XV.1 (RE)

After Aren agreed to instruct Merlin the ways of the mystic arts, he went into Dickus’ office. There, the High Lord was waiting, handing him the note the moment they settled down. He opened the note and read the contents of it carefully. It was a letter addressed to “H” and apparently, they have completed their task and had hired a mercenary group to escort the package. It would be safe to assume the senders were the one responsible for the accumulated energy of the Dark Sigil. The only question was who were these senders and how did they obtain a dangerous artifact.

  The information was no problem for Dickus to obtain, though there was a problem. This group of mercenaries were on a convert mission. Only the higher ups knew about this mission, so the Eadburts suspect foul play among the lords of Damore. He was the first person to be subjected to interrogation. Many accuse him of various things, be it conspiring against the Crown or manipulating the other for his own interest. He had handled every scenario beforehand, but it was becoming burdensome. To avoid another investigation attempt upon him, he asked Aren to do the job for him.

  And so, it was now Aren’s task to find out the sender of the message and compile enough evidence to make a case against the Eadburts. During the days when Archimedes watched over Merlin, he dressed up as an Academy student, wandering the halls to hear anything about Bral Eadburt. He tried to be discreet as possible, keeping his distance from the students, though some were curious about the new “transfer student.” Eventually, the rumors spread about him being the personal teacher of Merlin and how he meandered the halls. After hearing this, he had no choice but to stall his survey.

  The sun was setting and the Academy’s bells rung: the school session was over. Students were out and about, and a lot of them were settling in the Gardens to chat with friends. Aren sat on top of the marble fountain, writing notes in his journal from the information he gathered from. There were a lot of scribbles all over the page and at the center, he circled the statement “The Awakening.” He tapped his head, thinking about the situation.

  Did the Phantoms of Sargata really return? What is the reason do the Eadburts need to conduct the ritual? Are the two parties working together or one is being forced into it? Do all members of the Eadburt family know about this? Aren started writing on his journal:

  “It’s been a couple of days since the start of the investigation. So far, no leads or motivations for ritual activity. Bral is the only potential lead I have. There has to be something that will give me a tidbit about this. Something…”

  He shook his head and circled the word “something” numerous times. While he continued to ponder into his thoughts, a group of girls sat on the fountain bench nearby, chattering louder than a screaming cockatrice. They eventually toned it down and Aren used a spell to enhance his hearing to listen in.

  “Is that the rumored transfer student? He looks cute.”

  “You know, I saw High Lord Dickus talking to him before that fight. I think he likes him.”

  “Same with Dr. Frankenstein! It’s weird cause he hates everybody, right?”

  “A favorite from those two? Crazy, am I right? Wonder what’s up with him. So mysterious…”

  “Should we talk to him? Hmm, he doesn’t look like a conversationalist.”

  “He looks a bit serious about something. I think we would be bothering him.”

  Aren rolled his eyes. The conversation lingered on about other gossip, trends, and other things not of interest. When he had enough, something of interest came into their chat. It was the light pink-haired girl who approached with such detail.

  “I heard Bral talked to one of those hooded figured people. Supposedly, his brother is going to give him the position of Head of House!” the light pink-haired girl said.

  “Are. You. Serious? I hope he would notice me!”

  “His standards are pretty high: after all, he is an Eadburt.”

  The light pink-haired girl grunted. “But don’t you think it’s, like, weird? It’s so soon for someone to pass a position like that around, especially when their father passed away some years ago.”

  “Not our issue anyway. It’ll be fine for Bral, trust me.”

  The bells tolled again, and the girls left. There was a glimmer of light flashing at him. A golden star hairclip was left at the bench. Aren touched his chin, then placed the hairclip in his satchel and wrote down the recent information given to him. As he was contemplating, a shadow loomed over him and he looked up to see who was in front of him. It was Bral and his goons. They surrounded him and expressed cocky grins on their faces.

  “Well, well, if it isn’t the guy whose ass got saved by High Lord Dickus. It also seems that you are ‘Merlin’s teacher.’ So, ‘Teach,’ what do you got to say for yourself?” Bral said.

  “Me? First thing I gotta say is if your mother taught you any decency at all.”

  Bral’s face grew pale, but he continued to speak. “Hmpf. I was going to show Merlin a reality check, and you had the audacity to step in. For that disrespect, you’ll need to know your place.”

  “Know my place? Haha, you must have a lot of free time to prepare for something like that! Are you keeping your academics up?” Aren looked around, then shrugged. “Dickus warned you about this behavior. Not scared about getting your ass beat by your older brother?”

  “My brother? What about him?” Bral furrowed his brows. “Ever since my father died, he dumped me into this shitty place and left me. For five years, he hadn’t said a single word to me. I don’t give a s*** about him, and it is definitely not going to save you.”

  “Five years, huh? He wants you to be the Head of House after forgetting about his younger brother for that long. An important title like that shouldn’t be tossed around like that, hmm?”

  Bral’s looked visibly shaken. “Where did you hear that?”

  “Rumors n’ stuff. I usually don’t trust them but by your expression, it’d be true, right? Weird, considering the abandonment fiasco, but I digress.” Aren got up, pacing back and forth. “Work with me here. So, Pop’s dead and your brother left you. That only leaves your mother to be—”

  “She’s dead. None of your concern how.”

  “No wonder why your manners are nonexistent! Oof, must’ve hit you in the gut when I brought her up.”

  “You little—!”

  “Still, imagine leaving your only surviving kin alone, never to see him again. There must be something more important than… family? It’s clearly more important than you considering, you know, the five years? A bummer really, totally sympathize with you.”

  Bral lowered his eyes and his goons looked at him with confused gazes. This might be the first time they have seen him like this, based on their reactions. He was silent for some time. Eventually, he shook his head and looked up.

  “Yeah, you’re right. There’s something more important than my family to him.”

  “Oh, yeah? What is it then? It must be—”

  “That piece of s*** is probably still going for her.”

  Aren expressed a dumbfounded glance. “Her? What? Who’s she?”

  “Layette. Father told me he always had a fixation on her. When I was a kid, Layette said he wouldn’t marry a weakling like him. I think after Father died, he left me here to prove he was not. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here. Damn it, it’s all her fault.”

  “I, uh, wow. Didn’t expect her to be involved in this. There must be more than that… right? Maybe something with, uh, I dunno, dark magic, Sigils, strange spells or materials? Perhapsalittlesacrificingontheside?”

  “The hell? You think my brother would do something like that? Though…” Bral paused for a moment, then looked away. “He always carried this black book with a moon on it, or something. Always muttering how she will be his with it. It—wait, why am I telling this to you? I should be beating you… damn it. Grr, you planned this all along, didn’t you?”

  He turned to his followers. “We’re leaving. This was a waste of time.”

  They left in a hurry. Aren chuckled softly as he watched them leave the premise. The gaps in his investigation were filling in, and now he focused his attention on the black book the Eadburts have. This rabbit hole was much deeper than he expected.


  There were many fascinating tales scattered across Thyderalis. Each one had its own way of explaining the world, with stories of clashing morals or Gods butting heads with one another. The one that fascinated young Dickus was the story of the defeat of the “Omni-Kings” of Old: demigods who ruled the planet with an iron fist. Jason Greydan, Iskander Reinhardt, and Atlas Reinhardt: three men, brothers sworn by blood, set out to free the world of the Omni-Kings, bringing freedom and prosperity to Thyderalis. There were many variations of this story across many cultures, but one thing was sure to be known: without the efforts of these three, the world would be much bleaker than it was today.

  That being said, the story didn’t have a happy ending. Another threat loomed in the darkness after the liberation of Dunia. An omnipotent and unmatched terror: The Immortal Dragon. The Gods and “Big Three” did not have the means to take down the god-slaying beast. Jason and Iskander both lost their lives against it, leaving Atlas as the sole survivor. And so, the monster destroyed anything in its wake, with nothing to stop it. Atlas rose from the ashes of defeat, imbuing himself with power given by the gods. He sought after the Immortal Dragon and finally defeated him in single combat. He had saved the world, earning him the title “Hero of Thyderalis.” However, the title was short-lived: the survivors blamed the chaos upon him. Even his own people cast him out. What happened next… well, Dickus never cherished that part of the story, so he always skipped it. After all, it was what made him to be a tragic hero.

  The legend spread, and eventually, everyone knew the tragic hero with “hair as white as snow.” Even then, there were stories describing a traveler with the same features as Atlas Reinhardt. Dickus was confused why there were many tales involving a similar person, so he divulged himself to this matter. After some time, it convinced him that the Hero of Thyderalis was still alive, living through every tale in different parts of the world. With his accumulated wealth and networking of spies, he spent every day of life hoping one day, he would find the hero in hopes of him saving this world once again.

  Of course, his efforts had given fruit and now the hero was working under his wing. His success made him reread the tales of old, wondering if any more of them could be as true as the one he sought for. Someone knocked on Dickus’ office door and with permission, the person entered. It was Doctor Wolfenstein, and he closed the door behind him. Dickus asked him to sit and took a sip of his refreshment.

  “So, what do you think, my dear Stein? How fares your assessment of Aren?”

  “What do you goddamn expect? He’s the man you have been looking for your entire life. Fills every requirement listed in that head of yours.”

  “Not every requirement, unfortunately. I expected him to be more… mature. He is acting the age appropriate to his appearance, but I wish he would be more considerate.”

  “Beggars can’t be choosers.” Stein took out his pipe, taking a hit. He exhaled in a nonchalant matter. “After knowing his unfortunate past, who’s to say who wouldn’t go insane?”

  “I’m afraid so… Hmm.”

  “What’s up? Why the sudden silence?”

  Dickus took out a letter from his breast pocket, placing the note on the table, and opened the windows to look outside. “Read it.”

  Stein opened the letter and read it quietly. After a moment passed, he threw the paper back on the desk and had his hand covering his face. “What the hell… Out of all the things, he—!”

  “Harley Eadburt is proposing treason… against me. And all the High Lords are gathering here to discuss the matters.”

  “By the Gods Dick, this is… What’s the situation looking like?”

  “Allegedly, I have been partaking in many ‘shady’ businesses behind the lines. He states I did not contribute to the war efforts on purpose. To, how to say it, ‘delay’ the inevitable victory. He has a stable case on the matter, and it is highly likely I could not make a case against him.” Dickus sat in his chair, stirring his tea. “He is trying to take me away from my daughter. That is all he is going for and it will end once I give her up.”

  Stein frowned. “Them let him. Why so persistent about rejecting him? He’ll be off your ass once he marries Layette. It’d be a benefit if marriage bonds the two Houses. With his wealth and your networking, it would leave nothing unheard or unknown of.”

  “A very tempting offer. I always wondered about it: why not give up my precious, beautiful girl who I’d raised wonderfully to some foolish lord with a power complex? But then again, something is strange about all of this.”


  “My scouts have reported strange insurgences of mana across the region. With the Dark Sigils active and that letter connecting the Eadburts to such defile of an object, something big is coming. Whether it’s good or bad, time will tell.” Dickus leaned back and took a sip from his tea. “I always had a thought ever since Harley’s father died. The two had quarrel amongst each other, and for one of the members of the Divine Circle to die suddenly is strange. Did he really die from natural occurrences, or in other malicious means…?”

  Stein inhaled his pipe, then exhaled slowly. “You might be onto something, but without evidence, they can chalk it up as coincidence rather than anything.”

  “That statement is undeniably true, which is why we must remain vigilant. I cannot give my daughter away to some uncivilized, power hungry lunatic, who’s goals are beyond our understanding! I will not have some sniveling, arrogant—!”

  “Dick, listen to yourself. A bit out of touch there, so just take deep breaths, all right?”

  Dickus sighed. “I am… sorry, my friend. Forgive my unprofessionalism.”

  “Hey, gotta let it out somehow. Always here to hear it out.”

  “Thank you. I appreciate your kindness.” Dickus cleared his throat. “Speaking of Layette, she should be here ages ago. You called for her, yes? I wonder where she is…”

  “Yeah, it’s been—”

  The entrance door slammed open. Objects fell from their shelves as the room quaked at the sudden entry. Layette was standing in the doorway in a pink sleeping gown: her hair messy and unorganized, armor barely strapped, and she brought the Jeweled Sky in hand without its scabbard. The top portion of the gown slipped, showing her bra barely strapped. She was breathing heavily, looking at them with sullen eyes.

  “L-Layette… Hawkwood. Reporting f-for duty,” she said. Her voice was monotone and low.

  Dickus clasped his hands together. “Darling, how wonderful for you to be here! I’m so sorry to call you while taking your beauty sleep. How fares the task I’ve given you?”

  “Aren avoided me… for the entire day.”

  “I-I see… Well, I can have an arranged—”

  “The sun… is not even up. The moon is… sky high, father.”

  “Y-Yes, I know sweetheart, but this is very important, so why won’t you—”

  “I thought it was an emergency. Dr. Stein made it sound like an emergency. I felt terrible, knowing something bad might have happened when I was too busy sleeping…”

  Layette’s body emitted a red aura that heated the room. Dickus gestured her to calm down and chuckled nervously.

  “I have a bad feeling about this…” Stein said.

  “She flung her arms in the air violently and shouted. “I thought it was an emergency, but it is just you lollygagging with a friend!”

  The room rumbled harder. Almost everything came crashing to the floor. Dickus’ tea set exploded into pieces because of Layette’s fiery rage. He maintained his happy composure, but deep down inside, it shattered his soul into pieces. Doctor Stein’s hair went all the way up and he slowly turned to Dickus.

  “I hate you Dad, good night!” Layette screamed. She slammed the door, making her way back to her room. Dickus’ smile turned into an anguished look.

  “M-My poor, poor tea set! This was given to me by my mother when I was young…” he bawled.

  Stein shook his head. “A horrible end for something so precious.”

  “Give me your shoulder for me to cry on. The horror, the horror!”

  “J-Just don’t get your makeup on my precious coat….”

  A terrible night for Dickus, but at least he had a friend to ease his nerves with.

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