Sera paused and turned to see Tusk behind her. "Yes," she replied cautiously.
"Let me come with you." Already he was moving towards the door.
"I can handle myself," she said, defensively and without thinking.
Tusk glanced at her, surprise evident on his human face. "I don't remember saying you can't."
He crossed his arms. "Yamato mentioned that there's a bookshop nearby. I was planning to go to it even before seeing you. But if walking with me will prove too much trouble for you, then perhaps I should go first."
Sera pursed her lips. Perhaps it had been too presumptuous of her to misinterpret his intentions even before he voiced them out. It couldn't be helped, she thought, when the one Zyuman who always volunteered to walk with her ended up always belittling her, in some way.
She noticed that he hadn't yet left - as though he was waiting for her to let him leave. Stifling her embarrassment and holding her head high, she said, "Of course not. Let's just go together, then."
They have yet to leave the forest when he said, "Leo's a fool if he thinks you're weak, Sera. Don't mind him."
"You don't have to tell me that," she replied, pretending to study the pathway they were on. "But I'm surprised you can so readily call him a fool. Isn't he--"
"--my friend?" Tusk gave her a ghost of a smile. "Of course he is. That's why I know how he acts around you, and I call it as I see it. But I also recognize your strength."
He crossed his arms in front of his chest. "It's hard not to."
Sera glanced at him, but didn't say anything.
They parted ways soon after.