The matron’s office was simple. There wasn’t anything fancy, just some books stacked on a few bookshelves along with the odd object here and there. After lunch, Darius headed straight for the office, nervous about the momentous occasion. Upon entering the office, Darius saw the Matron peering over some paperwork.
She was a bit of an oddity to Darius. When he had entered the orphanage six years ago, she had been a middle-aged woman on the verge of having a head full of white hair. She had only had a few strands at the time, so Darius had assumed that after a few years, he would see more white hair and some wrinkles on her face, yet none had ever appeared. She had no more white hair than six years ago, and just like before, not a single wrinkle tarred her beautiful face. This caused the already cautious Darius to be even warier around her.
The moment Darius entered, the usually strict matron displayed a kind and loving expression. “Welcome, Darius. Please, take a seat.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Darius replied meekly.
As soon as he sat down, the matron couldn’t help but frown. “You know Darius, even though you are now too old for the orphanage, you can still leave with the other children of your age group at the end of the year. You don’t have to leave so early.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. These past few years you have treated me with the utmost kindness. You have raised me as if I were your own son. In this life, there is nothing I can do to repay such kindness. I am forever indebted to you…” The usually meek Darius put on a firm expression to show his resolve.
“However, I have decided. The Spiritsmith Guild in the capital will only accept students within the next few weeks. If I miss this chance, I will have to wait for another year, which means I will suffer for another year. I’m sorry, ma’am, but I can’t it this anymore. I have already made my decision, and not even you can change it.”
The matron was stunned. She had only seen Darius make such a face while he used his hammer to strike stones at the top of the mountain. Although she had never said so to his face, she thought he looked manly while doing so. Now that he finally showed this side of himself while socializing, she felt proud.
“Perhaps, he has finally healed inside. Perhaps, he is now ready to face the world.” The matron sighed as she reflected on Darius’s growth. “Very well, you can leave today as planned. However, first, I need you to listen to me for a few moments. The capital is a dangerous place, especially for those as young as yourself. So, I need to make sure you are as prepared as possible. Despite the foolish face you display in public, I know very well how cunning you are, but that won’t be enough to survive in the capital. Now, listen up.”
As time went on, Darius’s face couldn’t help but become ugly because he knew that the matron had entered her rambling mode. This was the true reason she was feared throughout the village. Once she started her lectures, she could go on for hours. She even lectured adult men and women when she felt like it.
“I will probably miss this.” Darius was about to find an excuse to cut the lecture short, but he realized that this would be his last lecture within the orphanage, and perhaps the last time he would see her for a long, long time. He decided to brace himself and accept the full brunt of her earth-shattering wisdom.
After a few hours, she finished. Even though she had been constantly speaking, she was still as energetic as ever. Darius, on the other hand, was mentally exhausted to the point where he felt that he could easily fall asleep. “That witch! Maybe she wants me to fall asleep! I won’t fall for it! Besides the bus to the capital leaves in about an hour or so. I must push on!”
Darius quickly stood up and deeply bowed. “Ma’am, one day I will come back and repay your kindness to me a hundredfold. I swear on it!” As soon as Darius said these words, he ran out of the office like prey fleeing a predator.
The matron couldn’t help but shed a tear when she saw this. “Silly child. He was always bad with goodbyes…”
Darius quickly packed what few belongings he had and headed straight for the mountaintop that he was familiar with. He picked up the hammer and strapped it to his back using a specialized leather strap that had come it. He then touched the surface of the anvil. The anvil immediately shrunk till it was the size of a pebble. Darius then put the anvil in his pocket and began his journey toward the village entrance.
As he walked through the village, he reminisced on the time he had spent here. Unfortunately, no matter how much he tried, no good memories came up. He had spent the majority of his days doing the same thing: climbing the mountain, continuously striking the anvil, descending for lunch, ascending again to continue striking the anvil, then he would return for dinner and sleep, waking up at the crack of dawn to eat his breakfast and repeat the process.
“Damn curse.” Darius couldn’t help but cuss when he realized that he retained any memories of the village. He had repeated the same process of going up and down the mountain every single day for six years. While walking through the small village, he realized he barely knew it at all. If it wasn’t for the fact that he could see the entirety of the village from the mountaintop, Darius was sure that he would have completely gotten lost despite the small size of the village.
As soon as he arrived at the village entrance, he saw a group of people who, like him, were taking the bus to the capital. Many people dreamt of making it big in the capital; rumor had it that one could achieve anything there as long as they were skilled and fortunate enough.
Darius, like most of these people, was gambling his fate on whether he was skilled enough to enter the Spiritsmith Guild within the capital. Surely striking that accursed anvil for six years should have brought me some benefits.
As Darius was busy thinking about his future prospects, a loud rumbling noise made its way to his ears: the bus was here.