Chapter 40:

A Beginning of the End

A Tour of the World Between Worlds

When I emerged from the woods, I was greeted by the sight of the giant furred warrior, Casey. Her unique fur patterns seemed to flow and sway as she thoroughly examined a pile of spears before her.

She picked up a spear and tried stabbing the air in front of her. After which, she spun it around like a baton before piercing the ground and picking up the next. She must have had twenty different ones in front of her that her ‘test’ process was used on. I watched silently until a ring of spears stuck around the tall warrior like a series of posts. She sat down and crossed her arms.

“H-hello, Casey,” I said. To my surprise, her shoulders twitched like I had surprised her. Either she was very focused on her task, or I was moving very quietly.

“Ah, Kiko, good timing,” she said as she jumped to her feet. I looked up to keep my focus on her face. “I am trying to get a new spear for the battle ahead.”

She picked up a metal spear with a blade that seemed long enough to be a sword.

“I picked this one up in that last world, and it worked well enough, but it didn’t feel right.”

“Where did you get these?” I asked.

“They are from my collection…. I am remiss in using one in battle, but I suspect we will need to be as prepared as possible with the foe ahead.”

“You have a spear collection?”

“Is that so strange? You have a knife collection.” She gestured to the blades at my side, then to the rest of me. I had multiple small hidden blades within my kimono, but she was the first to point them out.

“This isn’t a collection… at least, I don’t think it is.”

“I see; well, I apologize for assuming. However, the matter still stands.”

I could tell that she was torn. I suspect her best spears were the ones she wanted least to fight with, but the spears she might use would be the worst. I pointed to a golden spear with an emerald green tip. It almost seemed like a crystal had been fastened to the end, which likely meant it had a property that made it good in battle; otherwise, the stone would be at risk of damage.

“How about that one?” I asked. Casey frowned.

“That might be my most powerful one… but I would hate to get it too roughed up from a fight.” She picked up an iron spear and spun it in her hand. “It might be best to keep it simple.”

Given that a monster was coming, I would think her most powerful weapon might have been an asset. Perhaps it wasn’t such a big deal for her fighting prowess, but I could not shake the feeling that she was wrong.

I nodded in reply and then made a small wave to excuse myself. Casey didn’t seem to mind as she swung her chosen spear around more vigorously. I couldn’t help but wonder why she asked for my input if she wasn’t going to use it, but dwelling on it would get me nowhere.

With a sigh, I began to wander. After a minute, I stood in front of the giant myst wall that circled the world. I suppose this was the danger of wandering; I had ended up right on the edge of this grey place. One rock nearby seemed flat enough to use as a chair.

“Exhausted, Kiko?” Azul asked as I set my arms behind my back and stretched out as best I could while sitting.

“In a certain sense,” I answered. What sense that was, I wasn’t sure of.

“You have some difficult battles ahead; you ought to take this moment to rest before it is too late.”

“Thank you for your concern, but I’ll be alright,” I replied.

“Good to hear! I’d be remiss if you were unable to help me collect the keys. You are a great travel partner, after all.”

“Glad to hear it….” My voice grew low as I finished talking. A rustle in the foliage behind me had caught my attention. A quick inspection above showed the green orb still over my head; the frog had remained silent since transforming.

I jumped up and drew both of my golden daggers. Seconds later, Orrin pushed out from the trees. He stumbled forward like he had been walking through a dense patch before arriving here.

“Ah, Kiko!” he said in a cherry voice.

“Orrin,” I replied as I put my blades back. I could only hope he didn’t hear me talking to Azul; as far as he would be able to tell, I would have been talking to myself. Maybe I was talking to myself either way.

“What brings you to this secluded spot?” he asked. I thought I saw his Green eyes look up over my head for a second, but it seemed he was just looking at the myst wall behind me.

“Just ended up here; what about you?”

“I’ve been patrolling around in case that monster pops out again!” my eyes narrowed. It was impossible to tell just how big the myst wall was, but it seemed nearly impossible to patrol.

“Aren’t you worried you’re wasting time? Surely, there is something else more useful than trying to find the monster by chance.” I asked. There was no effort to sugarcoat my tone, which dripped with piercing scorn. Everyone in this world seemed to waste their time. Azul chuckled at my response; I wasn’t sure where the humor was.

Orrin, wholly unfazed and bearing a smile, replied graciously:

“I think my odds are pretty good! Besides, there’s not much else the others would want me to help with anyway.”

I held back my comments about their wasting of time as well. All I could settle for was to shake my head in disapproval. What was going on in Orrin’s mind was a mystery.

“He’s a strange one for sure,” Azul said as if he heard my thoughts; given my body language, it must have been plainly evident to all, save for the green man who stood there obliviously.

“Anyway! I don’t think we ever named that first monster! We better do it quickly before things start to get rough!” Orrin chirped.

“I don’t see the point of naming it; we just need to kill it.”

Orrin shook his head.

“No, no. We need to call it something. It will help us fight it!” His suggestion was just another waste of time.

“You fool! Your breath is wasted.” Azul muttered from my shoulders with a hiss. Even if Orrin could see and hear him, I doubt the green man would be phased by it in the slightest.

“I was thinking we call it something that had to do with clay since it seemed to change shape like it’s made of the stuff.” Orrin continued. He stood silent and stared at me. I tapped my fingers on the hilt of my sheathed dagger as I waited for him to say more.

It occurred to me that he was waiting for my reply only after an awkward silence filled the clearing.

“Sure, call them Clays or something,” I replied. It was best to just end the discussion quickly

Orrin looked like he was about to reply, but he leaned to look behind me instead. For a second, I thought his expression had changed to a sour one, but it must have been a trick of the light.

I turned around to look at the myst. I didn’t even have to assume the worst. The creature we had just spoken about walked out of the foggy edge.

Its form remained human-esk, but it now was standing very tall. My gaze started at the feet and slowly turned to the head that was at least four times higher than mine. It had grown into a full-fledged giant.

“Well, that’s a problem!” Orrin chimed in. I’m glad he wasn’t the type to say, ‘I told you so.’ The smooth fleshy head turned down to look at us. Though it had no eyes, I could feel a cold glare which made me shiver. The body began to split in two—from the center of the head to between the legs. Each half fell over, but while falling, it became amorphous and changed shape into two individual and large, humanoid forms. Orrin whistled. “Bet you can’t do that infinitely!” He said with a laugh. Though his words were not serious, the green-clad man slowly backed away from the creatures. He motioned for me to do the same.

As we slowly moved back, the blank faces followed us as if they had eyes to track with. It made it all the more disturbing. My hands curled tighter around my dagger’s hilts. The golden blades had been effective the last time, but that was only against one foe. Now that I had two to contend with, I couldn’t be sure I would even get a hit in, at least not without risking injury to myself.

“What should we do?” I whispered to Orrin. My low voice may not have been necessary, but caution would be best.

“Slowly back away and hope nothing gets worse,” Orrin replied.

Before I could answer, the grey world began to rumble. It was small, like a mild quake, but noticeable enough to throw the uncoordinated fleshy creatures off balance.

“What’s going on?” I shouted.

“It got worse,” Azul chimed in. His tone was cold, but not in a way with animosity. Instead, it was like he was distant; perhaps he could see the scene that caused the shaking.

The creatures each wrapped an arm around a tree to hold steady as the world jostled them,

“Run!” Orrin shouted, and we both sprinted into the grey woods. Neither of us turned back to see what the monsters were doing.