Chapter Seven
Welcome to the Forest

When I got to the right place, Chester was waiting for me.
"Well, hi!" Chester greeted me. "Glad you're here. Ooh, آپ brought snacks?" he added, swiping some Chex Mix from my bag.
"Hey!" I protested. Then, I sighed. "Oh, well. If آپ hadn't taken that, I'm sure that Toby would've."
    "Exactly!" Chester agreed. "And I just prevented that from happening. You're welcome."
    I rolled my eyes. "Are آپ really trying to take credit for being a good friend right now?"
    "Maybe," he answered tersely.
    We started walking into the forest, which, in my opinion, was beautiful. Never once had I seen such vivid plant life and wildlife. Yep, I'm really going to love this place, I thought cheerfully, just as something bright flew over my head, causing me to look up. There hovered a being with big, colorful wings, that could only be described as...
    "Is that a fairy?" I asked Chester, pointing.
    "Yep," he replied. "We've got almost everything here in Kariarelm. According to history, some of the fairies from their ہوم world immigrated here, but no one knows much about where they first came from." He watched the fairy fly off, taking no notice of us.
    "Ooh!" Chester exclaimed in sudden realization. "I just remembered - there's a cool place around here! Just follow me! Oh, and be careful. It's really easy to get lost in this forest, and not everything that lives here is friendly."
    He turned and started sprinting through the trees. "Wait up!" I cried, chasing after him. I tried to keep up as he ran faster, but the path got مزید confusing, twisting and turning, until, exhausted, I had to come to a stop. Only then did I notice that nothing looked familiar, and Chester was nowhere to be seen.
    "Chester?" I called. "Where did آپ go? I told آپ to wait for me!" I searched around for Chester, but to no avail. I groaned in frustration. I've hardly been here a few minutes, and I'm already lost!
    I remembered something that my mom had told me if I had ever gotten lost: If آپ are lost, then just stay where آپ are, and I will be able to find آپ مزید easily. So I decided to stay put and wait for Chester to come and find me, pushing all doubts to the back of my mind.
    Suddenly, a rustling noise sounded behind me. I whipped around. Two golden, cat-like eyes stared back at me, and then an unusual animal emerged. I had seen pictures of gryphons, and this creature resembled one, with a bird's beak and feathered head, and a lithe body akin to a wildcat. However, its back and neck were covered with armadillo-like armor. The poor creature looked utterly malnourished and thin, and there was a definite droop to its demeanor.
    As I cautiously started to approach it, it gave an alarmed squawk. Giant wings unfurled in defensive instinct. I took a step back. The animal's eyes bored into me, warily watching my movements. "Calm down," I told it softly, hoping I didn't sound as nervous as I felt. "I'm not going to hurt you."
    I reached for my satchel, but to my surprise, it wasn't there. Hurriedly, I glanced around for it, feeling the creature's eyes on my back, looking on suspiciously. "I must have dropped it earlier," I muttered to myself. When I turned back around, the creature's tufty ears were pricked, and a few سیکنڈ later, it slipped fluidly into the foliage. I watched it go, then heard a voice behind me.
    "What are آپ doing here?" Gwen asked. She and Faust came over to me.
    "Uh..."
    "Do آپ know where Chester is? I've got something I need to tell him," inquired Gwen before I could respond properly.
    A voice called out from behind Gwen, "Sharon! آپ dropped your snacks back here!"
    A copper بھیڑیا sprang out. It looked up at us with familiar periwinkle eyes, and then transformed, revealing itself to be Chester. "Oh... hey, guys."
    "Chester." Gwen glowered at him as he smiled weakly back. "I've just been told something interesting. As it turns out, آپ were never actually authorized to be Sharon's mentor. Care to clarify?"
    What little smile was on Chester's face quickly faded, to be replaced سے طرف کی obvious guilt.
    "Is that true?" I asked him, already knowing the answer.
    Chester sighed. "Afraid so. But let me explain," he added hastily, looking straight at Faust, "It was for a reason. I just wanted to be a mentor to a new Anipeilan so badly, and Sharon's mentor didn't show. I guess I wasn't thinking... "
    "That's not surprising, considering آپ hardly ever do." Gwen grumbled. Faust ignored her.
    "You never told me آپ wanted to be a mentor. I could've arranged something earlier." He looked thoughtfully at Chester, who was grinning hopefully. "As a matter of fact, I was going to teach Sharon myself, but if آپ want the position, it's yours."
    Chester was awash with jubilation. "Heck, yeah!"
    "Faust, are آپ sure about this?" Gwen objected. "He's not exactly the most responsible choice for a mentor, آپ know."
    "It's my decision, Gwen, and I happen to trust him," Faust retorted. Then, he asked, "Sharon, is that okay with you?"
    I considered it for a moment. Despite what Gwen had said, Chester seemed devoted to what he was doing, and he was happy to help me. Plus, he reminded me a lot of my brothers. "Sure. I appreciate آپ coming back to find me after آپ realized I was lost," I told Chester honestly.
    "Hey, it's no problem. Now, how about a high-five?" He held up his right hand.
    "Chester, wait-" Faust began, but I accepted the high-five before he could finish. To my astonishment, my hand started hurting, as if I'd slammed it against a wall.
    "Oh, man, I forgot about my glove!" Chester groaned.
    For the first time, I noticed that Chester's hand had an odd, metallic sheen, making it look almost bionic. "What the... ?"
    Gwen shot Faust a look.
    Chester flexed his metallic fingers. "Well, guess I should explain. See, I've been to a lot of cool places and gotten a lot of cool things, this being one of them. آپ wouldn't believe what other kind of things they have here other than this."
    "You can tell her مزید about your freakish hand later," Gwen interrupted. "Now, it's time to get back to the others. Training is finished for today."
    "Whatever آپ say." A grin unfurled on Chester's face as he looked at Gwen. I could've sworn I saw him wink at her. Gwen looked as if she would've liked to slap him.
    "Oh, and one مزید thing," I spoke up, addressing Chester. "Promise not to steal any مزید of my snacks, okay?"
    Faust chuckled. "I'll make sure he keeps that promise."
    Chester sniggered. "Doubting that, Eagle Boy."
    "Don't call me that!"
    "Ladies, ladies," Gwen interrupted sarcastically. "Let's just get back to Estic now, shall we?"
    We had barely taken a few steps out of the forest before we began to hear battle cries and shrieks of terror. A few سیکنڈ later, a dark, fiery projectile came soaring at us. "Get down!" Faust yelled, and we all obeyed without a سیکنڈ thought. The fireball crashed into the درخت behind us, where Chester's head had been a moment earlier. "Oh, no," muttered Faust, surveying the scene before us. "Not today... "

Author's Note:
Yeah, that's right! I left it at a cliff-hanger! BWAHAHAHAHAHA! *ahem* So, this is the اگلے chapter; sorry for the shortness.
Oh, yeah, and another thing. The first shipping makes its appearance! It's not a mutual one, though XD (Hey, سے طرف کی the way, Nojida, if you're reading this, did آپ notice my nod to your story in there? ;))
IMPORTANT: I'm going on vacation to Catalina Island! :D And I won't be back for a while. So pardon me if I don't respond to your تبصرے quickly. XP