"Should we go check it out?" Ryza tilted her head to the side as she gazed out to the forest in question.
"Wh-why would we!? Lila told us not to rush into danger, remember?" Tao was getting worked up again, already nervous from what they might find in the forest. Though, there was no clear indication for what it could be... no unusual sounds had come from it, just a... feeling. A feeling that something was wrong.
Like Lent had said before, it was as if the forest was crying.
Ryza turned to face Tao, determined in her path. "The atelier might be finished, but Klaudia won't be able to feel safe here if we don't check it out."
"Remember Ryza, we're just gonna take a look. We'll see what's going on, then retreat if we have to." Lent reminded her, evidently feeling her growing enthusiasm.
"Yeah, I got it." She turned to Klaudia, grinning widely. "We'll be right back, Klaudia. You just stay here." It was a shame she couldn't come with them, but her father wasn't even likely to approve of her being out here in the first place. If Klaudia got hurt it would be impossible for them to hang out again with how protective he was of her. Heck, they could up and move before even finalizing the trade agreement with her village! That couldn't happen! Not on her watch, no sirree.
"Okay. Be careful, everyone."
"Just leave it to us. I've learned it's best to run away when things get dangerous." Lent said with a calming tone.
"Just as long as we're very careful about it." Tao cut in.
"Yeah, let's go! Carefully, but boldly!" Ryza exclaimed, dashing forward to jump down from the little rise of the hill her atelier sat on, continuing forward through the little gate and deeper into the forest.
She made a beeline down the path, not bothering to pick the numerous plants around her and dodging around the monsters that use to pose a threat to her and her friends when they first started regularly coming to the mainland. Whatever it was, they could handle it! They were adventures now afterall! And her being the Alchemist of the party would guide them to victory!
Lent paused beside her - he had caught up easily with his long legs - and she slowed to a halt, watching him for a moment as he listened to the forest around them, "What's going on? The entire forest seems to be on edge, but there's nothing out of the ordinary..."
"Yeah, it's really strange. Something's up for sure." She just couldn't quite put her finger on it. Though, the monster infested woods seemed to be less infested just ahead. Weird.
"I-if you're sure something's wrong, we should head back before we get ourselves into trouble..." Tao was muttering, but as soon as her and Lent started walking she could hear him rush to catch up to them.
The further they walked the quieter the birds became and she no longer saw squirrels crawling up and down the trees with nuts stored in their mouths. It became silent, besides their own footsteps among the grass.
The forest expanded out into a clearing and she saw it. Whatever it was. The body was white, rings of red wrapped around various sections and... there were gems protruding from its back and the tip of the tail. One small yellow eye turned to them and suddenly Ryza felt as if she had turned to stone.
"What the heck is that?" Lent muttered under his breath, staring at the thing unblinking.
"M-m-m-monster! Super scary monster!" Tao shout-whispered.
"Wh-what?" Ryza had drawn her arms up to her chest, fingers wrapped around eachother as if to shield herself from the beast, or cower from it. "I can't feel my legs. Ah!"
The creature had turned to face them and let out a piercing cry that shook the forest, its tail slamming into the ground behind it before it surged forward.
With a squeak she turned her head away, squeezing her eyes shut as it's thunderous steps came closer...
There was a yell from behind? No, above her. She glanced up to see Lent swing his sword down on the creature, but it didn't even flinch, though it paused from the sudden attack, perhaps not expecting it. A natural predator in it's own territory, then? It certainly didn't look like it belonged here.
"I didn't even scratch it! Now what do we do!?"
Ryza had fallen to her knees, not sure if it was from the sudden relief of not being hit or if she was just that petrified of what could have happened had the creature not stopped, either way she couldn't get back up. "W-we should run away, but my legs feel like rubber."
"Hyaah!" Tao had fallen back at some point. "Run! We have to run!" But he was quickly scrambling back to his feet, taking off back the way they had come.
"Hey!" Lent shouted after him, his gaze dropping to Ryza in the next second. "Come on." He bent down and she felt one arm slip under her thighs, shifting her slightly so he could get his other arm under her mid-back, before lifting her up.
And then he ran, cradling her body against his chest. The bouncing was hardly rhythmic, what with the fallen logs and stones in the pathway, but it calmed her nonetheless. She peeked her head out from behind his shoulder, relief washing over her to see the thing hadn't given chase or if it had it hadn't done so for very long.
What a strange terrifying creature. She wasn't even sure why, but the area back there... it's aura had sent shivers down her spine and hardened them into ice.
Ryza sighed and pressed her face against Lent's shoulder, her nose buried in the white fur collar around his neck as she breathed deeply to calm her racing heart.