Part II


Of all the infernal things to fall into, I fell into a tree, a willow by the looks of its long, fluttering leaves. Well, at least I fell smack-dab into a fork in the middle of the tree, where a mass of soft, gooey moss or fungus provides a decent landing space. And this is nothing, really, compared to the time I leaned on a cactus when I went to the Forbidden Cities for a visit.

The leaves of the tree brush gently across my face, causing an uncomfortable tickly sensation. I swat them away roughly, noticing as I do so that they resemble plaits. I’ve never seen any tree with this sort of leaf structure, but then again I’ve never seen any tree with flaxen leaves, or dark blue flowers peppered here and there throughout said leaves and its bark either. Well this IS a new world, so I should expect some foreign species.

I try to sit up, but a light pressure on my chest prevents me from doing any more than lifting my head a few centimetres off the hard surface of the tree, and even that small motion makes my head swim. I’m dizzy and nauseous, but a normal commute by lodestone shouldn’t do that.

I lower my head a little and cast my eyes downwards. I discover that the moss-or-fungus I landed in is light red, and, along with several flexible, bent-over branches, is covering the majority of my body and legs, preventing me from getting up. Though the moss-or-fungus first appeared to be gooey and soft, now it’s as solid and hard as stone and I struggle futilely to free myself. Thankfully, neither of my arms are pinned down, so I get to work using my nails to scrape away handfuls of the reddish stuff. It’s difficult though, much more than I thought it would be, because I have to drop it a far distance from the pile entangling me or it’ll just latch on again. As I can’t move my body and it hurts horribly to shove my arms practically out of their sockets in order to hurl my handfuls off the tree, it doesn’t take long before I slow to a halt. I tilt my head to the left as I rest my weary fingernails. Somehow I didn’t quite imagine my mission going like this when I accepted it. Then again, I think bitterly, it WOULDN’T have gone like this if I hadn’t been dropped off at the wrong spot, which this place clearly is. Did that stupid Gryphone send one too many volts into his disk?

I’m interrupted from my rather resentful musings by a sudden gust of wind, which blasts the draping willow leaves into the air, giving me a brief but clear view of where I am.

I appear to be in some sort of colourful forest, where almost all of the trees are a strange hue not typically associated with trees. I can pick up a melancholy sort of vibe coming from this place too. Did some sort of tragedy occur here?

I return reluctantly to my gruelling task, but I keep dropping my handfuls halfway. I put this down to my throbbing head, my tingling fingers, and my now-broken nails, but the truth is, I’m disoriented by the eerie quiet of this place. A forest this large ought to be bursting with sounds of birds chirping and insects buzzing and whatnot, but all there is is the faint rustling of leaves.

Suddenly, without a single warning, my body goes numb and weightless, and I fall THROUGH the tree, solidifying enough to feel the jolt of pain when my already-bruised body hits the ground. My second fall in, what, fifteen minutes? I roll away from the tree and solidify fully.

Right. I forgot about phasing. On the other hand, I only manifested it four months ago, and my teachers saw little point in training me much. “You just need to know how to not fall through the floor,” they said, “You won’t use it much anyway.” Joke’s on me, though, for not fighting them on it.

Footsteps and voices sound. The surprising thing about this practically-silent is, I thought the plants would absorb all sound, but evidently they do the opposite; they magnify every noise and cause the sounds to echo for far longer than they ought to.

The sounds get louder. I stumble up, not wanting to get caught on my very first day of this mission. I stagger unsteadily away from the voices, desperate to get away. However, in my haste, I don’t notice the glob of moss-or-fungus beneath my foot and step on it, tripping, my head smashing towards a chunk of rock jutting from the ground.

My last thought before the impact is “I am so sick of falling.”

Then the voices reach me and the world goes black.

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