It had been exactly eight days since she took the job as a clerk's helper in the administrative records in the town next to the main south empire, Mythweald. It wasn't an easy task to find a job in the south, especially when for a woman.
Women were never given the privilege to work in the south unlike the vampire lands. Even though the higher and a few middle class women were educated, they were hardly considered for work that involved the administration. Most of the middle class women worked in bakeries, tailoring clothes or as a nanny of the higher class family while the lower class were housekeepers or workers.
Ironically even though her family wasn't rich, she and her cousin were provided with a decent education because Elliot had spoken to a tutor when he had visited the south empire when she was young. Being fond of the little girl he had made sure to supply the necessary sources and keep her out of trouble.
Maybe it was what had contributed to her turning out to be the person she was now.
She worked from morning till evening for three days a week. The money the siblings earned wasn't a lot, but was enough for the time being. Malphus being true to his word had turned back to his ghost form, staying near Katie as she completed her work for the day.
Ralph's friend had provided them with a temporary shelter which was behind the person's house.
As Malphus and Katie headed back to the house, Malphus spoke,
"You seem to be in good mood finally," they walked in the busy street as people passed them. When she gave him a questioning look he elaborated, "I was tired seeing you mope like a wet mop."
"I did not mope," she grumbled making him roll his eyes at her. After coming to the south, her mind often wandered back to Valeria and she would sit staring at the wall.
"And the raven is white," he said with a dead tone and continued to speak, "Working here seems to be lifting up your mood."
"It is all thanks to you of course. If it weren't for you I would be utterly lost in the ocean," she thanked him with a beaming smile, "How do you know so much about it? Did you have experience in it?" she asked him curious.
A pair of women who passed by them stared at Katie strangely, whispering something within themselves as they sized her up.
"Something like that. Long ago I used to work...under the south Lord," Malphus answered looking around.
"Yes, Lord Norman. Back when I was still alive, I handled the town reports and the economy status for a few years," he answered.
She would have never guessed if he hadn't said it to her. The world is small, she thought to herself.
Before she could speak another word, Malphus spoke to her, "You are aware that I'm walking with you as a ghost now, aren't you, little lady? People of this town will think you've gone mad, seeing you talk to yourself."
"Hmm," she responded with a smile.
"Much better," he murmured, "It was a long time ago. Years have passed since then, but Mythweald hasn't changed much. Poverty still lies beneath the rich socialite. Hunger and greed still thrives."
"But isn't the situation same in all the empires?" she asked him once they got into a narrow alley where there was no one in sight, walking between the grey walls.
The part of the village Katie had grown up in was in a decent shape compared to the other towns of Mythweald. She had witnessed the state the young children were in when she had been in Valeria. It was a sad sight.
"Every empire has its own flaw. Only the ones who live there and have experienced it will know the bitter truth of what goes on behind the scenes. But then if you see the south, it is far better than the east empire," he stated as Katie opened the door to the house.
"Lord Nicholas's empire?" she asked him with a surprised look on her face, "With his gentle appearance I thought it would be void of any misdoing," the man snickered.
"Haven't I told you before that looks are deceiving. Don't go by what you see and what you hear. East empire is the worst of all the others. You will find the most unlawful, illegal things right down there, name any and you will find it," he plopped on the chair.
Katie pondered over the the mans' words as she removed her coat she was wearing and hung it in the corner of the room. As she began preparing for dinner, she found Malphus staring at the ground with a grim expression.
"Are you alright?"
"Hmm? Why do you ask," he asked tilting his head in question to which she shrugged her shoulders.
"You don't seem to be fond of the place you grew up in," she stated getting back to washing the vegetables and realized it was very rare of him to talk anything about himself. She found him to be a secretive person. Seeing him press his lips at what she said, she changed the subject, "Do ghosts have special abilities?"
"When a man or a woman dies they don't achieve special powers. They are dead meat. Dead is dead."
"But you came back," she pointed it out.
"That is because of a certain someone who decided to disturb my slumber," he replied annoyed but his tone light.
So did that mean she had something to do with it? Was she capable of bringing back her parents and relatives back to life? she thought to herself hopefully before her spirit fell. She had been visiting their graves for a while now, if it had to happen it would have, but it didn't. Facing back to the vegetables she had been cutting, she continued to dice them.
During dinner, Ralph and Malphus engaged each other with the art of the woods while Katie quietly completed her food and went to bed. As she cleaned the utensils, she heard Ralph speak something about the officials making rounds in the town as young children were going missing. With the sound of it, it seemed that a witch resided somewhere near the town. The children were in search as families were questioning the safety of their family. The trial hadn't brought any fruitful outcomes and therefore the officials were asking the townsfolk to be patient about it, assuring them that their children would return back safe.
"Did you send the report to Lord Alexander about it?" Ralph asked playing with the pliers and the nail that was stuck into the wood.
"I sent it last night though I haven't received any reply to it yet. Lord Alexander did say he would be traveling to the north empire to talk to the Lord there about something," Malphus replied nonchalantly.
Humans used trained birds to communicate with each other and the nightly creatures used bats. Katie had been thinking of writing a letter to Lord Alexander, but it had only been a week since they last saw each other. More over, with what Malphus said, it looked like he was busy.
Night came and went dreadfully slow as she counted the days.
One night, Katie had gone to bed late after completing reading a book, she blew out the light in the lantern and decided to go to sleep when she found a shadow reflecting on the wall from the open window.
At first, she thought it was the branches of the nearby tree and paid no mind to it. As she was about to settle in her bed, the shadow of the branch began moving again. This time, the shadow which she thought was a branch moved to look like an arm with fingers that were long.
She felt herself freeze as the shadow of the tree was replaced by the silhouette of a person in the dark under the moonlight. The size of the shadow increased as it inched closer, one second at a time. At the same time, she heard the dog howl, the cry so melancholic that it made her feel queasy. She felt her heart thud.
Thanks to the ghost she already knew and who was living with them, she wasn't scared of the dead. It was the living that worried her.
In silence where she could only hear the rustle of the nearby trees and the chirps of the crickets. She sat there holding her breath. The shadow passing by such that it disappeared behind the window and walls. She had been too scared to turn previously and now when she did, there was no one there.
With a frown on her face she got up from the bed unsure, picking up the unlit candle, she had blown few moments ago. Lighting the candle, she walked towards the window and closed it shut carefully. She then walked out of the room to see a single candle burning brightly before it went out. The smell of the extinguished candle filled up the entire room. Seeing her cousin fast asleep, she turned around to almost scream when she saw someone standing right in front of her.
Luckily Malphus had placed his hand on her mouth, "Shh," he whispered, his finger on his lips indicating her to keep quiet while looking at the main door that was closed.