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“Stop that noise this instant!” said Mrs. Sharma. “Are you trying to let every creature in this town know we’re here? You’re far too old to be acting like unruly children anyway.”

“There it is,” said Lachlan.

“It’s not noise,” said Angelina. “It’s Insieme andiam da Mago,’ a cinematic classic.”

“I don’t care what it is. Stop it. Now.”


“Because I’m telling you to.”

“That’s not a reason. Why are you telling me to?”

“I already gave you my reasons. You’re too old to be acting like little kids, and if you keep being so loud, you’ll attract something dangerous.”

“Neither of those are good reasons.”

“Excuse me?”

Angelina put her hands on her hips, which ended up looking awkward because she was still walking.

“I said neither of those are good reasons.”

“This oughta be good.” Sam whispered, probably more loudly than he’d intended.

Mrs. Sharma’s gaze fell on Sam.

“What?” he said.

“You’re shit at whispering, that’s what,” said Lachlan.

“Are none of you capable of shutting up and walking quietly? It’s bad enough I have to deal with my idiot nephew. One ill-behaved child is more than enough.”

“I’m 25,” protested Mahender.

“Then act like it.”

“I wasn’t even doing anything! I was just walking quietly! I’m not even the one you’re mad at right now! Besides, it’s not as if they were even doing anything wrong. They were just having fun. Just because you hate fun doesn’t make it inherently wrong.”

“I don’t hate fun. I just have very little tolerance for immature people and immature behavior. Do you know what I was doing at 25?”

“Yes, because I’ve heard your ‘what I was doing at 25’ speech a thousand times. It never gets more interesting, by the way.”

“I was actually making something of myself. I was working hard, taking care of my family and furthering my career.”

“And how’d that career work out for you?”

Mrs. Sharma clenched and unclenched her fist.

“That’s beside the point.”

“Is it, though?”

“I’m not going to have this argument again,” said Mrs. Sharma. “Not now.”

“This whole conversation is really making me appreciate my family,” whispered Sam.

“And just what do you mean by that?” said Mrs. Sharma.

“Here’s a suggestion, Samurai,” said Lachlan. “You might want to stop whispering things about the scary axe lady.”

“You know nothing about my family,” said Mrs. Sharma. “And do not call me the ‘scary axe lady’. I’m not some horror movie villain.”

Mahender signed something to his brothers that made Falcon hold back a laugh with his hand. Mrs. Sharma shot them both a look.

“I’m making a new rule,” said Mrs. Sharma. “No one except me and Naomi are allowed to talk until we get to the town’s outer wall. That includes signing. And singing.”

“Me?” said Naomi.

Mrs. Sharma’s expression softened a fraction when she looked at Naomi.

“You’re the only one in this group who hasn’t pissed me off today. If there’s danger or anything important I need to know, you can be the one to tell me.”

“Oh, um, of course,” said Naomi. “Sure.”

“So if the danger is noticed by anyone other than Naomi, we’ll all just have to die, then?” said Lachlan. “Makes sense.”

“Lachlan’s a butt, but I agree with him,” said Angelina. “If there’s something dangerous, I’m saying something, and I don’t care if you get mad.”

“I could have done without the first part of that statement,” said Lachlan, “but your support is appreciated nonetheless.”

“When I said no talking, I meant starting now,” said Mrs. Sharma.

“So you’re just not going to address our extremely valid concern then,” said Lachlan. “Wonderful.”

“I’m not going to say it again,” said Mrs. Sharma. “I want total silence until we get to the outer wall. Do I make myself clear?”

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