The day was hot with no clouds to cover the direct ray of the sunlight. The wind blew fast and carried specs of sand through the air. For anyone careless enough to not cover their faces would find themselves in a desperate urge to shake themselves of sand. However, today there were only two travellers and they are covered from top to bottom by a cloak. The two travellers were struggling against the force of the wind and the sand that attacked them because of it.
“This sand… is… annoying!”
“You… don’t… say!”
Their cloaks fluttered around them as the direction of the wind was against them. Both of them were wearing goggles to cover their eyes, ear mufflers and their mouths were hidden by the cloaks they wore. Just then one of them stumbled and fell on the sandy ground breathing heavily. The other person hurried over to their fallen comrade.
“Hey! Carter! Are you ok?”
The one named Carter, took his friend’s hand and rose to his feet. Then he dusted the sand off his cloak.
“I’ve… been better.”
Then he looked around at the empty wasteland and sighed.
“Can’t… we take a break? My legs are… killing me!”
“No… unless you want to be buried under all the sand!”
The person named Ignatius, laughed. They straightened up and continued onwards in the direction the sun was setting. With only howling wind and sand hammering on them for company, they talked about things like sports, drinks, clothes and anything else to pass the time.
Carter and Ignatius walked for a few hours and the sun was setting and night began to fall on them. The wind was calm as it smoothly ruffled their cloaks. So they removed their goggles and ear mufflers.
“Ok. I think we’ll take a break and rest here.”
“Phew!” Carter sighed as he sat on the sandy ground and wiped his forehead with his arm.
He opened his backpack and pulled out a water bottle and drank until his thirst was quenched. After putting away the bottle, he lay back on the sand and sighed in relief.
“What a harsh day, it’s been,” Carter said.
“That’s true,” Ignatius agreed. “I never expected this to take so long.”
“You didn’t think too much, did you?” Carter asked with a frown on his face.
Ignatius laughed, scratched the back of his head and said “Well, I thought sand wouldn’t do anything to us. Never did in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would be this difficult to cross the desert!”
Together they sighed. It’s been three days since their departure from the city of Maradingus. Initially they thought of going to another city in search of job and discovering the other legendary warriors. However, this was quickly changed when Furon and the spirit of metal, Megatol, discovered traces of a spirit somewhere in the north. According to their spirit tracing skills, it was the spirit of wood.
“Ah! The Forest of Lagranda!” Carter said, widening his eyes, as if realising something.
“The forest of… what?” Ignatius asked with a puzzled expression.
“The Forest of Lagranda,” Carter said impatiently. “It’s the best place to search for the spirit holder of the wood!”
So the two of them went and met with their supporter, Antony Prince. Furon switched with Ignatius to speak with Antony. Antony, for his part, was astonished to find he was speaking with the ancient spirit. He listened to Furon’s explanation intently in silence. A few moments later he nodded and agreed with their plan to head towards the Forest of Lagranda.
“How do you plan on getting there?” he asked them.
“Well…” Furon, in Ignatius’s body, said and turned to look at Carter.
“We initially thought to pick a bus to head towards the forest,” Carter replied.
“Ah, that’s unfortunate,” Antony said. “There is no bus that heads towards the Forest of Lagranda.”
There was a shine and Ignatius and Furon switched places. Ignatius’s eyes widened in shock and he said “What?! No bus to the forest?”
“That’s correct,” Antony said with a nod. “Originally there was. The buses went through the forest to reach the other cities. It was quicker going through the long distance ways. Saves money and travel time as well.”
“I figured that,” Ignatius said as he remembered his first time getting on a bus from the village Saradinium.
“However, a few years ago several buses went in but never returned.”
Ignatius and Carter stared at him in disbelief. He nodded and said “It’s hard to believe, I know. Thinking they might have broken down, the city sent a search party. What they discovered blew their minds.”
“Um… is it to do with gory scenes?” Ignatius asked nervously.
“Fortunately, no,” Antony said with a smile. “They discovered the buses were completely trashed. A few days later we got the message all passengers reached the next city safely by foot.”
“Thank goodness,” Carter said in relief and sighed deeply.
Carter looked relieved, but Ignatius was keen to know more. Now that the scary talk was over, now for the serious talk.
“So, did they say about what happened to them?”
“Yes,” Antony said and nodded with a troubled expression on his face. “Apparently, the trees attacked them.”
Complete silence filled the room for a few seconds. Then Carter, recovering first, looked at Antony and made a joking face as if Antony made a joke.
“Antony… seriously?” he asked with a small laugh but stopped when Antony shook his head with a serious expression on his face.
“The officials weren’t sure about that. The Forest of Lagranda never had wood monsters,” Antony said heavily. “However, the buses were severely trashed and the, according to the investigation team, the forest felt different. Then it happened one day. It was the last day and the team were extracting the last bus out of the forest when, out of nowhere, wood monsters suddenly appeared and started attacking.”
“Wood monsters?” Carter and Ignatius asked in unison.
“That’s correct. I take it you haven’t heard of these monsters before?”
When they nodded, he explained. The wood monsters are the protectors of some selective forests that are special. Normally they don’t attack travellers unless they have hostile intentions. However, throughout history, there are only three forests that are protected by wood monsters and Lagranda wasn’t one of them.
“Mysterious,” Ignatius said while making a thinking pose.
“You’re a mystery!” Carter said after seeing Ignatius’s expression.
“Come on, Carter! This is our big chance to be detectives!” Ignatius said excitedly.
“Um… hello… Ignatius! Aren’t you forgetting what we’re trying to do?!”
“What-?” Ignatius asked. Then his eyes widened and said “Oh yeah! Right! Searching for legendary warriors.”
“Yes!” Carter said firmly. “So! No detective work. Forget it!”
“Ok, ok,” Ignatius said hastily, but looked disappointed.
Antony watched the two of them and laughed.
“You two sure remind me of the times me and my friends fought each other over our priorities.”
Ignatius scratched the back of his head and said “That’s probably because Carter is a serious person.”
“I am not!”
That day they packed their gear and anything else they need and slept that night. They began their journey to the north the next day. Since then, three days have passed and no sign of the forest drawing nearer.
“Furon, tell me if we’re getting there,” Ignatius asked in a tired voice as he flopped on the sand.
Furon appeared in his spirit form and crossed his arms. It looked like he was pondering about something. A few seconds later he heaved a sigh and turned to Carter.
“Oi! Metal head! Help me out here!”
Just then, another spirit form appeared. This one had silver metallic armour fixed with mirrors in different parts. Like Furon, he wore a metal faceplate with green glowing eyes to see through. He also had long blonde hair that fell down the length of his back.
“We’re not far from our destination,” the spirit of metal, Megatol, said.
“That’s good to hear,” Carter said with a sign and smiled at the starry night.
“Well, that’s all good, but I’m tired,” Ignatius said with a yawn. “I’m going to sleep.”
Just as he was about to lie down, Carter sat upright in alarm.
“Hold on. Ignatius, wait!” he said quickly and Ignatius stopped what he was doing.
“What’s the matter?”
“Think silly! Do you plan to sleep in a place like this unguarded?”
Ignatius made a puzzled expression as he said “Unguarded? What do you mean?”
Carter sighed and said “What I mean is, we’re miles away from any sort of city. In the dead of night we might be attacked by wild animals, maybe even bandits! So, is it advisable to sleep at all right now?”
“Ah!” Ignatius said as if he understood what was troubling Carter. “No need to worry. Leave it to our ancient alarm clocks. They’ll make sure to guard us well.”
“Who’s this ‘ancient alarm clock’ by any chance?” Furon asked and the air around him rumbled in anticipation. “You don’t mean us, right?”
“Yup!” Ignatius said, grinning.
“You!” Furon shouted in frustration. “Why in the world are you so stupid?!”
“Come on, It’s a compliment,” Ignatius said. “We trust you, so feel proud. Plus, it’ll give the both of us the chance to rest easily. Besides, spirits don’t need sleep, do they?”
“You! That! What?! Grah!” Furon finally shouted in frustration. “You are an idiot!”
With that, Furon turned away. Megatol laughed.
“I see now. The new legendary warrior of flames, Ignatius, is indeed the spitting image of Furon from the old days,” he said and his eyes seemed to be smiling.
“I was never like this!” Furon said furiously.
“Oh, yes you were,” Megatol said. “Every time it was your turn, you would simply pass it off and sleep instead.”
“What? I never did that!”
“If you say so.”
“What? You don’t believe me?!”
“Hard not to when you’re so convincing.”
“Ok! That’s it! Bring it metal head! I’ll show you how I was in the past!”
“Shut up!” Ignatius bellowed to cut the exchanges between Furon and Megatol. “Keep your voices down for crying out loud! We’re trying to sleep here!”
Furon and Megatol turned and saw Carter, who was already asleep. Ignatius, with a frustrated expression on his face, glared at them. They apologised and Ignatius quickly fell asleep. Then they sighed and turned to look at each other.
“Tell me,” Megatol said. “You can feel it, don’t you?”
“Yes, I feel it too,” Ignatius said. “The seal is breaking.”
“This isn’t good. This isn’t good at all,”Megatol said anxiously. “We’re running out of time.”
“It’s alright,” Furon said reassuringly. “The seal will take a lot longer to break than expected.”
“I hope you’re right,” Megatol said, but he remained unconvinced. “Reminds me of the past when we sealed Zefer away.”
“Oh yeah,” Furon said with a nod. “That was a close one.”
“Yes, it sure was close. He almost dragged us down with him.”
“Well, were saved thanks to Dynus’s efforts.”
“Ah. Dynus. Legendary Warrior of Darkness. I wonder what he is doing right now.”
“Searching for his spirit holder, I hope,” Furon said with a bitter smile.
“Speaking of spirit holders… wasn’t Ignatius, born to be the spirit holder for the spirit of flames?” Megatol asked.
“Yes, he was,” Furon said.
“I see,” Megatol said thoughtfully. “In any case, I must repay his efforts for stopping my rampaging during the mutation.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Furon said with a hint of a smile from his voice. “He doesn’t care about those things.”
“Yes. Exactly like the ancient warrior of flames,” Megatol said and laughed.
“Yes, like-… what?! What do you mean by that?!” Furon said indignantly.
And so, they continued to talk until it’s morning. Carter was the first to wake up. He greeted them by the usual “Good morning, spirits,” and did his morning meditation. He did so by placing his hands together in a prayer, crossing his legs and sitting upright with eyes closed. A few minutes later, Ignatius woke up. He yawned and stretched his arms from how they were in a cramped position while he was asleep. Then he sat upright and stared at Carter’s meditation for a while.
Once the meditation was over, they pulled out the food and drinks from their backpacks and ate. Lots of food was packed due to how long this journey would take on foot. Once they finished eating, they put them away and rose to their feet to continue their journey.
“That was a good breakfast,” Carter said, patting his stomach in contentment.
“Yes!” Ignatius said happily. “We should thank Antony for his generosity once we return.”
“Sadly, we can’t though. Not for another five years,” Carter said, suddenly looking depressed. “Sorry Ignatius, for dragging you into this mess.”
“Oh, cheer up!” Ignatius said heartily. “There’s no point mulling over what’s been done.”
“Yes… you’re right,” Carter agreed.
“Of-course!” Ignatius said with a grin. Then he shouted “The journey to the Forest of Lagranda continues!”
Carter laughed and said “Yes! The journey continues!”
Laughing, they continued on their way to the Forest of Lagranda. They talked about the forest; how strong the wood monsters are, what countermeasures they need to take and if they will meet the spirit of wood. However, unknown to them, a mysterious figure could be seen in the far distance behind them. This figure was shrouded in a veil of darkness as it observed them through red glowing eyes.