Before Adam knew it, a few months passed by! He had been busy learning to cope with the Spirit Sight and he could now finally move around without getting sick! He would still get a headache after using it for a few straight hours, though. At least he could now finally spar and train normally with the others! Unfortunately, though, Adam had yet to make any more progress as a Spiritualist. He just couldn’t seem to control any other Formations!
Adam treated this with a slight detachment: ‘It would have been cool to learn how to actually be a Spiritualist and fling fireballs around, but at least I can more or less see now.’
Adam met up with the others for the morning training. This time, though, something seemed different. Hansen had a wooden sword held in each of his hands! Excitement spread through Adam and the others; “Are we finally going to start learning the sword!?”
“Shut it, all of you!” Hansen quieted them down.
“Today starts the next phase of training. But you must first prove yourself! Adam, step forward.”
Everyone was confused about what Hansen meant. Adam tentatively stepped forward and Hansen gave him one of the wooden swords. Without saying a word, Hansen stepped back a few paces before readying his own wooden sword. Adam quickly readied his own sword as Hansen advanced at him! Hansen harshly struck the sword out of Adam’s hands while yelling: “Why are you holding that sword!?”
Holding his stinging hands, Adam gave a frightened: “W-what?”
Hansen merely gestured at the wooden sword on the ground: “Pick it up.”
Adam shakily grabbed onto the wooden sword as everyone else looked on, dumbstruck. Hansen once again advanced on Adam, yelling: “Why are you holding that sword!?”
Adam’s wooden sword was once again struck out of his hands. Adam’s mind was in turmoil as he tried to figure out what was going on, but then he remembered the meeting where Hansen revealed his past. He wouldn’t teach them unless they had the conviction to hold the sword!
Adam thought: ‘He isn’t asking why I’m holding this wooden sword, He’s asking why I want to wield the sword!’
Without waiting for Hansen to tell him, Adam picked up the wooden sword on the ground. Turning to Hansen, he said: “I never want to be helpless again! That night, I lost both Emilia and my dad. If I was stronger… maybe something would have been different! I want the strength to protect my friends and family so something like that night never happens again!”
“Are you ready to kill if it means saving them?”
Adam hardened his resolve: “If I have to.”
Hansen nodded: “Pass the sword on.”
After Adam’s display, the rest now had an idea of what was going on. Adam passed the wooden sword to Alfred, who stepped forward with mild confidence. Just the same as with Adam, Hansen quickly advanced while yelling: “Why are you holding that sword!”
Alfred ineptly tried to deflect Hansen’s attack that he had anticipated. However, the wooden sword was still knocked from his hands. As he bent to pick up the sword, he said: “I want to be strong enough to protect someone. She… her parents were killed by kidnappers. By accident, I had discovered the house where the kidnappers were keeping the kids a few days before that happened. If I had been able to escape, instead of being captured by them, her parents would still be alive. I want the strength to do what I feel is right!”
Hansen nodded: “If it had just been for the girl, I would’ve kicked you out. Next!”
Alfred quickly handed the sword to someone else before Hansen could change his mind. In truth, it was still mostly for the girl that Alfred wanted to do this. Luckily, there was a little more to it than just her.
Next up were Bruno and Clyde. It turned out that they had an ideal that they wanted to live up to. Their father had been a soldier, and he had firmly instilled the idea that the strong should protect the weak before he died in a skirmish between Heider and Luxom. The two of them wanted to follow in their father’s footsteps and become soldiers! To become someone strong who would protect others, like their father!
Derek, on the other hand, initially tried to beat around the bush and not give a real reason. After his hands started to bleed from having his sword knocked out of them so many times, he finally told Hansen his real reason for learning the sword; “I don’t want to become like my deadbeat father! He constantly got drunk and ended up beating my mom to death! I want to be strong enough to make a living on my own and protect the family I will eventually have!”
Hansen responded to this: “Keep your resolve strong.”
Franklin had it tougher than Derek. He came right out with saying: “My parents were killed by muggers. That man saw me as a helpless and weak child, so he let me live. I don’t want to be that helpless again!”
“...I need something more than that.” Hansen replied.
Hansen continued to force Franklin to pick up the sword over and over, without telling him anything more. Franklin finally screamed: “What more do you want from me!?”
“An image of strength. You merely seek to no longer be helpless. You don’t need a sword for that, so why do you want it!” Hansen replied.
Franklin sat on the ground, silent. Hansen was just about to give up on Franklin when he suddenly spoke: “I know I’m not as strong as the others. But they are my friends and I want to stay with them! If we end up joining the army, or even just becoming guards, I know they will be ones who will push themselves to the front! They will need someone to watch their backs, I will be that person!”
Hansen stared deeply at Franklin, who started to fidget: “Being the rearguard is the most dangerous position. More than just learning the sword, you will have to improve your perception. It is from behind, that the enemy will often try to sneak up and strike from! Pass the sword on!”
Franklin was ecstatic that he had finally passed Hansen’s test. The last of Adam’s circle of friends to be tested was Kadara. She was the only girl to stick with the training this far. As Hansen advanced on her, Kadara took a different approach than the others. Instead of trying to block and withstand Hansen’s blow, she danced around and dodged it! Hansen was rather impressed, she was the only one to not lose hold of her sword! As she danced around Hansen’s strikes, she said: “I want to become a mercenary! I want to live my life my own way, I won’t become a weak domestic wife!”
As she finished her declaration, Kadara stopped moving. She thought she was done, but Hansen continued and directly hit the sword she was holding loosely in her hand! Kadara cried out from the surprise as Hansen said: “There are many paths to escape being a domestic wife. If that is all you desire… forget the sword!”
Kadara picked up the sword with gritted teeth; “Perhaps, but only if I become a mercenary and join the Silver Saviors will I be able to kill bandits! No one should live under the influence of those putrid creatures!”
Hansen was actually surprised by the determination Kadara showed! More than even Derek, a sense of hatred seethed through her. There was obviously a story behind it, but it also showed Hansen what he wanted. Nodding, he said: “Work hard.”
Adam put his flute down with a sigh: “This just isn’t working!”
Catherine merely tutted at this: “It took you awhile to change the Spirit Essence Formation in A Spiritualist’s Path, it will also take you a while to change this Wind Formation into something you can use.”
Adam shook his head: “I’ve been slowly getting this feeling, but the two are completely different… I don’t know that I can learn a Formation like this.”
Catherine frowned: “What do you mean?”
“It’s the feeling I get from them. I don’t know if it makes sense, but the Spirit Essence Formation feels more like it’s simply inviting Spirit Essence to follow along.”
Catherine nodded her head: “That particular formation is more about directing the natural flow of Spirit Essence around you into your soul, rather than putting it to a certain task. Its complexity is rather simple. What about the Wind Formation?”
“That’s just it, I feel that the Wind Formation is commanding all the Wind Essence around to do something! My music can easily invite Spirit Essence, even people, to listen to it and follow along! However, I can’t command anyone with my flute alone! It just doesn’t have the force behind it that the Formation has.”
Catherine shook her head: “But it’s not just the flute you should be using! Remember, you can start gathering Spirit Essence to form your Spirit Sight by merely thinking of the song. No one who hears your song gets the same effect! It’s not just your music, but your soul imposing its will upon the Spirit Essence. I think you just need to find the right combination…”
Adam sighed and continued trying to create a Wind Formation with no success.
A month later, it was time for the Harvest Festival! Everyone else was quickly catching up to Adam’s meager skill with the sword, as he had been briefly trained by his father before. However, his Spiritualist studies were still stagnating. Helen was still helping Adam at SIH, as his Spirit Sight would only let him see the form of a book or page, not the words written upon it. There was hope that Adam would learn something that would help him, but they had yet to find anything like that.
Thinking of Helen, Adam asked: “Where’s Helen? I haven’t seen her all day.”
Adam was walking with his circle of friends through city streets crowded full of excited people. Stalls could be found every couple of feet along the road selling all kinds of snack foods or toys for the festival.
Alfred hesitated a moment before speaking: “It’s kind of personal for her, so I won’t tell you much, but she lost her parents on a Festival day. I’m not entirely sure where she hides, but you likely won’t see her all day today.”
“Oh…” Adam said. He then thought: ‘Is she hiding out at the Hill Garden?’
Adam spent most the rest of the day with his friends. As they were having fun, his mind constantly drifted. He didn’t like the idea of them having a fun time if Helen was sulking somewhere in depression. Alfred seemed kind of out of it as well. In the afternoon, most of them had to head back to work their shift at Madame’s. The Festival was a big day for business and pretty much everyone would be working at some point during the day. Adam was actually one of the few lucky ones who didn’t have a shift!
Left on his own, Adam’s thoughts once again turned towards Helen: ‘Maybe I should find her. I know it’s not pleasant to be alone while you think of those you’ve lost…’
Asking around, Adam was certain Helen wasn’t anywhere around Madame’s. Going with his original thought, he headed off to the Hill Garden. Sure enough, Adam found Helen sprawled out at her usual spot. She looked up as Adam entered the little clearing: “What are you doing here?”
Adam shrugged: “I heard that you always hide yourself away during the Harvest Festival… I didn’t like the idea that the rest of us were having fun while you weren’t. I figured this is where you were hiding, so here I am.”
Helen heaved a sigh and, after a moment of silence, asked: “Did they tell you why I hide away from the Festival?”
“A little. Alfred told me you lost your parents on a day like this, but that was all.”
Helen seemed to contemplate something as Adam sat down near her. Seeming to come to a decision, she gave another sigh before saying: “Did you know that the Harvest Festival is the best time to kidnap children?”
“There are so many people around, you wouldn’t think it, but everyone is doing their own thing without paying attention to others around them. You’ll also often see parents dragging kids home who want to stay out and play… Kidnappers make it look just like that, two parents dragging a kid home among the crowd.”
Adam didn’t dare speculate where this conversation was going, but he already had an idea that he didn’t like. Helen continued: “That happened to me.”
Adam had no idea what to say: “… Helen.”
Ignoring him, Helen continued with tears streaming down her cheeks: “I was only separated from mom and dad for a moment when those strangers started dragging me away! Mom and dad saw what was going on as they took me down an alley. They tried to follow and stop the kidnappers, but… they killed mom and dad and took me anyway!”
At this point, Adam did the only thing he could think of; he took hold of Helen’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. If she wanted to talk about it, there was no way he would stop her. But he also had no idea what to say back.
After a long pause, Helen once again continued: “I was locked away in a cage with others they had recently kidnapped. Alfred was there too.”
Helen nodded: “He was also kidnapped… I don’t know what happened to him or what happened after I was put in the cage, but soldiers found the kidnappers and freed us. Madame’s picked us up later. I was five years old then and couldn’t tell whether or not I had any other family that could take me in… So now I’m here. Whenever the Festival hits, I can’t celebrate. I can only remember what happened…”
After Helen was silent for awhile and Adam was certain she was done telling her story, he pulled out his flute and played for her. Nothing really special, just something to pass the time by with. It wasn’t mournful so that she would continue remembering those terrible memories. Nor was it happy, as Adam respected her thoughts. It was simply music, drifting along that could fill your mind. Helen was grateful for it as he tears slowly stopped and simply listened to his music.
As the evening started to descend, Adam and Helen finally got up to leave. Neither of them had yet to have dinner, and they needed to make it home before dinner at the dormitory was done! As he walked in silence, Helen said: “Thank you, Adam.”
Adam merely smiled at here: “Anytime.”
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.