Present Day: Year 523 A.B.
“For two years you suffered in neglect when I told you that you would never be alone.” Kahnyne looks down at Rai’s scarred feet. He feels his guilt crushing his soul like a vice.
“All because I began to see my son in you and couldn’t bear going down that path again. No- maybe that’s not true. I think I had always seen him in you, but originally saw this as a chance at salvation if I could give you the life that slipped through his fingers. And so, I am not worthy of your sympathy.”
Rai looks around his room, at the glass stained with spots almost black in color littering his dresser and floor, at the family crest in view from the hallway, at the stacks of books around his nightstand. He takes a deep breath to stop his tears and to prevent his voice from shaking.
“I forgive you, Kahnyne. I actually never thought badly of you. All I’ve felt over the past two years is hate for myself because of what I am. I gave up. I wished that it was me being erased on all these early mornings. But now, I know what I have to do. There’s still so much I don’t understand, but even so, I’ll become an exorcist.”
“Even though you will be doing exactly what your parents want you to do?” Kahnyne asks.
“I won’t. They want me to make our family respectable again, but I never cared about that. All I know, all I’ve ever known is them and you. I want to become an exorcist to help you and to make it so that no one ever has to go through what you went through again.” Rai responds.
“The life of an exorcist can turn out to be a cruel, gruesome fate, young master. I couldn’t possibly have you do such a thing for someone like me after what I’ve done. You may even be better off accepting your fate here as the physical and spiritual bloodshed in the field could be even worse than today… even worse than something an innocent mind can comprehend. Please reconsid-”
“Then you can do something for me too, Kahnyne.”
Rai looks at Zuo’s book resting at Kahnyne’s side and smiles the brightest smile he can muster as the warm memory of an outstretched hand returns to him.
“Hey there, you must be Rai. I’ll be helping out around here for a while.
You’ve built yourself quite the hiding spot, huh? Turns out that I’m kind of shy myself and in need of a reading buddy. Can I join you, young master?”
After a moment of hesitation, despite his sorrow, he embraces Kahnyne.
“When it’s just us, call me ‘Rai’. We’re family. Not talking hurts.”
Words choke in Kahnyne’s throat and so he stills silent, but returns Rai’s tiny embrace.
Time passes and they finally separate; Kahnyne turns away from Rai, rubs his face with his sleeve and turns to face him again.
“You’ve got yourself a deal, Rai.” Kahnyne says as he rises to leave the room.
“Where are you going, Kahnyne?”
“I believe that it’s time we discontinue your morning routine and begin the real training for you to become an exorcist.”
Kahnyne’s voice that was once perpetually underlined with staleness, brims with something that he thought he had lost forever.
The idea of not having to go through what he went through earlier fills Rai with hope, but he reflects on what Kahnyne just said again.
“Wait… would mother and father even allow that?”
“I said we have a deal didn’t I? You have my word this time. Rest for now. We’ll start by catching up tonight and cutting that hair of yours.”
“Actually, can we just fix it up a bit? I kind of like it this long.”
“Of course! But we’ll have to comb it, and I remember how much you hated that even when it was shorter. You’ll need one with teeth as wide as this manor for that.”
Although not the funniest joke in the world, it is the first one Rai has heard in ages. It sends him into quiet, hysterical, toothy laughter.
“Thank you, Kahnyne.”
“My pleasure, Rai,” Kahnyne stops in the doorway “, and we’ll make sure to clean that glass up as well.”
Kahnyne arrives at the training room; only Sirian remains there.
“What took you so long, Nyne?”
He sounds suspicious, obviously awaiting a good response.
“I was simply resolving the situation, sir. You two did tell me that I was to manage the weight of his soul. The trauma of destroying that child’s soul surely affected him.” Kahnyne says, technically telling the truth.
“Really? Over 700 souls have been extinguished by that boy, but now you see it fit to comfort him?”
Sirian folds his arms.
“Well, sir.. today’s calibration struck me a little close to home as well. That is why I noticed. And consequently, while in his quarters I have come to another conclusion.”
“And what would that be?”
“I believe that he is ready to move on to the next stage of his training.”
Sirian looks at Kahnyne, analyzing him.
“Is he ready to move on. Or are you ready for him to move on?”
Kahnyne passively ignores the second question but defends his case.
“You saw yourself what he is capable of. While he wouldn’t stand a chance against a veteran right now-”
Sirian cuts him off.
“Kahnyne, I too agree that he is ready now. He’s been ready for a while. But what about you? Unlike my wife, I knew who you once were. I have respect.” He rises from his seat.
“But who are you now? I can’t expect you to teach him how to apply his soul to actual combat training when you yourself still seem to be a broken man with a broken soul.”
“With all due respect, I can show you much better than I can tell you, sir.” Kahnyne says without a shred of hesitation. He raises his hand, pointing his palm at Sirian’s chest.
Sirian smirks, raising an eyebrow and returns his gesture.
“Is that so?”
He walks past Kahnyne, exiting the room.
“Meet me in the training enclosure in the south end of the manor in 60 minutes after prepping the day’s meals. Make sure you’re ready to prove your point...”