Journey in the skies - Short stories
As the early summer winds blew through the kingdom of Drest, removing what remained of spring, the children of the skies prepared for a journey of self-discovery.
Once every four years, as the spirit of early summer takes her rule, the young adults of every nation travel to its capital. On this day, the eight noble spirits group the new adventurers into caravans, setting them off to grow and write the stories that keep the spirits alive.
In celebration, a week before the ceremony, the capital and its people transform. People dress as their favorite heroes as the bards play songs only heard in theatres. All to prepare the youth for the adventures they’ll have and the stories they’ll tell, like all their ancestors before them.
I, Sylvado De Leon, am one of the many youths taking part in this year’s ceremony.
I arrived a day before the festival began, and since then have been rushing around in excitement. The capital has so much more than the sky fishing village I came from, and I planned to experience it all. I’ve been visiting every shop, cafe, and theatre group the capital offered. Yet, every night I end up in Le chiot d’or, a cafe run and staffed by Sehkuta, a race of people with dog-like ears and tails. Here I found the most delicious food with the best company, a server who goes by the name Esahalia Klein. Though she told me I could call her Esah.
Little did I know, the first story I would record for the spirits would happen in this cafe, trying to impress Esah.
The skies grew dim as the sun headed to bed, letting the moon take watch over us. Yet, much like the city itself, the cafe couldn’t sit still. The staff dashed around in their adorable uniforms, tail swaying to the joyful tunes. All the while, the patrons ate and enjoyed each other’s company.
Though I wish the story began with the fun and flirty back-and-forth, Esah and I were having for the sixth night in a row. This story begins with a young boy who thought no one would notice him running with the cafe’s earnings.
“Hey! Get back here kid!” the owner of Le chiot d’or screamed, stumbling through the crowd of people to reach him.
“Haha! Good luck catching me oldie!” The child called back, slipping through the legs of the same crowd.
“Though I wish this conversation would never end, it looks like your boss needs a hand,” I said, a gentle sigh leaving my nose as I smiled up at Esah.
“No way! Let the guards handle it.” She responded, her calming hand pushing through my messy hair. “It’s more fun talking to me, right?” Esah smiled at me, her blue tail swaying as her matching ears twitched.
“Of course, but I would rather not leave it to chance.” I tried to keep a suave look, but a smile couldn’t help but dance its way out of my heart.
“Leave what to chance?”
“Well, you taking me out tonight,” I said, tossing a wink at her before standing from my chair. “Hard to pay for a date if your boss doesn’t pay you. Trust me, this won’t take long.”
“How did you make the idea of me paying sound so charming?” She asked, laughing as she rocked on her toes, her arms crossed behind her.
“It’s all in the smile.” I joked, my hands lifting hers to my lips. “I’ll be back long before your shift is over. Promise to save time for me when it ends?”
“Promise.” She said, her pale cheeks turning a soft red as her eyes stayed trained on mine.
“Excellent, I’d love to hear more about your journey here,” I said as a brisk wind picked up below my feet, pushing me from the ground to the railing, then up to the lamppost. “Be safe till I return,” I called out to her before a large gust of wind took me to the roof of Le chiot d’or.
“Good luck Sylvado! Don’t even think of getting in any trouble, I’ll come find you if you do!”
I broke into a sprint the moment my feet touched the slanted roof; the wind blowing from my hands to keep my balance. The kid wasn’t too hard to spot. His wild red hair and the bag with the cafe logo were a dead giveaway.
He kept running until he was ten blocks away, periodically looking behind him to see if he was safe. The kid must have felt it because his sprint turned into a jog. I watched turned around, diving into an alleyway a few blocks back, making him impossible for me to see.
With a flick of the wrist, the wind brought me to the rooftop connected to the alleyway. “Alright, all I gotta do is jump down, take the money, and bring it back to Esah to impress her. Easy peasy.” I thought as my feet kissed the flat top of the roof. With a hop to my step, I rushed over to the edge to discover a troubling fact.
There wasn’t a single person standing in the alleyway.
Without hesitation, my body flew over the side, the wind catching my fall as I descended.
Aside from the barrels and trash strewn about the alley, nothing stood there. Not a door or a sewer grate a child could use to getaway.
“Come on kid, I got a date with destiny!” I called out, eyes searching as I kicked barrels to scare him out. Though the more I searched, the more perplexed I became.
“Well, only one thing to try now,” I said, before taking a deep breath. A gentle tune left my lips as my eyes fluttered closed, making the wind pick up and dance around me. The warmth of the wind filled my mind, revealing the cracks in the alley, until one piqued my interest. A crack in the shape of a door where I didn’t see one before.
“Can’t hide the truth from the wind,” I said, adjusting my poncho as the wind died down, feet carrying me to the door. My hand pressed against the coarse stone, impeding me from reaching for the doorknob. “Huh, must be quite the trickster for illusion magic like this.” I thought as the wind filled my hand forming a knife.
With a quick slash, both the knife and the illusion faded away, revealing the door. “I wasn’t expecting that...” I thought, watching as the knife disappeared. “Best to conserve my magic after this.”
Once again, without hesitation, I pulled open the door. The cold, musty air pushed out as I looked down the stone staircase into a dimly lit room. “Am I about to float into trouble?” I thought as the wind brought me down the steps.
I couldn't believe it, but it seemed I descended into a storage room with a maze attached. The room’s filled with boxes, the dim light coming from the mana lamps on the walls. Across from me and to the left sat tunnels, while to my right was a doorway with a set of stairs; most likely leading to the building above.
Standing at the bottom of the stairs allowed me to hear the rowdy crowd above, music and all. Easy to say no matter what was up there, I’d be in big trouble if I busted in.
“To the drawing board...” I thought, my hand drawing a summoning circle made of wind. “Sirocco of the howling winds, hear my call.” and with a gust of wind, a small wind sprite flew from the circle.
“How can I help, boss?” He asked.
“Mind helping me find a thief?”
“Dang Sylvado, the ceremony hasn’t even happened yet and you’re already adventuring. Who’s the girl?”
“Esah. The one I told you about from Le chiot d’or.”
“Oh, really?! Do I sense character growth?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“After this long, you’d usually be chasing another skirt.”
“I’m not that bad.”
“Maybe not. But from what I hear, like father, like son.”
“Anyway, I need help finding this kid,” I said, crossing my arms as my eyes threw daggers at him.
“Gotcha, boss. What’s the situation?”
“Well, we seem to be in a basement attached to a maze,” I said, pointing to the two tunnels. “I already used quite a bit of magic to find the door down here, so I need another idea.”
“It’s made of stone, so why not call Cleo?”
“Not a chance.”
“She’d be able to-”
“I get it! But you’re a spirit too, so we can do this no problem.” I said, muscles tensing as I pinched the bridge of my nose.
“Sylvado, you’ll have to get along with her at some point.”
“Cool. Some point isn’t right this second, so can you hel-.” The creak of a wooden door cut through my sentence, stopping the two of us in our tracks. Footsteps and clinking bottles echoed down the stairway where the rowdy noise came. Sirocco and I looked all around for a place to hide. Him being small made it a lot easier.
“You got this Sylvado, keep that confident smile and it’ll all work out.” He whispered before flying behind a crate.
“Why are you hiding then!” I whispered back.
“In case you fail. Good luck!”
I rushed to the lean against the wall by the doorway, fixing my clothes as I composed myself.
Exiting the doorway was a man half my height, his hands filled with a crate of empty bottles. I watched as he walked to the other side, placing the crate in a pile and grabbing one full of glass bottles.
“Mind if I ask you a question?” I asked, stepping between him and the doorway he came from.
“By the eight!” The man yelled, his body whipping around to face me, revealing a logo of a sleeping lamb. “You little shit! Why are all Dunbah’s kids such assholes...”
“Sorry about that,” I said, bowing to the man. “My father always said I was a quiet walker. But I’m glad you know Dunbah. Today’s the first day I started working for him and to be honest, I’m kind of lost….” I told the man, a soft sigh leaving me as I scratched the back of my head in embarrassment.
“What do you mean by that? Wait a second..” The man fixed his glasses, and when he got a better look at me, the wrinkles on his face pulled in. “You look too old to be one of his kids. Not to mention you look like you’re from out of town. No one around here gets a tan like that.” The man turned around, grabbing the crate of bottles before pushing past me. “Scram before I get him to deal with ya.”
“Apologies! I’ll do that right away, sir.” I said, walking past him. “You think the guards will give me a good amount of gold for finding this place. I can tell them how the bar upstairs has been helping local thieves. The sleepy lamb was it?” I asked, fingers tapping my chin. “By the way, great ribs. Shame I won’t have them again. Have a nice day!”
“Oh? Did I miss something?” I said, turning around to look at him.
“What’s your question…” the man said with a heavy sigh.
“I want to find one of Dunbahs kids. I saw him enter down here so maybe you could help me find him.”
“Heh, good luck with that. No one knows how to find him. Now piss off.”
“What a shame… Well, I gotta get that money back somehow, so I’ll see you in a bit with the guards.” I said, a happy skip to my step as I made my way back to the stairs.
“Wait a second!”
“I didn’t lie. No one knows how to find him because he keeps moving around in this maze.” He said, placing the crate by the doorway to clean his glasses. “But, I’ve seen the kids draw a circle with a triangle in it under the mana lamps. That’s the best I got for you.” The man put his glasses back on and grabbed his crate, grumbling as he made his way up the stairs.
“Thanks!” I called out to him.
“Good job, boss!” Sirocco said, flying out from behind the crates.
“That was a close one... I should learn how to see magic so I don’t get into messes like this.” I said, walking over to the mana lamp across from where I entered.
“You know who can do that well?” Sirocco piped up, a devilish smirk on his lips.
“I would assume most wizards.”
“Probably, but also Cleo. You should ask her next time.”
“Huh, I didn’t realize you were the rare spirit that can’t see magic. I should return you for a better one.”
“Let’s not get too hasty boss.” He said, flying over to my shoulder. “I’m just trying to mend bridges. Though with that attitude, it’s no wonder you two don’t get along…”
“What was that last part?”
“I said your cloak looks nice.”
“Haha, sounds about right,” I said as my finger slid across the cool stone. To be honest, the lamp looked no different from any other I’ve seen in shops or the streets. But, regardless, magic-filled my finger, leaving light green lines as I drew the symbol.
The symbol spun at a dizzying pace before stopping, pointing down the corridor we stood in.
“Is it broken?” Sirocco asked.
Four L-shaped lines grew from the symbol, and as if it was running from a bully, it took off down the corridor.
“Looks like you upset it…” I said, a soft wind picking me up to keep pace with it.
“Well, someone’s sensitive,” Sirocco called out, his small wings beating to chase after me.
The symbol led us further into the winding corridors of the maze, my head spinning as I tried to make a mental map. Things only got more complicated when the symbol split apart, the two going separate ways.
“Triangle,” I called out.
“Already on it, boss.” He said, zooming after it.
Keeping pace with the symbol, I finally saw where it was bringing me. At the end of the corridor, I saw a steel door inlaid with gold and silver metal that danced around each other.
“I found a door.” I thought, sending a telepathic message to Sirocco. My eyes stayed trained on the symbol, watching if anything happened when it touched the door. But it poofed into thin air once I reached it.
“Want me to head back?”
“No, See where the triangle goes. It might lead to another door.” I said, examining the inlay of the door. “I’ll see if I can get this door open. If my presence disappears, Remember I love you.”
“Really?” Sirocco said, the pitch of his voice rising. “Look, just be safe, boss. I’ll find you if anything happens.”
The excitement in his voice made it hard not to chuckle. “Haha, I know bud.”
The steel was cool to the touch but felt smooth as my fingers ran along the silver and gold to see if the pieces moved. I could shift all the gold and silver pieces, which gave me no clues about how to open it.
“Alright, so it has to be some kind of puzzle. Since kids are the ones using the door, it has to be on the lower half.” I thought, kneeling to better examine the door, noticing no wear or tear on it.
As I further examined it, I saw shapes and symbols, both for magic and common use. “If I knew more about these people, this would be a hell of a lot easier.” I thought as I tried to see all the different symbols. However, the only ones standing out are the symbols for wind, earth, and the local currency.
“Well, might as well give it a shot,” I said, fingers shifting the different pieces of gold around, making the triangle that led me here. Looking over the door once more, I committed to the symbol for the city’s currency. This made a click echo in the hall, followed by the gentle sound of moving gears.
“Jackpot!” I yelled out as the gold and silver changed the steel door into wood.
The door formed a handle, but no keyhole. Pretty easy to assume the door was magic, so even if I push air through it, I’d only feel the stone on the other side.
“I got the door open. Anything on your side?”
“Got to a dead end. There’s nothing here but three other corridors.”
“Then this has to be it. You should head out of the maze to make finding me easier.”
“Should you wait for me?”
“No time, they could still be running.”
“I guess… Be safe, boss.”
“I’m too self-centered to get hurt.”
“Ha, fair enough. I’ll catch up as fast as I can.”
“I’ll see you on the other side.” I thought, pushing the rough wood open to reveal a blinding light.
The light dimmed as I stepped through, revealing a most unfortunate outcome. I stepped out of the maze to find myself in a jail cell.
“That about right…” I said, my fingers pinching the bridge of my nose. “Whatever, let’s cut these bars down.” A tune drifted from my lips, only getting a few notes in before a shock flew through my body. “Ow! What was that?” I whispered, my eyes darting around the cell to find the culprit. But aside from myself was only a stool and a patronizing phrase carved into the stone wall to my left.
“Not everything is about money.”
“Interesting phrase considering I’m here to get back stolen money…”
“Is that a visitor I hear?” said a slow hoarse voice. “Well, that’s pretty rare. Anything I can help you with?”
“Good evening Sir! I seem to have stumbled into this cell. Mind giving me a hand?” I asked, my hand pushing out of the poncho to give him a polite wave.
“Haha, nice try, kid. I know how people end up here.” He said with a low chuckle. The man came from around the stone wall, a smile painted on his face as he sized me up. He stood about seven feet tall, his back straight with discipline to match the green naval jacket resting on his shoulders. Looking up, I could see the long pointy ears protruding from his well-kept blonde hair. This man must have been an elf, maybe a half-elf from how bulky he was.
“No, I’m being serious. I’m an apprentice under a wizard who studies spirit magic, specifically teleportation. This is just an experiment gone wrong.” I said with a light chuckle before getting filled with the same shock as before. “By the eight!”
The man continued to laugh at my misfortune, snapping his fingers to summon a chair beneath him. “I don’t know about that, you’re a little too well groomed for a wizard. So what brings you here?” He asked as he shifted into comfort.
“First of all, thank you. I put a lot of effort into my look.”
“It shows. Dyed your hair that color?”
“No, light green runs in the family. But second, I dropped an important locket.” I said as my fingers scratched at the back of my head. “I’m not an apprentice, but I am a wizard and without it, I can’t cast magic. So you can understand why that’s something I wouldn’t want to admit to. So, while I was looking for my precious focus, I stumbled upon this door and thought it was interesting. Bing bang boom, I’m here.” An awkward laugh left my lips as I tried to play the role of a clumsy idiot, but again the familiar shock filled my body. “Can you stop that!”
“I’d love to, but you see the cage hates liars.” He said, leaning forward as he rested his arms on his knees. “You stop lying and the cage will stop shocking you. Easy enough?” He asked with a grin that would piss off a saint.
“Fine. I followed a boy who stole from a cafe.”
“Must be a nice cafe to go through all the trouble.”
“Owners were nice,” I said before getting shocked, making him erupt into laughter.
“From how you look, I bet you did it to get under some girlies skirt.”
“Please, I’m not that desperate or sleazy.”
The man waited a moment before his eyes grew wide. “Shit, you’re telling the truth. Tell me why and maybe I’ll let you go.”
“Okay… I chased the boy for a girl. My reasoning is different though.” I said, heat filling my cheeks as my eyes turned to the stone wall. “I heard a rumor saying if you have a strong bond, you’ll have a better chance of being in a caravan with that person.”
“Hahahaha! That’s so cute!” The man said, the slap of his knee filling the cells. “Ahh, the charm of youthful love. Warms this stony heart a bit, almost enough to give the money back.” His laugh trailed off as he wiped a tear from his eye.
“Well, how about we make a trade? You give me the money from the Le Chiot D’or, and I won’t stop whatever you’re trying to do here. Fair trade?”
“No dice kid. It’s the last thing I need to complete my plans.” He groaned as he pushed up from his chair, the chair disappearing as he did. “I’ll send room service around soon. Till then, enjoy your accommodations.”
“Not going to give me a name or a detailed version of your plan?”
“Haha, details no. You’ll see the plan in fruition soon enough. You can call me the Admiral though.” He said as he walked towards the stonewall. “By the way, I wouldn’t summon any spirits in there. The shock has a nasty effect on them.” He said before disappearing, a hardy laugh coming from down the hall. “Enjoy your stay kid!”
“Well, at least he’s not a bad trope,” I said, my eyes darting around the cell he left me in. “But now I have to find a way out. The only things in the cell with me were a stool, and that dumb patronizing phrase sitting on the wall. If I can make a hole big enough in the wall, I’m pretty sure I can push enough wind into it to blow it up.” I thought as I picked up the chair, flipping it over to see no screws.
“You hear me, boss?” Sirocco’s voice rang in my head.
“Loud and clear, bud!” I cheered, fist-pumping in my poncho. “I’m jailed in here. Fancy breaking me out?”
“I’m coming up on the building now.”
“Take your time. Not like I’m going anywhere.” I thought as I threw the stool down and sat.
“Oh boy, no can do, boss. The building’s covered in wardings. I could make things worse.”
“I should have figured, jail cells are like that too,” I said, my foot quickly tapping. “Any clue where we are?”
“It’s a warehouse by the harbor.”
“Any idea on how to get out?”
“You could steal a navy ship and blow a hole in the wall.”
“I’m not tall enough to reach the steering wheel. But I do have an idea.”
“I’m not doing it.”
“You know, for someone who acts so cool, you’re being a big baby right now.”
“Don’t get on my case! You know how she acts.”
“You know, at some point, you two will have to get along. You’re stuck together for life, might as well get used to it.”
Silence filled our conversation for the moment before a heavy sigh left me. “I don’t even know what I would say…”
“Beats me, you’re the smooth talker. All I know is you have to take the first step.”
“Why’s that?” I said, crossing one leg over the other.
“Because it’s very rare and very hard for a sprite to force their way into this plane. So you have to let her in.”
“Damn it, you’re right…” I said, resting my head in my palms.
“It happens. You got a way to summon her in?”
“No, if I summon my blades I’ll get shocked for using magic,” I said as I jumped to my feet to continue searching the cell. “Plus, the Admiral said she’d get a nasty shock if I summon her here.”
“I guess I’ll hear it later. Anything made of stone?”
“Yeah, the walls.”
“Remember how I taught you to control wind without magic?”
“Do the same with the stone. Just not in your cell.”
“We both know Cleo hasn’t taught me how to do that.”
“Yeah, but by birth, you have the ability to do it. Just like the wind.”
“You think I can apply the same ideas?” I asked as my hand laid flat on the cold stone.
“It’ll be hard, but fundamentals are fundamentals. As long as you focus on the element, you should be able to etch a summon circle on the other side of that wall.”
“Alright…” I said as I rested both hands on the wall. “I’ll contact you when I’m done with her.”
“Fingers crossed no one catches her. Good luck, boss.”
Air filled and left my lunges at a slow pace, leaving my mind to concentrate on the stone itself. With eyes fluttered closed, I drew Cleo’s summoning circle in my mind. My body trembled, but I had to ignore it. If this doesn’t work, I have no other ideas…
“Cleo of the sturdy mountains, please hear my call,” I whispered, waiting for any sign before repeating myself. “Cleo of the sturdy mountains, please hear my call.”
The stone bit into my shaking fingers as the frustration filled me. The more I tried to concentrate, the more the summoning circle crumbled.
Panting, my hands fell, my back turning to press against the wall.
“You made this sound easy.” I thought, sliding down the wall as I caught my breath.
“Are you applying the fundamentals?”
“My hands are on the stone. I’m drawing the circle in my mind, and I’m connecting with our bond.”
“Are you though?”
“I don’t see how I’m not.” I thought as I pulled my knees in.
“If you’re still afraid, it means you’re not focusing on what’s between you and Cleo. You can’t let outside forces or past traumas dictate how your future bonds are created. Focus on the future you and her can make, not the pain she wasn’t involved in.”
My body tightened as my head rested on my knees. I didn’t want to think about any of it…
“It’s like talking to Esah. You don’t think of terrible relationships, or girls who turned you down. You smile and chase after thieves so she’ll like you.” He said, the two of us chuckling together. “Cleo’s harsh, but the three of us are family and we care.”
“I can do this,” I said, my body leaping from its spot. “I’ll talk to you soon.”
“Go get it, boss.”
Feeling the cool stone against my palms again, I circulated my breaths. This time I let the summon circle build in my mind instead of crumble, creating a warm glow in my body. “Cleo of the sturdy mountains, please hear my call.”
The cell filled with my pants, my hands resting on my knees as I stood there wondering if it worked.
“What got you into this mess?” A small voice said. “Chasing some skirts again?”
“I wasn’t chasing skirts, I was trying to get back stolen money,” I said between pants.
“Why would you do that?” Cleo asked as she flew in front of the bars.
“Goodness of my heart,” I said, immediately getting filled with electricity from head to toe. “A pretty girl….”
“Haha! You’re no different from your dad.” She said, her arms flailing as she couldn’t contain the laughter. “I might leave you in here for entertainment.”
“You sure? I’d appreciate it if you helped me.” I said, straightening my body to fix its posture.
“I’m not going to help you chase skirts for free. What do I get?”
“My love and admiration.”
“Knowing you, flashing a bit of ass would get me that. So pass.” She said, flying closer to the cell to look me in the eye. “Promise to spend more time practicing your earth control and I’ll break you out.”
“Alright,” I said, a painful smile tugging at my lips. “How about thirty minutes a day?” Like Sirocco said, ‘You gotta take the first step’. She can’t be that unreasonable.
Cleo raised her eyebrow, giving me a once-over before answering. “Five hours.”
“Five hours! Let’s not be unreasonable.” I pleaded, catching my yell to not alert anyone. “I’m about to start my journey. I don’t want to be the one to slow the caravan down. How about an hour?”
“Two, argue with that and I’ll say three next time.”
“Hour and a half.”
“Three.” She said, one leg crossing over the other as she checked her nails.
“That airship sailed.”
“Sounds like a deal! Now let me get you out of there.” Cleo said, a chipper voice to match her over-the-top flight path back behind the wall. Within a moment, she displaced the rock, opening an easy way to walk through.
“Thanks, Cleo,” I said, taking a deep breath before my smile returned. “Any chance you’ll help me escape the whole place?”
“Nope, I have to prepare for tomorrow. Make sure to be up nice and early for training.” She said, giggling as she drew a circle to return home.
“Fingers crossed I make it.”
“You got this, you are your mother’s son after all.” She said, flying into the summoned door.
The comment drew my eyes to the floor as my fingers ran through my hair, finding a resting place on my cheeks. After a brisk smack to get my head in the game, I pushed forward and out the only door in the room.
“I’m heading out, Sirocco.” I thought as I cracked the door open, peaking through to see who was around. Crates and boxes lined the warehouse, leaving the center of the room open for a steel wagon. A woman with long blonde hair in a white lab coat stood by the wagon, arms folded as her brows furrowed.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it? What did you lose?”
“My mornings…” I said with a heavy sigh. “Any movement outside?” I slid out from the door and hid behind a stack of nearby crates. The sound of people running shook the walkway above me, though it was hard to tell how many were up there.
“I haven’t seen anyone enter since I’ve got here.”
“Their boss said he needed the money for something big today. Must be why the scientist is here.” I said, watching as a large man covered in rock-like scales walk to the scientist’s side. Now that I was closer, I could see the two of them wore a similar emblem. A green, red, and blue triangle pointed to a gold cylinder.
“Hey Sirocco, have you ever seen three triangles pointing towards a cylinder before?”
“Not that I can think of. Is that on the scientist or a crate?”
“Yeah, the scientist is wearing it.” My eyes darted to the left, noticing the admiral walk towards the two. He carried a large, dark red chest lined with gold trim. “Hold on a second, this looks interesting.”
The admiral spoke with the scientist, but I couldn’t make out what they’re saying over the pattering feet above me. My eyes darted around as I looked for somewhere closer, sneaking to it once I thought I was safe.
“Looks like the money’s good, Doctor.” The large man said, closing the lid to the chest.
“Right then.” She replied. “Here’s the trigger. Click the blue-button and it will begin the countdown. You will have five minutes till the rocket launches and flies towards the receiver.” The scientist asked as she held out the small metal box. “I’m assuming you already set up the circle?”
“Yeah, had one kid sneak in and do it.”
“Do you trust them with more than stealing?” She scoffed. “You better be careful, even if they seem smart, but they never fully get it.”
“Not always, but they’re harder to notice.” He said, taking the box from her hand. “Anyway, I sent them with an earth scroll to draw the circle perfectly. Assuming your device works, it’ll take out the place.”
“Everything I build works to perfection. That’s why they gave you my name and not some hack. Wagon’s part of the fee. Press this button on the side to lower the back.” The back hatch lowered, revealing a curtain that covered whatever was hiding inside. “I recommend launching in an open area or it’ll crash.”
“Understood. Pleasure doing business with you, doctor.”
“Pleasures all mine, Dunbah.” She said, waving him off as she walked away. The admiral turned back the way he came and made his way up to the walkways above.
“The scientist and her henchmen are leaving the warehouse. Steal that chest off them and get it back to le chiot d’or. I’m going to see what’s in that wagon.”
“Are you sure that’s safe?”
“Nope,” I said, my eyes scanning the area for people who could see me. Once I was clear, I snuck over to the wagon and slipped under the curtain.
“Well, I see them now, so be safe boss.”
“Ahh, no promises,” I said as a dim light lit up the side of a large firework, showing me runes etched into the side. I didn’t recognize most of the runes used, but I could tell it stored wind magic in it to fly. However, I think another rune further up meant explosion. That knowledge is thanks to a rambunctious girl from my village.
“I might be able to stop it from flying if I break the wind runes.” I thought as I moved around the rocket. “It’d be bad news if it went off though….”
“Dumb brat!” A familiar hoarse voice yelled.
I felt a sudden tug on my waist throw me out onto the hard stone floor. My body tumbled, air bursting from my hand to brace the impact with a pile of wooden crates.
“Couldn’t wait till they set you free, could you?” The man said, descending from the wagon as anger overflowed from his face.
“Apologies, I have a hard time sitting still.” I groaned, emerging from the pile. Another burst of air left my hand, dodging the green tendril, letting me land behind another set of crates.
“Let’s make this quick, kid. I have dinner plans with the city’s destruction!”
“Oh, so now you reveal your plans?” I said, before whistling to summon a set of six knives in each hand.
“Haven’t you heard? Dead brats don’t tell any tales!” He yelled, filling the room with the creaking of wood and steel crushed beneath the tendril. I felt the large wine graze my shoulder as I leaned to the side, shrinking the fan of knives into one.
“I’d rethink that,” I called back as I spun the blades in my hands, stabbing one down into the tendril to keep it stuck to the floor. The wind picked me up, allowing me to charge the man with a wide smirk. “In all the greatest stories, the protagonist always wins!” I yelled back, two blades flying from my hands, one after another.
The Admiral swayed side to side, dodging both blades as he lifted his arm and matched my smirk. A large stone tendril erupted from his hand, launching me back twenty feet. Luckily, I could catch myself with the wind, but the throbbing pain he left in my stomach was going to make this hell.
The man shook his arm, destroying the knife that pinned him down. His tendrils dragged behind as he approached me, each threatening step adding a menacing aura to his widening grin.
I held onto my stomach, wincing as I summoned one of my knives back, letting the other stuck in the wagon. “Don’t forget I had help getting out of here.” I groaned, pointing the knife to the ceiling above him.
Wind propelled me forward as his eyes peered up, a knife from each hand soaring before lodging themselves into his shoulders.
“Little shit!” He growled, arms lifting high to snap the tendrils atop of me.
A sharp whistle left my lips as I closed the distance between us, making the knives burst in his shoulders. With him tumbling back, I leapt up, planting my feet square on his chest to kick him back onto the wagon’s gate.
“I can’t be wasting magic on this. Get him kids!” he yelled out. “Whoever takes him down gets to be second in command when I rule this kingdom.”
Chanting erupted from all corners of the warehouse, making my eyes turn back. There the kids stood, using their cheap magic chalk to draw summoning circles. Though each was a distinct element, they summoned the same spell, elemental javelin. And they directed each javelin at me…
“Haha, toodles protagonist!” The admiral called out with a cocky wave. “Now get us out of here!”
I sprinted towards him, but he threw his hands up, ripping the stone floor between us into a wall.
“Cool, now how do I get out of here using as little magic as possible...” I thought, scanning the building for a way out. I noticed a large office stretching across the wall on the upper level behind the kids. “Are you around Sirocco?” I asked, two knives filling my hands.
“Almost back, boss. Everything going according to plan?”
“Not at all. But I have a dangerous idea that will work, but I need you to destroy half the javelins about to hit me when you get here. You got maybe thirty seconds.”
“I’m sorry what?” He asked as the surrounding chanting ended, the javelins already flying.
“No time to explain. Get boxes or whatever and be in front of the building now!” I threw a knife towards the ground, blowing a javelin up and knocking the others around it away. Pushing into a quick sprint, I slid under the javelins, letting them hit the wall behind me.
I blasted air at the ground, propelling myself up and onto the metal walkway the kids stood on. “Excuse me, making a daring escape,” I said as I blasted the door open. “Ahh, sorry kids.” What I thought was an office turned out to be their room. I waited a moment to let the javelins catch up before charging through the room.
I leapt in and out through the bunk beds, wincing every time a javelin destroyed one. Not wanting to cause more damage, I blasted myself out of the glass pane and back onto the warehouse floor.
“Okay, I got an exit. Are you ready in the front?” I asked Sirocco as I tossed a knife at the now crumbling wall that blocked me before. With a sharp whistle, the wall transformed into a cloud of dust.
“Don’t worry, the cavalry’s here!” He yelled out.
My arm covered my eyes as I passed through the cloud, a knife filling my hand. Once I passed the dust, an unrelenting smile began dancing out of my heart at the sight of who was on the other side.
“Hey Sylvado!” an armored Esah called out, a delightful smile painted on her face before closing her helmet. “Mind gathering them up?” She asked, brandishing a giant great axe as she charged towards me.
“Got it!” I said, body twisting around to throw two knives at the ground. My feet slide along the ground as Esah ran past me, a whistle forcing the javelins up as they emerged from the dust.
“Rising eruption!” She yelled out as she swung her axe upwards, a river of flames soaring up to the pursuing javelins. A loud crack followed by a burst of bright colors filled the area, leaving nothing but a cloud of smoke.
Emerging from the cloud, I could see Esah's tail wagging like crazy as she ran up to me.
“Someone likes to make an entrance,” I said, a soft smirk tugging at my lips as my hand rested on my hip.
“What’s a hero without a cool entrance?” She said as she opened her mask to return the smile, a soft chuckle coming leaving her as she stopped in front of me.
I matched the chuckle, my eyes admiring her before Sirocco snapped his finger to bring us back. “Well, hero, ready to save the day?”
“All the time!” She said, sheathing her great axe on her back.
“Let’s head to the finale then,” I said, my arms sweeping under her to carry her princess style. Her arms were quick to wrap around me as I propelled us both up to the rooftops. “The knife I left him is this way, so hopefully he’ll be there when we arrive.”
“Good job, but what are we saving the city from?”
“Big guy named the Admiral who is driving around with some kind of explosive,” I said, flying from rooftop to rooftop, filling the surrounding wind with magic to soar faster. “All I could gather was that it can fly, track a spell circle, and had a fire rune. I’m pretty sure it meant explosion.”
“Did it look like this?” Esah asked, drawing the same symbol I saw with a trail of flames.
“That’s exactly it.”
“Yeah, it’ll go boom,” Esah said, mimicking an explosion with her hands. I couldn’t help but chuckle at her mannerisms. However, I couldn’t focus on them too long as I saw the wagon driving down the street below us.
“There it is,” I said, pushing more magic to get in front of it.
“Is that an aether wagon? This man must have deep pockets. Only the mega-rich can afford those.”
“Yeah, we would never get a chance to drive one... Wanna steal it?” I asked, a smirk playing along my lips as we flew across the buildings, slowly getting ahead of the wagon.
“We can go speeding around the outskirts of the capital!”
“My thoughts exactly! Nothing wrong about having a little fun while we’re saving the day.”
“Sounds like the best first date. Mission start, Sylvado! Giddy up horsey!”
“Horsey?” I asked, the powerful gust of wind blowing us up into the air above the wagon. “Well, I guess I am a stud,” I said, a soft chuckle erupting as I looked at her face.
“You certainly are.” She said, looking back up into my eyes.
Heat filled my cheeks as my eyes turned to the wagon, trying to hide the blush to look cool.
“You two are sickening… We could at least sell the thing.” Sirocco said, sighing as he clung to my shoulder.
“Heroes don’t steal for keeps, Sirocco!” Esah yelled at him.
“Are we joining the hero business Sylvado?”
“Little late to ask that now, isn’t it?” I asked, my feet sliding back as we landed on the wagon. Esah was quick to jump out of my arms and drew her axe, making my heart sigh. “There’s a button on the side, but if the backdrops, he’ll know we’re here.”
“Little late for that, kiddo.” The gruff voice called out. “Saw you running along the rooftops.” I looked over to the front of the wagon, watching as his scowl crawled from the front of it. “Couldn’t just give up, could you… Who’s this? The girly you’re trying to impress?”
“Admiral! Funny seeing you here, it feels like it’s been ages.” I said, turning my head to Sirocco. “Sirocco, get ready.”
“Cut the shit kid, the both of you better jump off now.” He growled as he tightened his gloves, the heavy step rippling through my body as I tried to stay composed.
“Ahem, no can do,” I said, pulling out my four daggers, letting them spin around my body as Sirocco and I rhythmically clap. “Being the protagonist and all.”
“You’re nothing but a prattling jester.” He said as he rolled up his sleeves. “An idiotic hurdle I have to jump to finish what I started.” The Admiral clenched his fists, forcing two stoned blades to erupt from his forearms. “It’s time for you to learn your place, clown!” He yelled as he leapt forward to attack.
“Not this time,” Esah called out, catching his arm blades with her two tomahawks.
My spell ended with a snap of my fingers, forging Sirocco and the four knives into a halberd as a gust of wind pushed back the Admiral.
“You got two heroes to contend with now, biggums,” Esah said, swinging her axes to get into a battle stance.
“I’ll let you have the lead,” I said, following suit behind her, my halberd ready to back her up.
“Don’t mind if I do!” She yelled, charging towards the admiral with flame-coated axes.
Esah was a brilliant fighter. You could tell how she danced on the battlefield with each precise step…. I need to be part of her heroic painting.
I tossed the halberd, deflecting the Admirals blade, giving Esah an opening. “I got your back.”
“Gotcha, handsome! Don’t worry about me, I’ll work around you.”
The Admiral spun back to dodge her hit, my halberd flying back into my hands.
The both of us smile as we dance to the tune of battle, the Admiral's face tightening as he dodges our attacks.
My spear flew in a fury of thrusts, Esah dancing around them as the wind from the halberd looked for the trigger.
The two of us jumped back, catching our breath for a moment as his chipped blades repaired themselves.
“The trigger is in his right inner coat pocket,” I whispered. “Any ideas?”
“His gloves are his spell circles. I’ll focus on those to throw him off and you cut the trigger out.” She said, swinging her tomahawks around.
“Kids ready to give up? Too bad, I’m too pissed to let you live.” The admiral called out before thrusting his blades at Esah.
“Got it.” I nodded to her, thrusting my left hand out with a sharp whistle to blow him back.
Esah swung, her flaming tomahawks aimed for his gloves.
“You’re quick, girly.” He said as the hand she aimed for turned into a stone hammer. He deflected her blades, using the momentum to come back around to attack.
“That’s why I like her so much,” I said as my body flowed from Esah’s side, my halberd piercing his jacket, blasting wind to cut the trigger out. I used the same wind to blow my hand back, watching the trigger fall behind him. “Up!” I called out, spinning with the momentum of the wind to sweep the admiral’s feet from under him.
Esah used the weight of her jump to bring the blunt side of her tomahawks down on him.
“Gaggh!” The Admiral gasped.
“One more time,” I called out to Esah, watching her jump again before I commanded a gust of wind to throw the Admiral off.
“Yeah!” Esah cheered as her feet kissed the ground, running over to grab the trigger. “Piece of cake, he barely put up a fight.”
“Maybe not yet..” I said as I watched the Admiral's long stone tendril pierce the cart.
Esah and I looked over the side, watching as his body whipped around to behind the wagon. Beneath his feet was a stone disc, and on his face was a familiar scowl.
“I hate how cool that looked.”
“Same... We should probably brace ourselves.”
“Agreed,” I said, spinning the halberd around me before bracing myself for an attack.
The stone tendril grew shorter, ripping him back to the wagon. As he grew closer, I pushed more magic into my halberd, my body instinctively moving in front of Esah’s. But it did nothing. His hammer shattered my weapon before turning back into a hand to grab my throat. His stone tendril wrapped around the two of us before throwing us off the back.
I watched as the trigger flew out of Esah’s hand, seeing his stone tendril snatch it out of the air. “Did I fail?” I thought as the smile grew on his face.
“Not this time!” I yelled to the Admiral, returning the knife stuck in the wagon to my hand as I grabbed onto Esah. My arm reared back, forcing magic into the blade to make it fly faster, destroying the stone tendril.
The wind blew from my feet to catch Esah and me as we watched the Admirals’ face fill with rage, our filling with worry.
The trigger tumbled in the air; the world slowing as we watched. With the trigger shattering on the ground, we waited, hoping the rocket wouldn’t fly.
But we weren’t that lucky.
The gate dropped, revealing bursts of red erupting from behind the rocket.
Our feet slid across the stone as the wind stabilized us, the wagon shaking violently. Fire erupted from the wagon as the rocket soared towards us.
Esah dropped her tomahawks and pulled out her great axe, ready to strike it down. But before she could connect her blade, the rocket turned upward and back.
“Sylvado! What do we do!” Esah asked as she ran after it. “I can’t reach it from here.”
“Then I’ll bring you to it,” I said, bracing my leg to boost her up as the wind whipped around my hands. “I’m going to use the rest of my magic to give you this chance, so apologies in advance if your landing’s rough,” I said with a confident smile.
Esah turned back, not giving it a second thought as she ran up to me. Her iron boot bit into my skin as the wind I gathered made her soar towards the rocket. With half of my magic guiding her to the rocket, I used the other half to grab the rocket. My shoes dug into the ground as the torrent of wind pushed the rocket back.
“Get it Esah!” I scream, my body violently shaking as I hold the rocket in place, my will alone not letting it budge an inch.
“Let the mighty flames of the fire spirit protect all! Meteor crash!” She screamed, her passion igniting the axe head, doubling it in size with flames. An explosion followed the war cry, destroying the rocket but also flinging her back.
I dashed towards her, my body trembling with the want to make sure she was safe. What little magic I had left caught Esah, cushioning her fall but not stopping me from tumbling back.
“Oh gods, are you alright Sylvado!” She asked, ripping off her helmet and gloves before checking me for injuries.
“Yeah.” I groaned. “Can’t say much about how I’ll feel tomorrow, but for now my body is fine,” I said, chuckling as I laid there sprawled out beneath her.
“Thank god.” She said, breathing a sigh of relief before smiling at me. “I thought I broke something for a second.”
“Not this time. Though thanks to the Admiral, I’m completely exhausted.” I groaned as I tried to push myself up to be eye to eye with her.
“Well, most people have a hard time keeping up with me.”
“Good thing I’m not most people.”
“I can tell, it’s pretty impressive.” She said, a soft chuckle leaving her lips as she pulled her long blue hair from her armor. “Still willing to let me take you out tonight?”
“Not sure if I have the energy for that,” I said as fireworks erupted in the night sky.
“Well, why don’t I fix that.” She whispered as her face grew closer to mine, a smile tugging at my lips as they connected.
Engulfed in the moment, nothing could tear us away. Not the crowd of people surrounding us, not the popping fireworks above. This moment was for Esah and me, and though I never thought this would be the events leading to our first kiss.
I wouldn’t change it for the world.