Chapter 6:

Patchwork Hotel & Café I


- Calamity -

Deep inside the forest is another world. It is a world that cannot be easily found. It is a home where the fairies dwell.

They are invisible to the human eye.

The fairies in this particular forest are known as the patchwork: living dolls who have no wings. Unlike other types of fairies, the patchwork get around mostly on foot.

The patchwork of the forest have made a community for themselves by constructing a multi-purpose building split into two halves. The lower half is full of various cafés while everything above is made up of hotel rooms. The building itself is no bigger than an average dollhouse, but in the eyes of the patchwork, it was as tall as a skyscraper.

Mina is a waitress and a baker who helps out in her family's bakery, located on the fifth floor. Most patchwork know her as a spunky teenager, recognized by her macaroon yellow dress and straight brown hair. She was trotting down the hallway of the eighth floor, making her way to the fantasy-themed café run by the family of her friend Morrow. Mina ran inside where she easily spotted Morrow cleaning tables. It was early in the morning and the peak hours wouldn't come 'til noon, so it was expected that there were no customers at the time.

"Hey, Morrow! Ready to go?"

Morrow was a young boy with blonde hair and a standard hairstyle. He wore a black lightweight coat and shorts with white shoes. Compared to Morrow, Mina was older than him and could easily be seen as his big sister. But of course, the two of them weren't actually related.

Morrow gasped in surprise.

"Oh! Mina, it's you. Yeah, I just finished wiping down this last table, so we can leave. Just let me put the supplies away first."

Morrow dashed to a door leading to the back of the restaurant. He entered it and quickly returned empty-handed. Then, he left with Mina.

Both Mina and Morrow are apprentices of the Great Sages of the forest. The Great Sages are four wise men who are masters of the elements. They practice sorcery and help maintain the balance of the forest. Mina and Morrow were going to their hidden temple in the forest for their usual training.

Meanwhile, a boy near Morrow's age was moving through the forest. He was jumping from treetop to treetop. He stopped when he spotted Morrow below. He spied on him from afar. For some reason, Morrow also came to a halt. He tilted his head up to the trees as if he sensed someone peering down from above. Morrow caught sight of the other boy as clear as day.

"Hey, look! It's Ryuhei!"

Morrow shouted as he pointed out to Ryuhei. Even though he was watching Morrow, Ryuhei didn't make an effort to hide himself. Ryuhei was completely clad in black from his cloak down to his shoes, giving him an ominous appearance.

"Hey, Ryuhei! Come down here!"

Morrow continued to call out to him, hoping he would comply. To Morrow's dismay, Ryuhei hopped away on the adjacent trees.

"Aw..." Morrow sighed.

"Forget it, Morrow. That boy isn't interested in making friends."

Like Mina and Morrow, Ryuhei also practiced magic but he wasn't under any of the sages' tutelage. He specializes in the dark arts and most are weary of him. None of that really mattered to Morrow. He only wished that Ryuhei wasn't so aloof.

The two apprentices finally reached the hidden temple. The exterior was plastered with foliage, appearing to be run down. Inside however, the temple was well maintained radiating with mystical energy. The interior had an ocean glow and was split into chambers. Morrow and Mina walked through the entrance and were greeted by Kamon, the caretaker of the grounds.

"Why hello, little mages!"

"Kamon!" The two happily said in unison.

"Hey! I'm not the little one!" Mina declared.

Kamon was an adult patchwork, at least two years older than Mina. He had a slender figure, dressed in a white sleeved shirt with green suspenders. He wasn't as gifted in magic as his friends, but the sages were fond of him. Instead, Kamon served as a groundskeeper and took care of the elderly sages. Kamon was in a good mood as always, and yet something was troubling him.

"What's wrong, Kamon?" Morrow asked.

Kamon was suddenly pulled out of a daze.

"Huh? Do I look sad to you?"

"You were staring out into space."

"Oh. Nothing's wrong with me. It's just... The sages seem to be in distress this morning."

"Distressed? About what?" Mina asked.

"I don't know. They were having quite the discussion, but I couldn't pick up on what they were saying. I wasn't trying to eavesdrop on them."

"Oh, I see."

"H-hey! Try not to worry about it. Maybe it's nothing! I could be mistaken."

"Yeah? Well, okay." Mina replied.

Mina began heading further into the temple with Morrow not far behind. They arrived in a chamber known as the "center stage" where all four sages would gather and hold meetings. The sages didn't have any fancy seats or furniture. They usually just sat on the floor or sometimes matting.

"Good morning, Sages!" Mina greeted.

"Hello." Morrow politely bowed.

"Why hello, pupils."

The first to respond was Chapatsu Sage, the red sage who represented fire. He was Mina's teacher. Then there was Monoii Sage, the green sage of the Earth and Morrow's mentor. The two other sages were Azure Sage, the blue sage of water, and Splinter Sage, the yellow sage who controls light. What three out of four sages had in common was the fact that they had moustaches. Chapatsu Sage had a goofy moustache that curled inwards, Azure Sage's moustache was wavy like the ocean, and Splinter Sage had a thin moustache with a gap in the middle. As you can see, the odd one out among the group was Monoii Sage.

"Sorry, to make you come out all this way, children, but we've decided that there won't be any lessons held today." Splinter Sage announced.

"Yes, yes. There's nothing you can do here. You should go back home. Get some rest." Azure Sage suggested.

"Catch some z's, hohoho!" Chapatsu Sage laughed.

Mina was surprised. The sages never immediately told her to return home before. And nothing for Mina and Morrow to do? Even on days when there wasn't a lesson, the sages would normally allow the two students to stay at the temple. Either they would chat about everyday stories or stroll through the forest together.

"Wha? Master, I don't understand? Is everything okay?"

Morrow approached his master, Monoii Sage, and sat down on his knees in front of him.

"Sensei, is something wrong? Kamon told us that you all might be distressed about something. Is that true? What's going on?"

"Well..." Monoii Sage paused.

"It's just that we foresee a small calamity about to occur." Chapatsu Sage began.

"Calamity!?" The children both shrieked.

"A small calamity. It's nothing too serious. No one will be harmed, but some damages will come of it. That's to be expected, I suppose." Monoii Sage continued.

"What concerns us the most is not the calamity itself, but the source of the disastrous event." Splinter Sage added.

"As of right now, we can't conclude what causes this calamity." Azure Sage joined in.

"Do you know what this calamity could be?" Morrow asked.

"We are unsure of that as well." Azure Sage replied.

"Go home, children. You can't help us with this one. You're in the dark just as much as we are." Monoii Sage said.

"Not to worry! We Great Sages will put our heads together to figure it out! On our honor, we swear by the mighty forest goddess." Chapatsu Sage confidently reassured.

If there wasn't going to be any training for the day, then it couldn't be helped. So, Mina and Morrow left the temple.

Ryuhei was still in the treetops, watching, waiting for the two apprentices to step outside. He never left.

Ryuhei always seemed to be spying on Morrow whenever he entered the deep forest and visited the temple. He wanted to approach him, but he never found the courage to do so. Ryuhei was aware that Morrow wasn't cautious of him, but that wasn't enough for Ryuhei to get close to Morrow.

Not after what happened three months ago.

No matter how many times he would watch and wait, Ryuhei would never act. His plan was to leave immediately after Morrow and Mina began their walk home. Today however, that plan was interrupted. An unknown voice suddenly reached out to Ryuhei.

"You there, child. How many times are you going to sit on the sidelines and watch?"

The mysterious voice was deep and echoed smoothly, seemingly belonging to a man. Ryuhei didn't answer as he surveyed the area, trying to find whoever was talking to him. Although, Ryuhei doubted he would see him in the forest. He heard the voice in his head and not with his ears. Nobody else was hidden in the treetops either. At least, no one in plain sight.

"There's something that you want to do, don't you? I know you want to curse everyone who has wronged you, isn't that right?" The voice snickered.

Ryuhei arose from the branch he sat on. Silently, he kept looking around, trying to stay on his guard. He was even ready to cast a spell if necessary.

Out of nowhere, a dark mist swirled beside Ryuhei, forming a tall silhouette. When the mist cleared, a dark figure wrapped in white bandages revealed themself. Everything about him was shrouded in darkness and mystery. Ryuhei couldn't get a read on this person.

"What are you? And what do you want?" Ryuhei asked. It was the first thing he said all morning.

"My name has long been forgotten, but you can call me the "Assassin." I know all about your history and I would like to give you power."

Ryuhei's history?                                                      

Ryuhei had no parents and was always a loner. His dabbles with dark magic caused people to fear him and distance themselves. The patchwork either pitied him because he was alone or they were afraid of him and what he was capable of.

'While you are talented young sorcerer indeed, I'm afraid your skillset just wouldn't be compatible with any of us sages. That's why Monoii Sage is choosing a student like Morrow instead.'

Even the sages rejected Ryuhei. Ryuhei wasn't welcome anywhere.

Pity. Fear. Caution.

Ryuhei wanted none of it. He was tired of it all.

"Power? What power would I need from you?"

Ryuhei wasn't gullible. He wasn't going to readily trust a stranger, especially one that reeked of black magic. Ryuhei easily recognized a fellow dark magician when he saw one.

"I know you want to destroy everything and I want to help you."

"You're wrong. There's nothing I want to destroy. Everything is fine the way it is."

Ryuhei could obviously tell that Assassin was nothing but trouble, but he had no clue why he was targeting him. Ryuhei just wanted this strange patchwork to be gone. The Assassin snickered again.

"Tell you what, I'll let you borrow this special book. It's packed full of terrible spells." Assassin laughed once more as he shoved a thick book into Ryuhei's arms.

"If you happen to change your mind, you can flip through that entire book to your heart's desire. Find something that you like and spread some chaos. I trust you'll use it wisely."

Assassin then disappeared into nothingness the same way he revealed himself.

As soon as Assassin was gone, Ryuhei opened the book and turned through a few pages. He was already appalled by the threat level of the spells written on the text. These spells ranged from deadly plagues to voids capable of swallowing up the entire world.

"Fool. What was he thinking!? I could easily hand this book over to the sages. This magic is far too dangerous!"

Turning in the dark spellbook to the Great Sages would be the safest course of action. But to be honest, Ryuhei hasn't even come close to the sages since the day Monoii Sage selected Morrow to be his apprentice. Ryuhei still hasn't moved on from being rejected by them, nor has he forgotten what was said to him that day. The actual possibility of Ryuhei going to the sages was pretty unlikely.

Ryuhei wasn't at all interested in causing chaos for the other patchwork, but the Assassin wasn't entirely wrong about him wanting some destruction. Ryuhei was fed up with the patchwork's treatment of him. He just wanted to let out some steam. But with years of pent up aggression, Ryuhei needed to release his feelings on a large scale.

And so, Ryuhei continued to turn the book's pages in search of a less powerful spell.

Ana Fowl