Creation: The Path of a God
The worker continued to point to various areas that he believed would captivate Han and his creations. The man's mannerisms loosened and relaxed the longer he was around the group. If there had been an air of immobilized terror hindering his ability to effectively communicate with them, such an impression was slowly fading away. While the worker was unstrained in their presence, it did lead to his occasional furtive glances at Helania, Queen, and Brittany. The attempts were respectfully hidden, camouflaged by his looks at Han while he indicated the numerous elements inside the tunnel.
"I do respect his attempts of trying to not come across as too obvious," Han thought of others in the past few days who were more blatant in their desires to oggle his creations.
"If he is so concerned about us not knowing his thirst, I could remove his eyes," Brittany giggled, a smile widening across her face.
As the sweet twinkling of her laughter echoed through the enclosed space, a few nearby workers felt their cheeks flush with warmth. Her infectious giggle was a welcomed respite, akin to a refreshing breeze that invigorated their spirits amidst the slightly stifling atmosphere. There were audible sighs of regret upon seeing Brittany moving away from them.
Han couldn't help but stifle a smirk as he observed Brittany's nonchalant mention of such a savage punishment, despite the seemingly mild and harmless situation. While her appearance gave the impression of a gentle forest creature, like a delicate rabbit, the truth was a stark contrast, far removed from the surface level of things. Though her words may have sounded light-hearted, there was little doubt she would carry out her threat with conviction. It was precisely the stark dichotomy between her hidden depths and outward demeanor that he found so alluring.
As they made their way forward, the tunnel gradually surrendered to the dawning sun, allowing its rays to trickle in and dispel the darkness. Like a gentle shower, the light slowly grew in intensity and flooded the once-obscure passage with a warm, welcoming glow. The radiant beams of the sun washed over everything in their path, painting the world around them in a vivid palette of colors.
"And now we are entering the outer area of Illumin," The man spread his arms wide to welcome them into the city.
As they emerged from the tunnel, Han's eyes gradually adjusted to the light, but it wasn't long until he could see what could only be described as a canyon. The city was a layer of floors stacked on top of one another as though the people who built Illumin were trying to reach the sky. There were people walking about their day on each of the levels within close proximity of one another, a shadow of the world that he had left behind. Though it was nothing compared to The Stronghold, he couldn't help but be impressed by what humans could accomplish. He couldn't help but think the city was like a fantasy version of the cities he was accustomed to in the past.
"I must say, I can see why people are so impressed with this place," Queen's eyes slowly scanned the nearly awe-inspiring view before her. "This truly gives me pause beyond what I would have expected. I had envisioned something similar to Leaf Village, but the sheer amount of effort and dedication into creating this place exceeds every aspect of that quaint village." A corner of her mouth was slightly raised, faintly revealing a smile.
"Many have similar thoughts when entering our city. Though there may be other cities that are more glorious compared to Illumin, I do not think they could compare in terms of what we offer to the world. We are unique in how each resident in this city could someday become a member of the Student Council and lead everyone." The man's eyes sparkled. His joy was infectious, happy to have people witness what he believed to be the greatest place on the continent.
Han watched as wagons were raised to the higher levels, similar to elevators but on a larger scale. Even back on Earth, such a mechanism wasn't widely available and was limited in usage. The fact that the elevators were able to lift up the weight of such vehicles and rise or lower in such a smooth manner gave a sense of familiarity. A juxtaposition of modern technology and the appearance of ancient times back on Earth made him aware of what people are capable of, pushing boundaries with their innovative creativity.
"Who came up with that?" Han pointed at the elevator lifting up one of the wagons.
The man looked to see the elevator and then back to Han. He smiled as though excited to talk like a parent who enjoys bragging about their children. "The technology was developed inside the Academy, similar to many of the devices that we use that are far ahead of what is available in either the Kingdom or Empire." His back straightened slightly.
Han's eyes slowly checked out their surroundings, thinking how people in different locations could arrive at such a different conclusion. Where the cities on Earth built individual structures with multiple floors, Illumin was like a city stacked on top of one another.
There was the soft squeaking sound of rolling wheels crunching over the dirt and stones on top of the road.
Han pulled his eyes from their surroundings, seeing an elegant open carriage with the sides painted white and intricate gold floral decorations in addition to animals that he wasn't familiar with that was likely linked with the mythologies of the current world. White horses that were carefully groomed pulled the cart while a driver in an outfit similarly dressed to the man guiding them sat in the front. The main difference was the primary color of the uniform, being blue with white accents.
Their guide quickly moved towards the carriage. Opening the door, he bowed, "Please enter. We will be heading towards the Academy now."
"I surmise that it is quite a distance?" Han turned and glanced down the long main road. Though the walk wouldn't bother him, it would indeed make sense to take a carriage and comfortably observe their surroundings instead of walking to their destination.
He noticed that there weren't other carriages waiting to pick up students, indicating that the lone vehicle had been waiting for them merely because of his status. If he hadn't presented them with an absurd amount of money upfront, he suspected that even with the Lady Knight's suggestion, others wouldn't heed her words and just think of him the same as any other noble son.
"I suppose we should not expect much," Queen sneered with dissatisfaction.
Stepping on the foothold and entering the carriage, he touched the door as the vehicle shifted slightly from his weight. Han proceeded to sit on one of the cushioned seats. The cushion on the seat was a bit stiff, making him chuckle at the thought of how he'd become spoiled by not only his own abilities but also the treatment his creations gave him. It was only a short time since he was satisfied with the hard plastic seats standard on the city buses on top of never having enough space as people were crammed together. Still, now he was accustomed to being treated to luxuries beyond anyone aside from the handful of influential people able to afford such a lifestyle beyond what any king could've imagined in the past.
There was the sound of the door being closed and their guide leaning forward to whisper something into the ear of the driver.
The driver moved away a little, startled by the information, before he turned his head and awkwardly smiled, "Welcome to our humble city, My Lord. I assure you that the ride will be enjoyable in addition to the wondrous sites that can be seen before we reach our destination."
"We are in your professional hands," Han simply smiled, knowing that their guide had warned the driver.
There was a slight jolt as the horses began to pull the carriage forward, enough for the guide to move forward slightly as he used his hand on the side of the vehicle to stabilize himself. His eyes looked at Han and his creations and smiled as though saying, "What can you do."
Helania and Queen were silent, unimpressed by the treatment but decided to keep quiet out of consideration for their Master and his wishes. Brittany sat beside Han, embracing his arm as she casually looked at their surroundings.
While Helania and Queen glanced at the passing structures with mild amusement, Brittany had a bored expression, aside from how she would occasionally squeeze Han's arm closer to her body as though it was energizing her.
Due to the size of the carriage, Han sat with Brittany and Helania on one side while Queen sat across from him on the same side as their guide. As he lounged on the seat, not minding the soft embrace of Brittany, his eyes enjoyed the scenery of the various stores and the people they passed. Just like with the people who waited outside the walls of Illumin, waiting for whether they were accepted into the Academy, there was a wide range of different species of people. What also came to mind was how many of the residents that they passed by only gave a few looks at them before no longer paying attention as though they weren't interested in things that were above their heads. His eyes opened slightly when he saw children running about in the streets, expertly evading people as they played.
"Some of the children are those born inside the city, many of our residents having formed families during their lifelong studies." The guide noticed Han spotting the children playing.
Looking to the guide, "Are they not students as well?" Han raised an eyebrow.
The guide nodded, "Not all children become main students of the Academy. If they are unable to pass the exams and other requirements, the children will attend a transitional program to get them caught up so that they can be accepted at a later time."
"What if they are unable to pass?" Queen asked.
The guide turned to Queen, "We have various programs that will allow them to gain a position in Illumin." He assured them. "Students forming healthy families and having kids is something we try to encourage since we feel everyone can provide some kind of value to Illumin. Even in the worst of cases, as the children age, they can attend classes to allow them to join one of the many Divisions and work on basic tasks within their abilities. We are always looking for people, so everyone has an opportunity." Indicating to one of the shops, "These shops still count as being a part of the Academy, so many children of students who were unable to enter the Academy could work for the countless shops and businesses. We even have some that will become apprentices of merchants that come and go as they trade with the city."
Queen and Helania looked at each other after hearing the explanation, their eyes meeting the other as though some kind of message wordlessly flashed between them.
Tilting her head, Brittany sniffed the air.
Seeing Brittany smelling something wafting in the air, the guide said, "Though we have many shops that offer various materials and items that could be useful for students, there are plenty of stores that sell a variety of dishes that many enjoy." His chest puffed up slightly, "Though the stores out here may not be at the same level as the ones located inside the Academy, I assure you that the food they offer is better than what you would find inside the villages and towns of the Kingdom."
The man's words caused Han's ears to perk up again upon catching how there existed a difference between where they were going and the area around them. It didn't surprise Han much, understanding that there would often always be a difference in status. Just as not everyone could become part of the nobility, the city of Illumin would place a greater emphasis on those it deemed to be useful. Since it offered the children of students who couldn't pass the requirements to enter the Academy a place to earn a living, he could imagine how academic performance and individual wealth would separate people inside Illumin.
Enjoying the ride through the city, Han noticed that the number of levels was beginning to decrease. When they were close to the outer wall of Illumin, the levels were stacked to the point where he needed to crane his head back, nearly staring straight up into the sky. But now, it was easier to see the blue background of the sky with clouds lazily drifting across it. When he looked ahead of them, he noticed there was another wall.
"Are those walls part of the Academy?" Han casually asked the guide.
Without turning his head, the man nodded, "In addition to the walls, the city has also been designed to accentuate the Academy that we are proud of, making it easier for people to gaze upon it from a distance."
"I thought you had mentioned that nearly all citizens of Illumin are students of the Academy? Why is there a need to partition off the school from the rest of the city?" Helania raised an eyebrow as her eyes cooly rested on the man.
A slight shiver was noticeable as the man tried to regain himself, "That is indeed the case. But inside the Academy, many of the students are diligently studying in their respective disciplines. With that in mind, we want to offer an environment that encourages students to be free to experiment with what they learned. This is why the decrease in level is not only to allow an easier view of our great campus but also to mitigate any distracting elements that could negatively impact students inside the Academy." He attempted a smile, but it was diminished by the slight trembling from the attention he was receiving from Helania.
Han felt a slight degree of sympathy for the man, understanding how intimidating it would be to have a woman like Helania cast such a cool expression in their direction. Though she may seem to disapprove of how Illumin divided the city between an inner and outer section, he didn't believe it bothered her much. At least to the level the guide assumed she did. She likely was asking out of curiosity more than anything.
He couldn't help but smile as he saw the gentle breeze flowing through her black hair. Aside from some strands, Helania's hair cascaded down her left shoulder, allowing him to see her graceful porcelain neck, which contrasted perfectly with the near-midnight black hair.
There was a gentle squeeze of his arm from Brittany, who didn't enjoy his attention being directed to others. The action was cute in how selfish it was, making him place a hand on her head and lovingly pet her fiery red hair.
Enjoying his affection, her eyes cutely closed as she rested her head on his shoulder.
Han couldn't help but imagine her like some cat that enjoyed monopolizing its owner's attention. With his abilities, giving her cat ears wouldn't be a difficult task though he did appreciate her appearance as is without any modifications. Thinking of improvements, Han may not have considered any physical alterations for Brittany, but it did make him contemplate other things that would benefit her in the future.
The carriage lazily moved towards its destination, not in much of a hurry in order to provide an ideal riding experience for Han and his creations. Even if they didn't speak much aside from the occasional words from their guide, letting them know various factoids about the outer area, he merely thought of the ride as an opportunity to enjoy time with his creations. His mind drifted back to when he had to work tirelessly in order to continue the process of building a life for himself and Beth. There was a faint sting in his heart, thinking about her. As if a cold hand had emerged from the darkness of his subconscious and slowly exerted its influence, he couldn't help but wonder how she was doing.
A faint bubble floated towards the surface, "I should check in and see how she is doing." But Han quickly buried the idea. He needed to move on, even if it was difficult considering the numerous years between them. Leaning his head lovingly on top of Brittany, he reminded himself once again how it was better how things ended between the two of them. Thoughts would inevitably surge into his consciousness, and with each reminder, the next time wouldn't hurt as much.
He lightly breathed in the floral scent of Brittany, happy that he was surrounded by the three women. Images of his other creations soon flowed to the top and surfaced, making it so he couldn't help but smile. The pain in his heart slowly slipped back into the void of his emotions, waiting to return when he'd least expected it.