Chapter 30 ∞ Signed
Kora attended to me as I took refuge in the comfort of my bed. He was asking me all sorts of questions; whether I was feeling dizzy or if I was in any other kind of pain. Nonetheless, this wasn’t really anything much compared to the physical injuries I got in my past life It seemed I didn’t have any concussion from being slapped so hard, but one side of my face had ballooned up a little.
I was worried about Erenol, most of all. I think my mistresses knew something about this whole ordeal. In fact, this might have something to do with the discussions I have overheard those few nights ago when I snuck out to eavesdrop on another conversation.
“You got yourself in quite the trouble this time, young lady,” Kora’s face was placid. There was hardly any wrinkle that could unruffle the smooth and straight skin.
I have long since known why he entered this profession when he could very well be something else. He was quite suitable for it. Whenever he dressed up as a woman, he would be much, much prettier than the average lady—worthy of belonging in the lineup of my mistresses. He had sharper and more sturdy features compared to a female, but with the proper look, it would only seem like he was a fierce woman.
This face of his…I only see it whenever he was tending to the broken flowers, to the part of his garden that had wilted or died from disease or unforeseen circumstances. There was no remorse or worry, only realization that everything in the world was in constant peril and that, should any one thing survive a premature death, they were marching to an end of a journey one way or another.
I knew this quite well myself.
“I had some fun,” I replied.
“Good dragons above, bless you,” he whispered. “I think you take after Veronika on that one. Getting all bruised and blue, but still finding it fun. I don’t know what to do with you. I’ve had to recently patch up a lot of people nowadays. What war is it that I’m not taking part in?”
“Erenol’s mom just passed away,” I stated.
He paused, withdrew, and looked at me. “So that’s why…” he muttered. “The trouble in the palace is getting worse this time around. If they’re willing to make such a big move trying to abduct one of the children of the Emperor in his own city, that must also mean he’s on the brink of his health.”
“I don’t get it,” I whispered. “Who would dare do such a thing?”
Kora looked at me. “Who else? Women in the harem.”
“Don’t tell your mother I told you,” he told me. “The affairs of the palace is very complicated. That’s a sticky web we don’t want ourselves getting messed up in. You’re the one thing in Oblivion no one is willing to do without.”
“Will you tell me more later?”
“Maybe. That’ll depend on how the whole situation pans out after this. Knowing Hellenia, she would prefer to keep you in the dark.”
“What if I don’t want to be?”
“Evy.” Kora put down the cotton pad he was using to apply medicine on my wounds. He firmly held both my shoulders and stared me in the eye. “The world out there is much, much darker than you think it to be. It doesn’t matter how strong you are, how smart, or how wise…there are dangers to it that no human can face by themselves. You saw it yourself today.”
The graveness in his eyes and voice put a gag on my mouth. Whatever argument was rising in my mind was held back. Perhaps my selfish wanting of knowing everything wasn’t any different from childish naivety and ignorance. I was so absorbed with thinking I was technically a grownup, combining this life and my past one, that I was forgetting how this world, no matter how similar, was different from the one I had seen before I was reborn here.
My past life’s memories was of no benefit for me here. They were actually a burden. I was just blessed with an adult perception of the world around me, but that wasn’t always an advantage. In fact, it was holding me back from seeing how this life actually was.
I was still a child. I had to accept that…at least for the next five years or so.
“This isn’t yet your time to know about them,” Kora continued. “We promise we’ll tell you when you’re ready. With how things are going, it’s most likely that it isn’t long before it is revealed to you…Don’t rush into it though, young one. You know what happens when an unprepared head strikes through a wall. It’ll do you more harm than good.”
His explanation appeased my frustration and curiosity. I looked at him with better understanding and nodded.
“I’m sorry if I’ve been stubborn,” I told him.
He smiled and patted my head affectionately. “Nothing to be sorry about, little flower. In fact, it’s your mistresses and I who ought to be sorry for not telling you things, but it’s good that you understand why we’re doing it.”
He wrapped up attending to me and made his way out the door.
“Evy,” he began as he stood under the frame of the entryway. “You did a good job today with those men. Your Mistress Veronika’s the proudest of all, but we all are.”
He left my room shortly after. I watched him go and stood to look at myself in the mirror once he was gone. I wasn’t so hideous just yet, but I definitely was starting to resemble a pig on one side of my face. On top of that, there was bruising that outlined the shape of a hand. It was a little ugly to look at.
I heard the door creak.
Turning, I saw Maun peeking through.
“Yo,” I greeted casually, waving a hand. “What are you up to?” I asked.
He shook his head.
“Nothing?” I guessed.
I’ll take that one as an answer. “Then why are you here?”
He gazed at me with eyes full of words. He opened his mouth but shut it close once more, knowing attempting to say words was truly useless. He had about half of his tongue cut off. His speech wouldn’t return to the way it was before.
“This would be presumptuous of me to say,” I began. “Did you want to say thank you or something?” I tried guessing some more.
He looked at me and hesitantly nodded. But it seemed he had a lot more to say than just that.
I brushed my nape and sighed, wondering how I was supposed to help him with this dilemma.
Then I remembered.
I lifted a hand and gestured a sign in sign language. It was quite simple—fingers flat on the lips to a motion that was much akin to blowing a kiss. Without the kissing part. “Try doing this next time. Maybe it’ll help. From now on, it means thank you.”
I repeated the gesture for him.
He followed; fingers on the lips before bringing the hand forward like blowing a kiss. “Thank you.”
“That’s it.” I then said, both verbally and in sign, “You’re welcome.”
He watched my gestures carefully and replicated them, seemingly fascinated.
I didn’t know about the sign language standard in this world, but I was quite familiar with this one. There was no harm in using it here if it was just having to understand one another. Communicating with other people was a problem for another time. For all I knew, I could understand spoken languages even if I hadn’t heard of them before. Signed ones? Not really sure.
I saw his eyes light up.
“You don’t really have to thank me, though,” I said. “It was kind of my fault. You didn’t want to come and yet I forced you. Don’t worry, there probably won’t be a next time after this. The mistresses might keep us in for a while. Oh, well…it’s not like I was much on going outside anyways,” I ranted.
He shook his head. I assumed that meant something along the lines of you don’t have to say sorry or whatever.
“Well, if you say so…” I trailed off.
Boredom suddenly washed over me.
“I feel like reading in the library,” I muttered. “It’s so boring in here. I’m gonna die.” I threw my head back, slouched, and grunted.
Good dragons, bless this world with internet soon and bring me my memes and vines back. I need to see people embarrassing themselves while feeling confident they were doing great. Nothing beats that stuff.
I trudged out of my room and left for the House’s library, leaving Maun to decide for himself whether he was coming or staying. It wasn’t like he hadn’t been in my room before. My Mistress Marian had him use the bathroom which led to an unforgettable accident. It wasn’t like I had anything to hide.
The library wasn’t small and had quite the rare collection, courtesy of Mistress Lili. There were rare manuals with regards to the arts that were practiced by my mistresses from the most absurd to the most common. They also had information on the rarest beasts in the world which lived in the wild. One of them was actually present in the city as a tamed companion for the captain of the guards, Leiran. Contrary to expectations, Avalon, the ‘dragon’ we rid on before wasn’t an actual dragon—but a lesser form with a diluted blood. They called them wyverns.
I was just used to calling him a dragon in my mind because, well…he looked like one.
The dragons were the gods. And the name ‘dragon’ was synonymous to godhood. To label such a beast a dragon was impertinence. Still, in spite of the fact that wyverns weren’t ‘true dragons,’ they were still sacred beasts. Wyverns were a step down from the top. They were technically one of the most powerful creatures in the planet.
At the moment, I wasn’t really sure where Erenol was. I was thinking she was with my mistresses. They were probably talking to her about the whole ordeal.
I was a little worried, but I knew the mistresses were very capable people.
Maun tailed me like a newly-hatched duckling. I didn’t talk to him because I was unsure what to talk about, especially considering I would be talking to myself for the most part. I wasn’t fond of monologues because I felt they make me sound stupid. I cast a glance over my shoulder once in a while to see how he was doing.
He had an almost eager look in his eyes and curiosity that beat a cat’s. He watched me climb the ladders to the shelves, reach for the books from the high places, and retreat to my most comfortable corner. Seeing that I wasn’t entertaining him much, he looked around cluelessly and raked through the collection hesitantly. He would look over, perhaps trying to see if I disapproved, but when I paid no attention to whatever his business was, it seemed to act as an encouragement. He squinted at the titles and pulled a book within his hand’s reach and started flipping through.
It went like that for a while, but I realized he wasn’t really reading—just looking at the pictures. Raising my brows, I sighed and shook my head.
The one in my hands talked of Vertvalden and the Five Claws of the Serpent, which were what they called the five kingdoms of the west continent. Like the rest of the books I have read, this was written by Jinekann Bondell, a well-known traveler. If he lived in my previous world, he’d have a travel blog.
Like the dragon emperors of Erindal, Vervalden’s rulers were called warrior kings. The biggest difference would perhaps lie in the cycle of power. Succession was not decided through blood or pedigree like in Erindal, rather, the inheritor would be put through countless plights and trials to determine worthiness. Blood didn’t matter for these people. One wouldn’t be able to get far with their family’s prestige, which only lasted two generations after the one who earned the merit. It meant that even if a great-grandparent was a warrior king, it didn’t mean a claim to the throne.
The nobility was decided by character and deeds and approval of the people.
I paused upon seeing that last bit. Approval of the people?
I flipped to the next page to read more on the topic. Apparently, there had been instances that a person was capable of earning merits and overcoming trials, but ended up becoming not quite fit to lead.
I continued looking through the book and wondered if having a warrior king come from the same family was possible. Indeed, it had happened a couple of times. There were many well-known clans mentioned in the book which often cultured a warrior king or two for a generation, but there were also cases of those with humble origins upsetting expectations and rising to the position.
It seemed these people thought that the apple, while from the tree, wasn’t the tree. Instead, the towering achievements of one’s parents would be a constant shadow that any sapling was to break through if they ought to prove themselves. The position did give an advantage to one’s family as it would allocate resources and reputation, but those didn’t always reflect on the child.
Succession determined by strength. A sort of monarchial yet democratic and meritocratic government…what exactly would this qualify as? It sounded like it was quite the ideal system, but there was no yin without the yang. There was a mention of clans dominating the position of warrior kings. I wasn’t aware of the whole scenario just yet, but this one smelled fishy to me.
I was jolted from my concentration when I heard a bang, followed by books spilling down from the shelves. I jumped from my seat and looked over to see Maun cradling the back of his head from pain as he lied faced down on the carpeted floors.
“What happened?” I asked.
He looked up at me with teary eyes and continued nursing the back of his head.
I stood up, closed the book I was reading, and left it on my seat. I picked up the books from the floor, making sure I was very careful of any folded pages. I straightened everything out and sorted them by name before figuring out which ones went where. Maun helped. He bowed his head to me in apology several times.
“Don’t…it’s okay. Don’t keep doing that,” I said.
He kept bowing. He was so sorry to the point that he was quaking with fear. Just what did this boy go through?
Seeing him like this, I got a little fed up. I caught him by the shoulder, literally straightened him out, and smacked his chest. “If you’re going to say sorry, do it with dignity.” I fisted his right hand, placed it firmly on his chest, and moved it in a brief circle around. “There. You said sorry. You’re forgiven. Now help me with this.”
Together, we sorted out all the books and put them all back into the shelves.
This was like having a little brother. A very clumsy one at that.
After getting the accident in the library sorted, I brought Maun out and went to look for Erenol. I had a good guess as to where she currently was. I waited outside of Mistress Lamia’s office, looking out the courtyard and admiring the calming landscape. Maun had his eyes trained on the willow tree in the courtyard.
“You see it?” I asked.
He looked at me questioningly.
I began signing as I spoke. “That one over there,” I began. “Mistress Veronika…”I paused, needing to spell out her name by letter. “…said that that is a special place.”
He was distracted. Not knowing whether to look at my face to listen or watch my hands work. “It pools the domains, the energies. It’s basically like a little lake. When we went to Lovarda last time, if you remember, I learned of a place called the Temple of the Gods. It’s basically a training institution for warrior monks. The place is usually positioned over the dense pool of the domains, which makes it a suitable place to meditate and train oneself. We might have the only energy pool in the whole of Venerya!” I finished.
He scratched his head cluelessly.
“Was that too much for you?” I asked. “Don’t worry. You’re smart. You’ll learn it. Nothing’s impossible for the guy with the goal and the guts. I used to think I was doing badly and now I took down three men! Ha! What ya think o’ that?” I still had a swollen face, but I was otherwise alright.
“I think you’ve got a lot of progress to make,” I heard someone say.
Looking up, I caught Mistress Veronika peering down at me.
“You’re looking for Erenol?” she asked.
We nodded simultaneously.
“She should come out soon.” Mistress Veronika patted my head, ruffled Maun’s hair, and walked away.
True enough, Erenol marched out of the room with an excited face. “Guess what, Evy, guess what?!”
“Don’t want to,” I crossed my arms stubbornly.
“Ah. Damn it! Just ride along for once!”
“I didn’t know you were a horse?”
“UAGGHGHG! Then I won’t tell you.” She crossed her arms similarly.
I raised a taunting brow and flashed a challenging stare.
“Okay,” I said, dismissively. “To think I bothered coming all this way.” I waved my hand and walked off.
“AHHHHH! I’m going to be staying with you!” she blurted.
I turned and gestured for her to elaborate with a gaze.
“Mistress Lamia offered me two options,” she said. “I could return to the palace or stay here and be taken as an apprentice.”
“Like you,” she told me.
Was I an apprentice?
Well. Maybe. Maybe I was. Technically.
“Is that allowed?” I asked.
“Ah, I don’t know. Your mistress said I just had to make a decision and they’ll take care of the rest.”
“What did you choose?”
“What do you think, dummy?! Geez. Use your brain for once!”
I didn’t say anything. I came forward and crushed her in a tight hug, feeling the same tightness in my heart released. I couldn’t help the smile that was splitting my face. I truly felt glad for Erenol—that she didn’t have to return to that place. This would give her some chance to learn directly from Mistress Veronika alongside me, which would help her prepare for her entry to the War Academy. She would be much, much safer in the House of Oblivion rather than the Glass Palace.
As I nestled my chin on the crook of her neck, I felt a tinge of worry in my heart. For sure, for my mistresses, this was no easy feat. They were probably taking a big step while doing this. Things weren’t simple. My stomach twisted at the trouble that was to come.
The House of Oblivion was growing rowdy as of late, with two, new faces to add in the mix of an already boisterous family.