Chapter 7 Title: The Passing Train
“What should we decorate the halls with?” Mikaela examined the wreaths of gold in front of him and held it up. “This?”
“It seems kind of flashy,” remarked Lucas. “Imagine walking through a hallway adorned with gold. Wouldn’t that seem as if we’re trying to boast about our wealth? That would be a terrible first impression, and especially because we’re put in charge of decorations. People might think that we’re greedy and consumed ourselves with wealth, and we’re arrogant - don’t forget about the fact that we used to be commoners a few weeks ago.”
“But we’re part of the Winurasten family now, they shouldn’t care about that - and besides, if it's too plain then they’ll still gossip.” Mikaela said, dropping the wreath. The servants surrounding him immediately rushed to pick up the ornament before it’s damaged. Some of them were on the verge of shedding tears, gnawing on small embroidered handkerchiefs as they watched the ornament fall slowly.
“Hey! Be more careful with that!” Lucas scolded, moving the other precious jewels away from his partner. “These cost a lot, okay?”
The servants beamed appreciatively, touched at their new young master who was thoughtful and considerate about the many artifacts, unlike Mikaela and the Duke who would throw away a goblet of pure gold without a glance.
“I wanna take a nap~” Mikaela grumbled, fidgeting with a string of rubies. Before he could toss that aside, Lucas quickly snatched it from his hands like a cat guarding its children. Mikaela collapsed into a nearby chair with a groan.
“And I thought that you were the smart one. If I had known that you’d act like this, then I wouldn’t have ever thought about handing you a portion of the Dukedom.” Lucas huffed, placing the string down carefully as if it's a national treasure.
“I’m good at paperwork,” Mikaela replied. “I’m no good at this decoration stuff. It’s too boring.”
“Marilyn, can you call the head butler here?” Lucas asked a young maid who nodded and complied with his request. “We’ll just ask the head butler for some advice then.”
“Sounds good,” Mikaela said, pouring himself some honey tea and adding sugar cubes.
“Eating too much sugar is not good, you know?” Lucas chided, exasperatedly. “Just how many times have I told you now?”
“About a million times,” Mikaela said airily, adding another sugar cube into his cup and stirred it quickly. When the cup was near his lips, Lucas took it from his hands. “You want it? If you wanted it, you could’ve just told me to make you one too, you know?”
“I’m preventing you from consuming anymore sugar,” Lucas took a sip and spat it out. “Blegh! That’s nasty! My throat feels like it's burning! It’s so sweet! How can you drink this?”
Mikaela laughed. “Only I can drink that. You reacted the same way as the Duke.”
“Ugh!” Lucas shuddered, and one of the maids quickly took the cup away but was stopped.
“Give it,” Mikaela ordered coldly. The maid had no choice but to hand over the cup, frightened and confused.
“The head butler has arrived, young master.” The maid announced and the door opened behind her.
“I greet the two young wolves of the North.” A tidy wizened man bowed his head, and greeted them. “What is it that you require? I shall do my best to support you with all my knowledge.”
Lucas nodded with thanks while Mikaela continued to sip his tea with flowers blooming behind him.
“I need your advice on decorating.”
“I see,” nodded the butler with understanding. “This castle was built 200 years ago, with a long history. Even a little sample of it is worth 2,000 gold coins. It’s made out of clear white marble, along with small portions of gold - which makes it shine faintly. If embellished lavishly, it won’t match the simple, and yet, intricate design of the castle. The estate has long been the most famous piece of architecture ever created. The emperor personally bestowed the title “the silver wolf’s den” which is a huge honor. I would admonish you to not go overboard.”
“Butler,” Mikaela set down his cup, and raised his voice. “Lucas asked you for advice, not for a whole history lesson about the estate. Be more specific. Don’t dawdle behind.”
Everyone else felt a cold wind from Mikaela besides Lucas who was focused on the butler’s words.
“...I understand, young master.” The butler swallowed.
“Good,” Mikaela smiled with thin lips. “Continue.”
“So, for the halls, do you think some yellow and white would look good?” Lucas inquired, holding up some amber stones and little pieces of gold.
“That would complement the simple colors of the interior.” The butler nodded. “Some diamonds would also suffice - this banquet is a very important ceremony, so nothing should go awry.”
After exchanging a few more words, the servants were dismissed, leaving Lucas and Mikaela alone.
“He’s a rat, that one is.” Mikaela spat out, stirring his tea. “He only got his position because he was rescued by the previous Grand Duke.”
“I can sense that, but I also don’t think it's like that.” Lucas said. “It seemed as if he was trying to boast his knowledge, but in an indirect way.”
“Next time, let me deal with him,” Mikaela offered.
“The spies have been cleared out,” the tall man said, his long ponytail swinging behind him. His eyes were multicolored: his left was a sky blue color that twinkled underneath the sunlight, and his right, brown and warm.
“Good job,” the other man said. His brow furrowed at the sight of the expectant grin on the other man’s face. “What now, Sirius?”
He averted his eyes. “Nothing~”
“Spit it out,” the Duke demanded. Sirius squirmed around with anticipation.
“When are you going to let me see the new young masters?” He whined.
“Not until you behave yourself, leader of the wolves.” The Duke snorted with sarcasm. “I can’t believe that you’re going to be the new king of the pack. You’re so useless. Who would’ve thought that the wolf tribe would decline this far?”
“Hey! I’m doing my best, you know?” Sirius grumbled. “Father has been acting cold recently, and you - well, you’re always cold to me. This young one is doing his best, you know? And my master is so cruel to this poor one. I feel so sad….”
“Shut it,” a pen was flung toward him and buried itself into the wall. “Once you can fix that lopsided mind of yours, maybe I’ll consider it.”
“Geez...how meannnn….” Sirius pouted, and slumped onto the couch. “Please? Please? I wanna see them!”
“I said to shut it, didn’t I?” The Duke growled. “First it's that bastard Baron, and now it's you. Why can’t you all just shut up? And I’ve got a hearing to attend next.”
“Who’s more like a wolf now?” Sirius crossed his arms, sitting upside down on the couch with his feet dangling above him. “’Bet father would’ve liked a son like you. Cold, cruel, calm, and consistently hard-working. You’ve got all of the 4 C’s.”
The Duke let out an irritated sigh. “Get out.”
“Okay!” Sirius said happily.
“And don’t you dare approach the children!” The Duke shouted before the door slammed shut behind Sirius.
“Once a dog is off its leash, it's free to go wherever it please.” Sirius said poetically. “Bye!”
“Baron Bubullaiver,” the loud authoritative voice rang. “What is it that you’re pleading for?”
“I’m innocent, your honor! I am innocent!” The desperate man cried. His haughty attitude long faded, and he looked like a drunkard on the verge of poverty. “T-the children are sneaky! Th-they framed me! I have no consciousness of a secret lab! I wouldn’t dare to dream of going against the empire!”
“Silence,” the Baron’s voice fell and his face broke into horror. “What is it that you’re claiming, Baron? Oh wait, you’re no longer holding the Baron title now, aren’t you?”
Snickers passed through the crowd.
“Grand Duke!” He growled with resentment. “You! It’s all because of you my precious home is now in shambles!”
He spat near the Duke’s foot and the crowd gasped at his savageness.
“I can comprehend your feelings, Bubullavier,” the Duke said slowly, and slowly rummaged through his buckled coat. “But I’m afraid that it’s quite unfortunate that I have proof your claim is false.” He pulled out documents of lab blueprints and many tests related to the lab onto the witness box. The Judge waved for an officer to fetch the papers from the Duke so that he can examine it personally.
After a few moments of silence, the Judge cleared his throat. “This evidence shall be passed to the audiences of the Jury to be further discussed.”
The Juries rose from their seats, and left the courtroom for further discussion.
“Grand Duke of Winurasten,” the Judge addressed.
“Yes, your honor?”
“I would appreciate it if your dramatic intrusion wouldn’t ever reoccur if you are to be put into court again in the future. Next time, you won’t be embraced as easily, you will be apprehended for perturbing ”
“Yes, your honor.” the Duke said.
After a while the juries re-entered the room and proceeded to their seats while the Head Jury remained standing.
“Head Jury, what is the final verdict that you have come to an agreement on?” The Judge bellowed, exerting pressure amongst the room. His full authority was expressed through his powerful voice, silencing everyone in the room and directing attention to the Head Jury.
He cleared his throat before announcing his final decision, “We have declared that former Baron Bubullavier is to be indicted of plotting treason against the empire, and charged with child abuse, and the illegal act of maintaining chimera labs. He will be executed at the guillotine by a man of your choice, Grand Duke, since this accident has influenced the Northern Duchy greatly - we shall leave the choice up to you. The date will be soon released. The Baron of Inaiodine shall be no more.”
“Wha?” The Baron squeaked. His face fell into depravity and he whimpered, his mouth opening and closing with no words. “I-I...your honor! I’m being wrongly accused! Please! I’m begging you for another trial that’ll prove my innocence for sure!”
“Guards, restrain him, and cuff his hands so that no more injustice will ever occur ever again.” The Judge ordered. “Take him to the rat infested dungeon and let him rot away until the day of his beheading. No food rations shall be handed besides sewage water and some dry rye bread.”
“You can’t do this to me!” He protested. “You can’t!”
A knight attempted to cuff his hands but was knocked to the ground by his fury.
“Your honor!” He cried. “You can’t do this to me! I have served this country for many years faithfully! You can’t just throw away my loyalty like that! T-the king! Ask for the emperor to come! He’ll prove that I’m not guilty!”
“Silence, drag him away.”
After a few more punches thrown, and a brawl, the Baron was straddled to his chair and carried off to the dungeon.
“You may all be dismissed.” With a sweep of his hands, the gavel was pounded and everyone rose. “May the Grand Duke of the North be blessed with luck and fortune for as long as he is…alive.”
“My sincerest gratitude, your honor.” The Duke nodded and left the room with many eyes staring at his back.
“What is your impression of the new young masters?” Sebastian asked.
“I think they a’ight.” The head maid nodded, immersed in her paperwork. “The blonde un’ is smart while the un’ that resembles the master is brigh’. That un’ is.”
“I think that they’ll both be a good influence to the Duke.” Sebastian smiled brightly. “I do like the perceptive one though. I think he’s planning on dealing with me soon enough.”
The head maid laughed.``Oh you and yer little joke’! I can’ believe you gonna do them like tha’!”
“Well, I’m curious to see how far they’ll go.” The Butler said, amused. “It’s their first trial as the new young masters. If they don’t qualify here, they won’t ever be good enough in high society. Believe me when I say this - for this statement is very true - high society is all about judgment. If you let your head bow too low, you’ll be perceived as weak and there’s always going to be wicked villains lurking around waiting for an opening. It is our duty to prepare them, otherwise.”
“Heh,” the Head maid chuckled. “It’s been a while since the Duchy got some young un’s. Can’t wait to see how they do.”
“Oh! My break is up!” Sebastian said, checking his pocket watch. “I shall take my leave now. Have a good day Head maid.”
“Same ta’ you, good sir.”
The voice sent chills down Sebastian’s spine when he was about to make a turn down the hall.
“...I greet the young wolf of the North.”
“Head butler, or better yet, Klaus de Alphonse Riamond.” Mikaela said.
“That is correct, young master.”
“...That’s false information, isn’t it?” He threw documents filled with information and details of the butler’s history to the floor. “Your real name is Sebastian Hugo tia Delor, son of a merchant, and was abducted years ago until the former Grand Duke of Winurasten found you and rescued you from the slave trade. Ever since then, you’ve been a faithful servant to the Northern Duchy, and organized the estate’s affairs as well as the Northern border. You were also once a trained soldier, as well as a spy so you’re highly intelligent, and have a stalwart build despite your feeble look.
“Oh! And not to forget, you’re in charge of eliminating any obstacles in the Duke’s way, are you not?”
“...how do you know all that information?”
“I picked it up from the information guild that the Duke runs.” Mikaela shrugged. “Since I was adopted by the Duke, they tossed everything that I needed to my feet after I...did some persuading.”
“...as you have stated, I can confirm that all that you said is true.”
“Hah!” Mikaela scoffed. “Were you trying to undermine Lucas during that time then?”
“...I apologize if my words came off standoffish and boastful,” he lowered his head. “There is no falseness in your words, however, although I am quite talented, I have never wished for any harm towards you, and young master Lucas as well. “
“Alright...it better not be like that, butler.” Mikaela glared threateningly. Perhaps it was because Lucas was involved in this matter that Mikaela became impatient. “If it is, you’ll have to face the consequences.”
I’m not sure what to do
I’m not sure exactly what I should do.
What do you want me to do?
The days are quickly ticking by, and before I know it -
It’s almost gone.
I know that crying would be useless
Because if they see my tears, I'll end up being ridiculed.
So, I shouldn’t.
But at the same time it’ll be the last time we meet
The last day we’ll laugh together and play together
So what if I shouldn’t?
Do I just leave my pools of tears somewhere at the back of my mind to rot and evaporate?
No, I can’t.
I won’t be able to forgive myself after
But the clog in my throat just won’t spin
And I end up not being able to speak my thoughts again
This feeling, however, is not pleasant
I would be full of smiles one second then those thoughts would run widely again
And I would plunge into the bucket called “reality”
I thought of it as a dream
But it was too fleeting and pleasant
There were many that I’ve met who supported me
And welcomed me
And it made me feel special
Then like a brick crashing into fragile glass,
Time is too short
Life is even shorter -
Like a thread that can be snapped, snipped, twisted, and buried any second
But even so, society will still go on
The Earth will continue to rotate and spin
People will continue walking on, sipping their coffee
As if nothing ever happened
As if that time never existed at all
But then there’s small remnants of those times
And when you find those things and remember to reminisce
It’s as if nothing changed at all
So, it can’t be that bad
But then you hear those sounds again
That small tink! on the glass
And that changes into a crack, then a smash
Then into the sound of falling jagged pieces
And into something that’s broken and will remain broken
Until pieced up together again
As long as they know, and approach that scene
With genuine intentions
With a piece of sharp glass, you can use it to cut someone
But have you ever thought that was what the glass wanted to be used for?
What if it didn’t want to become the “murder weapon”?
Or to be labeled as dangerous?
Or what if it never wanted to be broken in the first place?
Or that it never wanted to be left alone?
Or that it’s scared that people will never appreciate its beauty because of its sharp edges that’s blown apart?
But it’s fate isn’t exactly up to that glass
Because the future is muddled
And it all depends on…
Chapter 6 Title: The Passing Train
The forest swayed along as if following the boy’s pace as he walked back and forth impatiently.
“What is taking Lucas so long?” The blonde-haired boy shone under the moonlight, filled with anxiety. He had been concerned about his friend’s whereabouts for a while now, and gnawed on the insides of his mouth as he waited on the brink of chasing after his friend’s trace and staying put.
He peered over the bushes, at the deteriorated mansion and groaned. “Should I go in…?”
He shook his head. “No, Lucas might come and find me missing. I’ll stay put for a bit more…”
His head turned back sharply when he heard a rustle but to find that it was just an animal.
“A fox…? No...” its glimmering blue eyes stared at him gallantly, exerting immeasurable pressure, “...I greet the noble and...loyal protector of the North Wind.”
In the empire, there are four royal Dukedoms each blessed with powers of four different, but extremely powerful, spirit tribes. The North has the White Wolf tribe, the South has the Emerald Deer tribe, the West with the Golden Lions, and the East with the Diamond Eagle tribe. It is said that four future heirs of the Dukedoms wielded powers granted by the spirits themselves - though it shortens their lifespans if constantly used.
But because there were many villains trying to obtain power for themselves, the four animal tribes hid themselves supported by the power of the four noble Duke families. It was extremely rare to encounter them.
‘But this is the West, so what is a wolf from the North doing here?’
The wolf’s cool eyes made Mikaela stare back. Out of nowhere, the wolf laid down on the grass and placed his two front paws neatly in front of him as if asking Mikaela to step forward. His posture was relaxed in this situation which was the opposite of Mikaela’s who wanted to step out as quickly as possible. His mind was set on departing from this spot and searching for Lucas.
“What is it that you seek, intelligent young one?”
Mikaela flinched when heard the wolf speak softly without opening its mouth.
“In other words, what are you so anxious about, young one?” It tilted its head, soft blue light vibrating off of its glamorous fur.
“...Excuse my rudeness, but I’m in an urgent situation right now.” Another explosion set off right after he finished. “I have to find my friend who’s still in that building.”
“I see…do you require a hand?”
He almost stumbled. Him? Ask for help from a member of a legendary wolf clan? Impossible. “I-I’ll be alright. Excuse me.”
He dashed off with the wolf tailing him. The two were silent the whole time as Mikaela jumped back into the dilapidated mansion that lost its former grandeur, not knowing what to say to the wolf.
“...what does he look like?”
“Black hair with golden eyes.” Mikaela answered, scouting the area ahead. “And - how should I address you?”
“”Sir Wolf” is fine,”
Any hint of humbleness vanished from his words which the wolf accepted, astonishingly, without any arrogance or complaints.
“I see, I’ll search this way then.” He directed his nose to the East Wing that was already in shambles and they separated. It felt so natural, as if they were partners for a long time.
‘It’s still weird, though. What would a North Wolf be doing in the West?’
He skidded to a stop at the sight of a familiar back and grinned. “Lu- - !”
Lucas suddenly collapsed onto his knees with a pale face. Mikaela’s eyes shifted towards the scene displayed in front of Lucas. The Baron was thrown onto the ground with the man the Duke. He looked back at Lucas who looked as if he wanted to vomit, clamping his hand over his mouth at the blood spreading across the dusty marble floor.
“Lucas,” he called out. Lucas, startled by the sudden comfort, turned around, half relieved and half shooken.
“Mikaela,” he said softly,
“Don’t worry about that man.” Mikaela eyed the Duke. “He’s back up.”
“He won’t harm us.”
“So then, what’s wrong?” He bent down and looked into Lucas’s eyes.
“...I just...was a bit surprised.”
“Don’t worry! We’re saved now!” Mikaela said, grinning and spreading out his arms and letting them fall to his side. “We can go anywhere we want now! The Duke will take care of us!”
“Duke…?” His mind spun around bizarrely. “The Duke?”
The Duke cleared his throat. “I’m the Duke of Winurasten...your uncle. I’ve come to pick you up. Originally, I was supposed to fetch you with less...rubbish, but some problems occurred and I had to deal with them simultaneously on the way….My apologies for alarming you so suddenly.”
“I-it’s…” his vision swayed and his head felt as if it was about to explode all of a sudden. “I-I’m fine…”
“Lucas?” Mikaela held his burning hand, and jumped at the high temperature. “Quick! We need to fetch a physician!”
With those last words, he toppled over and landed in Mikaela’s arms.
“I’ve ordered people to secure your sister.” A deep voice said. “Your parents will be dealt with separately….to exterminate them, or leave them alive and just hand them some gold?”
“Some gold will do.” The familiarity of the voices made him stir. “Just silence them….announce that I’m your adopted son yet?”
“I’m planning on your first debut along with Lucas’s….to make it during the North Winter ceremony, or during the Fall festival, which is in a month. That’s where all the family heads of the Dukedoms will be present…will be attending.”
“The Fall festival sounds fine….shouldn’t delay it for too long.”
“Then we’ll have to order some customized clothes for you both….the most expensive designer.”
“Oh, and I also want you to find an opportunity to isolate this person…” the voice turned into a bare whisper that sounded inaudible then rose back up again. “I’ll handle her…. bring her here.”
The room looked dim and bleary, then clear when he blinked a few times. The ceiling that he woke up to was adorned with jewels and intricate designs, unfamiliar to him. He moved his hands slowly to feel a soft texture underneath him. It felt as if he was being swallowed by softness and sinking into the comfort of this luxury that he can’t get up from.
“Oh! Lucas, you’re awake.” A soft smile greeted him, and twinkling bell blue eyes gazed at him adoringly.
“W-where..am I? What is this?” His hands kept groping the silk blanket that felt so precious and smooth that it seemed as if it’ll slip out of his hands if he let go.
“This is a Winurasten manor in Louisville, a city near the border of the West and the North.” The tall man next to Mikaela answered kindly.
“Um...am I...supposed to call you ‘Uncle’ from now on?” Lucas asked. It sounded a bit rude considering the fact that he was still lying in bed, and his hand kept on touching the blankets uncontrollably, as if enchanted by the softness he never felt before in his life.
“If you feel uncomfortable and awkward about that, you don’t have to worry about that.” The Duke said.
“N-no it’s - ah!” When he attempted to rise up, he felt a burning sensation in his arm and immediately sank back down.
“Lucas, do you want to rest some more?” Mikaela said, disrupting their stiff mood.
“No, I’m fine - “
“You heard him, right, Duke?” Mikaela said, blocking out Lucas’s sentence. “He says that he wants to rest. You can leave now.”
“What? When did he - ?”
Before he knew it, he found himself being pushed out of the room by the blonde haired boy with an innocent smile.
“Mikaela…” Lucas began.
“Your welcome,” Mikaela intoned, locking the door behind him. “It’s a good thing that I kicked him out, right? You must have a lot of questions, don’t you? And,” he glanced at Lucas’s hands that was still probing the blankets unconsciously, “you must really like that blanket.”
“Huh?” Lucas exclaimed, then quickly grabbed his hand off of it. “A-anyway...are we now officially part of the Duke’s family?”
“Yup, but don’t worry. Our first names won’t change, only our living environment will.”
“...I see,” a sudden thought struck him with guilt. “W-what about the orphans? What happened to them? We have to ask the Duke to save them!”
“I informed him about that as well, and he said not to be concerned. Since Baron Buballavier has fallen with his land and title stripped away, all his possessions are confisticated, and we now own this area that he used to control.”
“I see...so the Duke gained some land from this incident as well.” Lucas smiled a little. “I'm glad that we were able to do something for him; because he saved us, he earned stuff as well.”
“What are you talking about?” Mikaela’s brows furrowed. “He doesn’t own it, we do.”
It was as if lightning crashed down on him. “What?! We do?!”
“Yup! Isn’t that great?” Mikaela said happily, taking a seat at the edge of the bed. “Now we can do what we want and help the ones in need! We can even order people to build a house for the orphans if we want to!”
“But...I don’t...I don’t like the idea of ruling over our town that we lived in for so long.” Lucas said truthfully. “I...I don’t feel like I’m up for it. What if something goes wrong? What if I become so drunk in power that I become a tyrant?”
“You have me,” Mikaela placed his hand on Lucas’s and scooched closer. “As long as we’re both together, we can do anything. I’ll keep you sane, and you can keep me sane. Isn’t that what we’ve always done?”
“Yeah, that’s true.” Lucas broke into a grin. “I’m glad that we didn’t get separated.”
“That won’t ever happen. I won’t let it happen.”
“Then, let’s live a long life together, friend.”
“Mikaela,” Lucas called out to the boy next to him. “Mikaela? Mikaela!”
“Hm?” The blonde boy blinked. “What’s up?”
“Nothing...it's just that...you seemed a little vacant, staring into space.” Lucas replied, closing his textbook. It’s been a couple of weeks since they arrived at the Duke’s mansion, and he could now move his arm flexibly without feeling a shot of pain rising in him. “You’ve been doing that ever since we arrived at the estate.”
Mikaela, being reticent, had been blank as a white sheet of paper lately, dozing off into the far away distance. “H-huh? Was I?”
This situation felt as if it was repeated which seemed laughable to Lucas.
‘Where have I encountered this scene before?’
“Sorry, I was just...pondering about something.” Mikaela looked around at their surroundings and sighed. “So much has happened and changed. We used to be boys who ran around the streets and now we’re suddenly nobles. How funny is that? Who would’ve thought that life would change so drastically with one fateful encounter.”
Sitting in a luxurious garden with tall rose bushes and drinking tea worth two years of a commoner’s regular salary was something that they never dared to dream of. The flowers and large expansive fields of grass extended to the point where they can still see the color green far away.
“I never thought that the Duke’s estate would be this big.” Lucas said. “It makes me shocked to the point where I’m scared to touch a teacup. You don’t know how much they’re actually worth.”
Mikaela laughed. “The Duke is rich - he wouldn’t bat an eye if you broke a teacup that belonged to a king in front of him.”
“Money really is great, isn’t it?” Lucas said with nostalgia. “It’s totally different from before. It’s as if we’re brought into a whole new world.” He sat up. “But still though, the noble world is a lot more than just dressing up and attending tea parties everyday like I imagined. Who would’ve thought that we would have to study? Look at all this information!” He rattled the handful of sheets in his hands.
“You aren’t good at studying at all now, aren’t you?” Mikaela sniggered.
“Hey! Not everyone is book smart like you!”
“You’re not that good at swords either,” Mikaela added and Lucas flushed even more.
“I-I’ll train harder! It’s not my fault! I got injured and had to stay in bed for a week, so you got a head start.” Lucas countered with a pointed nose.
“Wow~! What a great noble attitude, young master!” Mikaela teased him, chuckling. “You’re becoming more and more like what a young master of a Duchy should be! What a model student!”
“S-shut up! Stop making fun of me,” Lucas groaned. “And plus, aren’t you also one of the young masters of the Duchy? Although I’m the one who’s going to inherit this whole thing though.” He waved his hand to all the land in front of him and slumped onto the table. “It’s too much. I’ll just give you half of it, or you can just take all of it. Or better yet, you can manage all the state affairs and I’ll just laze around.”
“I’ll certainly do it better than you,” Mikaela sneered and sipped from his cup. “Just kidding. It’s too troublesome being a Duke - and a Grand Duke at that. And plus, you’re the one with the Winurasten blood, not me. I was just adopted by the current Grand Duke. A lot of nobles won’t acknowledge me because of my past.”
“If it’s like that, then wouldn’t I be treated as an outcast as well?”
“You won’t, since you’ve got the blood flowing through you.” Mikaela assured him.
“Then can’t I just protect you that way?”
“Huh?” Mikaela stiffened. “What are you talking about? I don’t - “
“No, I mean that you can just use me as your shield, can’t you?” Lucas said confidently. “I’ll just handle all the slanders and the rudeness for you.”
“I can’t make you do that!” Mikaela said, vacillating between joy and pride. He hesitated to continue after that sudden raise in voice. “I-it’s just...using you as a shield feels as if I’m abusing our relationship and taking advantage of it, you know what I mean?”
“I understand,” Lucas nodded. “But it’s alright. It’s you, after all, Mikaela. If it's anyone else, I wouldn’t even offer this proposal to them.”
“...although the fall of that disgusting Baron had a severe backlash and many protests, the Duke was able to silence them with a single glare.” Mikaela brought up slowly. “As long as the Duke is alive, none of us two will be a human shield.”
Lucas laughed a little, attempting to shake off the chill he felt from Mikaela’s words. The conversation proceeded to steer into other channels until a servant came to notice them of the Duke’s return.
“Uncle is back already?” Lucas remarked, sounding like a whine. Ever since that Baron Bubullaiver incident, the two boys stayed with the Duke, therefore, developing a more intimate relationship with the Duke. It’s become second nature to them to greet the Duke when he returns from wherever he may have gone during the day.
“What a pity, I wanted to stay in the garden a bit longer.” Mikaela groaned, struggling to stand up.
“I will inform the Master of your whereabouts,” the servant recommended thoughtfully. Mikaela plopped right back down onto the grass the second those words were said.
“Okay! You can leave now.” Mikaela grinned. “And also, you can take back the tea. Some biscuits with chocolate would be nice.”
“Mikaela!” Lucas gave him a small slap on his arm. “If you eat too many sweets, you’ll get cavities and your teeth will fall, you know?”
“It’s fine~” Mikaela assured him. “I don’t eat as much either way. Sweets are also good for you too, you know? It energizes you - and it's best to enjoy such delicacies while you have it. The head chef here is really talented, at least it gives him something to do.”
Lucas, speechless, couldn’t come up with a counter for that remark. “Whatever.”
After a few minutes, they heard footsteps pressing against the grass steadily approaching them.
“Lounging around, I see.” The voice made them look up.
“Welcome back,” Mikaela said nonchalantly.
“Welcome back...uncle,” Lucas observed, peering at an envelope in his hands. “What’s that?”
“A letter about the Fall festival that’s coming up in a week.” The Duke handed Mikaela the letter who scanned through it after ripping open the envelope without a care. “We must prepare. The host this year is the Northern Duchy. The emperor will also attend as well. There’s much to be accomplished.”
It was supposed to be a happy day but...why did it feel so sad? Maybe it’s just me who feels that way. Maybe.
There was a lump in my throat, clogging up every word that I wanted to say so I kept quiet. Not even a croak could escape my lips. Nothing will give my act away. Nothing. At least I hope so. Scenarios oscillated in and out of my mind, each of them making me blink even faster to hold back my watery eyes that threaten to spill.
My yellow gown flew behind me as I walked hurriedly, nodding hello to my fellow classmates and teachers that I’ve spent the year with. Barely. Yellow was such an ugly color. It’s so bright and colorful and so…cheerful. Something that doesn’t fit me at all. Why can’t it be dark blue instead? Or better yet, why not black? A dark color would be nice.
I tried to distract myself with all sorts of thoughts that strayed far away from the topic of graduating and the amount of time I have left before vacation. It was like a ticking time bomb counting down to my final moments with the friends and precious memories that I just recently made.
I clenched my fists in frustration as I hid in a corner of the halls in a school that I don’t even know. Our graduation ceremony was held in another high school, a school that is much bigger than my current one. It was difficult to find a place to host the eight graders' graduation but the adults finally managed to achieve their goal. But all that seemed so long ago. And now it feels as if I’ve been slapped in the face by reality and woke up from my delusions and hopes that the happy days will last forever.
Fate is so evil.
In retrospect, there were a lot of things that I should’ve done but I couldn’t because I was too scared to or just unmotivated at the time. There were many things that I wanted to do, and could’ve done! And if I did manage to accomplish those desires then would it be different now? Would I feel more fulfilled and be able to smile happily like the others who spent the year being themselves instead of hiding away?
Maybe it's just me.
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy everything but more like I regret not doing anything. If only in the beginning of the year I didn’t stay silent and hushed away. If only I interacted with others more instead of being independent and a lone wolf. If only I made friends faster then maybe we would’ve talked a lot more and had more time to hang out. If only I could’ve tossed away my disguise and be able to laugh and cry and joke around like I wanted to. If only…I didn’t feel so alone. So powerless. So stupid. So miserable.
And now look at me - filled with regrets and desires that can’t even come true because the time has already passed.
I wish I had a time machine so I can go back in time and tell them all the things that I wanted to say. To tell them that I was happy, and that I want to be friends. To tell them that being together was fun and that we should do it again. Only if…
“Megumi Aikawa, please step up to the stage.”
I blinked as my name was called and mustered up the remaining confidence that I had left. My battery was almost drained after the whole year of pretending. The sun was bright and beamed down at the crowd that waited expectantly for me to go up those steps and face them. My legs trembled as I walked slowly and gradually increased my pace. It was heavy. I wanted to cry. Behind my shield, my mask, or whatever it is that I keep up in front of others was the me that wanted to bawl and roll around like a child and throw a tantrum and scream about how unfair life was. But I couldn’t do that. The name ‘Megumi’ who is an excellent student that behaves well and has never caused a commotion is what I am. Or atleast the front that I have to use until this ends.
I don’t really remember what they said. There were cheers and applause and then time felt slow. I could feel the heat waves piercing through my skin and my stare boring into the stage floor. The only words that popped into my head - I remember as clear as day - was:
“I don’t like this.”
“Pardon?” Sato-san, the principal, paused his speech.
I broke out of my daze and realized what I just spitted out. “...Sorry! I didn’t mean to - “
“What is it that you don’t like exactly?”
His voice was loud. He was holding the microphone and his every word ringed throughout every speaker in the field. The audience went silent. Every pair of eyes were on me. My eyes flew around frantically and finally met the area where all of my classmates were. Our eyes met and they looked at me and I looked at them. The teachers that were lined up on the stage all had concerned faces.
Of course they would be worried because during the past year that I’ve been with them I was always a quiet student who is intelligent. But never have I ever done something like this before.
“I…I…” My eyes went to my sweaty palms while my chest heaved up and down. Before I knew it a tiny drop fell on my hands. More detached itself from my eyes and it was unstoppable. I was shocked by what was happening. “S-sorry…I…I just l-lost control…I’m fine! R-really!”
Nobody believed my words. It was hard to believe after all. Why would a girl who broke down in public be ‘fine’? If I was them I wouldn’t trust myself either. It was clear that I was anything but ‘fine’.
Sato-san’s strong hands touched my shoulder and the other teachers surrounded me and gave me pats on the back. That caused a commotion, a spectacle. Who would ever think that the great ‘Megumi’ would break down and shed tears? I’m sure that everyone must be confused by now.
“Are you alright now?” Another teacher asked me, handing me a napkin.
I took it and nodded my thanks but my shoulders wouldn’t stop shaking.
‘Ah…I really hate this.’
Chapter 7: Mana (Chronicles of Time)
Akira had just recently enrolled into the same high school as the others under the pretext of “a genius young and mature student” just so he isn’t stuck at home alone, and it went well. He played the role perfectly, and there were no flaws - besides his constant and relentless fights with Yuu’s rude comments daily. All the students admired him just as much as they did with the others, and because he looked so young - they were regularly impressed by his formal and precise answers during class. His image of a “good student'' was forever implanted in their minds. Within a few weeks of attending school, he was now one of the most entrenched people of popularity.
Natsumi broached the subject of this “unexpected” reaction to the others. “Don’t you think it's weird that we’re getting more attention than before?”
“Not really,” Himari answered. “I mean, have you seen how much attention and affection Yuu has been gaining lately? I heard that the girls are planning on starting a whole fan club for him!”
Yuu scoffed. “As if you can talk. I heard the boys were also planning on creating a whole little fan club for you two as well.”
“I-I didn’t know we were so popular.” Natsumi blinked in astonishment.
“You never realized?” Sora eyed her with an expression that said ‘are-you-serious?’.
Natsumi turned a blind eye to his comment. “Anyways, so I heard there’s a new dessert shop that opened near the train station lately. You wanna go try it out?”
“Are you alright?” She stretched out her hand kindly to the little girl who fell in front of her. “Are you hurt anywhere?”
The younger girl stared at her with wonder then broke out of her daze. “Ah! I-I’m sorry. Y-you’re just really beautiful, onee-san!”
She blushed as she helped the staggering girl up. “Th-thank you.”
Her amber eyes twinkled. “Onee-san, do you live nearby?”
“Yup, I frequently come to this park, do you?”
“Nope! I only came because Hikaru took me here! But I drifted apart from him somehow so…”
The sudden realization hit her and she turned pale. Trembling, she suddenly burst into tears.
“W-what’s wrong?” The older girl asked. Her purple hair shifted around while she panicked about how to console the child. Even though they looked to be about the same age, she didn’t have any experience in comforting a crying child.
“What do I do? I-I’m lost!” She wailed. Her shoulders shook uncontrollably, and she sniffled between each sentence. “What will I do? H-Hikaru…he will get so mad! I-I bet he’s going to - sniff - get so - ngh - scary! H-He won’t get a-any icecream for me anymore!”
She blinked, visibly confused.
‘She was worried about that?’ She screamed inside her mind. Well it wasn’t like she couldn’t comprehend how the girl felt. Ice cream is really delicious after all! And besides, it is Summer and the heat waves were pretty bad. Only ice cream is the cure for the scorching hot temperature.
She held onto the girl’s hand firmly and seated her on the swings. Taking out a napkin, she wiped away her tears delicately.
“There, there,” she said softly, “I’ll help you. Do you remember the place where you and that other boy were before?”
“A- a little,” she sniffled, “I-I think I can remember if we walk around a bit. M-maybe it’ll come to me somehow!”
“T-that’s a great idea!” She smiled brightly, relieved to see the girl no longer crying so pitifully.
They intertwined their hands again, and began walking out of the park. After asking for a description of the places she’s been to, they did their best to narrow down the possible locations. After a while, they took a break - exhausted from all the walking, they took a seat near the side of the cement path. The blazing sun beamed down at them, making them sweat.
The little girl decided to break the silence after a while. “...hey, onee-san, do you have anyone you like?”
“Anyone I like?” She repeated the question, confused as to why such an unrelated question popped up. “I…don’t have anyone I really like yet.”
“Oh, is that so?” A hint of disappointment could be heard in her tiny voice. “Well, I do think we’re too young to be in love.”
“But…isn’t it fun to imagine it? The future, I mean.” She stood up and spread her arms open. “Wouldn’t that be fun? Being with someone whom you share feelings with, having children, then coming home everyday to see people waiting for you- isn’t that great?”
She never really thought about it before, but what the girl said did sound reasonable. It also sounded familiar, and reawakened her past emotions.
“Like…having a family?”
She smiled to herself. She almost forgot what it felt like when her parents were still alive. She could recall some hazy memories of warm smiles, and -
“Akari!” a boy’s voice called out from a distance. The little girl stood up, and waved energetically.
“I’m here! Hikaru, over here!”
“Hold on, I’m coming!” The boy’s figure approached slowly as he ran towards them.
“Then I’ll take my leave now! Thank you onee-san!” She turned to leave but then stopped. “Um…will we meet again?”
She hesitated to reply. “...Let’s see.”
“Then can you tell me your name, onee-san?”
“My name is…”
She waved goodbye to the girl. After a few minutes, she could no longer see the girl’s figure and turned to leave.
Her ears ringed, and her head felt just awful! Her vision spun, and the whole room looked distorted as she groaned. She put a hand to her forehead to confirm if she was ill only to find herself completely free from a fever. The bed felt warm but was empty when she looked around expecting to find Akira and Himari asleep next to her.
“Ugh!” She groaned as a shockwave of pain ran through her body. Just what was happening? She was perfectly fine yesterday!
She struggled to get out of bed and when she managed to place one feet on the floor, she fell. A strong force momentarily seized her, and she erupted into a fit of coughs.
“What…the heck!” She panted, overwhelmed by the sudden drastic progression. Her legs trembled so much that when she tried to stand, her strength would give away as if she was made of jelly. She used her arms to hold onto the bed, and pulled herself up onto the sheets once again and sat straight. She felt so drained after accomplishing so little, only to end up back where she started.
“Natsumi, Akira and Sora left first since they have - are you okay?” Himari exclaimed with worry at the sight of her friend’s pale figure when she entered the room in her school uniform. She rushed immediately towards her and held her hand. “Y-you’re not having a fever, that’s for sure.”
“I-I’m…alright,” cold sweat broke out, and she winced when another wave of pain washed over her.
“Y-Yuu!” Himari called out urgently. Her mind was tossed into a chaos. Not sure what to do, she called for the first person that came to mind.
‘S-surely he knows how to fix this!’
In a flash, he appeared out of nowhere. “What happened?” After a glance at Natsumi’s face, he quickly caught up with the situation. He hurried towards her, and pressed his forehead against hers. Her face immediately turned red at the physical contact. “You’re burning up.”
“What?” Himari said, doubting his words. “But she felt so cold! How could she be burning up?”
“That’s not what I meant,” Yuu said briefly. “Your mana is rising for some reason, and it’s overflowing. At this rate, your whole body would be consumed.”
“What..will…happen…then?” Natsumi looked up with hazy eyes that had a hint of fear. She felt suffocated, and every cell of her body screamed and howled in pain. It felt as if a large sharp object penetrated her, and acted insidiously. She was happy that she found out she even had magic, but it was the complete opposite from what she expected.
He hesitated to answer.
“Hey…what will happen?” Himari looked at him, apprehensive of what he was about to say.
#fiction #fantasy #novel
Alone But Not
Maybe I’m not the only one out there who’s in misery at times
Maybe I’m not the only one who feels helpless sometimes
Maybe there’s someone out there who’s singing out my pain for me
Then would I still feel lonely?
Connected but without knowing it,
Only to smile when you find them and support them diligently
I’ll do my best so do your best as well?
The weight of carrying other’s dreams and hopes and wishes all rests on you
And I shall do my best to support you
What I really want is to get my message out,
But how is it that you are able to do that so well?
I aspire to be just like you
Someone who can stand with their own two feet and refuse to let pressure get to them
But it's also cute how you’re polite and gets flustered
Behind the screen all I can do is cheer you on with all my heart
My voice mixed up with others
But how will you know that I’m out here, rooting for you, if you can’t hear my voice?
Maybe that’s why I decided to follow after you
Because you’re willing to embrace everyone
Even though I know I’m not alone when I’m surrounded, it still feels lonely
As if I was ostracized intentionally
Then again, I still have you and many others who share common interests
I want to live on for you
Till the day you vanish from my eyes
Until then, please stay and support me as well
As my pillar so I’m still stable
I would do all that I can to see your face
No matter how old you are
I will still be there
Even though I know that one day you’ll be cut off and I can’t see you again and your current situations
It’ll be painful, after all it's hard for me to stand up without support
I don’t really want to be targeted, but I’ll protect you if you wish me to
After all, I owe you my everything
Even if I barely know you or the others,
We’re all just somehow acquaintances even if we don’t know how we look like
But we’re all strung together by one purpose - to support you
So wherever you are, you’re fine to depend on us,
And we’re allowed to do the same right?
Although I really wish to meet you and say these words to you,
I’m afraid I’ll cry if I meet my savior
So for now,
Thank you for being alive
Today is a great day isn’t it?
Chapter 6: Akira (The Chronicles of Time)
Natsumi paced up and down the stairs, pausing every few moments, expecting to hear returning footsteps only to be disappointed.
‘Where did Yuu go?’ She pondered, then looked out the window. The wind pounded against the glass, and wailed along with its concomitant forces. Heavy rain crashed down, and the streets were vacant besides of the large streams of water tumbling down. With such terrible weather, just where on earth could Yuu have gone? And it wasn’t just him, but Koru has suddenly, and magically, gone missing as well!
“Don’t worry, Natsumi.” Sora assured her, sipping on his freshly made hot cocoa from the kitchen. He carried a tray with two other cups with such balance, that he looked like the perfect quintessence of a waiter. Currently, they were supposed to be watching a horror movie (Himari came up with the idea since it was the perfect weather), but Yuu disappeared halfway - leaving Natsumi to fret over his vacancy. The only one that was actually enjoying themselves was nonetheless: Himari.
He handed her a cup, then headed back to the living room where Himari resided with another hot cocoa.
She continued to be restless until she heard a large slam and a muffled quarrel at the entrance.
“Yuu where have you - !” She stopped short and gaped at the sight of an unfamiliar identity.
“Uwah!” The boy with snow-like colored hair jumped in surprise the second his eyes met hers. “I-I….”
“What are you acting so shy about?” Yuu said in a disapproving tone. The other boy glared at him, but his attention returned back to Natsumi’s perceptive stare.
“Who is that boy?” She set down her cup on a nearby table.
“Oh, him?” Yuu elbowed him, and pushed him forward. “He’s - “
“Don’t tell me, could that be…your brother?” Natsumi gasped loudly. It didn’t take long for the others to join them after hearing her exclamation without giving Yuu a chance to speak properly.
“Whoa!” Himari said, peering over the new boy. “Who’s this? He’s so pretty! He looks like a doll!”
It also didn’t take long for the girls to start fawning over the new addition, and for the boys to ignore their squeals and head to the living room.
“What have you guys been up to since I was gone for a bit?” Yuu asked, taking over the bowl of popcorn that used to belong to Himari. He completely blocked out the irritating noises the girls made from his ears.
Sora took a seat beside him on the couch. “Nothing really. We’ve just been continuing the movie without Natsumi and you.”
“Without Natsumi?” Yuu tilted his head in confusion. “But I was the only one who left?”
The girls let out another excited squeal as they adorned the new boy’s hair with ribbons.
“Oh yeah, but after you left, she started to worry about where you’ve gone off and loitered around the stairs.” Sora replied casually, pressing the play button.
“What’s with your old fashioned clothes?” Himari lifted up his sleeves. Flustered by the amount of attention he’s receiving, he didn’t answer.
“Hey, what’s your name?” Natsumi asked, filled with curiosity. He flinched at the sudden question and mumbled something underneath his breath. “Hm?”
“I-it’s…” he glanced at Yuu for assistance only to be briefly ignored which hit his sore spot. “Hey! You brought me here in this form, a-and you’re going to neglect me like that?”
The change in attitude made the girls blink and think that they must’ve heard his tone wrong.
“Huh?” Yuu slowly diverted his attention away from the movie and looked back at them from the couch. “Who said that I have to tend to your every need, and lend a hand? If anything, shouldn’t you be talking to your master about that?”
“Master?” That word piqued Himari’s curiosity. “What?”
“It’ll be easier to explain this way,” Yuu snapped his fingers and with a poof! - white fluffy ears sprouted out of the boy’s head and a luxuriously soft tail.
“Wow!” The girls both blurted out simultaneously. Natsumi groped his tail while Himari took over his ears, both of them captured by how insanely silky and satisfying it felt. The boy blushed, and his ears twitched whenever Himari’s fingers got too possessive.
“He’s so sensitive!” Himari teased, looking at his red face.
“S-stop!” He whined. Blinding white light surrounded him, forcing the others to cover their eyes. When they regained their senses after the abrupt dazzle, instead of a boy, they found a white large dog instead.
“Koru? So this is where you’ve been!” Natsumi said, astonished.
“Is that what you really got from all of that?” Yuu said, dumbfounded. “Even an idiot can tell exactly what occurred just now.”
“What are you - ?” A belated realization smacked her in the head. “Oh! Koru is that boy!”
“Yay! She got it!” He replied sarcastically. “What a genius idea! Who would’ve thought?”
Natsumi bit her bottom lip. “You can stop now. No need for the unnecessary rude remarks.”
“But who really would’ve thought that Koru was actually a human in disguise?” Himari questioned, glancing at the dog who hid underneath his paws. “If you didn’t come along, just how long would he have hid his true identity from us?”
“Who knows,” Yuu shrugged nonchalantly. “And also, he isn’t a human. He’s known as an ‘Okami’.”
“‘Okami’?” Sora said, puzzled. “Hold on, what's with all this unrealistic stuff happening?”
“Oh right! We haven’t told Sora yet!” Himari smacked her forehead. “So you see, Yuu is actually a magician! Ta-dah! Big surprise there!”
“Are you really?” Sora turned to him skeptically. Yuu snapped his fingers and the empty bowl of popcorn became full within seconds. That flipped his attitude. “Are you kidding me? A real magician? I thought that they only belonged in fictional stories!”
“Yeah, well that’s what Natsumi thought too in the beginning, and now look how wrong she is.” Yuu grinned.
“Oi!” Natsumi snapped. “Well who would even believe you to begin with? If it was anyone else, they would deem you as a lunatic and ship you off to the mental hospital!”
“...anyway, back to the ‘Okami’ thing,” Himari cleared her throat, and the mood became serious, “did he choose to protect Natsumi or destroy her?”
“Protect her, duh!” Yuu said. “Anyway, it seems that it has made a contract with you since you were young, so it's practically bound to you. It also seems that your parents also were conscious of that fact and continued to let the dog stay.”
The room became silent, and Sora shut off the television, intrigued by Yuu’s words. Koru whimpered and looked up at them with a questioning gaze.
“Oh…I see.” Natsumi said quietly. “So the whole time, I really didn’t know anything, huh? It felt as if…my parents were hiding everything from me for some reason; was it because I was too naive back then?”
Koru quickly reverted back to his human form frantically. “N-no! It wasn’t like that, master! Your parents were just worried about your safety, that’s all! It wasn’t like that so don’t cry - “
“Aww!” Natsumi shrieked, filled with adoration. “Do you think I didn’t know that? Were you trying to console me? So cute!”
The shift in her mood left him speechless. “Eh?”
“Well, well! You really could’ve just shown yourself earlier you know?” She put her hands to her hips with a huff. “I would’ve been super surprised as well as grateful! You’re really cute after all! And you’re some sort of deity as well! I couldn’t feel more honored! In fact, I feel super elated!”
They all grinned broadly besides Yuu who had a faint smile on his face.
‘Really, just how foolish can she even be? She hasn’t changed…at all.’
“He’ll sleep with me!”
“Huh?” Yuu choked on his spit at her bold declaration. “W-what are you - but Himari is already sleeping with you!”
“Oh, we can squeeze in another person, it’s fine.” She shook him off lightly.
“Yesh’ ples.” Sora said as he brushed his teeth. He spat out the toothpaste then reattempted to repeat what he meant to say. “Yes please. I really don’t want to share a room with someone else.”
“I-I will do my best, master!” Koru said obsequiously. His eagerness made him shine so much that Natsumi just couldn’t help but pet his head.
“So cute! So dedicated!” She purred with satisfaction. For some reason, it made Yuu uncomfortable seeing how much affection she poured to another male.
“But still - !” His mind jumbled up, and he became more perplexed. “Ah, whatever! Do what you want!”
He stormed off to his room in an annoyed manner.
“Geez, why is he so mad?” Natsumi said, racking her brain for a plausible reason. “Oh well, whatever.”
“Should we also apply Koru - I mean, Akira to the same school as us?” Natsumi suggested. It was a Saturday morning, and there weren't any classes. Recently, Koru came out of his shell, and started to speak more. But the name ‘Koru’ - which he was granted when he was a dog - didn’t suit a human boy. Although it sounded as cute and as lovely as the boy himself, it didn’t match. So the others gathered together and voted on a suitable name for him resulting in ‘Akira’.
Akira sat obediently in front of Natsumi who sat behind him, playing with his silky hair. His ears flickered sensitively, and his tail wagged behind him in pleasure. He had a new outfit and his old one was stored away. But since he didn’t want to part from his bell, it was fashioned into a mini necklace with the bell shrinked. It hung around his neck like a collar, and rang softly whenever he moved. “S-school?”
“Yup!” Himari added enthusiastically. “To put it simply, it’s like a building where all sorts of other people go and study and stuff!”
“Yeah, he knows that already,” Yuu scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Considering the amount of time that he spent stalking Natsumi - he’s just pretending to be as blank as a sheet of paper. He’s just acting ignorant!”
“You don’t really have to say it that way,” Natsumi shot back at him. “But having such an adorable stalker - well, how could I get angry?”
Yuu stared at her idignantly and sighed deeply. “There’s something wrong with your head. You call him cute, but when I was in my child form, you called me arrogant. How is that fair?”
“Mind you, you were pretty cocky back then; you still are now though.”
“Hold on, Yuu in child form?” Sora butted in, inquisitively. “I wanna see what he looks like!”
“He had really long hair back then,” Natsumi nodded as she recalled the memory.
“Yeah, I was really handsome and cute.” Yuu added.
“I wanna see!” Sora said, interested.
“I told you before, Sora really favors kids.” Natsumi said, shrugging.
“Then how come he doesn’t fawn over Akira like that?” Himari blurted out.
“That’s because we’ve been hogging Akira, of course!” Natsumi answered. That fact was quite conspicuous. Ever since Akira broke away from his disguise, he’s been the center of attention for the girls. “That, and I bet he’s into how Yuu will look like as a child, aren’t you? After all, Yuu is pretty standoffish, so literally anyone would like to see how he looks when he’s small and innocent - not that he even was innocent in his mini form.”
“Come to think of it, I never saw you in your child form either!” Himari realized, and automatically turned to Yuu sharply. “C’mon! Show us!”
In the end, he escaped from the persistent requests, and teleported out of the house for a breath of fresh air.
Chapter 5: Secret Identity (The Chronicles of Time)
It has been weeks since Yuu first appeared, bringing mayhem and all sorts of trouble into Natsumi’s mind and life. It did seem a bit weird to her how fast she quickly adjusted to the new addition in the house, and that her house has suddenly become some sort of boarding house. They also all lent a hand in cleaning up her parents room after a long debate of whether to make it into a guest room or to leave it be. In the end, Natsumi made the final decision, and granted permission to redecorate with a heavy heart. After all, the past has to be washed away either way. That cut off the strings that held her to the past, although she couldn’t refuse herself from reminiscing her childhood memories.
“You guys! Stop!” screamed Natsumi in annoyance. In her hands carried a mop and a bucket of water. “Ugh! Why do you all try to escape when it comes to cleaning?”
“That’s because nobody likes to clean!” Yuu shouted back from the end of the hallway.
“You too?” Natsumi scoffed in disbelief. “What are you talking about? Before, you used to be the maid of the house and scrubbed every corner ’till there’s no speck of dust left! What do you mean “nobody likes to clean”?”
“Well, no longer!” Yuu laughed, leaping down the stairs, then grabbing hold of the banister and jumped onto the floor below.
“Yuu, hurry!” Himari urged him from the front door with her shoes on, ready to go. “Hurry before she catches you!”
“Himari, I heard that!” groaned Natsumi from the second floor. “You both better come back soon! I’m not cleaning this entire house by myself! Ugh!”
“It’s fine! Sora will be back soon!” Himari assured her, then accompanied by Yuu, they both ran out the house hurriedly with the door slamming behind them. “I think he’ll return soon.”
“Haha! That was fun though!” Himari said, stretching her arm above her head. “Well, let’s go over this once again. Our motive for escaping cleaning duty - I mean, for leaving the house today - was to fetch a present for Sora; leaving Natsumi to prepare the house for the party.”
“I can’t believe your idiot brother fell for that trick about how your mom was calling for him.” Yuu snorted. “Now he won’t be back very soon. Your mom is going to make him work even though she didn't ask for him.”
“Ha! That’s what I always do to get him out of the house.”
They took a left, and after a while of riding a subway - with Yuu examining every inch in wonder - they arrived at a shopping mall. They looked through the windows of shops filled with many accessories and other products, but shook their heads at it.
“I don’t know what to get him!” Himari groaned, collapsing onto a bench. Yuu handed her an ice cream cone. “It’s not time for sweets, Yuu!”
“But you still took it, though?” Yuu smirked. “What should we do now?”
“I just said I don’t know!” Her head was getting more muddled. “If only Natsumi was here!”
“Regretting dumping her at home to do housework now?”
“Not really,” Himari shrugged, licking her dessert. “Mm! This flavor is really yummy!”
“What does Sora even like?”
“That’s not what I meant, and even if we do give him that, his “alone time” will probably only be during his cleaning duty.”
Himari laughed then slowly quieted down. “...this isn’t getting us anywhere.”
She squeezed the excess water out of the towel and groaned.
“I can’t believe those two ditched me like that!” Natsumi grumbled, throwing the damp steaming towel onto the counter grudgingly and began to wipe. “Seriously! Those unappreciative no-good so called ‘friends’ of mine! I’m never helping them again!”
After cleaning every corner of the house to the point where it sparkled, she began arranging the table, and hanging up a large banner with the words “CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR 17TH BIRTHDAY SORA!” largely imprinted. A large dark blue table cloth covered the table surface, reaching all the way to the floor. She struggled to flatten the cover out since her arms were only that short and could only reach that far.
Then after setting up all the decorations, she finally took a break feeling a bit dizzy. Exhausted from all that preparation, she took a deep breath and fell onto the couch, motionless.
“Ruff!” A large white ball of fur came into her blurry vision, and she smiled a bit. Her consciousness faded in and out, and her eyes threatened to close.
“I wish...you were a human. You’re the only one who didn’t leave me, you loyal dog….” She drifted off to sleep.
White fog gradually accumulated on the floor and eddied every step he took. The boy who wore a silk jōe with a bell tied with a red rope as a necklace paired with wooden sandals, stood over her. Three red dots forming the shape of a lotus were imprinted on his forehead, and his snow white hair and his sharp red eyes shining with admiration and care made him look divine. A gold aura was emitting off him, but gradually dimmed over time. The dog was gone, and in his place stood a godly-looking boy.
“I...really wish I could show you in my human form as well, master.” He kneeled down, and placed his forehead on her hand. “I pledge that I’ll do everything for you to my utmost ability.”
“Mmm….” a tired groan escaped from her mouth, making him smile gently.
“I shall...do my best to support you, master.”
The incessant routine of going in and out of shops tired both of them out, and they eventually ended up purchasing a shiny silver watch as the gift, and stopped by a bakery to get the cake. As a ‘thank you gift’ for Natsumi’s hard work, they also bought a variety of different cake slices.
“I think that it wasn’t such a bad idea leaving Natsumi at home.” Yuu said as they made a left turn down the street.
“I think that it was a bad idea leaving Natsumi at home.” Himari sighed. “At least we bought something for her, that’s essential if we ever have to face her in a sour mood.”
They arrived at the footsteps of their home, and slowly unlocked the door. He spotted a little white cloud surrounding the surface of the floor that gradually faded, which made him doubt his own eyes. Something felt off. He was suddenly filled with trepidation, but his confidence in his power soon consumed the unsettling feeling.
“You give it to her, and explain why we abandoned her under the pretext of going out to complete a secret mission for her or something!” Himari whispered, nudging at Yuu’s elbow and pushing him forward.
“Really? I have to do it?”
“It was you who propounded such an idea of leaving her behind!” She hissed back. “Now deal with the consequences!”
“Huh?” He exclaimed indignantly. “That’s not how it works!”
“Yes it is!”
He was pushed into the living room with a box of cake slices in his hands, dumbfounded. Himari gestured for him to get a move on, and he rolled his eyes in agitation. He looked around, trying to spot an angry figure ready to claw through someone’s throat, only to find Natsumi sleeping on the couch.
“Uhh...she’s sleeping.” Yuu whispered and turned around but only to find Himari gone. “She left me? How rude!”
“Hmm….” beside him, the girl began to stir.
“Morning, sleepyhead.” He plastered a sly grin quickly onto his face and bent down so he’s face to face with her.
A spiteful expression met his playful one. “I can’t believe the first thing I see when I wake is your face. You got some nerve coming back.”
He gulped, sensing danger, he pulled out his backup. “I brought you cake.”
“Oh really? Did you think that would please me?”
“But you’re still taking it either way, aren’t you?” He eyed the box that she took from his hands as she sat up.
“Well I shouldn’t let it go to waste,” she muttered. He smirked triumphantly. “Anyway, I prepared all the stuff needed, you guys did get the present right?”
“Yeah, we got him a watch.” He showed her a white box with a shiny silver watch placed delicately inside on top of a plush.
“Whoa!” she exclaimed. “Good choice! Anyway, where’s Himari?”
“I don’t know,” Yuu shrugged.
Moments later Himari poked her head into the room expecting a raging fight breaking out only to find the opposite. It was tranquil, and her two friends were occupied with preparing dinner in the kitchen. She cautiously stepped into the kitchen and was immediately spotted by Natsumi who shot a glare in her direction. Slowly mustering up her confidence, she started to lend a hand with Yuu smirking at her everytime she made eye contact with Natsumi and flinching. It didn’t take long for Sora to arrive as well and join them to be surprised with a table filled with food and a welcoming aroma which made his irritated mood dissipate.
“Happy birthday!” The girls shouted while Yuu waved his hands dully.
“Whoa, what is this?” Sora gasped, attracted to the warm meal on the table.
“Uh, we’re over here, remember?” Himari said with sarcasm.
“I know, I was just more allured by the food than your betraying faces.” Sora snapped.
“Yeah, mom made me mop the entire floor of both the store and our house. Then she went on to make me carry all kinds of luggages, and I didn’t even get a congratulations for my birthday! I also got surrounded by a crowd of girls and - did you know one of them clinged on to me? It was so hard to shake them off! Thanks to you all!”
The others laughed at his troubles and eventually they settled down and celebrated the joyous occasion. After dinner they all crowded around the couch, and presented their gift.
“What?” Sora said, puzzled. “It’s just one?”
“Hey!” Himari said, displeased. “It was expensive, you know?”
He opened the box to find a watch and he sighed. “...Well, guess that’s all I’m getting this year.”
“We didn’t really know what you wanted.” Natsumi said quickly.
“I made it quite obvious that I wanted a new anime figure to replace my limited edition Monkey D. Luffy one that got broken.” Sora huffed, disappointed in all of them.
She recalled the past few days only to realize that Sora was correct. The many times where he stated conspicuously in front of them of an anime figure repeatedly.
“D-did you?” She laughed awkwardly, scratching her cheek in guilt.
“Well I wasn’t listening to begin with,” Yuu said, nonchalantly, “at least we got you something.”
Sora, who was already attuned to their behavior, tossed on the watch and sighed. “Yeah.”
He absolutely disdained this feeling, the thought of being overpowered constantly oscillated in and out his mind.
“No, I’m sure it's just a sneaky fox somewhere.” Yuu muttered to himself. The cold night air blew past him and ruffled his silky black hair which flowed like long threads in the air. He was on top of the roof of a tall building with tiny stars underneath him that glittered. “There’s no way it can be him.”
Just a quick flashback of the overwhelming and immense power he felt that day made him shudder, but grin and tingle in excitement. It was such a thrill that he almost lost his entire existence that time - as well as his purpose and almost eradicated the entire world. Until that tiny whisper made him hold onto that sliver of sanity he barely managed to have.
He blinked, and shook his head. “What am I thinking? The dead are dead, so why am I thinking back to such an old memory?”
“You dirty scoundrel.” A low growl made Yuu smirk. It was just as he anticipated.
“I’ve been waiting for you, you know?”
A silhouette emerged from the shadows, and the scenery suddenly became blurry and cloudy with a dense fog. It vanished, then reappeared from many locations. Yuu remained unfazed, and stood rooted to his spot.
A sharp claw shot out from the cover of the fog, striking at Yuu who dodged it so casually.
“Feisty, huh?” Yuu said, taking a step back before he gets pierced.
“You bastard!” The shadow made another attempt to maim Yuu, but only to stumble and trip. The fog cleared away, making a tall white-haired man naked to the eye, conspicuous. He clenched his eyes, expecting a blow in the head for all those relentless attacks, but only to find the complete opposite transpiring.
“Get up,” a hand came into his view, offering to help him up. Mortified by such an embarrassing defeat, he slapped the hand away, and quickly straightened himself up. His long white robes with a huge bell that bounced and hit his chest whenever he jumped, made him look like he was from the old era. A red eyeliner highlighted his rose-like ruby eyes which was similar to Yuu’s, but looked much more pure. Furry white ears twitched on top of his head. Even though he was a man who looked to be older than Yuu, he acted like a child.
“Ha! Did you really think that I would fall for your dirty tricks?” His sneer threatened to falter.
Yuu stayed silent. The atmosphere felt tense. The man was cautious, and watched Yuu perceptively, anticipating his next movement. After a moment, Yuu smirked and proceeded to move towards his opponent.
“Y-you! D-don’t come closer!” He growled warily. His reactions didn’t conform with Yuu’s actions.
“Stay still, I’m trying to revamp your appearance. You’ll look way better, and Natsumi for sure will prefer you in that form.”
The moment the man let down his guard a little at the mention of Natsumi’s name, Yuu - availing this - swiftly approached him and within a few seconds, a tremendous amount of mist burst forward when Yuu touched him. His hair flew everywhere but he stood still.
Yuu waved his hand, and striked it down towards the ground violently, and a gust of wind was conjured; blowing the mist away only to reveal a small boy wearing a jōe, and a red lotus symbol imprinted on his forehead. His crimson beady eyes shined with confusion and daze, then widened, abashed.
“Y-you - !”
“You look better now, don’t you think so, Koru?”
Chapter Five Title: The Passing Train
Mikaela’s blood was pumping when they approached the Baron’s estate. Lights were on in the mansion, and shadows walking around. The carriage was hidden in darkness while the horses neighed as they were covered with leaves, but soon settled down and took a rest on the soft grass.
“Let’s hurry!” Mikaela said to the Duke excitedly. “I’ll go find Lucas, and you do whatever you have to do.”
“Alright, we’ll go on the count of three.” the Duke instructed strictly. His sword was ready for action by his side. “You go left, I’ll go to the right wing. Be out in fifteen minutes, otherwise you’ll be crushed by the rubble.”
“Got it! Make sure to keep the Baron alive. I want to be the one to kill him.”
They went their separate ways. Mikaela leaped to each window, startling the workers. They rubbed their eyes in confusion when they saw his shadow, but thought that they imagined it because the next second - he was gone. He checked every window on the first floor, but wasn’t able to find Lucas at all. The Duke informed him that the Baron keeped his boys in the left wing.
Mikaela used his feet to jump onto an oak tree, and finally found the right room. He could see a familiar shadow moving around.
‘Lucas!’ His heart pounded against his chest so loudly that he could hear it. It looked as if he was reuniting with his friend after years. “I found you.”
Lucas was stunned when he heard a rattle on the window. “W-who is it?”
“Stand back!” A familiar voice called from the outside.
“Mikaela?” Lucas’s eyes widened. “What are you doing - ?”
“Stand back!” Mikaela shouted again. Lucas did as he was told. A loud crash and a large shower of broken glass was spread across the floor. The window broke as Mikaela jumped in, shielding himself with his arms. He landed on top of the shards of glass with small cuts on his hands.
“I came to rescue you, Lucas!” He said proudly, stretching out his hands toward his friend like a prince in a fairytale book coming to rescue a princess.
“Wha - ?”
“What’s going on?” The servants who were alerted by the sudden disturbance stormed into the room without knocking. “What is - ?”
Mikaela’s sudden entry stirred up a lot of commotion. Taking advantage of that, Mikaela grabbed Lucas’s hand and led him to the messed up window. “Come on!”
Led by Mikaela’s smile, Lucas followed after him, enchanted. The shouts of the servants behind him were blocked out. It was as if only he and Mikaela existed in this moment, and it belonged to them alone. Mikaela took both of Lucas’s hands and as they were falling out the window and about to land on the thorn bush underneath; he used the power in his legs to kick against the wall which caused them to tumble around on the grass.
The obstacle that was hindering Lucas’s escape was defeated so easily by Mikaela.
“Come on, follow me! This mansion is about to go down soon!” Mikaela said urgently, pulling Lucas up.
“What? What do you mean “go down”?” Lucas stiffened. “Is something about to happen?”
“Yes, and there’s not a lot of time, so let’s hurry!” Mikaela pulled Lucas’s arm, but Lucas refused to move. “The mansion is going to be ravaged to shambles soon!”
“What about the employees in the mansion?”
“What about them?”
“Wouldn’t they be buried too if the mansion is destroyed?” Lucas said genuinely.
“Yeah, so?” Mikaela cocked his head, not understanding what Lucas was saying. Why was Lucas so displeased?
“No! We have to go back to rescue them!” Lucas said, pointing back at the manor. We have to go back! We can’t let innocent people get killed!”
“Lucas, it's too late!” Mikaela argued exasperatedly. Why does Lucas have to be so bullheaded sometimes?
“No it's not! We could still save some people at least!” Mikaela looked into Lucas’s determined shining gold eyes and hesitated.
“...fine! We’ll only rescue the people that we can save, alright?” Mikaela said to Lucas, finally. “Don’t do anything stupid, and if the building starts crumbling, rush out immediately, and meet me at the gates, alright? I came here to save only you, not to lose you again - keep that in mind.”
Lucas looked at his friend appreciatively. “Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind, and don’t worry.”
Mikaela glanced at the large bruise on Lucas’s shoulder and grimaced. He absolutely deprecates this proposal, but he couldn’t just restrict Lucas. He’s always submissive when it comes to Lucas, after all, how could he ever refuse his childhood friend?
‘Should we really rescue these people? Especially when he got wounded because of them?’
After hesitating again, Mikaela said, “...I’ll take the left, you take the right.”
“Okay!” Lucas parted with Mikaela, and ran inside the building after kicking open a window, which shattered. “Run away now!” He shouted to the employees.
They looked at him in confusion, and others attempted to capture him but he was too swift. He sprinted around the whole estate, shouting out warnings to the workers, advising them to move out immediately. The ones that heeded his warning rushed towards their quarters and took their belongings and exited the mansion. While the ones who didn’t, continued on with work, thinking that Lucas was crazy and jeered at him.
“Okay, the only floor left is the West Wing on the first floor.”
Lucas speeded towards his destination.
The Duke sat on top of the roof, counting the minutes to himself. He could hear the kids bustling around in the mansion, and servants exiting out the front door, carrying suitcases. A flurry of activity began in the tranquil mansion ever since Mikaela had headed inside. This wasn’t part of the plan but...at least they were having fun.
‘Well, I suppose I can give them a few more minutes. They seem to be enjoying themselves.’
After some time passed by, the Duke stood up and went to work.
“Right about...here.” He unsheathed his long sword and swung it down on a specific spot on the roof. The tiles started to crumble, and the ceiling on top of the Baron’s study caved in. He landed elegantly on the now dusty wooden floor. The noisy commotion outside could be heard, but he focused on his main task and opened a drawer of a messy desk.
He gritted his teeth after examining the documents stashed underneath. They all stated the many crimes of the Baron’s, including illegal trade, and many lab reports. “What is all this? Human experiments? How did he get his hands on a stone fragment?”
He stowed the papers into his sleeves when he heard shoes arriving at the doorstep. Then he vanished from the room in a flash. He safely arrived on top of the roof again, and when he checked the time on his pocket watch, he gripped tightly onto this sword.
It’s time to wipe this place off the map.
“The documents said that the lab is somewhere around his mansion.” The Duke sighed. Extra work was added to his list because of that dumb Baron. “I’ll have to be more careful and precise on where I cut. What a pity. I’m guessing that his lab is somewhere around the right area of the mansion, so I’ll just eradicate the second floor for now.”
One gentle - but powerful - slice of his sword made the half of the roof collapse. He kicked holes in the thick walls, making the mansion unproportional. Walls crumbled, and the whole second floor was half destroyed. He looked down at the broken down house from a large hole on top of the ruined roof. The first floor looked alright compared to the second which was on the verge of collapsing completely.
Now all he had to do was find where the Baron went. Most likely, he was hiding in that horrid lab of his. The whole building was now trampled upon, so the Baron should appear right about now. The Duke perched on top of the edge, and peeked down just in time to see his prey walking out of a secret entrance inside the walls.
The Baron looked around with a devastated expression at the amount of destruction surrounding him.
The Duke was exhilarated. ‘That’s right! That’s the face I wanted to see! I’ve always wanted to see your snobbish face break down.’
The Duke’s sword created so much havoc, that it left the Baron speechless.
“Servants!” The Baron bellowed furiously. “Servants!”
Nothing answered his calls besides screams.
“Baron! Having fun with the fight you started?” The Duke called out, grinning contemptuously. “The fun hasn’t even begun yet! Don’t run away now!” He landed next to the Baron with a poisonous smile that could kill. The Baron shuddered in fear. “I’ll give you ten seconds to flee. If you manage to do that, I’ll let you off the hook. Otherwise…”
He pulled out the documents he took from the Baron’s desk and waved it in front of his face.
“How did you - ?”
“You’ll know what happens if this information leaks out right?” The Duke whispered playfully. “You’ll be dragged to court - no, you’ll be executed for committing treason against the empire because of that secret lab of yours. Then you'll be placed on a guillotine, and die without honor. And don’t you remember what the privilege the emperor bestowed upon me is? If my target puts up a struggle, I get to eliminate that disaffected noble of the empire before any other damage is inflicted.”
“You - !” The Baron’s mind was thrown into calamity and it was all because the Grand Duke of Winurasten found out that he was conspiring against the empire! Why did he have to show up at this time? If only he was prepared for his arrival, then maybe his mansion wouldn’t have ended up like this! His precious house that was passed along for generations was destroyed in a single night!
No, it wasn’t his fault! It was that boy’s fault! Who told him to be part of the Winurasten family? Who told him to be born with a pretty face? If he hadn’t met that boy, then the situation wouldn’t have plummeted this quickly! Everything was fine a few seconds ago, but because that boy was from the Winurasten family, he had to suffer such a mortifying defeat!
“One,” the Duke began to count. The Baron stiffened. What? “Two.”
He started running for his life. Literally. He rushed down the messy corridor, and stumbled upon the crumbled walls. He howled in pain when he saw his scraped knee, and whimpered.
‘It hurts like hell!’ He screamed inwardly. But he never thought that when he tortured the young boys. He scrambled quickly to his feet, and limped dramatically. He had never gotten an injury in his whole life! He was sheltered and spoiled, all to succeed the previous Baron. The Duke’s voice could still be heard, so he knew that he wasn’t out of the clear yet, he had to keep on going.
“How asinine you are, Baron.” The Baron suddenly found himself raised into the air with a hand gripping tightly onto his neck. “I caught you.”
He let out small cries as his foot dangled above the ground. “P-please...kegh!...s-spare...me!”
“Spare you?” The Duke growled menacingly. “Have you spared the boys that you’ve treated as lab rats? Have you done that? No. So why should I spare a rat like you?” The Baron let out a squeal.
“I-I didn’t mean it! The b-boys said that I could do w-whatever I-I pleased!” He concocted untruthfully. When he sensed that the lie wasn’t effective, he tried to sway the Duke. “W-well, th-they’re all peasants, s-so why does t-that matter? Heh, heh…Urgh!”
The grip on his neck became tighter. The Baron’s face turned purple. His lungs were running out of air. It was not until when he could barely speak, the Duke loosened his hands. The Baron was daunted. He would’ve beaten up the Duke right there and right then if he wasn’t inept in swords or fighting. Instead, he was born a proud coward.
Just why did his opponent have to be the strongest man in the empire? He regretted ever picking a fight with him. Snatching his nephew from the Duke was only so he could have a card to play against the Duke - so he could overpower him. But who would’ve thought that the Grand Duke wasn’t that easy of a man to beat?
Clearly not him.
“It’s a pity that I can’t kill you.” The Duke said with sorrow. “I owe my son a present since he just joined the Winurasten family. You see, I treasure my son a lot - and do you know what he wanted as his gift?”
“J-jewels?” The Baron coughed out, smiling weakly. He hoped that his guess was correct. What else would someone want besides jewels, money, and power?
“Wrong.” His face fell. The Duke glared down at him, and broke into a smile. “The right to kill you.”
The Baron’s face was filled with shock.
‘W-what kind of kid would wish to kill someone? And why me?’
But he had to swallow those thoughts down and reluctantly gave the Duke a small smile.
“I-is that so?” He squeaked out. The Baron tried to take this chance to add in compliments, hoping that it’ll extend his life. “H-he must be a-a very….bright kid.”
“Oh yes, he is!” The Duke seemed amused which made the Baron loosen his guard.
‘I think that I get to live a bit longer. When I see an opportunity, I’ll run from him. Who would’ve thought the empire’s greatest man would’ve been so relaxed in this situation?’
The Baron sneered inside, confident that he could get away from the Duke.
The Duke, noticing this, smirked and grabbed the Baron by his ear. He yelped. “Did you really think that you can overpower me so easily? Did you really underestimate me?”
“N-no!” He shook his head frightfully. The Duke looked hurt for some reason, playing the victim when he really was just the predator in this situation. “I-I never thought that! N-never!”
“Really?” The Duke raised an eyebrow. “Whatever. I can’t trust the words of a worm like you either way. You’re just desperate to survive so any words could be spewing out of your mouth. Disgusting.”
The Baron stayed silent. It seems like he already displeased the Duke a lot with his ‘compliments’. His whole confident attitude from before was compressed by a single glare from the Duke. He could only walk ahead of the Duke with a sword jabbing at his back, commanding him to pick up his pace while he was frustrated mentally.
Ugh, just why did he have to get caught? Now his whole plan was routed!
Lucas was running around the mansion, double checking if there were any other people who stayed behind until he felt the ground shaking and large explosions. He jumped aside when he felt something rushing towards him. Thankfully, he made it in time, and was able to dodge the sharp touch of a blade of wind which destroyed the whole entire wall next to him. He shuddered.
‘Now that was scary!’ He shook his head. ‘I think that might be the backup Mikaela was talking about. He sure is strong to be able to slice a wall like this indirectly.’
Dust was all that was left accompanied with cracks and pieces of what used to be the wall rested on top of the floor. Lucas took a step back and headed the other direction instead. Clearly it's not safe there anymore, and he had promised Mikaela that he would stay safe.
The loud explosions proceeded on without cessation. Just how much power does that person even have?
His foot stopped when he heard a loud shriek. He frowned.
‘Is there still someone left behind?’ He headed towards the direction the voice came from. Even though Mikaela’s words echoed throughout his mind - right now, saving that person became his main priority. He placed himself second. Again.
He jumped over a foot tall cracked wall, and slid across the floor, scraping his elbow on a nearby pointy antique on the way when he heard another yell. His promise was thrown out the window (although all the nearby windows were smashed ) and he continued on, urging his feet to move faster.
‘Faster! Faster! I still have three more minutes before I reach my deadline, and that's plenty!’
The moon was still up in the sky, and glowed down upon his path, as if indicating him to the right way.
He skidded to a stop when he saw an unexpected scene unfolding between his eyes.
‘Why is the Baron being choked in the air?’
The Baron let out a groan, and he was released. He whimpered like a dog being beaten, and his face fell when he exchanged words with the tall man beside him. He seemed...eager to please, but in the end, he walked ahead of the man with a long sword jabbing his back. Curious, Lucas followed them, masking his presence so he wouldn’t be noticed.
“Who’s there?” The voice that felt like a harsh blizzard wind pierced through his body made Lucas jump. “Show yourself.”
He dithered around, not sure whether to reveal himself, or escape swiftly. He drew in his breath and stepped out of the shadows. His mouth dropped.
The man who looked so menacing to the Baron, also let down his guard when he caught sight of Lucas. He stopped breathing, asking himself if it was a dream. Sure, he told Mikaela that they were going to eradica - trespass the Baron’s estate to rescue Lucas, but he didn’t expect that he’d meet his nephew this soon. If he was conscious of that, then he would’ve prepared himself mentally. Just staring at the golden eyes that resembled his made his heart tremble.
He was legit, so the Baron was not lying after all.
“W-who are you?”
“Hel - “
“H-how are you still able to move?” The Baron interrupted suddenly. The Duke shot him a glare.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
The Baron flinched, cursing himself at his mistake. His tongue slipped the second he saw Lucas standing before him. “E-erm…”
“...Did you try to poison me?” Forgotten memories resurfaced, and Lucas recalled the milk the maids placed before him when he first arrived. “Could it be…?”
“S-shut it boy!” The Baron bellowed, but clamped his mouth shut when the Duke sent chills his way.
“Explain.” The Duke kicked the Baron onto the floor, and gave Lucas his full attention. He made sure to add a few stomps on the Baron’s legs so he couldn’t move.
Lucas faltered and stepped back; he couldn’t understand what was happening. Why was this man being so kind to him? Why did his expression look so genuine? And, why did he look so much like himself? It was like staring at a grown up version of himself. He just couldn’t help it but had doubts about this man.
“I won’t bite you,” the Duke said softly when he saw Lucas’s hands tremble. How could this child seem so much like a fearful animal? Just how badly was he treated? “I’m here to save you, so tell me what's going on so I can get rid of this trash quickly, and punish him for his crimes.”
“I-I…” His heart raced. “I...got sold to him by my mother. T-they threatened me using my other friends...so I went along with them. H-he acted nice to me, but...he abused me horrifyingly. In the beginning when I arrived, the maids served me this cup of milk, and catered to my every need. I thought...that it was weird when they kept on glancing at the cup as if urging me to drink it...so I didn't touch it at all.”
‘Those bastards!’ The Baron bit his lip but stopped when the Duke looked down at him for confirmation.
“Is that true, Baron?”
“Y-your highness, t-the boy - “
“I asked if it was true, Baron,” the Duke silenced his excuses in a stern tone. “Answer, or do you prefer it if I decapitate one of your hands?”
“E-eek! I-I didn’t mean to offend you, D-duke!” He shook his head quickly. “W-what the boy said was false!”
“Liar!” Lucas grinded his teeth, filled with hatred. “You liar!”
“You thought that you could escape from the truth, Baron?” The Duke placed his feet on the Baron’s head and pressed it down on the floor.
“Urgh! W-wo, ruor h-hikghness!” The Baron sputtered, trying to sound humble. “I-iw w-was m-meh mehstake!”
He was grabbed by his cuff and placed back on his feet with a sword shining at his neck, brimming with the intent to kill. “Silence, unless you want your head to roll. Like I said before, it's a pity that I can’t cut your head right now.”
Lucas stood rooted to his spot. Why was that man so amiable to him and believes everything he says? This whole situation was confusing and messing with his head!
“How am I supposed to trust you?” Lucas spat out hoarsely.
Those insecure words were all it took to break the Duke’s patience. The Baron screamed as a golden light penetrated through his body. He wriggled around like a worm being burnt, and finally, he dropped down, half-dead. His hair sizzled, and only the white of his eyes could be seen as foam dripped down from the side of his mouth.
“Is that enough?” The Duke smiled warmly at Lucas who just stared at the unconscious body. “I’ll get rid of anyone who brought harm to you. Is that enough for you to trust me?”
#fiction #novel #fantasy
I don’t understand what sin I committed
I don’t understand what harm I did to them
Just what was wrong with me?
Why don’t you tell me from that big mouth of yours?
By the people that I love the most;
To criticize me behind my back
And to hold a smiling rabbit mask in front of me
Now I feel alone, deserted in this bustling crowd of gossip
Just what is this?
The lines of compliments that showered over me made me smile
The voice and the hand that held me made me laugh
Warmth spread through me
“Maybe...I could do this, after all,”
Was what I thought.
What was I supposed to do?
What was I supposed to do in that situation?
Is it alright to call your name even though I might face cruelness later on?
Everything before me seemed to blur and censored
Can you stop touching me?
That murky feeling that spreads through me makes me shudder
Having to lie so you won’t get close anymore
Was I right to do that?
It’s so hard to shrug you off otherwise it’ll offend you
Having to pretend that everything’s normal
I wished that I didn’t find out such a rumor
Remove all of factors, there lies only one truth
And that must be the truth.
I might have to get rid of you after all
Don’t force me, don’t judge me
I’m fine the way I am unless I decide to step up
Maybe that’s a right decision after all
Even if I run, where can I even go?
There’s no sanctuary to take me in, and you know that fact well
Where else can I flee to?
If I could do something, then I wouldn’t be as powerless as I am now
Nothing is waiting for me ahead, since its blocked by you
How painful it is to be stabbed by the ones you love
And I thought that I did a good job as well...
If I meet my demise, will they cry?
Is it possible to dislike someone but love them?
Is this an obligation?
The answer depends on your actions
It’s all to live either way,
But just who am I?
At this point my face looks so scarred to the point that I can’t identify myself
When the bell rings, I’ll be freed
I hate this
I hate this
And when everything is already enough -
It’s so unfair!
Where is this happy world that I dreamed of?
Does it only exist in my imagination?
To be pushed to the brink and only cry when there’s no spectators
Until I give up, what will you do?
Though I might be called stupid and hated,
You all want something from me now, don’t you?
Are you just feeding me so I could offer my whole life to you later on?
Until my legs are overtaken by my trembling and I collapse
Is there a way to escape this pain?
To be shunned away, and also to participate at the same time
It feels so suffocating
My heart hurts
Hurts, and hurts
Why can’t someone find me?
Why can’t someone rescue me?
I’m here...waiting, you know?
In the end it's all going to be the same
Lend me your ear, for I have only a breath left,
“I despise you, you fucking fake ass bastard.”