-Eight days later-
Over Ferrent’s night sky, a figure descended upon the 11th ward.
The shadows danced around him in the moonlight, and a dark red cape billowed in the wind as the figure headed straight for the roof of a large mansion.
Upon the roof, he closed his eyes and began dispersing mana throughout the building.
Lord Vatenger awoke to a very strange sensation: indescribable fear, as if every fiber in his body was telling him to run away. To seek protection.
His sleep was dreamless, yet it felt like he had just woken up from a nightmare.
As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he quickly noticed that the hearth and all the lights in the room had gone out. A cold draft swept through the chamber and he could feel his sleeping wife slightly shivering beside him. His eyes quickly locked onto the open window at the foot of their bed. He was sure he had closed it before retiring for the night.
Covering his wife with a second blanket, he got up to go close the window.
As his foot hit the cold stone floor, his skin began to crawl as the dreadful feeling that had awoken him returned. Even though it was the dead of night, there was someone else in the room with them. “Who’s there?” He spoke, trying to sound as calm as possible.
“Sorry to bother you so late.” A voice answered him in the darkness.
“Show yourself!” As soon as the words left his mouth, the room burst into life. The candles around the room flared up as the hearth once again roared ablaze.
Wearing a dark red cloak, an unassuming young man was standing in the middle of the room. He recognized the boy at once. “You…” His eyes lit up. His attention was instantly drawn to the pair of pale eyes staring back at him and the hair, like fine silver threads that were glowing in the flickering light. To his knowledge, the boy was supposed to have dark eyes and black hair. “Where do you think you are?” He angrily spat out, trying to calm his nerves and not allowing his surprise to show.
“I thought it was time we met face to face, my lord. I’ve given you fair warning, but you refused to respect them, and now, three people are dead because of you.”
“What nonsense are you spouting?!”
He had no idea what the boy was talking about. He did order Raine to put observers on the boy’s family, but the man had yet to report any problems. Instead, Raine’s accounts had noted nothing out of the ordinary. For three people to have died, the boy was mistaken.
“Two attacks on my mother and sister within the past eight days. I will not allow your pettiness to endanger my family any further.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about, but if you think I am scared, then you are sorely mistaken! I am Aelod Irusia Vatenger! The blood of kings’ flow within me! You think a commoner- a thief like you, who steals into other people’s home in the middle of the night, can frighten me?! Leave before I call the guards!”
The boy took a step closer to him and he caught a curious glint in the boy’s eyes.
Lord Vatenger unconsciously took a step back. He knew the boy was dangerous, but he could not allow his fear to overcome him. “Leave this instant! Or by my name, you will regret it!” He shouted.
“I will leave, but you are coming with me. Take him outside.” He heard the boy order, and a sludge of black liquid began expelling out of the boy’s hand.
“Guards! Someone!! Get in here!” Lord Vatenger screamed, but not a sound came through from the outside. Even his wife did not stir from her slumber. He stood frozen as the liquid began coming together to form a large arm. Before the thought to run occurred to him, the arm shot forth and grabbed his leg.
His world turned upside down and his vision blurred, as he was thrown across the room and out of the open window.
Something else caught him before he could hit the ground and set him down on the grass. Unlike the dark arm, it swirled about him, fluidly hovering in the air. His heart pounding uncontrollably, he instinctively looked up at the window, at the young man who was descending next to him. The fluid swiftly wrapped around the boy, turning into the cloak he had seen earlier.
It was only the beginning of Fulta, but there was a freezing chill in the air. He recalled how Raine had been immobilized with ice magic, and his body began to shiver as his mind raced about, trying to figure out a way to get through the ordeal before him.
A sudden understanding of why the King had been so keen on staying out of his quarrel dawned on him. “Wha-what are you doing?!?”
“You must’ve heard why I took your son’s arm.” The young man calmly spoke without answering him.
“What is it you want?!” Lord Vatenger retorted, staring warily at the dark cloak on the boy.
“You must realize that such slanderous remarks cannot be overlooked.”
“What I did, was but a slap on the wrist. If it had been the other way around, I would probably be in an unmarked grave somewhere.” The boy replied coldly, staring into his eyes. “Because what’s another commoner to you nobles?”
“He is my son!”
“And she, is my mother.” The boy countered. “Your son ridiculed me. Mocked me in front of others, and I allowed it to go unpunished. What I will not do, is stand idle while he vilifies my mother in front of everyone. To all of you living in the lap of luxury, we may be nothing more than pests feeding upon the wealth of this city. Insignificant creatures that walk on two legs, breathing the same air as you do… but know that we are not without pride. Not without ardor. Not without purpose. Commoners are the lifeblood of this city, and such contempt works both ways.” The boy instantly moved in and grabbed the neck of his robe. An unexpected strength pulled him down face to face with the boy. “I will die before I allow those I cherish to be seen as nothing more than toys by the likes of you all.”
He knew his son was in the wrong from the beginning. Ralfus’ arrogance even before becoming a mage had caused many problems amongst the nobles. After becoming one, it had only expanded the boy’s already inflated ego.
“I what?” The boy replied, releasing him.
“You… you think you can do this to me?!”
“Confronting you for scheming? For your flagrant attempts at harming those I love?”
“You- You threaten me in my own home, then accuse me of something I had no hand in?! This is outrageous!”
“Is that so? You had no part in the attacks?” The boy’s eyes narrowed, as if trying to seek the truth in his words.
“Must I repeat myself?! Where is your proof!?”
“We shall find out. Vishan.”
An orb of light emerged from within the boy’s vicinity. It vanished into the ground and a beam of light shot up into the sky. By the time the light disappeared, there was a bottomless pit in its place.
The boy grabbed him once more. “I would advise you not to lie to me, my lord.” Two emotionless eyes clearly explained what was about to happen.
“Wait! What are you doing?!” Lord Vatenger shouted as he was dragged toward the hole. “It wasn’t me! Sure I sent watchers, but nothing more! I didn’t do anything!” His façade had vanished, and he pleaded to be released.
“Then who ordered it?”
“I don’t know!” The boy jerked him closer toward the gaping hole, and the prospects of being thrown into the abyss terrorized him. In that moment, as he looked into the boy’s eyes, he saw for himself how terrifying mages who had no regards for social structures really were. “Raine! He would know! He’s in charge of observing your family!” Lord Vatenger quickly blurted out. His stalwart and unyielding attitude had been vaporized.
The grip on him lessened, and he quickly pulled away, scurrying away from the mouth of the pit. Before his very eyes, the hole closed up, leaving nothing but a large patch of dirt in the grass.
“For some reason, I believe you. Let us go see this ‘Raine’, then.”
For a brief instant, he thought he saw a smile on the boy’s face in the darkness.
They walked through the manor, moving toward the servant’s quarters. Unlike its usual atmosphere, the mansion was dark and stale, and silence pervaded through the icy gloom like a newly erected tomb.
They eventually arrived at Raine’s room and Lord Vatenger began knocking on the door. “Raine! Raine! Get up!”
“He will not wake.” The young man spoke from beside him.
The boy pressed a hand onto the door. There was a click, and it swung open.
They stepped into the room and the candle beside the bed instant came to life, followed by a dreadful feeling that made him want to run away.
“Huaaahhh!” Raine, who had been asleep, screamed awake up and began breathing heavily.
Lord Vatenger looked at the young man beside him. The boy had done something. There was a reason why no one had come to his aid even after all his shouting.
“Raine!” Lord Vatenger called out.
“Hu… Wha-? What are you doing here my–” Raine turned pale at the sight of the young boy beside him.
“We meet again.”
“Wh-Why are you here?! My lord! Why is he–”
“Someone attacked my mother and sister. The first time eight days ago. The second time was only this morning. I have come to stop this nonsense.”
The boy had replied with the same commanding tone he had heard only half a turn ago. “No! No no no! T-there shouldn’t be anyone lurking around your family!”
“What are you saying?!” Lord Vatenger exclaimed.
“My lord!” Raine quickly lowered his head. “I know you told us to monitor them. I know it was my job, but I just couldn’t do it!”
“All those reports you-”
“Fabricated, my lord.” Raine kept his head low, unwilling to raise it. “I… I could not allow good men to go to their deaths. His demands were… quite clear.” He gestured to the young man standing beside his lord.
“Then…” Lord Vatenger quickly grasped onto the sliver of hope that had been handed to him. “Then we had no part in the attacks.”
“Not yet.” The boy replied, killing his sense of joy instantly. “… I will believe you had no hand in it this time, but I do not believe for a single moment that should the chance arise, you would not act.”
“What are you saying?! First you wrongfully accuse me, and now you are insinuating that I am scheming something?! The nerve!”
“Am I wrong?” The boy replied with a skeptical tone and a look of obvious distrust.
“… Very well. Remember your words. Know that I will find whoever is behind this and make them pay for it.” The boy spoke with an eerily calm voice. “If it is discovered that you have been lying to me, even if I have to burn this city to the ground, I WILL find you. And make no mistake, no one will be able to protect you from my wrath.”
A sharp crackling noise came from the room and both the lord and Raine jumped at the noise. In the corner of the room, Raine’s desk had shattered to pieces.
“…” Lord Vatenger stood there, trying to think of anything he could say besides complying.
“My lord. Please.” Raine quickly spoke up.
“… I… I understand…” Lord Vatenger gritted his teeth and hesitantly complied. There were no other options.
“You will stay away from my family if you know what’s good for you. Should you ever be involved, there will be no discussion, and there will be no waking up as you did tonight.” The boy walked to the door and opened it before turning around. “I apologize for my rudeness, but it was imperative that we sorted this out. Farewell, and hopefully we meet each other under better circumstances.”
Kaidus hovered over a small house in the 3rd ward. His thoughts were with the four who were sleeping peacefully beneath him.
Earlier that evening, Hasen had divulged to him of another incident, forcing him to return to Ferrent as he was passing by. After confronting Lord Vatenger and the man called Raine, it was clear to him that there was another party in the mix. His charade with the pit had worked wonders in obtaining information, but the answers he got had only widened the mystery. Hundreds of scenarios played out in his mind, each with their own culprits.
Recounting the events of the past few days, he knew that such a thing would happen eventually. Whether they be nobles who he had spurned, former classmates who were envious of his rise in the academy, or those he had neglected to help with healing magic. There might even be enemies he didn’t know about from his three years with the mercenaries. His mind quickly thought back to the families of four specific young men he had crossed years ago, before trying to recall anyone else who would have the necessary expenses to hire a mage. In hindsight, his actions against Ralfus had also been quite rash. There were too many unknowns in a city as big as Ferrent, and his family were the ones who would pay the price for his actions.
He wanted to extinguish the problems he had created, but to his family and enemies’ knowledge, he should already be far away from the city. It might be why they were finally making their moves and should they find out he was back, they would surely go into hiding once again.
“…” Kaidus descended onto the roof of the house and took off the metal ring on his finger. “Feziel.” He addressed the elemental.
‘Master…’ A grinding voice replied back in his mind.
“Forgive me, but I must task you with assisting Hasen.”
‘I am your shield, master.’ The voice replied, as if it had seen it coming.
“I know… I understand that the road before us may be perilous and unfamiliar, but I cannot go forward unless I am certain that they are safe. Please.” Kaidus began infusing mana into the ring. “Protect them as you would protect me. Become their shield.”
“… By your will, master. None shall harm them as long as we are here.”
“Thank you.” With his heartfelt gratitude, he walked over to the kitchen chimney and dropped the ring into the house.
-Ferrent. Two days later-
An old man sat at his desk, reading over reports sent to him by the leaders of the Mystiks Guild.
His eyes mindlessly scanned over the dozens of reports, while his marble arm was scrawling notes deftly on a separate piece of paper.
It had been six years since he had lost his left arm, but he had been able to adapt to the new one quickly. He learned to control it with his thoughts as he would with magic, and though it was less instinctive and required him to be more conscious of it, the arm was working wonders.
The papers before him were about the guild’s encounters with Tal’hrus and their subsequent actions. Their eastern forces had already apprehended six agents and killed three, but there was no end to the destruction. To make matters worse, even minor bandits and thieves were beginning to emulate Tal’hrus’ modus operandi, and the guild’s forces were being spread too thin.
Looking at the numbers, excluding the dead and those who had been transported to safer areas, there were over two thousand refugees in Tirasaen alone. The guild and Ferrent were doing all they could to provide help, but now their convoys were being attacked and robbed.
Nylen scratched his bald head, trying to figure out how to deal with the problems. Most of their knights had been sent out to deal with issues outside of the city, and most of their mages were in eastern Darsus trying to fight the infection that was Tal’hrus.
Lost, he began writing down the names of promising students who would benefit the Mystiks Guild.
“Come on in.” Headmaster Nylen quickly answered, glad for the distraction.
“Headmaster. You might want to see this.” An attendant handed him a folded letter.
“Master Zaele. He said he got it via an informant.”
“Thank you.” Curious, Nylen took the letter and quickly unfolded it. The handwriting was that of a woman. “…”
As he read it, the letter’s context was about something surprisingly mundane. A mage had apparently used magic in the 3rd ward a few days ago, and the excitement from the locals had prompted a covert investigation from the guild. They had found nothing besides minute traces of magic.
As he read, he began to sit up as he focused his attention on every word in the letter. A similar incident occurred only two days ago, and around the same area of the 3rd ward: the shopping district. Those who saw it spoke of brief darkness, like something had covered the sun. The phenomenon would suddenly vanish without any rhyme or reason after a brief period of time. Witnesses spoke of seeing the darkness after hearing shouting, and others of seeing it coming from a young girl, one very well known around the area.
“Ha… Hahaha…” He began laughing dryly as he finished the letter. “Don’t tell me the sister is also another monster…” His marble arm was already trembling with excitement.
Circled at the bottom of the letter were the words: “… has decided to put Anise Paltos under surveillance.”