We left the office building to a cloudless afternoon sky. By the time the whole commotion was over and done with, both our stomachs were loud and growling.

So what did we do to resolve it?

Head to a restaurant? Grab a quick snack at a store? Ice-cream, maybe?

Nah, we headed home.

I flopped my wallet onto my living room table, sprawling it open for the whole world to see.

"No money!" I proclaimed, flinging my hands to the air.

Ash was crouched, her knees to the floor, and picked up my wallet by the very ends of her fingertips as if holding up some kind of weird bug.

"Intriguing coin pouch, master," she said, glancing at it from all angles. "But what does that mean for lunch?"

I looked at her and her big, bright questioning eyes as large as saucers, and felt guilt surge through me.

She got shot in the forehead for me and I couldn't even get her any lunch for it. What kind of sorry excuse of a human being am I?

"Well, uh - I'll call a friend," I whipped out my phone. "Borrow some cash, then we'll get some -"

But before I could dial any number, Ash had seized the phone from my grip with a swipe so fast, I didn't even realize she took it until I stupidly started trying to dial the air.

"Master, let us not act upon impulse, shall we?" Ash said, keeping my phone at a distance. "Lest we forget what has brought you trouble in the first place."

Realization hit me like an oncoming freight train and immediately I wanted to throw myself out the window for even coming up with the idea. No more borrowing money.

"My bad," I muttered, smiling apologetically. "I just wanted to show my gratitude to you in some way. You know… get you something nice."

Ash expelled a small sigh. "You already have, master."

"Have I?"

"You clothed me, fed me, and provided refuge. What is all of that if not 'nice', I ask?"

"But that's kind of a given," I answered back. "I would have done the same to anybody else. It didn't have to be you."

She shook her head. "It needn't matter. Kindness, where I'm from, you'll find very little of it, if any at all. In the eyes of many, most may say I don't even deserve such luxuries."

"That's horrible."

"And yet, that is simply just the very nature of my world."

Speaking of worlds, I realized I still had no idea where on earth she came from. What kind of fantasy world was it? What kind of creatures inhabited it? Who are the dominant species, and what's the situation like over there?

Put it simply…

"Just where exactly are you from anyway?"

"Well, it's a land far removed from your own… Asteria, we call it," She waved her hand. "Alas, it needn't matter. Let's leave it as a topic of little concern, shall we?"

"But why? Don't you want to go back?"

Blankly staring, Ash fell into a strange sort of silence. Usually, she'd be quick with a reply ready to go. Not this time.

She smiled again, it looked forced, and handed the phone back in my hands.

"Maybe," she said.


Just then, my phone picked the perfect time to start buzzing, the screen flickering to life with a text notification. Getting a text message was already a surprise for me, but getting one from the person who's been ghosting me this whole time? Now that's something worth drawing attention to.

"Hi Dad," I muttered, my eyes immediately darting to the screen.

Ash raised her eyebrows and came huddling to my side, "Your father? He speaks to you from that rectangular device?"

"Mmm, kinda…" I mumbled, too focused on reading his message to give a proper answer.

It was a short message. Then again, he wasn't always much for words. Now if only he developed the habit of checking up on the situation first before making any rash decisions. Still, he was always a man of action… and acted he did.

[[Just sent $3000 to your account. Should last you quite a bit. If you see a guy with a cane and a limp on your way over to pay, tell him I said hi.]]


There was this moment in time that lasted for about fifteen minutes where there only consisted of rapid mutterings under my breath while I went back and forth with my dad in regards to what the money should be used for.

Told him I was sending it back, that I didn't need it anymore, and to use it for mom's medical bills instead. He replied back telling me to keep it, consider it as an early Christmas present or something.

Said to him, forget it - that's too much money for me to accept. He kept on insisting anyway.

All the while Ash was standing there looking over my shoulder, quiet, with a bemused expression on her face. Probably wondering to herself how do phones even work.

But she seemed to realize I was busy with something, whatever that something may be, so she held her tongue.

Later, Ash… I promise I'll explain how this world works to you in great detail one day, for now though...

[[Take back the money!]]


After an almost endless loop of little progress, it finally culminated, and the cycle was broken as soon as dad typed up the magic words that sent me shutting the hell up.

[[Mom insisted.]]

Well shit, now I can't do anything about that. Forget Dad, Mom was the real threat here. Her word is law in my family.

It was time to concede defeat.


I clicked the power button. My wallet laid bare in front of me, empty, yearning to be filled once more with cash aplenty, and who am I to say no to that?

"Hungry?" I said to Ash, a smile on my face.

Though she most likely was still a little confused over the click-clackety magical rectangle I had in my hands, the prospect of actually having lunch held her questions at bay.

"Absolutely famished," she said with a simper.

And so, for the third time in such a short time, we left the building once more to seek out a meal for the two of us.

Oh yeah, and to pay my bills too… can't forget that. Once the electricity was back on… Lightbulbs, television, computer… Oh man, Ash was in for a treat.

After a quick visit to an ATM, we began our journey, basking in the afternoon sun, with Ash's ever-curious eyes constantly wandering off to the streets. Traffic was blaring and most vehicles were at a standstill. Ash now had a good view of the thing that fascinated her the most.

And fascinated her it did. Ash couldn't keep her eyes off of them. Which inevitably resulted in me having to recite the entire history of cars and their purposes for public use.

She had some questions too.

No, they're not animals. Horses? Yeah, I guess they're like horses. No - look, I did say they were like horses, but they are not animals. Do we ride on them? Of course, we do. Why don't I have one? Oh. Well, they're expensive, Ash, that's why. No, we can't just find one in the wild and take it in - I just said they weren't animals!

"May I be able to ride one someday?" She asked as a car sped on by.

That question caught me off guard. I was used to her asking questions, they came by the dozen every minute anyway, but this was the first time a question came with a want, a desire.

Ash actually wanted.

I looked at her expression. "Are you curious?"

Her eyes found another car to keep her eye on, and she followed it with her gaze as it sped along its route, once it vanished around a corner, it was almost as if she was snapped out of a trance and she instantly shook her head.

"Pay no mind, forget I've asked," she said, clearing her throat. "Now, how long more till we reach, master?"

"We could if you want to, you know? I don't mind."

Ash tightened her lips. "You've done so much already. It wouldn't be right of me to demand."

"So have you," I replied. "If it weren't for you…"

"Seekers do not get to want, seekers do not get to wish. In my world, speaking of such desires would warrant more than just physical punishment. Reminders… so I may not forget. I exist only to serve, that is my role, the reason for my being. Both as a Knight, and as an Elf."

Just what kind of messed up world is that? If that's how she gets treated back in her world, it's no wonder she's a bit hesitant about going back. Her need to serve, and her total disregard for her own life, it was starting to make much more sense now.

That world has molded her into what she was now. But not anymore.

"Don't forget," I muttered, gripping her arm like how she did mine back then. "You're not in your world anymore."

She didn't say anything then, but I think she understood what I meant.

"Let's go take that ride, then," I said, as we turned at a street corner.

Her face didn't display any emotions, but it didn't need to, because despite the hoodie covering most of her expression, there was simply no hiding the energetic twitches of her ears jutting out from beneath the fabric.

It was kind of endearing, really.

Now, a quick taxi ride shouldn't hurt, right?

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