Chapter 1 - Forest

Hearing the sound of grass being stepped on got louder, Tino stopped singing and looked up.

Looking at the direction where the sound came from, he saw a girl standing among the fallen trees, staring at him.

‘I’ve never seen that face before in this village.’

Having an appearance of a poor kid, shabby clothes stained with mud everywhere, her face was no less muddy.

Her hair, tightly braided and wrapped around her head, was also covered with mud and dead leaves.

‘Did she fall?’

But why was this girl who seemed unfamiliar with walking in the forest be in such a place?

As Tino stared at her, her big brown eyes fluttered and the tears spilled out and trickled down her cheeks.

….

I was walking through a strange forest as if I was charmed by the song I heard.
The long winter was over, the greenery that had sprouted under the melting snow was starting to show up.

The colors of spring were still few, the ground was covered by dead leaves and branches, and the thick trunks of beech and maple trees were filled with cold air.

The sunlight coming through the bare branches remained awkward and stiff, far from warmth.
But perhaps I felt that way because my heart was still stiff.

Earlier, because I had fallen heavily when my foot got caught in the slush of melting snow, made me feel even less confident.

I wondered if someone like me, who was not used to walking alone, could get to my destination. Was this the right direction I was walking in?

Unlike summer, the seasonal forest with a good view seemed to be easier to walk in and it gave me hope that I could do it.

However, I supposed I shouldn’t have been so surprised when things didn’t turn out as I had hoped.

As I was stumbling along, mocking myself, I heard a thin, muffled singing voice.
His voice was faint but I could hear it crystal clear and the ballad sung by his voice, a graceful and familiar melody.

‘Could it be the children of the village?’

I’ve heard this ballad before, even in the city.

It must not have been long since the bards started singing it, but I couldn’t believe it’s already been handed down to a village this far away.

My legs, which had felt heavy, automatically quickened and I moved forward in search of the owner of the voice.

Beyond the silvery trunks of the beech trees, I soon saw the back of a boy who looked about 10 years old.

A few trees, chopped down with a lumberjack’s ax, provided a small space with stump chairs.

In one of those stump chairs, a skinny boy sat down and hummed a ballad.

As I approached, the grass beneath my feet made a noise, and the singer pursed his lips and turned around.

The eyes that looked at me were as golden as a cat’s.

Both of his ears were in the same position as a normal person, but the pointy ends were long and almost reached the top of his forehead.

This boy sang with such a clear voice, with the pitch of a true minstrel, and in a way that sank deep into my heart. ……

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, so I stood there, and the boy stood up as if he was startled.

His voice was clear as he spoke to me.

“Why are you crying?”

“Because your song was so beautiful.”

I really thought that.

When I managed to smile to show it, his golden eyes widened and he had a terrible, tickling expression on his face.

Then, with a lisp and an innocent tone, he suddenly began to talk in a friendly manner.

“Thanks! But I’m not good at all. Besides, I’m singing in a very small voice right now. I can sing in a much louder voice, so loud that everyone walking by would stop and turn around. But it would be scary to sing like that here, wouldn’t it? It might attract demons, you know?”

Then, in a panic, he put his hands over his ears.

“Tino is not a scary demon. I only got a little bit of other creature bloodline in me but I am a human, the same as my mother. Sister, do you think I am scary?”

“No”

“That’s good”. Then the boy smiled.

“Then let’s continue. Well, Tino thinks that the key to become a good singer is to not hold back when you want to sing. If you’re going to be a bard, you need to be able to sing in both big and small voices, and right now I’m in the mood to sing, and I want to be good at it.”

“So you’re practicing all the way out here in the woods?”

“No way! I came here today with the intention of going up the hill. You know what, sister? I heard that the swordsman in the ballad might actually be alive and up in the hills ahead. If that’s true, it’s amazing. It’s not every day you get the chance to meet the hero of the ballad in person.”

“Take me there!”

Tino’s eyes widened again in surprise as I suddenly raised my voice.

“Please take me with you. I want to go to the same place as you. But I don’t know the way, so I don’t know what to do.”

“Sister, are you also going up the hill? Why?”

“I want the same as you. I want to meet Lakis. That’s why I traveled from the capital to here. ”

***

Notes

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