Chapter 34:

033 ┃ Couple's argument

The Isle of the Forgotten

Dawn felt a shiver run through her body. Though it took less than a second for her to react, it seemed like an eternity to her.

"Spud!" she screamed in desperation.

With her spear held high, she bolted towards her companion. The stalker, hearing her, turned around and emitted a screeching wail. It seemed ready to continue the fight. Dawn clenched her teeth as she lunged at the monster. If it had killed Spud, she would...

The stalker attacked with its long limbs, aiming for her neck. However, Dawn was now furious. She blocked the monster's attack and began to hit it more quickly and powerfully than before. The beast could do nothing but try to protect itself from the girl's fury, who in an instant cut off both of the monster's arms. Before it could react, she thrust her spear directly into its mouth, piercing its head with the weapon.

The monster moaned for a few seconds but finally stopped moving and its screeches ceased. When Dawn pushed it to pull out her spear, it was already turning to ashes.

But the girl had no time to lose. With tears forming in her eyes, she ran straight to Spud, who lay in the snow.

Before she reached him, the boy was already getting up, brushing the snow off his clothes. That didn't stop Dawn from throwing herself at him, sobbing.

"I'm fine. It's just a scratch. See? It's not even deep," Spud tried to calm her, showing her the arm where the monster had attacked him.

Dawn buried her head in his chest, crying intensely as she embraced him.

"I thought you were dead!" the girl exclaimed in despair.

Seeing his companion cry made Spud's heart shrink. He stroked her hair to comfort her.

"But I'm fine, really. I promise," the boy assured, hugging her.

Dawn gripped his clothes tightly, looking at the ground.

"I don't want to go on with this. Please, I beg you. Let's go home," the girl pleaded, her voice broken.

Spud sighed as he continued to stroke her head.

"We can't go back now. We're literally next to the sanctuary. Look, we'll leave tomorrow morning and we'll have time to get back home before nightfall, okay?" Spud tried to convince her, in a gentle tone.

Dawn, her head still buried in her companion's chest, only clung to his clothes even tighter.

"It will be okay. I promise," the boy assured.

"I hope you're right," Dawn whispered in response.

Dawn and Spud were climbing up the snowy slope. Although they had left at dawn, a strong blizzard had arisen that hindered their progress. They couldn't walk more than a few meters without the snow blinding their vision.

"We should go back," Dawn suggested, speaking loudly to be heard over the noise of the blizzard.

"There it is! I see it!" Spud shouted, map in hand. He pointed to a white building in the distance, barely visible through the blizzard. "Come on, let's explore."

Excited, Spud ran towards the sanctuary, followed reluctantly by Dawn.

The sanctuary was at least three times larger than the temple in the village. It was all made of white marble and looked imposing. Tall columns rose around the entrance, giving it an almost divine appearance. Despite its impressive appearance, parts of the building were in ruins, and some of the columns were cracked or even collapsed.

They entered through the main door, which was now nothing more than a frozen piece of wood on the ground. They walked cautiously down the main hall, where there was nothing but snow and debris.

"Hello?" Spud called out loudly, losing hope of receiving a response with each passing second.

It wasn't long before they reached the main chamber of the sanctuary. It was so large that Spud thought the village temple paled in comparison. Massive columns, identical to those outside, adorned the room, and at the center of it all stood a huge statue of the island's god.

However, that wasn't what caught Spud's attention most. Throughout the room, against the walls, behind the columns, and especially around the statue of the god, were piles of hundreds of skeletons.

Spud stood petrified, taking in the cemetery they had entered.

"What...?" Spud began to ask, kneeling in front of a pile of bones. There weren't just no survivors here, but all these bodies had been there for years. "What on earth happened here?"

Dawn walked through the room indifferently, kicking a skull out of her way.

"You said the king brought them here, right? Obviously, something killed them all," the girl deduced.

"No... it can't be," Spud denied, upset. "Maybe these people were here before the king arrived. Maybe there are still survivors."

Dawn turned to look at him.

"That's impossible, Spud. What happened here was a massacre. You don't need anything else to know that no one's left," Prim argued, gesturing around.

Spud closed his eyes and shook his head vehemently, while he put a hand to his head.

"Don't say that, please! Surely we can still find an answer somewhere," the boy speculated, looking at a door at the back of the large chamber. There had to be a clue there. There had to be.

Dawn walked up to him and looked him in the eyes.

"What other answer do you want? They're all dead," she said sharply, annoyed.

"That's not true!" Spud yelled, standing up. He was breathing heavily and looked at his companion with angry eyes.

Instead of stepping back from the boy's anger, Dawn stepped toward him and met his furious gaze.

"Why are you so obsessed with finding an answer? Why is it so important?" the girl questioned, spreading her arms.

"You don't understand. Maybe you've given up, but I haven't. If we can find the answer, we can return to where we came from," Spud justified, agitated.

Dawn frowned and looked at him sadly.

"Why do you want to go back? Didn’t you promise you'd stay with me in the cabin?" the girl asked, yelling. She looked like she was about to cry.

"This world is desolate, Dawn. All there is are ruins. If we could get out of here..." Spud reasoned, not understanding why Dawn was getting so angry.

"This island isn't so bad. We can survive together," the girl interrupted with an agitated voice.

"There are murderous monsters that appear at night, for god's sake! If one of us gets sick or seriously injured one day, we can't heal ourselves with herbs from the forest. Besides, don't you want to see your family?" the boy argued, raising his voice.

"You are my family, idiot!" Dawn spat with tears in her eyes, struggling not to cry.

As if the girl's words were a slap, Spud fell silent and realized they were arguing. He put a hand to his forehead and took a deep breath.

"I'm so sorry for yelling at you. I didn't mean to," Spud apologized, now with a much calmer tone. Dawn snorted and walked across the room to distance herself from him.

Spud watched her go. Even though they disagreed on some things, it broke his heart to see her like this because of him. He had to apologize, but it would be best to leave her alone for now.

He looked up to see the door he had noticed earlier. Even though he knew Dawn was right, he still wasn't satisfied with the answers he had found. He would finish exploring the sanctuary and if he didn't find anything, he would finally give up on the idea that survivors remained.

He walked to the door as a chilly breeze swept through the room. Although it was the interior of a building, parts of the ceiling had collapsed. The windstorm could easily get in, causing large sections of the floor to be frozen or covered with snow.

When he reached the door, he was surprised to find it was made of metal. He tried to open it, but it seemed to be jammed with something. Annoyed, Spud kicked it several times until it finally gave way with a noise of bones breaking and metallic creaking.

Puzzled, Spud entered the room.

Aside from some skeletons still in armor, what he saw in the center of the room took him aback. Lying on a stone table was a skeleton with crossed hands and the remnants of what had once been a dress. Around it, despite the icy cold, dozens of buds and flowers had grown, decorating the body.

Next to the table were two other skeletons. One of them was small, likely that of a child. The other still had an outstretched hand gripping the body on the table. It still had some layers of clothing on, although they seemed about to disintegrate. But that was not the most important thing. The skeleton wore a gold crown on its head.

A. Hoshino