Chapter 16 - Void
3 minutes 46 seconds.
Haliea whispered in my mind.
I took one last look at the void of darkness I created and closed the door to the storage hut.
I had to choose to entrust Seraphina to Ferro, a complete stranger and a mere acquaintance at most, and it was tipping me off the edge of my comfort zone.
I dismissed it quickly as I warped my darkness around me. With a leap, I was in the air. As the powers of Drakath surged through me, I could feel the mark on my forehead pulsing gently.
Fate may have taken away my best friend, but it gave me another in return.
Now I had only one purpose, to find out why the Sovereign is here.
The last time they were here was back when Seraphina’s parents got caught, which should be around a month or more ago. Their next scheduled visit would be at least three months after that.
So why are they here now?
I made my way towards the city center, and I could see the people of Gairon bustling with their daily routine. They didn’t know what they were going to face in a matter of minutes.
I could see the Sovereign officers from afar, making their way towards Gairon. The carriage had the crest of the Darya, the Royal High House of Water within the Soveriegn anarchy.
I watched them as they reached Gairon. A member of their group blew on a large brass horn. It signified the arrival of one from the Sovereign.
The people of Gairon looked as surprised as I thought they would be.
Cradley and Brentwood had already positioned themselves near the entrance based on Haliea’s orders, but they acted as surprised as the rest of the people.
One by one, the people of Gairon fell to their knees, bowing their heads.
Yes, remind me more of how the Sovereign treats their people. Let me despise them more. It will definitely help when I slaughter them all.
“Gairon of the Fourth Region, I address you. Hailing from the Royal High House of Water, we bring you the blessed presence of Lord Douglas Darya,” the announcer said proudly.
Blessed presence my ass.
The announcer himself was very overweight. The buttons holding his tunic back was straining so hard that they looked like they were going to burst any minute. Surprisingly, Douglas was a thin, fairly tall man. He had platinum blonde hair that was kept short, and his eyes were of an electric blue.
I went through his mind as quickly as I can.
As expected, this man was of a fairly high-ranking just as Haliea had said. He is the second ranked of Darya, which means he’s either an advisor or vice-leader of the house. His powers of Water are of normal manipulation. Like Penny, he can’t create his element, he could only manipulate them. The calmness in his eyes had an underlying layer of an emotion I could not place.
For some reason, he reminds me of serial killers.
“He’s a killer, Zoltar. You’re not wrong,” Darkrai surfaced.
I saw blurry visions of manslaughter and rape, but I did not want to go too deep into his mind as he may notice my presence. As expected from one of the Sovereign, they are never far from murder and disgraceful acts like these.
I watched him silently as he stretched out a bony hand to Cradley. Brentwood bowed respectfully as the Darya general turned his eyes onto him.
“The Sovereign had heard news of the disaster that struck Suyoi, we were wondering if you knew what happened, Chief and General of Gairon?” Douglas’s voice was monotonous.
“Unfortunately we do not know anything about what happened. Our people woke up in the morning to find Suyoi entirely gone. I am sorry I could not answer your question, my lord. We are truly shocked about our neighbor’s demise,” Cradley answered as sympathetically as he could.
I wonder if Haliea was telling him what to say in his mind, but I didn’t want to waste my energy going into his brain.
The Darya’s expression remains unwavering.
“A few of our officers have not returned, thus I am sent here to find out what happened to Suyoi, and the whereabouts of our officers. They were sent to Suyoi by the calling of their oracle. They were supposed to hold an execution of a special child, do you happen to know if the execution went on as planned?”
“Yes, a few officers of the Sovereign came here to rest before they went on their way to Suyoi. A few of our wine merchants had escorted them there, please allow me to summon them to answer your questions,” Cradley bowed, only lifting his head after the permission was given.
Three merchants got up from their knees and came to Cradley’s side. Again, they dropped to their knees in front of the Sovereign general.
“You may speak,” Douglas said coldly.
“We saw the officers go into the cursed family’s hut, we did not see the execution with our own eyes, please forgive us,” one of the man said shakily.
Douglas slapped him hard across the face, sending him to the ground.
“If I find that you’re lying, I will have your whole family die a wonderful death,” he said in warning, his tone and expression never changing.
“We swear in the name of Gairon that not a word is a lie,” the second man said, not budging to help his friend.
The Daryan’s eyes narrowed.
Without warning, the third man started choking, and Cradley stared at him in horror. The man was choking on his own saliva, making disturbing gargling noises.
It wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered a water wielder, and I knew their ways.
Douglas was suffocating him slowly as the water blocks his airway.
The second man was shaking in fear, but he uttered nothing.
“You have 10 seconds to tell me the truth or your friend here will die,” Douglas said to the shivering man.
“It is the truth, I am not lying, we do not know anything else” he replied shakily.
The Sovereign general didn’t drop his victim.
“Please, we do not know anything else,” he pleaded.
The third man was on the verge of death, his eyes rolling to the back of his head. To my surprise, the Daryan let him go.
As he fell to the ground, no one could move to save him or bring him to the infirmary. They knew if they moved, it would mean instant death.
The poor guy was probably still going to die at this point.
“Where is your oracle?”
“Our oracle went on a visit to her sister’s, she’s not in today unfortunately,” Cradley said, his voice shaking. “We were not expecting your blessed visit, my lord, and I would like to apologize for her.”
Haliea left? I strongly doubt so.
Douglas strolled into the village without a word. Cradley and Brentwood trailed after him, making sure they kept their heads low.
As the Sovereign group passed, the other two men quickly grabbed their friend and rushed to the infirmary.
“That man’s gone,” Darkrai announced.
The Sovereign values nothing but power, and those who stands powerless against them, they slaughter without remorse.
Cradley regained his composure, introducing all of Gairon’s specialties to the Daryan general.
The commoners were already quite accustomed to death. How can they not be? Sovereign officers kill whenever they want to, and whenever they feel like it. No one could do anything about it. Anyone who stands up against the Sovereign would be brought down instantly.
It was pure luck that they do not know who the cursed girl was. Suyoi was a very traditional village that had already lost hope in the rebellion. They were one of the more barbaric villages that do not value culture, thus their lack of knowledge on Seraphina’s Eshban legend. They work endlessly to please their lords, dedicating their whole lives to the Sovereign.
I knew the Sovereign group would be staying for at least two to three hours since a grand meal was to be expected. But I was more worried about Seraphina.
I looked at the old storage hut in the distance.
As one of water, he shouldn’t be able to detect my void. If he had a light wielder in his team, we might be in trouble.
I hope Seraphina’s alright.
Please be alright.
I was starting to lose track of time.
I had the illusion that I was blind, because even though my eyes were open, I literally couldn’t see anything at all in the void.
I wanted to play with my fire, but I remembered that fire only burns with oxygen. I didn’t want to make Ferro use more of his powers to keep the air going.
Ferro sat beside me to keep me company. He made sure to keep a little distance so I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable.
“Do you think they’re alright?” I asked, breaking the silence.
“I think it shouldn’t be a problem, the plan Pennilizia told me seemed to be convincing enough,” he replied casually.
“So, what do your powers do?”
“I manipulate air, I think that’s quite obvious isn’t it?” he chuckled.
“You don’t create them?” I asked, surprised. He has kept the ventilation in the void going on for some time.
“No I don’t. Actually, most wielders don’t create elements. You are an Eshban, that probably makes you an exception.”
I turned to look at him, only to realize my mistake.
I wasn’t going to see anything until I get out of here.
“We don’t just inhale the air without exhaling. It’s called carbon dioxide, I can change them into oxygen again to keep you breathing,” he explained, answering my next question before it came out of my mouth.
“So you can breathe underwater?”
“Can you fly?”
I paused, letting the silence take over again.
I went over the ways I would use my powers if they were of air.
“Unlike you, my powers are meant to protect. I can create barriers, I can help out in situations like this, but my powers can’t kill. It hurts me to harm anyone,” Ferro murmured.
“You must have a kind heart,” I said softly, smiling in the darkness.
I can feel the air move to the shaking of his head.
“It’s not necessarily a good thing,” he said softly.
My thoughts wandered to Shiki.
I felt lost without his presence beside me. He has been by my side since I left Suyoi in ashes, and being without him makes me uneasy.
I fiddled the egg-shaped pendant on my necklace as I tried to come up with another topic.
“If you are of Air, does that mean you come from one of the Royal High Houses too?” I started.
“No I’m not from the high houses, but I am born with air heritage. There are other minor elemental houses in the Sovereign. The minor houses are not as tied down to the Sovereign’s anarchy and they have the freedom to do what they want without too much restriction. They are also the ones who run underground black markets. Minor houses are normally not as powerful as the high houses, but if they come up with a powerful wielder, they would normally surrender them to the high houses so the warriors could get better training and recognition,” Ferro answered patiently.
“I see, I’m sorry if I’m asking too much. I need to know more about the Sovereign, and you come from them,” I said apologetically.
“It’s alright, I understand where you come from, but I do have one request,”
“If anything were to happen to me in the process of the rebellion, please take care of Pennilizia for me. She may look strong and powerful, but in the end, she’s still just a woman. She’ll need a shoulder to lean on once in a while, and she needs her rest. She’s always too harsh on herself, she’ll push herself over the edge…” Ferro sighed.
I couldn’t help smiling at what he said.
“Do you happen to be in love with her?” I asked carefully.
“All of us treat her more like a sister and a very good friend. Love? I wouldn’t dream of loving anyone in this tragic era of the Sovereign,” he answered sadly.
“Love while you can, Ferro,” I said, catching him off guard.
“Don’t be afraid to love, love openly. I don’t find a need to be shy about it. As you said, we’re living under the Sovereign’s wrath. I don’t know if my rebellion is going to succeed, and I know I may die in the process. The Sovereign had already taken my family. I am well aware that my friends and the people who put their trust in me may lose their lives in the process of the rebellion, which is why I choose to love. Love as hard as you can, because I am sure you will never regret it.”
Silence fell like a cloak between us as Ferro processed my words.
It was scary, to think that Shiki might die one day.
No, what if they took away Helia? Terron? Land? Shiki’s parents?
The deeper you love someone, the more it will hurt when they’re gone.
But I never regret giving my love to those I treasure, at least I gave them every ounce of my heart while they stayed by my side.
I was afraid of accepting Shiki’s confession. Because I was afraid of the future, afraid of what may happen. But I knew I had to treasure the present while I can, because the future remains unknown.
But I accepted him, because I was determined to make things work.
I wanted to believe that we can go through this together.
“Then grow even stronger, to protect them,” Kakosh said softly, reassuring me.
“Kill all of the Sovereign, and your loved ones will live happily ever after,” the Eshban in me hollered.
What she said actually made sense.
“I don’t mind doing that, but I’ll need to be stronger,” I replied her in my mind.
“Then be stronger.”
A glimmer of light shone through the void, catching me by surprise.
I turned to the source and was immediately blinded by light. I had been in the dark for too long, thus I was unaccustomed to the sudden brightness.
“Seraphina?” Shiki’s voice called.
His voice had never sound so comforting.
As my eyes adjusted to my surroundings, I saw the blurry outline of my man’s silhouette. The void around us faded away, retracting back into the shadows.
Shiki strode up to me in big strides. I noticed the evening sun behind him and realized we’ve been in here for almost 6 hours.
“We have to head to Delta, now.”