Book One: Knights' Festival

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Learning from Others

The only place he could find solace was in the war room.

Santino drummed his fingers against the wooden table while looking around the empty war room. While everyone scampered around dealing with the more political and diplomatic side of things, he preferred using a sword. His mentor did say that he was pretty good in swordsmanship while his governor told him that even a goat had more brains than he did. But it didn’t matter. As long as he had the throne within his grasp, it didn’t matter what they thought.

“I will become king.” Santino muttered to himself. “It is my right and I will not let this status deter me from becoming king.”

It was common knowledge that he was not the legitimate son between the king and the queen. But it was a well-guarded secret to who his real father was. He hadn’t expected it; the king had allowed it to happen and when he found out, he just shrugged it off. Of course he could just do that, Santino scowled. At first he never understood why but when he got older, it was then he found out why. As long as his father was just an appointed government official and nobody of royal blood, he could never join the Knights’ Festival. He could never become king.

And that thought left a salty taste in his mouth.

Santino shook it off and pushed his chair away from the table. A scowl marred his features as he stalked out of the room. Before he did however, he spotted the picture of an owl with its wings spread wide as if hunting for its prey. He could feel its eyes on him and its intimidating gaze chilling him to the core.

“The symbol of Sofiene,” Santino murmured and looked towards the table, brushing his hand against the smooth surface. “It is a creature that symbolized wisdom and that knowledge was power.”

As he looked into the owl’s eyes, something in his chest tightened. His fists clenched and his upper teeth bit down on his lower lip. Frustration built inside him; how could he still feel doubt despite everything he had done? His cloak billowed behind him as he stormed out. His knuckles paled. His eyes narrowed. He had to secure the position. He just had to.

And it was the same reason why he agreed to the plan. The mindless slaughter and massacre, it was completely one sided. Matteo’s plan of sowing discord slowly had born into fruition the moment they heard a rebel group known as The Revision had emerged out of nowhere. Matteo had told Santino to stay out of it; to let the rebel group attack that night during their take-over.

But there was a part of him that Matteo could not control: it was his bloodlust and his vengeance.

While most people knew that Santino was the aggressive brother between the two, nobody knew how much of a master he was with a blade nor did they expect him to be a military commander. They didn’t expect him to have the calculating mind to figure out strategies to make himself appear to be the hero against The Revision. His fingers wandered towards his sword and traced the embellished crest of Sofiene on its guard. A bitter smile curved up his lips as he heard someone come up behind him.

“My lord,” a voice said. “General Aurelius… We managed to locate his body.”

Santino turned around to see General Vladimir Rouge. As one of the oldest in the army, he had survived many battles and was the best spear user in all of Sofiene. Nobody could beat him. His skill was completely unparalleled. General Vladimir had been devoted to Santino’s mother more than the king and continued to serve him when he decided to take the throne.

The general was a middle-aged man with a stocky structure. Over the years, wars have beaten and whipped the man into shape. His amber gold eyes spoke of the horrors of war and the wrinkles and lines on his face marked the stressful days as a soldier. His salt and pepper hair was wrapped up in a dirty strip of cloth for a ponytail. Even his beard and moustache matched the colour of his hair. He wore the traditional commander’s armour of Sofiene – silver pauldrons, chainmail and armor plates with a purple cloak bearing Sofiene’s insignia on it. On his back, General Vladimir had a large bright red javelin strapped on with two leather bands.

“Aurelius was an idiot,” Santino shook his head. “He couldn’t have killed any of her knights even if he tried.”

Vladimir shook his head. “So it seems. But his body was found next to his pet Hydra and a mutated dried up husk of a creature.”

“Did you find out what the creature was?”

“Unfortunately not yet. We don’t have the technology here. We’re having it done in Chemia Village.”

The village of Alchemy, Santino thought. “I see,” the prince nodded. “And what of my brother?”

“Your brother, sire?”

“Has he gathered his own Knights? I haven’t heard from him.”

General Vladimir nodded. “He already has. And we’ve received reports of Karthakos also preparing to join the Knights’ Festival.”

Santino stopped and raised an eyebrow. “Oh and this is because…?”

“Sire, there is a clause that says that anyone from outside Sofiene can join the Knights’ Festival. However, to have an aim at the throne – they must be of royal lineage.”

“So, this is Emperor Jonathan isn’t it?”

“No, sire. It is the princess who’s going for the throne.”

Santino scoffed. Princess Phylline had no business sticking her nose into their feud. Unless, he thought. She couldn’t have wanted to expand the territory of Karthakos would it? But it would be too far, he added to himself. Karthakos was a long trip from Sofiene and back. But why would the princess of Karthakos be setting her eyes here?

“The little scorpion’s greedy isn’t she?” Santino added. He turned to General Vladimir. “Call on the other generals.”

“Sire, I don’t think risking open war is a good idea.”

“I didn’t ask for your opinion, Vladimir.”

“I know you weren’t. But it’d be best also to listen to those who have been on the battle field longer.”

Santino pondered for a moment, nodding. “True.” He shook his head. “Very well, it won’t be an open war.”

Vladimir sighed in relief. “And what do you propose, Sire?”

Yeah, what was a good idea?

Santino pondered for a moment. She had the nerve to ally with Samantha, he scowled at the idea. He hadn’t expected both Xychosia and Karthakos to rally to his sister’s aid. As far as he was concerned, he had expected Xychosia to stay neutral. But he knew that he couldn’t challenge Xychosia. Not just because of the armies they had but their elite members. He wasn’t stupid; the stories of the notorious and infamous Boogeyman had reached him. While the name had supposedly faded into legend, only those who were smarter knew that he had changed his name.

“That councilman could bring down a country in a day,” Santino muttered and shook his head.

Vladimir blinked. “Who, Sire?”

“Someone very feared. And one of the reasons why many empires think twice in attacking Xychosia.”

“General Melissa?”

Santino nodded. “Well, she is one of those champions. When Queen Regina picked her champions, she certainly knew where to look.”

“Melissa Expier however can only do so much. She is still human.”

“That is true. But the man I’m talking about is far deadlier than her. He can wipe cities and not a single person will even notice.”

The general shook his head. “Whoever this man is, he should not pose a problem to us.”

“Oh he will if we anger Xychosia,” Santino said and folded his arms, shaking his head. “And that’s what we’re trying to avoid. Attacking Karthakos will trigger a continental war.”

As much as he hated to admit it, as long as the Boogeyman allied himself with Xychosia, attacking Karthakos City was similar to triggering a death trap. He had heard of other members of Xychosia being powerful but not as powerful as that man. He remembered the stories of the many criminals who were deported back to Sofiene to face trial for their crimes. They shivered and shuddered in fright. And all they could say was, “I do believe. I do believe in the Boogeyman!”

Santino clenched his fists tight. How was he going to get Karthakos to withdraw their support? Ugh, he resisted the urge to pull out his hair. This was something he often left with Matteo. He sighed deeply and shoved his hands into his pocket.

“Call in the generals. We’re gonna have to come up with a plan.” Santino ordered.

General Vladimir bowed. “At once, Your Grace.”


Brandon sighed in relief as he held the Mana Tracker in his hand. It took a lot of haggling but the device was worth its weight in gold if it could track Samantha. It’d make my life ten thousand times easier, the pirate thought. Finding Samantha within the crowds of Machinos was like finding a needle in a barrel for a fish. The pirate strolled through the streets with his hands in his pockets, hiding the Mana Tracker to prevent anyone from finding it.

He swam through the crowds, making sure no one bumped him. His lavender eyes darted around the area to scan for sentinels. He slipped through the small cracks, followed the crowds into the subways, and disguised himself amongst a group of people to prevent anyone from recognizing him.

Suddenly, someone bumped him and nearly knocked him over. Brandon staggered forward to catch himself until he saw a small blur run past him. The pirate frowned for a moment and pressed his hands against his pockets only to realize that the Mana Tracker was gone! His eyes widened.

“Shit the little scallywag took me Mana Tracker!” Brandon hissed.

Although he didn’t catch a good glimpse of the thief’s face, he remembered what the thief was wearing. Brandon pushed and shoved through the crowd to catch the thief. He could hear the splashes of water and the outcry of the angry people. A smirk curved up his lips; the thief seemed a little inexperienced. Brandon heard loud crashes and thumps along with the angry shrieks and scolding of the people.

“Hey! Someone took my wallet!”

“Stop, thief!”

“Give it back!”

Brandon swam through the crowd only to spot the small blur dive into one of the alleys. He bolted into the alley and followed after the blur. Water splashed against his boots and sweat poured down his face. He huffed and puffed as the blur took a tight turn. Brandon skidded before noticing the walls. A smirk curved up his lips as he jumped up onto the dumpster before running on the wall. With enough speed, he kept himself going before finally landing in front of the thief.

“Ah!” The thief yelped.

Brandon stared down at him only to realize it was a little boy. A boy no older than ten years old wearing a tattered set of clothes fell on the floor on his butt. The muddy water splashed against his dirty face and his shorts and shoes were soiled from the dirt. But he also spotted bruises covering the boy’s arms and red angry welts decorating the boy from head to toe.

But there was a part of Brandon that softened up at the sight of him. When he looked into the boy’s terrified rose-coloured eyes, he saw a pair of pointed ears and leaf-like skin. His eyes widened. The boy was a dryad!

“Y-you’re,” Brandon gawked.

The boy, in fear, quickly slammed his hand onto the ground and the floor began to rumble. Brandon staggered back as the moss and mushrooms sprouted out of the walls, lunging at him with a vengeance. The pirate ducked and rolled as the vines smashed into the walls. The boy quickly tried to run the other way only for Brandon to corner him again. The thief, yelping in fright, bolted the other way and called another set of vines. Brandon quickly drew out his knives and cleaved right through it.

“Tch,” Brandon ducked as another nearly whipped him in the face. “Look, kid! I just want the Mana Tracker back!”

The boy refused to say anything and instead shoved past Brandon. More vines tried to block the pirate’s way. But the pirate refused to quit. He jumped through one of the small holes and used the knives to cut through the smaller ones. He kicked one of the angry leaves away until a thorn nearly impaled his head. He slipped down the long vine and continued chasing the boy.

“Damn it, I knew I should have brought my gunblades!” Brandon scowled. He kicked another vine away while another one swept him off his feet. “Woah!”

Brandon crash landed on his back before looking up to see that the boy was getting away. His hands clenched tightly into a fist. He couldn’t let the boy get away with his only lead to find Samantha. Without much of a choice, he quickly clicked the earcuff on his ear and pointed his hand forward and gestured to the vines.

“Get him!” Brandon commanded.

The vines however didn’t budge.

“What the hell?” Brandon groaned. He started tapping it. “C’mon, don’t tell me it’s broken now!”

He brushed away the thought and just bolted again after the kid. Even if the strain bit into his legs, the pirate refused to give in. Brandon huffed and puffed, pushing past the garbage cans and dumpsters. He nearly tripped over a large black garbage bag but managed to catch himself before he hit the floor. His throat burned. His lungs threatened to tear itself apart. His diaphragm ached. But I have to do this, he panted. Finally, he grabbed one of his knives and pointed it at the boy.

“I really don’t want to do this,” Brandon murmured.

With a single toss, the knife flew and went straight through the boy’s shirt. The thief yelped and the knife nailed him to the wall. The thief, panicking, started kicking and screaming before letting out an electric wail. Annoyed, Brandon grabbed a garbage bag and dropped it on him.

“Quit you’re damn whining.” Brandon scowled. “You’re the scallywag who stole me Mana Tracker!”

The boy screamed to the top of his lungs. “Help! Help!”

“Ugh, you’re the one who stole it.”

“HELP!”

“Your screaming won’t help you.”

The boy continued to scream as Brandon threw his hands up in the air in frustration. He may as well take the Mana Tracker back and be on his merry way. The moment he stuck his hand to grab the Mana Tracker, a fireball zoomed in and nearly burned his hand. The pirate backed up and turned around only to see a young man, huffing and panting.

“Leave my brother alone, asshole!” The young man cried out. He summoned fireballs. “C’mon!”

Oh you’ve gotta be kidding me, Brandon rolled his eyes. The fireballs zoomed towards him as he dodged the incoming attacks. The gap of experience between them was clear. Brandon barely had to move and the projectiles had become increasingly predictable. He sidestepped to dodge one and then ducked to avoid another. As he drew closer, he could see fear in the young man’s eyes. The fireball assault became slower and the young man finally stopped when Brandon stared straight into his eyes.

“Hello there,” Brandon smirked.

Without any hesitation, Brandon whirled around and kicked the young man straight into the sternum. The little boy stopped screaming and gasped when his older brother crashed on the ground. His eyes widened when the realization that the pirate took his brother out with one kick sank in. Brandon turned around and stalked towards him. The boy shivered in fright, closing his eyes as if waiting for Brandon to beat him up. The pirate frowned and instead just grabbed the Mana Tracker and walked off.

“I didn’t need the money. I just needed the Mana Tracker.” Brandon said and pocketed the device. “You just take the rest of the money.”

The boy’s lips quivered. “Y-you’re not gonna kill me?”

“No. I have better things to do than kill kids. It’s not me thing, laddie.”

“R-really? B-but my brother—”

Brandon looked over at the fallen male, chuckling. “—Your brother’s gonna be fine. I didn’t kick him that hard.”

The young boy nodded and he hung his head. “P-please don’t report us to the Sentinels… We’re… we’re just trying to—”

“—I know you’re trying to survive. I was like you once.”

“Really?”

“And I knew a little boy who relied on me as much as you do your brother. And whatever you do, make sure you help him in whatever he needs done.”

“I-I will.”

Brandon smiled and walked down the alleyway and headed back for the streets. He remembered the fear that flickered in the little boy’s eyes. It was the same look that Luke had. When he had first bought the Dryad, he had nothing but fear but also a dead look of acceptance. It was as if he had expected himself to be beaten, starved, and killed ever so slowly. At least these kids are trying to make a living, Brandon thought to himself.

He reached the main street where he saw the people whining and complaining to a Sentinel who seemed to nod and figure out what they were saying. Brandon’s eyes widened. Did they find out who the boy was? A part of him wanted to run back and warn them. But a part of him froze his feet to the ground. His fists clenched tight. If he had gone to help, he would be risking their cover and the Sentinels would have blacklisted them. Unlike human soldiers, they were more efficient. And for him, more efficient was a bad thing.

“Shit,” he muttered. A pang of guilt shot through him. “I’m sorry…”

With those words, he turned away and ran. The only thing he could do now was hide himself amongst the crowd. If he had got implicated now, all their hiding would have been for nothing. It didn’t help also that he held a form of contraband in his pocket. But what could he do? It was the only thing he had to track down Samantha. Shaking away the guilt, Brandon shook his head and dove into the alleyway leading back into the slums.


“Omnivision?” Samantha blinked. “What is that?”

“It’s a technique that allows you to see everything. Everything that has energy,” Kevyn explained. She folded her legs and sat down on the ground. “This is how I was able to detect you while you were trespassing into my terrain.”

“So, you can’t really see inanimate objects?”

“I can. Like I said, everything has energy. You just have to keep refining your technique as you go along.”

Samantha nodded. She had only heard about the spell once but never did find a chance to use it. Why would she? Back then, she didn’t expect herself to be fighting and running around so much. She indulged herself in more lady-like pursuits such as embroidery, make-up, books, music, and eating lemon squares and chocolate chip cookies while listening to court gossip. But after she left Xychosia, the world around her looked so different. It was no longer a warm and secure place. She had to be constantly vigilant to make sure she never got attacked. Without Beatriz, Brandon, or Daniel to protect her, she was virtually undefended.

“Can you use it in battle though?” Samantha asked.

Kevyn chuckled. “Good question and yes, you can. It takes a whole lot of getting used to though.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, how else have I been able to predict your moves?”

Samantha’s eyes widened. “You can do that?”

“Yeah, Omnivision allows you to do so. Actually, I don’t like calling it Omnivision but that’s what the book I found called it.”

“You learned by just reading?”

“I actually stumbled upon it when Machinos sent one of their Mage Hunters here. I learned it without realizing that it was possible.”

Samantha gawked. People couldn’t just learn spells like that! But there were certain levels of affinity she knew some mages had to certain elements. She remembered how Beatriz withstood the extraction of her magic while being flooded with Doom Magic at the same time. The lady-in-waiting had grown stronger. Speaking of which, how is she? Samantha asked herself. Normally, Beatriz would be wandering around looking for her already. Or, she would have at least seen the whole empire of Machinos lit up in green and dark blue flames because of Beatriz’s ruthless anger.

“Wow, being outside really does teach you a lot of things.” Samantha whispered.

Kevyn nodded. “Yeah, it does.” She looked at the clock on the wall. “Well, we better get to sleep. We have a lot of things to cover tomorrow.”

Samantha nodded. “Oh um, Kevyn?”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you for taking me in.”

The dragon-tamer waved her hand dismissively. “As long as you don’t fuck up my business, I won’t fuck up yours. You don’t annoy me, I don’t annoy you. It’s a pretty simple relationship really.”

Samantha giggled. Somehow, she liked the life outside. There wasn’t much to worry about on Kevyn’s perspective. All she had to do was live to survive which just meant find food and make sure nobody encroaches on her territory. She heard Blitzkrieg croon as it moved towards Kevyn and nuzzled her for a bit. The dragon-tamer chuckled and pet the dragon before nodding. She clucked her tongue a few times and the dragon seemed to beam in delight before wrapping its body around her bed. Awww, Samantha smiled. In other places, she had seen princesses have pet dogs, cats, parrots, owls, tigers, and many other animals. But to have a dragon as a pet was pretty amazing in her book.

She lay down on the bed that Kevyn had put out for her a few moments ago, looking up into the cavern ceiling. Samantha inhaled deeply, thinking about her knights. Where were they? Where could they be? How were they doing? So many questions filled her mind in regards to them. Although she could trust Beatriz, Brandon, and Daniel to fend for themselves, it was more how they would get along. Beatriz and Brandon clearly showed distrust. It was quite obvious especially when she felt Beatriz’s mana spike a bit when she had decided to trust him.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him though,” Samantha murmured. She sighed. “Maybe they’re just being paranoid…”

But if there’s one thing she trusted Daniel on, it was knowledge on the land and the civilizations on it.

Social Studies as many people called it. But she didn’t expect an agent like him to know things like that. Then again, it was expected of him. If he had to do some infiltrating, he had to know everything there was to the target of choice. It explained how he knew how to get to Machinos. She didn’t believe that she was that naïve. Samantha exhaled sharply and looked at Kevyn’s sleeping form. How did she learn so much by just being in the mountains? She helped her open her mind; Samantha saw things she thought she didn’t remember. The white light, the cries and screams of people, and a song – a song that seemed to herald something bigger. All Samantha remembered seeing in her mind was a large mechanical form with a pair of bright white wings. It looked like nothing she had ever seen before.

What was that thing though?

Samantha couldn’t help but wonder. Sofiene would be too small to hide something that gargantuan under the citadel. Her brothers and she would have found the thing in one of their trips running away from their governess. She sighed again. How she missed those times! The days when she and her brothers were young and just playing with one another. They had no care in the world. There was no need to engage in courtly intrigue or politics. All they did was play and joke around before tricking the household help. It was a wonderful lifetime before and the thought of it made her homesick.

“I can’t think of that now.” Samantha whispered. With those words, Samantha lulled herself to sleep.


The next morning, Samantha got up. She found the room empty and Kevyn’s bed completely tidied up. She looked towards the dining table and spotted a newly cooked hot meal on the table. Bewildered, the princess walked to the table where also spotted a folded, dirty paper. She unfolded it and read:

Gone out for flying. There’s food for you there. Will be back in a short while.

P.S. Fix your bed. I ain’t your nanny.

- Kevyn

A sigh bubbled from Samantha’s lips. At least Kevyn’s notes seemed less crude. She smiled and sat down on the chair and let the steam from the toast warm her. She could smell the Maple Syrup that dripped off the golden brown toast and along with it some Vanilla Ice Cream. Samantha stared in confusion. Kevyn didn’t have anything to keep food frozen. So where did she get the ice cream? However, her grumbling stomach told her to ignore the thought and to proceed eating. The smoky scent of freshly toasted bacon wafted into her nose as it formed a somewhat smiley face with two poached eggs. She certainly knows how to cook, Samantha thought to herself. With a poke of her fork, the yolk of one of the poached eggs burst with its fresh yellow yolk spilling onto the plate. If Samantha didn’t know better then, she would have thought that Kevyn had a high-class chef make it for her.

But Kevyn hates people, Samantha told herself. All the more reason why she knew that it was the dragon-tamer who made it. But there was something that bugged her. How come Kevyn seemed so updated with current events when she explicitly said that she didn’t care? Or in her words, she “didn’t give a flying fuck”. Samantha instead shrugged it off and resumed eating only to hear the furious beat of a pair of wings. She looked out the cavern entrance and heard Kevyn enter with Blitzkrieg.

“Morning,” Kevyn said. She hauled a brown sack over her shoulder and dropped it onto the ground with a loud thud. “Slept well, I’m guessing.”

Samantha blinked with a slow nod. “Yeah but, what is that?”

“What?”

“The sack?”

Kevyn blinked and gestured to the sack. “This?” She pulled out a few paper bags and a few books. “Just a few necessities.”

“Food and…?”

“A couple of tomes off the Dark Side.”

“You went to Machinos?”

Kevyn shook her head. “I went to Fusika. I have a contact there and he told me that the books I ordered arrived. Until this day, he has no clue how I manage to pay for these things.”

“Yeah, how do you?”

“The better question is: do I?”

Samantha gawked. “You’ve been stealing!?”

Kevyn snickered. “No need to get your panties all riled up, I sell fish. The dragons know where the best metal is and I sell them to metalsmiths and jewelers. Putting it up in the trade posts get things sold faster.”

“Really? So you just… farmed?”

“You can say that.”

Samantha nodded slowly. Kevyn was completely independent. She didn’t need anybody to help her save for Blitzkrieg. But she already had an innate love for her dragon so Kevyn had let the creature into her heart. Samantha noticed her putting out books, noticing different titles on each of them. Some were books on Herbs and Plants. Other books were about weapons, how-to books, and some were about magic. But what piqued her interest was a golden leather bound book with black linings. In big black letters, it said there: Amazing Beasts and their Lives.

“Amazing Beasts and their Lives,” Samantha murmured. She looked up at Kevyn. “You’re into Zoology?”

“Magizoology and zoology – anything about animals, I like.”

“So you study magic creatures as well?”

“I do for a hobby.”

“Don’t you need a book on dragons though?”

“I don’t need that.”

“Why?”

Kevyn gave her a duh stare. “Because I live with them, dumbass.”

“Oh right,” Samantha laughed sheepishly. She noticed Kevyn pick up the book and stared at it for a few moments before snorting in frustration. “Why?”

“Goddamn book,” Kevyn hissed and dropped it on the floor. “It’s in another damn language. Who the fuck wrote it in that language!? I asked for Human tongue, not Alien!”

Samantha frowned and stood up from her chair. She walked over to the book and picked it up, glancing through a few pages. Her eyes widened. She recognized the language! “It’s coded. And, it’s in Zongese.”

“What?”

“It’s in Zongese. It’s the main language of Guo Zong.”

“The fuck is that place? It sounds like some ancient voodoo.”

“But you practice ancient voodoo.”

“No, I practice Elemental Attunement and enhancement. Not ancient voodoo shit that crawls out of someone’s old dead ass.”

Samantha laughed and smiled. “I can teach you how to read Zongese. It’s quite easy.”

“But why the hell would someone put a Zongese spell on a book about animals?”

“Maybe it’s because it’s not allowed?”

“A book about animals? It’s not a 101 guide how to make drugs!”

Samantha shrugged and placed her hand over the book. “I don’t know but I think I can break it.”

Kevyn raised an eyebrow. “You think?”

“Well, it’s at least something.” Samantha shrugged with a sheepish smile. “Do you know how?”

Kevyn shrugged.

“Alright, let me try.” Samantha insisted and rested the book on her lap.

She took a deep breath and focused. The first thing she remembered about breaking seals is to study their intricate design. If someone had coded the book, they would have taken great care to make a code so intricate that it would have taken days. But not for me, Samantha thought. If there was one mage she knew who was extremely talented in sealing and coding, it was Councilman AJ. And although she only studied under him for a few days, she had learned the basics of breaking seals and coded spells.

First, decipher what language they used. Samantha reminded herself of the steps. She imagined the coded seal before her eyes, noticing a golden encryption before her. It was a square shaped seal overlapped with a diamond shaped one and a circle. Wow, a triple seal, the princess thought. Whoever made the book must have made sure that nobody could get to it.

But Kevyn had a point. Why would someone want to seal away a book about magic creatures? Unless someone was hiding something, Samantha thought. It had to be a secret so deadly and so destructive to merit such a powerful seal. She exhaled deeply and focused again, removing one seal at the time.

Second, remove the seal layer by layer. Samantha thought. Word per word, she began to rewriting the ancient characters on the circle. As she changed one letter, the whole meaning of the sentence changed. She plucked out each character until the circle crumbled and revealed the square shaped seal. More characters flashed before her as she began breaking one after the other.

Finally, rearrange the seal into a way you can understand. Samantha smiled triumphantly before making the final edits and breaking the code.

Much to their amazement, the tome floated in the air and the words began to rearrange themselves. The title then from Zongese became in plain human tongue: Amazing Beasts and Their Lives by Salamander Reins. Kevyn’s eyes widened as the book floated and landed back into Samantha’s hands. The princess smiled and handed it to her.

“Here you go.” Samantha grinned. “I bet you Experience didn’t teach you that, didn’t she?”

Kevyn shook her head. “No.”

“See? Not so bad learning from people.”

“I suppose.”

Kevyn opened the book and began going through the pages, folding her legs elegantly. Samantha frowned. If anything, Kevyn acted too civil to be a savage or to be raised by dragons. If she were raised completely by dragons, Kevyn wouldn’t understand the language of humans. Another thing she noticed was that her movements seemed a little to graceful for her liking. She thought about the dragons teaching Kevyn but it didn’t seem possible either. As is, Blitzkrieg didn’t look like the kind of dragon that would give her that kind of patience.

“So, why do you know all these things?” Samantha asked. “You couldn’t have possibly just sat around and read.”

Kevyn chuckled. “That’s exactly what I did. I grabbed a book, sat down, and read.”

“Didn’t you have any like… social life?”

“What the fuck is that?”

“Aren’t you lonely?”

“How can I be lonely when I have dragons?”

Samantha rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean. Dragons don’t speak human tongue.”

“That don’t mean they’re dumber than a human,” Kevyn scowled. “They’re probably even smarter. Besides, quit beating around the bush. What the hell do you want to ask me?”

Samantha bit her lip. She saw the glare in Kevyn’s eyes as the dragon-tamer stared deep into her soul. The princess swallowed hard; Kevyn looked like she was ready to geld her on sight! She shivered under the girl’s gaze. Dare she ask it? It was a question that had been bugging her for some time. While Kevyn knew things about her, she barely knew a thing about the dragon-tamer. Girding her nerves, she finally squeaked out the question.

Where are you from?” Samantha yelped.

Kevyn raised an eyebrow. “I’m from Zemlya, duh.”

“No, what city? Who are your parents? Where are you from? What do they do?”

“You ask too many damn questions.”

“You figured almost everything about me!”

“Because I’m a people person.”

“You just said you hated people!”

Kevyn shrugged. “How else would I learn how to kick the asses of you lot?”

Samantha shook her head. That couldn’t be it! She hated people! That didn’t explain how she figured out all the things about magic without people! The princess couldn’t imagine herself doing so. She needed to talk to someone otherwise she’d go insane! Come to think of it, she thought to herself. How did she survive without a voice? She sighed and raised an eyebrow at Kevyn. There was something that the dragon-tamer wasn’t telling her.

But she definitely wanted to know what.


Handling frustration was not Beatriz’s forte.

“Raagh!” Beatriz screamed and swung her scythe.

In front of her, there were three logs that she cleaved in half. Splinters flew in the air with the gears grinding the wooden logs into pieces. Beatriz gasped and clamped her fang onto her lower lip, drawing blood. The moment she drew blood, her hands clenched the shaft of her scythe tightly and more mana flooded into her weapon. Instead of just her scythe, it was coated with a navy blue cold aura that rotted anything it touched. Sweat poured down her face as she stared down at the logs in front of her.

“Fucking hell, Sam.” Beatriz growled and slammed her scythe on the floor, scowling. “Where did you go!?”

If there was one thing she hated, it was not knowing where Samantha went. Everywhere the princess used to go, she would follow. There was a time she loathed the idea but did it because she had to. But soon, she had grown attached to the air-headed princess. She missed Samantha’s naiveté and idealism. The laughter, how easy it was to tease her and get her all flushed and red – a hearty guffaw bubbled from her throat as she collapsed on her knees. She gripped the dirt on the ground and for the first time, she felt something salty and warm falling from her eyes. Beatriz stared at the tearstains on the soil and shuddered with a bitter laugh. Since when did she cry? Since when did she start to feel? When did she start becoming human?

“Ha,” Beatriz laughed hoarsely. “Ha, ha…”

She couldn’t understand. When did she care? When did she have feelings? 400 years ago, she wouldn’t have given a flying fuck if anyone she knew died! Let alone a person she had been forced to served! She didn’t cry when her own paramour died. She didn’t care when Bianca impaled her on her own sword. Come to think of it, she couldn’t remember the last time she cried. The last time she did was when the whip came cracking and snapping down on her pale porcelain skin. She remembered the blood that poured over her body and how her mother’s venomous voice shredded against her fragile psyche. Back then, she was only a child.

Now she was a woman. A woman way past her time.

Beatriz sighed deeply and knelt down, looking at the grey skies. Suddenly, she felt something wet touch her face. She blinked a few times and noticed the sky crying with its own tears. Rain fell from the grey skies and the clouds changed from dark grey into a light white-grey colour. She could see the clouds grazing along the sky. A sigh bubbled from her throat once again until she heard something splash behind her.

“Took you long enough,” she scowled. She turned to see Brandon. “Where did you go?”

“Went to find a mana tracker.” Brandon said. “Seeing that we can’t cover too much ground and I can’t detect mana like you, I bought something that could help me find her.”

“Sounds like a plan. By the way, where’s the newbie?”

“Who?”

“Daniel.”

Brandon shrugged. “I don’t know. Thought you were keeping an eye on him.”

“I’m not his babysitter.” Beatriz growled. When was she responsible for him?

“You’re the one who doesn’t trust him.”

“You don’t trust him either.”

The pirate bobbed his head and conceded. “Point,” but then, he shook his head. “But at least I tried to see the reasoning in Samantha’s judgement. I haven’t tried killing the guy yet.”

“There’s something about him that seems familiar though.” Beatriz said. She shook her head. “The way he talks, the way he moves – it reminds me of someone I killed once.”

Brandon rolled his eyes. “What a great way to remember.”

“I normally have bad memory recall but I remember this particular guy because of what he could do.”

“Which is?”

Beatriz exhaled sharply. “He was pretty good at fucking.”

Brandon deadpanned. “What?”

“I’m kidding. There was this one particular kid who had the nerve to hit me.”

“A kid?”

Beatriz nodded. “Because his mother was slaughtered in front of him, he went crazy. He grabbed a glass shard and lunged at one of the soldiers. He stabbed one of them in throat, gouged out the eye of the other, and stabbed me in the foot. It healed but hell did it hurt.”

“I don’t think he’s that fucked up.”

“But he looks a lot like him.”

“Doesn’t mean it’s him.”

Beatriz shrugged; Brandon had a point. “Yeah, maybe I’m just a bit paranoid.”

“Who wouldn’t be with a guy like him?”

“You too?”

“But not for the same reasons,” Brandon said. He looked back to check if Daniel was out of an earshot. “He seems too calm. It was as if he expected that kind of thing to happen.”

Beatriz raised an eyebrow. “Do you think he knew?”

“Knew what?”

“That this kind of thing would happen?”

Brandon shook his head. “I don’t know. I’m just suspicious but I’m giving him a chance.”

“Let me guess, because of Sam?”

“Why else?”

Beatriz sighed and chuckled. Seeing the look in Brandon’s eyes, she recognized the look. “You too, huh?”

“What?”

“She grew on you too.”

Brandon gave her a bitter chuckle. “What do you expect? I’ve been stuck with her for the last few months.”

Beatriz chuckled lightly and looked at the morning sky before her. It had been five days since the attack on Prince Reuben and the patrols hadn’t let up. Daniel had been scouting also for any information and he had returned constantly empty-handed. Beatriz sighed and folded her legs, gripping the faulds of her armour tightly. Her knuckles paled. If there was anything she hated, it was waiting. Patience had never been one of her best virtues. 400 years ago, anything she demanded was given to her on the spot. But now, she had to hack and slash her way through things. Not that she minded. She loved cutting things up.

It was more Samantha whom she was worried about. Samantha didn’t have the same bloodlust like she did. The princess barely knew how to fight. It was her job to hack and slash things while Samantha could do whatever she pleased on the other end. Now that she was separated from the princess, there was a weird tug in her chest. She gripped the black leather corset beneath her breastplate. The idea of Samantha being out there alone unnerved her. She wanted to take her anger out on something but, she already used up majority of the rotting wood. There was one other thing that could help her displace her anger. She turned to Brandon with a sly smile.

“Say, want to fuck?”

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