Chapter 91 Stranger in the Woods (Part 1)
Daichi felt relief, confusion, surprise and excitement welling up inside of himself almost simultaneously!
After having been trapped in an endless sky with nothing but his thoughts and the ardent task of increasing his understanding of the universe Daichi couldn’t believe he had finally gotten out. He couldn’t even imagine how long he’d been inside of that mist like state.
‘I tried to keep track at first, but it’s not as if I had something to mark the passing days, or even a way to tell when a day had passed…’ Daichi thought to himself reluctantly as he tried to stifle the emotions welling up inside of himself.
In reality, even if he had been able to someone mark the passing of time in a place where time seemingly held no meaning. It would have been meaningless, because every time he entered a deep meditative state whenever he’d touched on the beginnings of an epiphany, he would lose himself in his thoughts.
Thinking to that, ‘For all I know, every time I had an epiphany and got lost in ruminating over one small thing it could have much longer than just a few hours, maybe even days or possibly weeks…’
Daichi stopped himself before letting himself think on that any further. He didn’t even want to consider the possibility that he could have, and likely did enter some meditative states which may have lasted even longer than that, months or even perhaps years.
Throughout the entire time he’d been in the mist, he hadn’t eaten or drank a single thing. He never had the urge, which was what kept him alive in a state where he had no access to his physical body. It was only just before he had a final epiphany in which he’d managed to tie a plethora of thoughts he’d had over the years together that he came to realize just what exactly the mist was, and how it was keeping him alive.
If he hadn’t just now noticed that there were people around which sent his thoughts into a flurry, after searching with his new mana sense he would have likely found somewhere safe and entered another meditative state one final time to consolidate the knowledge he’d pondered for years without the ability to test his theories.
The moment he’d sensed people, his priorities had instantly changed. Even though Daichi was not social, and had never needed people around him in order to stop himself from feeling loneliness. After having spent what felt like an eternity without the ability to bounce a single thought onto someone or something else, Daichi had grown starved for the company of others. Anyone or anything. Daichi merely wanted to see someone else, to really let the reality of his situation sink in. That he was no longer alone, that he was no longer trapped, that he was finally free!
Instead of being able to feel free though, Daichi realized what a mess he felt at the moment and tried to calm himself down. He had too many thoughts and desires running rampant in his mind at the moment.
‘I want to see who they are! How can there be people in the forest? Are they lost? Are they survivors? How much time has passed? Has our town been rebuilt? Is it Hannah and Ava? Should I approach them… They could be dangerous. Hah. So what if they are, after everything I’ve learned… How could I be in any real danger? Perhaps I’m being too overconfident though, despite what I learned, the world is a very large place, for all I know it’s still nothing but a drop in the bucket compared to everyone else. Overconfidence will only get be in trouble…’
‘I’m free! I’m finally free! I can move! I can eat! Oh my god I want to eat something! Wait… Why aren’t I hungry? Shouldn’t I be hungry? Was the mist that incredible? I wonder how long it’ll take before I get to the point where I can create a space like that as well… I wonder what happened to the mare?’
‘Hmm… Is Tael around? Before I entered the mist, he wasn’t too far. Hannah is probably gone from here, but that doesn’t mean he is. If he is what I think he is…. Then this is probably his home, and even after what I learned that doesn’t mean I’ll even be able to block a single attack from him, even then I got lucky that we didn’t get into a fight. Heh…. Those bulls though… If I run into them again, I’ll be sure to burn them up and make some barbecued ribs. I’d love for them to try that fire trick again. Let’s see what happens now.’
If anyone saw Daichi right now they may have mistaken him for a crazy old man. He looked like a young enough teenager, but his facial expressions kept switching between somber, contemplative, amused, frightened, confused, wary, and on the verge of breaking down in laughter in a sinister sort of way.
After a few minutes of a non-stop inner monologue where Daichi voiced concern and opinion, one after another to himself. Daichi finally calmed himself down enough to focus and think about one thing.
‘There’s people. I don’t know why there’s people but it doesn’t really matter. I need answers and regardless of whether it’s dangerous, I should be able to protect myself now. Even if I haven’t tried any of my theories in any practical way, the fact that I managed to leave the mist is proof that my understanding isn’t superficial. I know that what I learned has moved me along the right path. If they are friendly it’ll be useful, and if they aren’t then I’ll just get some experience.’
Finally settled down, Daichi began walking in the direction he’d felt the humans before. Every step was slow and calm and signaled an indifference and and calm demeanor that were the opposite of his actuals thoughts and feelings. Every step he took made him feel a dreamy sensation he hadn’t felt in years. ‘Ah… This is so… Amazing… I never thought I would be so happy to actually be able to feel my legs. The feeling of moving them, of feeling anything at all. Hah! Even the ground underneath my feet feels amazing! Every step feels so… Real.’
Lost in his own simple pleasure. Daichi ambled along in the most lackadaisical and relaxed pace towards his goal.
Throughout the forest, the effects of the mist being riled up and partially dissipating into the surroundings was having a peculiar effect…
Even before Daichi had exited the mist, the very action of interacting with it, of triggering a response from it had caused a chain reaction outside of the area of the mist itself.
Every beast and monster, and even some humans who harbored any amount of killing intent, of desire for blood and lust or fury was slowly being affected by the mist. Their blood simmering and their minds being riled up as their desire for blood grew.
Inadvertently the very action of triggering the mist to release him had released part of the mist itself into the forest. The moment the mist itself had turned chaotic… So had every beast in the forest. Throughout thousands of miles monsters and beasts had turned chaotic and blood thirsty, their desire for blood and death reaching a boiling point where they had begun to turn on anything that moved, anything in their sight.
Some unlucky beasts were killed simply for being in the eye line of a stronger monster. Those beasts that were alone and unable to instantly quench their desire for blood began to seek out prey. The stronger beasts and monsters retained enough of their mental capacity to stop themselves from turning on their followers or packs but that was the extent of their self-control. Merely exercising that much self-control had fueled an equally profound desire to hunt and kill.
The humans inside of the forest were not immune to these effects… Some of the people with weak hearts would have gone mad or lost themselves to their most base desires almost instantly. Except this forest didn’t allow for the weak to survive for very long, and the only humans within the forest or even close enough to the center were the participants of Lumea Academy. The best and the brightest of the younger generation of Lumea City. In essence… As far as anyone in their city was concerned, the hope for humanity’s future. These children were strong enough to only feel an intensifying desire to accomplish their desires and goals… And all of them were of one mind, their goals, their desires were all focused on one thing.
Passing the exam! Becoming strong! Proving themselves!
In fact the mist had caused the worst situation for the weak participants who could only hope to gain some experience and go back alive. The situation just so happened to be the opposite situation for the youths who weren’t so weak and weren’t so timid. The participants who had the confidence to pit themselves against the strong with the potential and ability to back up their confidence. The youths who had ideals and ambitions high enough that they didn’t see a reason to limit themselves, these were the youths who had come to test themselves, as for passing the exam, it was but a foregone conclusion. The only thing to be decided was how well they would do.
Although this had become the perfect situation for those who wished to truly test their strength and find a stage to possibly shine, the danger of this forest had reached a pinnacle that none of the experienced guardsmen and professors within the groups had ever encountered. The ones who possessed keen senses had become paranoid to their surroundings but still hadn’t acted to stop the exam.
“Get them away from here! We’re not going to be able to save them if we hesitate any longer!” Professor Heintz yelled at the two guardsmen in his group. No longer hesitating they threw themselves into the fray as they began to battle the group of Wavering Bears that had roamed into their camp and begun attacking their students.
Professor Heinz had stopped the guardsmen from jumping in to mitigate the situation because he felt the situation and been strange. He’d felt something was off in the forest for hours now but hadn’t been able to put his finger on what. Then these wavering bears who normally never attacked prey on their own had ambled in and begun a fierce attack on the students. Instead of worrying for their safety, Steinz had been fascinated by the strange behavior of the bears. He knew that the children in his group weren’t up to the task of fighting the bears off for long much less killing them, but he still decided to watch the situation a while longer.
He figured that if some of them died, it was just weeding out the useless participants anyways. There was no potential in the group he was given so he didn’t pay them much attention. He was even angry at his group for being so incompetent. Somehow his group had run into another group who had a fairly weak but charismatic little leader. The boy looked dopey but he kept pulling out a book, as if he was pretending to be a scholar but would immediately give directions and his entire group would follow him as if they trusted him implicitly. It was something he’d never seen in one of these exams and had made him envious thinking that another professor had gotten so much luckier than him with his group. ‘Even if it’s only one kid that shows promise it’s already more than mine!’
Just an hour later, their groups had separated and these wavering bears had begun their attack.
It was only when the bears had begun releasing waves of mana into the surroundings and begun growing, their physical strength clearly increasing as they grew even more enraged and had begun to eat the participants alive right before their eyes that Steinz had realized what a mistake he’d made.
‘If everyone gets killed I’ll be in huge trouble!’