Summary: “Do not venture into the woods after night.” It was sensible advice; after all, every monster that ignored this never came back. Lora was adventurous and her sense of rebellion was tingling, though, so she braved the elements, throwing caution to the wind, never knowing that it was to be a terrible mistake.
“Welcome to the island, child.” A strange creature greeted the girl. She was a being of pure white, with the exception of her golden robe and staff, the gem a vibrant magenta, and two sapphire-like eyes. She was floating an inch or two off the ground, her long hair tied up in multiple spots on the same ponytail. She had no mouth, yet could still speak. The monster who one would think would be the quietest had the most words to say. The world around the girl was jarringly bright, and after looking down, she realized she was some sort of stone platform with strange symbols drawn onto them.
“My name’s Icasha; you are Lora, right?” Swallowing the saliva in her mouth, Lora nodded. One hand gripped onto the arm of a worn out teddy bear, and the other rested on her umbrella. Icasha’s free arm extended toward Lora, as if to help her off the Summoning Circle.
“Follow me, and I will give you a tour of our island.” She did so and hopped off, stumbling and falling onto her stomach. Icasha’s blank expression stayed the same, but for a second it looked like she had flinched.
“Are you alright?” Before Lora could respond, she felt metal on her arm – both arms, actually. She was helped up by an invisible force, and when she looked down, she realized she saw two small knights, who went up to her knee. Icasha was impressed.
“It is not every day we see a monster tap into their magic in the first week, much less their first ten minutes.” She noted. “You must be very strong.” Lora blushed at the attention. She changed the subject, though, and turned, motioning for Lora to follow her. The girl followed, and was given a thorough tour as Icasha described the use of everything, from the portal to the mana pond, but for some reason, she only seemed to mention the mysterious forest on one island. It was strange, so naturally, it caught Lora’s attention.
When she asked, Icasha stopped everything all of a sudden; moving, talking, and for a moment, even breathing. “D-did I say something wrong…?” She whispered. Icasha sprung back to life and shook her head.
“…The only thing about that I have to tell is do not venture into the woods after night.” Icasha took a breath and turned to the new girl, her tour of the island finished. “Any questions?”
Lora piped up. “Why can’t I go into the woods at night?” Icasha glanced at the trees, leading into a world that no one dared to go.
“We have had too many get curious and disobey, and to this day I have not seen a single one of them.” Her voice rang out, clear as day, in Lora’s head. The light Undine was one of the oldest monsters on the Summoner’s island, and even though she had no mouth, she could still talk through telepathy. Lora squeaked and shivered.
“I-I’m sorry to hear…”
“Do not be; it is not your fault.” Icasha shrugged. The girl’s bright blue eyes were filled with intrigued worry. The teddy bear in her hand looked like it was watching Icasha. She wouldn’t doubt it; ever since she had been summoned just ten minutes ago she had shown her power was significantly stronger than an Occult Girl her level.
“Come along, now. Our Summoner has been waiting for you. She has got all the essences to awaken you.” With her free hand, Icasha led Lora to the Arena Defense, where their Summoner resided.
As she was led further away from the forest, her thoughts about it became even more curious. The rebellious side inside of her she didn’t even know she had started to spark, and at that moment she decided that she would disobey Icasha’s instructions and sneak out in the middle of the night.
The glow around Lora barely illuminated the world around her. Occasionally, a little heart from the aura she had been given bubbled up into her line of sight and vanished. Her teddy bear was resting on her shoulder and acted like a guardian angel – not that she needed him to be one, considering she already had a light element guardian angel of her own.
The trees loomed over her, the branches devoid of leaves. It was a chilly autumn night, and without the leaves, they looked like black claws, waiting to snatch her up and carry her away to somewhere beyond her wildest imagination. Her umbrella was open and held in her left hand, with her right, she extended up, where a little ball of light flickered and danced like a flame.
That was what was so mesmerizing about light elements; they showed traits of nearly every other element. The glow that surrounded Lora came from dark elements, their dark aura keeping them from being burned in the light. Every monster could condense a bit of their magic into a little ball, but light magic acted the most like a fire element’s magic when condensed.
Lora took a deep breath and braced herself for whatever may lie ahead in the forest. The sensible side of her told her to go back and listen to Icasha; if even the best monsters never came back after wandering into the forest, how would she be able to survive? The other part of her said to walk into the woods, where was her sense of adventure?
I’ll just walk in, look around for about ten minutes and then leave. Surely that can’t be enough time for whatever was in there to find me. She told herself, reassuring herself that she would be fine. Her shoes delicately stepped onto the ground, covered by the corpses of leaves that had passed on and fallen from their home. As she walked through the entrance, she noted that the island should have ended there, but instead of the eternal sky below them all, like anywhere else, she saw ground, like a human forest.
The forest was all sorts of strange and beautiful. The trees no longer looked like claws, but delicate sculptures, twisted and carved into intricate shapes. The forest was pitch black, with the exception of the sounds of her shoes, sharp and polished, crunching under the leaves.
Something snapped under one foot, and she sucked in a breath. It did not sound like the leaves crumbling; this was sharp and sudden. She looked down. Pitch black. She closed her eyes and breathed, calling for the energy around her to come to her and light up her vision. Her vision became clearer, and as she lifted her foot, she saw two halves of a branch. There were tens of splinters that had become so after she stepped on it. Lora breathed in a sigh of relief. It was nothing.
For a moment, she wondered why she was told not to venture out at night. She had heard of Forest Keepers, strange sprites that had been disguised to look like stumps of dead trees and then attack passersby, but she had seen none of that. Eventually, though, she decided it would be best to return home to the island before dawn came and people started looking for her.
Don’t go, love.
Her heart stopped. The only monster she had known to speak in her head was Icasha, and this voice sounded nothing like her. It sounded male; sly and almost what could be considered seductive. Lora made up her mind, right then and there, to leave the forest. She turned and started to walk at a brisk pace, keeping her light in front of her the whole way.
Lora’s heart was pounding against her chest, hoping that she could get out of there. Something broke behind her and she whipped around, pigtails bouncing. In the distance, she realized she saw something; two small red dots, glowing. No, they weren’t dots. They were eyes. They were trained on her, watching her every move. That was it. She was done. It was time to run.
Why do you run, beautiful?
He sounded like he was coming closer to her, his footsteps intermingling with hers. He seemed to take joy in watching her feel fear, watching her jerk her head in every direction to try and find him. Lora should have just listened to Icasha when she said never to venture into the woods at night. Her sense of adventure and rebelliousness had overwhelmed her common sense, though, and she was going to have to suffer for it.
She ran, looking for the way she came in, but if anything, it only chased her even further into the forest. Lora didn’t know east from west, and just like that, she was trapped. Her breath sounded so loud to her ears, and felt like it only brought her predator closer to her. Her limbs felt weak and numb, and she couldn’t go any further.
“After all, you know there’s no way out.” The voice was behind her, whispering in her ear. A hand covered her mouth from behind all of a sudden; fingers slender and chilly, using its force to press down on her skin and muffle the scream that tried to rip out of her throat.
“Don’t scream or call for your guardian angel,” He threatened; his warm breath on her neck. “or I’ll really hurt you.” Lora had been caught.
“It has been years since I had fresh blood…” Lora struggled to break out of his grasp, but another hand clamped onto her wrist with surprising force. The light in her hand was extinguished and her umbrella clattered to the ground. Her head whipped around, trying to find a glimpse of the monster. She saw blonde, almost white fringes of hair and a grin, showing off small fangs. He had fancy attire; a cape and sharp red and black shirt. He was a handsome Vampire; the mysterious fire element, Verdehile.
“Feisty little thing, aren’t you?” He whispered, holding her down. He could smell the scent of her blood as her heart pumped with adrenaline. “Almost as feisty as you are beautiful. I oughta keep you for myself…” His grip on her wrist tightened and something audibly cracked, pain streaming up her arm and through every nerve. It was obvious he had at least fractured a bone. Tears gathered in the corner of Lora’s eyes, knowing her death was near.
“Please…I’m sorry, just let me go…” Verdehile actually laughed a little.
“Let you go? Don’t be silly~.” Her fingers twitched, trying to summon one of her toy knights or bring her teddy to life. Verdehile noticed, though, and clamped down even harder and she screamed in agony, begging for someone, anyone, to save her, but no one came. Lora broke down, gently sobbing and trying to whisper “why me” It didn’t matter, though, as he didn’t care about her suffering. Verdehile’s tongue flicked out as he licked his lower lip. His favorite kind of blood was the kind the light elements had.
“P-please…I don’t want to die…” She had shut down, her energy gone and her fate sealed.
As he bit down, Lora struggled until she went limp, throat raw from screaming for help.
“Anyone know where Lora went?” Chow asked. He was looking especially heroic that day, his axe in hand and leaning on one shoulder. The Dragon Knight’s armor had been polished to perfection. Icasha was worried about the girl. When she looked into her mind, she had seen a rebel. For once, she was the one given a mind shock as she realized what could have happened.
“I warned her about the forest…I do not think she listened.” Icasha stared, helplessly, at where the light natural five star had entered and never returned. Ever since Aschubel had wandered in, she had warned as many monsters as she could to avoid that place. Most of them listened.
Others, though, were the ones who kept Verdehile alive.