The Polyglot’s Rune—Chapter 9: Ambush
“Well, you look dead,” a voice sounded from the doorway.
I weakly lifted my head from my pillow. Vaughn was haughtily standing there with his hands on his hips. His sudden appearance lifted my mood, but for what reason, I did not know.
Shaking his head, he looked down on me. “Is it those dead bodies? People die all the time, especially in large sects such as this one. You should get used to it. Many people do.”
What he said smothered my happiness, and I asked myself why had I even decided to accept this guy as my little brother. Of course, he did not know that I thought of him as a little brother. I just really wanted one.
“You should stay in here,” the egotist said. He pointed towards the closed door. “That fat girl was a 1-Star Apprentice and so was the other dead person, as evident by the single star below their robe’s emblem. You’re dead meat to anyone who can kill those two, so you should stay in the safe confines of this shack.”
I lowered my head.
I had killed those two. The thought put a nasty taste in my mouth and filled me with irritation.
Vaughn continued to comfort me, but it only made me feel worse. He talked about death, killing, and how it was perfectly natural. He even said I was acting like a little baby ignorant of the rules of survival.
“The strong eat the weak, and the weak eat the weaker, and the weaker eat—hey!” Vaughn poked me with the tip of his boot. “Are you even listening? I’m giving you a very important talk about this world. Anyone else would be happy if I gave them so much attention.”
He plopped down in front of me. “Don’t make me drag you outside and force you to stare at those corpses. I don’t even want to look at them; they are a bit gross.
“I’m a fan of clean killing.” He made a slurping noise as he dragged his finger across his neck. “Quick, easy, clean. That’s how I like it, not ‘shatter the skull and splatter the brain.’”
My face turned green.
“Are you going to stay wrapped up in your own little world?” He looked up at the ceiling. “Now I’m babysitting a little kid.”
“You’re the kid,” I said.
“Ha!” He smiled. “You responded to me. Now, do you want to know a secret?”
“You like killing?”
“What? No.” The egotist was aghast. “What makes you think that? I was trying to change the subject for you because I am a nice person–” His head jolted. “Did you hear that?”
“Must have been my imagination…” he said, trailing off at the end. “Back to the point, I was going to tell you what my inner soul looks like.”
“Blood?” I said with sarcasm.
“Not funny,” he responded with a scowl. He looked very insulted. “The inner soul is very sacred. You don’t go around making fun of it. Me saying that I’m going to tell you what it looks like is a very serious matter. In fact, you should feel proud of yourself.”
“Alright,” I said, slowly sitting up. I could not bare to allow him to start explaining why I should be proud and honored to have him tell me about himself. It would worsen my mood by reminding me about how pathetic I am….
I could not stop myself from killing those two people.
Vaughn smiled, his spirit uplifted. “One condition: you need to tell me about yours.”
“If it’s so sacred, people shouldn’t ask about them.”
“T-that…” he stammered, slightly blushing. “So what! I can do what I want.”
Under his childish revolt, the turmoils of murder seemed to wash away like blood in the pouring rain.
Is this a result of his soul rune?
“I’ll tell you,” I said. I had no reason not to; he was the only family I had.
Vaughn’s eyes widened, and he said, “My inner soul is a forest of black pillars. Directions are completely skewed to the point that I can’t tell which way is which. Each pillar can be stood on as though it was the ground, so neither up nor down can be identified. At times the pillars cross, creating a giant maze. Even I don’t know its path.
“It took me a long time to find my soul rune. I had a sudden burst of enlightenment and discovered that the pillars themselves were its strokes. If someone hadn’t told me that black-core soul runes usually have odd shapes, whether it be super curly or very angular, I might not have come to my realization.”
The egotist scratched his head in embarrassment. It must have been his first time being modest.
His eyes flickered to the side. A moment passed, and he muttered a few words under his breath.
“Did you hear something again?” I asked, looking around the room. All seemed normal.
Vaughn slowly closed his eyes as though he was deep in thought.
After some time passed, I called out to him.
“Yes?” He lifted his head.
I made a guess. “My inner soul is an endless night sky filled with a countless number of flickering stars.”
Vaughn raised a brow. “You entered your inner soul?”
His eyes filled with disbelief, but I could tell that he believed me.
“And your soul rune?” he asked. “There’s no way you could have found it.”
“I did.” I smiled. “It was hidden inside of me and exploded outwards. When it happened, I reached out to it, and all of the stars shot towards it. They temporarily fused, and my mind felt an unprecedented clarity.”
His mouth went agape, and the corner of his mouth twitched.
Are you surprised that someone as untalented like myself can do something right?
I nodded with pride. Seeing his reaction, I was sure that that place had been my inner soul.
“My soul rune compressed into a little white teardrop and entered my head. Then the stars returned to the endless night sky. Following that, I woke up.”
“Y-you,” he stuttered. “You already fused with your soul rune? That makes you a 1-Star Apprentice. Any subsequent advances will be followed by a burst of increased strength.”
“Are you proud of me?” I asked.
“Sure….” he said, but he turned his eyes away. “Make sure you don’t tell anyone about anything that has happened. It is extremely important that you listen to me. Do not tell anyone.”
“Why would I?” I asked. It was him who liked bragging.
“You are innocently ignorant of everything.” Vaughn stood up. He walked towards the door. “For example, do you know what it means if the person who killed those two let them go?”
He pulled open the door and pointed outside, but…
I gasped; I felt that my eyes were deceiving me.
The whole doorway was sealed by long, flat stones stacked on top of each other. No sunlight peaked through; it was as if someone buried the shack beneath the earth.
Oblivious, Vaughn shook his head in disappointment. “Death is not that horrifying. You need a serious crash course about what is normal. This–”
Vaughn turned, and I imagined that his violet eyes bulged from his head. He stuttered then panicked. He placed his hands against the cold stones blocking the entrance. His fingers fumbled against its surface as fear welled inside him.
He pushed, kicked, punched….
The egotist looked as helpless as a worm flailing in the mouth of a bird. Veins appeared on his forehead as he strained his muscles to budge the stones. He desperately kicked the barricade one more time.
He yelled, “THIS is what it means to let someone go! RETRIBUTION. I should have camped longer at that eavesdropper’s house. What a COWARD! Picks a fight with me, runs away, hides in his house…no backbone!”
The boy puffed in rage and, using his two hands, helplessly smacked the stones. His eyes turned puffy.
He must really hate being confined.
“What about the window?” I said, walking up to its broken pane. It was completely clear, not barricaded in any way.
“STOP!” he shouted, but it was too late. I had touched the sill, and when I did, an inconspicuous stone rune flashed. The window swung open.
The lanky, yellow-eyed man from before suddenly stood up from below the pane. His mouth flashed me an evil grin as he tossed something small through the window. He quickly dove away.
The oval object lobbed through the air, clacked against the floor, and ricocheted off the wall. It skipped a few times before coming to a stop in the center of the room.
My eyes rested on the small object. It was a gray stone with “Rune-Pulse” engraved into its surface.
The rune flashed with a bright light and a runic sphere exploded from its surface in shocking speed.
It slammed into me with the might of a raging rhinoceros. I hit the wall behind me and heard a sharp snap. My left arm bent in a strange angle.
Vaughn helplessly slammed into the barricade, which finally gave way under the force of the rune.
It obliterated the window’s last bit of glass into a million shards while a crater formed where the rune activated.
I yelled out in pain; the hurt of my broken arm finally registered.
The destructive power of a single, common stone rune amazed me, but I was most surprised by myself. My body had completely defied physics, and I did not become a dead pancake.
Dust filled every corner of the shack, cloaking everything in a brown fog. I coughed once…twice…as I slowly stumbled my way to the doorway while cradling my broken arm. I bit into my bottom lip.
To be slammed through a pile of heavy stones must have caused Vaughn some serious injuries.
I quickened my pace, and light pierced through the dust as I exited the shack. Gulping fresh air, I coughed once more.
A loud roar rang out, blowing back the dust. It shook the surrounding area with its voluminous rage. It affected everything that heard it.
A strange emotion spun through my mind.
I felt deep shame as if I had done the most heinous of crimes to the greatest love of my life. It made me feel insignificant, like an ant begging for forgiveness. My legs wobbled. Even my mind fogged and I forgot where I was.
Suddenly, a sensation radiated from my inner soul and stomach. It traveled up my body and through my throat. It reached the center of my forehead and suppressed the emotions I had felt. Its touch was as soft as a mother’s caress.
As soon as my senses cleared, I heard many voices.
“I’m sorry! Forgive me!”
“It was their plan; they made me do it!”
“Have mercy my love!”
A group of about two dozen people prostrated themselves in front of the shack. Some looked familiar—two twins, a decently handsome arrogant man, and a lanky person with yellow eyes. The others were all new faces.
The disciples ranged from all ages and each wore a white robe. Only the leader—the arrogant man who had pulled me from the shack that one time—donned two stars on his robe. Everyone else had at most one star.
Tears formed in their eyes, and their wails reached up to the sky. It filled the area with despair and sorrow.
In the center of their encirclement was a pile of stones. Beneath them, angry curses sounded, threatening to enact revenge. Under their onslaught, the stones trembled in fear. The topmost ones rolled and crashed to the ground.
With a loud heave, a large rectangular slab was lifted into the air. Beneath it, Vaughn stood upright, holding the stone above his head with his delicate arms. It loomed over everything, threatening to crush the group of people.
The egotist’s eyes were aflame with hatred. He scoffed and looked down at the prostrating disciples who had incurred his wrath. They were far beneath him, he must have thought.
I had never seen anyone angrier than this graceful, yet vulgar, young lady. If I ever told anyone that he was in fact a princess, they would laugh at me and claim that I had been dropped on the head as a baby.
“All of you are going to pay for what you did!” In his rage, Vaughn forgot that he spoke Gnudeerian. “I will make sure you suffer a million times. You dared to kill my friend!”
His concern and anger for me moved my heart, but I did not know whether to laugh or cry. Other than my broken arm, I was perfectly fine.
With another heave Vaughn tossed the rectangular stone at the leader. It soared through the sky like a cannonball.
Sensing the impending danger, the man snapped from his mindless trance of forgiveness. His eyes widened, but he managed to roll to the side. The stone grazed him before crashing into the ground.
With a quake, it broke apart the already cracked road and awakened the other disciples. Reasoning returned to their eyes, and anger flushed their startled faces. They hated the egotist as much as he did them.
“You arrogant brat! We’ll teach you your place in the world—bowing down and licking my feet!” the leader yelled, his eyes glowing with hate. The other disciples joined him in his hollering.
Vaughn haughtily laughed at their sudden uprising. He could not understand what they said, but he felt their intentions. He cast his eyes downwards at the disciples. A devious smile formed on his lips.
The egotist unleashed a tangible killing intent into the area. It crept down the back of my neck, causing a shiver. The surrounding group faltered; some staggered back in fear without the willpower to fight.
Watching their helpless charade, Vaughn grabbed a long oval stone and hoisted it onto his shoulder. He was ready to appease his hate by crushing someone.
The yellow-eyed man, whose knees were buckling from fear, desperately tossed a rune at the egotist. It lobbed toward him, but not fast enough.
Vaughn pivoted on his left foot. The massive stone resting on his shoulder hit the rune, sending the small rock flying. The weight continued to pull on the egotist, and he entered an elegant spin to balance himself.
The stone rune banged into a nearby shack. Flashes sparked as a different rune appeared on the wall and held the stone in place. In protest, the small object bounced back.
The nearby disciples gasped in fear. Diving desperately to the floor, they cursed at the lanky man through clenched teeth.
The stone flashed and its rune expanded into a sphere of about five meters in diameter. The pulse displaced enough air to push me back a bit, but those who were closer to the rune suffered greatly.
They were hit by the expanding force and flung away.
Some disciples crashed into the nearby shacks that were protected by enchantment runes. Their bones snapped sharply and their skulls cracked. Blood smeared the walls as the robed figures slid limply to the ground, never to breathe again. With a flash from the enchantment runes, the blood vanished.
Some unlucky disciples, including the lanky man, skidded against the rough floor. Their skin was scraped off, and their bodies twisted into strange shapes. Bones peeked through their flesh. They left behind a light trail of blood on the cracked road.
The gruesome sight caused all the surviving disciples to glare viciously at Vaughn. Their hate bore down on him, but the egotist was unaffected.
He gracefully completed his elegant spin. In total he spun four times before stopping. He let out a hearty laugh, but light tears formed in the corner of his eyes. His killing intent vanished, but he tried his best to hold onto his composure.
“All of you are dead meat,” he said, blinking away his tears. His eyes dulled, and he looked as worn out as someone who had lived a thousand years.
“This is interesting,” said a bored voice.
I jerked my head to the left.
The green-robed Novice was standing next to me, nibbling on a blue carrot while his muddy-colored rune floated gently around his body.
We were so close that his soul rune brushed against my shoulder. The touch felt as cold as death despite the sleeve covering my skin.
“You should run back into your one-room house,” he said nonchalantly. “The Hail Faction is coming.”
As he turned away, a stroke unknowingly brushed against my leg. It froze me in place, stopping me from responding to the Novice. That single strand, which was so translucent that it was nearly impossible to see, had felt boundlessly warm.
My inner soul pulsed.
Unaware of my shocked state, the Novice walked away in gentle strides.
What was that?
“RUBY INSECTS!” A booming voice shook the buildings and bore into our minds. The great force held us still; even Vaughn crumpled under its will. Dropping the large stone, he fell to his knees. No one uttered a peep.
A pair of lofty footsteps broke the silence.