A Muddy Monkey Picked Up
The pale, white moonlight penetrated the canopy and seeped gently into the grass on the ground. The forest, lush green during the day, was a subtle silver under the moon's gaze. Leguna landed on the grass with his bottom. He gazed at his surroundings with surprise before he tried to recall what had just happened.
He could still clearly remember that a few seconds earlier he was within the confines of the jail at Lormi -- just about to be hit by the third arrow the ranger loosed. But, when he was forced to the brink of despair, his vision turned black and a rush of fatigue filled his mind. He fainted. By the time he woke, he found himself in this forest.
His memories didn't have any missing piece, nor could he find any hints of blackouts. He knew what had happened at the jail had occurred mere seconds ago. His heart was even still thumping from all his running. He could not conceive an explanation for how he had ended up in a place so different in mere seconds.
Was it a transference spell? Did a magus help me? guessed he.
According to what little knowledge he had, if there was anyone who could use transference spells, they would be a magus. Only a transference spell could transport someone so far away in seconds.
Either way, that person saved my life, thought Leguna.
He stood up slowly and mimicked the knights in the stories he had heard.
"Thank you, oh great one, for lending a hand. If it would not be of any inconvenience, I hope to be graced with an audience with you."
Leguna tried not to say it too loudly. He was afraid he was still close to Lormi. There was no telling what kind of spell the captain might have up his sleeve. He might be able to detect the slightest noise he made.
Laguna waited, but even after a good while, he had yet to receive any response. The only noteworthy thing that happened as he waited, was that a squirrel perched on a nearby tree and started throwing nuts at him. It was as if it was protesting Laguna's disturbance of the forest in the middle of the night. Leguna merely rubbed his head and raised his voice slightly.
"Since you are not willing to show yourself, can this humble one ask for your great name, so this one might be able to repay your kindness one day?"
The squirrel tossed a few more nuts his way, far larger than the last. Enraged, Leguna stared at the sky and waited for a reply. Still nothing.
"Either way, I thank you for gifting me my life," said he finally, feeling too awkward to continue standing in the forest so aimlessly by himself.
It was at that moment that Leguna felt a drop of viscous fluid land on his head. Raising his hand touch it, he found it was bird droppings, fresh from the creature that had just flown past. A nightingale could be seen perched on a branch nearby, chirping, as if it was saying: 'What the heck is that moron doing here, talking to himself?'
"@#%!&" cussed Leguna in frustration.
"Wait up, Kurdak! I want to drink some water!" groaned a tall woman with an incredibly shapely figure.
"Just come and get some yourself! It's tiring enough already, you know!" said the man called Kurdak with dissatisfaction.
"Tch, all I asked was that you hand me this little thing," nagged the woman.
"Ah, you've got a point," Kurdak patted on the huge rucksack slung in front of his chest, "This sack only weighs around 75 kilograms after all."
"Why's a level seven warrior like you getting smug over carrying some bag? I can even see how hard a time you're having from all the sweat on your skin," she teased.
"I'm not only carrying your stuff," Kurdak said while patting on the rucksack slung over his back, "There's your sack, my sack, and a bunch of equipment and weapons! All the stuff I'm carrying easily weighs over 250 kilograms!"
"So what? It's good training for you."
"But Vera," Kurdak said as he raised one hand with much difficulty, "Look here. I can't even draw my sword easily. What would we do if we encountered danger?"
"Come on, we've used this path so many times. How dangerous could it possibly get? Also, Cyranos and I have your back!" said Vera carefreely.
But right at that moment, a loud roar burst from the underbrush not too far from them.
"Look! I told you!" Kurdak said as he returned the rucksack to Vera.
"Oh, come on, it's just a couple of quickshadow drakes," said Vera as she received her rucksack grudgingly, despite the excited expression she wore.
Quickshadow drakes were not too much of a threat and their leather skin sold for quite a bit as well.
"What now? Do we kill them?" asked Kurdak as he drew his two-handed sword.
"Of course. Why ignore a bunch of gold coins that came running to us?" Vera unslung her bow before nodding to the silent Cyranos.
"Alright, let's do the usual. On my lead!" Kurda said, breaking into a smile.
Leguna managed to dodge the blow, a blow that would've squashed his head. He didn't think, however, that there was another claw approaching him from the left. The move ended with three more claw marks on his body. He used the momentum from the blow to jump out of the encirclement but fell into despair once again a moment later.
He had already wandered in the forest searching for its edge unsuccessfully for three whole days. He had had to drink water from a nearby lake and eat a few wild fruits to keep himself going. Even though he had managed to kill quite a number of beasts with his fifth stratum impetus, the forest was far too big and he could only rely on his instincts to navigate it. It ended with him going deeper and deeper into the forest all the way to the areas where fiend activity was high.
Fiends were basically larger and stronger beasts multitudes more threatening. The only differences between them and normal animals were their higher intellect and the ability to use magic. The quickshadow drakes Leguna had just run into were no doubt the weakest magic beasts he could encounter. They weren't much smarter than normal animals, but they were stronger, faster, and had tougher hides that afforded them more resilience. While a single quickshadow drake was only as dangerous as a black bear, the critters had an incredibly troubling trait: living and moving in packs.
Under the combined attacks of more than ten quickshadow drakes, Leguna was pushed to the brink. Not ten seconds would pass without three or four more cuts appearing on his body. Even though the last three days' wandering made Leguna more mentally resilient, he still despaired when he found himself in such a situation.
I'm going to die here, Leguna thought, It's a shame I wasn't able to find you in the end...
In the very moment he gave up, he detected a powerful arrow approaching. Its target was not him, however, but the quickshadow drake closest to him.
"Vera, pay attention to the kid and protect him. I'll rush forward and end the drake. Cyranos, cover me," instructed Kurdak before he charged at the drakes.
Like most pack animals, the quickshadow drake alpha-male was the pack leader and was the one organizing the lives and hunts of the others in its pack. Should the alpha drake be killed, the rest would no doubt fall into disarray, which would make them easier to pick off. Kurdak, understanding well the behavior of drakes, charged straight for the strongest-looking one, the one the furthest away. Its head fell with a wave of his sword.
Fresh blood stained his face. It made him look rather haggard. With the alpha drake's death, the pack had lost their leader. Some of those busy attacking Leguna began to crawl towards Kurdak as they cried out deafeningly.
"Hahahaha! I can finally get a good workout!"
Kurdak smiled crazily before he used his impetus to fuel his jump to the group of quickshadow drakes heading his way. The next impetus-infused swing of his sword beheaded three more. At the same time, the two creatures behind him were killed by Cyranos without Kurdak even having to bat an eye.
"Be careful! If their skin is ruined and can't be sold for a good price, you'll hear from me!" cried Vera before she shot down a drake that tried to attack Leguna.
Given the ability of Kurdak's party-of-three, and the level of their gear, they were able to hold their ground against thirty or so quickshadow drakes with only minor injuries. With more than twelve of the fiends slain, including the alpha drake, the rest of the battle proceeded smoothly. In just two minutes, the rest were slain.
Leguna observed the party that had suddenly shown up and exterminated his attackers. He didn't know their purpose but they didn't seem hostile, so he lowered his guard.
I seemed to have been quite lucky, thought he.
He smiled at the approaching Kurdak and fainted.
"Is he dead? Why did he smile at me like that before he died?" asked Kurdak as he kicked Leguna's head lightly.
"You know he's still alive," said Vera as she rolled her eyes.
"What do we do now? Take him with us?" asked Kurdak.
Vera looked at Leguna's young face, covered in mud and blood, before she sighed.
"He's still a child. Let's bring him along. I doubt I can leave him for dead out in the wilderness like this."
Kurdak looked at Cyranos, who nodded.
"I don't care either way."
"Very well, let's treat his injuries here and set up camp. We'll decide when he wakes up tomorrow. Let me make it clear now that if he can't walk, you'll have to carry him on your back, Vera," decided Kurdak.
Vera furrowed her brow and groaned, "Why me?"
"You're the one who wants to bring him along."
"Ugh... I suddenly feel it's okay to leave him here."
"Alright, let's go."
"Oh, come on! Brother Kurdak! Look at how small the kid is. Just look at his injuries... He's so pitiful! Just bring him along with us, please?"
"Then you carry him!"
"But I'm just a weak little girl... I don't have the strength..."
"I don't care!"
"Are you sure?"
"I, Kurdak, have never gone back on my word! When I say I don't care, I really mean it!"
"Sheesh, Kurdak! Keep this up and you'll know what happens when this ol' gal gets mad!"
"Wait, anything but that! All you have to do is talk to me in a civilized manner, alright? I'm a reasonable person," Kurdak said nervously before he looked at the dirty Leguna and mumbled, "Oh great. I've picked up a muddy monkey."
The silent Cyranos had already begun to treat Leguna's injuries.
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