Remember the Name - Chapter 74 - Species (1)
Lucid fell for quite some time even after getting past the clouds. When he finally saw the ground, he tried to move his body in an upright position so that he could land on his feet, but it wasn’t so easy. In the end, he ended up falling all all fours.
As soon as he touched solid ground, he began to throw up quite violently, even though he hadn’t eaten anything all day. His head felt like it was splitting in two and everything around him seemed to sway and wobble uncontrollably, making him nauseous beyond words. It felt like he had just gone on a rollercoaster ride.
When he had first gone to an amusement park, thanks to a generous sponsor, Myeong-su had dragged Lucid by the hand to ride on a rollercoaster, and even that hadn’t been as scary as what Lucid had just gone through. Free falling without a seat to support him or safety bars to keep him in place had been a terrifying experience, and he wondered whether he would end up developing a fear of heights.
Even after he was done throwing up, it took him quite some time to compose himself. With all his strength drained from his body, Lucid rolled to the side and laid down on the ground. All he could see from there were the clouds he had passed through.
Thinking of it, he had seen a forest during his fall, not too far from the cliff. It stretched as far as the eye could see, much like the clouds on top of the mountain. He had been too far up to be sure, but based on what he had seen, it would be safe to assume that the forest spanned across this whole land. It was just a great expanse of various greens, without even a hint of the autumn’s orange that he had seen on the other side of the rocky mountain. He thought he’d be glad to see some vegetation after spending such a long time surrounded by nothing but rocks, but this was a bit much, even for him.
Still on his back, Lucid turned his head towards the forest. It began not too far from where he currently was, but already it seemed to chase him away. Covered in luscious green leaves and outstretched branches, the darkness within curled in on itself, determined to keep outsiders away.
The voices that projected in one direction quieted for a moment.
“How many years has it been?” asked the voice so deep that it seemed to rumble the very ground.
“How should I know?” answered the husky voice, so rough that it made anyone who heard it want to cover their ears.
“Over a hundred, probably,” added the nasally voice, so closed off that it was frustrating to listen to.
“Let’s go check” said the deep voice again, standing up. The speaker was tall and of a stocky build, looking just as hardy and upright as the canella tree growing nearby.
“What? No. Too much of a hassle. Our paths will cross eventually anyway. Why should I have to go out of my way to make it happen faster? That’s not my thing.”
And with that, the husky voiced man crossed his arms behind his head, using them as a pillow as he leaned back against a tree. Even with his strange posture, it was clear that he had very long limbs.
“This is a huge forest. How can you be sure you’ll cross paths again? Besides, we should make sure he’s not a threat,” the nasally, stuffy voiced man said. He was the shortest of the three men and had a round face that was less due to fat and more due to a lack of sharp angles all around.
“Ugh, so annoying,” the husky voiced man complained, standing up.
“You’re the strongest one here, and the laziest. It’s kinda ironic,” mocked the nasally voice, yawning.
“We must hurry,” urged the deep voiced man, “It’s almost nightfall.”
Meanwhile, Lucid was lying down on the grass, steadying his breath. His arms and legs were heavy as lead and seemed to be stuck to the ground. It had been quite some time since he reached solid ground, but he still had difficulty getting up. His whole body shook and he was covered in cuts and bruises.
When he had first cast his magic, the values he had assigned had been all wrong, which had caused him to fall much more quickly than he had planned to. In that moment, he had truly feared for his life. On top of that, the wind had felt like hundreds of sharp claws against his skin, scratching and tearing away at him as he fell. Every time he had tried to move his legs or arms, it had felt like hammers were striking away at him. For example, when he had raised his right arm, the wind had passed over his shoulder and struck him across his right cheek, and when he had straightened his left leg out, the wind had pressed against his right side, knocking the air out of his lungs. When he had begun to fall towards the cliff, he had truly believed that to be the end.
Thankfully, he had had some form of awakening or realization right before he had actually hit the cliff, which had allowed him to recalculate the proper values and cast the appropriate magic. As he fell more gently and more slowly than even the snow itself, his situation had improved, but that wasn’t to say much. The wind’s sharp claws and blunt attacks had gotten weaker, but they hadn’t disappeared completely. In the end, he had had to endure its relentless strikes up until the moment he reached land.
Frankly speaking, the fact that he had even made it to solid ground in one piece was nothing short of a miracle, a stroke of pure luck. Though he amassed quite the knowledge over the years, it was still just a shallow understanding of various concepts, and free falling had truly brought him dangerously close to death. If he hadn’t had his moment of awakening in the middle, he would have probably broken quite a few bones, or worse, ended up as nothing but a pile of mush on the ground. As soon as he realized this, he couldn’t help but feel nauseous again. He rolled over and promptly vomited again. Having starved all day, the only thing that came up was bile, which burned his throat and made his insides churn violently. If only he had some water, at least.
“The unexpected flow of air and the strange pressure I felt,” he thought as he wiped the sweat from his forehead, “and the clothes. They interfered with the drag. They were variables I hadn’t considered.”
He also realized that there were probably more things that he hadn’t considered, all of which had ended up as undetermined variables that threw off his calculations. The only conclusion he could draw from this was that jumping from that cliff had been nothing short of a suicide attempt.
Maybe, he thought, an increase in air resistance didn’t necessary mean a decrease in the force of gravity.
In the end, all of this had only served to prove how weak and ignorant he was. Of course, there was also the issue of the strange phenomenon he had experienced, his sort of awakening, but he would have to think this over several more times.
Could he do it again?
He had tried to make it happen again, but phenomenon had happened so suddenly and so out of the blue, he had no idea where to even start. Perhaps he was too tired, too exhausted to make it happen again. He would need to think about all this after regaining some strength.
His breathing had returned to normal, and the tremors in his arms and legs had gone away for the most part. He carefully got up and was glad to find that he could finally stand on his own two feet. Turning his head, he looked up at the cliff he had jumped off of. Having twisted and turned all the way down, Lucid now found himself quite far away from the mountain.
The clouds covered the mountain, so he couldn’t see the peak at all, but the cliffside that he could see was nearly as tall as the cliff he had climbed on the other side. This meant that the ground he was currently standing on was on a lower level that the other side of the rocky mountain. Not only that, but the other side of the mountain had, indeed, looked like a mountain. But from this side, it looked like nothing more than a cliff. There was nothing to it that gave it the appearance of a mountain. It was just a cliff stretching above the clouds, straight and true, without even so much as a slight slant to it. It was a tall fortress that stretched from the east to the west as far as the eye could see.
Like the Great Wall, Lucid thought.
He had read about the Great Wall of China in an encyclopedia, and though he had never seen it in person, he imagined that it looked much like this cliff did, enormous and imposing. The only difference, he thought, was that this cliff was made by nature itself, rather than being a man-made structure.
But how would he get back?
He had made it to this side of the mountain, which had been his goal, but now he really had no idea how to return. The longer he looked at the cliff, the more certain he became of the fact that there was truly no way for him to get back up. Just looking it was enough to drain him of all determination and motivation, so grand and overwhelming as it was. Lucid shook his head and turned back towards the forest. He would think of ways to get back when the time came. For now, he needed to focus on the vast forest in front of him.
First things first, he decided that he needed to change. The clothes he was wearing had been ripped and torn, so much so that they were uncomfortable to keep on. He took out a shirt from his rucksack, but when he put it on, he saw that the sleeves were much too long for him. Wanting to push them up to at least uncover his hands, he raised his arms, but he noticed that his hands were shaking uncontrollably. This made him laugh, though there was nothing funny about the situation at all. He was simply baffled. The tremors in his arms and legs had gone away, but apparently he still needed more time to compose himself. Time was the last thing he had to spare.
Walking through the grassy field covered in weeds, Lucid reached at the entrance of the forest, where he was greeted by tall, hardy trees. Their thick trunks were wrapped in strange vines that Lucid didn’t recognize, twisting and turning along the trees and stretching towards the branches.
A strange, musty smell had tickled his nose as soon as he had stepped inside the forest, and it seemed to cling to the very air. It was as if the thicket of the trees trapped the smell inside the forest, preventing it from escaping and fading away.
But the smell wasn’t the only thing the forest trapped. The sunlight stretched its rays through the canopy, narrowly avoiding all the leaves and branches that tried their best to block them out, but just before they reached the ground, a thick mist wafted over the forest floor, effectively keeping everything in darkness. And so the darkness had been a constant presence in the forest, bound to it for the longest time. It creeped in every corner, waiting for the chance to swallow any and all intruders that dared to set foot inside.
As for Lucid, he had no reason to avoid this darkness. If anything, he would plant his flag on the ground and rule over it. Just as he was about to conjure his light sphere, however, he felt a presence deep inside the forest. He canceled his magic mid-cast and focused on the source of the presence. He couldn’t see or hear anything, but he couldn’t afford to let his guard down. He knew that in his current state, he wouldn’t be able to react to threats in time to properly protect himself. So he stared into the forest, tense and alert.
“Man,” said a nasally voice, “you should have waited.”
“That’s what I should be saying to you,” answered a rough voice, sounding like sandpaper against metal, “he was just about to do something.”
“Alright, come on,” sighed another voice, deep and resounding.
Lucid stood perfectly still, doing his best to conceal his surprise, when three men walked out of the thicket. Men? Were they really? The first man to come out had skin as black as charcoal, with his irises being the one stark white thing on his whole body. His broad shoulders and bulky muscles gave him all the appearance of a warrior. Oddly enough, he was only wearing a pair of leather shorts. What on earth?
The man who followed after had his head tilted to the side, and his arms flailed about as he walked. He had strangely long limbs, and was at least a head taller than the first man. He looked to be overall very skinny, and he had red hair and eyes. His skin, though lighter than that of the first man, was still completely black.
The third man seemed to be much, much smaller, though that was only because he was standing next to the second man. When compared to the first man, he was only a little shorter. His face was round, and he wasn’t as muscular as the other two. His relaxed posture and gait, with his toes pointing outwards with every step, suited his looks rather well. This man was also black from head to toe, though his hair and palms were brown in color.
It was the third man who spoke to him first. He had been the one with the nasally voice.
“Hey. What were you about to do just now?” he asked.
Wholly unsure of what exactly the man was asking, Lucid remained quiet. Having been deprived of an answer, the nasally man turned back to look at the long man.
“Maybe he can’t speak?” he asked.
“He can,” said the first man.
“How do you know?” asked the nasally man again.
“His eyes are reacting,” the man with the deep voice answered.
Three pairs of eyes were fixed on Lucid.
<Species (1)> End.