Chapter 4 - Recovery
I was shocked to the core.
The entire village was burned down, except one lone house. I could bet my soul that it was her home.
The level of destruction far exceeded the levels of an average Sovereign mage.
Land had ran to me in panic, and had rushed me here as fast as he could.
The ground was black, tempered by merciless flames, and blackened bodies crumpled to ashes as the wind blew. The smell of burned flesh made me sick, but I knew I had to find the Eshban girl.
“She did this?” I asked Land, and he nodded. “So the legends were true?” I continued.
“A living Eshban, in this generation,” Land shook his head in disbelief. “Things are going to take a much unexpected turn for the Sovereign. Who would’ve believed that one of fire has emerged again. And her control over the flames,” Land paused, searching for the correct word.
“Was completely perfect,” he sounded unconvinced, it wasn’t hard to understand why.
To completely wield one’s power, one would have to go through a lot of training and battles, to experience countless battles before one could perfect their control.
This girl, who have just awakened her powers could use her deadly flames with ease.
“The officers that executed her parents were of lower ranks, their powers are pathetic compared to the girl, didn’t stand a chance against this one hell of an inferno,” he shook his head in pity.
I found her among burnt firewood, Land told me the Sovereign brats burnt her parents on crosses, if I were here, things would have been different, and I instantly regret my decision of leaving her alone.
She still had them in between her arms, though they were now burned beyond recognition. It struck me that the girl may have reached her parents in time but could not find a way to save them.
Fire may not harm her, but her privilege certainly did not extend to her parents.
“The nearest river is 15 minutes away, even if I had carried her, her parents would still be dead,” Land said softly.
I clambered towards her, covering myself in soot. She was definitely alive and breathing, but she did not move. I know words are not going to sooth her pain.
I unraveled her arms that were around her parents’ bodies. They crumpled to ash almost immediately. A sob escaped her.
I took the girl into my arms and climbed onto Land.
“River,” I said shortly.
She was shivering, my guess was that she cried until she fainted, and only woke up not long ago. She was fazed and covered in ash from head to toe. I hugged her close, trying to stop her shivering. She had her eyes tightly closed and fists balled up, she curled up in my embrace, like a porcupine.
We reached the river in around 8 minute’s time, and I carried her into a desolated wooden shed.
“We need some new clothes for her,” I scratched my head.
“I’ll go get some, give her a good bath,” Land growled.
Her eyes were still closed.
“I’m sorry for what you had to go through, I shouldn’t have left,” I said softly to her.
She shook her head slowly, but she did not utter a word. I walked to my favorite spot by the river that was surrounded by trees and brush, giving her enough privacy to clean herself.
“Land went to get some new clothes for you, I’ll leave you here for a while and I’ll come back later alright?” my voice softened as I walked into the river. The soot on my trousers spread into the clear water. For such a young girl to have went through so much, life is unfair.
“Could you accompany me?” her voice sounded different from yesterday. Much deeper, huskier.
“You’re going to shower, are you sure you want me to stay?” I chuckled, though my face was red and I know it. I’m just glad her eyes were closed.
“Do you mind?” she replied, her voice faltering. She finally opened her eyes and I nearly gasped in shock.
I remembered her eyes to be as black as night, now her irises were scarlet in color. The color of yesterday’s flames have been eternally etched into her soul, and it stood out even more with all the black soot on her face.
“What’s wrong?” she noticed my impolite stare.
“I’m sorry, your eyes… they’re crimson,” I said, turning away embarrassed. “Oh…” she replied simply as I lowered her into the water. It should be just the right water level for her. The water seeped into her clothing and the soot started to fade away. The edges of her messy hair uncurled slowly in the water and I could see its original color, a beautiful wine red.
“Uh, I guess I’ll just wait behind that rock with my back against you so you can shower in peace?” I suggested awkwardly. She nodded and I trudged to the large rock.
Her presence had changed. Her old presence was pitiful. She was broken, fearful and unsure. Now all I sense was calmness, and an underlying layer of power.
Unknown power waiting to be unleashed.
I heard small water splashes, she should be washing her soot-covered face. The image of her eyes still lingered in my mind, they were beautiful, yet they was something so melancholic of them. It’s not surprising, that girl has been through some really tragic events.
I leaned back against the rock and heaved a deep breath, the stone cold surface was welcoming. I listened to the whisper of the trees, the winds rustled the leaves softly, forming a peaceful symphony. The river’s sound seemed to have a steady beat to its flow. My mind wandered, the moment I met this girl, something in me seemed to have changed.
Women that I had met would do literally, anything to get married into the Sovereign. For that, they would go to great lengths, discarding their morals into trash cans, seducing and lying their way to get what they want. It was the main reason why I had never found myself a woman. No matter how beautiful and enticing they were, and no matter how they threw themselves onto my lap, all I felt was utter disgust. This girl was different, she was broken beyond repair, yet she holds on to that one thin line of sanity. She was unlike any of the women I have met through all these years of adventure. She was pure, innocent even, but power changes a person, let’s see if it will change her.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how much she had went through. That mark on her chest was a legend throughout the generations. Whoever had it would have enormous power, power to lead a new generation and power to change. And I was sure the Sovereign will be after her very soon.
I couldn’t picture her being someone deadly and powerful, she seemed just like a normal girl.
My thoughts were interrupted as the bushes parted and Land’s large head poked through them. He had some clothes in between his mouth.
“I simply got a handful, or mouthful,” his voice was muffled by the clothing.
He walked to me and spat them onto my lap.
“Ew come on man,” I exclaimed in disgust.
I picked a normal-looking dress that had no saliva on it and flung it on top of Land’s head so he could bring it to her.
“Come on dude, what about undergarment?” Land burst out laughing. “You really know nothing about women don’t you?” he chuckled.
I grimaced, and fished a cute underwear out of the pile of clothes. Land huffed, and proceeded to walk towards the girl.
“Thank you,” she said softly. I think she patted Land, he sounded happy.
A few moments later, she sat down beside me.
She was calm and collected, I was not stupid enough to know that under that calm exterior laid a raging inferno.
“We’ll need to head out as soon as we can,” Land said, eyeing the both of us.
She seemed surprise.
“After what you did, the higher ranked officers will be coming to sightsee, we need to go,” Land continued.
“Where to?” she asked.
“We need to take you to someone that can help you with that power of yours,” Land cocked his head to a side.
“The only person I can think is the witch in the mountains,” I thought out loud.
“That’s definitely not a problem, though to get there faster, I can’t carry the both of you,” Land shrugged.
Without a warning, the bushes rustled again and I jumped in surprise.
“This is a friend, he’s a hellhound like me. I asked him for a favor to carry our fire girl,” Land droned on.
The hellhound that emerged was surprisingly the same size as Land, not much hellhounds were as large as his size. And normally that signified that amount of power they were capable of.
“Shiki,” the new hound introduced himself.
He is soft-spoken, contrasting with his deep voice. He had fur black as night, and amber gold eyes to match, his movements were graceful, every single step taken with caution, almost like a panther. His ears were sharper than Land’s, who had round edged ears.
I don’t think this hound is a mid-ranked hound like Land, the air of superiority radiating off him was of a higher ranked hound, he may even be one of Land’s clan leaders. His presence was deadly yet calm, of an experienced warrior.
Seraphina seemed to like the new hound. She approached him cautiously, and he had eyed her in curiosity. She extended her hand slowly, and rubbed his ears and patted his head. Land’s chuckle sounded like rocks dropping into a deep abyss.
“Not used to being treated this way huh Shiki,” he teased. Sera retracted her hand, afraid she did something wrong.
“It’s alright, ignore him,” Shiki’s words were to Sera, and he rolled his eyes in annoyance. “Though I really am not used to being treated like that.”
“Shall we go find this witch you mentioned then?” Seraphina turned to me. The wind was tossing her now-dry locks everywhere.
“Of course, I hope you don’t have motion-sickness because it’s going to be a rough ride,” I sighed.
Things are going to be very different from now on.
The emptiness in my heart seemed to yawn wider as time passed. Though I force it shut whenever I can. Terron and Land are bringing me to a witch, they said she could help me with my powers. Though I’m not really sure, the only witch I knew was back in Suyoi, and she wasn’t very happy with me. I shifted uneasily on Shiki’s back and he turned his head to check on me.
“I’m alright,” I said, barely a whisper so Terron and Land who was in front wouldn’t overhear.
Shiki turned back to the path in front of him and said, “You can lay down if you need rest, it’ll also put less stress on your spine.”
His voice was really deep and it sent shivers down my back. At a closer look, he seemed to be slightly larger than Land in size. His black fur was smooth and well-kept, it even shone in the sunlight.
I like him, I feel safe with him.
My mind wandered to my newly-gained powers. For some reason, I had completely no problem with controlling them, it was as if I had them before and I knew how to use them. I called forth a small flame onto my forefinger, they come by will, and they are how I picture in my mind. It feels almost too easy to control my destructive powers. I diminished the small flame and slowly lowered myself to Shiki’s back. His warmth was welcoming and I snuggled to make myself more comfortable.
“Urm… Shiki?” I called softly.
He grunted in response, signaling for me to continue.
“Do you and Land have powers too?”
His body trembled in response, then I realized he was chuckling.
“Of course we do,” he seemed amused at the question.
“Then may I know what you power is?” I continued.
“I manipulate darkness,” his answer was short.
“Oh… wow. Is it hard to control?” I really hope I wasn’t annoying him.
“Practice and experience always makes things easier,” he replied gently.
Land did not have the same grace as Shiki, Land’s voice was monotonous, near emotionless. Shiki’s deep voice was slow, seemingly very careful of choosing the right words to express himself. He had an air of calm which made me feel very at ease.
“May I call you by your name?” he suddenly asked. I looked at him surprised at the question. No one had asked me this before. Wasn’t it normal to call each other by names though?
“Sure, my name is Seraphina,” I smiled for the first time in a few days, “Why would you ask me such a question?” I giggled.
“It’s an etiquette in our culture to ask for each other’s names, it shows mutual respect!” Land yelled back from the front. Seemed like he overheard us.
“That busybody,” Shiki rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“Oh, then can I call you by your name too?” I asked, touching the hound’s shoulder. He glanced back, his amber eyes looked really beautiful under the sunlight, and he nodded solemnly.
I scratched his head and he grunted in response.
I hope he likes it.