I opened my eyes to a ray of sunlight breaking through the thin slits in the bow of the ship. It would’ve been pretty uncomfortable if it hadn’t immediately been followed by the a feeling of two soft bodies snuggled up against me. I reluctantly forced my eyes to open and looked to my right and left, reaffirming to myself that what happened last night was actually real.
Both Anja on my right and Jaina to my left, the two girls clung to my arms. I felt a slight cold come off from Jaina due to her cold blood while Anja gave off a radiating deep heat coming from her core. I really couldn’t decide which one I liked better but either way, I would unfortunately have to get up sooner or later.
I groggily sat up, carefully snaking my arms out from underneath the girls. I stretched with a muffled yawn and wiped the sand from my eyes. I limply grabbed my undergarments and dressed myself before heading for a water bowl in the corner of the room. It must’ve been Anja’s from when she was still chained up in here.
I splashed my face and poured a bit of the water around my neck. I saw my reflection in the water and touched my chin. My beard had grown surprisingly thick over these past few days. For a moment I thought about shaving it with my blade… but yeah, that would have been an incredibly stupid idea.
I decided to leave it be for now and headed over to sit on Anja’s old bunk. It was about time I started my work on the Field Guide. After all I already had two monsters to fill the entries of. I flipped through the few pages it had by now and found the first entry:
“Anjanath, Brute Wyvern. So far only found in the Ancient Forest. Data might be subject to change after further investigations.”
Beneath its entry, I saw a caricature of an Anjanath, observed characteristics and an open space left for additional information. When I turned a few other pages over to look at the other entries, including Jaina’s, I noticed that this was almost all the information they contained. Practically only the shallow basics. It was up to me, to complete it.
I grabbed a pen, attached to the book itself, and started adding to it.
“The Anjanath is a territorial and aggressive creature which creates fire with flammable liquids with a flame sac that it stores within its throat. Attack the throat itself to stifle its ability to create more of it to make the fight easier. Remember, that the flame sac won’t be disabled forever and may regenerate.”
Along with those notes, I took down all of the materials I got from Anja’s old shell and a drawn cross section of her body with weak points and breakable parts. At least those I knew already.
I turned to the Great Jagras page and did the same there, putting in everything I knew about Jaina.
The Great Jagras is at the bottom of the food chain in the Ancient Forest. Despite this, it has an incredible fighting spirit and won’t back down from a challenge. It has an insatiable appetite but is harmless towards hunters if unprovoked. If you do engage in combat with it, don’t act careless or it WILL catch you off guard.”
I closed the book, took a deep breath and stuffed it back into my pouch. There was much more information to be gathered and even what I had about Anja and Jaina was surface level at best. All of the information I knew, basically boiled down with one or two fights with either of them. I knew nothing about their elemental weaknesses of afflictions that they were vulnerable to. The thought of having to fight against them and hurt them to learn more about their weak points really didn’t sit right with me though.
There had to be another way. Maybe I could just ask them. Maybe…
I turned my head to look over the two sleeping girls. The fanged, yellow wyvern and the pink brute wyvern. Two former enemies now snuggling up together in one bed. If only they could see themselves right now. With me no longer being there, they had shimmied closer together and held hands while softly snoring into each other’s face. And to think just yesterday they wanted to kill each other. The duality of nature I guess.
Quietly, I got up and headed for the entrance gate. It was time for breakfast and maybe if I was careful, I could go and get it before Anja and Jaina got up. The floor boards creaked but that obviously wasn’t enough to wake them up, I mean the ship was constantly creaking anyways.
I reached for the door handle and…
“RISE AND SHINE, HUNTERS!”
With unparalleled enthusiasm, the Commander announced himself while slamming the heavy, wooden door straight into my face. My skull rang from the impact and I fell onto my back. The edge of the door struck me right across the eye and I didn’t even have to look at my reflection to know that it was turning blue. I reached for it with my hand as I swallowed the pain.
“What’re you lying down again for, boy? It’s the prime of day!”
I didn’t even want to rebuke him and just responded. “I was already up, sir. Just wanted test the sturdiness of the floor.”
“Well, you better get up again. I have incredible news!”
“Gargwa eggs and Mosswine bacon for breakfast?” I looked up, hopefully.
“Don’t be silly, hunter!” He answered with a deep chuckle.
“Then it wasn’t worth it.” I said disappointedly as I let my head fall back onto the floor.
“What was that?”
“Nothing.” I said, before groaning and sitting up.
Of course, all of that ruckus didn’t go unnoticed by the girls as Anja as well as Jaina, groggily got up and rubbed their eyes as they adjusted to the bright light coming through the open door. The timing couldn’t have been any worse.
As soon as they laid eyes on me, lying on the floor with a blue eye and the Commander standing in the door with an enthusiastic expression as if he was ready to fight… yeah, it didn’t exactly spell “peaceful morning”.
Jaina immediately sprinted over to me while Anja swiftly grabbed her greatsword and got up in the Commander’s face.
“Kalaydus, what did he do to you? Where did he hurt you?! Are you gonna die?!” Jaina yelled at me, one question leaving her mouth faster than the last as she looked over my body in panic.
Meanwhile at the door, Anja pointed the long, sharp edge of her sword right at the Commander and stared him down. “I knew you were evil from the day you chained me down in here. And now dare to ambush my master and hurt him? I will fight for his honor so draw your weapon, you coward! I won’t tolerate you any LONG…”
“GIRLS!” I yelled loudly, making everyone stop in their tracks.
“Huh?” “Huh?” They responded in unison and turned to me. Jaina in the middle of wanting to get bandages and Anja readying her sword for a strike, keeping it mere inches away from his head.
“Anja, holster your sword and Jaina, I’m not hurt anywhere. Nothing happened! I’m alright!” I explained, slowly getting up as the situation finally calmed down.
“But… the Commander! And your eye!” Jaina hesitantly protested, not quite willing to give up on treating me.
“I know, but it was just an accident. It’s nothing. Seriously, Anja, put your sword away.” I ordered, turning to Anja mid-sentence.
In response, she still stared down the Commander but at least she laid down her sword before turning away from him. “I’ll still keep an eye on you. Don’t get any stupid ideas!”
“Good morning to you as well, Anja.” He answered with the same stoic expression as ever.
Both of the girls came up to me, Jaina tapping her claws together apologetically while Anja still shot distrustful glares over her shoulder.
“Sorry, Kalaydus. We really thought you were in danger. You looked like you took a really hard hit.”
“I was ready to fight him at any time if you wanted me to. You saw that, right?” They each explained themselves with partially apologetic and determined expressions.
I smiled and reached for the side of their heads, petting them behind their ears. “I know girls, I know. I’m not mad either. Just try to keep calm and check the situation before you react like that, you understand?”
“Got it.” “Got it.” Both of them guiltily responded, blushing a little as I caressed the sides of their faces.
“Alright. Anyways. Commander, you had something you wanted to tell me before, right? Well now you can tell all of us at least. So what is it?”
He held back from commenting on the situation any further. He must’ve really had something more important to address.
He cleared his throat and proudly announced “I want all of you down by the pier immediately. I want you to look presentable so I hope your clothes and armor are clean!”
“Are we getting a delivery from the Old World? Do you need our help unloading? Because that doesn’t sound like anything THAT important or unusual.”
“A delivery… heh, I guess you could call it that. It’s probably better if you see for yourself. 10 minutes, Kalaydus. And ladies… the rule with the clean armor doesn’t necessarily apply to you but I would appreciate if you wore something to begin with.” He said nonchalantly as he turned around and left, leaving Anja and Jaina to realize that they’d jumped out of bed completely naked.
Anja just shrugged at the realization while Jaina squeaked and hastily covered up her sensitive parts even though it was way too late for that. But it’s good to know that at least one of them had developed a feminine sense of shame by now. Maybe Anja would get to that point eventually too. One can only hope.
Once we all finally got ready and came to the harbor, we were immediately surprised by the hastiness and unrest in the lower parts of Astera. People carrying crates from A to B, the Smithy stocking up on materials and working tirelessly on forging an arsenal of weapons of all kinds and at the pier, where the Commander told us to meet him, every hunter and huntress of Astera was lined up in two opposing rows. There was broad gap in one of them, leaving just enough space for 3 people. Assuming that they were meant for us, me, Jaina and Anja filled the gap and got into a straight-standing position.
The people across from us seemed unperturbed by our intrusion, Even more so, they practically ignored us. It seemed like they were just as clueless as we were about what was happening.
“Pretty big measures for a shipment. What do you think all of this is for?” Anja turned to me, asking me curiously.
“I might have an idea as to what it could be but… I can’t imagine that they’d already be here.”
“You’re talking about the 5th fleet, right?” Jaina interjected.
As I looked out onto the ocean, I nodded even though I still doubted it myself. “We’ve sent for them a few days ago but with all the necessary preparations it would take weeks before they’d be ready to set sail.”
Anja seemed to have something on her mind and looked at me inquiringly. “I never really asked you. What exactly are all these fleets? Are they your packs or something like that?”
I looked out towards the horizon as I started explaining. “A long time ago, a group of ships set out explore the world for new landmasses and continents to settle and investigate. We wanted to catalogue everything this world had to offer and it turns out there was much left to find. When they found the New World, a whole new continent, they were the first to settle here and became known as the 1st fleet. They were the ones who started a settlement that is Astera now. After them came the 2nd and 3rd fleet. The second were mainly traders, suppliers and craftsmen who helped shape and expand Astera into a more complex, functional camp.”
Other hunters started listening, even though most of them probably already knew the story of the fleets. I guess anything that helped distract from the stress of not knowing what was to come was welcomed by them.
“The 3rd on the other hand were scientists and researchers mostly interested in the unique ecosystems of the New World. They were made up mostly of Wyverians, a highly intelligent and refined race who apparently are genetic offspring of the Wyverns though nobody knows how this evolution occurred. And of course then came the 4th fleet. It was the first one that sent actual hunters to the New World that would go after all the new species that inhabit this continent while examining them and developing strategies to deal with them in the most effective manner. We were mostly newcomers, supposed to populate Astera and help keep the camp safe from threats until the main forces arrived and those forces… are the 5th fleet.”
Everyone started talking among themselves when I mentioned them, sharing the thought that they may be the ones heading for our shores.
“The 5th fleet are the Ace hunters. Hunters who have already made a name for themselves in the Old World and who are coming here to face the challenge of new, unfamiliar monsters and possibly Elder Dragons. They are the reason we found this continent in the first place. The elder dragons migrate here every 10 years though we don’t know why yet. That’s one of the main reasons we’re here. To find out exactly what drives them to come here.”
Anja scowled a little in thought when she followed my gaze. “So, do you think these expert hunters will give you an answer to your question?”
“I couldn’t tell you honestly. But at the very least, they are our best chance if we’re going to face the Elder Dragons. Seeing as Astera is still standing, we’ve been lucky enough not to have met them yet.”
“And it will keep standing as long as I’m here, Hunter.”
I turned around, as the booming voice of the Commander caught my attention. Like most of the others, I didn’t even notice that he had arrived. “Commander! I… I just wanted to explain…”
“I am aware and I’ll tolerate it, but you might want to pay attention from here on, Kalaydus.” He interrupted me in a calm yet firm announcement.
“Right, understood, sir.” I firmly got back into an upright position, imitating the others while Anja and Jaina followed my lead.
Everyone, even some of the traders and researchers gathered around to pay attention to hear the news.
The Commander marched to the end of the pier and turned around before clearing his throat and his commanding, booming voice ringing out. “Hunters, I have news from the mainland. A message, sent by the Commission themselves.” He explained as he pulled out a thick, important-looking scroll, the already popped seal of the Commission dangling from the lower half.
“We hereby announce that despite the former arrangements, our previous time of arrival has been nullified. A party of our most eager hunters has set out for Astera much earlier than anticipated. Arguments were useless and we had no intention of stopping them. News about both the new Monsters and the new ways of pacifying the former…” I perked up a little as his eyes shortly focused on me before he turned back to reading. “… seem to have stirred their hunting spirits and they hired themselves an unmarked vessel to reach Astera as soon as possible. Expect arrival around the time this message reaches you. Signed and sealed by the heads of the Commission.”
He let go of the lower half of the scroll, making it snap back up into its rolled up form.
Everyone was excited and now even more restless than before. “Well, what do you say? How about we welcome them home, eh?” The Commander bellowed out, followed by uproarious cheers from the other hunters who looked forward to the arrival of the ship that was slowly crossing over the horizon. You could see the mast slowly piercing the skyline until an unmarked sail and finally the body of the ship was visible.
Tensions grew more and more as the ship headed straight for our pier. My heart racing. My expectations probably unreasonably high. My hand was slightly trembling as I forced myself to not let my nervousness show too much until I felt someone hold it. I looked into the shining eyes of Jaina who told me: “Hey, don’t worry too much, they’re just humans, right? You can handle them. You’ve dealt with monsters before.” She said with an encouraging grin after she shrugged as if I should know this already.
I didn’t know if she actually thought I was preparing to fight them like I did with her and Anja when we first met, that didn’t make her words mean any less to me though. I smiled at her and gripped her claw in return, subtle enough for most people to not notice and the ones who did, cared little about it. They were much more busy prepping themselves and looking presentable.
And then, it finally happened. The ship dropped its anchor while steering itself side-ward. Deck hands threw tows over the railing for others to tie it to the poles of the walkway.
I don’t know what I was expecting to come out of that boat, but the moment I actually did see the hunters disembarked, those expectations were still surpassed. The pier creaked under the collective weight of their armors and weapons. Some of the designs, I actually recognized from the Old World. Black Diablos Armor, Kushala Daora and many more Elder dragons as well as all kinds of other exotic designs. But even among this crowd of clearly high rank hunters, one of them stood out more than anyone else.
One of them, I couldn’t quite tell if it was a man or a woman, wore a full set of Silver Rathalos Armor. The face was covered by a black mask and an eye-shield, the body with heavy Rathalos plates and steel. Black spikes all over her shoulders, arms and legs. On the back, she carried an insect glaive, equally forged out of Silver Rathalos parts. The staff part was a shimmering sheen of silver and the 2 blades at the tip glowing with scorching oranges and reds.
I must’ve been staring at them more obviously than I thought, because it didn’t take long for them to take notice of me. While the other Ace hunters received a thunderous, welcoming applause, our gazes locked and it felt like everything around quieted down. I felt a tense air between us and soon they walked towards me. I gulped as their heavy steps came closer and closer to me until they finally stopped right in front of me.
We stared at each other for a bit longer while I had to try not to show how nervous I was. I was desperately waiting for them to say SOMETHING, but it took an excruciatingly long time.
Finally, just two words. “Your weapons.” She said in a calm, yet demanding tone.
“Excuse me?” I asked perplexed.
“Your blades. Hand them over.” She stated more clearly. At least from this sample of her voice I could tell that it was a woman under that helmet but that didn’t make her any less intimidating.
I complied, still confused, and unsheathed my blades, putting them into her hands.
With one in each hand, she seemed to be weighing them before inspecting them closer. “What rank are you, hunter?”
A drop of sweat ran over my forehead. “I just started. I still only have Low Rank clearance. Hunter Rank 5 I think?”
“Those are some pretty nice blades you got there for being such a rookie. Good craftsmanship and clearly made from superior materials. How did you get your hands on those? I don’t assume you’ve stolen them, right?” She asked as she lifted one of them up. My eyes followed the dangling movement of my father’s amulet as it swayed from side to side at the handle.
“No, I gathered the materials on my own and got it forged. Now could I have them back please?”
“No need to get antsy. I’m just checking your equipment.”
Getting nervous, I squeezed my fists. I felt uncomfortable watching her carelessly wave my weapons around while the amulet was slowly slipping off the handle. “Still, I’d really like to have them back now. You’ve checked them enough.”
“What’s the matter? Did you steal them after all and don’t want people to see?”
Without another word from her mouth, I grabbed both swords out of her hands in one swoop and quickly tightened the knot of the amulet before letting out a sigh of relief.
The ace huntress was surprised by my sudden move and once again blankly stared at me.
I awkwardly chuckled. “Heh, uhm, you can have them again now… if you want.” I said reluctantly as I carefully extended them to her. She however denied and I due to the mask I couldn’t even tell if she was offended, confused or whatever she might have thought of the situation.
The awkward silence was broken up by the Commander who finally noticed the tension that had built up between us. He stepped up to the two of us and inquired. “So, what seems to be the matter here? Is everything in order?”
The huntress didn’t answer at first, but before anyone else could open their mouths for another question, she hooked her fingers underneath her helmet and took it off.
The girl underneath the helmet had an incredibly distinct look. Light dark skin, even darker freckles on her cheekbones and a hint of a jagged scar across her forehead, underneath her bangs of snowy white, shortly cut hair. Her eyes were piercing with violet irises and sharp edges. At a glance, I couldn’t even tell where she could’ve been from. I knew of no place in the Old World where looks like hers could originate from.
“Is this him?” She asked the Commander while still keeping her eyes on me.
“It is, seems like I didn’t even have to bring you together. Did you two have any trouble with each other?”
The woman eyed my blades, specifically now the amulet that was hanging off it. I sighed a bit and bowed apologetically as I explained. “Look, this is an amulet that my fath… that means quite a lot to me. I just wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t get damaged. I apologize for…”
“No need.” She interrupted me abruptly.
Surprised by her cutting me off, I looked up to see her pull up a necklace that was hanging around her neck and tucked into her armor. It was a kind of necklace that I knew all too well from the Old World. A necklace with an pendant of the Sapphire Star. The star that a lot of people from the mainland prayed to for good fortune and guidance. “I have one of my own that I couldn’t stand to lose either. Anyhow, my name is Aela. You must be Kalaydus. Heard quite a lot about you in the past few weeks.”
“Depending on who told you those things that could either be good or bad.”
“I’d rather find that part out myself. What’s certain, is that you made quite a name for yourself in the short time you’ve been here and to be honest, you’ve made me quite curious. A no-name, inexperienced hunter from a remote village suddenly becoming the talk of the New World, being the half son of a wyvern and discovering a new way to capture monsters alive. Gotta say, you went all in pretty fast. Most of us only even get started after we get High Rank clearance.”
I abashedly rubbed my neck, not sure if this was a compliment or mockery, but at least now I had a face to the voice. It did suit her pretty well. Still feminine but very commanding. Almost like a female General or an overly strict mother. “Well, I’m trying to get by. Haven’t made the best of impressions with some people here but I think I can at least call Astera my home now. Welcome to the New World by the way. Must’ve been quite a journey, especially in such a rush.”
Now it was her time to be weirdly bashful. She put her helmet under her arm and chuckled. “Well, it was alright. If you start wearing your equipment long enough it almost feels like a second skin. Besides, my mind at least was busy with something else entirely.” Her eyes swayed from left to right, looking at Anja first and then at Jaina.
They seemed to have been occupied with something else, or at least they pretended to ignore Aela’s presence. Unlike me, they barely showed any sign of respect or reverence. Jaina seemed more distracted with getting knots out of her hair while Anja just gazed over the crowd of hunters. Her mind seemed to be occupied with examining the massive greatswords they were carrying on their backs.
Both of them jumped slightly when they met Aela’s eyes. “So, you must be the two monsters turned human. Anja and Jaina, right?”
In response, she was met with silence and examining looks. Anja’s was the first to speak up, commenting on Aela’s equipment. “That’s a pretty flimsy weapon you got there? Thought you’d have moved on from using sticks to fight.”
Without even reacting to that statement, Aela simply acknowledged “You must be Anja then. An Anjanath, huh? Wish I could’ve seen you before you turned. I heard your kind is pretty ferocious and savage. It would have been an honor to fight you.” She said, slightly bowing honorably.
Anja gave a surprised smirk, not expecting her to show that much respect. She crossed her arms cockily and responded. “I’ve learned from my master that you can have quite a lot of power even in a body like this. I haven’t lost a single bit of my strength. We can still carry out that fight you wish for later.”
Aela chuckled in return, relaxing her attitude around the girls. “Looking forward to it, Anja. This “flimsy stick” carries a lot more punch than you think as well.”
Suddenly, Anja went completely blank-faced serious. “Just so you know, I do not appreciate you talking to my master like he is subordinate to you. If you keep disrespecting him or think you can demand things from him like you did before, I will make you regret it.”
Taken slightly aback but not quite intimidated, Aela backed off. “Huh. Understood.” Now she turned to Jaina, who once again jumped as she was met with Aela’s gaze.
“Jeez, stop doing that. You’re making me uncomfortable.” She said with a quivery voice.
“Jaina, am I correct?”
“Yes? I am?” She asked worriedly and choppily as she was put on the spot.
“A Great Jagras. Bottom of the food chain in the Ancient Forest. Your kind sort of reminds me of the Great Jaggi or the Velocidrome I used to fight back home when I started my hunting career. Fast but simple like a bird wyvern.”
Jaina shrunk back into herself even more. “Umm… thank you?” Jaina said insecurely, squeezing my hand even tighter.
“I could gather that Anja uses a Greatsword, seeing as she seems to have an eye for them. What was your weapon of choice?”
“A hammer. I thought maybe if I took one of the harder hitting weapons, I could contribute more in a hunt.”
Aela snapped her fingers as if she just got something. “Ah, it makes sense. A lot of Great Jagras attacks are blunt and heavy hitting. I can see why you went for that. It’s already ingrained in your instinctual attack patterns.” She said as if taking mental notes.
Finally, as Jaina got more and more uncomfortable, I stepped in. “Hey, I mean no disrespect but could you please stop analyzing my companions? They’re people like us, they deserve to have their personal space.”
Aela looked at me with confusion. “But… we’re here to analyze monsters. We have this great opportunity now to see how they tick, how their mind works. You can’t ask me to not ask them questions now that they can talk to us.”
“There are other ways to go about that. You can be more sensible with your approach. They barely know your name.”
“I don’t get you, why are you so attached to captured monsters? We caught so many back in the Old World and never once hesitated to examine them for all that they’re worth until we knew every weakness and every ailment we can inflict upon them.”
“Maybe, but that doesn’t mean we can’t handle this differently. They are my companions, Aela. Hunters just like you and me, maybe with potential far beyond what we thought possible before. Do you really just want to squander that? They’re staying with me and we’ll do this my way!” I said in a stern, clear tone, standing my ground.
Aela and I exchanged sharp glances as the tension between us grew palpable.
The Commander, having been busy with other matters, came over to us with an inappropriately cheery smirk. “Ah, I see you’ve gotten to know each other better. What were you discussing about?”
Aela just grinned self-confidently. “Oh, I just talked to Kalaydus and his friends here that I’m ready to be his Handler.”
“You what?” I asked in disbelief.
“Well, I told you a while ago that I’d find you a good fit. Someone who would challenge you a bit and examine your potential. Aela is one of the best huntresses out there, you should be thankful she picked you over anyone else to become her partner.” He announced with an unknowing smile on his face.
Me and Aela stared at each other for a little while longer as one side of her lips curled into a cocky smirk. “I think I have the perfect first Quest for you. The Commander told me that you think most of your hunts were based on luck. How about we challenge that a little bit. How about a monster that is just as fast as you are with your blades, hmm?”
“And what would you suggest which monster we’re supposed to hunt?” I asked begrudgingly.
“The Commander has mentioned that a couple of scouts came out of the Ancient Forest with burn marks that could only have been cause by an electric shock. Supposedly the researchers call the monster who caused them, a Tobi Kadachi. Agile, flexible and shockingly difficult to keep down on the ground. Luckily for you, a hunter team can consist of up to 4 people so you can bring your 2 friends here as well. See you at the campsite, Kalaydus. I hope for your sake you’re wrong about just being lucky.” She said as a final farewell and a casual salute before putting her helmet back on and hooking onto the nearest Barnos, flying away, deep into the Ancient Forest.
Me, Anja and Jaina were left behind to prepare. I was confused, frustrated and annoyed. I turned to the Commander. “Are you really sure SHE’S the one you want to assign me to?”
He calmly answered as he watched her flying away alongside me. “She IS pretty hard to get used to. I know that. She’s never been much of a team player. Aela prefers hunting solo and you’re probably the first partner she’s ever had.” He sighed as he put a hand on my shoulder. “Kalaydus. I will have to ask a favor of you. Bear with her attitude. She needs to learn what it means to hunt in a team. If she is already at the point where she is willing to hunt with you… trust me, she kinda likes you somewhere deep down. You just have to dig a little bit to get there.”
“What about Anja? And Jaina?”
“She’ll come around to them eventually too. She doesn’t let it on, but she’s conflicted about this new discovery we’ve made. She can’t push aside the fact that they’re monsters yet. After all, she’s a monster hunter by blood through and through. Give her time to adjust. Even the toughest shells tend to crack over time.” He patted my shoulder one more time and turned away to tend to the other freshly arrived hunters.
I watched him walk away for a few seconds. I sighed to shake off the frustration, then turned to Anja and Jaina with commanding confidence. “Okay, girls, pack your weapons. We’re heading for the Ancient Forest!”