Chapter 25 Festival

          Adam observed the packed tavern of Madame’s while performing with his flute. Over the last two years, Adam had worked hard to better control Spirit Essence. It was now almost effortless for him to weave Spirit Essence into his songs, but the strength of his control hadn’t improved much. The result was any music he played was imbued with a mystical feeling that evoked strong emotions in listeners. Adam’s performance was considered sublime by everyone who heard it! It also made it a little difficult to play with others. He had to intentionally suppress his music from being imbued with Spirit Essence so he didn’t stand out in parts where he was performing a supporting role.

          Tomorrow would be the Festival. The already bustling tavern was likely to be even busier then as everyone feasted. The kitchen had a few boars already on a slow cook to be served for their Festival feast. Adam silently wondered if they were the boars he had helped the Silver Saviors hunt a few days prior.

          Thinking about his recent hunt, Adam once again sent a silent prayer to souls of the boars. He had discovered that animals also released tiny motes of light when they died! They were smaller than humans and he would never have noticed them if he hadn’t seen someone die before. Adam still wasn’t sure what the motes represented, but he always sent a silent prayer to go with them.

          Adam swept his gaze over the dancers. Spotting Helen among them, his heart did a small flop. Her Aura was always the most beautiful when she danced. He had to quickly look away before he became too distracted that he messed up the song.

          Adam couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come. There were a few fun things to do during the Festival that he looked forward to. Mostly, though, he was looking forward to business going back to normal at Madame’s.

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          The next evening, Adam prepared himself before heading out to enjoy the festival. His sword was too long making the sheath likely to hit others as they walked through dense crowds, so Adam choose a sheathed dagger to place in his belt. Always being prepared had long ago been ingrained into Adam and his friends would likely be taking daggers with them as well. In addition, Adam also took his flute. He never knew when inspiration would hit him!

          After gearing up, Adam met with Alfred, Bruno, Clyde, Derek, Franklin, Helen, and Kadara. At Helen’s feet was a rather large wolf acting like a puppy! Silber had grown a lot and had even been trained to support Adam in a fight! Regardless, Silber would listen to Helen before anyone else and always acted like he was still a puppy around her!

          Out of them all, only Derek had a night shift and he was doing everything he could to weasel his way out of it.

          “They’re so busy, they won’t notice one missing person will they?”

          A siren’s voice called out to them: “You wouldn’t be doing something like skipping out of your shift, would you Derek?”

          Derek froze in fright before rigidly turning around: “N-no Susan, why would you think such a thing?”

          Susan flashed a charming and innocent smile that secretly held a demon behind it!

          “Oh, well I was tasked by Madame Janette to make sure no one was skipping their shifts. I was going to head over to the Tavern next, why don’t we go together?”

          Without waiting for Derek’s reply, Susan firmly wrapped her arm around his and started dragging him away. Derek cast a last desperate look to his friends, none of which could look him in the eye. He mouthed to them: “I’ll remember this!”

          Ignoring the fact that they were now a man down, Adam and the others walked out onto the brightly lit roads of Hessler that were full of bustling people. Temporary stalls were erected all over the place. Some of these stalls sold food while others held games where you could win a prize if you beat the game! There were also performers dotted around. The performers ranged from jugglers to musicians and everything in between! Despite the noisy racket caused by the chaos of the streets, everyone was in a festive mood! One couldn’t help feeling good with a belly full of food while excitement hung in the air.

          Everyone had fun as they went from stall to stall, sampling food and games. Well, everyone except for Helen. Despite joining them, she couldn’t shake the melancholy that this day meant for her: the anniversary of her parent’s death. Everyone could see it, but there wasn’t much they could do. None of them were going to say: “Forget about your parents for a bit and have fun!” They could only keep on inviting her to join them and hope they could keep her away from thoughts about her parents.

          Silber was rather excellent in this regard. With him constantly fawning for attention from her, she didn’t have much time to let her thoughts wander. Still, she just couldn’t get cheery.

          Alfred had been taking a while on a particular game. He had to throw darts at a target and rack up enough points to get a prize. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get enough points! Eventually, he started to run out of money. He asked the rest of them: “Hey, uh, can I borrow some money from someone?”

          Bruno and Clyde immediately guarded their coin purses: “This is our hard earned money, you ain’t getting any of it!”

          “C’mon, I’ll be turning sixteen soon. Consider it an early birthday present.”

          “You’ve been using that excuse for the last couple months! Just because you’ll be leaving Madame’s doesn’t mean you can take our money! We’ll have no more of it!”

          Giving up on the twins Alfred managed to wrangle a little off Franklin, but his abysmal skill at the game meant he still couldn’t get a prize! Adam couldn’t help but sigh and shake his head. Alfred was clearly going for a particular stuffed wolf animal Helen had been eying. Even though Helen still refused either of them, neither Adam nor Alfred had given up on trying to win her heart.

          Alfred dejectedly threw his last dart. He turned around as the dart hit the target, already knowing there was no way he had enough points to win the prize: “Winner!”

          Alfred froze and quickly turned around! The center target of the dartboard was only 1 centimeter across and he had somehow hit it! It meant he got an instant win! Alfred immediately claimed the stuffed wolf animal and presented it to Helen.

          Helen brightened up a little: “Thank you, Alfred.”

          Alfred did his best to hide the smug pride he felt inside for this small victory in winning her heart. He couldn’t hide it from Adam though, as he could clearly see his Aura. But then Helen turned to Silber: “Look, we got you a little friend!”

          Silber gleefully bit the stuffed wolf and shook it left and right! Helen laughed as she fought for a leg of the stuffed wolf to play tug of war with Silber. Seeing this, Alfred’s face immediately cramped up. With a sigh, Adam clapped him on the shoulder.

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          “Once again, Silber has outplayed us.”

          After Helen had her fill of playing with Silber, they moved on. They didn’t have too much trouble sticking together until they hit one of the major city roads. Their little group got milled apart by the dense crowd moving through the road to get to one of the five big event stages that held acting performances around the city.

          Separated apart in groups of ones and twos, they tried to fight against the crowd to group back up. Adam found himself on his own. Normally his Spirit Sight would help him find the others quickly, but the dense amount of Auras from the crowd was proving difficult to sort through and was a little overwhelming.

          Adam found Silber with Helen and started making his way over to them. As he was moving towards her, Helen started moving away from him and the others. Adam tried to increase his speed so he could catch up to her, but the crowd prevented him from moving very fast. Before long, they had left the others behind. When Helen turned onto another street, Adam began to figure out where she was headed.

          ‘She’s going to the Hill Garden…’

          Despite the fun she was having with Silber earlier, it seemed Helen was unable to shake the melancholy this day gave her.

          Adam followed her at a respectable distance. There was nothing he could really do to help her. He had found it easier to cope with Alric and Emilia’s death. Part of it was that it occurred on a regular day. The Festival would always act as a reminder for her. He also didn’t witness his father and sister’s death. No matter how she was throughout the rest of the year, this day would always weigh on Helen.

          Reaching her secret spot at the Hill Garden, Helen sat down at the base of a tree. Silber sat down next to her, putting his head in her lap. With a gentle smile, Helen lightly pet Silber. Adam leaned against a tree out of sight as he watched over Helen.

          Adam noticed that petting Silber helped calm her Aura a little, but she was still depressed. After debating for a moment, Adam pulled out his flute to play a song for her. He wasn’t going to play a fast-paced song nor an elegant song. Instead, he drew upon what he knew to try and play a song of remembrance that was also full of longing and love.

          The notes of the song were quiet and barely reached Helen. She found the song soothing. Adam watched her Aura gently tremble and relax under the song.

          As the last notes faded away, Helen sighed.

          “You might as well come out.”

          Adam shyly smiled as he stepped out from the shadows.

          “Sorry for following you.”

          Helen shook her head.

          “It… helps to be with someone else. I just couldn’t stay at the Festival for much longer…”

          Adam nodded as he sat down on the other side of Silber to pet his back. They shared a long quiet moment like this: two people petting one dog. The quiet was suddenly pierced by a whistling sound ascending the sky! Then a cracking Boom! Echoed followed by a shower of sparks! It was the Festival fireworks!

          They were initially startled by the sounds, but Helen quickly became enamored by the fireworks that were continuously rising into the night sky. Adam couldn’t see the fireworks, but he could see them reflected in Helen’s Aura. Each time a boom echoed, her Aura rippled with wonder and glee. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

          After the fireworks were done, Silence once again reigned. Adam stood up first and offered his hand to Helen: “Shall we go back?”

          Helen gratefully took his hand to help her up. Together, they set off to Madame’s with Silber at their heels.

          The fireworks marked the end of most of the festivities for the night so the streets had started clearing up by the time Adam and Helen exited the Hill Garden.

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          On their way, they took their normal shortcut through an alley. While they were entering the alley, Adam saw a man watching them. His Aura was… dingy. After they entered the alley, the man gave off an odd whistle before making his way into the alley.

          Putting a hand behind Helen’s elbow, he started walking faster while pulling her along. When Helen gave him a questioning look he said: “We need to mo-”

          From the other end of the alley, another man with a similar Aura entered.

          ‘Damn, that’s what the whistle was for!’

          Adam quickly whispered: “When I charge, follow after me and try to escape!”

          Helen’s eyes widened in fright as she looked between the men on either end of the alley and Adam. Adam turned to Silber and gave a series of sharp whistles. Silber dropped the stuffed wolf toy from his mouth and looked at Adam questioningly. He had never been commanded into attack mode in the city before. Adam then pointed at the two men and gave another sharp whistle for each. Silber looked at the two with understanding. His head lowered as he gave a low growl.

          The men approaching had yet to understand what Adam’s movements meant. They continued at their own pace as they showily drew some daggers. One of the men said to them: “Hey there pretty little missy. Why don’t you come with us and we won’t hurt the lad with you.”

          Helen froze at these words. Adam noticed this and dread seeped in. This was an attempt at kidnapping! Her memories of that terrible Festival night resurged with renewed vigor bringing a fresh wave of traumatic emotions.

          Not trusting her to move on her own now, Adam commanded Silber to attack the man behind them with a point and a whistle. He then charged forward and drew his dagger to attack the man before them!

          The two men were startled by this sudden move. They were more used to subdued targets that would either cower or beg with the rare one that would shout. They almost never actually encountered resistance!

          Caught off guard, Silber was able to bit the man’s ankle and pull him to the ground! He then quickly jumped away as the man shrieked and swiped at Silber with his dagger: “Away you mutt!”

          The man Adam was attacking tried to defend with his dagger. His hand was loose, though, and the dagger went flying as Adam struck it! The man looked at his empty hand aghast! Not leaving anything to chance, Adam struck the man once more. This strike sliced across his throat! Blood spurting, the man grasped his wound as Adam turned around and raced to the other man.

          The last man was clearly frightened. He had barely been able to get up under Silber’s harassment. Seeing the state of his comrade, he turned around and quickly stumbled away. Silber growled and was about to give chase when Adam issued another few sharp whistles. Silber stopped growling and raised his head while wagging his tail while looking at Adam.

          Adam gave him a pet: “Good boy.”

          Both Adam and Silber then turned their attention to Helen. During the fight, she had fallen to her bottom as her legs had turned to jelly. She was visibly shaking from the shock of the event.

          Adam turned her to look at him: “It’s okay Helen. It’s over, we’re okay.”

          Helen suddenly gave Adam a fierce hug as she began crying. He could only pat her back and murmur: “It’s okay.”

          Adam tried to not pay much attention to the dead man with the slit throat close by. His stomach knotted at the thought that the man was the second person he had killed in his life. He then started second-guessing his decision with the last attack he had done.

          Forcing himself to calm down, he mentally reprimanded himself: ‘No! If you had let him live, he might have gone for his dagger and attack from behind! He might have even tried to hold Helen hostage!… Killing him was for the best.’

          After a long moment, Helen took a deep breath and released Adam.

          “I… I’m fine.”

          Adam helped Helen to get on her shaky feet. It was at this point that a guard showed up: “What’s this going on?”

          It took around an hour before the guard finally released Adam and Helen. Considering how authentic Helen’s shock was and how their stories corroborated one another, the dead man was clearly the instigator and he had on charges with which to hold them.

          The rest of the way to Madame’s, Helen leaned on Adam for support. Suffice it to say, they stuck to the brightly lit main roads this time. The whole way, Helen’s Aura was in a constant state of turmoil. It was slowly calming down, but Adam was still concerned.

          Adam led the silent Helen all the way to her room in the dormitories. Unsure of what else he could do, he asked: “Will you be okay?”

          Helen nodded. She stopped with her hand on the knob of her door for a moment as she seemed to think on something. She then turned to him and gave him a quick peck on the cheek: “Thanks, Adam.”

          She then quickly entered her room and closed the door in Adam’s reddening face. Adam turned to Silber who somehow seemed to be amused.

          “C’mon. Let’s get you back to Julianne’s house.”

- my thoughts:
Yesh, this chapter took me forever! Redid the chapter at one point as I didn't like the two-year transition I started with. If that wasn't enough, I got stressed by stuff and decided to do absolutely nothing for a few days... All that aside, I hope you enjoyed the chapter! I wasn't sure about Helen's kiss on the check, does that seem natural? I couldn't find another way to express it. Oh, and thanks for reading and help me by reviewing the novel! You know, if you get a chance XD
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