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“Why are we here again?” Cielo asked. The three huddled around the withered rose bushes. Their sweat was dripping from their foreheads to the rest of their faces. It was noon in Otto and it felt like they’re in the desert of Egypt.
Lyle crouched to feel the bush, he sensed that a young, low skilled gifted person withered it. What Lyle felt in the bush was the same feeling he has when he met Trent earlier. “Did you wither this, Trent?”
The boy nodded right away, looking guilty.
Cielo was agape,”Why’d you do it?”
“I got angry,” Trent sheepishly said, kicking the pebbles in his newly bought boots. “Dad said he’d pick some roses so we can grow on our own. So I went here to look for him. ”
“You have a gift in plants?” Lyle has never encountered a person gifted in plants, he only read about them in books when he was a boy. “You’re a horticulturist?”
He was a brilliant student who learns easily. He received impressive comments from his tutors in science, arithmetic and history. He was truly a genius. His eagerness of learning may have to do with him being a Saxon. But his cleverness cost him friends. Boys of his age thought he was unhealthily too bright to befriend him that he spent most of his time alone in their manor and only talks to his siblings.
“Yeah, a horti-cu-la-ris?” Trent fumbled. Cielo laughed, “What can you do with plants?”
“I can make them grow bigger,” he measured it by his height, “I can make them smaller like this.” He demonstrated. “I can also make them bloom with flowers and wither them.” He was glad that he can talk freely about his gift where before he can only talk to his father about it.
“Can you order them to fight for you?” Lyle asked, intrigued by Trent’s gift. He read that gifted horticulturists were able to control plants to fight for them.
He shook his head. “Nay, dad said I'll learn it soon though.”
Cielo couldn’t not take the heat anymore that she pulled her skirts up to her knees to feel some air. The stockings she wore started itching her legs too. Thankfully she brought her fan that she started fanning for herself and the two boys. “Maybe we should go back.” She thought that the walk to the bushes was useless. “It’s smouldering hot!”
“Come on.” Lyle urged them. “We’ll gather our things and camp here for the night.”
“Why?” she asked, still fanning poor Trent.
They started walking back to the town proper. All of them were blushing in the heat. Trent was the only one who looked cute with his red chubby cheeks while both adults looked haggard.
“The wolf might need a rose if he strikes tonight.”
They gathered their belongings from the hotel while Trent didn't bring anything because well, he didn’t have anything. But, Lyle graciously bought him shoes and some few clothes.
They set up the tent beside the bushes and Cielo prayed that the town’s people wouldn’t think they’re uncanny to camp beside a withered rose bush.
Another thing that worries her was the tent she has to share it with Lyle. Knowing that he is rich and sleeping in a tent was not a usual option, she feared she’s sleeping on the ground.
Lyle was exhausted, his shirt dripping wet from the heat of the land. It was four in the afternoon and the shining of the sun didn’t falter a bit. He groaned in frustration that he’s been trying to set up the tent for an hour now but to no avail.
“There!” he tightened the knot on the last side of the tent. Trent clapped his hands in delight. The boy was the only one happy at the moment.
“Uhm.....” she stuttered. She doesn’t know how to ask him particularly he’s irritated, “Where are we sleeping?” she crossed her fingers in her back he’ll not yell at her.
He rolled his eyes. “In there.” He pointed to the tent.
“Thank you,” she smiled. “I thought you’ll let us sleep on the ground.”
“But it’s sandy.” Trent interjected.
“I wouldn’t do that.” He turned his back on them. “I’m not that heartless.”
Cielo couldn’t help but smile in his own little words of sweetness. “Are we staying here all night to guard the bush?”
“Not really,” he touched the withered rose. “If Trent can make this alive then we might see the wolf tonight.”
“I can do that of course!” he jumped in excitement.
“What’s next?” she still doesn’t have any clue on what’s going on in Lyle’s head.
“I’ll explain later.”
The flames flickered and Otto has grown colder. It was the total opposite of weather earlier on. The three surrounded the fire and were all wrapped in cloaks. The dusty wind kept blowing sands in Cielo’s eyes that she remained her eyes closed as she and Trent spoke.
“Do you think we’ll find my father soon?” he hopefully asked.
“We’ll find your father, Lyle is a senser, and he’ll bring you two together.”
“Thanks,” he muttered.
Lyle kept quiet the whole time. After the boy made the rose a live again, he had a feeling that the wolf was in Otto all along. He didn’t sense the wolf but he has a gut feeling that the wolf purposely left the rose. He doesn’t know why at this point but he will.
There wasn’t a heat in Ophelia and Otto, so their werewolves’ packs are out of question. That leaves Odette’s pack as suspects.
Is it possible that an insane wolf is on the loose? Maybe he kills for fun?
He doesn’t want to go back to Ophelia empty handed. He has a celebrated family that needs to protect the name. He wants to keep his family proud specially his father, known everywhere he goes.
He doesn’t know what’ll happen if he failed this case. The thrilling action he promised himself when he agreed on this case was far from the truth.
No, I mustn’t give up, he told himself. Like father always says, when there’s an end there’s a new beginning.
“He’s asleep.” Cielo said as she sat down. Lost deep in thinking he didn’t even know that the boy was already fast asleep. “We’ll find his father aren’t we? I promised him.”
“If we have time.” He said. “We need to discuss the case.”
“It’s about time.” She inched closer to him. Lyle looked intently on the flame, his green eyes barely recognizable by the swirl of red and yellow colours from the fire. His eyes were light and easy on her black irises whereas in Grey’s. His were grey, deep and mysterious. She had been lost in Grey’s gaze countless times.
Aside from her bestfriend, Lyle was the only one she ever been with close to-physically that is.
“I think that the wolf is here in Otto.”
She covered her mouth in shock.
He continued, “I have no proof but I think that’s what the haven of Otto is preventing us to learn. I also think that the rose was purposely left as if a challenge on who’s after him.”
“Only our haven is concerned in the murders. Granted that the murdered men are investors in our town but the killing also happened in Odette and they’re not aware. Paulson’s only witness, who lives here, the statement wasn’t elaborated and properly documented. We haven’t even met the witness. Maybe, Otto doesn’t want the killing to be solved at all.”
Lyle was surprise she has that kind of thinking. For a seamstress, her remarks were intelligent.
He smirked, “I thought you were going to hate for making you come with me.”
“No,” she countered. “I think we’ll use our gifts soon though. In the next day’s there’ll be more action I hope.”
“I hope so too.”
“Where are we off to next?”
“Odette, we’ll pay Huntington’s mansion a visit tomorrow morning.” He said standing up. “We should get some sleep, we have a far-flung distance to travel tomorrow.”
“Alright,” she sighed. She went in the tent and lay beside Trent.
Why is it that I wanted to talk to him more, she wondered as she laid her head on the soft pile of clothes acting as a pillow.
Loneliness, her mind answered.
“Up! Up! Get up!” Trent giddily cried as he jumped repeatedly over the scattered clothes and cloaks inside the little tent.
“Oh,” she groaned, throwing a glance at Trent. “Wake Lyle first.”
“I’m awake.” He smiled.
Her eyes were blurred by the sun light, she stared at Lyle, who was towering over her, smiling.
Bizarre, he’s smiling.
“We’re going to Odette, who knows maybe we’ll see my dad.” Trent picked up the clothes and put them nicely in the baggage.
Cielo gulped, she hasn’t fully convinced Lyle of finding Trent’s father and she doesn’t want to break her promise. She will find a way to help the lad but maybe after the tension on finding the werewolf was over. As for now, she has to keep him preoccupied with other stuff for stalling.
She finally stood up and her hair was spiky and messy everywhere. “Brush your hair.” Lyle touched her silken black hair. She moved away from his grasp. Why’s he touching me?
Woozy and doesn’t want to overanalyze things this morning, she picked up her belongings and arranged them in her baggage. When she finished the two boys were outside talking. “It’s a good day for travel right?” She watched at the two ignore her.
“Yeah,” Trent replied then talked to Lyle again.
She went back to the tent again and took out their trunks. “Hello, care to help me?”
The boys turned to her with their faces that looked like they shared a conspiracy. “I'll help you.” Trent chirped, holding the handle of her suitcase.
“How are we going to Odette?” she asked Lyle, who as folding his sleeves. Apparently, Otto was heating up for today.
They never thought of transportation since Carmichael brought them here.
“We’ll walk.” Lyle started disassembling the knot of the tent.
“How far?” She was not a woman full of complain but a woman of inquisition, Lyle contemplated continuing to work.
“I’m not sure but we’ll arrive there.”
They didn't rent a coach in Otto for the town was hiding something sinister. They walked in the sandy road, no trees in sight and no humans also for the past hour. It was extremely scorching, their skins searing with redness. Cielo hoped she wore a lighter dress than the one she was wearing. Every single part of her body complained tired from walking, thirst and sun burn from the heat.
Lyle walked quickly, never bothering to rest that Cielo and Trent failed to keep up with him.
“Can we rest?” she asked hoarsely, sitting on the big rock. Trent sat beside her, his face was burning too. Lyle felt sorry for them that he went back and sat beside them. “Can you make a cactus grow, Trent?” he asked. The lad buried his face on Cielo’s chest and he shook his head. The lad was tired that he doesn’t want anything but to rest and drink water.
They have to reach Odette today, Lyle thought. If anyone passes here, he swear on the order of the Ophelian haven, he’ll help Trent find his father.
Ironically, they heard a crackling sound of horses’ hooves running. Trent looked up to Cielo, “Is that a sound of a horse?”
A colourful caravan came into view with a moustached man hovering the horses.
“Kind sir!” Lyle yelled, waving to the man. “Sir, please!”
The caravan stopped at them, the man greeted them, “Good day fellows, do you want a ride to Odette?” The looks on their faces were indescribable from the joy they felt when the circus owner offered them a free ride to Odette.
“Please sir, we have been walking for an hour in this heat!” she pleaded.
The man sneered, “Come on, join our circus then. We’re going to Odette for a show, that town needs us to bring them joy.”
“Yer walk will take you eight hours to Odette my fellows.” The owner said as he manoeuvred the horses. He was kind to let them ride along with his circus acts. Trent was enjoying the ride, he was taught by the magician. In the cramped caravan, Lyle and Cielo sat in front of each other their knees brushing.
She’s smitten, he sensed. He smirked, women of all ages loved him. At their first meeting in the market, she was hard core, showing no mercy against his words. But after three nights, she seemed to back off a little. That’s no fun, He likes challenge, and if she’s like any other women in Ophelia then he’s cutting her off in his list of interesting people to irritate.
“Why are you walking anyway? You could have been bitten by a green snake.” The man hollered.
“Snake?” Cielo fears snakes; in fact she never even liked hearing the word ‘snake’.
“Don't worry, he’s just messing with you, missy.” The magician comforted the perplexed Cielo.
After an hour of bumpy ride, they glimpsed the castle of Odette from a far. The circus owner was right, Odette needs a circus considering their castle looked abandoned and matte. A colossal wooden wall was constructed around Odette and it seemed terrifying to visit.
“Can you descent us here kind sir?” Lyle said a rhetorical question, gathering their things. Cielo and Trent were confused at him, “It’s just minutes away Lyle” Cielo countered.
“We need to do something,” his eyes were saying something she never understood. Nevertheless she cooperated, “We’ll be fine if you drop us here. Thank you for the ride.”
“Pity, we’re leaving you.” Trent sighed as he hugged the magician.
“Glad to help!” the circus people all said when they were dropped off and the caravan moved to Odette. They waved and plastered their smiles, “Thank you!”
“What’s wrong with you?” she yelled in ire at him.
“Cold and mean Cielo is back,” Lyle mustered their belongings and piled them under the shady oak tree.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” her hands were in her hips and her nose is scrunched.
Lyle sensed the wrongness of Odette from afar. But he has to test his theory first he planned with Trent earlier this morning. “You weren’t like that in the caravan, in fact you’re smitten by me.” he replied.
She was bewildered, “You’re so full of yourself!”
He ignored that comment, “To answer your question why we’re here........” he began looking for big stones to make an altar. “You will be served as a wolf’s lunch.”
She rolled her eyes in disbelief. Trent looked at her sadly then said, “He’s telling the truth.”
She stuttered, “I’m.... a...... a..... ba..... bait ?”
Lyle smilingly nodded, “Yes indeed.”