11 The road ahead
Nnenna awoke to the sounds of a throaty purr beside her. She opened her weary eyes and saw the reptilian tiger, "Hey Kayto, did you help me out again? So, where are we now?" Nnenna raised her head and saw a familiar triangular underground chamber glowing in blue and ultraviolet light with square holes in the wall.
"So you took us back to your old home huh. Well I have to get back to my own home so let's go Kayto." Nnenna said as she made her way slowly towards the tunnel that leads to the surface. She still felt drained and hungry but energy seemed to be absorbed from the environment into her body, feeling her up. She also realized that she had a newfound spatial awareness of the position of all the objects in a 10 meter radius around her. She was excited about this as she smiled at the reptilian tiger following her and couldn't wait to tell her parents and Jide.
However, after climbing out of the underground basement in the ruins outside town, she realized that it was well into the afternoon. With worry for her friends and family setting in, Nnenna ran back to town as fast as she could with Kayto keeping up behind her.
However before entering the town, she turned around and said to Kayto, "Can you wait here for me?" pointing to the ground. Kayto understood her and curled up into a ball distracting himself by licking his claws.
On getting back to town, she was met by a tragic scene. The few remaining townspeople who had survived the nightmare were either crying hopelessly on the street or helping to move the dead bodies to be buried. With growing concern, she rushed to her family's resident which was a mess, with bloodstains and broken bricks on the ground; it even looked like the house had been looted as their belongs were spread on the stairs leading up to the front door.
As she entered the house, she noticed that a few of the injured were being treated, right there in the foyer, by the midwife and Old man Dele who knew a little about herbs and first aid.
"What happened in town Midwife Abiola? Why is everyone...where are my parents? Where is Jide?" fear gripped Nnenna as she asked.
The midwife couldn't stop trying to treat her patient so she only glanced sorrowfully at Nnenna before saying to Old man Dele, "See to her, but be quick, there is more work than there are hands."
"Come with me child. We will talk outside." Old man Dele said as he led the way outside.
However, once there, he didn't know how to start. After all, he had seen what was left of her parents.
"Listen dear, this is hard to hear but your parents were...didn't survive the night." He said trying to spare her as much as possible "We already buried them near your garden as we could not find you and didn't know the details of what had happened here."
Nnenna was distraught and her despair consumed her. She cried silent tears because she could seem to even make a sound."
On seeing her pain, Old man Dele moved towards Nnenna to offer her a hug but with a flash of energy that seemed to crack space, he saw a fierce reptilian tiger appear in the space between them which was growling at him with killing intent.
"Ahhh" Old man Dele screamed, as the creature pounced at him but luckily for him his shout woke Nnenna from her grief.
At the sound of Nnenna's voice, Kayto disappeared again, appearing immediately beside Nnenna and looking at her with concern.
A few minutes passed in silence between Nnenna and Old man Dele, while pandemonium happened around them as most of the townspeople fled at the shouts.
"What...What is that?" Old man Dele asked Nnenna with fear in his voice.
"It...I...I don't know the details. It wouldn't hurt you though. Wait Musa should be able to explain. Where are...what happened to Musa and Jide?" worry flooded Nnenna's face again as she asked.
"That I know about because I was hiding in the inn. I had just got back to town from picking the midnight lily when I noticed the door of the inn open. On getting closer to the inn, I smelled the blood and saw innkeeper Emeka dying of a stomach wound while crawling towards his wife's body. I did what I could for him until he settled but as I was going for midwife Abiola, I saw Musa and Jide riding out of town and they were being chased by the inhuman monsters who did this. I...I hide in the inn until I was sure they were all gone."
Meanwhile, the four 'visitors' to the small town of Mushin had spent their morning quite differently. After catching up to Nze in front of the mines and hearing his story, they had created torches from their supplies and investigated the cave. Unfortunately for them, Musa's new found ability made it a lot easier for him to cover his tracks so they could not pick up the trail.
"We cannot spend our whole time searching this tunnels. Moreover, they would have figured out how to use the magical beast eggs by now. I am returning to our base to prepare for the next phase. If you still wish I can allow you two months to enact your revenge and capture their beasts. We may be able to still bind them after their master is dead within that period. But I require one of you to follow me. Osaze it would have to be you as I doubt the others can aid you with control." the old man said as afternoon approached.
Thus the four men split into two pairs.
Nze looked at the dagger in his hand which had belonged to the mage that attacked him as regret and anger clouded his face.
"Come on Nze, that dagger is unique. I know where we can get some information about them through it. He he he...but first we need to find you another sword."
Nze frowned at this comment by Danjuma but ultimately followed behind him.
Jide and Musa were riding swiftly towards the south on stolen horses. They had exited the tunnel a long time ago and were well clear of Mushin but Musa insisted on rushing as fast as possible. Jide had noticed that Musa seemed to have a problem controlling his fear.
Jide looked up to see a dark blur following along their route. Sometimes it would double back or go ahead but it always returned soon after. It seemed Musa was giving it instructions even though Jide couldn't tell how.
A little bit of resentment surfaced in Jide's heart as he realized that Musa had taken the opportunity from him. He also figured this creature is probably what those men wanted. However, he was equally grateful to Musa for saving his life and felt it was a fair trade. Moreover, he was happy that he had finally managed to control his ability.
Jide only wished he knew where they were going or where his best friend Nnenna, had disappeared to with that lizard-tiger creature.
"Thank God, Jide escaped. Wait, is Jide's uncle still alive?" Nnenna asked old man Dele.
"Yes, but he doesn't have much longer. He has been asking for Jide and mumbling things about his mother and secret diary. Him and some others are back at the inn..." Old man Dele started telling Nnenna but she had already started running towards the inn with Kayto right beside her. She ignored the strange looks and panic on the faces of the few people left around when they saw Kayto.
As she rushed into the inn, she was met with the sight of more injured townspeople and Uncle Emeka lying down on the floor of the bar with a few random townspeople cowering in a corner. Nnenna tried to ignore all the carnage she could see and moved quickly to Uncle Emeka.
"What...what is happening outside?" someone tried to ask but Nnenna ignored him.
"What is it you want to tell Jide? About his mother and this secret diary?" Nnenna yelled at Uncle Emeka.
Uncle Emeka managed to focus on Nnenna. He knew he would not survive much longer and seeing that it was Jide's best friend he grabbed Nnenna close to him and whispered, "rafter.... above the fourth.... stall in the stable, third plank.... has a hidden space... built in." After saying this, he passed away.
Nnenna stood for a moment, mourning the man who terrorized but also took care of her best friend. Then she headed to the stables to uncover the mystery Jide's mother had left behind.