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2 Iewah the Tree

    "Daniel.." muttered the old man to himself while looking at him with interest.

    He had noticed Daniel's casual attitude and the generosity in offering food to a complete stranger. He had also noticed the ruined state of his unfitting clothes, which made it clear that the boy was not living a good life.

    These thoughts came and went in the span of seconds, which Daniel spent admiring the beautiful tree, and its branches that extended right above his head. He could hear the chirping of birds, but he was unable to see any of them. He could hear the rustle of leaves, but he couldn't feel any wind. The tree was still as a mountain, and yet felt like the most living thing than he had ever set his eyes upon.

    After what seemed like minutes, he heard a voice which interrupted his admiring gaze.

    "Do you like the tree?" Asked the old man to the still amazed Daniel.

    Without moving his eyes from the tree, Daniel answered "Yes, what kind of tree is this?.."

    "Eh eh, I don't know if this tree has a kind. All I know of this tree, is that it has a single fruit hanging from one of its twigs. I would have tried to reach for it, but I am old now, and a fall from any of its lowest branches would kill me.. Perhaps you should try." said the old man in a gentle manner.

    Daniel kept looking upwards, almost refusing to take his eyes off the tree, and responded "Just one fruit? such a big tree.. that's disappointing."

    The old man smiled underneath his thick beard "It is not just a simple fruit.. and this is not just a big tree.. this is Iewah" said the old man, with hints of pride in his voice.

    Daniel's attention had been piqued by the odd tone in the old man's voice, but when he finally looked down, the old man had disappeared.

    The shock of the old man disappearing stayed with him for a few seconds. He looked around, checking if the old man had just gotten up and left, but he found nothing. His look went back to the big tree, still amazed by its sheer sight, he wondered what kind of tree was so special to deserve a name, and what kind of special fruit would its branches grow.

    His main concern was getting back to the the city.. it was starting to get late and the forest's beasts became fiercer at night, which made the forest a dangerous place to linger in for unranked mortals such as himself.

    Unfortunately, without a better option, Daniel was left with no choice but to climb the big tree up to the top, in hope to get a better view of its surroundings, and find his way home.

    The thought of obtaining the tree's fruit never crossed his mind, as the tree was so big that it would take him days to fully search it. Also, he had no idea of what the fruit looked like.

    Daniel approached the large trunk, and noticed the thickness of its bark. After making sure that it was solid enough to hold his full weight, he started to climb it right away.

    He had always been a good climber. His experience in running away from guards and angry "customers" had turned him into an agile city monkey, so it wasn't a problem for him to climb a tree, especially one so large, and with so many footholds.

    "Speed and agility will take you further than sheer strength.." his father used to tell him. "Strange thing said by a soldier at the second rank of the martial cultivation" Thought Daniel while sighing.

    His father had been sent in the frontline when Karalis had been at war with a neighbouring kingdom. The numbers of the two armies was similar, but unfortunately, the outcomes of wars were decided by high ranked martial artists and mages.

    A rain of meteors, summoned by a powerful dual elementalist mage, had decimated Karalis army before the arrival of their strong warriors. Amongst the deceased, was Daniel's father.

    Daniel had always considered his father's death as a pointless one. He used to think that his father would have become a powerful man, as he had big dreams and wished to do good things in his life. Of course, whose father wouldn't be the strongest to a 6 years old child.

    Daniel missed him dearly, causing him to be saddened whenever he recalled any of his words.

    However, his current state of mind was one of anxiousness, so he didn't let himself be caught by sorrow, not at this time. He had his big sister to take care of.

    His sister was sixteen years old, very smart and just as beautiful. Their father used to overact while joking about thanking the heavens, and whomever was looking up for him from high above, for allowing his daughter to take her beauty and intelligence from his wife, and not from himself. They both missed those moments.

    When Daniel learned of the death of his father, he swore to himself that he would grow up into becoming a powerful warrior like his him, and take care of his mother and sister. Unfortunately, sometimes destiny picked a person to which was going to pile it on. Four years after his father's death, Daniel was only able to watch his mother work herself to death, the day of his tenth birthday.

    Daniel always felt guilty about his mother's death. For years, he had tortured himself with the thought that he could have done something to help that sweet woman to take care of their family, instead of letting her carry the weight by herself.

    This series of unfortunate events forced a ten years old kid to fortify his resolve into an indestructible one, and grow up into the young man he was now. He was in fact willing to die, before accepting that anything bad would happen to his sister.

    All these awful memories went through Daniel's mind, as he climbed the tree trunk, bit by bit. It took him two and a half hours to reach the top of the tree, and it was already early afternoon.

    One of Daniel's prey, were the rich merchants that arrived to the city early in the morning. He had gotten used to intercepting them a few meters away from the city gate, and offer his "services" to them. When he had gottent recognized by the guards, he had been forced to escape through the forest, and start a lengthy pursuit that lasted all morning.

    As he reached for the highest, yet unstable branches of the tree, he climbed over them and took a look at the scenery around. It didn't take long for him to see Phyrri in the distance, as it was just about 5 kilometers from the prairie.

    Luckily, the forest's trees weren't as tall as Iewah, or he would have never been able to see the hundred meters tall walls of the city.

    One thing Daniel didn't consider, was how long it would take him to get down from the giant tree, as climbing down was much more time consuming than climbing up. If he didn't come down fast, he would end up having to go through the forest at night.. and that was something he really didn't want to do, as the ranked beasts which inhabited the forest, mostly hunted in the night.

    Daniel started his descent right away. Branch after branch, he managed to get down 50 meters in about an hour, yet almost slipped down twice.

    He had never been a lucky person to begin with, but sometimes something happened which reminded that to him as heavily as a sound slap to the face. This time, it was the snap of a branch right underneath his feet.

    His attempt at grabbing anything at all, turned out to be useless as he started falling.

    *snap* *snap* *snap*

    One branch after the other started snapping under Daniel's weight, slowing his descent. Yet Daniel didn't feel as good about it, as each and every one of those branches had hit his body like a solid kick.

    As Daniel thought he would fall the whole height of the tree and into his death, a larger branch stopped his fall, offering him a hard surface to land harshly upon. The land was a painful one, yet he survived. Overall, he felt lucky that the branch was there.

    After checking his body, Daniel realized that none of those snapping sounds came from his bones, and that the only injuries he had, were various bruises and some scratches. After popping the bones of his shoulders and lower back, he decided to get his bearings, and assess his situation.

    He had fallen for fifty meters, reaching about halfway through the foliage covered part of the tree.

    "That wasn't so bad.. It saved me an hour, maybe I should try it again.." Joked Daniel by himself, trying to lift his own morale.

    After fixing his clothes and rubbing the sore bruises on his body, he looked around for a safe branch to use to climb further down. He wasn't having much luck as most branches were too far for a safe landing, so, he decided to walk on the branch he was standing on towards the trunk, and climb the thick bark all the way down, or at least, until he would be able to find a better alternative.

    It was at this moment that he noticed it.

    Hanging from a twig, just a bit more than a meter and a half from the branch Daniel was standing on, a grapefruit-sized fruit was shining dimly. It looked very similar to the miniature of a lunar eclipse.

    The words of the old man rang inside Daniel's mind, "..not just a simple fruit.."

    Curiosity took over him, so he extended his arm as much as he could, and started reaching for the fruit. Of course, his bad luck kicked in as he realized that the part of the branch he would need to stand on in order to reach the fruit, was too thin to withstand his whole weight.

    It took him ten minutes to wrap his legs around the branch, and slowly advance towards the fruit. When he found himself in the right position, he reached for the fruit once more. Just a couple of centimeters separated his fingertips from the fruit's smooth surface.

    He could have reached the fruit if he let go of the branch with both hands, but he would lose his balance with the slightest gust of wind.

    Nevertheless, he didn't want to give it up. He was so close to it "Come on!... damn it!" Growled Daniel, as sweat covered his body, causing his clothes to stick tightly on his skin.

    This went on for a couple more minutes, until under a moment of exasperation, he let go of the branch, and managed to grab the fruit with both hands.

    Daniel found little time to celebrate his success, as the first thing he heard right after, was the very familiar snapping sound of wood.

    *snap* His unfortunate descent sped up once again.

    As he fell from the branch, he started crashing once more against any other branch he found on his path. The closer he got the lower part of the tree, the more branches there were that could slow his descent, but they were also thicker.

    After crashing heavily against half a dozen thick branches, he felt the pain of his bones snapping one after the other whenever he came in contact with a branch.

    It didn't take long for him to fall unconscious.

    As he kept falling, the branches of the tree suddenly started to move. Looking like moving heaps of leaves, they intercepted Daniel's fall.

    At the same time, the roots of the tree started to crawl from underneath the ground like giant earthworms, and formed a huge slide whose highest point reached right underneath Daniel's falling body, right beneath the leafy part of the tree.

    He had reached the ground unconscious. The grapefruit-like fruit stuck tightly to his palm since the moment it had been picked from the tree.

    An old man stood nearby the unconscious Daniel. His dark gold eyes started to shine lightly, along with the fruit that Daniel was holding on to. A gentle smile grew on is face once again.

    -----

    When Daniel woke up, the first thing he noticed, was that it was late evening.

    He got up and looked at his body in confusion. Confusion turned into shock when he noticed that none of his injuries were there.. be it the shallow scratches and the sore bruises from the first fall, or the bones he felt breaking before losing his senses.. None of them was there anymore.

    He also noticed.. That the fruit was nowhere to be seen.
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