Chapter II : The Oak Forest IV

Chapter II : The Oak Forest

“ Mold ”

Time passed and the group traveled without as much as a word. Errol occasionally looked at them but the humans seemed afraid. Rina even hid behind Thyme when the little black-haired historian looked her way.

“ Well… we’re here, “ Errol finally said as he stood in front of a very wide yet strangely dark clearing.

On their way to that place, Thyme noticed droplets of black blood which surely were signs of what they were following. However, the clearing had no traces of black blood.

“ Is the Overlord… “ the guard began to ask, but he was interrupted by the farmer.

“ Are you serious about this? “ Steel tried to keep his voice low, “ You know what this place is, right? “

Errol nodded, and then tapped the ground. A faint rumbling gradually grew closer to their feet until Puppy finally emerged.

“ Rina, you can’t help here. Hop onto Puppy’s back and guard your belongings, “ the little historian said.

The girl gasped and trembled a little when she looked at Puppy. The tardigrade did nothing but lower itself as much as it could to let the human get on his wide back.

“ There’s no way that- ! “ Thyme began to yell, but Hunter put his hand over the guard’s mouth.

“ Sit this one out, “ Xing’s son suggested, “ Steel and I will do this. You can stay with Rina. “

Hunter barely spoke earlier, even after his ordeal with the sunflower. But now, he spoke with such certainty. The tamer then put his bag on Puppy’s back, noting that Errol had nothing but his clothes, a book and his drawing items. The young man and the farmer then secured their coats and pulled part of it up over their noses.

“ Hmf… if you do something weird, I swear, I’ll… “ the guard was going to say ‘stab you’ to Puppy as he helped Rina to get up the tardigrade’s back, but he realized that such a threat was futile given what they saw earlier.

“ I’m ready when you guys are, “ Hunter stood at the edge of the clearing as he waited for Steel and Errol.

The three volunteers then stepped into the clearing, and to Thyme and Rina, it seemed as if the darkness swallowed them. Within the dark area, the tamer, the farmer and the historian could see just fine. The wall of darkness was the edge of the mold colony’s territory. It released dense spores that made the area seem dark from outside, but within it, one could clearly see.

Steel did not speak. He knew very well that if he swallowed or inhaled too much of the mold spores, he would begin to hallucinate. For now though, they were still safe. Hunter, who was not a farmer but a tamer, also knew this fact because mold colonies were home to one of the most dangerous small animals in the World: fuzzyworms. Both men found it curious that a historian like Errol knew about this; furthermore, the child did not cover his nose or his mouth. Instead, he seemed to be holding his breath.

– Who is this kid? – the farmer thought.

Just then, Errol pointed to something close to their feet. Steel fought his urge to jump back as a fuzzyworm slithered by his leg. The creature was almost as large as Hunter’s arm; it was very brown and, as its name implied, fuzzy. It had no eyes, limbs or ears, but it had one circular mouth that was filled with sharp teeth. The farmer knew that while they were in the mold colony and did not fall to the ground or get injured, the fuzzyworms would think that they were either mold or fuzzyworms. They were ‘safe’, so to speak, but things would quickly go downhill if any of them began to hallucinate.

Suddenly, to Hunter’s horror, Errol walked over to a fuzzyworm nest and took one of the massive eggs. It was almost as large as the little historian’s head. Errol shook the egg and nodded; he then handed the item to Steel, who held onto it tightly. As the tamer thought, the historian did not bring them to that place to look for the Overlord. It seemed to be a preparation for a longer journey. Hunter looked at the farmer and they nodded at one another. Both men knew how to check fuzzyworm eggs, and so they checked other nests.

The trio took eggs which had not begun to develop yet, signified by a swishy sound that its contents made. A developing egg had a plop sound instead, and they put those things back into the nests. Steel and Hunter had two fuzzyworm eggs each; Errol got only one. That errand went without incident, much to both men’s surprise. By the time that they got out of the clearing, they exhaled heavily and almost collapsed, not because of fatigue but because of relief.

“ We got it! “ Hunter handed the items to Thyme and Rina.

“ W-what is it? “ the blonde historian reluctantly took what was handed to her.

Large and with patches of fuzz, the egg was strangely light for its size.

“ Fuzzyworm eggs, “ the farmer replied, which almost made Thyme throw the object away, “ Careful. They look weird, but it’s a stable food source. And it will help us survive in the Desert Beyond. “

Rina blinked a few times.

“ The Desert? THE Desert Beyond? “ the historian’s eyes lit up as she hugged the egg.

“ There’s only one desert, “ the guard huffed as he put his new food source into his bag, “ But why there? “

“ The droplets lead to that place, “ Errol explained, “ And we’re almost there. But we can rest for a while before we head out. “

The group fell silent again when the black-haired historian spoke up. It was obvious that the humans were still shaken up due to what Puppy did to the sunflower. Thyme and Rina quickly slid off the tardigrade’s back, and the massive beast dove into the ground once again. The travelers then moved forward, searching for a place where they could rest before their expedition into the desert.

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