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That's right! Memories came flashing back all too quickly. The pain and buzzing surrounding her cage, the yelling, a heavy stench of blood and some tea with broth that made her fall asleep. Once everything clicked, Jermine bolted up from what felt like a soft bed, something she hasn't experienced for months since she was separated from her family and sold to the adventurers.
Although she couldn't see them, Jermine remembered that there was one kind elf who helped her. He was gentle and the mole girl thought that she could finally trust someone in this horrible world to help her. Who knew that he would slip drugs into her drinks while her guard was down? Now the cycle would repeat all over again and the worst part was how Jermine couldn't escape even if she wanted to.
Footsteps could be heard coming up the stairs and the mole girl panicked. Where was the exit? She couldn't see well and her body hurt a little. Unable to make her getaway fast enough because of the unknown restraints around her, Jermine whimpered when the door opened.
"Oh?" the kind voice said. "You're up already? How are you feeling? I didn't think that you would be up so soon, you must be really strong or resistant to medicine. Are you hungry? What do mole people eat?"
The girl hesitated for a moment, weighting her choices. Jermine had never felt so betrayed. Even after putting her to sleep forcefully by drugging her food, this boy still had the nerve to play the angel? Unbelievable! Yet, her options were limited. She didn't know who else was around and where she was. If she made one wrong move, the scary elf would keep his promise and drop her head like an orange.
"I-I'm not hungry," she stammered and Zero paused. The poor child was obviously starved, why was she lying? He didn't really need Isaben's blessing to inform him that she was lying. The doctor didn't pay her any heed and walked towards the trembling kid. He placed a hand on her furry forehead and checked her temperature, channeling a little qi to check her vitals.
Jermine didn't know what was happening but she braced herself for pain. Only, it never came. Instead, she felt a warm comforting feeling wash over her when Zero placed his hand on her forehead and rubbed the fur there a little before removing his hand without hurting her.
"You're healing well, I was a little worried back there," Zero admitted. "The antidote works with mole people as well. You're out of the woods if you can sleep through tonight without having a fever. For now, let's get you something to eat. How does a sandwich sound? Can mole people that?"
Jermine shook her head timidly. "We mostly eat insects and small animals, worms are a favourite but out here, it might be slightly difficult... I-I can still eat fruits and gra.s.s or even barks of trees if I must! Don't worry too much about me master, I only need one meal a day... no! I only need one meal in two days!"
Listening to the slave girl desperately beg for food and lying about her needs with fear radiating from her in waves, Zero couldn't help but feel sorry for what she had gone through., Instead of answering her, Zero sat down on the opposite bed. The sheets were cleaned and Truen was still not back. He was helping Bob dismantle all the killer bees they had, much to Brutus and Dwayne's disbelief.
"What's your name?" Zero asked. If he wanted the girl to open up to him, he had to go slow and give her enough s.p.a.ce to feel safe instead of pressuring her. Zero didn't know how he should go about making her feel secure after what he'd done because spiking the drinks of the person you just rescued doesn't exactly put you high on their list of trusted people. Then again, hindsight was 20/20 and Zero couldn't do anything to reverse time and undo what he did. The doctor engraved this mistake into his mind so that he wouldn't repeat it again if he came across another similar situation. His habit of asking for forgiveness instead of permission must be corrected.
After much hesitation, Jermine finally told Zero her name but not her full name in case the doctor was an evil magician. Slaves who had given their names to magicians would never be able to escape. Jermine was lucky that her captors weren't magicians and she only bore the ugly tattooed mark of a regular slave. If she was kidnapped by a mage, Jermine would be bound by a magical contract and escaping would result in instant death. Biding her time, she told Zero the nickname that the slave captors used.
"They call me Jerry."
Zero blinked. That was another lie. "Jerry? Isn't that a name for a boy?"
The mole girl started to sweat nervously. Why was Zero not satisfied with it? Slave traders were usually not picky about this sort of thing. Some even just a.s.signed slaves numbers. Was this elf a mage after all? While most elves were mostly warriors and archers, the few elven magicians were often powerful and cold-hearted. Had she just gone from the pan into the fire?
Zero noticed that he just made her more terrified and mentally started to sweat. "I'm not trying to make you uncomfortable," he blabbered. "I just want to help you find your family but we need to know a name before the guild can put up a search."
Jermine didn't know how she could bring herself to trust the person who spiked her drinks but when Zero offered her a deal to help her in exchange for her abilities to navigate through the desert, Jermine readily agreed.
"Once you pay your debt off as a slave, the villagers of Half Moon Village under my rule will escort you home to Lycantopia. I need to find a gnome city and a desert poppy. Let's work together, shall we? If you still do not believe my words, we can sign a magic contract."
Jermine considered it for a moment before nodding. "Let's do a magic contract. You promise that you will send me back to my family safely after I help you navigate through the desert?"
Zero nodded and drafted the magic contract. Jermine couldn't see very well so a third party of Jermine's choice was meant to act as a witness that the terms were accurate. Zero signed the contract first and Jermine hesitated for two seconds before penning her name at the bottom.
Once the deal was made, the scroll vanished and Jermine collapsed onto the bed. All the bravado that she managed to gather earlier dissipated into the air. Zero smiled at the girl. "How about some supper, Jermine?"
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