Chapter 11: To and Fro
It felt like a good hour before the little elf girl settled down. I don’t blame her. Being taken away like that is a traumatic experience even for adults, much less a child.
I just sat there waiting for her to settle down, sitting cross-legged, patting her head every so often.
“What happened to those bad guys?” She manages to say.
Not knowing what I should say to a 7-year-old about killing, I just dismissed it by telling her, “Er… I took care of them so we should okay.”
She looks at me with a slightly confused face. Looking closely at her now, I would imagine she would be quite the beauty later on in the future.
This girl, who looks around 7, has long glowing sliver hair that gently cascades down past her shoulders parted unevenly to the sides. Looking closer, her hair wasn’t exactly pure silver but more of a bright gunmetal grey color. Paired with her unique turquoise eyes that were shaped beautifully like almonds, this elf girl emitted a very mysterious, almost phantasmal feel about her. Her perky nose was slightly red with crying, as were her eyes that still had tears in them, her rose-colored lips that contrasted her fair skin, still quivering.
I shake my head. This is no time to be checking out a child (As if there are times later on when checking out the child is okay)!
I help her up before talking again.
“Those people that tried to kidnap you aren’t going to chase you anymore. Do you think you can make it to your home by yourself?”
Instantly, her eyes turned wide with panic and the tears welled up came flowing down while both her hands clench tightly unto my shirt.
She doesn’t say anything but her actions speak loudly enough.
*Sigh* “Look, I need to get home too. Aren’t elves generally safe in this forest?”
She violently shakes her head in disagreement. “Beasts only scared of adults…Parents warned me that children will get eaten by hounds or tree golems.”
I would normally be pretty amazed about something like a tree golem, but it’s pretty hard to find something that surprises you after seeing a demon king turn into a dragon.
I rub the bridge of my nose, trying to think of the solution to all of this.
“How long does it take to get to where you live from here?”
Still holding unto my badly worn shirt, she looks down and mutters, “… I don’t know.”
Great. I let out a sigh in defeat before telling her that I’ll go with her.
The Kingdom of Elenoir is quite a bit north. My only hope is that there will be a teleportation gate there that can send me to Sapin.
I tell the elf girl to wait in the carriage while I gather some necessities. I also don’t want her to see the mangled carcasses of the slave traders. Even I found it hard to stomach. Finding a backpack obviously too big for a 4 year old, I carefully fold and stuff the small tent inside, along with a leather water bag and some dried rations. I pick up Pinky’s knife from the ground where I fought Danton and George. Before heading back into the carriage, I free the forest hounds.
“Let’s head out now.”
“En!” She nods after hopping out of the carriage. I make sure she doesn’t go to the other side, where all of the bodies are and we head out.
The elf girl’s name is Tessia Eralith and she just turned 5, meaning she’s about 1 year older than me, physically that is.
From the conversations I had while talking to her while walking, I conclude that she’s a pretty reserved, if not shy, girl. She’s very polite to me, considering that I’m only 4, and is all in all a very agreeable traveling companion. Perhaps if I weren’t traveling in the opposite direction of my home, I would be in a better mood.
It was getting dark so I suggest we stop and pitch the tent for the night.
There were no rods supporting the tent. Instead, it relied on a long line that had to be tied between two trees and hung over to keep it up, the ends weighed down by rocks. After I finished setting up the tent, I take out a couple of tried rations from out of my oversized bag and hand some to her.
“…Thank you very much.”
“You know. You don’t have to be polite with me. I am younger than you and I’d feel a lot more comfortable if you do.” I say, half chewing with a cheek full of dried food.
“O-okay, I’ll try!”
I scratch my nose in defeat and I go back to stuffing my food. She must have very strict parents. Maybe it’s just an elf thing?
We sat against a tree next to the tent while chatting.
“C-can you tell me about the human kingdom?” She suddenly asks with eyes sparkling in interest.
“What do you want to know?”
“What is a human town like? How are humans? Is it true you male humans are perverts and have more than one wife?”
I spit out a mouthful of the dried fruits I was chewing on. This girl!
“No, although it isn’t against the law, only nobilities and the royal families tend to have multiple wives.” I say, while wiping my mouth.
“I see now!” Her eyes seem to say, still sparkling.
Do you really?
I go unto explaining a bit about the town of Ashber and my family to pass the time before I ask.
“What is it like living in Elenoir?”
“Mmmm….” She ponders before explaining.
“I don’t think it’s too different, except the children all have to go to school to learn about our history and how to read and write. When we awaken, we get teachers assigned to us and we become their disciple. From there, a lot of it is just training with your master.”
I get up from the ground and I hold my hand out to help her get up as well.
I notice her turning a little red, but I think it’s just my eyes playing with me in the dark.
“Sleep in the tent, I’ll keep guard next to you outside.”
I see her thinking for a little and her eyes look at me, full of resolve.
“I don’t mind sh-sharing the tent, if you’re okay with it.”
“It’s okay. I’m not that sleepy right now anyway.” I instantly shut her down.
Did her ears just droop a little?
She goes into the tent and I lean against it and begin meditating.
I start inspecting my mana core. Sylvia left me with something she calls her “will” but how does that affect my mana core? Inspecting even closer, I notice, ever so faintly, some markings in my mana core when,
I see Tessia’s head poking out of the tent.
“Is there something wrong?” I asked, turning my head to face her.
“W-well! You see… beasts will more likely appear if they notice you because they will see that you are a child. Therefore, I propose that for our safety, that it would be better for you to c-come inside the tent.” At this point, Tessia covers her face with the tent’s opening flap, showing only one eye.
“Pft~ Tessia, are you scared to sleep by yourself in the tent?” I chuckle.
“A-absolutely not! I am just suggesting, for both of our safety, what the best choice would be to do!” She pops her head out.
I decide to continue teasing her, “If that’s the case, then I’ll hide up in the tree and continue to be on the lookout. You know… for ‘our safety’” I wink.
By this time, she covers herself completely inside the tent before muttering softly,
“…I’m scared to sleep by myself.”
Ahh I should stop teasing her now.
I open the flap and go inside the tent.
She immediately lies down, turning her back to me, but I see clearly that her ears are bright red. I should avoid the habit of teasing her so much before I get addicted to it.
A couple moments later, she peeks behind her back and turns around.
“Can I hold unto your shirt?”
I forget that she’s just a child. How hard it must have been for her; getting kidnapped, separated from her family and carried off, not knowing if she’ll ever see them again.
Scooting closer to her, I pat her head softly and nod.
Her eye close in content and she grabs the end of my shirt. A couple minutes later, I hear her breathing get rhythmic, and I start drifting off to sleep too, still sitting up.
I open my eyes awake and I look around. I look down to see Tessia’s head on my lap, her body curled up.
I gently shake her awake, “Tessia, we should head out now.”
She slowly stirs awake, but when she realizes the position we’re in, she shoots up with a surprised shriek. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to… was I heavy?”
“Haha… don’t worry about it. Let’s fold up the tent.”
Her cheeks slightly pink, she nods and we pack everything up before heading back out.
A few more days pass by pretty uneventfully. A couple of forest hounds tried to get close once, but I threw my mana-reinforced knife at one of them and they all ran away scared. Nights were spent with me sleeping in the tent with Tessia and her getting more comfortable around me. Fortunately, we didn’t run into any tree golems or stronger mana beasts.
“Can you tell how far we are from Elenoir now Tessia?” I ask on the 4th day of our journey?
She looks around her eyes seeming to glow and her ears slightly twitching.
“Yes! We’re not too far anymore! I think that if we quicken our pace a little bit, we’ll be able to make it by tonight!”
“Sounds good.” The faster I drop her off, the faster I can make my plans to somehow get home. Although I admit I’ll probably miss her after this.
“Arthur? You said your family and the people close to you call you Art. D-do you mind if I call you Art as well?” Tessia suddenly asks while we cross a log bridge across a stream.
“Hmm? Yeah I don’t mind.” I flash her a wide smile.
“Hehe okay! Umm please call me Tess as well…” She says while her head was slanted down, her eyes looking at me in an upward fashion, shyly.
This girl is going to be dangerous when she grows up.
We continued on the rest of the day, with only a couple of quick stops to rest ourselves and replenish our stomachs. I wasn’t too tired because I was constantly using mana rotation, but it was obvious that Tess was getting exhausted.
After our last quick stop, we continued forward for the last stretch. Tess and I got a lot closer on this journey. The once shy and reserved elf girl showed bright smiles that made even my heart thump. She would tease me too at times, saying that I should call her older sister since she was 2 years older than I was. I teased her back, imitating her when she was crying, rubbing my eyes and yelling, “WAAA~ MOMMY, I’M SCARED!” This seemed to turn her bright red and she hit my arm before pouting with her arms crossed and lower lip protruding. “HMPH! Meanie!”
Ah! Endure this need to hug her, Arthur!
It’s dusk now and the fog around us seems to get thicker and thicker. My sense of direction is all but useless here. If I were to get separated from Tess, I can end up travelling in circles without even realizing it.
She suddenly turns to me, her face a mixture of happiness and hesitation. “We’re here.”
Looking around, the only things I see are clusters of trees and fog. Confused, I was about to ask where we were, but I stopped when I saw Tess placing both her palms on a tree and chanting softly.
Suddenly, the fog around us was sucked into that same tree and what came into vision was a giant wooden door that seemed to just stand on by itself on the ground.
Tess takes my hand pulls me towards the door. When she opens it, I’m reminded of the portal that Sylvia sent me through.
Experiencing the same feeling of being in a fast-forwarded film, we softly land on our feet, arriving at our destination, my eyes wide with awe at the sight before me.