Chapter 1: Digging

I sighed softly as I woke up at the crack of. 'Wait, what time is it?' I asked myself, even as I looked out the opened window. The sun was somewhat high in the air, so I guessed it was around 10 o'clock. "Ten? Oh great." I muttered, and dashed to put on my work clothes. My red hair flashed in the morning sunlight. Once I had the once-green tunic and breeches on (which were still a little big for me, no less), I immediately went outside. This wasn't the first time I'd slept in (and likely wouldn't be the last). But, with any luck today, it might be the last. Grabbing a shovel and a pick ax that were leaning against my little cottage, I began the walk down toward the place where I had been digging for quite a while now. It was lonely, being in the middle of nowhere, without anyone to talk to, so I kept myself busy by digging near the river. Sure, there were the occasional monsters to talk to. There was a small clan of Tigers in the area, and they kept the place relatively secure. They tolerated my presence, since I would let them live in the side room of my cottage during winter.

After 20 minutes or so of walking, I reached the riverbank. I had never deluded myself into thinking that I would find gold in this area. It would be very unlikely. "Still, there's more to life than gold," I said to myself, tossing the shovel to the side easily. The pick ax was lifted up and off of my shoulder with a simple movement, and I walked over to the small cliff side, which I'd been caving in, in order to move my home down to this place someday. Part of the river had been diverted, thanks to my efforts of placing rocks in the way of it. It would wash away some of the dirt and rocks that I knocked loose from the cliff. "Now, to work" I said to myself softly, and with sudden slashing motion with the pick ax, I drove the blade deep into the crumbling cliff side. I pulled and twisted at the dirt that clung onto the cliff, as if for dear life. Finally, it gave way, crumbling into the slowly running water that was soaking my feet. With another heave, almost effortlessly, I began another attack against the cliff, slashing my pick ax against the dirt.

Soon, an entire hour had gone by, and I decided it was time for a break. I wasn't the most physical person around (in fact, I prefer using my mind), so taking a break was often a good idea for me. I had planned the correct areas to strike at, so that when I finally got to the right place, and chipped enough of the cliff away, it would all come crumbling down, to create a good spot for my new home. "Too bad that it would take a while," I muttered, sitting down on a boulder a few feet away from where I'd been attacking the ground. I heard a noise behind me, and I looked quickly toward the sound. A blur of light passing through a nearly invisible substance made me grin slightly, and I looked over toward the rock up on top of the cliff.

Sure enough, there it was. It was hard to see the Jelly Hound, but it's shape was unmistakable. "Well hello there Jound. How are you today?" I asked politely, grinning up to the tiger. The tiger simply stood there for a moment, and then up to the sky. I then pulled the pick ax toward me carefully. Jound had never done this before. I waited for a moment, after which he began to speak. "Tyson. there's a storm approaching. This one will be very fierce. I am afraid that your cottage will not provide you any protection. I suggest you find someplace to go towards. and, I do not mean the nearby village. They too, will be engulfed in this storm," the Tiger said softly, but loud enough for me to hear him. The village nearby which he had referred to, was a very nice place. in fact, it was where I had grown up. But, only a few years ago, I decided to move into the wilderness to eke out a living on my own. 'That was around the time of the mayoral election,' I thought to myself, nodding to Jound as I stood up. "Thank you for the information, Jound. But, should we not try to warn the villagers first?" I asked, swinging the pick ax onto my shoulder gently, while taking the shovel into the other hand.

"Tyson, my pack will warn the villagers of the storm. and, we will provide assistance to them if they need it. But, you need to be getting out of here. I suggest the caves to the east. They'll be a good place for you to hide from the storm." Jound said, turning his gaze from the sky and to me. He gave me a grin, and then jumped off of the rock, ending up beside me, on the rock I had just been sitting on. "Tyson, you need to be very careful. without the pack to help you around now, you are a vulnerable human, you know."

I gave a small laugh, and nodded at that with a smile. "That's true. but remember, I can fight. How else did I earn your pack's trust, hmm?" I responded, grinning slightly before laughing again. Jound joined in with laughter of his own. "Good point, Tyson. still, I am not joking. Look up." And I did just that, tilting my head to look skyward. Dark storm clouds had gathered overhead. I shivered slightly, thinking that I'd never seen such dark clouds before in my life. It seemed almost. ominous. "You're right Jound. that does seem like a very fierce storm that is brewing up there. I'll have to pack my things." suddenly, a gust of wind flew by, and I smirked slightly.

"Pack lightly, my boy. You'll need speed to get away from this storm. Take care, I'm off to check on the villagers." And with that, my friend, Jound, bounded away, howling into the air, only to be returned by members of his pack which began to swarm around him. Just as quickly, however, they disappeared into the rapidly darkening forest. With a start, I shook myself, and shrugged. 'I have a good 20 minutes or so to keep digging,' I thought. Setting the shovel down and looking toward the cliff, I was surprised to find that there was a round edge poking out of it. It was about a foot long, too, and about 10 inches high. "It almost looks like. Nah, couldn't be!" I said, and I struck the side of the cliff next to the edges. With precise hits, I managed to dig a small channel around the thing. With one good swing, from overhead and down into the now soft earth (it had begun raining in the last moment or so, and I hadn't noticed), the long cylinder came out from the ground, and rolled down and into the water near my feet.

After letting the river water rush along it, washing away the dirt and mud from the thing, I tilted it so that I could take a better look at it. As I did so, I gasped in complete surprise. A small package of mystery disks, 3 of them, tied together, had been buried by someone who knows how long ago, and here they are! It was hard enough to find more than one in a lifetime, but here I've found 3 in a row, all by chance! My thoughts were cut short as lightning flashed overhead, and a low rumbling of thunder soon followed. Grabbing the package carefully, I began to head toward the cottage quickly. Little was I to know the ramifications of this night, especially when I felt my body go completely rigid halfway there. The package fell from my hands, and I found myself falling toward the ground, as surges of pain webbed its way through my body. It was as if I'd been hit by something strong, and yet, I didn't feel hurt. Numb, and in a small amount of pain, yes, but not very hurt. Instead, my eyes began to close, and I couldn't see anymore.

Hours seemingly passed by in mere moments. My body was still numb and unable to move. Even my red hair was numb, and my eyes burned when I tried to open them. All I could see was a dark tunnel inside my mind, with random images floating trough them. Thoughts of helping my parents on their farm. Playing with the monsters that lived in the village. Arguing with a Suezo over which one of us would get the food (the Suezo got it after tongue-slapping me several times). I had learned to enjoy that Suezo's company. even if it did belong to the cute little brown haired girl in the village. I also remembered that her father had seemingly disappeared just after the mayoral election, too. I remembered the rainy seasons, when we children would work indoors, baking bread or helping out around the home. I remembered the summer, when many of us had to bring buckets of water from the well or the river in order to water the vegetables so that there would be enough to eat. Remembering the old days brought a smile to my face, which was quickly taken away as pain tore through me afterwards.

Eventually, however, I became able to hear once again, as well as feel. I was able to feel the cold, wet clothes that I had on, as well as the feeling that I was being watched. With the ability to hear, I was able to figure out a few things. Many voices I had never heard before were marching right past me. With my experience listening to monsters and how they moved, I was able to recognize the movements of Hares and Jells of some sort. There were also a few tigers among them, I noticed, as I heard one stop near me, sniff at my prone carcass, and then move on. It obviously thought of me as very little threat, or perhaps it even thought that I was dead. All within 10 minutes of being able to hear again, the entire group of monsters passed me by. All except one, that is, which was still moving steadily along with the others, but much further behind.

'This sound is different,' I thought. I could hear very little in the way of movement from this being, but what I did heard brought to mind the information that my father had given me about the time he'd been attacked by a monster. "It was one of the slithering monsters, like a snake moves. But, it had the upper body of something like a human. It had arms, too. strong arms. I thought they were going to crush me. I'm just glad I that Trojan was with me. I may not have been here today if it wasn't for him knocking out that Naga with a swift strike from his pole-arm." It was a tale I had heard only once or twice, but the fact that a monster that wasn't a Golem could crush a man so easily was something that made it stick out in my mind.

The monster was a Naga. It was simple to tell, really, now that the noise of feet and body mass shifting had moved out of earshot. The slithering was unmistakable. The monster didn't notice me at all, it seemed, as it continued on its course down toward the south. At least, I thought it was to the south. If it was. then, the village I had grown up in, would be the monster's target. Then, there was silence. It was eerie, I thought, being able to hear, and yet not move. The strangest thing about it was that there wasn't any owls making any noise at all. Instead, the silence was deafening. Absolutely no sound could be heard. It went on this way for another 20 minutes or so, until I heard the first sound of many more like it.

Chapter 2: Battle

Cries of pain and attacks filled the air. I managed to open my eyes, and found myself in a position in which I was unable to look towards the village. Slowly, with much hard work, I managed to turn myself around on the ground, feeling and movement slowly coming back to me. What I saw was very little. at least, until I managed to look into the sky. Smoke and battle cries filled the air. The stench of death and blood seemed to fill the air all around, as well. Large explosions, small ones, and arcs of lightning wove from the ground and up to the air. and sometimes, it was the other way around. Being slow and rather quiet, I managed to get to my feet. Rather shakily, I looked around carefully, figuring out where exactly I was, and which direction I should go. Then, I remembered the prize I had found earlier, and I quickly searched around, wincing in pain as I felt my body getting jerked around while I searched for the package.

Sighing in relief, I spotted the package. It was but a foot or so away, and had been hidden from any of the monsters by the fact it was inside a small hole. Slowly, carefully, I walked toward the hole, and kneeled down to pick it up. Sure enough, I cried out in some pain as I picked it up. Then, with a fast turn about and a run, I headed back towards my cottage. I just hoped the monsters hadn't found it, or even worse, I hope they hadn't destroyed it. At breakneck speeds I wound through the wildlife, passing through trees, plants, and all sorts of vegetation as I headed home. The thought of my pick ax had suddenly crossed my mind, but I simply decided to forget about it again. 'Even weaponless, I am an okay fighter,' I thought. But that was wiped away as the stench of blood and death surrounded me once more. My face went pale as I stepped from the ill-used path and found myself in the clearing in front of my house. "Oh no."

The cottage was on fire. But that wasn't the worst of it, not by a long shot. There were at least a dozen lost disks surrounding the house. There were also several human bodies there, too. I didn't dare look at them, to try and recognize them. I'd gone into shock. My hands, arms, and legs were shaking uncontrollably as I sank to my knees on the muddy ground. I closed my eyes to stop the tears from flowing, which was when I heard an unfamiliar voice come from nearby. "Well now, it looks like we missed one!" a rough voice spoke, and then a few others laughed. From the sound of their laughter, I determined that they were Hare monsters, with perhaps a single Jell monster with them. I opened my eyes, and found that I was right. There were 3 Hares and a single Jell monster, all slowly making their way toward me.

I felt the rage surge within my body as I slowly stood. The laughing monsters looked at me with evil intent in their minds and in their gait. I simply stood there, waiting for the monsters to reach me, to strike me down so that I may be with those that I remembered as friends, as family. 'But,' I thought, 'if I must go. I don't want to go alone.' I flashed the monsters a slight grin. and, with a sudden turn, I ran for a tree that stood nearby. As expected, I heard heavy steps and plodding behind me, as the Hares and Jell ran after me. I knew what I was doing, for I had attempted to use this tactic against a Tiger before. Unfortunately, Tigers were too agile to be fooled by this maneuver, but Hares and Jells certainly were not. With a sudden jump toward the tree, I shifted my body weight so that my feet would come to bear against the bark. With another shift of weight, as well as another jump, I sent myself almost cartwheeling backwards, head over heels, and I landed on my feet. With a look over my shoulder, I smirked slightly, seeing the Hares and Jell slamming into the tree with so much force that the tree had been knocked partway out of the ground.

"Torpedo!" a familiar voice said, and immediately, I ducked from the attack, jumping to the side. Just as I had thought, a bolt of electricity slashed through the air where I had been, and then back into the four clumsy monsters behind me. The attack struck all four monsters, and I knew that this was my best chance. Scrambling to my feet, I ran at full speed toward the origin of the Torpedo attack. Standing on top of a branch of a tree was Jound. There was no sight of his pack, however. I flashed a grin at him, and he returned the favor, before looking back towards the Hares and Jell. They'd just collected themselves, and were about ready to start fighting again, and that was when, Jound and I decided to take them on.

"Tyson, let's go!" he said, and he dropped off of the branch and next to me. With a nod, I climbed onto Jound's back. Fortunately, he'd been able to bear my weight for a long time now (I'm not fat. in fact, I'm rather thin), and Jound took off in a dead run toward the four monsters. I readied myself for one of the basic attacks that Jound had taught me when dealing with monsters like this. Steadying my legs on either side of Jound, I focused on the targets that I had given myself. Knowing Jound, he'd concentrate on the other two, after I'd attacked mine. With my gaze on two of the Hares, I quickly jumped from Jound's back and into the air as we'd gotten close enough. The two Hares were so surprised at this maneuver that they forgot about attacking, and looked up at me. A simple flip in the air, and I dove at them feet first. A dropkick, a rather hurtful maneuver for human and monster alike, was the first real attack I'd learned when training with Jound a long time ago (it was also the only effective attack I'd ever learned from a Tiger). Unfortunately for me, however, one of the Hares moved out of the way, and wound up an attack of its own.

Without a word, the Hare struck out at me just as I manage to connect with its partner. "Guru-Guru!" the Hare yelled at the last moment, slamming the wound-up attack out at me. I ended up kicking the one hare that hadn't moved in the face, and then I found myself getting hit in the back, forcing me to basically tackle the same Hare I had been attacking. "Dang it." I muttered, wincing in pain before moving out of the way, ducking out from between the two Hares. Just as I had suspected, the same one that had moved had come in close for a one-two attack. which just barely missed me. Unfortunately, it didn't miss the other Hare, as a blinding light flashed, and in that hare's place was a lost disk.

Jound was doing quite well on his own against a Hare and a Jell. A Torpedo attack had sufficiently knocked out the Jell for a moment, and the Hare was too slow to even hit Jound with any of its attacks. Guru-Guru, 1-2 Punch, Gas Attack. none even came close to Jound. Then, that was when something unusual happened. A pair of powerful red beams came from somewhere close, barely missing Jound as he jumped out of the way. The beams did connect, however, with the newly lost disk, disintegrating it completely. All the fighters looked back towards the new arrival. The Hares and Jell grinned evilly, while I paled. Jound simply growled angrily at the monster. I slowly looked back toward the newcomer as well, and I found myself going pale as I saw the monster there. The same thought that had run through my mind earlier- that is, the one about the monster that had nearly killed my father, ran through my mind again as I gazed upon the monster standing before us.

It was a greenish-purple color. Its lower body was that of a large, long snake. It could move almost silently when it tried to, and when it moved fast, it would still be rather quiet. The upper torso, however, was much different from the bottom half. Two large, muscular (scaled, no less) arms jutted outward from the monster, ending in human-like hands, although the fingers were really claws. The scaled torso got larger at the chest, showing off the monster's muscular build. Along either side of the monster's neck was a hood-like protrusion. All this led up to the reptilian head that looked a lot like a normal cobra-snake's head. 'My father was right,' I thought, barely whispering this out loud. 'This must be a Naga.'

"Because of your incompetence." the snake-like monster hissed out, looking first toward the three monsters that were part of its army. "I will never tolerate failure. Because you have failed to defeat even these two, I will punish you. Eye Beams!" and with that, the Naga proceeded to launch another pair of eye beams at its own compatriots. Two were caught by the blast, and were immediately turned into lost disks. The remaining Hare, however, started to run for its life, not bothering with the human and Jelly Hound anymore. Another pair of eye beams and the very last hare had been turned into a lost disk as well. Then, the Naga looked towards the two remaining, living beings upon this battlefield. The burning cottage cast an ominous light over the three beings that were present. Upon the Naga's chest, I noticed, was a small, brown emblem. It was etched in an old sign, one that I was sure I had seen before in an old book.

The Naga noticed my gaze, and it grinned evilly to answer my unspoken question. "You and your friends." he began, sweeping an arm toward the village. "Are the first to feel our Master's wrath. If you will join us, fellow monster, I will spare your life. As for you, boy, you will die by my hands. I will give you a few seconds to decide, after which will be the end of the human's life." The thing watched at us expectantly. I glanced toward Jound, and was surprised to see it bolt out toward the Naga. "Run Tyson! Head toward the hiding spot I told you to get to! I'll meet up with you there!" I grinned, and nodded in agreement, turning my back quickly as I heard the Torpedo attack flash through the air. I ran, leaving the two monsters to fight. I ran as fast as I could, heading toward the caves to the north, carrying with me the mystery disks I had found earlier, a small pack that had but a day's worth of food within (which I'd forgotten to eat earlier for lunch) and a small blanket.

For over an hour, I ran, stumbling over rocks here and there, banging parts of my body against rocks, trees, branches, and needled shrubs. By the time I found myself near the caves, my legs and arms were bleeding. I must have been running due to something other than oxygen, for I was completely out of breath when I got there. I made one step into the cave, and collapsed. Pain, exhaustion, and numbness had never been so powerful within my body, and now, all I wanted to do was sleep. However, before doing so, I managed to drag myself completely into the cave before sleep overcame me. With an outstretched hand above me, and the other hand clutching the mystery disks close against me, my eyes slowly shut, and my pain and exhaustion was swept away as the numbness of sleep overcame my weary body.

Chapter 3: Realization

My eyes began to open as I felt a searing pain in my legs. My arms were throbbing in pain as well, but not to the degree that I could feel from my legs, I noticed. I groaned out in pain as I slowly forced my arms to move my body into a sitting position, wincing in pain as I set down upon the cold, stone floor. My eyes opened wide as I remembered the mystery disks that I had been holding onto, and I shifted my gaze to my arms, and sighed softly. When I moved, I hadn’t been able to feel the pressure of the mystery disks against my arms or chest. "Guess I was concentrating on other things," I whispered… and then blinked. My throat was parched, which made me unable to speak above a whisper, even though I had thought I’d spoken at a normal tone of voice. I swallowed a few times, to no avail.

‘First thing’s first,’ I thought, as I struggled against my pain to stand up against a wall. ‘I need to find some water.’ I listened around for a moment, closing my eyes for the same amount of time as I attempted to try and hear any sources of water echoing through the cave. It was unnerving, though… As I listened for water, the pain in my arms and legs intensified in my mind, even though they didn’t really hurt any more than they did already. I shook my head and opened my eyes, this time looking around the cave. I couldn’t help but to laugh a little as I caught sight of myself. My clothes were tattered and torn. My shirt was barely hanging on my body, and the only part of my clothes that were still fully intact was my shoes. My laugh died, however, as I suddenly remembered what had happened last night. My body went even colder than it was, causing me to shiver, as I replayed the events in my mind.

The flash of light from my side had signaled the departure of Jound. He’d been one of my best friends, for the longest time. He had leapt forward to attack the Naga, even as he told me to run for my life. I turned and ran, hoping for the return of my friend sometime during the night, or even in the morning. Instead… nothing. Jound had been nowhere nearby. I tried to tell myself that he was still alive, that he’d make it to these caves… but, the omen had just been cast. The sight in before me caused me to gasp in horror. The forest had been mostly burned in a large radius. My own cottage was among the forest ruins. The village was also in sight… trees had been knocked down all around it, leaving me with a clear view of the carnage. The village I had grown up in was now destroyed. Blood and water mixed to curse the earth of the village, while Lost Disks littered the countryside. I sank to my knees as I realized that I had lost everything… my friends… my family… my home… all that I had left was the tattered clothes on my back, as well as the mystery disks in my hands.

With that realization, I glanced down at the small package of mystery disks in my hands. The three disks were still in good condition, I saw. That alone gave me some hope. Perhaps… perhaps I could have a family again… I may not have any more human relative, but monsters could be a good substitute. It would be hard to find a working shrine closer than the nearest city, though. I looked in the direction of the shrine that had been within the village… only to see that it had been demolished. The roof had caved in after the supports were broken, and there was no way to get inside, other than by getting help from a Golem.

I slowly got to me feet, staggering a little bit, as I groaned in pain again. I began to head down toward the village, slow, painful steps taking me there. I soon began to realize just how much destruction had taken place. Houses had been completely destroyed, burned to the ground or just simply pummeled down. There were a few walls left standing here and there, but that was all. After about 2 hours of walking, I made it to the outskirts of the village. I sank to my knees, gazing upon the remains of the once happy place that I had spent my childhood within. No complete houses stood standing. There was a large amount of bodies and lost disks surrounding the mayor’s house, indicating that it was in that area that the people and monsters of the village had made their last stand.

There was something rather strange, I saw, as I looked to see the lost disks. Some of them had been taken away from the stalks that would hold them up! ‘I don’t know why anyone would take lost disks… they can’t be restored for a long time…’ I thought to myself, once again falling to my knees near the outskirts of the village. Tears came to my eyes as I tried to stop myself from crying. So much death… and I wasn’t able to stop it. I closed my eyes, a few tears streaming down my cheek before I managed to hear something… no, it was someone, not too far away. I quickly got up, and ran over to one of the standing walls that was left, just in time to see a brown haired girl and a Suezo begin to pass by. I recognized the pair immediately, and I sighed in relief, smiling as I found that I was not the only one to have survived. Both the girl and monster heard this, and they spun quickly to see me. The Suezo was standing in front of the girl, who was cowering behind the yellow monster, shaking a little in fear.

"It’s okay… Suezo, Holly, it’s me. Tyson. I was your neighbor a few years ago, remember?" I said, stepping out of the shadows. Both of them sighed in relief, and Holly smiled. Suezo, however, got really annoyed, as it hopped over to me quickly and yelled at me. "What do you think you’re doing! You scared us both out of our wits!" he said, and probably would’ve said more, if I hadn’t reached out and took hold of his tongue. "Quiet, you… Do you think that all those monsters are gone? Be quiet! If we’re lucky, we can get out of here before any of those monsters decide to come back and look for survivors." I replied, letting go of Suezo’s tongue. I hadn’t grabbed hold of it too hard, but he wasn’t ready for the sudden release, as his tongue flipped back to smack it in the eye. He swore to the Phoenix at that, and shook its head slowly. I looked to Holly, who had stepped out from behind Suezo, and saw that she was holding her breath as I commented on the bad monsters. I couldn’t help but to immediately feel bad for saying that, though the statement may have been true.

"It’s okay… Suezo, I’m sorry for doing that. But, we must get out of here… I’ll help you get to the road toward the next town. Then, you two are on your own… I’ll have to cover our tracks, so I’ll try to keep the monsters away from you two." I told them, smiling warmly to them. Holly smiled, and sighed in relief as I spoke. "Well… all right. Thank you, Tyson." She said, hooking a small knapsack behind Suezo, and then hefting one of her own upon her shoulders. I noticed that she had a small leather-like rope holding something that was hidden within her tunic, and I could only guess as to what it was. Holly saw my gaze, and nodded as if to confirm what I had thought of. "Yeah… it’s the magic stone. Suezo and I swore that we will find the Phoenix, unlock it, and then we can fight against the baddies."

I could only smile, and nod in agreement. "That is a very good idea… But, how will you find it? I mean, the Phoenix is a legend in the village… could it possibly be real?" I asked, to which both Holly and Suezo nodded in response. "Well then, I’d like to join you… but, it is safer if you go alone. You see… I met the monster who destroyed the village last night." I said softly. Suezo’s mouth dropped in surprise, and Holly gasped as well. "It was a Naga, and it was the most powerful monster I’d ever seen… In fact, Jound attacked it, to try and let me escape. I haven’t seen him since last night."

I shook my head, trying to fight back tears that were trying to escape. ‘It wouldn’t be good to let them see how scared I am too,’ I thought. ‘I am older than they are… I need to be strong, at least until they are on their way to the next town.’ So, I walked over to what remained of another house, pulling out a stick that I could use to help me walk. Suezo and Holly both waited for me, and I nodded to them, motioning that they should start walking ahead of me. They began to walk slowly, so that I could keep up with them. ‘I guess they saw that I was limping,’ and I smiled softly, walking as fast as I was able. Soon, I began to pass them, and I glanced back to the two as I hobbled along the path. "What, are you two going to let me walk faster than you?" I challenged them, and they both grinned as they stepped up the pace, soon surpassing me. I quickly doubled my own pace, still using the walking stick to help me along the path, and they were both following me closely now. Holly began to laugh, and I couldn’t help but to smile, and neither could Suezo. The laughter helped to cushion the realization that as far as we knew, we were the only survivors of Naga’s attack, as well as the last survivors of our village.

We continued on like this for about half an hour, after which a solemn silence permeated the air. There had been no tracks of any other monsters along the path, I noticed, as we hiked along it. ‘I just hope we don’t run into any baddies…’ I thought, and I smiled briefly at the fact that I had used the same term that Holly had earlier. It was an appropriate term, I speculated. The monsters were bad… in fact, they were ruthless as they must’ve attacked and killed humans and monsters alike. As I thought about them, my mind kept returning to the crest that the Naga had been wearing on its chest. ‘Where have I seen that from?’ I asked myself, and I closed my eyes as I tried to remember. It was an old book… and then, it hit me. It had been in the book in which the Legend of the Phoenix had been contained within. The only monster other than the Phoenix, which had had much mention of, was…

"Moo!" I exclaimed, and I opened my eyes. I turned around to see Holly and Suezo stunned behind me. "Those bad monsters… they had Moo’s crest on them!" I explained, and both of the youngsters paled. "Here… I’ll show you the design that they had on their crests." I said, and I knelt in the dirt, and with the walking stick, I etched out the design of the crest. The younger villagers knew the legend of the phoenix by heart, I knew… I had known it just as well as they did, when I was Holly’s age (which was only a few years ago). Holly simply nodded in agreement as she saw the finished design. "Yeah… that’s the sign of Moo from the Book of the Phoenix…" she said softly, confirming my fears. Suezo asked Holly about the monster known as Moo, and I left them to talk about for a moment, as I walked a little further on the path. Sure enough, I finally noticed fresh tracks. ‘Tigers… probably Cabalos,’ I thought to myself. Then, I noticed a few others. Figuring from what I knew from the troops that had laid waste to the village, I said aloud the information I knew. "Evil Hares and Tigers have been here…" I said to myself, unaware that the two behind me had heard my whisper.

"They… they’re here?" Holly asked, and I turned around to look at them. I smiled to her, and shook my head slowly. "Not right here… but, they have been here. Perhaps a few hours ago, I think." I replied, and I walked over to them both slowly. "They’re probably used as scouts for a main body of monsters making their way inland… which means, the monsters came from the Northeast. If I’m right, those monsters are long gone by now." I explained, and smiled to them. "You see… Tigers and Hares won’t cut it if a small force comes down this way. They need more muscle in order to survive against the wild monsters around here. No, if anything, we’ll see Dinos before we see any of the faster monsters."

They sighed in relief, and smiled. Holly and Suezo both had known some Dinos from the village, and they knew that Dinos often lacked speed and agility, due to their size. "So… we can at least outrun them… for a while." Holly said, smiling as her hopes arose. Suezo laughed in its own, annoying way- loud and obnoxious, after she said that. I nodded in response to her comment. "That’s right. And now, you two had better be moving. I have to cover our tracks now… You’ll have at least a few days’ head start over any Dinos that may come down this way." I said, and Holly nodded, her features set in a grim determination. "Thank you, Tyson. I’ll find the Phoenix. With the help of the Magic Stone, we’ll revive it, and we’ll defeat Moo." She said, her voice firm and full of hope. Suezo nodded in response. "Yeah, you better believe we’ll find the Phoenix!" he said as well, jumping into the air slightly to put an exclamation on his point.

I smiled at that, and grinned. "Make sure you two do find the Phoenix…" I said firmly, feeling some of the pain in my body leave me now. "Remember, the village was destroyed by Naga. Naga is one of Moo’s monsters. So, if you do meet up with him… Give him a thrashing for me, as well as for Jound… all right?" I said, my face showing them the same amount of determination, as well as sadness. "But, above all… be safe, you two. At this time, you’re best off running from danger for now. Fight when you must, but remember that speed is your ally now. Use the magic stone… and find some mystery disks. Even if it doesn’t contain the Phoenix, the monsters within the disks can still help you." I said, giving them some advice. I didn’t even know where some of the words came from… and then I smiled, taking away one of the disks from the small package of three, and I handed it to them. "Here, take this disk to the nearest shrine. Perhaps it will give you the help you will need." I told them, and Holly took the disk, hugging it to her chest as she smiled warmly at me. "Okay… The nearest one is to the west, right?" she asked, and I thought about that direction.

To the west was a wasteland. There was an old, rundown shrine there, to which an old, stone bridge led. I nodded in agreement to her, even though I knew it would be a several day walk. "That’s right, Holly… but, you both must get there quickly. The head start I will give you may not last long enough for you to get there…" I warned, to which they both grinned and nodded. "That’s all right… I’ll protect Holly no matter what." Suezo said, even as Holly held out a hand to me. I took her hand and shook it gently, even as she did the same. "Thank you, Tyson… and good luck." Holly said, smiling once again before turning to Suezo. They then began to walk toward the west, where the sun was beginning to sink towards already. As they walked out of earshot, I finally spoke. "Good luck to you as well… for you are likely to be our best hope in this battle…" and, with that, I turned back toward the east. Using the walking stick, I began to scratch out the tracks the two left, and after an hour or so of doing so, I made my own tracks on them, heading toward the south. ‘With any luck, any baddies following our tracks will only follow me,’ I said to myself, even as I continued walking, my arms and legs feeling much better than before. Little did I, or Holly, know of the adventures that would cross our paths… Nor of the people who would fall into our friendship, either.

Though we would have different adventures, we would still make friends, who would then become… our family.

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