It was sundown already. Like fireflies in a bleak forest, oil lamps lit outside the Grimm Forest illuminated the vicinity. There was a big commotion just outside the murky-looking forest. The people had set up multiple tents, many of them arranged and placed next to each other.

“Alia, what do you think we should do?”

A frail boy asked his companion.
There was no response. The redhead named Alia was peering into the darkness of the forest. The occasional howls and growls from the dark woods were evidence enough to prove its haunting at night.

“Um… Alia.”

The boy softly tapped on the shoulder of the girl. She seemed to be in some deep contemplation. She broke away from her spur and turned to face him. With a grave look on her face, she asked.

“Do you think he will come, Sam? Do you think he will honor our pact?”

Alia asked while clenching her fists. The words came out of her gnashed teeth.

“You… you mean Erak?”


She replied, facing the woods again. Returning to her deep deliberations while gazing at the Grimm Forest.

Sam’s eyes clouded too. As if recollecting a dark time in his life.

“He is our friend, after all.”

He spoke.

“He ‘was’ our friend. Don’t you remember what he did to us?”

The girl replied with a chilling voice and faint killing intent leaking out of
her body.

“He must have had some reasons.”

“What reason could justify abandoning your friend out of the blue? And if he had something that important, he could have just told us. Right? We had known each other for a while at that time.”

Alia asked, her face scrunched as if remembering something unpleasant.

“Maybe,” Sam mumbled.


At the same time, ten kilometers deep in the forest.

A man in the dark hoodie climbed on the top of an eighty feet banyan tree. Many root extensions fell towards the ground from above the dense branches that acted like a maze providing shelter and concealing the man's presence. He was leaning on the large trunk.

"Tomorrow, I’ll have to hunt at least two black tigers a day to carry out the plan."

He said under his breath, closing his eyes to rest after the tumultuous journey. A soft breeze wafted through the night air. It cooled down his body and slightly fluttered the clothes.

The man smiled softly.

“Keep watching me, Bastard Lewin.”


The Guardians of Serenity Head Castle

“Sir, I noticed an exceptional candidate in this year's Knight Examination.”

“Speak, Lewin.”

A man sat on a lush red throne embellishing a golden armor said curtly. He was behind a sandalwood desk that looked mysterious with the numerous delicate engravings and etchings all over it.

Lewin continued.

“The candidate named ‘Emanuel’ is currently located at the Core of the Grimm Forest. I also checked on his health and other stats. It appears he has yet to face any threat. I suppose that he took a safe route to the Core near the ‘Giant Tree.’ Since no animal can cross over to its interior because of the dense 'falling roots.' He has probably placed his camp there. Even if he is weak, his scouting skills must be omnipotent.”

The man on the throne glanced through the documents with a hint of curiosity.

“It could just be that he was experienced with the routes. Many herb gatherers know that route. He might just have been lucky enough to get his hands on the routes.”

The man explained.

Lewin nodded, admitting his own mistake.

“That might be so, sir. I’ll take my leave then.”

After Lewin left, the man stood up and walked to the glass window. The scene that outlooked the window was breathtaking. The entire Venet Estate was only visible from this position apart from the main castle.

“Emanuel, huh…”

The man mumbled caressing, his white beard.


The morning came. The sun peeped through the dense canopy around the Giant Tree. Evak was already awake and ready for the hunt.

He stealthily advanced to the edge of the Giant Tree and checked if there were any other animals in the near vicinity.

After scouring through the nearby for fifteen minutes, he set out. The insects and worms wriggled out of their shelter. The mood of the atmosphere seemed to have changed again. A pleasant atmosphere had been revived. Birds hummed and chirped.

Erak climbed up a tree and adroitly jumped across from tree to tree.

“Although, this fine for now. I’ll have to watch out for the animals on the trees. The nomad had mentioned something about leopards too. But the Giant Tree he mentioned sure was the best place to stay in. As I thought, bribing him was the right choice. He might have given the wrong information otherwise.”

He continued trotting along with the trees.
After some time, he spotted something.

A dear with grand antlers and a thick dark brown hide stood a Sambar Deer, drinking water from a small pond.

"It is a good opportunity to secure some food." He cautiously made his way to the oblivious deer.

But as he walked forward, something caught his left peripheral vision.

A pack of hyenas concealed behind thick bushes was crouching, waiting for the right moment to ensnare it. The deer, still engrossed in satiating its thirst, was unaware of the group of predators.

Erak instantly hid behind a tree, waiting patiently and watching how things folded out.

It was at the moment when the deer was taking the last few gulps, it jerked its head up, looking behind. A low howl reverberated in the vicinity, followed by multiple groans and grunts.

Four hyenas lurched at the now-vigilant deer.

The deer received its first assaulter. A hyena clung to the side of the deer and clawed at its soft fur. The deer also responded by jumping and jerking its body to get rid of the hyena’s hold. Soon, the hyena lost its grip and fell back. But its job was already done, the other hyenas had already clawed out and ripped at the deer’s skin with their ferocious teeth and paws.

Blood spurted out from the multiple open wounds of the deer.

It jerked violently holding, onto its last breath. But soon enough, it lost its life to the jaws of the pack to hyenas. The four hyenas hungrily gnawed at the deer. Munching and biting at it like savages.

A dark figure slowly crouched and stealthily approached the pack of hyenas who had distributed the share of deer meat. Suddenly, a low groan behind them brought their attention to the black figure behind them.

Holding out a dagger, Erak had already slit the throat of the hyena lying a bit farther from its group. The already-dead hyena’s whimper had alerted the others about the unknown attacker.

They did not lunge at the unknown assailant. Instead, they kept a distance and growled at him.

Hyenas were intelligent creatures. They would never attack without judging an enemy or instinctively. They howled and growled at Erak.

The sight of thick red blood dripping down the unsheathed long dagger (anelace) made them a bit fearful.

The hyenas arranged themselves in an aggressive triangle formation. The fiercest one, standing in the front. They dropped the deer meat in their maws and got ready for the head-on fight. The aggressive hyena in the front lunged at Erak aiming for his neck.

Erak evaded the attack by side-stepping reflexively. He stepped back. He took the fighting stance. The right leg in the front was a bit bent. His left forearm faced the hyena on guard, and the right hand held the anelace.

The three hyenas circled behind him, entrapping him in a circle. Erak was on his toes. The hyenas circled around him while he maintained his stance.

With the low growl from the leader, all the three jumped at him together. Their maws were their strongest point. So, to keep away from it, Erak first kicked the aggressive one away. Then proceeded to slash at the throat of another. Leaving out the third hyena attacking his hips.

The first hyena was put down as a strong kick hit the top of its head. The second one was also struck by the anelace. The dagger cut at its side, making it whimper and back away. Erak could not handle the third one simultaneously. He had left it alone because it was attacking a less vulnerable spot. The third hyena bit hard at his hips. Erak’s face scrunched as he let out a gasp, finding the pain unbearable.

He then did a pivot movement and turned to force the dagger through the hyena’s right eye. The dagger found its way deep into the hyena's skull and embedded itself into it.

Blood and brain matter gushed out from the open wound. Some blood got into Erak's eyes too. He immediately wiped it off using his left hand and opened his eyes to find a dead hyena clinging to his hip. Its teeth still dug in. The other two growled and barked as they saw the miserable state of their companion.

But soon, they retreated. The wounded hyena tried to limp its way out, but Erak reached it with a short lunge. The hyena groaned with a low howl and died as a dagger was thrust into its stomach.

Immediately after, Erak ripped out his sleeves and wrapped the cloth tightly across the bloody wound to prevent bleeding.
He was still in the jungle and had to think on his feet.

He secured the deer meat and some water from the pond.

“The thick scent of blood will attract the predators. I need to get out of here fast.”

Shortly after, he had already left the area, to be found nowhere in the vicinity.



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