His consciousness rushed back into him like the busiest river stream he was carried away by when he was only five.
Fear and distress soaked into his skin. Vehemences he had long forgotten emerged back into his mind.
Robert’s eyes unfolded and grew wide to an unfamiliar ceiling as he gasped longingly and desperately for air.
As if a spring was hidden and wound up beneath him, he lurched up from the bed which he slept on. His nose took in the plentiful air as quick as he let it back out through his mouth.
His eyes and hands crawled all over his whole body, finding himself bandaged all over but his injuries, as far as he could feel, were all nearly recover. His right ear had grown back and his right hand was no longer missing a chunk of meat in its palm. For some reason, only the bandage around his hand was crudely wrap and there was a faint tinge of red. He took a whiff and concluded that it wasn’t blood. It smelled fragrant.
After making sure nothing was wrong with his body, his eyes darted to every corners of the room. He scoured the edges, combed the borders, and seared the layout of the room into his mind.
Finally, he regained his composure and his breath lost its haste after sifting through everything with just his eyes.
Nothing familiar had entered his sight. Everything was carved out of wood. The furniture, the walls, the doors, and the windows. The only things that weren’t chop from trees were the candlestick and the strangely soft and velvety yet common-looking bed sheets.
He drew his last memories from his mind, the moments before he lost all of his consciousness. But as he does—
“You’re awake,” a voice said. There had been no one in the room when his eyes explore every angle of the room but there was a person right now in this room.
That person was sitting on a chair just beside the bed. Aptly combed golden hair paired with calm blue eyes and an affable smile which was seemingly fill with unsavory intentions underneath.
“Creed,” Robert greeted with a slight tip of his head.
“Good morning, Ross,” Creed returned his greetings.
Robert looked out to the window. It was nothing but darkness. Although, he could faintly make out the shapes and outlines of the few trees sprawled outside the small cabin.
Noticing his line of sight, Creed told Robert, “it’s still very early,” as if to explain the darkness that still painted the sky.
Robert returned his gaze to Creed who was already in the academy’s signature white uniform embroidered with thin blue threads on the edges.
After ransacking Creed’s purpose and undertone with his gaze, Robert looked to the door. He traced the hinges and edges with his sight.
He looked to the floorboards. He gouged for the ever slightest lump or dent that might spelled any hint of secrets.
His hand brushed slowly at the ledges of the bed. When he found nothing but remnant of sawed-wood dust, he nodded to himself.
“Are you alright?” Creed asked. Rather than worried, his eyes exuded hesitance.
Robert snapped back to him and told him his true state of mind, “no.”
“Should I get a Healer or an Alchemist?”
“I will be fine. It’s just…” Robert closed his eyes as he kneaded his brows, “waking up has become a stranger to me.”
“Oh right,” Creed uttered, “you did mentioned you never needed any sleep. When was the last time you slept, not counting this one? If you have slept a wink in your life at all, that is.”
“I am not a complete stranger to the concept of slumber but I was very young when I ceased requiring the need to sleep. I was seven or eight then, maybe even younger.”
“And you never slept a wink after that?”
“Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. Unless there’s some deliberate external force, like what you had seen.”
“Curious, most curious,” Creed mused. “But anyways, you’re fully awake now, right?”
“As awake as I can be.”
“Alright then.” Creed cleared his throat. “You’re Robert Ross. You’re fifteen years old. You’re workings as the hands and arms of Mister Smith.”
“You have been unconscious for around a day. Today is Tiwun, the sixth day of the second moon, Ur. Right now, the time is around five and you are in a safe house about a day away from the city. I saved you from the fall right before you hit the Abyss Waters. As for the Dragon Knight, I made sure she’s alive and placed her somewhere few days away from the city. Now, questions?”
“You let her live?” Robert looked at Creed oddly.
“She’s a Dragon Knight,” Creed reminded the astounded Robert. “Fighting one would already be foolish. Killing one would be… well, you have to be missing your brain to do that. What’s more, she was out cold from her depleted Magic Pool, so I won’t be worrying about her seeing my face. And considering the state of the city, it was all the more wiser to let her live.”
“Something more terrible happened to the city?”
Creed smiled. “We’ll get to that part later. For now, I need to know what happened.”
Robert stared in surprise. “It had been a day and you still don’t know what happened?”
“I was informed and told, but I rather hear it from the person involved himself.”
“Fair point,” Robert said and began recounting his tale, blunders, and exploits before he lost himself to the long forgotten dreamland.
When he was finish, lights were already starting to peek through the dark sky.
“Spatial Magic, who would have known?” Creed mused.
“I thought you would.”
“Rumors, we heard plenty. Facts, however, are only a few. There’s a rumor that there’s a Dragon Avatar among the Wings, do you realize what I’m getting at?”
“Interesting, though. I heard Spatial Magic took a lot out of one but she used way more than what an Elite could.”
“I did poison her with a certain gray powder.”
“That does serve as an explanation.”
“All things considered,” Creed mulled, “I would say it has been beneficial. You got more than you lost.”
“The only lost I have is the fight.”
“There’s no one to blame for that. The Dragon Knights were roaming the streets even during the sleepy hours. They were definitely more assertive than the other Paladins who just sit around in their golden or silver armor all day wondering why they dwarfed against the Dragon Knights.”
“Regardless, I should have been prepared. Failing to predict is not an excuse to my oversight.”
“True, but at least now, we have a pair of reliable eyes and ears among the Devetras.” Creed sifted his breath. “Well done, Ross.”
“You don’t look happy,” Creed said.
“How long have you all know about Suri being a Demon?” Robert asked with a dry tone.
“We know she came into Devetra’s service sixteen years ago. We always have suspicions of her race but she has never done anything to warrant our further attention. So we just let her be.”
“That’s awfully careless.”
“We do have a few plans in place should we ever have the notion that she would be… an interest or… meddlesome.”
Convinced, Robert gestured for Creed to continue.
“And also, now we know how committed the Dragon Knights truly are to their oath and decree, and how skilled they are.” Creed sighed. “Honestly, it ain’t looking good for you. If you encounter another one, it will be your funeral. You need to get stronger, and fast.”
Robert shrugged. He had a few words to say to that buy perhaps it was his lingering grogginess, he didn’t feel like retorting. Instead, he asked, “and what about Valena?”
“She’s safe and she knows you’re alive.”
“And she saved your life too and inadvertently, the Dragon Knight’s too.”
Robert arched an eyebrow. “How?”
“She’s a Kinesis, shockingly.” Creed matched his gaze. “She didn’t manage to lift the two of you back onto the bridge but she made it a lot easier for me.”
“Wouldn’t it have been less… difficult if she had used her Magic in the fight against the Dragon Knight?”
“I told her not to, at least not in public or an open area. She’s still a novice with it. Otherwise, she would not be a black sheep. And also, can you tell me for sure that absolutely no one in her clan knows about her Kinesis Magic? What’s more, I wasn’t sure I could defeat the Dragon Knight, let alone killing her.”
“Now that you mentioned it,” creasing his brows, Creed continued, “keeping her provisionally for her novice-level Kinesis to bloom, that sure sounded more like a reason for Clan Devetra to have her around. Despite the family’s avoidance, she was living in quite a luxury life if we’re comparing to a commoner’s standard. And I only know about her Kinesis Magic from you now, because...?”
“She wasn’t an ascertained factor then, so I didn’t bother. And other things came up, and I was looking forward to some fine mead, and I met a stunning beauty of a tavern maid, we shared a bed and the night, and somehow, someway—”
“You forgot about it,” Creed filled out Robert’s dragging sentence
“Yeah…” Robert admitted. “As surprising as it is, I’m not as smart as you think I am nor am I prudent as I believe myself to be. If I have to keep track every bit my encounters or every person I have met, I would go insane.”
Creed pulled back his eyes and body. “I’m truly surprised but what I’m surprised at is that you’re not as full of yourself as I thought.”
“I suppose I did gave quite of a first impression.”
“You sure did,” Creed smiled.
Robert sighed and his gaze fell back to his bandaged hand. He hinted with a nod at the lack of skill of the bandage.
Understanding Robert’s hint, Creed laughed through his lips. “She did that,” he said after repressing his laughter.
Robert looked at the poorly bandaged hand of his and the faint tinge of red. And his mind clicked. “This is going to be troublesome. Really shouldn’t let her live.”
Creed tittered. “Why not? You’re not happy with a girl like Valena being so caring of you?”
“Caring?” Robert scoffed. “As a wise man once said, do not copulate with those demented with love1transalation: do not stick your dick in crazy.”
“You know, most boys will be thrilled at being tended to by such a cute girl.”
“Most boys had never looked her in the eye, which they should lest they do not want to get stabbed with a kitchen knife in the back of a cold alley2Yandere joke..”
Creed stared. His smile was gone. “That’s oddly specific.”
“Sorry, I really have been reading a little bit too much.” Saying so, Robert buried his face into his palm and heaved through his hands.
Suddenly, Robert raised his head up. “Samara, she’s—”
“Soraes had dealt with it.” He gestured for Robert to calm down. “The Samara girl got her treatment.”
“Lily helped?” Robert asked. “How did that come by?”
“Well, you were absent from school and Samara asked around about you, which piqued Soraes’ interest. Soraes then asked why was she looking for you and one question lead to another.”
Robert nodded. “That’s good.”
“I wouldn’t say that. Samara did seem quite angry that you broke whatever promise you made with her.”
“Well, her punches wouldn’t be any worse than Qyoni.”
“Qyoni? You gotten quite close with your enemy, didn’t you, Ross?”
Robert bit his lips lightly as he raised his brows. “We hugged.”
“Yes, I saw.”
“It is my job to look after you.”
Robert pointed at his right hand and ear.
“You were doing fine and the proof of that is your very being right here on this bed.”
He narrowed his eyes.
“As far as the Aeryeon Faith is concern, there’s no Teleporter in Midas Valley. Mr. Smith and I worked very hard to make sure of that. So, I hope you will pardon me for not revealing myself to the Dragon Knight.”
Robert sighed. “Touche.”
“It means understandable.”
“In what tongue?”
Robert shrugged. “A language far away from here and probably doesn’t exist anymore, given their indifferent attitude to the decline of their world.”
“Interesting. You have really read a lot, haven’t you?”
“I’m glad I don’t get asked about my age anymore but I’m not looking forward to another routine question.”
“You read a lot but have you written any books?”
Robert hung his head at the unexpected question. “I have,” he answered after a brief moment.
“Any chance I get to read them?”
“The books aren’t mine and it’s just numbers.”
“Ah, those kind of books. Very interesting that they let a child neared those kind of books.”
“It’s not that uncommon for common-born children to know numbers. It’s the only thing we could and were able to learn.”
Creed flattened his lips as he absorbed a new batch of knowledge.
“So, what happened to the city while I was… asleep?” Robert turned in his seat and let his legs hung by the edge of the bed. His legs were a little defiant but he could still curl his toes, so Robert wasn’t too worried. It had been a long time since he last slept. He had forgotten the languishing feeling of waking up.
“The Dragon Knights are angry and the city is in more chaos than ever, to put it briefly.”
Robert pointed at himself.
“No, it’s not because of you.” Creed paused for a second before continuing. “Well, you just quickened the process. You didn’t start anything.”
All of a sudden, a knock pealed into the room.
“Come in,” Creed said.
The door opened and a boy younger than Robert entered the room with a tray of water and soup.
“Thank you, Linus. You can just put it there.” Creed gestured pointed at the small table by the end of the bed.
After settling down the tray, the boy named Linus left the room and closed the door behind without so much as a single glance to either Creed or Robert.
“Who’s that?” Robert asked.
“Linus, the son of the carpenter who lives in this small house.”
“A father and son… but who are they, truly?”
“They both work for Mister Smith. And as you have already guessed, they’re not actually parent and child. They are older than they look. Anyways, regarding the state of the city, the Dragon Knights played only a minor role in descending the city into an abstruse chaos.”
“Soraes will be briefing you on those things later. She insisted so. Well, she’s much better at… diplomacy.”
“I need diplomacy?” Robert glowered indignantly. ”Am I that turbulent?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. Soraes herself specifically told me that she would be briefing you. If you ask me, it’s just a pretense for some private matters she wished to discuss with you. Know anything about that?”
Something did came to mind but Robert spoke nothing of it. “I see,” he merely said.
“The things I am liable to tell you is that the Dragon Knights are turning the city upside down. They’re going from door to door and alley to alley— it’s nothing new but they were more… aggressive than before when the Blue Rose did not return.”
“Qyoni, that’s what everyone else calls her aside from her fellow Dragon Knights. Since you have… interacted with her, I’m sure you know how that name came by.”
“Dark blue Aura, beautiful face, graceful with a sword, and her sharp tongue, fitting name.”
“If this goes on, the nobles will be extremely unwelcoming towards the Aeryeon Faith. And they held not a little amount of influence over some nobles and commoners.”
“How many Dragon Knights are there?” asked Robert.
“Currently in this city, five. Not counting the Blue Rose obviously. And only one of them hailed from this city. There may only be five of them now, but you might as well be looking at five hundred men hunting for you.”
“I’m still a ghost.”
“If the Blue Rose is awake from her cold and wet slumber by now, you’re still a ghost for about… four to five days, more or less, or maybe less than a day, since we do not know what Magic the Dragon Knights have.”
Robert blinked at the walls before heaving a huge air of annoyance. “Fucking hell… this is getting worse. Fuck this. Fuck the city. Fuck the Dragon Knights. You should have just snapped the Blue Rose in the bud, damn it!”
Creed stared. “That’s very… unlike you.”
Robert took a deep breath in. “Forgive me,” he said, turning his gaze down. He noticed the slight tremor in his hands. They were still shaking ever since he woke up. “I’m still a little sapped from my sleep.”
“Maybe you should rest for today too.”
“I can’t.” He glanced up. “I still have heads to take and I have an appointment tonight.”
“You barely survived a fight with a Dragon Knight and you got a lot out of it. You deserve this much rest. For your appointment, we can arrange an agent.”
“There will be no agent nor any representative. And it’s not about what I deserve. It’s about what needs to be done.”
“I’ll be fully honest with you, you look like a pile of shit right now. I don’t think you will be getting anything done.”
“I’ll be fine. I have been in worse conditions and worse circumstances, and I lived. If you think I will compromise everything we have been working so far, I can ensure you I won’t.”
“Well,” Creed sighed as he relented to Robert’s wishes, “if you say so. We still have about three hours before the first class. Get some rest until then.”
“I can’t rest right now. I need to do something.” Robert looked at his empty ring finger before shifting his gaze to Creed. “Where’s my ring?”
Creed took a silver ring out of his coat pocket and flung it meticulously into Robert’s open palms. “You’re fortunate that it wasn’t damage.”
“It had nothing to do with luck. I was very thorough, even in making sure it did not slip off my finger during movements.”
“Instead of your head or limbs, you protected the ring?”
“This ring,” Robert brought it to the light, “has what I need to solve a lot of my problems.”
Robert nodded. “Now, please leave. Unless of course you wanted to be charred into cinders.”
Creed smiled as he got up. “I’ll be outside. Just tell me when you’re ready to leave.”
“If you hear or feel anything—”
“It will be nothing more than just my imagination.” Creed assured with his usual smile which Robert had grown accustomed to.
“Thank you,” Robert muttered quietly as Creed vanished from his sight.
He could still hear the whispers beyond this room and every little sound movements made but as soon as he reeled in his will, there was only silence.
Robert drew the one sword he yearned with ardent zeal from the seemingly endless vault of articles and items, which were mostly forgotten by the keeper himself.
The sword was forged of earnest flames and keen craftsmanship. The blade was molded of white copper, a metal only slightly more resilient than its brown relative but thousand times more elegant than it. This metal was never meant to be forged into a sword, as Robert had been repeatedly advised by the enigmatic Mister Smith himself.
When the deal was struck and Robert came into his employment, many terms were agreed and many terms were waived, compromises were made but forging a sword out of white copper was the one term Robert did not yield.
Left to his own device, he sat on his legs with both of his knees touching the floor. It was a straining position but strain was what he needed. It helped keep his wandering focus to a single place, his straining legs, which in turn, he directed it to his mind.
The white sword was lodge to the floor before him, he offered it not his sight but his will.
Robert had his eyes shut. In the darkness, he sought out the Partitioned Force. He took not a dimple nor a drop but a handful grasp of that volatile force and cast it from the divide. The searing force flowed through his entire body, burning every part of the person known as Robert Ross.
His strength became the efforts of a thousand men. His speed surpassed the flight of an arrow by tenfold. His vigor grew to the heights of a fully fledged Dragon.
But his body was still that of a boy, a frail boy.
His mouth unleashed a gush of crimson essence while his veins burst like a fountain, showering his body with his own blood.
The pain was unlike anything he had ever felt in the fifteen years of this life. Not even his constitution could constrain the screams that escaped through his lips. The cry was nothing a human could ever make. It was neither that of a monster. It was unprecedented.
While the agony raged on and his cries persist on, he gripped his hand onto the white blade. From the top, he slewed his grip down. The blade wasn’t blunt, neither was it sharp, but a slew would carve open fleshes nonetheless.
The white blade was now dye with a deep paint of a grave crimson. The blood shimmered with a golden light, turning the fluids vermilion. The blade resonated with the changes. It let the vermilion blood soaked into its body. The singed of the change exuded smoke of gray, curving the spine of the blade as it lost its white and equally amended itself into the same shade of of a crimson sun.
The hilt of the blade which was already tinted with vermilion, darkened into a black of a raven’s as if it’s essence were all drawn to the blade itself. However, the birch wasn’t any frailer, the hilt had only consolidate into a stronger grip for trained hands.
For Robert, the wielder himself, the golden glow that bleed along with the crimson essences, sought the Mana lurking among the transparent air, like carnivorous plants ensnaring its prey with feelers and devouring them as nourishment.
When the golden glow had its fill, it seeped back into the body of Robert Ross through the open and bleeding wounds. In the following moment, steam rose from its wound as they closed themselves as easily as closing the blinds of windows.
By now, Robert’s throat was parch from his incessant cries of agony. No longer did he scream. Not that he was able to.
As the steam ceased smoldering from the boy’s body, no longer did he felt he had the strength of a thousand, nor the speed faster than an arrow, nor the vigor of a Dragon. However, neither did he felt he was as frail as he once was.
He opened his eyes.
He stood up on his feet. The immense phantom pain greeted him but a twitch of his lips was the only reaction incurred.
Robert pulled up the sword and brandished it before his face. The blade was now curve, much like the sword of the Blue Rose, dyed in a glowed that altered between a dark crimson and a radiant vermilion. The blade was supplement with a dark birch hilt that lost its brilliant golden red tinge. The only thing of absence to the sword, was a guard but that was a concern to be dragged to a much later date.
For now, it was complete. A sword that could reach the things his flesh could not.
An imitation of the boy’s visage and veneer was thrown back to his sight on the surface of the blade. His hair had grown till it touched his neck. His once frail and unassuming face was a little coarsened but nevertheless still unassuming and naive to the unfamiliar eyes. He even felt he gained a few inches in height but it was still nothing to be proud of.
Still, an accomplished grin crept to the boy’s face who was a step closer to a semblance of a man and nearing the realm of an Elite.
“Enderius, this shall be your name, my emissary,” Robert whispered to the sword.
Enderius fluttered its glow in response.