Volume 1 Chapter 2
One of the ‘lions’ suddenly lunged at Mauss. Compared to the beasts, we were obviously at a physical disadvantage, not to mention our stamina was nearly spent.
When I heard Mauss, he was already pinned onto the ground by a ‘lion’. I wanted to stay behind and save him, but couldn’t without a weapon. Staying behind was almost like presenting myself to the beasts. Despite the pain in my heart, my instincts brought me into a sprint.
I ran and ran, with two of the beasts chasing behind. I looked ahead, it was the end of the path.
That… is that a cliff…Is it all over…
There was no choice but to jump. If I was lucky, the two ‘lions’ might follow and jump to their deaths. There’s a tree near the cliff, so I can probably grab onto it as I jump. Just as I was about to take the leap of faith, a voice came out of the blue.
“Stop! That’s a cliff! Can’t you see it?!”
I subconsciously stopped my legs. I looked at the origin of the voice to find a teenage girl standing on a tree donned in medieval-style ranger clothing. The hood of her clothes laid on her shoulder, and in her hands was a delicate longbow. She pulled the bowstring and released the arrows.
Two arrows flew past my ears and struck the beasts dead centre. The lions had their forehead pierced, blood flowing from the wound. The girl jumped down from the tree and looked at me curiously.
“You… where do you come from?”
She doesn’t seem like an enemy…?
“Those are some strange clothes you’re wearing. I’ve never seen that style before.”
“I… I come from a place far, far away.”
The girl’s eyes immediately brightened up.
“Is it South Velda? I really like that place!”
“It’s the floating nation, South Velda! The entire country floats in the sky, and I heard that people there, the Sky Islanders, have quite different tastes compared to ours. Ah, I’m Karile, Karile・Brandt by the way.”
What the hell is she rambling about?
The Karile Brandt in front of me seemed to have mistaken me as a resident of the floating nation. Truth be told, I kind of wanted to see what kind of amazing physics law could make Newton cry in his grave.
“Right, where’s Mauss?”
It was only then I remembered Mauss whom I had left behind.
“Is Mauss your friend?”
“Ah, yes, have you seen him?”
“I’m…sorry. Your friend… he’s dead.”
“Yes, I’m really sorry. The beasts had already bit his neck when I arrived.”
Mauss’ death dealt a heavy blow to my heart. Although I only came to know him a few days ago in the expedition team, his death meant that I’ll have to continue on this journey all alone. Loneliness is a terrible thing that can completely destroy a person from within.
“Let him go, and the earth shall receive him.”
Karile noticed my disappointment and lifted her arms in an attempt to do something, but she ultimately decided not to.
“Can you tell me your name?”
It seemed that she wanted to distract me from indulging in the sadness and pain from Mauss’ death and tried to strike a conversation.
“Alright, Witsen,”Karile patted my shoulders and continued, “You have to pull yourself together. I know that you Sky Islanders are quite the moody people, but now is not the time for that. How about telling me about what’s on the Sky Island?”
“Actually… I’m not a Sky Islander. I come from another continent.”
When I said this, Karile showed a shocked expression, but it quickly turned back into a cheerful one.
“Hahaha, so that’s why. You just have a different smell on your body. But well… in our world, there’s only one continent.”
“We crossed the sea by boat from the opposite shore though.”
“Say, are you so shocked by the beasts that you went mad? There’s no such thing as ‘another continent’.”
Karile then searched through her pouch. “Wait, there’s something I have to give you. Ah, here it is!”
She took out a piece of black stone and handed it over to me. I looked over the stone and realised it was a piece of obsidian.
“This is… obsidian?”
“Why are you giving me this?”
“Eh? You don’t know? Ah, right. I keep forgetting you’re a foreigner, sorry. Here, people’s soul will condense into a piece of obsidian after death. I found this piece of obsidian beside your friend’s body.”
“Tha… Thank you.”
“Please don’t mind me asking, but where are you headed now?”
“When we first came, we thought this was a primitive continent, but surprisingly enough there are humans here. I’d like to see your civilisation.”
“Eh?” Question marks popped out above Karile’s confused face.
Did I say something incomprehensible?
“Cough cough,” I cleared my throat and repeated in simpler terms, “That is, please take me to your village.”
“Oh, oh! Okay, this way.”
Karile jumped around the place as she led the way, and I followed behind. If I had to describe the girl, she was almost like a naive idiot. However, my intuition told me that things were not as it seemed, or how to put it, she was not as simple as she looked. I recalled the arrows that whizzed past my ears and slew the beasts with ease. Was it common for people on this continent to have such strength? What was her real identity? I couldn’t come to an answer no matter how hard I thought about it. However, I do realise that I should not carelessly attempt to learn the truth. Reality was not always kind after all.
With Karile leading the way, we took a small path leading to the bottom of the cliff. Down there was another forest, but it was not as dense as above. The trees were also aligned neatly, seemingly done so manually by someone.
“This forest, did someone plant it?” This simple question should not pose any problems.
“This forest? Ah, no, it’s all the work of mother nature. Also, there’s no one free enough to plant an entire forest.”
“So the forest grew like this on its own.”
The sun was gradually descending past the horizon, and it was no longer as hot as before. As we walked further into the forest, the trees were no longer aligned neatly and were all around the place just like a normal forest. The path was also getting rougher the further we walked.
I looked up to the indigo sky; night was coming soon.