When it came to mythical herbs in the World of Transition, some burned with more ferocity than the rest. With the rarer kind, all it required was a flame within inches of its surface. In a well-sized room, and atop a table at the centre, sat a wooden bowl. The vapours carried with it a pleasant aroma and a certain kind of magic. These herbs were the healing kind, powerful enough to manage even the direst of physical injuries.
An old man spread the vapours with his hand, his sapphire eyes wizened with time. He wore a long white beard and a moustache shorter in length. With a black kimono attired over a faded, white undergarment, it would have been easy for people from the other world to have mistaken him as Japanese. His features certainly attested to it.
In time, he had managed to heal almost every injury that Gale had suffered in battle. It was a recipe that took nearly a thousand years to master. When the boy awakened, he met a pair of gentle eyes in a man kind enough to help him sit upright.
Gale remembered little from his battle against Noah Oblique, the Relictan Lord that had beaten him to the point of near death. He rubbed his eyes, and slowly observed the man that now stood before him, frail in appearance but with a certain quality of strength.
“I am Zane Morgul,” said the man, introducing himself with a heavy voice. He pointed at Gale’s sword, placed in another corner of the room, sheathed in a scabbard of fine make. “It’s dangerous to walk around with a sword unsheathed at all times; I took the liberty to forge a scabbard befitting Bane.”
The name retrieved some of the boy’s memories, especially the decapitation. Then again, not one of the Relictan soldiers had survived to begin with. He looked at his hands; they were clean, and yet, the stench of blood persisted.
“You called my sword by a name,” said Gale curiously. “How did you come to know of it?”
“I have seen it pass hands many times, having lived as long as I have,” said Zane. “You’re a better fit than most.”
“I see,” said Gale, slow with his words. “Thank you for the scabbard.”
“I found you unconscious not far from the Relictan soldiers you had encountered,” said Zane. “It was not meant to happen, not within the Path of Wielders.”
Zane poured his visitor a cup of green tea. He served it alongside a plate of steamed buns; something Gale hadn’t encountered throughout his life in the other world. When the latter bit into it, a sweet flavour burst into existence, heightening its taste. Gale’s palate urged for more, and in that moment, the boy realized just how hungry he had been. He smiled, finding the tea just as exquisite in taste.
“Thank you,” said Gale. “This was a good meal.”
“It’s the least an old man can do,” said Zane. “Think nothing of it.”
As Zane cleared the table, Gale investigated the place that currently sheltered him. With shelved swords, lances, and shields of different type and origin, it looked more like a shop that the old man’s home. When Zane returned to take a seat opposite the boy, nervous energy overcame the latter.
“It may be rude of me to be so direct,” started Gale. “But I have some questions.”
“Anyone who ever visits this place for the first time always does,” said Zane. “I’ll try my best to answer them.”
“I’ll order them in terms of importance then,” said Gale with a nod. “First, is it normal for the Godvildian kind to not feel emotions of any kind?”
Zane eyed the boy with some curiosity; it was not a question he had expected. The old man stroked his beard and assessed the boy for everything he was worth. He made a mental note to discuss the matter with Aaron later.
“No,” said Zane. “As a Godvildian myself, I do feel different emotions. Everyone in this world does.”
“Intriguing,” said Gale. “Then, are there other races in this world similar to what I just described?”
Zane shook his head, affirming much of what Gale had suspected to begin with. It was a change that first began after his passing in the other world, his old one. In fact, it was probably the last time he had felt free enough to feel whatever it was his emotions demanded of him. He stared at his hands once more and noticed a mild tremble, wondering if his death had cost him his humanity also.
“And there is this odd thing I’ve noticed, about my getting stronger through battle,” said Gale. “Does this have something to do with Ehedus?”
“This realm maintains its balance by the presence of two warring gods,” said Zane. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are at war against each other. They derive their power from bloodshed and bless those that use their abilities in combat with greater strength.”
“I’d like you to expand upon that explanation.”
“You do know your questions, boy,” said Zane with a chuckle. “Mioverold, as this world was once called, formerly housed several races — some more powerful than the rest. What you see today would pale in comparison, and there are but three great races that call it home now.”
“Godvildian, Relictan, and?” asked Gale, following up on his own suggestion.
“The Noxun, worshipers of Bahä, a fierce kind with ideologies that we could never fully understand,” revealed Zane. “You’re right about the other two, and the Relictan, well, they are different.”
“How so?” said Gale, accepting a second cup of tea.
“It started with the Lords,” explained Zane. “Unlike the Godvildian or Noxun, the Relictan kind had several warriors that worshiped both Ehedus and Bahä. But they weren’t rewarded as kindly as we were. It eventually forced them to resort to something else altogether, something not very peaceful.”
“And that is?”
Zane raised an eyebrow, uncertain about the words that would follow. He had often restricted his explanations with those new to the World of Transitions. The silence grew to foster an odd sense of unease, but the boy refused to relent in his pursuit of information.
“Cannibalism,” said Zane, morbid in his expression. “They are known to eat defeated warriors; it helped them become stronger by means of theft. A treaty was signed after Godvildian interference; Noah’s appearance in the Path of Wielders, it could be interpreted as their unwillingness to stand by what was agreed upon.”
“I suppose that’s useful knowledge.”
Zane almost responded but caught something that held his tongue instead. Information about the Relictan soldiers, it was a revelation that would have startled most, and yet the boy sat untroubled.
“Say, do you have any other questions?” said Zane. “I have a feeling we might be a little short on time.”
“For some reason, that seems to be happening rather frequently,” said Gale, laughing aloud. “Just one more then, who is Bane?”
“I’m afraid I can’t say much,” admitted Zane. “Little is known about him, but the short description would define him as a spirit residing within the confines of your blade. Historians believe him to have been a powerful wielder from the olden times.”
“Is there anyone else who can help with more?”
Zane shook his head and noticed immediately that the answer had disappointed the boy. He quickly broke into a smile in an effort to comfort Gale.
“You needn’t worry,” encouraged Zane. “In time, the sword will tell you its story.”
While the conversation held promise of continuation, the sound of their teacups rattling against the table put it to an abrupt end. A violent rush of wind intrusively upset what was inside, and as the boy rose in preparation of what was to come, Zane raised his hand in protest. The latter directed the boy’s attention to the door, where two men stood, lightning and thunder behind them.
“I’m sorry about doing this without warning, Gale,” said Zane. “But your questions about yourself, they are best answered with experimentation. I believe that it was the case in your battle against Noah also.”
Despite the confusion, Gale could not help but agree with the insight.
“I’ve never seen a wielder fresh from the other world stand toe-to-toe against a Relictan Lord, let alone stand the victor,” continued Zane. “You could say that there are questions around you we would like answered ourselves.”
“And your impatience led to the idea of using me as a guinea pig,” said Gale without feeling. “Just tell me one thing, did I come here at a bad time?”
“I’m afraid so,” said Zane. “But trust me when I say that doing it this way was not our intention; it’s the quickest way to understand if your potential stands to aid us in what’s to come.”
Gale stood upright, strapping the sword that had come to become an extension of his body. He walked past the threshold, two men on either side, and looked back at the man that had rescued him.
“I never had a chance to ask,” said Gale from a distance. “Who are you?”
“Just an ordinary blacksmith,” said Zane with a smile. “Someone who hopes to see you again soon enough.”
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