Chapter 7 – ‘A Piece of Danger’
After Skye announced Aden as the head of a family, the three didn’t know what to make of it.
She reiterated to Aden what she had told the other two, making sure they were all on the same page.
What would happen? Why would the Zealots go after them? What did it mean for Aden to be the head of the Asteri spirit family? These questions pressed on their minds.
“So you said Aden is some family head? That doesn’t make sense!”
David was the first to respond, bringing up the shocking announcement from earlier.
Recovering from his surprise, “Y-yeah! That’s impossible, I’m just an orphan, you have the wrong person! Wouldn’t something like a noble family have better choices than me?”
Aden did his best to ignore the numbers that once again started to creep into his vision as he dismantled the fox’s outrageous claims. Try as he might however, he slowly found himself understanding the layout of the alcove in a detail so precise it was like he’d lived there his entire life. He shook his head to ward it away.
Skye took his action as him further expressing his denial and began, “Knowledge. Books, stories, the world itself. Has Master not found himself always thirsty, no, craving the opportunity to learn even just one new thing? Has Master not noticed that he would lose track of time once he started learning something, with nothing able to take away the joy he had of doing so? How many times has Master started reading in the morning just to find it dark out the next moment? This may have seemed a nuisance to Master, but in his mind he knew that he would gladly do it again.”
David nodded to her words as Aden’s mouth was agape. To the side, Levy was listening intently.
Continuing with a proud expression, “This is the trait every member of the Asteri line holds. The instinctual pursuit of knowledge, preparing for their eventual Awakening. Master, I believe you know this to be true.”
It was, and he knew it. Ever since he was first able to read back in the orphanage, he would be absorbed in whatever book he was able to get his hands on. Even though it was ridiculous to think so, he found himself believing the fox. Disregarding all else, she perfectly described what he’d felt for as long as he could remember. That burning, chilling desire.
He still wasn’t able to figure out one thing, though. Thinking to himself, “Maybe this fo—Skye is telling the truth… but that still leaves a question. Why me?”
Suddenly, Aden felt as though his skin was crawling, but couldn’t understand why. He disregarded the sensation in lieu of the current conversation.
He breathed deeply to expel the last traces of exhaustion from his face and put on a more serious expression than he’d been able to manage the entire day.
“Alright, I believe you… for now. Though, you still haven’t answered one thing. If I’m one of these Asteri people, why are we here and why did I spend my life as an orphan? Where were my parents? Shouldn’t there have… have been… someone?”
His questions were increasingly filled with emotion. Aden had long since abandoned thoughts of finding his parents. He was left alone as a baby with no witnesses as to who left him at the orphanage, seeming to have just appeared one day. This discussion dredged up things he’d repressed to the depths of his mind.
Skye opened her mouth to respond, but stopped herself with a troubled look on her face.
“Master’s parents, the previous heads of the family, are…”
Without finishing, she vigorously shook her head back and forth.
“They were killed a long time ago. I… can’t explain any more for now.”
Though he had no memories of them, Aden felt a deep loss. Like a pit in his stomach, it gnawed at him. He didn’t have parents after all… no, he used to. But he would never be able to meet them.
David launched into the conversation at this, “Can’t explain anymore? What’s with that!? Bringing us here, then refusing to explain it to us all the way!”
Levy was in agreement with David and nodded towards his words, looking at him then back to Skye.
During this, Aden realized there were a few pieces of information floating around the top right side of his vision that were entirely unique to the rest. Everything until now had all been a sort of ghastly grey color, while these were… red? The symbols were unintelligible and cryptic.
Focusing on them, everything but the red bits of information vanished from his view all of a sudden. Though he felt relieved most went away, it left him puzzled.
Skye was giving it her all to be polite towards the other two due to their relations with Aden, but unable to endure the rebuke, she snapped back at David.
“I wasn’t permitted to say more! This is something Master must go to the Anchor to learn of! And I was not the one to bring you here. That was due to a spell placed on Master when ‘it’ happened. As for you two being here,” she gestured towards both David and Levy with her muzzle, “that was an unforeseen side effect. The others were affected by it as well.”
As Aden was trying to digest the change in information, Levy seemed to realize something, “The… others…?”
Skye looked towards her, “Those near Master when the spell unraveled were caught in the rebound. You two as well as everyone else present when Master Awakened.”
Levy suddenly jumped up with a shout, “Wait, you’re saying other people were sent here too!? Rose, Delia, Amylin, Miss Bells, everyone… they’re all here? Are they safe!? Those Zealots—aren’t they in trouble then!?”
The shout dragged Aden back to the conversation, realizing what was just said.
Slightly slower to notice, it dawned on David as well.
Although Aden wasn’t too familiar with anyone in the classroom other than David, he naturally still worried for them. At least they had Skye helping them, the others would be alone. This realization caused the two to also worry.
Looking towards Levy, Skye responded, “Where the others went, I do not know. Seeing as how we are around a thousand kilometers off of the Anchor, I assume they were sent somewhere on this continent as well. As for the Zealots… they won’t be a problem. Their only concern is eliminating the Asteri family, as it defies their beliefs. Though the others will hold some traces of the spell, they’ve long since stopped actively searching for Asteri. For now, the only people in danger from them are—”
Inclining her head to the side, Skye cut herself off as her ears flicked towards the entrance to the alcove.
By now, the amount of red symbols in Aden’s view doubled. The only thing he could recognize from the mashup of information was a number that was getting smaller at an increased rate.
Standing up and flicking her tails, “Stay here. Something is outside.”
Skye silently bolted out of the alcove like lightning towards an unassuming tree. Shortly after, a loud cracking noise resounded through the area as the base of the tree’s trunk exploded into countless tiny shards.
One of the sets of red symbols disappeared from Aden’s vision.
Another tree exploded, but this time there were no changes to the mysterious red symbols.
Almost in unison, the three muttered unbelievingly, “What’s happening out there…”
After leaping towards the intruder, a small and sturdy four-legged creature that looked like a moving rock, Skye used her tails like a hammer to hit it with all her might by whipping it in front of her from the side, sending it flying at an unreasonable speed towards a tree’s base.
Needless to say, the tree exploded.
Instantly following her opening move, three more of the creatures appeared to her right. They bashed into her before she was able to land back on the ground, sending her flying towards another tree.
“These vermin,” quickly thinking to herself, “for my strength to have waned so low as this as to be injured by these low-class golems!”
Her face curled into a snarl as she neared the tree. Rearranging her posture, she oriented herself midair and pushed off of the tree like a pinball.
The tree fell over with another large cracking sound as it collided with other nearby trees.
As this happened, the three assailants scattered to avoid her but were just barely too slow to entirely dodge. Once again making use of the sweeping motion with her tails, two of the three were pulverized into bits of rock as the force left a small dent in the ground. The third used this chance to run towards the now-unprotected alcove.
“I won’t let you!”
For the third time in a row, Skye took off at an incredible speed by pushing against the remains of the golems.
The three left in the alcove could only hear loud noises resounding from outside.
Contrary to what Skye had told them, they all stood up and walked towards the entrance to see what was going on. When they looked outside, they saw something running towards them at high speed.
Aden finally realized it. This was what the red symbols were referring to!
“So that means that when those three parts disappeared, that fo—Skye got rid of them? But… why do I still have this feeling like my skin is crawling?” In this situation, Aden thought something that others probably would have put off for later.
Just after they saw the golem, it exploded as an artillery shell rammed into it—wait, no, that was Skye! The three gaped in astonishment at her speed.
Aden heard David mumble, “So cool…”
Walking away from the now-in-pieces golem, Skye looked towards the three.
“It’s dangerous, get back inside! These are normally sent in groups of ten, there should be six more somewhere!”
Levy noticed that there was some blood matting her fur on her right flank and her gait favored that side.
Looking at her side, “Pay it no heed. I need to get rid of the rest of them before they get away with our position! I don’t know who sent these scouts, but it won’t be good if they find out who we are!”
“Wait!” Aden stepped forward, “You said there were six more?”
“That can’t be right…” Paying attention to the red symbols, he counted them up. “There should be more than twenty, closer to thirty.”
This caused her to freeze. David and Levy as well just stared at him.
“Why do you say that, Master…?”
“I-I don’t know! I just think there should be that many somewhere over there,” he replied, waving his arm towards the trees. “And… something else.”
Though there was no logical reason for him to believe that, he felt it to be true.
Thinking in astonishment, “A domain? Master, did he inherit…?”
Before her thoughts went any farther, she stopped herself and went with Aden’s information.
“If that’s how it is we must leave, and fast! It doesn’t matter who sent them anymore, I can’t stop that many of them! Quickly, run!”
She urged the three to flee as she focused towards the area Aden gestured and strained her senses. She sensed some movement between the foliage and trees.
Noticing they hadn’t started moving yet, “This isn’t a game, hurry!”
Her tails stuck up as she bared her fangs towards the small golems in the distance.
“O-okay, let’s go!” Levy nudged the other two to get them moving.
Behind the rest, David caught sight of something shining within the pile of rubble. He quickly picked up what looked to him like a round jade crystal and tucked it away in his belt before chasing after the others.
In front was Skye and Aden, followed by Levy with David in the rear.
After running for a few minutes they all heard trampling noises coming from behind them.
“They followed us after all!”
Skye looked behind them and, seeing just as Aden had said, thirty of the creatures were chasing after them. Not only were they chasing, they were gaining on them as well.
The group of golems behind them split into groups of ten, two branching off to the sides while the last continuing to run straight for them.
“Tch! They’re trying to trap us in a pincer!”
Hearing Skye’s shout, they redoubled their efforts to run away.
This bought them another minute, though by now Levy’s breathing grew rough. David was used to physical exertions for long periods for taekwondo, Skye naturally had no trouble keeping up this pace even with being injured, and for some reason Aden also oddly felt fine.
Suddenly, Levy’s foot caught on a tree root that was sticking up from the ground and she tumbled, scraping her hands and legs badly on the rough roots.
She fought back tears from forming and endured it.
Being the closest to her, David helped her up from the mess of roots.
Pulling her up, “Come on, we have to hurry!”
Even though this only took a moment, that was all their pursuers needed to catch up. Skye dashed to David’s side just as one of the golems was about to crash into him, knocking it away.
The golems started to enclose them from behind the trees, moving ever closer to them in an ever shrinking circle.
“… Too late, they’re here.”