“Numerous craters are reported to be found in the Tarevuen, although no remnant of a supposed meteor have been found and no meteors are reported to have crashed on the surface of Parvilien. Although no harm has been done to civilians, residents nearby have complained about loud noises in the area, some even describing it as explosions. The SIC (Special Investigative Corps) have dispatched a team to investigate the situation, and the first reports will be expected after a week.” Awakened by the noise of the news reports, Avalel yawned and lazily crawled out of his bed. It was rare now for him to get a vacation. Although he has been under great care from The Wise One, he had to work many hours along with his education. Almost every day in every year he had to work in order to have resources to distance himself from the Tarevuen orphanage. It was a rather peaceful and fun place, but Avalel decided it was unfitting that he should depend on anyone, so as a result, he was much more mature than friends his age, and because of managing his time well, he also became one of the most intelligent.
Watching the screen in front of him reporting about the craters, he silently chuckled. The Anapadeia was lit dimly in his hands. The craters were created by none other than Avalel in his daily training. He still hadn’t fully mastered the power of the Anapadeia, but compared to his first grasp of the Anapadeia eight years ago, he had come a long way. Many awards were in his dedicated “trophy shelf”, most dedicated to winning in duels and other combat competitions (he was not allowed to use the Anapadeia in the competitions). Others included awards from academia and awards on debates. He was now well-known as a fighter in both debate and combat, challenging anyone he wants and accepting every challenge he received.
However, these awards meant nothing to him. As the awards slowly accumulated dust, the adjacent photo gallery was polished and cleaned on a weekly basis. These were the pictures of Faresoenn and Avalel, and were unaltered since the passing of Faresoenn. Ever since Faresoenn’s death, Avalel has become quieter and reserved, and slowly, his group of friends dwindled. Once extroverted and open, he had now become shy and closed, and only in debate and combat does his extroversion shine brightly. His remaining close friends described him as “Rather silent, removed, and reserved.” He was once found on the roof of his hut, sitting there, with no idea why he had sat up there.
“Hey, Lel. You going training today?” a voice called. Startled, Avalel turned around and found Kavlina at his door. Kavlina, unlike Avalel, was extroverted and loud, and regardless of these differences, she had become a close confidant and friend of Avalel. She was the only companion that regularly accompanied Avalel in his daily training, and eventually became his closest rival in combat. Their classmates at school spread rumors about what exactly happened during those training sessions, but both ignored those and continued on their regular training sessions, sometimes lasting for days on end.
“Sure. I got nothing to do today. Much better than just lying down here as a piece of trash wasting away precious time.”
“I brought some food and supplies. You think we can train for a whole day?”
“Ok, then. Wait a bit.” Quickly rushing into his room, he grabbed the first set of clothing he set his eyes upon and changed. Barely a minute later, he had re-appeared at the door, ready to depart.
Off they went. Entering the deep forest, they jumped over logs and branches, cut their way through overgrown bushes and vines, duck under crevices, until they reached an opening. It was a peaceful place with birds chirping nearby, the trees rustling against the wind, some bending over its majesty. Both unsheathing their weapons, they prepared for a practice duel.
In a duel that once again made the trees moan from the wind, they rapidly exchanged blows, but none went as far as a small cut. The blades clashed and shone from the reflection of the sun. Even with the powers of the Anapadeia, Avalel can only keep up with Kavlina, who now forced him to only defend and gain advantage in counterattacks.
An opening. That was all he needed. As Kavlina rose up to deal with another series of blows with her short swords and daggers, she exposed an opening on her neck. Instinctively, Avalel sprang up and pinned down Kavlina, the Anapadeia now glowly softly in victory just above her neck.
“I win,” he gasped.
“Hey, release that sword of yours! One loose grip, and there goes my life!” Kavlina exclaimed.
“Fine, fine.” As he released the Anapadeia, Kavlina suddenly pounced like a leopard and now, it was Avalel’s turn to be pinned. Her daggers quickly piercing Avalel’s clothing, the daggers now nailed him down. Satisfied, she rose up and went to her small bag.
“Don’t let your guard down. Have I not told you enough times?” Kavlina asked. Although her tone was serious, Avalel thought he heard some chuckling.
“Hey! I need some food too!” cried Avalel as Kavlina searched through her bag.
“Stay there for an hour, and I’ll give some. You should definitely learn your lesson. Mmm, these sandwiches are delicious!”
Time went by. The sun now rose to midday, and in response, Avalel’s stomach was groaning with hunger.
“Kavlina, could I have some food now?”
“Oh, I forgot, Lel. I finished it all.” Kavlina laughed, “You want some grass?”
Avalel moaned, “What? Are you kidding me?” His stomach now growled, as if in anger and disappointment.
“Of course I’m kidding!” Kavlina now laughed even more, “You really think I would forget? Besides, I couldn’t even finish all of this. Here, help yourself.” She removed her daggers from Avalel and tucked them carefully inside her pockets.
Sitting in the shade of the trees away from the midday sun, Avalel and Kavlina were now recovering from their duel. Skyscrapers from Achien stood tall in the horizon, regardless of the trees’ efforts to cover it.
“Hey, do you think there is a better life in Achien?” Avalel asked.
“Well, do you mean you want to move into Achien, just like your dad did before?”
“He told me something before his death. It was just like a whisper, but I heard it clearly.”
“What was it? All I remember hearing from people was that he said something to you, and they said from your expression, it was important.”
“He said I’m not his son.”
“Well, the elders all know it, and some of us knew that too, listening to conversations every now and then, but I just have a feeling they know who your real parents were, too.”
“His last words said I am the heir of Achien.”
“What the Elyfesta! How is this possible? I thought the line of the Achien monarchs has ended! So your true parents were King Stasibel and Queen Macrera? This definitely is breaking news!”
“Shush! I don’t want anyone to hear this. I almost got killed once because the current government knows who I am.”
“Who doesn’t want who to know what?” a voice sounded. A group of people now emerged from the bushes. All tall in stature, they were emitting an aura of hostility.
“Oh, great,” Avalel moaned, “Not these people.”
“Well, if it isn’t Avalel and Kavlina! What were you doing this time, eh? ‘Training’?” The leader, Lerathaer mocked.
“You know you have lost in a 1v1 duel against both of us before in the Tournament,” Kavlina scoffed, “What brings you here now? Showing your humiliation in front of all your buddies again?”
“You know, it isn’t just me against you two, but us all.” Making a shrill whistle, the crowd behind slowly shuffled forward, but it was what was behind the crowd that made Avalel shudder. The Achien Emblem shined clearly on their armor, and although all were humanoid, none resembled that of a human. They were the war machines of Achien. Only one machine with the emblem was unique, and a short man sat on top of it, clearly the pilot of the machine.
“Good job, Lerathaer. After eight years of constant searching, I have finally found my target. Surrender now, Avalel, and we will spare your companion,” the person said menacingly. Avalel immediately recognized the voice. It was the scientist who lured him into the laboratory eight years ago.
“Well, yeah,” Avalel grimly replied, “I surrender.” Calmly walking towards the enemy, he showed no sign of fear.
“What?” Kavlina was shocked, but all was too late, as the machines grabbed Avalel and bound him tightly. As they marched out, there was suddenly a blinding flash, as Avalel suddenly disappeared, leaving two fallen machines, wrecked and reduced to a heap of metal.
“Huh?” That was the only word the leader was able to mutter before there was another flash of light, and the leader slumped over, the back of his neck leaving a burning, bleeding mark that spelled the letter “A” in a crude form. His machine collapsed and fell over, crushing the dead leader flat, all his bones now broken and in peculiar angles.
Frightened by this sudden turn of events, Lerathaer now called his henchmen for retreat, but no one needed to hear that. The machines and the henchmen now fled in all directions, but none went as far as the distance of a fallen tree, as each and every man or machine that attempted to flee was quickly killed, either a slice to the neck or a stab in the back. Eventually, the remaining men and machines formed a ring, preparing to strike at anything that moved. However, they had forgotten Kavlina, as she too now dived into the woods, picking off any that strayed too far with her daggers and knives.
“You have found the right person, but you are underprepared,” the voice of Kavlina seemed to echo and surround all of the remaining enemies, “You will all be annihilated, but I will leave one alive. You can fight, but the result will be clear. Prepare for your deaths.” A shower of knives suddenly came raining down, some are Kavlina’s, some are parts of the Anapadeia. A large number flopped down, dead, knives hitting their vital organs, their bloodstreams, their skulls.
“Why just stand there? Shoot!” Lerathaer shouted. The machines fired in every direction, blasting holes in the tree trunks and the bushes, but none found their intended target. The small company that had set out to hunt has now become the hunted as they were trapped inside the forest. Soon, there was none standing, as the remaining movement that came from the company were twitches of the finger and sparks from the decapitated machines. Lerathaer, now filled with wounds and blood, tried to crawl to a nearby tree, but a dagger had lodged his hand in the ground. Groaning in pain, he looked up and saw Kavlina now loomed over him like a vulture staring down at its prey.
“This has gone quite too far,” she hissed, “Where is Nasition?”
“I don’t know,” Lerathaer sputtered, “I was only paid to do this.”
Kavlina grabbed him by the neck, her free hand holding a dagger dangerously near his throat. “One false move and I will make sure you suffer a special death.”
“I honestly don’t know!” Lerathaer cried, “I didn’t even know they were trying to kill Avalel! They only paid me to find Avalel, so there’s no way I know anything about this!”
“Well, I’ll assume you are telling the truth,” Kavlina ordered, “Crawl back to your hut on your wretched stomach. If you don’t tell anyone, then I will forgive the fact you tried to kill your own kind and I’ll promise I won’t kill you.” With that, she turned away, slowly walking further from the slaughter.
Grateful, Lerathaer began to crawl, but suddenly felt a hand grab his hair and lift his head up. His head was now facing Kavlina, who had now a sinister smile on her face.
“On second thought, maybe I should end your suffering.” Grabbing a nearby dagger, she slit his throat mercilessly, the blood now gushing out of the wound. Releasing her grip, the now lifeless body of Lerathaer fell face down, left to rot and claimed by the forest floor.
Avalel leaped down, his face pale. “What have we done? We have just murdered our fellow kind!”
“Shut up and help me clean this up. That Nasition has caused us enough trouble. It’s time to bring the trouble to him,” Kavlina hissed, collecting her daggers from the bodies of the dead.
As Avalel collected any useful parts from the machines and supplies from the dead, he can’t stop thinking about this man Nasition. Even if I am the heir of Achien, does that mean I have to be killed? Plus, it’s not like I knew my own identity. Filling his bag with the parts, he now carried a heavy burden, a symbol of his identity and responsibility. What do you want me to do, dad?