THE LUNCH EATING GIRL, “HEY! YOU ARE NOT INVITED!”
If you walk east from Okuto Village for at least 2 Hour following the Riverside Road that runs parallel with southern side of Ekoli River you will arrive at a junction. If you keep going east for 3 days following the Riverside Road you will reach Mining Town Oka after passing 3 more villages, but if you turn right and taking the road that going deeper into the forest you will turn up in a place that simply called Charcoal Hut, where people once turns wood into high-grade charcoal that was one of the needed component to smelt high-grade metal, but they don’t do this anymore when the briquette technique become widespread. Now it’s only a seldom used logging camp.
Now if you keep walking in this road after a while you will see a small side road that hardly indistinguishable from animal trail that goes into the heart of Mountain Foot Forest where the tree trunk is at a size where you can’t hug it alone. This is the direction that Asari takes.
It didn’t took long for Asari to gather the medicinal herb that her Father asked for. Asari is a self proclaimed herb gathering expert. She not just only once or twice participated in herb gathering with her father or just by herself. She easily located a bush of Mouse Leave near the rotting trunk (at the usual place and it not a real plant but a type of fungus). Then she found the Fire Red Flower (as it still early spring it hadn’t bloom yet, not that it matter) that grew near a small stream (at the usual place). Now for the last target, Adasi Leaves, according to Asari memory, it can be found further in, in the slopes, near the Conifers. Asari predicts it will take a half-hour to get there.
A cute low grumbling growl could be heard along the rustling of the leaves. It’s not came from a wild animal, but from the stomach of a girl that objected of being empty. Asari take a good look at the sky and see that the sun is at his most high position. She threw a small smile as if she said 「It can’t be helped」. She will calm her stomach rage first before travelling again.
She then need to find a good dry sitting place (forest floor is usually damp); and there it is. A nice big flat rock between large trees shades near a rather large forest clearing. She took out her lunch from her sling bag. Kunoa Bread with leftover from winter Chicken Meat jerky sprinkled a little with minced spice-herb. Delicious, she must say. It was good thing that she prepared this before.
Just like other devout believer she doesn’t’ forget to cross her hand in front her chest and say:
“We Give Thanks for Today Blessings.”
As she chewed her food, Asari suddenly remembered that this forest, Mountain Foot Forest, is the location where the strange star fell before. The location seems to a little farther from this place. Asari wanted to investigate that place, but as the location is opposite from the Adasi leaves location she can be late to deliver the medicinal herbs to her father before sunset. And sunset in forest is dangerous, because wild animals could appear. Maybe next time.
Suddenly Asari can hear a sound of bushes and leaves rubbing with something that was not a wind. She became alerted; and panicked. Why? Because her Father and the villager had told her that sometime Mountain Bear come from the Mountain Slopes to forage for food in spring.
Mountain Bear is a dangerous beast, because they were easily agitated, aggressive, and attack everything that moves near them. That why people use idiom 「Like Mountain Bear」 when they mean 「Something Really Dangerous.」
By reflex, Asari drew her Dagger from it sheath and hold it tight. The Dagger is a half Arm length (~40 cm) weapon so it only functions as a last resort weapon. Even Asari knew that a women like her can’t be possibly win against Mountain Bear but it’s better than nothing. It was only for a peace of mind. Slowly, she took step by step backward, identifying the route she could use to escape if it must.
The sound seems to get closer. Asari’s hand and feet started to tremble. How much time had passed? She didn’t know.
Asari could see a large creature shadow in the distant and the bushes that shake when it moves. She now tried to flee the site but her feet couldn’t move. Come on feet. Asari pleaded inside her heart.
The shadow was keep closing!
Time feel like it was standing still and in the moment that feels like eternity… It appeared.
Twenty Paces (1 Pace = ~70 cm) from her, there was a large beast with brown striped thick fur that came from the forest shadows. With its two large paws lifted up and showed its razor sharp claws, the Beast stood on its two feet and started to roar strongly while revealing a rows of sharp teeth.
Asari hopes that she was all wrong. The beast was nonetheless than the dreaded:
A Mountain Bear.
Asari silently screamed without a single voice came from her mouth.
“Ye God. Ye God. Ye God. Ye God. Ye God. This is bad. bad. bad. bad.”
Asari’s sense shrieked in turmoil.
Looking at the beast that was bigger than 2 horses piled to each other, Asari’s face became pale like all the blood had been drained from it. She unknowingly fell down because her knee suddenly given in. Her feet became petrified even though her mind commanded it to run numerous times. All escape routes that she had noted before in her mind now is emptier than a blank sheet.
Why was she felt this terror?
Why was she this scared?
Asari cursed at her own frailty. Why she must become a weak girl. Must be because her sheltered and peaceful life. If she was a swordswomen maybe she can do something. Alas, she didn’t.
Asari can’t think clearly anymore.
The Bear once again roared while slowly circling Asari. Its deep dark eyes observed Asari closely as it seems to find something.
Asari that had given up to fear, forced her both hand to point her dagger at the Bear direction even if somewhere on the back of her mind something said it pointless and dangerous. Panic had occludes the mind. Maybe because of Asari’s action or because something else, the Bear became restless, enraged, and suddenly rushed to Asari while opening its mouth and shows it sharp teeth.
「Am I going to die here and go to the place where the stars are? Sorry Father, I’ hope Father won’t be sad too much.」
She closed her eyes waiting for the Bear’s fatal strike.
She only hopes that the Bear won’t ate her corpse, or if it ate her, there will be enough parts of her corpse remained so that her father can recognize her and buried. She had no regrets other than she still can’t repay her father as a good daughter. At least when she was alive, Asari never do something bad or evil so that her father will be burdened with her sin consequences.
Ok… maybe she was sometime lazy; told a lie; stealing a little fruits from garden at village outskirt; and the things she had done to payback the village boy’s that had tricked her. Ok, she may be overboard in the last one.
But she always sincerely confesses her wrongdoings to fellow human and God. If she receives divine punishment, maybe it will be a light one, and then she would be Returned to the Sky and join up with the stars.
If she really became member with the stars, maybe she can meet her mother. But Asari think she needs to find a way or both of them to recognize each other. Asari does’ know her mother’s face and her mother Returned to the Sky when Asari was born and so she maybe doesn’t know Asari’s face. Maybe she could yell or pass a massage that said: 「Mistress Arani, wife of Mister Ewanu. Your Daughter Asari is looking for you!!!」
By the way, the Bear’s lethal strike was sure takes it time to come.