Chapter 1: i
For as long as he could remember, Shigeru has loved the forest, where there’s balance and there’s peace. One is all, and all is one. Untouched by man, the forest thrives. Each animal has its place in the food chain, and every plant earns its privilege to grow. He adores the natural order of life here, and he’s never once seen it interrupted.
At 21, Shigeru had a routine. Wake up with the sun, check the plants, walk the perimeter of the forest, and then make breakfast. He rarely gets sidetracked, but when he does it’s for good reason. Today is not a day where he gets sidetracked. He gets back to his hut and starts on his oatmeal as usual.
Since he woke up, he’s felt as if something was off, but it’s reminiscent of when a sudden storm rolls in. He chooses to ignore the feeling until the forest starts behaving oddly. Instincts could be considered a magic in and of themselves if given proper credit. He’s always trusted him and the animals’, and this situation is no exception.
He settles his nerves and rolls his shoulders to loosen up. Today he can either reorganize his tomes or go check on the recent dragon litters from the most recent Hatching. Shigeru doesn't have to debate very long before he’s grabbing his cloak and pack. There aren’t many dragon breeds in the forest, and they’re all on the smaller side for this region. Shigeru enjoys every minute he spends with them, but they nest at the northernmost edge of the forest. It’s at least a two-hour hike, and although it’s starting to cool down after summer, the sun is still unforgiving. Imprinting on the animals when they’re young is important for their future relationship, though, so he lets out a breath and heads out the door.
Shigeru ends his adventure with more than a few cuts and bruises. He forgets how rough the hatchlings can be before they learn to play with other animals. He can still hear the chirping of the new litters a few meters from their clearing and he smiles fondly. The leader of the herd, Pumpkin, had one of the biggest litters Shigeru has ever seen, and he empathizes with her. Taking care of that many babies would even be hard for a fully grown dragon.
He still feels the odd pressure from this morning, and if anything it’s gotten more intense. At this point, he’s starting to get slightly worried. The animals aren’t acting skittish or nervous, but he still feels like something is going to happen. Whatever it is, it won’t be good.
As he passes a small meadow of fireweed and twinflowers he hears a muffled chirping. He stops and looks around, waiting to hear it again. And hear it again he does, from right next to him, coming from his bag.
Shigeru takes a moment to pray to the gods that he did not, in fact, accidentally steal a dragon from its mother. He hesitantly opens his bag with his eyes squeezed tight, hoping he’s just hearing things. But when he opens them again, there’s a pair of black, glassy eyes staring at him from under his amethyst and angelite.
“Well, hello there,” Shigeru deadpans. He picks up the hatchling and holds it in front of his face, watching as it goes limp in his arms and cocks its head, “Yeah, yeah, you’re pretty adorable…”
On one hand, the dragon is very small even for its breed and age, so it’s probably a runt that would get ousted anyway, but on the other hand, he knows Pumpkin. She wouldn’t hesitate to bite his head off if she missed her baby. Groaning, he plopped the animal on his shoulder and told it to stay.
The entire hike back to his hut he listened to the hatchling chirping and clicking in his ear which, admittedly, was endearingly cute. By the time the duo arrived home, it must have been early evening, and the sun shone through the trees, settling a blanket of gold over the entire clearing. The dragon chirped particularly loud and hopped off Shigeru’s shoulder to roll around the moss patch by his small pond in his garden.
“Do you like that? Hmm, maybe I’ll call you Moss. Your mama got her name because she ate all of my mentor’s pumpkins from the garden after she was born. I guess there’s a trend, huh, buddy,” Shigeru ran his fingers under Moss’s chin onto its- his, apparently- belly. He was greeted with a rumbling purr, which startled a laugh out of him. It was rare that dragons warmed up to someone outside of its herd so fast.
Shigeru was going to go inside to prepare a meal for both of them when he realized that leaving Moss outside where a bunch of older and tougher animals could see him might not be the best idea. Then he noticed that he didn’t see the usual fox or deer prancing around the edges of the clearing, and he couldn’t see any birds flying through the canopy. He was immediately on guard, grabbing Moss despite his sad chirping, and heading inside. He went to secure the door when he heard a loud yelp, not from the dragon in his arms, but from another creature somewhere deeper in the forest.
He was met with a brief moment of panic. He could stay here and hide out until whatever happened passed through and deal with it later, or he could go help whatever animal was in distress. His instincts tell him to stay and save himself and stay with Moss, but there was an innocent creature struggling out there. The wounded noises continue, and they get louder as whatever it is either gets closer or simply more pained.
Before he knows it, Shigeru is grabbing his staff and running out his door, not even shutting it behind him. All he can think about is getting to that animal before something else does. He’s lived in this forest his entire life, and he’s never once faced a threat, which leads him to believe that whatever it is, it isn’t a resident. He doesn’t know what he’s walking into here- well running into, technically. There’s no way he can be prepared, and he’s terrified. This thing is able to attack an innocent animal without hesitation if the continuous whimpers are an indication.
He can tell he’s getting closer when he hears multiple footsteps and voices- voices? There are people. Actual, living human beings in his forest. That’s never happened before. Shigeru slows down a bit to allow himself to think. He can feel pulses of magic, so whoever they are, they’re strong. That’s okay, Shigeru can handle himself in a fight, especially with magic. The problem is, he doesn’t know why these people are here, why they’re attacking the animals, and what they’re magic is like. The only person he’s ever fought with is his mentor, and she wasn’t exactly a typical person.
Shigeru comes to a clearing before he could finish his train of thought, and he barely stops himself before he runs directly in the middle of a fight. He quickly ducks behind a tree and observes the people who are attacking the dire wolf in front of him.
One of them is mid shift- he was in the form of a bear for all of ten seconds as he charged before he shifted into his human form, already swinging his spear with the momentum he built up. The man is clearly useful in a fight, he moves swiftly and with surprising grace. There’s a sheen of sweat over his tanned skin and he wipes it out of his green eyes after the wolf dodged his attack. His partner yells something in his direction, to which he responds with a dirty look. He runs his hand through his dark, spiked hair, his arms flexing with the movement.
The other is clearly building up magic for some sort of attack. He has a staff in both hands and is quietly speaking some sort of incantation to himself. This one is taller than the other, with paler skin, too. His hair is a light brown and is swooped to the side. It looks weirdly perfect for the situation he’s in at the moment. He seems like someone who fights from the sidelines, but Shigeru can’t be sure when he sees the lean, yet defined, muscle in his exposed arm. Even the one hidden by a sleeve is telling of his physical capabilities. He opens his eyes suddenly, and they flash sliver before turning back to brown. His staff gets pointed at the wolf still defending itself from the bear shifter, and there’s a sudden pressure mounting in the air.
Shigeru can tell whatever is about to happen, it won’t end well for the poor wolf. Acting completely on impulse, he slams his own staff onto the forest floor, and a wall of thick roots springs up around the wolf and absorbs the energy produced from the mage’s spell. The duo both backed away in shock before moving to press their backs together, showing that they obviously have experience in dangerous situations. They’re immediately on guard for an attack that will never come.
Instead, Shigeru slowly makes his way to them, hopefully looking confident.
Just as he’s about to ask them what they’re doing here, the mage with the pretty hair swiftly points his staff in his direction and speaks, “Who the hell are you?”
i know it took me 5ever to update but i legit immediately got struck w not good feelings and other responsibilities as soon as i started this,, forgive me
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Who the hell are you?”
Shigeru doesn't often get weapons pointed at his face. In fact, he’s never gotten a weapon pointed at his face. Honestly, he’s not entirely sure how to react, so he just looks at it before looking at the other man. He seems less ready to attack than the one with pretty hair.
“I live in the forest. I heard the wolf in pain and came to investigate. I don’t mean anyone any harm, I just…” Shigeru trails off as he realizes neither of the men in front of him is easing up on their stances. They both look very suspicious of him. Which, yeah, that’s understandable. He suddenly popped up and stopped an attack they were aiming when they thought they were alone. He’d be on guard as well.
“Listen, I just want to make sure the wolf is okay. Can I please do that?” Shigeru is slowly raising his hands to show he isn’t going to attack. He can’t help but be reminded of how he has to act towards a cornered animal when it’s scared.
The two look at each look at each other for a moment before the pretty one lowers his staff. He doesn't look happy about it, but the other steps toward Shigeru and reaches out his hand, “My name is Iwaizumi, and this is Oikawa. We’re mages with Seijou. We got hired to take care of a wild animal that has been tearing apart a nearby village’s livestock.”
Shigeru is not expecting a full introduction, and he definitely isn’t prepared to have a full conversation with this man. He already has a headache from trying to figure out why the man is holding out his hand. It’s making it very hard to figure out why exactly an animal from the forest would need to go to a village to find food. He keeps good tabs on the health of the animals he comes across, and none of them are even close to starving.
She stands there for a few moments before he blinks and responds, “I’m Shigeru.” Then he hightails it for the injured wolf and tries not to think about how awkward that entire exchange was.
When he gets to the animal, he notices a black spot in the fur above the right eye, indicating that it’s one of last year’s pups. He remembers naming her Oak after she ran face first into one a few days after she was born.
A quick survey shows that she only had a few flesh wounds and a slightly fractured front paw. He lets out a breath of relief and turns towards Oikawa and Iwaizumi, “Do you think you could help me carry her to my hut? I’ll be able to treat her wounds there.” Shigeru still wasn’t very confident in his actions toward the strangers, but he really needs to make sure Oak is alright. She was almost of age for mating, and if she’s too weak and injured while trying to grow pups it could mean death for all of them. Shigeru tries his best to keep the forest healthy.
“Woah, Woah! We’re supposed to kill that thing! It’s been terrorizing- oof!” Oikawa cuts himself off after Iwaizumi jabs him in the side with an elbow.
“Ignore him. I’ll help you. Will she be okay with a stranger coming near her?” Iwaizumi looks worriedly from Shigeru to the wolf.
“Just be calm, and don’t move too fast. She trusts me.” Shigeru lets Iwaizumi take his place at her belly while he makes his way to her upper back. Slowly, they lift her and Shigeru quickly informs him which direction to head. Oikawa, still huffy about being cut off, straps his staff to his back and crosses his arms as he follows.
“So, Shigeru-kun,” Oikawa starts lightly as he looks around at the forest, “how long have you been living out here?”
Both of his companions seem slightly shocked by his answer, “Well then. Were your parents, like, really into nature? Or did they just not like people?” Oikawa got a look from Iwaizumi at that.
“I never knew my parents.”
Another shocked silence, “Oh.”
The rest of the short journey back to his hut passes quietly, only the sounds of the forest making up for lost time.
As soon as the modest house is in view, Shigeru hears Moss clawing desperately at his door. He instructs Oikawa to open the door, ignoring the slight yelp when he saw Moss bolt out the door.
“Please set her down on this table. I’ll run and get some aloe vera and dried marigold to make a salve for her wounds.” As soon as Oak is secure on the wood surface he beelines for his apothecary cabinet.
Luckily, he doesn’t have to use his herbs a lot, so he has a plentiful amount to put in a mortar. As he uses his pestle to crush the marigold flowers he utters an incantation to help the healing process. He moves purely on muscle memory from what his mentor had taught him when he was younger. There’s no time to waste when there are injuries to be healed. Any more movement than is necessary could cause someone to lose their life.
By the time he comes back to himself, he’s already spreading the salve over Oak’s wounds and setting her leg. Oikawa and Iwaizumi are still standing still by the door.
“If you’ve been living here forever with no parents, where did you learn how to do that. And who taught you magic? What academy did you go to? What’s your alignment? Your specialty? And-” Oikawa’s voice is quickly muffled by Iwaizumi’s palm.
“I’m sorry about him. He doesn’t like it when our missions stray from the plan.” Iwaizumi explains with a weary look on his face. An affronted sound comes from behind his hand at that.
“They’re all valid questions, it’s fine. I learned everything I know from my mentor, she also taught me magic, I didn’t go to any sort of academy, I suppose I have an alignment to nature, and I don’t have a specialty. Is there anything else?” Yahaba speaks as he pulls out three cups to make tea.
There’s a short silence, “Do you ever, like, leave? The forest, I mean?”
“No. I don’t need to leave. Tea?”
The couple looks at Shigeru for a short moment before turning to look at each other. When they look back Iwaizumi nods his assent for the tea.
im hoping the next chapter will be out sooner than 4 months later,,,