The cold Autumn air ushered in the season of harvest, the farmers hustled and bustled, and change, yellows and oranges and reds dotted the landscape. Creatures of the forest prepared for the cold spell soon to come; some migrated, some hibernated, while others accumulated resources to persevere through the winter.
Half a year has passed since Rhun began learning the sword. Immediately afterwards, Lyle, as soon as he recovered, also demanded to learn the sword. To prove himself, he challenged Rhun at every possible opportunity, losing miserably, regardless of weapon choice — actually performing worse with the sword.
Kyra has shown quite the talent with growing her mana pool and even discovered a moonflower all on her own recently, much to Rhun’s surprise. This motivated the other children to train, practice, and learn even harder.
The adults of course noticed this obvious change and were astonished to find out Rhun had been teaching the children both letters and a bit of magic; mages were a rare breed, mostly keeping to themselves and the talented tended to be from noble houses. Rhun suspected the children’s precocity most likely had to do with himself, specifically the gods’ blessings must be creating some kind of aura effect. Even Lyle started to show signs of anima use, boosting his speed or power for a split second during their bouts, always unintentionally so it did more harm than good.
Chief Sigwald and some of the older adults encouraged this growth and supported Rhun in his teachings, giving him the time and materials needed.
“And that wraps up today’s lesson,” Rhun concluded after checking the time.
“Finally!” “I’m tired…” “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.”
The children complained as they left the village’s main hall, which was temporarily transformed into a makeshift classroom.
Rhun shook his head while putting away the supplies onto the shelves.
‘Kids will be kids.’
He left the building to find Lyle, Kyra, and his other friends waiting for him.
“Rhun! Let’s duel!” Lyle shouted.
Kyra rolled her eyes. “Why? Are you that eager to get your butt kicked again?”
Elyn and Harper giggled at her comment.
Lyle retorted, “I’m just trying to get stronger! How am I supposed to do that if I don’t improve?”
“By the looks of things, improving is the last thing you’re doing,” she quipped, placing her hands on her hips.
“Gah! Kyra, you...you — ”
She sneered, “Hmm? I what, Lyle?”
“You suck! That’s what!” He squawked, “Kyra, you suck!”
“Nuh-uh, you suck more!” She stuck her tongue out.
“Well you suck the mostest!” He countered, also sticking out his tongue.
Once more, Rhun shook his head as they continued bickering.
Darkness enveloped most of the quiet village, the night sky and a few torches lighting up the places that were not. An eerie atmosphere descended and permeated the dwellings.
Rhun woke up to a strange feeling in his chest.
‘How weird.’ He sat up and concentrated on said feeling. ‘It’s...almost like the air itself...has a certain mana signature to it..? It’s not something I recognize though.’
Moving to a meditative pose, the boy began to manipulate his mana, tentatively reaching out to the unknown signature in the air. He breathed in and out. Repeating this action until he was able to match his own magical frequencies to the one in the air, causing a mana resonance of sorts and the emanation of a dim glow, and to his surprise —
Rhun abruptly opened his eyes and turned to his left.
“Come out! I know you’re there!” He cried out as he retrieved the dagger underneath his pillow.
His eyes widened when the stranger revealed himself — itself.
A white mote of bright light rose into view. The ping pong ball-sized orb landed on his windowsill for a moment before it glided towards him.
Rhun didn’t sense any malice or bad intentions from it but still...it was a mysterious orb. Better to be safe than sorry.
“Stop.” The sphere stilled in midair. “Who...what are you?”
The orb hummed twice, shimmering splendidly each time.
He cocked his head to the side, “You were sent...to retrieve me?” The bizarre light seemed to be able to communicate via mana, and he was somehow able to understand; he stopped questioning most things that didn’t make sense in this fantasy world.
The white ball dipped a little in response. Almost like a nod.
The boy stroked his chin, even though it was bare.
“Where are you taking me?”
A strong vibration this time.
“To see the Wise One?”
The ball affirmed.
“Who is this Wise One? What does he want from me?” Rhun asked, a note of skepticism slipping in.
Three pulses this time. Now slide to the lef—
Rhun shook his head and refocused on the message. “I’ll find out soon? That sounds super sketch. And what do you mean they’re already waiting on us? Who is they?”
The orb trilled in a high pitch and moved around in the air wildly before zooming out the window and disappearing, almost angrily.
He uncovered his ears and muttered, “Well, I have a right to ask so many questions if you’re gonna take me somewhere in the middle of the night. Don’t wanna get murder-killed.”
Rhun weighed his options before deciding to get ready, grab his bag and sneak out the window. It did not take long for him to discover three shiny motes in the village square hovering above two familiar figures dressed in a similar fashion as himself.
“Kyra? Harper? What are you guys doing here?” He approached his friends.
“Rhun! I knew you’d join us.” “We were waiting on you.” They turned and greeted him as if sneaking out in the middle of the night was only natural.
He questioned and pointed upwards, “Wait. Did the lights talk to you guys too?”
“Yeah! They’re really pretty.” Kyra replied.
Harper nodded. “Now that you’re here, we can go see the Wise One now. He’s waiting in the forest for us.”
“Aren’t you guys suspicious at all? Like this is all pretty weird, no?”
The girl conceded, “A little bit, but...I just have a gut feeling that we should trust them. A good feeling.”
“Besides, you’re here too. Rhun, you’re like,” his arms stretched wide, “super strong, so we’ll be just fine,” the other boy followed-up.
Rhun shook his head. As much as he wanted to believe in Kyra’s intuition and Harper’s trust in himself, he knew how foolhardy it would be to enter the forest full of monsters in the middle of the night.
“First of all, there’s practically no visibility at this hour, and a torch won’t help us much; how will we even see if something attacks us, let alone react to it? Second, if something does attack us, how will three children fend it off? What if it’s a troll or a squad of goblins?”
Kyra bit her lip and looked away. Harper countered, “In that case, let’s go get Lyle and Elyn and the rest of the gang. I’m sure Lyle can take on three goblins just by himself!”
“Harper, that’s not the point. Even if —”
One of the orbs, the angry one, interrupted him with a series of quick-fire oscillations.
“What? Only the three of us can go?” Dejected, Harper’s shoulders slumped down.
Kyra, on the other hand, perked up, “See? We were chosen! And it’s saying we’ll be perfectly safe; the Wise One will protect us.”
Rhun crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow in doubt, but before he could say anything else, the three motes of light illuminated the square and shifted in color. From pure white to lime green. And then, a narrow beam struck each of them, and a single word resounded in their heads before the orbs transformed back to normal.
His mana resonated with the deep voice, and he himself gave off a subtle green glow before it dispersed into nothing.
The other two turned to him.
“...I think we should go,” he sheepishly admitted.