Fiery rose by Zyada, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Zyada 

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I leave my bed and check up on Lee in the new room he requested for the children he brought along. They were soundly asleep. Isla was down the hall way taking a short glance at me and continuing whatever she was doing. Selsie stayed in the room to look after Lee, as she always does when I checked on them. She’s gotten really attached to him.

Now outside, the crowd still passing by and some even looked drunk or sober enough to head to the next bar. Ignoring them, I walked to the center of the city and head inside a magic shop. Freyer was at the counter helping out a customer and I signaled to her with my hands.

“Oh, hey Zeyl,” she said. “Did you forget something?”

“No,” I said, and drag her into the back room where Lee had made the deal with her before. I thought the deal was fair myself so I didn’t stop him.

“Whoa, easy there.”

“You need to think about leaving the city,” I told her.

“What’s this about?”

“There is going to be a war,” I said.

“With what countries?” she asked knowing fully well that war is always going on somewhere in this world.

“Every single one of them,” I said in a serious tone, but Freyer just takes it as a jokes and laughs.

“…You’re serious?” she asked, and the atmosphere grew tense. “I-I can’t just up and leave, you know? What’s going on anyway?”

“I don’t understand it myself,”  I said. “There’s something strange going on in this world and I’m sure other countries have noticed it by now.”

“Like what?”

“…”

“Tell me, please,” she begged.

“…We found strange buildings and people..”

“What do you mean? Who are these people? Are you sure it’s not some weirdo using magic?”

“They were all dead when we found them. We didn’t recognize what country they belonged to and what’s odd is that these people and buildings appeared out of thin air. No magic residue left to suggest magic was involved. There are also lands of ours that have gone missing. I’ve already observed this happening in the surrounding countries.”

“…”

“Since Sharia is allied with us..”

“… you came to warn us, I understand.”

“I’ve already told the military general of Aria and completed my mission here,” I said.

“And what about the boy you brought with you?”

“He’s Talician, I’m sure a noble family in Aria will take him in should something go seriously wrong. His family crest is also an open winged bird. That means that under Talician law, they have to take him in.”

“We’re in Aria, not Talica,” said Freyer. “They have no reason to follow such a law.”

“…”

“And here I was thinking you’ve grown attached to him,” said Freyer.

“…” I stayed silent for a moment. “He’d be executed the moment he enters Dahramn, so I can’t take him with me. You know how they are with Talicians.” I get up and ready myself to leave.

“Then he’ll likely die in this city,” said Freyer, and I open the door.

“Help him get a cheap house in the meantime and if something happens…”

“I’ll do what I can.”

“Thanks, you’ve been a good friend, ” I told her with all honesty. We’ve known each other for a decade now.

As I walk out I hear Freyer’s last words. “You should leave the military…”

I sighed.

* * *

Back at the Inn, Isla was just outside my room door and she turns to me when she hears my footsteps make their way upstairs. I’ve known her ever since she was around five years old and she has been helping around the Inn since then. Now there is only one thing bothering me. I ask Isla to take me to her personal room so that I can have a chat with her. She nods and accepts me into her room all the way at the end of the hallway. Inside there are no windows unlike the ones in mine and it is rather small and almost claustrophobic in here. She lets me take a seat by her small desk and we begin our conversation.

“How may I be of service, Master Zeyl?”

“I just wanted to say that you should take care of yourself since I will be leaving early tomorrow morning.”

“Won’t you be returning next year, as you always do?” she asked.

“No, this will be the lat time I return to Aria.”

“And Lee?”

“He’ll stay in Aria and do as he wants,” I said. “I’m not his mother so I can’t force to do anything.”

“He trusts you,” said Isla. “I’m sure he’ll do whatever you ask of him.”

“…”

“Master Zeyl?”

“Also,” I said, “I’m sorry.”

“… It’s fine,” said Isla knowing exactly why I was apologizing. “Twenty gold is a large sum. Not many people have that kind of gold siting around, and I’m sure you didn’t see this coming.”

“Still, after getting berated by Lee, I felt a bit shitty,” I explained, and Isla laughs.

“Yes, he’s fun to be around because he acts mature for his age,” she said.

“And that’s not all, is it?” I asked, and she returns an expression of guilt for a moment.

“While I did think of trying to persuade him to buy me, since he is a young lord, a runaway at that,” she said. “I couldn’t go with it. Imagine me.. I couldn’t even try to persuade a child, but even then, in the short days I’ve known him… I think that he would have been a good master if I actually succeeded.”

“You’re usually not this hesitant,” I said. “What kind of contract are you in?”

“… It’s a blood contract,” she said, “and if I Lee did sign it, he might have died in the process… It’s one of the reasons I couldn’t go through it. Pretty useful for a brothel, don’t ya think?”

“If you did I would have killed you..” I said jokingly, Isla smiles.

“I know..” she said,” since you treat him like your own child and bare your fangs at strangers when it comes to him. Which leads me to questioning how exactly you met the young lord?” I get up from my seat and head for the door.

“He was sleeping under an elder root tree..” I left the room and Isla waves me goodbye.

* * *

I go back into my room and check my belongings. I’ve  replenished my food rations for the trip back and replaced some worn out tools and rags. With that out of the way, I head for bed. Just thinking about how crazy the trip has been I fail to get much sleep.

When I wake up, it’s some time after the early morning. I overslept. I get up from my bed and go check up on the room next to mine and find that Lee wasn’t in there. Sophie and Kahl were sound asleep and seemed a little happy.

I at least want to say goodbye to him before I leave. Downstairs now and I meet with the Isla as she was cleaning the first floor.

“Isla,” I said, and she turns to me. “Have you seen Lee?”

“No, Ma’am. I just started cleaning a few moments ago,” she said and she continues cleaning from the bottom stairs up until she gets to the second floor hallway.

I walk up the Inn owner, who seemed a bit concerned over something and hand him my key.

“You look troubled,” I said to the owner.

“No,” he said, letting sweat drop down his forehead. I walk out the Inn and look in both directions. Lee either went to class or went to do something else. Just in case, I walk to the center of Aria. The crowds of adventurers, merchants, and simple tourists plaugued the streets.

After sometime I felt a tug on my coat and am grabbed from behind. I look back and in the crowed of people walking by I met with Freyer.

“Zeyl,” she said, “I wanted to ask you something.”

“What?”

“Oh, were you just about to leave Aria?” she asked, glancing over at my bag.

“Yes, but what was it that you wanted to ask?”

“Ah, Lee,” she said. “He came into my shop about thirty minutes ago asking for an advance on the payment for his magic stone.”

“Why?”

“That’s what I wanted to ask you, he seemed bothered and left suddenly after I gave him the gold. Of course, I also raised the finder’s fee by five percent..”

“How much?”

“”Five percent?” she asked. “Why? What’s wrong?”

“How much did you give him?!” I yelled and this startled Freyer along with some walking by.

“T-Twenty,” she said. “You should have passed by him a few minutes ago.”

I started running back to the Inn, but the crowds of people made it harder to move in. Some even seemed as if they were intentionally getting in my way. By the time I made it to the inn… I was too late. Lee finished signing the paper inked in red, he looks back to me and my eyes widened.

“I bought Isla,” he said with a smile and he couldn’t be any happier. A second later and he falls on his knees and expressed his confusion by looking at me as if asking ‘what’s going on?’

Smoke started coming from his right arm as I quickly made my way to him. I held him close.

“Argh!” he yelled as letters were slowly being burned into his skin. I know what’s going to be written, and there’s nothing I can do about it. On his arms, the two words are complete.

Aril Islahn

The contract is complete. Isla’s full name runs down Lee’s arm as proof of ownership in a blood oath. I look angrily at the Inn owner and he trembles away to the backroom until I can no longer see or hear his bastardly breathing. I look back to Lee, who was shaking in pain now and trying to keep it from showing.

I hear from behind me a person falling a few steps from staircase.

“Zeyl,” said the voice. I look back to see Isla down on the floor as a trail of smoke flowed from her arm and even more from her back. “You should take a look at this..”

She gets up and walks to me with a slow pace and enduring the pain of the engraving. She removes a portion of her upper clothing, revealing of parts skin from neck to the back of her hand and it shows Lee’s full name running down her arm.. along with an engraving of a phoenix, his family crest, burning the first layer of her skin with intensity and completing the crest that now the back of her hand.

Liel Oliver Charles Lician

A last name exclusive to the Royal Family of Talica. I then notice my hands shaking and my breathing becoming heavier by the second.

“It isn’t possible.”

End

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