rydia jumped to her feet and stared at him. "I've got it!" she said loudly, causing Namu to wince slightly.

"Got... what?"

"Now you have to tell me your past!" Rydia challenged him. "I know who you are now! Kumura-Kaeru, I [i]knew[/i] I'd heard that name before! You're Lord Kaeru's son!"
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Rydia sighed and poked the fire with a stick, causing little sparks to burst into the darkness. The second Namu had heard his father's name, he'd hurtled off into the woods somewhere without a word. Rydia wasn't too worried about him not coming back. He'd already tried to risk his life twice to save hers. She doubted he'd leave her for a little thing like knowing his lineage.

Sure enough, a near-silent rustling ahead of her soon revealed Namu, stepping out into the small circle of light provided by the fire. "I hope you brought dinner," was all that Rydia said.

Namu dropped a brace of rabbits on the ground, and reached into a pocket and pulled out three eggs. He handed them to her silently.

"All right, I'll cook," Rydia said grudgingly. Pulling out the skillet, she added teasingly, "Sir Namu."

Namu let out an exasperated sound. "If you ever call me that again, I will never bring back any more food for you."

Rydia shrugged. "Wow, who would've thought," she said as if speaking to herself, cracking the eggs into the skillet. She held it over the fire and its sizzling and popping accompanied her words. "The son of Lord Kaeru. Everybody knows the story -- Lord Kaeru's only heir runs away when he's ten years old. Everybody thinks he's dead, never got past their own forest, drowned in the river maybe. But then people start to claim having seen him. Is it his ghost? No, ghosts wouldn't have a need to steal eggs and chickens and food ..."

"Shut. Up," Namu said through gritted teeth. Rydia ignored him, handing him the skillet to hold and pulling out a knife to skin the rabbits.

"Rumor has it that little Namu ran away because he wasn't a [i]butaisouran[/i]," Rydia went on, her eyes on her task. "Or, not strong enough to keep up with the ancient Kaeru tradition, the strongest [i]butaisouran[/i] in the land. And now ... we find that little Namu is an Elemental after all."

Namu pulled the hot skillet off the fire and placed it on the ground. "It's more than that," he said through gritted teeth. "You wouldn't know."

"Then tell me," Rydia suggested.
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Namu sighed in exhasperation and looked down at his hands, silent for a moment. "My father is and was a tyrant. He doesn't care about individual people as long as he stays on top." He clenched his fists, and apparently without even noticing small bursts of lightning began to crackle across his skin.

"My mother died in childbirth with me, but my father never took another wife because he had his heir, me. I grew up completely alone. My father didn't care, he was always away on business. My only friend was a kitchen boy by the name of James. James was older then me by about three years, but neither of us cared.

"Despite being a commoner, James was a [i]butaisouran[/i]. His element was fire. He told me that usually Elementals come into their powers at puberty, so I shouldn't worry that mine hadn't developed yet. He offered to help get me ready, teach me how to control it and such from the very beginning. My powers actually came to me early, as soon as I hit nine, so James repeated his offer to help train me, and I took him up on it. Neither one of us thought anything about hiding, or training in secret.

"Once, when I was ten, my father came home from a business trip and found James and I training together. He walked into my room just as James threw a small fire blast at me. I was going to put up an electric shield to block it, just as James had been teaching me for the past week or so. But I was so surprised to see my father that I completely forgot, and got burned on the shoulder. Not very badly, but I do still have a scar from it.

"My father, of course, thought James was attacking me, and he ordered James put to death. Not just for attacking me either. My father had a law that if any commoners were found to have Elemental powers, they were killed. My father is entirely too power-hungrey for his own good. I tried to tell him, but he wouldn't listen to me. He [i]forced[/i] me to watch as he killed my best friend for an act he hadn't done.

"So that night I packed upa nd I ran away. I swore I'd never go back to my father's house, and I don't plan to, ever again. So don't get any funny ideas about leading me back there somehow Rydia." He got up and turned to walk back into the forest.

"Wait!" Rydia called. "Aren't you hungry?"

"No." He left again, but this time he didn't go far. A few minutes later Rydia creeped in the direction he'd gone and saw him sitting in a tree, staring at the stars. He seemed to be singing softly, but it was in another language, and Rydia couldn't understand. Sad for Namu's sake, she turned and went back to the camp.
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Rydia hummed idly, amusing herself by playing with the wind. She could feel breezes gently winding among her fingers, moving a little quicker when she hummed higher notes, then slower when she returned to her normal range. She sighed, causing the low fire to flicker slightly, and put another log onto the flames.

Finally she heard a noise next to her. "Namu?" she said, turning.

He stepped into the dim light of the fire. "Rydia," he said gruffly. "You're still awake?"

"Sure," Rydia said, stretching out her somewhat aching limbs. She usually started aching a bit when she was extremely tired, and she had no idea what time of the night it had to be now. "I'm not even tired." She yawned.

Namu laughed in spite of himself. "Looks that way," he said, a hint of the old tease back in his voice.

"So what are we going to do tomorrow?" Rydia asked, poking the fire with a stick. "Maybe we should get a more conclusive ending with that band of thieves. You know, get them thrown into prison or something. Wouldn't that be righteous of us?"

"That might be a little difficult," Namu pointed out, "being that if I get near the prison they might just throw me in too. Plus, it was a pretty big band of thieves."

"I guess you're right," Rydia sighed, "it might not be too wise to play the hero. What else is there to do? Any damsels in distress that need saving? Come on, Namu, you're the wandering samurai here, what do you usually do?"

Namu chuckled again, a low sound from his throat. "Hang around peaceful villages," he said. "Wait for beautiful girls to come out and fight me."

Rydia laughed, hoping he couldn't see her blush in the dim firelight.

"Hey," Namu said, growing serious again. "I meant what I said, about not ever going back to my father's."

Rydia bit her lip and looked away. "I know, Namu. Don't worry."

"And -- what are you, angry?" Namu said, looking for a reason to fight.

"Of course not!" Rydia said, rising off of the ground to stand and face him. "Why would I be? I'm sad for you, and I'm sad for James. Your feelings are way more important than being some heir to a lordship."

Namu looked at her carefully, examining her eyes. "You really mean that," he said.

"Of course," Rydia promised.

Namu snorted, but Rydia could tell that things were better again between them, even though her speech hadn't even been half of what she wanted to express to him. "We'd better turn in," he said, falling on the ground promptly and pulling up his blanket around him.

Rydia followed suit, snuggling into the rough flannel. "I'm sad for your father, too," she whispered to herself, so that Namu couldn't hear.
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Namu laid awake for a long time, thinking about his past. For a long, long time he'd tried to push any memories of his name and life into the back of his mind, sealed away under a lock that he didn't want broken. And now Rydia had come along and smashed it.

Namu sighed and rolled over so that he faced Rydia, who was sleeping peacefully with her back to him. He wasn't sure whether to be grateful or not to her, and finally settled on thankful. After all, James had been his best friend, and Rydia, his new best friend, had helped him remember just how much he missed James.

He blinked and sat up, staring at the fire which was little more then embers now. Rydia? His best friend? Sure, she was sweet and kind, they'd known each other practically forever, and they [i]had[/i] been travelling together for little over a month...

He shivered slightly, even in the warm weather, as another thought came to him. If Rydia had been born in his father's domain, she would have been killed. There were probably other Elementals in his father's realm getting found out and destroyed, even now. Sometimes Element powers could be hereditary, expecially father to son, and there were more males then females with the power, but sometimes it came up randomly too.

Namu frowned as something else occured to him. His father probably saw those "peasent" Elementals as the reason he'd run away, and probably came down even harder on them now then he had in Namu's youth.

Namu knew what he had to do, but still, he didn't want to. He had to go back to his father's kingdom, whether he wanted to or not, and he had to stop his father's reign of terror. If he didn't who would? But even so, he was not happy about having to face the place of his youth again. And he most certainly was not going to bring Rydia with him! He wouldn't let her. Once upon a time James had died because Namu hadn't been able to stand up for him. He swore to himself then and there that he wouldn't let Rydia go the same way.

He finally fell asleep, but it was a tortured sleep in which he saw Rydia and James, chased endlessly by his father, without any way for Namu to help.
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OOC: You seem to have written us a purpose. Yay SJ!

Rydia woke up earlier than usual. She blinked at the sky for a moment, wondering why she had an uneasy feeling in her stomach.

She rolled over onto her side to see Namu restoking the wood for a new fire. "Oh, you're up already?" he said, sounding a little odd.

"Yeah, weird, isn't it?" Rydia laughed, sitting up. "Hey, don't worry, I can do that."

"Oh, it's no problem," Namu said, half-pushing her away. Rydia furrowed her eyebrows at his back. Something was very strange this morning. He finished up and turned back to her, but his eyes were shifting and never quite met hers. "Um, I'm going to go get us some eggs for breakfast, okay?"

"Oh, I'll come with you!" Rydia said.

"No, no, don't, um, you should sleep in more," Namu said, fumbling over his words strangely. "I'll just zip off and be right back, and you can, um, start the fire for us. Or just get some more sleep, you look a little tired. Oh I got you some water so you don't have to go to the river either, see you soon." Not waiting for a response, he strode off, picking up his pack on the way.

Definitely strange, Rydia thought to herself, and stood up and stretched, yawning. She couldn't shake off that uneasy feeling and began pacing their campsite, wondering what could be wrong. She knew that Namu was uncomfortable with his past, could it have upset him [i]that[/i] much ... ?

Rydia decided to walk over to the stream they'd camped by, even though Namu had left a jar of water for her. The sight of it would soothe her. She stopped short just before the little river. Words were scratched into the dirt beside it.

[i]Rydia, I have to go. I'm sorry to leave like this but I knew you'd insist on coming with me otherwise. Please return to your father's and I will come and get you as soon as I can, I promise. -- Namu[/i]

Rydia stood in shock for a moment. Namu was trying to leave her ... again. This was getting ridiculous. He hadn't even given her a reason this time. Or a chance.

Fueled by anger, Rydia ran back to the campsite, throwing most of their remaining possessions into her own pack. She noticed now that Namu had packed everything of his own, he'd obviously hoped she would stay away from the river and give him a good head start. Well, he hadn't. Besides, now was when certain Elemental powers came in handy.

As soon as her bags were packed, she swung herself into the nearest tree, grappling her way up its branches until she was at its top. There, she outstretched her hands and whispered in the language of the [i]butaisouran.

Wind, please lend me your powers ... I need your help.[/i]

The wind picked up, slowly at first, then whirling around Rydia. She jumped into the air and was caught by a strong current of wind, which bore her in the direction Namu had gone. After some time, she discovered him -- luckily he'd left the cover of the forest and was walking in plain sight in the grass. Rydia whispered again, and the wind dropped her noiselessly behind him. He appeared not to notice, continuing his trudging forward.

She couldn't even think of the words to say to him for a moment, her red anger seemed to be clouding her mind. Finally she burst out with the only thing she could think of -- "Will you stop trying to leave me!? Friends don't leave!"

Rydia was shocked to realize she was crying.
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OOC: Gah! So sorry I've been gone so long. >> My internet's been seriously busted, but now its fixed again! Yay!

Namu had been so intent on walking that he jumped about three feet straight up. His instincts kicked in and he spun around, kicking whatever was behind him in the stomach before the fact that "it" was Rydia penetrated his mind.

He balked and stared at her as she stared back, surprised at what he'd done. "Rydia, I - I'm sorry, I -" he noticed the tears on her cheeks as she slowly climbed back to her feet and stopped. "Rydia..."

"How could you leave me again?!" she asked. "After you saved my life, and I've saved yours! I thought we were [i]friends[/i] Namu!"

"W-we are... But I can't let you come with me! Rydia, if my father finds out you have powers he'll kill you! I won't let that happen, I care for you too much!" Both of them gasped slightly as they realized what Namu had just said.
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Rydia wasn't quite sure what to address first. There was the threat of Namu's father having a desire to kill her, she guessed for her powers as an Elemental. Then there was Namu saying he -- cared for her.

[i]Of course he cared for her,[/i] she told herself, scoffing at her jump to conclusions that it was something ... too meaningful. They'd been traveling together for a month now, it was only natural that he'd come to care for her. And she'd come to care for him ...

She shook her head and cleared her thoughts. "I'm coming," she said firmly. "You've tried to leave me too many times in the past to have any say in this anymore. I'm coming with you."

Namu looked back at her, her gentle face still stained with tears, and knew that he had to give in. He suddenly, fiercely felt the need for a hug, and stepped forward and crushed his arms around her. She molded into them easily, as if she belonged there.

They stood there for a few moments. Then Rydia pulled back and looked up at him. "Um, Namu? Where are we going, anyway?"
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Namu frowned slightly and looked up at the sky. "Hmmm... It's been a long time. Okay, let's see, where exactly are we now..." He sweatdropped a bit. "This may take a bit Rydia."

Rydia sighed and sat down on a convienient rock nearby, watching as Namu looked up at the possition of the sun and turned around in circles, trying to get his bearings. She laughed at him silently, and then tossed him something from her bag. "Here."

Namu unfolded it and blinked. "Uhhh... Rydia, this is just a bunch of squigly lines."

Rydia face-faulted. "It's a MAP moron!" She laughed again and got up to lean over his shoulder, pointing to a particular spot. "We should be somewhere right around here."

"Okay then. " Namu said cheerfully, handing the map back to her. We need to go south. Uh.... Rydia? Which way is south?"

Rydia rolled her eyes heavenward. "You have no sense of direction, do you?"

":sweat: Why do you think I always wandered?" Namu asked.

"So if you have no directional sense, how come you always seemed to stop by my village on a pretty regular basis?" Rydia asked as she glanced around, trying to decren south.

"Because I can always follow my heart." Namu said quietly.

Rydia froze, her back toward him, adn took several deep breaths. [i]Did he really just say that?![/i] "Oh, Namu, south is... that way!"

Both of them sighted along Rydia's outstretched finger, and Namu sweatdropped. "That's south?"

Rydia looked grimly at the high mountain range and checked the map again. "Oh yeah. That's south all right."

OOC: XD Who knew Namu had the direction sense of Ryoga Hibiki? Sorry if this is a bit hyper terra-chan, I'm in a bouncey mood...
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Namu took a deep breath. "Well," he said, starting staunchly towards the mountain range.

Rydia grabbed his arm and stopped his progress. "What are you doing, you fool?" she said, though there was no sting in her voice. More like fondness. "Sure, we can make it over, but I for one am in no fit shape to do it right this second. We need to stop, buy supplies, at [i]least[/i] get some better shoes, maybe a jacket if we can."

Namu turned back to her, grinning a little foolishly. "Right!" he said, and started staunchly off in the opposite direction of his original paces, towards a nearby village they'd passed.

Rydia giggled and walked with him, still teasing him about his willingness to march off into the mountains without a thought in his head. It was that wanderer spirit in him, she knew, but now that [i]she[/i] was around, things were going to get a little more practical for him. She'd take care of him, provide him some common sense ... The thoughts ran idly through the back of Rydia's mind as she joked with Namu, things back to normal, just like old times.

They paused outside the village to pour the money out of their pockets. Money was slim, to say the least. "Let's try to buy all we can," Rydia said grimly, "resort to stealing last if we possibly can."
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"Right," Rydia said grimmly, sighing slightly.

"Hold on," Namu said, digging around in his pack for something. He came up with what looked like a scarf that he wrapped around his head, covering up his tell-tale pale blond hair (uncommon in this area of dark-haired people) as well as the lower half of his face. "No chances." Namu said, winking a little at her. "To be recognised now would not be good."

Rydia agreed, and the two headed for town. As they walked, they tried to figure out what was most important. "Boots." Rydia said. "And warm clothes. Those are our priorities."

"If you say so," Namu said, adjusting the scar across his face. "Whachoo!" He sneezed, causing Rydia to laugh. He chuckled wanely. "Stupid itchy fabric..."

Rydia continued to laugh at him as they headed for the tailor's shop, but Namu was chuckling right along with her.
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"I'll handle this," Rydia said, just outside the little shop. "I know clothes."

Namu shrugged and followed her in, the small bell on the door tingling to let the proprietor know that they'd arrived.

He walked forward to meet them, a small bald man with a beaming smile across his face. "Welcome, welcome!" he said genially, ushering them in. "What can I do for you nice folks today?"

"Hello, sir," Rydia said, a matching smile perched sunnily on her own face. "We'd like some warm clothes if you have them, and boots -- we're off to visit relatives on the other side of the mountains, so as warm as we can find them!"

"Oh, yes, you'll be needing as much warmth as you can get!" the man laughed. "Will these be custom-made?"

"Oh no, we're very anxious to see our relatives and would like to leave as soon as possible," Rydia said, ignoring Namu's choke behind her. "Anything you have that fits us will be fine, we're not picky. And it doesn't have to be too fine; they'll have plenty of appropriate clothes for us when we visit, I'm sure."

"I'll get you something right away," the man beamed, heading into the back.

"You are good at this," Namu admitted gruffly, just before another woman slinked out from behind the counter. She was much less amiable than the man who was already helping them, her eyes slitted as she looked at Rydia suspiciously.

"You look familiar, dear," she said, and though the words were friendly, Rydia still shuddered inexplicably. "Are you from around here?"

"No, just passing through on the way to visit our relatives," Rydia smiled back, trying to ignore the bad feeling dancing around in her head.

"Well, I could swear I've seen you [i]somewhere[/i]," the other woman said suspiciously, but just then the other man came out from the back, cutting off any further discussion.

"I found some things I'm sure will fit you!" he said cheerily, handing them to Rydia. She took them, her eyes not leaving the other woman, and pulled out her purse.

"You know, I think I'll just take them!" Rydia said, the cheeriness in her voice somewhat faker now. "I've a complete trust in your taste -- no, really, we don't need to try them on -- thank you so much, sir!" And with an exchange of money, Rydia flew out the door, Namu close behind.

"Something just didn't feel right," Rydia said, walking away from the store as quickly as possible. "Where would that woman have recogni--"

Both stopped short in front of a bulletin board, on which Rydia's image was clearly plastered. "KIDNAPPED," bold letters proclaimed above her.

"Hm," Rydia said, somewhat speechless.

"Get out of here," Namu said urgently and immediately. "Go back to where we were when we were fighting, I'll steal some food and supplies and find you. You've already been seen, people will be on the watch."

"But they'll be looking for [i]you[/i] --" Rydia said fearfully. "You can't leave me again, Namu! Not this time!"

Namu put his hands on her shoulders firmly. "[i]I won't[/i]," he said, looking into her eyes. "I won't, I promise. I'll come get you. You need to leave now, though, or our cover will be blown. I'll be fine -- I have a great disguise!"

Rydia hesitated only for a moment before nodding. "Remember, you promised," she said, before disappearing towards the exit of the village.
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