~ Chapter 105: The royal slave (Part 1) ~
[Alkelios' point of view]
“Fear me... You will die if you face me... You can't defeat me... You can't win against me...”
These words were like the whispers of an eerie breeze caressing the calm surface of a deep dark lake during a night with no stars or moons up in the sky, and only dead plants surrounding it. Their touch made the hair on my skin stand on its end, and the noise of life around me to vanish in an instant.
I could hear only my heart as it was beating fast, struggling to push the blood through my whole body so that I may not fall back or grow slower. Every cell in my body knew that whatever that thing was, whoever it was, he or she was not someone I could face right now.
It was a bit funny when I thought about it, but in essence I was a half-dragon with skills that could make any Breakthrough-er glare at me in envy. My power came from my friends, but my own strength alone was also something to consider.
There should have been very few if any native individuals at all on this entire continent who could face me in a fair battle. Only the other earthlings stood a chance of growing just as strong or stronger than me, all thanks to their astonishing unique skills gifted to them by the God-like, yet the chances of any of them being far more powerful than me were infinitesimal!
When I finally stopped running, I could see the gates of Mathias Town on the edge of the horizon. In my arms, I was carrying Ildea and Risha, while on my back hanged for dear life Kalderan. The gazes in their eyes were filled with worry and confusion. They didn't know what got over me, and honestly speaking, I barely knew that myself.
I placed them down, and they whispered my name, but I couldn't hear them. I looked at my hands and saw how they were trembling. The fear that thing woke inside of me was affecting me even now, but when I turned around I saw that it wasn't there anymore.
Whatever it was... is it gone now? I wondered and then looked back at my companions.
Kalderan was barfing on the side of the road, while Risha was patting his back, trying to help him recover. Tamara was looking back the way we came with her ears perked up and tail standing straight.
Ildea was the only one who remained and continued to look at me with eyes filled with worry. I didn't know where her concern for my safety came from, we had barely met, but nonetheless, it didn't feel so bad.
She hesitated at first, but when she took a step forward, she took my shaking hands into hers and asked me: “Alkelios, what's wrong? Are you alright?”
Such simple words, but to my heart that was beating faster than that of a scared little bunny, they were of tremendous help. They soothed me and washed away a big chunk of that uncontrollable fear, allowing me to take back control over my senses.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath in.
All that fear that was eating away inside me. That terrible sensation of being chased by something unfathomable, of being strangled by something overwhelming, I could finally, little by little, make it go away.
Every time I exhaled, more of that fear vanished, until finally, I could open my eyes and show the worried princess a gentle smile.
“I'm fine now, thank you.” I told her.
“Good... Now, tell us what the heck happened back there!” Kalderan retorted as he was leaning on his knees and wiping his mouth with a piece of cloth.
“We were worried, Alkelios. You weren't answering to our calls and even when I slapped you and then Kalderan punched you, you still didn't react.” Ildea told me.
“The look in your eyes...” Risha avoided my gaze “It was that of a desperate man who had succumbed to fear... It was the same type of eyes the people from my village had when they were running away from that monster attack... Fleeing with all their might, grasping at whatever little they could save, running away on pure adrenaline, not minding how much their bodies screamed in pain.” she held herself and closed her eyes as if trying to get rid of a bad memory.
Kalderan looked at her for a moment and then turned his gaze towards me.
“So what happened back there?” he asked in all seriousness as he got back up on his feat.
“I saw something...” I looked down.
“What?” Ildea asked.
“I don't know.” I shook my head “Something or someone, whatever it was, it was covered in a black fog that ate all the light that touched it and made every cell in my body scream out in fear. My instincts were shouting at me to run away, to flee from it. That thing... whatever it was, it was powerful enough to defeat me without so much as even trying.” I told them, but as I spoke, I felt that fear returning, forcing me to grab hold of my shoulders so that I wouldn't shiver.
“A black fog? I never heard of something like this.” Kalderan said as he furrowed his brow.
“Neither have I.” Risha added shaking her head.
“There might be something written about it in the Royal Library at the capital, but unfortunately, I can't say for certain.” Ildea said shaking her head “I wasn't one who was too chipper about reading books all day long.”
“This means that no one has even the foggiest idea what that thing was, and without asking it directly or the God-like who tossed us in this world, then our only bet is to find records of it in a book somewhere...” I let out a sigh and scratched the back of my head.
There was a moment of silence during which I thought about what could be done for now.
The thing was that, I didn't feel as though I had managed to catch this entity's attention in particular. If anything, maybe I was lucky enough to have escaped that place before I was spotted. Then again, if it did spot me and decided to attack me, I didn't feel as though I could do anything against it. No matter what I thought about and how hard I thought about it, there was nothing I could do to that thing.
I'm still weak... Certainly, not as weak as the vast majority of people living in this world, but not as strong as those who reign at the top. If there are other beings out there who are like the God-like or at the very least come close to his might, then I certainly can't be a match for them. If they hold enmity towards us, then can I even protect my family and friends against them? I thought and at this moment, I was hit by the uneasy feeling of being the frog at the bottom of the well.
When I looked up at the sky, I wondered just how big this entire world was. How different was it when compared to Earth and was there any alien contact with it before we arrived here?
These were questions that now laid heavily on my mind, but they were not enough to keep me distracted from what I had to do right now, which was returning to my wife's side. These questions could only be answered as time went by and as I explored this world more.
Tamara turned her head towards me and then back at the path we came from. She remained like that for another moment and then began to relax. I trusted this little feline's instincts, so I knew that whatever monster I saw back there, it was gone now.
To break the silence that fell upon our group, I said “Let's set up camp here for the time being and wait for morning to come. We can't enter the town now anyway, the gates are closed shut.”
“Sounds good to me.” Kalderan nodded.
There were still a good couple of hours until sunrise, and while I did want to stay up as a guard, my companions didn't even want to hear about it. Like a worried mother over her sick child, they sent me to bed. Kalderan took up the job of guarding our camp, and the two women watched me like a hawk to make sure I got some rest. Tamara coiled up next to my bed and closed her eyes.
As I slowly drifted to sleep, I thought back at Seryanna and prayed for her safety wherever she was. I didn't want to think what would happen if she were to meet that thing that sent me running with my tail between my legs.
My slumber was deep and voided of dreams or nightmares, which was probably for the best. When the sun's rays began to wash over the plains, I opened my eyes and got up. The others sensed my stir and woke up as well. The cold hard ground wasn't a five star hotel bed, so our bodies were more than happy to get off of it.
After a light breakfast, we made our way towards the Mathias Town. Then, at one point while travelling, Ildea pulled my sleeve to catch my attention.
With a shy gaze and a bit of worry that showed through her trembling lip, she asked “What... what do you think of Ten Swords Kingdom?”
She didn't bring up what happened to me last night. It was considerate of her, and I didn't mind having my mind focus on something other than the dark figure who scared the living daylight out of me.
After a moment of pondering, I looked up at the sky and told her “What I think of it? Well, it's definitely not on my favourite vacation spots list. I can't say I hate this country, but I don't like it either. Sorry.” I lowered my head and showed her a wry smile.
“Is that so?” crestfallen, her gaze fell to the ground.
“What about you three?” I asked the others.
“Nya~! Ten Swords has fish, so I like it. But Ten Swords also has slaves, so I don't like it.” Tamara replied in her simple way and then she shook her head, ruffling her fur.
“Political borders are the limitation of true freedom and progress, but only if applied between like-minded countries.” Kalderan's replied in a weird and vague way.
“What is that supposed to mean?” I asked raising an eyebrow at him.
“It means that I hate Ten Swords Kingdom! Among all the other awful stuff this country is responsible of, it also has the guts to try and restrain my freedom of travel!” he answered.
“Oh yes, you did mention at one point that the King of this place gave out a law that forbids earthlings from travelling abroad.” I said as I scratched my head.
Hearing him, Ildea made herself small next to me, looking down at the ground and holding tight to my sleeve. While these weren't the type of words someone born as a princess would want to hear, they were the truth. If she accepted it or not and then learned from it was another matter.
“I would like to say that I love this kingdom, but that would mean I would be lying to you, your Highness.” Risha said with an apologetic look on her face. “I'm sorry, but if someone offered me a ride on their caravan out of Ten Swords as soon as the first rays of Gaias touched the ground, I would probably accept it without looking back. Actually, this might be the biggest reason I want to stay around Alkelios and Kalderan.” she looked up into my eyes and continued “I see the possibility of starting my life anew if I am by their side.”
“I understand... This kingdom, my kingdom isn't all that great. I've seen how much people are suffering and how much everyone is struggling. It's not a fun place to live in when the commoner needs to work hard to survive while the noble lazes around all day long.” she said and looked up at me, but although she was smiling, there was a deep sadness in her eyes.
“Don't be a hypocrite, Princess Ildea, it's not as though you were never aware of these things.” Kalderan told her.
“What? But I...” she was surprised by his sharp words, but they told a truth with which even Earth was confronted with at one point.
“It's not a matter of can't or it's not possible, it's a matter of won't.” he scoffed.
“I don't understand.” she shook her head.
“When you say that you can't make a change or that it's not possible to make one when logic dictates otherwise, then you simply don't want to make that change or are too afraid to assume the consequences the said change might have on your life, be them good or bad. Can't and it's not possible are just an excuse which you use to hide your lack of courage to act upon a situation that deep inside you know you can do something about it not matter if you succeed or not in making a change.” Kalderan tossed words at her like a machine gun.
While the statement he made, on one hand, did sound true on the other it was probably too complex for the rest of us to fully understand. In my case, the words entered through one ear and flew out the other, while in Risha's case, her brain cells were starting to scream in pain from processing overload.
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
This is the first chapter after my break! 😀
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