Hours went by. Delias spent the entire time walking. His foot had stopped hurting him long ago. It was not a large wound, barely saw any blood, but it had still been painful; like how a papercut was on a finger.
During the entire time Delias travelled, he thought of what had happened to him. The platform; the insects; the green-robed man; and most of all, that portal. He remembered the indescribable loss he felt when it appeared. Even now he felt that something precious had been taken from him.
Knowing what they did, that was his first mission. He needed to find out what those two took in place of the contract. This was way more than just having the need for a test subject. That pain he experienced? That could not have been the entire price he had to pay for the entire ordeal. Delias closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He opened them and sighed. I should have hammered out the details before I agreed to anything. As soon as I said yes, they just took me.
Of course the skunk was fine. The entire time it just slept on Delias’s shoulder. Damn stinking thing. Besides the occasional instructions when there was a fork in the road, the skunk remained asleep. At one point, the thing even farted. It scared the crap out of Delias. He knew that farting and spraying were two different things, but still… It was a skunk.
Delias’s stomach grumbled. He looked into the forest, but saw nothing menacing. He did not dare to go in, though. He had not even stepped a foot off the road the entire time and already he met two terrifying creatures. The giant thing spoke for itself, but the skunk… The skunk was fast and smart. He had first thought of asking it a few questions, but then changed his mind. Out in the middle of nowhere, he did not want to reveal too much about his ignorance so that the thing could take advantage of him. After all, he didn’t know the skunk.
“Mr. King, aren’t you hungry?” Delias asked him.
“Hmm?” The skunk opened an eye. He looked at Delias and then closed it. “What are you? A fool? Of course I’m hungry. But where am I going to get food?”
Delias stopped, his mouth agape. “You live in this forest. You obviously know where to get food.
The skunk stood up. He looked at Delias for a long moment and then…
Wham! The skunk smacked Delias on the back of the head. Delias tipped forward and slammed right into the ground. When he got up he spit out a mouthful of dirt. “What the hell?”
“Hmph! You trying to get this king killed?” It sneered. “What? Do you think we’re safe? That guy has had its underlings following us the entire time, even though they don’t dare to approach. Their movements are so obvious, it’s impossible that you can’t tell. You think me dumb? Don’t want me around anymore, is it? Hmm? Or is it you want me dead. I’ll Kill You!”
Delias felt cold. There was a penetrating power entering him. This… This was killing intent!
“Wait! Wait! Mr. King, please. Lets not fight.” Delias was nervous. He tried to calm the skunk down. In a fight, he would lose. He knew the skunk did not actually want him dead. It was fast enough that if it ever thought Delias was going to go against it, then it would simply jab its claws in his throat before Delias could blink. Was it true? Were they being followed? Delias had not heard or seen anything.
“I am new to this area. I am not accustomed to your ways, please enlighten me.” Delias knew that he could not act like he belonged. He needed at least some form information. And that skunk was going to give it to him.
“Hmph. Should have said so from the beginning. We get a lot of your kind around here.” The skunk climbed back on Delias’s shoulder when Delias stood back up. It brushed off a bit of dirt and curled up. Delias did not know what the skunk meant by ‘your kind’, but he did not dare to ask.
“As you know, this forest is called The Eastern Forest. The Eastern Forest is divided into many domains, each with their respective king. The one that sent its goons to follow us is called King Fisher. This road just happens to run right through his domain. The more powerful kings would never tolerate this road within their area. Anyway, as long as we stay on this road, King Fisher can’t touch us.”
“What’s so special about this road?” At that, the skunk’s eyes flew open. It looked at Delias for a long time, its eyes locked on him. Crap. Delias thought. He realized the skunk gaged how ignorant he was. He did not want that.
The skunk was slow to respond, but it did. “This road is under the immortals’ domain. Any beast or creature, demon or the like, even if it’s a domain king, would perish if it were found out that they travelled this road without permission.”
“But you went in.” Delias pointed out.
And if expecting that question, “That was just temporary. The immortals would not care much if someone as small and feeble as me scurried across.” Feeble my ass. “That way I can delay before King Fisher found a way to go around and continue the chase. But that was before I found you.” The skunk smiled.
“Yes, you. For you to to have travelled this road for such a long time, you must have obtained permission. And with you needing my help, why would the immortals interfere with your new official envoy?”
As Delias walked on, he could feel the weight in his inner tunic pocket. Was that what he meant by permission? Delias did not dare reach for it. He did not even glance towards that area, lest the skunk get ideas. If he could travel on in safety because of it, he didn’t want the skunk taking it from him. By now Delias realized just how powerful the creature was. A simple wave of his hand, and he was knocked down!
The two continued like this for another day. They rested, but were not able to drink or eat anything. There were no shrubs with fruit or rivers nearby, and the two did not dare enter the forest with King Fisher’s goons out there. Though that was just from the world of the skunk. Delias never saw or heard them. But if a fast and powerful skunk would rather stay hungry and thirsty than take a quick trip in and out, Delias would do the same.
As night became day, and the cold forest floor warmed a bit by the morning sun, Delias continued on his journey. Sleeping on the ground was insufferable. It was hard, and there were insects from time to time.
One time, when Delias made camp, he fell asleep. In the middle of the night the skunk, who slept nearby, got up and went a few meters away. It had woken up Delias with its movement, but he was groggy and had not paid much attention. He at first thought the little stinker was going to pee. But ten minutes later he heard hundreds of little rumblings, and next thing he knew he was under attack.
Hundreds, if not, thousands of large black ants were heading his way. They were crossing from one side to the other. And they were not normal ants, but bullet ants!
Delias had freaked out and ran. He got bit by a few. It was so painful, he had wished he would die, but after a day, the pain began to fade, and he thought how lucky he was for the sounds to have awaken him before something worse happened.
Delias looked at the skunk lazing on his shoulder. He remembered about that time, and how just after he saw the stinker sleeping soundly a ways down the road.
This stinking..! An anger burned in Delias’s chest, but he took deep calming breaths. Delias was its ticket for safety, how could it just leave him like that?
But Delias just shook his head in the end. He need it just as much as it needed him. For days the they travelled. By now Delias had noticed how quickly his body healed. It seemed he had gotten more than he knew from the deal with the green-robed man. He was a bit more pleased. And as time flew, even though Delias hungered and thirsted, he still had the energy to continue. If it were anybody else, they would have collapsed by now.
But that energy, that ability of his had its own limits. And he was reaching it. It wasn’t until the sixth day out on the road did they come out of the forest. The land before them was spanned for miles with just low green grass. And as the land sloped down, there below was something that brought tears to Delias’s eyes.