Arc: 2 [Chapter 5]
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"Agnes, wait!" I call out to him, as he walks toward the doorway that we came from, wiping his tears.

"Agnes, please stop!" I yell out, and he stops his stride with his gaze downcast.

"I-I don't—want you to know. I should have stayed behind."

I shake my head with confusion, "Know what? What don't you want me to know?"

"I don't want you to know—what they truly see me as, a monster. I'm a monster, Andre. The fear you felt when you first meet me, isn't like what he felt. That fear is hatred and rage toward my kind."

"I don't understand..." I try to follow, but couldn't. I don't have all the puzzle piece to know the big story.

"Of course, you don't, Andre. That's why you befriend me in the first place, that's why I called you weird. You haven't been taught to hate my kind as he does."

"Then, turn around. Make me understand." I let the spear fall out of my hand and hits the floor.

He does such, and his feathers flutter in the wind, as he looks at me with a painful expression. "A long time ago, there was a war between the gods and monsters. The gods send their candidates to fight against us. Both sides lost many lives over the battle, but eventually, the gods overwhelmed us, and we lost the war."

"That's why James is scared of me. I'm a threat to them, but I'm not. I try to change, I took an oath, to never harm a living soul and yet, no matter what I do—they still see as a savage beast."

"Step into my shoes, and understand. After a long time of trying to convince people that I'm different, I even let myself get thrown out from my own family, just so, I could be something else than a monster. After long despair and hopeless failure, you show up and treat me as a friend, as equal."

"I don't want you to see me as the others do, I don't want to—lose you." Agnes wrinkles his nose as he wipes the few tears away with his wing.

I propel my left foot forward then follow by my right foot to get closer to Agnes. Afterward, I place one of my hands on his back, and another behind his head. Then I gently bring his head closer to my breasts. I feel his face press between my bosoms while his orange hair pricks against my palm. I brush his hair, and the smell of his washed hair causes me to giggle.

He doesn't fight it. Instead, he let me comfort him.

However, the warm tears wetting my shirt, tell me he is in pain. Agnes has been alone for a copious amount of years, maybe even longer. If I was in his shoes, I might easily give in to despair.

"It's gonna be okay."

"How can you say that with so much confidence?"

"If I don't care about you, why did I chase after you? You are my friend. It doesn't matter whether you're a monster or god or anything else. Nothing can change the fact that I want to be your friend."

I can hear he sniffs a tear away. When I look down, I can see a smile of reassurance appearing among with his puffy eyes.

"Thank you for being my friend, you weirdo."

"I'm not a weirdo, will a weirdo do this?!" I secure my arms around Agnes's torso, then lift him off the floor to spin him around.

"Yes!"

Agnes's laughter of joy fill my hearts and warming it. I cheer out my happiness while I'm spin him around with my arms. A loud cough interrupts my spinning, I turn until I meet with the source, and I notice James is standing in the doorway with a guilty look.

"I heard what you say. I'm sorry. I only heard stories of how terrible your kind is. I never actually met one, as you can see I'm not built to fight, so I never left Pops workshop. Will you forgive me?"

I glance at Agnes's face, he is thinking about the apology, but I know what his answer is, and because of that, I press my cheek against his. "He accepts your apology, don't you?! My little cuteness."

"I'm not short! You are overly tall!" Agnes pouts his lips while his cheeks blush.

He then glances at James, "And yes, I accept your apology."

A toothy smile appear on James's face, "Thank you! Oh, I forgot to introduce myself. I'm James of Hephaestus. The second candidate and fairly new around here. Not as new as you though." He bows his head slightly.

"Oh!" The formal bow surprise me, I let go of Agnes and turn to face him. I pinch the side of my pants and lower myself a bit in an attempt to curtsy.

"My name is Andre of Adrestia. The first candidate for my goddess."

When I straighten up, I look at him with wide eyes, "I never expect you to be so formal."

"Ah, it's because of my brother, Kingsley. The first candidate, he told me that I should work on my manners. Anyway, are you here to get suit up before facing The Darkness?"

The Darkness? What the hell is that? I'm curious about it, but I can't ask James about it, or he might suspect that I'm going rogue. Hmm, I should ask Agnes later, he might know something about it.

"Yeah, The Darkness."

"Well then come into my humble abode, and I shall equip you with the exquisite weapons and armor I have available." James turns around and enters his workshop.

As I walk toward the door, I notice that Agnes is staying behind, "Are you coming?"

"Give me a minute. I need some time alone first."

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Don't worry about me, go. I'll catch up." A smile form with his lips, Agnes is telling me that he is okay, and he needs a minute to recompose himself after the emotional scene.

"I'll be waiting," I turn around and walk into the workshop.

Once again, I meet with the same workshop full of metal cogs lying around and unfinished blade weapons leaning on the wall. I look around while James digs around in his stuff, he then takes out a long wooden staff with a hook. James latch on the handlebar attaches to the ceiling, and bring down a hidden cabinet fill with weapons and armors.

Swords, halberd, ax, a hatchet with a widely different style of weapons from the katana to the European crossguard sword, every last of them are mounted nicely. The weaponry has a very distinct style of jagged blade and sharp corner. Aside from the armaments, the collection of armors is thin, from the breastplate to chainmail and hard leather.

"Hephaestus said you are new like it is a bad thing to be. Why is that?"

"Oh, you didn't know about that, yet you still give your trust to me?"

"Yeah, I don't see any problem of being new."

"Being new to a blacksmith meaning that I am inexperienced."

"So?" I glance at him.

"Hmm, how do I explain it. Okay, imagine this, a warrior comes to an inexperience blacksmith to get a weapon before a big battle. So he got a weapon from that blacksmith and went to battle. Mid-battle, the weapon break and it cost him his life. If he had gone to more experience blacksmith and get a better quality one, he would probably live."

"The bottom line is, you are trusting your life to me when you get a weapon or armor from me, because you will be using them in battle, and you need something you can trust to fight that battle. Something dependable and work."

"Are you willing to trust your life to me? To an inexperience blacksmith? Because I never had any customer before. The other candidates all went to Kingsley because they trust him. That's why he so busy."

I look at him with a newfound understanding of the risk and danger. A smile appears on my face when I think it over, "I trust you."

"You certainly are weird, just like the harpy said." A grateful smirk appears on his face.

"Thank you for trusting me. So, pick your poison." He gestures to the assortment of weapons and armors.

"Hmm, do you have any guns? For some reason, I'm more comfortable with guns."

"Guns, huh. Intriguing. You are unquestionably new." Curiosity replaces his last expression.

"What's wrong with guns?"

"Wait for a second, let me get something." James jumps back into his stack boxes looking for something.

When he found something, he let out, "Aha! Found it!."

He brings forth a rectangular wooden box, showing it to me, he opens it and reveal a handgun. "You know, when I was still alive, before becoming a candidate. I always had an adoration for firearms, wanted to buy one, but I wasn't that rich. Had to work at my parent's ranch for three months to buy my first handgun."

"The power of a singular pistol is amazing, but it useless against The Darkness."

"Before?"

"Hmm? Oh, yeah. I was born and lived at earth. In the state called Texas."

"I don't understand." I look at him with a puzzled look because I have no idea about the subject he is talking.

"Your past life, before you become a candidate. The life you had before you died. Every Half-born has a past life unless you are a Pure-born?"

"Half-born? Pure-born? Past Life? I don't think I have, or remember..."

"My head hurts!" I take a sit on something and press both finger on the side of my forehead.

James place the box containing the handgun on a table and set a hand on my shoulder. "Woah, calm down! You're trying to break your mind if you dig deep into the well of knowledge."

"Well of knowledge?"

"Oh damn, don't your goddess explain anything before sending you to hunt The Darkness?"

"Nah, she was busy. I tell her that I will be fine."

"Oh yeah, the meeting of Twelve Gods is today. My Pops always skip it."

I let out a small chuckle to relieve some of the headaches I'm having. "You call Hephaestus, Pops?"

"Yeah...He's like a father to me, and he treats me like a son more so than my past father."

"So, let start on the meeting of Twelve Gods. What can you tell me about it?"

"The meeting of Twelve Gods is a summit of every Olympian gods on the top of Mount Olympus, they come and discuss important issues. Right now it's about The Darkness."

"Why is it call the meeting of Twelve gods?"

"Because the twelve gods that rule over the twelve worlds always attend the meeting, and before you ask, the twelve gods are Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter, Athena, Ares, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Aphrodite and lastly Dionysus."

"It's mandatory for them to comes, except for Hades. But sometimes the other 59 gods including your Goddess came to the meeting."

"59 plus 12? There are 71 gods?"

"Yeah, you better not think about it too much."

"So about the past life. Also, Half-born and Pure-born, can you explain?"

"Okay, easy. Half-born is like me. My soul has to be chosen to inhabit this body, to become a candidate. Pure-born, on the other hand, starts with a blank soul. They are born and raised by the gods to become a candidate. Essentially, they are direct children to the gods."

"You were born yesterday, right?"

"Yeah, how can you tell?"

"A guess, that means you're a Half-born. If you were a Pure-born, you would be a baby right now."

"But a Half-born without memory of her past life is highly unusual. I never heard of it happening before." He moves his hand away and stroke his chin.

"As Agnes said, I'm weird. Better put it on the list." I let out a sigh while leaning on the wall behind me.

"What the hell is well of knowledge?"

"One of many gifts that the gods grant us. Well of Knowledge is an accumulation of information that your gods have. What she knows, you know. Try not to dig deeper because if you do you might go insane, the knowledge isn't suited for us."

"The ability to speak to Agnes is thanks to the well."

"Ahh, damn it. Now I have to ask, what is the gift the god grants us."

"The general gift that all of the Born has are better body, strength, speed, reflex, and endurance. The special gift is a rare one that you inherit specifically from your gods. Mine is the shared knowledge of the greatest blacksmith in existence and this hammer that the Pops make for me." Out of nowhere, a metal hammer with intricate engraving on the head appears from a bright glowing light in his hand.

The hammer causes my eyes to widen in surprise. "I can build anything. I can make weapons that can harm anything, even us and the gods."

"The gods can be hurt?"

"Oh shit, I'm not supposed to say that aloud." James look around the workshop for Agnes and look back at me when he in the clear.

James leans closer at me and whisper, "It's a taboo subject, but you can kill gods, I mean not permanently. More precisely, you can destroy the god's body, but their essence stays and reborn again."

"How about their memories?"

"It will remain, they will be furious if they found out who destroy their body. I don't want to be that person."

"However, the process takes a long time for a god to be reborn again, that's why we?" James waits for me to finish his sentence.

Then like lightning pass through my head, it comes together, and I finish the sentence, "Exist."

"Ding ding ding, correct."

"Candidates are essentially the driver for the god's replacement body. When they die, our body will be taken over by the gods. That's it. That's our purpose."

"Why they need us? Why go through all the trouble of picking a soul to inhabit their replacement body?"

"Because the god's body needs a soul to keep it running. They need the essence from our soul to keep their replacement body from crumbling into dust."

James's face darkening as he looks at me with seriousness, "But none of that even matter to us, what matters is, are you willing to give your body up when the times comes?"

That question is like an arrow through my heart. My mouth is unmoving as the real purpose of my existence is answers. To give up my body when the time comes. What would happen to me when that occurs? My soul, will it get kicked out just like that?

I gazed intensely at the floor between James's feet, as the first conundrance since I wake up, befall on me.

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