Is running all we can do?
Is that what they are good at?
What was the training they did all those years for? Was it for vain? For nothing?
“Don’t look back. Don’t look back.” Sab keeps muttering this as if chanting a prayer. She might as well be for their lives are at stake at this very moment.
Dirt covering her usual clean and beautiful face, eyes fixed to the road they travel and her eyes are so full of emotions: rage, anger, pain, and fear.
“But mom and dad… They are - ”
“We know, Luffia! We know…” Ann sounded so broken unlike ever before. The last two words were muttered like it was forced as if knowing something is a sin. She could not finish the words for fear of her carefully woven bravery will crumble down. Giving up right now is the last thing that they needed.
They knew why they are running away. They knew too well why they have to and knowing hurts more than a knife cutting through their bare skin. Even Luffia knows why, but it won’t mean anything, not when her heart is contradicting that reason.
“Bring those women! I want them alive! Everyone scatter!” a loud voice echoed through the chaotic environment. Cries of agreement can be heard from a good distance and the sisters knew too well that they have no time to ponder if they intended to escape from these men.
“Hurry! We have to get away!” Ann stumbled while running in the murky road in the Dark Forest. Wood branches prickling their skins, cutting it open, and the blood coming from their injuries is soiling the ground red, leaving traces for their trackers.
“Search every nook and cranny of this cursed forest! I don’t care what methods you use! Bring them alive!” Another voice from the opposite direction echoed through the Dark Forest alerting the three women that they have more men ready to capture them.
“They are almost upon us!” Sab cried out in a hushed tone. She is afraid that they might catch them and gods know what they would do once they catch one of them. The blonde woman swore in her mind that she would rather die than to give up now, not when her sisters needed her the most.
They continued to run at nowhere. They can barely see anything in the dark. With hurried footsteps, they traversed through the Dark Forest, not minding the eerie silence or the watchful eyes of creatures hiding in the dark. They can sense the presence of what was called Creatures of the Dark lurking in the forest and they knew, they are traveling a dangerous path but what choice do they have?
“There!” Had they been too focused on running that they failed to sense the presence of their trackers? Too late to ponder as arrows came flying at them, Sab felt the pang of pain on her shoulder while Ann felt the cut of the weapon on her right thigh. Luffia being placed in between of the sisters felt gashes from both sides of her body - one on her left shoulder, the other on her right knee.
“Luffia!” The twins cried out either in pain or worry.
“Guh…” Luffia felt the tragic loss of blood from her injuries and she is starting to lose consciousness but she fought so hard not to fall for falling means death for her and her sisters.
“Do not kill them! They are required alive by Leader!”
Upon hearing the word ‘Leader’ – whoever that is – the sisters regained vigor and the will to keep running as fast as they could, outrunning the pursuers. Their cause might be for nothing as they are leaving traces of their blood, but they won’t fall without a fight. They won’t fall when they promised their parents that they will survive.
Their will to survive and run – at least for now – had overpowered their other senses. They did not notice how the surroundings turned darker than ever as if engulfing their whole being. With nothing but the idea of escaping, as they walked further into the unknown, they did not notice how their pursuers’ voices sounded far and almost gone.
“We cannot go any further than this!” one soldier voiced out, fear evident in his voice.
“Those women are to be our prisoners! Search for them or the Leader will have your heads!” What seems to be the leader of the pursuers shouted, unforgiving to the soldiers who lacked the bravery to lurk deeper into the Dark Forest.
“This is dangerous! No sane man would ever dare go further as this is the territory of the Creatures of the Dark! This is their domain and crossing over would mean slaughter for all of us!” The other soldier argued, earning shouts of agreement from several men.
As if on cue, rustles from nowhere can be heard. Howl of a wolf opened their minds that the ground they stand on belongs to the otherworldly. The soldiers readied their weapons after hearing another rustle from the bushes. Eyes of the men scanned the area, only to be greeted by several pairs of glowing red eyes in the dark.
The leader of the pursuers swallowed the remaining liquids in his mouth, making it dryer than it was before. With a slight shaking of his voice, he ordered the men to slowly retreat.
From the distant area, where the women they are pursuing run off to, rustles and howls of creatures can be heard. The leader can only guess what faith those women faced upon entering the territory of the supernatural creatures. With that resolved and concluded, men began to retreat, leaving those glowing red eyes staring at all of them.
Run as fast as the wind…
The sisters did so, without looking back. The only thing they have in their minds right now is to get away from those soldiers - the traitors.
“I-I can’t go on any longer…” Sab muttered to them, breath ragged, injuries seeping with so much blood.
“We can’t stop! Not now! Not ever!” Ann shouted, her grip on Luffia’s hips is firm and still urging Sab that they must not stop.
“Sab…” Luffia called out, looking at her left side, seeing that Sab is trying so hard not to fall. All of them are. They have injuries that should have made them lose consciousness a long time ago, but their situation – the entirety of it is not allowing them to. Not if they want to avoid death. Not if they want to live. Not if they want to get stronger, regroup, and get back at those men - to get back what is rightfully theirs.
"You must escape. To the Dark Forest. You will be safe there, safer than here in the Human Realm. You must not let them catch you. Be strong." This is what their father told them to do. This made them question the words. How can humans like them be safe in the Dark Forest intended for otherworldly?
But the three sisters remembered what their mother had told them in her bedtime stories.
"Some humans are evil. Some are not. Some Supernatural creatures are evil. Some are not." These words were never forgotten.
This situation proves that but is running at somewhere they have not been before can be deemed safer for them?
At this point, they have no luxury to care. All they can think of is to get as far away… to run… like cowards no matter how bitter as it sounds.
“We have to get you to safety. We have t-to… We ugh, h-have to…” Tears brimming at Ann’s eyes as she is muttering those words again. Prayer is what it sounds like. Prayer to the deities such as Ydione, Goddess of Justice, and Ecius, God of Strength.
Ann’s knees began to waiver, and with the last bit of strength left, they fell to the ground. Their injuries are not letting their bodies move, not with the amount of blood they lost.
“They seem to have given up pursuing us.” Luffia sounded hopeful. Despite the injuries she has, she is still fighting to keep her consciousness straight, a feat so hard.
“W-we can’t stop now. W-we have to go.” Sab mustered a strength to stand up but staggered, leaning on the nearby tree for support. The same goes for Ann. Luffia stood with her sisters. They started to lean on each other for support. No one can guess who is supporting whom but they proceed to walk at nowhere, staggering at their feet, asking the trees for needed support.
They continued like that for what seems like a lifetime. Their bodies seem to be giving up, but their minds are shouting they cannot.
Along their journey, in the blurry state of their minds, they saw a hut not far away – but considering their situation it seems so. Suddenly, they can see hope for them.
“H-Help…” they all muttered. They tried to take more steps, just a few more steps until they can reach the hut – their desired destination for now, but their feet, their whole body refused to do so.
Slowly, they fell to the ground, gazing at what seems to be a distant destination.
“H-H-Have to g-go…A-Ask help…” Ann cannot even form the sentences now.
A small rustle from nearby bush took their attention. At their blurry state, they cannot see who the approaching figure is, or what it is.
It stopped in front of Luffia.
The youngest grabbed its feet, or what seems to be the feet of this creature, whoever or whatever it is…
“P-Please, h-help m-my s-sisters… They’re dying…”
“You’re injuries are the worst of them all.” It spoke.
“I d-don’t care! If I die, so be it, so long as they g-get t-to l-live… Please, I’m b-b-begging y-you. S-save them…” And she lost consciousness.
“Where are they? I told you to bring them to me!” A loud voice, branded as evil shouted at the soldiers tasked to pursue the sisters. Angry as it sounds, but fear is evident in his voice. For what, none of the soldiers know.
“They walked into the deeper parts of the Dark Forest. The creatures are already lurking. They are as good as dead by now.” The leader stated, reliving the memory of the glowing red eyes of the creatures in the Dark Forest. He shuddered to think of what may have become of them should they decided to pursue further.
“Fools and cowards! I did not pick you into this great army to be cowards and useless! Begone from my sight and pray that tomorrow as we survey the area, they shall be found, or else, your heads will roll!” None of the soldiers needed to be told twice. They exited the battered chamber leaving the King to ponder at the situation, weighing down the options.
As soon as the King is alone, the presence appeared.
“Akainu…You seem to be rather upset…Zehahaha. Is conquering not satisfying for your desires?”
“Those princesses needed to be found!” King Akainu shouted his point with anger and frustration.
“Zehaha. Yes, they must, but dwelling in the Dark Forest is dangerous, even for us. You know whom we have to face if that happens” The dark creature spoke with a firm point.
“You don’t have to tell me twice! I already know but do you realize that we needed those three princesses?! We need them alive for my plans!”
“I know enough what relevance they have but dwelling in the Dark Forest with no real army to face off the entire Creatures of Raftel is suicide.”
“Very well, but as soon as the sun is up, the search will continue.” King Akainu said with firm resolution.
“They might be dead for all we know. After all, not all creatures are as accommodating as we are with humans. If they did dwell in the parts where beasts lurk, they are good as dead.” The dark creature said.
Immediately, King Akainu’s hands turned into hot liquid, causing the rise of temperature in the chamber, growing hotter.
“One word and I will have you blasted, Teach.” He warned, like the beast he is, raising his fist to prove his point.
“Of course, your Majesty.” With a sly smirk, Teach – the dark creature disappeared into nothingness leaving the new King of Cresta alone once more muttering a growled promise to himself.
“Gol D. Roger… I will have your daughters spill the truth.”