ARTHUR LEYWIN’S POV:
Her words rang out in my ear like a giant gong that was rung at the beginning of every year. They say the people with the widest smiles hide the most pain in their hearts. I shifted my gaze over to the sleeping Virion and remembered the times that he joked around with his cheeky grin.
I had no idea the pain that he had gone through…
I felt like some pubescent teenager that thought the world hated him. I was ignorant of the fact that there were others who might’ve suffered from deeper pains than I had.
No words left my mouth after what Rinia said, only focusing on the ever so slight tremble of my fingers.
“The reason I bring this up isn’t to elicit pity or sorrow from you. I tell you this so that you’ll realize the gravity of what I’m about to inform you of next.” There was a stern conviction in her voice that made me look back up.
Elder Rinia paused, as if readying her heart before she spoke. “I used my powers to intentionally look into your future, Arthur.”
After all she told me, what she just said weighed on me all the more. “What? Wh-why?” was all I could stammer out before Sylvie sleepily walked towards me and hopped onto my lap, falling asleep again, leaving the both of us with a brow raised.
“Seems like your bond is immune to the herbs I gave her,” she chuckled.
“Yeah, she probably just fell asleep naturally,” I replied with a half grin.
“Well, continuing on, even before the day I first met you when you were a child, I had been getting glimpses of your future; never enough to make sense of it, but it was odd to have so many visions of a specific person. It has never happened before. ” Rinia shifted in her seat.
“As you may already be aware, Arthur, things are changing on this continent. Dicathen is going through a new era. We’ve already experienced the beginning of it with the unity of the three Kingdoms and the unveiling of the Six Lances, but that’s just the beginning. Through all of these changes that are going to happen, you always seem to be in the center of them somehow, Arthur.” The elderly Diviner locked eyes with mine.
“Then moving to this remote hideout…” I started to say.
She just gave me a slight nod. ” With the knowledge I gained from looking into the future… your future, it seems like I’ve made some enemies.”
“What exactly is it that you learned from looking into my future?” I asked.
“Here’s the tricky part. Telling you too much of what I saw can affect even the outcomes you want. On the other hand, telling you too little defeats the point of me looking into the future in order to find a better outcome,” she sighed.
“How do you feel though, Rinia? You just gave up some of your life in order to see my future… are you okay?” I couldn’t help but frown.
“I’ll be fine. I’ve lived long enough, anyway. I might as well use some of it to help the future.” Rinia waved her hand dismissively.
“I hate sounding like some old fortune teller warning the hero to be careful and other sorts of generic advice that he can pick up from anyone, but it pains me to say that I can only do that much.” I could tell she was trying to make light of the situation to ease my guilt.
“Arthur…” Rinia’s tone became serious, almost foreboding, “You will face many hardships. Whichever future you decide, that will remain constant. You will have enemies and you will have obstructions in your path, but through all of that, what I can leave you with is that you need to have an anchor, an end goal. What is it you want to accomplish in your life? That will be what determines your path.”
This sounded more like a motivational speech than a prophecy, but as if she had read my mind, Rinia continued.
“Be grounded, Arthur, and I’ll leave you with these two things. One: people do bad things for good reasons, so don’t just take them for what they do on the surface and keep your mind sharp. Two: oftentimes, the scariest enemy isn’t the one on the throne, leading the forces, but the abandoned soldier that has nothing to lose; for that, stay wary and don’t be overconfident.” Rinia’s voice became a soft whisper as she warned me, leaving an uncomfortable silence in the room.
“I’m sorry I can’t say anything more, but all I can say is to follow and trust your instincts. You are a particularly sharp fellow and I know you’ll make the right choices, but sometimes, the right choice isn’t always the best choice.”
The talk with Rinia ended, leaving me with a rather bad taste in my mouth, like one would get after taking a spoonful of a bitter tonic. Helpful and necessary, but bitter nonetheless.
Rinia woke everyone up soon after, with me pretending to have been asleep with them as well. Rinia made some excuse that she accidentally mixed in some herbs for relaxation that were a lot stronger than she anticipated. No one seemed to mind and we continued on with a light lunch that Rinia prepared out of edible plants and mushrooms. It tasted good despite the lack of meat, but by Sylvie’s reaction, I’m sure she would disagree.
It was pretty late in the afternoon by the time we finished eating and had to get on our way. A bigger surprise than the fact that Rinia’s home was in the center of a mountainside cliff was the fact that, through a secret door and passage, she had her own teleportation gate.
Since teleportation gates were made in ancient times, supposedly with the help of the deities, or Asuras, as I now know, it wasn’t possible to make any more. Virion wasn’t as surprised as everyone else, including me, but knowing Rinia’s powers, I could only shrug and realize that this was something within her abilities.
After saying our goodbyes, Tess, Sylvie, and I went through the gate. Along with the dizzy feeling after crossing, we were welcomed back to the edge of Xyrus City by guards that had their spears pointed at us.
After realizing that the unknown crossers were teens who had the Xyrus Academy uniforms on, they quickly lowered their weapons.
“We apologize, the portal you were coming from was read as an unknown gate, so we didn’t know who or what would pop out from the other side. It’s rare, but there have been times when mana beasts accidentally stumble through a teleportation gate somewhere deep in the Beast Glades,” one of the guards, that seemed to be the leader, said, although his eyes still watched us with a studying gaze.
“It’s fine. We came from one of the other cities of Elenoir and the guard did mention that he was having troubles with the gate from time to time,” I shrugged.
With an understanding nod, the guards let us go and since there was no carriage waiting for us, the three of us walked to the nearest stop and found a carriage to take us. The sun was already setting and I could see the color distortion in the sky as the Aurora Constellate was soon coming to its peak. It was a lot easier to see it from the floating city than through the dense trees in Elenoir.
“Wow, the Aurora Constellate really is beautiful every time you see it,” Tess said in awe.
“Kyu~” ‘The sky is colorful!’ Sylvie also sat at the edge of the carriage, her small head gazed up in appreciation.
When we made it back to the Helstea Manor, Sylvie scurried up the stairs leading to the door and scratched at it. As Tess and I followed her up, the door opened, revealing a person that I didn’t expect to see.
“Jasmine?!” I stopped where I stood and gasped.
“Long time no see,” my mentor from my adventurer days replied, with the only visible sign on her expressionless face that she was happy to see me, the slight grin she had.
Before I had the chance to say anything more, the rest of the Twin Horns came, one by one, each with a big grin on their faces as they saw me with a girl they’d never seen before.
“You’ve grown,” Durden said with a warm smile on his wide, tanned face.
“Look who we have here! Mr. Hotshot bringing home a lady,” Adam Krensh, the wild-looking vagabond spear user cooed, leaning on the edge of the doorframe.
“Wow, look who’s become more of a man.” Helen Shard, the archer, still as charismatic as before, winked at me.
While they all stayed at the top of the stairs, waiting for us to come up, Angela hopped down the stairs herself and picked me up in a bear hug.
“Look how cute you’ve gotten!!” she squealed as she waved me around, my legs dragging helplessly on the cement stairs since she was too short to completely pick me up off the ground.
“Mmmfph mmmh!” Any hopes to articulate words failed as the abyss of her well-endowed bosom absorbed my face.
“I-I think you should let go…” I heard Tess stammer out as she tugged on the side of my uniform.
“Look who we have here! Aren’t you the cutest little elf!” Angela Rose put me down like discarded waste and picked up Tess, who let out a squeal in surprise.
My family soon came out and greeted us with open arms with my sister, Eleanor, who already had Sylvie in her arms.
I was eager to catch up with the Twin Horns over dinner since I hadn’t seen them in over a year, but I could tell Tess was kind of uncomfortable with all of this. She already felt a bit out of place being in my home, but with the unexpected guests that she’d never seen before, she was feeling all the more tense and awkward.
My mother and sister tried to make her feel more comfortable, but since she was being awkward with me as well for some reason, she couldn’t take it, and told everyone, after apologizing, that she had to go back to school first for some Student Council work that she was sorely behind on.
“Are you really going back to the academy?” I asked.
“I’ve missed too much school and work has probably piled up by now. Thank you guys for your hospitality and I’m sorry I couldn’t stay longer.” Tess made a curt bow and followed after the driver that came to get her.
I went outside with her, uncertain if I should go with her or not.
“Don’t worry about me! I’ll admit it was a bit uncomfortable for me in there, but that’s not the main reason I’m going back. I really am behind on Student Council work and I feel bad since even Lilia is still at school. It wouldn’t be right of me to be in her home relaxing while she’s working, right?” Tess gave me a reassuring smile.
“You’re right, but I’m just worried since Gramps said that you still had to rest. Your mana core still is a bit unstable, even with the seal that Rinia gave you before we left. I’d just feel more comfortable if I was near you in case something happened.” I scratched my head, a rather doubtful feeling itching up on me.
“I have no reason to use magic at the academy for the time being anyways. Besides, you’re coming back to school tomorrow. I think I’ll be able to survive until then,” she gave me a playful wink, distilling the previous awkwardness she had.
“Alright, but be careful.” I lightly bonked her head, getting a light punch in the stomach in reply.
TESSIA ERALITH’S POV:
“Whew.” It was getting harder and harder to keep a straight face in front of Arthur. If I;d stayed and talked to him any longer, I felt like my face was going to burn like a candle.
My body felt out of sync because of my mana core; It affected my body, as if somebody tilted the world just slightly enough to throw me off balance, but I didn’t tell Arthur this since he’d just get overly worried.
After closing my eyes for what seemed like a couple of seconds, I was already close to the school gate.
“Thank you!” I said to the driver.
He gave me a friendly nod in reply, tipping his hat, before driving back toward Lilia’s house.
Right after stepping through the barrier and entering the gate, the atmosphere seemed to have changed drastically. My body tensed immediately, as if signaling my brain that there was danger nearby.
“Hoho! You’re here…ALONE? Pfft! This is going to be easier than I thought! Yes, it is!”
The throaty voice surprised me. I immediately whipped my head toward the source of the voice.
“Lucas? Lucas Wykes?” I gaped.
It surely was Lucas, but something was off… well, a lot of him was off. His skin was gray, first off, and the way his body spasmed randomly made him look more like a rabid monster than a student.
I wanted to move, but I couldn’t. The pressure and bloodlust he was giving off didn’t allow me too. All my body could do in response was shiver.
“Hehe… I can’t believe you’re here alone, no I can’t! It’s nice seeing you again, Princess! As beautiful as ever, yes you are!” Lucas approached me with jagged steps.
This wasn’t Lucas anymore… The feeling I got from him was more of a deranged mana beast than his usual egotistical self.
Seeing the expression on my face, his face tilted as he revealed a toothy grin. “Why don’t you play with me until Arthur gets here?”