[Chapter I] - Unexpected Discovery
[March 7th. Year 916 of the Krelos Calendar - ???'s POV]
"In the end, the three Deities: Kronel, the God of Time; Ospati, the Goddess of Space and Ellifex, the Goddess of Life, created the day and night cycles and the seasons; the continents, bodies of water, skies and the celestial bodies; and the four races that inhabit the land we know as Krelos, respectively. This was the moment Krelos was given birth, and this historical event came to be popularly known as 'Day Zero'." I narrated in a monotonous tone as I glanced at my phone screen intently, almost as if, in so doing, I would be able to make the clock move forward two minutes into end of class time.
"Remember to read the file on 'Day Zero' for our next meeting. Class dismissed." I reminded the students, though I probably expected most of them to completely ignore the sound of my voice. I sighed heavily, the ever-present awareness of the fact that I had become the very thing I despise relentlessly haunting me. That was the curse of the land I live in, the cosmopolitan Lunfe.
Krelos is divided into four regions, Lunfe being the second largest of them. Though inhabited mostly by Humans, Lunfe takes great pride in the fact that it is home to many Elves and Shapeshifters as well. About three centuries ago, settlements —called 'plegs'— first started to be built and Elf and Shapeshifter migration from Xalia and Nerovas, respectively, began taking place. The immigration flow continued to increase over the following decade, and so it was decided that the region would serve as the world's Capital Centre.
However, progress always comes with a hefty price to be paid. Quite literally so, in fact. As housing market demand continued to grow year after year, so did the cost of living in Lunfe, and since salaries couldn't realistically keep up with the increase in prices for transactions, inhabitants were forced to work for longer periods of time in order not to become poor. Moreover, because of immigration, competition for job opportunities was fierce and the gap between those who could get a job and those who couldn't saw a dramatic increase.
The situation was different for the Giants. Though it is speculated that they once may have lived alongside Humans, that changed about five hundred years ago when calamity struck the world. It is said that the few Giants who survived the impact (most of them apparently died whilst protecting the Humans, Elves and Shapeshifters) moved North onto a lifeless, large chunk of ice in order to avoid further casualties for the other species. Within the next fifty years, the larger-than-life species had built cities, established an effective government regime and decided on a successful economic model for them to follow moving forward. And so Vernafol, the largest and newest of the four regions, came to exist. According to records from around that time, 'Vernafol' means 'desire to protect' in Giant dialect, and the name does indeed reflect the Giants' idiosyncrasy.
"Nicolas! Hey, Nicolas!" a voice brought me back to the real world. I turned my head in the direction of the voice. A small smile formed on my face as my eyes met with those of Siule Jies. She was one of my colleagues at school and, more importantly, the only real friend I had. Her castleton green eyes had a very soothing feeling to them that made me feel at ease, and they matched perfectly with her coffee-brown hair that smoothly transitioned into a tuscan shade when hit by sunlight.
"O-Oh, hey Siule... S-Sorry, I-I was distracted..." I spoke in a tone of voice that was almost as dull as the gray and beige walls that adorned the classroom.
"Yes, I can tell as much. Listen, how about we head off to Stravi? I've been in the mood for tea lately." my friend proposed.
"Sorry, I'll have to take a rain check on that. I-I have stuff to do at home and-" I tried to come up with some excuse to avoid having to spend more time in crowded places than it was absolutely necessary, but Siule saw right through me, as I expected.
"Yeah, stuff like correcting homework, planning classes and making exams, am I right or am I right?" she swiftly countered. Her voice was as sweet as ever, but it also reflected a slight scolding vibe to it that came out of concern for my lack of social life.
A heavy sigh escaped my lips, she had indeed got it in one.
"Nicolas, you know you cannot ostracise yourself like this, right? I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if you only left your house to come here. Frankly, I would let you off the hook if you told me even that you're going to have a date or something, but I cannot, in good conscience, go easy on you in this regard."
She made her point very clear.
"Fine, fine, you win. Let me just go home to change into more comfortable clothes and I'll meet you at Stravi in an hour. Sounds fine?" I bargained, defeated.
A small, triumphant smile formed on Siule's face.
"Alright. One hour, mister. And you better show up or else I'll be VERY upset, you hear me?" she warned me.
A few minutes later, I was walking back home with my heavy schoolbag wrapped over my right shoulder. Amidst the flashing lights and the hustle and bustle of the city, I simply walked in a mechanical way. In my eyes there was nothing about the place that was particularly worthy of appreciation, or perhaps I felt like that because I have been familiar with this scenery ever since I was born a quarter of a century ago. Lunfe was, after all, a place governed by routine. For us Lunfeans anything remotely different from the usual would immediately stand out even if we paid no attention to it whatsoever. It is kind of a special instinct we Lunfe folk have.
Maybe that's why my head seemed to turn in the direction of the seemingly-ordinary waste container. Surely enough, nothing seemed off about it at a first glance, but for some reason I found myself approaching it and glancing into it before I even realised I was doing so.
And then I saw that.
I gasped loudly, feeling the urge to do a double check; to make sure my eyes weren't playing tricks on me.
Sleeping soundly inside the container, there was a baby. The first thing I noticed was their size: though not as large as a Giant newborn, the child was far larger than your usual toddler. In fact, I dare say they were about the size of an average Human teenager.
"Shit... Siule's going to be mad at me, isn't she?"