What was it that drew Ahote to the forest? Was it the sweet and gentle kiss of the breeze against his white cheeks, or maybe the endearing sound of leaves rustling up against one another in groves of trees and bushes on windy days? Ahote never brought himself to think about these questions, much less find answers to them, and enjoyed the beauty of nature in its fullest. Every rock submerged in dirt, patch of green grass, and even the wet moss that covered the vegetation. If anything, forests were places where the boy felt more at home than he ever did. Him and the critters and insects that scurried around, him and the pleasant noise of nature's busywork. Of course, this meant that he jumped on any opportunity to visit any sort of wooded area besides what Ahote considered his backyard, Mt. Hakobe.
Ahote was particularly excited for this mission for a reason that would be expected of a boy who enjoyed animals, as it was to catch some critter that had been disturbing the forest. The spooky forest, specifically. He was unsure if he had ever been there before, but any wooded area felt strangely familiar to him. It was a frequent feeling of déjà vu that the boy could never seem to shake off. Maybe any forest looked similar to him? Regardless, he felt equally excited to explore this new area that was conveniently close to Mt. Hakobe, making the trip theoretically possible by foot but even faster by train or carriage. Like any boy, he decided to take a train in order to have a swift commute. He did need to be home by a certain hour before he suspected that someone would notice his absence.
It was an early morning when Ahote would hop off the train and into what would be called the Spooky Forest, which did not seem very spooky from the looks of it. It was quiet, and light filled the area. The chirps of small birds and the scratching of other critters, but the woods seemed strangely desolate. Despite the noise, it seemed very dead to the boy. But regardless, he was eager to get to it.
These secret missions made the boy feel rather good about himself each time he risked going out, as he was not supposed to leave the fortress grounds by himself. The first time he did it was only but a few months ago, and was a nervous wreck! His sense of integrity made him loathe his dishonesty and going against his mother's wishes, but couldn't resist exploring the world he was entitled to. But now after going on several independent expeditions, Ahote felt much more comfortable leaving the fortress in secret. If anything, it made him feel good about himself. Sometimes being rebellious made him feel clever, even if no one was watching or knew about his defiance.
Originally, Ahote got this particular request from travelers seeking help. These travelers were rather old and cranky, and none of the settlers were interested in resolving what would seem to be a trivial and unimportant problem, and sent it Ahote's way instead since they were well aware of his eagerness to leave Mt. Hakobe. Unfortunate for him, he found the home of the old couple and knocked of their door only to be answered with silence. It became clear that they had no interest in speaking to him despite why he was there, and decided to pacify whatever was causing the disturbance and head home. If anything, he was relieved that he didn't need to deal with a cranky couple! Well, so he thought. Truth be told, he enjoyed any human interaction outside of his family any day.
Ahote wore swamp green shorts and a pine green tank top with a butterfly net hanging over his shoulder. He was clearly expecting something around the size of a squirrel, apparently. The boy searched through the bushes, climbed the trunks of trees and peeked into large holes that went through the wood and even checked under rocks, but nothing seemed to be disturbing the area. He could only be out for a few hours before he suspected someone would notice his absence back home, and didn't have time to camp out all day for what he thought would be some mischievous critter and him not finding anything out of the ordinary within the first hour was already discouraging.
Ahote sat down on a patch of grass, tired of actively searching without any catches. He exhaled with a deep sigh and wiped the sweat from his brow with his wrist, looking up at the sun through the grove of trees. "Ahh. . . this is nice. Wonder if it's really just that old couple out there. . ." Ahote spoke to himself, feeling himself drift into a quiet slumber. It was hard to stay awake being exhausted, hot, and comfortable and eventually succumbed to his deep desire to nap, and did so. The boy, leaning against the trunk of a tree, surrounded by bushes, seemingly had fallen asleep deep in the Spooky Forest.