“Mom, I’m home!” Adeleine called out as she dumped a bunch of firewood from her arms beside the lit fireplace and hanging her cloak by the door before dusting her clothes.
Desha, who was by the couldron, was stirring the pot’s inside, occasionally adding some ingredients for their supper. Upon the girl’s arrival, she quickly wiped her hands on clean clothe before beaming widely at the girl who in return smiled.
“Adeleine, please be a dear and get us some mushrooms, will you?” she softly asked as she handed the girl a basket. The girl frowned, annoyed that she had to leave again and the fact that her mother could have just asked the favor before she gathered some firewood to save her energy.
“I’ll be making your favorite~” she tried to persuade her seeing that she was reluctant to go, only to be answered by a “wait!”
“What do you mean wait?” She smacked the girl’s head. “Your wait will turn to hours again. Go now.”
Adeleine scratched her head, soothing the spot where she got hit. Grabbing the basket in her hand and grumbling incoherent words, she stepped out of the back door once again. “Geez, alright.”
She reached for her cloak and tied it swiftly around her neck, keeping her mother’s words in mind. “Danger lurks everywhere you go. So be careful.”
She gave out a sigh. She loves her mom very dearly as her mom does to her but there are times that a part of her she can’t seem to understand, despite that she heeded her often asking questions along the way to satisfy her curiosity.
Pulling the hood over her head, she began heading out. She was greeted by the sound of chirping birds and rustling of leaves. Following hidden trails and tracing markings on barks of the forest trees, her feet sank at the layers of fallen dried leaves on the soil creating a rich crispy sound that she enjoyed hearing. There were occasional rustles here and there from the movement of small critters that also resides within the woods.
Her path soon turned moisty with rocks inhabiting green mosses covering its surface. She crouched down and set down her basket. She started harvesting white-colored mushrooms, plucking them at their stems. The first time she did this was back when she was seven and boy, she got severely scolded for bringing some red-spotted once. As to every kid’s logic for taking it, because it was pretty, was all she could say to her glaring mom.
She smiled. Good times.
Hoisting herself up with the support of a nearby tree, she turned back to where she came from and started walking. Passing by a stream, she stopped for a while and knelt down, cupping the water with both her hands and splashing it to her face. It gave her the cooling effect under the hot weather.
With eyes closed, she calmed her senses, listening to the birds’ constant whistling and relished the tranquil ambience of the woods. Before delving deeper in her meditive state, she heard a sound that was surely not from the forest. Surely no one could have ventured in this woods that far.
She neared a tree trunk and caught glimpse of a curled up child, sniffling and wiping his tears away. Dressed in simple garments, white worn-out shirt and brown pants, looking like one of the village boys. Looking around, she saw no one nearby. Presumably, this child could have ventured the woods and lost his way.
Who would do a stupid thing?
Not unless, he knows the woods ways. But seeing him bawling his eyes out, undoubtly, Adeleine thought, he is lost.
Not wanting her guilt to eat her up, she sauntered over, making sure her hair was fully covered by her hood.
“Calm down, child,” she tried her best soothing him, mimicking her mother’s tone. He did, thankfully.
“W-who are you?” the boy asked as he sniffled, wiping the last remains of his tears but his eyes were puffy however. His brows furrowed, inspecting her, a stranger in a cloak in the middle of a forest.
She smiled, despite being under the shadows of the hood. “Are you lost? I’ll help get you back to your village.”
“If you’re someone good, then...then why are you wearing a cloak?” the child asked again, not contented by her offer.
“Cause,” Adeleine, not wanting to deal with something so troublesome, just conjured up a story that would suit a child’s reasoning. “Cause, I’m a mystical creature! If I show my face then I dissappear. We wouldn’t want that, would we?”
The boy had his fingers to his chin as if thinking. “Then I wouldn’t be able to go home.” But then he looked up at her with sparkle in his eyes. “Then you’re like a Heloire, a hero!”
Adeleine scratched her head. “Heloire?”
“Yup!” the boy energetically agreed. “They fight and defeat the evil!”
“Let’s go,” she called to him as she held out her hand for the little boy to take. She wants to take him home as soon as possible and then she could also go home as soon as possible before encountering her fuming mother at the doorsteps.
“I wanted to be a Heloire, but only those with spirit beasts can be one,” he said as he pouted. “That’s why my friends and I went into the forest to find spirits, but I got lost.”
“Why would you risk yourselves in the forest just to get one?” she asked, not fully understanding why these children would just do something so silly and cursing their guardians over not properly supervising their child.
“It because they defeat bad guys!”
“No! No!” the boy shook his head, his dark teal hair bouncing.
Cute. Adeleine thought.
“They defeat bad guys! Mama said that those bad guys eat children. Heloire beat bad guys and save the children!”
“Bad guys...” she hummed. “Monsters in forests?”
“No!” He shook his head even more. “They’re badder than monsters! They’re Letherians!” He jumped in joy as he grasped the word he had been wanting to say since a while ago. “They eat children that’s why they were beaten by Heloire. They said that they’re monsters who disguised themselves as humans! They have black hair! Mama said they look ugly, with black hair as dark as coal!”
This made her stop. Black hair like me? Me? Ugly?
“Sharp teeth and long nails resembling claws!” The boy made a face, expressing his digust. “I don’t want to see them.”
What coincidence. A black-haired female is holding him.
Adeleine, who had been listening to the boys rant, forced a smile. She suddenly felt the urge to just leave the boy rotting in this forest.
“Older sister?” the boy called out to her. “Let’s go.”
This made her realized that she stopped in her tracks. After a few more walks, they now see the line of trees that serves as border between the forest and the village. The village was lively and full of people buzzling about their day.
She stared at the scene for a couple of moments, then turned to the boy who was beaming from ear to ear not able to contain his excitement upon seeing his home again.
“There they are!” he exclaimed and ran towards it, dragging Adeleine along in the process. But she was quick to react and dug her heels in the ground, stopping them from continuing any further. He turned to her with a questioning look. “What’s the problem?”
Her mom that is. She was prohibited on mingling with villagers as to protect her from harm. Hearing the kid’s story, only proves that she will be not welcomed. The look of horror will befall on the folk’s faces once they discover that she’s not one of them.
This place, Adhelis Empire, believes that black hair is a sign of dark affinity, something related to the celestial moon, Luna.
One time she disregarded her mother’s warnings and headed to the village, she was quickly dragged back home even under the cloak. She was grounded and was not allowed to set out of the house for a week, which she then again disobeyed. Such a troublemaker she was back then, just to feed her hungry curiosity.
“Older sister? Hey.”
Her eyes gazed at the child who was calling for her attention. Once again, she realized that she had been in her head in the clouds for a while. Quickly thinking up of something to say for a natural movement that would avoid suspicion, she simply stated and pushed him towards the village’s direction, “Ah, no. I’m alright. Just go ahead.”
“But, wait! What about you?” he tried to dug his heels in attempt to stop her from making him leave.
“I’ll be fine,” she reassured. “I can’t let them see my face, remember?”
The boy rolled his violet eyes. “Are you seriously pushing that? I’m not a child, okay? Even if you’re ugly, I accept you, don’t know about them though.” He jerked his thumb to the people and grinned.
She clenched her fist as a tick mark appeared on her forehead. She resist the urged to slap the mischievous smirk off his face and yell that she’s good-looking, but she can’t say that now as it would attract the villagers’ attention.
Calm down, it’s just a little brat. It’s okay. She thought to herself as she did a couple of inhaling and exhaling. Let me slap that’s child’s face!
She forced a wide smile. “How about you get going, before I gobble you up.”
His eyes widened and ran as fast as he could towards their village, never looking back much to her relief.
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