Reina, and Lyis awoke from their slumber at the sound of a loud crash. Lighting a candle in one of the nearby lanterns, the two of them made their way down the hall until they could hear Aystaria screaming at the top of her lungs. Entering into the room without delay, Reina pulled out two daggers hidden on her body, and readied herself for combat. Lyis held the lantern in one hand as he readied his weapon in the other. Their eyes scanned the room as they looked for signs of what had happened. Sitting on the floor with her hands placed firmly on her head, Aystaria appeared as if she was going mentally insane. Her breathing was spasmodic while she continued to repeat the same phrase again, and again.
“No more… please…”
Sheathing her weapons, Reina made her way carefully over to Aystaria. Like a light, Aystaria grabbed onto Reina, and held her tightly—pressing her face into Reina’s chest. Tears flowed down from Aystaria’s face as Reina wrapped her arms around her in a nonthreatening manner. What in the hell happened to her, Reina thought as she looked over to her younger brother. Lyis nodded as he headed over to the lantern on the nightstand. After changing out the candle, and lighting a new one, he looked around the room at all the scattered books, and paper.
Aystaria’s breathing slowly began to return to normal as she tried to gain her bearings. Minutes passed until Aystaria looked around the room. Taking a deep breath, she stood to her feet, and began to pick up the various books scattered throughout.
“Aystaria… what was that?” Reina asked.
Turing on the ball of her foot, Aystaria had an expression that would have made anyone think that she was perfectly fine. Yet, both Reina, and Lyis knew this wasn’t the case. Aystaria was great at hiding her true feelings, and even her intentions. She would have even been able to fool them had they not seen the truth. Yet, there was no way that even Aystaria could hide what Reina, and Lyis had witnessed.
“Don’t worry you two, I’m fine.”
Looking out the window, Aystaria could see the dark clouds overhead. She leaned against the windowsill as Reina took notice of Aystaria’s shaking leg. Reina carefully picked up one of the loose-leaf papers that were scattered on the floor. Glancing over it quickly, she noticed something that had caught her eye. The paper was a short in its information, but spelled out clearly the truth of Aystaria, and just what she had been through. Reina placed the paper on the nearby desk as she tried to wrap her head around what she had read.
Aystaria didn’t turn away from the sky, but Reina felt as if Aystaria had sixth sense about her.
“You should forget what you saw, okay?”
“My brother, and I are simply maids, nothing more.”
“Will you require anything, Aystaria?” Lyis asked.
“For tomorrow, yes. I will continued to teach Emyria as I agreed.”
“Very well. Will you require more candles as well?” Reina asked.
Without another word, Reina bowed as she, and her brother headed for the exit. The two of them headed down the hallway in silence until they returned to their chambers. Lyis closed the door behind his sister. Placing the lantern on the nightstand, Lyis removed his uniform as Reina removed hers.
“So, what exactly was it you saw?” Lyis asked.
“It was discharge papers. The reason was for being mentally unfit for duty.”
“Did it say what happened? Why? Anything like that?” Lyis asked as he laid down on the bed.
Reina untied the ribbon around her hair, and placed it on the nightstand before laid down beside her younger brother.
“There was an emblem that I have never seen before. Most of the notes were also written in a language I couldn’t read.”
“Do you think the rumors are true?”
“Judging by the way Aystaria acted, I would say there is a high chance that they are.”
“Should we inform lord, and lady Hyteria?”
“I think, we should just leave it alone for now. Keep your eyes on Aystaria though, I’ll keep Emyria safe.”
“Will do,” Lyis said as he rested his head against his sister’s shoulder.
Reina closed her eyes as many questions ran through her head. I wonder just how many secrets are out there in The Pit, she thought as she drifted off to sleep.
Deep in the darkness of The Pit lies the nightmares to a hellish land where night always lives, and daylight dies. This gate lead to the world of Enfieria where the horrors of all humans spawn. In this land, monsters called Ryiza roam where they feast upon the bones of dead remains. A dark shadowy mist always engulfs the landscape, stretching beyond the comprehension of the human mind. It is here where the shadow lord known as Cyridel resides.
Ruling with iron fist, he became the defacto leader of a city known as Servientis. In a short span of time, Cyridel had amassed power to the point that he wanted more. As a tyrannical ruler, he would ensure that the inhabitants of the various cities bowed to his will, and desires. If they refused he would resort to barbarous torture methods that were cruel to the point he became known as Cyridel the Cruel.
Yet, not everyone in Servientis agreed with Cyridel or his ways. Some of the citizens believed wanted nothing more than to be free from his rule. It is this desire to be free from their chains to the slave driver that lead to The Dark Year. With this came the slaughter of many innocent Ryizans, and the discovery of a gate to an unknown realm. Using the mindless minions that held no intelligence to speak of, hordes of monsters entered through the portal to find a city of stone, and gold.
In the many years that passed of war, and slaughter, the city fell at the might of Cyridel. In just six years, Cyridel—as well as his minions—were pushed back into the shadow realm by the Shadow Takers. They were skilled in only one thing, killing Ryizan. Before long, they were able to set foot in the shadow realm. In the dark, misty, realm of shadows, they learned of Ryizan’s that did not care to partake in mindless killing or those that simply wanted to be free. Taking what was a huge risk, the Shadow Takers allowed the Ryizan that wanted to live with the humans on the other side, granting them a place to survive in the even that they worked. On this agreement, Ryiza continued to live among humans without anyone ever knowing.
Aystaria paced around her room as she tried to take her mind off of what had happened. Stepping up to the windowsill, she looked out to into the darkness. Taking a breath, she looked around her immediate area before heading over to the nightstand, and grabbing her lantern. Fixing a string around it, and placing it around her neck, Aystaria made her way to door. Turning in the direction of the window, she dashed with the speed of a wolf. As she stepped up to the windowsill, she reached up, and grabbed the overhang of the window—pulling herself up in one fluid motion. Placing her foot on the overhang for support, Aystaria used the momentum to reach one of the outcroppings, and continued until she scaled the wall up to the roof of the manor. Sitting down at the edge of the gable-styled roof, Aystaria leaned back, resting her head against her arms, and watched the starry night sky above her.
Of all the lessons that I can teach Emyria, dealing with the emotional, and mental scars of ending a life isn’t something I can teach her. Nothing in the world can prepare someone for the first time they take a life, Aystaria thought as she closed her eyes. As the hours passed, Aystaria kept her mind busy with meaningless task until the break of dawn. The sounds chirped outside of Aystaria’s window as she gathered everything she would need to train Emyria. Once she had everything, she made her way out into the hallway, only to find Lyis.
“Good morning, Lyis,” Aystaria said in a cheerful tone.
“Morning, Aystaria. Did you sleep well?”
“Oh… right. Anyways, do you want something to eat?”
“I already had a small loaf of bread for breakfast so I’m fine. Thank you though.”
“Reina still hasn’t seen Lady Emyria for some time now.”
“What do you mean?”
“She has locked herself in her room, and Reina has yet to hear from her.”
“Want me to check on her then?”
“I would appreciate it.”
Aystaria made her way down the hall, and headed outside until she came to the window where Emyria’s window was located on the third floor. Getting a running start, Aystaria leaped onto the exterior wall, and climbed up like an assassin in the night. Entering into the room with ease, Aystaria quickly noticed that Emyria was nowhere to be found. Closing her eyes, Aystaria spoke a single word.
The black blank room turned into a misty fog. Outlines of solid objects in the room were visible to Aystaria as she looked down at the floor. Footprints showed up clearly in a fervent orange hue that lead towards the window. Okay, let’s see where you went to, Emyria, Aystaria thought as she followed the tracks. As Aystaria followed the tracks, she realized that they were leading to the large tree in the garden. Near the top of the tree, she could see Emyria sitting on one of the branches. She was sad, and it was obvious that there was a lot weighing on her heart.
Looking up at the tree, Aystaria readied herself to climb the tree.
Without much effort, the climb to the top of the tree was simple for Aystaria as she appeared almost out of nowhere before Emyria’s eyes.
“Aystaria? How did you get up here?”
“Well, I climbed up, how else would I get up here?”
“What are you doing here?”
“Now that’s a stupid question. I heard you didn’t leave your room.”
“So you had to come, and find me.”
“We agreed that I’d train you. I don’t go back on my word.”
“I don’t even know if I want to join the military anymore. I just wanted to be free from this… suffocating dungeon.”
“Do you really think the military is the place to be then? There are rules everywhere you go in life. It is what binds us all to a tangible existence. We don’t murder each other because everyone knows that murder causes suffering. Of course, some people just don’t care. That is why we have laws, and rules. Without them, we are simply slaves to unknowingly unintelligible drive or simply put, primal urges.”
“How is it you are so calm when speaking about killing someone? It’s obvious you’re not a teacher. So… who are you really?”
Aystaria was silent for a moment as she looked up at the sky.
“If I was to tell you that I could show you a new world, would care to see it?”
“Is it better than this one?”
“That’s a subjective question.”
“Would you actually take me to this new world?”
“Have I broken my word yet?”
Emyria looked up at the sky as a butterfly landed on the tip of her toe.
“Okay. I’ll trust you to show me this world.”
“Then shall we continue your training?”
The sudden sound of a crack echoed throughout as Aystaria, and Emyria sat perfectly still.
“Don’t move. This branch is going to snap,” Asytaria said in a calm voice.
With cat-like reflexes, Aystaria pulled out the dagger from under her skirt as she drove the dagger deep into the bark of the tree. In that instant, the branch of the tree gave away as Emyria started to feel herself falling. Reacting quickly, Aystaria grabbed onto Emyria’s hand as she held her dagger with the other one. Gripping Aystaria’s hand tightly, Emyria started to scream in fear.
“Emyria, calm down.”
Emyria looked up to see that Aystaria was calm, her facial expressions showing no sign of fear.
“Aystaria, how can you say that when we’re going to fall?”
“We haven’t fallen, so we are fine.”
Aystaria looked to the next branch, and calculated the distance from where they were to the location of the branch.
“Okay, Emyria, I need you to swing over to that branch just there.”
“I’d rather not move at all, thank you!”
“Just relax. If you do as I say, we will live.”
“And if I don’t?”
“Then you die, and I have to live with the fact that you died. Quite frankly, I don’t need anymore deaths on my hands. Now, do as I say if you want to live.”
Emyria looked over to the branch, and back to Aystaria.
“If I die… you better destroy all the books under my bed.”
“Noted. Now, jump.”
Swinging Emyria slightly over to the branch, Emyria let go as she flied through the air until she landed on the branch. Gripping the branch for dear life, Emyria looked up to see Aystaira calmly pull out another dagger hidden under her skirt, and stuck it into the tree branch as a support for her foot.
“You need to work your way down the tree now, Emyria.”
Moving slowly from branch to branch, Emyria made her way down the tree until she had finally reach the ground. Falling to her knees see kissed the ground, and was glad that she wasn’t dead. As Emyria looked up to the tree, she watched Aystaria quickly move from branch to branch like a monkey. Every swing, and flip was fluid, and calculated in its form. Ins just a few minutes, Aystaria had landed on her feet beside Emyria.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry,” Aystaria said with a cheerful smile.
Aystaria headed for the manor as Emyria followed behind her still confused.
“How is it you remained so calm, even when facing death like that.”
At those words, Aystaria stopped in her tracks. Turning on the ball of her foot, Aystaria’s bright, and cheery face resonated a radiant glow, yet, the words that escaped her mouth left Emyria fearful.
“Because, there are far worse things out their to fear than death,” Aystaria said with a cute giggle.
Emyria closed the book as she leaned back in her chair. She was exhausted, but she had spent a full month studying, and training with Aystaria. In just a short time, she had learned to understand how to calm her mind, and think about her opponents, the world, and what actions she could take in order to ensure success in combat. Closing her eyes, Emyria relaxed her body as Aystaria gently massaged her shoulders in a way that could have made anyone fall asleep.
“I feel like I’ve been studying for ten years or something.”
Aystaria could only giggle as she gently placed her hand on Emyria’s head.
“It hasn’t been that long.”
“Yeah, but it still feels long.”
“You’ve done a good job.”
“I don’t know about you, but I could use a bath.”
“You should take one, you’ve earned it.”
“Oh, you don’t want to join me? Are you shy?” Emyria asked with a smug smile.
“Unlike you, Miss Hyteria, I have things I need to do,” Aystaria said in a playfully sarcastic tone.
“What could you possibly have to do? Is it boys?”
“Do I look like I’m into guys?”
Emyria looked up into Aystaria’s eyes only to see a serious expression.
“So, girls then? Should I be worried?”
“You should be worried about the connections I have with Feldia. I can make her give you extra homework, you know,” Aystaria said with a smile.
“That’s my cue to shut up, and go then. Have fun.”
Without another word, Emyria exited her room as Aystaria looked out the window. She took note of the time, and picked up the book off the desk. Guess I’ll go see her today while it’s still daylight, Aystaria thought as she headed back to her own room. After gathering up her stuff, she headed out to where the school was. The empty school made no sound as Aystaria walled through the hallways. As she turned the corner, she noticed the open door, leading into one of the classrooms.
“I figured you would pop by to see me.”
Aystaria noticed Feldia had set up a small table complete with two fresh cups of tea.
“How nice of you.”
Making her way over to the table, Aystaria sat down, and picked up freshly made tea. The aroma of Jasmine smell filled her nose as she took a small sip, and enjoyed the silence of the room. Looking around the classroom, Aystaria noticed the equations written on the blackboard behind Feldia. All of the equations which appeared as nothing more than symbols, and nonsensical jargon to many of the students, Aystaria could easily understand the meaning behind the numbers, and expressions in that covered the whole board.
“So, that’s what you gave the students for homework,” Aystaria said as she placed her cup down on the plate.
“Did Emyria complain at all?”
“Surprisingly, no. She did the work.”
“That girl has grown a lot in the short time you have been there.”
“It helps that I’m a better teacher then someone I know,” Aystaria said with a prideful smug expression.
Feldia smiled as she took another sip of her tea, and laid it down on the plate.
“Do you care to have that little match we put off last time?”
“I couldn’t possibly destroy your classroom.”
“Backing down from a fight?”
“Hey now, the Pynn family never backs down from anything.”
“So, restrict the arena to just the classroom, fair?”
“First blood,” Feldia said as with a smile.
In a split second, the wooden table flew towards Aystaria as she nimbly vaulted over it—drawing her blade to block Feldia’s incoming strike. As Feldia’s iron gauntlet made contact with Aystaria’s blade, she could feel herself being forced backwards. Flipping in the precise rotation, Aystaria planted her feet onto the ground as she slid across the room before coming to a stop.
“Guess I see where you get that nickname from, Feldia the Formidable.”
“And I can see how yours, Aystaria the Prideful.”
“You know, I have to ask. How do you you get your hair to stay black like that?”
Rushing forward, with blade following behind, Aystaria followed the curve of the swing hoping to land a cut near Feldia’s shoulder. As she calculated her swing, she realized that Feldia would block her strike if she continued. With haste, she invoked her magic to help gain the edge.
With speed that rivaled the scientific understanding of the world, Aystaria followed through with the swing of her blade only to realize that Feldia had managed to dodge by a fraction of a hair. A single strand of hair fell from Feldia’s head as she smiled.
“Well, you see, I’m quite good at covering up my hair with my magic.”
“So, using your shadow magic to cover your white hair. I’m actually a bit jealous I didn’t think of that,” Aystaria said as she readied herself to defend against one of Feldia’s power attacks.
Struggling to hold back the force of Feldia’s blow, Aystaria calculated the best options she had as fast as possible. Coming to the best option available to her, she quickly grabbed Feldia’s wrist with her free hand, and coiled around her arm with her body like a snake strangling its victim. In one fluid moment, her sole of her boot made contact with the cheek bone hard enough to force Feldia to flinch slightly. As Feldia started to lose her footing, Aystaria quickly snapped Feldia’s arm down like lever before landing onto her feet, and gaining distance.
Aystaria watched as Feldia turned her as if she hadn’t felt a single blow from her boot. A smug expression appeared on Feldia’s face before she looked down at her arm, taking note that it had been dislocated at the shoulder. Shrugging it off, she simply popped the bone back into place, and looked to Aystaria.
“You’re the first person to actually cause me a slight tingle.”
“I hope you mean from the attack, and not down there?” Aystaria said in a giggling tone.
“Don’t be lewd, Aystaria. We haven’t taken our relationship that far yet. Refrenantem.”
Without warning, Feldia cleared the distance from across the room in a matter of seconds as Aystaria quickly pull up her guard.
A single punch with the power to crush through the mass of a building, forced Aystaria back, and up against the wall. Damn, she is so strong, Aystaria thought as she felt her body fall to the floor. Feeling a heavy pounding in her chest, Aystaria struggled to get to her feet as Feldia walked over to her with a smile on her face.
Just barely rolling out of the way, Aystaria felt the vibrations of the thunder shattering shock wave that came from Feldia’s fist hitting the ground. Part of the wooden flooring, along with dust, and debris flew out from the center point of impact like an explosion. With haste, Aystaria saw her chance to attack. Rushing forward with her blade ready to strike, she calculated the small opening she had. Okay, there is no way she can dodge this, Aystaria thought as she closed the gap between her, and Feldia. Aiming for the hip bone, the edge sword ripped the fabric of cloth as Feldia jumped back without delay. Aystaria quickly looked over her sword only to note that there wasn’t a single ounce of blood on it while Feldia checked where the sword had graze her. After realizing there was no blood, Feldia smiled as she watched the smug, and prideful Aystaria express annoyance, and frustration.
“Well, seems we can still go at it, unless you’re tired.”
“As if,” Aystaria said as she tried to fake a smile.
“No use in trying to hide behind that fake smile.”
“Guess we need to get serious.”
Both Aystaria, and Feldia started on a collision course for each other as they readied to pour all their energy in their one strike that would end it.
In perfect synchronization, the two of them were in a state to kill one another—Aystaria’s sword against Feldia’s neck; Feldia’s fist just mere inches from Aystaria’s face. Both of them appeared frozen in time before Feldia’s eyes looked over to the student standing in the doorway.
“What is it, Miss Faldur?”
“Out with it, if you please. I’m in a meeting.”
“I came by to give you my homework, if that’s okay.”
“Fine. Put it on my desk.”
Nolvet looked to see the desk was destroyed along with half of the classroom. Walking over to a piece of the desk that remained intact, she placed the paper down, and looked over to the two teachers before her.
“You should leave, and not speak of this to anyone. Is that clear Miss Faldur?”
Without another word, Nolvet left the room as Feldia looked back to Aystaria.
“I’m sorry about that.”
“It’s no problem. Good thing she did stop us, otherwise, you’re students would have to find a new teacher.”
“Pretty sure I’d be the one carrying those six tags of yours.”
Aystaria looked at the edge of her blade, and where Feldia’s fist was.
“Should we call this a draw?”
“Indeed. We can just call it a draw,” Feldia said as she relaxed her arm.
Aystaria sheathed her sword as she looked over the whole damage that both she, and Feldia had caused.
“Want some help cleaning this up?”
“I’d appreciate it. Perhaps, I should get a maid outfit for you.”
“I don’t recall being your dress up doll,” Aystaria pouted.
After a few hours of cleaning, Aystaria sat down in one of the desk, and slipped off her boots as she gently massaged the soles of her feet.
“It looks like it’s getting darker outside. You brought a candle, I assume?” Feldia asked as she looked over to Aystaria.
“Yeah, I got one—”
Looking through bag, a worried expression told Feldia that Aystaria did not have a candle. Holding up what remained of a single strip of cloth of what used to be the bag, Aystaria’s breathing began to increase as the sun started to set below the horizon. Feldia looked over the rest of room as she tried to find a candle.
“I’ll be right back. Stay here,” Feldia said as she quickly exited the room.
As the sun disappeared over the horizon, the fear of the dark started to overtake Aystaria as her breathing rapidly increased. The haunting memories started to resurface as she recalled what Cyridel had done to her. Aystaria could see the shadows starting to creep towards her as a chill ran throughout her body. She could smell the blood from all the time she spent in his presence. Every six minutes the horrible feeling that made her skin crawl.
Feldia entered the room quickly with lit candle in hand.
“Stop it. Look at me,” Feldia said as she bent down to eye level with Aystaria.
Aystaria turned her gaze to Feldia, but still continued to see the memories before her in vivid detail.
“You are Aystaria Pynn, right?”
For a moment, Aystaria steadied her breathing.
“You are a Shadow Taker.”
“We do not give up, or show weakness.”
“We protect the world from the darkness that they will never see. We live in the shadows, and ensure that no one will ever have to endure the horrors that we face…”
“…in the realm of Enfieria,” Feldia finished as she smiled.
Placing the palm of her head against her forehead, Aystaria took a deep breath.
“Do you mind?” Feldia asked.
“If you think you can stomach it.”
Feldia lifted up Aystaria skirt, and looked upon the work that the shadow lord left as a memento.
“Well, he did not hold back on you, did he?”
“Most definitely. If I was your wife, I’d never bathe you, ever.”
“Go to know, you’d at least stay,” Aystaria said with a smile.
“I’d never leave you.”
Feldia smiled as she grabbed Aystaria’s boots, and helped her put them on her feet.
“Now, if someone paid me to leave you, that is completely different story.”
“So, you’d leave me for a gold coin?”
“It’d take at least two. I don’t get paid enough as it is.”
“You, and me both.”
“Anyways, you ready to go home?”
“There is no need to walk me home like a child.”
“Then how about I carry you like a princess,” Feldia said in a joking tone as she tied the lantern around Aystaria’s neck.
“Oh, I see how it is, speaking in Ryizaviran now?” Feldia asked as she made her way for the exit.
Aystaria followed as Feldia’s side as they walked through the silent hallways of the school. The two of them continued walking in silence through the city streets of Maiola as they watched the few people walking about the city streets.
“Haluatko puhua mitä tapahtui?” Feldia asked.
“Milloin kukaan haluaa koskaan puhua siitä?” Aystaria replied in question.
It was clear to Feldia that Aystaria didn’t want to talk about her problems. That wasn’t something she was trained to do.
“Voit silti kertoa minulle, ei niin kuin kukaan kuulisi meidät. Paitsi Undertakers.”
The two of them rounded a corner as Aystaria remained silent for a second. She thought about everything that had happened to her in Enfieria. When she made it out of that nightmare alive, there was no one she could open up to. Maybe, at the very least, I can tell her, Aystaria thought as she looked up to the night.
Aystaria watched as Emyria continued to practice hitting a single spot on a tree branch while blindfolded. She continued this task everyday until she was able to consistently hit the same area with the full force of the wooden sword. After countless hours of training, Emyria felt her arms grow heavy. Dropping the wooden sword in flash, she laid back on the grass, and stared up at the sky after removing the blindfold.
“I don’t think I can move anymore.”
Aystaria smiled cheerfully as she looked down at Emyria.
“So, you don’t want to eat lunch? I see. I guess I’ll just tell Reina, and Lyis to skip lunch.”
Sitting up quickly, Emyria turned to Aystaria, throwing the blindfold at her in a playful manner.
“Don’t even joke about that. You know I love food.”
“Don’t worry, I’d never cut out food from your training. That would be too much.”
“Good, you better not.”
“Or what?” Aystaria teased.
“I can hold my own against you now.”
Aystaria twirled on the ball of her foot as she unsheathed her blade, and readied herself for combat. Emyria jumped up to her feet with haste, only to feel her legs drop like a heavy lead.
“Ow. I probably shouldn’t have gotten up that fast.”
“You should have gotten up slower.”
“Yeah. I’m starting to feel the pain in my legs now, and arms now.”
“Well, you’ve been training so hard over the past two months.”
“But I can’t rest. School exams are going to be coming up, and then there is that trip to the city of Athelas.”
“That’s right, so we can’t have you slacking off,” Aystaria said with a cute wink.