Chapter 19: One’s Duty and Role (The Chronicles of Time)
His mind was in turmoil and turned upside down–driven crazy to the utmost! In his palms carried her fragile soul. It could only mean one thing:
She was drifting away.
No matter how much power he’ll have to spend, he’ll bring her back. For sure! Otherwise…he couldn’t bear the pain anymore…
It wasn’t too late to guide her soul back to its body. Instead of crying and shouting at it to go back, he poured his mana into it. Streams of light shackled the small luminescent orb. It pried and poked, then they were slowly absorbed into it.
In the old times there was a practice that consisted of combining one’s magic with another’s soul. Using the mana that was absorbed, breaking into the soul’s consciousness was an easy feat. It was often used to wake up a hazy soul that had lost its way and required a small push to find its way back onto the path of the afterlife.
But he didn’t have that purpose. Such a spell used for guiding a soul back to its body? It’s forbidden!
Who could stop him anyways? The times he casted it in the past was countless! Besides, all others could do was talk crap, who would dare fight against him? Even an army of wizards from the magic tower couldn’t restrain him when his practice was exposed. Who would have the power to annihilate him?
Finally, he arrived at the core. The streams of mana contained his consciousness, so he controlled it as he pleased. He probed the core, then very carefully, entered the light.
A tall door stood in front of him when he opened his eyes. Black lines formed on his face and his already pale face grew even more pale–but not from exhaustion.
‘W-why is she here out of all places?!’
This wasn’t the friendship Himari had expected. She did consider the fact that the friendship could go awry and some knives would be exchanged, but who would’ve thought that every time they bumped into each other, not knives, but sharp swords would be thrown! And rocks! And pencils!!
Himari hoped that they would get along, and they did.
Aoko-san was just not as easy to befriend as she thought. Sure, they officially became friends now, but most of the time, it didn’t feel like they were. She would treat her coldly. Himari looked at this attitude positively, thinking that since Aoko-san was able to show such a behavior towards her, it meant that she trusted her.
It was all well until she found out about Himari’s ‘little crush’. And that was fast.
From other’s point of view, it was a conspicuous fact that Tsukasa-kun and Himari got along well. Maybe too well. The relationship the two shared seemed to be more than that of friends. It was only Himari who was blinded and couldn’t see where this was going. Tsukasa-kun was well-known throughout the first-years for his friendly disposition. Once he started to accompany Himari, his reputation rocketed through the roof. Rumors about them were scattered widely, good and bad. However, Himari wasn’t cognizant of such a thing.
But Aoko-san was.
She found it funny just how clueless her new friend was. Taking advantage of her slow mind, she would often make rude comments about just how brainless she was. And she was the so-called genius? Ha! It was just too amusing.
“Go bother that boyfriend of yours.” She would interrupt without hesitation. “I’m busy.”
“What? He doesn’t want you anymore?” She would then laugh and turn away briskly. Then, she would step to the side as a pencil flew her way.
“I thought we were friends!”
“Can’t friends discuss romance?”
“Yes, but you’re not discussing it with me. You’re just making fun of me.” Himari would retort.
Then they would encounter each other again and the same situation would play out again. Tsukasa-kun, aware of how keen Aoko-san was, soon realized that she wasn’t the person she made others think she was. Cold, harsh, and ruthless. Those are the true words that she was to be described as. She wasn’t a bad influence, nor was she a good one either. So he couldn’t do anything but just observe.
“Himari.” Himari said, not looking up from her book.
He closed his eyes. “Aik–”
“Himari.” She reiterated firmly.
He tightened his smile. “Aikawa.”
Himari turned away from him, continuing to flip through her book. Tsukasa-kun sighed. He had no choice but to give in. “Fine. H-Himari-chan.”
She grinned, turning her head back slightly. “That works fine as well.”
“...I have something to say.”
She cocked her head. “Go on.”
“Don’t you think that…Aoko-san is a bit odd?”
She paused, pursing her lips then perched her chin on her hand with a thoughtful look on her face. “Hmm…I did think that she was odd,” he leaned in closer to listen to her opinion, “but…I think that she’s a good person at heart.”
She was like a butterfly, circling on top of a spider’s web. Not even hesitating to dive into it. Now that she got herself tangled up in its webs…could she get out of it?
Tsukasa-kun couldn’t help but worry. He hoped that the spider wasn’t bloodthirsty.
Natsumi’s ears perked up. For some reason, she could feel a familiar presence outside of the room. Wait…. Since when was she able to feel other people’s presence?! She turned to see that the three paid no mind to it at all. But…how was she to get the door open without attracting their attention?
While Natsumi hacked through her brain for a solution, the other three were happily immersed in their subject of defeating the Demon King.
“That no-good emperor is planning on deploying soldiers to the western border to eradicate the demons that started to appear around there.” ‘Cassius’ said.
“Although they’re all low-leveled, demons showing up at the western border is unheard of.” Mikhael drank from his cup intently. “It could be that the Demon King has started to awaken, causing a commotion amongst the demons. This could just be the beginning. Who knows what sort of stronger demons would reveal themselves in the future?”
The saintess nodded her head in agreement. “Even if the emperor doesn’t command us to move, we’ll have to either way–for the people’s sake.”
The three huddled closer and their moods turned somber. They remained silent until the saintess took in a deep breath and opened her mouth, “In preparation for that time, I need to make sure that I gain control of the Holy Empire.”
Although it’s called an empire, it was just made out of numerous sects of different varieties, scattered across the Lucia ‘empire’. Despite it being formed by just sects, the Holy Empire wielded a large influence over the people, and its wealth amassed throughout time. Thus, earning its name. Every ten years, the sects would each choose their own saint. The chosen ones then were to ‘compete’ for fame and whichever contestant won would be named ‘saintess’. Of course, they won’t succeed that title completely until the previous saint relinquishes their title and hands it over.
There were exceptions, of course. For example, if the candidate had strong holy power, they would immediately be placed in the position of a saint and trained. Once selected, they would be the only saint, regardless if there was already someone sitting on that seat.
Mikhael sighed; aggrieved, “The whole matter is a death omen. An unfavorable premonition.”
‘Cassius’ opened his palms then closed them. Small flames danced then were quickly extinguished, then revived again, then snuffed out. “Why should we care about the people?”
The saintess began to answer, “Because–”
“Because we’re powerful?” ‘Cassius’ interrupted with a sneer, killing off the flame in his hands abruptly. His tone turned harshly mocking. “Because we’re born here? Because we have a duty? An obligation? Tell me,” he turned to the others and propped one of his arms up, leaning on his left leg, “were we born to be heroes? Were we born so that we should play the role of ‘protector’ in order to shield the people?”
“Cassius,” the saintess groaned. But he continued on, madly.
“I didn’t ask to be respected. Sure, having people bow to you, offer themselves up for you, and be at your service is nice. But there are other ways to make them submit to you–to make them fear you.”
“Cassius…I don’t want to rule people by using fear.”
He looked at her frown and his eyes turned cold. Deprived of all light. “Then have you seen the people? And I’m not talking about the people in the Holy Empire,” she clamped her mouth shut, “I’m talking about the common people. Not those cheerful ones that you’ve been exposed to, but the ones that are just so filthy inside and out that you feel revolted from one glance. The people who murdered. The people who destroyed another’s lives. The people who use hate as a reason to live. Countless! Open your eyes! Not everyone is a good person. Not everyone will bow down and accept morality and give into the light. Not everyone deserves to live.”
As he talked his hands waved around relentlessly as if it’ll express his frustration.
With much hesitation, Mikhael slowly nodded his head to agree. “Saintess…you know, I’ve been sent to observe the aftermath of a battle. War is not a pretty thing. Disputes over territory are not a pretty thing. And yet, the people that want us to protect them are the most vile and dirtiest of them all. They’re the ones that start all this suffering, and sit back and watch as their own people are devoured and dyed in black.”
‘Cassius’ took over, allowing the saintess no opportunities to speak. “They covet beauty, they covet riches. But they can’t have them. Humans are bound to fall! Only the strong and pure can stand on their feet. There is not a single person that hasn't done anything wrong in their life. You say that those people are ‘weak’ and that they need us, but what about yourself? Those people will trample on you when you’ve fallen. They’ll spit on you; like you’re dirt. Just because you’re sitting high up currently, they’ll eventually drag you down and defile you at their own pleasure and satisfaction.
“We can protect them from harm now, but when you need a hand, will they stretch theirs out for you? They can shower you with praises, with flowers, with money right now. But that’s because they want something from you. If you weren’t a saintess, would they even smile at you? If you were a beggar, would they toss you a coin? Think about it. These people that you want to protect, are they worth it?!”
The saintess fell silent and absorbed his words. He enunciated every word clearly and they rang through her mind, traveled down to her chest, then planted a seed in her heart. His words were true. Humans were born selfish. Born greedy. There will always be people praying for her downfall so they can snatch her luxury for themselves.
“...you’re right.” She said, raising her head. Her voice trembled then gradually became more firm. “You’re right! Every. Single. Word. You. Said… Is right! But I choose to believe in my people. I believe that no matter how much I’ve fallen, they will be there for me. It doesn’t matter if it’s a thousand, or a hundred, or even just one! I know–you two will always be there, and I hope that it stays that way. However, you don’t need my power. You two can defend yourselves just fine. At the very most, I want to be able to protect someone that needs me. That way…I know that I’m of use…”
Now it was the other’s turn to be speechless. Even Natsumi pulled herself into the deep conversation without herself being aware. The saintess didn’t just stop there. It was like she was a volcano, triggered by ’Cassius’s explosive display, she was also nudged to explode as well.
“So what if I was sheltered for years? Don’t forget, we all used to be children from the streets–abandoned. Do you think that I don’t know the word ‘suffering’?! Do you think that I’m so ignorant?! That I became spoiled and pampered and forgot about the difficulties of life due to being exposed to some luxury?!”
“No that’s not–!”
“I know that there are people out there that have noble hearts. I also know that there are people out there that are stained black! But in evil, there is good.” Her arms flung wildly as she spoke fervently. “So what if people won’t treat me nicely, pamper me, or toss me a coin when I’m no longer saintess? I’ll do what I can for them! As long as the intention was genuine, good will always conquer evil. Kindness will always be repaid. What’s wrong with hoping that people will change their ways? As long as I can help them, whether I’ll be kicked in the mud or not, is something that the future me has to worry about!
“The present is the present; I’ll do what I can at the moment to relieve their burden.” She held a fist to her chest and stood up, stoically. “To let them know that all they’ve spent on me wasn’t for naught. To let them know that I’m not just a gentle saintess who only knows to sit there like a porcelain doll! To let them know the reason why I’m saintess–to protect them!”
She was mesmerizing. Brilliant. Like the sun. She was out of reach, flying higher and higher, being swept away by the wind, swept off her feet. ‘Cassius’ looked down at his hands. Her ending was obvious. Such a bright person, filled with positivity and her optimistic nature…just how many others like her are out there? She shined so dazzlingly that he couldn’t bear to look.
If she had seen what he had seen with his very eyes…would she still think the same? But she was stubborn. Determined. Obstinate. He knew, and knew very clearly what would happen to her. People won’t change. They can’t change. And at that moment, he wished that she would never change.
A warm hand snapped her out of her concentration.
A faint smile rested on his lips. “That saintess… she was naive. Stupid. And a hopeless person.”
She saw Yuu standing next to her. His hair was long like the day she met him. It made him look exactly like ‘Cassius’, but his face was younger. She took his hand and grasped onto it. Consumed by curiosity she asked, “...that saintess…what happened to her afterwards?”
#romance #novel #fiction #fantasy
Chapter 18: Reconciliation (?) (The Chronicles of Time)
Himari reached her hand towards him, then she quickly shrank back when he turned around abruptly. “What’s wrong?”
“...don’t you think that Kaneko-kun and Izanami have been sick for too long?”
It was odd and he couldn’t put his finger on it. Just who would get sick for ten days? From what he knew of them, they seemed to be pretty strong people. Besides, it was too much of a coincidence for both of them to be sick for this long. It could be possible that since they were both ill, they took care of each other so germs were passed back and forth; but shouldn’t they be showing signs of improving despite that?
“T-they’re getting better!” Himari couldn’t remember how many times she’s said that line.
He raised an eyebrow then looked away. “Alright, I really hope they are.”
Like another weight adding onto her shoulders, she lowered her head. “...yeah.”
It couldn’t be helped. The one he liked was Natsumi after all. Of course he was going to worry–it made sense. However, she was also concerned. It has been ten days since Natsumi fell asleep. Yuu assured her that he had everything under control but…does he? It has been a while since he had a foot outside his room. Forget stepping out of his room, they haven’t even heard his voice! His presence just completely vanished!
Indeed, his skills were not to be questioned. It may, possibly, be a matter of time. If she opened the door, there was a high chance that she would see Yuu napping without a care in the world while she was busy chasing her crush and worrying endlessly!
“I’m sure they’ll be back in no time!” Himari said, her hands forming fists raised in front of her. “Yeah!”
He looked askance at her, but it quickly faded away with a smile in its place. For some reason their positions reversed and it was his turn to assure her. “Yes, I’m sure.”
The wind faced them, her hair danced wildly but beautifully behind her. The two walked side by side. Every morning he would arrive on time and wait for her to come out and glance behind her before the door closed to see nothing but an empty hallway. Despite noticing that, she would just greet him with joy and accompany him on the way to school. The dream would end when they parted at the end of the day.
“Tsukasa-kun…will...I mean, are you free this Saturday?”
“Hm?” He put a hand to his chin and seemed to be in thought. “Let’s see…” he saw her squirm with anticipation and chuckled inwardly, “I think I am free.”
“Really?” Himari looked up instantly with a gleam in her eyes. “T-then…”
“Actually, I think I do have an appointment that day…” Tsukasa-kun turned his head slightly away from her and focused his sight on her from the corner of his eyes, a smirk playing on his lips.
Himari’s gaze fell and, unconsciously, gripped onto the strap of her bag. “Oh…it’s fine if you can’t.”
“Oh wait! Nope, my schedule is clear!”
She kept falling for his words, believing that he was sincere, but the more he tricked her, the more she had doubts. Was he playing her? “Anyways, if you’re free then meet me at the station at eleven! If you can, o-of course.”
Tsukasa-kun couldn’t help but snicker while she shot him a look laced with suspicion.
They both groaned the moment they saw each other, not even bothering to hide their displeasure.
“It seems that you’re not going to play that ‘nice girl’ role as usual.” Himari crossed her arms. In front of her, Aoko-san put a hand to her hips while holding onto a pile of papers.
“I don’t have time to deal with your sarcasm.” She sighed heavily then took a step to leave. “What?”
Himari blocked her and said, “Um…I…”
Aoko-san tilted her head and tapped her hips impatiently. “What is it? If you don’t have anything good to say, move aside. I have to get these documents completed by the end of the day.”
Himari conceded and stepped to the side. Aoko-san walked past her, her hands underneath the tower of paper. But then…
Aoko-san halted then sighed. “What?”
“I…before I said that you’re not that bad.” Himari closed her eyes, her back facing her. “I…really mean that. If possible, we can be friends…?”
She blinked, as if she couldn’t understand what Himari was rambling on about. It was a stupid proposal. Why would she even be friends with her? With someone whom their friend is her friend is her rival in love? In fact, since she and Natsumi were best friends, why would she even ask to be friends with someone who hurt an important person to her?
“...I’m afraid I don’t understand your intentions.” She casted a suspicious glance at Himari's way.
“I…I really don’t want to regard you as an enemy,” Himari said truthfully, spinning around. “At any rate, I’d prefer to not treat anyone rudely. Let’s face it, we’ll be in the same school until we graduate. Shouldn’t we just live high school happily and blissfully? Is a boy really worth all the trouble?”
“...” Aoko-san took a deep, heavy breath then said, “You’re right. A boy is not worth all that trouble.”
“But that’s your view. Not mine. However…” she glanced at Himari’s downcasted expression. “I think that being friends…is fine. Don’t worry, I won’t try anything on Izanami-san. I don’t know what took over me before, but…I will say this: if I truly liked Kaneko-kun, I shouldn’t have hurt those around him.”
Her blazing eyes filled Himari with restless ardor in her heart. She continued on, “I’m sorry for spiking the chocolate with theobromine.”
“Oh, that’s forgiven–”
“Also for smothering glue over your seat. And adding tons of salt to your water. And for stealing your pens.”
Himari was speechless. Just how much did she do behind her back?! “Hold on, just me? It makes it seem as if you have a grudge on me instead of Natsumi!”
Aoko-san shrugged. “You were easier to target.”
Himari flared up. “What?”
Aoko-san left with no response.
“Hey!” Himari ran after her then stopped. The distance between them was just too big. “T-that means we’re friends now…right?”
She paused then continued to walk on. “...think whatever you want.”
Himari’s mouth curved and her eyes squinted into crescents. “Alright!”
Behind her, she could hear the girl’s cheery tone. There was a small tug on her lips but she pushed it down. “Really…she’s so stupid.”
Natsumi spun around. Where did Yuu’s voice come from? It couldn’t be from ‘Cassius’ because he was still happily chatting away with the others. Unless it’s telepathy?
“Yuu?” She called out. “Where are you?”
“Go back! Don’t leave on your own. Go back!”
“What?” She became puzzled. He continued to shout the same words to the point where his voice sounded a bit hoarse. But his voice sounded so pained and aggrieved that she couldn’t help but try and console him. “Yuu? Are you alright?”
“Please…don’t leave again.”
“Yuu? I’m not going anywhere though?”
But he couldn’t hear her no matter what she said.
“I won’t…I won’t tease you anymore. So please…!”
To think that she would see the day when Yuu would be begging. She felt so satisfied, but it wasn’t the right time to act smug. When she meets up with him later, she’ll be sure to brag it off in front of him, she thought.
‘But getting out of here is the first priority!’
His voice disappeared. Suddenly, she felt a chill sliding down her back.
“Yuu? Are you there?”
Something must’ve happened. Even though he couldn’t hear her, to Natsumi, just the sound of his voice was enough. It was enough to know that she wasn’t alone. Knowing Yuu, although he could be overly obnoxious, he still had a good heart. If he wanted to do something, he’d even pull down the heavens and use any means to achieve it. And now, he wanted to seek her out. Of course he would accomplish that.
Trusting him, she remained in place. ‘Yuu will find me! For sure!’
But the only thing she really trusted was his powers. How could anything go wrong with Yuu’s powers? He’s a powerful magician and he boasted of it everyday! It was about time his powers came in handy and proved its worth. The best option was to wait. There was a chance that she could mess things up even more.
With a head buried in her knees, she closed her eyes, drowning in the sound of the lively conversation.
#novel #fiction #romance
Everyone has a sad story, if you dig deep enough, like scratching a scab. You can dig and dig, and eventually everybody, invariably, opens and bleeds.
Luisa was great at that, finding everyone’s sore spot, knowing just the right way to make it hurt. It could be an innocent sounding comment, a raise of an eyebrow, a gaze too long at a scar or some other secret imperfection. Whatever your Achilles heel was, she could find it, use it. Then she would parade it around like a war totem, a symbol of her strength, another battle won.
I used to admire it, her skill of reading people. Luisa was not reckless with it. Instead she wielded it with practiced precision. She used her weapons only on people who deserved it, people who were already broken anyway, people so irredeemably damaged that their only destiny was to destroy other people on their path to self-annihilation.
As Luisa always said, there was no shortage of evil in the downtrodden. She never had sympathy for the bully who was bullied, the abuser who was abused. There was a point of no return, Luisa told me, when someone no longer deserved forgiveness.
Of course, this also made me afraid of her. She terrified me, my sister.
“You are a terrible person.” I remember saying to her, when I was the naive age of thirteen, young and foolish enough to think that I could stand my ground, thinking I had it all figured out, my sister, the villain.
At first I thought she would get angry, and I was prepared for her to scream or yell or hurt, but instead she laughed. She laughed and laughed.
“Oh Andrea. Of course I am.” Her eyes dimmed. Her beautiful face etched with unexplained sadness. I remember thinking that in a certain shadow she looked decades older than her years. It was the only time she looked at me with rare tenderness. “But you... you'll be okay, Andrea. You're not like me. Promise you'll never be like me.”
Of course, it wasn't until much later that I learned what broke my sister. She had protected me from an unspeakable evil in our own house. In doing so she sacrificed her own innocence, something she would never get back. A bully who was bullied. An abuser who was abused.
Luisa, my sister.