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The Fearless Fool

Padge Nyle leaped onto the window ledge. His feet landed nimbly on the rim, careful not to make a single noise. He winced as the wood groaned. He turned around, giving himself a well rounded look of the room behind him.

Dim candlelight barely illuminated the room from a bedside cupboard. Vara rolled in her bed, pulling the blankets over her shoulder. The noise didn’t seem to bother her. Padge redirected his gaze to Iden. The tall boy was much more threatening than Vara, but he simply huffed as he flipped over on his mattress. His face, even though relaxed and in a sleeping position, still seemed scrunched up. Padge could have sworn that Iden was always angry about something, even in his dreams.

Padge breathed a small sigh of relief as he peered over the ledge. The tips of his feet were visible as he eyed the tiled roof of the verandah below. The two meter drop didn’t seem intimidating to him at all. The sound of his feet crashing onto it was. Padge’s fingers plucked one of the vials sitting in the pockets of his belt, his thumb flicking the lid open.

He hovered his palm over the mouth of the vial, pulling out a stream of dark purple droplets. Padge pulled his arm back, and the Fragments followed his movements. His feet pushed off the ledge, propelling him into the cool night air. He found himself suppressing a laugh of joy. It was great to be free.

In a second, Padge pushed the purple droplets downwards, shooting towards the roof like a spear. The Surcon crashed without a sound, hurriedly crawling across the tiles into a circular mark.

Weight crashed into Padge’s ankles as he landed silently on the roof, right in the center of his target, only a soft whisper of wind giving the indication of his presence. The tips of his fingers tapped the tiles as he fell into a squat. The boy quickly straightened himself. His ears picked up the cheering and hollering of the inn’s tavern.

He remembered how much he had anticipated the day where he could venture on out his own Search, and felt the emotion intensely. He pulled out another vial. Fragments of bright orange fused together into a small piece of tangerine glass. Lifting it up to the bridge of his nose, Padge eyed the distance. The silhouette of a pair of hills was barely visible. They seemed so dark and mysterious, much more beckoning than the safe confines of Petina’s Inn. With a ghost of a grin brightening his face, Padge pulled his orange Fragments back together, and the purple mark on the roof disappeared, turning into indigo mist. He raced towards the edge of the roof. He pushed off again, completely ignoring the flight of stairs that led up to the inn’s entrance, and curved the Surcon back into its vial.

Just as he capped the lid closed, his feet rustled the grass beside the Path. Moments later, Padge took off, running into the night.

A mere minute passed since Padge’s departure from the room in Petina’s Inn. The candles continued to glow with their pale light.

Vara popped an eye open, eying the back of the figure sleeping on the bed across from her. She propped herself onto her elbows, gaze wandering to the window for a moment. “Um... Iden?”

Iden groaned. “Let me guess: Padge snuck out again?”

“Aren’t you going to go after him?” Vara asked.

The boy scoffed. “Ha! Why would I go after him?”

Vara smirked. “Because you do it every single time he jets off in the middle of the night just to make sure he doesn’t get himself mauled by Spirits.”

Iden lazily pulled the blankets over his head. “Nope. Not this time,” he replied, voice muffled. “He needs to learn his lesson.”

“And you yours.” Vara sighed. “Otherwise, I would take that you are going to enjoy explaining it to Jerilyn when she mistakes Padge’s exploration trip to be him running away from her. Again.”

There was a moment of silence.

Groaning even louder than before, Iden threw the covers off with his right hand. “Fine, I’ll go after him. He’d better not be a corpse by the time I get there.”

A bead of sweat rolled down Padge’s temple as he pushed himself against the face of the hill, just below the crest. He brought out a pocket sized orange tinged screen of glass, holding it to his right eye as he carefully poked his head above the crest of the hill. His eyes cut through the dark thickness of the night. It gave him a new, enhanced sense of sight. The lens revealed to his vision a flock of dark gray cloaked figures hovering aimlessly in the valley ahead. The cowls were over their heads, for which Padge was a little disappointed for, since it lowered the chances of them spotting him.

The Spirits wandered without formal direction, heading straight, backwards, left and right at random whims. One of them accidentally crashed into another. It simply moved to the side and continued on. There didn’t seen to be more than ten of them in total. Despite that, Padge figured it might be an issue if all of them came at him at once.

Nope, it’s definitely going to be an issue. Though, no one said it wouldn't be fun.

A hand grabbed Padge’s shoulder. He whipped himself around, finding a figure in a cloak behind him. For a second, he thought a Spirit grabbed him. But a moment later, Padge realized that he was looking up at an orange shaded Iden. It took Padge a single blink to realize that he was still holding the Antinum lens against his eye and he quickly pulled it back. Even then, he wasn’t fast enough to miss the vexed expression on the other boy’s face.

“Hi, Iden!” The glass in Padge’s hand dissolved and disappeared into a trail of light amber mist. “I was wondering what was taking you so long to get here!”

Iden hurriedly shushed him. “Keep your voice down!” he whispered, forcefully. “The Spirits are going to notice us.”

Padge slapped Iden’s hand off his shoulder. “Come on, man! You’re no fun! Besides, were we really going to spend the entire night in that inn?”

“Yes!” hissed Iden. “We finally got ourselves enough Gelts to get a mattress to sleep in for a few days. Then we have you!” He pointed an accusing finger at Padge with his right hand, his left arm dead at his sides. “Who’s willing to waste all our hard work to go looking for Spirits! Why are you in such a hurry? You’re not even fifteen!”

“Yeah, so?” Padge scoffed, shrugging. “The faster your find your Soulstring the better. I don’t want to walk around my entire life with a missing chunk of my soul.”

“You just want to ascend to Paradise.”

“And when I’m up there, I’ll watch you from my almighty throne of–” A flurry of blood crimson entered his vision. Padge’s instincts acted faster than his thoughts. “Get down!” With a firm yank, Padge pulled Iden down onto the grass with hardly any resistance.

Iden felt his right wrist shoot out reflexively to cushion his fall. His left arm simply flopped to the ground, lifeless. Iden growled. “Stupid Soulstring, stupid arm. Padge, what are you–”

“Shush, you’re going to give away my element of surprise!”

The next thing Iden’s eyes caught was Padge’s brown boots shooting across his field of vision. Then the boy was gone, sprinting down the hill, hollering at the top of his lungs. A Spirit at the foot of the hill spun its head in one jerky movement, eyes glaring at the boy running towards him. As Padge drew closer, it barely moved.

For a brief moment, Iden was left dumbfounded. He quickly snapped out of his dazed state, right hand reaching for one of the vials strapped onto the inside of his cloak. His thumb flicked open the lid, orange streaming into the air. He grumbled as the droplets formed a monocle at his left eye, a string keeping it in place.

“What kind of idiot charges at Spirits in the dark? At least get your Antinum Form going before yelling out like a barbarian!” His vision turned clear in the night, the Spirit’s shape and Padge’s figure becoming clear in the distance. Iden’s eyes caught a glint of claws beneath the Spirit’s cloak.

His mind acted quickly. Iden’s fingers brought out another vial, its contents bright scarlet. He pushed himself off the hill, throwing the vial forward, it arced in the air before rustling the grass as it landed. Iden adjusted his steps slightly, a foot crushing the vial. Red fragments exploded at his feet. He pulled them together, first into a straight pole, then a sharp tip appeared at the end. Iden rooted his feet into the ground, pulled his arm back and hurled his spear forward.

Padge got ready to strike, popping open his container, about to pull out his red Angon Fragments. The Spirit charged, the ends of its cloak flying back at the speed of its approach. Its talons started appearing from beneath its mantle, and Padge realized that he might not be able to Form a weapon in time.

A spear struck clean through the Spirit’s chest, pinning itself into the dirt. The creature screeched in agony, disappearing into a wisp of dark gray. As Iden reached the bottom of the hill, his feet slid to a stop.

Padge turned, giving him a what-gives gesture with his hands. “What was that? I could’ve taken him!”

“Could you? You charged without a Form! What were you thinking?” Iden walked over to his spear embedded into the ground and pulled it out with ease. “People don’t call you the Fearless Fool for nothing.” The spear broke apart into a thousand droplets once more, and Iden prepared to put them back in his vial. He then paused.

A grin curled up Padge’s lips. “Stop breaking your vials. Because when you start getting cranky after being exhausted from making new Angon, you take it out on poor little Padge here.”

Huffing, Iden allowed his scarlet Fragments to rain down onto the floor as he hid his right arm back beneath his cloak. A bit of air caught the cloak as he turned his back to the other boy. “Come on. Let’s get back to the inn before Jerilyn notices we were gone.”

Padge rolled his eyes. “Yes, mother.” He began to reluctantly follow Iden away from the foot of the hill. His gut tightened, and Padge felt a sinister presence appearing right behind him. Padge tilted his head backwards slightly, noticing an entire line of blood red eyes approaching him.

This is going to be an exciting night after all.

“Hey, Iden!” he called, pulling his ruby Angon out of his vial. The droplets made a hilt, followed by a blade, and Padge’s fingers wrapped themselves around the handle of the freshly Formed knife. “I bet you I can take on more of these Spirits than you.”

That caused the elder boy to stop in his tracks. Iden felt irritation ignite in his chest. “Is that a challenge?”

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