Wanderers never lose their way. Time healed the wounds of the past. You must accept things the way they are to move on. Those were the three general lines someone would say to another when one was at the lowest point of their life. Inspiring as it was, some things cannot be applied to everything, especially in the world of Dunia.
That was the case of a young, fallen hero.
He was lost. His wounds kept bleeding, and he couldn’t accept what fate offered him. Whispers echoed inside Aren’s head as he traversed the land of Thyderalis, and with each step his sanity faded from existence. There was one thing he kept close in mind and because of it. His sense of duty and honor never disappeared.
The bushes rustled, and the branches fell under the violent strikes of a machete. The effort of making a path through the forest was wasted, as the trees and the grass looked closer and thicker with every swing. According to a local legend, an hour of travel within the fabled Forest of Sorrows would have driven by demonic spirits to consume any lost soul who lingered too long.
Lucky for Aren, his soul was not tainted by any sort, though he was also unlucky to step into magical wood that led many astray. He saw countless ghosts dancing among the bushes and demons crawling about when darkness fell upon the wood. He missed those nights where enchanted creatures did not attempt to consume his soul as he managed to get his shut-eye.
That day, however, there was only the sound of breaking twigs and the sight of glistering leaves. The dense oak no longer obscured the light of the sun and a path was set before him. Magic had it limits, and the boy sighed in relief when he felt its power weakening. He climbed a boulder and laid his back. Finally resting after days of demon-slaying, he rubbed his patch which covered his right eye and stared at the tree tops with his left.
The boy thanked the Gods for his blood, for without it he would have been stuck in there forever, or the demons would’ve already consumed his life essence.
He took out a golden amulet, holding it above him as its chains dangled near his face. Many people would have tried to kill him for this item at first glance, for many whisper of its unimaginable power, though he knew they were mere rumors. It was why he had to pass through the forest, since a war had broken out between the Kingdom of Damore and the infamous Bandit King and many patrols are out and about to check anyone’s belongings, thief, or a passing traveler. Flying above proved too risky since a simple spell like Clairvoyance would have revealed his position. To him, that golden amulet was worth more than anything in the world and he wanted to avoid conflict as much as possible.
It was strange for a legendary hero to fear the possibility of challenge, but so since one public appearance might have sparked a world-wide rampage. Being someone that once held such title, there was a duty he had to fulfill: the magic within these mystical woods had taken many lives and it would continue if no one will take the responsibility to destroy the curse. Should I continue with this journey or tend to the ones in need? He thought.
Aren chuckled. “Well, I already hear the answer. The problem is, where to locate it.”
Before he could establish his next move, he felt the boulder rocking and moving about. Rolling to the side, the hero saw four legs under the massive stone, and two eyes glancing at him. It was an Ancient Boulder Turtle.
The magic brought misery to people but not to the wildlife that dwell within, which sparked an idea in his mind: tame the turtle and let it guide the way. During his travels, he would take note of various topics to satiate his boredom to the point where it became a hobby. Though it was ages ago, he remembered a specific section upon that matter, so Aren reached for a small journal in his leather pouch and flipped the pages as the turtle began to walk. "Let's see what I wrote. Stone turtle analysis? No, I know the physicality of it but what do I… Ah, the ‘Mana Experiments’ section.” He glanced at what he wrote:
“…I found something interesting during my travels through the Eastern Empire. Creatures and animals alike are attuned to this mysterious force of Mana in our world, though some may be more connected than others (see Animals Section, specifically Rabbit Squirrels). Giving mana to a regular Cow made it understand what I wanted it to do, and perhaps this may work to any other animal. Maybe that’s how they communicate? (More studies must be tested)…”
“For science! Hey, turtle!” he yelled and the turtle gave him the stank-look when it turned its head to him. He energized his finger and tapped its forehead. After a couple of seconds, the creature nodded and deviated from its original path, walking deep into the cursed forest.
Time passed. It might have been minutes, or hours, but the hero wasn’t in a hurry to finish. While the turtle wobbled side to side in a rhythm, he slept surprisingly comfortably.
The creature stopped, waking the boy, and he lazily got up to see what the problem was. The beast grumbled; a fallen tree blocked its path. It turned and started walking back. Aren tapped its head, stopping the turtle’s advance. "Oi, it's just a tree man. Can’t you just walk around it? You’re the only one who knows the way and being lazy about it will not solve any problem. By the Lords of Divine…”
The animal was looking at the boy, narrowing its eyes and snorted as it saw the hypocrisy on his face. It tilted its head to the obstacle, suggesting him to take measures instead. He sighed, and he extended his arm to the tree.
"Levitate," he commanded. Mystical blue energy surrounded the fallen tree, and with a fierce flick of his wrist, Aren sent the tree high and beyond. Too high in fact, that it went above the stratosphere and twinkled in the distance.
Aren squinted and chuckled. “Hey, make a wish, it sure is going to make someone wishin’ alright.” The turtle snorted, showing a distaste of his sense of humor.
The reptile continued its original path through the forest, as the plants and bushes kept growing and the darkness crawled closer. However, it wasn’t the terrors of the fading light what scared the hero, it was his grumbling stomach; it snarled, and he craved to end its vicious hunger. There was a delicious pastry a generous girl had given him when he helped her village so without hesitation, he took it out from his pouch and gave it a good look before snacking upon its wondrous contents. It consisted of bread filled with sugar and honey, and any sweet tooth would have devoured it. Before he could take a single bite, something tugged his long red scarf. The turtle stopped walking and stared at the bread Aren was about eat, licking its lips as if suggesting an offering. He replied with a dumbfounded face.
"Life of a hero sure is hard: self-sacrifice is its key philosophy after all. Well, here you go pal." He gave the bread to the stone turtle. It ate the pastry in one gulp, and after a slow nod of approval it resumed walking its desired path. Aren crossed his legs and sighed. Although his last ration went into the stomach of another, it was a courteous sacrifice to be done.
And for a humungous thing, it sure walked fast after the quick snack.
Aren sank his head deep into the long red scarf. He pressed a button on the side of the amulet, which made it transform into a small music box. After cranking the tiny lever, two wooden figurines rose from inside and a somber melody played with their melancholic waltz. He hummed along, smiling while a tear fell from his eye.
Former hero at the very least, he thought.
Tragic memories flashed in streaks of red. He heard their screams, felt their pain, wishing to be dragged along the ride of death as he held the hands of the ones perishing before him. The guilt was unbearable to bear at times, and sometimes insomnia and misery accompanied him through many consecutive nights. Yet, a gentle warmth rose from his heart and eased his suffering. A familiar presence seemed to embrace him, but when he looked to find out where it was coming from the feeling dissipated into the darkness of the forest. The boy laughed, feeling his sanity nearing its breaking point. He shook his head and chuckled joylessly.
"‘It matters not about what happens to the world. Be the hero everyone deserves. Be my hero and be my love.’” He said somberly, pushing the tear away from his cheeks. "She would’ve reminded me until the end of my days… Can I really be a hero again, Mizuki?”
Aren looked at the turtle, who was too focused upon leading the path. “Hey turtle, you think I can be a hero again?” It grumbled, and the boy laughed. “So, this is what it comes down to. Me talking to a turtle. An ANCIENT stone turtle. Hell, like anyone can take me seriously after seeing me like this. They’ll think I’m insane.”
The reptile cackled gleefully, as if it agreed to the statement. He grunted and folded his arms. “Yeah yeah, whatever. I may be stupid but not that stupid I admit. Other people say I am daft… But I mean yeah, I could’ve gone anywhere else but the forest but still, I consider it the wisest of—”
The creature mumbled and clicked its tongue. The boy sensed a powerful energy source nearby, and several others as well. It was no doubt the place the curse of these woods had originated, and it was guarded.
He tightened his scarf and grinned. "At last the hero stands before the evil within these wretched woods. A hero’s work is never done, no matter how long the wait must be.”
- Somewhere in LaLa Land
- Ya Boi
Just writing stories. Might be a bit late on the posting schedule to be honest, but hey, at least it ain't dead, haha.
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