Chapter 3: Conflicts, Magic and Bottled Fireflies
“…Richvarrion, the prince of beasts came upon Erliasil upon the sacred forest. Erliasil was the human princess, unrivalled in beauty and grace. Besotted with each other, the beast and the human lay. The humans and the beasts, common in their mutual hate did not share their enthusiasm. They accused each other of sedition and went to war. For 10 days and 10 nights, war raged. Richvarrion and Erliasil stood grieving in the battlefield, surrounded by thousands of fallen kin. Out of sorrow, they took their own life to end the war. Touched at their sacrifice, the god Allurian descended. He held their bodies and declared thus, “I shall divide the beasts and humans, since this day. Let each race seek their lands far away from each and never come in contact. Thus I decree, for the lands of beasts and humans to be separate, forevermore…”
– Translated extract from the Epic ‘Undgezush Traal’avil, date unknown
It had already been 4 days since I came here. My language skills are still shit, even if I can pick out names and a few words now. Everyday I get up at crack of dawn, well before Arin tries to dump cold water on me. Yes, she did that the first 2 days, while laughing mischievously. I would have killed her if she wasn’t fast as a trang. Oh, trang is like a hare, but with little winged ears that it uses to flop and glide on air when not running on ground. Very tasty meat though.
Everyday I help either Obaa-san or Arin in their daily chores. Well, I try to. Often I botch up things simply because those are too friggin weird. One thing though, my physical abilities seemed to have increased. Not as if I am a different person, but I do have much more stamina and general strength. One more thing, the swordskid from earlier comes around this house a lot. It seemed to me that the kid liked Arin. The way he looked at her screamed the innocent first love kind of vibes. However, Arin didn’t seem to either notice or was totally uninterested in him. His name was Karro by the way.
When Karro had learnt that I was staying at the house, he glared at me like he wanted me dead. Really, very and utterly dead. I wish I had Chokushi no Magan(1) , just to see when that kid would plunge that sword that he keeps lugging around, in my chest.
Today, after collecting Thalis blossoms with Arin, I went to the Knight Training ground. I wanted to see the people spar. However, there was only Karro today at the grounds, hacking away at a training dummy. He saw me and gave me a nasty glare and said something. I didn’t want to pick a fight so I turned around and tried to walk away from the grounds. This seemed to incense Karro and he spat on the ground. Then he pointed his sword at me and charged. I picked up a short, thick wooden stick that was lying around for training purposes. The kid rushed me and slashed diagonally upwards left to right. I managed to barely avoid that attack by jumping. Fuck.
He kept shouting something. I didn’t pay heed to it, my find was focused on his blade. It was blunt. As soon as I had realized that, my fears went away. I took a stance and countered with my…wooden stick.
Oh yes, I hadn’t been sitting around lazily these last few days. I religiously went to the knight training grounds and watched them spar. Each passing moment, I understood more and more. The motions they made grew more meaningful to me. I watched them hungrily, drinking in the atmosphere around me. The Gift of Knowledge had helped me to process the information and improved my learning curve, even if by just watching.
The strokes, the slashes they made were beautiful. Not that they were perfect, but the act itself was beautiful. I felt that I wanted to spar with them, to fight and make them submit…That’s a rather dangerous line of thought, I had thought to myself. I had come back to the house everyday, shaking and with a quick breath.
The kid was surprised when I lunged at him single-handed, he avoided my strike by stepping-sideways. Too bad, it was a feint. I curled the fingers of my free hand into a fist and punched his chin. Karro’s eyes widened and he jerked his head quickly before my fist could connect. The fist ended up grazing his cheeks. Suddenly, I felt something off and I quickly jumped away. The pommel of the blade in the guy’s hands stabbed empty air, where I had been just a moment ago. Blood was rushing to my ears, I could feel my face and chest grow hot.
A grin splitting my face, I charged at the guy, my wooden pole outstretched at his torso. Before he could parry it, I stabbed it onto the ground before his feet, disrupting his balance. The guy stumbled at the unexpected move. I saw the split-second chance and jerked myself up, propped on the wooden staff with my right hand, swinging my whole body into an arc to kick the guy.
His eyes widened but he couldn’t stop the stumble and the half-lunge he had committed himself to. Just when my savage kick was about to connect to his side, the elbow I had used to prop myself up, folded. I had done a move that my body couldn’t perform yet. The balance broke and I folded like a deck chair. My body slammed into the earth, and sharp pain lanced up my ribs.
The guy didn’t relent though. He swung his blade straight at me and held it to my throat. He was shaking, his hands on the handle dug down savagely. I could see coiled rage in his black pupils. He tightened his grip and uttered a few words in a low growl. Red fire trickled forth from the sword guard and ran down the length of the blade. Enveloped in flames, the blade stood a few inches from my eyes and throat. The heat from the blade singed the skin of my throat near the blade tip. I could feel more and more blood rushing to every nook and cranny of my body as my heart thumped hard enough to burst through my chest. I was naïve to think watching was enough. I needed to train rigorously to even have a fighting chance.
The guy flew to the side. That’s how it looked, but what happened what that the Knight Ossan from before had sent a punch to Karro so hard that he was thrown back and crumpled. Karro’s sword lost it’s fire, but retained a faint orange tint. I just realized how dangerous it was. People die when they are killed, dammit! (2)
The ossan started scolding us very loudly, visibly distressed. Karro grew more and more pale and shaking with every sentence. Suddenly he stopped, noticing something. He came and sat beside me, probing my ribs with his fingers.
The pain was so intense that for a moment, that I screamed out in dear agony. Lances of hot fire swept up my right side, making me wail like a gutted pig. The Ossan picked me up and made me put my balance on him, while he helped me to the infirmary on the Knight Training grounds. I recognized the room I had woken up in after the tête-à-tête with Astria. I lay down on the bed, holding my right side and trying to suppress my scream. The adrenalin rush from the fight earlier had left me, the pain of the fall came back to me all at once. Fuck. I broke my ribs, I think.
I hadn’t noticed, but the Ossan had gone away, while the Hippo nurse sat beside me. Karro stood at a corner, his face ashen.
Running footsteps reached my ears, and Arin burst into the room with a worried face. Her hair had come undone, the RiverSong shells nowhere to be seen. After her, grandma trudged in on her wooden walking stick, supported by the Ossan. The first thing grandma did was to slam her wooden walking stick lightly on my forehead, as if to admonish me. I tired to make an apologetic face.
What happened next, surprised me even more. Grandma sat beside me on a chair and uncovered my shirt. She kept her hand on my seemingly broken ribs and started chanting in a sing-song voice. The tone and temper of the song reminded me of Ave Maria. The wound slowly started to heal. The speed was much slower than when Zain or Astria did it, but the wounds were getting healed. I could feel my ribs snapping back into its place and mending. A slight tingling and sensation of warmth exuded from my skin. There was sort of a pink-ish light seeping in from the gaps between her palms touching my flank.
After like 15 minutes, she got up and ruffled my hair. The internal wounds were mended, but the blue-black bruising and swelling remained. The Hippo nurse inched towards me with some cotton cloth and an ointment that stunk.
Arin walked up to Karro and demanded something. Her curled up fists were drawn taut at her sides and her voice quavered. Karro spread his hands, trying to explain something. Arin’s face grew crimson and she slapped him with enough force to make him take half a step backwards. She then walked out of the door. I tried to stop Arin and clear up the mess between her and Karro, but the Hippo nurse didn’t let me up and shook her head telling me not to interfere.
After my poultice was done, I was led to grandma’s house by Arin and Ossan. Grandma stayed back at the infirmary to talk with the Nurse. Ossan issued some instructions to Arin and left us after making me lay down on the bed that I used. After I was settled in, Arin said something in a stern tone. She had been quiet all the way from the infirmary. She looked at me angrily, and then left me in a huff.
“Thank you”, I said when she was about to leave the room. Then she turned around, looked at me and smiled having guessed my meaning.
I spent the whole day in bed, counting the beams. I winced when I tried to walk. I shouldn’t have flown off the handle at that time. But somehow, those few moments of aggression felt like a rush. I had felt really refreshed and alive those few moments, possibly even excited I realized with mild surprise.
When had I become such a fight junkie?
More important than that, I had seen two pieces of powerful magic today. I had to learn the language and then the magic quickly. I didn’t have time to dawdle. The next time I saw either of those two gods, I wanted to melt their faces off.
Arin came into my room towards the evening. She sat down on a chair beside my bed and put down the tray she carried onto the bedside table. Gruel with thin bread. I didn’t know what this gruel was made of, but it was good when I ate it yesterday. Somehow, didn’t want to find out what animal the meat came from.
Arin wore a simple white robe that came till her knees. The rough weave of the fabric complemented her unreasonably good looks, lending her an irresistible charm. I was quite sure that I was staring. She was aware of it too, as evident by the faint blush that crept up her snow-white skin.
Arin tried to feed me the gruel with a wooden spoon. I protested, saying that I could eat by myself. I mean, my ribs were hurt, not my hands. This wasn’t Toradora(3). I didn’t need to be fed by a girl when my hands were fully functional.
She just wouldn’t listen. At one point I wondered if I was going to be more injured trying to stop her feed me than getting chopped up by Karro. She fed me the whole gruel and kept talking the whole while. She knew that I didn’t understand, still she chattered incessantly. And she didn’t even look like that she minded my silence. She would gesticulate and talk without a care in the world.
She cracked open a book she had brought with her. Then, her voice changed. With a voice like melting honey she started reading. The voice was warm and soothing at the same time. Also, I knew that tone.
Huh? Is she reading me a story? How old does she think I am?
I wanted to stop her, but I decided against it. I could guess that she felt sorry about the whole Karro incident and wanted to make up for it. I wasn’t going to refuse her efforts. I listened to her patiently, even if I didn’t understand.
By now, the sun had fully set. I hadn’t understood the function of the bottles hung all over the house when I had first come here but later that night, I was stupefied. The bottles had something inside them. Each bottle would light up at night of it’s own accord, glowing with a swirl of flickering and fidgety source of light inside it. The lights were either yellow or green tinted, cold to touch and not very strong. But all those bottles together were sufficient to light up the house. Each sunset, the houses of this village would light up in these bottled lights, making it seem like thousands of fireflies were dancing.
Arin’s figure was illuminated by the warm light of the firefly bottles, as I liked to call them. Her figure looked like a queen of the fairies in that shadowy light. As she read through the evening with the light of a thousand fireflies as her accompaniment, I wished I understood what she was saying. My breath had caught at the spectacle. I want to know what Arin is saying, I want to know what she is thinking.
As a girl weaved tales in a unknown language through the night in her voice of melting honey, my eyelids closed of their own accord. Her feathery whispers conjured strange magic in a land of fireflies. The kind figure of a girl keeping her lone vigil made me wish I knew this world, and her a bit better.
While going down under, I thought to myself, Maybe being fed like that isn’t so bad once in a while.
Night had set, the clockworks began to turn. Like every other night since time immemorial, this night too, the fates began to unravel. The stars of a lone sleeping boy and the girl keeping vigil beside him, had shifted.
(1) Choushigi no Magan, or Mystic Eyes of Death Perception is an ability from stories set in Nasuverse/Type-Moon Universe. Seen in Kara no Kyokai and Tsukihime.
(2) Reference to the infamous translation gaffe and the famous meme from Fate/Stay Night where the MC Shirou Emiya drops the genius line(not): “People die when they are killed”
(3) Reference to the Light Novel/Manga/anime Toradora
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