Chapter 15:

015 ┃ The lake episode

The Isle of the Forgotten

They didn't take much longer to reach the base of the valley. It took Spud longer to cross the bridge than he would like to admit, but after that, they only had to go down the slope and cross the small forest to reach the shore. It had been a breeze.

Once they arrived, Spud couldn't help but admire the incredible landscape before him. Now that it was right in front of him, the lake was much bigger than he had believed, so big that the trees on the other side were barely distinguishable. He thought he wouldn't mind going back there someday if they managed to return to their families.

Dawn didn't stop to rest. She put her spear on the ground, took off her shoes, and rolled up her pants.

"What are you doing?" asked Spud.

"What do you think? We have to get in the water if we want to fish," explained Dawn, stepping into the shore.

"Eh? I thought you would have a rod or something to fish from a distance. Dry," Spud said as he watched his companion enter the water.

"Do you see me carrying a rod?" the girl pointed out, turning to show her empty hands.

"Well, no. But..." Spud began to stammer, but Dawn interrupted him.

"Come on, come with me. I need someone to hold the basket," she ordered.

Spud tried to think of something to say, but in the end, he decided to heed the girl. He took off his bag and left it on the ground, allowing Lion to come out and explore quietly. After taking off his shoes and rolling up his pants, he carefully dipped his feet into the water. Though it was freezing, Spud made an effort to contain the sharp cry he was about to let out. He wanted to preserve whatever little respect Dawn might still have for him.

They waded several meters into the lake, but the water only reached their knees. The crystal-clear water allowed them to see the various fish swimming around them, frightened by the movement. It was so transparent that it seemed as if they were floating on the ground.

But they were no match for his companion. When they stopped moving and waited a few minutes for the water to calm, Dawn unslung her bow and aimed at the biggest fish she saw. A carp of a couple of handspans in length. She followed her prey with the tip of the arrow until it stopped for a moment. That was all she needed.

She released the string, and the arrow shot toward the animal. All the surrounding fish quickly scattered, fleeing from their predator. When Dawn pulled the arrow from the water, the tip was embedded right in the animal's eye.

"Wow," murmured Spud, swallowing hard. He swore never to anger his companion again.

Once Dawn left the dead fish in the basket, they repeated the process. They waited again for the water to calm, and the fish gradually drew closer. If Spud ever thought it was luck, the girl managed to pierce another fish at the first try. And again. And again.

"How are you so good at this?" asked Spud, admiring the catch they had accumulated in just an hour.

"I've had plenty of time to practice," the girl justified, her eyes fixed on another carp.

"I know, but... Even so, it's incredible. You seem like a prodigy," he opined, trying to lower his voice not to scare away the prey.

"Oh, far from it," the girl tried to excuse herself. She shot the arrow and again hit the carp in the eye. "I spent an entire week coming here every day before I caught a single fish."

"It's still impressive. You managed to learn something like this on your own," the boy praised her.

"It's not a big deal. Once you've learned the technique, the rest is easy," she explained, leaving the carp in the basket and cleaning the arrow in the water.

"Easy? I couldn't do that even in a year. If you weren't here, I'd probably have starved to death by now."

"Yes, probably," she admitted with a hint of a smile. She turned and looked at Spud with a raised eyebrow. "Want to try?"

Spud couldn't help but blush a little at the girl's expression. Her green eyes seemed to pierce right into his. He hurriedly shook his head as he tried to look away.

"Try? I'd be an absolute failure, so no, thank you," he replied, somewhat nervously.

"Come on. I'll teach you," she proposed nonchalantly, her gaze fixed on him.

"Well... okay," he answered after a few seconds. "But I warn you that it will be a waste of time."

Dawn offered him the bow as she picked up the basket of fish. Spud held it the same way he had seen his companion do. It was still warm where Dawn had gripped it.

The weapon felt strangely large to him. It weighed more than he had imagined, and pulling the string hurt his fingers.

Dawn handed him an arrow from her quiver, and he placed it on the bow.

"Try aiming at that tree," she suggested, pointing in the distance.

Spud did as instructed, but he soon heard a sigh of complaint from his companion.

"Twist your torso and open your chest more," Dawn pointed out. "And spread your legs a little more."

The boy tried to adjust his stance according to the suggestions, nervous about not doing it too poorly. The feeling of being watched didn't help either.

"Like this?"

"No, you're doing it wrong. It's like this."

She approached him. With her free hand, she grabbed and moved Spud's shoulder. The boy jumped at the sudden contact with the girl, almost losing his balance.

"What are you doing? Stay still," she ordered with a firm look.


Spud tried to remain as still as possible while the girl corrected his posture. He couldn't help but notice how close she was to him, and every time she touched him, he felt chills. Why was he getting so nervous?

"Okay. You're fine now," Dawn declared, stepping back a little to admire her work. "Now you can try."

They waited in silence for a while until the fish began to approach them again. He took the opportunity to glance at Lion, who was lying on the shore sunbathing while watching them.

Once ready, Spud took a deep breath and aimed the bow at the nearest carp.

"Oh, I forgot. Don't aim directly at the fish, but a little lower," the girl pointed out.

"What? Why?"

"I don't know, but it works. Just do it," she ordered, watching him expectantly.

Spud heeded his companion. He tried to remain calm, but his heart was beating rapidly. He took a deep breath and...

A fish brushed against his leg, startling him. He let out a cry of surprise and tried to back away but tripped over his leg and fell into the water with a splash.

The freezing water was like a slap to Spud, who tried to get up as quickly as possible, splashing around.

“Ah! It's so cold!”

He managed to stand up, his breathing ragged. Even though he had only been in the water for a few moments, he was already starting to shiver.

He looked up at his companion and feared for his life. When he had fallen into the water, he must have splashed around, and now Dawn was completely soaked, her eyes closed.

Spud's heart skipped a beat. After all the effort it had taken to become her friend, he had now ruined everything. She was definitely going to kill him.

“I'm really sorry, Dawn, it was…” he began to apologize hurriedly, but he was interrupted by the girl's laughter.

“You're such a klutz,” she teased, laughing.

Spud looked at his companion in astonishment. Even though she was in a better mood now than when he had first met her, it would have been normal for her to be angry with him. In the early days, she might have cut his head off for something like this. Something had definitely changed between them since the previous day.

“Let's get out now. We'll make a fire to dry off,” Dawn proposed, giving him a radiant smile.

A. Hoshino