Along with the villagers, she had assumed Kaidus was a mute, but that was not true. The child was now emanating an air of intelligence.
For his first few words to be a question inquiring about her sadness, it was beyond her expectations. She knew he was different due to his usual demeanor, but this something else.
‘It’s a Demon!!’ The voice of the midwife from a year ago resounded in her head.
Fear and surprise overtook her for an instant, and her legs gave out. Hitting her knees against the hard dirt floor, the pain returned some semblance of order to her mind, and the fear slowly dissipated.
“Are you okay?” The boy asked, walking over to her.
Looking at the adorable little face before her, Adalina slowly opened her mouth. “You know, mother was afraid you were never going to be able to talk. Yet, here you are asking me about why I am crying. I feel like such an idiot for worrying about nothing.” Neglecting that fact that a toddler at his first birth cycle had clearly and proficiently spoken to her, she replied, holding back her fear.
The child lowered his small head as if ashamed of what he had done. “I am sorry…”
Not completely convinced that this was real and not a figment of her imagination, “And how long have you been able to understand my words?” Wavering, she tried to make sense of the situation.
“Ever since I could crawl.”
‘Ever since then?!’ Her mind exclaimed, unable to believe it. Out of loneliness she had always talked to him ever since he was born, but to have been able to understand her since he was but barely six months old, it was extraordinary. Her fear gradually began growing.
“Why do you cry?” The boy repeated. His voice soft and inquisitive.
Lost in thoughts, the question shattered her anxiety and dismissed her fears. As if a dam had broken inside her, the reasons for her sorrows came gushing out.
‘It was me. Because of me, the villagers are mistreating them. Because of me, she suffers. Because of me, she blames herself and kept it all in all this time.’ realization dawned on him. “Let’s see… I think it’s something like this.” Closing his eyes, Kaidus concentrated.
The gray on his hair slowly split into two different colors, a pitch black, and a pure white as if to start glowing any second. Then the white suddenly vanished and all that was left, was a head full of black hair like Adalina’s.
Astounded, Adalina knelt silently while watching the event unfolded.
Opening his eyes, Kaidus spied a terrified mother who looked like she had lost her voice.
For a span of minutes, mother and child stared at each other, unsure of what to say.
“Are you a -” catching herself, Adalina tensed up at the question she had unknowingly blurted out.
“?” Tilting his head to one side, Kaidus wondered at her words
“I am sorry. I mean, how did you do that with your hair?” Adalina asked carefully.
“Some of my mana may have been leaking out without my notice. I just absorbed them back.” Kaidus replied matter-of-factly.
“M-mana?” Another shock of surprise escaped Adalina’s mouth.
Being able to talk and converse at his age was unheard of, but for the boy to also have mana, not to mention know what it is and be able to control it, is something that was impossible.
She quickly revisited her prior thoughts, but refused to go further.
The gift of mana was not rare ages ago, but such was not the case nowadays. The majority of those who still had the gift of mana were nobles, primarily those hailing from a distinct line of ancestors with overwhelming magic. Yet she herself had no knowledge of either of her parents having mana nor theirs, and Troyle’s ancestry from what he had told her, also doesn’t go back far enough to tell if mana was in his line or not. And although it was not impossible for families from a line without mana to suddenly birth a child with its gifts, it would take years before any signs of magic could be perceived in the child. Even then, developing it would also take years, not to mention such cases were extremely rare.
Yet in front of her, was a child–for all she knows–knew what mana was, and could control it ever since he was born.
Lifting his head to see that Adalina was in a state of shock, “Why did my hair estrange us from the village?” Kaidus questioned, trying to occupy her mind with other thoughts.
“You said it was because of my hair that we’re living in such a state. I would like to know why.” He gave a prompt reply
A long dead religion, a long dead demon, a long dead legend.
Thousands of years ago, the world was prosperous because of mana.
One day, a demon who had amassed a vast amount of power raised an army, and overtook one of the seven continents, slaughtering the beloved Emperor and his subjects.
The other six continents sent in reinforcements to subdue this evil, for surely if it was not stopped, it would swallow the entire world.
The battle took seven days and seven nights, and on the dawn of the eighth day, heroes emerged. These heroes, having fought to exhaustion sacrificed their lives, and finally sealed and destroyed the demon.
Shortly after, the dominant church at the time decreed an order: Anyone born with white hair was to be denied life, for they are demons.
After the order, a crusade swept through the seven continents and rivers of blood flowed, as all those who had such traits were massacred, bringing about even more wars.
Ages passed and such battles became legends, and legends eventually became myth. In the end, all that was left, was a dark period in history marred with death and destruction.
Although the Church that made the decree was long dead and new religions have sprouted up to replace it, the idea sown into the minds of the public that continued to prevail into modern-day.
The majority of the reasons were contrived and unsophisticated superstitions, but he was able to question his way to some semblance of information from Adalina. While his mother fancied it all as bedtime stories about heroes and demons kings, he knew all too well. He lived its truth.
It was as if the church had known that their seal was not perfect and would not be able to completely destroy him, thus, putting into motion a failsafe in case he is ever reborn.
‘Well, that explains that.’ Kaidus thought to himself, remembering the other 26 times he was sent back to the void. It was because of such ridiculous reasoning, and his lack of control at birth.
Judging by what he had just heard, quite some time has passed in the world for the Church of Hainl to have been dead for so long.
‘If it’s been that long, then what is my purpose here now?’ Kaidus wondered to himself.
Quickly recalling where he was, he looked up to the curios face staring back at him. Not wanting to make Adalina even more suspicious than she already is, “Is having mana a bad thing?” He questioned innocently.
“No it is not. In fact, people born with it are extremely rare, and those with talent are always sought after…” Her voice trailed into silence.
“Then there should be no problems from now on, right?”
As if reluctant to give him a definitive answer, “I don’t know Kaidus… sometimes people’s minds are harder to change than their appearances.” Adalina replied, her voice low and unsteady. “The villagers will probably never get over the fact that you were born with white hair despite knowing you also have mana.”
Attempting a solemn bow with his tiny body, “I am sorry for causing you trouble. It is because of me, that such unfortunate-” events befell you. Before he could finish the sentence, he was in a tight embrace. ‘This is…’ warmth filled him.
“It is going to be alright.” Adalina whispered. Disposing of everything that she had just witnessed, she held onto the child before her. Whether he was a demon or not, such things did not matter. The sorrow in his tiny eyes when he tried to apologize nearly killed her inside. A sorrow unfitting his age. “You are just a little different from everyone else, you have nothing to apologize for. Everything will be fine.”
Troyle came home for his break to find a village full of disgruntled villagers.
“Get out of this village you deceiver!”
“Don’t think that this changes anything! Just because you two have hidden his grayness, does not mean we don’t know what he really is!”
Confused at some of the outcries directed toward him, he quickly made his way home to find his wife and child.
Upon seeing his son with a head full of black hair sitting by Adalina, he finally understood the words of the disgruntled villagers. They had probably assumed that he and Adalina were trying to deceive them by dyeing the boy’s hair to fit in with the rest of the community.
“What is going on?” Troyle inquired, having seen for himself what Adalina had done without asking him. Looking downward at the two, he could see that she was trying to come up with words to diffuse the situation, while Kaidus simply stared back at him.
“Adalina. What happened to his hair? Is that why some of the villagers were so angry?” Troyle questioned again.
“My apologies, it was because of my selfishness that caused such a problem. Please do not blame mother.”
The one who answered him was not his wife, but someone else entirely. A voice he had never heard before, a voice that carried itself through the room as if it were alive, coiling about. Meek but powerful, humble and dignified. Looking around the room for a stranger or one of the villagers, Troyle failed to spy anyone. His eyes eventually rested on the small child sitting by Adalina’s side who was staring at him. ‘Mother’ the voice had said.
Willing himself to tear the gaze away from the child to Adalina, he saw her merely nodding as if to confirm his unspoken curiosity. “W-what in the world is going on here?!” Troyle shouted, this time stupefied.
‘This child was born with mana!’ Surprise, fear, relief, happiness, and a plethora of emotions surged into Troyle’s thoughts.
After hearing about what happened a few days ago on the boy’s name day, the revelation that his young son could understand and talk already, that within the boy’s small body contained one of the rarest commodity in the world known as mana. It was unbelievable.
As much as he would like to deny what was happening, Troyle could not, for the child in question himself was explaining the situation.
His son who has never made a single sound. The child who he had thought a mute and addled in the head, had explained the things that transpired over the past few days to him with crystal clarity.
‘So… the hair was because of his mana leaking. By absorbing it, the hair returns back to their true color… but that does not explain why he is able to talk already at that age… is it because of the mana? What is mana? Could it also have the power to accelerate understanding in newborns? There has never been any such tales, but…’
Lost in thoughts, he pondered endlessly about the mysteries that had just been revealed to him. The only person he’s ever known to have been able to control mana was his old mercenary captain. But even then, the captain never really talked about it. The captain’s mana capacities were quite low, so he had rarely seen the man use his abilities outside of jobs.
‘Could he be someone else’s kid? Where or who is his mana from? What will happen to him? Could he possibly be a demon as the others claim?’ His thoughts turned darker the more the thought about it. ‘No! I had already come to terms with such things!’ Casting the doubts aside, he resigned himself to figuring out what he was going to do.
Restless, Troyle slowly sat up on the bed.
Like a barrier between himself and their young son, Adalina was sleeping to his left and facing away from him as usual. The candle on their nightstand had already burnt out and it was almost pitch black, but he could tell that she was still awake and quietly watching the boy sleep.
A myriad of thoughts continued racing through his mind. “I am sorry.” Troyle finally spoke, his voice barely audible to himself even in the dead of night. “I have not been good to the both of you. For that, I apologize.” To his side, he could feel the bed shifting.
“I have failed as a husband and a father.” He continued, speaking into the darkness. “I thought that you- no… I believed that you had been unfaithful… I had even began questioning the legitimacy of my… my own son.”
“You know that I would never.” She interjected from his side.
“I… it’s just… I’m sorry. Can you ever forgive me?” He apologized again and turned to look at Adalina. Within the darkness, he could sense that her gaze was already on him. Troyle held his breath.
Callused hands slowly slid over his left hand and caressed it gently. “There is nothing to forgive. Whether you believe it or not, he is your son, and you have been a fine father.” She replied, voice steady with neither hate nor contempt.
“Haaa…” Breathing a sigh of relief as some of the guilt for the past year lessened, “Thank you…”
Having apologized, he asked her about the situation at home, and what has been happening while he is out on the outskirts. About their future and what is possibly in store for their son. About various things that he had never bothered to ask, or was too prideful and scared to talk about, and ultimately about Kaidus’s situation.
Trying to convince each other, they eventually settled upon the idea that it was due to being born with mana that their son was able to talk at such an age.
After their talk, Troyle got up from the bed and headed to his desk.
First, he would write a letter to his old captain. Though he may no longer be a mercenary, after years of being a part of the company, he knew exactly where the captain would be stationed.
Second, with the next trade caravan that comes into town, they would leave the village. His injured shoulder will never be the same as it was in his mercenary days, but he can still fight, and he could help guard the caravan in exchange for his family’s travel fee.
Pulling out a sheet of light red harkus paper from the desk along with some fine ground dreevil ink, Troyle started to write.