Chapter 11:

011 ┃ The three princes and the girl

The Isle of the Forgotten

In the first illustration, a king with a plentiful beard was depicted sitting on his throne. Standing before him were three young men, all with crowns on their heads. The one on the right was garbed in red and appeared big and strong, being quite taller than the others. The one in the middle wore a blue robe and glasses. The one on the left, undoubtedly the thinnest and languid in appearance, was dressed in purple.

Even though he couldn't read what was written, Spud assumed that it was three princely brothers along with their father. Was it some kind of religious myth?

Several pages further, a resplendent figure was depicted floating in the nighttime sky. Beneath him, a sleeping girl descended towards the ground. Below them, looking with surprised expressions up at the sky, were the three princely brothers.

Spud spent a long time observing that page. At first, he was excited to recognize the resplendent figure in the sky as the same as the large statue that was a few meters from him. The child-like face and robe were too similar. This must have been a religious myth, in which the god was handing a woman over to the three princes. However, the girl's clothing caught his attention. It was dark clothing and quite different from what the princes wore. He couldn't help but find it similar to the uniform that he himself was wearing. But why would the girl in an ancient myth wear that clothing?

He quickly flipped through the pages until he reached the next illustration. The older brother who was dressed in red was fighting a chained bear while the girl watched from a distance. Since he didn't know the context, Spud couldn't quite identify what that scene was about, so he decided to move on to the next.

In the fourth illustration, the prince dressed in blue was next to a huge wooden contraption similar to a catapult, and large stones were soaring through the air. The girl watched him from a distance.

Later, the red prince and the blue prince were shown confronting each other, with the girl a short distance from them, observing them with concern.

Spud then understood the two previous illustrations. Both princes must’ve been trying to impress the girl, the red one showing her his strength against a beast, and the blue one showing her his skills as an inventor, or something like that. At the very least, that was what seemed to make the most sense. But why were they fighting?

The next illustration was the one he had seen at random a while ago. It showed the two brothers in battle, the red one brandishing a huge sword and the blue one throwing what looked like fireballs at him. The girl was nowhere to be seen.

Spud began to doubt that book. Was it supposed to be a religious myth or a children's story? One of the princes had what could only be classified as magic and didn't even seem to have anything to do with the plot of the story.

In the next illustration, the purple prince, the most languid and thin, was giving a flower to the girl. Unlike with the other brothers, she now seemed to be smiling and was close to the prince.

Later on, the girl and the purple prince were sitting under the starry sky, sharing a kiss. Spud couldn't help but smile. He was beginning to understand the story, and it even was entertaining.

The next illustration depicted the other two brothers confronting the young prince, with the girl behind him. They both had their swords held high as if they were about to attack him.

On the next page, there was the same scene, but now a large white flash was coming from the hands of the purple prince that seemed to have pushed the other two princes backward. Both the girl and the princes had expressions of surprise.

In the last illustration, the languid prince was sitting on the throne, with a large crown and a scepter. Seated beside him was the girl in an impressive dress, and the two brothers were kneeling in front of them, bowing.

Spud closed the book, his mind absorbed in the story he had just read. If he was correct and that tale was a religious myth, it meant that he had just learned a bit about the culture of that island. His heart was beating rapidly, and a smile formed on his face. There was something about learning new things that made him feel excited.

Even if that story was not directly the answer he was seeking, if he could learn more about the culture and customs of that island, perhaps he could get an idea of why they had disappeared and hopefully find an explanation for their arrival. More than satisfied with his discoveries, Spud picked up the two books and put them in his bag. He would have to read the other one and research them more thoroughly when he had time.

He left the church while his mind was still swirling with the story he had just read. The orange color of the sky pulled him from his thoughts and made him worry. It was starting to get dark, and if he broke the promise he had made to Dawn, there would undoubtedly be consequences for him. He could not betray her trust.

He began to run towards the forest, but a sharp sound made him stop in his tracks. It was a short, acute sound, and it seemed to come from one of the ruined houses. He frowned at hearing that noise. Although he couldn't remember if he had heard it at all in his life, it was very familiar to him. It sounded again, and Spud finally understood. It was a cat's meow.

He decided to check out the sound just to make sure everything was okay. A few more seconds weren't going to make the difference between Dawn getting mad at him or not.

He arrived at the house from which the sound was coming, which was barely standing. Much of the walls and roof had collapsed, and now only a few columns and beams that had once held it up remained. It looked as if all the flesh had fallen off, and now only the skeleton of the house remained.

Standing on one of the beams, a few meters above the ground, was a small kitten meowing in desperation. He was entirely black but had a white spot on his chest, like a medal. His large eyes met Spud's and the kitten meowed loudly, as if it were trying to ask for help. It seemed that it had been trapped up there and now it couldn't get down.

Spud looked away, trying to figure out what to do. He couldn't leave such a small kitten alone, could he? It would be best to help it.

He moved his head from side to side, trying to order his thoughts.

"No… I don't have time," he blurted out.

No, if the kitten was there, its mother probably wasn't far away. Besides, he had a very important task to do: to get home. If he arrived after dusk, Dawn would never speak to him again in his life. Worse yet, if dusk came while he was outside, he ran the risk of being attacked by another disgusting stalker like the day he arrived. And this time Dawn had told him she wouldn't go save him.

He had to ignore the kitten and get home on time. He started walking quickly towards the trail. Unwillingly, the image of Dawn smiling at the sight of the cat the day before crossed his mind. Why was he thinking about that right now? He tried to put it out of his mind, but the image came back even stronger. She wouldn't leave a cat that small in a place as dangerous as that, would she? He couldn't stop seeing his partner's smile. For how serious she always was, she had a pretty smile…

When he realized he was blushing, he shook his head as if trying to shake off those thoughts.

"Seriously?" he said out loud, though it was already a done deal. He sighed deeply. He had decided.

He turned around and ran back to the house where the kitten was trapped.

It took him longer than he would like to admit to climb up to the feline. In those minutes, it had gotten completely dark, so there was no turning back.

"How on earth did you get up here?" Spud asked with effort as he clung to the beam with all his strength. He moved slowly until he was a few meters from the cat. It let out a meow of enthusiasm and approached Spud to rub its head against his hand.

"You sure are friendly, aren’t you, kitty?" Spud commented as he stroked the animal's head. He picked it up with both hands while trying to maintain balance on the beam. He stood still for a few seconds, realizing he hadn't thought about how he was going to get down while carrying the cat.

In an instant, Spud lost his balance and fell back to the ground. He tried to cover the kitten with his body so it wouldn't get hurt and fell with a thud onto the rubble. Luckily for him, they were a pile of wooden boards and moss, so he didn't get hurt.

"Are you okay?" Spud asked, looking at the cat in his arms. It responded with a meow. It seemed unharmed.

He got up as fast as he could and started running towards the trail. Even though it was nighttime, if he hurried, maybe he could get home without Dawn getting mad. He just had to cross the main street and…

When he turned the corner, he saw a huge stalker in the middle of the street. It was the same size as the one he had seen on the first day, but somehow it looked a lot more muscular and dangerous.

With chills all over his body, Spud hid in the corner before the stalker saw him.

A. Hoshino