The sound of sniveling began to silently reverberate around them as Ulamara’s breathing stabilized itself. Having watched over her carefully, the light from the young spirit’s body had already dimmed and the infusion of mana he had given her had also vanished, yet she did not wake. Instead, her body was beginning to curl up.
“Ulamara. Can you hear me?” He whispered, keeping his voice barely audible.
Her lips began twitching in silent grief and, “Please… please stay safe… *sniff*” As if pleading for the wellbeing of someone, tiny droplets of tears began to emerge from the corner of her eyes as she sobbed.
“Ulamara.” He gently reached forward and carefully wiped away a stream of tears, “It’s time to wake up.” He coaxed, willing for her to return.
And almost immediately, the young spirit’s eyes drew open.
Having accepted his will, no longer were her eyes a deep black like that of the void, they had also taken on the same silver as his own–just like Zirus.
She turned to look up at him and he smiled, seeing the dazed and confused look on her face.
Unsteadily pushing herself to sit up, “I- I had a dream…” The young spirit’s poignant voice slowed to a crawl as her eyes widened in surprise. Bringing her arms up, Ulamara began to carefully examine herself as if looking to confirm that they were hers.
“You fell unconscious.”
“I… Th- that’s right…” With a somber reply, more tears emerged to roll down her cheeks.
“Did you witness another memory?” He questioned, seeing her forlorn and melancholic expression. And without a word, she simply nodded.
“I see…” Unwilling to imagine what was going through her thoughts, he reached forward again and gently wiped away more tears. “Cheer up.” He encouraged, “Those are, but mere after images of withering dreams and not something you can control. Do not dally on them, as there are far better and more fortuitous moments to consider.” Her two silver eyes drew upward at his words and seeing her staring, he smiled, “The pact has been sealed, and we are bound. I will be in your care from now on.”
A joyous grin suddenly emerged upon the young spirit’s lips. “Yes!” and she quickly replied in affirmation, her grief all but gone.
Without another word. By his will, the three protective layers of light surrounding them instantly shattered into nothingness, revealing an exhausted phrae standing in the air–at the edge of the outer barrier.
“Ulamara!” Instead of the exhausted guardian, Elamara’s frantic voice rushed toward them. Flying past him, the young phrae descended down to her sister. “Wh- what happened to you?!” The young girl exclaimed.
“I… I don’t know.” Turning down to look at herself once more, Ulamara’s frazzled expression was evident enough of her own curiosity.
“You feel so- so different. And your eyes… how!?” Elamara shouted again, voice now filling with curious excitement.
Ulamara turned, looking up to him questioningly. “I think- hmmm… I think it’s because of what happened?”
Giving another smile in return, he slowly stood up from where he had knelt all morning, “Come,” He beckoned, extending an arm outward.
With an eager nod and then an apologetic smile to her sister, Ulamara rushed toward him and walked off the edge of the large chest.
“Ula?!” A frantic voice cried out.
With a surprising calm to her, mana burst forth from the young spirit’s body.
Wrapping around her like a gilded veil, Ulamara took to the air, flying upward effortlessly.
Overflowing with her newfound gift, the young phrae enthusiastically circled around him twice, before landing gracefully atop the palm of his hand like she had been flying all her life.
With her in hand, he turned around to face the other phraes, “Is there any objections to my choice?” He questioned, holding Ulamara in front of him for all to see.
The face of the young girl’s father twisted from anger to fear and helplessness, and on the ground behind the phrae, the others voicelessly turned to look at the elderly Shii with anxious expressions.
Yet instead of rallying them, the old phrae merely shook his head in resignation and flew upward to stand beside the twin’s father–Osfurun.
“To think I would see the day…” Eyes filled with wonder, the old spirit placed a hand on the twin’s father as if to console the defeated phrae before floating forward. Without taking its eyes off them, “The words of the Eternals have been spoken, and the bonds have been forged… these insignificant ones would not dare.” The elder spoke, lowering its head carefully, “The honored one may do as he wishes.”
And as the Shii did so, on the ground, the group of phraes looked to one another with bewilderment before doing the same.
Kaidus turned his attention to the father of his new bond. “I can see your distress. Let me assure you that nothing shall ever happen to your daughter. And should she ever wish for it, I will bring her back. You have my words.”
“H-how?” The troubled spirit questioned, his expression faltering as his eyes continued to stare at them, at Ulamara. “How is it possible that you know the bindings of the Eternals? Such magic should have… should be lost to the realm of men already. Just what- just who are you?”
An amused smile crept onto his lips, “You were not entirely wrong in calling me a destroyer.” He coyly answered, recalling what Ulamara and Elamara had said about them after his inquiry the previous night, “But do not think me the same as those dregs.”
The deathly wails of thousands of phraes entered his ears, and he quickly shut them out. “What else would you call thieves who can do naught, but steal and claim the strength of others as their own?” By his will, the silver of his true lineage manifested itself once more.
Just like what happened the previous night, the inquisitive phrae quickly recoiled defensively. Its curiosity and pride instantly vanished, leaving nothing but fear and confusion in their place.
The others frantically took on defensive postures beside each other and their bodies began flaring with mana, but with a single look from the Shii, they all swiftly ceased their actions.
Hiding his amusement, he quickly dispelled himself and reverted his appearance. “Ulamara.” Addressing the young spirit in his hand, “There is something I must do before we depart. If you have any words for your parents and your kin, I suggest that you go and bid your farewells.”
Returning a questioning look and then an understanding nod, the young girl leapt from his hand and flew toward her frozen father.
Standing before her mother and father along with Elamara to her side, “I’m sorry.” She apologized, lowering her head as the apology left her mouth.
Her mother’s voice swept by and through her newfound senses she felt a hand coming toward her, but it quickly stilled itself before reaching her head.
Sensing the hesitation, “Please forgive me…” She quickly entreated, keeping her eyes on her own two legs as the power coursing throughout her body continued to circulate from within the depths of her core.
‘Please… please say something.’ She begged within her mind. Yet as she stood with her head down, neither of them said a word.
Feeling her own sense of self crumbling due to the silence, two arms suddenly wrapped themselves around her.
“What are you guys doing when Ula is leaving?!” Elamara’s voice snarled loudly. From her sister, there was neither hesitation nor fear. All that existed on Elamara’s face, was an envious smile and eyes filled with joy.
“Don’t bother with them!” Elamara exclaimed, directing a bout of irritation at their parents, “I’m happy for you. Just… please come back and tell me all about the outside?” Ela added, pulling her in tighter.
Elamara’s words that were filling with loneliness crushed her from within, and she powerlessly lowered her head onto Ela’s shoulders, “Nhn… I promise.”
“Ulamara…” A gentle hand finally settled itself upon her head and tenderly brushed her hair backward, “We should be the ones apologizing.” Her mother’s voice echoed into her ears.
Pulling away from Elamara, she looked to her mother.
There was sadness in her mother’s eyes. One, that was overwhelmed by guilt and hidden behind an immeasurable fear of the unknown.
“You have never been one to spin tales, and I should have believed you. To lose you like this… it is my greatest regret, and I am sorry. Can you forgive me?” An apologetic smile manifested upon her mother’s lips.
Rushing into her mother’s chest as her own tears spilled out, “Mam!” She cried out, embracing her mother tightly.
“We only wished to protect you. I’m so sorry.”
Voice trembling, her mother broke into tears as gentle fingers continued to tenderly brush through her hair.
“You have!” She sobbed as memories arose within the back of her mind, “You all have!” She added, forever grateful for the countless nights they had stayed up beside her as she writhed in pain from over exposure to the mana sustaining her. Thankful for how they had cherished her even though she had been nothing but a burden, a phrae incapable of utilizing the gifts bestowed upon their kind. Remorseful, for having blamed them for her illness on more than one occasions.
With a good cry, her mother wiped away her tears and she reluctantly stepped away before facing her father.
“Father…” She timidly addressed, ashamed at putting him through so much.
“I’ve been inconsiderate and selfish. Please forgive me.” She quickly lowered her head again.
“So you do understand the nature of your actions…”
Hearing the disappointment and disapproval in his voice, “I’m sorry.” The words were barely able to squeeze themselves out of her mouth.
“I- haaa…. me too. I’m-… I’m sorry for not believing you.” Instead of further displeasure, her father sighed and his tone staggered into one of dumbfounded apology, “Your stubbornness… it reminded me of my own, and perhaps that was why I couldn’t believe what you were saying…” She could hear a tinge of guilt clinging onto his every word, “But alas, I see now that I was wrong… completely wrong.”
Hearing the solemnness in his voice, she glanced upward, only to see her father looking over to where the honored one was busy tying grass stalks together.
“I cannot stop you anymore, and you have already chosen this path so I will not ask why. But you… you should already know the reasons why our ancestors have sequestered us into this realm. Why our forebearers have always kept to themselves. So please… please take care of yourself.”
Mouth quivering with relief, she immediately prostrated herself and lowered her head to the ground, gracious for his love and care. “I will, father.”
“And… there is one more thing I must ask of you.”
“Take- … take your sister with you.”
“Huh?!” Elamara’s shocked voice shattered the subtle atmosphere.
“Take Ela with me?” She echoed back, looking up in disbelief.
“*Sigh*… I can’t believe I’m saying this, but yes… take Elamara with you.” Their father confirmed, his body language and voice having completely given up already. “The two of you have never been apart from one another for more than an afternoon. I fear she will end up sneaking out on her own to follow you regardless of what may happen. And you… you have never been without us either.” Turning to Elamara, “Go with your sister. Watch out for each-”
Before their father could even finish, Elamara had already thrown herself at him. “T-thank you! Thank you! thank you! thank you!”
Giving the bundle of grass that he had crudely strung together in front of him a final inspection, Kaidus pulled it up and wrapped it around his waist.
Long enough to encircle him almost twice, the grass skirt fell down to his knees and easily concealed his lower half.
“That should be good enough.” He remarked and turned toward the two young spirits who had been waiting patiently for him. “Thank you for waiting. Are the both of you ready to go?”
“Yes!” Shouting excitedly, Elamara swiftly flew upward to eye level with him.
Nodding brightly as well, Ulamara did the same and floated up beside her sister.
“Then I believe it is time we left these woods.” Giving them both a grin, he looked down to the pile of black coils that had been lying silently on the ground beside him. “Zirus.”
At his behest, the youngling’s eyes lit up and two translucent wings instantly shot upward. A single flap of its wings propelled the serpent into the air, and beating its two pairs of forewings in rhythm, “SHRaaa!” The serpent proudly displayed itself before excitedly rushing to settle along his shoulders.
“You have both seen him, but let me introduce you. This is Zirus, my traveling companion. He is a bit prideful, but he too has formed a bond with me.” Gesturing to the two young spirits, “Zirus, these are Elamara and Ulamara. They will be coming with us. Be nice to them.”
Having formally introduced them to one another, the twins quickly bowed their heads while Zirus arched its own curiously toward them. “Hssss!” And with a disinterested hiss, it quickly slithered to coil itself around his left arm as usual.
With the twins and Zirus accounted for, by his will, his three shards of the Nyzacus mirrors along with the crowned seed that he had picked up the previous day lurched upward from where they laid.
Leaving them to hover around his vicinity, he closed his eyes and focused his mind onto one of the three rings on his fingers.
As soon as he did so, the signal from Vick’s ring immediately responded.
Vick’s position was no longer where it had been the previous evening and judging by the distance in relation to his own, it was surely a good four to five days of careful trekking on foot.
Turning his attention back to the two eager spirits, “I’ve got our destination. We will take it slow so that you both do not exhaust yourselves, but please let me know if you wish to rest at any time.”
“I will.” Ulamara calmly answered back.
With a curious look at her sister, “Me too!” Elamara added as her excitement spilled out onto her face.
“Alright then.” Willing the mana within his body to gush forth, “Let’s go.” He spoke, and powerful gust swept him into the air.
Elamara’s surprised voice resounded from below him as Ulamara giggled knowingly, zipping up to his side.
“Y-you can fly too?!”
-Darsus. Zorin Academy-
“Please… please give me a sign…” Master Keral groaned, having lost count of the numerous texts and documents he had boringly slogged through, “I beg you… anything will do at this point. ANYTHING.” He pleaded, quickly flipping through the texts in front of him without even skimming through them, before dismissing them onto a large pile behind him.
Ever since the attack on the city, he had spent almost every available moment seeking out what the deceased headmaster had been pursuing.
But even after hundreds of records, journals, books, and documents, his laborious efforts had borne little to no reward. The only thing that he could conclude from the seemingly endless pursuit, was that the old master had been researching history. And not just any history, but ancient history with a few texts going as far back as what has been deemed the Golden Ages by modern scholars.
Yet, having survived the trials of time via countless transcriptions and reiterations, the works before him now were nothing more, than fanciful tales filled with metaphors and idyllic visions.
“Why?” Keral questioned, slumping back into the seat. “Haaa….” With an exhausted sigh, he turned to look at the mountains of books around him before leaning his head back and closing his eyes. “Why did you not confide in any of us?” He groaned as frustration overwhelmed his thoughts.
As if on cue to disturb him, *Knock!* *Knock!* “Master Keral? Are you still in there?” A voice called out to him from through the door.
Hurrying to sit up properly, “Yes?! Come in!” Keral quickly shouted back, prompting the door to creak open.
Stepping into the room with a tray of food was Sven, the head of the deceased headmaster’s scribes.
“Is it dinner already?” He questioned in surprise, seeing the man out of his green and white scribe robes.
“Not yet, but I thought you might be hungry.” The man answered while carefully maneuvering through the mess toward him.
“That so? Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it.” Sven replied, carefully placing the tray onto the desk. Taking a curt step back, instead of leaving, the scribe took a long gander around the room. “This mess… it really reminds me of him.”
“It does, doesn’t it?” Keral quietly agreed, following the scribe’s gaze.
“Locking himself in here all those days. Forgetting to even eat, never even resting, and now…”
Seeing the desolate look on Sven’s face, “The return orders have not been sent out yet, you know? If you need more time to mourn, just-”
“No.” A swift reply with a grateful nod, “Thank you, but I am fine. It’s just… I’m so used to seeing him there in your very spot that it just feels surreal. Who would have guessed that he would be gone like this?” With a lifeless smile, “Anyways, my apologies for disturbing you. I shall return to my duties at once.”
“Nonsense, and thank you for the food.” Keral quickly answered back.
Yet as he watched the scribe open the door to leave, a thought suddenly struck him. “Sven! Wait!” And he shouted, prompting the scribe to halt before the door.
“Do you… do you happen to know who usually brought the headmaster his food while he secluded himself in here?”
A questioning look manifested upon Sven’s face, “I did whenever I could, sir. Otherwise, I would send one of the others. Why do you ask?”
“I just- can you come back here for a moment?” He urged, and as the scribe made his way back toward him, “I need you to look around to see if there is anything you might recognize. Maybe a book that you saw the headmaster deeply curious with. Maybe he let slip a remark about something to you? Just anything that might clue me in on whatever it is that he was so fervently searching for.”
Quickly silencing himself, he watched as Sven proceeded to carefully survey the room.
After a long arduous moment, alas, the scribe merely looked back to him and shook his head. “I’m sorry. I don’t recognize anything here nor can I remember the headmaster taking a vested interested in any of these texts.”
“I see… thank you.” With a deep sigh and the hopes within him vanishing, he quietly reached forward and took hold of the spoon upon his dinner tray.
The answers he was seeking were nowhere to be found yet. At least he would not be searching for them on an empty stomach.
“Yes?” He looked back up to the scribe.
“If you believe whatever the headmaster was doing to be important, perhaps there might be a clue in his notes?”
Eyes widening at the information, “Notes? The old man was taking notes?” He immediately questioned back.
“I’ve seen him scribbling on more than one occasion. He would never tell me what he was doing and would always try and hide them whenever I got close, but I remember seeing pages here and there whenever I would come to check up on him.
“I… I have not seen anything resembling notes around here.”
“Maybe he’s hidden them somewhere? If we’re lucky, maybe they’ve been buried under the books?”
“That- curses…” He grumbled at his own stupidity, “With all that’s happened and everyone so busy and away these days, I didn’t think it a priority to waste anyone’s time tidying up this room.”
“A handful of the scribes have already returned. If you’d like, I can call for them and we can spend the evening clearing and organizing this place.” Sven quickly suggested.
“Yes. Yes… that would be great.”
Before long, the crumpled corners belonging to a handful of beige parchments edged through the mountain of books they were excavating. Situated midway through the pile, it had probably fallen off the desk during the many quakes and shocks of the attack, and then gotten buried beneath even more books that fell after.
Just looking at the corners, they could all see that they were the same type of papers that the scribes were using, and did not have any bindings or covers like all the rest.
Shuddering with excitement as he pulled it free, Keral quickly poured through the pages. “This… this is it. The old man’s notes…” He voiced in exasperated relief, taking in the familiar handwriting that had been scribbled throughout them all.