Like exquisite canvases bought at the farthest ends of the world, peering stone walls covered with humungous beautiful patterns bordered the whole Ryola Square. Three abreast, giant-sized gates could be seen at the back as an entrance from the Capital Macce to the square.
A gigantic concave portal with multiple ancient carvings, engulfed by large brown roots—known as the Arkium, is situated at the front of the whole crowd.
An olden pathway created by Armadez’s locals—a demi-human species known as Raphans to present the entrance from Armadez to their main dwelling, the Forest of Illusions.
Armadez is widely considered as a property of the Raphans. Anyone can set foot, buy clothing or local accessories, and even stay for a week or two, but the King had strictly implemented that only a few Royalties are allowed to live here.
This is the second biggest reason why Armadez is distinguished from the other lands. The first would be the Forest of Illusions and its ability to naturally produce glyphorites, not to mention its safe keeper, the Raphans.
In the middle of a throng, I felt a light tap on my shoulders, “Pardon me, are you perhaps Ms. Airen Havex?” I stopped surveying my surroundings and tilted my head to the owner of the voice. There a fierce-looking lady stood with a small scar on her right cheek.
People still shifting away from us, obviously to give space for the lackey of a Royal. She wore tight-fitting combatant clothes dyed in a purple color that awfully resembles the eyes of someone I know...
“What do you want with Airen? She’s a close friend of mine.” I answered, trying to know her motive. You know, one could never be too careful. Her left brow rose slightly while maintaining the straight face through my lie. She lowered her head to my average stature and leaned on my ear,
“Not to be blunt or anything, but I already know you are Airen. I don’t even know why the master insisted that I act dumb. Just one look from your horrified face from afar, tells me that we are so sisters. Follow me, you already have a gist about the person who wants to meet you.”
I chuckled lightly at her momentary out-of-character outburst. She responded by straightening herself and giving me a slight smirk. That clandestine bitchy attitude, hmmm... I have to confirm this. I gave her a vague question, “Are you horrified?”
“Can you see this large scar on my cheek?” She spoke, raising her right cheek a little.
“I have been through a lot. Even without the adrenaline, blood and tears no longer hinder my work. But sweaty people, packed in one vicinity, waving their hands up in the air, displaying their drenched armpits due to excitement, the fatal stench of death...”
I sighed while glancing at the skies above, “I see a woman of culture as well.” I rubbed my nonexistent stubble. “Then by all means...” I trailed, not knowing her name. She said, “Tarishaga, but you can call me Tarish.”
“Then Tarish, please lead the way to your master.” She responded with a small nod. Following her lead, we started walking towards the border in the east. We stopped in front of a specific door-like engraving on the wall with two armed guards standing beside it.
She took something from her breast pocket—a Royal card, and flashed it in their faces. The door’s outlines started glowing and without even waiting for the guards’ approval, she pulled me with her towards the stone wall. It was so abrupt that I didn’t have time to protest,
“Wait!—” I closed my eyes and braced for impact, but much to my surprise, only an unusually cold air blowing from every direction swept through my body.
I took a peek at my body and gasped in amazement. All of my sweat had evaporated together with that gust. I stared at the woman in front of me. Now that we are not in the front of a crowd, the woman seems a little more carefree, her shoulders no longer rigid and her face a little more relaxed.
I looked at my back and I see a blue magic portal with the size of the door that we came in earlier. I took a step forward, curiosity itching in my palms. I feel that same old flutter of excitement again every time I get smitten about the unknown.
I touched it with my fingertips, and that small movement caused large ripples throughout the rectangular portal. “Wow! How did they make this?” I spoke excitedly. I bit my lips while quivering like I was in pure bliss.
“Have you satisfied your urges—or were you still reaching for an orgasm?” I immediately turned my head towards the owner of the voice, feeling diffident because of my actions.
I scratched my head and bowed a little in apology. “Sorry, it is kind of a bad habit that I grew up with and still have trouble controlling.” Tarish looked at me bewildered, “So, is it like a disturbing instinct that pops out every time you feel fascinated?”
I sigh, “You could not have phrased it even more.” She nodded slowly like she understood something. “And guessing by your reaction, it is a large pain in the ass, isn’t it?”
I clapped my hands, “We are so sisters.” She chuckled at my response and continued walking to our destination with me behind her. We passed through a spacious aisle, painted with an elegant color of gold and white, filled with various beautiful ornaments that I’ve never seen before.
We walked to the front desk were two, people?—I turned my head towards the lady beside me in question. Tarish understood my gesture and spoke, “They are Raphans. The ones written in your book. Greet them but control yourself and your urges”
I beamed and quickly shook their hands. I helped myself by staring at their pale skin, watching their black eyes dart around nervously, while one of them whose sky-blue hair elongates to her buttocks, shiver in discomfort.
“Are you all somehow indistinguishable like this?” I can’t help but ask.
Jarth, as written on her name tag, entertained my question, “Only partly. Pale skin, even 5ft. height, sky-blue hair are the identical features of us Raphans, but our hair could be trimmed in accordance to our liking, and our eyes differ in color from each other depending on the genes.”
I smiled and calmed myself down, warming myself up to them and they did likewise, gaining myself a lot of favor and tips in the exam. After a few exchanges of words, we continued walking towards the master’s room. We stopped at the front of a door and Tarish proceeded to knock.
A nostalgic voice echoed inside the room, “Come in.” I stepped in and a familiar sight immediately meets my eyes. The same man I saved days ago and offered me a sponsorship is sitting on a couch with four more guards beside him.
He spoke, “Hello Airen, as I have promised, take a seat.”
I closed the door and sat on the chair, accepting the offered drink. I took a sip, The man in front of me spoke, “Let us be clear of all things within ten minutes before the exam starts.”
I nodded, understanding the urgency. I started the talk with a question that he left hanging in our last meeting, “Pardon me, but what is your name, sir?”
“It’s Tristan Att—” He stopped for a moment, “Tristan Afroboy. A Royalty of the kingdom and loyal to the throne and his Majesty. ” I smiled and continued, “Then Sir Tristan, I’ll no longer bother with why are you being chased and how you stumbled half-dead into my home.”
“Understandable. Then let us proceed with the item I gave you, let me have a look at it.” He demanded. I took the necklace off my neck and slowly clunked it on the reserved container. Tarisha carried the metal box and placed it on the small table beside him.
While he was studying the changes, I grabbed the chance and told him how the transformation happened and its aftermath.
“Since we didn’t have time to find a suitable human host, we only considered this as nothing more than a groundbreaking possibility. This—I must thank you for turning it into a reality.” I forced a genuine smile into my face.
Though I don’t know how my bloodied palm and worn-out state healed in one short nap, it doesn’t change the fact that I went through a horrible experience. He took a paper from the table and handed it over to me. I read its content and nonetheless, I was beyond shocked.
“You really didn’t think the necklace was my only gratitude did you?” He chuckled, signaling his guard to take our finished glasses on the table. I skimmed the whole contract again, just making sure my eyes weren’t playing games.
“Sir Tristan, the money and place you’re willing to give is a bit too...”
He frowned, halting midway from handing me a pen, “10,000 Reqious and lodging in my estate, Does it not satisfy you yet? Naturally, I’ll offer you a job once you finish selling your glyphorite. Should I add more?”
“N-No, this is more than enough. It’s just that I have a lot of conflict regarding this matter,— and I don’t have the biggest respect towards the throne...”
“If that is your concern, don’t worry. I will clarify things with you after the exam. And, you will be under me, not under the king.” I looked at him wildly, “You are not an exception to his rule, are you not?” He smiled, placing the pen on my hand,
“You will know soon enough.” I looked at the pen, finding the crevice that holds the blade.
“That contract isn’t the same as the sponsorship. No blood required.”
After writing my signature and a brief explanation from him, I readied myself for departure. As I was about to open the door, Tristan spoke suddenly, “By the way, say hi to Fortun for me.”
My head turned back, “W-wait, who—”
“Tarish, bring her back to the square. Oh, and don’t forget to close the door.”