When I woke up it was like walking through a thick mist into the clear sun. I felt warm and light inside. Something was missing beside me, it was kind of funny how long it took me to realize it, Hitori wasn't there. Strangely enough I didn't panic but just opened my eyes slowly and looked at the bed. He wasn't in the room. My ears and nose started to become aware as well.
Someone was cooking. The faint sizzling of frying and the rich smell of herbs was kind of nice to wake up to. I realized I did feel hungry, even if I knew it wasn't for food, it was nice to smell it nonetheless. I got up, stretched out with a small yawn and got myself dressed. Opening the door only made the smells and sounds stronger, but I didn't mind.
"Good evening." Hitori's cheerful voice from near the stove.
I looked around in the living room. "Hi. Where is Nuru?" My eyes looking back at Hitori.
Hitori turned around, a spatula still in his hand. "She's still sleeping. She must have been very tired and she didn't get much sleep yesterday either. I'm surprised she didn't faint before."
I felt a little guilty. "I'll check on her."
Hitori just smiled, nodded and returned to his cooking. It smelled very good, unusual but nice. The spices reminded me of the last time I saw him cooking, different but very familiar somehow. Perhaps some ginger, some paprika, maybe even some sweet curry. And mushrooms. The vegetables mostly smelled common.
In my head I tried to figure out his whole dish without ever looking. It was a fun game.
I'd crossed the other room and opened the door to the guest-bedroom, very quietly. I didn't want to wake Nuru if she was sleeping. After all this she really could use a proper night's sleep. Even if that meant less time with me.
She was sleeping. Soundly.
Her gentle breathing eased my mind. She was turned on her side, her shoulder and face uncovered. Naked... For a moment I asked myself if she would sleep without clothes. But I knew the answer already. She would prefer it. She was sleeping alone, so why wouldn't she undress herself completely to sleep? I don't exactly know why, but part of me wanted to lift the blankets and crawl under there with her.
She had done a lot for me and I wish I could give something back. But maybe I already had by freeing her from the fire. Would she have escaped or would she have favored death over a continuation of her earlier existence.
But she was valuable to those who missed her.
Would I miss her?
With a smile I realized I would, but I also knew I couldn't keep her with me. There was a big question for me though, could she ever let go of being a servant? I realized it wasn't my place to decide anything for her and stopped my train of thought. Mentally I made a note to talk to her about this on a quiet moment. If we ever got those.
I got out of the room and closed the door behind me. I returned to the living room and looked at Hitori, who was near-done cooking.
"I've made enough for two and a half, unsure of who'll eat as well and to keep some for Nuru."
I smiled. "Thank you." I fidgeted. "You know, I'm not sure what we should do..."
Hitori filled his plate and turned around. "I'm sure you'll figure something out. I think one of us has to stay here though. I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving Nuru alone."
I smiled grimly. "Me neither..."
I was lost in thought. In a way I felt disconnected from my own adventure. Being sent away by Afentis felt a little like a pawn being put off the board for now. But it wasn't his fault, he wanted to protect both himself, Faith, me and Nuru. There was no other way to keep this in check if we all stayed in the castle.
There was a sound by the door just before Hitori sat down. It was a soft sound but strangely loud for my ears. Maybe because it was a sneaky sound, one of those that attract way more attention than their volume. A strange shuffling made Hitori stand again, put the plate on the low table and walk to the door. He opened it but there was no one there.
There was, however, a note.
Hitori picked it up and read it, then turned it around and back again. It wasn't too big but I couldn't see what was on it. Hitori walked back to me and handed the little paper to me. As my eyes read the lines I slowly smiled.
Same place, same time.