After the spell settled into the crevices of the fence and earth, Essairyn surveyed her work with pride. Magic crafted from the will of the imagination was truly magnificent. She had lost quite a bit of magic, but it was well worth the cause. Of course, she still needed to test out its capabilities that it would indeed function as intended.
“Hey Akari, can you stand over there for me?”
The fox was momentarily confused by the girl’s question, but suddenly, realization dawned on her. “No way! You’re not going to use me as a guinea pig are you?!”
“Ayy, it’ll be fine. I just want to see if it warns intruders before attacking them.”
Akari’s face burst with indignation. “What?!! You’re kidding if you think I’ll put myself at the risk of being zapped by your magic!”
Essairyn waved her hand leisurely. “I’m 98% sure it’ll work properly.”
“What about the 2%? And why 2%?!” The fox was flabbergasted by this girl’s logic.
“Because 99% seems too sure without being completely sure.”
The fox face-pawed herself. This girl was completely serious. Sighing deeply in a defeated tone, she glared at Essairyn while walking over to the spot directed. Akari decided she might as well entertain the girl.
Pleased, but half in disbelief that the grudging fox acquiesced, Essairyn whistled and started up the magic system. The fence fleetingly illuminated a pale purple before dimming into normalcy. From an outsider’s perspective, the fence looked completely ordinary.
“Okay Akari, now think of bad thoughts, threats, that you want to attack the farm,” instructed Essairyn once the fox reached about five meters away. She didn’t want the spell to discriminate demons, spirits, or any other creatures. As long as the intruder had malevolent intentions while approaching the farm, the spell would pick up on the negativity. Or so, she hoped.
Akari stood still and narrowed her eyes at the fence. Bad thoughts huh? The fox slowly closed her eyes. That was something of which she had a lot. Akari didn’t want to remember them right now, but just for a moment, just this once she’d willingly recall them for Essairyn. Inhaling a shaky breath, a myriad of images cascaded across the forefront of her mind. Smog. Gunpowder. Blood. Death. Carnage. Ruins. Desolation. A lone man. Waxen skin. Silver ashen hair. Gorgeous crimson eyes. Mad, demented, possessed, destroyed. Her heart.
A beam of lilac light pummeled the ground, just centimeters away from Akari. Unflinching, she flicked her starless eyes open. The duskiness whirling in those depths evoked disquiet in Essairyn.
“Are you okay, Akari?” The girl’s voice was tentative. She noticed that a smoky aura hovered faintly around the fox. But it quickly faded after she spoke.
The curt words stung a small corner of Essairyn’s heart. But she didn’t blame Akari for not confiding in her, for she herself hadn’t reached that point either. It would take some time before they could break down each other’s walls.
Essairyn dipped her head in a half nod and gestured for Akari to return. The fox dispassionately trotted over, and they located the Welforts to inform them of the protective spell’s success. The couple along with Darren followed her to the fence and listened attentively as she demonstrated the system’s abilities and method of maintenance. After her explanation, the Welforts graciously thanked her and rejoiced in their new security. They would be able to live their daily lives with ease of mind once more.
With her job done, the trio was ready to depart for the last leg of the road to Byar’non. But the Welforts headed back to the house and made the adventurers wait at the front. While Mrs. Welfort gathered the items she had prepared for them in advance, Mr. Welfort retrieved an item from under their bed. The lady finished first and hustled back to the trio. She presented them with large containers of food that reminded Essairyn and Darren of stacked Tupperware. They also received three bottle of cow’s milk and a handful of coins.
“I’m sorry I can’t offer you anything more sophisticated or useful on your journey, but I hope this along with the item my husband is getting will be enough to show our gratitude,” Mrs. Welfort hurriedly fussed and bowed her head. She wished they had more to spare, but they lived modestly and gave most of their savings to their children.
Understanding that they were self-sufficient farmers, Essairyn and Darren warmly assured the benevolent lady that it was quite all right. The hospitable couple had opened up their house to strangers, so receiving gifts was the last thing on their minds. Right after this exchange, Mr. Welfort returned with a long object wrapped in thick cloth.
“We actually received this as payment for a few night’s stay from another adventurer. Many years have passed since then, but we still haven’t found a proper use for it, or a person whom to give it to. Based on your fight yesterday with the wolves, we think that this may be suited your style, lass.”
The man handed over the bundle to Essairyn, and she took it gingerly in her hands, thinking it was delicate. But contrary to her speculation, the article had a solidness to its weight. She looked up at Mr. Welfort questioningly, and he correctly perceived her expression as wanting to know what it was. He nodded for her to unwrap it.
As she uncovered the item, he explained, “It’s wrapped because it doesn’t like being touched by most people. This was why it was hard to pass it on to any adventurers we met. It would just forcibly reject everyone. But it does have an affinity for magical users. Although, it seems to prefer women…” He looked awkwardly to his wife, and she smiled ruefully. Past images of the item literally shocking people who tried to touch it resurfaced in their minds.
Essairyn inspected the unveiled item: a longsword that seemed to be made of ice-blue glass. The guard had two leaf or feather-like structures angled on either side that attached to two supports that melded into the blade. One support was straight while the second sprung off from its middle and curved up and then down in a diamond shape. White engravings traced the form of the blade, hilt, and pommel. On the guard, the lines flared out in the centers of the leaf-feather structures and connected to the hilt and blade lines before descending into a short gradient.
Awestruck by its pristine shimmer and simple, elegant design, she immediately grasped the handle in order to test the sword. This elicited a small gasp of caution which quickly turned into surprise from the Welforts. Even though Essairyn matched their estimates of what the sword would accept, they couldn’t restrain the probable notion that it would still reject her. For even if someone could touch it, the sword would suddenly become much heavier when picked up, as if discouraging anyone from ever actually using it. But as fate would have it, the sword swung easily away from its swathes. Essairyn maneuvered the ice sword gracefully through the air and practiced a few, forceful strikes.
“Amazing…” She breathed in rapture. “This sword is so light yet so sturdy.” She rocked the sword back and forth while peering closely at its composition and luster.
The Welforts sweat-dropped, not knowing what to make of this absurd statement after all the countless times that they and others failed in performing the same actions. “Well, it looks like the sword likes you, so hopefully it will be useful in battles. But you can probably sell it for a good price too. We didn’t sell it ourselves since we felt it was a waste of a good sword, but no one we met knew what it was worth anyway.” Even if Essairyn wasn’t compatible, Mr. Welfort planned on giving it to her anyway in lieu of coin.
“Ahh, okay. Thanks!!” Essairyn broke out into a brilliant grin. She loved the appearance of the sword and could already imagine how it would feel in battle. This was the most useful item she could receive in order to slow her drain of magic while fighting.
Meanwhile, Darren was staring grumpily at the ice sword. It prefers women? What kind of stupid sword is this? It sounds like it has a mind of its own… He wished that the sword was given to him instead. Although he had done less than Essairyn, he had nothing to protect himself in dangerous situations.
Dangerous situations… That’s right. I’m still here. He squeezed his eyes before sighing and turning his head away. This was his second day in Sol’h’meyr. When he woke up this morning and realized that he was still in the unfamiliar bed of the Welfort’s eldest son, he nearly jumped out of the second floor window to check if he was indeed awake. But instead, he just sat upright in the bed, listening to the sound of his own body and the chirps and bustle of the morning. After finally getting up and heading downstairs, he was greeted with the scent of breakfast and silly chatter between Essairyn and Mrs. Welfort as they fried eggs. Before they noticed him, he wiped away the wetness in his yes and choked out a good morning.
“Darren?” Essairyn’s gentle voice brought him out of his brooding.
He whipped his head around to her concerned eyes. “Yeah?” His voice was dry, casual.
She looked like she was going to say something else, possibly ask if he was okay, but she thought better of it and dropped the question. “Let’s go then. Thanks again Mr. and Mrs. Welfort!” She waved cheerily at the elderly couple and then placed the sword inside her magic cache as they left.
The walk was silent. Essairyn glanced fretfully at the boy beside her. She didn’t understand why his mood had turned sour since they left the Welforts. He couldn’t possibly be missing the farm, so why is he so downcast? Wait..the sword? Does he..? She poked him in the side. Darren jerked away from the sudden prod and blinked with an open mouth at the girl.
She looked at him from the corner of her narrowed eyes, not answering his question. Then she suddenly sprinted off with Akari in her arms, yelling, “The last one to Byar’non is a rotten egg!”
The flabbergasted boy watched as the girl raced ahead like a little kid. “What the f—” He face-palmed and shook his head. He did not feel like chasing after her. He really wasn’t in the mood. But after a few seconds alone, the heightened silence suddenly loomed in. “Argh! This girl, I swear—!” He caviled and then ran after her. Although they hadn’t been talking, the mere presence of someone else was comforting despite him not wanting to admit it to himself. Darren also knew that Essairyn was also just trying to cheer him up in her own clumsy way. Tch, so you think you can beat me? Just wait until I catch you!