Chapter 4:

Traditions

Azure Sins (Sin Ver.)


A while later...

The sunset had come and the largest of the buildings in the village lit up brightly in the night. Inside the festivities were underway filling up the communion hall. Many danced, drank, and flirted around having a wild time. During this time they were free of concern or worry and given the ability to celebrate and indulge to their heart's content. Towards the back wall was an elevated stage where the nobles and priest sat as the celebratory guests. The girls sat on one end, with Ian being the divider between them and Dan, who sat with Leo next to him. Both boys looked a bit beat up, with their heads hanging low in a painful defeat.

"What the hell happened to you two?"

They were unresponsive in their sulking. Ian turned his head to his left towards the girls. Seeing the deathly stares of hell from the noblewomen and Eileen, practically turned the two young men to stone. At that moment he knew, placing his hand over his face in shame before raising his mug to drink the alcohol inside. Once again he returned his sight to the girls who seemed to begin talking to each other once again having their cups held in their hands. Ian smiled seeing them enjoy themselves and soon enough deciding to go have some fun for himself. Finds his way to the center of the room, joining the massive crowd in their rowdy party. A young village male suddenly approached the woman seated on the stage, extending a hand to Sheilia, asking her to join him for a dance.

Sheilia Ciest: (He's pretty cute and it looks like he cleaned up decently well for a village man. My parents have only allowed high-status nobles to court me. Ooo I feel sort of naughty!)

Cana slid her hand onto her friend's back, smiling at her.

"Yeah, I deserve to celebrate too thanks to Aisellia! Who knows where I'll find him right?"

Sheilia said, quickly finishing her drink and taking the young male's hand, and being drawn into the fray of the dancing celebration. An hour more into the night, the chief took center stage, calling the crowd's attention. Prompting a large celebration cry for the nobles who had come to their aid. The chief proceeded into the next matter swiftly.

"It is time for our most sacred tradition and ritual for many years. Four of our youths shall stroll to the Great Shrines and pray for our safety and prosperity for another year and many more. This year only two of our youths will be going but as a symbol of our unity, as proposed by The Holy Father of Cloth present, two young Nobles will join them, and may we all prosper together!"

The room quickly filled with applause and rowdy approval in the room. From the crowd, the priest came to the stage with Ian and gestured toward Aisellia, leading to her surprise but still rose to her feet to stand next to them

"As with them, I have chosen Eileen and my grandson Leo as well."

Aisellia & Cana: "Grandson?!"

Moments later...

Aisellia walked through a forest along a traveled dirt path through the trees. The full moon in the sky illuminated the trees and the pathway, making visibility easy without a torch to light the way.

"You haven't said a thing since we left the hall. I had the feeling you might be friendlier seeing how surprised you were that my grandpa's the chief."

Aisellia shot him a glare, looking over her shoulder slightly to see the male trailing slightly behind her.

"That doesn't matter, it's not like I forgot what you and Dan were up to just not that long ago! I'm glad to be a part of your village's praying ritual but let's hurry up. Being alone with you creeps me out almost as much as this forest."

"Aw don't be like that, we're almost at the shrine. How about a friendly bet? Dan seems to have dull senses but the Chief told everyone to keep quiet about anything. We're supposed to pretend no such thing exists until you all leave. How about I tell you the story of our ritual which has freed us from demon presence for the decade it has?"

"*Sigh* In exchange for?" She asked him, her caution more present than her curiosity.

"Eh we'll get to that, let me tell you the story first anyways, as a friendly gesture of good faith."

Aisellia kept an eye on him for a moment, before turning her head forward again, her silence prompting him to smile and begin his story.

"Seven years ago our village used to be larger, not much bigger but more people were alive back then. In this very forest is where demons used to lurk. For everyone's safety, no one was permitted to leave the village, except those the chief allowed to hunt for food or trade as merchants for the village. As you know, the forest surrounds the village from three sides and at the back of the village is the mountain. The demons would always lurk, waiting for someone to try to leave or go too far into the forest to look for food. Everyone knew how dangerous the forest was, and they somehow came up with ways to survive but there was a girl whose parents were killed by demons. I'm twenty now so I can't exactly remember most of back then, everyone rightfully was always scared of demons. But I do faintly remember seeing her now and then getting into yelling matches with the hunters when they were able to catch her before she was able to sneak out sometimes or break stuff."

As he told his story the two continued to walk.

"One day she had made her way outside of the village but this time she was gone for days. When she returned, half of her body was stained black, and she looked terribly ill."

Aisellia Rae: (Black stained skin? Laura mentioned it in one of her stories...Cursed ones she called them.)

"A little info for you, there is more than one type of demon. Most will just tear you apart limb from limb. But there are others who can leave a curse on humans. The marks grow across a person's body until it covers them entirely, giving them unimaginable painful last days until they die. But no one would know until it was nearly too late...that if a demon is powerful enough, the curse can spread to others, and it did."

The two had finally come to a stop, standing just outside of the tree line, in front of a small hut, repurposed as a shrine placed near the edge of a cliff, the full moon presently enveloping the structure from the sky. The site itself impressed Aisellia, seeing the wooden shrine before her, adorned with decorative ornaments yet its doors were sealed shut.

"Lucky for everyone a Demon Hunter had come to the village a few days before."

"Demon Hunter?"

"There were people out in the world with amazing skills for being human, whether it luck or they actually train their bodies that hard, they manage to fight and kill demons. Even the most experienced around still managed to die from even the lesser of demons just like regular people. One came and informed grandpa that the curse on the girl was far from normal, letting him know that her curse would draw powerful demons to our homes. From the forest, a great terror would haunt us all. It was already too late for grandfather's opinion on the matter but he had to decide. He took a deal to stop the curse from spreading. In order to stop the curse, they sealed the girl and made a deal with the Hunter. Outsmarting the demon and man is the only opportunity he had."

(Outsmarting the demon and...Man?) Aisellia questioned in her mind, a point striking its way into her thoughts.

"If it was too late, what deal was....?"

Aisellia turned around aiming to look at Leo who had suddenly become silent after talking essentially the whole journey.

"We're here!"

Leo announced, effectively avoiding Aisellia's question. The pair continued shortly and came to a stop having arrived a short distance from a set of stairs leading to a large wooden shrine. Aisellia took the time to visually inspect the place.

(Hmm, the wood is pretty old and the decorative draping is old and torn. For such a special place it sure isn't maintained too well.)

She thought to herself. Placing her index finger against her chin, curiously inspecting the facility.

(I guess it makes sense when you have the villager's safety and health as a primary concern).

Having thought well enough to herself, Aisellia turned towards Leo who stood behind her, twisting her hips and looking casually over her shoulder.

"So what do we do no-?"

As soon as she moved to face Leo, her eyes caught glimpse of him, or more like what he truly was, had already closed the distance between them. Leo's eyes were deep yellow, stained black markings partially covering his face. His clawed hand swiped at Aisellia. Surprisingly to them both, her reaction speed at this moment was her saving grace, as Leo missed her head but still wounded her shoulder. Blood splattered onto the paper doors to the shrine leading to Aisellia's falling, her spack smashing into the corner of several steps.

"What the fuck?!"

One eye wincing from the pain, Aisellia scrambled onto her hands and knees, attempting to regain her balance to stand while simultaneously running away. With inhuman speed, Leo appeared behind her while she shuffled to the finality of the stairs, attempting to escape her predator. Reaching the height of the stair Aisellia managed to regain her footing and force herself to her feet once again and practically fell into the doors to the shrine. Her palms and chest smashed against the doors from her falling weight. Wasting no time her hands scrambled sporadically across the door.

As if all hope was lost, a well of fear and dread vigorously swelled inside her chest and body. Aisellia's eyes shifted to her side, turning her body to view over her shoulder, a dark figure entering her peripheral sight just as her hair swayed from the side of her face. The boy's sinister smile, his jagged teeth, and the black markings covering half his torso instantly riddled the body of the noble with terror.

Looking at his face in horror involuntarily caused Aisellia's body to tense up, clenching every muscle her body had as only a terrified scream escaped her lips. Suddenly a swift strike was delivered to her body, and a kick from Leo crashed into her side sending her crashing through the shrine doors with ease. Her vision blurry, Aisellia attempted to regain herself yet she felt too weak, her body riddled with pain as she lay on the cold wooden floor of the interior of the shrine. Her eyes slowly began to fall. As Aisellia began to lose consciousness, the last thing her eyes could see was a large violet-colored crystal. surrounded by the flames of several lit candles. From what she could see, inside was an unconscious woman. The woman's face was young in appearance, her raven-colored hair reaching down the length of her back. To Aisellia she almost seemed peaceful, her legs and arms clutched to her chest seemingly frozen in time within the violet hue of the crystal. A slight sense of grief overcame Aisellia seeing the girl who on closer inspection had tears streaming from her eyes as Aisellia had felt coming from her own. Soon blacking out and falling unconscious.