Chapter 2 - The Wrapped Blade
Aside from the occasional bumps felt in the carriage, the travel to the academy was smooth. Food and water was regularly distributed and stops were made to allow for some stretching or physical movement. I for one, however, never took the liberty of getting out of the carriage. Instead, I was asleep on the rather comfortable seats that were accommodated. I wasn’t always like this though. It was only after the wing appeared that I became like this.
During the times I wasn’t asleep however, I would look outside the windows and gaze at the floating islands or lush trees while I pondered about the coming years I would spend at the academy.
Fame, power, knowledge, are all things one could gain if they became an eternum, one whose soul is capable of being reborn. And because of that, many seek to attend The Academy of Festel. It was a place that could aid people in their journey to become an eternum, providing its students with knowledge, connections, and a team.
But, there was also another side to the academy. Trusted by many kingdoms, the academy had the duty of being the overseer for the eternum. As the overseer, the academy made it mandatory for eternum to attend until they awaken the memories of their past lives. However, some eternum choose to remain in attendance after they have awakened because they gradually regain their memories,and due to that, it may take a while before they can finally piece together their memories.
Unfortunately, my desires conflict with the academy’s duty.
It had been several days on the road before I decided to exit the carriage.
As I exited the carriage, I saw tents set up and campfires lit up. It was night and everyone was sleeping, besides the guards, of course. The reason I left the carriage was because amongst the sound of the snores and crackling of the campfire, I heard the faint sound of a waterfall. It had been several days since I bathed and I wanted to take the chance while the caravan was resting.
As I followed the sound of the waterfall, I heard a voice behind me.
“You finally left the carriage. I’m curious, what could have motivated you enough to leave the carriage?”
Turning around I saw that it was Lloyd.
“I wanted to go bathe, do I need a guard to escort me?” I said as I pointed towards the direction I was heading.
“Not really, but...” After a brief pause later Lloyd just shrugged and said, “Just go on ahead, I think it’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure? Your hesitation makes it seem otherwise,” I said doubting his words.
“No, no, I promise you it’ll be fine. I was just uh, considering some things.”
“Well, if you say so. I’ll be on my way then,” I said and promptly made my way.
As I walked through the moonlit forest the sound of the waterfall became more apparent. The foliage in the forest was light and uncrowded which made it easier for me to navigate through. Pushing aside some of the branches and bushes, I finally came across the waterfall. I was only able to take a glance at the waterfall before my eyes were quickly captivated by something else.
A sword. It was embedded in the dirt in front of the waterfall. The sword, or what I assumed to be a sword, was wrapped in some sort of cloth, leaving none of its content visible.
What’s a sword doing here? And, why is it wrapped? Maybe a guard was here and left it? But, what use is it if it’s wrapped? Maybe I should bring it to Lloyd? If it does turn out to be one of the guards’ weapons he could probably return it.
With my course of action decided, I approached the sword and tried to grasp it.
Before my hand could touch the sword, I felt something hit my hand. To make sure it wasn’t my imagination I turned my hand and saw a red spot developing on it.
I then heard the sound of someone wading through the water and I looked towards that direction only to be met with another projectile in the face that prevented me from doing so.
“I don’t believe that’s yours,” said a voice which seemed to belong to a girl.
“You’re right, it is not mine. And if it is yours, sorry. I didn’t see you there. But if it isn’t, my sole intention was to return it to its owner.”
“While it is truly a commendable action to do, I think it’s best you don’t return this sword to its owner.”
“By looking at that sword, can you tell what kind of person wields it?”
An odd question. I looked at the sword once more. There wasn’t much I could determine about its owner by looking at the sword. The wrapping on the sword was what confused me most and left me with more to question. But, I doubt I could give a correct answer because I simply don’t know enough.
“If the wrapping around it was the doing of the owner, I’d say that the owner may have decided not to use the sword anymore or regrets what they have done in the past. Because a sword that can’t cut, is a sword that can’t take lives. But, if the wrapping on it was not the doing of the owner, the sword could belong to someone dangerous. With the wrapping on it to conceal the weapon from the owner,” I answered.
However, if it were up to me, I would just destroy the sword. That way no one can use the sword.
“...Not bad an answer. How about a hint. Suppose someone who wasn’t the owner of the sword tries to wield the sword. That person holds the hilt and gives the sword a few good swings when suddenly, he feels weak. He tries to stand, but can no longer stand. He tries to call out for help, but nothing escapes his mouth. After only a few moments there is a dead person lying next to the sword. So, what kind of person do you think wields this sword?”
“A sword that kills anyone who touches it without regard for who the person is. The owner of that sword I would take to be a lonely person. A sword that kills any who touches it means that the owner trusted no one but himself. He cared for no one but himself. A person who cares for none and kills anyone without regard for who they are is a dangerous person. A lonely person who became dangerous. I can see now why it shouldn’t be retur-” It was at that moment I remembered that I tried to hold the sword, “Wait, I could’ve died?”
Though I am usually calm, I couldn’t help but be filled with thoughts. I haven’t even taken my first steps into the academy and I would have died. And it was the first time I stepped out of the carriage just for a bath. My family expected me to be attending the academy only to find out I died before I even reached the destination. I gave them all that reassurance but it would’ve been for naught as they would’ve been hearing back from the academy a few days later that I kicked the bucket. I could have even died an undignified death if I chose to take off my clothes before entering the water and then saw the sword.
“...Whoops, I think I went too far with that story. I apologize. I didn’t think you’d be that shocked. I was just a bit irritated because I was at the climax of this book and had to stop reading because I thought you were a thief.”
I heard her footsteps approaching and then next to the sword she stood. In one of her hands she held a book. She wore a cloak, underneath which was light armor that looked easy to maneuver in and on her back a scabbard. On her armor there was engraved a symbol that matched the one on the other well decorated carriage besides Lloyd’s. And she too had a gray wing on her crest. Except the difference between her crest and mine was that her core was no longer a diamond. In place of the diamond was a different image.
“You can calm down a bit. It’s okay. You wouldn’t have died,” she said. Then in a graceful manner, she grasped the sword by the hilt and effortlessly pulled out the sword and sheathed in the scabbard on her back, “See?” she said and looked at me with a reassuring smile.
After taking a breath and regaining my composure, or at least some of my composure, I said, “So, was that story a lie or...?”
“No, it’s true. But the wrapping on this sword keeps it from killing anyone. I did a fine job on the wrapping if I do say so myself.” she said and gave a nod of approval as she praised herself.
It was clear looking at her that she was full of confidence. The way she walked, the way she spoke, and the way she stood. It was as if she was a glass full of pride. She possessed enough pride to fill the glass but not too much that it would be wasted and be considered arrogance. However, reflected in her eyes and smile, there was something that bugged me. Something that was not quite genuine.
“That person who died in the story, was he a good person?”
“He was,” she replied as she looked down.
It’s because people like the owner of that sword exist that I hate that I’m an eternum. If I were to awaken, I don’t know what kind of person I will be. I don’t whose memories will prevail, mine or the one from the past. I don’t know what will happen if I awaken and turn out to be an evil person. No, I do know. I just don’t want to accept it.
“I feel bad for his family. I hope they were able to move on,” I said.
“I hope so too,” she said.
I sighed. My near death experience exhausted me even further and I hadn’t even done what I set out to do.
“Your eyes, you should fix them,” she said and waved her hands and left.
“Well, it was nice meeting you too,” I said, though there was nobody around to hear it.
When the caravan finally made it to its destination, everyone started to get off the carriages or horses.
In place of the sunlight were the shadows of several floating islands. What was on the islands...I know not as it was hard to tell in my perspective. Flying around the floating islands were guards on mounts.
When everyone got off the carriages and horses Lloyd took the lead and led us to a gate. Beside the gate, guards were present and the walls connected to the gate were patrolled by more guards. Lloyd exchanged some words with them and the gate opened and we walked in. Behind the gates was a large spacious area filled with training dummies and various weapons on stands. It seemed that the place served as a training ground; there was nobody currently practicing on the dummies or shooting arrows at targets.
We kept on walking through the training ground and then stopped when we came upon a circle on the floor. Lloyd was the first one to step into the circle and then vanished when the circle glowed. Group by group we stepped onto the circle and what was revealed on the other side of the teleport circle was a hub. It was a spacious hub where people could traverse to the other parts of the academy as it was filled with teleport circles similar to the one on the training ground. The hub was quite vacant though, since there weren’t many people to be seen.
Once everyone got through the portal, Lloyd separated us into two groups.
“Zeff, I’m afraid this is where our path splits. Since you are an eternum you will be going to the relic room. In my place, Priscilla will be the one to guide you.”
With that, Lloyd left with his group and a few guards while the rest were with me.
“I don’t think we introduced ourselves the last time we met.” Extending her hand towards me was the girl from the waterfall. “I’m Priscilla Velfall, member of the House of Crux. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“I’m Zeff. Also pleased to make your acquaintance,” I said and then shook her hand.
She then gave a slight laugh.
“Sorry, it’s just that you’re the first person in a while to be so casual with me. Usually people give me a bow or kneel, but I take it you aren’t too familiar with noble houses,” she said.
“Unfortunately. Never in my life did I think I would meet someone from a noble house, so I hope you can forgive me if I step out of line or lack manners.”
“I’m not bothered by it,” she said as she waved her hands in front of her. “But, the guards around us might not take it too well,” and pointed out the stirring of the guards.
“Thanks for the warning, I’ll try to be more careful with my words and actions.”
I guess I’ll have to read up on some manners and etiquette regarding people from reputable families or houses during my time here. But, I doubt it’ll improve people’s attitude towards me. After all, if someone who tried hard to get into the academy saw someone else, who doesn’t put in any effort, attending the academy, I’m sure they would feel indignant.
“Well then, let’s get going, the relic room shouldn’t be too far from here,” she said and led the way.
As we walked, I looked through the windows in the hub and saw the training ground below. The hub was on one of the floating islands and the other teleports were probably for the other islands. While I looked through the windows I didn’t see any other buildings near the training grounds and instead only saw the forest that surrounded it. It seemed that most of the academy was on the floating islands and the most common way of transportation was the teleport circles, which was quite ironic considering that the teleport circles were made from rare crystals and yet it was normal here.
After walking for a while we stopped in front of a door guarded by two guards clad in armor. Both guards shared the same symbol engraved on their armor and had an intimidating presence as they had towering figures. Once Priscilla finished talking to the guards they bowed and opened the door, following us in.
Behind the doors was a room full of items. There were swords, shields, armor, spears, capes, and a variety of other things in the room. The items were put on display and were well organized into lines and sections.
I was then ordered to carefully inspect each object in the room and hold it. Each time I did so, the guards from the door were beside me, keeping watch while Priscilla and the other guards stood behind me.
It took a long time before I had finished. After I had inspected the last object and was led to the dormitory, the guards that were with me left, as well as Priscilla. When I entered my dorm room I immediately went on the bed and heaved a sigh of relief. The whole time I was in the relic room my heart was beating fast and loudly with unease and nervousness. Even now as I lay on the bed, I could still feel my heart pounding and my back beaded with sweat.
There was a reason why I didn’t know much about noble houses. It was because I decided to learn about the infamous eternum instead. Eternum who use their powers for evil and destruction causing nothing but chaos. It was because of this knowledge that I knew what was in that relic room. Some I didn’t recognize, but the ones I did belonged to very bad people. That relic room acted as a trap, had I awakened as an eternum with malice, my life would’ve ended there.
As far as I know, there are three ways in which an eternum can awaken. One, as time passes there’s a chance that an eternum will awaken eventually. Two, by strengthening one’s soul, an eternum increases their chances of awakening. And three, the most reliable and effective method and was what the academy attempted to awaken me with, a catalyst. A catalyst can be an object or maybe even a place that held importance to an eternum in their past life. If an eternum is exposed to their catalyst, they will undergo the process of awakening.
Life had changed for me the moment my parents died. I witnessed firsthand the power an eternum could wield over others. And I witnessed the pain and suffering it can cause to others. The day my parents died, I vowed to hunt every evil eternum that ever lived but, life had other plans for me. When the wing appeared on my crest, I could no longer uphold my vow. I feared that the same power that killed my parents would lead to me killing my new family and others as well.
And so everything I do is to protect those around me. I chose not to learn about noble houses, so that I would be unaware of their strengths and weaknesses. I chose not to practice magic so that if I were to awaken as an evil eternum, my body would be unfit for higher magic. I chose not to read heroic stories about eternum, so as not to give me false hope.
These were some of the sacrifices I chose. I don’t regret it. I never will. But the day my actions and intentions are betrayed, I may never be able to forgive myself.