The Chad Chronicles - Chapter 3 - Separ_cz (2023)

Chapter Text

4th of spring, year 1

A new day began for the two brothers. More acquainted to both the valley and some of their neighbours, they sort of felt accepted within their new home – one more than the other.

It was another rather cool day of spring. The sun was shining, the birds chirped their usual songs, nothing out of the ordinary in regard to the seasonal weather, excluding the fact the two haven’t encountered a single drop of rain yet, which was typical for this time of year.

What was quite peculiar however, was that the old mariner was, in fact, not crazy. On the dawn of the current day, the fish and other various foraged goods Sep put into the wooden bin got turned into a considerable pile of gold! A decent amount totalling about half a thousand.

At first, neither could believe their eyes. Chad, being hesitant to try, was shocked when his walls of doubt crumbled and Sep kind of unbelieving of the fact it really worked. Sure, he was willing to try, but that was nothing new to this adventurous young adult living – to a reasonable amount – by the saying “everything should be tried at least once in life.”

After trading heaps of looks and simple sentences thanks to still being in awe. The duo headed straight for the local general store, eager to spend their newfound fortune.

Various familiar assets accompanied them whilst they took the direct route into town. Sep even began to identify some useful plants, fruits and herbs – all thanks to his newly learnt ability the day before. There was barely a moment of silence between the two. Discounting the calming ambience of nature, it was as if both brothers got a sudden train of thoughts and could stop the small talk between one another.

Needless to say, Sep became somewhat worried after a certain topic arose. Being worried about the money’s legitimacy, he almost forgot about the gunslinger stunt his brother pulled off yesterday. Even after sharing his worries with his overenthusiastic and dismissive relative, he still couldn’t get this question out of his mind – it bugged him all the same as they closed in onto the town’s centre.

The same houses, paths and various street assets such as lamps and benches greeted them as they entered Pelican Town.

It was late in the morning. Thanks to Sep noting down the time when Pierre opened, the two arrived shortly after a sign on his doors spelt ‘open’. There was second to none people on the streets. Only one black-haired man – all clothed in blue and roughly matching Chad in age – strolled behind the saloon, continuing to walk into the direction of one of the bridges connecting the town’s banks. As he noticed the duo, he shot the older brother a smirk before disappearing behind on of the eastern house’s corner.

Sep immediately recognised him; he wore the same clothes from the night they arrived into town. It was the same habitue that warmed himself by the fire. Chad was barely able to notice his look as he was deep in thought about the money. Uncaring, he continued towards to general store with his younger brother eventually following suit.

Waiting up by the door, Chad let him catch up. As he noticed him over his own wide shoulders, he swung open the door inside. If there would’ve been a doorbell above the doors it would surely fall to meet the ground from the force he put into the swift move. Holding the door opened, he jokingly made a slight bow and gestured for Sep to enter.

Internally cursing his brother and the theatre play he put on, Sep lightly shook his head and entered.

The general store’s layout had already become accustomed to him. The room roughly resembled a square with a rectangle-like extension to its lower right. The left wall had different boxes and displays all filled with fresh produce – how Pierre got those was a mystery, – two rugs laid on the ground before the boxes, one close to what could be called an island of few more square boxes in the middle of the room, fruit decorated the rim of these containers. To Sep’s other side, on the right, some shelves displayed more goods. Two of these stood in the extension, more refined goods were on display. Above these was another couple of the same shelves, both this time stood horizontally from where the brothers entered the shop. Behind these shelves was a door, where it led neither of the brothers knew.

The dominating feature of the room was of course the counter behind which Pierre ran the shop. Sitting behind the cash register, he looked up from a piece of newspapers and began observing the duo with a smile decorating his face.

Sep began slowly making his way to the counter. Still observant of the room, he noticed a new addition. Some notes and brochures decorated the shop’s walls, some pinned to a pinboard behind the shopkeeper, others sticked to the wall on their own.

Pierre wasn’t the only one in the room, other townsfolk peacefully did their everyday shopping, variously scattered around the room. From the few here, Sep could only recognise Gus from the saloon. As he passed him, he made sure to give him a greeting nod.

“Good day to you, Sep!” Adjusting his glasses, Pierre laid his clasped hands onto the counter. Standing up, his body language spelt warm welcomes. “So, you’ve made up your mind about the backpack deal I offer you last time? Great! I knew you’d eventually recognise its worth!”

Giving a swift chuckle, Sep almost felt bad Pierre’s enthusiasm would bear no fruit. Accompanying his laugh with a dismissive wave, he came to the counter, Chad following him. “No. Sadly not yet anyway.” He continued talking with a warm tone, even after seeing Pierre’s grin slightly fell. “It’s quite of a delicate matter, if I’d have to be honest….”

The shopkeeper’s eyebrows suddenly raised. Intrigued, he firmly leaned above the counter. “Oh? Whatever it is, I’ll try and help.” Deriving there surely was profit to be had, he kept up his friendly behaviour.

“Well, you see, we’ve got this wooden bin on our fa-”

“We’ve got some supposedly ‘magic money’ with us and Mr. timid over here thinks it’s fake.” Making airquotes to go along his monologue, Chad slammed the money onto Pierre’s counter and shot Sep a triumphant look. “Which, it obviously isn’t. If I can touch, hold and horde it. I sure as hell can spend it.” Crossing his arms, he looked onto the bemused man behind the counter.

Quickly coming back to reality, Pierre untied his eyes from Sep just as he defeatedly shrugged. “Magic, you say? Huh.” He came closer to the pile, Chad observing his every move. “May I? ...”


“Well, inspect it of course. Naturally it’ll cost you a negligible amount, but at least then you’ll know if this ‘magic money’ is worth anything.”

“Sure, go ahead. We can always get more of this stuff.” Dismissively stretching out his chin, Chad saw Pierre’s face once more light up with arousal.

The 40-ish old year man disappeared under the counter, arising back up with a gold inspection kit and a humorously looking monocle on one eye.

Observing the pile of money as a whole at first, he judged the overall amount. Then, giving Chad a sort of questioning look, Pierre took out the topmost piece of change and began inspecting it. Looking at from different angles, rotating around to change the amount of light that shone onto the coin and finally, pulling out some device, neither of the brothers have seen before, he put the coin into slot which slid down from the rectangular box – it fit perfectly.

Soon after, he got his results.

“Worried if it was legit, huh? Well, worry no more!” He looked up from the device, one sided glasses still on his face. “These are some quality pieces. This close-” emphasizing the amount with his index finger and thumb, he continued. “-to being pure gold.” Putting back the one gold coin, he straightened back behind the counter. “So, how did you happen to stumble upon this small fortune, hm?” Grinning, he crossed his arms.

“Well… u-uhm, you see- before I was cut off-”

“Business secret, Pierre. S-E-C-R-E-T.” Emphasising his words, Chad spelt out the last one.

“Hah! Of course it is, I was just jabbing.” The profit-loving shopkeeper laughed. “I’ll gladly take these as payment, no questions asked of course.” Winking, he gestured towards the open room of his store. “Go ahead and pick out your goods! I’d give you a discount if I could afford it, but since Morris and that JoJaMart of his set up shop in town business has been rough.” Nervously scratching the back of his neck, Pierre swallowed the urge to sigh.

“You and I are going to get along, Pierre.” Chad grinned underneath his shades.

“With quality money like that? I’m sure of it.” Frowning, he fell in thought for a moment. “Oh. I think I haven’t caught your name yet. Sep told me about having a brother, but I’m not the best with names of people I haven’t met in person.”

“Chad. Pleased to make you acquaintance.” Stretching his hand over the counter, they shared a handshake. “So, you said business hasn’t been booming lately? I know the feeling, I used to run dry on occasion back when me and Sep lived in the city-”

The younger brother left the two to it. Seeing as they both engaged in conversation, he knew he had to be the responsible one again and get stuff done, otherwise Chad would be here chatting all day. Sure, it might’ve gotten the duo a discount, but Sep would feel bad for using it anyway. Ripping Pierre off of his mere current profits didn’t seem right.

He set out to one of the boxes with fresh produce to the left from where he and Chad entered. Passing it, he stood in front of a shelf that was being illuminated by one of the few windows decorating this wall. To be quite honest with himself, he didn’t know what to buy. They had already stocked up on groceries and other necessities required to live in their new, yet old, home. Suddenly, it hit him. Their farm wasn’t called a farm for nothing – they still haven’t figured out what to call it – setting his eyes upon various seeds that grew in spring, he debated what to get.

Reaching for one of the packets, he flipped it around and began reading. The ridiculous instructions on how to make a hole in the ground and sow the seeds made him snicker. Before he could give it more thought, the entrance door clicked, begging Sep’s curious mind for an answer of whom might the guest be.

In came a familiar face, one he had to admit to becoming more and more fond of.

Closing the door behind herself, Leah tugged away a loose strand of her beautiful gingery hair. Allowing herself to take a moment, she noticed Chad by the counter. Pierre hasn’t greeted her, which she found odd as she was a regular customer of his. Nevertheless, as she was about to begin ticking off her shopping list, she caught a glimpse of Sep’s gaze.

Becoming aware she had caught him eyeing her down, he could feel a few drops of sweat surfacing under his clothes. Nervous, he tried to put on a smile and waved.

Returning the gesture, Leah began making her way over to him. “Hey, Sep! Fancy seeing you around.” Standing beside him, she noticed the packet in his hands. “Thinking about reviving the farm, hm?”

Trading looks between Leah and the seeds in his hands, he tried to avoid eye contact for the first half of the conversation – not making it seem obvious was a skill he had learned from his past experiences. “G-great to see you as well… Leah! Mhmm, I was thinking about the idea, but I didn’t want to spend any gold on it until we’d have found a steady income. Remember how Chad caught that fish? You should’ve seen the look on his face when he sold it! Honestly, I’m pleasantly surprised just how much he took liking to the hobby.”

Giving a short giggle, Leah replied. “Of course I remember, that catch was unforgettable!” She gave a look to the older brother leaning with his elbow on the counter. “Well, that’s great!” The young woman’s voice died down, still talking in a warm tone. “Oh, and feel free to stop by whenever as I said yesterday. It can get lonely, living out of town and with my only friend spending most of his time on the beach. Have you met him by chance? His name is Elliott.”

Sep slightly lit up, feeling some sense of jealousy. Gulping his emotions down, he came to word. “That’s really nice of you, Leah. I’ll make sure to stop by whenever I can! I might find some time today, even.” Crossing his arms, he made a prolonged blink. “Elliott? No, I don’t think we’ve had the chance to meet just yet.”

“That’s a shame, I’m sure you two would get along-“

On the beach, huh? Makes you wonder where specifically.

“-anyhow, you said you were picking out seeds? Want some help with that?”

“Oh- of course! If you’re offering…” He could feel his cheeks catching miniscule amounts of colour, looking away for a moment, he noticed Chad eyeing him down. He gave him a thumbs up with that mischievous smile of his before turning back to Pierre.

Helping her friend, Leah gave him some basic tips about farming – mostly deeper knowledge of foraging that had a use in growing own produce. She suggested that if he was to learn more, he could either go to Marnie, the owner of the ranch next to her home, or he could take a look inside the local library. Sep’s first thought was to search on the internet, but then he remembered they didn’t have a PC at home and neither of the brothers had seen a sign of signal for their smartphones since they drove through the desert on the day of their arrival.

Thanking her for sharing her knowledge yet again, he decided to pick out a handful of potatoes, some cauliflowers and enough green beans to sow two rows of these. As he was reaching out for the cauliflowers, Sep was so deep in thought, trying to memorise the new acquired knowledge, that he didn’t notice Leah had gotten the same idea and was picking out a single pack for her own little garden.

Their hands touched. Sep could feel the smooth smaller fingers beneath his own, they were quite cold if anything else. Humiliated, he immediately jousted back his whole, now sweaty, arm and snapped his head to Leah. His cheeks were hot with embarrassment, he tried getting some words out, but couldn’t, stumbling after each sound that was supposed to resemble anything sensible.

Surprised and irked at first, she gave the man a frown. But after seeing his clumsy reaction, she couldn’t keep the sour emotion, Leah giggled, firmly shaking her head.

Seeing her reaction made Sep relieved – even if only mildly, – he let out a muffled nervous chuckle and began scratching the back of his neck as the feeling of cold sweat running from his scalp downwards soothed.

“O-oh I’m really sorry, L-Leah. I-I wasn’t p-paying atte- ntion” he uttered.

She let down her arm that was until now trying to silence her warm laughs. “It’s okay, I can clearly see you purposely try and- ‘make a move’.” Leah gave one last snicker.

“Haha, y-yeah.” Quite worried about her words and his own developing feelings being shown, Sep hunched back in hopes of not standing out too much. “Any- anyway, I should probably get going. Thanks again for everything.” Forcing himself to see her reaction – he thought unconsciously leaving would give him away – Sep’s toes began itching for some movement.

“O- of course, is everything alright?”

Oh no. Please tell me she hasn’t caught on.

“Yep, just that time’s pushing me to leave. I’ll try and visit later this day, as I said.” Forgetting of his surroundings, Sep almost started shouting as he slowly backed away.

“I’d be glad to have you around, Sep. Have a nice rest of the day.” She smiled.

“You too.”

Mentally scolding himself for botching his outro, Sep shimmied to the counter, paid for all the goods – even tipping Pierre in the process – packed them in his bag, gave Chad a look whilst nodding towards the door, and left.

“What was that all about? You rushed out of there that I didn’t even get the chance to-”

“I know! I know.” Cutting off his brother, Sep sighed.

The two now stood next to the clinic, mere steps away from the general store. Sep’s escaping manoeuvre made him jolt to a random direction and it just happened to be the one with a bench next to the house they stood by.

Embarrassed, he took a seat, slightly bowed forward and hid his face behind his hands which elbows rested upon his thighs. “It just sort of happened. I wasn’t trying to be awkward on purpose…” Smearing his face, he took a deep breath and laid back onto the bench.

Frowning behind his tinted shades, Chad’s mind clicked. “Naaah. I recognise this behaviour- you’ve already acted that way before… twice if I remember?” He crossed his arms. “You’re beginning to take the whole thing with her seriously?” The older brother huffed. “Damn. What should I even say? Good luck, I guess?”

“Wow. Thanks?” Chad’s cluelessness forced a snicker out of Sep.

“See? Don’t say I’m not helping.” Coming to sit besides him, Chad nudged their shoulders together.

Sep repeated the nudge and couldn’t help but smile. The two just sat and observed the town square for a moment, only disturbed by buzzing of bees and rivulet’s swishing coming from the distance.

“Nah, but for real this time-” the otherwise witful brother calmly came to word. “-just be yourself, Sep. This isn’t the first time you’re dancing in the fields of romance, man. You’ve done this before, how can this be any different?” He tilted his head to the side, resting his eyes upon the captivated relative.

“Yeah… you’re right. I just kinda want it- to work out this time, you know?” Folding his arms, he looked up into the sky. “Maybe I’m just overthinking it, though…”

“No, you’re not. You’re just afraid of doing something stupid, and I get that. You deserve to be happy.”

“Hey, what’s up with all the mushiness, Chad. Are you trying to make me cry?” Amused, he smirked and shifted on the bench.

“Perhaps.” Chad grinned. “Now, come on, you said you wanted to visit the Carpenter or something?”

“Yeah, you can come along and try catching something new. The town river flows through there.”

“Ah, nice. Making me secure the money bag again?” He smirked, not giving his brother a chance to respond. “Of course you are, and I don’t mind. I like it that way.”

Sep grinned. “You’re like a gold-hording goblin, you know that?”

“A goblin? Nah, I think of myself more like an entrepreneur dwarf.”

Laughing, the duo set out. Sep thanked his brother once more as they headed north across multiple stairs sculpted into a cliff towards Robin’s home.

Conquering the cliff, a new sight laid out before the duo. Few feet before them stood a remarkable granite fountain – three benches surround the oasis of calmness on each side. Behind it was a small playground for kids, a slide, swings and a few more amenities for the rascals. Rather close to the right was a small garden surrounded by a fence. Overgrown, nothing useful protruded from the plot.

If their eyes wouldn’t get caught by an interesting sight right of the garden, both would definitely comment upon the masterwork of the fountain.

Mayor Lewis stood before some old, decaying building. It was considerably voluminous, two wings spread from the main hall, on the right was some sort of hatch with a chimney – most definitely a basement. A large clock stood above the entry doors, still remembering the days before time stopped. Windows were always present, vines and various kinds of moss covered their surface, however, barely letting any light inside.

It looked as if the mayor was reminiscing on old time. Slumped over, he sighed.

Setting out first, Sep slowly walked close to his side.

Upon noticing the young man, Lewis straightened himself and spoke out. “Oh, hello, Sep. How’s stuff at the farm? All good, I hope?”

“Of course, Mr. Lewis. We’re actually reviving farming in some of the soil… What was this place, if you don’t mind me asking. It looks important, judging by its size.”

“Mhmm. It used to be Pelican Town’s Community Centre, but as you can see-” He waved over to the house just as Chad caught up to his brother, standing on the opposite site of the mayor than Sep. “-it has seen better days.” He made a surprisingly sad pensive face. “Honestly, I don’t know what to do with it. The town doesn’t have the necessary money to repair it, Robin said she won’t do it for free – which I can’t blame her for – and I- I just don’t want to order it to be bulldozed… maybe I’m being sentimental.” He paused.

“Well, maybe-”

“Morris came to me the other day, offering a decent amount of money for the dilapidated shell of a building.” Lewis cut Sep off. “He wanted to turn it into a JoJa warehouse for his store… well, I don’t know what to do. If anybody else buys another JoJa membership – even one more – I’ll take the offer…” The old man took off his hat, holding it in both hands.

“…Maybe, maybe me and Chad could take a look at it, and-”

“What? Why? I thought you said there’s heaps of work back home, why get us more?” Chad shot up.

“I know. Taking a look around wouldn’t hurt though, would it?” Sep’s tone changed from passive to persuasive. “We owe the locals at least that for being so open-minded and welcoming towards us.” Giving him a ‘don’t be like that’ look, he could see Chad rolling his eyes behind the tinted shades.

“Fine, have it your way. I’ll tag along, I guess.” His words made the younger brother grin.

“Oh? You’d do the town a big favour, boys. I don’t expect you to try and repair the building, but it wouldn’t hurt to have somebody give it a look once in a while, see if it’s safe to be around and all.” Reaching into his pocket, the mayor pulled out a rather large key ring. He unbuckled one of the steel, tinted in a dark purple colour key, dropping it into Sep’s hand. “If you ever decide you don’t need the key anymore, you know where I live. Please, be safe in there and don’t feel obligated to do anything. I don’t want you getting hurt or strained.”

“Don’t worry about it, mayor. We’ll make sure to not damage anything or accidentally step on something. It means a lot to see you entrusting us with such an important key.” Sep warmly thanked the old man.

“Important? It used to be… but I don’t want to get sentimental again. Thanks, to the both of you. I’ll be on my way, it was nice bumping into you both. Sep, Chad.” He individually tipped his hat before setting off towards a different kind of stairs than the two used to get here.

When he was out of eavesdrop distance, Chad took to word. “I won’t help if there’s stuff to gain out of this.”

“Oh, come on. You’re always like this, but I know there’s still some selflessness left inside you. You always come through when it counts.”

“Trying to humble me? Because it isn’t working.”

“Geez. Okay, you sour potato. I’m just trying to be nice.”

“That’s how you get used.”

“What a dark way to look at it.” Sep’s remark made Chad shrug. “Okay, no point in standing around I guess.”

Coming closer to the doors, Sep had to step over some more overgrown flower pots. One laid on each side of the hefty wooden entry door. Sliding in the old key, it clicked as it got twisted inside the rough and rusty hole. Exceeding noteworthy effort to open the door – accreted to the ground, it made an unpleasant sound as it shuffled over the ground. Chad snickered upon seeing his brother struggle, reluctant at first, he helped him push the door open.

Finally, the doorframe lined by huge wooden pillars engulfed in the walls could be passed through. Taking a few steps in, both immediately noticed the dimness – not too dark to make them unable to recognise their surroundings however, - what remained of the floor was made from old, wet wooden planks. An occasional hole made itself apparent thanks to some more weeds sprouting into the interior here and there.

Wind ran through the various cracks inside the walls and the roof. As it howled inside, it made an eery, yet somewhat calming, sound echo through the whole centre.

The main hall’s most eye-catching feature was something unusual. A never before seen small hut made from peculiar panels – presumably wooden, again, - stood in the upleft corner of the room. Having a roof made from leaves, it was all natural and hardly higher than the older brother.

“I don’t think even the town’s kids would want fit in there… And I certainly don’t see Lewis playing around these parts.” Chad remarked.

“-yeah. I have no idea what it’d do here…. Maybe, some squatters found a way inside? No, they wouldn’t build a house inside a house.” Sep thought out loud.

“Not going to lie, if I was a squatter and I saw this ruin, I’d probably continue walking.”

“Maybe it’s some sort of storage for firewood? There’s a decent fireplace just here, to the right.” Sep pointed to indeed a well-preserved fireplace embedded just in the backwall’s middle section. Above it was some kind of a metallic sign, it had some symbols – covered by dust combined with the lightless interior, they were illegible. Just a few feet from the other side of wood-fuelled heat provider, was a broken, large fishtank. Some windows decorated the backwall, if they weren’t boarded up, they were overgrown by vines – resulting in the dimness inside.

As Chad came closer to the hut and leaned down to take a look inside the tiny arc inside, a sudden dim flash of white light came out of the left hall’s wing. Catching Sep’s eyes, he frowned and pondered if his eyesight was deceiving him.

“Chad-” he tapped his back, his brother shifted his head to the side, giving him a look. “-did you see that as well?”

“Huh, what? I can hardly see my own shoes.”

“Perhaps if you took those shades off, that wouldn’t be the case-”

“Oh…” He stood up from the ground. “Perhaps you’d be right.”

“There, again!” Sep pointed to the hall leading up to T section – the light came from the left turn, downwards. “Come on, let’s investigate!”

Enthused, he didn’t hear his brother sigh as he was already almost at the left turn.

Coming to the corner, Sep grabbed it with both hands – later on he’d regret doing so, as they got covered in slimy moss – and peeked his head inside. Squinting his eyes, he made out a pair of stairs led down inside, further on there was a pile off wood and what would appear to be some leftover purple carpet as flooring.

Catching up, Chad peeked over the corner same as Sep, his head taking a look only a bit further up his brother’s. Now, both inquisitively observed for the source of the light.

Sep felt Chad’s pointy chin poking through his hair. Grunting, he shook his head, making Chad lift his whole head upwards. Chad smirked and whispered. “Professional evaluation, detective?

“There isn’t much to evaluate from, my sidekick.”

It didn’t take long for the curiosity to get the best of Sep, hurling out a sentence, he set out. “I’m going to investigate.”

Tiptoeing down the creaky stairs, Sep noticed some sort of tablet on the ground. He kneeled, noticing it had some symbols scratched on its surface, the curious man tried to pick it up in hopes of getting a closer look.

As his hand met with the wooden construct making the backside of an unrolled scroll, he tugged on what little there was on its sides. The thing wouldn’t even budge. Sep let out a huff.

He rested one of his hands on a thigh as he continued kneeling. Looking up from the tablet, he suddenly noticed some movement behind the itsy pile of logs.

Two sticks emerged from behind it, then a round, white blob and lastly another set of stick-like extremities – able to use the pile as cover, it wasn’t bigger than a cup or a soda can.

Widening his eyes, Sep froze in place. His muscles stiffed as he continued to trace the creature, hoping to not spook it.

Naked of its cover, the creature shifted in place in hopes of coming closer to the tablet. As it did so, it noticed the intruder. Its small, glittery eyes danced all over the place as it loudly yeeped – the sound almost ressembled a bird’s tweet – and jumped a remarkable distance into the air. Before it could start coming back to the ground, the white blob disappeared, leaving behind only a white flash.

Using his forearm, Sep instinctively covered his eyes – to little results. As he opened his eyes again, he began blinking and looking around. Unable to see, he began waiting for his eyes to adjust back to the darkness. Oblivious to Chad making his way over, Sep got spooked and shuddered as his brother spoke out.

“What the hell was that? I didn’t know you could even pitch such a scream so high.”

Rubbing his eyes, Sep slowly picked himself up from the kneeling position. “W-What? Me? That wasn’t me!” Head spinning around, he sort of tap-danced. “Have you seen-“

“No, all I noticed was your shriek followed by an abrupt flash.”

“It- there was some creature. Round and… kind of cute…”

“Sep. What are you even talking about.” Chad firmly slanted his head forwards, his shades slipping down his nose, allowing him to closely observe his brother through the unobstructed space he had created.

“I’m telling you-” Finally getting back more sense, Sep calmed down. Making hand gestures to go along his speech, he traced the room, looking for any remaining signs of the spirit – to no avail. “It was about this big, had tiny legs and arms, its eyes were really small… and- and it had an antenna, like an ant or a bug, sprouting from the ball-like body.”

If Chad would slant his head more, his shades would surely fall to the ground. Instead, he just swiftly blinked. “Nah, you’re just trying to get back at me for yesterday’s night. I’m not a dumbass.”

“Oh, come on! That doesn’t even make any sense, I swear I’m not lying.”

“Sure, whatever.” Chad crossed his arms. “It doesn’t affect me either way. Even if you were right, there’s nothing here anymore, let’s just get out of here already.”

“Argh, I know what I saw…” Squinting his eyes, Sep looked on as Chad began heading back towards the way they came.

“I ain’t taking that from you, I know what I saw as well…” Sep followed and now they found themselves closer to the entrance. “Although, if you really want to get this place fixed – which I still don’t know why you’d want to, might I add – you better address that problem, it’s definitely just rats anyway. I could lend you my trusty iron- oh, wait… They’d made for great gunslinger practice. Hit me up if you’re in need of extermination services.” As he added a smirk to his last few words, the two found themselves outside the building.

“Of course! I’m sure the rats would cower before that deadeye of yours and I definitely wouldn’t end up at the local clinic.” Sep stiffened one of his cheeks and shook his head.

“Have you ever heard of the term ‘acceptable casualties’ ?”

“Screw you.”

The continuing walk towards their next destination – the carpenter – was generally uneventful, not much could be said besides the trek being slightly debilitating as it was uphill towards the north-eastern mountain range, and that Chad shortened his while by practising drawing his gun, each time giving the patterns a look and a run of his fingers over them. Sep noticed this thanks to walking behind him, but the younger brother didn’t comment on any of it. Instead, every time he saw Chad laying his arm upon the holster, he let a bigger distance form between the two. Afterall, that bullet stuck inside their house’s wall was considerably close to turning Sep into a colander and he didn’t want to give it another opportunity to happen.

The mostly gravel path turned into soft, forest-like soil covered with the occasional leaf, pine needles with various greenery running by its sides as the duo came to a larger opening at the end of their path.

Before them stood a decently large house. Blue roof tiles covering the triangle shaped roof. To the right was a large garage door – something Lewis could definitely use for that old truck of his – the whole building took cover near a cliff which made natural barriers around it on all except two sides. Except the one leading up to the entrance, there was a basic fence to the left side of the complex. Guarding a telescope and a modest garden, it gave an insight to the inhabitants’ hobbies. Last noteworthy addition was a rather small, yet nice shack on the same side as the mentioned free time amenities.

It was evident a skilled carpenter put great effort into making the house the way it was, even taking the time to make sure the colours matched. The dark brown walls went in great contrast with the roof and an occasional white painted beams incorporated into the construction.

“Okay, this must be it. I’ll go- could you stop playing with that thing?! It’s not a toy, you know.” Sep promptly scoffed.

“Why? It’s not loaded anyway.” Chad enlightened his brother.

“You sure? Last time you told me that, I almost ended with lead inside me.” Sep crossed his hands.

Chad rolled his eyes. Pulling out the six-shooter, he flipped open its cylinder, revealing it was indeed empty. “See? I’m carrying it around-” He attempted to spin it around and close it as it did so. Unlucky for Chad, as he slapped the cylinder in hopes of creating rotation, he didn’t hit accurately on the edge and instead hurt his fingers. “-so that nobody- OUCH… bothers me. It creates a menacing aura.”

“Mhmm. Very menacing.” Sep snickered. “Anyway. I’m sure you can hear the river from here, just go that way-” Sep pointed towards where the path curved right from the house’s front yard, running near the same cliff as the house. Occasional bushes and mostly conifers barely obstructed the vision of a peculiar lake at the end of the path – where it curved again. “I’ll come get you once I’m done here, or?”

“Nah. You said you wanted to go visit Leah later today, right? Well, you should go meet her after you finish up doing whatever you plan to do here, not much time left in today, considering when the sun sets.”

“Oh. Right… I’ll head there then afterwards.” Sep scratched the back of his neck. “Catch you home?”

“For sure. Take care.” Making a gesture close to his face, Chad snapped his fingers and set out down the path on the right.

Sep quietly watched him walk for a while before shifting towards the door. Thrilled, he ran a mental image through his mind as he thought of the rough shape his new house would bear. He smiled and set out for the door.

Opening the door, it made a sturdy click - A luxury both their house and the Community Centre lacked. The interior was inviting and homy. Pleasantly warm, decorated and rustic. From where Sep entered, he could only see a hall leading both up and down to his right. The entry room was modest at best. A rug, two chairs, some pictures on the walls and a plant gave it a simple, yet welcoming vibe. Some shortly cut, pilled up logs laid under the two windows that lit up the whole room.

Finally, noticing a desk in the farmost right corner, Sep slowly began strolling over. With every step he took, the feeling of being alone weighed heavier upon him as he felt like trespassing. However, just as he was about half way to the counter, he heard rustling behind it.

Sounds of metallic nuts and bolts combined with muffled hums reached his ears. Suddenly, the melody stopped, a sound of a carboard box sliding upon wood could be heard and a swoosh with a bang followed.

After the latter, another, this time heavier, rumble came from under the desk. With it, Robin emerged from behind her workstation, rubbing her head. At first, her face bared a sour emotion, her teeth gritting, but then she noticed her customer and shifted around.

“Oh, hello there, Sep. How long have you been standing there-” she gave a short, nervous laugh.

“Good day, Robin. Long enough to hear you fumbling with some bolts, I presume. Are you okay?” Sep matched her laugh with a quick chuckle of his own.

“O-of course, one package of nails fell this pesky old shelf,” she pointed down behind her counter “I’ve been so busy lately, I haven’t gotten the chance to work on my own projects.” Reaching down, she pulled up a small, red notebook and laid it next to her cash register. “Anyhow, what brings you here, neighbour? You probably didn’t come all this distance to ask how my day was, huh?” Robin grinned.

“Matter of fact, I did not. Although now that you mention it, how was your day?” He put on a wide smile, getting a cackle out of Robin.

“Good, good. I don’t want to bore you with the details. You wouldn’t believe how much rationing, stock-taking and accounting you have to undergo as a carpenter.” Robin took a deep breath.

“Ah, hopefully it’s not that straining.” Sep confidently strode over to the counter. “But you were right, I didn’t come here to only chat.”

“Alright, then. That’s plausible. You’d just need a bit more wood than usual. I could supply you with some, but it won’t come cheap.”

“I appreciate the offer, but I’m thinking I could cut down and clean some parts of the forest on our farm for the wood, kill two birds with one stone. Yoba knows it’s begging for it; the place is overgrown beyond recognition. It took me and Chad half a day to just lay out where our plot began and ended.”

“Oh? That’s a great idea. Just make sure to let the wood dry out somewhere. It’s going to be hard work, though. Cutting down and processing all those trees.” Robin looked up from the plans Sep had laid before her.

“I’m counting on it. The result will be all the more satisfying, though.”

“That’s a great way to look at things, Sep. I’m sure you’ll get everything prepared in no time with that attitude.”

He nodded. “Say, how long would it take us to build the house after I’m done getting the wood?”

Us?” Robin chuckled. “I exclusively work alone. I’m sorry, but I can’t get much done otherwise. There’s way more arguing about how to do stuff instead of actually doing it, you know? Plus, I can focus more if I’m alone. Grabbing an axe or a hammer and getting to work, there’s no other feeling quiet like it.” Robin stretched out her chest and looked up.

“Okay, I can get behind your reasoning. At least I’ll have time for other stuff then.”

“See? That’s more like it.” Robin paused for a moment. “But, back to your question. You said you’ll supply the wood, which means I’ll bring everything else. It’ll be costly, but nothing unaffordable of course. With all of that done, I’m thinking about a week? 10 days at most.”

“Oh wow. That’s not even that long. If it’s true, you’re a master of your craft, Robin.” Sep’s eyes went wide.

“Thanks, I try my best.” Robin put on a smile. “So, these plans you’ve got here? They’re quality stuff, you must’ve gotten some experience in the field, even going so far to consider future upgrades? If you ever decide to build more, they’ll fit in almost perfectly!”

“Ah. It’s a long story.”

“Of course, no need to tell me now.” She frowned more at the blueprints. “May I keep them for a while? Make a copy?”

“Feel free to do so. Also, could I get your opinion on the bathroom’s and kitchen’s design, I’m somewhat unsure if they’ll contrast well with the bedroom and living room.” Sep leaned above the paper, next to Robin.

“Worried? There’s no need for that. Having the fireplace in the bedroom instead of in the kitchen makes way more sense, the layout is also great – everything at a hand’s notice and practical. The Bathroom? I’m sure the modern look could play well with the floor inside the bedroom, plus it’s not far from the bed, which is always great.” Making a circle with her finger around the blueprint, she looked up onto Sep. “It’s a great layout, as I’ve said already. I’m excited to make these plans into reality once everything is ready, Sep.”

“Really? You have no idea how happy that makes me to hear, thanks a-”

Cough cough. “Ehm-”

A man appeared in the hallway Sep observed before. Nose not much bigger than a button, jawline resembling the outline of the letter U. His hair was well groomed, dark as his skin which was way noticeable as he hadn’t a single trace of a beard – his whole face gave off an omniscient impression. His figure was manly, with wide shoulders – not as wide as Sep’s though, – he stood a few feet above Sep. Wearing a blue T-shirt, which paired great with his eyes.

He was leaning on one of the corners of the doorway allowing entry into the hallway. Arms crossed, he observed both Robin and Sep.

“Whomst have I got the pleasure of meeting, Robin? Is this the new farmer you’ve told me about moving into town?” He held his position.

“Yes, Demetrius. Or, one of them.” Robin gestured towards the man. “Sep, this is my husband, Demetrius. Demetrius, Sep.”

“Nice to meet you, Sir. Your wife’s a real lifesaver, she is.” He came over, stretching his right arm for a handshake.

“Oh please, no need for formalities. Just call me Demetrius, we’re a closely knit community here.” Demetrius took him up on the offer. “Robin surely knows her way around wood, she’s a master carpenter.” Proud, he rested his arms on both hips.

“Oh stop it, you!” Robin blushed from behind the cash register, getting a chuckle from her husband in return.

“I’ve got no doubts about it. I can’t wait to see her skills for myself-” Sep looked upon his left wrist. Comically enough, he wasn’t wearing his watch. Remembering he left it as a memento for his caring mother, he mentally facepalmed. “-anyway, I think we’re done here?” Looking upon Robin, she made no objections. “I’ll be on my way then, I’ll make sure to come back once I’ve got all the materials, Robin. It was nice talking to you both. Demetrius, Robin. Take care.”

Getting farewells from both, Sep was soon out the door. Thinking back about the pleasant conversation he had with Robin, spiced with compliments, his mood was cheery as ever. With a spring in his step, his next destination was The Cindersap Forest.

Despite Pelican Town being a small town, it was lively as ever. Just on his way through it, Sep saw a handful of its citizens, some even gave the effort of making themselves acquainted with the young adult. He traded a few words Caroline and Jodi – two middle-aged mothers, the same ones he and Chad saw eyeing them down on their day of arrival as they crossed the town square. Both seemed really kind and made Sep feel even more welcomed in his new community.

He didn’t devote them much of his time, just enough to be done with the pleasantries, soon, he was back on his way. The sun was about to pass the second half of the sky’s zenith just as the young soon-to-be farmer took his first steps out of town. Once again, he noted the small garden’s appeal – Leah surely put notable effort into making it what it was – as he passed the back of the house. Coming to its front, another pleasant sight laid before him. The river flowing out of town jetted not far away from Leah’s cottage, in fact, it made itself apparent from the loveable sound of gurgling water just tens of feet before the entrance.

The entrance was richly decorated. Flowerpots, crawling flora, and a colourful bush beautified its surroundings and walls. One window allowed entry to light from the same side, left of the door, it bared a common rectangular shape – There was a second window on the protruding part of the building’s right, but Sep didn’t know its presence. – The cottage looked roughly like the shape of a laying, mirrored L.

Somewhat nervous, Sep stood there before the doors – pretending to still observe the decorations, despite seeing all there was to offer. – He scratched his back. Peering his eyes, his brow slightly raised – if anybody would see him now, they’d definitely compare his face to that of a scared puppy. – Shaking his head, he remembered the encouraging words from his brother and knocked on the door.

He heard a loud bang from behind the walls, then a pause shortly followed by another one. Both his brows perked. Worried something might’ve happened inside, he waited for a prompt no longer and entered. The doors silently opened, allowing Sep a gaze inside. However, he didn’t have the luxury of taking in the interior’s beauty just yet as another quick bang echoed from a corner to his left.

Raising his eyebrow, he took a step into the room. Immediately, any distress fell from him. In fact, what he saw was quite peculiar indeed.

Next to the window, Leah stood before a hefty piece of wood, with her back turned towards Sep. Wood chips and shavings piled up on the floor, aiding the man to narrow down his guess at what she had been doing. Another bang followed. This time, he could see Leah used a wooden mallet alongside a chisel to produce the sound.

Pondering when to make a move, Sep decided the best course of action would be to act just after she drove the chisel into the material once more.

He did just that. Brooding no more, his fingers produced several likeable thuds against the cottage’s wooden wall.

The young woman paused for a moment. Both tools still in hand, she shifted around to gaze at her visitor. A drop of sweat jolted down her temple as she began to smile.

“Hey, Sep! Glad you could make it. Sorry for the mess-” Her smile fell a bit. “-it’s… a work in progress.”

“Don’t worry about it. You should see the mess Chad always somehow conjures up despite cleaning after himself every night when he’s got the time!” His quip got an alluring chuckle out of Leah. “So you sculp as well, hm? So focused on making another superb piece that you didn’t even hear me knock.” Smiling, he started for Leah’s side.

“Oh… sorry about that.” Her face caught a slightly gloomy tinge. Taking a step to her left, Leah laid down both the tools under a window into an open wooden toolbox. “I always get tugged in when I sculpt, all the more when I work with wood. Makes me zone out and relax like nothing can.” Getting up from the box, her eyes glittered with passion.

“Oh? That’s definitely an original way to let off some steam.” Standing with his back turned to a bed, Sep traded looks between Leah and the supposed work in progress. “I’m sure you’ve put great effort into is so far. I know very little about art, yet alone sculpting, but I think it’s nice! I can imagine making an art piece like this taking a lot of effort and time.”

“Of course it can, but once you get past the initial layers, the true nature and beauty starts to show.” She traced a furrow in the wood before solely focusing onto Sep.

He gave himself a moment to think, crossing his hands. “It’s the same with people, if you think about it.” He rested his thumb on the faint stubble that made itself more apparent on his chin in the last few days.

“Oh?” Creases lined her eyebrow momentarily. “You’re right actually! That’s very fitting, Sep.” A short chuckle followed by a grin decorated Leah’s face.

A warm feeling ran through Sep’s body as he rejoiced alongside Leah. “I have my poetic moments.” The witty remark only prolonged both’s amusement.

As the titters died down, Sep scratched the back of his neck. “Once again, I’d like to apologise for how I acted earlier this morning.” He tried to keep his tone relaxed, not evident of the momentary anxiety these interactions sometimes caused him. “Sorry if I made you uncomfortable or anything.”

“Sep, please don’t worry about it.” Her voice was completely mesmerising to Sep – either that or the words she spoke caused him to feel that way. “It’s nice to see you care about the way I felt in that moment, though.” She giggled. “What was it you came there to do originally? If you don’t mind me asking of course. Chad was clearly discussing something with Pierre back at the counter.”

“Oh, uhm-” Ending his basking in the warmness he felt, Sep gave a handful of short blinks. “We… we sort of wanted to check how pure some of our gold was. I had some doubts so I wanted to make sure, don’t want to pay with slag or even fake gold. Doesn’t feel right towards the vendor.”

“How noble of you, Sep.” Leah spoke her thoughts out loud. “I have to admit-” Her tone slightly dimmed. “-it’s not easy to pay bills as an artist. I try to forage and sell whatever surplus is left whenever I can.”

“I’m genuinely sorry to hear, I know the feeling. I can see you’re trying to minimise the costs, though. That windmill on your roof? A great idea, but, if it ever gets too much to handle, don’t be ashamed to ask if you need anything.” Emphasising the friendliness of the sentence, Sep smiled.

“That’s really sweet of you. So far it hasn’t been easy, but nothing I couldn’t handle as well though.” She twirled a finger around her long ponytail.

“That’s relieving to hear. I don’t like to see my friends struggle.” Sep offered yet another inviting grin. “Oh, have you ever thought about profiting off of your art? Perhaps you could have an art showcase followed by an auction after it, I’m certain the community would appreciate the liveliness it’d cause.”

Leah went silent for a solid moment, her expressions shifted multiple times. “Show off my art to everybody in town? That sounds like it could greatly backfire-”

Just as Sep was to throw another horde of measurement her way, she came to word, leaving him with a half-open mouth.

“-but then again, if it’s a success, it would surely gain the town some cultural and artistic prestige.” She paused. “And I could make some money off of it, if people like my sculptures of course.” Scanning the various self-made art in her room, Leah eventually rested her eyes onto Sep. “You’re really a great friend, Sep. Even though we’ve known each other for a short time, you’ve done a lot for me in the past days. It means a lot to me.” Leah nudged herself a step closer to Sep.

Her honeyed words simply left the young man enchanted. He could feel tingles through his lush hair as another wave of warmth washed over him. He quickly pondered if going in for a hug would be adequate, but decided that weren’t the case, considering how Leah acted in the shop.

“I-I uhm, oh-“ Internally shuddering, he tried to pick himself up. “Of course, I’ve greatly enjoyed your company as well, even if it was only on occasion.” He resisted the urge cast upon him by his anxiety to take a step back, taking little part – yet it was positive thanks to his reaction – in the proximity dance he shared with Leah.

“It’s calming to hear it’s mutual.” A warm smile drew upon her face. “We could talk more inside my modest kitchen. If you want, of course.”

“Y-you bet! I’ve got plenty of time on my hands.” He gestured across the room, prompting her to take the first steps. “I’m a big fan of the décor, Leah. Modest, yet inviting. ‘There’s beauty in simplicity’ as they say.”

“Thanks! I can tell you all about it. Feel free to take a seat, there are a couple of them over there.” She pointed to a table surrounded by green, simple, cushioned furniture which stood under the round window Sep wasn’t able to notice until now. “Do you want a cup of coffee? I’ve got plenty laying somewhere around here…”

“Nope. Appreciated, though. I prefer tea a ton over coffee.” He conjured a slick smile.

“Ah, okay. I can respect that.” Leah firmly stopped rummaging around one of her cupboards and set off for a chair opposite to Sep.

Crickets hummed their chiming songs when Sep departed from Leah’s home. He had to admit, it took him way longer than anticipated to get himself starting for the brothers’ homestead. Maybe it was caused by the pleasant talks they shared in the past couple of hours, maybe it was the nice smell and aura inside her cabin that kept him, or, perhaps, it was just the simple fact that the air paving his path back home became quite chilly as south winds carried some of the fresh aerosol his way from the Valley’s shore and vast sea.

No matter the various motives, Sep was nearing the town square just about now. Already passing through the dim areas between The Cindersap Forest and town. It was there when the path began consisting of smooth, dark stones accompanied by the occasional lamppost guiding many back to their abodes.

Nobody kept him company, almost every window gave no signs of the peeps inside being awake, the only two from which light engaged into a fight with the outside’s darkness were the saloon’s multiple ones – no surprise there – and the cheeky glass barrier above the entrance to Pierre’s. It was no ordinary light however, flashes of vibrant colours came from behind it. Sometimes brighter but mostly toned down. Sep knew what those meant thanks to his teenage years of playing tons of videogames. His dad used to take both him and his brother to multiple shopping trips to the game store as some kind of reward when his sons were younger. He loved seeing the passion both of them had whilst playing on one of those retro consoles, even if the ruckus both children caused sometimes made it feel unbearable.

Just as Sep began reminiscing on his treasured memories, he heard a loud thump coming down the stairs leading up to the Community Centre. Swiftly, he ditched the bright column supplied by one of the lamps and came to stand upon grass behind the same bench the siblings used to brood earlier this day.

Another thump then a huff echoed. It was evident the person was a man, and not just some ordinary man.

Sep got rid of his cover. Waltzing straight under the lamp, he crossed his arms and waited.

Few exhausting sounds later, Chad’s figure became apparent as some light finally shone down onto him. Backpack on his shoulders, some fins, scales and other fishy parts peeked from under the pack’s buckle. Fishing rod in his mouth, both his hands were significantly occupied with carrying the biggest bass Sep has ever seen. It even forced the bulky man to make rather unexpected effort to carry. Taking a look up from his giant catch, Chad gave his flabbergasted brother a fly smirk, his bamboo pole still between the now revealed teeth.

For a couple of beats, Sep just stood there. Darting both the hunched over man and the unmissable nibbler in his hands.

Chad shifted his head to the side. Spitting out the pole onto the grass next to the path, he firmly commanded his brother. “Well don’t just stand there, Sleeping Beauty. Come help me with this damn thing.” He pitched up the fish, adjusting his grip on it. “I was starting to think it’s more trouble than it’s worth.”

“O-of course-” Shaking off some of the surprise, Sep began walking over. “How’d you catch this thing anyway?! I would’ve bet on that shoddy fishing breaking if you were to tell me just how big of a fish you’re reeling in.”

“Yeah? Well, guess Willy was right about not judging a book by its cover… or something I guess, did he even say that?”

Completely disregarding the question, Sep stood by his brother’s side. “And you’ve got a backpack full of more fish as well?”

“Yeah. Those are not as big though.” He paused for a moment. “Now take the thing, I’ve been dragging it for Yoba knows how long.”

“I can see that. No wonder you aren’t home yet.”

“Hmm. What about you, though? What kept you?” Creases lined his brow.


Waiting for elaboration, Chad got none and took to word. “That’s all you’re willing to tell? Damn. Alright then.”

“What? I’m sure you don’t care about what we talked anyway.”

“You’re right, I don’t. Now take the damn bass off my hands.”

Just now did Sep truly realise how big of a thing the creature was. It stretched past both Chad’s hands, which tried to cup it, and ended somewhere not far behind his shoulders. As he stretched out his hands to pass the catch to him, a metallic BANG could be heard coming far to Sep’s right.

Both immediately snapped their heads towards the sound’s origin.

Giving each other a look, they nodded and set out in unison. However, not before Chad threw his surely expensive giant and a small treasure of fish next to the fishing pole. He did so with great dexterity and before they knew it, both brothers stood behind the saloon, taking cover near a bush and observing.

“Argh! Damned raccoons! Hush, you- you demonic omens! Terrorizers of nightly peace!... Bah!” An old man in a wheelchair sat before open doors to one of the houses. The light from inside drew his outline on the ground. Few feet before the bush and near the corner of the blue house was an overturned trash can, some rustling came from behind it.

Narrowing his eyes, Sep saw some yellow cloth sticking out from one of the bushes behind the rubbish. Enticed, he got rid of his cover and headed towards to the old man – which in return made Chad nervously shoot him looks. He didn’t set out just yet. Instead, he took his brother’s spying spot as it gave him a greater viewing angle.

The retired man put a hand to his forehead, allowing himself to focus more on the approaching clouded figure – his eyesight wasn’t the best. – Realising it was no raccoon, instead a young, perhaps even handsome, man, he laid back in his seat.

“Good night, mister. Everything alright? I’ve heard you all the way from the saloon, I was just about to head home as well. Do you have a problem with anything?” Sep put on a smile.

Back in the bush, Chad had to admit his brother could be smooth with words when he wasn’t exactly stressing over ruining his relationship with the recipient of his words. Hearing such a tale made him give a sneering snicker as he shook his head.

“Who might you be, kid? I don’t remember seeing you around, and I remember a lot of stuff. Been around here longer than some of the houses in town.”

“My name’s Sep. You surely knew my grandfather, no? He used to live on a farm not far from here. Sadly, he passed away recently.”

“Ooooh. Of course I remember the old man. We were childhood friends; he was a great man that one.” He paused, seemingly looking through Sep and remembering his old kin. “Say, son. Why don’t you do me, an old man, a favour, eh? Those raccoons have been pestering my sleep. I might be old, but my ears still serve me well.”

“Of course, sir. It’s no hard feat I couldn’t handle.”

“You keep to those manners, and you’ll make it far in life, son. You’ve been raised well.” The old man tried to put on a faint smile. Saying his goodbyes, he retreated back home without even introducing himself and shut the door.

Walking back to the bin, Sep gazed back through an opening between twigs of the bush where he had been just moments ago – prompting Chad to disperse his cover as well.

The shrubbery swished and with that the two were standing by a mailbox close to the fallen over bin. Sep gazed deeply into the same place that piqued his interest moments before. Chad gave him unknowing looks as he did.

“You can come out! The old man’s not here anymore.” Sep’s tone was loud enough to bare authority, yet weak enough to not draw attention.

“You sure Leah didn’t brew you some ‘herbal tea’ on your visit? There’s nothing there, Sep. Let’s just-”

Then and there more rustling came from the bush. The same cloth appeared, then more of it became apparent – revealing some kind of improvised shirt and that it was indeed no raccoon but a man instead.

Fully stepping out, the man looked worse for wear. His white dense hair and a thick full beard oozed he was unkept, and considering the minimal clothes he wore, both brothers immediately correctly guessed fate got the best of him and that he was, unfortunately, homeless.

“Hey.” The man in his second half of life spoke out.

“Hey.” Chad plainly gave a response.

“Why’d you help me?” He eyed down the younger brother.

“I don’t know, felt like the right thing to do. Although… what were you doing here? I hope you weren’t scheming against these people.” Sep crossed his arms.

The hobo shuddered at the thought. “Of course not!” He took a few steps forward. “I’m Linus. I’ve been ‘living’ in a tent not so far from the mountains.”

Before he could say more, Sep introduced both himself and Chad, which only made Linus more invested in the conversation.

“You see… I didn’t plan on hurting anybody or anything.” He started for the trash can with the intention of picking it up. “I was… looking for some food. You wouldn’t believe how much of it goes to waste!” His tone died down. “But I slipped, and it fell over. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, was I?”

“Nah, you’re all good. I should probably take a look myself. Bet half the stuff in there is better than anything Sep can muster up in the kitchen.” Chad said plainly with a smirk.

“Come on, man. That was a low blow.” Sep tried to keep himself from a grin.

“Everything’s fair in war.” His lips curved.

“We have a war going on? Since when?”

“Since you were born of course. It’s a brotherly war.”

Snickering, Sep shook his head. “Dumbass.”

“I thought you two looked similar to one another.” Linus cut off their play.

“Yeah? But I’m the cooler one. Plus, I’m going to be rich tomorrow.” Chad grinned towards Sep.

He laughed. “Oh? You? Then I supposed you can be the one with the honours of carrying your fish back home, huh?” Sep quipped.

“Nah, you see. What I meant to say was ‘we are going to be rich’.” Chad pointed up towards his head.

Sep gave an amused sigh. “Sure, sure. C’mon, I hear a bunk calling my name.”

Reassuring Linus once more, the two said their goodbyes and slowly headed towards an exhausting walk home with a hefty pile of soon to be money acquired by Chad’s fruitful fishing endeavours.

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