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Mera could not believe it.

All of the treasures she saw, the jewelry she wore, and the food she tasted could never match this. Nothing can challenge the sight she was looking at, not even the scenery of the Solaris castles, or the blue rippling seas that surrounded the kingdom. Her heart was chaotic in the stillness of the crowd but this time it wasn't lust. It wasn't the incestuous affair she had with her brother, her sister's husband, Kane Inari, or simply the king.

This time it was motherly love.

Mera gasped when he saw him. She had always hoped he lived, always believing that somehow Philip had saved him. Even after seeing the High Star, Kinarn Sun repeatedly stabbed the newborn, she had always hoped. She wished, dreamed, and wanted a miracle to happen, and it all came true.

He stood on the stage and faced the audience, his sweat visible in the bright, hot sun. Mera shuddered at the familiarity of his face. He looked like her when she was once a child, the black messy hair, small full lips and the brown speckles against his pale skin. But he also shared the features of the king.

Anyone that saw the king many times can easily point out the similarities. The long straight nose, round rosy cheeks, and green eyes that twinkled in the sunlight.

Mera trembled at the thought of the king, all of her happiness gone in an instant. The king was a vicious, evil, and sadistic man. He would execute children, behead their parents, and burn anyone related to them in one flick of a hand. She shuddered at the terrible stories, how the king raped his youngest daughter, how he went into brothels for his pleasures even though he has a queen. The queen that was her sister and the sister that she had betrayed.

"As the Initiator of the 60th Summoning of Valin in T.A. 10871," the old man beside the boy said, "I, Reras Hekrys, would allow Liran Cers of Valin to summon what the Gods of the Sun gave him."

That must be his name, Mera thought. She did not follow Solarity, the kingdom's official religion, but she read enough that the name Liran was written to be a child of the Sun. Either way, Liran was a beautiful name.

Liran accepted the stick that the Initiator gave him, his face broke into a wide smile and Mera's happiness came back to her. He was a beautiful boy and Mera wanted to be there for him. She clutched her chest as she knew that the king already found out her escape from Mahasira.

The crowd murmured as Liran raised the stick. Mera was apprehensive, she didn't want Liran to inherit her power to summon acid. The acid had burned her when she first summoned it. She remembered the lethal substance showering her during her personal Summoning. It scalded her skin and formed scars across her face. She was grateful that it didn't touch her eyes but sorrowful that she would be forever disfigured.

Silence spread through the crowd as Liran started shaking. His hands clasped the stick and he muttered something Mera couldn't hear. After a few seconds, Liran let out a loud gasp and the trees swooshed.

"Wind Summoner!" Reras shouted.

The crowd applauded but Mera did not. She froze on her spot as the people around her moved. She covered her mouth to halt the scream that came to her. War, Mera grasped for the word but it slipped away. Liran would be shipped to one of Solaris military bases to be trained for battle. She didn't want Liran to fight, after 16 years of uncertainty and searching for him, only to find out that he was gonna die. That he was gonna leave her.

Mera's breathing came loudly, she turned when someone tapped her on the back only to be greeted with a recoil. The crowd applause dispersed and Mera slipped away from the horde. Tears gathered in her eyes and her heart was broken once again. It felt so cruel, her heart was shortly glued back together only for a hammer to smashed it into pieces.

Mera ran through the small alleys and hid in an alley behind a house. She gripped on her trousers and tears fell on her face which quickly evaporated on the sun. Mera leaned against the house and slid down. She shivered as she sat on the cold ground, and a hole in her heart opened for Liran.

"Mera!"

Mera stood up and saw a familiar person in one of the alleys. His body was a silhouette but his face was distinctive. When he emerged from the shadows, she quickly recognized him.

"Alric?" Mera's voice was hoarse and rough.

The man ran up to Mera and embraced her. She could smell oil and grime on his skin. It must be Alric, Mera thought after their long hug. He wore brown trousers and white smock. His beard and graying brown hair neatly trimmed, and his face was older than last time, wrinkles that must have formed after his wife's death.

"I thought you were dead," Alric said as Mera wiped her tears. "Philip and I are searching for you. We bought dozens of ships to Mahasira, it cost us thousands of Sun coins."

Mera missed Alric but when she heard Philip's name she cried again. She had known Philip all her life, he was a cartographer like all of the Dragontail males. Philip visited the Siron castle often, he would give Mera's father maps and told her the discoveries he made. He consoled her after the Summoning and was the one that convinced the king to exile her instead of killing her.

"Is it really you Alric?" Mera touched Alric's face.

Mera was confused why Alric was in Valin. She remembered he had lived in Kaser, a machine guild town near the capital, Solar. He was a water summoner but his knowledge in machines made him an engineer.

"My son's alive, Alric." Mera sobbed through her words. "He's beautiful and handsome and smart, I just know it. But he's a wind summoner, Alric! His fate is death and I would be alone again."

Mera heard the distant crowd applauded, and Alric put his hands on her shoulders.

"Mera," Alric had a sincere but sad look on his face. "I know he's alive. Liran is beautiful, handsome, and smart but he's also brave and strong. If he goes to war he would survive. I know and believe it, and you should too Mera."

Mera freed herself from Alric's hand, wiped her tears and stood straight and tall. She must believe that Liran would survive, and Mera doesn't like the pitiful look on Alric's face.

"You're right Alric, once again. But it's so hard," Mera was on the verge of breaking again. "This is the first time I saw him after 16 years. I want to meet him and I want him to know me, her real mother. The one that loved him and gave birth to him."

Mera was grasping Alric's shoulders, her face closed to him. She hoped that he would understand but Mera knew it was a bad idea. Liran could never know about her, the king would interrogate him and possibly kill him.

"I understand your pain, Mera. After Althea, I was heartbroken. I felt like there are no reasons to live. I abandoned my children, you know sweet Kleria and smart Malseo?" Mera nodded. The last time she saw them was the day before her exile. Kleria was only 6 while Malseo was 13. "I became drunk and wasted all my coins gambling. You were gone and Philip was planning to go to Mahasira. I couldn't pay my taxes and the officials were planning to take Kleria and Malseo away. And I let them."

Alric stopped, his eyes became watery and Mera squeezed his shoulders. The crowd once again applauded. She didn't know anything about the officials taking Kleria and Malseo away. Mera only knew that Althea died from a fire by the letters she received from her treacherous brother.

"I was truly alone and I realized that I must protect them. They need me and I need them. But for you Mera," Alric cleared his throat. "Liran doesn't need you. It will only put him in danger, and if it's a choice between the war and the king. The war is much kinder."

"I realize that now Alric," Mera said.

She folded her arms and walked back the Summoning. Alric followed her and they stood far away from the crowd. A girl was standing on the stage now while Reras gave his lengthy speech. The three that already summoned stood on the stage left while the ones that didn't on the right. Mera saw Liran whispering to a girl beside him.

"How did you get away?" Alric whispered to her.

Mera sniffed her nose and looked upon the ground. "My brother sent me a guard. At first, I thought it was an assassin meant to kill but he only gave me a letter. The letter was from Henar saying that the guard would escort me to a village that would help me escape to Solaris. I followed and-"

A loud bang interrupted her whispers. Mera looked in the direction of the stage. The crowd was in chaos, people running around and screaming. The trees violently surged as the wind whirled around the village. The day became darker and guards with steel swords appeared from alleys. Mera didn't know what happened at first but then she saw it.

A dragon as large as the size of the village hovered above them. The scales black and glittered. The dragon opened its mouth and showed its sharp and threatening fangs. Its wings flapped upon them. The red demonic eyes seemed like it was made of fire. It roared and circled the crowd. Mera was petrified, she shivered and was still. The scene reminded her of the books she once read as a child.
The dragon plunged toward the crowd. It opened its mouth and fire came out of it. It burned the people around it, their bodies disintegrated to ashes in few seconds. The guards swung their swords at the dragon as it soared up. Her body started shaking and Alric face came upon her.

"Mera!" Alric shouted at her.

Mera broke from the catatonic trance the beast place upon her and gasped. She stumbled in her step and extended her arms for something to hold onto. Alric offered his hands and held her. His mouth moved but she could not decipher it. Alric withdrew his arms and turned her around. Mera grasped for him again as he pointed somewhere. She followed the path of his hand but the screams jumbled her thoughts and she turned around.

She saw Alric running toward the crowd and pointing his arms at the dragon. Water appeared from his hands and advanced toward the creature. The dragon screeched as water made contact with its skin, the scales hissed as it gave off smoke. The guards followed Alric, dropped their weapons, and used their own powers to attack the dragon. Fire, water, and rocks came to the direction of the beast. The dragon cried and contracted as people ran toward the forest. But it was no use. A fire started in the forest and burned everyone near it.

Mera stood there hazily, Alric's words disappearing from her mind. She released her breath as she saw Liran. He laid against the ground and Mera walked toward him. She kneeled down as her body ached and turned Liran over. Mera wheezed at the blood that poured across his cheeks. She hovered her hand around the huge gash that was on his forehead.

Mera stood up and realized that the screams were replaced with weeping and crying. The fire was hot against her skin and the dragon was nowhere to be seen. The rest of the guards tried to smother the fire with water. Smoke darken the sky and she covered her mouth using her smock. She grasped Liran leg and dragged him as she looked for Alric.

Many people were laid back on the ground. Most of their skin was burnt and crisp but there were a few that moaned for help. Mera felt tears rolled in her face and trembled as she walked toward a path where the fire was already smothered.

"Help," someone whispered.

Mera looked down at her path and met a girl with burnt skin black as night. The girl was young, far away from her Summoning but old enough to go to school. The girl did not flinch at the sight of her and she walked and kneeled next to her.

"Water..," the burnt girl begged in a tired tone.

Mera searched for a flagon, her hands scattered across the ground until she noticed the container on Liran's belt. She grabbed it and help the girl drink.

"Can you walk?" Mera asked.

The girl inclined her head.

"What's your name?" Mera asked as she waved for someone to help.

The girl opened her mouth but came nothing.

"Do you need help?" a man shouted at them.

Mera nodded and pointed to the girl. The man wore the usual village outfit with a star pin on his left breast. She crawled back to Liran and smiled to her self as she finally found the person she had always wanted to be with.

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