"Make it tighter!"
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"I'm trying!" I snapped.
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"The net will fall apart if so much as a leaf fall on it, at this rate," he criticised my knots.
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"Stop distracting me!"
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"I am merely advising you."
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"Go advice your backside," I huffed, carefully threading the tip of the vine through a third loop.
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"The loop is too thick. It won't hold."
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"You're pressurising me! I can't work under pressure!" I complained.
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"Here," he took the ugly knot from my hands, undoing it, before carefully threading it into smaller, cleaner, knots. "Now pull the ends," he said handing it back to me.
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It wasn't bad. In fact, considering my useless attempts at doing what he just easily did, it was remarkable. Not that I'd actually tell him this. Who knew making nets out of vines could be so hard?
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Everest threw it above a bundle of a dozen other nets, most of which were made by him, regarding my uselessness when it came to tying knots in the first place. It was the final knot of the final net. And boy, boy was I ready to throw a parade when that was done with.
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Earlier on in the day, we formulated a scheme to slow down The Front. It included a range of tasks. First was building fires at regular intervals of one kilometer in random directions. Needless to say, it required a lot of wood collecting, which resulted in a lot more tree climbing. Fortunately, I was quite a skilled climber, so I proudly nominated myself to take up the job. Besides, the tree branches couldn't hold Everest's weight anyway.
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It was all fun and games, until I stumbled upon the realisation that I didn't, in fact, have anything to cut the tree branches off with.
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"Use your hands!" Everest responded from below, when I asked him about this. His tone clearly illustrated a duh thought.
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Any normal person would have frowned upon the suggestion. I, however, got right to work.
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"Right...easily does it..." I muttered to myself, edging my feet further down the broad branch. I reached up, and grabbed a stray branch above, angling my arm, and made a fierce ninety-degree turn to achieve the full moment. It snapped right off, falling into my hand. "There we, go! One down, who-knows-how-many-more to go..." I dropped it to the floor; it hit the ground, narrowly missing Everest by an inch. "Whoops! Sorry!" I apologised, smiling, as I tried to ignore the cruel desire that he had been standing an inch closer to the right.
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For the next branch, I had to climb higher, which was easily managed, even though it wasn't great fun doing it in a dress. However, cutting the sturdy thing off, proved to be a challenge a bigger challenge. After much effort, it gave in, and came off in my hand. This time, I dropped it aiming directly down at Everest. Unfortunately, he moved just in time.
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For the next branch, I didn't bother with subtlety, instead throwing it at him with full force and precise aim.
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My aim was precise, alright; sadly, his reflexes were better. Without even caring to look fully up, he caught it.
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"This is ridiculous." I muttered. Alas, I refused to give up.
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Thirty branches later, I realised my struggles were a complete waste, when not even a single branch so much as stroked past him. Though, it did offer the motivation needed to carry out such a tedious task of collecting wood.
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Climbing down, I scowled at Everest for his blasted reflexes.
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In spite of my hard work up in the tree, – and attempts of knocking him out with several tree branches – he didn't offer me any such break. Instead, as soon as my feet touched the ground, he ordered me to start one kilometer west to build a fire, using wood I had just collected.
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Without the luxury of possessing a watch, we decided to calculate time using the old way. No, we didn't use the position of the Sun. Our solution was much simpler: both of our running speeds were pretty much identical, so if we both travelled one kilometer in opposite directions, coming back, we'd meet each other back at the same spot and the same time. Easy.
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The running part was easy. The building a fire part was easy, courtesy to those then-useless survival lessons I was forced to take. So, the job was well done.
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That brings us to the knots. We were making nets. It was a foolproof trap, for fools to fall into, obviously. Physics said, for something to fall, it had to drop. Sometimes, I thought, physics was just a way of complicating simple logic, but that was besides the point. Dropping into the floor in the middle of a forest, meant we had to dig out the soil.
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Yeah, not really my thing.
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I informed this to Everest, clearly emphasising that he will be doing the digging, as I did the wood collecting.
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"I don't have anything to dig with," he rebutted.
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"Use your hands." I smirked, smugly leaning a shoulder against a tree with my arms crossed.
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This ought to be interesting.
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However, the smirk spontaneously wiped off of my face as I took in what he did next.
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He was taking his sweater off. And that left... well, nothing on his upper body. Nothing.
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I stood up straight. "What are you doing?"
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Without answering, he crouched down, as I, unsuccessfully, tried to avoid perving on the hard outlines of his abdomen.
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Using his hands to scramble out a considering large amount dirt, he placed the sweater over it, collecting the lot inside the sweater and dumping it aside. The sweater provided a much larger surface area than his hands, so obviously, was more capable of carrying a larger volume of soil. Smart.
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And completely inappropriate!
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At least at that rate, he could have done it all alone.
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Alright, that was brutal. I wasn't actually going to let him dig a hole big enough for a fully grown human to fall into, all by himself. But, I did want to watch him suffer for a few moments.
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And it made me realise: man, I was cruel.
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So being the responsible person I was, I crouched down with him, and helped.
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After fifteen minutes of digging with my bare hands (seeing as I wasn't entitled to a shirt like him) it became both painful and boring.
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"How big does the damn hole have to be?" I asked, frustratedly brushing my chocolate brown hair out my face with filthy hands.
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"Big enough to fit a man."
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"Or a woman," I pointed out.
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"Big enough to fit a person. And a bit more, so they can't easily get out."
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It looked big enough to fit a person, and a bit more. But we couldn't be sure unless...
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"Get in," I ordered.
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He stared at me. "What?"
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"Go on. You are a person and a bit, so if the hole comes up to your head, we know we're done here."
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"I am not getting in there."
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I groaned. "Look, I went up there," I gestured to tree. "So you are going to go down there," I gestured to the hole in the ground. "Come on, take one for the team."
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That did it. Slowly, he lowered his body into the hole. I probably should have advised him to put his sweater back on.
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"Ah, it's perfect," I praised when the ground leveled with his head
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He got out of the gap as easily as he went in.
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We dug different holes in precisely eleven other areas, in proportion to the number of nets we had made. Needless to say, it shed a lot of sweat, and curses, from me specifically.
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"Now the net," Everest ordered, gesturing to the last net.
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I neatly laid it over the final hole, covering it with leaves, just like they did in the movies, whilst Everest put his sweater back on, which was by now coated with a layer of brown over its original blue.
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"What if an animal falls into it instead of a Front guard?" I asked.
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"Then the Front guard will have company." He strode off.
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The sky was now a dark abyss. Digging eleven, six and a bit feet deep holes took us a considerably long time to do. From the moment I almost got killed (and then saved, for reasons still unknown), we had knocked down several innocent trees, stolen branches from another innocent tree, made fire, and made those blasted nets, so the reality that night had fallen wasn't much of a surprise.
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Despite the nightfall, Everest insisted on moving forward.
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"You're crazy." I didn't know about him, but all that digging and climbing stole my willpower to live. So instead of following him, I slumped down nearby a tree.
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"What are you doing?"
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"What does it look like I'm doing?"
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"It looks you are trying to get yourself killed."
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I let out a dry laugh. "That's rich, coming from you. Since when was it any concern of yours whether I live or die?"
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I got a frost bitten glare in response.
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Why was he still with me?
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"You can go if you want," I informed.
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Because really, what was in it for him?
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He seated himself beside me. Peculiar.
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The same questions from hours ago circulated in my mind again. I thought better than to waste energy asking them. The more I asked, the less I received, and the madder I got. So, I kept my endless strings of questions contained. For the time being anyway. I was tired. Too tired. And when I was tired, random thought processes began to conquer my mind.
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Where will I go when the forest ends? Where will Everest go? Will he stay with me or will he take a different direction? And so what if he did? As if his presence isn't puzzling enough as it is... But why did I feel the faintest tug at my heart at that thought? No, I didn't! It's the fatigue making me hallucinate. I'm strong; I can do this on my own...
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These thoughts roamed around a little longer, until I spontaneously fell into darkness.
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Waking up, a luminous orange glow pierced my eyes. Fire. A small one, a couple metres away from me, and close to it sat Everest. Oh, don't tell me the cold affected him.
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"No, but the light deficiency does." He said out of no where.
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Shoot! I thought aloud again!
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"It's still night!" I stated the obvious.
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"I'm glad you noticed."
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"How long was I asleep for?"
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My mouth dropped open. "That's it?"
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"You probably would have slept much longer if it weren't for the fire."
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"Thanks," I uttered, sardonically.
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After a few moments of silence he spoke: "Do you know who discovered the Front?"
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His question caught me off guard. Not that it was the most shock provoking question or anything, but rather due to the complete randomness of it. Strange one, he was. His motives and words came out like an radioactive decay; completely unpredictable.
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Nevertheless, I smiled , deciding to answer it with my signature wit. "Something-Front?"
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"You don't know who owned the Front?"
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"Chadwick Front," I stated. Sure, at this moment of time, I wasn't the most education person regarding matters with the Front, but it would have been absolutely absurd if I did not know the foundations of the company that raised me. "And his wife, Holland Front. Why do you ask?"
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He studied me for a moment. "Do you know what happened to them?"
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"They died. With my parents, during the Reynolds attack. Director always told me how the five of them were the best of friends." I paused to gather my memory. "They helped develop the cure."
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A muscle twitched in Everest's jaw. Maybe he already knew everything I already knew. Director did say after all, he came before me.
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"When they died," I continued. "With no heir or any other close relations, it seemed only fitting for Director to take over."
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"Do you know anything else about Chadwick and Holland Front?"
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"No, that's pretty much it," I thought for a moment. Perhaps, they had something to do with what's been going
down at the Front, lately. "Why?"
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"Just checking." His cloudless, blue eyes averted to the fire. "Do you know the name of this forest?"
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Again, with the erratic questions.
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"This forest has a name?" Of course there was something I didn't know.
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And I bet he knew it.
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He looked at me intently. "It's Emerald."
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"You already asked that."
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"This was a different kind of 'what'! Why 'Emerald'?"
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"This forest was not always here. They planted it around the Front."
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"They? Who's they?"
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"Your parents. Elizabeth Reese insisted on naming it Emerald."
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"My parents planted this forest?" I repeated as a question, in a state of shock. "How?" Surely, an average tree would take around twenty years to grow. Trees this tall would have taken at least thirty.
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"Before you were born. Your parents worked at the Front long before you were born, but you already know that," he explained. "There is about a decade of an age gap between you and this forest. Besides, had it ever occurred to you that a company, that created the cure for a terminal disease, could easily create something to stimulate rapid plant growth?" Of course.
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"Wait," I pondered at an important thought. "Was I named after the forest, or was the forest named after me?"
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"What do you think?"
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"I mean, it is green—"
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"They named it after you, Em–202."
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Was he about to...?
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"You can call me Emerald, you know. I prefer it better, in case you haven't noticed."
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We remained silent after that. I took occasional glimpses at his face, noticing how the quivering fire that cast a shadowy light on him, accentuated the sculpted features of his face. I wasn't prepared to say handsome, but the least worst looking face, seemed about right.
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"Don't do that," He stated suddenly.
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"Bite your lips. It's bad for you. Causes inflammation."
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I ceased the notion immediately.
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How pathetic, Emerald, I'm disappointed!
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I tucked behind my ear a lock of hair that was no where close to falling in my face.
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A sign of nervousness! Cease that too!
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"Where are we going to go after this?" I asked, urgent to change my train of thought.
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"London," He replied instantly.
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I choked. How to kill nervousness and replace it with perplexity? You have someone answer you like that.
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"You mean big city with a million screens and a billion newspapers that are currently broadcasting my face from the launch evening?"
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"Yes," he replied dead seriously. Not that I ever expected him anything but serious.
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"Did any of those trees hit your head?"
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"London is the safest place to stay."
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"So they did hit your head," I concluded.
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"202, we need to be there as soon as possible."
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I snorted. "You're joking. London! Safe, my backside!"
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"Do not argue with me on this." And we're back to this.
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"I will argue against stupid decisions!"
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"Right now, you know very little about anything that's going on in your life. I'd advice you to stay out of the decision making."
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"And whose fault is that?" I challenged.
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He ignored my confrontation. "We're going to London."
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"We just are." He gave no other details.
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"There must be a reason. So what's the reason?"
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I received silence as a response. Fine, suit yourself.
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"Okay. You go to London. No please, take a stop in Paris too. Be a blimming tourist! I'll go my own way."
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"Go your own way?"
25Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡPn7ByQ505L
"You heard me."
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"And where would you go exactly?"
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I was about to answer, when I realised that I didn't have an answer. But, as if I was going to let him know that. "Anywhere but London. The forest won't last forever. The trees can't conceal us forever. The media will be broadcasting my face on every screen, right now, without knowing the reality of what's really going on behind the walls of the Front," I spat. "When I'm out there, they're going to know where I am. The media will have a fresh snap of me and it will be two seconds before the Front discovers where I am," I let out a bitter laugh. "And you want to go to London."
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"There is a fine difference between 'want' and 'need'."
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"But you won't tell me the needs and whys, will you?"
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I clasped my hands together. "That's sorted then. I'll go elsewhere."
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"I can't? Give me one good reason why I would want to be seen strolling through in the polished streets of London by the public with a murderer—"
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"I am not a murderer." His words cut through the forest.
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"Then what are you?" I challenged. "To me, you are like the galaxy. And that is not a compliment, by the way. When it comes to you, my knowledge is minute. Like an astronomer, I look at you wanting to know something, but I fail. At least with astronomers, the galaxy can't exactly speak back to them, so that's understandable. But you can. Yet you're quieter than space. You don't tell me anything, because unlike the galaxy, you are a stubborn bastard. And do you know what the worst part is?" I studied his polar eyes. "I don't even know why you are not telling me anything. We're out of the Front, but still, you refuse." That would show him!
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To everyone who is wondering 'when the heaven are they going to get out of this blasted forest?!', I'm also wondering the same thing.
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Pick up the pace, you two; the forest is only 77 kilometres wide!
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All jokes aside, Emerald isn't really going anywhere with her million unanswered questions, is she? If you think about it, its like starting a tv show but never being able to get to the end of the season. But, don't worry, guys (and girls), she will sooner than you think, I promise. After all, many things can happen in the midst of a forest...
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