And so, a few years passed like that. I've been fiercely dedicated to my training under Master Grandall ever since he took me in. I've been giving it everything I've got. Sharpening my swordplay to the finest point, studying the Runic Arts the best I can, reading up on history, going over maps, most of which were out of date when I first came here and even the newer ones might not be right anymore. When I finally get outside, maybe I should make a point of marking down any differences I see.
I still haven't managed to catch a speedscale, yet. There have been times where I've gotten close, but I still can't quite do it, yet. I've been getting stronger, faster, more perceptive... I know I'll catch one eventually. I just have to keep trying. So, I am planning on giving it another shot today.
Well, I was.
This morning, I wake up and go into the dining room to see that Grandall isn't there. Breakfast hasn't even been made.
“Odd... maybe he's still working on it? I don't smell anything, though.”
Still, it can't hurt to check. I go into the kitchen to see if he's cooking, but he's not there, either. This is really out of the ordinary. Grandall is always up before I am. Not once in these five years has he ever missed a beat, not a single time. Could something be wrong?
“Master Grandall?” I shout through the large house, walking from the kitchen, to the dining room, to the living room and on and on, but I haven't seen him, yet. “Are you still here?” He's not the type who would suddenly up and leave without saying anything, either. He must still be in the house.
I head upstairs, and to his chambers, the last place to check. Usually I don't like barging in on him like this, but I'm starting to worry.
I pound on the door three times. “Master Grandall, you in there? Are you alright?”
“...oh, it's Yrza. Sorry about that, my boy,” he says, from behind the door. He sounds very tired. “Could you open the door and let yourself in? There's something I need to tell you. Don't worry, the door is unlocked.” That's the last thing I'm worried about... anyway, as I'm instructed, I turn the knob and push the door open.
When I step inside, I see that Master Grandall is still in bed. The panic I was feeling already is getting worse, but I force myself to suppress it. I can't keep it all down, though. Seeing Grandall like that, I can only assume the worst thing possible.
“Come closer, would you, Yrza?”
I do as I'm asked. Getting a good look at his face, he's pale, and it looks like he's struggling to even keep his eyes open. It feels wrong, seeing the man I respect so much in a state like this. A hero of whom endless praises are sung, alongside the others of the Imperial Four... I can't see that man with my eyes right now, even though he's right in front of me. The meaning of this is something I just can't bring myself to accept.
“I'm sorry, my boy, we'll have to cancel your lessons for today. If you don't mind, could you just study on your own? You'll have to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner on your own, as well. It shouldn't be too hard, there's still plenty of food in the kitchen, and I've shown you how to cook it for yourself. D-don't stress out too much about it, I'm sure you can handle all of that.”
“Canceling lessons? 'Today'?” I say, fighting back tears, but also feeling anger welling up beside the shock and sadness. What exactly I'm angry about, I can't quite sort out right now to say. “Well, what about tomorrow? Or the day after that, and so on? Are you saying this isn't what I think it is, or are you just pulling my chain?”
He sighs, realizing the mistake he made. I feel a bit bad for snapping at him like I did. “I guess you are a bit too smart for that, I apologize for not thinking about that. Sorry, Yrza.”
Instead of making a reply, I just go on listening quietly, for now.
“It's exactly as you've guessed. I'm dying, Yrza. I don't have much more time left in this world. I've got a feeling I won't even last until tomorrow.”
“How... how can you be so calm about this, old man!?” Finally having confirmed my fears, I feel the tears run from my eyes. “If you really are about to die, why do you get to be as composed as you always are!?” I wipe the tears away, but they just keep coming. “Why am I the only one that's crying!?”
“I've had far more time to prepare for this than anyone I know, Yrza,” Grandall says, as relaxed as he has been. “I have been slowing down more and more these past few years. I've been trying to hide it from you so that you wouldn't worry, so that you could go on growing without concerning yourself with an old man like me. However, it was only a matter of time before my age would catch up with me. With all the tricks I know, there's still no cheating time for me.”
“I can't do anything to stop it, can I?” I ask. “I can't help...”
“There's no need, Yrza,” says Master Grandall, still somehow managing to smile. “It's not some sickness with a cure you can find, or anything like that. I'm just so very old, and so very tired. So, these are my last instructions for you. Don't bother running yourself ragged over an old geezer like me. You won't find any solutions, so for right now, please focus on yourself, for now. Second... I know you've been wanting to start your journey across the Empire's Corpse to find the truth of the Ghost Hurricane. You may go as soon you feel you are ready. You have my every permission.”
“But what if I'm never ready!?” Now that he's saying I can go, I suddenly feel like I'm not worthy all over again. The enormity of the goal I'm seeking finally hits me for real. “I still have so much to learn!”
“No, Yrza. You have all you need. I am certain of it. If there's anything you're not sure about, remember that the library is still here. Remember to take anything you need, be it weapons, food, books... if you even think you need it, take it with you. Speedscales can handle more weight than it looks like, you know?”
“The speedscales... right. I'll definitely catch one.”
“Glad to hear it,” Grandall says, closing his eyes. “Yrza, if you don't mind, could you leave me? I would... like to be alone at this time.”
I go through all the possible reasons he could want me to leave right now, but I manage to find the one that makes the most sense to me; he wants me to focus on what's ahead. He wants to put the thought of me grieving out of his mind, so he can rest peacefully. What kind of student would deny their teacher that one last thing? Understanding this, I walk away, leaving the room.
“Yrza.” Just as I start to leave, he calls for me one last time. “Remember that my passing will not erase me from this world. Though my life may end, I do not regret it. Without a doubt, I know my life has had meaning. You are the last proof of that fact, my boy. I only regret that I won't live to see it. However, I know that you will grow into a man that I'd be proud to know.”
“...thank you, Master Grandall. The Empire's Corpse will know that I am your student, and your history will not disappear, but grow even greater from this moment on. I promise you.” Wiping away the last of my tears, I finally leave the room.
In the library, I'm having a bit of trouble concentrating on what to bring. I always pictured this moment, but it was always under much more cheerful circumstances. Master won't be seeing me off like I had imagined. He won't be here when I come back.
Pushing those thoughts out of my mind the best I can, I grab a couple books on runeology, a book about Clawscar's flora and fauna, the oldest map we have, and the two newest ones. I find some blanks I can use to write on, and I take those, too. Everything goes into the traveling bags I have.
Next, I go into the kitchen, and I see that I have enough food for more than nine meals. I'll cook three of those for breakfast, lunch, and dinner today, another three will be for tomorrow, which I'll probably spend capturing a speedscale, and then what's left I'll save for when I start traveling. I might want to remember to take some of these utensils with me, as well.
Breakfast was quiet this morning. It's at this moment that it hits me, that Grandall and me, for these five years, we were all we had. I'm going to be alone, but when I leave, at least other people will be out there, and some of them might be friendly to me. That old man, though? He was alone for so long. He may have been one of the Imperial Four, but them they all went their separate ways. Grandall was alone when he met me, and right now, he is dying alone.
“He deserves better than that.”
Then again, maybe that's how he wanted it to be. He could have brought any number of orphans here to live in this big house, but he only chose me. He let only me travel with him to this place, taught me alone here, and took in no other students along with me, but at the same time, he didn't seem to mind being alone. Some of the people on the Empire's Corpse could be very ugly-hearted, evil people, from what I remember him telling me and from what I saw with my own eyes. Maybe to Master Grandall, dying alone was the best thing that could have happened. The thought of this makes me feel a bit better. Just a bit.
After breakfast I prepare more Rune Complex Seals. I already have plenty of Fires, so I work mostly on Earth and Sky Rune Complexes for today. I was going to make some Water Complexes, but my spirit energy doesn't seem to charge them well. In the end, I only end up making one. Making these seals takes a lot out of me, so it'd be good to stop here.
Having passed the day quietly, I managed to make pretty much all of my preparations. Tomorrow, the speedscale. I crawl into bed, knowing this will probably be the last night like this...
And so, it's just as he said. When I woke up this morning, Master Grandall was already gone.
To my own surprise, I'm not as sad as I was before. More than anything, I feel resigned to what has happened, and a sense of relief that he passed away as he wished. Looking at his expression, he died smiling, content. I'd expect nothing less from the man I called Master.
Wiping away my tears, I find myself smiling a bit. Though it's sad that he's gone, his life was one that anyone would be proud to live. I can't think of anything else he would have been able to accomplish. To carry on as a symbol of his legacy fills me with a pride like nothing else. With these thoughts in mind, I carry what's left of him in my arms.
“Let's go, Master. I think I know a good place.”
There's a small cliff near the house Grandall and I lived in. not a far walk at all, and it's surrounded with life. I would imagine he'd be happy to rest here from now on. With the shovel I brought with me, I dig him as best a grave as I am able, put him inside, and then bury him under the dirt. I grab a rock that looks as close to a gravestone as I'll get, and carve:
RUNE MASTER GRANDALL
The best I can, though I definitely rushed a bit. This took me all morning to do.
“Just watch, Master Grandall,” I say, kneeling in front of the grave. “I don't know if you went to an afterlife, if you've started life anew on this world, if even any of those things at all. I just hope you somehow will get to see it. I will discover the truth behind the Ghost Hurricane. I set out on this journey, not for fame nor honor, but to be the proof that your teachings, my existence in this world has meaning. Everything that you taught me, I will carry with me. Thank you, Master, and goodbye.” With that, I stand, and leave Master Grandall to rest forever.
The time has finally come to catch the speedscale. Keeping in mind everything I've learned, I sit behind that same rock, and wait for my opportunity.
“Here he comes.”
There's one coming right now. I'm not having nearly as hard a time as before. Just as I prepare to throw the lasso... the speedscale's eyes... his feet...
“To the left!!!”
Just as I had predicted, the speedscale makes a left turn. My right. I make my toss accordingly.
As the rope snaps tight around the speedscale, I'm suddenly pulled towards him. Jumping as this happens, I go flying in its direction, and manage to land precisely on its back.
“Aaah! Whoa, whoa, whoa!”
I'm not done yet. The speedscale will still try to knock me off. I've got to hang on, here... this part could go on for a while; if what Master Grandall told me is true, some speedscales can keep this up for over an hour. I'm not letting this one go, though. I won't lose my grip!
I don't know how long it went on, but eventually, it seems like the big guy has had enough. Both the speedscale and I go tumbling to the ground, completely worn out.
“Hah... see that? Now that you know how strong I am, looks like you'll have to serve me from here on out. No worries, I'll make sure you stay properly fed.” I'm able to drag the speedscale back home without a fight. I spend the rest of the day saddling him and teaching him the various commands. Thankfully once you show them your strength, speedscales will start to cooperate with you quickly, compared to other animals people use as mounts.
Finally, the day is here.
“The Empire's Corpse will know that I am your student.”
Grandall had a special set of equipment for me for this day. I put on the beige robe and after that, the light, but durable leather vest that I can wear over it. The robe has the four-pointed star and crescent moon insignia on the left arm. Master Grandall himself used to wear the same symbol. I take the iron sword, one that I can tell has never been used, and strap it around my back.
Before I leave for good, I find myself looking toward the cliff once more. I turn in that direction, and bow.
“Thanks again for everything. Rest in peace, Master.”
Then, I run. As I do, I put two fingers to my mouth, then whistle. Within seconds, my speedscale is right beside me, keeping pace, waiting for permission to burst off at full speed.
“Kobo! Let's go!” I hop on his back and take the reins. Kobo now runs onward at a speed I couldn't dream to reach. Before I even realize it, the house I was in is far behind me.
It's August 19th, 5 years After Hurricane, or 5 A.H. Today, I, Yrza, set out to solve the mystery of the Ghost Hurricane. I will find the truth. I swear it.