INSIDE A LARGE FOREST
Fire crackled in the corner of the campsite, two long shadows are formed by the two people sitting on a log, drinking hot beverages.
The light casted by the flames dance across the dark tree creating terrifying shadows all over the area.
The night in the forest brought a silence that the crackle of the campfire was all that could be heard.
It was like the music of nature. The two people take a sip of their beverages and one of them say in a childish tone of voice
‘It is not the same’ the other nodded in agreement.
One is a boy.
The other is a woman.
The man was four feet tall, petite and has a cute childish face with baby fat on his cheek. He looked innocent and harmless.
On his lap is a small staff with runic design encircling the entire staff.
The staff head is wrapped with a golden cloth that seems to seal the staff dark powers as the woman sometimes could feel the nauseating power coming off the staff.
The woman on the other hand is six feet tall, her attire is tight wrapping her entire body, elastic and light.
It is a sleek and a stunning dress. Her clothes are purple in color and lined with runic symbols in her inside attire.
She has that femme fatale look, beautiful, innocent but also possesses that hint of sexiness. On her back strapped tightly is a single bow.
Even now, at night, the bow seems to glow like the sun.
This would be like putting a target on her back but it is the ancient power emitted by this bow that make people or monster think twice before engaging with this female.
Because that bow is capable of great destruction. Because that bow is the Houyi Bow and the woman is the Divine Archer Sofia.
‘Sofia, are you still mad at him?’ the boy said smirking at her.
Sofia looks at Loki and snorted. The question displeases her and that smirk….she always hated looking at it.
‘No, I’m not’ she said nonchalantly
‘You’re not? Doesn’t seems like that to me’ Loki said smirking. She takes another sip of her coffee before she puts down her cup.
She tries to ignore Loki mischievousness
She looks at the dark forest in front of her and sighs. She remembered when things were simpler.
And Azief face surface in her mind. And she remember those days
When it was easier.
When both of them were honest with each other and didn’t keep secret.
She hates the feeling she feels right now. She didn’t do anything wrong. And he didn’t do anything wrong.
But something changed. And that distance they both feel….it was….complicated. For him…and for her.
‘I like it better when we were journeying together’ she said finally. Loki looks at Sofia and smiles weakly before saying.
‘I like it too.’ But things changed. He did not say this word out loud but he didn’t have to. Sofia felt it and the entire group felt it.
The man that comes back from that portal was not the same person that left. And that created a distance between them.
Ironically, the one closest to Azief is the only person they never met face to face, Will the Dark Speedster.
‘I don’t think you are coming here for a social call?’ Sofia asks as she threw a pebble towards a nearby bush and a snake like monsters exploded into mass of gore.
Loki was not shocked.
There would always be some stupide beast. Sofia was still sitting calmly on the log without caring about that snake-like creature in the least.
After all she had been hunting in this forest for a couple of weeks. Loki got wind of her location with the help of Warp.
Then with his connection he comes here to give her something.
‘No, I’m not.’ He replied as he brought out a pouch from his sleeve and handed it to Sofia. Sofia takes it and opens the pouch as she sees a lot of golden pills
‘Sina left some pills for you.’ Sofia smiles a bit and she muttered something about how Sina couldn’t leave her alone.
‘She’s still in China?’ Sofia asked. Loki did his non-committal gesture replying with an
‘Un’. Sofia nodded.
‘As long as she is safe that is good enough’ she thought to herself.
‘Wang Jian is diligent.’ She suddenly said.
‘He is loyal’ Loki said as he takes his last sip and put down his glass. And Sofia face scrunched up in a complicated expression.
Wang Jian was like a teacher to her. He did teach her swordsmanship and archery and Sofia did not forget that.
Sofia had hoped Wang Jian would want to be independent. He has enough ability. But Azief once said to her
‘Wang Jian is a soldier. He could follow order and he’s good at it. But for him to be a ruler….that is hard. Wang Jian wanted a safety net. He could give orders in battle precisely because there is a safety net. HE could make the hard call because he didn’t hesitate. Put him in the driver seat and he will choke. I’ve seen men like him. Good in a group setting but when given the ultimate responsibilities they caved’
‘What ultimate responsibility?’ at that time she asked Azief.
‘To decide who lives and who die. To be completely sure while having no one to consult you on that matter.’
‘But isn’t that what Wang Jian has done all this time?’ she counter back
‘Did he? Every kill he made, he was ordered to. And he followed because he is a good soldier. Look what happen during Yue Xing betrayal? If not for you and Loki, he would have perished there. And look what happen after. He rises again. But how? Because he follow Loki order. He is a soldier at heart Soph.’
‘Wang Jian, Wang Jian’ she muttered
‘It really isn’t the same like Azief coffee.’ Loki suddenly said. Hearing Azief name Sofia face constricted into a complicated expression
‘Still mad at him?’ Loki asked again.
Sofia flashes a glare at him but Loki just smiles and Sofia didn’t know what to do. Loki picks the appearance that Sofia couldn’t get mad at.
It’s like she is bullying kid if she started yelling at him.
Sometimes Sofia wondered if Loki has ever shows his true face to the group or if all the faces they’ve seen before are all his disguise?
‘Fine. I’m mad at him. Satisfied?’ Sofia replied her face getting flushed as she is getting slowly frustrated with Loki.
‘See, isn’t it easier to just admit the truth. Why would you lie in front of me?’ Sofia look at Loki like she is about to start a fight.
‘Aw, come on. Don’t show such a scary face. It doesn’t suit you’ Loki said all the while chuckling in satisfaction.
Sofia just sighed.
The firewood crackles and the fire becomes bigger as the wind keeps blowing it. It is cold but the campfire really brings the atmosphere up.
Sofia tosses a few more wood into the fire.
Loki finally satisfied teasing Sofia got up and takes one of the meat prepared by Sofia on a container on the side of the log and began skewering it.
He then sprinkles some herbs and spice over the large meat and then roast it on the fire, spinning it slowly.
The aroma was appetizing and with the addition of the spice, it created a very thick smell of meat, just the way Loki like it.
It was the meat of a large bear.
Unlike the normal bear, the mutated bear meat tasted heavenly. It was like fried chicken only a hundred times better.
Sofia also did the same thing. But she also made a pot of soup on the side. Using a vegetable stock she put down neatly sliced meat into the pot and closes it.
Sprinkling a little salt and curry spices she waited. On her other side is a small fire which is used to cook rice.
Then getting up she went to a square shaped boulder she brought from a nearby lake and began chopping some potatoes.
After slicing them she tosses it into the curry pot.
‘Looks delicious’ Loki exclaimed as he realizes Sofia was making curry.
‘I’m eating it with rice’
‘So?’ Loki said his shoulder went up
‘I thought you didn’t like rice?’ Sofia asked puzzled. She still remembers the first few weeks they travelled together.
Loki always complained about Asian always eating rice and take a weird stance of protest by eating bread.
Loki smiles sheepishly.
‘What can I say? It grows on me’ he said and Sofia chuckles.
‘Fine, I will left some for you’ On the other hand Loki wanted to explain himself.
How could he not like rice? After eating it every day, of course he too would be accustomed to it.
When the pot boils and the meat has become tender, Sofia quickly served her dish. They shared their food, just like old times.
They both eat in silence. Then washing their hands Loki brought out his wine and poured it into his exquisite wine glass collection.
Not too far a distance a wolf howled.
Sofia shakes her head; clearly she did not like the sound.
She swung her bow on her back to her hand and then aiming it she releases a fiery arrow made of energy and the sound of pained howl could be heard almost a second later.
With her body getting stronger and her body is now reaching Celestial Presence, her foundation has stabilized and her eyes could see thing kilometers away without any problem.
‘When will you break through?’ Loki ask as Sofia sit back down. Loki gives her a glass of golden wine.
‘At Red Palace Forming’ she answers.
‘That would take at most half a year. We don’t have Universe Orb like Azief. Even he uses years to reach Perfection.’
‘You yourself said that the foundation is important.
‘It is important but I also remind you that some people break through at Nine Opening. I just fear that you would be left out.’
‘Raymond decided to break through when he reaches Red Palace Forming’
Loki smiles dangerously
Then suddenly Loki ask as his hand is twirling the wine inside his wine glass looking completely intoxicated
‘Do you love him?’ and Sofia nearly splutter out her wine.
‘Azief I mean’ She look at Loki incredulous at his question before answering seriously.
‘I don’t know. I like him. I’m certain of this. But love? I don’t know.’ Then she takes a sip of the wine.
‘Well, love is not easy after all.’ He said finally taking a sip. But looking at the troubled face on Sofia face Loki couldn’t help but remarked.
‘That is love alright’
‘What do you think?’ Sofia suddenly asked.
‘What about him?’
‘He…. Did he ever say that he loves me?’ Sofia asked, her voice trembling
‘I don’t know’ Loki said looking completely unconcerned.
‘Hmph. Why did I even think of asking this kind of question at you of all people’ Sofia harrumphed.
She looked at Loki and sighed pitifully. How could this kind of person understand love and that kind of feeling. After all he is a dense guy.
‘Sina….think again would you?’ Sofia prays for Sina. With a guy this dense how could he ever realize what is in front of his eyes all this time.
‘Idiot’ she muttered under her breath. Loki didn’t realize this at all. The he said, intending to tease Sofia again.
‘But I know he got jealous of you.’
‘He did?.. I mean….what for?’ Sofia asked stumbling over her words, not expecting Loki words.
‘And I also know that you got jealous of him after he returned. You knew he has somebody in those long years he is in the Multiverse and you don’t ask him about it and he didn’t want to tell you. So, you got jealous and try to make things hard for him’
This time Sofia cheeks blushed red in embarrassment.
‘How did you know? ‘
‘Sina’ Loki said simply
‘That girl has a big mouth.’ Sofia looks at the burning fire and she thought to herself maybe both of you are perfect for each other.
‘You both really like to make fun of me’ she bitterly sighed.
‘We like your drama.’ Loki said smiling widely.
‘Well, it is good that my life has become a form of entertainment to you guys’ she almost bellowed, her appetite is all gone but then she remember something and then she ask
‘When did he get jealous at me?’
‘That’s what you wanted to know about?’
‘Tell me’ Sofia said
‘You didn’t realize?’
‘Oh my gods, you didn’t realize it.’
‘When did he become jealous?’
‘Every time anyone mentioned Raymond name, he tensed a bit. You know that scowling face he makes?’
‘This one’ Sofia said as she tries her best doing Azief scowling face impersonation.
‘Yeah. That one’ Loki said laughing looking at Sofia face right now.
‘Though there is a bit difference. When he heard Raymond name his scowling face becomes a bit tense.’
‘Really?’ Sofia smiles blushingly. Loki shakes his head and offers an advice.
‘You’re both are too cautious with each other. So, he got a girl during his four or five years he is in the Multiverse. Can you blame him? It’s not like you and him were a couple or make a decision what your relationship is before he left.’
‘But… ‘and Sofia was about to say they may not have said the words but didn’t their hearts know?
‘And you…Raymond flirted with you so you flirted back. Is that what you are feeling guilty about? It’s not like you were a couple in the first place. And he didn’t blame you. One thing that you have to give compliment about he is cool about it. But just because he was cool about it, doesn’t mean he likes it.’
Sofia touches her lips as she is feeling uncomfortable with this conversation.
‘I know Azief is not perfect. It was not like he would be the perfect boyfriend or a considerate guy. From the first moment I decided to like him, I know what I was getting into’
Loki nodded. Azief don’t have many vices but that does not mean he is perfect.
He got jealous and he sometimes could get angry at unreasonable thing.
People don’t see that side of him because not many people are close to him.
Only those that is closest to him knows that he is not always coolheaded and sure of himself.
‘Both of you are playing chicken. It’s fun for us spectators the will they won’t they games you got going on but I don’t imagine it being easy for you. Sometimes it is easier to be honest and clarify what ‘’this’’ is you two got going on’
Sofia didn’t know what to say.
‘Since when did the group make my love life a TV show?’
‘Since forever.’ And Loki chuckles with that childish tone of laughter like a baby laughing which only makes his laugh creepy.
‘You’re both fun to look at. Though don’t say this to him. You know how he is. Buzzkill. His cold face is automatic party turn off.’ Loki said smirking.
Sofia couldn’t help but also chuckles.
‘I know right? It’s like that is his default expression.’
‘He is not expressive’ Loki said this time laughing again.
And then for a while silence ensues as they look at each other and smiles bitterly. Sofia was thinking about what Loki said to him and she knows there is truth in his word.
‘I miss this; Sofia suddenly said.
‘What? Badmouthing Azief behind his back?’
‘Heh. No…..this…us talking around the campfire. I remember us talking from night till dawn on Ape Mountain. We talked about many things that night.’
Loki eyes widened
‘You mean when we talk about Sina weird habit of walking naked in her room?’
‘Yeah, and she never knew that we knew. She always seems like a prude when we talk about dirty jokes and don’t like people seeing her body even in bath at the time but she always run around naked in her tent.’
‘I think you are mistaken Soph.’
‘What do you mean?’ Sofia said puzzled.
‘You and I remember that night very differently. What I remember that night is how we had to run around the entire mountain being chased by a nine feet red furred ape like creatures that seem more like a King Kong spawn than an ape because you and Sina insisted to infiltrate their nest, even after I specifically told you not to provoke them.’
‘Well, we didn’t think you were serious.’
We had the whole mountain chasing us!’ Loki said, his childish voice was raised a tone. And Sofia smiles apologetically.
Loki seeing her smiling innocently like that event had nothing to do with her was making Loki about to get riled up again remembering that night.
He had to expend so many of his Dark Magic items and even had to sacrifice his orb to make sure Sofia and Sina was unharmed.
Thankfully the EPX gained that night was big or he would have blown his top off.
Loki sighed and then he said
‘I don’t even know why I’m the one that has to talk to you about this. This should be a girl talk.’
‘Well Sina isn’t here’ Sofia said chuckling a bit
‘So, I’m her substitute?’ Loki released a sigh that seems to show how tired he is.
Sofia skewer another meat and roasted it against the fire, the smells wafted all across the area and some beast in the dark also begun mustering their courage, attracted by the smells as many eyes were trained on this two target.
Sofia realizes it and Loki realizes it. But both of them didn’t take it seriously. They already know the level of the monster in this mountain.
‘Roast one for me’ Loki said as he hold his staff.
‘I’m going to handle it.’
‘They are weak beast. Most of them were only an equal to Orb Condensing.’ Sofia said, not looking worried at all as Loki get up.
‘I know’ Loki said as he tapped his staff on the ground.
Then in the bushes, in the distance, on top of the nearby trees, underground, and even in the sky, hundreds of monsters exploded into dark mist and disappeared into oblivion.
Sofia look at the destruction that Loki wrought while her hand skillfully turning the large meat on the fire to make sure the meat become tender.
‘Cool move’ she said looking impressed
‘Just little trick’ Loki said as he sit down and put back his staff down.
Sofia finished roasting the meat cut a portion of the meat and handed the meat to Loki on a plate.
‘Now, onto the serious stuff’ Loki said
‘What did you find out?’ Loki asked, his face turned serious.
‘The World Government Intel was right.’ Sofia said gravely
‘The world separated again.’ Loki states as he scratch his chin.
‘This is alarming.’
‘Maybe it will merge again like before thus the lack of movement on many powerful factions. They are sitting on the fence….waiting to see if the geography would change again’ Sofia explains.
‘Maybe. Or maybe the World Orb decided it is sufficient enough with its meddling’
‘Sufficient?’ Sofia was puzzled
‘The World Orb merges the continent before to quickly spread the monster all over the world. Human population right now is four billion people. From seven billion people we are now reduced to four billion. Let that number sink in. That means three billion people perished. Three billion souls.’
Sofia could only shakes her head.
‘The day the star fell, China lost about half of its population because of the Ultimate rank monster. And the same could be said to many large nations. Europe casualties are just behind China.’
Sofia nodded, her eyes closed. She remembers that day. She lost her mother. And she met Azief.
And her life changed.
‘So, you don’t think the continents will merge again?’
‘I don’t know but if the World Orb objective is to spread the monsters all over the world, then that objective have been fulfilled so maybe the continent wont merge again. Though I could never be sure’
‘Three billon lives’ Sofia muttered. Loki shakes his head.
‘That is the initial estimate of both Revolutionary Army and World Government. And we also lost a lot of people in the makeshift world but it was not as large as the first attack.’
‘Because we are organized’ Sofia offers her answer. Loki nodded.
‘That is true. Which is why the World Government and the Revolutionary Army is still standing. It is because Azief understand that they still have a role to play.’
And Loki remembers that battle in the Island of Peace. Azief improvement this time is faster than in his timeline.
Sofia the Divine Archer of the future truly has planned this out in great details.
‘If not Azief would have immediately dismantle them the moment he can. He knows their importance. And then there is still the threat from the stars.’
‘The Weronian’ Sofia said her face shows her worried expression.
‘We have to be stronger.’ Loki nodded understanding Sofia feeling right now. The threat is real and every day the pressure to become stronger intensified.
‘What about Budiman project?’ Sofia asked.
‘He is doing well. His plan….is good but I’m not optimistic of our chances. We have to become stronger. Smarter’
‘I agree.’ Sofia also agree with Loki assessment
‘The monsters?’ He asked.
‘Bigger and better’ she said in a mocking tone.
‘We expected this. But our resistance is better now that we have outlined some rules during the gathering in that castle before we unite the Pieces.
‘I saw some city is being built in the ruins of old one in Paris a few weeks ago. They created some border between them and the monster infested areas. Our resistance is showing some effect’
Loki nodded but his face shows he did not treat it as something to celebrate about.
Sofia also did not say anything.
The future seems bleak.
Everyone is trying to raise their strength right now as factional war are being prohibited by the Resolution passed in the World Council.
Everyone is trying to raise their strength by killing monster right now.
Wang Jian who have conquered Jiangnan and bring all the people of Eden have created a military base in Jiangnan and has started raising his strength to reach Seed Forming.
All Azief group members is doing the same.
Sina even met with the Medicine Sage Liu Wenzhang and traded trade secret and cooperate to create pills to help the people of the world when they have to fight the Weronian.
Sasha on the other hand is slowly making her name famous again, this time as Sasha the Nightingale.
She has stolen many factions treasures and being hunted with a bounty of millions of gold coin placed on her head to capture her alive.
‘She lives her life in a fun way ‘Sina remarked once.
Only Azief group knows that Sasha relationship with the group is still tight as ever and will come running if Sina is the one who calls her.
Lee Sangmin is said to be traveling the world helping people setting down array formation to protect cities from monster.
The Seven Fairy follows Wang Jian and they are Wang Jian generals and they are now called the Seven Flowers of the Battlefield.
The Immortal Couple can be seen in Jiangnan usually doing their own stuff under Wang Jian protection.
Budiman is in charge of modern weaponry and the battleship construction.
Many people are doing all they can to raise their levels and become stronger before the day the Weronian comes down to Earth.
‘How about the LOF?’ Loki said that organization name in acronym.
‘They sent an invitation.’ Sofia said smiling mischievously this time thinking her plans is moving slowly like what she envisioned
‘You sure about this Sofia?’ Loki concernedly said.
I’m sure. I need to know what they are planning. They give our group a lot of trouble last time.’
Loki sighed first before shaking his head.
‘You’re too stubborn for your own good. Fine.’ Loki said a she stand up.
‘Go. But be careful. And if you run into trouble use that lifesaving treasure Azief gives you.’
Sofia nodded as Loki gets up and pat his bottom.
Then waving his hand at his face, his appearance changed into a young man with black hair and hazel eyes, looking like an Asian men.
Loki from what he told her seems to be watching the situation at Japan with the Dragon of Echigo and Tiger of Kai resuming their rule at their old territory.
But their territory look a lot different than before with even Caucasian is transported there after the Pieces were reunited.
But since e that was transported there was World Government members, both of them seems to not cars about it as even Japan is full of foreigners.
After all there is a lot of space in the world right now with three billion people is dead.
But instead of race or nations the world is now divided by the powerful factions with each rulers of regions or powerful warlord rested under the umbrella of powerful factions like WG and RA.
‘I’m going to go now.’ Loki said as he waved his staff and the wind moves direction bringing with it a foul dark energy that seems to envelop the entire area of the campsite.
Sofia bow glowed brighter like it was resisting that dark energy.
‘Come again when you’re free’ Sofia said waving her hand goodbye. Loki smiles before a dark wind blows and he dissipated with the wind.
Sofia waves her hand and the fire was blown out as darkness fills the entire area. But Sofia could still see very clear with her eyes.
She looks at the bright moon and sighed.
‘I have to become stronger. I don’t want to lose. What I hate the most, if you look at me like I’m your burden’ she said to the moon.
‘With my sweat and blood, Ill proves it to you. That you can lean on me when you’re tired and that you could trust me with even your darkest memories.’
And his face appears again in her heart. And her heart aches with longing.
‘This…is love right?’ She asked and nobody answered only the howling of the wolves and the sound of the wind blowing the leaves.
And another night passes.
This chapter talks about what happens in Earth Prime, Sofia feelings, Loki scheme that seems to involve the Two Sages of Japan, LOF infiltration( which I think you could guess which faction this is) other member of Azief group wellbeing and of course the sense of threat that comes from the revealing of the Invasion of Weronian.
Even as Azief is becoming a Devil King in Earth 39 (yes, that is where his path is heading in Earth 39) Earth Prime is also facing its own problem.
Hope you like this chapter. This is more character development chapter for Sofia and her feelings about Azief which is not yet fully revealed.
Leave some comments and support me and if you can please donate to help me. That’s it guys.
PS: Edited Version