Chapter 24:

023.5 ┃ Mapping Out

The Isle of the Forgotten

When Dawn returned from hunting that afternoon, Spud was waiting for her on the porch. The boy held several papers in his hand and looked as if he was struggling to stay awake.

"Spud? What are you doing here?" she asked as she approached.

Dawn's voice startled Spud, causing Lion, who was lounging on top of him, to jump to the ground in surprise. As soon as the boy saw his friend, a smile spread across his face, and he promptly stood up to greet her.

"Dawn! You won't believe what I've discovered!" he shared excitedly.

She took a step back, blushing at the closeness of her companion. Spud noticed she was once again avoiding his gaze. Had he upset her?

"Alright, alright, you can explain in a moment. Let's get inside before it gets dark," Dawn suggested.

Spud picked up Lion and entered the house alongside her. Once inside, Dawn began to secure the door and windows while he showed her various papers.

"I've spent all afternoon trying to locate the village on the map. Thanks to identifying the hot springs today, I've narrowed down the possible locations by proximity to the coast. Comparing the drawn paths to the route we took this morning, I believe I've finally pinpointed it," Spud explained.

Dawn paused her task for a moment to look at the map. It wasn't even the original but a copy that Spud had traced onto another piece of paper. It was filled with scribbles and annotations everywhere.

"Did you really do all of this?" she asked, surprised.

"Yes. And that's not even the best part," Spud continued, speaking faster than usual in his excitement. "With two locations identified, I've finally oriented the map. It seems we're in the southernmost part of the island. Just out of curiosity, I tried to estimate the actual size of this place, and it's much larger than I initially thought. I reckon it would take us a whole week to get to the other end on foot."

Dawn looked at her companion with admiration.

"You're really incredible," she remarked, astounded.

Blushing at her comment, Spud averted his gaze and smiled shyly.

"It's no big deal..." he began but quickly snapped back to his main point, continuing to show her the map. "Wait, that's not the important part."

Spud pointed to a section of the map where there was an illegible name.

"We are here," he explained. He moved his finger several centimeters up to an icon representing a castle, "and this place, from what I can gather, is the island's capital. We're incredibly lucky because it seems to be very close by. If there's anyone left alive on this island, I'm a hundred percent certain they'd be there."

Dawn was more cautious than her friend's enthusiasm.

"So you want us to go and explore?" she deduced, not particularly thrilled.

"Yes. It could be a perfect opportunity to learn more about the island. Plus, we're bound to find something useful," Spud tried to persuade, giving her puppy-dog eyes.

Dawn looked away and continued boarding up the windows with wooden planks.

"Alright..." she conceded, "How far away is it?"

Scratching his head and avoiding her gaze, Spud replied, "Well, if we keep a good pace and don't stop until we get there... maybe about four hours," his voice dwindling towards the end.

"Four hours?!" Dawn exclaimed.

"It might be less than that. Plus, we have plenty of food. If we leave at dawn, we'll have time to explore the place and return before nightfall," Spud reasoned.

Dawn placed a hand on her head, deep in thought. Spud waited eagerly for a few moments, anticipating her response.

"Fine," she finally agreed.

Spud beamed with excitement, resisting the urge to hug her.

"Yes! I'm sure we'll find something significant."

"If you say so..."

A. Hoshino