Chapter 19: Chang and Marinos

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A soft wind had sprung up, rustling the leaves around us gently. A sweet, flowery aroma drifted into our path, following the wind's careful lead. It smelled of newly blooming sunflowers, but no visual of the composers aided the scent that enticed us. Even the sour attitude of Kazuki began to disperse with the wind, replaced by the sweet melody of the breeze. Thoughts, emotions, words, ideas; all muddled together, forming an entity that began to wander from our group, exploring the trail of petals that had followed the wind's warm guidance. Without their assistance, Chang Squad was left defenseless, thoughtless, following a trail that was to lead them through the trees and out of the woods safely. The aroma was delectable, almost hypnotic. It was impossible to think or make choices; the feeling of ecstasy was the only thought that remained in our minds.

We were vulnerable—we were at peace.

A beautiful patch of flowers came into view, and we all ran over to it, absorbing the aroma that entranced and hypnotized us so, before falling to the ground in a fit of giggles. I felt the ground shake, and it looked like a giant flower came out of the ground, but it was just something funny I was imagining. The vines that grew out of its sides were for show, and the kids it lifted in the air was all part of the illusion. Even my body began to rise, pretending like the vines had constricted around me as well. One, two, three, four other people were flying, all imagining that vines were holding them in the air. The other four people who flew lifted their arms downwards in the air, drunk smiles adorning their faces. I suppressed a giggle, but everything was just so funny and giddy, it was hard not to burst out laughing. The big flower that acted like it was holding us began to split in half, and rows of teeth and saliva shined through the crevice.

I felt my body drifting over to the hungry flower, probably to say hello. Somebody screamed below me, but that surely it was a result of our shared pleasure. The beautiful stench of acid toyed with my nostrils, and I hovered directly over the flower. It was smiling, at least. I looked up at my friends, and realized I had made a simple, dummy mistake: there were three people in the air besides me, not four. All three of them looked happy, with hands raised below their heads as their bodies swung from the imaginary vines. The only thing not perfect with the situation was the screaming. Whoever was doing that didn't sound happy, and it was starting to bug me. I didn't like that, since the big flower tried so hard to keep everything nice. Right as I was drifting downwards to give the kind flower a kiss, I felt the vine that was around me rip apart, and I began to fall. As I fell towards the ground I had a sudden thought.

Why am I no longer flying?

I was about to fall right into the flower's loving embrace, but something caught me while I was falling, and I felt my body jerk to the side and into a tree. That's where I bonked my head on the trunk, and got a little dizzy.

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Where was I?

... Ngh...

... wait...

Kazuki! Everyone!

What happened to everyone? Hadn't we been enjoying the tranquility of the woods not a moment ago? I looked behind me, and saw a naginata piercing straight through my purple cloth, sticking me onto the trunk of a rather large tree. I felt a trickle of blood where the naginata had grazed me, but it was clear that the weapon belonged to no assailant. Whatever had just transpired, the naginata had probably saved my life. As if to finally sate my curiosity, I heard a strange, twisted gargle, and finally directed my attention to the field of flowers. Directly in the center, a massive flower-like monster waved a dozen or so vines wildly in the air, three of them constricting my comrades in their grip. On ground level, Sarah and Miranda were fully armed, slowly pacing around the monster, never turning or facing away from the creature. The three entities were trapped in some form of stalemate; neither side could afford to strike first and surrender the advantage to the other. Right as I began to ponder if the standstill would be eternal, a new figure leaped out from below me, sword raised and directed towards the back of the flower-beast. With a furious yell, the boy in black sprinted across the clearing, closing the distance between him and the creature unbelievably quickly. Instead of breaking his stride, he leaped up in the air and began to climb the body of the creature, sword held firmly behind him.

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