Chapter 117 Arrival (Part 1)
Daichi waved the thoughts away realizing it was foolish to even think about it. He would let fate decide whether he ever met them again, his future was not back in that forest but towards the destination he was currently walking towards.
He didn’t know where they were, if they survived or what may have happened after they’d parted. Although he’d thought about a lot of things while he could, he’d never bothered to think about the “What if’s” or “What may have’s” Daichi focused on analyzing his life and the universe and never spent his time thinking about the things he had absolutely no control over and could never find a definitive answer for without more information. He knew that if he spent any time wondering ‘what happened’ to the people he knew that he could never find out, not without actually leaving the mist and looking for them himself.
Instead of dwelling, Daichi continued his story.
“It wasn’t until we came across these two god-like bulls that things really went south. We survived the initial confrontation…” Daichi hadn’t even finished his sentence before Lydia put an arm on his shoulder which immediately made him tense up. His eyes dilated and his mana began circulating inside of his body at an increased rate. On the outside he was giving Lydia a calm reproachful gaze but on the inside he was ready to kill her if she meant him any harm.
Lydia on the other hand almost failed to notice this as she on edge. Time and time again she’d been surprised by Daichi. Whether it was his abilities or his past. It was all shocking to the point where she felt that perhaps he was doing it on purpose until she heard him mention the bulls. “What.. What kind of abilities did these bulls have?”
Daichi didn’t feel comfortable with her hand on his shoulder but he could tell as they’d stopped walking that this was serious to her. It took him a few seconds to calm himself down, he felt far too on edge being touched by a stranger he just met but the look in Lydia’s eyes and her tone conveyed far too much of how much this meant to her.
“Considering the running it’s not as if I got a full overview of their abilities. They had a flame ability that instantly covered their entire bodies when I tried to attack though.”
Lydia took a step back as her arm finally left Daichi’s shoulder as he inwardly calmed down a bit realizing just how excited he’d been to start a conversation with someone who didn’t want to kill him or in general. It was at this moment that he realized just how much he’d said and how unlike him it was. Being this close to someone was already strange for him, it still felt like a dream, and he wasn’t necessarily sure it was a good one. It was a strange paradox to be uncomfortable speaking and being around other people and yet crave human attention and conversation all at the same time.
“Do you know what this forest we were in is called?” Lydia asked in a more composed tone.
Daichi shook his head but he had a feeling he knew where this was going. He only needed to give it some thought to put the pieces together, the two bulls were “Tael’s pets” after all. It wouldn’t be strange to him if they were somehow very well known.
“The forest is called Bull-Wind Forest.”
After saying its name, Lydia got no reaction from Daichi but a blank stare which prompted her to continue “The forest was once known as the “Long Mile Forest” because of it’s length, it would take forever to cross on foot and even if you could fly over with some sort of ability it would take a very long time. Thus the people of Lumea who wanted to cross the forest to visit or get in contact with people of areas beyond it had to rely on the gates, or portals as you called them.
Except long ago when the gates stopped being able to get in contact with anyone, we realized something had happened. Naturally this was over a hundred years ago as you well know. Eventually some people decided to make the journey and visit the people they were worried about. It wasn’t long before we realized no one was coming back. It was only a while after that before we realized that nothing could be seen flying over the forest. Not a single bird or creature. That in it of itself was strange, so the royal family at the time decided to send in a huge troop force. Over 1000 strong, some were even professors at Lumea Academy that decided to go as the muscle of the group.
No one made it back.”
Daichi tried to look concerned or awed. Nothing she’d said up to this point was that surprising. Everything coincided with what he’d experienced.
“You have to understand that at the time, we didn’t have such an accomplished Void magician. It was impossible for anyone to go and come back as we have. Even what we have done is only possible to the areas we’ve previously ventured too.
It wasn’t until the Queen of Death, a title given to the woman who would eventually become the unofficial queen of the city made a venture with a small platoon that anyone had finally ventured through the forest and came back alive.” Lydia said those final words with a look reverence while Daichi had a complicated look on his face.
Daichi heard the title and had to ask “Queen of Death? Seems like a rather lofty title, who was she?”
Lydia gave him a stern look with admiration clearly in her eyes “She is the unofficial Queen of Lumea. After what happened a hundred years ago Lumea was struggling to survive. Even though the city had the protection of the barrier, overpopulation, lack of food and no trade slowly caused serious issues. Back then we had a monarchy as well, but they were eventually killed by the prosperous families due to their inadequacies. Instead of coming up with solutions, they hoarded resources and kept forcing the then military into suicide missions until the houses revolted. They only did this with the academy’s help of course.
After that happened, there was a lot of hostility going around and safety was an issue. There were a lot of people vying for power, but eventually it was the Queen of Death who went to our academy that came out on top!”
Daichi gave a dry cough “That’s incredible, seems like she was very powerful, but I meant more along the lines of why did she get such a title? She’s still around? You said is instead of was”
Lydia looked Daichi right in the eyes while a full smirk appeared on her face, with the sun behind her the smirk looked almost menacing the way she was looking at Daichi as if she was about to pull the rug under his feet.
“The upper echelons of the academy gave her that moniker and then when everyone began calling her that as well it became her unofficial title. They called her that because where-ever she went death inevitably followed. She was able to survive no matter where she went, and whomever challenged whether it be in Lumea or on a mission paid the heaviest price.
Something a lot of people don’t know except us from the academy… She was an extremely rare individual… She has the ability to manipulate death.”
Finally, it was Daichi’s turn to look as surprised as Lydia had while he’d been telling his story. A smug sense of satisfaction flited through Lydia not understanding Daichi’s reaction. Daichi wasn’t shocked because of the might or rarity of someone with an affinity for death, rather he was so surprised because a small seed of doubt crossed through his mind. ‘Could she possibly be Hannah…?’
Daichi knew how rare it was for someone to have an attribute of death. It was all but unheard of. He knew it wasn’t as rare or unheard of as his own attribute but he knew that in the course of generations perhaps only one person would be born in the entire world with such an attribute. Sometimes when someone was born with an attribute of death, they would be killed very early on in life out of fear. Being able to manipulate death was something that a lot of people feared, it was an inherently powerful ability and its use was obviously limited to one thing; bringing death.
“So is she still alive? Is she in Lumea right now??” Daichi asked with a tone Lydia found amusing.
Lydia smiled at him with an all-knowing smile, the kind of smile you give a child after asking something that was obvious to all. “Yes and no…”
Giving him a sideways glance, Lydia held a wistful expression for a few moments before putting Daichi out of his misery after holding him in suspense for nearly an entire minute. “She never died, but she left Lumea for a mission. She wanted to explore even further and hasn’t been back in nearly ten years… I doubt there is anything or anyone capable of killing her, so she must be alive!”
Daichi clenched his death and inadvertently tightened his fists. He hadn’t realized he’d gotten so tense but after a few seconds he felt the pressure on his teeth and calmed himself down. He didn’t even know why he was so worked up, but the possibility that the ‘Queen of Death’ was perhaps Hannah had really worked him up in a way he hadn’t expected.
“Don’t think about it too much. I’ll tell you more afterwards. In the mean time why don’t you finish your story. I want to know how I came about meeting you.”
Daichi took a moment and then shrugged it all off. He was going to take things one step at a time. He’d find out sooner or later whether it was Hannah or not. ‘Even if it was, she hasn’t been in Lumea for a few years so even if it is her, the odds of meeting her again are low anyways.’
“As I was saying… The bulls. We were hunted and… Things just came apart at the hinges at that point. I know I wasn’t the only survivor… But I bet the two I know survived probably aren’t alive anymore…” Daichi had to pause for a second as he came to this point.
“Then I was left alone. I was alone and I wandered by myself for a while. I don’t really know how long it’s been but I was so glad when I finally came across your group. I felt that there were other people around, and I was so excited at the prospect of meeting with people again. It was crazy for me to imagine that I would somehow find people in that crazy forest.”
Lydia analyzed his words and realized what a harrowing experience it must have been for Daichi. That he was still so calm and composed despite having lost everyone he knew, and being alone in that forest for so long gave her an incredibly good impression of him and his abilities. At the same time it gave her pause that he was able to survive on his own for likely quite a while at his age… It was really did seem unlikely. Either he was lying or he had a few more trump cards he still hadn’t shown off.
The prospect of Daichi being even more amazing than what he’d already shown her gave her goosebumps as she considered his age. Only one word came to mind ‘Terrifying’.
Whether it was his comprehension to be able to utilize mana in such a way or his specific comprehension over fire or lightning. It was already too much. If she took into consideration the courage and calm necessary to survive in Bull-Wind Forest on his own with no prospect of a destination since he’d been lost with no idea whether there was anyone else left alive anywhere, Lydia only knew that it was something she wouldn’t have been able to do herself.