Chapter 40 Cheating Death – Choices (Part 4)
“I know everybody is exhausted, but we should talk about our next moves. We should discuss, decide and let it settle in over night” Daichi spoke up
Within the dim glow of the room, everybody except the mare had weary expressions after their long day. The experience of constant walking, being on alert at the slightest twitch of leaves, actively engaging in a life threatening battle. All these things had exhausted everybody.
Moreover, knowing there was no end in sight only extended that feeling of exhaustion.
“Hey… You know your way around the forest. Do you know where it ends if we keep going east?” Kaden asked the mare looking slightly optimistic.
“No. We’ve never gone that far before, nor after the change.” the shorter girl replied.
“How far have you gone?” Kaden asked.
“Before the change… I would say around 200 miles or so for me, my sister has traveled closer to 300 miles.” while speaking, she glanced at her sister as if confirming her statement.
300 miles with no end in sight – was the thought that everyone was struck with.
Albeit it was not a particularly great distance… But in a scenario where they were actively avoiding monsters most of their day and not walking at a fast pace, it would take an astronomical amount of time to get to the end of the forest even if it was just twice that distance.
“Well that was my bad… I was expecting better news…” Kaden chuckled grimly.
“We could always just go in a straight line… As much as the mare can guide us anyways.” Daichi said while looking at the ceiling.
“If we just go straight it’ll be quicker, and if we aren’t actively avoiding fights then we’ll still get to hunt while hastening our travel. Moreover, we’ll still have a heads up that there’s something ahead of us with the mare around… Of course if it’s something we can’t handle we’ll run away.” Daichi said thinking out loud to some degree.
“Is that smart? Maybe we should just take the safer route and only attack the weaker monsters we can find” Ava said
“We could do that… But the goal is to reach the capital and the longer we’re stuck in this forest the more likely we are to get attacked by something that can and might kill us. The longer we’re in this forest, the more monsters that will flood into it. Getting out is the priority right?” Daichi said looking down from the ceiling and taking a look at everybody.
Hannah looked deep in thought, and finally spoke up after taking a back seat for most of the day “Getting out of the forest should be our priority. If we do this, we only need to attack monsters on our path… Which should be no problem right Kaden? Any monsters on our path would be likely to attack us if they saw us first. We can avoid unnecessary fights while still becoming stronger on our way.”
Ava basically reiterated what Daichi said, but with a hint of benevolence for Kaden’s sake.
Nodding in response Kaden agreed. He would have agreed anyways considering they were right.
They needed to get stronger, and even if he didn’t want to go out of his way to kill. It wasn’t fair for him to speak up on their behalf. Kaden wouldn’t push his preferences on them once he’d voiced his opinion.
Seeing a general consensus being reached, Ava quickly nodded her head as well.
“Great. That’s one issue resolved. Should we have someone stand watch, what do you think Daichi?” Hannah gave Daichi a meaningful look.
“No… I think we’ll be fine, we’re pretty safe in here.” Daichi shook his head, replying both to what Hannah asked out loud and to the unspoken meaning behind it.
Considering how the day went, it would be better to give the mare some form of courtesy and trust.
Although Daichi wasn’t so naive to really do it, in truth he was planning on staying up a good chunk of the time to watch that nothing happened just in case.
Kaden started crawling towards the hole, “Restroom break” as he crawled out.
Daichi looked in his direction, and after giving it some thought decided to follow.
Outside, he found Kaden by some trees looking up at the sky.
Getting off the ground and standing up, Daichi said “We need to talk.”
“Do we though?” Kaden said without looking back.
“I want you to know something. I don’t think I spoke out of turn. I said what I needed to say because I think, no I know. If we do things your way, you’re going to get people killed.” Taking a second for his words to sink in, Daichi continued.
“We have a difference in opinion because of how we think and what we believe or don’t believe. I’m going to push past that because in our situation, I don’t really think it matters that we’re different.”
Kaden put his arm out and stopped Daichi, “Stop. Don’t need your advice. I’m with you. Let’s agree to disagree. This isn’t going to go anywhere.”
Turning to walk away, Daichi spoke in a softer voice “You’re going to have to decide what matters more to you Kaden. Your ideal on how much you value life or your sister. Juggling and trying to do both is going to get her killed.”
Clenching his jaws and trying not to let Daichi see the frustration building inside of him. Kaden walked away not saying a word in response.
Looking at Kaden’s back, Daichi tilted his head to the side wondering what Kaden was going to do.
In reality, Daichi respected Kaden for having such a strong belief in something. It’s something he never had.
If circumstances were different… Kaden probably wouldn’t been someone he could have enjoyed arguing different philosophical beliefs with. He’d never win but he would have enjoyed having someone who wouldn’t give up either.
Now… Well circumstances were different, no point in thinking about the “What-ifs” Daichi thought.
Giving Kaden some space, he went back inside the cave and picked out a spot for the night.
Kaden came back in after a few minutes and did the same without speaking a word.
Noticing the tension between them, Hannah thought about saying something but decided against it.
Clearly they had a difference in opinion that she couldn’t fix for them.
Daichi would help them survive, but Kaden was probably right. His ideals and his view on the value of life was something he’d had since he was a child. She always respected him even when he acted like a little perfect because of it. It’s what made him a good person, the kind of person people ought to try to be.
Now… Looking around the cave. Those same ideals had become an inconvenience for all of them.
Hannah wouldn’t let Kaden lose his ideals even in a place like this though. She’d already decided to do what was necessary to save her brother. Now she decided she would do what she needed to not only keep him safe, but keep him idealistic.
Hannah would make whatever sacrifices she needed too in order to give Kaden the opportunities her parents never got to themselves.
Feeling resolute, Hannah was getting used to falling asleep with a sense of purpose.
Ava had already passed out, the physical burden had been heaviest on her. She had never built the physical endurance her family was known for.
As Kaden drifted off as well, Daichi kept an eye on everybody. Noticing the mare girls resting on one another in the middle of the group, Daichi closed his eyes and began to pretend he was asleep.
Daichi figured if he just kept his eyes on them the entire time nothing was going to happen. Even if they intended to do something, they would probably notice.
Wondering about their sensitivity to mana, Daichi wondered whether they could tell if someone was awake or asleep based on mana…
Thinking about the mare and what they might do even Daichi began to drift off a little. Not wanting to fall asleep, Daichi triggered his meditative state but maintained a level of awareness. If he heard the slightest sound he would wake up.
Daichi entered a light meditative state for the first time where he maintained some level of awareness. Maintaining that slight level of awareness made it so that he could allow his mind to wander and unconsciously make sense of the information he’d processed recently. His mind was at a stand-still as the mana he’d used recuperated itself.
Noticing the last of them falling asleep, both of the mare opened their eyes.
Looking around and trying to feel their consciousness, they concluded the humans had fallen asleep.
The mare themselves could tell whether someone was conscious based on the flow of their mana. Much how they could sense the mana in others from a distance, at a very close range their perception of mana in those around them was astonishing.
Looking at each other, they decided on their next move.
The humans had surprised them as they dispatched of the trolls who were stronger than them by quite a bit with ease. The mare had not expected that these humans would possess such impressive abilities.
Even more so, the human named Kaden. He had put them on guard since they met him.
He approached them with absolutely no fear of them, despite coming off as far weaker.
He seemed completely at ease with them, and every time the humans got into an argument… It almost seemed like it was a show for them.
From what they remembered of the few humans they had encountered, they were usually weak. The strong ones that grouped together were always united.
Then later during the day, the boy named Kaden agreed to spar with them.
Originally the mare were going to hold back, they had no intention of showing their abilities but they also wanted to come off as useful.
The boy had utterly ruined their plans.
As the mare engaged him in combat, the boy had surprised them by not even bothering to put up a struggle. Causing a slight fluctuation in their emotions which were normally numbed, the taller mare had inadvertently activated a skill while trying to force the boy to take her seriously.
The mare had unintentionally revealed more than they had wanted too, and even at the last second where she could have taken the boy’s life. He still didn’t show his true abilities.
He had shown a patience rarely seen for a boy his age. He had even apologized as much after their spar.
He had forced them to utilize a skill they had intended to keep secret and even at the last moment showed no intention of taking their fight seriously. He had completely seen through their intentions and as such not bothered to defend her last strike causing her to harmlessly strike his neck with her lightest chop.
He even went so far as to fake being temporarily hurt afterwards so he could likely analyze the skill they had used.
This had put them on guard, far more so than they had expected to be with these humans.
Before falling asleep, the two male humans discussed something. It was likely about what ‘Kaden’ had learned of their skill and orders as to what they should do throughout the night.
If this were been any other situation, the mare would have chosen to retreat. These humans had proven far more powerful than they had anticipated. The mare had lost a lot of their upper hand which they had intended on using to subdue these humans with.
If this were any other situation the mare would have chosen to retreat. Fortunately for the mare, the humans regardless of their strategy, had fallen asleep.
This was the mare’s territory. This was their advantage.
After deciding on proceeding. The mare glanced at each other and fell asleep on command.
They would venture into Kaden’s mind and gather more information.
While asleep, he would be defenseless, and they would be command of his dreams.
They would look through every last detail, learn everything about him. They would figure out what his plans and their goals really were. They would eat.