Suzanna glanced at him and nodded, "Yes. See, there is a unicorn."
"How did you know?"
"When Shally and I first arrived here, we realized that even though it was scenic, there was no water source. Shally is only an apprentice and cannot summon water like you can. We were disappointed, of course, but we had to go somewhere else to find a water source."
"It was green when we first found it. It was poisoned, and there was no way a person could drink it. Shally and I searched the surrounding areas and couldn’t find any water source. We came back to the pond and found it was clear. I realized then that the pond had rocks that were poisonous. The rocks slowly released the poison and turned the pond undrinkable."
"Poisonous? There are fish in there, though," Anfey said.
"There is no poison in the water now, but if you take a bite from the fish, I promise you will be a corpse before you know what happened," Suzanna replied. She disliked Anfey, but she needed to tell everyone in case someone was stupid enough to try to eat the fish.
"I remember," Christian said, nodding. "Read about it once. Unicorn horns have purifying properties. In the Magic Beast Forest, many beasts wait around water holes at midnight for unicorns. A few taps from the horn are all it takes for the water to be rid of poison."
"I realized there was a unicorn nearby after the water cleared up. After a thorough search, we found a cave hidden by trees. It was sealed off by some silvery webs. I returned without disturbing it."
"Where is the cave?" Anfey asked.
"To the southeast, about ten miles from here."
"You sure there are unicorns?" Christian asked.
"We’ve lived here for days. An unicorn’s power is limited. After a few days the water would be poisonous again, and I would take Shally out for a few days. The water would be clear again when we returned. I think that is enough to prove their existence."
"It must be unicorns, then," Christian agreed.
"Unicorns are powerful?" Anfey asked.
"Your knowledge of the world is hilariously childish. Do you not even know what a unicorn is? You should really go find a school and brush up on your studies," Suzanna snorted. "Unicorns have the ability to release serial lightning. As long as it has stood under the moon for a certain amount of time or there is lightning in the sky, unicorns can simply absorb energy from their surroundings. You do know the power of serial lightning, don’t you?"
Everyone around them chuckled. Everyone had realized, more or less, that something must have gone down between Suzanna and Anfey. Suzanna was nice to almost everyone except Anfey, and since Anfey had always just accepted the treatment, he must be at fault.
"Suzanna, miss, I think you are…" Riska opened his mouth angrily. He did not understand why Suzanna would treat Anfey this way. Anfey had established absolute authority among his peers, and when someone tried to ridicule him, Riska felt responsible to stand up for him. Anfey tugged on his sleeve and shook his head. Riska fell silent.
Suzanna watched them thoughtfully. She could not understand why these mages would willingly follow the orders of someone who barely had any magic or combat power. Even though Anfey had defeated her easily the night before, it was her habit to measure the strength of a man by his combat power and magic. It was a habit ingrained in all children of the Pan Continent, and Suzanna was no exception. Plus, she believed that she had lost because she fell into a trap, her movement was limited in one leg, and she had been forced to fight in the water. If they had been on an open plain, she would have easily won.
Suzanna had underestimated Anfey. Of course, it was also because she wanted some degree of revenge on him. Now that she had witnessed both Christian’s angry rebuke and Riska’s rage, she understood somewhat that Anfey did not win the mages’ trust with words. There must be stories she did not know, and Anfey was the one that led everyone to safety.
"How long will this last?"
"Three more days," Suzanna said. She was not stupid. When the position of the leader could not be undermined, it would be in her best interest not to ruin her relationship with him. "Normally it would come out for food everyday. Now it’s probably in its mating and birthing season. It leaves its den once every few days."
"Christian, can’t we tame one?" Anfey asked.
"No," Christian said. "It’s practically impossible to tame a unicorn. If Master Saul were here, there might be a sliver of hope. But we cannot, no."
"It’s near impossible to tame a unicorn," Sante said. "Once there were many people riding into war on dragons, but for thousands of years there was only one person on a unicorn."
"Only girls can tame them," Riska said. "Men will only be attacked."
"Hey, just asking," Anfey said. It had always been him telling them what was sensible and what was not. Now that they were more mature, it was their turn to teach him.
Just then, a faint glimmer of magical surge came from the distance, sweeping through the forest like a whisper. Christian and Riska shot up, used levitation and began floating into the distance.
Anfey grabbed his sword. "Ready for battle," he ordered.
The surge meant danger, and those on watch were in danger.
Everyone quickly stood up and readied for battle. Suzanna glanced back and found Shally in the middle of a group of mages. She was relieved.
"Let’s go," Anfey said. "Sante, Feller, you two go help them. Feel free any scroll."
"Got it," Sante nodded, raising into midair with Feller."
Anfey and the group went another twenty miles when they sensed two surges. Anfey stopped everyone and quietly waited for their return.
A black dot approached them, and Christian and Riska landed with someone hanging between them. Zubin looked terrible, his face pale, and he could not stand on his own.
"Zubin," Anfey said, "what happened?"
"Manticore," Zubin said, smiling bitterly.
"Manticore?" Suzanna asked hurried. "Did it try to poison you? Did you touch the fog? Inhale any?"
Zubin glanced at Suzanna. He did not know her.
"Zubin? Talk to us," Anfey urged.
"I saw it release the fog and held my breath."
"Good," Suzanna said. "Take him to the pond. Unicorns and manticores are enemies. The unicorn’s purifying power can fight manticore’s poison."
Christian smiled. He didn’t wait to thank Suzanna, and used another levitation spell.
"Let me," Suzanna said. "You’re too slow." She took Zubin in her arms and, with her strong combat power, dashed towards the pond.
When everyone else returned to the pond, Zubin was already submerged in the pool with only his eyes above water. Suzanna was right. The pond had purifying qualities. It had only been a few minutes, but Zubin was already looking much better.
"Zubin, how did you run into a manticore?" Anfey asked.
"I found a pretty good place, not as scenic but a good hiding spot. I wanted to get closer, but then I saw a small manticore. I knew something was wrong and tried to levitate. Then I saw the bigger manticore and it tried to kill me with its fog."
"Good," Christian said. "You’re smart. If you were a second slower you might be dead by now."
"You are lucky," Suzanna said. "Manticores are fiercely protective of their young. If it had chased after you, you wouldn’t have been able to get away."
"Stop trying to scare me," Zubin said, shaking his head.
"We aren’t scaring you," Suzanna said. "I just want everyone to be more alert. This forest is filled with danger. I saw orcs in here a few days ago."
"Orcs? I thought there were no orcs here?"
Riska and Zubin glanced at each other. They had heard it from other people, of course, and Suzanna would not lie. It seemed like the forest still had orcs present.
"How many?" Anfey asked.
"One. I killed it."
"Don’t orcs live in packs?"
"Usually, but I saw only one."
"Then we should really be more careful," Anfey said slowly.