The trio strolled briskly on the road to Byar’non. Essairyn twirled a teardrop-shaped, viridescent stone pendant between her fingers. Earlier, she had punctured a tiny hole at the tip of the gem with magic. The string was a tad too thick for her liking, so she unraveled the thread and looped a finer string once through the gem. She didn’t want to lose too much of the Ayvirdizite, so even if a single strand wasn’t durable enough to last long as a necklace, she had already planned to make the jewel into a long earring once she got ahold of some nice enough metal.
Essairyn snacked on a dark pink apple with pale, chartreuse yellow flesh. She had bought the apples and some peaches that were shaped like small mangoes from the marketplace. She sampled them from one of the stands and was instantly sold on their crisp, exotic flavors.
“Why’d you only buy fruit? Why not bread or meat or something else?” asked Darren as he chomped down on a golden mango-peach.
“…Meat…” Essairyn’s eyes lit up at the thought of a juicy steak fillet. “Well, fruit gives water and nutrients, and there wasn’t exactly a water bottle stand around. I’m also trying to conserve the water that I brought from the tree’s spring. Eh, we’ll make it through somehow.”
“Make it through? You have no plan?” Darren incredulously asked with a slightly agape mouthful of red fruit. And all along he had thought that she knew she was doing… A dribble of juice snaked down his chin, and he hastily closed his mouth and wiped it.
“This is an adventure! There’s no set plan; it’s constantly changing.” Essairyn’s eyes sparkled as she tilted her head to the skies and lightly pumped her arm holding the apple.
“But… we need water to survive,” objected Darren.
Essairyn smirked. “Probably.” She hadn’t yet told him that she had two containers of the best tasting water he’ll probably ever drink. At this point, she was beginning to treat them as delicacies rather than necessities. Most likely, the water anywhere else would be plain. Hmm, perhaps I should visit some restaurant and just order water and leave… Would that be too rude? Oof, I guess I should buy at least something. Then I’ll have a chance to see what kinds of dishes exist here! She suppressed a rising giggle after she saw Darren’s stunned expression.
“Probably?!” He couldn’t fathom that Sol’h’meyr would be so different from Earth as to not need water to survive!
“Well, there’s no sun.” Essairyn casually finished her apple.
“Wai-, what—?!” Darren’s eyes shot up to the sky, and he spun around frantically searching for the sun. “There’s no sun!”
“Ahh, I thought I had already come to the realization that this was a different world. But I’m still so surprised.” He furrowed his brows in a ‘huh’ look.
Essairyn gave a soft laugh, and Akari just raised an eyebrow tuft. “Yes, and watch this.” Essairyn suddenly broke away at a breakneck speed while Akari hung on for dear life.
“Hey, where’re you going?!” Darren shouted, and he sprinted after the girl who was quickly vanishing from his view. To his astonishment, he accelerated at an anomalous pace. The refreshing air whisked silkily about his face, and he felt freer and more invigorated than ever before. Every bound took him closer to her, and he yelled, “Essairyn! This is amazing!”
The girl turned her body in a sideways run to look back at Darren. “Right?!” she called back. She spun on her heel and ran to meet him. A few strides before she reached him, Essairyn leapt into the air above him in a somersault.
“Whoa there!” Darren laughed as he reflexively ducked; even though, she was several feet above his standing height.
Essairyn giggled with giddiness when she lightly landed. “It’s incredible, isn’t it? I couldn’t ever do this on Earth.”
“Yeah, my body feels light, but not as if I’m floating. I’ve always been athletic; however, I’m pretty sure I gave any Olympic sprinter a run for the gold.” Darren grinned sunnily. It was the first time that he had smiled for real after setting foot into this world. Essairyn really did seem to calm him down with her relaxed yet enthusiastic outlook.
The two laughed and ran carefree on the road for some time. Darren experimented with his robust body and reveled in his superhuman strength. He could certainly get used to this extraordinary feeling of airiness. Then they walked and talked while Akari merely listened with feigned indifference. Darren shared that he played basketball recreationally, but he used to be in his high school team. He enjoyed video games, alternative music, and action movies. He had a younger brother and sister, and a golden retriever. Their family lived in the suburbs, and he attended college to study business a few hours away in the city. Essairyn enjoyed many of the same recreations and also had a family dog, a little terrier mutt from the rescue. However, she was an only child and commuted to a college close from home. She also majored in business, but she loved the arts and dreamed of a job that could satisfy her restless imagination.
Before long, they reached a little farmhouse with fenced animals in the back. It was now the evening. They decided to stop here and ask the owners if they could stay for the night. The farm owners were the Welforts, a hospitable, somewhat elderly couple. They had been repairing a section of the fence where a pack of wolves had broken it the night before. Thankfully, all the animals had been safe inside the shed. However, it was unheard of for wolves to leave the forest much less run into human habitation. The travelers offered to help fix the fence in return for letting them sleep overnight. The Welforts gratefully agreed as they still had their daily chores to do.
While they were fixing, Darren asked Essairyn, “By the way, did you know there would be a farm here?”
She shrugged and honestly replied, “No, I just guessed we’ll hit something along the way.”
Darren gave her a look of mock exasperation. “Seriously?” He had really read this girl wrong. She really hadn’t planned anything at all!
“Yeah, but camping out is not so bad either,” she grinned with a wink.
He could only shake his head in amusement. “You’re really taking this adventure thing to a whole other level, aren’t you? Remind me why I followed you?”
Essairyn tilted her head up in a thoughtful pose. “Because I’m awesome?”
Darren snorted, and she laughed. “You didn’t have to come with me, but I’m glad you did. It’s nice having another person from Earth.”
“Hah, it’s not like I had any other place to go. And it is comforting having someone in the same boat. Although..” He raised an eyebrow at her. “I’m surprised that you’re so calm about this whole situation. You just told me about your time in the forest. I can’t imagine that I’d be able to survive one night in that forest if I didn’t have your powers. You’re not scared at all?”
“Hmm,” Essairyn hummed. “I suppose it would seem that way. I think I’m just much more excited than upset about the prospects of living in a magical world than a mundane one. Especially with my magic, I feel a surge of confidence like never before. Of course, I’ll miss my family and friends, and I’ll probably get homesick later, but for now… I’m okay.” She nodded to herself and looked over at Darren with a small smile that didn’t reach her eyes.
He looked back with mixed emotions. Her blasé attitude was visibly apparent, but he noticed a trace of sadness in her voice at the end. Even if her magical abilities warranted her some security in a strange world, they had both lost everything and everyone they had ever known and loved. Surely, she was suffering on the inside. But even right now, he wasn’t as miserable as he ought to be. He wondered if she was rubbing off on him. The reason why he was still sane was because of her. After all, it still felt like a dream—the way he fell from the sky without breaking a bone; a beautiful girl suddenly taking his hand and running; a glowing, magical sphere of lavender light; a man dressed like a rich, modern wizard; a talking Pomeranian with short fur, a sassy mouth, and twin tails; and an antiquated, cobblestone town encircled by a labyrinth of a market.
From the moment she took his hand, he had been engaged every second without a full chance to really stop and ponder his forsaken existence in a foreign universe. And perhaps, one day, all the emotion would rush out when this realization hit them.