Chapter XI: Desperate Situations (Part 3)

The damage from the mudslide was evident as they continued walking down the makeshift path. For the most part, the weather seemed to regulate into fits of soft or harsh showers with thunder rolling in the background. For the most part, the rain was not the issue but rather the terrain they were walking upon. The mud was sloshing under Aden’s and Charlotte’s boots, making it hard to proceed every once in a while.

Charlotte had the most difficulty when her slim boot slipped into a pocket of mud. She was encompassed up to her midcalf and continuing to sink. If Aden had not had a sturdy branch nearby, he probably would not have been able to dig her leg out without breaking it. After that, the male had designated that he would walk ahead of her and guide her through the terrain by holding her hand the entire way.

“Is that the cave’s entrance?” The girl with straight and drenched auburn hair pointed to an opening in a bedrock straight ahead of them while Aden trudged forward to it. He was also soaked with dripping black hair, and he scowled at how humid the forest was.

“Seems like it.” Aden pressed his walking stick into the ground ahead of them and watched the path break into a huge pocket of nothing.

The girl behind him paused before looking over his shoulder at the waist-high hole in front of them. “Well, luckily, I did not fall into a hole that big beforehand.”

The boy in front of her merely scoffed and turned to the right side of the path and tested the ground for sturdiness. He was rewarded with firm walking ground and preceded forward. “I don’t think luck had a hand in that.”

The girl shrugged and followed right after Aden as he trudged forward. If they continued with their “luck,” they may as well try and head back to the Phoenix. They’d have a better chance of surviving there with the information lurkers.

In front of them now was a broken and smoldering tree, probably from the earlier lightning storm, lying on the ground. Ahead of that was a clear path to the entrance, and a robotic figure of a dog was lying underneath what looked like a small leaf umbrella. Charlotte was the first to see this and ran ahead of Aden, who merely yanked the girl back into his body before giving her a glare.

“Bloody hell, do you want to get caught in a pocket of mud again? The thing will stay there. Just be patient.”

The girl was about to protest, but when she received a death glare from her partner, she merely stepped behind the boy. When she was safely behind him, Aden prodded the ground with his branch and slowly made their way over to the entrance. The Great Dane looked up from its downtrodden stance to see the two approaching and immediately began to bark in exuberance.

“Hang on, Cesium!” Charlotte cupped her hand over to her lips so it could hear her voice over the rain. “Are you all right?”

When Cesium jumped up and started to wag its tail, the two walking toward the cave’s entrance saw that no harm had come to it. Finally, Aden dropped the girl’s hand, which made Charlotte slightly uncomfortable because she had gotten used to his warmth pressed against her wrapped palm. Now only the slight chill of water accompanied her, but she paid no attention to it. Running forward to the robot, she embraced the Great Dane and rocked it side to side, holding it.

“Do you know how worried we were, Cesium? What were you thinking?”

The Great Dane merely howled before whining for Charlotte to direct her attention into the cave. She gave the Great Dane one quizzical look before gazing into the depths of the cave before them. “What is in there, Cesium?”

Aden had crossed the threshold of the cave’s entrance before Charlotte could even get up off her haunches. He stood there with his stick in the first-position stance, ready to attack anyone or anything that could possibly come out, but nothing emerged.

As seconds rolled by, Cesium struggled from Charlotte’s grasp to run past the two of them into the depths ahead. Surprised by the movement, Charlotte jumped up onto the balls of her feet and chased after Cesium.

The two disappeared, leaving a tired and disgruntled Aden at the entrance.

“Weren’t you the one who was clinging to me in desperation earlier? You make no sense to me!” Aden yelled at her retreating form.

“Come on!” Charlotte’s voice echoed back to the entrance where he was still standing in first position.

“Would it kill that girl to wait before recklessly running in?” he murmured and dropped his stance to walk into the cave. Inside, he could feel his eyes adjusting to the dark and sighed.

۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞

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