Chapter 31:

31: What's (or who) in the woods

I was Born the Unloved Twin

Wild apricots are surprisingly delicious. Bookmark here

Seriously this stuff is so good the moment I finished one I immediately U-turned back to where I found them. A little tree climbing and fruit knocking bagged me a couple of dozen of them. Bookmark here

There's nothing wrong with mushrooms and surviving on what you canBookmark here

But the taste just can't be compared to sweet juicy fruits like apricots. I do not stress eat, I'm a growing girl in need of nutrients. Bookmark here

Not as edible in it's current state, is the fruit of the nearby lemon tree. They smelled good though so a few went into the inter-dimensional bag anyways. How much can fit in here anyway? Bookmark here

It's an unfortunate delay when I have such short legs, my traveling speed isn't that good. It's possible but I doubt I can make it to the source of the chimney smoke by nightfall. I rather stay safe and healthy than risk anything just to make it there a little faster.Bookmark here

It would be bad if I collapsed out of hunger and weakness. Slow and steady wins the race. Don't be impatient.Bookmark here

Still, I make my way through as quickly and efficiently as I could, stopping only to forage when it's convenient enough. Bookmark here

How was I suppose to 'adventure' or train out here at my current age and strength? Survive what, stress? Everything can literally kill me with little to no effort. What was I supposed to level up after killing something? Find my spirit animal companion out here? Unlock latent maybe magical abilities after encountering danger? Bookmark here

What shit reasoning does grampa have for throwing me out here? It's got to be some kind of trap or a test. Bookmark here

Won't work, I promise. Bookmark here

If Rosalia had any latent abilities to unlock she would have figured it out before she was murdered. Since she's obviously died once before, gruesomely may I add, I'd say there's no chance of that. Bookmark here

So sure, let's just enjoy this lovely little hike. This totally not deadly hike through an unknown forest crawling with who knows what! That's the best attitude to proceed with, unnecessary stress is harmful. I'm too young to get stress wrinkles!Bookmark here

For hours I trek along in that condition, taking very necessary snack breaks along the way.Bookmark here

When the sun starts setting I have no choice but to find a suitable spot to stay for the night. Now if a soft tasty little thing like be had to spend the night in the wilds, where would I go?Bookmark here

There were no suitable caves and such hiding spots. A burrow? Too much effort. Perhaps some bushes and foliage to cover myself? Bookmark here

Ha!Bookmark here

Like I'm going to stay on the ground as easy prey. Bookmark here

Up a tree, I go.Bookmark here

Using the aid of the ropes I secure myself up a leafy vantage point with thick enough branches to rest in. I select a part of the tree that branches out into a V, The corner nook is large enough for me to rest on but I secure additional safety ties with the ropes. Then cover the empty spaces with foliage earlier gathered and stuffed into the inter-dimensional bag. Bookmark here

Nothing fancy, just survival tactics to stay as safe and comfortable as possible. Nothing but the sturdiest branches and softest leaves for my nest. Bookmark here

It needs to be layered quite well to be a decent nap nest but I've been diligent in my foraging. The inter-dimensions bag could certainly support whatever I threw into it. Including rocks.Bookmark here

Yes, I stuffed rocks, big ones, into the bag. I wanted to see much it could hold.Bookmark here

I still have absolutely no idea how it works. I give up trying to reason anything. Magic then! It's a magical bag where physics and sense don't apply. A fantastical magical bag in a magical world of shit.Bookmark here

I'm keeping the damn bag when this is all over.Bookmark here

It's been hours of walking, climbing, and gathering. I'm still on edge but exhausted. Once I've covered myself with enough leaves, it's lights out. It's already amazing how I trekked on through my nap times. Bookmark here

When your body lacks the sleep it needs make up for it with calories, which I tried to do. But how could wild mushrooms, leaves and the occasional fruit be enough to make up for this shit?Bookmark here

Before the last rays of sunlight fades my exhaustion catches up to me. Bookmark here

Through the dark night, I'm jolted awake multiple times. The cold, the odd sensations of my limited sleeping perch, and the unfamiliar sounds of nature keeps me on a sense of alert. But I'm an easy sleeper, it doesn't take long to confirm a lack of danger and roll back to dreamland each and every time. Bookmark here

It's more important to sleep, to recharge as much energy and warmth as possible. Bookmark here

I don't know what creatures roam the forest here at night. They don't stalk the trees, not on this particular night. I don't know when dawn hits nor how the fog rolls through the early morning. I was too deep, too heavy with fatigue that lingered like a heavy blanket through the peaceful morning. Bookmark here

Safe to say I overslept a bit. Bookmark here

So much for saving time, well it's not like I could get up right at daybreak anyways. Bookmark here

The layers of leaves helped stave of the chill off the night but a tree nest is not a warm bed. Not anywhere close. I don't even dare to light a dire in fear of being found by wild beasts. not while in a tree at least.Bookmark here

The good thing is that the leafy nest was easy to clean up. A little raking, undo the roped and flip the inter-dimensional bag over it. Bookmark here

Done. Oh, I am so keeping this thing, grampa be dammed. Bookmark here

After a couple of hours moving in the same manner as yesterday, I came across a nice flowing stream of water. Bookmark here

Now I'm a delicate little human, essentially a baby. I won't overestimate and overexert myself. I don't believe it would be smart to solider through the hottest part of the day when there's a perfectly good rest and restock spot here. Bookmark here

Since I foraged so much I could afford to start a fire and grill. There are no grill or cooking utensils though. A DIY mini rock oven over an activated firestone does the job better than a standard campfire, it's easier to assemble too. If you stack enough flat river stones together and leave enough room for a fire and cooking space it actually turns into a functional little camping oven.Bookmark here

For cooking utensils, my carving skills aren't good but I can at least whittle long twigs into a pair of chopsticks. Ah, I miss chopsticks. I wonder if it's possible to popularize them here? Bookmark here

Really though I amaze myself with my own resourcefulness, good job me!Bookmark here

Cooked mushrooms and greens taste better than raw ones, even without seasoning. It will make things much easier to eat and this way they don't get burned from heat. Grilled fruits such as apricots taste good too. Bookmark here

Catching fish is currently out of my skill range however I was willing to risk time and effort for the chance of delicious protein. The rock stack griddle needed time to heat up anyways. Bookmark here

At first, I was going to make a makeshift net by sacrificing more of my clothing and tying that with the ropes. Thank goodness grampa gave me those things at the very least.Bookmark here

But then a much stupider idea hits me. Bookmark here

Why not use the inter-dimensional bag? Items are somehow kept safe and separated from each other in a seemingly immeasurable inventory system, at least one I don't understand yet. Bookmark here

Why not just, tip the whole thing into the stream and see what it gathers? Bookmark here

A crazy idea but it's worth a shot. A quick dip test showed me that yes, the bag could hold rushing water without being damaged. Very well then.Bookmark here

In you go cheat bag! Catch me something good!Bookmark here

When you live in an insane magical world you just have to adapt. The insanity still gets to me, don't get me wrong. People like grampa definitely make me feel like going crazy. Actually it's more than just grampa but he's definitely up there in the top of the list. Bookmark here

They just won't expect me to jump in and swim down with the crazy now, do they?Bookmark here

Right now though it's not exactly a metaphor. I really took off my clothes and got in the water for a refreshing clean up. Bookmark here

Butt naked baby. Bookmark here

How scandalous, a young miss such as myself bared to the elements like this. But hiking and overnight camping is a dirty endeavor, I think in this case I can excuse myself for my indecent swim. Bookmark here

Also, I'm literally a small child, I think it will be fine even if any secret guards were watching. Bookmark here

When I next check my new fishing bag I am pleasantly surprised to find two small fishes and some shrimp-like creatures. They immediately went on the grill after I processed them as best I could.Bookmark here

Clean and chop chop chop. Bookmark here

I feel bad for whatever tadpoles and other little things that got caught inside though. Of course, I released them as I dumped out the excess water. Bookmark here

I really won't starve out here, even on my own. My dad was right, even after all these years.Bookmark here

Ah!Bookmark here

My family! Not the one I've been missing so messily, not the family I can only see in my heart. Bookmark here

But my current one, the idiotic couple, have they noticed my absence yet? It's been a full day by now. While I understand too much to be disappointed it not, it would be quite irresponsible of them if they haven't figured out something is amiss. Bookmark here

I don't think my current parents would allow such a 'trip', they're not that insane, but I suspect that old man operates on an 'it's easier to say sorry than ask for permission' system.Bookmark here

Well, it can't be helped at the moment, especially if grampa is involved. I should be more concerned about myself in the present, wouldn't want any of this precious food to burn.Bookmark here

Lemons were a good thing to forage, they really saved the 'seafood' today! It goes decent with the 'saute' greens and mushrooms, though they're a bit soggy. Better than burnt! Everything is tasty enough even though it's so simple. Bookmark here

Since I'm the cook here, the ingredients and style are adjusted to my liking. Not bad, it's been quite a while since I've cooked for myself. In fact, I don't recall the previous Rosalia ever doing so. Bookmark here

Well, that's a spoiled rich person for you. First time for everything. Bookmark here

After a swim, a nap and a fully cooked meal I am 100% recharged. Good to go!Bookmark here

I honestly may be able to hold out like this till grampa picks me up, that is if I'm left sabotaged. Call me paranoid but I still think the only reason nothing particularly bad has been thrown at me is that I keep on the move.Bookmark here

It's slow given my size and safety concerns but I'm moving and exercising in a satisfactory way. If I was watching a live stream of myself I would be moderately amused if not fascinated how a toddler hasn't been eaten alive yet or something similar. Bookmark here

It's actually quite nice out here when you take away the impending fear of the lethal and unknown. I always did like hiking and outdoor picnics. At least if anything kills me out here it would be for needs like say hunger and not politics or love scandals. Bookmark here

Well, there we go, my plan B if surviving in this world gets too much. I'll just run off and live in the woods like an old hermit. Bookmark here

It's a perfect plan.Bookmark here

While I'm here I might as well ask whoever lives out here about their ways. I'm getting increasingly closer to the source of the chimney smoke, if not soon then by nightfall. Worst case scenario tomorrow morning. I'm not as afraid for tonight, first day jitters and all.Bookmark here

Maybe this whole time has been less frightening since I have a working goal in mind.Bookmark here

It's kind of funny though, as I get closer, when I think I near approach the smoke course I lose my way. I have to constantly climb a rock or a short tree and redirect myself where to go. It feels as if I'm walking in a big circle.Bookmark here

Here's the thing though, I forage along the way.Bookmark here

I've picked the mushrooms, the nuts, the edible pieces, and parts. Occasionally my blunt tooth blade makes an ugly unnatural mark as I cut or the fruit I knock off breaks funny at the branch. When I pass by my own foraging marks for the 3rd time today I can say that yes, I am most definitely going in literal circles. Bookmark here

OF course, nothing can be easy in my life, of flipping course. Bookmark here

With nightfall approaching, it would be a waste of daylight and effort to try circling again. Instead, I'm better off finding the best tree to make camp for the night. One with the best view of the elusive chimney smoke. Bookmark here

How suspicious.Bookmark here

Stakeout time. Bookmark here

The camp is much faster to set up tonight, my sleeping nest already packed against physics with the aid of the inter-dimensional bag. It's like a video game item, damn unrealistic magic.Bookmark here

Wait....magic?Bookmark here

The curling smoke source is always out of grasp, like a mirage. The messed up sense of directions that lead me in circles must be influenced by magic in some way! Bookmark here

Yes if anyone could survive out in the forest safe and sound for the long term they must have something up their sleeve. Magic or some sort of power is the best sort of trick to have. Bookmark here

If it is just magic then I'm doomed. Not breaking that spell, whatever it is. But still, isn't it interesting? Bookmark here

What's or who is casting this? What is hiding in plain sight? Bookmark here

Lazily watching the smoke curl against the setting sun is like watching a snail crawl along a leaf, like watching raindrops gather and fall on the window or all those other mundanely fascinating things. It's a waste of time but I could watch for hours if you let me. Bookmark here

There's something satisfying about it, even better if there's something to figure out. It's science, there's a process and there's a structure, like a puzzle game. Bookmark here

As I settle into my nest, admiring the way golden orange light seems to almost reflect and refract off the lazy smoke, I think I may have just figured this particular puzzle out.Bookmark here

------Bookmark here

Author: Hot rocks are inconsistent but worked well enough when I was a kid in summer camp. Bookmark here

Glad she managed to avoid everything dangerous thus far. There's no fight scene for Rosa, she's just too weak for anything rn XD. No protagonist halo for you gurl. Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.