Aimee could feel her heart slowing down to a stop. So what Daniel had said was actually true and not some strange and crazy conspiracy theory or negative outlook for the Chasers in general, Aimee thought bitterly. “But why come to the Northern Territories now?” she protested.
“Because they have exhausted and unbalanced the natural appearance of the Lights in the south, in Europe, and in Asia,” Joseph finished, closing his eyes in disappointment. “The corporations are only interested in getting richer and richer. They do not have a sense of restoration as the locals do. I will not be surprised to know if I were told that they harvest all year round, climbing to ridiculously high altitudes just to gather some Dust.”
“Your daddy got it right,” Barden said, “they ain’t interested in the Northern Territories because our trade system isn’t good enough for them. But now that they don’t have anywhere else to turn to, they’ll come here like packs of wolves ready to devour striving communities like ours.”
“That is not fair,” Daniel was grinding his teeth, “we shouldn’t allow that to happen, these skies are ours.”
“I agree with you,” Barden said, “but there nothing we can do just yet.”
“Of course there is nothing we can do now,” Joseph said, “they aren’t here yet. Why worry about a problem that isn’t here? Let’s harvest and gather as always and just to play it safe, we’ll store some Dust and sell the rest.”
Barden nodded, “I have to get going, and Molly wants me to get her something from the Trade. I will be seeing you kids tonight.” He waved a big, bear hand and stalked away, parting human bodies with his massive complexion.
Daniel was still struggling internally. Joseph tried to soothe him, “son, everything will be alright.” Daniel only nodded, but he knew it wasn’t going to be okay. It pained Aimee to see her brother so tense and worried. Joseph and Daniel made selling deals with the merchants and traders from Europe, something that bored Aimee. She trailed some yards away from where they were standing, just far enough for her to explore new stalls and near enough for her to keep an eye on them and stay within their hearing range. She spotted several of their friends and local chasers striking deals with merchants and she wondered sadly what will become of all of them if the corporations were to come.
Lost in debate and reverie, she was distracted from her surroundings. “Oh no, I’ve been away for too long!” she gasped, realizing that time ticked faster when she was deep in thought. Her shadow had become shorter before her, signaling noontime. She turned around and slammed, nose-first, onto somebody. Her collision was followed by a clatter of metal clashing on the ground. “I’m so sorry!” she exclaimed, rubbing her face. She looked up into a pair of stunning deep blue eyes. Her heart drop to her stomach and her breathe was short and irregular. She drew in a ragged breath and tried to smile.
“It’s alright,” the stranger said in a even, velvet voice as he bend down to pick up the mess of polished swords lying on the ground. Embarrassed, Aimee dropped on her knees and started gathering the swords close to her.
“I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to cause you any trouble,” she blurted, loading her arms with the naked swords with very fine and sharp blades.
He laughed and she felt her brain melt with the sweet melody. “It’s alright, I deserved it anyway. I was distracted as well.” He stood up and Aimee did so as well, carefully putting the swords to the basket he was carrying.
“What are you doing with the swords and scimitars?” Aimee asked, “I thought this was a place to trade Dust, not weaponry.”
“True, but a Dust merchant ordered some swords for him and his workers,” he said, “I am here to deliver them.”
“Ahh,” she said, understanding drawn on her face. She was tempted to ask him his name or wished he asked her hers.
Christian? What a beautiful name. She thought, but who had said it? Intrigued, she stood on her toes and glanced past his shoulder, it was Daniel coming to them with a sneering smirk.
“Hey Christian, what a surprise to see you here,” Daniel said, “I see you’ve met my clumsy little sister during the worst of her conditions.” He leered at Aimee and added when he saw her mouth hanging open in surprise, “oh yes, I saw it all Aimee. We were just about to walk over at you when your little accident happened.”
“It wasn’t entirely her fault,” Christian said. “And I didn’t know you had a sister.”
“Oh, believe me, we do a great job concealing each other to our acquaintances,” Aimee said.
“I will swing around old Rathor’s shop to visit you someday,” Daniel said ignoring her, and then he said to Aimee, “we have no business here anymore; time to go home. See you around Chris.” He beckoned Aimee to follow him.
She smiled timidly at Christian and followed her brother, but before she reached her family, Christian said just loud enough for her to hear, “nice to meet you Aimee.” Her head jerked back and saw Christian smiling humbly at her. She returned his smile and, with a fluttering heart, joined her family.
“Did you enjoy the Trade?” Joseph asked.
“Very much father,” Aimee responded, gratified at the events that had happened today and ready to go home.