Volume 2 Chapter 5
The gleaming sun slowly rose from beyond the horizon. Bright, warm rays of sunlight embraced the land. Roosters crowed, notifying the people that morning was upon them. Their voices were not as sharp as alarm clocks, but loud enough to rouse the people from their sleep.
The trio packed their belongings and prepared to leave for Los Lanca. Before they left the town, Karile and Plato went to a weapon store. The former could no longer use magic, thus she bought a quiver of arrows. Plato picked one of the shorter longswords and carried it on his waist. Witsen did not join them as the obsidian sword was already a decent weapon for him. If the situation called for something more, he could cast the spells Karile had taught him before.
The three entered the small road within the forest in high spirits. Despite being called a road, it was actually nothing more than a narrow muddy path formed by the many people who entered the forest throughout the years.To traverse through the forest in a different path, even a dozen daggers might not be enough to clear out the plants in the way. Though it was almost autumn, the trees and plants in Lion Mane Forest were just as verdant as ever. Karile and Witsen had heard a lot about the forest from Plato through his vivid descriptions, but the scenery they saw still exceeded their imagination. Unless one entered Lion Mane Forest himself, it was impossible to believe how dense the forest could be. Anyhow, they were all glad they did not enter the forest at night.
“Plato.” Karile was the first to break the silence.
“Why did you say we might get lost? There’s just one road, and it’s pretty hard to stray away from it with all the plants around.”
Plato chuckled, then replied, “You’ll see soon enough.”
As expected, they soon found out why. They were now standing at an intersection in the road.
“There’s… way too many branches,” Karile exclaimed.
There were five paths which branched from the little empty plot of land which served as the intersection. Every path looked almost the same; straight paths with the end nowhere in sight.
“You now know why you’ll get lost,” Plato said proudly. “Only one of the five paths leads to Los Lanca.”
“What about the others?” Witsen asked.
“The others, well, are all dead ends. You’ll be fine if you follow me.”
Karile was surprised. “Eh? You know the way?”
“Of course I do!”
Witsen immediately felt that Plato was a suspicious person. Plato had been claiming that he did not know how to go to Los Lance the whole way, why would he suddenly know which path to take?
Witsen looked over to Karile, who was coincidentally glancing at him as well. He could tell from her eyes that she was telling him not to act rashly. Witsen could understand where she was coming from; this was not their homeground. He decided to stay silent and quietly observe the situation. If Plato led them to Los Lanca, that would be for the best. Even if he had malicious intent, Witsen and Karile were now prepared to deal with him.
“Alright, let’s go then,” Witsen said.
Plato led the way, with Witsen and Karile following behind. The scenery quickly turned back into the lush vegetation from before, if not denser. The tall, thick trees lined up along the path seemed like stone walls which blocked out the surroundings, making it impossible to create a new road. Witsen, now alarmed, placed his hand into his pocket and held onto the obsidian in case enemies suddenly attacked.
However, instead of attacking, Plato started to run all of a sudden.
“Not good, chase him!” Witsen shouted.
The two started to run in hopes of catching up to the brat, but strangely enough, the two of them could not catch up with the short Plato. The distance between them gradually widened, and soon Plato was out of sight.
“I know! Just run! There’s only one road!”
The two ran with all their might, until they were forced to stop by a stone hill. Unknown letters were engraved onto it, but Witsen could roughly guess from the shape that one of the words meant ‘door’.
“Ha… ha…” Karile was short of breath when she stopped. “Witsen, what now? Where’s that brat?”
“Look.” Witsen pointed at the crude stone engravings.
“Oh, that’s… ha… spectacular.”
“Can you read this?”
“What are you talking about, that’s the common language. Let me have a look,” Karile said as she read the engraved words. “Um… Hold your soul up high and proclaim your identity. That’s a riddle.”
“Hold your soul up high…”
“Would that be your obsidian? It’s formed from a soul after all.”
“Reasonable enough.” Witsen took out the obsidian from his pocket. “But what about my identity?”
“Pfft, an alien,” Karile said with a slightly mocking tone. “Because you come from ‘another continent’.”
“Oh, um…” Witsen held the obsidian high and said, “I proclaim to be… I can’t do this.This feels so shameful.”
“Who cares about that, just do it quickly!”
“I proclaim to be… Let’s use a different word, a foreigner.”
Witsen yelled, but nothing happened. A few crows standing on the nearby trees squeaked.
“Hehe…” Karile laughed bitterly and looked away while whistling.
“You! Don’t pretend it’s not your business! It didn’t work!”
“Then… then what now.”
Witsen thought for a second. “Your turn.”
“No!” Karile waved her hands and shook her head.
“No! Just no! I just can’t do this!”
“Now you know how it feels, huh! If you keep saying no, I’ll do something!” Witsen turned the obsidian in his hand into sword form.
“Fine fine fine fine! I’ll do it.” Karile lifted her bow up high, her face slightly reddened. “I… I… I…”
“Stop repeating ‘I’ and get on with it.”
“I proclaim to be a ranger.”
“Karile,” Witsen spoke in a calm and soothing tone. “Your real identity.”
“My real identity…” Karile looked down to the ground.
“I know you don’t want to accept that identity, but there is no choice now.” Witsen walked over and held her hand. “We’ll do it together, okay?”
“Lifting my soul up high, I proclaim to be…”