A long corridor of trees stretched for kilometers onwards with a canopy of maroon leaves. The path below us was cobbled for easy access when traders come by. Their spirit of trade has kept our small town alive for many years. Countless times the chief has shown appreciation to merchants.

He may not look like it but he is a rather smart individual when it comes to commerce. With his brain and brawn, he is a perfect fit for the town of Shiwick. I can think of anyone better, not even his daughter.

But none of that mattered now as we continued on our path towards the Kings Game. Who knows, maybe if I win a few words could be slipped in about trading with Shiwick. I couldn help but chuckle to myself.

Zeraf turned her head over to me with a confused look. (What are you giggling to yourself for? We haven even exited the forest and you are already having fun?) Her confusion shifted into a soft smile as she slowed her pace to match mine.

(Zeraf, you haven told me exactly your goal at the end of our journey. What are you hoping to accomplish?) This was a simple fact. She just decided to tag along with me for no reason when I started planning for this.

She stared at me for a few seconds before her face turned redder than a tomato. (I just want to adventure with you. Do I need any other reason? Humph!) Zerafs head turned towards the trees and she kicked off faster.

Honestly. She really is the cutest in the whole world. I will tell her exactly how I feel one day. I can allow anyone to come between us, I could never forgive myself for that. But…

(Zeraf. Please understand that my end goal is to become King. I hope that you will allow me to do so and aid me whenever I may need it.) She turned her head back at me, this time more confused than before. Things weren clicking in her head and that much was obvious by her expression.

(Well duh! I will always be by your side dummy!) She stopped dead in her tracks and smiled sweetly at me. I have truly been blessed by the gods!

Aghh. A chill ran down my spine as I snapped towards a faraway tree. Someone is watching us. No… Not someone… Something… And something powerful nonetheless. Sweat dripped down my face, drenching the long collar of my trench coat. Zeraf kept her head high as she merrily skipped across the path. Was I mistaken and had an instinct break down? That is possible but I must keep an eye out going forward!

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

The rest of the walk through the forest was uneventful aside from passing deer and chirping birds. And the thick atmosphere disappeared from earlier. It mustve really been a mistake I suppose. Though it was a petrifying one.

For kilometres, all that could be seen were the beds of steaming swamp water. The hot air hit against the flaps of my trench coat and fluttered upwards. Sweat imbued itself into the cuffs of my coat, which then on stuck to my wrists.

Though these lands lacked the essence of life, animals still dwelled and tried their hardest to survive these parts. The lack of clean water left many to die of disease and dehydration. Carcasses of deceased animals lay scattered across the toxic swampland as flies devoured all that remained. My shoulders shivered at the sight of these poor animals. They couldn make it to the safe forest in time so now they rot in this hell forever.

If I will make it through this, I must steel myself for the horrors that lie ahead. Though Zeraf continued to skip merely despite all the death around. It amazes me how unaffected how she is about this. But then again, knowing she would mercilessly kill me in her sleep makes a bit more sense.

One upside of traveling through this swamp is its abundance of frin. Its reddish tint floated up to the sky like smoke and formed several reddish clouds that flew by. I tried stepping a bit closer to the swamp but my nose was hit by a wall of vile aroma.

Zeraf suddenly stopped in her tracks, blocking my view of the path forward. I peaked over her shoulder to see a few large toads hopping by from pond to pond.

Fifteen mustve hopped by until two sat in front of us. They stared directly at us. Ribbit, Ribbit Their throats inflated like a balloon before quickly deflating. (Uhm Zeraf. Can we not just go around them?) She just shook her head, eyes glued to the two toads.

Two tongues flew at us with insane velocity, barely missing by a hair. Zeraf got in a defensive stance and readied herself for the battle. (You take the one on the right!) Those were her only instructions. (Just don hold me back!) We smirked at each other and kicked off towards the toads.

Root Wall! A large veil of tree roots rose high in the air casting a long shadow over the toad. It retaliated with another tongue attack as it hopped out of the shadow. Toads aren supposed to be smart!

I reached for the short sword at my hip, light glimmered off the blade as I swung it around. Despite its chunky build it was deceptively fast leaving little openings. But the real goal of my close combat attacks is really…

Shadow Eruption! Shards of shadow spikes protruded from the toads bolder body. Blood trickled down the surface of the shadows, staining the path in a deep shade of burgundy. It wriggled around, trying to break free with its last bit of strength before the final twitching ceased.

A few meters behind was Zeraf and her opponent. With her unmatched speed, she ran circles around the toad. A barrage of kicks left hundreds of cuts across the slimy skin. Her hail storm of attacks came to a halt before she put some space between them.

Flames engulfed her fur as she waved her hands past them. The very air around her burned, sucking all the moisture out. Her form lowered into a lunge, the stone beneath her visibly charring.

Zerafs figure flashed forward a few feet behind the toad. She clacked her foot onto the stone and the fire faded. Flames lingered from her attack as the frog slowly cooked itself. It was split into two clean parts.

(Did you see that Abby? From here on out I will be the one protecting you! Haha.) She laughed as she continued walking forward. (Just you wait Zeraf! I will show you just how much stronger I am!) Though she ignored me and continued forward.

My feet followed suit and jogged to catch up to her. I have a bad feeling this isn even her best. Am I really that far behind…No! I can get discouraged now, not this early in this adventure.

Her gallant strides only added to the wide proud smile on her face. Even this side was cute! I can help but enjoy the sight of her. A new secondary goal has been acquired, make Zeraf fall in love with me.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

A few hours have passed since our battle with the toads and not much is noteworthy. Zeraf practiced a few flying kicks and ended with a face full of mud. She whined for an entire hour until we came upon a well. She cleaned off her face and hair though her clothes remained muddy.

She was sulky for quite a while, even complaining that I was the only clean one. Zeraf jokingly attempted to throw me into the swamp, thankfully the roots kept my feet planted on the ground.

(Abby! Do you see that ahead?) Her voice snapped me out of my daydream. Up ahead was a small inn with a large sign posted right beside it. I couldn read it even when I squinted my eyes.

Zeraf kicked off the ground, hurdling a few stones from the ground towards me. They shot at me like speeding arrows barely missing me. I nearly became swiss cheese.

Her figure slowly became smaller as she got further toward the inn. The sun had begun to cast its light from the side, casting a shadow beside the path. It stretched on until the inn.

A wide grin spread across my face as my form melted into the shadow. The only thing that moves as fast as light is…darkness. In the blink of an eye, I found myself directly in front of the inn. The shadow it cast over me was much larger than the one from the path. It was chilling when compared to the steaming swamp land.

My form materialized back. Zeraf was roughly a hundred meters away. It took her less than five seconds for her to fully catch up to me. (Your shadow abilities are way too overpowered. You know that right Abby?) She complained to me, but I am having none of it. My speed in the shadow is limited by form and reaction speed.

(Lets just head inside and get you cleaned up. You stink!) I grabbed my nose and stuck my tongue out at her. She merely punched my shoulder as she grumbled under her breath.

(Yeah, lets head inside.)

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