Kazu sat opposite of Philip and Sage in the Rye mansion reception room. Mel sat beside him, swinging her legs. The decorations distracted his eyes as he tossed and turned in his seat. Fancy everything, Kazu wanted to comment, but Sage’s defeated posture hinted that a serious discussion was about to take place. Mel didn’t take notice of this at all, or at least ignored it, and merrily helped herself to the tea and biscuits.
“Philip Nemean, start your report,” Sage commanded.
“Report? You really can’t call this a report.” Philip grumbled.
“Get on with it, however you like.” Sage waved her hand, not caring about how Philip worded his report.
“34 students were harmed during the attack, 6 of which are dead. Most of the students that were harmed were in the dorms. Baldr is also seriously injured from protecting the students. Fortunately, most of the other professors were able to ward their classrooms, preventing the ghouls from harming anymore. Other than that, I strongly suspect the lesser lich is Grendel Igg.” Philip stated.
“Grendel Igg…? state your suspicions.” Sage commanded.
Philip cleared his throat to try and hide his quick glance at Mel, “During his fight with Kazu, I noticed he wore a necklace.”
“And you suspect the necklace is the heirloom of the Beulen family?” Sage smirked.
“I can only take your word for it,” Philip sighed. “Maybe the experiment worked. You know, three years ago.”
“In a way, yes. However, I think it would be better for us to see it ourselves, right Kazu Tomoe?” Sage shifted her gaze to Kazu.
Kazu understood. Sage referred to the spell Mel taught him. He knew she watched everything, but it still irritated him. Like most normal humans that lived in modern Earth, he liked his privacy, and he didn’t take too kindly to Sage’s constant eyes.
“I don’t like being watched, Sage, and you know that,” Kazu assumed, “Let’s first get some payment for my job.”
“Name your price, and it'll be done,” Sage replied.
“5 diamond coins,” Kazu demanded.
“5 diamond?! You- you’re robbing us!” Philip shouted.
“I’m not cheap, knight man.” Kazu smirked. Beside him, Mel made the same face to irk the disgruntled Philip even more. “Besides, you’re asking me to cast a spell even the Sage can’t cast.”
“Philip, give him the money.” Sage commanded.
5 diamond coins equaled to 5000 gold coin, and it was a steep price. Kazu’s original intention was to let them haggle it down to 1 diamond coin, but unexpectedly Sage agreed. Without hesitation, Kazu took the 5 glittering blue diamond coins from Philips trembling hands.
Mel: Nice, Kazu! Now buy me some more of these biscuits!
“As you know, clairvoyants can only see the future, not the past. Please, Kazu Tomoe, show us the past.” Sage urged.
“Alright, now I just need an object.” Kazu looked around. “Anyone got one that I can use?”
“I see, an object is needed for the spell. I assume it needs to be an object that had visual view of the incident that happened 3 years ago?” Sage said.
“Uh… yeah. I think.” Kazu replied.
“Stupid Kazu!” Mel interrupted. “Just use the whole house!”
“Fine, fine! Stop shouting. Jeeze.” Kazu grumbled, then expanded his senses to touch every corner of the house.
Records of the Past…
The spell activated and Kazu felt his mind took a dive, almost losing his consciousness. He ignored the feeling and watched the spell work itself as the inscriptions floated around the room, swirling into a floating circle on top of the coffee table. The ethereal runes gathered in front of the audience and once they formed the complete circle that Kazu learned from Mel, it pulsed gently.
The whole room vanished, reappearing again momentarily; this time, the room looked different. It reflected a time from many years ago, as seen through the brighter appearance of many objects. The group observed the non-existent scratches on the hardwood floor which were there a second ago; the tea and biscuits on the coffee table were gone too.
And then, the records began….
An aged hand opened the door. A girl, a younger Riona, and a woman entered the room.
“Please wait here, Mrs. Beulen. I’ll return with my parents shortly.” Riona said.
“No need to be so formal, call me Helena,” Helena giggled as she sat down. “I’m sure they already know I’m here. Why don’t you keep me company while I wait?”
“Alright then. Please get my parents,” Riona commanded butler. She sat down opposite of Helena.
“Let’s talk about you. How are you doing with your aptitude?” Helena asked.
Riona smiled, “I’ve reached the first rank of intermediate of water mage.”
“You’re really going at it, aren’t you,” Helena said, “Shouldn’t you have fun, be active, maybe play around with other children?”
“I don’t know about that.” Riona replied, her eyes darted around.
“You really want to be an alchemist that much?” Helena prodded on.
Riona nodded, shyly looking down.
Helena giggled again, “So how’s Daniel doing? He’s going to be your partner in alchemy right?”
Riona shook her head, her ears beat red. “No, my mother can be my fire too. My mom—I mean mother’s fire is pretty… and-”
“No need to change the subject,” Helena grinned. “I was just teasing you.”
At this point, Kazu noticed the difference between the present and past. In the past she had a softer, warmer air while in the present, that warmth was sealed in a layer of ice. He wanted to point this out as a joke, but the two others, Sage and Philip, looked engrossed in the record. As for Mel, she left as soon as the record started. Kazu concluded she would have probably been bored anyways.
The scene disappeared and changed into Frederick’s study room. Frederick sat behind the large desk while Eireen, his wife, stood beside him reading the documents over his shoulder.
“I have no idea what most of these items are in the recipe and there’s even a corpse listed,” Frederick sighed. “She can’t expect us to create whatever this thing is.”
“Well, we don’t know what they are, but the instructions are simple enough,” Eireen said. “A 2 meter water sphere spinning at 60 revolutions per minute caged in a box of fire. Mix all the ingredients together with a swirl in the middle, then wait an hour. It sounds like a beginner recipe.”
“That’s not what matters.” Frederick leaned back on his chair. “She always gives us these weird materials and recipes, but she never tells us what they do or what they’re used for.”
“That’s true, but she’s our friend. Besides, she’s paying us to do it, so what harm is there?” Eireen said.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this one, Eireen,” Frederick groaned. “And you know my hunches, most of them are right.”
“Fine, if you’re feeling that worried, this will be the last one, ok?” Eireen consoled.
“Alright... no more next time,” Frederick mumbled. “I’m a bit worried about Riona though. Isn’t she advancing a little too fast?”
“She wants to catch up with her old man, don’t you know?” Eireen laughed.
“I feel like she’s forcing herself,” Frederick said. “Slow her down, maybe. Tell her she’s perfect the way she is, something like that.”
“Can’t you tell her yourself? She’s our daugther.” Eireen joked.
“You know I can’t, and you always laugh when I choke!” Frederick confided.
“Well, she is more open to me than you. Maybe you should stop being so introverted!” Eireen said.
“You know how much I want to spoil her,” Frederick grumbled. “But her personality is a bit on the strong side… she got it from you after all.”
“Oh hush. Only you say that. I don’t know whether that’s even a compliment or an insult.” Eiren laughed, obviously taking it as a compliment. “Though, she is more on the introverted side, like someone here.”
Frederick turned his eyes back towards the recipe, preventing any more casual dialogue, “Are we really sure about this?”
“Yes, yes. Let’s go, Helena should be waiting for us.” Eireen locked her arms with her husband and dragged him from his chair. As they stood to leave, 2 knocks lightly rapped at the door and it opened with an almost inaudible creak.
Eireen interrupted the butler before he began his announcement, “Yes, we know. Please prepare some tea and biscuits. Thank you.”
“Yes, madam,” replied the butler.
The scene changed back to the reception room. A maid opened the door for Frederick and Eireen, and they heard Helena giggling while Riona looked down, blushing, as if to avoid attention.
“Riona, thank you for keeping Helena company,” Frederick stated.
“It’s no problem, father.” Riona replied.
“It’s getting late, Riona. Maybe you should head to bed or...”
“Yes, I’ll rest for the night. Good night, father, mother.” Riona declared, then left immediately passing by Frederick and Eireen.
“Oh Frederick. She’s a growing girl. She’ll open up in the future.” Eireen laughed.
“You’re girl is very talented Frederick. Soon, she’ll be an alchemist like you if she partners up with Daniel.” Helena added.
“Then, let’s get to business shall we, Helena?” Eireen changed the subject.
“That we should. The recipe did say it’ll take an hour, right?” Helena asked.
“Yes it did. But surely, you expect us to do this without knowing what its for,” Frederick replied.
“Frederick, you worrywart. It’s really nothing dangerous.” Helena said.
“If it’s nothing dangerous, then why don’t you make it yourself?” Frederick raised his tone.
“You know as much as I, Frederick. I’m simply not as capable as the both of you,” Helena countered.
“The two of you, enough.” Eireen clapped once. “We already decided this will be the last one. That is unless you tell us what the mixture produces.”
“That won’t be a problem,” Helena said. “I planned for this one to be the last.”
“Then let’s waste no time and head for the alchemy room,” Eireen said.
The three walked out of the reception room. Frederick led the way, guiding the other two to a door much different from the others. The door had no visible mechanisms to open it, a nondescript door made of iron.
Frederick placed the palm of his hands on the center of the door. A blue glow emanated from his arms, travelling down his skin, leaving luminescent trails as his palms met cold metal. The light merged with the door, revealing the countless runes etched into the iron. When the last rune lit up, mechanisms inside echoed with rhythmic noises. With one last loud thump, the door opened and Frederick continued his lead.
The room contained all sorts of articles: vials, flasks, burners, tubes, stones etched with runic patterns, herbs, colourful plants, multicoloured liquids, and even a corpse mummified in bandages, not a single slip of skin showing. Kazu knew one of the herbs, Alma Matter that grew behind the house inside the forest.
An overbearingly large round stone table laid at the center of the room. It seemed almost perfectly circular with its radius three times the size of Eireen’s height, the tallest of the three in the room. A dip towards the center gave it a shape more akin to a bowl rather than a table.
“Let’s start,” Frederick declared. “Helena, put all the items on the table, like what the recipe says…”
Helena meticulously picked each herb carefully that were present on the shelves at the edges of the room and threw them all inside the table. She then grabbed a different vials and poured all them in at the same time. Next, she grabbed the corpse, bedding it on top of the collection of herbs.
“I’m starting.” Frederick stated. “Nature’s Spring.”
An orb of water, 2 meters in radius, the size specified in the recipe, formed and floated a few inches above the table.
“I can never get used to how fast you activate that spell.” Helena commented.
The spell was similar to Ocean’s Cage used by Riona during the aptitude tests, but Kazu also knew it was different. It had less impurities and was more sensitive to changes in mana for a more controlled flow inside the orb of water. He also knew that with Riona’s skill level, in this case, aptitude, she wouldn’t be able to form a Nature’s Spring as pure as the one Frederick made.
Immediately after, Eireen conjured up a box of flames that encased the floating water orb. At that signal, the water orb inside the box started moving in a gentle rotation of 60 revolutions per minute as required by the recipe.
Nothing happened in the scene for over 40 minutes when they started, but it seems that only Kazu dozed off while Philip and Sage watched on intently. Even Riona and Frederick joined watching the record, although Kazu didn’t remember exactly when they’d joined the party.
Just as Kazu was about to yawn, a tremor shook the scene.
“Frederick, what was that?” Eireen asked.
“Something’s happening. The reagents are all fighting the process. They don’t want to fuse.” Frederick groaned, sweat dripping down his cheek.
“Somethings wrong! We need to stop!” Eireen shouted.
“Don’t stop! It’s almost there. Just a little more.” Helena said with a twist of a smile.
“Damnit! Eireen! Energy is surging inside, we need to prepare for an explosion!” Frederick grunted.
“Alright!” Eireen conjured up a new layer of flame, forming it into a sphere containing both the box flame and the water orb inside.
“No, no, no!” Helena yelled. “Stop the spell! I need that body back!”
“Helena, we can’t! It’s going to explode!” Frederick denied.
“Explode? No, there can’t be. Don’t let that body explode. I need him back!” Helena shrieked. She jumped up on the table and conjured herself armour from water.
“Helena! Don’t do it! It’s just a dead body!” Eireen panted as she mentally exhausted herself to fortify the two spells in order to contain the incoming explosion.
Helena ignored Eireen. She tore open the first layer of flames that were supposed to contain the accident, then the next. When she touched the water with her water clad hand, it caused a violent chain reaction as every ingredient seemed to dissolve into a purple solution.
When the purple colour spread throughout the whole orb, it exploded, sending everyone flying into the walls. Within the vision, Helena had disappeared, and none of the spectators felt any desire to identify the residual matter of the explosion.
It was a curious case. Though Helena disappeared, the corpse that lay peacefully in the middle of the table was intact. The explosion had torn through most of the bandages and the flesh could be seen. There, Sage, Philip, Frederick, and Kazu saw it: the heirloom of the Beulen family.
The scene continued. A spectre floated about in the alchemy room, entering through the walls. It held a dagger dripping with a purple substance. It hovered next to Eireen, laying its dagger bare against her stomach.
Eireen tried to resist, but it was no use, the explosion had robbed her of her faculties. The spectre, against expectations, brandished the dagger and stabbed deeply into her gut. Her expression twisted in pain. Then, the spectre disappeared in a cloud of mist along with the corpse.
Frederick crawled over the cobblestone floor, face stricken with fear as he took the vision of Eireen bleeding out. He held her hand and infused her with his magic. The wounds closed but poison remained, tainting her veins black as it quickly spread through her body.
Another explosion shook the room. This time, it came from the door. Troops of soldiers swarmed the room, Philip amongst them walked casually compared to the altered soldiers.
“Mr. Rye, the house servants alerted me that the explosion came from this room, minus the one I made. Sorry about your door.” Philip yawned.
“Philip, please, save my wife. She’s been poisoned!” Frederick croaked.
“Huh? Let’s see, let’s see,” Philip leaned down, his eyes flashed for a brief second. “I see. Frederick, if I may ask, were you conducting demonic rituals?”
“No… certainly not.” Frederick coughed. “It was supposed to be a simple alchemical procedure.”
“Well, you’re wife has been cursed with Wraith’s hand,” Philip stated.
“Wraith’s hand? My mother is poisoned?” Riona barged in.
“Soldier number 12, take the young lady away for now.” Philip commanded.
“Sir, my name is Alex.”
“Soldier number 12, why haven’t you taken the young lady away?” Philip questioned.
“Right away sir!”
“Alright Mr. Rye, we’re going to need to take away your wife. All of the kingdom’s best priests went north, please understand.” Philip said.
“Can she be saved?” Frederick asked.
“We’ll see.” Philip said. “It’ll suck away her mana and when that runs out, her life force. Then she dies. Its really the first time this has popped up in let’s say… forever?”
Frederick was commentless.
“By forever, I mean like in 5 years.” Philip continued. “Now where’s the third lady that was supposed to be in your mansion?”
Frederick looked down, “She’s dead.”
“Work related death, I assume?” Philip said.
“That simplifies things. Alright, soldiers 1 through 20, take everything in this room as evidence. When you’re done, report back to HQ. Soldier 12, you take Mrs. Rye to HQ. Gently. Disperse!” Philip shouted. He left through the same hole in the wall he made where the door previously sat. Following him, the soldier named Alan carried Eireen’s limp body.
“Father, where are they taking mother?” Riona interrogated.
“Riona, be strong. You’re mother will be going away for a while,” Frederick stood up and walked over to where Riona was.
“Is mother hurt? The man said something about a poison. You’re the best alchemist in the kingdom, right father? You can heal her!” Riona cried.
“No Riona, alchemists can’t heal curses,” Frederick sighed. “Riona, my daughter, may I ask a favour from you?”
“Yes, you may.” Riona wiped away her tears and looked at Frederick with her trembling eyes.
“My child, don’t rush in your aptitude. Take it one step at a time.” Frederick stated.
“Father, I don’t understand,” Riona said.
“You’re perfect the way you are, Riona.” Frederick patted her head. “So don’t be stupid like me.”
The record ended.
Mel left the Rye mansion as soon as Kazu completed the activation for the spell. She didn’t know why she left, but she felt woozy. Was it from the tea? She asked herself, then shook her head at the thought. Whenever she drank alcohol of the highest concentrations, she would never get drunk, let alone from tea.
Although she thought that, she found herself at the 4th floor of the Ephermal Labyrinth Dungeon in what seemed like an instant. Previously she’d just been outside the Rye mansion and now she was here. No matter how she struggled to think, she couldn’t remember how she’d traversed the distance.
Oddly enough, she thought the dungeon would be sucking her energy away, but it didn’t. A single thought passed through her mind, and she knew why—the dungeon was dying. A dungeon would only die a year after its heart is destroyed or removed.
Somehow, she felt grateful. From the knowledge she accumulated during her thousands of years alive, she realized the heart of the dungeon was what had summoned Kazu into this world and held him in a stasis to be fed on, as the source of its energy to survive. Still, she couldn’t muster any hatred for the dungeon, it was quite possible that if not for this dungeon, she might not have been able to meet Kazu again.
Mel took a stroll through the dungeon. None of the ogres, ghouls, trolls, or the monsters that lived in the dungeon went near her during her casual walk. The natural noises they made would stop as she came near their shanty-like homes.
She ended her stroll in the grand hall where the paintings above portrayed a light being engulfed by darkness, or maybe it was the other way around. A fleeting chill came up from behind her, signaling the arrival of someone she knew, bothersome even.
“Melcross, I see you are still alive. Are you doing well?” The ghastly voice crept up from behind Mel. It was a lich, similar to the one she killed in the academy, but different and more like a ghost.
“Don’t ask if you don’t care, Frius,” Mel mocked, “Oh, would that be General Frius now? You’re becoming more of a joke as time passes, I see, especially with that weak curse on the dagger.”
“Snarky as ever,” Frius said, “Yet you decide to side with the humans.”
“One thing you should already know about me, Frius, is that I don’t side with anyone.” Mel answered.
“Oh, I see, you don’t. That should be the reason why you killed my pupil who I spent so much of my precious time dearly training,” Frius showed his irritation. “Do I take it that you are now also an enemy?”
“Oh boohoo, are you going to cry because of your apprentice’s death?” Mel retorted. “And do you think I actually care if you think I’m your enemy?”
“But yes, you should,” Frius replied. “We have someone even you should not meddle with. Someone brought back from the dead—in a new life. Even you, Melcross, might not even be able to stop him. At least, not with your current condition. ”
“Don’t stupidly twist your words,” Mel snapped. She knew who he was referring to, and it was obviously the King Charles. If he reincarnated, with his mind alone, he can conquer the whole world. He wasn’t able to in the past, not with the limited life span of a human. With a demonic body that could live for hundreds of years, maybe he could do it. But since he reincarnated, he was away from his most prized possession which was the secret to his impossible feats.
Still, Mel smirked, “You’re missing one key ingredient in your perfect Demon Lord, Frius.”
“Tricks won’t do any good, Melcross,” Frius countered. “The master’s plan is already set. I’ve seen your interactions with a particular human, and I see you hold him very dearly. It would be a pity if something were to happen to him.”
Mel clenched her fist. Although Charles wouldn’t be able to beat her in sheer strength, he would be able to take away all of the things she held dear, just as he did with others who crossed paths with him. “Thanks for the warning, and I commend you for your timing. Had we met tomorrow, I would’ve killed you on spot just for saying that.”
“Till we meet again, Melcross.” Frius’ voice faded.
The spectre lich, Frius, faded away from Mel’s view. She would’ve loved to jump on him to kill him with her bare fist, but that would’ve done no good, what with Frius being a ghost. She could only release the irritation on the already bruised and beaten columns of the grand hall.
After breaking the column in a single punch, she teleported herself out of the dungeon into the cool breeze of air just a few meters away from the front door of Brett’s house, the house Kazu calls “Home.”
Kazu left a few minutes ago, and Sage sat completely still at the coffee table, replaying the scenes of what he showed her. It didn’t make sense that Riona was targeted. Nothing in her past linked her to the incident other than her parents. Philip beside her also looked like he was concentrating on something, most likely the same as her.
Sage looked towards the future, in the millions of intertwined strings, searching for a reason as to why Riona became involved. But the future gave her no answer and confused her even more. The whole future and it’s myriad of possibilities changed, completely different from the way it looked yesterday. Everything seems misplaced as if something or someone was missing. She couldn’t put her finger on it, causing her mind to linger.
Her gaze shifted towards the bookshelf where one offending item lay in plain view. The book titled “History of Dragonweild: King Charles” sat in almost pristine condition on the shelf, as if mocking the other dusty and worn articles fitted on either side. Beside the bookshelf, a glass chess set with the black king checkmated. From the look of the match, the white side won with only minor pieces, sacrificing many pieces for the win. It seemed to have fooled the black side into thinking that it had the advantage up until the end. Then, something hit Sage.
“I see… I see! Hahahaha!” Sage laughed. “Don’t you see it Philip Nemean? We’ve been fooled by the Demon Lord!”
“But we saved Riona. We should have succeeded defending against his schemes.” Philip muttered.
“Shut up. I’m not done talking. Riona was a false target, don’t you see?” Sage snapped. “Now tell me, there should be two students amongst the 6 dead who are involved in the hidden war. Who are they?”
“Cristen Butcher…” Philip paused before stating the second name, “And Lawrie Flay.”
Sage slammed the coffee table, “Lawrie Flay was the man to succeed and surpass me. Cristen Butcher was his sword.”
“Surpass you? Is it even possible to surpass you as a clairvoyant?” Philip asked.
“No, not as a clairvoyant. As a mastermind, strategist, schemer, trickster, or whatever you may call the position of being the kingdom’s Sage. His ways in the arts of strategy and trickery would have rivaled King Charles himself,”Sage declared. “Maybe it is why he had to die early. A pity.”
“Sounds like a shady fellow,” Philip commented.
“He’s more idealistic than me,” Sage added, “Come, Philip Nemean. We must make preparations.”
3 months passed.
Yuli, Frederick, Riona, and Kazu as well as Mel stood around Eireen’s bed in the Rye Mansion. She had her eyes closed patiently waiting for the treatment.
“Mel, would you?” Kazu asked.
“Something like this, too easy.” Mel said with a confident smirk.
A luminous blue light swirled around Eireen’s body. Then, the vortex disappeared just as fast as it appeared. Eireen’s body began to relax its subconscious tension as the spell finished running its course. She even opened her eyes showing her audience as the glitter of life stirred within her red irises.
“Did it work? Eireen, answer! Did it work?” Yuli said.
“Yes, brother, I can hear you,” Eireen whispered, just enough for everyone to hear.
“It’s a miracle. It’s really a miracle!” Yuli shouted.
“Hehe, nothing is too hard for me, Melcross!” Mel pounded on her chest.
“That’s coming from a cursed sword, how ironic. But that doesn’t matter! How can I ever repay you, Melcross and Kazu?” Yuli grabbed Kazu by his shoulder.
“What about 15 plates per meal for Mel for the rest of our academic life?” Kazu suggested.
“15 plates? Only 15? Heck, you can have as many plates per meal as you want!” Yuli yelled.
“Now, now brother. Calm down and stop shouting. You’re hurting my ears.” Eireen smiled. “I’m not exactly fully recovered yet, you know?”
“Right, right! Still recovering. We should leave you be, to rest.” Yuli added.
“No, no, I just want you to stop shouting. I still want the company,” Eireen said. “Your name is Kazu Tomoe, is that right?”
Kazu nodded. “And this one is Melcross, although you probably already know her.”
“Yes, in fact, we all do. It is an honour to meet such a legendary figure,” Eireen said.
“Legendary? All this woman does is eat, eat, eat. I don’t really see how she’s so legendary,” Kazu joked.
“Are you really alright with all this noise, Eireen? Rest is best for your condition... ” Yuli said timidly.
“Oh hush, brother. My illness wasn’t all that bad, and I didn’t let it stop my research one bit.” Eireen chuckled. “In fact, the curse let me delve deeper into the secrets of the aptitude.”
She continued, “You see, everyone has a crystal as tiny as a little bead inside of them. Aptitude, simply put, is the purity of this bead, and that very same bead gives us our magic. The research possibilities of this are endless!”
“I’m with your brother on this one. Stop with your research for now and let your body catch up.” Frederick added.
“But my research!” Eireen insisted.
“Mother, I missed you.” Riona blurted out as she blushed, interrupting the whole scene.
“Riona, come here,” Eireen requested, stretching out her arms, “give your mother a big hug.” Riona came to the side of her bed and did as she was told, a genuine look of contentment filling her small smile. Eireen whispered into her ear, “Did you apologize to your father yet?”
“No… not yet.” Riona muttered.
“Oh come on. You two are really alike. Come here, both of you.” Eireen ordered.
Frederick and Riona stood side by side. Eireen in front of them nodded as if to signal them to say something to the other.
“Father, I’m…” Riona paused for a moment before continuing, “I’m sorry.”
“Riona.” Frederick patted her head. “I’m sorry too.”
“That’s it?” Eireen sighed. “Both of you are really short worded.”
“Isn’t it fine?” Kazu interrupted. “I’m sure they understand each other well enough.”
“That’s right. Kazu, thank you for everything.” Riona smiled.
Her smile radiated the same warmth directed towards her mother, she had regained her flame, similar to the smile Kazu and the rest had seen in the record. He could not help but feel the bliss from helping someone change for the better. It was a nostalgic feeling, something he hadn’t felt in a long time, since his previous life with the many kinds of classmates he’d been with. Though they were but a memory now, he clung to them as a precious experience that would help him help those in the future.
He also took in the warmth of Riona’s family, each one of them had different ways of expressing their love. Although Frederick and Riona were more withdrawn, Kazu could still see their love for each other. Yuli became more docile when he was with his younger sister, Eireen.
Kazu left the Rye mansion with Mel in her claymore form. The warmth continued to ooze from his heart as the scene of the reunited family lingered in his mind.
As he entered the city from the south walls, he headed straight to a run down workshop named “Grouch’s Leatherworks.”
“Old Grouch, I want a scabbard that can fit this thing on my back.” Kazu ordered.
“20 gold if you provide the material. 50 if you don’t. Pay up bud.” Grouch said.
“20 gold.” Kazu laid down 20 gold coins on the counter top. “Make it with this fire lizard leather.”
Kazu took out the fire lizard in his inventory. The carcass filled the remaining space in the room. “Keep the extra leather or whatever you get from this fire lizard.”
“Hmph, being generous now are ya, Kazu?” Grouch retorted. “Alright, expect it to be done in a week.”
“Good.” Kazu said. “I’ll be back then. Later old Grouch.”
Kazu’s footsteps marred the newly formed snow as he trod the path home. The season was still winter and snow still fell continuously, but over the months the snow fell more gently. The softness of the snow was the complete opposite of reality’s rigidness he had experienced 3 months ago. Kazu couldn’t help but ask himself whether the worse was over. The answer was obvious though: of course it wasn’t, as many cliches go, it was just beginning.
“Mel.” Kazu called out.
“Strength saves people, right?” Kazu asked.
Mel: It does. Do you want more?
“Yeah.” Kazu looked up towards the cloud covered sky. “If I can save those I love, then it’s all worth it.”
Mel let out into her spectral form. She hovered eye level with him, a smirk on her lips. “Then let’s start the real training.”
Kazu arrived home. He saw Sage on the sofa beside Philip. Brett and Sene sat opposite of them.
“Kazu Tomoe.” Sage announced. “Do you know the face of war?”
“Get on with your point, Sage. I’m not in the mood,” Kazu stated.
“In all history of the human realm, Asteria and Dragonweild, the faces, scars, and wounds of war are many. They linger in the hearts of the people. Thousands of lives are lost and some emerge as heroes,” Sage said, “But do you know the face of this war, Kazu Tomoe?”
Kazu shook his head.
“No heroes will emerge and a whole kingdom is at stake just as how King Charles fought his wars. There are only two beings in this world that should not be angered. One of them is in your hands, the other is King Charles of Dragonweild.” Sage declared.
“So what does this have to do with me?” Kazu asked.
“Kazu Tomoe, this is a war where hundreds of thousands of lives are stake. So I ask you, would you like to slay a Demon Lord?” Sage proclaimed.
Thanks for reading. This concludes book 2.
Thanks to Silentcomfort who helps a great deal in editing these chapters!