Chapter 13 - Gairon
I woke up to a beautiful morning. Shiki was still asleep, his head on his lush pillow. He looked very serene so I didn’t want to wake him up.
A few days have passed since the hellhounds have pledged their alliance to me. Shiki and I had been training the troops together, he had also taught me a lot more on battle tactics and strategies.
First, there was archery. He placed himself behind me when he taught me how to shoot an arrow. I was so nervous to feel him so close that my first arrow missed the target completely. It almost hit Aspen but he jumped away nimbly. I managed to do better after I got used to it. He himself was a great archer, sometimes I wonder if he’s bad at anything at all.
Then he started to teach me on wielding ‘long weapons’. My Guren itself was considered one, so I managed to master other long weapons, such as spears and other pole weapons. He forced more physical training on me, as well as a ton of books on the Sovereign’s structure, powers and war strategies.
I learnt that the Sovereign’s anarchy consisted of different Elemental High Houses. Each house had their individual traits and heritage powers. For example, the High House of Blanche, who came from their Tahki ancestors, is the leader among the high houses, which means that they were the one with the most control over the Sovereign. The Tahki, now known as Blanche, wields ice, and they were said to be the arch enemy of the Eshban who wields fire.
There were a total of 10 High Houses in the Sovereign anarchy, wielding elements of Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Ice, Metal, Stone, Lightning, Darkness and Light respectfully. The entire Eshban clan who wields fire, had been destroyed by the Tahki in order to ensure absolute control over the Sovereign without any fear of anyone rising against them, thus now there are only 9 High Houses left.
After the Sovereign took over the Eshban, they renamed all of the High Houses, in a futile attempt to cover up the Eshban’s past achievements and glory. The High House of Earth was once known as the Gaia tribe, but now there are more known as the Vonbrons. Shiki’s powers of the Drakath, that wields darkness was now known as the High House of Erebus.
I learnt about the legend revolving around me and the mark on my chest. I read more about my element’s weaknesses and I studied more on people who were like me. We call them ‘awakened wielders’, they are people who awakened their powers through a period of immense pain and suffering. Shiki told me it was an important aspect to look for these awakened wielders throughout my rebellion, with their powers, it would definitely be easier for us.
I stared at the man in front of me. He had forgotten to take off his piercings again. The sleek obsidian always catches the light of the sun during training. His confession from a few days before floated up in my mind.
I had not given him a proper answer even until now.
He was my best friend, a loyal companion and also my teacher. He meant a lot to me, but will I be able to love him? I had never been in a relationship before and I didn’t know how things work. I couldn’t say that I don’t have feelings for him, he did so much for me and I was really thankful about that. I feel very happy and safe when I’m with him, though things have taken a pretty huge turn now and I’m now the leader of the oncoming rebellion. It puts me on edge, but there was no turning back now.
“There’s no harm in trying,” it was Agatha. I could sense Kakosh nodding along.
Gently, I leaned forward and kissed his lips softly so he wouldn’t be awakened. To my surprise, his eyelashes fluttered and he opened his amber eyes.
“Did you just kiss me?” he asked, his voice was always deeper in the mornings and it still made me shiver.
“Were you awake all this time?” I could feel the heat on my face.
He smiled, a side of his lips would always be higher than the other when he smiles, and he had dimples too.
I snuggled closer to him and he wrapped his arms around me.
“That was my answer,” I said, my voice barely a whisper.
I heard his breath hitch and I sneaked a peek upwards to see his expression. I never got to because he pressed his lips on mine immediately.
His kiss was a mix of emotions. Happiness and relief, laced with a carnal desire. It left the both of us breathless. With a last kiss on my forehead, he jumped out of bed and took his towel.
It was time to start the day.
It has been some time since I’ve seen Shiki in his hellhound form, but there he was, standing before me. The same sleek black fur, amber eyes and a handful of fangs and claws.
We’re heading to Gairon today.
“Good luck, you two,” Lord Zeno nodded at the both of us with his wife by his side. Sir Oakley came up to us and gave us both a huge hug. I liked Sir Oakley, he’s like a bear. He’s a very jolly person and he could brighten up anyone’s gloomy day.
Shiki was all-business. He bade farewell quickly and gestured for me to climb onto his back. His amber eyes were dead focused, though they soften whenever he turns to me.
As I swung myself onto his back, I saluted to the generals and soldiers that were sending us off. Shiki followed, lifting a huge paw up in their direction.
We dashed through the curtain of vines and through the stone archway swiftly. I lowered myself onto Shiki’s back to reduce the stress on my back.
“We’ll reach by noon, Gairon’s quite near,” Shiki grunted as he raced through the familiar forestland.
“Terron and Land’s waiting there I suppose?” I asked softly. I wonder what was going to happen later.
“Yes, if they have done what I’ve asked them to do, then it shouldn’t be a problem for Gairon to pledge alliance to you,” Shiki shouted back as he took an unfamiliar turn.
We fell silent and I turned my attention to the surroundings around me. The color of the forest was changing to a more crisp color. It was a refreshing change from the greyish fading green of Oakwood.
I closed my eyes once in a while to rest. I wanted to ensure I was at the peak of my performance both mentally and physically when I arrived at Gairon.
I had a feeling something is waiting for me there.
“The oracle at Gairon is Helia’s younger sister, she’s also a stone mage. I expect her to already know of our arrival. She’ll get everything ready for us,” Shiki broke the silence suddenly.
“Helia has a younger sister?”
“Yes, her name’s Haliea.”
“It’s Ha-Li-Ea, each alphabet counts, make sure you don’t make a mistake later, alright? They have similar personalities. Both of them are experienced oracles and are well-respected throughout the Fourth Region.”
I wonder what Haliea’s going to say about me.
“We’re reaching soon. You alright?” Shiki glanced back at me for just a second before turning back to his route.
“I’m alright. Well, I will be, with you around,” I said softly, my voice barely reaching Shiki’s ears. A small ripple of fur bristled down his back and I realized he just shivered.
“We’re here,” he announced softly.
Shiki slowed down to a trot as the village of Gairon came into sight. The entrance was a wooden archway with fading letters. My first impression on Gairon wasn’t actually good. It was dusty, very dusty. Even the softest of winds would upset the loose dust on the ground, hurling them into the wind as they spiraled out of sight. I ended up sneezing even before we reached the entrance to the village.
As we entered the village, I spotted Land almost immediately since he stood out from the humans. And as expected, I found Terron next to him. The run-down huts were similar to the ones in Suyoi. They brought back some memories that I preferred not to remember. I lifted myself off Shiki and landed with a small thud as Terron and Land jogged up to us.
“Long time no see, and man you’re looking good!” Terron exclaimed, giving me a small pat on the back as he came in for a hug. Shiki pushed him away gruffly before he reached me and threw him a stern glance of warning. Terron looked quite taken aback. Well, it wasn’t surprising, they still do not know of our relationship.
“I need a place to change,” Shiki grimaced and lifted a paw at some nearby trees. “I’ll be right back.”
“Make sure you’re out of sight,” I whispered softly and he grinned, displaying his magnificent set of canines.
“Greetings, you must be Seraphina,” an unfamiliar voice sounded.
I turned to a tall woman with dirty blonde hair and slated grey eyes. I immediately knew she was Haliea. I could see the resemblance of Helia in her. They had the same hair, but her eyes were of a much darker tone of grey compared to Helia’s. Her presence was also not as strong compared to Helia’s.
“Greetings, and you must be Haliea, Shiki has told me about you,” I replied with a polite nod. She outstretched her hand and I took it firmly.
She was wearing a simple dress with a scarf over her shoulders. I remember Helia’s tattoos were on her left arm, Haliea had similar tattoos down her right arm.
“Your powers have grown so much in such little time, good to know that Shiki had trained you properly,” she smiled knowingly. “Helia has told me much about you, an honor to meet you in person, girl of fire.”
I looked at her alarmed. We were surrounded by people of Gairon, and she just called me the girl of fire in front of them. My identity wasn’t supposed to be known to them people just yet. That was not part of the plan.
“They all know, my dear. Don’t need to worry, we will keep your secret safe,” Haliea seemed to have noticed my concern.
“It’s not a secret if everyone knows of it, Haliea.”
Shiki had came back without a sound. He had changed into his human form again. He was wearing a white collared shirt with long dark trousers and combat boots. Had he purposely left those two buttons unbuttoned on his shirt?
He met my gaze and slid an arm around my waist. I relaxed slowly in his presence. I turned back to see an awe-struck Terron with his mouth hanging open and Land throwing knowing winks at Shiki.
“Well, an unexpected guest came by yesterday night and demanded to meet her with a voice so loud it even woke Land. So now everyone knows of her. But I have made it a clear point for them to keep their mouths shut unless they wanted the rebellion to fail,” Haliea shrugged apologetically.
Before we could answer, two other men approached us and nodded politely at us both. The villagers have gathered around us, and most of them were smiling and waving at us.
“Welcome to Gairon,” the shorter of the two men started. “My name is Cradley, I’m the village chief. This is General Brentwood, our head general. I believe Haliea has been expecting you.” Cradley smiled awkwardly. His toothless smile wasn’t a very pleasing sight. General Brentwood however stood in contrast. He was wearing something similar to Shiki’s, but his trousers were light grey. He also had grey eyes, though they had seemingly lost their shine.
“We… have an unexpected guest that has requested to see you,” Cradley said nervously. Haliea nodded solemnly and excused herself politely, offering to bring the guest to us.
I stared at Shiki. His eyes narrowed at Cradley’s statement. Guess he wasn’t expecting this guest either. He glanced down and pulled me closer, sensing my insecurity. His amber eyes shone warmly in the afternoon sun. I wanted to slap some sense into myself, I should not be caught off guard by just a mere sudden change to our plans. I’m here to ask Gairon to join my rebellion and I should look convincing enough to lead one.
But who is this mysterious guest?
Haliea came back with a bunch of people. A lady was beside the oracle with both her arms positioned behind her back like a general. She had light brown hair and fair ivory skin. I haven’t seen such pale skin before, she looked like she had no blood in her. The men behind them looked like gangsters who were ready to start a fight.
She was looking at the ground and not at us. When she finally looked up at me, our eyes met and she stopped in her tracks, completely caught off guard. She had beautiful emerald eyes that shone with both fear and excitement.
She looked away hastily, and turned back to me again. This time, with a look of determination and focus.
She is ready.
They reached us. And I waited for an introduction.
“My name is Pennilizia Vonbron, I come from the Second Region,” she paused, somehow hesitating. She had a rough voice that seemed to be caused by long-term shouting and ordering.
“It is an honor to meet you,” she finally finished.
Shiki’s grip on my waist tightened and I knew the reason why.
Vonbron is among the High Houses of the Soveriegn anarchy.
“I’m Seraphina Monard. Nice to meet you, how may I help you?” I asked softly, my voice in huge contrast to hers.
“She’s not an enemy, but be careful,” I heard Agatha whisper.
“I was told that you are the bearer of the Eshban mark?” she asked carefully, her eyes shining in anticipation. I believe she already knew the answer to that.
“Indeed,” I replied shortly, my eyes boring into hers. I did not like small talk, I wanted her to go straight to the point.
“I am here to challenge you to a duel.”
“She’s also an awakened wielder,” Kakosh told me.
For some reason, I wasn’t surprised.
The girl before me started unbuttoning her shirt. She turned her back to us, and allowed her top to drop slightly. The mark on her back was around the same size as mine. But unlike mine that looked like a scorched mark, hers had a metallic gleam. She pulled her top back and turned to face us again.
“The mark of the Trahaearn, wielder of metal,”
“The mark of the Trahaearn, a wielder of metal,” I repeated Agatha’s words out loud. Pennilizia nodded with a confident smile.
She wanted me to know that she was worthy enough to fight me.
“I want to see if you’re worthy of leading the rebellion. Because I myself, have a certain vengeance towards the Sovereign, and I seek sweet revenge. I wanted to lead my own rebellion, but I heard rumors of you. Thus here I am,” she said as she buttoned up her shirt.
“If I lose, I will join you. If I win, then…”
“Tell me what you want me to do only after I lose, my dear,” I said before she could finish her sentence. Her eyes widened in both surprise, and fear.
I could feel my eyes pulse in a ripple of power.
You’re not the only one confident in your powers, girl.
“I am sure most of you know the reason why I’m here,” I continued, eyeing each of the party slowly, from left to right.
“I am here to invite Gairon into my alliance for the oncoming rebellion. I accept Pennilizia’s challenge, and I would really love to have your answer ready after we’re done. Will that be possible?” I turned to Cradley.
“We’ll have the answer ready after your duel,” Brentwood replied for the chief. He had a smoky, lazy tone to his voice. “Meanwhile, shouldn’t your partner introduce himself as well?” Brentwood asked with a lazy grin. He seemed to be the person in charge, though he doesn’t look convincing at the slightest.
Shiki rolled his eyes.
If he thought Shiki was just a normal person, man, was he wrong.
“Zoltar Xantara, call me Shiki.”
The general’s eyes widened as Pennilizia struggled to remember where she had heard of Shiki’s family name. Cradley just stood there innocently.
“Xantara,” Brentwood repeated, adjusting his posture immediately. Guess he realized his mistake. “Do pardon my manners, your highness.”
Shiki ignored him entirely.
“Your spirit weapon told you about Seraphina, yes?” Shiki directed a question towards Pennilizia. She nodded quietly.
“No one would come here all this way from the Second Region to Gairon just because of a mere rumor. A spirit weapon’s instinct would’ve been the only explanation,” Shiki looked to Haliea and she nodded in confirmation.
“Oh she has a spirit weapon,” Agatha actually sounded curious.
“I’m looking forward to the duel already,” Kakosh said impatiently.
I chuckle softly and my eyes met Pennilizia’s.
She was afraid, definitely.
“So shall we?” I asked softly.