"Deducing from what the rules say, it is best for us if we keep all of our members alive for as long as possible. Even with these circumstances, we must live on, for our own sake and for his sake. I know what we must do. This way, failure cannot happen."
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I actually found out the reason for the difficulty of waking up so early in the morning.
I groaned as I rolled the full width of my bed, causing a loud crash as I connected with the hard, wooden floor of my relatively minuscule room, taking all of the blankets and bedsheets down with me.
It's really obvious. People who wake up tired always sleep later than they're supposed to. Except for me, of course, since I went to sleep at... what time last night? Gosh, I don't even remember.
I staggered to my feet, placing a hand on my mattress to help myself up. I compressed the whole jumble of blankets and bedsheets into a ball, and pushed it all the way to the corner of the bed.
I looked around groggily, my eyes adjusting to the darkness... wait, the darkness?
I jolted awake immediately, parting the curtains and staring outside. It was still the middle of night. A full moon was out, at the highest possible point in the night sky, and everything outside was quiet, save for a few cars that I could hear in the distance somewhere.
Then why... I quickly grabbed my phone, checking the current time.
1:03AM, it says. I groaned again, even louder. I was pretty sure my entire house will probably wake up from the noise I just-
I heard the doorknob turn quickly, and all of a sudden my mother was standing there, in the doorway.
"Hey," she growled groggily, half-asleep, "Keep it down, will you? Stop making so much noise."
"Sure, I'll-" I started, but then the door was already closed.
I would almost never wake up in the middle of the night unless my parents come and physically try to wake me up. I basically fall into hibernation whenever I close my eyes, so it's almost impossible to wake me up. So, I'm not used to this kind of stuff. This is really going to turn out annoying in the morning.
Whatever, I guess. I jumped back onto my bed, covering myself under the blankets, before dozing off to sleep again.
I was wide awake. Fresh and ready to go to school. After managing to get all the tangles of my blankets off of me, I walked to the window, before stopping dead in my tracks.
Yes, I could not believe what I saw again. Lo and behold, it was still dark outside. My phone read 4:03AM. Great, just three hours from when I was last awake. Surely I wouldn't be able to fall back asleep again now, after waking up twice during the same night.
I sighed deeply, tiptoeing out of my room as quietly as I could manage, and down the stairs into the kitchen.
Now I didn't know what the deal was with me suddenly waking up twice in the same night, but I really had no intention of doing so. It was annoying.
As I turned on the lights in the kitchen, I thought I saw something move away from the dining table. Being the realist that I am, I thought it was a rat. I cautiously tracked its previous movement, creeping into the living room and turning on the lights there.
A man, wearing a black cloak and a black top hat, was sitting down on one of the couches.
"Hello... um, don't you think it's a bit to early to visit my dad?" I asked.
"No," he replied almost immediately, "I came here looking for you. May I speak to you for a moment?"
His voice had a neutral tone. No expression, no intonation, no interest in holding a conversation. No interest in idle talk.
I sat down on the couch opposite of his, growing a little frightened. "So, uh. What makes you think I would believe that you are not a criminal who just broke into my house?"
He smiles. "Oh, young lady. But I am a criminal who just broke into your house."
I panicked instantly. "Wait, then-"
"Not to worry, dear. I don't mean any harm. Stay calm, and I will leave as soon as you answer my question."
"What's the question?"
He continued to smile, trying to search for something within the many folds and pockets of his cloak. Meanwhile, I looked around, searching for anything that might be useful for knocking this guy out. My brother's baseball bat, my dad's newspapers, my fists...
Something was laid on the coffee table between us. A single sheet of paper, blank, nothing visible written or drawn on either side.
The man chuckled. "This is the contract. Here is the question - will you join us?"
"But I don't even know what the contract includes. What are you asking me to join? Who are you? Why are you even inside my house?"
"You're terrifically skilled at stealing, aren't you? I've researched your criminal actions in the past. Stole various items of clothing which would probably fill up a whole closet, over 500 trading cards, 4 backpacks, over 150 books, and a car."
"Okay," I shot back, "For your information, the car was left in a convenience store parking lot for over three days!"
"Yes, dear. That's because that store has a new manager, and he keeps his car in the parking lot. Anything else to deny besides the car?"
I stayed silent. The man pushed the piece of paper to my end of the table.
"You're basically a criminal now. You've gotten away with everything that you've ever stolen, and no one knows, not even your closest relatives and friends, that you are a thief."
I grew curious, keeping in mind that this stranger might be dangerous. "What do you want?" I demanded defensively.
"My leader wants to recruit you to be part of our group."
"And what does your group do?"
"Crimes. Now, I-"
"Oh, no. I don't associate with criminals. I assure you, sir, I am perfectly aware of my situation and I think that I should continue living my life the way I was living it before I saw you."
Just after I finished speaking, I heard footsteps slowly coming down the stairs. Yes! Probably one of my parents.
"Goodbye, hat man. My mother's here," I sang quietly, grinning triumphantly.
"Well, I was about to tell you about the generous money offer, but it seems you aren't interested anymore, little girl." He rose to his feet and slowly walked towards the front door, which was already open, not to my knowledge.
My mother called out from the kitchen, "Hey, why you awake so early? And who are you talking to?"
"No one, Mom! I'm just a little sleepy." I turned to the hat man, whispering vigorously just as he was about to step outside the front doorway, "I'll seriously consider it! What should I do?"
The hat man seemed to smile again, with a slight hint of delight. "Well, you'll need to sign your name and mail it to the address written at the back. Oh, and you'll need to include the troupe name, since there are more than one."
I blinked, nearly forgetting everything he just told me.
"What's the troupe name?" I asked, my voice reduced to a whisper.
"It's simple," he replied, as he stepped off the porch and onto the sidewalk, "Scarlet Fang."