CHAPTER 28: CROSSING THE RIVER

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As they climb down they could see some weird palm trees and bamboo tress sprouting like mushroom after a rain.

Instead of coconut in the palm tree, there is something red as its fruits. The bamboo tree on the other hand…..is quite normal, like a normal bamboo tree.

‘Weird’ Azief said whispering under his breath.

But Azief couldn’t have the time to check the palm tree instead he arrived at the bottom and begun examining the shores.

The sandy bank of the river overlooking the city.

He climbed down to the bank and look at the city across from where he is standing. He looked at the clear water of the river.

‘It has always been brown’ Azief said

Sofia nodded as she walked three steps behind Azief, maintaining a lookout. Azief on the other hand is admiring the view.

This is the first time he saw that the Pahang River could be so beautiful.

His mother once told him that when his mother was a child, the colour of the river was clear, blue and beautiful.

But Azief did not had the chance to see the scenery that her mother always talked about because by the time he was born the river turns cloudy and brown.

‘So, how do you swim?’ Azief asked looking at Sofia. Sofia was dumfounded.

‘You don’t know how to swim?’ she said realizing why Azief is asking her this question.

He shakes his head, confirming Sofia confusion. She could not help but be shocked. This guy is clearly intending to cross the river but he does not know how to swim!

Is he an idiot!

‘I thought you said we are going to swim across.’ She said trying to calm herself again, by taking a deep breath

‘Yes, I did say that.’ Azief said as he walk around the sandy bank and his eyes look around left and right, searching for something.

Sofia follows from behind.

‘But you don’t know how to swim?’ Sofia said, her annoyance can slightly be heard in her trembling voice.

‘I can learn’ he said.

‘Now? Right at this instant?’

‘Now. Right at this instant’ he said. But his eye is still looking around. Azief is of course is not that stupid but he doesn’t want to give the satisfaction to Sofia that he is incapable of swimming.

He already has a plan if he could not swim across. Seeing the threat in the river, he of course thinks of other alternative in crossing the river.

He is just messing with Sofia. Looking at the river he also realized a life threatening problem and sooner or later, Sofia would realize it too.

When that time comes he will let Sofia choose. This is his quest and if Sofia get caught up in it she might die, so…..he will ask her later.

When it matters.

‘You’re insane.’ She said exasperatedly

To be honest, Azief once attend swimming lesson when he was in college. It was mandatory really, since his course obligated him to learn swimming.

But he was never any proficient in it.

As long as he keeps paddling his feet and moves his arm he would not drown…..but floating himself on water, he never did get a hang of that.

Azief look at the river again and sighed

Not to mention there is the crocodiles looking at him and Sofia, like they are its meal. At times like these, Azief wanted a skill to know the level of his enemies or at least their rank.

By now, Azief has some understanding of beast. They do not have levels like human but rank.

Ordinary would be like his pet. He could only imagined Ultimate rank beast.

‘AH!’ Azief remembered something.

‘What?’ Sofia said shock suddenly hearing Azief yelling. Sofia was looking at the water and thinking how to get across.

She is still annoyed at Azief. She realized that Azief is messing with her, so she focus her mind on other thing, namely on how to cross the river.

‘Couldn’t I just ask my pet to swim?’ Azief said a flash of inspiration. Why couldn’t he let his pet swim and he rides from behind.

His pet is also large and could accommodate him.

‘Swim’ he said to Badge. The badger nodded and then jumps into the water….only to drown.

The badger struggles to move forward and struggle pitifully and Sofia began to worry about his pet.

‘Azief’ she said, her eyes glaring at him. Fine he thought inwardly

‘Return back’ Azief said and the portal opens and Badge was sucked into the portal. The portal could be activated if the beast is not that far with the owner.

The higher the rank, the wider the range of summoning or unsummoning.

Summoning would always open a portal behind the owner back but unsummoning could be done from far away depending on the rank of the beast.

‘So, that didn’t work’ he said nonchalantly. Sofia chuckles.

‘Did you look at badge face? It was so pitiful.’ Sofia then broke into laughter. Azief also cracked a smile.

He also sees the desperate look of his badger. It is kind of funny.

‘We make a raft then!’ Azief declared and Sofia just nodded. Seeing that Azief gaze always linger round the bamboo tree near the river bank, Sofia already guessed Azief thoughts.

And that is exactly what Azief is thinking

There is bamboo tree nearby so he could just cut that. It also helps if they are attack by the crocodiles.

At least the raft could provide at least some type of protection….no matter how miniscule.

Of course Azief is not entirely ignorant on how to swim it just that he is not confident he could swim that far to the city.

‘Can you swim?’ Azief asked Sofia. Sofia smirked and then floats.

‘I do not know how to swim but I can levitate’ she said. One of her skills she got before when she was fighting alongside Azief in the bridge.

One of the skill she got was levitation. She smiles arrogantly, a smug smile, she one upped Azief.

‘But you can’t move when you levitate right?’ Azief said and the arrogant smile in Sofia mouth faltered.

She floats back down, looking annoyed at Azief. Azief just chuckles in satisfaction

‘Now, help me make the raft.’ Azief said as he walks to the bamboo trees, readying his blade to chop the bamboo shoots.

‘Fine’ she said.

For hours they worked alongside each other. Azief cut the bamboo shoot while Sofia arranged it.

Sometime the crocodile would try to come to shore but usually Sofia would deter the crocodile by attacking with her rain of arrows.

Then seeing that Sofia does not a thing about how to build a raft Azief orders her to be the lookout.

Sofia was impressed. She didn’t know Azief could build a raft since no one teach this in school.

And Azief don’t strikes Sofia as an outdoor man or the type of man who likes to do stuff like building stuff.

If anything Azief looks like he hasn’t seen the sun for a very long time.

And she is right.

But Azief is a writer, albeit, an amateur writer. Azief had a lot of things in his mind and sometimes the best way to release what he felt in his mind is to write the stuff down.

He joined an amateur writing sites and active in it for a few months before shutting down his account because of the negativity about his story.

He just makes a love triangle and the people flames him from it so he stopped writing….at least he stopped posting it in the site.

Anyway, as he researched many things when he wrote the story, he also accidentally research on how to build a raft.

Who would have thought knowing such stuff actually could have a practical application in modern life?

Thinking about it Azief smiles under his hood, thinking that it was a stroke of luck he knows how to build a raft.

Azief slashed four pieces of bamboo tree with ease like cutting leaves while Sofia now take care of the lookout.

Even though they didn’t see any zombies horde, which is weird, they still need to be cautious.

And then there is still the crocodile near them , that is constantly watching over them.

Azief began building the raft with the four large piece of bamboo. One set is about 8 feet long, the other 12 feet.

He then places the longer piece on the bottom, the shorter one on top to form a square.

He then uses the vines he pulls from the nearby tree, up in the bank to lash together everything.

He makes sure it is lash tightly.

It is the foundation of the raft, the frame. He then secure smaller bamboo pieces side-by-side on top of the frame until it’s completely covered.

Then he ties four more bamboo sections to the far edges of the pontoons, spanning the length.

Sofia was looking at Azief diligently working on making the raft and sometimes she would shot the few crocodile that came on the bank.

The crocodile is not gigantic and easy to handle but their physical appearance is a bit different from the kind of crocodile she sees in zoos but she couldn’t describe what different about it.

If they are attack by the arrow they retreat, but the arrow could not penetrate the scaly armour only annoy them.

But what is weird is that the crocodile did not attack them…..like they are testing her and Azief.

Sofia had a bad premonition about this and Azief also share the same feeling. But he must cross the river to get to the city.

What worries Azief is that he could feel that there is something big inside the river….and he has a pretty good guess on what that is.

A gigantic beast. This is what he first realizes when he arrive don the city bank and by now, Azief is pretty sure, that Sofia has also realized it too.

There is the mutated beast and then there is the gigantic beast.

The mutated beast is like the mutated snakes or rats he found in the villages or the horned chicken and Vampiric bats he found when he was in the city.

The gigantic beast is like the beast that he fight with Tan or the beast that is in the Elementary School.

The experience Azief get fighting such beast is massive as well. When he defeated the gigantic beast, his level shot up in almost an unbelievable rate.

But mutated beast gives only a little bit of XP and easily dispatched by a high leveled player.

In about half an hour Azief already completed the raft. With his strength it is easily completed.

‘I’m finished.’ He said and Sofia jumped from her lookout and landed on the bank.

She nodded, looking at the river with her worried expression and Azief nodded. They both understand there is no time to lose.

It is evening and it is getting dark.

But both of them also understand that crossing this river safely would not be as easy.

While Azief utilizes his sense to determine whether there is a gigantic best inside the river, Sofia also has her way.

Maintaining a lookout from high up on the bank, she chanced upon something.

There was this one moment when Azief was busy building the raft, she could see a large shadow underneath the water….swimming.

It was like a building…swimming underneath the river. One could only imagine the size of the monster beneath the river.

It would mostly resembles a dinosaur like crocodile….a supercroc as it is so famously termed.

She once watch National Geographic and they show that once upon a time, crocodile is even bigger than the Tyrannosaurus Rex and even eat Tyrannosaurus Rex for its meal.

So even if she does not show it, she is nervous an afraid as hell.

She stands beside Azief as Azief is preparing to take off. She hold Azief arm, look at him and was about to warn him but Azief gripped her hand.

‘I know’ he said.

‘But?’ She asked.

‘We have to do it.’ Then he stopped before continuing.

‘I have to do it’ he said.

‘There is no other choice?’ she asked again.

‘There is no shortcut in becoming strong. Sometime we have to face death in the face.’

‘I think I have been facing death for too long, that I’m sick seeing him’ Sofia replies smirking

‘False baravado’ Azief said, smiling bitterly.

‘At least I have that.’ She replied but she also realized that Azief hand is trembling. Both of them know what is ahead of them.

They’re betting on their luck. There is of course, maybe another way.

Maybe they could go back to Sofia village and climb the mountains and find experience there, or return to Azief village and grind their experience there…..but who could guarantee that there is no other beast like the beast in the river?

Who could guarantee that the next beast they would encounter is not some godly beast that they could not defeat?

Life is unpredictable and cruel.

You can run away and hide. Or you can face death in the eyes, and instead of running and hiding, or crying, sobbing uncontrollably, fear with your knees wobbling, you could look death in the eyes and wink.

That’s right. Azief wanted to wink at death. He want to mock death. But the only way to mock death is to stare death right in front of his face.

He does not want to die, but he does not want to live like before either.

He wanted to be resolute and unyielding. He wanted to be someone….who matters. He wanted strength.

He decided he wanted to cross the river. Since he decided to cross the river he will cross it, no matter the obstacle. He is stubborn. No…to be more exact, he decided to be stubborn.

Decided….that he need to risk his life. He need to bet his life, muster his courage, face his fears, and survive it, to become stronger, to become someone that matters

Azief then hold Sofia hand, and look at her eyes and ask.

‘You can go away you know. You don’t have to follow me’ he said. He decided to face death….but he couldn’t decide that for her.

When they talk about crossing the river they did not think that there is a gigantic beast underneath the river.

Looking at Sofia, he is reminded of Tan and how he failed to save him….and he doesn’t want the same thing happened to Sofia.

Sofia look at those eyes, there is no hesitation, there is slight fear but also an unyielding perseverance in those hazel eyes.

‘You and me’ she said,a smile on her face. She dropped down her head, looking at the sand on her feet and then she raise up her head and her eyes locked with Azief and remembering their promise underneath the peach tree she said

‘You and me against the world, remember?’

‘Hmph’ Azief smiles.

‘Yes, you and me, against the world.’ Azief said, a slight bitter smile formed on his mouth, as his clear hazel looking in front of him.

Saying this, they push the raft to the river and jump on the raft as the river current push them sideways.

Azief took out his makeshift oars and give one to Sofia.

And they began paddling to the city.

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