Drawing her eyes away from Zirus who was whimpering and slithering anxiously around the dim room, Elamara quietly looked down at herself.
Unlike the restless serpent, she had not moved a single step from her place atop the small pile of fur hides within the back corner of the room.
Zirus hissed loudly and she quickly looked up, only to see it following the frustrated hiss with a defeated whimper. Slithering around in circular motions somberly, the pitch-black serpent eventually gave up and slowly vanished into a corner of the room.
Looking at the pitiful beast all coiled up in its own corner away from her, as much as she wanted to comfort it, she could not. Angling her eyes upward to the ceiling, Elamara quietly threw herself back, burying her body into the softness of the thick fur beneath.
A cocoon of pure white flash before her eyes within the dull room, followed by an unending storm.
‘The Light of The First Dawns… The Undying Breath of The World.’
The mana within her core rippled throughout her body again as her memories recalled the two elementals.
“Honored one…” She quietly echoed Ulamara’s words, seeing that her worries and suspicions ever since coming into contact with the human was now nowhere to be found.
Closing her eyes, the two elemental’s orb forms began manifesting within her mind and just like when they were before her, she could feel her core expanding with exhilaration.
Standing before their presences, as a spirit herself, her own instincts had told her that they were no mere elementals.
Existing even above the world’s natural order, they were unfettered by the laws of nature.
Extraordinary entities, capable of reshaping the world to their own whims and desires. Parts of Lovis itself, made whole and given will.
And yet, as majestic as they were, both had lowered themselves to the human boy as if servants, taking on the human’s will instead.
Placing a hand above her core, “Rhultal Vox Treval AnDargus.” She curiously spoke the name aloud like she had done a few days ago, “Last of the An’Daralites and Heir to the Silver Plains of AnDarg.” Though still unable to understand what any of it meant, her core was now shuddering with each word.
‘Search the mountains.’ A voice slowly meandered into her thoughts, repeating itself to her mind, ‘Let me know immediately if you find anything of note.’ Though the simple command was laxed and unworthy of note, the proud wind had roared throughout the tent, soaring dutifully into the sky like that of an eager phraeling.
‘Just who are you?’ She wondered, envisioning the human’s face, “No… what are you?” She questioned with a whisper, as her thoughts moved onto that of her own sister.
The frail sister, who had been unable to even muster the lowest of magics and had always required aid in everything.
The helpless sister, whom she had been protecting all their life.
The insufferable twin, whom their parents had cherished more than anything or anyone else in the world.
That weak sister, had suddenly become one with magic itself, surpassing even her own abilities and that of their parents.
“Ulamara…” Opening her eyes to stare up at the ceiling, the events of that auspicious day and night returned to her. The reasons why her sister had been so willful, so adamant about staying beside the human, it had all become clear. It was like her sister had already known then, what she herself was only beginning to discover.
“How did you know?” She questioned.
Turning onto her side, she quietly ran her left arm along the softness of the fur bed, moving through the fine fibers as if her fingers were gliding through the air.
A smile emerged onto her face as the images of Ulamara flying freely and cheerfully beside her surged into her thoughts.
Yet as quickly as it came, she could feel that very same smile fading as a torrential and seemingly endless outpouring of mana obstructed her view, flowing alongside the visions of Ulamara’s enamored and joyful visage.
A piercing hiss instantly pulled her out of her uneasy thoughts, and she quickly sat up. Looking over to where the hissing came from, Zirus had already slithered out from its corner and was now growling, staring through the sheet of patched-up cloth that separated the room from the rest of the large tent.
“W-what is it?” She meekly questioned as the sensation of her thoughts continued to prevail within her mind.
“Krurraaa!” The black serpent yelped again, and began beating its wings as two sets of footsteps approached the tent.
“…it’s not wine, but it should help.”
Deep but not too low with a stringent and formal tone, a distinct voice came through from the outside.
“I was hoping, but judging by the circumstances, I guess it was asking for too much. That’ll have to do.” Sounding sharper and chipper than the previous, another distinct voice followed as the flap to the tent was lifted.
The black serpent instantly leapt upward and, “Shaaaaarak! Kruaaaa!” Sent a howling roar into the sheet of cloth before it, ripping the fabric off its wooden sidebar while at the same time, blowing away the shabby table and chairs in its path.
She saw as the blonde man who had opened the tent’s flap halted in curious alarm.
“Zirus, no!” Bracing his body for impact, the second man, the one who had been introduced as Vick shouted and quickly stepped in to block the entranceway.
Shooting through the air like a dark bolt, Zirus swerved aside and deftly evaded the man’s grasping hands before bursting through the door.
“Zirus!” The man named Vick shouted once more, while the blonde man who had been introduced as Biran stepped into the tent with a look of curious astonishment on his face. Picking up one of the chairs and holding it upright, the man turned and looked over in her direction.
Surprised by the human’s gaze, she hurriedly stood up. Taking in a quick breath to calm herself down, she willed the mana within her core outward and swiftly wrapped herself with it before hastily following Zirus.
The tearful wails of a child entered his ears and slowing his steps, Kaidus turned, spotting a young boy around three years of age standing a few good paces behind them.
Hands and knees covered in mud as if he had just fallen onto the ground, the boy was crying loudly while a girl of no more than six or seven attempted to help console him. Those passing by glanced at the two, but troubled with their own struggles, none were stopping to help.
A smile slowly crept upon him as he watched the young girl begrudgingly brushing away the clumps of mud on the boy’s pants, while at the same, time scolding the boy for being reckless.
Narissa called to him from a few steps ahead, but without taking heed of her voice, he found himself strolling back toward the two as Ulamara zipped curiously alongside him.
Without a care for her own cleanliness, the young girl quickly rubbed the mud on her hands away and tenderly patted the young boy’s head before taking one of his hands into her own.
It was an act of siblings lovingly caring for one another even amidst obvious frustrations, and he had missed it much. Though he was now the eldest, the affection of an older brother was something that he had never forgotten.
“Are you both alright?” He questioned as his steps brought him closer to them.
“Hn?” The young girl turned up to look at him as her brother continued to sob inconsolably.
“Is your brother hurt?” He queried, stopping before he got too close.
“Hurt?” She replied and gave him a curious stare, “Jaime was running and he fell down. Who are you?” She briefly explained before asking him for his own identity.
Hearing how similar her blunt reply was to that of Anise’s when she was younger, he could not help but smile. “I’m a friend.” Squatting down, he lowered himself to the boy’s eye level. “It’s alright. It’s just a little mud.”
“I told Jaime not to run, but he wouldn’t listen, and now mother is going to be mad.” The girl began, speaking quickly and harshly, “Mother yelled at him for getting his clothes dirty already. She just washed them yesterday, but Jaime got it all dirty again. Mother will be irate for sure.”
At his sister’s words, the boy’s cries only grew louder.
Looking at the young girl who was still holding onto her brother’s hand all the while reprimanding the boy, “Irate, huh?” He repeated, amused that she would even know such a word. “We can’t have that now, can we?”
“No, but Jaime is all dirty and I don’t know how to wash his clothes. I’m still small!” The young girl exclaimed, looking at him as if he was daft.
“Kahahahah!” Narissa’s boisterous laughter exploded from behind him.
Barely restraining his own, “He’ll be alright. Here, look.” Bringing both his hands to the little boy’s knees, he covered the top part where the mud stains began and slowly lowered his hands, willing the dirt down alongside them.
“Huh? Jaime, look! Look!” Words filled with surprise came from the girl as if she had never seen magic before.
Bringing his hands all the way down to the boy’s feet, he pressed his hands into the ground, pretending to push the mud that he had taken from the child’s pants into the earth. “There. All gone.” Lifting his hands up, he flipped them to reveal his empty palms, “See?”
“What!??” The girl cried out again. Taking a hold of his hands, she curiously flipped them over and over, searching for any traces of dirt. “But how?”
Returning a smile, he placed a finger up to his mouth as if it was a secret and stood up, “That should be good, right? Your mother will not be angry with him anymore?”
“Un! His pants are clean again!” There was a wide teething grin on the young girl’s face.
With tears still in his eyes, the young boy looked down at himself and slowly ceased his sniveling.
“Make sure to watch yours steps from now on, okay?” With another smile at the boy, Kaidus turned around, only to see Ulamara grinning at him.
“You’re pretty good with kids.” Narissa who had followed behind them remarked with one side of her mouth already curving upward into a teasing smile.
“I have a younger sister and a younger brother at home.” He replied, dismissing her childish look of amusement.
“Oh?” The Kovus woman’s half smile bloomed into a grin, “I see… so there are still two more little lords out there.”
“Little lords?” He repeated.
“No?” Narissa lifted one side of her brows, “It’s what some of the guards have been calling you. Well, some of the ones from the Esperen camp anyways.”
Recalling that morning after running into them along with how Biran has been addressing him, “How foolish…” He voiced and attempted to walk away.
‘It’s not foolish at all!’
Ulamara’s voice retorted cheerfully within his mind, yet it was something else that had prompted him to halt his steps.
“Hands! … Hands!”
A small voice came from behind, and he looked to see that the young boy had followed him and was holding up both arms.
“Dirty.” The child added, looking up with pleading eyes.
With another smile, he lowered his right hand toward the boy’s own.
The dirt on the child’s arms immediately clumped together and rolled off like large grains of sands, revealing the boy’s bare and spotless hands beneath.
“Better?” He asked, putting his hand onto the boy’s head and rubbing it playfully.
“Hihihih!” His difficulties all but forgotten, “Alma, look!” The boy began waving his hands at his sister.
“Go on, now. Back to your mother.” Ushering the siblings away, the young girl took hold of her brother’s hand again and with another bright smile, carefully led the boy away.
Taking his eyes away from the two, he turned his attention toward the direction of the command tent and scanned the air.
“How old are your siblings anyways?” Narissa questioned, stepping up beside.
“My sister’s name day came toward the end of Fulta, so she should be nine now. My younger brother just recently turned one.”
“Nine and one? That… that’s a pretty big gap.” Having brusquely stated her thoughts, “Ah, sorry. That was inconsiderate of me.” Narissa quickly lowered herself apologetically.
“It’s fine. My parents are still young. It is what it is.” Without minding her comment or taking his eyes off the sky, he calmly stretched his left arm into the air.
“Hm? What are you doing?” Another question.
“Zirus has decided to join us.”
At Narissa’s confusion, “Shaaaaa!” A shrill hiss quickly silenced the throngs of indecipherable commotions around them.
Instantly strengthening his arm as the youngling homed in on his position, Zirus skillfully caught itself on his wrist and quickly wrapped its tail around his arm. Skillfully tucking its wings away as its momentum came to a halt, “Kaaasharra!” Zirus snarled, pouting aggrievedly back at him.
“Haa… what am I going to do with you?” He grumbled back.
“Saaaahaaak!” The youngling replied sharply and swiftly lessened its grip as it slithered onto his shoulders.
“Where is Elamara?” He questioned, ignoring the dozens of eyes that were already looking in their direction.
“Kaaaruak!” Snapping loudly, the young hvaral arched its head back toward the direction of the command tent.
In the air, a cluster of mana wrapped in light was hurrying toward them as well.
Narissa’s troubled voice entered his ears and he turned to see her staring in the same direction. “What was that?” Kaidus replied back, pretending he didn’t hear her.
“N-no, nothing. Never mind.” Returning her eyes back onto the youngling, “… Did… did Zirus get bigger, or am I imagining it?”
Glancing aside at the serpent, it turned its head away and snapped at Narissa before slithering back to reposition and coil itself around his left arm.
“He… he looks bigger than the last time I saw him.”
“I would not be surprised. He has already grown a few handspans longer compared to when I first met him.” Lifting the beast, “Twice as heavy too.”
“Kruuuur!” The comment easily garnered a defiant growl.
“That’s what you get for feasting like a king while I was away. Soon I won’t be able to carry you anymore. Is that what you want?”
“Ka- hasss!” Zirus retorted and quickly unfolded its large translucent wings. Leaping off his arm, it caught the air and swirled upward, “Ksaaa! Kaasaahh!” Keeping itself afloat with powerful wingbeats, the young hvaral proudly hissed back down at them as if saying that it can carry itself.
All around, people had already ceased their endless toils and were watching the young drakall intently as even more gathered. His own guard was also frozen and gazing at Zirus like a statue.
“You’re making a scene. Come down right now.” Projecting his voice toward the youngling, he raised his left hand again and it slowly descended, settling back along his arm. “And this, is why I did not want to bring you along.”
Flicking its tongue toward the onlookers as if noticing them for the first time, “Kuuuruuruuur…” The young serpent purred meekly and lowered its head.
‘Hehehe.’ A jubilant laughter entered his thoughts, and he turned to see Ulamara giggling. ‘It doesn’t want to leave you either.’ She added, grinning brightly.
“The both of you…” Powerful as they are, at times they were no different than that of children. Troublesome, curious, and overwhelmingly endearing children.
Ulamara especially, had refused to stay behind in the command tent after hearing that they would have to wait for him again.
With Zirus having joined them as well, “Alright then. Let’s all go together.” He could not help but relent against their unified voices.
Giving Elamara who had caught up a nod of appreciation for having selflessly volunteered to stay behind with Zirus, he shouldered the youngling and continued trekking northward.
A few eyes turned in their direction as they entered the circle of tents and shelters that had been set up for the girls.
Upon spotting Zirus wrapped around his shoulders, two young boys who had been tossing rocks into a ring of sticks on the ground immediately stopped what they were doing and ran toward the tents.
“Come here!” Narissa’s playful voice erupted through the area, “Come look at it! I told you it was real!” She shouted, grinning at the two.
“Narissa? Can you-”
One of the older girls who was tending to the fire at the center of the camp curiously called out. Upon catching sight of him, she quickly stood up and brushed her skirt and blouse before curtsying modestly toward him.
With a gracious nod in return, he looked to the others who had taken notice of their arrival as well.
Two girls, perhaps around Saadra’s age or a little older had stopped washing the pile of dishes before them and were standing. Bowing politely in unison, they wordlessly welcomed him.
Hanging clothes to dry on a wooden rack near the back, Arleen, one of the elders within the group respectfully lowered her head before continuing her chores.
From the tents, a handful of the younger girls were curiously peeking out in their direction.
“Where is everyone?” He questioned as he looked around.
Along with the Ridales sisters, at least half of the group were nowhere to be seen.
“Probably fetching water. The little ones in there did firewood earlier. Come.” Narissa replied, walking ahead.
From where they were watching, the girls began coming out of the shelters one after another. Wearing mismatched and ragged clothes that were beginning to tear and fray, at a single glance, he could easily see the trouble and ordeals that they had overcome. With a smile, he nodded back to them and followed Narissa.
“Juliana. Ashlyn. Where’s Emila?” Narissa questioned, asking the two who were doing the dishes.
With fair dark brown hair, a comely appearance, and light gray eyes befitting her name, “She’s resting.” The girl called Ashlyn quickly answered.
“Is… is something the matter?” The other girl, Juliana, inquisitively interjected.
Another lovely young lady, she had covered the left side of her face with her long blonde hair as if hiding something.
“No, everything is fine.” With a reassuring smile, Narissa quickened her steps and hurried toward one of the tents.
Having been left behind with the guard whom Biran had assigned to him, “What was your name again?” He questioned, looking to the man.
Clean shaven and appearing around Biran’s age, the guard was a head taller than the knight himself. Lanky with an awkwardly delicate frame, the man’s steps were quite light and judging by his posture and the way he moved, there was some skill within him.
The man lowered his head, “I am Koran, Sire.” A deep baritone unfitting for someone so slim came out of the man’s mouth.
Swallowing a bothersome sigh at hearing the man emulating Biran, “There’s no need for such formalities. Please raise your head.”
“Yes, Sire.” Straightened himself out, “How may I be of service?” The man questioned, keeping upright and proper.
‘Hehehehe!’ An amused giggle came from Ulamara again.
Ignoring the pleased expression on the young phrae’s face, “Find a spot and keep an eye out. There’s no need to follow me around so closely in here.” He quickly instructed.
“Yessir.” With another deep bow, the man made his way back to the opening where they had entered the circle of tents.
Fixing his gaze, Kaidus turned to the two girls who were standing a few steps away and watching him.
Both of the girls curtsied carefully upon meeting his eyes and hastily lowered their heads.
Stepping toward them, “I am no lord and you need not call me as such, so please raise your heads.”
“But- …” The girl named Juliana attempted to protest, but quickly held back her words.
As if she were in the same line of thoughts, “Many are saying you are. And even if you are not, you are our savior.” Ashlyn quickly complemented.
Seeing that they would not raise their heads, he stepped closer and lowered his hand toward Juliana’s face.
Her body trembled, but did not recoil as he brushed aside her hair, revealing a large bruise between her left ear and left eye. The swelling had receded somewhat, but a bump could still be seen even with the cover of the bruise.
He knew who they were. He had heard about their ordeals already and seeing it for himself, he could not help as a surge of anger began to tightly coiled itself around his chest. “You have both suffered much… please forgive me.” He solemnly apologized, seeing the girl continue to tremble as silent tears began to roll down her face.
“I- I was able to get away with minor scratches, but Emila and Juliana… they…” Ashlyn spoke, her voice growing quieter and more painful with each word.
“Rest assured… nothing will happen to you or any of your sisters while I’m here.” Cupping the blonde girl’s face with his hand, he gently raised Juliana’s head.
Sniffling in silent anguish, the girl was biting against her lips while trying to hold back her tears.
With his hand, he carefully wiped away a string of tears and forced a smile as the pitiful girl’s forlorn eyes lifted themselves to look up at him.
“Such loveliness has no need for tears of sadness, don’t you think?” He spoke, and her mouth quavered, “Can you close your eyes for me?” He beckoned, and she wordlessly complied.
Infusing his mana into the girl, the pain that had been covered up by her clothes easily revealed themselves before him.
There was a long abrasion along her right arm denoting a forceful fall, probably while she was running. An injury on her right shoulder from the fall. A second bruise on her forearm that could only have occurred from being grasped and handled too roughly. And lastly, numerous scrapes and scratches on her knees as if she had been begging while kneeling atop a layer of rocks.
“Do not be afraid, for the pain will last but an instant.” He warned, and willed the mana within her body to heal and rejuvenate her.
“Uhgk!” A groan of pain came from the girl as soon as it began, and he calmly pulled his hand away as she gasped loudly before slowly falling to her knees.
“J-Juliana?!” Standing beside her, Ashlyn exclaimed fearfully and quickly took hold of her friend. “Juli? Juli?!”
“A-Ash?” *Cough!* *Cough!* “Wh-what happened to me?” With a confused voice, Juliana slowly opened her eyes as if having awoken from a deep slumber.
“You- I- I don’t-” Confused and lost for words, Ashlyn’s eyes looked up to him, seeking answers.
“There is nothing to fear.” He reassured the panicked girl before returning his focus to Juliana. “How do you feel?”
“I… I don’t know…” Touching her arms and face, Juliana’s eyes widened.
“Juli… you… your bruise.” Ashlyn voiced, and quickly swept aside her friend’s hair for a better look. The dark bruise was nowhere to be seen. “Did… did you do that?” She questioned, staring back up.
“Again, forgive me for not being there.” Kaidus replied and gave them both an apologetic bow before lifting his head and taking a step back. “I must see to Emila now, but if there is anything wrong or you feel anything out of place, please do not hesitate to come find me.” With another nod to the two, he turned toward the direction that Narissa had gone.
‘You… what are you?!’ A stunned yet extremely curious voice rang out through his thoughts and Elamara hurried before him, stopping in his path. ‘What was- what was that magic?!’ She exclaimed loudly within his mind as if mystified.
‘I told you already. He is our Honored One!’ Ulamara’s exultant voice resounded through his head after her sister’s, and the young phrae lightly descended to hover beside him. ‘Right?’ She questioned, unable to hide her overflowing emotions and the grin on her face.
Thank you all for waiting, and I hope you all enjoyed the chapter!
Sorry if I droned on a little longer than expected for these past few chapters, but I felt this part of the story needed closure. With this, the reunions are over and with things already set in motion, I implore you all to please look forward to what comes next.
To Everyone who randomly decided to search for my story again and found themselves here, Welcome Back!
Take your time to catch up, and thank you for giving FC another chance.
As always, thank you for reading and thank you all for your support.