In my dreams, I stood in a sunlit garden. Trees swayed in the warm gentle breeze. Before me was a magnificent building of silver and gold. A beautiful woman bathed in a grand pool with cherry blossom petals floating on the surface. She hummed as she played in the crystal clear waters.
Servants attended to her every needs and the more I looked, the more clear the image became. I felt as if I were being pulled, in order to materialize into this picturesque scene. The woman with a soft cream colored skin turned, suddenly frightened. She looked at me, into my eyes, and her face contorted in rage.
“NO! You can not be here!” Her voice carried along the wind. She raised her arms and the light crackled and fizzed around her forming a menacing obsidian colored sphere. She released the dark energy she had accumulated and flung it towards me. At that very moment, I was suddenly pulled from my dream and found myself face to face with a Dragonkin princess.
“Allein? Am I awake?” I asked her not fully aware whether I was conscious or not.
“You are in the dream world, but you must wake, quickly now. Enemies approach and your life is in danger!” There was concern in her voice as she shook me.
“What do you mean? What are you…”
She interrupted me, yelling in my face, “WAKE UP NOW!”
“WAKE UP NOW!”
I woke up startled, the voice in my dream still fresh in my memory. Taking a quick glance around, I immediately noticed Reia look over to me with concern.
“Is something wrong Fayde? It’s not time for your watch yet.”
It was difficult to see anything at this time of night and Reia was relying on her hearing and smell more than eyesight to detect any threats. If she hadn’t noticed any, then it was possible that they were somehow hiding their presence.
I stood up and gathered what i could easily carry, “we need to move, now.”
Reia was confused, “what’s wrong? I don’t…”
There was no time to explain and I interrupted her, “just trust me ok? We are in danger, we need to go, leave everything you can’t easily carry and let’s move!”
Without asking anymore questions she followed me as we ran towards the forest. I wasn’t sure where the danger was coming from but I felt that it would be easiest to lose them there. We might have to deal with monsters but those following would need to do the same.
We had camped close to the edge and it was only a short run into the trees. Looking back, I finally noticed shadowy figures running towards us. It was difficult to determine exactly how many, but there were a lot, possibly as many as thirty or forty. They had been keeping low to the ground which would have made it difficult to notice them. Now that they noticed us running, they no longer felt the need to conceal themselves and chased after us with abandon.
Reia noticed them too and yelled out, “how? I don’t smell anything.”
The answer was simple, “magic.” She understood but her heart was troubled. Magic that could so completely mask both smell and sound was powerful magic. How had so many of them been able to conceal themselves? These were not men to be trifled with and this meant they had significant skill.
Knowing that it would be difficult to navigate the forest at night, Reia created a simple ball of light out of magic. It floated around her hand and it was enough for me to at least see her in the dark but not bright enough to see at a distance. I didn’t want to lose sight of Reia, but I knew that if I did, she would be able to find me due to her enhanced hearing and smell. Nonetheless, I did my best to keep pace with her as she led me through the dark and foreboding forest.
With only the light from Reia’s magic, I struggled to maneuver through the twisting path of trees. I almost tripped a few times on roots and branches that littered the ground as I kept looking back to see if I could spot any of our pursuers, but I couldn’t see anything. Did they have some means of tracking us? If they had been able to track us so easily, they must have had a means to do so. With so many opponents, it wasn’t something the two of us could handle by ourselves. Our hope now was to run into a Foxkin patrol and with their help, fight off the intruders.
We had been running for a full five minutes and there was still no sign of the enemy, but I had no delusions that they weren’t far behind. I was secretly thanking Reia and Orban for all the training they put me through, otherwise I would not have been able to run this long. Cardio was definitely important for an adventurer in times like these.
Reia suddenly stopped, “There is someone approaching us. I don’t think it’s a monster.”
“Could it be someone from your tribe?” I asked.
“No, it’s not a Foxkin’s scent.” She replied.
“Let’s take our chances, it’s just one, come on!” We ran in the direction of the unfamiliar scent until Reia brought us to a halt.
“It’s straight ahead, coming closer.” We unsheathed our weapons and prepared for whatever it was approaching us.
It wasn’t long before a shadowy figure stepped out from behind a tree, “quickly, this way if you want to live.” The voice was female and sounded familiar but It was difficult to make out the appearance of the mysterious person.
Reia and I hesitated, the same thought was most likely running through our minds, should we trust this person? Noticing our hesitation, the female stepped closer and said in an impatient voice, “Peter, hurry up!”
The fact that this person knew my name was a surprise. Reia held up the light towards the voice and I could more clearly see her. I didn’t recognize her at first but then I realized who it was, “Allein… is that you?”
“There is no time for introductions now, follow me.” She turned around and ran in the direction she came from. Reia and I looked at each other briefly and I nodded. We both ran after Allein, with Reia taking the lead. Allein led us onward until we came to a small meadow within the forest.
“Here, rest for a moment. I already placed a protection spell over this meadow, it will take time before they can find us.” Allein sat down in the middle of the meadow and motioned for us to do the same.
There was plenty of moonlight reaching the meadow and there were also strange luminescent lights glowing from some of the plants which made it bright enough to see the surroundings.
Sitting down across from Allein I realized that she looked somewhat different from my dream, the most noticeable difference being her chest size. They had been enormous when she visited me in my dream, but in reality were a more modest size. Wishful thinking on her part maybe?
She was also younger than she had appeared when in my dreams, and looked to be around sixteen or seventeen years of age. Personally, I preferred her real self to the very much unrealistic appearance she took in the dreamworld.
“You look different…..” Those were the first words out of my mouth.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” She shouted at me without realizing it.
I laughed as I thought, defensive much?
“Fayde, who is this girl?” Reia asked me cautiously as she sat next to me.
“Ah, how do I explain? Well, we met but never in person before, she kind of visits me in my dreams.” This was a little bit awkward to explain to her.
“Why is she calling you Fayde?” Allein butted in.
“What do you mean she visits you in your dreams!?” Reia spoke at the same time as Allein.
“Okay, one at a time! Reia, I don’t know exactly how, but Allein has been entering my dreams when I sleep. I am guessing it is magic of some kind? And Allein, I use the name Fayde now.” I did my best to explain to the two.
Reia studied Allein closely before saying, “You are a Demihuman, but I have never seen your kind before. Who are your kin?”
“Hmph! Of course you haven’t, but let’s save that for later. My brother should be here soon with reinforcements, we will make our stand here. Are you two prepared to fight?”
“You have a brother? And what reinforcements? How did you even know where we were or that we were in danger?” I asked one after the other.
“My brother and I were following you two, from above. We saw the men sneaking up on you when you were sleeping and I warned you in your dreams.” She said with a very carefree attitude, like it was nothing.
However, her explanation was way too brief and left me with many more questions, “You better give me a full explanation later, there are way too many details you left out.”
Allein shrugged in response and put up her hands, “don’t give me that! You better explain later.”
“Alright, alright! Stop pestering me, let’s get ready to fight. There isn’t much more time before the barrier fails.”
Reia kept silent for most of the exchange and just watched our back and forth banter with interest before standing. As I was about to stand I suddenly heard a voice in my head, “have you been having fun running around with your fox girl friend?” It was Allein’s voice but she hadn’t moved her mouth.
Are you in my head? You can use telepathy when I’m awake too? I thought, not sure if she would answer.
She heard my thoughts and responded, “that’s right, I am speaking with you through telepathy. You should be more careful who you keep around you, the Foxkin are known for being cunning, are you sure you can trust her?” She didn’t speak those words out loud, they were transmitted into my mind.
Tch, that’s funny coming from you. What makes you think that you’re any more trustworthy?
Allein gave me a coy smile, “I saved your life didn’t I?”
“We’ll see once we make it out of this alive.” I spoke out loud and Reia looked at me strangely.
“My brother is close now, we need to hold them until he arrives. I already prepared some… surprises for them.”
All three of us were now standing and Reia and I had unsheathed our swords. We moved back towards the trees so as not to be in the open meadow. Reia began chanting a spell and I also prepared my defensive flames. The forest was suddenly rocked by an explosion which startled me. What the hell was that? Her surprise? I looked over at Allein and saw her grinning madly.
Breathing heavily in anticipation, my heart was beating rapidly in my chest. I had fought monsters and gone through training, but this was different. These were people I would have to kill. They were trying to kill me, so I had every intention of defending myself, but it was still nerve wracking. My hand and arm had already been prepped with my ‘Void Flames’ and Reia was just about ready with her spell.
There was a sudden stillness, it was only mere seconds, but in those seconds it felt as if an eternity had passed. I watched as the meadow suddenly filled with swiftly moving shadows that made no sound. In the dark their appearance was not even human, just mere constructs lacking presence and they moved with a vicious grace. Their movements belied a nefarious purpose and I knew that we were the ones they had come to claim.
For a moment, I felt a fear that paralysed me. I couldn’t breathe, but a gentle hand found its way on my shoulder. It was Reia’s, she smiled and then turning around the tree to the enemy she let out one word, “fireball!” and an intense flame lit up the night in its fearsome light.
I felt the heat from the fireball, but even more so the fire in Reia’s determination, and it woke me from my fear. With my paralysis removed, I sprung into action and turned to a gruesome sight, the fireball had exploded with a loud bang sending pieces of the shadowy enemies flying through the night. A number of the enemy had been killed instantly, but many more made their way towards us.
It looked as if they had all been spread out while searching the forest for us and the explosive traps that Allein had prepared had disoriented them further. Otherwise we would most likely have been overwhelmed through sheer numbers, but as it was, they were streaming into the meadow in small groups which gave us an advantage. Reia and I jumped into the fray, guarding each other’s back as we fought for our lives.
Allein was nowhere in sight and I was beginning to wonder if she had abandoned us but then I saw ‘Fire Arrows’ hitting the backs of the enemies facing us from somewhere in the tree tops. There was the occasional flash of light as Allein cast magic from above us towards the enemies. They were not expecting to be attacked from above and I used those moments of confusion to strike.
The enemy’s blades whistled through the air as they swung. Black flames flared as I whipped my arm around to deflect the attacks. Our dance became a flurry of movement and I continued to parry and deflect their attacks with some trouble, my arm functioning as a perfect shield. Once I had gained a bit of distance, I blew the first enemy away by throwing the flames from my arm into the enemy’s chest. ‘Void Flames’ could be activated quickly and I concentrated momentarily, summoning more defensive flames.
Reia had easily fended off two of the attackers but more were streaming in through the trees. It would only be a matter of time now until we were overrun. I was struggling enough as it was just to hold one or two back and the only reason I was capable of doing it was because of my ‘Void Flames’. Once my VP ran out, there was no way I could fight off all of them.
“Fall back now!” Allein yelled from somewhere up above.
Reia and I had just defeated the first group of attackers and had gained some breathing room so we made haste and heeded Allein’s words. The two of us ran in the opposite direction from the enemy. I heard a whistling sound again and managed to just barely dodge a thrown object. It was most likely one of those strange blades the enemy was using. It was possible that they were magic weapons.
We had somehow made it back to the tree line when the trees suddenly lit up with a multitude of colors, it reminded me of christmas trees. Dozens of magical attacks originating from somewhere within the trees above bombarded the enemy within the meadow, cutting down dozens of them. More shadowy figures jumped down from the trees but instead of running towards us, they charged the enemy.
“Looks like the cavalry has arrived!” I laughed and shouted happily towards Reia.
She gave me a confused look, “what cavalry? They are Foxkin.”
With my adrenalin pumping and fueling the excitement of battle, I laughed at her response, “It’s just a saying, It means we’re saved! Let’s go help mop these fools up.”
Before she could reply, I ran out from the trees and Reia soon followed. I ran straight ahead towards a group of three that were fast approaching but before I could reach them, someone landed right in front of me from up above.
“Get out of my way Human, these three are mine!” An angry male voice stopped me in my tracks.
He didn’t even let me get in a word and went straight to work with his spear, spinning from one enemy to the next, cutting them down with extreme efficiency.
It was then that I realized there really wasn’t much left for me to do. Foxkin warriors were pushing the shadowy figures back and had them in full rout. The meadow was soon quiet except for the occasional moaning of the injured. There were corpses of the attackers littered around the meadow and the stench of burning flesh filled my nose.
I wondered if it wasn’t too unbearable for the Foxkin who had a better sense of smell. It didn’t seem to affect Reia much and I thought she must have excellent self control or some means of blocking it out. As it was, it was almost too much for me and I barely kept myself from vomiting. This was the first time I had ever smelled charred and burning flesh like this.
Another thing I noticed is that when I approached the corpses, there was no black mist visible from them and I absorbed nothing. This confirmed that Humans would not provide me any ‘Dark Matter Contamination’, only monsters. Truthfully, I would have felt weird absorbing black mist from Humans. I don’t think I could have accepted that so easily as I did when absorbing it from monsters.
As I looked around, I noticed that Reia was busy healing those of our allies who had been hurt and a small number of Foxkin were killing any of the attackers who weren’t yet fully dead. Though most had already left to chase after the assassins that had escaped.
I practically collapsed to the floor in exhaustion. This had been my very first life or death battle and now that I had a moment to realize what I had just gone through, I felt even more sick. I had killed a person for the very first time with my own hands.