“Uhhh~” I stretched my arms up as I rose up from the floor where I have been sleeping.
“You are up?” I asked Maria standing near the kitchen table as she moved in her arms swiftly.
‘Guess, she is making breakfast.’
I walked towards the window and opened it to let a mild breeze come in. It was chilly but refreshing. I watched the sun shining and trees moving. It was peaceful and also had a feeling of…loneliness.
“Morning!” said Mikhail from behind. He sounded excited so turned around and watched him.
He was standing there with just his trousers on and a bare chest. He had a great physique which I think he didn’t mind showing off.
“Can you wear something?” said Maria as she looked away.
“Oh come on! When you have a body you can flaunt, then why not?” he replied and looked at me for support but I ignored him and went over to the sink to wash my face.
“Oh! Making breakfast, are you?” he said to Maria as he sat down on one of the chairs of the dining table.
Mikhail had offered us to stay at his place for a night. I don’t know if he just sympathized with us or had ulterior motives, but Maria trusted him. So, we followed him to his place. It was a small shack, nothing special about it. It had two rooms with a small kitchen and a dining table for five people with and a tiny living space. Maria and I had spent our night on the floor in the living space. It wasn’t a pleasant and comfortable, but we at least had sleep. So, we were grateful for that and as a gesture for our thankfulness, Maria went on to cook something for breakfast.
I walked outside towards the dining table and saw Mikhail sitting on one end and Maria on the other.Both had a plate of egg rice in front of them, but the atmosphere was awkward as Maria was trying her hardest to not look at Mikhail.
She pointed towards my table which was kept on the granite top. I took it and sat beside Mikhail and started eating. There was silence filled in the atmosphere but it was broken as the door of the jolted and someone walked in.
It was Silvester, who walked in. He looked at us and we looked at him for about two seconds.
“What are you doing here?”
All three of us asked the same question.
“What am I doing here? This is my place, I lent it to him.” said Silvester with a befuddled face and uncertain tone.
“You said this was your place?” I asked the question to Mikhail who had boldly claimed that this place belonged to him.
“Well, it kinda is.” he responded with a goofy voice.
Maria put her palm across her face, but the surprises didn’t stop there.
One of the door of the two rooms opened and a man walked outside. He had a sleepy expression which was to be expected provided he was sleeping. But it seemed that he was aware of us being in the house and neither were we.
So we both jumped behind a little and stared at each other blankly and then he started speaking, “Were we always this many?” he asked in a bewildered reaction
I stepped in and also Silvester helped me to settle the situation. We all ended on the table with a plate in front of everyone. I explained everything that happened yesterday to Silvester.
“We walked away to not be a burden over you, and still ended up being it.” Maria said in an apologetic way.
“You were never a burden,” Silvester said to console her, “I am not a money minded freak like him.” he said as he looked at Mikhail who ignored him and continued eating his meal.
“You can pay the rent if you were to feel at ease,” Silvester interrupted my speech.
‘What happened to I am not a money minded freak?’
“By the way, who’s he?” he asked as he looked at the man sitting beside Silvester who wore the same confused reaction just like others.
“Avon Izakil,” the man introduced himself, “I am suppose to share this place with you.”
“Oh!” Mikhail exclaimed and continued, “I am Mikhail and this is--”
He looked at us.
“Maria Duan,” said Maria with a smile, “And this is Mortis.”
We exchanged glances and continued eating our food, but were again discontinued by Brandon who walked inside the house with his combat gear on.
It seemed like he was off to a job, but then why was he here?
“Brandon?” I inquired, “What are you doing here? And how did you find us?”
“Well, word travels fast. Especially about women.” he replied.
It was evident that Maria will become popular, but getting popular overnight was not expected.
“Good thing, you didn’t leave. I’ve got a job and I don’t anyone as a support….So, care to join me?” Brandon asked me.
He had helped us to get through the gate and if this was a repayment for that, the I should do it. And so I nodded and got up the chair and walked towards the door. On the way picked up my spear and followed Brandon as we walked towards the fields and then into a dense forest.
We walked down the path along with Brandon. We were surrounded with noises of crickets and every once in a while a wind would a make a trickling noise as it blew over the leaves of the tall trees. There were shorter trees, but the forest, mostly consisted of long tress which were looked somewhat similar to a cone. This was not a technically a forest, but dense enough to name it one. It was on behind alongside the farmlands, majorly used by the people of the village to collect firewood or also used for hunting.
“Well, what’s the job?” I asked Brandon as we walked silently. It was kinda awkward. So, I thought I could break the ice…
“Do you remember me?” He asked a question ignoring mine. It was rude, but I thought of keeping quiet and answering him.
But the thing was I didn’t remember him, but he remembered me and even was aware of my relationship with Ishi. I thought about for a while and then answered,
“You don’t. Do you?” He asked me as he caught me red-handed. I had no choice but to accept it.
“I am sorry.”
“Its okay. You were unconscious when we met.” He replied with a straight face.
‘Then how would I have known you?’
But if he had seen me unconscious, then he was there when I first met her.
So, I asked him.. “You were there?”
“Yes,” He took a long pause and then continued, “I was….I had seen you coming out of the town although Ishiki was the one to spot you first.”
I shook my head as I couldn’t remember anything. I couldn’t date myself there and speculate things. I don’t know if it was the shock or a witch’s spell, but my mind and body refused to evaluate my past.
I had an earnest desire to know my past, but just couldn’t.
‘Why was she there?’
Anything or rather everything.
Brandon looked at me and interpreted that I wanted to know it and so he continued..
“My father was an Adventurer. Ishiki’s father was a merchant and always travelled through five kingdoms and also travelled through the Forests covered with monsters. So, he always counted on my father who safeguarded him all the time. It was one time when he decided to bring Ishiki with him was also when I obstinately forced my Dad to take me with him and that was when we found you.”
It was an obvious thing to consider for me because I already had pieced that much together. I already knew that Ishiki’s father was merchant and that’s how she found me. So, it was nothing new to me. But..
“Adventurer, huh?” I said curiously.
“More or less..” He said and then continued, “To be precise he was a Pioneer or an explorer.” He continued, “He had a longing for his only dream to find the Lake of Life,”
I reacted with a surprised face as it was a valid reaction.
Among the people living here, there used to be a story of a lake. A lake which was supposed to be the source of human beginnings. Mostly, their birth.
It was also said that finding the lake will earn you a reward, which was to bring back someone from dead or even extend your lifespan. But it was then discarded as a myth as it seemed impossible to find the lake.
“But it’s a myth, isn’t it?”
“So what? Being a myth doesn’t mean that it’s not true.” He replied with a bold face. It was logical response, but it still didn’t make sense to waste your life over some myth.
“So, did he find it?”
He let out a slight chuckle as I asked the question. It gave me the answer I sought for.
“I would have loved to see him find it, but….he didn’t” He said with downcast face, “But I will do it for him. Even though it may seem hopeless trying for it. But it’s just that I want to complete his expedition for him.”
“And how will you do that?”
“The Forest of Emptiness,” He answered.
“The Forest? Are you mad? Its…Its crawling with monsters and…..”
I was about to say that no one goes in there, but that was precisely the reason why he insisted on going in. It was a Forest which stood right between the find kingdom’s. It was also called the ‘The Doom Center of Pentacross’ for the very reason that it was always covered by heaps of monsters and was also the most unsafe place on the entire land.
The Pentacross was said to be covered by forest by every side and the Forest of Emptiness was the epicenter for them. Rumored to be the birth place of monsters, nobody dared going in there.
As I was lost thinking about it, we heard a sound. It came from the nearby bush. I stopped in my tracks and observed and incisively predict when it was about jump on us.
I jumped in front and evaded the attack.
We were attacked by a Rabid-Dog, but was no ordinary dog. It was massive, almost of size of a human. I had never seen one this big and was genuinely shocked.
I looked over to Brandon and it appeared that he too wasn’t expecting this.
“What’s this?” I asked as jumped and ran towards him.
“The job.” He answered hesitantly.
‘Seriously, like there aren’t enough things ready to kill me.”
“What?” I asked him with a confused reaction.
“Well, they said it was a Rabid-Dog, but never said that it would be this big?”
‘Damn it, but we have deal with this now.’
I tried synchronizing my moments with Brandon and we both tried attacking it at the same time, but it didn’t work. It’s skin was too thick for normal attacks to work.
So, I pulled my spear from my back and so did Brandon pulled his sword.
We both jumped on the opposite sides, with the Dog in between us. We were ready with our attack stance, but now the only remained where it would move first? Who would it attack first?
Although it was preferable that it attacked Brandon first, but I didn’t know for sure. I took a glance at him and he immediately understood what I wanted to do. He stomped his foot on the ground, drawing it’s attention. It ran towards him with all its might. Brandon raised his sword and tried defending himself by sticking it in between the Dog’s mouth. The saliva dripping from the Dog’s mouth feel over Brandon’s head and it also seemed he couldn’t last long. So, I did what Spearmen specialize in, that is to take the enemy down with one strike.
I lunged into air and aimed my spear at the Dog’s back, with accurate intent of killing it, I aimed my spear to its heart. And after a certain measurement, I released it with a great force.
“En garde,” I said as I threw it towards it.
The spear went flying and piercing it’s heart. It was dead in a moment. Brandon moved it aside and started cleaning himself.
“Ah! Disgusting!” he roared as he pulled a water bottle from his side and started pouring it on himself.
“Yeah, be a mile away from me.” I said in a jokey manner.
“Thank you, real generous of you.” He complained as he poured water which streamed down his nose and neck, wetting his clothes and the ground beneath him.
I gently took the spear out of Dog’s back, and saw a lot of blood on it. I tried splashing it away by moving it sideways, but it didn’t bore any fruit.
“Take it,” said Brandon as he tossed the bottle towards me, indicating I should use the water.
I caught it and tried gushing it down, but it seemed that I wouldn’t have the time to do it as we heard another sound coming out of the trees…..