“Let us stay here.” she smiled faintly, chasing away the demonic thoughts and memories of how she had been volunteered for the mission. Originally making her angry for having to fight unarmed Florals, abducting women and girls, then weary for stranding her in tge forest of darkness, it began turning slightly positive, as it enabled her to see beyond the propaganda fed to her, and more importantly, meeting Tophan.

In the long hours of the night she had reviewed her life while talking to Tophan. Although she had friends, they were either dead, imprisoned or far away. Besides they all followed the call of the empire, working hard to serve the fungus.

Gently the pair, of former enemies embraced in a hug.

 

The waking croak of the Phoenix tore them from their intimate moment. Finding themselves with dug in feet, leaning back against back, where they thought of having unearthed themselves the two looked up to it. “I had a strange dream.” Tophan breathed, with a mixture of shame and disappointment had he realized that many events of the night had been a dream. “You slept?” Sujela intended to sound as if she had stayed awake the entire night, but failed at that attempt. “Just like you did.” he remarked. The bird stared at them. “But how long?” indirectly admitting to sleeping Sujela stretched, realizing that she had held hands with Tophan the entire time, as her pulsating hand slipped out if his. Each of the two looked around. Beyond the darkness above them there was no streak of morning sky to be seen.

They turned their attention back to the bird.

Clucking the Phoenix looked at them, it’s head tilted to the side, then it pecked it’s feet, returning its gaze in prompting fashion to Tophan and Sujela.

The scene repeated a few times until the pair understood that they ought to unearth their feet. Echanged over their shoulders, a glance of reluctance and doubt spoke of uncertainty in both of the two.

Slowly Sujela worked her feet free of the clenching soil, stepped on it. Never had she seen anyone being taken by the forest, but the confident gaze of the bird gave her strength. “Come on, try it.” softly she spoke to him as she reached for his hand again, ignoring the latent pain.

Walking in small uneasy steps they wandered towards the Phoenix, that kept staring at them. Uttering another croak it spread it’s wings, urging both to be scared as they feared the bird was an illusion to trick them into unburying teir feet.

Softly the Phoenix glid down from his perch, landing in front if them, leading them off into the forest. The phoenix held it’s head up in a proud manner as it lead the way through the forest.

After some time the grip of their holding hands intensified, both recognized that they entered territories they had not seen before. Hour chased hour and the deceased comrades of Sujela did not reappear.

At the shore of a small pond the phoenix stopped, it turned it’s head to see wether the two were still following, or had been snatched by the trees.

Satisfied seeing both had followed it, the Phoenix croaked and flew to a tree that stood in the center of the pond. As the shape of the tree slowly was unshrouded to Tophand Sujela by the Phoenix’ ethereal glow, each gasped in wonder and shock.

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