It had been five days since Sinag left the datu's household. She was thankful that the labor she was forced to do gave her the strength to walk in the forest with a heavy pack – the bow, the quiver of arrows, and the sack – but her feet were beginning to bleed because of the stone-strewn uneven forest ground. Her mouth was also dry. The last time she drank was by the river, which was three days ago. Her food supply was running low, and she was lost. She was surrounded by trees, their leaves forming a thick canopy overhead. The only source of light came from the few rays of sunlight that penetrated through.

Sinag suddenly felt someone behind her, following her. She turned around, but saw no one. It must have been my imagination, she thought. I have to find water soon. She turned back to her previous direction and saw a stranger blocking her path. She began to reach for an arrow, but the stranger was quick. Without her seeing his movements, he held her right arm and twisted it behind her. Sinag screamed in pain.

"Drop the bow and arrows," the stranger commanded. His voice was a smooth tenor. "Drop them or I will break your arm."

With her free hand, Sinag dropped her weapons. She felt her arm being released. She turned towards the stranger to pour out words of irritation and anger, but no words came out. In front of her stood the most handsome man she had ever seen. He was tan-skinned, lean, and square-jawed. His almond-shaped eyes were complemented by a well-tapered nose, a full lower lip, and a clean-shaven face. He wore a vest woven with the colors of midnight and sunrise. A blue band was tied around his forehead and leather bands were clasped around his arms. Dressed in a woven blouse of coarsely-woven material, and in a skirt of the same dull color, Sinag felt that she should not be in the presence of such a man.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded.

"It does not concern you," Sinag retorted. Her fear was suddenly replaced by a feeling of irritation when she heard his haughty tone.

"Beings like you should not be here. You must leave now."

Sinag raised an eyebrow. "Are we not the same beings?"

The young man laughed. "I am not the same as you. You are nothing compared to me."

"What makes us so different?"

"For one, I know how to defend myself," the man said, his smooth voice made thicker by haughtiness. "You do not even know how to use the weapon you carry."

Sinag opened her mouth to answer, but found that she had nothing to say.

"You must leave now," the stranger repeated. "This forest is no place for you."

"I am afraid I cannot do that," Sinag said. "I made a promise to someone important to me. I am not going to turn back until I fulfill that promise."

"How, then, do you plan to fulfill this promise? Judging by the way you look, you are lost."

Sinag felt her head suddenly spin. Her vision became blurry. She blinked. "You have been criticizing me for being in this forest, and yet, you are standing there as well." She rubbed her forehead. "May I ask why you are here?"

"I refuse to reveal to you my mission," he said.

"We can get on our way then," Sinag said. "I don't wish to tell you what my specific mission is, and you don't want to reveal yours as well. Kindly let me pass."

As Sinag took a step forward, her head began spinning more rapidly. She became light-headed and her step fumbled. She felt her body falling, and then, she lost sense of everything.