“Don’t do it, Parne. That would only rouse suspicion!” The man quietly reproached the woman who had gotten out of their sleeping place.
“Shut up Hallex! If you hadn’t fallen unconscious and hadn’t agree to stay the night, we’d already be done with our job!” The woman angrily retorted.
“That couldn’t be helped! That man wasn’t about to let us leave in our state. I could see the worry in his eyes.” Hallex replied logically. “And what’s the rush? Our job is over already. We’ve confirmed what we were sent in to confirm!” He added.
“I’m not staying here any longer Hallex! You saw him, you should know what I mean! We need to warn the others!” The woman argued back.
It was fleeting, but they both witnessed the abilities of the young boy first hand.
Voiceless incantation, instantaneous manifestation of magic, his extraordinary healing abilities. Even the calm he exhibited as he cleaned and addressed the vile wound unsettled her. Of all their agents currently in Ferrent, none was capable of what they had seen. Even their master, Zavon, was not one capable of voiceless incantation. Only two of the eight masters, and the Old master was capable of such.
Yet, it was not the overbearing skills the boy displayed which frightened her. How the child had done everything so casually, as if he was merely breathing. That was what terrified her.
Even when she was playing her part as the good wife, begging the boy to heal Hallex, a foreboding sense of fear was already wrapping around her. It was one of the reasons why she had refused the man’s offer to stay the night.
“You’re overthinking it Parne. He may be skilled, but I doubt he’s suspected anything. If we leave now, it’ll be even more suspicious when they find us gone tomorrow!” Hallex attempted to persuade his partner.
The two were sleeping on the floor in the little girl’s room.
Their hosts had been kind enough to stack three blankets as a mattress for them, and the makeshift bed was as comfortable as could be. The exhausted man only wanted one thing: to sleep. The woman on the other hand, was anxious to finish their mission as soon as possible.
Ever since they were confident about the boy’s movements, their plan had been set in motion. All to verify the boy’s abilities. Even the man’s deathly wound that could have taken his life—if not his arm, was real. The wound was inflicted for this specific occasion, and left to fester to make their story as genuine as possible.
They had decided against hiring others outside of the organization as it was too risky, so the man had taken it upon himself for this life-threatening escapade. The previous few days with the festering wound had been grueling and insufferable. There were even times when he begged his accomplices to hack off his arm, just to save him from the pain. Having at last been freed, Hallex was in no hurry to resume his duties.
“I don’t care Hallex! I’m leaving with our without you!” Parne was already at the door of their room.
“Damn it Parne! Fine! Come give me a hand!” Hallex finally agreed. It would be even more awkward if he was the only one there tomorrow.
Quietly opening the door, the house was dead silent. Parne and Hallex stealthily exited the room and in the dark and made their way to the stairs. Upon reaching the first floor, Parne pulled Hallex against the wall and listened. There was movement on the first floor of the house.
Their eyes having adjusted to the dark, the two could see other dark figures in the house.
Staying motionless for what felt like an eternity,
“Hallex? Parne?” A woman finally whispered. It was one of their own.
“Lile! What are you doing here?” Parne whispered back, relieved at the reinforcement.
“You guys never came out. Raleun sent us in to investigate. What happened?” The man whispered.
“Help me with Hallex. We need to get everyone out of here.”
Cloaked in shadows, Kaidus stalked the five who had cautiously left his house.
He had known something was up ever since the first ryes of the new term. There were always presences following him whenever he left the academy or his house. To what purpose, he did not know. As long as they did not act, he could do nothing but keep vigilant.
At first, he thought them to be after his family, but after the second ryes, it was clear that he was their target.
On his way home earlier, the presences had vanished.
There was no one tailing him. The usual four presences as he made his way home were not there, and then there were the visitors.
He had known right away something was off.
Their story was quite convincing. Quite so, to the point where he could see that Adalina was sympathetic to their plight. As soon as he began infusing mana into the man’s arm, he could feel the man’s own raw mana from within. Mages knew better than to engage in close combat against skilled swordsmen, and it would be impossible for mere bandits to even scratch an accomplished mage.
Curious about the reasons, he had moderately healed the man, then put him to sleep. The two had claimed to be from the 4th ward and a trip back would take too long by the time he wakes the man up, causing Troyle and Adalina to offer rest for the night. If they had not stayed, there were plans to follow them, but that had not been the case.
The patterns of his stalkers had changed, and then the curious visitors. He was not going to take any chances. He had told Hasen to alert him if anything happens for that exact reason, and his assumptions held true. He could sense the two moving about in the other room, and there were also an additional three presences entering the house when he woke. Hasen had even notified him of their genders.
The five moved in unison, moving through the alleys and taking to the shadows to avoid the night patrols. Even with the handicap of the man called Garuhn, from their movements, he could see they were not amateurs. He was dealing with skilled operatives of some sort.
Following the five, they stopped in an alley of the Hannelain district–another residential area bordering his own district of Shorza–between two modestly sized buildings.
A small wisp of flame appeared in the middle of the five. Within seconds, another manifested further in the alley. Two more figures were there.
“You guys are late. You two should have been here before nightfall.” One of the two figures spoke. A woman.
“Where is Raleun!?” The wife, Mrs. Wazanir inquired.
“Awaiting you two. I assume you have accomplished your mission?”
“Yes! Now take us to Raleun!” The woman spoke anxiously.
With an incantation, the wall of one of the building opened up, revealing a large and well-lit room inside. Mr. and Mrs. Wazanir entered.
“Hallex! Parne! Looks like they found you.” Raleun happily received the two who entered. He had been waiting all night for any updates about the situation. “Something happened?” He asked, seeing the look on Parne’s face.
As the wall closed behind them, “The information is true. The child knows healing magic and can heal others.” Parne quickly spoke up. Raleun’s face lit up at the news. “Raleun, we need to cease all operations for the time being and reevaluate our plans.” She advised. A sense of terror had been clawing at her ever since they left the residence.
“Nonsense. We must move onto phase two of the plan at once!” Raleun joyfully reveled at the success. “Martis, you will engage the boy next-”
“Raleun!” Parne interrupted the man. “We are dealing with an unknown factor here! At least call in the others.” Parne warned. Currently, only twelve of them were working on this case pertaining to the boy, and nine of them were operating in the 3rd ward. There were seven of them in the room at the moment while the other two were outside on guard duty. “The child is not as ordinary as we thought him to be!” She shouted back, irritated at the man.
Raleun kept his composure through the interruption. “What about you Hallex? What do you have to say?” Raleun turned to Parne’s Partner.
“I care not about the future plans. My job is already over. I just want to sleep.” Hallex replied, taking steps toward the interior of the building. He was weary from everything that had transpired. “You’re overthinking it Parne. You should get some rest too.” Hallex urged. Two others fell in with him, moving towards the rooms.
“Don’t be daft Hallex! The boy boiled water instantly without an incantation! Your swollen and rotting arm recovered within seconds! All, might I add, WITHOUT invoking any incantations!” She retorted angrily. The three stopped moving, and everyone in the room looked at her grimly.
“Parne, stop it already. We’re already here with everyone. If you were so afraid, we should have stuck to my idea and spent the night there instead of returning.” Hallex was tired. He did not want to argue any further.
“If we hadn’t left that room, Lile, Martis, and Jahren would have risked being discovered!” Parne threw in the coincidence, calling out the others in the room.
“Enough. That was my call to send them in after you two. You did not show at the appointed time, we thought you had been exposed.” Raleun interjected. “With you two returned and everything accounted for, we will proceed with phase two.” He ordered.
“Am I the only one seeing the bigger picture?!” Parne cried out. “How many people know voiceless incantations?!” She shouted, presenting her point.
She could see one or two of the other’s agreeing with her.
“That is why we must proceed, Parne. Think! If what you said is true, imagine how much easier our jobs would be from now on if we could bring him to our side! The losses we suffer in combat would drop dramatically!” Raleun replied.
“And if he does not join us? What then?!” She argued.
“Then we follow through with our orders and get rid of him before he could become problematic.” A calm reply, confident and unwary of any dangers.
“…” She did not know what to say to that. Hearing the calm confidence in Raleun’s voice in comparison to her own anxiety, she stopped to think.
Their overall strength consisted of 18 well trained mages, all at the rank of Raezil. Raleun, the one in charge of their operations in Ferrent was bordering the strength of a Malgin. Their unit had been trained to work and fight as a group, complimenting each other’s abilities. Although powerful in their own right, as a unit, they were even capable of defeating a high ranked Malgin with little losses. Perhaps she was thinking too much about the situation at hand. After all, their opponent was only a child.
She had been spooked when it was just Hallex and herself, but now they were back in their base of operations, a sense of calm started budding inside her. A sense of comfort in numbers, fighting the unknown terror that claws at her.
It wouldn’t hurt to at least proceed with the already established plan, and see if they could sway the child to their side. She was thinking to herself. Even if the plan fails, there were many other ways to persuade people who have a family.
“Fine. But my job is over. I will be spectating from here on out.” She finally responded, adding her own conditions.
“Of course. Please go and get some rest.” Raleun replied.
“How about a-” Hallex spoke, but the walls suddenly opened again. Stopping in their tracks, Parne and Hallex turned in sync with the others in the room to look at the opening. No one entered.
“Keele? Wirleigh?” Raleun asked. They were the two on guard outside.
… No answer.
Two bodies came flying in through the opening, hitting the ground limply as they slid towards those in the room. The bodies of their two guards.
A shadow stepped out of the darkness and into the room.
The light of the room illuminated the intruder as he entered, and the seven stared in shock. A young boy with deep black hair and his whole body shrouded in shadows, stood before them.
The walls closed behind him.
“Fear not, they are merely unconscious.” Kaidus took the initiative and spoke first.
In the room were the ones that had been following him all Guso, along with the couple from this evening. “I apologize for the visit.” He greeted. The shadows that cloaked him vanished as he strolled toward the group.
Four of the seven in the room quickly poised themselves for battle. There were three women and four men—excluding the two that were passed out on the floor.
“Please allow me to inquire as to who you all are, and why you have been following me.” He spoke calmly as he strolled forward, his keen eyes watching those in the room. Many of them had looks of confusion. Catching Mrs. Wazanir’s eyes, he could see she was starting to panic. A man in his mid-30’s stood in the middle of the room and gazed at him calmly before motioning for the others to stop what they were about to do.
“Well, this certainly expedites our plans.” The man spoke. A hint of surprise in his voice.
“Raleun w-!” The woman nervously called out, but was motioned to stop.
“How very generous of you to join us, ‘Kaidus’. May I offer you something to drink?” The man calmly asked, his mouth curving into a smile. He had emphasized the name as a warning and to let Kaidus know that they knew him.
“I’m afraid I do not have time for pleasantries. Please allow me an answer to my questions.” Kaidus stared back at the man, undeterred by the intimidation.
“How unfortunate.” The man almost sounded disappointed as he stepped forward to stand before Kaidus. “Before I answer your question, may I ask if you came alone? And did you do that to my guards?”
“I am, and I did.” Kaidus promptly replied.
“I see… I am Raleun. As for your questions, we are Tal’hrus. We have been following you to ascertain your abilities.” Raleun answered with a friendly smile.
“For what purpose? What is it you are after, Raleun of Tal’hrus?”
“You, of course.” A blunt and unexpected reply. “My superiors are very interested in your… abilities. They wish for you to join us.” The man spoke outright about their goal. Looking into the man’s eyes, he could see that the man did not see him as a threat.
“Then why go through all this trouble? This charade?” Kaidus spoke, looking at the woman and man who had disguised themselves as a couple.
“Alas, we were unsure of how to approach you. All of us have heard the rumors of your healing magic, but we had to make sure they were true. My apologies for doubting them.” The man replied cordially.
The other six in the room stood silently as they listened to the conversation.
“And your superiors?” Kaidus inquired.
“I apologize, but I cannot reveal such information. Join us, and you will know soon enough.” Raleun replied.
“What is Tal’hrus?” Kaidus changed the subject.
“We are, but a collection of mages trying to make the world a better place. Nothing more.” Raleun gave a simple answer, “I know this is sudden, but thank you for coming to see us.” The man spoke before he could investigate any further. “Everything since the beginning of Guso has been all for this moment. We, of Tal’hrus would like for you to join us.” The man bowed his head low as he made the proposal.
“I am sorry, but I must refuse.” Kaidus gave a curt reply. The man’s eyes flickered for an instant.
“I assure you; it would be in your best interest. There are many benefits we can provide. Information, wealth, even assistance in cultivating your abilities to even greater heights. We also know you frequent many book stores. With the power of our organization, even rare books are not a problem.” Raleun attempted to entice him.
“I must still refuse. Surely there are better candidates out there to spend your resources on, than a child like me.” Kaidus replied.
“You don’t-” The man tried to speak.
“For whatever reasons, I cannot join you. I have my own plans.” Kaidus interrupted. Without waiting for explanations, “You have learned what you wanted, and I have given you my answer. I assume this will be the end of all this?” Kaidus questioned the man, his voice full of resolve and unyielding.
“Yes… of course.” Raleun politely replied, giving up the recruitment.
“Well then, sorry to intrude and please excuse me.” He turned to head back toward the wall.
Raleun quickly signaled the others to begin phase three of their plans as the boy was leaving.
Seeing the condition of Keele and Wirleigh, he had thought against it, but there were seven of them, and the child was but a single child. If they killed him now, they could easily dispose of the body. Not a single trace would be left as evidence and no one would even know that the boy had been there. It would also save them the trouble of doing it later.
With nods of acknowledgment from everyone but Parne, three of his accomplices charged toward the boy as he and two others began incantations of their own to bind the child.
Yet before any of them could finish, an eerie laughter, one unlike that of a child resounded through the room. The boy had stopped walking and they themselves were all frozen in place.
A field of ice bound them all, preventing any movements. The ice encapsulated them from their legs up to their arms, leaving only the head. A high-grade ice immobilization spell, Raleun’s eyes widened in disbelief.
“Ku- Kuahaha…. Hahahaha!!! Thank you! I am thankful, that people like you all still litter this world! I will have no qualms about this!” A different voice reverberated through the room, suffocating those in it. A sinister voice was full of excitement, anger, and hatred.
The boy slowly turned around and as he did so, darkness descended.
Trinkets, magical gadgets, and candles that illuminated the room died out. The only source of light, was coming from the child’s now glowing silver hair and his cold unforgiving eyes that were emitting a bluish hue.
Raleun tried to finish his incantation, but he had no voice. Turning his head sideways, he caught Parne’s pale white face. It was filled with terror.