“Hello there Kaidus!” A burly man past his prime exclaimed happily.
“Good afternoon Mr. Genum.” Kaidus replied with a smile, taking off his hood.
Mr. Genum was a man in his early 50’s, and the first person to let Kaidus borrow from his store. He had known the man ever since he was two years old, and has been a regular at this store ever since. While the man had a large and stout build giving off an image of a veteran mercenary, he claims to be a scholar in his younger days before opening the bookstore.
“Here for my new stock?” The graying man asked with a grin. He knew Kaidus well.
“I am. Are they in the same place?” Kaidus replied with a knowing grin of his own as he returned a borrowed book.
It was the 3rd of Guso, and he would be heading back to the academy tomorrow for preparations. Having lain low at home for the past few days, today was his last chance to make one last round of the bookstores before the new term starts.
“I was starting to worry I wouldn’t see you again this turn.” Mr. Genum joyously replied as he pulled out a couple of books from behind the counter. “Logistics of the Trade by Alson Foresburn, a traveling merchant. Fallen colors of the Phrae by a scholar named Goerzin Trablerin, detailing his extensive research into the elusive spirits….” The old man started naming off the books as he pulled them out.
“Looks like Kenus brought in quite the load this time.” Kaidus replied, ogling the books in front of him. He recognized a couple of them but a few looked to be new additions to the world of literature. “Why were they kept behind the counter?”
“I figure you’d like to see them before they were sold.” The old man grinned. He knew Kaidus was a ravenous reader. A few books wouldn’t last the boy a couple of days, and it didn’t hurt his business by lending the books to the boy.
“Thank you.” Kaidus thanked the kind old man as he proceeded to pick at the new books.
“… Is there something on my face?” Kaidus asked, spotting the old man staring at him with a smile.
“Hahahaha.” The old man laughed heartily. “With everything that’s happened, I was reminded of the days when you were just a toddler, barely up to my knees yet already bickering with me about books. Who knew that little tyke would grow up to be a mage?” He grinned a devilish grin, delighted and proud of Kaidus.
Wearing a small cloak with a hood to hide himself, Kaidus made his way through the streets and took to the alleys when he could to avoid people. Making his rounds to three different bookstores, by the time he was done it was already past noon. As he made his way home, in his hands were a stack of four books.
‘Worked better than I thought.’ He praised the cloak.
With the books that he had borrowed safely returned and newly purchased books to occupy him, he was ready to return to the academy. All that was left, was to pack everything.
In the carriage bound for the academy, Kaidus sat silently reading.
There were three bags of luggage beside him filled with pen, papers, vials of ink, and four sets of clothes, Lord Ravon’s sponsorship letter, a lunch Adalina had packed, and his notes from the previous year. He had left the Jae in the care of Troyle and Adalina, and only brought the four green fers Troyle allotted him the previous night.
When she saw his bags being loaded onto the carriage, Anise had cried as she did the year before. With careful persuasion and another promise, he was able to calm her down.
He also made a brief detour to the Ravon Estate to pay his respects to Lord Ravon first, before making his way to the academy. Not staying long, he only had a quick lunch with the lord before leaving.
“We are here, young master.” The carriage driver called out as they passed the long stretch of farmland and arrive at the academy’s gate. It was nearly evening.
“Those who needs help carrying their luggage, please let us know!” A master overseeing the transition shouted out. “You will be given a paper depending on your order of arrival. Head to admissions when it is your turn. Otherwise, head to the student area in the Westside of the academy to reclaim or sign up for boarding!” Infusing mana into his voice, the master’s directions could be heard all around them.
Besides Kaidus himself, there were many other carriages dropping off students.
In the crowd of teenagers and young adults wearing fine clothing, he stuck out like a wild danach in a garden of finely cultivated tasiens. Many familiar faces recognized him and paid no mind, while many new faces were staring at him curiously.
Kaidus paid no attention to the inquisitive stares and made his way to the gate.
“Hello Master Zaele.” Kaidus greeted the master.
“Ah, Kaidus, Welcome back. Please go on ahead.” The master replied. Seeing the floating luggage behind the boy, there was no need to help.
He was handed a small piece of paper as he approached the gate. Although the paper was blank, he could sense minute traces of mana within. Without a second thought about the paper, Kaidus passed through the gate, officially entering the academy.
“GRARAAAAR!” Zeeke popped out from the shed and ran toward him as he entered.
“Hello Zeeke!” Kaidus greeted cheerfully as the spirit came up to him. “I’ve got something for you.” Feeling in one of the three bags he packed, he pulled out a germinating derilt seed. The seed was about the size of his thumb, and he had saved it after eating a derilt fruit.
“GAR!!” Zeeke yelped happily at the sight of the seed. Gently taking the seed in its mouth, Zeeke wisped back into its shack before coming back out again. “Garrr! Garar!” the spirit cried happily.
“Exactly what are you doing with them?” Kaidus asked the spirit.
“Rra! Raaaara!” It shook its head, unwilling to tell him as it pranced around.
“Well then, I’ll come by again sometime.” Taking his leave, he made his way to the boarding area.
Without a single change to his living arrangements, he retained the same lavish room he had from the year before.
In the middle of snacking on the lunch Adalina prepared for him—after unpacking and settling in, the blank piece of paper started glowing a reddish glow and emitted a warm heat. It was his turn for admissions.
Three people were standing around the carriage service, watching as the throngs of highborn students entered the academy. They had tracked Kaidus all the way here from his house in the 3rd ward.
“He is a student of Zorin academy…” A man spoke.
“This only helps to solidify our assumptions and to bolster the truth about the rumors.” Another replied.
“We need to let the boss know. We need to see how we should proceed from here on out.” A third voice chimed in. This time, a woman.
“Leiza, how many of us are currently free to operate?” The first man asked.
“Six of us at the moment. The others are in their respective wards gathering information.” The woman replied.
“Six huh? Zorin Academy has two gates. We need sentries watching each of them. Form two teams from our available agents and make sure to not lose the target if he comes out.” The man instructed. “I will contact the boss.” The man went inside the building to hire a carriage.
Middle of the night, in the woods away from Ferrent.
“What is it, Raleun?” A voice echoed through a dimly glowing ring on the man’s finger.
“Master Zavon. I have news about the target.” He replied back to the ring.
“The target’s identity is a boy named Kaidus Paltos. He is currently living with his parents and a younger sister. Also, we have just found out that he is attending Zorin Academy. How do you wish to proceed from here?” Raleun questioned.
“… If he is attending Zorin and if the stories are true, he might already be under Nylen’s influence. It might already be too late to bring him to our side…” Zavon whispered back, contemplating the situation.
“Yes. That is quite possible.”
“What about his abilities? Have you confirmed them?”
“No master, that is still unknown to us. The boy has kept himself hidden ever since the trial. There has been no chance to witness his abilities.” Raleun replied.
… Complete silence.
“… If there is no chance, then make them.” Zavon finally spoke through the ring.
“Master?” Raleun was puzzled.
“The old master said if we cannot get the mage to join us, then we are to dispose of him. Use everything and everyone at your disposal. If by any chance the boy could be made to join our cause, try to persuade him. If not, deal with him quickly and get out of there before Nylen picks up your trail.” Zavon ordered. “The old master views the man like a demonic specter. Do not get caught. I would hate to prove him right.” Zavon added.
“Yes Master.” Raleun replied.
He waited and made sure his master was finished talking before cutting the connection. The ring’s dim light vanished as he stopped infusing mana into it, becoming a normal ring again.
Kaidus brought his bowl of oshun stew back to the table where the others were waiting for him. It has been two days since the new term started, and their little group was already falling into the usual pattern after everyone had settled in.
“There are a lot of new faces staring at you Kaidus.” Mirat spoke as Kaidus got to the table.
“I would look too, if I saw a random child walking around the academy grounds.” Jorva grinned. “I doubt any of them suspects Kaidus to be an advanced student.”
“Don’t mind them.” Kaidus replied to Mirat. “And I don’t need them to suspect anything. I just want to do what I’m here for, and leave when I’m done.” He spoke as he put a spoonful of stew into his mouth.
“Oh right. You even cut off a class this term for that reason, didn’t you?” Mirat asked.
As Mirat stated, his new classes as a second year were:
Strategic Magic Engagements and Maneuvers, or SMEM for short. An advance class that utilizes magic for combat against enemies of superior numbers, or abilities. It was a debate and theory class about specific situations instead of hands on combat like the previous Advance Group Combat class.
His second class was Advance Arkane studies—since he never finished Intermediate Arkane Studies—in the hopes of learning something new about the progression of magic over the centuries.
He had decided to not choose a 3rd class, using that extra time in the library to further his investigations. He was also glad to not have been dragged into the council again.
“Yea.” Kaidus replied.
“You sure that’s a good idea? Looking for mythical creatures and spending your time in the books?” Jorva questioned.
“I could always use some help looking through those rumors and stories.” He replied with a wide grin.
They knew he was looking for information about elder drakalls. What they didn’t know, was what the information would be used for. They all thought it was just his childish fancy, or some research he was doing as a hobby. There was no need to tell them his true motivations, his goals.
“Uuu… I’m not one for reading…” Jorva muttered.
“You must be Kaidus.” A young man cheerfully interrupted them as they were talking.
The five stopped and turned to look at the intruder. Mirat, Lisin, Jorva, and Prim held their tongues, as the words were directed at Kaidus.
“I am.” Kaidus replied, looking at the older boy.
Short dark blue hair, a pointed feminine chin, a slender build, dark cunning eyes, and very familiar looking. “Larant? Son of Lord Alzin Varath?” He queried.
“Wait? Larant!? What are you doing here?!” Lisin exclaimed.
“Indeed, I am Larant. Good to see you too Lisin.” The standing young man made a curt nod, then grinned brightly like his father. “May I join you all for lunch?” He asked.
“Of course.” Kaidus answered, returning an amicable smile back.
Larant Varath took a seat next to him. The table was an elongated table with wooden seats on both sides, and the four boys took one side while Prim and Lisin took the other. The seating arrangements were: Larant, Kaidus, Jorva, and then Mirat.
“How do you guys know each other?” Prim inquired, after everyone had introduced themselves.
“Although I haven’t seen her for four years, Lisin and I are old acquaintances. But this is my first-time meeting Kaidus.” Larant answered with the same grin on his face.
The other four had puzzled looks at that explanation.
“My father works for Lord Varath. He used to teach Larant the sword before Larant awoke to his magic two years ago.” Kaidus supplemented.
“Your father spoke about me?” Larant inquired.
“He did. He said you were a bright student, one with talent for the sword. He felt bad not being able to teach you everything.” Kaidus replied.
“I see… I should ask Troyle for lessons again after I finish here.” Larant had a considerate look on his face. “… You know, my father has also told me a lot about you.” His considerate face changed back into a grin. “He said you helped him greatly over the Rjus, and that you have immense power for your age. He even warned me that if I ever got on your bad side, it would probably mean the end of the Varath line.” Larant, Kaidus, and Mirat laughed at the joke.
Prim, Jorva, and Lisin tensed up. They weren’t laughing.
“L-Larant, what classes are you taking?” Lisin asked, trying to dismiss the memories and change the subject.
“Let’s see… Beginners Magic Artificing, Supplementation of Mana, and Beginners Arkane Studies.” Larant answered. “My mana capacity isn’t great, so I want to be an artificer to create magical items that would help those even without magic. This year is just the preliminary, but I plan to get into summoning and get a metal elemental spirit to help with my goals.” He explained optimistically.
“Wow… that is quite the goal.” Jorva spoke, amazement in his voice.
“What about you all?” Larant asked.
As the six talk about their classes and goals, lunch ended. Five of them went to their classes, while Kaidus headed for the Library.
“The target is moving again. Go tell Leiza.” A woman spoke to her partner.
“Alright.” A man replied, scurrying off upstairs.
They had disguised themselves as lords and ladies to not raise any suspicion within the 11th ward. Using their resources, they even paid for two luxurious rooms at an inn—nearby the academy—as their base of operations, claiming they are there to oversee the farm work. One of them was always in the rooms resting, another staked out the gates from the inn’s diner downstairs, and another roamed the streets pretending to do their job while keeping watch.
They have been staking out the boy for almost a turn now, and they were confident they knew all his movements. Everything from: who he interacts with outside of the academy, when he usually leaves the academy to go home, where he goes in the four days, he’s home, pretty much everything he does outside.
“He’s leaving for home again.” The man spoke to Leiza.
“Right on schedule.” Leiza opened the window. With a lengthy and careful incantation, a sliver of light manifested in front of her and shot off into the distance.
Upon returning home, Kaidus saw a few unfamiliar faces sitting in the living room.
“Kaidush!!” Anise happily cried out, rushing over to hug him.
It was the Ryes, and he had returned home right after 2nd class. It was not yet evening.
“Kaidus, please come here.” Adalina called.
Picking his little sister up, he made his way to where the guests were.
“Hello.” He greeted.
A man and woman sat across from Adalina. The couple look to be in their mid-20s. The woman had a face full of worry, while the man looked tired and exhausted.
One look, and he knew it was only a matter of time before situations like this came knocking on their doors.
“This is my son Kaidus, the one you were speaking of, and whom we have been waiting for.” Adalina introduced him. “Mr. and Mrs. Wazanir are from the 4th ward. They have been here the whole day, and have something to ask of you.” Adalina spoke solemnly.
“How can I help you?” He calmly asked the couple, as he handed Anise over to Adalina.
“Are you him? Are you the child?” The woman asked anxiously.
“Please tell me what’s wrong.” Kaidus coaxed.
“W-we heard rumors… *UGH* about a child… that could heal. *Grunt* the rumors say that you can… you can perform miracles…” The husband spoke, each time grunting in pain.
Motioning for his wife, the woman unbuckled the man’s shirt and pulled out his right arm, wrapped in bandage. Unwrapping the bandages revealed a purplish arm.
There was a huge gash along the biceps, along with a smaller wound on his forearm. Both wounds were already infected and horribly festered.
“He got these eight days ago. Our lightly guarded caravan was assaulted by bandits, and Garuhn… H-he got these protecting me and our son. *Sniff* Those in the caravan did everything they could, but by the time we got him to a physician two days ago, they claim the only way to save him now is to amputate his arm *Sniff*.” The woman started weeping.
“P-please… Can you help me? I need both my arms… if I am to provide for my family…” The man pleaded.
“Please, save my husband!” The woman begged.
“Mother. Can you bring me some water, some clean bandages, and a rag?” Kaidus told Adalina. He was going to clean the wound first before doing anything else.
Adalina quickly returned with what he asked, setting a pail of water in front of him.
“Please take Anise and go upstairs.” He told his mother. Adalina promptly grabbed Anise and left them.
With a thought, the water in the wooden pail heated up to a boil before settling down again. Dipping the rag into the hot water, he carefully wiped away the pus that was coming out of the wounds.
After cleaning the wounds, he placed his hand onto the man’s arm and willed his mana into the man. The healing immediately began. The dead blood inside the arm, bacterial infections, pus, everything oozed out of the open wounds. He instructed the woman to wipe them away. Within minutes, the purple arm regained its color and the open wound was starting to bleed vibrant red blood instead of dead black blood and yellow pus. He quickly seared the wounds with magic before having the wife bandage her husband’s arm.
The woman sat by her husband, crying after she finished. “Thank you! Thank you so much!” She cried out, having seen the change in the arm.
Having bit his own shirt to keep himself from screaming at the pain in his arm, the exhausted man fell unconscious.
By the time the man woke up, Troyle was already home.
“It is already dark. Please rest here for the night.” Troyle offered, as the couple was about to leave.
“You’ve already done so much for us. We shouldn’t impose any longer.” The woman answered politely, supporting her husband.
“I would hate to see you two out in the dark, and Garuhn has yet to even recover. Stay for the night and I will call you two a carriage tomorrow.” Troyle insisted.
“Very well. We thank you for your generosity.” The husband bowed, accepting the proposal.
Kaidus stirred and quietly woke up in the middle of the night. He had commanded Hasen to notify him if anything out of the ordinary occurred.
Beside him slept his little sister, her tiny hands grabbing onto his left arm.
The guests were sleeping in Anise’s room for the night and she had refused their parents, opting to sleep with him instead. She slept peacefully, innocent, and oblivious of the evil of the world. He had vowed to never let anything happen to her.
Gently removing her hands, he got out of bed.
There were pests in the house.