Chapter 1:

A girl named clover

What lies beyond freedom

It was a windy morning in spring. As I got out of bed I went into the forest and like always I ran to the stream at the edge of the village. It was so early that the sun barely peeked over the trees and there were still water drops on the grass. When I got there I saw someone else. I've been coming to this stream for weeks now and have never seen her before. A girl who looked my age with black hair and green eyes sitting on a stone looking at the trees on the other side of the stream. It was as if she was a princess dressed in a commoner’s clothes. I was trying to say something but I just couldn't. That's when she looked over to me, smiled, and spoke.

“The stream is clearest early in the morning, don't you think.”

Her voice was so smooth and soft but it was like she was demanding an answer from me.

“Yeah, it is. The water is still cold too.”

“You know that we are not allowed near the edge of the town right? Just beyond those trees are flowers we should be careful not to meddle with.”

“If we're not allowed here then what are you doing?”

“It's because they can't stop me from leaving. Once I'm gone though he can bring me back.” Before I could ask who she was talking about she signaled for me to be quiet. I heard some leaves rustling but it quickly got quiet again. She jumped off of the rock and walked towards me, leaned and smiled.

“He wouldn't yell since most of the people here are still asleep so I can feign ignorance for a little longer. What's your name?” She was way too close but I didn't move. I didn't want to move.

“It's ash. It's my birth-given name for my silver-colored hair.”

“Well, then Ash why are you here of all places so early in the morning.”

"I was planning on jumping in so I can catch a cold. You cant work sick right?"

She looked disappointed like she wanted another answer. But she didn't move. It was like she was waiting for me to answer honestly.

“It's because I want to know what's beyond the stream. I wanted to go past that and the hunting grounds but you were here."

When I said that, she smiled and turned around.

“But the place we live in is called paradise. Why would you want to leave even for a moment?”

“There's no point in calling this place paradise if I've never seen what's outside of it. As far as I know, this is just a village."

“You can't recognize heaven if you've never been through hell huh? Every day I come to a different part of the stream looking for someone that shares the same dream as I. Since we are the same I have an idea.” She reached out her hand to me and said something I would never forget. Because it would change my life.

“I can grant you that wish and show you what lies beyond freedom. If you become mine and mine alone.”

I was stunned with confusion. What did she mean by “Becoming hers”? Before I could ask her what she meant I heard a powerful voice Yell “CLOVER! You should not be out this early.”

“Looks like my time is up. Don't give me an answer yet. If you do accept, come here every day an hour earlier than today. And by the way, I'm Clover.” With that, she left me at the stream confused by the strange encounter I had with a girl named Clover.

As I sat there bewildered by the experience I noticed that the sun was rising to tell me that my parents would wake any minute and they wouldn't be happy with me leaving so early for no reason. They would get suspicious about where I was going. So I quickly ran back to my home avoiding all of the villagers that were up this early. Passing by the center fountain and the pub to get to my house where I grabbed a wooden sword from behind the house and began to train with it. While I was using it my dad walked out of the house and stared at me with joy.

“So at the young age of 10, you finally take up the sword. I noticed that you weren't in your room earlier and came to see you sweating bullets. So which is it? Do you want to be a hunter like your dad or a guardsman? Either way, you get to explore the forest like I used to.

“I haven't decided yet. I have a question though. Do you know a girl named Clover that lives around here?” His face changed from lighting up to a more serious tone.

“Son there's no one in the village that goes by that name but one person.”

“So who is it?” I needed to know who she was”

“First let me ask you this. How did you hear about that name?”

I wanted to tell him the truth but I feared he might get mad at me. Then I remembered that he was about twice my height and quadruple my weight and I didnt want to get my body slammed.

“I went by the cider trees today and she was there. I had never seen her before so I asked her name and she said clover. She had green eyes and black hair.” I figured I shouldn't tell him exactly where I was just in case.

“Son, I need you to listen to me. Clover is what you would call a royal. Be careful around her because she can get you in a lot of trouble.”

“What do you mean by a royal?”

“She's the daughter of Lot, the current leader of paradise. All I know about her is that she's only 10 years old and is still quite the trouble maker, usually making decisions in the king's absence. Now my hunting party has to go further into the woods because she planted a ring of flowers around our providence.”

So that's why she knew about the flowers. She was the one who planted them.

“All I know about the flowers is that we were not allowed to trample them because they were specially created by the alchemist in the kingdom. I ought to shove them down their throats for messing with our work.”

That's too scary to even imagine so I'm going to leave that alone.

“Come inside your mother prepared breakfast. If you want to train a little longer though I won't stop you.”

I followed him into the house where my mother was setting up the table. She had a ponytail and a worried look on her face. So my father started questioning her.

“Honey, you seem distressed? Did something happen”

“I just heard that a devil was wandering around hurt and he managed to run into the guards. He was set up in the orphanage but I can't imagine what he went through to get here. Not only that but I heard he was badly injured when he got here and he wasn't any older than ash.”

“I know you're worried about the boy but that raises a bigger problem. Since we're so hidden there's no reason that he should have found this place.”

“It was because of the flowers that princess clover has planted they attract devils and make any other living thing dismissal from this place even humans.”

That's when my father turned to me with a face that read disgust.

“Son this is what I was warning you of before. There's no way that a girl her age would be able to think up a scheme like that royal or not. Planting flowers to increase our numbers? That is what everyone's wary about. We fear that someone is behind her pulling the strings and if there is then that might spell out another great race war.”

The great race war is something I was familiar with. My father tells me stories about the war all the time that was passed down to him. 300 years ago devils ruled the world and combined the languages as the dominant race. One day a man found a way to defeat devils that he never spoke to me about. They used it combined with their numbers to defeat the devils with the help of the mages. A strong race with the ability to create magical weapons and control the energy in their bodies and conduct it into magic. They were able to Successfully defeat us and take control of the world dividing it into kingdoms and small provinces. However, aware that the mages could control them as the demons through their magical weapons, they began purging them with the weapons they gave the humans in hopes of becoming the single dominant race. That's the whole reason why we live in paradise. And why I want to leave this place and create a free war. Thankfully I might have a little help from a girl named clover.

Joe Gold