Adalina finished cleaning the kitchen and entered the living room, only to see her daughter in a sullen mood.
Anise was quietly turning the pages of one of Kaidus’ book.
The girl had waited for Kaidus all evening the previous day, but he never came back. It seems school was keeping him busy.
“Cheer up darling, I’m sure Kaidus will be back as soon as he is free.” She reassured her daughter. “How about we go out and get you some of those sweet mulse cakes you love?” Adalina asked as she picked up the girl.
“Let me finish my letter and we’ll go. Okay?”
The little girl attempted to give her a strong reply, but she knew her daughter was sadden that Kaidus had not returned. Adalina gave her daughter a hug, bringing the girl along with her upstairs.
Setting Anise on the bed, Adalina continued her letter.
She was turning 29 this year. It has been almost 15 years—half her life—ever since she had run away from home on that fateful day by the riverbanks.
With that single decision, she had left her life in the village of Nultulk behind. She lost her mother, father, siblings, and friends, along with any connections or contacts to them.
Her subsequent years with the mercenary had her yearning for home, but she was afraid of what may happen if she returned to them. She feared that her family would scorn her, thinking she had ran away because of the sweet words of a dashing mercenary.
With the birth of Kaidus, her worries vanished and her yearning for home slowly disappeared.
Only after Kaidus left the house to attend the academy, did she realize how painful it was to see someone whom you’ve poured all your love into ever since they were born leave your side. It was heart wrenching. Although he was only going to the academy, that first night when he left, she had stayed up half the night crying while Troyle tried to console her.
He was too young to be apart from them, but she knew he was a brilliant child. She knew he would be wasting his potential if he did not grasp at the opportunities offered to him. It was why she told him to enter Zorin academy after he had refused the invitation. The inquisitive look he gave her that day, a look of not wanting to leave her side was seared into her eyes. He was truly a gentle child.
Her quill moved endlessly, writing whatever came to her mind.
The letter was for her formerly estranged parents.
The previous year, a few days after Kaidus had left for the academy, she had sent a letter to the village of Nultulk. She hoped against all odds that it would find her family.
Four turns ago, she received a reply from her mother. As she expected, the letter encompassed all the disappointments the family felt, and her mother even noted that her father did not want to even acknowledge her selfishness with a reply. After persuading him, her mother was able to draw up a reply, seeing how she was now herself a mother of two and understood their feelings.
Not only did the letter tell her of how heartbroken the family was at her actions, it conveyed to her how worried they had been, and how happy they are from hearing that she was alive. That they were truly glad she was safe and was happy.
Her younger brother who was only 10 when she left was now already a father of three himself. Her youngest sister who was only 7 at the time, was also now married with two children.
Ever since that reply, she had been sending letters to her parents, keeping in touch with them.
This letter was another of those.
Finished, she dabbed away any excess ink with a cloth and folded the letter before sealing it with wax.
Turning to look at her daughter, the girl was patiently waiting.
“Let’s go.” Adalina smiled at her daughter.
“Five shweet cakesh pleashe!” Anise told the lady who was running the bakery.
“Hello, little Anise.” The woman greeted back, giving her a sweet smile. “Good morning, Adalina.
“Good morning Beine. Here’s 2 and 4 for the cakes.” Adalina replied, placing the money on the counter. 2 erns, and 4 kuis.
“Thank you.” The woman thanked as she picked up five palm sized mulse cakes and placed them into a piece of cloth. “Here’s another for always coming by.” The woman added a sixth cake before tying up the piece of cloth and handing it to Adalina.
“Thank you!” Anise also gave her thanks.
“Please come again.” The lady saw them off with a smile.
Back out on the street, Adalina untied the cloth and handed one of the cakes to Anise.
Taking it, Anise delightedly enjoyed her snack. Her sullen mood from earlier was already gone as she bore into the fluffy cake.
Enjoying one herself, Adalina held her daughter’s hand as they moved away from the shopping district and towards more of the community district where the library, community center, and delivery hall resides.
A young girl with long brown hair tied into a ponytail was in her room. She was swinging around a blunt metal practice sword, customized to fit her small build.
She swung it with raw, unrefined finesse as she practiced the eight forms taught to her. A fire burned inside of her as she moved, weaving, spinning, piercing, and slashing. She wore tight fitting clothes that were unusual for a young lady of her status, and swung her sword with a sense of purpose.
She was Naleen, the daughter of renowned swordsman Huin Xoras Ravon, and her venerated grandfather was Gelrin Teralt Ravon, Royal Knight Commander of the 11th ward knights.
Her newfound interest in swords started half a year ago due to envy, but she was now earnestly practicing it.
Ever since meeting the strange boy, she had been hearing many things about him from her grandfather. Praises that went beyond any that he had ever given her or her older brother. Her grandfather had even liken the commoner boy to himself as someone who was surely to become a pillar of strength. That: “The boy will one day be the prosperity of Ferrent with his name known throughout Darsus, and maybe even the world”. Her grandfather had never openly declare such admiration to a commoner before.
Wishing for such praises but too young for her magic, she could do nothing about it. With some deliberation, she instead begged her father to teach her the sword. It did not require her to know magic, and she did not know if she would be like her brother who was already 17 and still magic-less.
As if heredity in being born into a family of knights, she took to it extremely well.
After learning for only a couple turns, even her grandfather had praised her budding skills as a swordswoman, motivating her to continue her training.
Naleen lowered her body.
She fell into a guard stance then transitioned to a parry stance before unleashing a flurry of slashes awkwardly against an invisible foe. She evaded and bobbed around, countering the invisible opponent while putting into practice what her father had taught her.
‘Guard, slash, strike, thrust, evade, kick, thrust, kick, evade, backwards transition, parry’ the movements resounded in her head as she attempts to adapt each motion, trying to make it flow into the next.
*knock knock* Without waiting for a reply, the door opened and her mother walked in. “Naleen, your teacher is here. Go get ready and meet her at the entrance. I hear you two will be going outside today.”
“May I refresh myself first?” She asked, putting down her practice sword.
“Of course darling, pick one of your dresses for walking and head to the washroom. I’ve already had the servants draw a bath for you.” Her mother replied with a gentle smile.
Her mother had been against her education in the art of swordplay, and had wanted her to grow up to become a proper lady like all the other young girls. Being surrounded by such respectful male figureheads, she had grown up to be more of a tomboy than what her mother had expected. But with her strong sense of justice and incessant begging, her mother had relented, allowing her to learn swordsmanship from her father.
Naleen went up to her dresser and picked out a dress then quickly left the room.
Sitting on the top of the dresser, in a small earthen cup, a crystal flower bloomed beautifully.
Naleen and her teacher were currently strolling through the 11th ward shopping district. They had taken a carriage to get there, but now they were walking through the streets, just taking in the atmosphere. Their little trip had been the result of learning about the economy, and this was a hands-on experience to teach Naleen how money moves from hand to hand.
The majority of those who were out and about were servants running errands for their masters, but like Naleen and her teacher, quite a few nobles were also walking around.
“Naleen!” A voice called from behind her as they made their way through the streets. Turning around, an older girl three years her senior was coming up to them.
“Hi Jillian.” Naleen greeted the older girl.
The older girl was a tall and beautiful girl, having hit her growth spurt. With long dark blue hair and sporting a dashing smile, Naleen secretly wished for such beauty.
“Mistress Naleen, I’ll be over here if you need me.” Her teacher gave her a smile before sidestepping toward a shop to peruse the displays on the window, leaving her alone with the older girl.
“Outdoor class with your educator?” The older girl asked.
“Yea… economics.” She replied. “What are you doing here?” She asked the older girl.
Jillian Varath, the eldest daughter of the Varath house.
Their parents worked together on many transactions pertaining to trade and for the welfare of Ferrent, so they’ve met each other many times along with the younger sister Sylvia.
Naleen herself liked the Varath sisters. Being the sole daughter of the Ravon house, she envied the two.
It was always fun to watch Jillian beat back the other children’s who try to pick on Sylvia because of her timid nature. While not literally beating them up, with the silver tongue inherited from Lady Reanne Varath—her mother, Jillian could turn her pleasantries around and dish out invectives while revealing information that would most certainly make the bullying party cry.
“Out shopping for lunch.” The older girl grinned again.
“Alone? Why? Where are your servants?”
“About that… My mother has this new saying about doing things for ourselves. We’ve been coming here to buy grocery for quite a while. Sylvia and I are also learning how to cook and clean around the house.” Jillian explained, revealing a prideful smile. “But that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about.”
“Is Sylvia here too?” Naleen questioned, surprised at the explanation.
It was only two turns ago when they last talked, so this was all new to her.
“She’s with mother in one of the shops learning how to pick out vegetables.”
“Why does Sylvia need to learn how to pick out vegetables?” She inquired, curious about this sudden change.
“Mother said it would be a good skill for her to have when she is married off to the commoner boy from the 3rd ward.” Jillian answered.
“Eh?! Your parents are marrying Sylvia off to a commoner?!” She asked in shock.
“I wanted to talk to you about that. Can I ask you something?” Jillian closed in and whispered to her.
“W-What is it?”
“I heard your grandfather Lord Gelrin sponsors him. What do you know about the boy name Kaidus?”
Her mind flashed back to the insufferable and strange boy whom she had not seen for a whole year, but was always hearing about. The crystal flower on top of her dresser suddenly presented itself to her thoughts.
Oozing out of the ring around the little girl’s neck, it traveled through the shadows, making its way down the stairs. Its charges had already fallen asleep, and it was time to do the job given to it.
Hasen bore through the crevices of the doors, making its way into the darkness outside. Its body of smoke wafted through the air, traveling upwards to the roof of an adjacent building where two figures were hiding.
It had noticed them following its master’s family ever since the outing earlier. The figures gave off a sense of danger, and reeked of magic like the ones from before.
Without warning, Hasen struck from the darkness.
In an instant, both were dead without even putting up a fight. It consumed their bodies, leaving nothing behind.
Finished, Hasen traveled through the shadows, back into the house, returning to the girl’s side.
The entity listened motionlessly as its charge quietly slept. Ever since its master left nine days ago, it had been diligent in adhering to its master’s command.
‘Protect my family.’ Words never spoken before by its master.
“huu… *sniff* mother… father… no… please don’t leave me.” The first words it had ever heard. A deep sadness, echoing through Lagus. A childish voice filled with anguish and suffering had given the entity life, awaking it from oblivion.
“No!! Please don’t! NOOO!!” The second time it heard the voice.
The child’s scream tore through the veil that shrouded Lagus from the mortal realm. In that instant, it saw the death of countless mortals and amidst them all, a lone child, weeping for them.
“Why?! Why am I so weak!?!” A voice echoed through to the entity. The child was broken. Laying in a cell, the boy cried in muffled sobs, wishing for death. His will had been shattered, only anger at his weakness filled his mind. The intensity of his emotions resonating through Lagus.
“…Power…” It spoke to the young boy for the first time.
“W-who are you?” A weak and cautious reply.
“…Power… strength…” The entity spoke the words that echoed in the boy’s mind.
“Who are you?! What do you want?!” A frantic reply.
“…I am… yours… I am… power… call… me…”
… The child laid there in silence.
“… Hasen…” A single word from the child’s mouth, and they were bound.
A Rhas of shadow, newly birthed.
Its master, a broken boy, forsaken by the world.
Hasen drew itself out of the memories.
What it just reminisced was a time before its master had become corrupted at the beckoning of another—due to its lack of strength.
The entity was merely recalling its birth into the mortal realm.
A time when both master and elemental were both powerless lifeforms, learning how to deal with the world together. An age before its ascension into what it is now.
Hasen culled the memories from what could only be called its mind.
Their true enemy was still lurking within the world somewhere. The entity would not allow its master to once again, be manipulated into the pits of despair.