The Polyglot’s Rune—Chapter 12: Mocha
Something squeezed my nose.
“Stop it,” I mumbled, whacking it away.
“Wakey, wakey.” It pulled my cheek with vigor.
A person stared blankly at me with violet eyes. He wore a light frown, but his delicate features, highlighted by the rising sun, still showed an endless beauty. If his lips smiled, who knew how many hearts would stop.
“Kaiden, you can’t sleep forever,” Vaughn said.
The memories of last night came back to me: the old man, the woman, the demon, and then the crow. It had charged at the man, but then what?
I could not recall.
“Did I fall asleep last night?” I yawned.
Vaughn’s expression soured. “Yes you did.”
I straightened my sore back, which had been leaning against the wagon’s black bars. A bone popped.
“What happened next?” I asked.
“You mean the story I was telling you?” His face darkened.
He humphed. “Why should I tell you? You fell asleep.”
The boy turned his body, obviously throwing a tantrum. I was beginning to feel that his childishness knew no bounds. No, I already felt it.
“I’m sorry for falling asleep.”
“You need to do better than that.” Vaughn lifted his chin a bit; his flat chest puffed. His egotism, too, knew no bounds.
“I am very sorry.”
“The story was very interesting. I would like to hear more of it.”
“I will become your servant and do whatever you tell me to do,” I said. I was used to following orders and being bullied. It had long since been engraved into me. For all I knew, Vaughn already saw me as his slave.
He beamed and his smile grew extremely large. Creepy.
“Since you insist, I’ll let you be my servant,” he said smugly. “A giant crystal mountain was created by an old man. It was made of pure magical essence and many creatures, magic beasts and humans set their greedy eyes on it. There was a huge war, almost everyone died, and the mountain collapsed into many smaller mountains. The ruins formed the Crystal Mountains. The end.”
“That can’t be it.” I shook my head. “It makes no sense and has nothing to do with the three special cores.”
“Sure it does. In his boredom the old man tried to create life. He succeeded and made three people with broken soul runes. That was the beginning of the black, white, and cursed cores. Those three people were hated by nature and the world, so misfortune constantly befell them. Because of them, people looked greedily upon the old man’s mountain.
“After the war, the old man scribbled something about the coming of the Three Purities. The message is in a cave at the very center of the Crystal Mountains. That cave has become sacred as a reminder to never be greedy and is called The Heart of Haven.”
“What about the crow?” I asked.
“The crow…” he pondered, “that is also an auspicious symbol of bad luck. People in Hartebeest believe that it is an evil, vile creature.”
“Are you still angry that I fell asleep?” I raised a brow.
He only smiled. “You are my lovely servant. Why would I? I am a good person.”
“For some reason, I don’t really believe you.”
“Well, that’s not my problem.” He looked away. “Hurry up and train. I need you to get stronger. You are useless right now.”
“And I do that by?”
“Meditation?” I was skeptical. How could meditation make someone stronger?
“Spiritual energy fuels our strength and is used to cast runes. It can be improved through meditation.”
“That seems too simple.” My chin tilted.
“Trust me, it’s far harder than you think. You need to control the energy, circulate it within your body, move it through your soul rune, taint it with your soul, and make it completely yours. You need to meditate as much as you can.”
“How is that meditating? Meditating should be relaxing and stress free.”
Vaughn shook his head at my ignorance. “Meditating is looking into your inner soul. Once there, you train.”
“I guess I’ll just believe you then,” I said.
“Why are you still talking? Hurry up and meditate! Even I need to meditate and taint my soul. I think having an element would be fun,” he said, leaving me in the dark about many things.
“Ice!” A figure landed on the caged wagon, shaking the bars and startling the people within. It was the boy who had been raising his chin so high that he had looked extremely funny. I raised my brows; he was far too jubilant to be the arrogant person I had expected him to be.
“You should taint it with ice! Ice is nice,” the boy said.
Vaughn narrowed his eyes.
“Wait just a second.” The boy grinned as he lay on top the bars. He pulled out a few stone runes from within his white robe and closely inspected them. “Let’s see… Ah, here it is!”
He held up a red stone, and Vaughn’s glare intensified with murderous intent.
Humming, the boy turned over the inside of his collar, which had three stone runes pinned to it. One was glowing with a faint white light. He gave it a small touch, making the light vanish, and his amber core disappeared along with it.
Cutting his finger, he bound the red stone and pinned it where the other stone once was. It glowed with a faint green light.
Somewhat relieved, Vaughn mumbled beneath his breath, “Rich snob.”
“Okay, you should be able to understand me. No pretending that you don’t. This is a Language Rune.” The boy smiled at Vaughn, inciting a glare.
He said with a blush, “You are very handsome, yet girly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those strange people. Nice haircut. I like it. It’s disheveled but stylish.”
“Strange people?” I asked. Is he discriminating against gays?
“Yeah!” He nodded, still ignoring Vaughn’s glare. If looks could kill, the boy would have died a million times over. “That’s why I came over here. I’ve heard about guys who liked guys, but I didn’t think they existed. Now I have met you two. You guys are funny.”
“I’ll gut your throat.” Vaughn stood up angrily. His teeth were clenched.
“Wait, slow down!” I said, trying to pacify Vaughn. I looked up at the boy. “There is nothing wrong or strange about being gay. It is perfectly normal. A lot of people are.”
“Lots?” the boy asked, his head slightly tilting.
Vaughn gave me a funny look.
I shook my hands in defense. “Not to cause confusion, I like women, but I know a lot of people who are gay. Trust me, it’s normal and you shouldn’t be ashamed if you are. Cross dressing is fine too.”
But this is a different world…cultures could be different.
“I’m a straight guy,” the two said in unison. They glanced at each other; the boy’s eyes sparkled. He must have fallen in love.
Strangely, I had the feeling that the boy was a girl just like Vaughn. Straight or not, I could not tell; the egotist’s soul rune could make almost anyone fall in love with him.
“Why don’t you run back to the other wagon?” Vaughn asked through clenched teeth. “We’re bad luck.”
“I don’t want to be with those superstitious, old geezers.” The blue-haired person pouted.
Should I use male or female pronouns for this person?
I scratched my head.
When did I even determine that Vaughn was gay or that he preferred male pronouns? I think I’m missing something very important…
“If you be a good little boy and leave, I’ll think about giving you a kiss,” Vaughn said in an extremely sweet voice. There was no doubt about it; he had activated his soul rune. Ironically, he once said he hated it.
The small person’s rosy cheeks turned crimson red, but my gaze drifted to the hay that lay on the wagon’s floor.
Hmm, I thought Vaughn was strangely manly when I first met him.
“Th-th-that…uhm, uh…y-y-you…” the blue-haired person stuttered nonsensical sounds.
But then, he struck me as feminine. Right now he seems extremely masculine. So surreal. Is something messing with my head?
“Don’t tell me, you are in love with me?” Vaughn snickered.
“No!” The person clenched his or her fist. I looked them up and down.
This person is the same way, but should little boys seem this masculine?
The egotist flipped his hair. “There is no reason for you not to love me. I’m perfect, and you know it.”
I asked, “Are there runes that make women give off the impression that they are men?”
They both stiffened.
“No!” Vaughn shouted. He turned and held up a hand to hide his face.
“The aura obscuring runes can do it.” The blue-haired person wore a forced smile.
Vaughn was my little brother, so I stayed with male pronouns. The other person, I gave female ones.
“Why do you ask?” Her pained smile twitched.
“No reason,” I said. The two disguised females relaxed, baffling me in their gullibility. And people called me naïve.
The girl rattled her tongue with a large smile, “You should use the ice element. It’s a sub element of water. It’s refreshing too. Hey, can I come join you two in there?” She yelled over her shoulder. “Hey! Nocky! Let me into this cage. And, no, I do not want your opinion. That’s an order. Let me in!”
“If you come in here, I’ll gut you alive,” Vaughn said. Once again he glared.
The bars to the cage suddenly twisted. It created a gap large enough for the girl to fall through, and once she did, the bars moved to their original position, closing off the hole.
“Get your dirty little fingers off me!” Vaughn yelled.
The girl had landed beside him and took the first moment that she could to hug him. Just like a monkey.
“You smell nice. You feel warm too.” She buried her head into his shoulder, not caring about any consequences.
“I do not mingle with perverted commoners. You are a Five-Star Apprentice. I am a Novice.” He pushed the girl away. “Prepare to die you little twerp.”
“Wait–” I quickly grabbed the egotist’s arm. He really was too straight forward and rash.
“Haha! Listen to that Mundane! He knows more than you. What did you think would happen if you attacked me? This whole cage is mine.” Laughing, she pointed to the other captives. “You slaves, move to the corner and give us more room.”
They did not budge.
“You are a baby.” Vaughn smirked.
The girl shouted towards the other wagon, “Leo! I said, ‘You slaves, move to the corner and give us more room.’”
This time, they stood up, crowded to the far end of the wagon, and sat down.
“You are worthless without that Adept and his two servants. Who is he, your big brother?” Vaughn wore a pug smile.
“No, he is my dad, and he needs to do whatever I tell him to do. Grandpa loves me more than he does him.” The girl grinned.
I shifted in my seat.
“Shouldn’t you be careful, then? What if he disposes of you so he would become the new center of attention.” He narrowed his eyes at the girl.
“You are a Gnudeerian. You do not understand familial love nor the bonds between lovers and friends. You only know of the existence of your bloodline. If you have many children, you can abandon them whenever and wherever you want. As long as one survives you will be happy. It does not matter if you hate or love that child.”
The egotist clenched his teeth. He had nothing to say. I, to be frank, was confused.
The girl stood up proudly. “We Appenhundians value loyalty the most. Lovers, friends, family—all are important to us. The strongest in our group, regardless of who it is, will become the leader. My grandpa loves me, and my father dotes on me. You’re just jealous.”
Vaughn laughed. “Loyalty? The Cowzer Sect is known for its fratricide. You are an ignorant child.”
“It wasn’t always like that!” The girl, no longer wearing her jubilant smile, stomped her foot. “It was built on loyalty. The six heroes came together and determined that each would lead the sect. Hail, Cowzer, Tempest, Blaze, Shade. Because of their friendship the Cowzer Sect flourished and became the strongest sect in the Continent of Haven. Even now, it is still the greatest.”
“It’s falling apart.” Vaughn laughed.
“It was completely harmonious until ten years ago,” the girl almost yelled. “Even if Matriarch Ruby was wild, rambunctious, and always caused trouble, it was a type of bittersweet love that all the Grandmasters shared.
“So what if the Outer Districts were in turmoil. It weeded out the weak and built the foundation of the essence of teamwork. The five Inner Districts had acted as brothers and sisters.”
“Sounds like a bogus story of the past,” Vaughn scoffed. “I will give the Cowzer Sect one more year before it collapses.”
The girl lowered her head and looked at her feet. Her boot ground a piece of straw. “Maybe you are right. The Hail Faction is scrambling to obtain its Legacy Rune. Without it, we are ranked the weakest of the factions.”
The egotist wryly smiled, but I butted in before he said something hurtful.
“Can you heal my arm?”
Dispirited, she shook her head and motioned at Vaughn. “No. We need his help. I can’t do that.”
“Okay.” I leaned against the bars. Being a hostage should not be too bad.
Vaughn thought otherwise. He clenched his teeth, and guilt stung him like a burning stake. His face told it all.
“You are a bastard,” he said.
“He will be fine for two months. Novice Leo made sure of it,” she said, her voice flat.
My brows wrinkled. I patted the hay next to me and said, “Sit here.”
Vaughn gaped. “What?!”
“Huh?” The girl froze, but then nodded and sat down. She said, almost wistfully, “I don’t have any friends my age.”
“I’ll be your friend.” I smiled at her.
Vaughn waved his arms. “Remember what I told you yesterday? Dead meat! You are going to be dead meat.”
“He is right,” the girl said. “The Hail Faction has no use for a Mundane.”
“He’s not a Mundane. He is an Apprentice,” Vaughn spat.
“Then he will definitely die. No Apprentice has ever returned from the Hail Faction’s Legacy Trial.”
My eyes drifted, and I scratched the back of my head. “Can we talk about something happier? My name is Kaiden.”
“Don’t tell him your name!” Vaughn clenched his teeth. I was an alien, he must have thought. “They captured us, tried to enslave us, and now they are going to kill us. What gives you the urge to ask your tormentor to be your friend and to give them your name?”
The girl laughed at the egotist. “I’m called Mocha.”
“Your actual name.” Vaughn narrowed his eyes.
“Bastard.” He scowled.
“If I want to be called Mocha, why can’t I be called Mocha? I don’t like my name. It’s lame.”
“It can’t be that bad,” I said.
She fiddled her thumbs. “Fine. It’s—”
Clank! The girl raised her brows.
From above the caged wagon, Adept Ulric looked down on us. His face was serious, and he sent me and Vaughn a somewhat haughty glance.
The wagons creaked to a stop.
“Dad–” the girl said.
“Emberfell, they’re coming. Protect yourself well.” The bars parted a little bit, and the Adept dropped a white robe into the cage. Then, he jumped down the wagon’s side. He stood poised, scanning the greenish-brown grass that towered over the plains.
“So soon?” the girl said as she scrambled into the new robe and transferred her three stone runes to it. The new robe had the emblem of the Ruby Faction. She pulled its hood to hide her blue hair.
“Your name is Emberfell?” I asked.
“Kaiden.” Vaughn slapped my arm and looked into the distance. His fingers nervously tapped against his knee. “Get ready to flee the first chance we get.”
“That sounds fun. May I join you two? My name is Mocha,” the girl said, her face once again jubilant.
“And we are ditching the boy,” he said.