10 👣 The Lead

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Gravity still sets Raiden's head firm on the pillow when he unlocks his eyelids. Greenery waves at him from above. The leaves are swaying at the wind's caress, some bothering to tear themselves off the branches to accompany him on the ground.

A metaphorical mallet is still knocking inside his skull, throbbing his temples. The slightest whisper of the wind aggravates his injuries, though they don't sting as deeply as before.

These must be the woman's handiworks. Is she still nearby?

Raiden's yet to attempt lifting half his body when the whistle of a kettle screeches, demanding attention.

Hasty footsteps crash with the fallen debris, and soon, stopping the kettle's stunt. Clatters of chinaware now replace the previous calamity of the footsteps.

It must be the woman. Or someone worthy of his trust, since they're caring enough to lay him down on a bed made of leaves and natural leftovers.

The environment is one he hasn't experienced. And as he waits for the impending explanation, he touches his cheeks. It hurts to smile. Something viscous like an ointment also prevents him from shaping his lips.

"You're awake." A voice calls out as simultaneous footsteps blast louder into his eardrums. The crunches of the leaves are more prominent as if they're stuffed inside his ears already.

The woman looms above him, requiring his neck to bent upward just to return her stare. So this is how it feels to be an ant, minuscule under a giant's scrutiny.

"Where am I?" How long has he stopped using his voice, that now it resembles a broken radio rather than a man's shaken voice?

"My home." Raiden can't have a good look on her current features, but judging by the lifted tone at the end, she's feeling bits of pride sprouting within her. "Welcome."

He lifts his right hand, expecting her assistance to adjust his sitting position. Surprisingly, her claw-like hand responds within a flash, though the other's focusing on balancing a tray full of chinaware or tea sets—he can't tell.

Curse himself for leaving his glasses abandoned back at the shelter.

Raiden scoots back until his sore back collides with a sturdy surface, thus convincing him to rest his weight there. There are columns imprinted on his back, unlike the usually smooth wall, and out of curiosity, he glances behind.

Those are rows of bones barricading him from toppling down.

"Aì yà!" Ripping his body harshly off of the supports, Raiden ends up contacting against the rough soil, clashing with an army of dried leaves, and insulting his healing injuries.

From beneath the debris, his eyes peek through, gazing upon the yellowing anatomy with terror tormenting his insides.

Why on earth is there a gigantic skeleton lying here, out of nowhere?

"It's dead." The woman states as if it's merely a general knowledge.

"Why..." Raiden can't even shield his courage within his thorax. It has escaped and shall return in an undecided period. "Why is there a skeleton here? I-Is this yours?"

"Of course not. I'm not a collector." With that, the woman places the tray on the heap of leaves and leaves Raiden to gather his own thoughts.

The moist creeping on his nape urges him to look above, meeting the more complete version of bones.

It's odd how he didn't notice them there when he first glanced above, staring at the serene flicks of leaves.

They cast a tight shadow upon him. The bones stretch for rows, some haphazardly formed. A curved, flat bone pokes out of the rows, shaped like a pteranodon's wing he used to come across on Google.

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