Chapter 8:

Chapter 7: Unforeseen Encounter

Zero to Hero

“FINALLY!!!! I AM FINALLY OUT OF THIS FREAKING FOREST!” The beastman girl shouted from the top of her lungs.

After twelve days of trekking through the biting cold and endless forest, our journey finally reached a turning point. Before us, a massive river split the landscape. On the other side lay mostly flat lands, a distant mountain range barely visible in the horizon.

"Maybe we'll find a village or two now that we're in flatter terrain. Getting horses might cut our journey to Ostrium to a more reasonable length," I suggested, consulting the map for some direction after reaching this notable landmark.

"I'm eager to see a big city! Candace is probably exaggerating about everything she saw in Darrumburgh," Tina remarked.

"Hmph. A country bumpkin like you won't understand even if I tried to explain," Candace retorted.

Their continuous bickering, surprisingly, transformed from being draining to oddly comforting. Their banter, amidst the unchanging scenery and the numbing cold, added a much-needed sense of levity to our long journey. Amidst it all, I found solace in training my winged wolf companion, Yami. Her growing mastery of her elemental abilities was more impressive than many humans I'd encountered.

"All three of us are country bumpkins, but Candace is right about the major cities. They're eye-opening, especially on your first visit, coming from small villages like ours," I explained, trying to mediate their argument.

"Teleport us across the river already!" Tina demanded, her impatience disregarding my seniority.

In her usual flirtatious manner, Candace hugged me tightly as I teleported us instantly across the raging river.

"Let him go!" Tina snapped, obviously irritated by Candace's actions.

"Ugh… So annoying. He's already a handful, always giving me the cold shoulder, I don’t need your constant annoyance!" Candace retaliated.

"As he should! Go find your own man instead of trying to seduce my sister's!" Tina snapped back.

"You know he's had like 50 girls, right? If he was monogamous, I might consider backing out. But since your sister is fine with him having 49 other girls, I'm not giving up on our destined reunion!" Candace fired back.

"Let's not spread rumors, that's a serious exaggeration. I admit I was weak around beautiful girls, but it wasn't anywhere near 50 or even 15. Besides, I'm not that person anymore," I clarified.

"I bet you just don't find Candace attractive. Someone as beautiful as my sister would have you losing your mind by now," Tina taunted.

"Ken! Does this girl resemble her sister?" Candace asked aggressively.

"Personality-wise, not at all. Appearance-wise, quite similar," I responded.

"Ah! See! He's not interested in you, so your theory is debunked! I'm definitely stunning!" Candace boasted.

"Who calls themselves stunning? Have some humility! And he's not showing interest because I'm not throwing myself at him like you are!" Tina retorted.

"Candace is undoubtedly stunning. It's good she's confident. And you're like a sister to me, so please don't throw yourself at me," I clarified.


"Like I ever would!" Tina retorted as she smacked me, completely misinterpreting my attempt at humor.

As our journey continued, the landscape changed dramatically after leaving the frozen forest. The flat lands were equally frigid, the absence of trees making the trek even more grueling on windy days.

As we journeyed on, despite almost twenty days of travel, we hadn't come across a single village. The few individuals we encountered were brief encounters, offering little assistance. Understandably, as most preferred to keep their small tribes hidden from outsiders.

"After we cross this mountain range, we'll be in Ostrium. It should take about a week," I explained, pointing to the foothills ahead.

"Finally! I can't wait to see my sister," Tina sighed.

"Sorry, Tina. We're still weeks away from Ostrium City," I corrected her.

"What do you mean? You just said it'd take a week?" Tina protested.

"A week to reach the Kingdom of Ostrium, but Ostrium City, where Zeev and Lovetta are, is much further south within the kingdom," I clarified.

"Why do they name the city after the kingdom? That's so confusing!" Tina grumbled.

" I don't make the rules. I think most major kingdom capitals are named after the kingdom," I added, agreeing with her complaint. I also wondered why those that came up with the names were so lazy and unoriginal. .

"Let me teleport us a few miles," I suggested. With almost 20 days of traveling together under our belt and getting teleported multiple times a day, the party knew exactly what to do as I teleported us over the steep climb up to a flatter area.


Candace's urgent scream made me turn around quickly, assessing the situation. Not far away, a young girl was bleeding from the arm, cowering from a pack of strange creatures ready to attack.

Teleporting between the girl and the creatures, I startled both parties. The creatures, smaller than even the girl and sporting sharp teeth and green-tinted skin, hesitated before dashing into the trees after growling amongst each other.

"Tina! Don't chase them!" Candace shouted at the impulsive beastman girl.

"Sorry, healing magic is one thing I never got to learn," I apologized to the injured girl.

Rushing over, Candace immediately tended to the girl's wound, while I kept watch to ensure the creatures didn't return to ambush us.

"All good now! The cut wasn't too deep," Candace reassured the young girl with a warm smile.

"What were those things! They were so ugly and disgusting!" Tina expressed her disgust.

"I can see why your dad won't let you go off on your own. We don't even know what those things are. You might end up dead if you act that rashly," Candace cautioned.

"Ugh. You sound like my dad. I am strong and not stupid. If I feel threatened, I will just run away. If worse comes to worst, I can always turn into a wolf," Tina boasted.

"What do you mean turning into a wolf?" Candace inquired.

"Oh! You didn't know? My clan is special! We can all turn into wolves when the condition is right!" Tina explained proudly.

"Sorry, those two are so chatty. Are you feeling better now? I'm Ken. What's your name?" I addressed the young girl.

"Bailee. Thank you for saving my life," Bailee replied weakly.

Bailee, with her floppy animalistic ears, a pair of tiny horns, and presumably a tail, the young girl was no doubt a beastman like Tina.

"Why don't we take you home? You must live close by, right?" I offered, although Bailee seemed cautious and unsure even after I saved her life.

"Can you take us to your village, Bailee? We've never seen creatures like those before. It would be too dangerous for us to continue our journey without learning more. Would you help us out?" Candace asked sweetly.

After a moment of silence, Bailee nodded and led us through a maze of trees, revealing hidden pathways that eventually led to a cliff. After a quick scan of the surroundings, the girl disappeared, ensuring no one was watching us.

"Cool! It's just like that tree to enter your village, Tina," Candace remarked.

"You can be impressed after we're out of this tunnel. I'm getting claustrophobic," Tina replied as we navigated through the tight passage.

"If the chieftain were part of this tribe, they'd have to make the tunnel twice as big," I joked as I emerged from the tunnel.

For the second time in under a month, I found a blade at my neck as I slowly raised my hands to show that I meant no harm.