Chapter 26: Translation

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After several days of hard travel in the Amazonian jungle, a break in the foliage opened for the weary trekkers. Leading the way, Bryce was the first to emerge from the dense understory, hacking away the last vines with his machete to reveal the majestic river in the valley below. The lush green leaves of the treetops stretched for nearly another mile, but beyond, the rippling water of the secluded Rio Negro extended into a foggy horizon.

Bryce scanned the scene below him, searching with mana-enhanced eyes until he shook his head, confounded. He turned back toward those following him.

"We have reached the river, but no sign of civilization. Are you sure we are in the right place, Liam?" he asked.

Amber, Liam, and Courtney came up behind him and stood on the ledge overlooking the valley and river below. Tired and depleted from the journey, a change in scenery lifted the girls' spirits, though Liam's eyes focused on the tablet in his hands displaying satellite imagery of the area.

Before he could answer Bryce, Courtney breathed a heavy sigh. "Wow..." Of them all, she was the least suited to the wilderness conditions they'd endured and the most worn, but even she couldn't help but be moved by the beauty of the pristine valley.

"Yeah," Liam said, looking up, and he momentarily ignored the device in his hands. After several more seconds, he said, "Yes, I know exactly where we are. My equipment is never wrong. It's just as I expected. No villages in sight to spot us, and Santa Isabel is just a few dozen miles downstream."

"Good," Amber said. She turned to Liam and Courtney. "This looks like a good place to hang out for a day. You two okay with that?"

"Anything if I can rest my feet. They're killing me," Courtney said. "It will be like camping, right?"

"And what have we been doing until now?" Liam asked her.

"You guys have been torturing me."

Amber smiled, rubbed her wife's shoulder, and then looked at Bryce. "It's your show, Bryce. We'll wait here for you."

Bryce nodded. "I will return shortly," he said in perfect Portuguese and grinning, though he was sure none of them fully understood his words.

"Yeah, well, whatever," Liam said and threw a small dry bag at him. "Call us on your radio when you're ready for us. Use that to keep it dry."

Bryce just smiled at him and stuffed his radio, his phone, and his wallet into the bag. Then he glanced over the edge into the valley.

To the seekers in the group, his skin took on a glassy sheen and his legs and arms flowed freely with orange mana, invigorating and strengthening them. With only a moment's pause, he leapt from the ledge and descended the steep slope in a series of jarring jumps, practically bouncing off the cliff face and crashing through the jungle vegetation until he reached the valley floor. He did not slow upon landing, running through the jungle, smashing through most of the smaller vines and limbs in his way, and expertly dodging the larger ones. Long after he should have tired from the frenetic means of travel, he pushed on under the influence of the mana held within him. He traveled far, but swiftly, and in less than an hour came to a halt on the river's edge, breathing heavily.

He took a moment to compose himself and catch his breath. He looked down the river to be sure no one observed him, shifting his eyes to help him catch any sign of watching eyes. His widely-focused vision caught several birds in nearby trees, fish below the water's surface, and a small reptilian animal stalking a school of those fish. Satisfied there were no human eyes spying him, he jumped into the river and began his underwater swim downstream. He traveled faster than any man could through the water, and he never surfaced for air.

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