“Lonnie, I will never doubt you again,”
“I really got to stop being right,”
“Well, it’s getting dark soon so we better camp out here for the night,”
We decided to camp for the night. Clayton used a lighter to burn some leaves and sticks to make a fire. Clayton and I huddled around the fire. If I thought the day was cold, the night was colder. We could barely sleep. The cold was unbearable but the fire helped only a little. When we saw daylight, we were tired and sleepy but we decided to get an early start. The early bird catches the worm right. I thought. Clayton took out his compass but the compass was pointing everywhere.
“Now the compass was haywire, what else could go wrong,”
We continued walking straight with no clue where we were going. Suddenly, we found the strangest thing- a footprint of a bird but it was almost twice our size. We followed the track into the dense forest. It was so troublesome to move away from branches, big bushes and spiderwebs. The tracks were getting harder to see. Then, the tracks just stopped. Clayton and I looked around to see if there was anything weird or any sign of human activity. It looked like the part of the forest had not been touched by any human. It was eerily quiet. Clayton called me saying he found something. As I went to Clayton, something smells. Clayton was squatting beside a rotting corpse. I put my hands to my mouth in shock.
“Please don’t tell me that’s Henry,” I said close to tears.
Around the corpse and on the trees, there were suicide notes and family pictures that were torn in shreds. The trees around were scratched like the person before this was attacked by an animal. Clayton took a closer look at the suicide note. I told Clayton that we should go somewhere else. Clayton didn’t budge. He looked at different notes and touched the trees around it like he found something. I could not stand the smell or sight of the rotting corpse anymore. I tried pulling Clayton away but he asked me to look at the trees and the notes.
“Look at these notes. They are not suicide notes. They are warnings telling us to turn around. Look at the trees around the body. These scratches are not animal claw marks. They are clean, like a sword,”
“If it is not an animal, is it the monk?”
I saw something that changed my conclusions. I picked up a feather from the ground. It was bigger than most feathers so my best guess- the vulture! Clayton and I looked at each other thinking of the same thing.
“Aren’t vultures scavengers? Why would they attack this man and that doesn’t explain the marks we found,”
A screech ringed in our ears. We looked up to see a vulture. The vulture was our only lead so we decided to follow it. The forest was getting thicker by the minute. The vulture was to fast for us and we eventually lost it. My stomach growled and I was tired. Clayton looked at me and dug something out of his bag. It was an energy bar. He tossed it to me and I devoured it in a second. I suddenly, a water droplet fell on my nose. I looked up and it started drizzling. We tried to find a shelter like a cave. We saw a small sign nailed on a tree. There were Japanese carvings on it with a skull sign at the end of the sentence. I gulped and we continued.
It was raining heavily and we were drenched to the bone. The ground was muddy but I didn’t care because I was dead tired. The hope of finding Henry or even getting out of here was scarce.
“Clayton, would we ever get out of here?” I asked
“As long as I am here, of course, we are getting out of here,” He said confidently.
Right after he said that I saw him look down and sighed. A deafening screech filled the air again. We expected it to be another vulture but when we looked up, we were stunned. It looked like a bird but it wasn’t. It looked like a man with wings. I couldn’t get a close look at it as the forest is so thick. It screeched one more time before two other birdmen came and circled above us. It swooped down and grabbed Clayton by the shoulders with its hands. Clayton kicked in the air struggling but it was no use. Another swooped down and tried to grab me but I quickly dodged it. I started running for my life. My legs were burning, my stomach grumbled, it was pouring and the branches were in the way. I didn’t care.
I kept running and running and running but the birdman skillfully dodged the branches. The birdman was gaining on me. Out of the corner of my eye, something red was dashing toward me. The third bird man tackled me and grabbed me. I shouted at the birdman but it was no use. We flew over the beautiful forest. I took the opportunity to rest my feet and save energy. I was too tired to be scared of falling. Clayton was in front of me gazing at the forest below. After the fast ride, I saw a little town in a distance.
It looked like a traditional Japanese house. We flew over some houses but the birdman flew so quick it was just a blur. The birdman eventually landed on a balcony if a huge house, sort of like a palace. We were thrown onto the bamboo floor and they stood at attention. I looked around and saw a high ceiling and the room was painted yellow and orange. A fat birdman was sitting on a throne at the back of the room. There was more birdman who stood at the side of the room. I finally got a closer look at the birdman and realised it was a Tengu! They were wearing armour made of bamboo. The ones on the side have black feathers while the one who brought us here had blue. They had a sword behind their backs and their hand were more like bird claws. They were almost twice our size though, some of them were Clayton’s height. They were in some sort of throne room.
“Trespassers! Who else knows of this location and what is your purpose of coming here!” the Tengu sitting on the throne boomed.
I assumed that he was the king.
“We are here to search for our missing friend who wandered off the path. No one else knows of this location your majesty,” I said
“Guards! Bring him to our prison. They cannot let the world know of this place,” the king ordered.
“Your majesty, we have done nothing! We promise not to tell anyone! We promise!” I begged.
The guards grabbed our arms and dragged us to the prison. They threw us in a dark cellar with only one source of light- the sun. We were lucky that the rain had stopped. We realised that we shared the same cellar as Henry and another Tengu. He had brown feathers with torn clothes.
“Henry! Your safe!” Clayton hugged Henry tightly.
“Your lucky to have friends you know,” a small voice said.
It was coming from the other Tengu.