Chapter 14

The trip resumed shortly after the rest. Reo and Eri had gotten past their awkward moment after their brief apology, while Amelia and Null enjoyed their stay with Martha and Toby from the cottage. However, none of them talked about anything at all; probably because they were still unable to start a conversation without hinting on what happened between Eri and Reo.

Null was reading another book as he walked down the road. Thinking of picking a subject to diminish the silent atmosphere, Amelia turned her attention on the book Null was reading.

"You're reading a book about emissaries?" she asked. "How come?"

"To know about myself... I guess," he replied. "Besides, it's interesting. It says here that emissaries can also represent elements, but that part would come in detail in the next few pages."

"What do you want to know about? Maybe I could help."

"I want to know if an emissary is able to have hallucinations of people that he sees in his dreams."

Reo spoke out, "What do you mean? Did something like that happen to you?"

Null nodded. "Before the road got dark, I saw a boy, the same boy in my dream. But after that, he just disappeared."

He explained about his dream one more time to Reo, Amelia and Eri. They listened thoroughly, hoping to find a clue about any probable way to find out the rationale of the dream. However, they lacked three important aspects: who the girl was, where she was, and what danger she exactly was in. Null and Reo remembered that Arius had suggested that the girl in danger could be Suri; they were also noted to assume that she may be the possible target.

"That boy seems to be our only lead then," Reo concluded.

"Let's hope that the sages could help us figure it out," Eri chimed in. "Maybe grandfather would know-"

Her sentence was cut short when she heard the sound of rapid footsteps behind her. She turned around to see Toby frantically running towards her. Everyone else followed her view at Toby; he seemed to be in a frightful state.

"What's going on?" Eri asked as she stopped Toby.

"We've got trouble," he answered breathlessly. "We've got two injured people in our cottage; they said that they've been attacked by a monster!"

The word 'monster' seemed to silence Eri and her friends for a while.

"How serious are their injuries?" Null asked.

"It's really critical. Unless I get them some medicine, they could die from massive blood loss!"

Eri turned to Amelia and asked, "Do you have the medicine with you?"

"Yeah, but to handle serious wounds like what he's mentioning, I also need some herbs which are grown in some parts of this forest," Amelia replied in a solemn expression. "I'm sure that they're somewhere along the road we're taking."

"Alright, despite our trip, we've got to lend a hand," Eri instructed, as Toby took off to the road to hunt for the herbs. "Amelia and Reo, go help him. Make sure you bring enough herbs for emergencies. Null and I are going back to the cottage. We'll try to heal the wounded."

Amelia simply nodded and took out a medicine bottle. As Reo dropped off from Null's bag to accompany Amelia, she handed the bottle to Eri.

"Clean the wounds with warm water first, then apply this," she said. "Although it won't fully stop the bleeding, it would certainly slow down the blood loss."

Null and Eri ran back to the cottage while Amelia and Reo followed Toby. When Eri opened the cottage door to see the injured people lying side by side on the floor, she gasped.

They were the same two bandits that Eri had fought earlier before!

Martha, who was kneeled beside them, looked surprisingly at Eri and Null and asked, "You came back? Are you here to help?"

Eri kneeled down next to Martha and replied, "Yes. We've brought some medicine. My friends are helping Toby find the herbs."

Null stood near the doorway, looking at the blood pooling around the unconscious bandits. It was indeed a gruesome sight. They were completely covered with deep cuts which appeared to be like claw marks. It was like they had gone through a paper shredder.

Eri turned to Martha and said, "We need warm water to clean the wounds." Then she looked at Null. "Help her out. Bring some clothes and bandages as well," she ordered.

He nodded and went out to the lake with Martha. Eri observed the wounds carefully while lifting the arm of one of the two bandits.

She became startled when the arm moved. She dropped the arm when she heard him cry out, "Ouch! Let go! It hurts!"

Eri looked down to see the bandit open his eyes and look at her. "Just my luck; you had to show up to the rescue," he groaned.

"Just be fortunate that I'm not leaving you to bleed to death," she replied. She looked at the other bandit; he was still unconscious.

Then, she asked, "Tell me what happened. I heard you claimed that you've been attacked by a monster."

"I don't know. It moved so fast, and I can't tell if it was human or not," he answered weakly. "I know that it walked on two legs, I couldn't properly see its face either; it was like the same creature that killed the villagers eight years ago."

That reply frustrated Eri. She started to suspect that these bandits were somehow plotting something to frame Reo, a plan most likely concocted by Hauke. Eri remained emotionless though; she knew that Reo was with her all this time.

So... if he wasn't the one who attacked the bandits, she thought, who... or what could have caused this?

"Can you be certain that this was the same monster that terrorized the village eight years ago?" Eri asked with a tone of bitterness in her voice.

"Of course I do! Will you be able to tell what else had the sense of brutality to do this?"

Eri calmed down, thinking about the situation rationally. She guessed that the bandits were attacked by something which probably had the same ability as Reo. In other words, she guessed there probably was someone or something similar to Reo that was also living in this realm.

As much as she hated helping a bad guy, Eri did her best to prevent both bandits from dying. About five to six minutes later, the cottage door swung open as Martha and Null returned with the required items. Martha carried the clothes and bandages while Null, who appeared exhausted and riddled in sweat, was carrying a large bowl filled with warm water.

Without any hesitation, Martha, Null and Eri got to work, carefully dipping the clothes into the water and applying the damp clothes on to the wounds to clean them. The conscious bandit kept weeping in pain each time a cloth was applied. Afterwards, Eri used the medicine Amelia gave her.

In the meantime, Amelia and Reo caught up with Toby, who was already digging for the herbs.

"See those plants with the bright orange color on the tip of the leaves?" Amelia whispered to Reo as she bent down to point at the herbs a few inches away from Toby. "Those are the herbs we need. The brighter the orange color, the more effect it has to be used as medicine. Judging by the good weather and vegetation, there will probably be more of them inside this area. I want you to find as many as you can and bring them here."

"Got it," Reo whispered back as he hastily entered the area where Amelia pointed out. Amelia started picking up the plants quickly but carefully, prioritizing the brighter colored leaves over the dull colored ones.

While she was digging, she heard Toby murmur, "The sight was horrible. Who could have done something like this?"

Amelia slowed down for a while. She had the bad feeling again as she looked across the road to the cottage.

Something very dangerous is in there, she thought.

Reo found a shrub where he saw the plants that Amelia described in abundant numbers. He became pleased with Amelia's good sense of finding medicine. He also felt fortunate that if anyone of his friends got hurt, Amelia was more than capable on finding the best way to heal them back to normal.

Targeting the brighter colored leaves first, he used his claws to cut the stem of the plants. After gathering the cut ones on to the ground he went for more, eventually emptying the area, leaving only the young plants alone.

Alright; that's more than enough, Reo thought to himself as he picked up the plants with his mouth. He looked around the place one last time and ran back out to reunite with Amelia.

The area that Reo just exited from suddenly became silent. Even the blowing winds came to a halt.

Out of the shrubs, a dark figure materialized and looked at where Reo vanished. Then, hanging its head like it was possessed, it slowly floated away from the road, deeper into the forest.

Its glowing red eyes showed nothing but hate and despair; it only craved for emptiness.

Fresh blood dripped from its hands on to the ground as it slowly disappeared from view, while the winds resumed howling and the forest became vibrant with sounds once again.