When they got back to the front gates of the Adventurer’s School, they were greeted by their friends and teachers who looked excited to see them at first. But this changed as soon as they saw the expressions on the faces of Kyle and the others.
“What happened?” Damian asked worriedly as he looked between the faces of his three friends. Panic started to cross his face when none of them could quite bring themselves to look him in the eye.
“The Empire happened,” Galdon replied with a sad shake of his head. They got there before we did. I’m sorry.”
“No,” Damian breathed as he fell to his knees. “My mum and dad?”
“Dead,” Kyle replied in an emotionless voice.
Amy flinched when she heard this. She had been getting a bad feeling from Kyle since they had arrived back and as he said this single word a wave of depression and rage had washed over her. Naturally she knew that Kyle had a bit of a temper, but she had never felt anything like that from him before.
Ulrich frown deepened when he heard Kyle speak and his expression only darkened when he saw Amy flinch away from him.
“But don’t worry,” Kyle continued seemingly ignoring the looks that his friends were giving him. “I’m going to make sure that the Empire pays.”
Hearing this Ulrich shot forwards and slammed his fist into Kyle’s jaw sending him flying backwards and making Fi take to the air with a squawk of surprise.
“And what then?” Ulric shouted. “You do realise how many people you would have to kill for that right?”
Groaning Kyle sat up and glared at his larger friend before staggering to his feet. Galdon and Fi both frowned slightly at this but decided to wait and see how things went. If things got violent again then they would step in, but both of them knew that Ulrich was actually trying to help Kyle out despite his violent actions.
“What the hell!?” Kyle shouted back at Ulrich who was slowly walking towards him.
“I don’t want to do this Kyle,” Ulrich said as he grabbed his friend by the collar. “But I won’t let you go down this road.”
“What do you mean?” Kyle grated as he tried to hold himself back from striking back at Ulrich. Blood ran from a split lip where Ulrich had hit him.
“You know that both Resald and I have our own issues with the Empire, right?” Ulrich asked and Kyle nodded in grudging agreement. “And do you see me talking about how I want to get revenge on the Empire like it’s the only thing that matters to me?”
“No, but-” Kyle began but was cut off by Ulrich whose voice was getting louder as he spoke.
“And you see how everyone else is looking at you right now?” Ulrich grated. “Like you’re some sort of wild beast that might attack them at any moment?”
“I,” Kyle started a he looked up at his friends who were all watching him with worried expressions and just a hint of fear in their eyes. “Yeah.”
“Look Kyle,” Ulrich said in a much kinder tone of voice now that his friend was starting to calm down a little. “I know that you just lost your parents and that you’re angry but if you keep going down this road, you’re going to drive everyone else who cares about you away. Don’t worry I get it, I used to feel the same way and it took meeting you to knock some sense into me.”
Kyle blinked slowly at this. He knew that Ulrich had a fairly serious issue with the Empire, but this was the first time that Ulrich had suggested that it had been as bad as the way that he had been acting.
“He’s right Kyle,” Fi said as she slowly floated down to land on Ulrich’s shoulder. “I can only describe the way that you’ve been acting as self-destructive.”
“Yeah,” Kyle nodded as tears started to run down his face as his friend’s words started to break down the walls that he’d built up to protect himself from the pain that he was feeling. “Yeah I know.”
As Ulrich stepped away from Kyle, Amy shot towards the pair and after braking for a split second wrapped her crystalline arms around her friend like she had wanted to since he had returned. Now that he was letting his guard down, she could properly sense how much he was hurting inside and immediately felt guilty about the way that she had reacted earlier.
“I’m sorry,” she sobbed as Kyle’s trembling hand wrapped around her as well while his body was wracked with sobs. “You were in pain and all I could think about was how angry you were.”
“It’s alright Amy,” Kyle said eventually. “I know that you’re especially sensitive to things like that.”
“It’s going to be hard for you going forwards,” Ulrich told Kyle. “But we’re all here for you.”
“They have my sister Ulrich,” Kyle replied. “I have to get her back. No matter what.”
“I understand,” Ulrich nodded with a determined look in his face. “And so long as it’s not just about revenge then I’m willing to help you. I’d wager that we all are.”
“Yeah,” Amy agreed. “We’ll help get her back. I promise.”
“Right,” Sasha who had walked up while they were talking agreed. “But before any of that don’t you have to say something to Damian?”
Kyle nodded as he extricated himself gently from Amy’s embrace and walked over to Damian who was still on his knees being comforted by Sonia who gave Kyle an irritated look as he approached. Seeing this Kyle mouthed a silent apology to her as he knelt next to his other friend.
“Damian, I’m sorry I should’ve found a better way of breaking the news to you,” Kyle apologised as he placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I know it’s not much of an excuse, but I guess that I was wrapped up in my own pain and I didn’t think about how this was going to affect you.”
Kyle stayed there with his hand on Damian’s shoulder for a few seconds before sighing when it became obvious that his friend wasn’t going to answer him and got back to his feet. Now that he wasn’t quite so wrapped up in himself, he knew that he had messed up and had hurt his friend in the process. Sadly, he wasn’t sure what he could do to make up for his actions right now.
“Right, well let’s go inside,” Galdon said as Kyle stared down at Damian with a lost look on his face. “I think we all need a good meal. I think I need to have a chat with Damian”
Kyle nodded before turning around following the others inside leaving Galdon and Damian alone.
“Well that didn’t go well,” Fi remarked as she landed on his shoulders.
“No, I really messed up,” Kyle agreed with a sad sigh. “Say Fi?”
“Have I really been acting that badly?” he asked curiously. “I know that I’ve been a bit different, but from the way the others were acting it was a lot worse than I thought it was.”
“Well let me put it this way,” Fi said after a few seconds. “If Ulrich hadn’t hit you then I would’ve.”
“That bad huh?” Kyle said chuckling for the first time since they had found his parent’s corpses.
“Yes,” his companion replied with a small smile of her own. “I know that it’s going to take you a while to get over what happened but don’t forget that I’m here for you and so are the others.”
“Thanks, Fi,” Kyle said to his companion as he made his way towards the cafeteria where his friends were waiting for them. “That means a lot to hear you say that.”
When he arrived at the cafeteria the atmosphere was subdued. It was later than the students usually ate but it had been easy for them to convince Yuliah to keep the food warm for them. In fact, she had made a fresh batch of stew especially for them.
“Kyle, I heard what happened!” Yuliah said as he approached. “Are you going okay?”
“Better than I was before I got back,” Kyle admitted. “I’ve got some good friends.”
“You do,” Yuliah agreed as she handed him a tray with a bowl of stew and a hunk of bread. “But if you need to talk to me than my door is always open.”
“I appreciate the offer but I’m afraid that I have another announcement to make that might make that a little difficult,” Kyle replied giving her a much more subdued smile than he usually would. He was obviously still depressed by what had happened, but he was trying to deal with it instead of just getting angrier.
Sitting down next to Hal he started eating his meal. Hal glanced over to him silently and frowned slightly in concentration.
“Kyle,” he rasped. He had spoken only a few words since they had found his mother’s corpse the previous day, so it wasn’t very surprising that he sounded a bit strange. “I want to make you some new equipment. I need to work, and you need to get stronger so that you can save your sister.”
“Thanks Hal,” Kyle said carefully. He wasn’t too sure that he liked the idea of Hal throwing himself into work like he was suggesting that he wanted to do. But he couldn’t deny that his friend was right; he did need to get stronger and now that he had the Chain Manipulation Skill and Viper Strike Sub-skill it would be good to have a chain with a spike on his end that he could control telekinetically. “I might take you up on that, but I think you need to take a couple of days to deal with your loss first.”
As Kyle said this, he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye and looked around to see Galdon and Damian entering the cafeteria. He looked a bit better but was till dragging his feet a little making Kyle curse internally. However, he couldn’t think of any more to say to him that wouldn’t make things worse, so he just kept eating his stew.
“Alright then. I think that Kyle has a couple of announcements to make if he is ready,” Galdon said as he and Damian sat down at the end of the table.
“Yes, I do,” Kyle agreed as he pushed the remaining scraps of his dinner away and stood up. “As you all know Farholt was destroyed by Imperial Soldiers yesterday morning. By the time we arrived it was too late our and our families had been killed or enslaved.”
The other three who were from Farholt all flinched at Kyle’s words but after pausing for a few moments to take some deep breaths Kyle continued.
“My own parents had been burned at the stake,” Kyle told everyone present with a slight tremble in his voice that betrayed the determined look on his face. “However, while I was kneeling in front of their scorched bodies, I was visited by a mysterious figure who offered me power if I did something to prove myself to her.”
Muttering broke out among everyone present. Most of them didn’t understand what Kyle was talking about but from the way that he was saying it, it was important.
“She asked me to finish of one of the nearby imperial soldiers who had survived the battle but was severely injured in the fight,” Kyle continued looking around to see that everyone was hanging onto his every word. “As I’m sure you can imagine I was in no state to refuse and she followed through with her promise gifting me with more than enough power to finish off the soldier. Just before I finished the soldier off the woman asked me to give her a name after she revealed that she was the Goddess of Vengeance. I complied with her request, naming her Nemesis after an ancient goddess that people on Earth once believed in and then I killed the soldier. This gave me enough experience that I reached Level 5 and I’m sure you all know what that means…”
The others all nodded. They had all known that Kyle would probably graduate from the school before they did. Partially because he had arrived with a Level advantage over them and then his lead was increased even further when he had taken over protecting the school and those inside during the siege of Greenhearth after Reginald had been forced to stop fighting. He also noticed that no-one looked very pleased with him right now which he assumed was because of him killing the soldier. He didn’t really blame them for feeling that way but then again, he would challenge them to make a different decision to the one that he had.
“However, that wasn’t the only boon I received for killing the soldier,” Kyle continued once the muttering had calmed down. “I was also made Nemesis’ Divine Champion which gave me access to her Divine School of Magic as well as extra Stat and Skill Points.”
“So, what are you planning on doing?” Ulrich asked once he had finished processing what Kyle had just said.
“I’m not quite sure,” Kyle admitted. “I obviously need to get stronger but it’s definitely going to get more difficult for me to travel if the Empire increases its movements.”
As he said this he gestured to his glowing blue eyes and they all nodded in agreement. A Human with glowing blue eyes would immediately come under suspicion of being an Imperial spy because only Aethereal Humans had glowing blue eyes and now that his mother was dead and his sister had been kidnapped he was the only Aethereal Human who didn’t live in the Empire, at least as far as he knew.
“Well you could stay in Greenhearth, everyone knows you here,” Amy pointed out as she floated in place.
“You’re right that’s an option,” Kyle admitted. “But I don’t we’re going to have time for me to raise my Level here.”
“Kyle’s right,” Galdon sighed. “With the Empire making a move like this we’re going to need as many people to obtain a Tier 3 Class as soon as possible. In other words, Kyle will need to move on to an area with more powerful monsters by the time he reaches Level 10 if he wants to train as efficiently as possible.”
“So, you’ll be leaving? Sonia asked quietly as she poked her now empty bowl of stew.
“Yes,” Kyle nodded. “I’ll probably leave in a week or two.”
“Are you sure you want to rush through your Levels like that?” Reginald rumbled. “Your Skill Levels are pretty good for now but if you Level Up too fast your Skills might get left behind.”
“Maybe,” Kyle nodded. “But something tells me I might not have much of a choice.”
“Well how about you tell us what new Skills and magic you have and we’ll, come up with some sort of plan for you to develop yourself,” Figz suggested.
“Okay sure,” Kyle agreed easily.
The next hour or so was spent with everyone present going over not only Kyle’s Skills and magic but they also went over some Skills and magic that those who were planning on joining him when they graduated as well. Kyle had been surprised when some of his friends had stated that they would be joining him. He had thought that he would have no choice but to be a Solo Adventurer, but his friends had corrected him fairly early on.
Ulrich, Resald, Claire and Amy had been more than a little upset with him when he had asked them whether they were sure that they wanted to come along with him. If they kept up their current pace it would be several months before they graduated, and Kyle was planning on obtaining his Tier 3 Class by then but Galdon had suggested that he would allow them to graduate earlier than planned if they took extra Classes. Technically if they wanted to they could go out and do a bunch of jobs in town at the moment which would give them all enough Exp to reach Level 5 in a couple of days but they had decided that they would be better off staying at the Adventurer’s School for a bit longer to get a few more Skill Levels and new spells.
On the other hand, Hal eventually revealed that he had been offered a job at one of the larger blacksmith’s shops in Greenhearth once he had graduated. Also, Sonia mentioned that she was planning on becoming a travelling entertainer with some of her friends at the Bard’s Guild. Kyle couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed by this, but he knew that Hal had been hoping to get a job as a blacksmith as soon as possible and that Sonia had always wanted to travel around like her parents had so he couldn’t really blame them for having plans of their own. Besides they assured him that they would keep in contact and help him out if he ever needed it which made Kyle feel a bit better about himself.
Gloria had decided that she was going to go back to her village before heading to another town to meet up with her father who was currently working as an Adventurer. He had promised her a place in his party if she successfully graduated from the Adventurer’s School. Despite this she also promised to come and help Kyle if he ever needed it. In fact, she was pretty sure that she would be able to convince her father and his party to help out as well if he really needed it.
Damian still wasn’t talking and hadn’t really even touched his food. So, he didn’t chip in with his plans for after he graduated. In fact, it was looking less and less likely that he would ever graduate at all at this rate.
“Well I think I want Kyle and Hal to come and visit me before you get on with what you have to do tomorrow,” Figz mentioned. “But other than that, I think that we might be done here. It’s been a stressful night and you all have a big day tomorrow.”
“Agreed, on both points, but if it’s alright with you might I suggest that miss Sonia also visit you,” Galdon added and Figz nodded in agreement. Along with being a powerful Adventurer was a trained psychiatrist and just wanted to try and help the three teens deal with what had happened to them. “Alright it’s time you all headed to bed.”
The students nodded and after bidding each other goodnight started making their way back to their rooms.
“I still want to make you something to celebrate your graduation by the way,” Hal mentioned as they made their way upstairs to their dorm room. “I know you don’t want me to do too much work right now, but I still think that I should make you something. Besides you can use three chains at once, now right?”
A night spent with their friends had doe both of the young men a lot of good. It would still be a while before they recovered from the horrors that they had seen but they were already making progress.
“Alright,” Kyle sighed eventually. It was pretty obvious that Hal would keep bugging him until he finally agreed so there wasn’t a lot of point in trying to discourage him. “If you want to make me a chain with a long spike on my hand then I would appreciate it.”
“Like the one that you killed the soldier with?” Hal asked curiously.
“No, just a plain chain with a spike on the end instead of a weight,” Kyle replied quickly before his friend got any ideas.
“Okay, sure I can do that,” Hal nodded. “It shouldn’t even take me very long. I have a few chains that I have been making. All I’ll have to do is make the spike to go on the end.”
“Okay,” Kyle nodded as he lay down in his bed for the last time. “I look forward to seeing it.”