63 A Sinister Path
"If you don't play you can't win."
– Judith McNaught
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Shiro killed her first Chimera. With not so much, but of little effort, or none at all.
We then began to go west, repositioning our sight from the verdant plains where we had our first kill experience, to now a very dangerous-looking and putrid forest with all of our stuff with us. Well, at least there's this rough road void of grass, a clear sign that this pathway has been used for quite some time now and that, it actually leads to somewhere.
This place is a charismatic one though. As I beheld how bleak the atmosphere in the inside looks like, the Italian-written song 'Cena d' Amore' began to play in my head not as an expression of love, but of the creepiness that lies ahead.
From the start, it's like Aokigahara, the suicide forest back in Japan but only, it's overtly darker. The decaying air, which I can blatantly smell from our standpoint provided the fitting abode of those who worship cannibalism. It is primeval and is filled with centuries-old trees ullaged with poisonous-looking ferns in which we should have had no means to anticipate what could lie beneath rustling on the bushes, a typical unlit forest that should be avoided. And yet, darkness huh... perfect. Now, I'll have no problem seeing what should be before us. Besides, I see no other opening that leads west, but this one. Of course, I could just fly my way around using ink, but that would be idiotic negligence of experience.
"Requiem Aranaea", I whispered, as a sort of calling out to my paradigm, which is of course not compulsory. For once, I thought it could deliver cool aspects, but eww... It's just plain cringe. I should probably stop doing that.
My, I think I'm gonna throw up... I held my stomach not out of pain, but of the feeling of self-abashment. Good thing that I did not spice it up with "let me borrow your power to conquer the darkness that reclines fore"... Like those, primal anime character signature moves which would take at least one episode to call out the power, another two episodes of desperate screaming, one episode of throwing the charged ball and another episode to realize that the power was not potent enough to burn a single strand of hair. Well, moving forward...
As though having the prowess of a 'byakugan', but in a much more elevated state, I am able to surmise what lies ahead through the surrounding darkness as if I'm giving it its own eyes and to directly report to me everything that is suspicious and any peril that will likely hinder us in getting to that town. The quality? Better than iPhoney 11 Pro Max.
Sure! As I scanned through the place, monsters are present, which is beyond precedented... each of which has its own grotesque imagery. A mile from here, there's a gorilla-looking monster with crystals that germinated out of its back, eating its own cub and is in a group of approximately what, maybe 39 constituent? Well, at any rate, it's not "If I want to cross alive, I have to avoid them", it's the other way around. If they want to live, then at least they should use every bit of their brainpower to avoid me.
878 meters, there's this pond, not filled with water but of neon green liquid, and in it, skeletons of many unidentifiable creatures, piling up innumerable. 783 meters, there are these wolf-like-creatures with horns, which have, discrepant number of tails and also, do vary in sizes roaming within that specific area which is only a few feet or so from the road that we must navigate. Oh and I can see there stats very well. All elemental attribute: Gnome, which is an alias for dark-type pokemon... Just kidding with the pokemon part though. Pokemon are adorable, but these ones, I doubt their demeanor.
Hmmm. I'm not saying that I'm a Pokemon, but they are undeniably the same as me, but relatively weaker... No, much much weaker... How can I say so, you ask? I can choose to kill them now, if I want to, just by controlling the shadows that they're creeping in. Turn it to swords, spears or anything sharp that I could think of. I can do that. Mundanely, anything that is dark is under my control. In other words, this forest is a very nice dominance for my paradigm, but traveling it would not spell much of a challenge.
By the way, Anything closer in my range I can sense nothing but slimes and smaller threats. Well, I know for the fact that the further we dive, the more dangerous it would become and the stronger the enemies get. So, I can still breathe confidently for now. Not that I'm worried... It also is the same for me. The thicker the darkness becomes, the more control I will have.
"Shiro, shall we go? Aunt Lacrimosa's waiting on the other side." I asked the girl who was by my side, who chose to play with the slimes a little bit rather than to see the interior of the forest.
"Hai... But, oni-chama can I ask a question?"
"Sure, what is it?"
"Why does Lacrimosa onee-chan love to go to dark places?"
"Hmmm... Maybe it's because it's ugly like her?"
"Ehhh??? Onee-chan is not ugly! She is beautiful, like an angel!"
Hmm... That's also how I took perception of her the first time we met. Beautiful. Elegant. Graceful beyond bounds. Yep. Not till her mouth started to blabber to no end. I don't know why but every sound it makes, nullifies her facade down to earth... She does look like an angel... if her mouth is kept with a duct tape that is.
"I'm just kidding, Shiro. Hehehe." I frivolously replied,
"Hmmmphhhh... Yous shouldn't call people ugly, oni-chama. My mother used to tell me that all people have beautiful in their insides too..."
"Roger that!" Look what you've done Jaiden... You just turned your adopted sister to a Values Educator, which is supposed to be your role, and worse, you even made her remember her mother.
Remembering that her mother's not with her, the girl's enthusiasm suddenly dropped. She probably saw memory flashing before her.
"Let's go?" I asked without taking consideration of the little girl. I have to say sorry, it's not like I'm good at cheering someone.
"Yes, oni-chama! Bye-bye Mr. Slimies!", she bid thee slimes that she played with earlier her farewell, and to my surprise, they frickin responded back with their slithery waves, that again made the girl rejuvenate her usual self. Salute to the slimies!
Then, to the unknown, we both go, and to this sinister path that we must navigate in two days time, whilst knowing that if we don't abide by the rules of the warfare and to merely play, then the chance of getting off in the first few quarters would be slim to zero. And, 'Winning' in our minds is not that prevalent.
First in the checklist is 'Survival' in an environment that we are not fully accustomed to and in a realm with so little knowledge of what really is inside its sphere. Other than that, this might just be the perfect warm-up for the greater challenges that we are hell-bent to face, not yonder.