Chapter 1: The Beginning of a Story
The room was warm and silent as a small teenage boy rested in his "throne" in a shrine. Or rather, his shrine. The ends of his semi-flat black hair faded to a gentle blue, just stopping high above his shoulder. The only thing that stood out in his hair was the lock of hair on his left with a tinge of red. He wore white coat lined with red and purple markings and the ends were cut like petals of a flower, or (if one would rather call it) leaves. He had a dark blue button down shirt underneath, rimmed with deep purple and wore pants that matched his coat. His hands were covered with a pair of brown gloves that reached his elbow and wore boots that reached halfway up his leg.
His eyes were closed and his body was lax against the chair, as if he was sleeping. His chest moved with each slow breath he took. A knock on the door of his shrine disrupted the peace, but the teen made no movement and continued to sleep.
"Lord Maxwell?" called a voice as the door opened. A teen with long white hair tied into a ponytail and long bangs walked into the shrine with soft steps. He wore a red lined, silver patterned white vest with a tight, black undersuit, and a deep blue feathered-collar around his neck. His vest extended to his legs, making it seem like he was wearing shorts. He also had separated white sleeves that matched his vest and a pair of red shoes. His olive green eyes caught the sight of the teen dozing off at his place once again.
The white-haired teen, Ivar, sighed and shook his head as he headed over to the other teen. "Are you sleeping on duty again? Lord Maxwell, you know you shouldn't sleep like that."
Going up a couple of stairs, Ivar made his steps a little loud to announce his presence but "Lord Maxwell" didn't budge. He placed a hand on the smaller teen's shoulder and shook him gently. "Lord Maxwell?"
When he didn't answer, Ivar tried again with a different name. "...Jude?"
Suddenly, "Lord Maxwell's" eyes snapped open, revealing a lovely shade of honey gold. For a moment, Ivar was relieved that he woke up, but there was something wrong. Jude's eyes were wide with horror and his skin felt cold. He was also several shades paler than usual.
"Ivar..." Jude muttered shakily. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to check on you since no one had seen you after the morning rituals," Ivar answered, then asked with concern, "What's wrong?"
"N-nothing." Jude answered with a shake of his head, his expression slowly falling into his normal blank-like look and color slowing returning to his skin. "Just a bad dream. What time is it?"
"It's just past noon, Lord Jude." Ivar said as he moved to the center of the shrine. Jude nodded as he sat up and clapped his hands together.
"Ah. I just remembered something." he lied. Jude could feel the presence of the Four hovering by him as he stood up. "I forgot to help out today!"
Ivar immediately spun on his heel to catch Jude smiling. "Now, wait right there!"
Jude didn't listen to him as he took off toward the door. In all honestly, he already did help out the people of Nia Khera, but he needed a believable excuse. Ivar caught him by the back of his coat collar and pulled him back a bit. "Where do you think you're going?"
"I'm heading back to Nia Khera, obviously." Jude replied.
"And just what are you going to do there?"
"...help." came Jude's answer.
"Ju-!" Ivar was only able to get one syllable of Jude's name before a gust of wind suddenly push him back, making him suddenly release the smaller teen and fall to his rear. Jude easily caught his balance and turned on his heel to face Ivar. And polite smile lit Jude's face as he waved once.
"I'll be fine. It's only cows, Ivar." Jude said, "But, as always, thank you for your concern!"
The teenage Maxwell turned around and hurried to the door as Ivar scrambled to stand up.
"Lord Jude, please do watch your step."said a motherly voice in his head.
"Right, of course, Undine!" Jude grinned as he felt the warm sunlight on his face right outside. He could hear Ivar hurrying after him inside, so he didn't waste another second. Jude leapt in the air and felt Sylph's wind catch him, lifting him up in the air.
"LORD JUUUUUUUUDE!" Ivar cried as he shot out of the shrine. Jude couldn't help but sigh and shake his head as he flew higher in the air. Sylph appeared beside him, along with the other spirits as Ivar began to hop up and down, demanding Jude to come back. Even though it was rude, Ivar learned early on that Jude would not so much as listen to him if he wasn't forceful enough to breakthrough the young Maxwell's thoughts.
"To Nia Khera?" asked Sylph as she crossed her arms. Jude shook his head as his expression became serious.
"No, we need to go to Fennmont. Too many Spirits just died, and I need to get to the bottom of this." he replied.
"What about Ivar?" Gnome asked, taking a glance at the white-haired teen. Jude shrugged.
"I'll deal with his scolding later. Right now, I must go to Fennmont."
"As you wish, Maxwell." Efreet said as the other spirits nodded their heads. Little did Jude know that it would be a while before he could hear Ivar's voice again.
A soft, yet heavy sigh escaped a long, blonde haired woman as she strolled down the walkways of the research center. Her sword bounced lightly at her side with her gloved hand placed loosely on the grip. Her boots clicked as the hit the glass-like floors. Her outfit was a standard Rashugal soldier outfit without the helmet. She always hated how stuffy it felt to be wearing the helmet, despite the fact that it was supposed to protect her head.
Just yesterday, she was assigned to guard duty in the Research faculty in Fennmont. She was informed that there was a weapon she had to protect and make sure no one unauthorized could enter. In all honesty, Milla barely ever got guard duty. She was always given field missions, like take care of a few monsters and get rid of any spies from Auj Oule.
"Ah, Milla, it's nice to see you on guard duty for once." said a familiar voice. Miller stopped her stroll and turned to see a very familiar face. She smiled at the sight of the older man.
"Professor Haus," she greeted. "I haven't seen you for a few weeks at most.”
"Which is good considering the reason why I usually see you." the Professor responded good-naturedly. They shared a laugh, enjoying the short moment. Milla had met Haus on many occasions. Most of it was because of her teammates straining their mana or getting injured herself from a mission or two. She would admit that it was nice to meet the man, but she would rather meet him for a different reason altogether.
"All too true, Professor." Milla said with a smile. "What brings you here today?”
"I was asked to help out today." he winked. He looked around and leaned in, gesturing Milla to do the same. "Since I trust you, they asked me to help out on a Top-Secret research in the lab today.”
"Oh...that's a bit strange considering your field of expertise." Milla said as she leaned back, tilting her head.
"Ah, what makes you say that?" Haus asked as he, too, leaned back.
"You are a medical doctor, Professor. I don't see how you could help very much..." Milla said with a shake of her head.
"How much do you know about the project, Milla?”
Milla took a moment to think as she placed a hand on her hip and looked up in thought. "Well...I was told to guard a weapon, but I wasn't told what it does. As far as I know, it's really powerful. Again, I don't see how you fit in.”
"There's a reason for everything, Milla. I'll find out eventually." Haus assured as he patted her shoulder. "Well, I must be off. I can't be late now, can I?”
"Of course, not. I wish you luck, Professor." Milla said.
"Thank you, Milla. I'll see you in a few hours.”
Milla didn't realize that that would be that last she would ever hear from him again.
A white magic circle formed beneath Jude as he landed atop of the water. He couldn't help but feel a bit guilty as the winds around him settled down. He should've actually told Ivar where he was going instead of leaving like that. Jude paused for a moment when he remembered Ivar's head strong personality. He didn't even doubt that Ivar wouldn't stay in place for very long. He sighed and shook his head. He could think about Ivar later.
"Is this the place?" Jude asked as he looked around. Sylph was quick to make sure Jude stayed above the water. The whole area was already dark, even though it was only a little past noon. Tree like lamps flickered around him and eventually gave out. Jude frowned at the lack of spirits around the area. "It's too empty.”
"A great number of spirits died near this building." Efreet said.
Jude nodded and subconsciously gripped his right hand on his left wrist as he eyed for a way in. If he could just manage to get in, then maybe he could find the source of the problem... and may be get back before Ivar goes after him. He spotted a water drain just down the waterway ahead and hurried over to it. He touched the cold metal bars before stepping away and holding up a hand.
"Efreet." he muttered as he summoned Efreet's power. A surge of heat rushed through him as he focused on the gate. A ball of fire launched from his hand and into the metal bars, efficiently obliterating it. Jude dropped his hand and looked to the side, presumably to Efreet. "You didn't have to destroy it…"
"Sorry, got a bit excited."Efreet answered as he shrugged his shoulder. Sylph snickered above Jude.
"He's just happy he finally gets to do something more important than lighting bon fires, Maxwell." she said.
"At least he gets to do something while I still water plants." Undine said with a pout. Jude sighed and shook his head.
"Hey, I do let you guys do what you want. You make it sound like I'm using you for menial tasks. Which, for the record, I did not ask you guys to do in the first place." he said. He heard Gnome laugh a little before moving to enter to waterways.
"Who are you talking to?" said a woman's voice behind him. Jude spun on his heel and saw a blonde haired woman looking right at him with a slight frown. He was surprised that the woman was actually standing on one of the little circle platforms Sylph and Undine created. Did he forget to dismiss it? It wouldn't be the first time…
"Ah...my guardians...?" Jude said, not sure what to call the Four Great Spirits. He could hear Gnome and Sylph laughing a little at his response and Efreet grunting behind him.
The woman raised an eyebrow before narrowing her red eyes. "Never mind that, what are you doing here? I could arrest you from blowing out the water drain, but I'm considering it now since you are a child.”
"I'm fifteen." Jude answered automatically. His eyes widened when it finally registered what he said. "I-I mean, I'm not a child.”
The woman looked at him disbelievingly. "Right. I'm starting to doubt that.”
"Please believe me." Jude said.
"You should go home. This is no place for you to be." the woman said as she stepped toward Jude. "I don't want you to get caught by the guards.”
"Wait! I can't go home yet." Jude said as he shook his head. "There's something here that I must do, whether you approve it or not. I will not let anyone stop me from my mission.”
"Hey, I got a mission to complete here, too, which means I have to make you leave this area." the woman said, her hand griping the hilt of her sword by her side.
"Stubborn, isn't she?" Undine said as Jude sighed.
"Yeah, no kidding." he breathed under his breath. Jude took a second to collect himself (not that he really needed to) and raised his hand. "Then you leave me no choice.”
He flicked his wrist and waved his fingers dismissively.
"What-!" Before the woman even realized it, the circle below her vanished. Gravity took her swiftly, realization dawning on her as time seemingly slowed for her. She let out a surprised cry as she fell into the cold, deep water. Jude didn't hide the flinch he had when she went under, and felt relieved when she resurfaced a few seconds later. “You-!"
"I'm sorry!" Jude quickly cut her off with a quick, apologetic bow of his head. He turned on his heel and climbed into the water drain.
"H-Hey!" the woman cried with a splash from her arm reaching toward Jude. "Come back here! Security is going to catch you!"
Jude only spared her a glance before Efreet floated in her line of sight.
"Jude, we should hurry. You can worry about the human later. She's strong." the Fire Spirit assured. Jude still seemed a bit reluctant, but Sylph gave him a bit of a nudge, silently urging him to keep going. One glance at Gnome and Undine told him all he need. Hesitantly, he nodded and began at a light jog, heading deeper into the water drain.
For some odd reason, he couldn't help but feel like he would see the woman again. Jude immediately took the hunch and trusted it, taking Efreet's words into account. He kept his eyes forward and steeled his determination. He had a mission to complete and he was not about to let anyone stop him. That woman would be just fine. After all, she did look like she could handle herself.
A small smile graced Jude's lips as he turned a corner. “I'll see her again for sure.”