A Boat, an Encounter and The Sea of Trees
Several hours had now passed since our departure from Usk. We…well, I decided to put that behind me and enjoy the boat ride. Neither of us got sick. Perhaps all those rocky carriages had prepared us. I had high resistance to the swaying of vehicles things now.
“So, Asagi. We will have to travel by boat for a while. Do you think we should spend the nights on land?”
“I think so. It will be unbearable to stay on this boat the entire time. Also, can you imagine waking up and not having a clue where you are?”
“I see. Well, I would not have minded staying on the boat.”
Hmm. Really? I felt like if I didn’t have regular breaks, I would be like, ‘woah, the ground is moving’ when I finally did get off. It was a terrible thought. Especially if there were monsters around.
“Besides, we could use the barrier tools at night. So there is nothing to worry about when we sleep.”
“Well, I still think someone should stay up so we don’t lose track of where we are.”
“And this is a sea of trees…a forest. If it comes to it, you can spend the night in the trees, since you are so good at that.”
You couldn’t go wrong with living in a tree.
As for this journey…it was expected to last for several days. And so we made some simple plans about how we would live and then it was time for breakfast. Daniela turned off the engine so we could just move along with the current. Then we set out a small table and chairs. As there was less wind pushing against us now, we could put plates on the table without them blowing away.
Some piping hot bread was then served on the plates, along with soup and salad.
“Now, this is what I wanted to see.”
Daniela smiled happily and sat down. All of this food was from the bakery. I always ended up just staring at Daniela when she looked this delighted about something.
“What are you doing? Let us eat.”
I tore off a piece of the hot bread and put it in my mouth. The fragrance and sweetness shot up my nose. It increased with every bite, and it was gone before I knew it.
After that, I drank the soup with a spoon and enjoyed the complex taste of it before moving on to the salad of fresh and crunchy vegetables.
“It’s damn good…”
“There is not enough of it. But I suppose it cannot be helped.”
And the view was great. The platinum blankets of snow could be seen on the riverbanks. Even the forest, with its varying sizes of trees, was also covered in white.
It was definitely quite cold. But I somehow didn’t care. I used to chuckle when seeing couples eating on terraces during the winter. But I understood it now. Their hearts were warm.
With such beautiful scenery and enjoyable food before us, we talked until our plates were scraped clean.
□ □ □ □
Our journey by boat continued.
“Did you catch anything?”
“No…it’s no use.”
I had decided to try and fish, but it wasn’t working out.
The rod was something I had bought on our way back from our last date. It was just an ordinary fishing rod with a line and a hook. I had a lure attached to it as well. That was all you needed to catch fish. If you were in the right place, anyway.
However, it wasn’t working now. Maybe it was too cold. Besides, the boat was moving and the line didn’t have much length. I really should have thought about it more before buying it.
“Nope. This isn’t going to catch anything.”
“Fishing requires patience. Perhaps it is not for you.”
But then I considered it for a moment and started to think that she was right. I was the kind of person that would prefer to fish in a fishing pond.
And so I put away the rod and lay on my back. The weather was great today. The sun’s rays shone down on us, and it was even a little warm if you were wearing your winter clothes. And so I opened it at the front, in order to cool off a little.
Warm light and cold wind. It was a comforting combination.
“You will catch a cold.”
I muttered vaguely as I closed it up again. My body had cooled off just enough anyway. It was best to keep what warmth was left.
“Still, seems rather peaceful here…”
“Clearly it was a good thing we came during this season.”
If we had come during a warmer time, perhaps there would be monsters jumping out of the water. And there would be worse things in the forest.
But nothing of the sort had happened to us since we started. It had been a while since the river had become narrower and the trees appeared on both sides. And still, there was nothing.
It was the fourth day. And so I was starting to get quite bored with being on the boat.
□ □ □ □
We tied the boat close to the bank and set up our campsite after clearing the area. It was now the sixth night, and we were quite accustomed to this routine.
“Something is here.”
I had been carrying an armful of pots and pans, and so I quietly put them on the ground and increased the range of Presence Detection. And then, I detected something in the forest.
“It seems to be the case. However, this would a very odd place to encounter a human.”
There was no town that was south of Usk. So there should not have been any people here. And while it could be an Adventurer, it was hard to imagine why they would travel downriver by boat, a journey that would take six days.
“…Maybe they just live here?”
“I have never heard of… People who live hidden in the forest… No, what if…”
She suddenly became quiet as if deep in thought. Her eyes were fixed on the dark forest. As if following her lead, I activated Night Eyes and stared into the dark. Whoever it was, they were behind many trees and bushes. There were also piles of snow everywhere and plenty of places to hide.
“Yes, now that I think of it. There are old stories of people who live hidden in the woods.”
Daniela whispered softly as she cautiously nocked an arrow to her bow.
“Beastkin… You mean like Lehaty?”
“Aye. Beastkin who are persecuted by humans. Perhaps it is them.”
Perhaps they had noticed our presence and had come to see. Hmm. I wasn’t sure if attempting to contact them was the best course of action to take. But we had to somehow show them that we weren’t hostile.
“…If they want to hurt us, there are ways. Maybe arrows or rocks. In any case, the barrier should keep us safe.”
“Right. I’ll go and set it up then.”
I would take my sword belt just in case. They might attack without saying anything. And so I grabbed White Blade – Tenko from the hollow bag and attached it to my belt.
Quietly, I moved through the forest. These tools connected to each other to create a lightning barrier. They would not work properly with large obstacles in between them. And so I had to be careful when placing them.
I walked slowly while spreading Presence Detection. It was hard to not focus on what was ahead, but I couldn’t just move forward when placing the barrier tools on the ground.
It required a lot of concentration, but I eventually found a good spot. It wasn’t necessary to create a square, but I wanted as big a protected area as possible.
It was just as I was about to place one on the ground. A pile of snow fell heavily off a tree branch and hit the ground.
And it was accompanied by a quiet shriek.
The rude question came next.
“Uh, no. I’m human.”
Apparently, that was worse.
I clearly caught the figure running with its hands in the air. It looked like a child, but there was something different about the shape of its head. When I looked with Night Eyes, I could see that there were ears on top.
“Hey. Hey! Wait!”
From what I could tell, it was a beastkin. As soon as this registered, I stretched out my hand and was about to chase after it. That’s when an arrow shot past me.
It was Daniela. I nearly shouted in surprise, but the beastkin child beat me to it.
More snow had fallen from a tree and it was now completely buried.
“…Well, I did not want it to get away.”
Daniela said as she hooked her bow onto her shoulder. I was speechless.
She had purposely hit the tree so that the snow would fall on the child, preventing it from running.
The sudden appearance of a beastkin child. It was scared that I was a monster, and then even more scared when it found out the truth. And then Daniela’s masterful shot without hesitation. Well…she really nearly took my hand right off…
It was a lot to happen in a few seconds.
“Now, we should help it before it freezes to death.”
Daniela said with a cool expression as she walked towards the pile of snow. I was still trying to process everything, but there was one thing that was clear to me.
“You’re one to talk!”