A tiny voice.
Weakened and filled with torment, it pierced through the sea of mana surrounding him.
Wrapped in sorrow and grief, the words lodged themselves into the depths of his mind.
Instantly halting himself, Kaidus turned his gaze from where the small cat had vanished and looked toward the tree lines.
From where the voice originated, he could feel two distinct sources of mana dissolving within his own. Simple but defined and exceedingly dense, they were something he had not felt since the days of yore.
With a thought, he swiftly ceased the outpouring of power.
Reeling in all that he had exerted, he focused his mind and the visuals of the forest came flooding into his head alongside the images of two terrified and small individuals.
“You are…” Phraes. The word spoke itself within the confines of his mind as his lips curved upward into an astonished smile.
He had thought them to all be hidden away from the world after everything that transpired, but it seems that was not the case.
To catch them in in Malpaars, formerly Malpos and the heart of Phraen research, it was a testament to the times and how much the world has changed.
With haste, he rushed toward the trees to where the two weakened presences could be felt.
Upon a low hanging branch on one of the blossoming trees, he easily spotted the figures of two tiny humanoids barely the size of his fingers.
Their bodies wrapped in thin veils of mana and skin tones of fire like the setting sun, their outward appearances were that of children, possibly young adolescents. Protruding from the center of their foreheads, were small singular horns the same color as their dark green hair. Their eyes on the other hand, were pitch black like the void itself.
Lying atop one another, both were breathing heavily with one appearing to be in a state of unconscious shock. The other while still conscious, was painfully gasping for air.
His own eyes widened, seeing that not only were they young females, they were also twins, something that the Phraes of old had always celebrated and had greatly considered an omen of fortune.
Raising his hand toward them in curious excitement, the one that was still awake visibly recoiled at his actions and anxiously clutched onto the other protectively.
‘You’re killing my SISTER!’
The small voice reasserted itself within his thoughts and he quickly stilled his hands. Such desperation had been directed at him from such a small being.
“What are the two of you doing out here?” He questioned, immensely curious about their presence but not moving any closer.
The young Phrae did not answer. Instead, she continued to shake while holding onto her unconscious sister.
“Can you not find your way back to Trasevenesae?” He added, recalling the folded world hidden in between the shades of Lovis and Lagus.
At his question, the young Phrae’s eyes seemingly rose up to look at him in shocked surprise as her lips began quivering in fear.
“Hmm…” Seeing her discomfort and the state of her sister, he reached forth with his hand again, this time not hesitating even as the young phrae recoiled further.
With two of his fingers touching both of them, he willed it, and his own mana rushed into the two.
A warmth like she had never felt before was sourcing itself throughout her body.
Fierce but filled with a gentleness, it seared her insides, solidifying itself as a part of her while settling into the deepest crevices of her core.
Opening her mind to the unknown sensation, from it, she could almost feel the stability of Dinasthirea, the Tree of Wonder itself. And like thick roots taking hold, it was strengthening her from within, reforging her mind and body alike.
Yet as she continued taking in the unknown warmth, so too did it take her into itself as fragments of its being began revealing themselves to her.
Bits and pieces of a time lost to the ages.
Visions of a life buried in sadness and regret.
Of undying hatred and love so profound that she could not help but take them in as her own.
Warped and twisted in emptiness but unbreaking, she saw the tumultuous warpath of the unknown being. She held onto the burdens they carried while hiding it behind laughter and immeasurable pride. She felt the loneliness that they felt, and while they stowed it away secretively, she could feel that it was never far from the surface.
Fear and sacrifices abundant, the memories were always moving toward a singular purpose. Even as the world itself turned against them, the individual continued striving forth, all up until their unfortunate end.
Then the nightmares.
Countless deaths filled with nothing but suffering in its wake. Always reforming, but never allowed the gift of being whole.
Drunk in its dreaded embrace, as the rush of life suddenly pulled away from her, she could feel the tears within herself gushing forth.
“What did you do?! What did you do to my sister?!”
Elamara’s frantic voice rang in her ears as the warmth receded, leaving an empty void in the depths of her core.
“You’re hurting her! You’re killing her! Give her back!”
Ela’s voice continued loudly, almost energetic even though her tone was distant and overwhelmed by fear.
Feeling her own senses returning, “E-Ela?” She slowly opened her eyes as her sister continued raving, already forgotten about the discomfort in her body.
“Ela?!” She screamed, seeing that the branch upon which they were standing was no more. Instead, she was lying atop a large opened palm and her sister was nowhere to be seen.
What loomed before her as she sat up, was a face very different from the one she had glimpsed in her vision. Young but angular without the blemishes of age, instead of silver, it had two dark piercing eyes and a head of deep black hair.
It stared at her and though still in shock, she froze as their eyes met. In that instant, she knew the two to be one and the same.
“Feeling better?” It spoke with a gentle smile, voice soft and careful so as not to frighten her.
Her chest throbbed as the insufferable anguish and pain she had just felt rushed outward.
She clutched onto her chest as she wordlessly stared at the face before her.
The willpower it must have taken for one to be able to keep such fragmented agony together, it was something she could never dream herself to be capable of.
“Sniff! Ugnn- Ghh- uwaaaaaaa!”
For the person before her to be smiling, she could not help but break down and cry for his sake.
Elamara’s voice shouted from behind but still in tears, she dared not turn to look back.
Instead, she heard as Elamara jumped from behind and could feel the winds changing as Ela rode the gust toward her. With a panicked landing, her sister rushed to her side.
“Ula are you okay?!”
In tears, she could only nod and take hold of her sister’s embrace.
“How do you feel?” The face before them questioned again, his words dancing around them like playful wisps.
“What do you want?!” Before she could muster up the strength to answer, Elamara had already gotten in front of her. “You better let us go!”
With both arms out and in a protective display, she could see that Ela was attempting to shield her from the being before them.
*Sniff*. Drawing in the feelings within her chest, she reached out and took hold of her sister’s arm, dragging it back toward her. “E-Ela, s-stop it.”
“Stop? What do you-”
With a look of confusion on Elamara’s face, she quickly pulled Ela behind her and without rising from where she knelt, she carefully wiped away the tears upon her face. Correcting her kneeling posture, with both hands to her forehead, she lowered herself in a deep bow.
“A-as a descendant of Vasalus En’Nilthra, Mother of the Veiled Ones, *Sniff* I- I thank you for everything you have done.” She wept as the words escaped her mouth, unable to withstand the emotions that had been flowing within her kin for hundreds of generations.
“Ula?” Audibly confused, “Why are you invoking the revered ancestors?” Elamara questioned from beside her.
“He… *sniff* Ela, he is- Uguuu…” Incapable of forming further words, she could do naught but cry.
“I see…” The voice resounded with a soft-spoken surprise, “No wonder something felt off about you… to have inherited some of her abilities, how precious.” Instead of the concerned voice from earlier, the words now were regal in all their senses. Proud and incredibly noble, they drew her in and revealed to her a knowledge that she could only imagine.
Still bowing, she cupped her face with her hands and wept.
It was him.
The uncrowned king who had forged and opened the path to Trasevenesae itself, allowing them a place to exist in between worlds.
It was he who had aided their kin in their darkest of times, helping them when they were being hunted by mages for the sake of augmenting their own powers.
It was also him, whom they had abandoned in his time of need.
“I’m so sorry… *sniff* Please… forgive us…” She pleaded, not lifting her head as the shame of her ancestors flooded her through the fleeting knowledge.
“I…” The voice paused as if at a loss for words. “I am glad to see that our efforts had not been in vain.”
Instead of admonishing her for what they have done, his words gripped at her core and filled it with forgiveness.
Though ignorant as she was, after witnessing such memories, there was no going back.
The lies of the past. A debt that could never be repaid. A freedom given by one who is now unspoken of, and has been annulled from the very voice of their kind.
Had she not seen it and lived it herself, it would have been impossible to believe.
“Please do not cry.” The voice ushered, each word suffusing through her like intoxicating mist. “Such events are in the past. There is no need for you to trouble yourself over matters that have expired.”
“It was the right choice. I destroyed the passage, knowing that they would not return. And your ancestors, knowing the perils awaiting them, did not look back.”
Hearing those words, she looked up at the deity before them. Her chest swelled and without so much as a word, she could not help but weep.
It was something to be wary of.
Whether it be fleeting or permanent, the strings of fate connected people and spirits in various forms, even through time and space. And once said connections have been established, there was no escaping it whether it be for the better, or for the worse.
Like the hands on a timekeeper, no matter what, the hands would eventually align… Fate was one as such.
Existing outside the realm of control, it had always moved in unpredictable and erratic ways while at the same time, converging upon itself as if to correct order within the ever-flowing sways of the world.
And now, before him was one such example.
A young phrae. Not just anyone, but a carrier of the ancient En’ bloodline and capable of usurping its gift of resonance.
In her eyes, there was no secrets.
Before her mind, the nature of his true self can only be laid bare.
To her gift, he was but a terrified child afraid of loss and the darkness that continues to nip at his heels.
Looking at her, though she should be afraid of him, of what he has done, of what he is, the sorrow and pain emanating from her could only be described as pitiful. Not for herself or her kind after seeing what his memories had shown her, but for him.
“It is alright, young one. That is enough. As you can see for yourself, I am still here. Though in a different form and in a different time, I have been able to survive… even if not in the standard sense of the word itself.” He coaxed, gently removing all that he had infused into her, leaving only the grace of his protection behind.
“H- how can that be?” She tearfully spoke out against his words. “How can anyone be alright after all that!?” She cried out, her face a lovely mess of care and anger.
Looking at her state, she had undoubtedly taken quite the mental blow.
The lifetime of experiences that he had accumulated was felt by her in an instant, and it is a wonder that she could still function.
Her heightened emotions, the pain she was in, even her guilt. None of them were even hers, but she still wept for him.
“Thank you.” He replied, unwilling to reject her kindness. “Now wipe your tears. For such a fateful meeting, we should be celebrating and not grieving. Don’t you think?” He added and from within the palm of his hand, the young phrae slowly and reluctantly nodded.
“Okay! What is going on?!” The other twin finally interrupted, having found a lull in their conversation. “What is he, and why are you crying like that?! Is he not the Destroyer?!”
“Destroyer?” He echoed back in confusion and the young phrae looked up at him. Her eyes were still swollen due to the influx of emotions, but an innocent smile had made its way onto her lips.
“He- he is not. He is-“
“Ah. Where are my manners?” He quickly interrupted before the young phrae could finish. “You can call me Kaidus. I am, but a wandering mage.” He added with a smile.
Catching his intentions, the young phrae–though visibly disappointed, closed her eyes and bowed her head respectfully.
“He is what, Ula? What were you going to say?” The twin sister questioned, face skeptical but even more inquisitive than before.
“He is not the Destroyer.” A tone of assertion came from the young phrae along with a willful smile up at him.
“And you two are?” Kaidus finally questioned, returning a thankful nod of his own.
In his hand, the young phrae quickly pulled her sister to stand by her side. With her tiny hand to her chest, “I am Ulamara En’Muryd and this is my sister Elamara En’Muryd. We are the daughters of Kelinthia En’Galite and Osfurun En’Kalinsor.” She then bowed deeply. “We greet the honored one.”
“Ula?” The young phrae named Elamara spoke in confusion from beside her sister.
Looking upward, “What are you doing? You too!” Ulamara hurriedly grabbed hold of her sister’s arm and pulled her downward.
“Haha.” He chuckled at the display. “There is no need for such formalities. Just call me Kaidus. I am Kaidus Paltos, son of Troyle Paltos and Adalina Drallfus.”
“H-how can we dare do such a thing?” Ulamara exclaimed upon his words, her face red and abashed. “You are the honored one and should be addressed as such.”
“Huh? Honored one?” Abundantly confused now, Elamara spoke up from beside her sister, “He is?”
Kaidus chuckled again, seeing the young phrae pointing her tiny fingers at him. “No, I am-”
“Yes you are!” Ulamara exclaimed in contention to his denial.
Looking at her again, it was painfully evident that while she had consented to keeping his secret, she could not allow herself to further deny him of such a status. “Ulamara…”
“Please… please don’t tell me otherwise.” She begged, her black eyes sparkling like the deepest nights.
“Haa… very well,” He concede, seeing the unyielding look on her face, “but only between us.”
With a startled exclamation of victory, the young phrae gave another series of thankful bows and he could do naught by look on with a defeated smile.
Her sister Elamara on the other hand, was staring up at him, face even more confused than before.
“With that over with, I must apologize to you both.” Closing his eyes and lowering his head, “forgive me for putting you both through such terrifying ordeals.” He entreated, carefully moving them back to the tree branch from where he had found them.
“Are… are you leaving?” Ulamara questioned from within his palm. Not stepping off onto the branch, her voice was shaking with a shy hesitation.
“I must.” He answered, giving her another smile. “There are probably people wondering about what has happened to me and if I don’t alleviate their worries, who knows the kind of troubles they’ll stir in my absence.”
“And I’d wager that there are those looking for you both as well.” Seeing as she timidly continued to stand atop his hand without moving, “Not to mention… I am not in the best state of dress either. All my belongings seem to have evaporated, so I must find a way to make myself presentable with haste.” He added jovially, having not forgotten about his less than decorous appearance.
Neither shy nor embarrassed about seeing his nakedness, Ulamara quickly turned to her sister. “Ela, do you think the Shii would allow us some items from the entangled troves?”
Already on the tree branch and looking quite speechless, Elamara shrugged at the question.
Carefully climbing down his palm onto the branch, “Can you open the gate? I will go ask the Shii.” Ulamara spoke excitedly as if having thought up of something.
“Thank you, but there is no need for such. You two go on now.” He interjected, grateful for her consideration as he pulled back his hand.
“No!!” Ulamara cried out.
Without so much as a thought for her own safety, the young phrae suddenly rushed forward and flung herself from the branch toward him.
The twin sister Elamara screamed in panic and he swiftly reached forth again, catching the young phrae in his hand once more. “Y-you!” He exclaimed, shocked at her thoughtless actions. Yet instead of apologizing or explaining herself, Ulamara quickly wrapped her tiny arms around one of his fingers.
“Please wait! Please…” She entreated, her small voice breaking as tears began stemming upon her eyes.
Hearing the sincerity in her voice and having seen the selfless actions, “Ugh… I get it.” He conceded once more. Lifting her back to the branch, “I will wait here until the morrow. Will that be enough?”
The young phrae’s black eyes lit up as she nodded back in embarrassment.
With Ulamara back on the branch, he watched as Elamara plucked a leaf from within reach and waved it before them.
He felt as the thin veil separating the mortal plane and Lagus revealed itself before peeling away to unveil the hidden realm of Trasevenesae, the realm of the Phraes.
Holding onto her sister’s hand, with a final glance back at him, Ulamara stepped into the portal.
Having waited until the portal disappeared, he slowly made his way back to the clearing, back to where the aggressive little feline had vanished.
“Hm?” A bout of intrigue escaped him upon his arrival.
In his haste to the young phraes earlier, he had failed to notice but something had been left behind.
Cuddled in the grass was a small seed the size of his thumb.
Metallic in appearance, it was no longer the blood-red color of rust like before, but a dull green reminiscent of the feline he had fought. The horns were still there. Except now instead of three, there was a circle of them, almost like a crown. Further below the crown of horns, was something that could only be construed as a tail wrapped around the seed itself. Strangely, he could neither feel his own mana nor sense anything from it anymore.
For it to have survived through his outburst alongside the Nyzacus shards, it was definitely something extraordinary.
Picking the seed up from where it laid, he made his way back to center of the clearing to where he had seen the mirror shards.