Chapter 6 - Knowledge
I was awakened by a small nudge on the shoulder and I opened my eyes to Shiki’s stunning amber eyes.
“Good morning,” I grumbled, rubbing my eyes.
“Good morning,” he replied gently. “You kept kicking off your blanket last night.”
“You’re really warm!” I laughed and proceeded to run my hand through his dark fur. “Thank you for tolerating me, and so sorry for the disturbance,” I said softly as he pushed my breakfast to me with his nose.
His amber eyes turned to mine, I couldn’t fathom what he was thinking.
“I can understand, no need for apologies.”
“Such energy early in the morning hmm?” Helia came out from the kitchen with a cigarette between her lips.
She had made some tea. I watched her as she placed the tray on the table behind me. She then went back to the kitchen and heaved a large porcelain bowl out, went back in again and proceeded to haul half of a dead animal’s carcass into it.
“Deer, hope you like it,” she wiped the sweat off her brow.
Shiki looked impressed and Helia grinned at him.
He turned to look at me, seemingly waiting.
“Eat, girl, you’ll need it later,” Helia noticed and threw a toothy smile my way.
I went through my breakfast quickly, I didn’t savor much of the taste as I was distracted, wondering what was going to happen later.
I did notice that Helia was actually quite respectful towards Shiki for some reason, I wonder why. She felt like the type of person that is hard to gain respect from. Come to think about it, I never asked Shiki about his background before and he never talked about it.
Helia led me into another room that smelt like incense. It was spacious but it had no windows or openings except the entrance. The room had a large tapestry hanging on the wall with different tribal patterns curled on it, each labeled under different elements.
Fire, Water, Earth and Air were the four main elements, their emblems were the largest on the tapestry. Ice, Stone, Lightning and Metal were the secondary elements and they were drawn slightly smaller compared. Darkness and Light were the final elements that lined the top and the bottom of the tapestry. They were all brought together by an inverted pyramid.
I looked closer at the emblem of fire, it was the mark of the Eshban.
“In history, the only clan that possessed the power of fire was wiped off the population when the Sovereign took control. That was because the most powerful mages of the Sovereign were of Ice, and Fire was their biggest weakness,” Helia sat down on the carpet, crossing her legs and starting her story.
“The people of fire – the Eshban tribe was considered the most powerful among all the other elements. That was until one of their high leaders betrayed them and sided with the Sovereign, causing their downfall. The leader of the clan, who was the last of the Eshban to be killed, had sworn an ancient oath that one of fire will one day bring down the Sovereign. Of course, the Sovereign dreaded this oath, and thus they set a law to annihilate any single person that bore the mark of the Eshban,” she looked at me with a glint of sympathy in his eyes.
I found it revolting.
“How am I of the Eshban when my parents are non-related?” I asked, trying to keep the annoyance out of my voice.
I did not want anyone’s sympathy or pity. But at least now I know that I really am of the Eshban, the ancient clan of fire. It wasn’t just a mere legend after all.
I bore the most powerful element among all the others.
“Powers only come to those who are powerful enough to wield them, bloodlines mean nothing in the face of true power. Shiki is very similar to you, but he is of darkness, of the Drakath.”
I looked at Shiki and he met my gaze.
“He has mastered almost half of his powers even before he met me, which was something almost impossible without help from oracles like me. However I’m not so sure about-” Shiki interrupted Helia before she could finish her sentence.
“First things first, Helia. Seraphina has much more control over her powers. When I was her level I was nowhere near that sort of control,” Shiki growled menacingly, not very happy with the witch’s assumption.
By the looks of it, Land must’ve told him about my story and what happened back in the village. Or maybe he already read everything in my mind.
Helia seemed taken aback at Shiki’s statement.
“I’m surprised to hear that coming from you,” she said, raising an eyebrow.
Before she could continue, I decided to voice out my worries.
“Wait, I want to make it clear that I’ve never said anything about leading a rebellion,” I doubted myself again after the sentence came out of my mouth.
I knew there was a desire deep in my heart that wanted revenge and death for the people who killed my parents.
Helia raised an eyebrow and shrugged. “The Eshban in you doesn’t seem to agree. And plus, would you let those who killed your parents get away with it? You grew up in a small village and had not seen much of the world. But once you see how it is like in the major cities, you will see just how much pain and suffering the Sovereign had inflicted on all of us.”
“To be honest, what the Sovereign does to other people has nothing to do with me,” I hissed under my breath.
“Nothing? You will be hunted all your life for that mark on your chest, how are you supposed to live a normal life that way? Your parents sacrificed themselves for you, not only for your well-being, but for the well-being of us all, and you’re going to let them die in vain?” Helia’s eyes shone coldly.
I was on the edge of releasing my flames on her.
“Seraphina,” Shiki came to my side, seeing the anger bubbling in me. I held a hand up, stopping him before he could say another word.
“If you think making me angry is going to get you anywhere, it’s not. And if you are to be my mentor, that is probably the first thing you’ll need to know,” I turned my crimson eyes from Shiki, to Helia.
I could almost feel the heat pulsating from my irises.
“I don’t mind burning you to death, I don’t mind at all.”
It was that voice again, the one I didn’t recognize as myself.
Helia muttered a simple apology, but it was enough to douse out my flames.
Shiki sighed, pulling me towards him with his tail.
“Look, the people out there need you. They are living lives similar to yours, and they have experienced the worst of the Sovereign’s crimes. Children who starve, whereas the high officers feast lavishly. People who work their entire lives for the Sovereign just to protect the little that they have, people like your parents Sera. They need your help, and we need your help too,” he said softly, wanting to calm me down.
“Are there others like me?” I asked. The heat in my eyes didn’t seem to fade.
“Yes, there are others who awaken their powers through torment and suffering like you. I am one of them, my family bloodline is of the power of earth, like Land and Terron, but my awakened powers were of darkness. Your father’s bloodline was of super strength, but yet you awakened fire, the element that has been gone for almost a century. There are others out there too, but none of them wields fire like you, Seraphina,” his amber eyes bore into mine, not faltering at the least.
So Shiki’s powers were also awakened. He wasn’t born with it, which kind of surprised me since he seemed very accustomed to it. I could only imagine what he had been through to have his powers awakened.
“Also, there are other powers out there that are not within the elements. They are called sub-powers, such as hypnotism, mind-reading and control, super strength, healing, teleportation and others. Sub-powers have no place in the ranks of the Sovereign, their warriors are mainly elemental wielders. What’s special about these sub-powers is that even if you do not come from their heritage, some of the sub-powers are possible to learn, though they may consume quite an amount of time.” Helia moved on, changing the topic.
Shiki settled down next to me, his bushy tail tickling my legs. He was trying to calm me, but I wasn’t sure if it would work right now. The room seemed hotter than a moment ago, even Shiki’s warmth seemed cooler than the room temperature.
“So what we are going to do now is to train you,” Helia looked at me and folded her arms. “To prepare for the battles ahead of you, and to let you harness your powers in a more stable way.”
I am already very much stable.
“Let me,” Shiki’s deep voice still sent shivers down my spine. “I don’t think she’ll hold back on you, and I really hope you remember that her powers are meant to destroy, her flames have no mercy, especially against the likes of you,” he said, his words cut like a blade.
Helia only shrugged and gestured me to follow him, so I did.
We went pass the living room and he stopped at the doorway and sighed. “Helia!” he roared.
Apparently he was too big to fit through the doorway. We could hear Helia’s shrieks of laughter from her room.
After a moment, the doorway arched into an opening large enough for Shiki and he grimaced.
“This form really gets to me sometimes,” he growled.
“You have other forms?” I asked, temporarily distracted from my fury.
“The leaders of our clan have certain relics that allows them to transform into their human form, I prefer this form because I originally found the human form weak. I only realized I cannot fully utilize my powers in this form a few months ago, there are things only a hellhound can do and there are things only a human can do,” he stared at me for a little too long, his honey gold eyes shining under the sun.
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s nothing,” he shook his head, “This is our training ground,” he turned back onto his track, leaving me wondering how he would look like in human form.
The clearing was surrounded by small orbs of white marble, each of the size of a child’s ball. The orbs were lined neatly next to each other, forming a large circle.
Shiki stepped into the circle without hesitation and an orb darkened immediately, dark mist swirled on the orb’s surface like flowing water. I followed cautiously, stepping within the circle. An orb in front of Shiki started to glow as if it had been heated, glowing with a color like embers in a fire.
He eyed it in wonder and lifted a paw on top of my orb, he retracted his paw quickly probably due to the heat.
“This, is a duel ring. The orbs you see are capable of sealing away your presence from the outer world. It acts as an invisible barrier, so you don’t need to hold back your powers here,” he explained.
I didn’t understand why it was necessary though.
“It is because your fiery presence is special. It isn’t very powerful now, but it is significant enough for highly skilled oracles and witches to find you. And we wouldn’t want the Sovereign to get to know of your existence,”
His amber eyes shone darkly. “At least not now.”
“Alright, what you need to do now, is to set a ring of fire according to the circle of the orbs,” he said, describing what he wanted me to do. I relaxed and heaved a sigh, and slowly summoned my flames.
Flames sprung to life from the two sides of my original orb of fire, one by one my flames lit up, forming a circle. I held them there solemnly, waiting for Shiki’s instructions.
“Your power comes from imagery, in other words, your powers are fueled by images in your mind,” Shiki said as he edged himself away from my flames so his tail wouldn’t be caught on fire.
“It is one of the most powerful forms of control, the only down side to it is that it is meant only to destroy. When we fight, we think of eliminating the enemy, not much wielders think of only hurting their enemies,” he explained.
“I can simply picture for my flames to only hurt them right?” I asked, slightly confused.
“Yes you can, but you are a fire wielder. Your powers are used to inflict heavy permanent damage. Fire burns are one of, if not, the hardest wounds to heal, even with the help of a healer. In simpler words,” Shiki paused.
“Your powers are fully meant for killing.”
He didn’t give me a chance to react to his statement.
“Now, fight me.”
In an instance, he disappeared. I bent my knees and turned my attention to my surroundings. My flames were as alert as I was, and I monitored every single sway in their flames. I spotted movement coming from my right, so I jumped away to my left.
It was the first time I had seen Shiki use his dark powers in battle.
In a blink of an eye, he landed on my original spot, and the mark of Drakath on his forehead was glowing. He was manipulating shadows, even the shadows from my flames were bending towards him.
“It’s currently afternoon, so my powers are at one of their lowest points,” he said lowly, his amber eyes met mine again. “You saw me, that was impressive, but what if you didn’t have that circle of flames?” he asked.
I did what I was told obediently.
“Try again, see if you can spot me,” he said before disappearing again.
Darkness, he warps darkness. How can he disappear like that in broad daylight?
Shiki appeared behind me and struck out using his tail, I jumped away just in time before he could swipe me off my feet. He repeated, again and again he disappeared, and again and again I had to predict where he would attack from. He never used his paws when he attacked, probably because he didn’t want to kill me. Those paws could wipe my head off my body in one swipe.
We did this for what seemed like eternity, until I could completely match his momentum and completely predict where he was coming from. I judged from the slight change in the wind, if something was blocking the breeze, he was coming from that way.
He gradually slowed down, noticing that I was out of breath.
I was starting to see stars in my head.
“You did great, you learn fast, you can rest now,” Shiki stopped disappearing and I collapsed on the stone floor. My orb of fire seemed to be dimmer, whereas his orb of darkness never faltered.
“This is only the beginning,” he came closer and nudged me on the shoulder, a sign of encouragement. I laid with my arms and legs outspread as evening fell. The sun was setting, bathing the world in a beautiful hue of purples and oranges.
Shiki came and sat beside me, enjoying the scenery.
“I never knew hellhounds could have human forms,” I started.
He chuckled, “Back in our family, I was always urged to use my human form, it made spying easier, allowing us to merge in with the crowd. I simply didn’t like it, as a human you’d have to wear clothing, you’d have to have table manners and deal with a lot of other things that I deemed troublesome. So I stayed in this form, it gave me the freedom to roam, to hunt and to enjoy life with my brothers. I wouldn’t have scaled this mountain in my human form either you know.”
“I wonder what you would think of my human form,” he huffed, his amber eyes shone playfully.
“Oh come on, you want to topple me with your charming looks? Forget about it,” I sat up and punched his shoulder playfully.
He grunted and toppled me with a push of his tail.
“I can’t topple you with my looks since I have none, but I can topple you any day in a fight, girl,” he grinned, showing his fangs, proud of the lame pun he just made.
I didn’t sit up again, I was too tired so I just stared at the darkening sky.
“Your powers are strongest at night?” I asked.
“Yes, I manipulate darkness, I don’t create them,” he replied.
“Can I fight you now then?” I looked up at him. He was surprised at the question.
“You still have enough strength to fight?” he asked, looking worried.
“I can go a long way with a little rest, I think,” I got on my feet slowly, the sudden movement causing even more stars to form in my head.
“Tomorrow night then, I don’t think you’re in a very good condition to fight right now,” Shiki’s tail swayed side to side.
“Its fine, let me try,” I insisted as I walked to the other end of the ring. Shiki sighed, I could still see his amber eyes from here.
“As you wish,” he muttered under his breath, and the hint of gold in the darkness faded away.
Something was at my feet, and I leapt away. It didn’t work, the shadows, like ribbons, were curling up on me no matter where I landed. Burning them away could only fend them off temporarily. “
No one has won a duel with me at night before you know,” Shiki’s voice resounded everywhere around me.
“Bah!” I spat as I wrapped myself in my flames. I was tired, yes, but physically.
My flames only needed my mind to fuel their power. I calculated the ways I could find an invisible creature in the darkness and I tried one of my ideas. I started to send out my fire in a clockwise, circular motion. Ball by ball, I sent them spreading through the darkness, willing them to burn flesh. I figured that it was somehow too slow, then I changed my strategy and started to send out series of rings of fire around me.
Surely, my flames would find him.
“Good try,” Shiki’s voice was behind me and I turned on my heel.
“Not good enough.”
Something swiped me off my feet, and it wasn’t his tail. It had a smooth, cold texture. The moment I hit the ground, the flames around me went out and I knew it was over, the shadows came for me, and one tightened around my neck. Not tight enough to kill me, but tight enough to stop enough air intake to stop my mind.
I heaved for breath, I couldn’t use my powers when I couldn’t picture them within my mind.
“I’ll stop now,” Shiki announced, appearing before me. He had more marks on him that spread to his shoulders, guess he used more of his power on me this time.
The shadow around my neck loosened and faded back into the darkness as I coughed and heaved for air.
“That method you used was good, but my darkness could just wrap itself around your fire, squeeze the oxygen out of the space and diminish it,” he explained slowly.
“If you sent them out fast enough, with rings set with more density that would have worked.” I nodded as I tried to battle the stars out of my head.
“To fight mind-based mages like you, we have to find a way to block out your mind, thus wielders with hypnotism and mind-controlling techniques are the most dangerous for you.”
“Now, time to head home,” he crouched down and waited for me to regain my stability. I climbed onto his back groggily.
“Thank you,” I managed to say. I nearly fell asleep on his back, but my stomach grumbled in protest.
“I wonder how you got to reach this level of control in such a short period of time. Land told me you only unleashed your powers once,” Shiki seemed to be mumbling to himself.
“Is it abnormal?” my voice was muffled since I was still lying face down on his back.
“Yes,” he answered shortly.
Helia’s doorway came into sight. It had already arched into the wider entrance, seemingly ready for our return.
“Land and Terron are here,” he whispered. I scrambled up and fixed my posture.
“Took you two long enough, your dinner’s getting cold,” Helia scolded as I jumped down. “You didn’t go easy on her huh,” she raised an eyebrow as Shiki passed.
“I definitely went easy on her,” he replied sarcastically.
“Woah you two look like you’ve been through a brawl,” Terron said in dismay. He was seated on the couch with a cup of coffee beside him. Land was in Shiki’s place from yesterday night.
“Move your ass, that’s my spot,” Shiki growled at him. Land flopped over and rolled around on purpose, he wasn’t intending to move, his eyes daring Shiki to take him on there and then.
“Son of a-” Shiki scolded under his breath.
“Eat your dinner and go have a shower, your hair looks like a bush,” Helia said, crinkling her nose.
I rolled my eyes as I reached for my plate. I gobbled up my portion of food and headed for the shower on the second floor. I wasn’t used to showering in cold water, so I tried something new. As I stripped off my clothes, I filled up a bucket of water, then I extended my hand into it and channeled for heat.
I wasn’t sure if it would work, but it did. The water grew warmer and I was careful not to boil it. As I ran my fingers through my tangled hair, I let my mind wander.
So much has happened in so little time, and I needed to figure myself out.
What do I want in the end? To live my legacy as the one who’s going to bring down the Sovereign? I guess I didn’t have much of a choice now since I have nothing else to lose.
The sky had always been beautiful up here in Mount Sigmora. I allowed the darkness to settle on me like a cloak and I closed my eyes to its serenity.
I somehow envied the girl for being able to master her powers so fast. No, I envied her a lot. If I had that level of control the time I awakened my powers, I would’ve been able to save my brother.
I had nothing to complain about, the Eshban tribe was far stronger than the Drakath clan back then, and Seraphina probably embodied the Eshban’s leaders’ powers since he was the one who swore the oath.
I took deep breaths in.
Calmness is key.
Helia’s living room wasn’t enough to hold two high-ranking hellhounds at a time, we were too large in size to fit, so I asked to rest outside.
The stone surface was cool, and it felt really nice against my fur. My thoughts lingered to my human form, I haven’t transformed in quite some time. I didn’t like it, I attracted too much attention, and it wasn’t worth the hassle.
Home. The clan. My parents. My parents had wanted me to pledge myself to the clan’s leadership circle, which I didn’t want to.
So much responsibility. I’m not strong enough to bear that responsibility.
Would I be able to perform better if I was in my human form?
The answer was yes, I already knew that.
I could manipulate my darkness with higher efficiency and speed in my human form. Now the girl that bore the Eshban’s powers has awakened, things are going to be very different. The Sovereign will be afraid, though how long will the news take to travel up their higher ranks, I do not know.
I have a feeling I’ll need my human form very soon.
Judging by our current progress, I think it would be best for Terron to make his intentions clear to Seraphina. Gairon had always been waiting for the rebellion, and now they had found the girl of fire. Even the smallest spark of fire could light up the entire forest, and Seraphina had done just that without even noticing it herself. She burnt down Suyoi, Gairon is just next to it, the news of a fire mage probably would have already spread throughout the Fourth Region.
The natural power she had was incredible. She was born for this, born to hold the ancient power of the Eshban. Her parents had nurtured her well, and had ensured her survival for so long.
I looked at my paws, I was like her. I had doubted myself of my powers, and I never understood why I was chosen as the wielder of Drakath.
Darkness was still quite a common element, though not many people could control it, and most of them are often consumed by it early in their childhood. I didn’t succumb to the darkness, I embraced it like an old friend and it had did me wonders. I grew more powerful, and it was just what I wanted.
But it isn’t enough just yet, I craved for more, more power to protect.
How old am I this year? If I remembered correctly, I should be 22 in human years. My powers were awakened 3 years ago, and Seraphina’s power level should be around where I was a year back. She mastered two full years of my training since the first time she used her powers. How is that possible?
She had a very good mindset nurtured for battle, her problem solving, plan making, strategies that popped up in her mind, these were the things I could have never done back then, yet she could do it all naturally. All she needs is more knowledge on her opponents and the other elements, and reading Helia’s books could easily make up for that part of her weakness.
Land said her control of her powers came naturally to her. She is the chosen one after all, thus it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that she handles her powers with ease. But even though she’s an inexperienced warrior, she had such mature battle intuition and that, left me in awe. The only explanation to this would be the way her parents taught her, they must’ve taught her that mindset since she was young.
Her parents knew exactly what they were doing. They knew all along what was going to happen, their death was inevitable, but they have successfully nurtured the one that bore the Eshban oath, and possibly the strongest fire mage ever to be born.
With proper training, this girl would be able to blaze the entire kingdom down. Fire may be strong and merciless, but it is easy to counter and its weakness is open to all. We will need to find mages of different elements to train her more and teach her to fight against elements that counter hers.
I suggested Helia to Land so I could hear what the stone mage had to say about her. Surprisingly, Helia had said nothing new. I grew up with a lot of training, my father would drill me until my legs gave way, and as one of the stronger hounds in the clan, I had always been in charge of the other’s training.
The girl also needed to know more regarding the history and formation of the Sovereign. The Sovereign are led by a group of elementalists, each of their respective elements and sub-powers. All of them are corrupted and they live lavishly, forcing the people to work on their behalf, thus all the pain and suffering.
After the high elementalists, comes the high officers of the governments. Governments are ruled according to geographical areas. And below these high officers are normal ranking officers, they were the ones that burned Seraphina’s parents. And below these normal ranking officers are us, the people who have been suffering for generations, and generations to come if a rebellion doesn’t spark soon.
If Helia doesn’t intend to reveal anything helpful that I still do not know, I would rather train the fire girl myself. I expected more of Helia, and I’m not be leaving until she says something about Seraphina’s spirit weapon. And hopefully I would have them duel, discover more of Seraphina’s weaknesses and work on them.
I shook that thought away. Asking Helia to fight her was suicide after what she had said to her earlier. I made a mental note to never insult Seraphina’s parents unless I had a death wish. Even though she is inexperienced, she could still kill any one of us if she wanted to, especially when her powers come from imagery. And plus, Helia’s powers of stone are slower than flame. One small mistake and she would have fire up her throat.
Seraphina had no problem with her magical powers, but her physical powers was nowhere near equivalent. I’ll need to work with her on that. A new thought sparked in my head, despite being powerful, the girl was definitely broken.
The moment I looked into her memories yesterday night, I almost regretted it. I saw every single detail that were carved into her heart. How the flames had engulfed her parents, sentences that they had said and the love they had given to her.
She remembered every single detail of that night when her parents died.
It made even my heart ache, and I thought I wasn’t capable of feeling sadness anymore.
The wooden door creaked open, I could sense her presence even before I saw her. That fiery, untamed presence, layered with a sense of uncertainty.
I turned to her and she stared at me, her scarlet eyes shining like rubies in the moonlight. “Would you mind?” she asked timidly and looked to the ground. She had her blanket in her arms and her auburn hair fell around her.
I lifted my tail so she could settle down in front of me.
Her nightmares, I wonder if I could make them go away.
Nightmares are often fueled by darkness, as a wielder I could try taking them away. I tried yesterday night. Normally, nightmares plague a person due to its surroundings being polluted by negative aura. But Seraphina’s nightmares were different, the darkness was from within herself and not the environment.
These type of darkness, I have no control of.
She climbed up the boulder that I was resting on and made herself comfortable in front of me. She used my left paw as her pillow and drew the blanket over herself. The blanket really wasn’t necessary, she would kick it away no matter how many times I pulled it back.
I watched her silently, her movements were clumsy, though I liked how she tried not to get too close to me, leaving just a little distance between us. Guess she was worried that I didn’t have enough space, or maybe she was just afraid of annoying me. I used my tail to push her closer to me, she’s going to fall off the boulder if she stayed at the edge.
The darkness swirled around me, it should be near 3am by the looks of it. I glanced at the girl one last time, hoping that her nightmares would spare her tonight.
I happened to be a very light sleeper, every single movement she made would wake me up, though I didn’t mind. Her rest was more important that mine, I could go days without sleep and it wouldn’t affect me. I was woken up again with a movement larger than the previous few that she made. And I raised my head to check on her, afraid she would roll off the ledge.
I found something much worse.
She had tears rolling down her face though her expression was serene. I only needed seconds to see what she was seeing in her dreams. Her parents. They were giving her encouragement, but she misses them dearly.
It’s always like that when you lose someone dear to you, they are forever gone, and they leave a hole in your heart that can never be mended. And no matter how hard you do to forget, they will always be there, constantly reminding you of your weaknesses.
I understood the pain.
For once, I yearned for my human form, just so I could wipe those tears off her face.