~ Chapter 7: Father's advice ~
What was supposed to be a fun and interesting meeting turned out to be a roller coaster of emotions that strangled their hearts with barbed wire. Ryuciel's cold words raised a wall between them, one the boy didn't fully understand or know how to take down.
Alutras' thoughts were in disarray, none connecting to the truth he sought, for in his heart, he could only remember treating the dragon as a most treasured and important friend... a male friend that was.
To mistake her gender like this and for so many years too, he understood he had no excuse to cling to. He was a dense idiot... a fool of a master. That was it.
With a sigh escaping his lips, Alutras stopped in his tracks and looked at where he was. All around him was a dense forest that spread as far as the eyes could see if one were to look from the top a tree. Crickets in the night accompanied in their serenade the rustles of the leafs moved by a soft breeze.
“Great.... Now I'm lost!” he let out another sigh and kicked a rock.
He wasn't too worried about it. A normal child of his age would have most likely started to cry by now, but he was not one to get scared of such things. If he focused his senses on the biggest gathering of life force in that area, he would have certainly discovered the city. Of course, he knew how to differentiate between the energy of the trees and that of human beings.
Not in the mood to run back home just yet, Alutras began to wander through the forest at a slow pace, hoping it would help him clear his mind.
With his head down and kicking rocks on the ground, he looked just like an upset child who didn't get the toy he wanted, but when he released his sighs, he gave the impression of a depressed middle-aged man. Who could have guessed that out of all things, little Alutras had girl problems.
Technically, he was far too young to worry about such things, but this matter he got himself involved in were unrelated to the way his body reacted to the pheromones in the air. It was a matter of heart and soul, which far surpassed the restrictions of age. Inside, Alutras had the mind and soul of old man Shengo, for if he was just a simple child, he wouldn't have even bothered to go and see what Ryuciel was like from up close. Even his attraction to her initially could only be seen as his own soul being pulled towards her. He was mesmerized by her strength, while her beauty was perceived only by comparing her with the other women around. To say her beauty or sex appeal made his heart flutter would have been completely wrong.
Even though Alutras knew all of this, even if he understood why he reacted as he did, he could only wonder hopelessly why the two of them were reincarnated in the same age and city. The chances of this happening were very small. At least as far as he knew.
Eventually, his steps brought him to a small clearing in the middle of the forest. Although not very big in size, it was enough to allow one to gaze at a small portion of the sky if they sat down in the middle, which Alutras did. Spreading his arms and legs, he let out another sigh and with it, a powerful wave of intimidation. He didn't wish to be bother by neither beast or man, only the strong could approach, but if that were to happen, he would immediately know and flee from that spot.
“Where did I go wrong?” he asked himself as he gazed up at the sky.
Of course, she told him what he did wrong, he could remember her every word, but he couldn't understand how exactly he was able to reach such a ridiculous conclusion that caused his once best friend to suffer so greatly without him knowing.
The more he thought about it, the more it seemed like all the proof of this had been shoved right in his face, yet even then he didn't realize it and simply ignored it as 'unimportant' information.
“Was I that dense back then? I was, wasn't I? Argh! I'm an idiot! I even made Ryuciel cry!” he shouted.
Alutras felt like going back to the past and punching himself right in the face for the way he acted around her. Then again, he would have most likely ended up battling himself because he found it fun to have encountered such a foe.
His density back then was already beyond excusable, but what could he do? How could he make up for it? This was what he was trying to figure out now.
“A good start should be with remembering that legend... and her name. I highly doubt it was Old Fool, Dragon Buddy, or Old Geezer as I once called... her. Yeah, for a woman, those would be seen as insults, right?” Alutras thought, but the more he remembered how he treated her, the more he felt like crying.
If he realized she was a woman from the start, Shengo wouldn't have treated her as such back then. Although he was a man dedicated in heart, body, and soul to the practice of the Art of Soul and Divine Energy Control, he still knew how to behave with a lady.
Having the body of a child didn't really help him get a hold over his own emotions. On the contrary, he discovered that they were amplified without him doing a thing. Because of this, he kept on falling into despair as he remembered Ryuciel's crying face and the sound of her whimpers.
Unable to remember her legend and also her past name, Alutras decided to get out of the forest and return to his home. The night was also showing signs of coming to an end, and it would have been bad if his parents discovered him to be missing form his bed when they woke up.
Reaching the city was easy, and with half of the guards asleep or watching the streets instead of the sky, Alutras was able to successfully return to his home and slip into his bed. Thus, he resumed the role of a toddler. His family had no idea what he went through that night and probably would never do.
The following day, he was woken up by his mother and had his breakfast as usual. He spent his time as he did before, not showing a single sign of his adult mind. Another day came to pass and another, but no matter how well he played the toddler game, his mother still felt like something was wrong with him.
“I don't know, but I firmly believe something is bothering him. Sometimes, I notice a sad gaze in his eyes.” his mother, Tayana Zerun, said as she spoke in a whisper with her husband, Teorak Zerun.
The man looked at her with knitted eyebrows because he also saw the same longing gaze on his son's face. It felt unnatural for his young age.
“Maybe he saw something he wanted at the festival... but... he knows we can't offer it to him.” Teorak let out a long sigh.
“The diviner did say that he will never become an apprentice of the Art of Divine Energy Control. He will not even be able to reach the Copper One Pearl Rank let alone a Silver or Gold. He is just like us... normal.” Tayana showed a hurt expression.
Not being able to offer her child what he dreamed of or wanted was something any mother like her couldn't bare to experience, yet for poor commoners like them, this was a truth... a fact. Unfortunately, Tayana and Teorak were unaware of how special of parents they both were to think of this in a world where most people only saw themselves on the grand pedestal. Being simple commoners, they thought those above also held a similar way of thinking, but if this was true... why was Ryuciel living so far away from her own parents at such a fragile age?
Tayana and Teorak patiently waited for Alutras to tell them what was on their mind to comfort him then, but he never came through. Since he said nothing, they didn't pose any questions either.
Thus, the days of the festival came to pass, but nothing changed. Another week went by and then two months, but Alutras still found himself trapped in that state of mind, constantly spiraling around a question he found no answer to. Because of this, he ended up unable to focus on his own training and spent most of his nights running through the forest to clear his mind.
When others did not look at him, he was an adult that seemed to bare the whole weight of the world on his shoulders, but when their eyes fell upon him, he was just an innocent child, nothing more and nothing less.
In these whole two months, Alutras was able to reach some important conclusions.
For one, he couldn't remember the legend Ryuciel mentioned not matter how hard he tried. He most likely never payed any attention to it and it simply entered through one ear and came out the other. It did happen a really long time ago too, so it was to be expected that he would forget it.
Second, he realized that deep inside his heart, he really did care for the soul inside Ryuciel. At first, he thought his attraction to her was only because she resonated with him as his old dragon friend, but the more he thought about her, the more he felt his heart racing, and it hurt when he remembered her tears.
As a toddler, such emotions might seem unbecoming or unnatural for him, and they were if he was compared to others, but Alutras' soul and mind were not those of a child who didn't understand what emotions were, who could not separate the good from the bad. Alutras carried the soul of the 258 years-old Shengo... who so far proved himself to be a complete moron when it came to his past interactions with Ryuciel's previous incarnation.
But it was this pain he felt in his heart when he remembered her tears that kept him from thinking clearly as he usually did. This pain was what kept him awake at night and looked troubled during the day. He wanted it to be gone, cured, dissolved, but no matter how old his soul was and how much knowledge he possessed, he wasn't able to figure out why he felt like this. It was an unsolved mystery for him.
One day, as he was sighing endlessly while looking out the window, his father, Teorak, couldn't take it anymore and approached him.
After patting him gently on the head, the man asked “What is it, son?”
“Nothing...” Alutras replied and then let out another sigh, looking down at the people walking on the street, minding their own business.
“Your mouth says one thing, but your endless sighs seem to say another.” he told him with a smile.
Alutras looked up at his father and saw at first only a commoner without even a single breakthrough or a clue of what it meant to be a practitioner. How could this normal man expect to be able to answer all of his puzzling questions when he, a master of Soul and Divine Energy Control was unable to.
He let out another sigh, but this one with another meaning than those before.
Now I'm the one who is looking at father like all those idiots who know not any better... He thought.
“If you don't want to tell me, son, it's alright, but know that your mother and I are always here for you.” he patted him on the head.
Hearing these words made the young boy happy, even if he knew that his father probably had no way of knowing how he felt or why he felt like that in the first place.
Be it as it may, Alutras didn't see how it would hurt if at the very least he tried to confide in his parent. If he didn't, he would act exactly like those old fools who saw themselves as better than the rest just because they had a few breakthroughs.
“Father...” he began.
“Yes, son?” he showed him a smile.
“There is someone on my mind, whom I always think of. Not being close hurts my chest, but if she's too close and mad at me, it hurts even more... I don't want too be hated by her. I don't want to hurt her either...” he tried to explain with as few details as possible, so as to not give an elaborate explanation of how his energy resonated with hers at a subtle level and all sort of other practitioner information a child like him should not know of.
Hearing this, there was no way for the married grown up not to know what his reactions actually meant, but what surprised him the most was the fact that he had them in the first place. Normally, a child of his age would not think of such things. Toys, shiny things, and fun things were on his mind most of the time, then this stage would be followed by the desire to grow strong, and only upon reaching the age of 16 or more would he think about the beauty of women. For a four years-old to have his heart swayed by a woman... it was a bit unbelievable.
Even so, only one question was on the father's mind at that time.
How do I go about explaining the matters of love to my four years-old son?
His only mistake might have been that he didn't try to view it as the innocent love a child, but rather as that of an adult.
With a sigh escaping his lips this time, Teorak submerged himself in deep thought as he tried to come up with a suitable answer for his son. One that could be understood by him, a child.
When he was ready, he said “What you are feeling isn't a bad thing, son, but not something you can fully understand as a child either.... Erm, when you will become an adult like your father, you will know better what I'm talking about. What I can tell you, however, is that this girl you speak of, whoever she may be, holds a very important place in your heart, for now, just like your mother does for me.” he showed him a wry smile and patted him on the head.
“Like mother?” Alutras asked as he looked up at his father with big eyes.
“Yes, like your mother does for me. I won't bare to be too far away from her, and it always pains me to see her sad, but don't tell her this! I am still the man of this house, and my own pride would be hurt if she were to find out! I have to always be a strong and dependable man in front of her!” he said pushing out his chest.
“Is that so?” Alutras didn't seem convinced and tilted his head to the left.
“Yes!” he nodded “When you will grow up to be an adult, you'll also have a woman by your side whom you will cherish like the most prized jewel in the world!” he patted the boy's head gently.
There was more he wanted to say to his son, but he feared even this was a bit too much for him. Even though he tried to use simple and easy to understand words, in the end, he was talking to a four years-old child.
Unknowingly to him, be it an actual child or the old master Shengo, both would have had trouble deciphering those words.
What sort of foolish things is this man telling me? Alutras thought as he listened to him.
Either way, he nodded and told him in a polite tone of voice “Thank you, father.”
“With pleasure, son. But, out of curiosity, may I know the name of this young lady who made you feel this way?” he asked.
Alutras looked down for a moment as he wondered if it was alright to tell him the truth or not. In society's eyes, the two were leagues away, but no one forbade him to hold feelings of appreciation and admiration towards a star he may never grasp.
After he made up his mind, he replied:
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