Chapter 68 - Season of Hunting (3)
“Why is it impossible?” Crockta asked.
The man suddenly looked at the sky. It was towards the north.
“There is no time.”
He packed the skin and heart of the Manticore into a sack and then he tore off the wings. Crockta and Tiyo helped harvest the Manticore’s body parts before the man, whose name was unknown, started to turn around.
Crockta and Tiyo stared blankly at his back. The man stopped moving.
He started moving again. Crockta and Tiyo exchanged glances before following. The man spoke in a tone that seemed to be mocking them, "The Manticore is dead, but others will come.”
Tiyo grumbled, "Then why did you help us instead of leaving us to die?”
“I didn’t want to.” The man glanced at Tiyo with emotionless eyes. The cool gaze caused Tiyo to flinch. "But Skolla was whining.”
“Skolla? Who is that?”
He didn't answer.
They headed to the hunter’s home.
The landscape when they were returning was different, and even the distance seemed to have increased. They hadn’t walked that long but now it was taking a long time to get back. The direction had also changed. The compass was still pointing in one direction.
"I think the forest has changed...” Crockta muttered.
The man laughed, "This is the Forest of Creatures.”
"Is the forest constantly changing?”
“You didn’t know? You really entered without thinking.” The man adjusted the sack he was carrying. The blood of the Manticore dripped out of the bag. "Why are idiots who don’t know such things going to the north?”
“I want to find my father dot,” Tiyo replied first. "Do you know the adventurer Anato? My father was a great adventurer who went to the north dot.”
The man laughed at Tiyo, "No. I’ve never see a person go to the north.”
"Hrmm, I guess you arrived late and didn’t see him! Since when have you been here?”
The man replied in a natural tone, "For 50 years."
Crockta and Tiyo’s eyes widened. The man looked like a normal middle-aged man. If he had been here for 50 years, how old was he now?
"I came here when I was 40 years old.”
“Then you are now...” Tiyo didn’t say anything else. That was already the end of the human lifespan.
"Are you perhaps a mixed race?”
“I can’t believe it.”
It was impossible for a 90-year-old human to be so healthy. The man added, "I am from the Shakan Clan.”
Now Tiyo nodded. Crockta didn’t understand so he looked at Tiyo, who explained, "The Shakan is an old hunter clan. I heard that they had died out.”
"Do they live that long?”
“I don’t know. Not much is known...maybe he is lying but...” Tiyo lowered his voice, "The Shakan are those who never forget a grudge dot.”
The hunter clan Shakan, those who never forgot a grudge. After hearing Tiyo’s explanation, the man’s back looked bleak.
"But he said 50 years, so he must’ve seen my father. That must be a lie dot.”
"Maybe they just didn’t meet each other.”
Tiyo stared at the man’s back with suspicious eyes. This time, Crockta was the one to ask a question to the man, "Do you know about the Temple of the Fallen God in the north?”
The man shook his head as he looked ahead. The silence continued.
Crockta spoke again, "Let me know your name."
“......” The man paused for a while before replying. “I am called Shakan.”
The man was from the Shakan Clan, and his name was also Shakan. There seemed to be a story behind it.
They quietly followed Shakan.
They reached Shakan’s home within a short time. The moat and thorny fence were wrapped around it. They passed through the shallow part of the moat and through the small hole in the fence, just like when they followed the cow.
Crockta realized that the fortress had no entrance and this was the only doorway. An artifact hid the presence of this place. The moat and the fence were both strong. Even so, the entrance was concealed to minimize risk.
He was a thorough hunter.
The cows gave a long cry as they returned, “Moooooo...”
Then Shakan laughed out loud. It was a clear laugh that was unimaginable for the man who acted coldly towards Crockta and Tiyo. Shakan approached a cow and hugged it.
"Yes, I brought them, Skolla, so don’t complain anymore. Yes, yes.”
It was like he was having a conversation with a cow. Crockta and Tiyo tilted their heads.
Shakan turned towards them. His hard face had relaxed. His eyes curved as he gave a gentle smile.
“My first son, Skolla.” He stroked the cow’s head.
“This one is Penando, and the other one is Achilles.” He pointed to the cows one by one. "They are Shakan like me who will become great hunters. Say hello.”
Crockta and Tiyo bowed at the innocent expression on his face. They couldn’t tell if he was joking or if he just had affection for the cows. Shakan quickly fed the cows again. The cows waved their tails.
"It is the Shakan law to take care of guests,” Shakan said with a mock-stern tone.
"...What is this Crockta?” Tiyo poked Crockta’s side. Crockta didn’t know either. He stepped forward and said, “That cow called Skolla is smart.”
“Huh?” Shakan looked up from where he was patting Skolla.
“Even knowing the paths in the forest...”
"That cow. You called it Skolla.”
Shakan stared blankly at Crockta and then looked at Skolla again. He blinked and alternated looking between Crockta and the cow. He gazed straight at Crockta.
Then his expression changed. The traces of the man singing to the cow couldn’t be seen anymore as it returned to the same cold expression from when he first met Crockta and Tiyo.
“Yes. Cow. A cow. Is this cow smart?”
“That is strange. A cow is just a cow. I just raise them for the milk.”
Crockta got goose bumps at the sudden change in attitude. It was a hard conversation.
“You introduced it as your son.”
“What?” But Shakan was still confused. “What are you saying?”
"My sons are all dead."
"You said Skolla...”
He blinked in confusion. Crockta spoke again. "You said that the cows were called Skolla, Penando, and Achilles.”
“Me?” The man was confused. What was with this expression? Then he shook his head. “...I just named the cows after my dead sons. There is no meaning. The dead are dead.”
Then he entered the log cabin. The cow called Skolla let out a long cry, “Moooooo...”
Crockta felt a chill.
The man had spent 50 years in this place. He lived alone in the Forest of Creatures where no one came. It was natural to turn strange after enduring such lonely and dangerous times.
“Crockta...” Tiyo called his name from behind. “Is it okay to stay here...?”
Tiyo seemed reluctant after seeing Shakan’s behavior. Crockta placed a hand on Tiyo’s shoulder.
"I don’t think he is a bad person so let’s hear more about the forest.”
Crockta and Tiyo entered the house after Shakan.
As soon as they entered, the skull of a creature could be seen. A giant head. It was like a human but the skull was much bigger, the mouth protruded and the teeth were as sharp as saw blades. An ogre’s skull. But there were two of them. The two skulls were placed side by side like they were linked.
“Twin head ogre...?”
It wasn’t just that. All types of skulls were displayed, testifying to Shakan’s past. In addition to skulls, things such as hands, teeth and shin bones acted as his hunting record. It seemed like a bones museum. He hunted all these things alone in the Forest of Creatures. Hunting tools were hung in a corner. He had everything from a long bow, knives, axes and anything else that a hunter would need.
"Is stew made with vegetables and eggs okay?” Shakan’s voice was heard from behind.
The smell of food filled the room. Crockta and Tiyo entered the kitchen. Steam was coming up from the pot that Shakan was boiling. Crockta and Tiyo sat down at the table.
“Can I do anything to help...?”
It was a cold reply. Tiyo pouted.
Within a short time, the hearty stew was finished. Shakan scooped plenty of stew into the bowl. Shakan’s face seemed softer in the warm light of the house.
"Why were you going to the north again?” He asked as he passed by. Tiyo replied.
“I want to find my father dot. Crockta is searching for the Temple of the Fallen God dot. And also...” Tiyo drank the stew and continued, "Of course, it is also to go on an adventure. I want to see new places dot.”
Shakan looked down at his fingers. "Are you curious about new places?”
“Of course dot. I can see the way that civilizations have evolved dot! Challenge and response!”
"Challenge...” He laughed. "My sons also did that.”
Crockta and Tiyo became quiet as the word ‘sons’ came out again.
Shakan got up and brought out warm milk. "My sons would’ve become great Shakan hunters. The Shakan are the best hunters.”
Shakan took a posture like he was pulling a bowstring.
"Hunters must be cautious, bold and patient. My first son, Skolla hid in the mud for over a month to catch drakes. In the end, he shot an arrow into its mouth. Isn’t that great patience? It was the first time in Shakan history that someone caught a drake. Huhuhuhu.”
Crockta and Tiyo’s spoons slowed down.
"We are the last Shakan, but I believed that my sons would spread the name of Shakan again.”
“The last Shakan...?”
“They all died. Now those who remember the Shakan have disappeared, and Shakan has become an old name. So my first son Skolla planned something huge for the resurrection of Shakan. He planned to open up the north to let the entire continent know the name of Shakan.”
“What do you mean by opening the north?”
“He said he would get rid of the Forest of Creatures with his own hands!”
Tiyo’s eyes shone.
"So he left for the Forest of Creatures. So, the source of the Forest of Creatures...that...what happened...” Shakan scratched his head. His face became confused. “Ahh...”
He grabbed his head. "What is today? Wait...my head hurts. Wait a bit...”
He left the room.
Crockta and Tiyo ate the vegetable stew in a heavy silence.
‘Father, I will open the north!’
You can’t. It is too dangerous.
‘I can do it. We are Shakan.’
The Shakan are hunters, not heroes. That thing is too scary.
'The founder of the Shakan hunted a dragon and took its heart to open the Shakan bloodline. I’m not scared at all. We were born with dragon’s blood.’
You are obviously an exceptional hunter. Maybe even better than me. But Son...
‘I can do it. It is a mission for the last Shakan.’
Shakan chewed on the meat. His teeth grabbed onto hard muscles. He endured it. His esophagus shook as the blood rushed down his throat. He opened his eyes. Vivid memories appeared everywhere around him.
‘Father. A Shakan never forgets his enemies.'
You can’t. It is too dangerous.
'This is my brother’s will.’
It isn’t something you can hunt.
'There is nothing that the Shakan can’t hunt. And we are Shakan.’
‘A Shakan can’t let their enemies live!’
Reality and memories mixed together, causing his head to become heavy. The past memories weighed down on his shoulders. His breathing was painful but he endured it.
“It is that season again...”
He chewed on the last piece of meat. His spirit cleared. The iron taste of blood reminded him of arrowheads and blades. His body was tense and his muscles swelled.
This was the last chance. Maybe these visitors were the last blessing given to him.
His end wouldn’t be lonely. His sons. And...
‘I can’t live any longer.’
Shakan returned. He looked cold like when they first saw him. This wasn’t the man excited when talking about his sons.
There was something around his mouth.
Shakan wiped at his mouth. It looked like a bloodstain to Crockta.
Shakan looked at both Crockta and Tiyo. "Do you really want to go to the north?”
“That’s right dot.”
Crockta and Tiyo replied at the same time.
"Despite the dangers?”
Crockta nodded. They had been prepared for danger the moment they started.
“Then I will let you know. There is only one way to go to the north.”
Shakan sat down. His face became solemn. Light shone on the wrinkled face.
“You must kill the evil ‘beast’.”
Praise the Orc: Glossary Link.
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