Chapter 1 - 745
Present Day: Year 523 A.B.
A child’s slumber is interrupted by the sound of a man’s familiar voice: mundane and monotonous as usual. Without as much as a glance at the man’s face he knows exactly what it looks like. Those once hopeful, ocean blue eyes now looking upon him without any reflection in them. The bags around them making it obvious that it has been ages since he’s had a peaceful sleep. Only his neat, ash blonde hair, suited attire, and the small notebook in his breast pocket remain as fragments of who he once was.
“Wake up, young master. We’re late. Your mother and father will have a fit.”
The boy says nothing. As if he hadn’t heard a single word spoken to him. Yet, he rises out of his coverless bed all the same and begins walking out of his room clad in an ironic mix of luxury and misery.
“Once?” “Ages?” He thinks about how the concept of time escaped the two of them a long time ago. There may be no point in thinking about this right now, but for some reason today feels different.
They enter a hallway, starkly contrasting the atmosphere of the boy’s room. It is well lit by the light of hanging candles, which are complemented by the gold trim of a red carpet and symmetrical emblems hung along the walls with purple flowers embroidered on them.
The boy finally looks up at the man making his way through the hallway silently at his side.
“What will mother and father have me do today, Kahnyne?” he says with a voice matching his aloof expression.
“The same as usual, I believe. It should be over before you know it.”
He does not meet his gaze, but somewhere sympathy is buried in his words, and they soon arrive at their destination.
Kahnyne knocks on a heavy wooden door.
“Pardon me,” he says with a slight bow as he enters the room, “I have brought the boy.”
The room is like that of the boy’s: dimly lit by blue flames on candles and a fireplace, no windows, and scarcely decorated in the middle with superficial, luxurious furniture. There, a man and a woman dressed in elegant attire sit ominously on red and gold loveseats, legs crossed, staring at the two as they enter.
“You’re late.” the man growls in a calm, yet serious tone. His dark, bronze colored skin, short black hair and sharp features give him a presence that matches his voice.
“The young master appeared tired, so I-”
“Nyne, remember: I am not paying you to build a soft spot with that boy.” the man interjects.
“Also, it is unnecessary for you to refer to him as ’young master’.” the woman adds in a naturally pompous voice. Her appearance too is fitting of her, a vixen with an almost golden-yellow color to her skin and reddish-brown eyes constantly picking apart anything she looks upon.
“A thousand apologies.”
Kahnyne bows once again; the boy has not moved nor said a word.
The man sighs. “Anyhow, let us begin the training session.” He points, directing Kahnyne to a table littered with sets of candles, used and new.
Kahnyne lights the candles with the blue flame of the fireplace, and arranges them atop a circle drawn in chalk.
“The ring has been prepared.”
The man and woman rise from their seats and point the palms of their hands at the circle. From their hands, sharp waves of purple light fire and turn the dimly lit candles into a small wall of blue flames. When it dies down, a confused, translucent child stands in their wake. In
“Where am I?” the child says in a panic. With each word that it speaks, its state of shock grows more and more violent until it begins to flicker like a lightbulb.
Its cries fall on deaf ears to the others in the room.
“A tier 2.” The woman announces pl, sounding somewhat displeased.
“And a child... shall we repeat the astral summoning?”
Kahnyne mutters in a slightly more emotional voice than usual.
“What does it matter? An astral being is just that. This is no different from work out in the field. Do it, boy.” the man says coldly.
“Before he had dispatched the condemned. This is likely nothing more than the innocent spirit of a child no older than your son.” Kahnyne opposes, almost raises his voice to a yell.
“Silence, Nyne, if you know what’s good for you! Rai, do i-!”
The room, hectic with the heavy air of bickering and the cries of the summoned child, is suddenly silenced as a blinding flash of purple aggravates every flame in the room causing them to reach hellfire proportions. When they die down, the summoned child is completely gone, eradicated.
Rai lowers his hand, and exits the room without a word just like he always had.
Finally recovering from the shock of what had just occurred, the man is the first to break the silence. “Monstrous. Excellent! With astral energy on that level, he’ll be in the field with the elite in no time. No, he’ll be in a league of his own. Perhaps we should start summoning entities at random more often!” he says with a somewhat sadistic clap.
“What’s wrong Nyne? You’re not wearing your usual stoic face.” the woman adds, condescendingly.
“I am fine, milady. I was just-” Kahnyne pauses, his mind racing to come up with an excuse in the split second it would take for her to suspect something wrong. “...thinking about where the boy might have gone. It would be for the best if the flames in his quarters or another did not flare as these did.”
The man and woman both look on in slight disbelief. “I suppose that is true. Very well, you may check on him,” she says, waving her hand towards the door.
With a bow, Kahnyne turns his back and begins to walk out of the door until he is called out to once more.
“However. Do not forget: that boy, Rai, is a tool, born and here for the sole purpose of restoring this household to what it once was. Considering why you began serving us, you need him as he is just as much as we do.”
Kahnyne’s hand, paused and outstretched to the doorknob, tightens.
Upon exiting the training room, he heads back to Rai’s room after noticing it wide open from all the way down the hallway.
He arrives to find Rai sitting on the edge of his bed, all of the flames in his room are apparently normal, yet somehow sad in intensity.
Kahnyne shuts the door, but before he can think of what to say, Rai speaks. “I wonder what happens to all the spirits I “train” with. Are they just... gone?” His voice is numb, yet somber, as he looks at the palms of his shaking hands. “Today it was a kid just like me. I did it because I could see the panic on his face. He probably came from an afterlife with or waiting for a family that loves him. I erased that…”
For the first time in ages, Kahnyne actually looks at the boy in front of him. Standing no taller than his waist. A baseless voice. An seemingly innocent, but complex sense of empathy. Scars on his feet that he had never noticed before. Through long, black hair reaching his thighs, Rai looks up at Kahnyne, and their gazes meet. Tears fall from his violet-colored eyes.
“But, I also did it for you, Kahnyne.”
Kahnyne’s eyes widen in shock.
“You’re nothing like mother and father. You’ve cooked my meals, washed my clothes, given me books to read, and you’re not scared of me. At first I thought they might have told you to do all of that because they obviously need me alive to use me, until…”
Rai reaches under his bed revealing an open book with the name “Zuo Einzloss” sloppily written in the corner of its cover page.
“I found this in a stack of books you left for me.”
I always wondered why someone like you would want to serve a family like mine that would threaten you like mother and father do; now I think it’s because you have to, and because you’re kind.”
Rai places the book on the bed next to him.
“Is Zuo your son?”
Kahnyne kneels down, becoming eye-level with Rai.
“I used to read books like those with Zuo all the time. He was a boy just like you, yet so very different.” Kahnyne extends his upward facing palm to Rai who looks on as he creates a perfect purple orb of astral energy. “Every once in a while, a child is born with monstrous amounts of astral energy completely under their control. One of those ultra rare cases is you, young master. However…” Kahnyne’s extended hand tenses, and the orb becomes an expanding and contracting disarray of chaotic light before rupturing. “It is far more often that a child is born with that same energy, but becomes a ticking time bomb because of it. Such was the case with my son.”
Rai shifts his gaze from Kahnyne’s hand to his face, which is visibly stricken with nostalgia and pain, cracking his stoic facade.
“Was?” Rai inquires.
“Yes. Around the time of his 10th birthday, Zuo self-destructed like a vessel that had been filled far beyond its capacity. I serve your family because this was the only house of nobles willing to allow the burial of what’s left of him on their property, while allowing me to work in the hopes that I will receive the substantial amount of money required to do so.”
Rai opens his mouth to speak, but instead looks down at his feet, as his unkempt hair almost completely covers his face.
“I know…,” Kahnyne sadly mutters while moving the book from Rai’s side and sitting in its place. “I’m sorry, young master. When I first arrived here, I had no idea how I would amass the amount of money needed to bury my son, how long it would take, or how your family would manage to hold up their end of our deal considering the state that they’re in. I’m sure you remember how much things changed the day we found out...”