The Polyglot’s Rune Ch. 10

The Polyglot’s Rune Ch. 10 has been released! I hope you enjoy this chapter. I had fun writing it.


On another note, is it just me or are my chapters slowly getting longer and longer? This one is around 4000 words.

 

The Polyglot’s Rune–Chapter 10: The Hail Faction

 

A blue haired man calmly yet powerfully strode forward. His expensive shoes clacked against the floor while his azure robe draped down his shoulders like a cape. Looking at Vaughn with his pale blue eyes, the man stroked his clipped beard while thinking to himself.

 

He must have found the ashen-faced egotist curiously attractive and strange.

 

As if finding his answer, the man’s skin began to glisten like small crystals under the sun. From his hand, ripples emanated into the surrounding area.

 

The atmosphere quickly grew frigid while mist coalesced into the air. At first the mist swiveled around the man, but then it slowly entered the hems of his blue robe.

 

His robe’s emblem, which was that of an unassuming white frog, glimmered softly in the mist, revealing the frog’s hidden grandeur. Although I was far from the man, the emblem’s image bore itself into my mind. Its poise was regal and wise while its misty-blue eyes were as celestial as the full moon.

 

Unlike the cow emblem which screamed of tyranny and ruthlessness, the frog exuded an air of tranquility and wisdom.

 

I think the Novice had a black silhouette on his robe… it was almost unnoticeable, like a shadow in the darkness.

 

“Interesting,” the man said, eying the shivering egotist. He spoke to no one as though speaking to others would be an insult to himself. “His robe is missing the rune to identify his strength, but he is definitely a Novice. He might prove useful to us.”

 

The Adept raised his hand.

 

One of the two heavily robed Novices walked forward. I had barely noticed them, as the Adept’s bearing had commanded my attention.

 

“Yes, Adept Ulric?” said the person who walked forward. He sounded very pedantic in his speech, but he had a Gnudeerian accent. His build was neither short nor tall, nor thick nor thin. Other than his red hair, he had no defining features. His face was very forgettable.

 

“Novice Leo, deal with the purple haired boy.” The Adept’s eyes did not turn to meet the Novice’s. He waved his sleeve through the air. “You two, gather up the Apprentices. If they haven’t broken through to the first star, leave them be. With this boy, we don’t need to search for another Novice. We will carry out our original plans.”

 

Novice Leo jumped onto the pile of stones, grabbed onto Vaughn’s wrist, and snapped a collar onto his neck.

 

“Hey!” the egotist struggled, pulling away from the man’s grasp. He bared his teeth at the man, but they looked too pretty and clean to be threatening.

 

The man smirked and waved his hand. A rune shone on the collar, but to his surprise, the light quickly faded from a white color to a pitch black. The collar shattered into many small fragments.

 

Vaughn smirked back at him with just as much mockery.

 

“A worthless black core,” the man said calmly, but his eyes seemed to have flickered for a moment. He reached forward to grab the egotist. Midway, he suddenly stopped and desperately pulled back his hand.

 

A gigantic rune flashed across the floor, and fifteen metal spears shot from the earth around Vaughn with lightning speed. They were slanted inwardly and met each other at the top, forming a cone-shaped cage.

 

Realizing what just happened, Vaughn’s eyes went red with fury. He clenched his teeth, and without thinking, he punched one of the spears. The pain he felt was written all over his face, but he hid it the best he could by haughtily sticking out his tongue. Gripping his own knuckles, the egotist diverted all his hate towards Novice Leo.

 

I was reminded once again about this egotist’s childish behavior. It had no limits.

 

“I have it handled, sire,” said the other green-robed man. He looked non-threatening and wore a gentle smile on his round face. With one hand held over his chest, he bowed to the Adept. Meanwhile, his eyes swept over Novice Leo.

 

Novice Leo returned a glare, inciting the bowing man. The smile on the man’s round face grew larger and his eyes colder. With a flick of his wrist, he summoned his soul rune and activated it. Small green speckles were released from his fingertips, and they sank into the floor like melting snow.

 

The ground viciously rumbled as more spears burst from the earth. They pierced into the blue sky, trapping each Apprentice in a cage.

 

Fifteen spears appeared around me. They blocked any means of escape and were so cold that they absorbed the nearby heat. They released a frigid mist that pierced into my bones like sharp needles. I moved my shivering arms closer to my chest. At least the cold dulled the pain of my broken arm.

 

“What do you plan to do with us?” I asked with chattering teeth.

 

“Kaiden?” Vaughn looked my way.

 

Now he notices me?

 

With a smile, the egotist breathed a sigh of relief, which was noticed by Novice Leo. He raised a brow at the boy.

 

Adept Ulric did not bat an eye. He looked at the man who had bowed to him.

 

“Novice Enoch, further decrease the temperature. That one seems to be a chatter box.”

 

Novice Enoch respectfully nodded. He lifted his right hand, pointed his index finger at me, and inscribed a rune into the air. The white symbol was complicated and too far away for me to read.

 

At completion, the rune flashed and grew to the size of about a meter in diameter. The dust on the ground stirred as a frigid gale traveled my way.

 

When it touched the metal spears, the already freezing bars became encased in ice. The cold, far greater than the mist, seeped into my skin, turning it blue. Frost formed on my white robe, and it sparkled in the light. I lost all feeling in my limbs.

 

I gulped, panicked that I might completely freeze.

 

Am I going to turn into an ice sculpture?

 

“Be quiet,” said Novice Enoch. He brought his hand down, dissolving the cold gale wind.

 

Warmth quickly returned to my body, and I wiggled my fingers in relief.

 

I would be stupid not to realize that these three men were part of the Hail Faction. Their runes contained the essence of ice, and their attacks were filled with a frigid cold.

 

The Adept spoke, “Thirty Apprentices in total plus a Novice to fill in for our fifth person. That should be enough fodder for the Legacy Trial. Bring them to the wagons. We’ll make our departure now, and we should be back within two months time.”

 

“Yes, sire.”

 

Novice Enoch orderly dispelled his metal spears, and Novice Leo put collars on all of us except for Vaughn. For him, he held onto my upper arm with great force and dragged me to the boy.

 

“No funny business or your friend turns into a block of ice,” he said in Gnudeerian.

 

“Let him go.” The egotist glared. His words were so compelling and enchanting that anyone who heard them would falter and obey. The Novice unconsciously loosened his grip, but then squeezed harder when he snapped from the trance.

 

“Didn’t I say no funny business?” Novice Leo said. He gripped my right wrist and activated his soul rune.

 

I tried to pull away, but his rune’s misty-colored strokes covered my skin, freezing my hand into a translucent ice crystal.

 

“No! Stop it!” Vaughn said. His face paled, and he looked away in defeat. His head lowered. “Fine. I’ll do what you say.”

 

The man released me, but the rune did not disappear. It continued to slink across my skin. It would eventually make itself up my arm and slowly transform it into ice.

 

“That’s a good boy,” said Novice Leo.

 

Vaughn scowled and gave him an ugly glare.

 

Without hesitation, the man grabbed onto my left arm, the broken one. Even though it was covered by my long white sleeves, he knew the injury’s location. He savagely dug his thumb into the fracture.

 

I yelled out in pain; Vaughn’s face to darkened.

 

“Novice Leo, don’t keep Adept Ulric waiting,” Novice Enoch called. He made his voice loud enough for the blue-robed Adept to hear. “Stop playing around. Put them in the wagon.”

 

Novice Leo did not dignify him with a response. He ushered us forward with a stern voice that revealed his annoyance for the other Novice.

 

“Hurry up,” he said as he pushed our backs.

 

Provoked, Vaughn could not keep his mouth shut. “You hurry up.”

 

Snap!

 

Eyes burning with rage, the Novice severely twisted my arm. I cried out in pain and cursed beneath my breath.

 

This egotist is going to be the end of me!

 

I could not tell what was worse: the pain from my broken arm or the pain from slowly being frozen. Both were caused because of Vaughn.

 

This must be what it means to have a sibling put you through hell.

 

In a strange way, it made me happy to fully experience the pain of having a younger brother.

 

“Get in.” Novice Leo shoved me into a caged wagon that had appeared earlier. It was large with thick black bars, and its wooden floor was covered in old hay. A dozen other people were already inside the cage.

 

The Novice signaled Vaughn to enter.

 

The egotist stepped in, but he was not willing to let himself be looked down upon. He puffed his chest out like a peacock and made some strange slurping sounds. Before I knew it, he had spat at the Novice’s face.

 

My face paled, and I really wished he would stop with his taunts.

 

“You’re going to regret that,” Novice Leo said through clenched teeth. The slobber dripped down his cheek, but was soon wiped away by the man’s sleeve. He slammed the cage’s door shut and angrily locked it with a key that he then dangled in front of the egotist.

 

“You’re going to regret it,” Vaughn said. His eyes were burning with rage.

 

A cruel smile formed on the Novice’s lips. He flicked his sleeve.

 

The collar around my neck lit up with a brightly glowing enchantment rune. It injected something that did not seem corporeal into my body. The strange substance washed through me and pulled at my inner soul.

 

“Behave and sit,” the man said.

 

I instantly plopped to the floor. Then, as though I was naturally controlling it, my body moved into a seated position. My legs were crossed, and my hands had placed themselves on my lap.

 

After a moment’s breath, the collar flickered twice and began to fade. I felt its power weaken, so I wiggled my arms. It seemed to strain the endurance of the rune; I tried moving my legs. There was resistance at first, but then I felt something churning within my stomach.

 

The rune shattered, and the collar crumbled into fine dust. I glimpsed some white strands wreathing around my neck.

 

In my moment of confusion, the egotist snorted as though he had expected this result. He held his chin high, mocking the Novice.

 

The man was frozen still. Only after a few seconds did he finally respond. His limbs began to shake and his pupils constricted.

 

“A pure white core,” he said. He mumbled something that sounded like an old saying; his voice was thin but shaky…

 

“The True Purities. One marks an omen. Two heralds war. Three foretells the apocalypse.”

 

Novice Leo’s eyes were filled with a profound fear. At any moment his trembling legs would collapse beneath him. His forgettable face now looked as pale as a ghost’s.

 

The Novice somehow mustered the courage to finally move. As though his life depended on it, he fled towards the Adept.

 

A protruding stone, which was left from one of Novice Enoch’s spears, tripped him. He fell to the floor and his green robe ripped. Ignoring his disheveled appearance, he scrambled to his feet. With hurried footsteps, he continued to make his way to the other wagon.

 

The Novice tripped for a second time.

 

Vaughn chortled at the superstitious man. He placed his face against the wagon’s black bars, hoping to see the man trip for a third time.

 

I peered over his shoulder. Novice Leo had safely arrived at the other wagon, but I could not get a clear view of the Hail Faction’s three members.

 

Pushing my head closer to the bars, I glimpsed a fourth person. He was wearing white and standing beside Novice Enoch. The person’s chin was held high and his eyes were cast downward. He looked extremely funny, especially because he was significantly shorter than the others. With rosy cheeks and a baby-faced complexion, he was at most fourteen years of age.

 

Someone patted the boy’s blue hair, and his chin raised even more. I was surprised his neck did not ache.

 

The egotist suddenly sniffled into my ear. I jerked and almost bumped into his head.

 

His violet eyes were large and moist, and I could feel his breath against my skin. He looked nothing like a prince or princess, not even an egotist.

 

“I’m so glad you’re fine.” His arms wrapped around me in an aggressive hug. It squeezed my broken arm, threatening to fracture it more. The boy buried his nose into my collar.

 

His soft warmth and affection made me blush. Before I knew it, I rubbed my cheek against his short hair. I hoped that he was bisexual and also liked men.

 

What am I thinking! Even if he does, he won’t have a reason to like me, and he is my little brother!

 

The willpower that I had unknowingly mustered to endure the crushing of my broken arm vanished.

 

“Careful,” I moaned in pain.

 

“Sorry!” Vaughn pulled away, face flushed red with guilt. He hurriedly grabbed my wrist without thinking and shoved back my sleeve.

 

His face scrunched up into a grimace; the injury was purple, and the arm was twisted into an odd shape. The sight thoroughly repulsed him. Slowly moving his hand, he jabbed the location where the bone had snapped. He knew no meaning of “gentle.”

 

“I recommend biting your robe,” he said, poking the arm again.

 

“What?” I asked, but he hastily secured my arm against his leg. His left hand held it firm.

 

“Ready?” Vaughn did not wait for my response. He savagely pushed against the broken arm; it snapped into place. A searing pain jolted through my body.

 

“That’s not how you do it!” I said, aghast at his methods.

 

“Stop being such a baby. Anyone else would be glad if I was the one to help them.” He placed his index finger against my bruised skin and scribbled the rune for “Mend.” He cast it a couple of times before admiring his “job well done” by incessantly pinching my skin.

 

Ignoring his antics, I wiggled my fingers and was relieved that I could bend them normally. Even the bruises were gone and so was the searing pain. My arm was back to how it once was…or was it?

 

I pulled my arm from Vaughn’s pinching grasp and stretched it out until it was pointing directly forward. I slowly twisted my forearm. There was a slight abnormality that caused the arm to be a little bent.

 

“I don’t think it healed correctly,” I said.

 

Vaughn gave it a single glance.

 

“Nobody can tell unless you point it out,” he said with a humph. “But, if it really bothers you, I can break it again. This time I’ll make sure it heals the way you want.”

 

“No, thanks,” I said, quickly pulling away from the vicious boy.

 

He smiled in triumph.

 

You! A little more care would be great.

 

Out of nowhere, he yawned and laid his upper body across my lap. He grabbed my left sleeve and, covering his neck and face, used it to keep himself warm.

 

His random actions thoroughly surprised me.

 

“How is your right hand?” he asked with a muffled voice.

 

“It still hurts a bit but the cold has dulled my nerves. As long as I don’t move it, it feels fine.”

 

“That’s good. Would you like me to chop it off? We need to remove the whole limb if you choose to do so. If you keep it, you will eventually freeze, but that Novice and a few others should be able to dispel it before that happens. It was just a soul rune of the Ice Curse variety.”

 

I sighed. “I’ll try to see if I can do something about it first.”

 

“Don’t!” Vaughn tugged at my sleeve, squeezing it with clenched fists. His tightly balled hands became a pale white. “Don’t do what you did before to open the palace door. That crimson rune…don’t ever cast it again.”

 

Almost imperceptibly, he sniffled. I wished that I could see his face.

 

He said, “You almost died last time, so promise me you won’t ever cast it again.”

 

Sheesh, I only fainted.

 

“I promise. I won’t do it, and I will not abandon you. I’ll become stronger to help you enact revenge.” Faintly smiling, I rubbed his head with my good hand. “You’re my little brother after all.”

 

“Bah!” He smacked my leg and pushed away my hand, revealing an angry frown. “Who said I was your little brother?! I’m older and more mature than you!”

 

“I did,” I laughed. His expression was so adorable that I could not resist myself. My left arm wrapped around his body, and my hand, which was placed over his breast, pulled him closer to my chest.

 

I felt nothing below my palm, but he squirmed and yanked my sleeve. He used it to both move my hand and hide his face.

 

“You’re evil,” Vaughn said.

 

“Why would that be? Because I laughed?” I poked his forehead.

 

He growled at me.

 

The wooden wheels suddenly screeched; I shifted forward.

 

“We’re finally moving,” I said, looking to the front, but the seats were empty. No one was guiding the two magical beasts pulling the wagon. They looked just like the mount that Matriarch Ruby rode, but significantly smaller. “There’s no driver for the cows.”

 

“You mean the Titan Bulls?” he said beneath my sleeve. “You can’t tell if anything is male or female.”

 

“Should I?” With a faint, wry smile I leaned over Vaughn.

 

I felt him fidget, but then he became deathly still. He did not dare to make a sound.

 

Did I go too far?

 

After giving him a small squeeze, I sat up to give the cross-dressing girl more room. He continued to lay silently in my lap.

 

The other people in the wagon were just as silent. They wore blank faces, but their eyes darted around in fear. A few gazes locked onto me and Vaughn, and they seemed strangely jealous.

 

One man looked familiar; he was tall and young with a slightly trembling body, but I could not recall where I had seen him.

 

“These people are pretty quiet,” I said.

 

“It’s because of the Slave Collars. They are a type of enchantment rune,” Vaughn said. “They are very difficult to break unless you are stronger than the controller or have a white, black, or cursed core.”

 

“So if I did not have a white core…”

 

“You would still be trapped and unable to move your body. You will be waiting for your next command like this bunch.”

 

“That’s horrible,” I said. “Should we free them? The Adept and Novices are with the other wagon.”

 

“Free them?” Vaughn snorted. “Some of them blew up our shack, and now you want to let them finish the job and kill you?”

 

“You have a point, but they look so pitiful.” My brows wrinkled.

 

“That’s why I didn’t seek revenge.” He nuzzled his face against my leg. “It’s good enough punishment for them. Let them be miserable.”

 

“That’s—kinda mean,” I said.

 

“They chose this life for themselves. Slave Collars are illegal to use on mortals, and so is the wanton slaying of mortals by Runists. By seeking out power, one must accept all consequences for becoming a Runist.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“It’s all common knowledge in this world.” Vaughn stuck out his head from under my sleeve. The lack of oxygen had made his face red. He gulped in a breath of fresh air. Hugging my arm, he continued.

 

“Mortals, regular people, non-Runists, the mundane… They are all terms used to describe the class of people who have not reached the 1-Star Apprentice rank. Through the agreement of all sects, schools, kingdoms, and guilds, it is illegal to harm them in mass quantity. This also includes hurting them through the use of Slave Collars, Mind Runes, Plagues, and Curses.

 

“No one knows who originally created this rule, and it has been in existence for as long as anyone can remember. It’s known as the Golden Rule, but people still break it from time to time. There are some exceptions, such as kidnapping mortals to join your group.”

 

“That’s funny,” I said. “In my world, the Golden Rule was, ‘Treat others how you would like to be treated.’”

 

Vaughn’s ears perked up. “That’s unexpected coming from you. So if someone stabs you, it’s fine to stab them back?”

 

“What? No!” I said. How did he come up with that?!

 

He pouted and retracted his head a bit.

 

“We have another common saying.” I rubbed his short hair, causing him to squirm. “It’s called ‘forgive and forget.’ When someone hurts you, forgive them right away and even forget that they had hurt you in the first place.”

 

“Kaiden.” Vaughn peeked at me from behind my sleeve. His violet eyes met mine.

 

“Yes?”

 

He stuck out his tongue. “Your mind is corrupted with shameless hogwash.”

 

“More like I’m a nice guy.” I smiled at his immature antics.

 

“More like soon-to-be dead meat.” He pulled my sleeve to cover the lower half of his face.

 

“Fine, fine.” I patted his head. “You’ll like this saying, ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold.’”

 

“What does it mean?” the boy asked. His eyes were on the verge of sparkling.

 

“Just as it sounds: revenge is more satisfying long after the initial grievance.”

 

“Is it?” he asked. His voice turned somber. “It’s been seven years since my mother died.”

 

I squeezed his nose through the sleeve, meaning to lighten the mood. He pushed away my hand, so I decided to give him some space.

 

Thinking about my own parents, I gazed into the sky.

 

The sun sank slowly into the west. Its rays, as if to show the world a dying smile, painted the sky in a wonderful river of pink and gold. Overflowing with emotion, the colors spread across the horizon, meaning to hug the land for one last time. The nearby clouds, bathing in this last shred of happiness, watched on quietly as the azure sky dimmed.

 

The sun disappeared beneath the earth. With no light, the sky gave in to an ominous violet and allowed the world to be swallowed in darkness. An eerie coldness threatened to tear apart the souls of all living creatures, but the stars soon flickered.

 

They shone with valor as they brought hope back to the somber lands. They blanketed the earth and promised to protect the sky until the sun returned. Under their light, the night turned as smooth as silk and as calm as the deep sea.

 

“It’s so beautiful,” I said, still gazing at the stars in the sky. They reminded me of the ones within my inner soul. They would flicker and make me feel as though they desired to tell me something.

 

“Yeah…” Vaughn replied with a dreamy sigh. “On nights like these, my mother used to tell me stories. She was one of those weird people who said it was the wish of the stars.”

 

My eyes widened. So I’m not the only one who feels that way about the stars!

 

He continued.

 

“I don’t believe in this tale, but that sadistic Novice does. It’s a myth that has been passed down from generation to generation. It has something to do with the superstition concerning the so-called True Purities. The True Purities is just a name for the three extremes among the special cores: pure white, pitch black, and true cursed. The story itself is called The Birth of the Crystal Mountains.”

The Polyglot’s Rune–Chapter 10: The Hail Faction

 

A blue haired man calmly yet powerfully strode forward. His expensive shoes clacked against the floor while his azure robe draped down his shoulders like a cape. Looking at Vaughn with his pale blue eyes, the man stroked his clipped beard while thinking to himself.

 

He must have found the ashen-faced egotist curiously attractive and strange.

 

As if finding his answer, the man’s skin began to glisten like small crystals under the sun. From his hand, ripples emanated into the surrounding area.

 

The atmosphere quickly grew frigid while mist coalesced into the air. At first the mist swiveled around the man, but then it slowly entered the hems of his blue robe.

 

His robe’s emblem, which was that of an unassuming white frog, glimmered softly in the mist, revealing the frog’s hidden grandeur. Although I was far from the man, the emblem’s image bore itself into my mind. Its poise was regal and wise while its misty-blue eyes were as celestial as the full moon.

 

Unlike the cow emblem which screamed of tyranny and ruthlessness, the frog exuded an air of tranquility and wisdom.

 

I think the Novice had a black silhouette on his robe… it was almost unnoticeable, like a shadow in the darkness.

 

“Interesting,” the man said, eying the shivering egotist. He spoke to no one as though speaking to others would be an insult to himself. “His robe is missing the rune to identify his strength, but he is definitely a Novice. He might prove useful to us.”

 

The Adept raised his hand.

 

One of the two heavily robed Novices walked forward. I had barely noticed them, as the Adept’s bearing had commanded my attention.

 

“Yes, Adept Ulric?” said the person who walked forward. He sounded very pedantic in his speech, but he had a Gnudeerian accent. His build was neither short nor tall, nor thick nor thin. Other than his red hair, he had no defining features. His face was very forgettable.

 

“Novice Leo, deal with the purple haired boy.” The Adept’s eyes did not turn to meet the Novice’s. He waved his sleeve through the air. “You two, gather up the Apprentices. If they haven’t broken through to the first star, leave them be. With this boy, we don’t need to search for another Novice. We will carry out our original plans.”

 

Novice Leo jumped onto the pile of stones, grabbed onto Vaughn’s wrist, and snapped a collar onto his neck.

 

“Hey!” the egotist struggled, pulling away from the man’s grasp. He bared his teeth at the man, but they looked too pretty and clean to be threatening.

 

The man smirked and waved his hand. A rune shone on the collar, but to his surprise, the light quickly faded from a white color to a pitch black. The collar shattered into many small fragments.

 

Vaughn smirked back at him with just as much mockery.

 

“A worthless black core,” the man said calmly, but his eyes seemed to have flickered for a moment. He reached forward to grab the egotist. Midway, he suddenly stopped and desperately pulled back his hand.

 

A gigantic rune flashed across the floor, and fifteen metal spears shot from the earth around Vaughn with lightning speed. They were slanted inwardly and met each other at the top, forming a cone-shaped cage.

 

Realizing what just happened, Vaughn’s eyes went red with fury. He clenched his teeth, and without thinking, he punched one of the spears. The pain he felt was written all over his face, but he hid it the best he could by haughtily sticking out his tongue. Gripping his own knuckles, the egotist diverted all his hate towards Novice Leo.

 

I was reminded once again about this egotist’s childish behavior. It had no limits.

 

“I have it handled, sire,” said the other green-robed man. He looked non-threatening and wore a gentle smile on his round face. With one hand held over his chest, he bowed to the Adept. Meanwhile, his eyes swept over Novice Leo.

 

Novice Leo returned a glare, inciting the bowing man. The smile on the man’s round face grew larger and his eyes colder. With a flick of his wrist, he summoned his soul rune and activated it. Small green speckles were released from his fingertips, and they sank into the floor like melting snow.

 

The ground viciously rumbled as more spears burst from the earth. They pierced into the blue sky, trapping each Apprentice in a cage.

 

Fifteen spears appeared around me. They blocked any means of escape and were so cold that they absorbed the nearby heat. They released a frigid mist that pierced into my bones like sharp needles. I moved my shivering arms closer to my chest. At least the cold dulled the pain of my broken arm.

 

“What do you plan to do with us?” I asked with chattering teeth.

 

“Kaiden?” Vaughn looked my way.

 

Now he notices me?

 

With a smile, the egotist breathed a sigh of relief, which was noticed by Novice Leo. He raised a brow at the boy.

 

Adept Ulric did not bat an eye. He looked at the man who had bowed to him.

 

“Novice Enoch, further decrease the temperature. That one seems to be a chatter box.”

 

Novice Enoch respectfully nodded. He lifted his right hand, pointed his index finger at me, and inscribed a rune into the air. The white symbol was complicated and too far away for me to read.

 

At completion, the rune flashed and grew to the size of about a meter in diameter. The dust on the ground stirred as a frigid gale traveled my way.

 

When it touched the metal spears, the already freezing bars became encased in ice. The cold, far greater than the mist, seeped into my skin, turning it blue. Frost formed on my white robe, and it sparkled in the light. I lost all feeling in my limbs.

 

I gulped, panicked that I might completely freeze.

 

Am I going to turn into an ice sculpture?

 

“Be quiet,” said Novice Enoch. He brought his hand down, dissolving the cold gale wind.

 

Warmth quickly returned to my body, and I wiggled my fingers in relief.

 

I would be stupid not to realize that these three men were part of the Hail Faction. Their runes contained the essence of ice, and their attacks were filled with a frigid cold.

 

The Adept spoke, “Thirty Apprentices in total plus a Novice to fill in for our fifth person. That should be enough fodder for the Legacy Trial. Bring them to the wagons. We’ll make our departure now, and we should be back within two months time.”

 

“Yes, sire.”

 

Novice Enoch orderly dispelled his metal spears, and Novice Leo put collars on all of us except for Vaughn. For him, he held onto my upper arm with great force and dragged me to the boy.

 

“No funny business or your friend turns into a block of ice,” he said in Gnudeerian.

 

“Let him go.” The egotist glared. His words were so compelling and enchanting that anyone who heard them would falter and obey. The Novice unconsciously loosened his grip, but then squeezed harder when he snapped from the trance.

 

“Didn’t I say no funny business?” Novice Leo said. He gripped my right wrist and activated his soul rune.

 

I tried to pull away, but his rune’s misty-colored strokes covered my skin, freezing my hand into a translucent ice crystal.

 

“No! Stop it!” Vaughn said. His face paled, and he looked away in defeat. His head lowered. “Fine. I’ll do what you say.”

 

The man released me, but the rune did not disappear. It continued to slink across my skin. It would eventually make itself up my arm and slowly transform it into ice.

 

“That’s a good boy,” said Novice Leo.

 

Vaughn scowled and gave him an ugly glare.

 

Without hesitation, the man grabbed onto my left arm, the broken one. Even though it was covered by my long white sleeves, he knew the injury’s location. He savagely dug his thumb into the fracture.

 

I yelled out in pain; Vaughn’s face to darkened.

 

“Novice Leo, don’t keep Adept Ulric waiting,” Novice Enoch called. He made his voice loud enough for the blue-robed Adept to hear. “Stop playing around. Put them in the wagon.”

 

Novice Leo did not dignify him with a response. He ushered us forward with a stern voice that revealed his annoyance for the other Novice.

 

“Hurry up,” he said as he pushed our backs.

 

Provoked, Vaughn could not keep his mouth shut. “You hurry up.”

 

Snap!

 

Eyes burning with rage, the Novice severely twisted my arm. I cried out in pain and cursed beneath my breath.

 

This egotist is going to be the end of me!

 

I could not tell what was worse: the pain from my broken arm or the pain from slowly being frozen. Both were caused because of Vaughn.

 

This must be what it means to have a sibling put you through hell.

 

In a strange way, it made me happy to fully experience the pain of having a younger brother.

 

“Get in.” Novice Leo shoved me into a caged wagon that had appeared earlier. It was large with thick black bars, and its wooden floor was covered in old hay. A dozen other people were already inside the cage.

 

The Novice signaled Vaughn to enter.

 

The egotist stepped in, but he was not willing to let himself be looked down upon. He puffed his chest out like a peacock and made some strange slurping sounds. Before I knew it, he had spat at the Novice’s face.

 

My face paled, and I really wished he would stop with his taunts.

 

“You’re going to regret that,” Novice Leo said through clenched teeth. The slobber dripped down his cheek, but was soon wiped away by the man’s sleeve. He slammed the cage’s door shut and angrily locked it with a key that he then dangled in front of the egotist.

 

“You’re going to regret it,” Vaughn said. His eyes were burning with rage.

 

A cruel smile formed on the Novice’s lips. He flicked his sleeve.

 

The collar around my neck lit up with a brightly glowing enchantment rune. It injected something that did not seem corporeal into my body. The strange substance washed through me and pulled at my inner soul.

 

“Behave and sit,” the man said.

 

I instantly plopped to the floor. Then, as though I was naturally controlling it, my body moved into a seated position. My legs were crossed, and my hands had placed themselves on my lap.

 

After a moment’s breath, the collar flickered twice and began to fade. I felt its power weaken, so I wiggled my arms. It seemed to strain the endurance of the rune; I tried moving my legs. There was resistance at first, but then I felt something churning within my stomach.

 

The rune shattered, and the collar crumbled into fine dust. I glimpsed some white strands wreathing around my neck.

 

In my moment of confusion, the egotist snorted as though he had expected this result. He held his chin high, mocking the Novice.

 

The man was frozen still. Only after a few seconds did he finally respond. His limbs began to shake and his pupils constricted.

 

“A pure white core,” he said. He mumbled something that sounded like an old saying; his voice was thin but shaky…

 

“The True Purities. One marks an omen. Two heralds war. Three foretells the apocalypse.”

 

Novice Leo’s eyes were filled with a profound fear. At any moment his trembling legs would collapse beneath him. His forgettable face now looked as pale as a ghost’s.

 

The Novice somehow mustered the courage to finally move. As though his life depended on it, he fled towards the Adept.

 

A protruding stone, which was left from one of Novice Enoch’s spears, tripped him. He fell to the floor and his green robe ripped. Ignoring his disheveled appearance, he scrambled to his feet. With hurried footsteps, he continued to make his way to the other wagon.

 

The Novice tripped for a second time.

 

Vaughn chortled at the superstitious man. He placed his face against the wagon’s black bars, hoping to see the man trip for a third time.

 

I peered over his shoulder. Novice Leo had safely arrived at the other wagon, but I could not get a clear view of the Hail Faction’s three members.

 

Pushing my head closer to the bars, I glimpsed a fourth person. He was wearing white and standing beside Novice Enoch. The person’s chin was held high and his eyes were cast downward. He looked extremely funny, especially because he was significantly shorter than the others. With rosy cheeks and a baby-faced complexion, he was at most fourteen years of age.

 

Someone patted the boy’s blue hair, and his chin raised even more. I was surprised his neck did not ache.

 

The egotist suddenly sniffled into my ear. I jerked and almost bumped into his head.

 

His violet eyes were large and moist, and I could feel his breath against my skin. He looked nothing like a prince or princess, not even an egotist.

 

“I’m so glad you’re fine.” His arms wrapped around me in an aggressive hug. It squeezed my broken arm, threatening to fracture it more. The boy buried his nose into my collar.

 

His soft warmth and affection made me blush. Before I knew it, I rubbed my cheek against his short hair. I hoped that he was bisexual and also liked men.

 

What am I thinking! Even if he does, he won’t have a reason to like me, and he is my little brother!

 

The willpower that I had unknowingly mustered to endure the crushing of my broken arm vanished.

 

“Careful,” I moaned in pain.

 

“Sorry!” Vaughn pulled away, face flushed red with guilt. He hurriedly grabbed my wrist without thinking and shoved back my sleeve.

 

His face scrunched up into a grimace; the injury was purple, and the arm was twisted into an odd shape. The sight thoroughly repulsed him. Slowly moving his hand, he jabbed the location where the bone had snapped. He knew no meaning of “gentle.”

 

“I recommend biting your robe,” he said, poking the arm again.

 

“What?” I asked, but he hastily secured my arm against his leg. His left hand held it firm.

 

“Ready?” Vaughn did not wait for my response. He savagely pushed against the broken arm; it snapped into place. A searing pain jolted through my body.

 

“That’s not how you do it!” I said, aghast at his methods.

 

“Stop being such a baby. Anyone else would be glad if I was the one to help them.” He placed his index finger against my bruised skin and scribbled the rune for “Mend.” He cast it a couple of times before admiring his “job well done” by incessantly pinching my skin.

 

Ignoring his antics, I wiggled my fingers and was relieved that I could bend them normally. Even the bruises were gone and so was the searing pain. My arm was back to how it once was…or was it?

 

I pulled my arm from Vaughn’s pinching grasp and stretched it out until it was pointing directly forward. I slowly twisted my forearm. There was a slight abnormality that caused the arm to be a little bent.

 

“I don’t think it healed correctly,” I said.

 

Vaughn gave it a single glance.

 

“Nobody can tell unless you point it out,” he said with a humph. “But, if it really bothers you, I can break it again. This time I’ll make sure it heals the way you want.”

 

“No, thanks,” I said, quickly pulling away from the vicious boy.

 

He smiled in triumph.

 

You! A little more care would be great.

 

Out of nowhere, he yawned and laid his upper body across my lap. He grabbed my left sleeve and, covering his neck and face, used it to keep himself warm.

 

His random actions thoroughly surprised me.

 

“How is your right hand?” he asked with a muffled voice.

 

“It still hurts a bit but the cold has dulled my nerves. As long as I don’t move it, it feels fine.”

 

“That’s good. Would you like me to chop it off? We need to remove the whole limb if you choose to do so. If you keep it, you will eventually freeze, but that Novice and a few others should be able to dispel it before that happens. It was just a soul rune of the Ice Curse variety.”

 

I sighed. “I’ll try to see if I can do something about it first.”

 

“Don’t!” Vaughn tugged at my sleeve, squeezing it with clenched fists. His tightly balled hands became a pale white. “Don’t do what you did before to open the palace door. That crimson rune…don’t ever cast it again.”

 

Almost imperceptibly, he sniffled. I wished that I could see his face.

 

He said, “You almost died last time, so promise me you won’t ever cast it again.”

 

Sheesh, I only fainted.

 

“I promise. I won’t do it, and I will not abandon you. I’ll become stronger to help you enact revenge.” Faintly smiling, I rubbed his head with my good hand. “You’re my little brother after all.”

 

“Bah!” He smacked my leg and pushed away my hand, revealing an angry frown. “Who said I was your little brother?! I’m older and more mature than you!”

 

“I did,” I laughed. His expression was so adorable that I could not resist myself. My left arm wrapped around his body, and my hand, which was placed over his breast, pulled him closer to my chest.

 

I felt nothing below my palm, but he squirmed and yanked my sleeve. He used it to both move my hand and hide his face.

 

“You’re evil,” Vaughn said.

 

“Why would that be? Because I laughed?” I poked his forehead.

 

He growled at me.

 

The wooden wheels suddenly screeched; I shifted forward.

 

“We’re finally moving,” I said, looking to the front, but the seats were empty. No one was guiding the two magical beasts pulling the wagon. They looked just like the mount that Matriarch Ruby rode, but significantly smaller. “There’s no driver for the cows.”

 

“You mean the Titan Bulls?” he said beneath my sleeve. “You can’t tell if anything is male or female.”

 

“Should I?” With a faint, wry smile I leaned over Vaughn.

 

I felt him fidget, but then he became deathly still. He did not dare to make a sound.

 

Did I go too far?

 

After giving him a small squeeze, I sat up to give the cross-dressing girl more room. He continued to lay silently in my lap.

 

The other people in the wagon were just as silent. They wore blank faces, but their eyes darted around in fear. A few gazes locked onto me and Vaughn, and they seemed strangely jealous.

 

One man looked familiar; he was tall and young with a slightly trembling body, but I could not recall where I had seen him.

 

“These people are pretty quiet,” I said.

 

“It’s because of the Slave Collars. They are a type of enchantment rune,” Vaughn said. “They are very difficult to break unless you are stronger than the controller or have a white, black, or cursed core.”

 

“So if I did not have a white core…”

 

“You would still be trapped and unable to move your body. You will be waiting for your next command like this bunch.”

 

“That’s horrible,” I said. “Should we free them? The Adept and Novices are with the other wagon.”

 

“Free them?” Vaughn snorted. “Some of them blew up our shack, and now you want to let them finish the job and kill you?”

 

“You have a point, but they look so pitiful.” My brows wrinkled.

 

“That’s why I didn’t seek revenge.” He nuzzled his face against my leg. “It’s good enough punishment for them. Let them be miserable.”

 

“That’s—kinda mean,” I said.

 

“They chose this life for themselves. Slave Collars are illegal to use on mortals, and so is the wanton slaying of mortals by Runists. By seeking out power, one must accept all consequences for becoming a Runist.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“It’s all common knowledge in this world.” Vaughn stuck out his head from under my sleeve. The lack of oxygen had made his face red. He gulped in a breath of fresh air. Hugging my arm, he continued.

 

“Mortals, regular people, non-Runists, the mundane… They are all terms used to describe the class of people who have not reached the 1-Star Apprentice rank. Through the agreement of all sects, schools, kingdoms, and guilds, it is illegal to harm them in mass quantity. This also includes hurting them through the use of Slave Collars, Mind Runes, Plagues, and Curses.

 

“No one knows who originally created this rule, and it has been in existence for as long as anyone can remember. It’s known as the Golden Rule, but people still break it from time to time. There are some exceptions, such as kidnapping mortals to join your group.”

 

“That’s funny,” I said. “In my world, the Golden Rule was, ‘Treat others how you would like to be treated.’”

 

Vaughn’s ears perked up. “That’s unexpected coming from you. So if someone stabs you, it’s fine to stab them back?”

 

“What? No!” I said. How did he come up with that?!

 

He pouted and retracted his head a bit.

 

“We have another common saying.” I rubbed his short hair, causing him to squirm. “It’s called ‘forgive and forget.’ When someone hurts you, forgive them right away and even forget that they had hurt you in the first place.”

 

“Kaiden.” Vaughn peeked at me from behind my sleeve. His violet eyes met mine.

 

“Yes?”

 

He stuck out his tongue. “Your mind is corrupted with shameless hogwash.”

 

“More like I’m a nice guy.” I smiled at his immature antics.

 

“More like soon-to-be dead meat.” He pulled my sleeve to cover the lower half of his face.

 

“Fine, fine.” I patted his head. “You’ll like this saying, ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold.’”

 

“What does it mean?” the boy asked. His eyes were on the verge of sparkling.

 

“Just as it sounds: revenge is more satisfying long after the initial grievance.”

 

“Is it?” he asked. His voice turned somber. “It’s been seven years since my mother died.”

 

I squeezed his nose through the sleeve, meaning to lighten the mood. He pushed away my hand, so I decided to give him some space.

 

Thinking about my own parents, I gazed into the sky.

 

The sun sank slowly into the west. Its rays, as if to show the world a dying smile, painted the sky in a wonderful river of pink and gold. Overflowing with emotion, the colors spread across the horizon, meaning to hug the land for one last time. The nearby clouds, bathing in this last shred of happiness, watched on quietly as the azure sky dimmed.

 

The sun disappeared beneath the earth. With no light, the sky gave in to an ominous violet and allowed the world to be swallowed in darkness. An eerie coldness threatened to tear apart the souls of all living creatures, but the stars soon flickered.

 

They shone with valor as they brought hope back to the somber lands. They blanketed the earth and promised to protect the sky until the sun returned. Under their light, the night turned as smooth as silk and as calm as the deep sea.

 

“It’s so beautiful,” I said, still gazing at the stars in the sky. They reminded me of the ones within my inner soul. They would flicker and make me feel as though they desired to tell me something.

 

“Yeah…” Vaughn replied with a dreamy sigh. “On nights like these, my mother used to tell me stories. She was one of those weird people who said it was the wish of the stars.”

 

My eyes widened. So I’m not the only one who feels that way about the stars!

 

He continued.

 

“I don’t believe in this tale, but that sadistic Novice does. It’s a myth that has been passed down from generation to generation. It has something to do with the superstition concerning the so-called True Purities. The True Purities is just a name for the three extremes among the special cores: pure white, pitch black, and true cursed. The story itself is called The Birth of the Crystal Mountains.”

© 2016 Noel Forte, All rights reserved.

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