Exploring the Forest
- Mkamaru (Planet Walker)
A few weeks passed by without any sort of problems arising. The town and its people did not face any more threats since the attack of the monster attack. The guards, who were supposed to be guarding the town, were all punished severely for their lack of attention in sensing the presence of the monster.
The money, meant for Lakshman, was used to establish a group of warriors called the Monster Control, who patrolled the area. For a few days, the chosen warriors for the patrol discovered the area for any signs of trouble and discovered six more Twin-Headed Cerberus wandering around. It was a strange mystery as to why these monsters had left their homes and kept wandering around and caused harm to those unfortunate enough to come across them.
One evening, Lakshman was eating dinner when his father arrived late, looking really tired. His mother quickly rose to her feet and helped him into his room and guided him up the stairs to take a bath to freshen up. Several minutes later, why everyone was almost done with eating, he finally came downstairs and sat down heavily on his chair while sighing deeply.
“You look very tired. What happened?” Lakshmi asked, looking concerned at the exhaustion her husband was feeling.
He breathed deeply and said, “It’s unusual that so many monsters are wandering around, and they seemed to be way stronger than usual for us to defeat.”
Sumara raised her eyes in surprise and said, “The Two-Headed Cerberus are supposed to be D-Ranked Monsters so it doesn’t make sense why they’d be stronger than a Saint Ranked Swordsman.
As he nodded at her in agreement, Lakshmi became confused and asked, “Why’s that? Do you have any idea?”
He shrugged his shoulders and said, “No clue. The Monster Control are investigating the issue as we speak but nothing has come up yet. I still suspect the recent monster hunting going around was due to recklessness of the adventurers, which drove the monsters from their dens.”
“Idiots! Do you know who might’ve caused that to happen?”
“I do, and I’ll be taking care of those idiots tomorrow,” said Indra, his voice possessing a sharp tone in it.
“Well, it’s a good thing my son was there to save the day!” Lakshmi said, patting Lakshman gently on the head and caused him to unintentionally cough out his food, which prompted her apologising.
A few days later, Lakshman was taking a day off from training once again and headed out alone. With an entire day to spend enjoying, he felt he should return to the forest and do more exploring. He did ask for his friend’s help, but Stuart became scared at the mention of the forest and immediately refused.
“Sorry Lucky, but that forest is dangerous! We don’t know what lurks in there, so I won’t be coming. Sorry.”
So, on that day, he went along and it took him a bit longer than usual before reaching the forest. The reason for his delay was due to so many people he met on the way, stopping him, asking him how he was and where he was headed. After his heroic efforts of defeating a monster that destroyed a part of the town, he became a bit of a celebrity.
“What the heck is up with that crowd,” Lakshman said, reaching the diversion in the road and sighed deeply. “I should start to keep a low profile, otherwise, I’ll keep greeted like that every single day.”
With a determined look on his face, he headed towards the right and reached the forest very soon. Since his last visit, he felt nothing had changed. With a calm demeanour, he walked into the forest and felt relieved and in peace with the forest. It was a wonderful soothing kind of feeling that made him walk slowly while enjoying the sensation.
Several minutes later, he arrived at the lake and just like last time, he saw the water spirits dancing above the water surface. As he approached the lake’s edge, they noticed him and happily headed towards him to play.
“Hello,” he said, greeting the spirits with a friendly smile while they danced around him.
He sat down and took off his shoes before putting his legs into the lake. Initially, he hesitated because of the cold touch, but he slowly entered his feet into the lake and soon became accustomed to the sensation. For a moment, he closed his eyes and made a blissful smile while listening to the sounds made by the water spirits.
Lakshman slowly laid himself down on the grassy floor and relaxed while listening to the sounds around him. It was wonderful to lay there with his feet in the cool water and soon found himself drifting into a peaceful sleep.
At the sudden sound, his eyes snapped open and instantly pushed his body away from the lake before jumping to his feet. As he stood, his hand moved to the hilt of his sword with his face becoming deadly serious. After the last encounter, his senses had sharpened and immediately put him on guard against anything unexpected. As he looked around him for the source of the noise when something soft and furry touched his feet.
Looking down, he blinked in surprise to find a black furry cat that was circling around his feet in an attempt to get his attention. He was momentarily puzzled before realising it was the same cat that had briefly helped him during the monster attack.
“Oh. Hello,” he said, greeting the small creature while sitting back down.
He sat back down and dipped his legs into the water while the cat sat next to him, purring softly. Smiling sweetly, he lowered his hand and slowly rubbed the fur of the cat, making it happy with the cheerful noises it made in response.
While thinking about the cat, he remembered Sumara telling him that this forest was inhabited by one of the Beast Race, the Camdra Beast Clan. Apparently, they are humanoid form with cat ears with tails and can transform into small cat forms. She told him the Camdra Beast Clan strictly keep to themselves and does not interact with any of the humans settled outside the forest.
Thinking about her explanation, Lakshman was not sure whether to relate this cat to the Camdra Beast Clan because he had never met them before. Sumara admitted to have met a few of the this beast clan on her journey around the Human Continent. It seemed the beast clan welcomed her and did not like any humans getting near them.
“Mmm… Could this cat be part of that beast clan?” he thought, looking down curiously at the cat.
He tried imagining someone with cat ears and what came to his mind was a woman with cat ears and a tail with sharp nails. It surprised him and made him chuckle outwardly, causing the cat to look up in surprise.
“I don’t know why, but I feel the Camdra Beast Clan people, especially the girls, will look cute,” he muttered, which made the cat the stare up at him with beady eyes.
He noticed the cat staring at him and he asked, “What?”
The cat purred and rubbed its furry head against the hand that was laid on the ground next to him. Realising what the cat was trying to get across to him, he smiled and rubbed its furry head gently with his hand.
“I know. Cats are cute,” he said, and the cat purred softly.
At that moment, the water spirits suddenly bounced towards him and began circling him excitedly. He was surprised as it did not take him long to understand what they were trying to ask him.
“Who is cute? What is cute?”
“The cat. See?” He asked, pointing at the cat.
The water spirits stopped circling him and got closer to circle around the cat, which eyed them wearily. It seemed the water spirits were teasing the cat with their constant circling around it, making the cat attempt to scratch at them furiously. Scared, the water spirits quickly got away and bounced across the lake to safety.
He started feeling bored and he said, “Well then, I think I’ll go explore around a bit.”
Lakshman rose to his feet and began walking towards another path that led deeper into the forest. The cat followed close behind him and kept him company without him feeling totally alone, which might have stopped him from venturing deeper into the forest. He did smile as It felt like he had a small companion that was like a friend.
“Oh my god!” Lakshman exclaimed, his voice and face filled with shock.
Several minutes later, he arrived at as spot where there was light outside a forest opening and walking towards it, he shocked to find that he was standing at the edge of a cliff. Quickly reacting, he grabbed onto the nearest tree as the cat arrived behind him and purred softly in surprise to see him looking so frightened.
“My goodness! This cliff is deep!” he said, sharply.
The edge of the cliff was dangerous as it seemed the ground was giving way from the numerous cracks that could be heard. As he leant towards the edge from the tree he hugged onto, he gulped upon noticing the deep fall before reaching the trees at the bottom of the cliff.
“That’s a long drop to the bottom,” he muttered, continuing to look over the edge.
The drop looked very long and it was clear there was no chance for a man to live after falling from this height, even worse for a kid. He wanted to leave the place immediately. The cat seemed to be curious as it sat at the edge of the cliff and looked over the side to look down at the scenery below.
“It would be a disaster if this cliff breaks apart, so I should leave before—!”
He was cut off when the ground suddenly began shaking and it gradually shook violently. The next moment, a chunk of the land suddenly got torn off from the cliff’s edge, causing that part of the cliff to fall. Lakshman widened his eyes in shock, watching the broken part of the cliff began to fall.
Lakshman sighed in relief to not be standing on it when he suddenly heard the frightened sound of a cat.
“Meow! Meow! Meow!”
The cat was floating in midair as it was about to fall. To his horror, he had completely forgotten about the cat when the edge of the cliff broke away.
Lakshman let go of the tree he was holding onto and landed on the ground. Then, he quickly ran forward and kicked off the ground with tremendous force and to soar towards the cat. Managing to reach the cat, which was slowly spinning in mid-air, he grabbed it and held it firmly in his arms. By then, he had crossed the edge and was falling with the broke part of the cliff edge.
“Hold on!” he shouted, making sure to keep the cat safely in his arms.
His eyes widened from the speed of the fall and as they drew nearer to the bottom, he frees his right hand and raises it above him. It took him a second to gather the necessary energy into the palm of his hand, which formed into a small energy ball. The next moment, he brought his arm forward and released it into an energy wave aimed directly at the ground below.
“Whoa yeah!” he shouted, soaring high into the air as the energy wave slammed onto the ground and propelled him up into the air.
A few seconds later, the energy wave vanished and he found himself floating high in the air with the cat. Looking around, he widened his eyes in amazement at the spectacle of being high in the air for the first time in his life. All worries left him and were replaced by the sheer pleasure of seeing the world stretching for miles before him.
“Hey, cat! That’s the dumbest move you made, sitting so close to the cliff! Still, though, if you hadn’t I wouldn’t have rescued you and if I hadn’t rescued you we wouldn’t be floating way up here and seeing the world!” he shouted as the wind howled back his ears, making it difficult to hear.
The cat was making noises, but he simply could not hear them. It looked like the cat was mixed with its feelings as it soared high into the air with him holding firmly onto it. A few seconds later, they started to drop and he realised that he had no idea how to land properly.
“I don’t know any wind magic that could break our fall! Damn! If only I had learnt more of the Advanced Ranked Wind Magic, I could land us gently,” he thought, feeling hopeless with their situation.
Looking down, Lakshman saw that they were falling straight towards the lake, which made him smile bitterly. Falling at this speed into the water would surely hurt both of them, not to mention the fact that he did not know how to swim. Still, he felt confident that they would survive somehow.
“Get ready, cat! We’re about to have a crash dive!” he shouted, tucking the cat between his arms for its safety.
Lakshman prepared for the fall and braced himself. He was quite sure a fall from this height might cause some sort of concussion when he lands in the water. At the last moment, he closed his eyes and was wishing for a miracle and hoped that his body was capable of handling this kind of dangerous fall.
With a great crash, they plummeted deep into the lake. He hit the lake with his head first and instantly, he regretted it. Letting go of the cat, he slowly clutched his head. Then he wore a pained expression when his head stung painfully.
“Must’ve… hit harder than… I… thought,” he tried to say, but only bubbles came gurgling out of his mouth.
Lakshman slowly sank into the watery depths of the lake and felt his consciousness slowly faded away. The next instance, his eyes flashed open and he raised his hand above him while activating a spell without saying it. The magic might not have worked if he had spoken anyway due to the inability to speak in water, but the spell worked as the water encircled him and the cat before raising him upward.
He rapidly rose to the surface of the water and broke out with the water still encircling him on all sides. A moment later, it slowly moved towards the shore and suddenly broke, throwing him and the cat away while water went everywhere.
“Pha! Ugh…!” he groaned, rubbing water out of his eyes and breathing deeply. “That was close. Somehow, I managed to get him out of there just in time.”
The cat, which was soaking wet, freed itself from his arms and faced him while purring softly. It was worried because the person standing before it was not the same kind of person it had known moments previously. He heard the purring sound of the cat and looking towards it, he smiled and placed a finger to his mouth as an obvious gesture. He momentarily closed his eyes and instantly reopened them to look very surprised at the situation.
“Wow! I’m wet!” Lakshman exclaimed, feeling cold chill run down his wet body. He turned and looked at the lake, wondering aloud, “How did I get out of there? I could’ve sworn I had fallen into it. Then, how am I here?”
As he pondered about it, he suddenly heard the purring sound and turned towards the cat before exclaiming, “Oh! You’re alright! I’m glad.”
“Meow,” the cat said, moving to rub its wet head against his leg affectionately.
Watching the cat rubbing its head, he thought of something and asked, “Hey, cat. Have you seen who rescued me?”
The cat stopped rubbing its head against him and looked up at him while blinking its sharp beasty eyes. Lakshman stared back at it, expecting something, but soon coming to the realisation that the cat probably did not know either. He sighed and sat back down as he gave up on figuring out who it was that rescued him from such a dire situation.
“I do wish I could thank them for saving me,” he muttered, looking a little unhappy at the unachievable prospect.
“Meow!” the cat yelled, sharply with narrowed eyes.
He was startled by its shout and he blinked at it in surprise before understanding what it was trying to tell him.
“Okay. I know. Getting upset over something like this isn’t good,” he said, smiling as the cat seemed to smile at him. At least, he thought he imagined the cat smiling at him, making him realise they did not introduce each other yet. “Hey! My name’s Lakshman, but my parents call me Lucky! What’s your name?”
“Meow!” the cat replied, cheerily.
“Uh…” he began, hesitantly with an awkward smile on his face. “I don’t think I can call you that. Mmm. I probably should start learning the Beast Language to understand you.”
“Meow!” the cat replied once more, nodding its head impressively in agreement.
He laughed and the two of them played together with them until his stomach started to rumble with hunger. The cat and he stared at each other before laughing at the comedic effect it had on them.
“I’ll be going now,” he declared, rising to his feet and the land stood on all fours while watching him quietly. “See you later.”
With that exchange, he smiled at the cat and turned around to walk towards the pathway leading to the exit of the forest. He was smiling happily at the excitement he had that day and clenched his fists knowing how strong he had become to save himself and the cat at the same time.
That evening he told all of his day’s adventures to his family. Both Sumara and Indra, his father, were impressed at his control over the Energy Force. On the other hand Lakshmi, his mother, scolded him for doing something as reckless as walking deeper into the forest without someone to escort him. She did, however, relent a little bit when he explained how he was just exploring and had to jump in to save a cat.
Overall, he was happy with the day’s events. He made friends with an unlikely pair; water spirits and a cat. He still somewhat suspected the cat was from the beast tribe masquerading as a stray cat, however, he had no solid evidence to prove him right. Still, he felt cat was friendly and a good partner to have fun with when he was not with his only friend and family.
Elsewhere, deep within the forest, in an area lighted by several torches hung upon the trees, there occupied by people with cat ears and tails. The Camdra Beast Clan people were moving about in the large forest clearing between tents while talking to one another in casual voices. The people were speaking in a dialect that was called the Beast Language, which could only be understood as beastly growls.
In a large tent, two people sat staring at each other with serious expressions on their faces. On one side, an elderly looking cat eared man and the other side was a young cat eared girl. The atmosphere within the tent was filled with seriousness as they seemed to be discussing something very important.
“How many times do I have to tell you to not wander out of our border-nyaa!” the cat eared man said, gruffly while staring at the girl in annoyance. “You will run into strangers and get yourself injured, Cantia-nyaa!”
“It’s fine-nyaa! I can take care of myself-nyaa,” replied the cat girl called Cantia, looking equally as annoyed as him.
He stared at her for a moment before shaking his head in unhappiness before asking, “Have you met him-nyaa?”
His question caused her ears to spike up in alert and she asked, ignorantly, “Met who-nyaa?”
“Don’t play innocent-nyaa. With your sudden boost in confidence, it has to be him-nyaa.”
“Mu… Yes-nyaa. I met him-nyaa.”
The elder sighed and asked, “Has he seen you in your cat form, or has he also seen you in your current form-nyaa?”
“Only the cat form-nyaa.”
The elder narrowed his eyes at her words and asked “Did he suspect anything-nyaa?”
The girl thought for a bit and replied, “Not sure-nyaa. It looked like he did think that maybe I was from the Camdra Beast Clan-nyaa.”
She remembered him thinking about something very important all the while looking curiously at her. It had to be something to do with who the cat was, rather than something stupidly boring. Suddenly, she blushed when she remembered his speech, about calling cat girls cute, which she seemed to think he was referring to her.
“This won’t do, Cantia-nyaa. Remember your pledge to not make contact with him until he turns eighteen and proves himself to be worthy of receiving, even if he is your destined one-nyaa.”
“I know that-nyaa! I still think he’s a better man that you make him out to be-nyaa! He saved me from falling off a cliff and even injured himself in doing so-nyaa!” Cantia retorted, trying to support her reasons for visiting her man.
He continued to shake his head in denial and said, “Remember-nyaa… This is the pledge we have taken in the name of the Phoenix Titan-nyaa. The mightiest warrior that our clan served for many generations in the past-nyaa”
Cantia looked irritated at him before replying, curtly, “Fine-nyaa. I’ll be more careful from now on-nyaa,” before rising to her feet and leaving the tent.