I winced in pain, as droplets of blood continue to trail down from my wounded palm and into the surface of the golden crystal. Its odor starting to turn into a foul stench, which adds to my headache.
With my spare right hand, I took a hanky from my side-pocket and wiped off the sweat from my forehead and neck. I lessened other unnecessary movements, unless needed, to prevent the blood from spilling to other places.
Though the thought makes me gag, I have no choice but to do it. I grabbed a fork beside the knife and wriggled it on the bloodied slit, widening the wound and hastening the transfusion. My teeth-grinded at the pain.
Well, at least it’ll be faster now. The earlier I finish with this, the earlier I could go to the city.
I immediately tilted my head to the side. My eyes darting around the house, trying to find the source of that hoarse voice. It sounded like the same man who uttered in my dreams last night.
“Hello? It’s no use hiding, I already heard you.”
After patching up the wound, I took hold of the knife without moving an inch on my seat. Every bit of my senses peaked at that moment. Is it someone tasked to kill me? I should better clear things up before it gets out of control,
“Listen, I am not in any way related—”
Wait, the more I deny my relation to that guy, the higher the pursuer’s suspicion will be. I can’t mention anything about him just yet. I continued to survey the surroundings with my mouth zipped and my breathing a little ragged.
Suddenly, an ear-splitting scream screeched through my ears. I slowly crouched in pain, my face forming a deep scowl and my hands instinctively moved to cover my ears. A tremendous headache ricochets inside my head, like a hammer pounding repeatedly at every spot of my skull.
The noise continued for a long torturous minute, rendering me helpless on the ground with only my cries to deaden the pain. Then like an answered prayer, the screech gradually subsided, letting my exhausted hands limp to the sides.
My upper and lower regions are drenched in perspiration. I closed in on my clothes, and it reeked of sweat that blended with the necklace’s foul smell. As I was starting to hoist myself up, the same unknown man from earlier talked again.
I turned my head around, but again, there was no one in sight. The sonorous voice continued to resound, uttering the word blood and more over and over again. Could it be? I sat down on the chair and opened the blood-stained patch that covers the wound.
I really hope I’m not going insane. I placed my left hand directly above the necklace and with my right hand, I pressed on the sides of the slit. Flinching along the process but now, a continuous dribble of blood gravitates to the crystal surface.
I wriggled the fork again inside the wound and applied twice the pressure on its sides.
The voice started to shout, clearly sounding impatient.
The nonexistent man demanded inside my head. Geez, mellow down, will you? I closed my eyes and squirmed as I made a lengthy cut beside my prior wound on the palm.
Well, this is seriously getting quite annoying.
“MORE! MORE! MORE!”
Without bothering to reach the fork, I used the knife on my hand and wriggle-
“SHUT UP!!!” I screamed at the top of my lungs with the last word horribly voice cracked.
I blushed and bit my lips. Those harsh demanding screams blew the last straw of my patience. Unfortunately, my counterattack also blew the last straw of my oxygen, and well... My dignity.
“Dear Gods help me! If this voice doesn’t shut up—”
Three loud bangs from the front door interrupted my supposedly war cry. “Airen! This is Pempi, your shrieking could be heard all over the village. Did something happen? I’ll open the door right now!”
“Mrs. Patty? No...” I tried to stand up and forestall her but my vision started to blur. Black dots appeared at the corners of my eyes while I slowly feel my body weakening and my eyelids dropping.
The last thing I saw was Mrs. Patty rushing to my aid before the whole world was engulfed in eerie darkness.
Feliza with its bustling capital is a swindle, indeed. If one were to compare Capital Leo in terms of liveliness from Capital Hanna of Tahalani, Macce of Armadez, and Renne of Rosen, most people would undoubtedly choose the former as the correct answer.
No, Renne couldn’t even be considered as a Capital if it wasn’t legally declared by the High Court.
From afar, you could glimpse a bunch of commoners walking along the gritty sidewalk and a few carriages and hackneys cruising the road. One carriage, in particular, drew attention from most people. Its intricate avifauna structure and peach-haired stallions whose skins embodied the night sky left bystanders astonished.
Their flag’s symbol is two beautiful swans of colored pink and gray, circling each other with their long necks in an intimate hug. But don’t let that fool you, even the lowest of the low would know better and not mess with a carriage from Ferdorven Empire, the vicious country to the west.
Inside the curtains, you could see a fervent talk between a 20 yr. old boy and his laden butler. “Again Sir, Tristan had instructed me to assist you in this task, and he specifically mentioned that if the burden becomes too heavy, we must abort the mission and return you to the empire without a scratch.”
He fixed his hazel hair in an obvious attempt to relieve the stress, “You mentioned this a dozen times already Regar, and like before I’m uh...” He breathed deeply, “I’m ready—I mean, I guess so? I’ll get used to it sooner or later.”
“Sir Fortun think of it. This is a very important mission from Ferdorven. Whatever step we take will most likely decide your future and the future of the whole empire. That is why I take no shame in withdrawing you if your heart is not yet set in stone.”
The butler leaned forward and fixed the furrowed attire of the boy in front of him, “Your older cousin could always persuade the High court to make certain adjustments regarding this matter.”
Fortun smiled at his concern, “Regar, I know it might not seem like it, but I will not fail you nor Ferdorven. After all, I would’ve never agreed to this if I were not up to the task.”
“Be it as you say, Sir. I will no longer convince you to turn back, but if the waters get too harsh, you must retreat no matter the cost.”
Fortun grabbed his retreating hand, “You have my word.” As they were about to reach the border entrance to Tahalani, he abruptly ordered the coachmen to halt and park the carriage near the sides.
He took out a map from his bag and confirmed his current location. North of Feliza is Tahalani, its bottom is Rosen and to the west is Armadez. Their destination should be the Forest of Illusions within Capital Macce, the site where the Crystal Examination will be held.
“Which inn are we lodging?” Fortun asked. Regar looked back in a swift motion and pointed at a large adorned gate protruding beneath the towering stone walls with a large sign at its detail-covered top, written ‘TAHALANI’.
“Within Capital Hanna lies the famous Coldspring Inn, Its owner is a talented spy from our palace. Best minds from the whole empire had deduced these events, years earlier and so they started these preparations in advance. There is nothing left to worry about except fulfilling our roles.”
“Don’t fret Regar, that I will surely do. To earn a powerful glyphorite and enter the high ranks of Sierraglyph in just three months might be too hasty, but given the support, it’ll be quite enough.”
Regar nodded, satisfied with the young boy’s response, “You truly have grown, Sir. I watched you, nurtured you like a son I never had and looking at you now, I see the fruits of those hard work riping beautifully.”
Fortun dropped his head, feeling bashful at the praises, “Tone down Regar, it’s embarrassing. What if someone heard it?” He shouted in a soft, low voice. The old man chuckled, “I know you feel pressured right now, considering this is your very first wide-scale mission yet.”
Regar whispered, “In 2 years’ time, Rosen will be officially sold to its neighboring eastern kingdom, Fuschiaglyph. We need to take early advances in order to prevent catastrophic possibilities like Fuschiaglyph suddenly breaking its partnership with Sierraglyph, undergoing a mad war spree with other kingdoms.
“Considering the fact that their armies of different races are growing at an alarming rate, they might just subdue both Sierraglyph and our honored Ferdoven Empire before we even know it.”
Fortun bobbed his head vigorously, agreeing with all of the words his butler had said so far. A question rose up to his head. Why can’t their king see this? What an idiotic move.
“I agree, their King and his loyal subjects for not seeing this consequence beyond their appetite for endless wealth and power—I sure won’t be surprised if they end up cowering away with their tails between their legs.”
The old butler tore his sight from the world outside the window and glanced at the lad in front of him, only to find a puff of white feathers. He panicked for a moment until one of his hands managed to find a note on the seat.
’I embedded a delayed teleportation enchantment on his handkerchief. Don’t worry, I can track his location and current state through a magnified eyeball. Take it as his first test to becoming an adult.