ARGHHHH!!! WHY DID I DO THAT?!?!?!’
As the night deepened and the moon shone brightly on the inhabitants of the world, a certain black-haired boy was having trouble going to sleep. It was way past midnight, and the boy was supposed to be tucked in a long time ago. However, every time the image of him embracing his childhood friend emerged from the depths of his mind, his eyes would open up wide as he kicked the cotton bedding. Rolling about the bed in embarrassment, Shin covered his blushing face with the luxurious pillows provided by the Mushinkei.
Raising his hands up, Shin’s azure pupils began to dilate as he remembered the warmth of Ariel’s milky, smooth skin. Cringing in shame, Shin sat up straight on the bed and recalled what had happened. After he had comforted Ariel, the two children suddenly became aware of their close proximity to each other and shyly separated. Unable to bear with the awkward atmosphere, Ariel promptly retreated back into her abode, leaving Shin alone with his bamboo mat.
It took him a short while, but eventually, he realised how brazen he was being. Suppressing the urge to bang his head against the wall, Shin rolled up the bamboo mat and ran back to his room. Diving into his bed began to roll around, causing a strange noise to echo out from his room.
“Damn it, Shin! Stop being so noisy!”
At that moment, there was a loud banging at Shin’s door. Junius, who had an early day tomorrow, had been hearing the shuffling of Shin’s bedsheets against his thighs for the past hour. Thinking that it would die down after the boy went to sleep, Junius ignored the noise and tried his best to enter slumberland himself. However, the incessant disturbance was too much to bear, and Junius decided to give Shin a piece of his mind.
Jerking out of his bed, Shin swiftly headed to the entrance and cautiously opened his door.
“Hey, Shin! Do you know how early I… Hmmm? Why is your face so red?”
When Junius was about to reprimand his younger brother on how vital his sleep was, the youth noticed that Shin was about as red as a tomato. Putting his hand on the boy’s forehead, Junius checked if his younger brother had caught a fever.
“No, your temperature is just fine…”
“You don’t look fine… Don’t tell me something good happened with Ariel?”
“No way… You guys really…”
Seeing Shin get flustered after he mentioned Ariel, confirmed Junius’ suspicions. Earlier on, when he tactfully retreated from the roof to give the two some alone time, he did it in a teasing manner. Junius did not expect that there would actually be some progress with their relationship.
“Y-you’re misunderstanding the situation!”
“Hahahaha, don’t worry! I support your relationship anyway. In fact, everyone back home does so too! Arghhh, I had the bet that you would get together when you reached fifteen though, I think Lia bet you would get together at a younger age…”
Regretting that he had placed the wrong bet, Junius eyebrows furrowed in frustration.
“WE ARE NOT TOGETHER!!!”
Exasperated by how Junius was ignoring his words, Shin hollered out with an impassioned roar.
“Right… Right… Could you do me a favour and get together a few years later? Over a dozen food tickets are on the line!”
When Junius and the other orphans made the bet, they had used the most valuable things they owned, food tickets for the cafeteria. If someone had won, they would be able to feast like a king would.
“Just get out of my room!”
As he was done with Junius teasing, Shin attempted to push the youth out with all his might.
“Right, Shin! You have to get up early tomorrow right? You’re taking Lady Seph’s test! Don’t stay up too late!”
Before he left, Junius managed to get in one word in as the door slammed shut in his face.
With his back placed on the door, Shin gently slid down and took a deep breath. Seeing Junius had reminded him of their earlier conversation.
“Junius wants to become a general and Ariel wants to chase Yggdrasil to revive her parents… Even Gawil Jefferson wanted to become famous so that everyone could remember his name… Everyone has a goal… What is mine?”
It was a question that had been plaguing his mind since that fateful day in the Watkin Shoebox. Everyone he met had a goal. Some small, some large. However, no matter how much he thought of what he wanted to accomplish, Shin’s mind always drew blank.
“What is my dream?”
Gently throwing himself back on the bed, Shin deliberated on the question as he slowly entered the Garden of Hypnos.
The Uncharted Wilderness. ???????
The chilling winds of the night whistled through the damp forest as the towering trees that dwarfed any man-made structure stood their ground, unperturbed by their surroundings. Creatures of the night made their way out from their morning hibernation and roamed the vast wilderness, in search of prey.
A deafening stomp echoed past the lonely woods, rousing those who were anywhere near. From the shadows, a silverback gorilla, standing over fifty metres tall, slowly swung down from the emergent layer of the forest and sharply descended to the lush floor. Beating its chest repeatedly with its fists, the humongous beast screeched out a battle cry as it began its day of hunting.
The wind elements surrounding it started to dance in joy as spiritual energy gathered at the beast’s feet. Kicking off from the ground, the silverback gorilla sprung forward at a speed that was not possible for something of its size. Pouncing about, it moved from tree to tree, opening its pure black eyes in search for prey, and it didn’t take long for the silverback gorilla to find a suitable meal.
A lime green snake could be seen sleeping with its head popping out from a nearby bush. As if it was unaware that it could be seen as vulnerable prey, the serpentine creature rested its head on the mossy floor, as it were in a comatose state.
Delighted that it found an easy meal, the silverback gorilla opened its mouth in excitement but made sure that it did not produce any sort of sound. Stealthily, the beast hopped around until it reached the tree that was nearest to the snake. After it made sure that its prey was still oblivious to its position, the silverback gorilla bared its fangs and kicked off the tree that it was hanging from and lunged towards the lime green snake.
Using its rugged hands, the gorilla grabbed the serpent and attempted to twist its head out from its body. Pulling and pulling, the beast imagined itself enjoying a sumptuous meal of snake meat. However, after pulling on the snake for a few seconds, the gorilla sensed that something wasn’t right. Looking down, the slumbering snake had suddenly opened its eyes and glared at its assailant.
Typically, if an animal is being preyed on, it would desperately try to escape with a frightened expression. However, the snake’s face didn’t even have a semblance of fear. In fact, it only looked mildly annoyed that a random brute had awoken it from its sleep.
At that moment, the silverback gorilla felt a presence, much larger than it was, looming behind it. Turning its back, the beast was greeted by a hundred metre tall lion, with a blood red mane, and the wings of a dragon. From its behind, a scaly tail ran down the bush and straight to the location where the gorilla was. The snake that the silverback gorilla thought was easy prey turned out to be the tail of a napping chimera.
The black fur on the gorilla stood erect as it realised its folly. Releasing the serpentine tail of the chimera, the silverback gorilla summoned as much wind elements as it could in preparation to make its drastic escape; but it was futile.
The air rumbled as the chimera opened its mouth. Red spiritual light converged into a ball in front of the savage beast, raising the temperature of the freezing night. Just before the silverback gorilla could make its getaway, the chimera released the ball of fire, sending a beam of concentrated spiritual energy straight at the gorilla, piercing the heart of the beast.
Puffing out its cheeks like a squirrel, the chimera sent out a thunderous roar, declaring its triumph to the world. In the Uncharted Wilderness, it truly was the law of the jungle. The strongest beings thrived while the weakest perished. Due to this fact, primordial beasts, which are said to rival Rank 90 Spirit Saints, are the most abundant in the Uncharted Wilderness.
Many civilisations over the years had challenged themselves to conquer this unexplored territory, but every time they tried, they failed. It goes to show how dangerous this mysterious patch of land was. Nonetheless, the dangers did not deter some organisations to hide their headquarters here. After all, the most dangerous place can also be the safest.
“What? What happened?”
A slender woman, wearing a black mask, hurried out from the hidden bunker and tried to find out the reason for the commotion.
“Nothing had happened… Just some random beast thinking that Akai’s tail is food again.”
A hoarse voice sounded out from her front. Emerging from the bushes, a viridian-haired lean man, who face was covered entirely by a black mask with a golden crescent moon pattern, sauntered towards the woman. Behind him, there were five other black masks with green snake symbols embroidered into their masks.
Saluting the newcomers, the scout stood to one side and allowed her superiors to enter the bunker. As a normal Shudra, she was in no position to stop the Kshatriya and five Vaishyas from entering the secret base.
“At ease… You guys, go get some rest… I’ll be using the transmission room…”
There was a tinge of lethargy in their words as they replied their leader. Evidently, they had received some news that had made them despondent. Usually, such sloppy behaviour warranted for a scolding, but the Kshatriya knew that his subordinates were truly worn out and let their behaviour slide for today.
Making his way down the bunker, the Kshatriya walked through the familiar hallways. As one of the few bases for the black masks, the shelter housed a large number of their operatives, many of whom are familiar with the Kshatriya. If it were an average day, he would be more than willing to greet those stationed in the bunker, however, today the Kshatriya only had one goal in mind.
Descending down the numerous levels in the secret base, the man reached an isolated room on the bottommost floor. The area was exceptionally simple. There was no furniture, no windows and no lifeforms. The location that the Kshatriya had visited was basically a closed off cell that nobody could live in. The only thing that it had was a black orb, placed right in the middle of the room.
Inside the orb, there seemed to be an endless amount of black waves attempting to break free from its structure as an obsidian light radiated out from the mystical object. As the Kshatriya edged closer to the orb, he felt his mask begin to throb wildly. Falling to his knees, the Rank 50 Spirit Lord paid his respects to the inanimate object, awaiting the arrival of its master.
“Allfather, heed my call…”
The orb began buzzing with a low murmur as if in response to the Kshatriya’s words. Overjoyed that his plea had been heard, the black mask kowtowed once in gratitude to the owner of the orb.
“Allfather… Please assist us as we take revenge on those who stole everything from us!!!”