“Wha… What are you doing here?!” Sakaki shrieked, “Karen, you know her?!”

Surprised at seeing Elizabeth right in front of him, his voice started to stutter, and his body breaks out into a cold sweat. He had left Karen their mentor Fuyutsuki to travel with Elizabeth and her team for a while before leaving after a failed mission. After that, he travelled solo until he met Karen back in Koi village.

“We haven’t seen each other in a long time! Well Howard and I met Karen and Iris back in Chisa. We fought against some chimeras and that other weird… Person? Demon? But it was talking… Did Karen tell you anything about it? Anyways, we haven’t told anyone about Iris’ powers yet! And speaking of Iris, where is that cutie? Iris~”

The four-year-old girl poked her head out from behind Karen upon hearing her name. Ahhhhh, she’s so adorable! Elizabeth screamed internally as she skipped over to the child and rubbed the ribbon that was tying her ponytail together as if rubbing a bunny’s ears.

Why does everyone do that? Apparently, it happens frequently enough to make Karen question the action.

A weird talking demon? What is she talking about? Is Karen not telling me something again? Sakaki thought over what the white-dressed woman had rambled and continued to prod Karen on her shoulders, “What’s she talking about?”

She hesitated for a moment, collecting her thoughts on the matter and answered, “Well… You know that my village was attacked and burnt to the ground by chimeras, right? I think I found who is responsible for it. I’ve had my suspicions in Temp Pines when he managed to make the gashadokuro talk. And back in Chisa, he was controlling chimeras. And during then, because of my carelessness, he almost got Iris, he knows of her power…”

“Did he say anything else?”

Karen shuddered in fear for both herself and Iris, “He wants my mother’s haori. And if he can’t have it, he’ll take Iris.”

Concerned about her and seeing how she is shivering in fear that her past had come back for not only her, but the girl she had adopted as well, Sakaki embraced her as tightly as he could. He doesn’t know why he is doing it, he just thought that he needed to. He could not fathom what she had gone through when he wasn’t there by her side.

“I wasn’t there when Fuyutsuki passed. And I still wasn’t there when you and Iris were in danger. But know this, I will be beside you from now on.”

Karen’s face began to flush and her stuttering voice let out an incomprehensible “ah’s” and “oh’s” with her hands wailing about instead of returning the hug.

Uh- Saka- Wha- What has gotten to you? She couldn’t mouth those words out from the embarrassment that she is visibly displaying.

“Keke, get a room, you two.” Elizabeth returned with Iris on her shoulders, “Karen~ Can I keep Iris?”

“No.”

“Please~”

“No.”

Disappointed by the quick reply, she let Iris down and the little girl ran back to her mother’s side like how a duckling would return to their hen.

“So, Elizabeth, why are you here? Weren’t you gonna head back to the Karmic Harmony headquarters with Howard?”

“Well, we’re not the only ones here. There are more Karma here as well. This town is the only place that we can resupply before entering the desert. Why haven’t we left… Is another question entirely… You see, a large group of chimeras had attacked yesterday and there are a few casualties. First Chisa and now here, it’s as if they are following us.”