Her Hand Beneath the Otherworld

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Chapter 2

Frankly, I want to do nothing but sleep and be lazy throughout the whole morning, but I never took the idea seriously. It would haunt me often in the morn, be it in the rainy skies or sunshine.

Of course, I’ll always reject that inveigling choice no matter how many times I have to. After all, indolence is a troublesome enemy of success. And speaking of success, I will surely fail tomorrow if I can’t find a way to replace my study material, no doubt about that.

Slowly, I rubbed my droopy eyes and stretch every inch of my body as my bones crackle in delight. My eyelids fluttering at the sudden brightness. I sighed, if it wasn’t for the fact that I needed answers about my real history and biological parents, I would’ve never run through lengths just to partake in this exam.

I was about to yawn when I noticed that I was no longer laying on the foam, but rather sprawled above the bed. How could I forget? Where is that sickly person I took in last night?

I glanced beside me and indeed, there were obvious traces of someone sleeping by my side. Seeing that he had left the bed early, I stood right away as if all the tiredness from my body evaporated. My guts screaming of suspicion, and I can’t help but feel a little panic inside too.

If there is anything I’ve learned from living in Rosen, it would be to never judge, even more so trust strangers despite their faces. He may appear wealthy in his clothing or appear sickly by being a patient but at the end of the day, a stranger is still a stranger after all.

I kept that notion to myself and quickly fixed this pigsty of a room. I made sure to slide the foam below the bed before returning the plain bed sheet back into my wooden closet. When I was about to shut the closet door, I came across a map of the kingdom deep inside the dusty corner.

I gasped at the sight but soon I became tight-lipped. I don’t know what to feel. I should be jumping in joy knowing that I had a spare map at hand. But then, just when did I buy another map?

Aaahh, I’ll just leave this as it is. Given the unfortunate circumstances, I don’t even think I have the right to complain about petty little things. I brought the map closer and took this chance to study for a little while.

So to start off, this is the kingdom of Sierraglyph, a beautiful place that is famously known for its capability to naturally produce glyphorites—colorless, diamond-shaped crystals with cores varying in shape from piece-to-piece.

The kingdom itself is divided into 4 major lands as written on the map, each serving their own purpose that creates the whole of Sierraglyph. Tahalani, the land of the Kings and of the Royalties. Armadez, the land of Harvest. Feliza, the land of Lower people, and lastly my proud homeland, Rosen, the land of the Forsaken...

After everything was said and done, I walked inside the bathroom and went on with my personal business but not without locking the door. I swapped my current clothes with a pair of clean ones. Extravagant but nothing outside of my comfort level. I sauntered past the stairs and into the living room—and I see my guest sitting on one of the couches.

He is wearing a shirt that imitated the soft color of the skies with wave-like patterns on its collar, and a white silky sleeve covering his arms, protruding from the upper sides of the shirt that only managed to cover until his shoulders. He’s looking around the living room, observing every little detail with content written on his face.

“Sorry to have kept you waiting.” I abruptly broke him out of his trance. His face immediately turned sideways with his gaze meeting my eyes. He slowly trailed down to my attire. A simple yet lavish light pink shirt with miniature pearls hanging on its edges and snow-white pants streaked elegantly with tiny silver floral designs on its sides. I think it cost about 1000 Reqious.

That’s twice the amount that I used for getting this well-maintained wooden house back at the auction. This is probably one of the reasons why I rarely wear this clothing. It’s my way of preserving its goodness and keeping it away from further harm.

Another reason would be, this pair of clothing was the last gift I received from my foster parents before they were forced to serve under the King and live on Tahalani as one of the Royalties. They insisted that I come with them but I strongly refused, saying that I don’t want to serve under the same king that created this hierarchy—who pushed the ‘useless’ people into the farthest side of the kingdom.

Hence, the land of the Forsaken.

And when the King said useless people, he meant: people with incurable diseases, handicapped lawbreakers, families that could no longer support themselves and of no benefit to the kingdom. In general, its like a dumpsite; a free of charge graveyard.

“Please don’t bother yourself, it didn’t take that long. On the other hand, I prepared breakfast with a glass of grape juice for both of us.” He strode to the dining table and pulled out my chair like a gentleman while insisting that we eat together to talk about matters surrounding him and my pending questions.

I smiled at his kindness and happily sat down. “This must be the lingering scent that got me craving upstairs.” Just when I was about to take a spoonful into my mouth, I halted as warning signs came flooding into my mind.

Why is he so oddly comfortable? Aren’t we supposed to be strangers to each other?

He noticed my face altering into a frown and my eyes glued to the plate. He smiled after taking a hint of what I might be thinking, then he assured me, “There is nothing harmful added to your food. With my guards lined outside and this exquisite clothing, do I look like someone who would poison you?”

I was obviously nowhere convinced about his remark. He politely asked if I can give him random small portions from my plate, for him to taste first if there were any poison coated on the dish. After his request, my stomach rumbled loudly.

I immediately shook my head in disagreement. “No need, I’ll have this suspiciously good-looking breakfast. But only because I’m already itching to eat. You better prepare the antidote if something happens.”

Without further talking, I feasted like a hungered madman. I made sure to savor every bite and crunch so that I won’t finish up my plate in one go. While eating, I took constant sips from the grape juice, and man does it taste like heaven.

Why can’t I make grape juice this perfect? For God’s sake its just grape juice!

Noticing the crumbs and specks of food littering in the table due to my ignorance, I slowed down my pace and started eating in a graceful manner. He noticed my sudden change and smiled at me with the word cute written all over his face.

I flushed at his reaction and a profound feeling of embarrassment and frustration surged in my heart. You find me awfully cute huh? I started devouring food again like a beast.

“Dear savior, this meal is nowhere near enough to compensate for your honorable actions last night.” He spoke while subtly bowing his head in gratitude. “May I know your name? So that I can surely bring you to a richer estate.”

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. “Please, you don’t have to bow! You are clearly of a higher position, and at the same time please drop the formalities.” I love his gratefulness, but lowering yourself down to the level of a lower person could lead to image destruction.

“Worry not. My men outside made sure to frighten anyone who dares to come close to this house.” He spoke with sincerity glistening from his eyes as he continued to eat carefreely. “I’ll ask again, what is your name?”

Before I answered, I first placed my consummated plate into the kitchen sink and went back to the dining table. Now that my stomach is completely full, I can finally converse matters seriously. “My name is Airen Havex and the place you are staying right now is my abode.”

He took out a note and a pen from his bag and wrote my name at the very top. He briefly stared at me and continued writing details concerning my appearance, such as my golden eyes and my pale complexion. Just when it was about to get awkward, he suddenly questioned, “What about your age? May I also know your parents?”

“I’m 19 and as for my pare—” My mouth instantly zipped tight.

I looked at him seriously, “What is the point? Is this some sort of exploitation? Because I don’t see any valid reason for telling you about my personal business.” I crossed my arms and gazed defiantly at his purple eyes, trying to find a hint of nervousness in his straight face.

But even under pressure, the man neither trembled in fear nor sweat at my piercing stare. He knows that there is no malice hiding behind his intent. To prevent further doubts he spoke directly, “I saw your Crystal Examination sheet loosely placed under one of the books that I happened to stumble upon.”

He paused for a moment and exchanged looks at a well-suited man outside my window. They both nodded at each other as if they agreed on something.

“And?” I spoke out-of-nowhere which tore their gazes at each other and instead locked unto me.

“I would like to aid you in this approaching Crystal Examination. The question would be, are you willing to gamble?”

“What?”

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