Chapter 5:

005 ┃ Hunting partners

The Isle of the Forgotten

The boy was intently watching the book in front of him. Although dawn had broken some time ago, he kept a candle lit on his table.

The door to the room suddenly opened, revealing the girl who had saved his life the day before, her expression still hostile.

"You're still here," she stated, as if she miraculously expected him to have disappeared.

The boy startled, almost knocking the candle to the floor.

"You scared me... Good morning to you too."

The girl feigned leaving, but turned her gaze back to the table, puzzled.

"What are you doing?"

The boy looked at the book and then at the girl.

"I'm reading," he replied, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

"Wait, can you read the language?" she asked, her face filled with astonishment.

"Well, I don't understand anything it says, but I think with enough time maybe..."

"Ugh..." The girl sighed with audible disappointment and left the room.

"Wait!" He called after her, quickly extinguishing the candle. He picked up the heavy book and followed her. "I don't think it's impossible. I've been counting and there are only twenty-six different letters in total. If I could get more books to study, I'm sure I could learn the language in a few months... or years." He said the last part in a low voice, aware of how bad it sounded.

"You're wasting your time," she said as they went downstairs. When they reached the ground floor, she headed to a new room which the boy identified as the kitchen. It had a rustic appearance, and there were bare animal bones and various utensils on the wooden table.

"Why do you say that?" he asked, somewhat disheartened. He had spent almost the entire night studying the book, and for her to now insult his efforts was demoralizing.

"I also tried to learn the language when I arrived here. You better give up," she advised without looking at him. She took a small cloth bag from the table and pulled out a handful of berries and a piece of meat that she put into her mouth.

"But..." He began, but a rumble from his stomach interrupted him. Now that he thought about it, he hadn't eaten anything since he had woken up on the beach the day before. He blushed. "Sorry."

The girl sighed while looking at the boy out of the corner of her eye. She walked towards the kitchen exit and, as she crossed paths with him, tossed him the little bag.

"Thanks..." he murmured as he followed her with his eyes.

His savior headed for the entrance of the house, where her poncho and long spear rested on the coat rack. Instead of taking the spear, the girl picked up the large bow and quiver of arrows hanging next to it.

"Well, maybe it's probably impossible, but what else can we do?" he continued as he followed the girl around the house. She began unlocking the latches of the door. "You said there's no one on this island, right? Maybe if we learn to read the language we'll know where everyone is."

"I already know where everyone is. Haven't you seen them among the rubble?" she asked without looking at him. The boy shuddered at the memory of the skeletons in the village.

"Well, yes, but surely there are survivors. It's not as if you've explored the entire island, right?" The boy followed her outside, and a freezing breeze slapped him as he came out. He had to shield his eyes from the bright sunlight.

"I don't need to. There's no one left here." The girl spat, walking towards the forest without looking back. The young man watched her from the door.

"Are you completely...?" Seeing that she didn't stop, he called out. "Wait! Where are you going?"

"Hunting," was her curt reply.

The boy shook his head back and forth, unsure of what to do. Should he stay at home thinking about some solution to get out of there? The girl had told him that they only appeared at night, but what if the stalkers attacked him while she wasn't there? Oh, no. He wasn't going to risk it. He closed the door behind him and ran towards the young woman with the book still in his hand.

"Why are you following me?" the girl asked in a hostile tone. They had been walking through the forest for a while, and although she had tried to leave him behind with her brisk pace, the boy was still stuck to her like a leech.

"Because I have nowhere else to go. Besides, I'm sure I'll safe if I stay with you."

The girl glanced at him with a not-so-friendly face.

"You're just going to be a nuisance. Stay at the house," she ordered.

"I won't bother you, I promise. Please, I don't want to be alone again. With my luck, I'm sure I'll end up being eaten by a bear or something like that," pleaded the boy, nervous. He knew he hadn't started off on the right foot with his savior, but he had to get along with her if he didn't want to be another skeleton like the ones in the village.

"Uh... fine," she agreed, exasperated. "But don't think I'm going to protect you if we run into a bear."

"I was joking about that. There are no bears here, are they?" asked the boy, now worried about her response.

"Sometimes." The girl answered briefly.

"Ha, ha, very funny." The boy mocked, still worried. "That was a joke, right?" She didn't answer him. "Right?"

The girl was crouched on the ground, carefully observing some marks on the earth. In that same area, a few minutes ago she had seen what were undoubtedly deer droppings.

"But it could also have been a plague, don't you think? Although that wouldn't explain why there were skeletons inside the buildings. Nah, if it had been that they would be in a hospital, or a mass grave or something like that. I guess we can rule out that option, then," the boy mused in a low voice while playing with a twig.

He had been talking to himself for most of the time, and his companion didn't even bother to reply with monosyllables; she just ignored him altogether.

At first, he had really tried not to bother her and stay quiet all the way, but at some point, there were so many thoughts in his head that he had to express them even if it was just murmuring to himself.

"I also thought of a war, last night. I could hardly sleep so I had a lot of time to think. A war would explain the village. Maybe they decided to massacre the whole area by surprise and that's why people didn't have time to escape. That’d also explain the marks on the walls..."

The girl looked into the distance with narrowed eyes, like a hunter. Her trained sight allowed her to recognize a small movement among the trees about a hundred meters away. It wasn't enough to know what it was, but she had definitely seen something.

"Shhh. Be quiet," she ordered softly as she unslung the bow and prepared an arrow. He obeyed her, somewhat annoyed that she was interrupting his monologue.

The girl approached the area where she had seen the movement with her gaze fixed and her eyes wide open. After a few minutes of careful and silent walking, she took cover behind a large pine and peeked out again.

There it was, about twenty meters from them, eating carelessly. A beautiful adult doe had its back to them. She had only managed to hunt a deer half a year ago by pure luck, but by then she didn't know what to do with so much meat and most of it ended up rotting. Hunting it now meant that she wouldn't have to worry so much about food during the winter.

She lifted the bow and aimed carefully. She took a deep breath and...

"But a war wouldn't explain the state of the buildings either..." the boy chattered on, oblivious to the girl's discovery. She lost focus at the last second and the arrow shot out only to fall at the doe's feet, scaring it. By the time she hastily loaded another arrow, the animal had already fled.

"What the hell is wrong with you!" The girl exploded, her gaze sharp as a knife. "I was about to catch it and you distracted me with your nonsense. We would have had food for weeks! Argh!"

"I'm sorry..." he apologized in a low voice.

"No, don't apologize again. Look, I saved you because I had gone through the same thing you did and you made me feel sorry, okay? I know how hard it is to wake up in an unknown place without memories. But there's no point in looking for answers. Get over it. We're not going back to our homes and we’re not going to find out what happened." The girl approached him as she lectured him, gesticulating with her hands. Even though she was several centimeters shorter than him, she was very intimidating. "I've been alone for a long time and now your presence makes me nervous. If I have to get food for both of us and on top of being useless, you're going to bother me, you can leave."

The boy looked down, hurt by the words of his savior.

"I'm really sorry."

Several seconds passed in silence, the girl looking at him angrily. After a few moments, she took a deep breath and her gaze softened, although it was still hostile.

"For now, you can go pick berries near the cabin," she suggested in a more neutral tone, throwing him a cloth bag she had on her belt.

The boy took the bag and turned around without saying anything.

Harmonica Writes
A. Hoshino
Chika san
A. Hoshino