The Young Foreigner [The Sahara Chronicles #1]

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Part V: Preparing for the Spring Festival

Present day

As soon as she spotted the black haired young lad, she froze. She locked eyes with him for only Lady Celia knew how long. Her breathing became ragged, but she did not care to notice it.

John noted her unease and said to her kindly, “Don’t worry, sweetheart, he’s a nice one. He’s the one who cured your Aunt Alia.”

Her eyes grew wide as saucers at this revelation. Yes, she had heard of him, all right – they were talking all about it in the market. She had also heard of the prophecy that was to bind to her lifeline.

So, this is the one,’ she thought.

She felt as if a heavy weight had lifted off her chest; her legs began to feel weak, although she eventually succeeded in holding her ground.

Uncle John’s voice pierced her thoughts: “Come here, little one.”

She broke her gaze away from the stranger and walked up to her uncle. She took small, hesitant steps, quite conscious of herself.

“The man you behold,” her Uncle went on, “is a young Foreigner, who had chanced upon our blessed country on his travels, and has been here ever since he cured your aunt. By Lady Celia’s Grace, he has accepted our humble home as his own for as long as he wants to stay.”

She once more stared at the young Foreigner and this time, he smiled pleasantly at her. Out of sheer habit than anything else, she smiled back. But then, she grew conscious of herself once more. Her cheeks coloured and she ducked slightly behind her uncle. That smile though, never once faded away… at least, not on her account. In fact, if anything, it only grew amused.

“His name is Yor Castel,” her Uncle John was saying, quite oblivious to this exchange. “He is here from the Glorious Grant, and has set out of there in pursuit of his fortune.” Then, he turned to the young lad and went on, “Yor, meet Elmeida Yuri, Alia’s niece.”

“Hello,” said Yor, gazing intently in her direction.

She failed to gather the courage to reply, so simply nodded once in acknowledgment.

Later that day, Elmeida Yuri contented herself by playing with her little cousins. Of the two boys, Jim was the oldest, having preceded the other by two and a half years. Elmeida was happy to be reunited with them, although she was a little upset about the events that had brought her to her refuge in the first place.

The events of two days ago still haunted her whenever she was left alone, even for a moment. Being in company always seemed to ease her nerves. So, she decided that she would help in the Spring Festival preparation as well, just so her mind will be occupied with other thoughts.

However, the presence of the young lad in the house distracted her each time. She could not help but wonder if the prophecy she had been told seven years ago was talking about him. What was his name again? Yor… Yor Castel.

Perhaps it is him,’ she thought, whenever she spied him helping around the house.

Elmeida loved to pick the flowers in the garden each morning. Even without her aunt requesting her, she would pick up a bunch of flowers, loop them up with a thread to make a garland, and put it around the miniature painting of Lady Celia. She would then close her eyes and pray for a minute, before she resumed her chores. This was something she had never failed to do for the past ten years.

The day before the Spring Festival began, the entire household decided to take a break. While Alia and John had gone to the riverside to spend some time together, Mike and Jim were free to roam the forest with Nina, one of the many part-time nannies in the kingdom. Only Elmeida and Yor were left behind at home—Elmeida because she did not want to be left alone outside the comfort of the home and Yor because he wanted to some peace and quiet from the noises and cheers outside.

Elmeida happened to step out of her room after having changed for the day and see Yor already set to begin his. His back was facing her and she could not help gazing at his figure momentarily as he stood in the living room. He had a straight, muscular back, as if he had worked on a field all his life, hair naturally curled and raven-black. And he was almost as tall as her Uncle John.

Even as she took in all these details, he abruptly turned around and, when their eyes met, she coloured and darted her gaze away.

“You don’t have to be afraid of me,” his velvety voice spoke up, immediately causing her to lift her head up to face him. “That’s right: we’ve seen eye-to-eye at last!” The grin he gave her seemed to light up his entire being and this feeling warmed her heart.

She smiled back at him bashfully. “Y-yes, I… suppose we are. I’m – er – sorry for being such a bother.”

He shook his head, his amused grin still on. “Please don’t say that, my lady. You’ve never been a bother. As a matter of fact, you have been a source of intrigue to me!”

This remark alarmed Elmeida and she took a step backward. “Oh,” she let out, not knowing what else to respond with, to such flattery bestowed upon her without warning.

Her reaction seemed to have given off a negative indication, for Yor’s smile faded and a look of concern took over his face. “Er – I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to –”

But, Elmeida cut him off: “No please, I was so very flattered that – well, your words took my breath away. You have not hurt me in any manner whatsoever.” For assurance, she gave him another shy smile.

His expression at once turned to that of relief. “If that’s true, then I’m glad, my lady.”

An awkward silence ensued, with not one of them ready to talk. A few moments later, Yor decided to make the first move:

“Come, sit here with me, will you?”

“O-okay,” she stammered.

Once they settled down on a pair of stools and facing one-another, he began, “Let me introduce myself: I’m Yor Castel of Selina, in the Kingdom of Grant. I lived there for sixteen years, before I decided to travel in search of the fortune waiting for me. I travelled over Sahara for a year, paid my respects to the kings and their elders of the countries of Cramarick and Cordelia, sought their advice, and helped them in their problems.

“Now, about a fortnight ago, I arrived in this Kingdom of Aloris, and, upon hearing how your aunt was taken severely ill, I decided to try my luck with my Magical equipment.”

“And you succeeded,” added Elmeida, softly, now all ears to the sound of Yor’s velvety voice. “So, it is true… what I heard in the country the evening when I came here. It was all over the marketplace.” Then, she drew in a long breath and composed herself. Letting it out in a huff, she lowered her head timidly, still looking at him from the tips of her eyes, she muttered, “Thank you, kind sir. Curing my aunt, I mean. It means a lot to me.”

When she did not hear any response, she wondered if she had hurt him in any way. However, when she looked up, she was startled to see Yor’s face too close to hers. She yelped and stepped away.

His face took on a sheepish grin. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t mean to startle you like that.”

When they recovered, the both of them laughed their hearts out. Their pleasantry echoed around the house, till they fell silent, one taking in the likes and looks of the other.

“Truly,” said Yor, “I didn’t mean to pry. You see, you’re someone I’ve never come across before. You have an interesting air about you. I’m trying to figure out what’s special about you.”

“What’s so special about me?” asked Elmeida, slight confusion evident in her eyes. “Why, sir, I don’t know what you mean.”

“Well…” Yor hesitated. “I…I’m about to say something that might frighten you. I don’t mean to be a stalker, but there’s something you should probably know.”

“Oh? And what is it?”

“You… er… you came in my dream last night.”

Elmeida’s eyebrows wrinkled at this. “I did? Truly?”

Yor nodded. “Indeed. In fact, you’ve been appearing in the same dream for over a wekk now.”

“Uh. That’s strange now, isn’t it?” Elmeida pondered over what she was just told. “I… don’t know what to say.”

“It’s all right,” said Yor with a reassuring smile. “It could be nothing, really.”

A silence descended upon them.

Yor broke it:

“So, what’s your story?” he asked Elmeida.

Her eyes shot up to his in surprise. “What story?” she asked him, innocently.

“Well,” he responded, thoughtfully, “if it was decided some time ago that you were to come here, I would have known about it before you actually showed up. Also, I’ve travelled across this country and am positive that I’ve never seen the likes of you before.

“So,” he leaned forward slightly, “who exactly are you, Elmeida Yuri?”

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