Chapter 15 – Allies
I winced as Shiki cleaned my wounds.
He had called for the healers in Gairon to tend to me, but since they have yet to arrive, he was helping me clean my wounds first so the healers can start working on my injuries as soon as they arrive.
“You trust people too easily, Sera,” he said sternly as he washed the bloody cloth in a basin. “That is going to be your most vital weakness.”
“Isn’t it good to have another elemental wielder by our side though?”
“It is, but you don’t know her true intentions.”
“We can simply ask her about it, right?”
Shiki groaned helplessly.
Someone knocked on the door, and it swung open silently after a moment. Two healers were here, dressed in their usual nursing uniforms.
“Sorry for interrupting,” they bowed their head politely.
Shiki gave way to them so they could treat my wounds.
I watched them in wonder. They simply hovered their hands over the wounds and concentrated. I could literally feel the flesh regenerating from the cuts. They worked quickly and swiftly with expertise, from my arms, to my legs.
Shiki said I was actually injured really badly, but I didn’t feel the pain until I sat down for a rest. Throughout the declaration of Gairon’s alliance with us, I had not thought about my injuries until after Shiki dragged me into the infirmary.
“You need more training against wielders, that fight was too close for comfort.” Agatha said, sounding slightly disappointed.
What she said was true, that fight was a really close call. But as Penny have said, it wasn’t fair for me. She came to me with the intent to kill, and the most important rule for duels is that you should never kill your opponents unless it was a death match.
You could’ve killed her easily.
It’s that voice in my mind again. It’s the other me.
I was getting used to her, and Shiki said it was definitely a good thing.
“I know,” I replied her in my mind.
“You are too kind, it will be the death of you.”
Shiki leaned against the wall in front of me, he was worried. It was the first time I got injured this badly.
Another knock sounded on the door, and it opened slowly.
Penny stepped through the door. She had changed into casual clothing that was made from softer fabric. Her hair that was tied up in a bun previously had been let down into a low ponytail that rested on her left shoulder. She looked less stern now that she had taken a shower and tidied up.
Shiki eyed her dangerously but she ignored him.
“I hope I’m not interrupting,” she said, half hesitating when she saw the healers.
“It’s alright,” I smiled awkwardly.
I haven’t taken a shower, and it was a bit embarrassing for me to be seen by my opponent in just my undergarments.
“I wanted to apologize again,” she bowed her head. “I injured you quite badly.”
“You don’t need to blame yourself. It just proves that I have much more to learn,” I replied slowly. The healers were almost done with their work.
She fell silent. She seemed to expect me to lash out at her and scold her for what she did wrong. She stood there like a neglected child. I wonder what her story was.
“Since you’re here, I would like to know more about you, if you don’t mind?” I asked with a smile.
The healers healed up my last wound and they exited without a word before I could thank them.
Shiki gestured her to a chair and she went obediently. He sat down on a chair that was closer to me but he remained silent.
“What would you like to know?” she asked, looking unconvinced.
“How did you awaken your powers?” I started.
She took a deep breath.
“I am a Vonbron, and as you may have already know, I was born into the Royal High House of Earth. My parents were petrified and disappointed when the house mage deemed me to be powerless. I was born with no earthly powers. Absolutely none. My father didn’t believe in the house mage. He forced me through training that was supposed to unleash my power, but it injured me so badly that I almost died from all the harsh beating. After that, my family gave up on me. I was thrown into a corner to fend for myself. Children who had no powers meant nothing to them. As a normal human being, I was useless. I was bullied by other wielder children but I couldn’t fight and I couldn’t stand up against them because I had no powers.”
A glimmer of sympathy fleeted through Shiki’s eyes.
“Of course I tried to summon my powers of earth. But no matter how I tried, the rocks wouldn’t budge, the plants wouldn’t grow under my command. I grew up alone, I tried to be nice to everyone, in hope that they would be nice to me. But it only backfired. They bullied me more because I could never fight back. Even my siblings wouldn’t touch me. They were all lucky enough to receive their powers from heritage. They treated me like a dog, simply because I was different. And of course, my parents never loved me. All they wanted, was to have the best warriors ready for the Sovereign, anyone who had no powers had no value.”
She paused, her expression of both sadness and anger.
“A grand family dinner was held every year, and I would try my best to excuse myself. But no, it was a rule for everyone from the family to attend. And in front of so many officials, my parents would criticize me, they would scold me, and my siblings would throw their wine glasses at me. They said I was a disgrace to the family as they had never had a child without powers. Their words slowly became blurry. I was like a ticking time bomb ready to explode. And then I felt it, I felt the metal railing of the house bending to my will, no one noticed the ceiling. They were having too much fun abusing me,” Penny lifted her head, her eyes sad.
“I brought down the chandelier hanging the ceiling down, killing a few of them instantly. That wasn’t enough for me. Not at all. I burst into a killing frenzy, murdering whoever I land my eyes on. The surge of power was addictive, it was the first time I felt such power. And it made me go berserk. The metal bended to my will, they shape to whatever I wanted them to be. And at that time, all I wanted was to kill every single of them, so I did. I couldn’t fully control my powers, so some from my family managed to run away. When I came to my senses, I knew I had to escape, the Sovereign officers would definitely catch me and imprison me if they knew I was an awakened wielder. And so I ran.”
“It was pure luck that I got away. I ran into the shadows, and got to know of the merchants from the black market. There were assassins and killers of all sorts. They knew I was an awakened wielder and they were impressed. So they pledged loyalty to me. They hated the Sovereign as much as I did. I knew I wanted revenge, and that was how I started my journey. My men mean a lot to me, they helped me out through my darkest times. A dark oracle helped me summon my spirit weapon – Elidyr. And he told me to set out as soon as possible to find you,” she turned her beautiful emerald eyes to me.
“The one of the Eshban, the girl of Fire,” she said softly.
I smiled broadly, it seemed to catch her off guard.
“We are very alike,” I chuckled.
I told her my story. It was interesting to see her expression change by minute. It isn’t just story time for me. I wanted her to know that we have experienced the same thing, we have been through the same pain, and we have the same goal.
I wanted to treat her as not just a mere general, but a friend as well.
I wanted to be a leader that people would approach, not to be afraid of, or to be held at an arm’s length. I wanted my allies to trust me entirely, though it may seem quite innocent of me. But I will try my best.
After I finished, Penny looked more content and less nervous.
“So we’re after the same thing,” she said with a tiny smile.
Before I could reply, Shiki coughed, wanting to speak.
“Did you have the Trahaearn mark on your back before or after you awakened your powers?”
Oh? I never thought of that.
“I never noticed it until after my awakening. During my frenzy, I could feel immense pain on the same spot of my current mark, so I’m quite sure that it formed after I awakened my powers,” Penny replied, her eyebrows furrowing.
“So only Seraphina was born with the mark,” Shiki murmured softly under his breath. “That’s new information.”
I raised an eyebrow. I didn’t think it was useful information.
“A few years back, I went to the Sovereign for an assassination of a mid-ranked Sovereign officer. His powers were of light, and he belonged to the Royal House of Kiran. To this date, it was the hardest assassination I had ever participated in. But what I want to ask you is this,” Shiki paused, turning his amber eyes onto Penny.
“One of his bodyguards also had a Traehearn mark on his arm, is there any chance that there are awakened wielders working for the Sovereign?”
Penny didn’t look surprised.
“That person with the Traehearn mark, did you examine it closer? Or was it just a glimpse? Did it have the same metallic gleam as mine?” she asked calmly.
Shiki shook his head. “The mark looked like it was branded into the skin, it did not have a metallic gleam.”
“Ah. Then you were lucky enough to meet a so-called ‘chosen one’,” Penny grimaced in disgust.
Shiki waited for her to elaborate.
“These ‘chosen ones’ are normally the children of the higher-ranking elementalists. They are born with significant powers, and are said to be stronger than normal wielders. The Sovereign would brand parts of their bodies with the marks of the ancient high houses. It’s not much of a mystery, though they are, indeed, powerful.”
Penny paused, deep in thought.
“What happened to the Traehearn guy you met?”
Shiki raised an eyebrow.
“I killed him.”
Penny grimaced again.
“Also, you said you come from the Second Region. I thought the Vonbrons are in charge of the Third Region in the west?” Shiki pressed.
“Just so you know, the Royal High Houses travel all around the world, they’re not doomed to just one location. Yes, my heritage is the ruling party of the Third Region, but in my case, the dinner where I awakened my powers was held in the Second Region. My entire family traveled there just to attend the dinner with the minor Vonbrons over there. Thus when I escaped, I escaped into the local underground. I called it home ever since,” Penny explained patiently.
I looked at Shiki, and I saw him heave a breath.
I guess this was what he was worried about since the beginning. He thought the girl was lying about her heritage.
Shiki nodded at her, finally acknowledging our partnership.
Penny gave him an awkward smile.
It was as if she didn’t know how to smile properly.
“At first I thought the Eshban girl was on her own. But to know that she has another awakened wielder by her side… the rebellion has a higher chance of succeeding this time.”
“Even with us three, if we were to meet wielders with elements that counter ours, it will still be hard,” Shiki murmured, seemingly to himself.
Both of them turned to me.
“If you guys are wondering what I’m intending to do after this, I’ll tell you,” I sighed and crossed my arms.
“We still need to head to Ewanna and Delta. What I’m worried about would be Ewanna, since they’re closer to the Second Region, news may leak over if we were to ask them to pledge to our alliance. Delta shouldn’t be a problem. Having them is a big help since they are in charge of the ships at the southern side of the Fourth Region. We can head over to the Third Region with their help.”
“After that? Provided that they accepted your offer?” Penny asked.
“A part of me thinks that it’s important for us to find awakened wielders… But I have no idea where, and they may not be interested even if we were to find them.”
“That, you don’t need to worry about.”
Penny and I jumped at the sudden interruption.
Haliea stood at the doorway, her arms crossed in front of her chest.
“Your path is lit, Seraphina. Move on with your current plans first, then with Pennilizia by your side, head to the Second Region. Your next calling is there,” she said softly, her grey eyes shone with determination.
I nodded and slowly stood up from the bed.
“I’ll head for a shower now, go get some rest, we’ll talk again soon.”
Penny nodded and bade goodbye.
Haliea turned her eyes to Shiki after Penny left.
“Penny means well, you don’t need to doubt her, though I don’t blame you for thinking that way,” she said to Shiki. “The Fourth Region is safe for your endeavors, Seraphina. But be careful after you venture out of here. The culture and thinking in the other regions are different from ours.”
With that, Haliea left, closing the door behind her.
I took a deep breath in.
I have a lot to think about, don’t I?
Shiki pulled me into his embrace. He hugged me tightly, but he uttered nothing. I turned around and kissed his chin. I knew he was worried about me, I’ll talk to him later too, work things out a little.
“I know what you’re thinking, go shower, sleep, we’ll talk tomorrow morning,” he said softly, nuzzling my neck.
I nodded and went for the shower obediently.
As I let the hot water cascade over me, I allowed my body to relax. I could feel the exhaustion in my bones, I was terribly in need of a fitful rest. But I knew this was far from over, and I wouldn’t be able to get much rest from this time onwards.
I had a rebellion to lead.
When I was done, Shiki was already fast asleep on the chair.
I couldn’t help but smile. He probably wanted to wait for me, but he was too tired and he fell asleep.
I fished a broad white shirt out of our bag and started putting it on. I only realized it wasn’t mine after I buttoned it up halfway. The shirt was too large for me.
It belonged to Shiki.
I finished buttoning up quickly. The shirt was so large that it drooped down to just above my knees. The sleeves were too long and they went far past my hands. I rolled them up a bit and threaded lightly over to my man.
Even in his sleep, he maintained his grace and elegance. His posture perfect except for the slight parting of his lips.
Carefully, I sat into his embrace. His eyes fluttered open but I didn’t give him any time to respond. I placed my lips onto his forcefully, tugging his head back and planting my hands into his dark curly hair.
I let go of the last thin line of control I had, and allowed myself to drown in his presence. I wished it could stay like this forever, just Shiki and I, nothing else.
If only time would stop and freeze us in a frame like this.
I felt his muscular arms circling my waist as he drew himself away from my kiss. His amber eyes met mine, burning with such intensity that I could melt.
“Still so energetic, Seraphina?” he whispered in my ear, sending a shiver down my spine. He picked me up and placed me onto the large bed gently. His eyes widened when he saw that I had nothing but his shirt on.
“Are you teasing me?” he asked softly, hovering above me. His voice was deep and alluring. Almost seductive.
I didn’t know what to reply, so I just gave him a mischievous smile.
He came closer, his handsome face inches away from mine.
“You’re not sleeping tonight, baby.”
Shiki woke me up gently, lining my neck with wet kisses.
“Good morning, time to wake up sleepy head,” he said softly as I yawned.
I snuggled into his warm embrace, wanting to sleep a while longer. My body ached deliciously from yesterday night, I could barely have enough of him.
Someone banged on our door and I groaned.
Shiki got up and opened it, wondering who was up so early in the morning.
Haliea burst through the door wildly. She had dark circles underneath her eyes, it looks like she didn’t sleep well yesterday night. She grabbed Shiki’s arm so tightly that I could see her fingernails turn white.
“There will be Sovereign officers coming in approximately 1 hour and 36 minutes. The group consists of one high-ranked, water wielder. He can probably sense the presence of the three of you. All of you need to leave as soon as possible.”
I jumped out of bed immediately, but Shiki wasn’t fazed by her panic.
“Calm down. You have the same powers as Helia’s don’t you? Can you hide our presence?” Shiki asked slowly, patting the oracle on her back.
Haliea shook her head. “You can conceal your own presence I believe, so I don’t need to worry about you. I can hide Pennilizia’s presence, I can still contain her presence at her current power level. But I can’t hide Seraphina’s.”
Both of them looked at me.
Shiki ran a hand through his dark hair and started pacing the room, his mind churning out plans and strategies.
Helia is out of the question, she would take at least 6 hours to get here without a hellhound’s help.
“Even if you two were to leave now, the Sovereign officer can still sense your presence within a certain radius. I have spent the night delaying Seraphina’s presence, that’s why I came to a conclusion that I can’t hide her presence entirely. It is too strong,” Haliea explained.
“Would it work if you duplicated her contractual ring?” Shiki asked.
“No, if you take that off right now her presence is going to get in the wind,” Haliea barked, frustrated.
“I have an idea, but it’s slightly dangerous,” Shiki seemed to hesitate. His amber eyes met mine and it was glimmering with uncertainty.
“Spill it!” Haliea almost shouted.
“I can hide her in a void of darkness. A void can seal off everything, including her presence, but it also cuts off air supply. It’s dangerous because she might suffocate if the officer is here too long. It’s the only thing I can think of right now.”
“Can you hide other people within the void as well?” Pennilizia was standing outside in her bunny pajamas, making her look out of place.
Haliea stared at her bewildered.
“I can hide any amount of people, but the problem is the air,” Shiki explained.
“I have an air wielder with me, thank me later,” she winked at me and rushed off.
Haliea slumped into a nearby chair, relieved. But she leaped up again in a matter of seconds.
“Is there anyone here that can make an-”
“Illusion?” Shiki snapped.
“I can’t make an illusion of an entire village bustling with life for fuck’s sake, who do you think I am? God?” he scolded.
I understood instantly. The officer may notice Suyoi’s burnt remains since Gairon is just next to Suyoi. And plus, I killed a number of the officers back then, their higher ranks probably already got the news that somehow, a few of their officers had never came back from Suyoi.
Alright, we’re in a very serious dilemma.
“Just tell them we don’t know anything about what happened to Suyoi, we just woke up one day to see their entire village burnt down, simple as that. It has been almost a month or more since the incident, any traces of Seraphina’s powers should have already faded away,” Shiki told Haliea calmly.
The oracle grimaced. She knew there was no other choice.
Penny returned with a heavily-built man by her side.
“This is Ferro, he’s one of my best men. He’s an air wielder, he should be able to solve your problem.”
“What do you need me to do?” the man asked Shiki. His soft voice didn’t match his appearance at all.
“You guys have approximately an hour left,” Haliea announced.
“Do you have any empty rooms away from where the officer is going to be?” Shiki asked quickly. Haliea nodded and proceeded to drag me out of the room.
The place she suggested was a run-down storage hut. It was the village’s old storage hut, but they have moved to a newly built one. It was very far from the city center, where the officers will arrive in. I should be safe here.
“Alright, as an air wielder, you can manipulate air, yes?” Shiki directed his question to Ferro.
The man nodded confidently.
“Great. Penny, make sure all your men are kept out of sight from the officers, understood?”
Penny gave him a thumbs up.
Now it was Penny’s turn to get dragged away by Haliea. She wanted to make sure that no mistakes or loopholes will be in our plan.
Without warning, Shiki pulled me into his embrace and gave me a tight squeeze.
“Stay here until I come back, okay? Ferro will help you breath,” Shiki said softly, his eyes gentle.
“You’re not staying in here with me?”
“No, I need be out there so I can know of their plans.”
I fell silent, understanding where he came from.
Shiki could read minds, he could get a lot of vital information from their visit.
He let go of me unwillingly and stood by the doorway.
Stretching out his hand, he inhaled.
Gradually, darkness surrounded us in a shape of a sphere. The void blocked out any sources of light. The only remaining light came from the entrance.
Ferro seemed to be astounded.
“Be careful,” I said softly.
He nodded and turned to Ferro.
“Please, protect her,” Shiki said, his voice almost a whisper.
“Leave it to me,” Ferro replied with the same tone.
With that, the void closed, and my whole world descended into darkness.