Chapter 107: A Grudging Tolerance
ARTHUR LEYWIN’S POV:
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting out of a land inhabited by beings that were basically considered G.o.ds to us. For some reason, in my imagination, grand and fantastical lands were always constructed out of gold, diamonds or some other precious material.
In my old world, even the homes of the most influential figures were designed with the intention of practicality more than anything else. The most important figures were mostly warriors after all, and our tastes were rather simple. Things like furniture made from the hides of precious beasts were unnecessary and only sought after by the rich merchants and politicians whose sense of self-worth were directly proportional to their wealth.
Thus, exiting from the golden column of light and stepping into the realm of asuras could only leave me wide-eyed and breathless.
My mood was sour and I was still wallowing in regret over the recent decision I had made, but one glance at the land Sylvia and Windsom had come from was all it took for me to temporarily forget about my troubles and future hardships I would have to endure.
It felt as if I had been transported to a different planet; a planet where it wasn’t the inhabitants that had constructed the buildings and manors, but one where the earth and land forged itself to be worthy enough to be resided in.
The towering castle in front of us seemed to have been birthed from the earth itself as there were neither signs nor indications that it had been shaped or molded. Sophisticated designs and runes made from what looked like precious minerals covered the walls of the castle that stood high enough to be seen from kilometers away. The trees bent and tangled together in arches to create a corridor that led to the entrance atop a bridge, shimmering in an array of translucent colors.
Peeling my eyes off the castle itself took a great effort, the iridescent bridge was no easier, but I was finally able to at least collect myself enough to take in my surroundings.
Windsom had transported us on top of a mountain cluttered with trees that reminded me of cherry blossoms. The familiar trees were in full bloom, with shimmering pink petals that seemed to dance as they floated down to the ground. The vibrant bridge that stretched out in front of us led to another mountain of which the castle seemed to have been carved from. Evidently, the mountain was pretty high up as the clouds covered everything underneath the bridge, with two mountain peaks that stuck out like two islands in an ocean of hazy white.
“Welcome to Epheotus, or more specifically, the Indrath Clan’s castle.” Windsom walked towards the castle, stepping on the bridge of precious minerals that any mortal king would wage wars for, before glancing back and beckoning me to follow.
Taking a deep breath, I trailed behind the asura, carefully placing my right foot on top of the incandescent surface of the bridge. The bridge was semi-translucent like stained gla.s.s.. As I stepped on the structure, a deep feeling of fear washed over me, which was a surprise since I have never had a fear of heights. It might’ve been due to the fact that there were no supports holding up the bridge that easily spanned a couple hundred feet.
“Indrath Clan? You mean we’re at the home of Sylvia’s family?” I asked. I had decided to trust in the colorful bridge rather than imagine what would happen if it were to abruptly break. Walking alongside Windsom, we made our way towards the castle.
“Yes. Lord Indrath had commanded that I bring you and Lady Sylvie to him upon arrival,” the asura replied. I found it amusing seeing the usually cool and aloof Windsom smoothing out the creases on his robe anxiously.
“Any last tips before meeting this almighty lord of lords?”
“Unfortunately, even I do not know what to expect; this situation is rather peculiar after all,” he answered, tidying his hair.
Letting out a sigh, I glanced down at Sylvie sleeping in my arms. I was beginning to grow worried by how much she slept, the only thing comforting me being her rhythmic breathing.
The doors to the monstrous castle were just as proportionately terrifying. They were tall, not just to a thirteen-year-old boy, but tall enough to admit giants and… well… dragons.
“There aren’t any guards or watchmen?” I asked, looking around the open doors.
“Of course there are. They were watching us while we were crossing over the bridge. Now come, we shouldn’t keep Lord Indrath waiting.”
As I stepped off the bridge and into the castle, the feeling of angst went away, instead I was drenched in cold sweat at the realization that it wasn’t the height of the bridge that had scared me but whoever, or whatever, had been watching me as we crossed it.
The interior of the castle didn’t disappoint as it was just as magnificently crafted as the outside. Ceilings were unnecessarily high with arches that looked to have been carved out of the mountain. The walls themselves were adorned with intricate detailing, as if they told a story. Yet, considering how large the castle was, it was eerily quiet.
“This way. The Indrath Clan is waiting for you.” Windsom seemed to be on edge as he kept fixing some part of his attire while we walked.
“Wait, the entire clan is waiting for us?”
“Yes, now please, let us hurry,” the asura sighed, as he went ahead of me into a particularly intimidating corridor.
Again, shivers ran down my spine, but this time, I was able to see the source. At the end of the corridor, were two figures guarding the door. I wasn’t able to make out much of their appearance as they were shrouded in darkness from the shadows cast by the corridor’s lights. However, my instincts had already kicked in, desperately trying to convince me to run as far away as possible from these two shadowed figures.
I was reminded of the time I was in front of the Elderwood Guardian, however, I had a feeling that in front of those guards, the S cla.s.s mana beast that I almost died to would only be cannon fodder.
Windsom and I eventually approached them. Reaching the door, I was now able to discern the two guards’ features. One was a female with an amiable expression on her face. She looked rather tomboyish with her green hair cut short to just underneath her ear, but the distinct curves noticeable below her light leather armor showed otherwise. The man next to her looked much fiercer, with sharp eyes and a scar that jaggedly cut crossed his cheek. The only visible weapon I noticed on either of them was a short dagger strapped to each of their waists.
“Elder Windsom. I see you finally brought the human boy,” the female guard grinned. The male guard stared at Sylvie and looked up at me in a studying gaze. “Is it appropriate for a human child to be carrying the Princess?” he asked disapprovingly.
“Let it be, Signiz. They are bonded,” Windsom dismissed. “Now… are you guys going to let us in or not?”
The two guards looked at each other briefly before giving Windsom a brief nod. As the two of them faced the door, the aura they emitted increased significantly, enough for it to be nearly palpable. Only a few seconds had pa.s.sed but beads of cold sweat rolled down my face as my breathing became shallow and jagged.
The two guards each held onto one of the door handles and pulled it open. I could only imagine how heavy it was since the two guards were struggling to pry it apart. Finally, with a loud clack, the towering door slid open, revealing what I a.s.sumed to be the Great Hall… and staring right at me, seated on a blazing white throne, was a man who looked to be no older than twenty.
Windsom immediately stepped past me into the room and kneeled.
“My Lord,” the asura addressed, bowing his head. Lord Indrath wasn’t what I had expected him to be like in the least. He had a cool, almost mellow feel to him, sporting a silvery cream-colored hair that was neither long nor short. He would be considered an attractive man by any means, but he wasn’t exceptionally stunning either. I couldn’t really tell what his build was underneath his white robe but he didn’t look particularly robust. His eyes reminded me too much of Sylvia for my comfort, but while Sylvia’s eyes were still compa.s.sionate, his were hard. Lord Indrath’s eyes were purple as well, but even from here, I could see the colors change shades.
Realizing that I had been staring for far too long, I followed suit and kneeled as well. While my head was down, though, I couldn’t help but peek around the room. Standing to the side of the great hall were figures of all ages and sizes staring at me, some disdainful like the prior male guard, while others with simple curiosity.
Each of the figures that were standing around Windsom and I emanated auras that would make even the most powerful mages in Dicathen faint and froth in the mouth, yet, the man seated on the throne that burned in a shimmering white fire emitted none. Even after trying to consciously sense him, I couldn’t even feel his presence. Even with the fact that I was able to see him, I had trouble believing he actually existed if my eyes weren’t directly focused on him.
“Stand.” His voice soft and silvery, yet sharp like a knife in a way that it was both gentle and imposing. Rising to our feet, we walked towards the throne, with Sylvie still in my arms. I could feel the eyes of everyone following me, judging my every movement. I was reminded of when I was still an orphan fetching groceries for our house at a nearby market. It felt much like how the adults looked at me then, the glares and blatant disgust as if I was some sort of disease that they needed to avoid.
Seconds slowly ticked by as we waited for the man on the throne to speak, yet he only stared wordlessly at me and Sylvie with an expression I couldn’t interpret.
My eyes hadn’t left Lord Indrath as he had been studying me so when I felt Sylvie in my arms suddenly disappear and reappear in his arms, my immediate reaction was a clumsy and baffled astonishment.
“What the?!” I spouted. I reflexively tried to reach out for my bond until Windsom placed his hand on my shoulder.
“What. Am I not allowed to hold my own granddaughter?” Lord Indrath retorted, holding Sylvie in one hand. Lifting her up so he was eye-level, Lord Indrath turned her around while inspecting every angle of my sleeping bond.
“I see you have done nothing to train her. Her mana levels are insultingly low, and by how she’s in a hibernating state right now, it seemed that you had strained her.” Lord Indrath’s eyes narrowed and pierced through me, only my pride keeping me from taking a step back.
“My apologies, My Lord. I should have trained Lady Sylvie while I was in Dicathen. If it is to your liking, I can start her training now as well.” To my surprise, Windsom had defended me, bowing once again in front of the creamy-haired man on the throne.
“No need. I will personally look after… Sylvie,” Lord Indrath dismissed, shaking his head. With that, a wave of surprised gasps and soft murmurs filled the great hall as the other members of the Indrath Clan whispered to one another excitedly.
Placing a finger gently between Sylvie’s eyes, Lord Indrath mouthed something inaudibly. His eyes glowed, and suddenly Sylvie jolted awake, her eyes glimmering in the same shade of purple as her grandfather’s.
“Kyu?” ‘Papa? Where am I?’
The nostalgic voice that I hadn’t heard in days filled my head. Sylvie was obviously confused by the unfamiliar scene and by the fact that a man she had never seen was holding her so intimately.
‘We’ve come a bit far away, Sylv. How are you feeling?’ I transmitted back, a smile forming on my face.
‘Sleepy~ Can I go back to sleep, Papa?’ I could see Sylvie’s eyes struggling to stay open as she blinked wearily before fully closing.
“Lord Indrath. Win… Elder Windsom had already explained to me what is needed of me, but he has yet to fill me in on why exactly I was to be brought here. If it is simply for training purposes, isn’t some remote dungeon in Dicathen a suitable place?” I asked, impatiently waiting for him to hand me back my bond.
“I have deemed you a necessary piece that will help us against Agrona and his army. I take it that you have already understood the mutual benefit in winning the approaching war, yes? Having said that, it will be the most beneficial to have several specialists to help Windsom in training you during your stay here. Think of it as an honor since only the most talented of the younger generations would get the training that you will get.”
“How will you know when the war will be approaching? How much time do we even have?” There were way too many uncertainties for me to be able to comfortably train.
“That is for me to worry about. Focus on your training and I will notify Windsom when it is time for you to go back to your homeland. That is all,” Lord Indrath replied, signaling to Windsom to take me away.
“Wait, what about Sylvie?”
“She will stay with me until her training is over,” he said matter-of-factly.
“What? How long will that take? I won’t be able to see her until then?”
Lord Indrath’s brow twitched impatiently as he simply shooed us away with his hand. Before I could respond, Windsom squeezed my arm tightly, dragging me out of the great hall.
After pa.s.sing the two guards I angrily shook my hand out of Windsom’s grasp. “What was even the point of that meeting? I went in there to have Sylvie s.n.a.t.c.hed away and be looked down on by all of the Indrath Clan? That was humiliating!”
Letting out a sigh, Windsom replied, “The relationship between you and the asuras is very peculiar and could only be summed up as… let’s say… a grudging tolerance. The very fact that we have no choice but to rely on a lesser being is a wound on our pride. Do not worry, both you and Lady Sylvie will not be mistreated. Like Lord Indrath had mentioned, you are important to us.”
“I’m pretty sure he said ‘necessary piece’,” I scoffed, stepping back onto the bridge we previously crossed.
Windsom’s lips curled into a faint smile. “Come, there are some people I want you to meet.”