Chapter 21:

Vol. 2, Chapter 21: Homecoming

Dungeons of the Abyss and the Unchosen Heroes

"A priest from the temple? What business do you have us?"Bookmark here

As he approached his old home, Auguste was greeted by a woman, one that has long, silky hair, demure looking eyes, and some freckles on her face. He did not recognize this woman.Bookmark here

"I'm Auguste. I used to live here," Auguste replied.Bookmark here

"Auguste? Ah, you must be one of Marcus' brothers."Bookmark here

Marcus, the eldest of Auguste's brothers. Incidentally, Auguste has eight siblings, five brothers and three sisters.Bookmark here

"And you are?"Bookmark here

"That's right, where are my manners? I am Eliza, I'm Marcus' wife, your sister-in-law."Bookmark here

Was his brother ever married? Auguste can't quite remember. It's been a while since he had lived in this house, three years to be exact, and it had been six months since he last visited.Bookmark here

"Well, pleased to meet you. Is Marcus home?"Bookmark here

"He's at the barn making repairs to the roof. You know, since the rainy season is coming."Bookmark here

"And mother?"Bookmark here

At the mention of his mother, for just a little, Eliza frowned.Bookmark here

"She's inside, as always."Bookmark here

"I'll go see her."Bookmark here

"Please do, I'm sure that'll make her very happy."Bookmark here

Auguste made his way into the house. The place wasn't exactly huge and considering that he had to share all the space with the rest of his eight siblings, it was somewhat cramped. However, returning for a visit after so long, it seemed almost too spacious. Most of those that once lived here had moved on, having found work in towns or gotten married off. The only ones living here now are Marcus, his wife, and their mother.Bookmark here

In the back of the house, Auguste found his mother, churning butter from the milk of their very own cows.Bookmark here

"Mother..."Bookmark here

Hearing Auguste calling out to her, the woman's thin and rough hands stopped in their motion. Slowly, she turned around to face her youngest son.Bookmark here

"Auguste dear, how have you been?" she greeted him warmly and smiled at him, though as always, there was a certain emptiness behind her smile.Bookmark here

"I'm doing well, mother."Bookmark here

"You look like you've lost weight. Have you been eating well on your pilgrimage?"Bookmark here

On the day Auguste left town, a letter was sent to his home, telling his family that he had been sent by the temple on a pilgrimage. The one who sent it was Cera, covering for Auguste as he went forth to become and Dungeoneer.Bookmark here

"I eat when I can."Bookmark here

"Do look after yourself. You're not a child anymore."Bookmark here

"I know, I know."Bookmark here

"Oh, but look at me, nagging again. Is it any wonder that all of my children had left me?"Bookmark here

The woman smiled. It was a bitter smile without any semblance of joy.Bookmark here

"They haven't left you, they're just a bit busy with their own lives now, I'm sure. Besides, isn't Marcus still here with you?"Bookmark here

"So you say, but I'll bet he can't wait for me to finally kick the bucket and be rid of this walking nuisance."Bookmark here

"Don't be silly, you're our mother. We wouldn't want you to die."Bookmark here

"That's what they all say. That's what they always say. But those are just words, just words..." Auguste's mother began to trail off, mumbling to her herself about something.Bookmark here

"Mother..."Bookmark here

"I'm sorry, dear. I'm a little tired now. I think I'll have a nap. Yes, a nap..."Bookmark here

With that, his mother walked off, disappearing behind the door of her bedroom. Sometime later, one could hear a sharp, soul-rending cry coming from beyond those doors. Auguste then knocked on it, but the woman on the other side would only ask to be left alone. That's how it always went.Bookmark here

It began when Auguste was of a young age. He couldn't have been older than eight or nine at the time. Their father had disappeared. Auguste didn't know much about at the time, but from what he heard, he apparently ran off with another woman. He left some debts for the rest of the family to take care of as well, so that wasn't great either. To clear the debt, many a cow was sold and the family lived in poverty for a while. In time, the household recovered and things went back to normal. Their mother, however, was never quite the same again.Bookmark here

Ever since the incident, her mind has been ill. She became very untrusting and every so often, would have an outburst in which she would scream and cry till she was tired. In fact, such outbursts occurred nearly every day when she first found out about the father's betrayal. The daily outbursts left a bit of scar in little Auguste's mind, too young back then to fully understand what was going on.Bookmark here

Often times, he would rather stay outside till it was dark so that he may avoid having to endure one of his mother's outbursts. During those times, it was Helena who hung out with him. The older girl was caring and understanding, oftentimes keeping him company till sundown if she could. Every time he felt like crying, she would be right by him.Bookmark here

"It's alright, I'm here," she would whisper as she tenderly rubbed his back. "I will always be here. That's why, if you're ever feeling afraid or lonely, come find me."Bookmark here

Being with her, running about and chatting about a whole bunch of nothings, that was little Auguste's sole refuge. Even after she had gotten older and began going out on hunts with her father, she would still find time to check in on him.Bookmark here

"Sorry about that, even though you took your time to visit," a man approached Auguste while he was sitting out in the porch. He was tall and muscular, with a broad face and a smile to match.Bookmark here

"It's fine. It must be tougher on you, Marcus, since you're the one who has to deal with it."Bookmark here

"I don't particularly mind, she's our mother after all. Though, I am worried about Eliza. She's not taking it as well and she's concerned about when we have kids."Bookmark here

"Yeah, I can see how that's a problem."Bookmark here

August remembered how much he was terrified of the screams. Even now, he can still occasionally hear them in his sleep.Bookmark here

"Have you ever thought about moving her to Delphina's place? She has a big house, doesn't she? Not to mention plenty of servants too." Auguste suggested.Bookmark here

Dlephina was one of their sisters, the second eldest of the family. She got married to the grandson of the lord of Lars.Bookmark here

"I did try to suggest it to her, but that just made her think that we're trying to get rid of her. Besides, now that I think about it, it might be better for her to stay here. This is her house after all. And I think she might take issue with being taken care of by servants she barely knows."Bookmark here

"I guess there's no helping that, huh."Bookmark here

"No, I suppose not. Don't worry about it though, we'll figure something out."Bookmark here

"Oh, and congratulations on getting married. When did that happen?"Bookmark here

"Thanks. I got married just last month."Bookmark here

"She seems nice."Bookmark here

"She is! Your brother's a lucky man I tell you."Bookmark here

"Well, good for you."Bookmark here

"So, are you planning to stay over for the night?"Bookmark here

Auguste frowned at the question, and after considering it for a moment, he shook his head.Bookmark here

"No, I'll be staying at the temple."Bookmark here

"That's fine, I understand. Will you be staying for dinner at least?"Bookmark here

"That, I can do."Bookmark here

"Good, I'll let Eliza know that we'll be having a guest tonight."Bookmark here

The rest of the night went on peacefully and with an extra person on the dinner table that night, Auguste's mother seemed to have gained a bit of cheer and that made Auguste stay around a little longer, leaving only after they had put their mother to bed.Bookmark here

"Are you sure you won't be staying the night?" asked Marcus once more as he saw Auguste out.Bookmark here

"No, I'm afraid not," Auguste replied, curtly and bluntly.Bookmark here

"Well, be careful on your way back. The roads around here are safe but you'll never know."Bookmark here

"I'll keep that in mind."Bookmark here

Being used to the Dungeons, places where neither the sun nor starlights reach, the darkness hardly bothered Auguste. He was used to it. With the limited lighting provided by the lantern in his hand and the stars above, he was able to traverse the dark road without much issue and made it back to the town of Lars.Bookmark here

Dropping by the inn the rest of his party had stayed in to check in on them, he was then coerced into drinking with Henrietta and Finn. On the ever so rare occasion, Gladiolus, Morganna, and Elaine joined in as well. He stayed with them late into the night, leaving only after Morganna decided to retire.Bookmark here

Feeling a little light-headed as he enjoyed the nightly breeze, Auguste found his way back to the temple, now completely dark with not a single soul in sight. The serenity added to a sense of eeriness to the temple. With a lantern in hand, Auguste paced through the front hall, the echoes of his footsteps being his sole companion. Just for a bit, the place felt as if it was a Dungeon and Auguste couldn't help but become alert, sobering up in the process. Perhaps it was because he had gotten used to it, to expect something to jump at him from the darkness.Bookmark here

Suddenly, Auguste came to a stop. He wasn't sure if it had just been his imagination, a trick played by his mind due to the alcohol left in his system. He stood still and listened. It was only after hearing nothing but absolute silence did he decide to move on. Once more, echoes began to resound throughout the great hall, bouncing off of the far off walls. Then, he came to a stop once more, lifting up his lantern and blowing out the fire.Bookmark here

Auguste's back was against the entrance of the temple. If he were to turn around, he would be able to see the star-filled night sky. His shadow stretched before him, long and dark, and beside his shadow, there was another.Bookmark here

Immediately he turned around, sword drawn just in time to receive a curved blade coming down upon him. His hefty shortsword absorbed the blow easily but the assailant was not done and pressed closer with a dagger in her other hand. Quickly, Auguste pulled away and at the same time, he drew his second blade, his parrying dagger, to match the assailant.Bookmark here

Squinting his eyes to observe the shadowy silhouette of his assailant, Auguste made out the shape of what appeared to be a woman in robes.Bookmark here

"Foiled me, did you," the shadowy figured spoke out in a mocking voice.Bookmark here

"Don't you think I'd be used to you sneaking up on me by now, Cera?" Auguste replied, feeling a little cocky after defending against the attempt at a sneak attack.Bookmark here

"Oh please, I was going easy on you. You can't learn if you're out cold."Bookmark here

While she had matched his footsteps while sneaking up on him, she made sure that the sound of her steps was just loud enough for him to pick up on. If she truly wished to strike him down, she would have made no audible noise at all.Bookmark here

"Then show me."Bookmark here

"Gladly!"Bookmark here

In the darkness, the blades danced as starlights glinted off the silver steel, clashing against one another as crude, metallic chimes echoed off throughout the great halls.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

End of Chapter 21Bookmark here

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