Chapter 13:

Welcome to the Depository (Part 1)

The Curious Case of Clemsey

Welcome is a term which in my mind exudes such positive air— freshly baked bread early in the morning, the calming sea breeze and the scent of highland native Cypressias. It is that word which holds a strong implication to that of stepping into an unfamiliar place, surpassing boundaries and braving open doors.

But “welcome” is a word which I’m wary, I’ll never hear from this land. A surge of hesitation rushed through me, as I stood in front of the man who saved me from dangers of falling at the wrong hands, and falling off the cliff, being thrown with questions, I am not sure how to answer myself.

“Clemsey—“ Van said, with his back facing me, as we walk, following a trail in the woods. “I wonder, why you are interested in the Assistant Archivist position? With what I heard from Ashke, you seem to be doing a fine job running an apothecary in Alcione.” **

Behind my round and tinted spectacles, I blinked at him for a moment. Perhaps a “welcome” is something that has to be earned, similar to gaining someone else’s trust.

“To be honest, I wouldn’t call it an apothecary” My walking came into a sudden halt, as I almost bumped at the person in front of me. Van faced me with his countenance painted with curiosity. A strong breeze passed through the trees, producing jarring noises, disturbing the calmness of the woods. Good timing, I thought, it effectively masked the loud thumping of my heart. I took a step back from the strangely familiar presence. Back when my vision wasn’t developed yet, my mind formed shadows out of everything that’s being presented to me. But, when I gained my eye sight, something else inside of me turned into ghostly apparitions— forgotten memories, familiar emotions and a faint sense of attachment to certain things.

“Clemsey,” Van interjected, breaking my thoughts. “You have the look of someone who just saw her whole life flashing back.” He laughed gently and placed the bag of books he’s been carrying, down to the ground. It’s a gesture which signifies a small talk is about to turn into a serious conversation.

“I’m sorry…uhm, where was I again?” I said, while leaning on a nearby tree trunk— a gesture which signifies that I welcome the idea of a serious exchange. “Ah right— so yeah, it isn’t really an apothecary. Though, it was supposed to… I concoct healing oils and create some home displays out of clay. But, before all that, I was an Archivist to a medical merchant group.”

“Interesting… Ashke did mention that you used to hold a similar position. Though, I didn’t know it was related to medicine,” he said.

“I used to be always out on a sea voyage. Whenever we go back to Alcione, where Ashke also used to reside, he would try to invent weird contraptions to battle my land sickness. But, when it’s time to set sail again, he would give me a ton of letters with messages to decode. It’s his own version of leisure games,” I said, suddenly feeling conscious from smiling way too much. “I really love my work as an Archivist. I never wanted for it to end. It’s just that, life happens. It twists, and it turns, and then leads you into crossroads.” I looked at Van and his expression now holds more questions than ever.

“Circumstances… t-there are circumstances, is what I meant,” I explained quite awkwardly.

“I see…, well being an Archivist is a dangerous position to hold,” he muttered with a serious undertone. “Say Clemsey, now that you mentioned it… I’ve been meaning to ask. Why did you go into such a roundabout way to get to the capital? Are you perhaps under a grave circumstance?”

“Uhm— Van, what do you mean?” I asked, feigning innocence yet, thinking of how to go on about disclosing my predicament to the person who saved me.

“What I mean is that, you could’ve entered the main border, which would lead you directly to Clauden and yet—“ he said, looking at me with eyes squinting. “You entered from an area where you need to travel days from to get to the capital. I assumed you would know of this given that you aren’t new to seafaring.”

Another gushed of strong wind followed. Another good timing, I thought. The sound of the woods filled in the awkward gap and deafening silence in between our conversation.

“Mister Van, what a perceptive person you are,” I said, while my eyes found the only unobstructed view there is—upward. “I am not sure how to explain things right now, though, there’s one thing I could assure you. I didn’t go to the Kingdom of Stussa as a means of escape. I just received a wake up call one day and it told me to start moving. If I went into such a roundabout way to get here, it was because I thought, it’s a step I needed to take.” I moved my back away from the tree trunk and behind my spectacles, I looked at Van straight in the eyes. “I guess, it’s a matter of receiving the right push at the right time. As you said, fate is such a mysterious fellow.”

He replied to my sentiment with his warm smile. His eyes, curving along with his lips.

Fate is a mysterious force indeed. So mysterious, that sometimes, you will simply passed by it on a diner, eating breakfast you regret you didn’t take, without the faintest idea that you were walking by the very thing, that will end up saving your dear life.

We resumed our walk along a trace on the ground, on the way to where we would meet up with Blanca, Lowen and another acquaintance of theirs named, Bisca. As I tried to go along with his pace, it started to sink in that I am currently in a foreign land. I felt like I was on a tour, as Van passionately narrated random histories of random things and places and whatnots. Saved for the sword he carries on his waist, he’s dressed in normal clothing yet, the gracefulness of his movement and speech is something that I have been noticing since meeting him. When we reached the clearing, I was astounded by the scenery in front of me—a single old house nestled proudly in the midst of a wide field. It seemed to have stood the test of time, with its noticeable cracks and missing bricks, but that’s exactly what made it charming and full of character.

“This is our base here in this town. Our favorite spot,” Van said, looking around the area. “Anyway, I wonder where could they be. We need to leave for Clauden before the sun sets.”

As I was openly admiring the view, that I didn’t mind being overly exposed to the only person standing beside me, I suddenly felt some sort of heaviness in the air. And like most dangerous things are, it came out of the blue—a frail whistling sound which alerted my senses.

“Down!” I shouted, roughly pushing Van to the ground. An arrow landed beside us, probably missing me by a hair strand. Van quickly motioned me to his side, stood up and covered me, drawing his sword at the same time.

I saw his eyes surveying our surrounding. “Show yourself!” he shouted angrily.

“Van, this is a poisoned arrow,” I said, while examining its sharp edge and the weird scent it emits.

“Well, I developed an immunity to poisons a long time ago,” he muttered.

As if responding to his words, a man showed himself from his hiding place with his hands up in the air, as if offering a peace talk.

“I dont mean any harm, Mister. But, my master is looking for you, Miss,” the man said looking at my direction.

“Put your weapon down!” Someone showed up in a flash, behind the unknown attacker. Lowen with his sword drawn, was a frightening sight to see. Blanca rushed to our side with a dagger in her hand. Behind her, is a beautiful tall man, which I assumed to be the one they call, Bisca, hugging a book in his chest.

“Van, I left your side only today, and now you’re in danger,” Lowen said in a loud voice. A gentle sound of approaching horses came out from the opposite side. Two horses to be exact, one ridden by a man I recognized, the other ridden by someone hiding in a dark hood. They stopped in front of us. The one shrouded in mystery got off the horse and removed his hood. The sight froze me to the ground.

“Prince Larsen…,and Sir Nunzio…” I muttered. I sensed the tension in everyone’s aura.

“It’s nice to see you, Miss Clemsey Akisa. Pardon the arrows, it was just a warning shot by my careless man. Anyway, they were supposed to send a different group to search for you, but I came here myself to deal with this matter. Besides, you are the person Gionne spent his whole life protecting,” he said, crossing his arms and looking fiercely at me. “I believed you have strict orders from King Auren to stay under the premises of the Royal Court,” Prince Larsen said with a flat countenance.

“Prince Larsen De Lucine,” Van interjected, I was supposed to meet you in a month, I didn’t know you’ll come so early.” Prince Larsen looked at him with a sudden confusion. Van moved his sword, facing a crest carved on its handle, in Prince Larsen’s view. Based on the nervous expression in his eyes, I believed, a major matter just dawned on him.

“You are…” Prince Larsen said uneasily.

“The Second Prince of the Kingdom of Stussa, Vaugn Ark-Zenith. I will willingly forego of the fact that we were just attacked in our land, only if you give Clemsey Akisa a chance to have her own decision on the matter,” Prince Vaugn said with a firm conviction.

Vaugn Ark-Zenith, It can’t be… I thought.

“I understand Prince Vaugn. I hope this matter won’t hinder the strong relationship between our Kingdoms. I came here on a personal business. Please pardon our disturbance. Akisa—“ he looked at me with eyes clearly asking for my decision.

“Prince Larsen, with all due respect, I would like to stay in Stussa,” I said with a deep bow and with words flowing from my very soul. “This is the path I chose.”

“I believe you know that what we were offering you is a safe route. You can’t keep on escaping fate, you know it well enough that one way or another you’ll reach a dead end.”

“Prince Larsen—“ I said. I walked closely to where he is standing, passing by Prince Vaugn, and sincerely hoping to finally get passed this half way point towards my destination. I removed my round and tinted spectacles, and faced Prince Larsen with my whole truth.

“I never intended to take a safe route in first place, what I wanted to pursue, is the right one,” I offered him a sincere smile which he seemed to accept for now.

“We will see each other again… I didn’t know you had Gionne’s stubbornness,” he said in a low voice before leaving the town with his men. A spark of hope light up inside of me.

I didn’t know for how long I was standing in silence. I am thinking of fear. I am thinking of doubts. I am thinking of all the uncertainty there is in the door I chose to open. Even then, I am thinking of how my family never gave up on me. Of how help keeps on extending its hands to reach out to me. I was saved for so many times.

I turned to face Prince Vaugn, Lowen, Blanca and Bisca, went on my knees as a sign of respect and looked directly at them, with my peculiar eyes not being filtered with spectacles and lies.

“I went to the Kingdom of Stussa because I wanted to apply for Assistant Archivist Job at the E. Stussa Depository. I wanted to create my own path from here onwards. And, as selfish as it sounds, I also believed it, when Ashke said that this position will help me locate my parents’ whereabouts. Prince Vaugn Ark-Zenith, I sincerely wish that you’ll let me stay.” I said with full honesty.

“Clemsey, I believe that we all start pursuing things due to selfish reasons. An unselfish reason and purpose is something that blossom along the way,” he said. He reached out his hand and helped me stand up. We stayed in that gesture for a good minute or so, face to face, with his right hand, holding mine. In my soul, I can hear the sound of a key unlocking the right door.

“Welcome to the Kingdom of Stussa, Clemsey Akisa.”