Eclipse: the Beginning

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Where Am I?

In an outdoor bazaar, a tall, broad, hooded woman walked on sluggish feet, glancing over the merchant’s wares in the tent booths and on blankets. Aside from a few glances, no one paid her much attention. It was a free market to any willing to pay. Who was to judge the patronage? The weary woman paused at a fruit stand to eye the ripe produce. A soft growl made a blush bloom on her cheeks.

“My goods have attracted your stomach, miss,” the handsome merchant said with a grin. He chuckled when her face turned red. “I might offer a discount if I like the face beneath the hood.”

“Hah,” an airy voice laughed nervously. “Guess I have to pay the full price. How much for the ruby ones?”

“Shy, eh?” The man smirked. Timid women were simple to please. “A feather each, but I’ll double it for a smile. How about one, miss?”

“You’re very kind, sir,” she replied with a tired sigh. A small, sweet smile grew as she handed over two gray and white feathers with black speckles. “Thank you.”

“Come again, miss,” the merchant said as he bundled up four apple-looking pieces of fruit inside a large leaf. He could not help noticing her large breasts, bulging beneath her cloak as she leaned forward to accept the goods. The man handed over the parcel, winking an eye for good measure.

“We’ll see,” she replied, walking away as quick as she could. Taking an orb from the bundle, she bit into the sweet fruit. A deep purr escaped her throat. She had been sapped of strength from hunger. This was the remedy needed to recuperate. Next, time to seek lodgings.

That was when she noticed a hooded figure dressed in a white cloak. The fruit dropped from her hand when the woman turned toward her, staring back. The white garments with gold and silver braided cords were not native to the region, which deepened her curiosity. Somehow, everything around the two of them seemed to fade away, as they were transfixed by each other. Before they could approach, something made them turn their gaze skyward.

What appeared to be a speck took form, captivating the two’s attention. By the time the tired traveler realized a person was falling from the sky, it was too late to dodge. The limp body crashed down, pinning her beneath from the stun. The white figure rushed over to them.

“Hurry,” a stern yet feminine voice spoke. Throwing the fallen one over her shoulder, with impressive strength, she yanked the large woman from the ground. The two rushed through the bazaar before the white woman spoke again. “Where is the nearest mystic?”

“I … I don’t know!” the other cried as she tried to fall in step with the white woman. Her strength and agility were impressive. Not just anyone could drag her large build around. “Mystics are outlawed in Western Wind, but they say a Wingie will find you when you need them!”

“Then pray one finds us,” a grunt replied with displeasure.

“Why are you acting so cautious?”

“Such an ominous display must be divined. It could bring unknown fortune to the world.”

Silence fell between the women. The foreigner possessed a fair bit of knowledge on mysticism, so the other wondered why she did not know about their law against Wingies.

The mad dash ceased as a cane appeared before their faces. The white woman froze with ease, but the taller heavy woman fell on her face. She moaned as she rubbed her scraped cheek.

“Such impatient children. Where are you running, I wonder?”

“Are you a mystic of the West?”

“I am a Wingie,” the old woman replied, withdrawing her cane. She only came to the white-robed woman’s hip, but her presence made her seem just as tall, if not more so. “We should not keep the child out in his condition. Follow me.”


When Samuel regained consciousness, he was lying in a dim room. The sloped ceiling made the room feel small. It looked like something out of a Feyland myth, a den hollowed out of a tree trunk.

He reached for his left eye, afraid that he might not find one. There was no bullet wound. He mused how far modern medicine had come to heal such a severe injury. Sitting upright, the thick knitted blanket that had covered him fell to his lap, revealing his less-than athletic bare chest.

“Where are my clothes?!” The Brit cried as he dashed from the room, wrapped in the blanket. He gasped as he came upon three strangely dressed women in the next room.

A mountain of a woman – in a woven green and brown cloak with the hood pulled over half her face – sat on the floor, hugging her knees against her large chest.

A tall, slender woman – in an all-white robe with metallic cords with her face also mostly covered by her hood – stood against the wall opposite Samuel, crossing her arms as if she were irritated.

The last was a small, fragile elder – in a green and blue wrap dress – poking a fireplace with a charred cane.

What was this? A costume festival? The two taller women glanced his way when he announced himself. His grip on the blanket tightened, wondering whether this was a bizarre dream or the aftermath of a sexual assault.

The older woman walked over to him. She motioned for him to come closer to her as she barely stood past his waist. He complied, as she seemed less threatening than the other two. She took his cheeks in her small, wrinkled hands. She said something, but it sounded like a different language – one he had never heard.

“I’m sorry,” he said, looking into her clouded eyes. “I don’t understand.” She spoke again. He frowned in frustration. “I can’t understand you.” She reached her palms to cup around his ears. A strange hum rang within his ears at her touch.

“Listen with your spirit then,” she said in a nurturing voice.

“What did you say …?” Samuel had understood that time. What happened? How could he not understand one moment and the next hear proper English?

“Words are not the root of all communication, child. They are only one of many methods.”

“This can’t be England,” he said with a hint of fear. “Where am I?”

“You are in the land of Aurora in the Western province of Wind. How did you come to us, child?”

“I … well… I think …” Samuel’s eyes fell to the ground. He tried to wrap his thoughts around everything that had happened before he blacked out. “I don’t know. It all happened so fast. I was in the gallery, and then I was falling from the sky and all went black.”

The elderly woman cupped his chin and looked into his eyes. Though her sight appeared to be failing, her murky green gaze pierced the young man’s spirit. She was looking for something.

“What color are your eyes, child?”

“Gray, why?” His voice was timid. The eyes were such a touchy subject for him. He did not want to hear more ridicule over his haunting eyes, especially from a stranger.

“No, they are not gray.” She waved to the bystanders without turning. “What color eyes does this child have? My sight is not what it once was.”

The woman in white refused to move, turning her head away in frustration. Her hood barely covered the annoyed expression on her lips. The large woman crawled forward for a look. She pulled back her hood, revealing a strong but kind face framed in long, shimmering black hair and matching eyes. After a moment, she gasped.

“They appear to be silver,” she said in her airy voice. “How mysterious.”

“Silver is not an eye color, Saraii,” the stern woman retorted.

“But they shine just like silver,” the one named Saraii whimpered. “They’re beautiful, actually. You should come see them, Celestial.”

“Then pluck them out to sell,” came the curt reply. Samuel and Saraii cried out at Celestial’s comment. The large woman pulled Samuel close as if to protect him from anyone who might attempt such an act.

“No need for that,” the elder sighed. She wobbled back toward the fireplace with a smile on her face. “There is no need to intimidate the child, soldier.”

Silence settled in once again as the flames popped and crackled. Celestial hunched her shoulders as she shifted into her dim corner. Her impatient had gotten the better of her, but she was not leaving until she had answers to her concerns.

When his nerve returned, Samuel reached a hand to tap the strong arm holding him against the large mounds under Saraii’s cloak. The titan of a woman glanced down at the touch. She loosened her grip but did not release him, not when he was still holding one of her arms. It was clear the youth just wanted breathing room.

“Are you familiar with the last prophecy of the Wingies, children?”

“Prophecy?” Saraii asked. “I didn’t know our collective mystics gave a prophecy. What does it say?”

“She speaks of the prophecy that came after your guardian vanished. I do not know it well, but it speaks of restoration, correct?”

“That it does, Captain Celestial of Heaven.”

The woman in white stood upright when the elderly woman outed her identity. Her mouth gaped in shock as she stared back at the Wingie.

The elder chuckled at the reaction.

“You wear all white, the Heaven standard. You are trained for action and bear military cords of high ranking about your waist. The golden beads, covering the fringe, are given by the king himself for merit. You also carry weapons, two swords from how you carry yourself … though I believe you only use one.”

“How did you …?”

“The form beneath your cloak is familiar to me. It has been over two decades since that sword graced me with its presence. It only proves the joy in my spirit when I went to meet you. Please show us the legendary weapon.”

Celestial glanced at the cowering onlookers, hesitating. Why should they see it? The Wingie’s request nagged her conscious though, so she pulled her cloak aside to reveal the weapons at her side. An elegant sheathed sword rested at her left hip. Shrugging a leather strap off her left shoulder, she revealed a larger, hand-crafted blade the likes of which Samuel had never seen.

It appeared to be one solid piece of some metal, including the hilt. The blade was long enough to reach the woman’s chest from the ground. Its curved form was broad and thick. A black leather binding coiled about the hilt of the weapon to form the shoulder strap. The length of the hilt accommodated for a two-handed grip, implying how heavy it must be. It seemed designed to cleave and crush in one blow. How could she shoulder such a massive weapon?

“They say the very wind itself moves it,” she mused aloud as she admired the blade in her hands. “Lord Zion’s closest companion, his beloved blade. No one knows where its forge is located, but it has no equal in power or beauty.”

“Zion’s Arm … so it still exists,” Saraii whispered as she gaped at the weapon. She bowed her head in respect, “May he return to us.”

“When Lord Zion disappeared, fear and despair descended upon our province. Even the blade of our beloved protector left us.” The Wingie poked the flames as she reflected. “Amid our grief, the chimes in our sacred tree, Avan, rang with wind in the Hive for the first time in months. We gathered to listen for its message. That was when the prophecy came to us, twenty years ago.”

“What is this prophecy,” Samuel asked, lost in the conversation, “and how does it apply to me?”

The women seemed to revere the weapon as sacred. He would admit the sword was impressive, but it appeared too weathered and, to be honest, simple to be anything special in his eyes. They needed to get the conversation back on him, so he could figure out what was going on.

“Darkness and Light will join in union to challenge the Sun. A lesser Light will rise to protect their bond, engulfing the Sun’s wrath, and their unity will restore the balance of Aurora.”

“I don’t understand how that refers me.”

“That, I do not know. I merely speak from my meditations and what I have seen here today. These two will help you find the answer. Of that, I am certain.”

“What?!” Both approached the mystic in protest.

“I cannot be bothered to tend to a child! You know my station, Wingie! I cannot abandon my duties to aid an alien fallen from the sky!”

Samuel wanted to crawl under a rock at the warrior’s comment. Was the alien part necessary?

“I’m on a quest of my own,” Saraii’s airy voice reached higher than ever. “I cannot rest until I’ve completed it! Please, you cannot take that from me! I beg of you!”

“Silence, both of you.” All fell quiet with the stomp of the cane. The mystic held the floor without ever raising her voice. “It was only the two of you that saw his fall. Destiny has chosen you to guide and protect him. Do you dare challenge such a force of divine will?”

“No,” Saraii replied. From her tone, it was painful to say so. She hung her dark-haired head, letting long hair fall to cover most of her face. Samuel thought she looked almost like him when he was being bullied, resigned and complacent. It crushed him to see the strong shoulders droop so low.

“And you, captain,” the Wingie said, poking the woman’s boot as she had the fire with her cane. “You would serve a king that stripped Lord Zion of his station and dignity before all of Aurora?”

Celestial silenced. The statement stung from how she gripped her treasured sword. Samuel gaped as he noticed her hands tremble. The weapon must hold a great deal of importance to her. He tried to imagine what its wielder must mean to her. What happened to this Zion person?

“You would make me an enemy of King Zemnas?” Her voice was dark as she asked the Wingie for clarification.

“I would make you nothing, soldier,” the Wingie replied in a grim tone. “Destiny would have you help this child. That much I can say.”

“Wait just a moment,” Samuel spoke up, clutching the blanket against him. His void gaze stared back at them. Why did anyone have to be upset? No one had asked for this. He had to set things straight. The youth did not want people to fight over him. “Neither of you need to do anything. I am no messiah. I can’t do anything special. There’s been a misunderstanding. There’s no need to make enemies or alter any goals here. I’m sure there is a logical explanation for why I’m here.”

“You do not see the power you possess, do you, child?” The Wingie walked between the other two women to approach Samuel. Her face softened even more than before as if a deep sorrow had filled her spirit. She clutched his free hand as much as her frail one was able. “You have already begun to awakened. As time goes on, the lost eyes will open, and you will realize your own potential. I sense that you are braver than you believe. You can protect what you desire to. Believe in the strength of your spirit. Trust it to guide you. Leave the doubt to your enemies and place faith in your allies.”

“This isn’t even my world,” Samuel blurted out angrily. “I hardly know anything about this place! I don’t even know how I got here! One minute, I’m trying to calm a loon! The next, I’m floating away, watching Philip screaming at … me!”

“Why was he screaming at you?” Saraii asked in a timid voice. He had piqued her curiosity, opening up about how he came to their world, but his vexed voice sent a chill through her. The soldier glanced at the young man, waiting for an answer to Saraii’s question.

“I can’t … remember …!” He let go of the blanket to grasp his face, using his arm to hold it in place. What had happened? All the blood on his face could only mean he had been seriously injured, so how was he alright now? What had Mother been trying to tell him before he was brought here?

“You protected him.” The Wingie stared back at him. Her eyes held sympathy, knowing the reality had escaped him till now.

“H-How do you know …?”

“I see it in your eyes.” She stroked his soft hand. “You protect what you desire to.”

“I must go back! I must clear up this misunderstanding! My parents! My schoolmates! I have to get back to them!”

“You cannot go back to the world called England, child. You no longer exist.”

“No! I have to go back!” Samuel gripped his face as he trembled. This was not happening. This was a nightmare. It had to be, not that he recalled ever having one. He would wake up back in his room with Philip, snoring like a lion, any second now. People did not travel to other worlds. That was only a mechanism of fiction and fantasy, books and comics, stage and film. He lived in the real world, and reality was ruled by reason and logic, not myth and magic … “I must go home …!”

“You gave your life for his, child. Such a sacrifice of love and honor heralds what you are bound in this world to do. You were destined to come here.”

Samuel quieted, knowing full well his scope of reality was in flux. He had nothing left to say. Dropping his hand from his face, he turned inward, sorting through his new realities. He had passed denial and bartering, now transitioning into depression and acceptance.

“Come, my child,” the Wingie guided him to the bedroom with her voice. “Rest once more until you are ready.”

The Wingie returned to her den once Samuel was settled in bed. Saraii looked miserable, pitying the youth. It was clear to the Wingie that she would help the displaced boy. Celestial, however, stared at the fire, leaning against the wall once again. With her hood pulled over most of her face, there was little to read from her. She would take more effort.

“Saraii,” the elder said, approaching the fire beside the mountain of a woman, “you are a native of this province, are you not?”

“Yes,” she replied in her light voice. Her eyes stared at the flames. In the fire’s light, her black eyes could be seen clearer. The pupils had dilated beyond the color of the iris. No wonder Saraii drew her hood so low. Her eyesight must be sensitive.

“You hold a secret, child of Wind,” the Wingie said in a low voice, making Saraii gaze straight ahead. “Perhaps that which you seek can be found as you aid this lost child. It could not be an accident you broke his fall.”

“Do you think so?” Saraii’s voice was not as high now. It was quiet and deep. She glanced at the mystic, waiting for her council.

“I do, child. Will you guide him with the strength I have sensed from your spirit?”

The fellow Wind looked at the ground a moment, considering the weight of this task. The boy was alone, a familiar sentiment. How could abandonment be an option? Maybe the Wingie was right. Perhaps the youth might help in her personal quest.

“I will.”

“Your intuition and conviction are your strength, young Wind. Always follow them.” She turned to approach the soldier, but she paused as a whisper touched her ear. “Your guise will not hold much longer. I am sorry, Saraii.”

“What?!” Saraii gaped after the Wingie. Shock filled her dark eyes. For the sake of whatever was to come, she prayed the prediction would not hold true.

“You already have my answer, Wingie,” Celestial said in a dark tone. The mystic continued to walk toward her. “No one can stand against King Zemnas. Those who challenge his reign long for the whip and exile. I have no loyalties to a dim, alien child.” She paused, dropping her tone even further, “I swore my life to the throne.”

“Why then do you carry the Sword of Zion?” The mystic glanced up at the soldier. “To carry such a weapon is a powerful statement. Lord Zion challenged King Zemnas’ authority, was arrested, and tried for treason. You are not of age to have served in those days. This I can see. How was it you came to treasure his blade?”

“I picked it up,” her reply was curt. “The blade was abandoned. I couldn’t stand to leave such beauty to waste away.”

“Is it not a sign of defiance to wear it at your side?” The Wingie smiled as she probed further, “Does your king know you possess Zion’s Arm?”

Silence gripped the soldier. She had been cornered. Beneath the white cloak, a hand gripped the hilt of the legend. The king was unaware she possessed the blade. If he had, he would destroy it for sure. She would protect the blade until its true owner returned for it. She swore she would.

“You ask why?” Choosing her words carefully, Celestial lowered her head to gaze to the floor, “I protect it until its master returns.”

“Then you also seek a restoration. Why deny the chance to birth that by your own hand? Surely you do not hold that sword for simple reasons.”

The Wingie reached out to touch the warrior, producing an aggressive flinch from her. Both Winds blinked back in surprise at the reaction. Celestial stiffened, backing away from the mystic. The old woman furrowed her brow, concerned.

“You have suffered under this reign, child. Free yourself of your chains and set right the wrong.”

The soldier’s thin lips parted at the statement. She had accepted her fate long ago. The military was all she knew, but she had placed what hope she had left in the sword she now held. Though she longed to do as the Wingie said, she could not ignore the consequences.

“I cannot rebel.” Pulling back her hood, the Winds gasped at what hid beneath. White hair fell into the cloak. Within the pale visage, there was no color in her eyes. Instead, a glow within her appeared to be trying to escape. “I have my reasons. You would not understand.”

“But I can,” the Wingie’s voice hardened. Her stern tone was not of anger. White hair and pale complexion of exceptional beauty were specific features in mysticism, so the situation pieced itself together for the elder. She had not expected the turn of events, but it only made the weight of Destiny clearer. “They will never be free, even if you remain a loyal pet to the Sun. Your only choice is to cast away the chains, child of Light. You know this to be true.”

Celestial fists clenched. How foolish to assume a mystic outside of Heaven would be ignorant of their culture. Her face was void of emotion as she considered her situation. Rebellion was a crime of treason. She would throw away everything she had endured. The lives endangered, unconnected to the prophecy, could never forgive her. Clenching the hilt of the blade under her robe, she recalled the day she had taken the sword. There was a flicker in the white eyes as her resolve hardened.

“For the sake of Aurora,” she spoke with conviction, “I will protect the alien child, but I will not be martyred for him. My will is my own.”

“Well said,” the Wingie smiled as she replied. “Both of them will not regret your choice.”

The soldier gazed down at the Wingie. She could not fathom how the elder was certain. Perhaps she did not grasp all of her circumstances, leaving her spirit restless once again. If there was truth in what she said though, it would be the first hope in sight since she took the infamous weapon.


Samuel emerged after calming his anxiety. His face was stoic. He had come to grips with his situation, but he felt overwhelmed in this uncertain world. Was this some kind of afterlife? Reincarnation? How could they accept a stranger who fell from the sky as a savior? He sat in front of the fire, staring at the small flickering tongues.

“I wonder where everyone went,” he mumbled to himself, curling his knees up to his chest beneath the blanket. “There’s no point in denying what they say. I’ve nothing else. Though I do hope I’m not their only hope for salvation. Otherwise, they’re about to be royally buggered …”

“Oh, you’re awake?” Samuel turned his head to see Saraii enter the front door. She smiled down at him, holding a bundle in her arms. “I’m sorry. We introduced ourselves while you slept. I’m Saraii. What’s your name?”

“Samuel Watson,” he replied, “it’s a pleasure, Miss Saraii. I overheard the elder referred to you by odd titles. Wind and the sort, what do those mean?” Samuel figured if he would be living in this world he best start learning information to build a foundation.

“Oh! You want to know about Aurora? That’s wonderful!” Saraii sat down beside the Brit. She beamed with pride. It was such a gentle smile, but it was wild somehow.

“Aurora is divided into individual provinces, each governed by a guardian. You’re in the Western province, Wind. Lord Zion was our guardian, but when he disappeared, the king divided up the rule among regents under a viceroy. I’m a Wind myself.”

“Intriguing,” the seventeen-year-old said with a touch of awe in his voice. There was an order here he could grasp. That eased his nerves. “How many provinces are there?”

“Five,” Saraii replied, “they’re Western Wind, Eastern Earth, Southern Flame, Northern Water, and Heaven, which is at the center of Aurora.”

“I see.” Samuel stared at the fire again. “Now, I think I see why the soldier called me an alien.”

“Well, Madam Wingie says you’re more of a Nomad – one who wanders.” Saraii looked down at the bundle she held. She had hoped to not make him feel gloomy. “I hope that sounds nicer than ‘alien.’”

“It does, Miss Saraii. Thank you for your consideration. I truly appreciate it.” Guilt weighed on his chest. He had always sensed he could drain the energy from people back home. Saraii did not deserve to have him squander her joy. “I noticed you didn’t have that bundle before. What is it?”

“Oh,” Saraii brightened up a bit at his subject change, “these are for you. Madam Wingie and I bought them for you. I hope they fit. We didn’t measure your body beforehand.”

“Fit me?” Samuel blinked as Saraii unwrapped the bundle, revealing similar material to her woven cloak. “These are for me? What about my uniform?”

“Uniform? Do you mean your old clothes? You’ve been staring at them.” Saraii blinked, perplexed. Samuel even thought her expression was a little boyish. “I thought that was why you were watching the fire.”

“What?” He gaped at the Wind, recalling the lump in the fireplace the Wingie had been poking. Had they really burned his clothes? He was officially cut off from his Earth. Welcome to Aurora, Samuel.

“Those are Wind garments,” came Celestial’s flat voice as she entered with a sack over her shoulder. She dropped it to the ground with a strong thud, gaining attention from the two inside. “For now, you will say you are a Western Wind, understood?”

Samuel gripped Saraii’s large arm for protection. The soldier still made him nervous.

“Do you have be so harsh with him?” Saraii reached out to hug the young man. His shoulders trembled just looking at the captain. Did the Light intimidate him that much? “I see the provisions are ready. You didn’t waste time in your task.”

“Task? What do you mean, Miss Saraii?” Samuel looked up at her, helpless as a child.

“The Wingie sent us to prepare for our leave,” the soldier said. “The Winds found clothing for you as I purchased food and supplies for travel.”

Samuel sensed irritation seeping off of the warrior. She did not want this. He hung his head, for there was little he could to amend their situation. Did they have to leave so soon? He was unsure any of them were mentally prepared to begin this quest yet. What if they tried to kill each other?

“Where are we to go? Do we have a plan yet?”

“You do have the capacity to think,” the Light said with heavy sarcasm, throwing back her hood. Samuel gaped at the white eyes, surprised at the bright glow. She narrowed her eyes at the expression. “If only in small thoughts, it seems.”

“Enough, Light,” the Wingie chided. The other complied. “You will be led by his will.”

As she motioned in Samuel’s direction, he realized he was the only man present. His countenance fell even further, feeling overwhelmed by estrogen. How was he supposed to lead them anywhere? He knew nothing about this world.

Saraii smiled down at him, but Celestial growled in frustration.

“You expect me to follow the whims of an alien babe? I don’t care if you are a mystic! This is dim!”

“Do you even care to know his name?”

“What was that?”

“I asked if you cared to know his name.” Saraii looked back at the soldier. Her sad gaze held disappointment, aimed at the soldier. Patting the boy on the back, Saraii continued, “His name is Samuel Watson. He is an Auroran Nomad, not an alien.”

“Miss Saraii …” Samuel gasped in shock. None of his peers ever stood up for him. Only the more mature adults who wanted to put down childish hazing even spoke on his behalf. It was strange, a person willing to defend someone as pathetic as he was. She barely knew him. He gawked up at the Wind, speechless.

“Whatever his name is, it doesn’t change his ignorance,” Celestial sneered back at Saraii. “I have years of experience traveling Aurora. I have been to every province of Aurora’s face. How can you expect me to listen to a complete stranger to our world?”

“I’m not positive how this will work,” Samuel said after she finished, “but I’ll turn to both of you for more than directions. This world is new to me. I hope you find the patience to bear me while I learn.”

“Well said, Samuel Watson,” the Wingie remarked with a bright smile. “In time, they will look to you. It is you who shall require the patience for them.”

“Get dressed,” the soldier growled, storming out of the home. “You look like a Night Woman in that blanket.”

“Ah! Let’s get you changed!” Saraii herded the young man to the back room. “Here are your garments. If they don’t fit, I’ll find some others for you.”

“I told you to measure him while he slept,” Celestial grunted from the entry just as the door drew closed.

Samuel emerged later in a wrap top and matching pants. Seeing how he was holding them together, Saraii tried not to laugh as she walked over to help him tie them on properly. She let the pants fall to fold the wrap before adjusting them to his waist with a sash. She smiled at Samuel’s embarrassment. Tying the pants up with a second sash, Saraii stood back to observe her work. The finished product was perfect.

“You look like an apprentice!”

“Is that good?” Samuel’s smile was doubtful of her assessment. He thought he looked ridiculous – a mesh of Middle Eastern, gypsy, and Thai styles. But this was not England; who was he to critique Auroran fashion?

“It’s wonderful! You look like a native Western Wind!” Saraii slapped him on the back. The swing must have been more than he was used to, for he stumbled forward. She gasped, recoiling a step backward. Hugging the guilty hand to her chest, she stammered an apology. “I-I’m sorry! Did I hurt you?”

“I’m fine. Really, Miss Saraii,” he replied with a gentle smile. “I’ve been hit worse back home.”

“Beaten? Whatever for? You’re a good person,” Saraii cried in disbelief. Her expression indicated that she found the statement awful.

“Well … people tend to act out against things they don’t understand. My eyes aren’t normal, and I’ve always been awkward around people. I try not to take it too personally. It’s not that big of a deal. I knew the bullies wouldn’t torment me forever. It might hurt then, but down the road, it wouldn’t.”

Saraii gaped down at him. His words touched her, resonating with her spirit. The wisdom sounded older than he. Gripping at her chest, Saraii blinked back tears. She grew a small smile on her face.

“I’m glad you feel that way. You must be strong because of it.”

“That’s the first encouraging sign I’ve seen out of you, alien boy.” Everyone glared Celestial, sitting by the fireplace. “You might survive outside this quest yet … might.”

After eating a meal, the Wingie let them stay the night. However, she told them they would need to set out the following morning. She said Samuel would lead them from then on.

The teen was restless all night. He still doubted he was the man for this job. How could a schoolboy like him restore an entire world’s order? Covering his head, he rolled his back to the fireplace, drifting off to sleep.

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