Much as I am ashamed to admit it, my mental condition was deteriorating.
At this point, it had been half an hour since I'd exited the woods.
Upon noticing the road at the bottom of the hill, I had decided to make my way to it.
Perspective is a funny thing. I had underestimated how far away the road was.
I had thought that, because I could so easily see it, it would be just a short walk.
It ended up being over two miles.

Arcturus trudges through waist-height vegetation, a sour look on his face. His right hand rests  on the shoulder bag strap, his bag hanging down among the vegetation. A cloud is visible behind him, obscured by the trees.

I was hungry enough that I contemplated simply eating the vegetation brushing against my legs.
I knew they wouldn't make me any less hungry. It would have been like drinking ocean water.
I sang to myself, to try to keep myself motivated to move.

Am I really gonna die...
Is this the end of my life?
Never gonna see my wife...
Eat the plants here to survive...
Daaah... nuh.
Duh, nuh...

So hungry, I was, that I hallucinated a chorus behind me, as well as an instrumental.

My mind raced as I sang. My desperation grew.
I gripped my walking stick like a mic stand and sang my heart out as I walked.
My thoughts turning darker, stranger, as the reality of my situation set in.

It can't be forever. It's a long way. Not forever.
I should have asked Satyra to come with me.
It's still so damn far away!
I miss my wife... I think I'm about to starve to death!
I'm never going to see my wife again.
But I'm too hungry to turn back, and I can't just eat my wife.
Then how would I talk to her? No. I can't do that.
Just gotta... Keep moving.

I was so out of it, that I didn't realize that I had reached the road until I banged my knee on the guardrail.

Animation of Arcturus the dragon singing using a walking stick as a mic. The camera angle changes at the end of the animation, revealing that Arcturus has made it to the road. A sign over the road states that he is 32 miles from the city of Tolikra.
But if I had been ecstatic to leave the dense tangle of the deep forest...
The joy I felt upon reaching that road was without parallel.
A road! A long, easily traversable route with no vines to get tangled in.
No undergrowth to ensnare my feet. No more getting lost.

Animation of Arcturus the dragon, having reached the road, looking towards the left of the frame. A far-off street sign is visible, but is not readable at this distance.
This was something that I had read about, but hadn't seen yet.
Roads in the sape countries had signs, so that the people would know where the road would bring them.
This had always seemed silly to me, could one not simply keep track of their direction using magnetic fields?
I didn't know at the time that, unlike dragons, sapes do not instinctively know which way north is.

I can't even tell what language that's in.
I'd guess common Mersian, but... Nah, I need to get closer.

Bryph the bear, wearing sunglasses, a red and blue cap, a blue infinity scarf, and a green vest. Bryph is driving a car and singing.
Of course, I was not alone in this country.
I was about to be roughly reminded of the second thing that roads in this country have.

Animation of Arcturus the dragon walking down a road, with a guardrail behind him, and grass and trees behind that. He takes long strides, his tail swishing behind him.
But before all that, I needed to get closer to the sign.
It would surely tell me how far away the city was.

I can actually walk without staring at the ground!
This feels like cheating.
But, god, how far away is this sign?

Animation of a street sign which reads 'Tolikra, 32 mi.' Arcturus looks up at the sign, utterly defeated.

When I finally made it to the sign, I was, to put it lightly...
Just a bit discouraged.


I noticed, however, that there was another sign.
On the opposite side of the road. If this town, this "Tolikra", was 32 miles away...
Surely, there might be something closer if I headed in the other direction instead.
I crossed the street under this sign so I could read the other sign.
What I did not realize, though, was that this placed me squarely in the path of...
Well... You will see.