ᛗ Three Teachers

Stars

 

One hundred days later my birthday arrived. Upon turning eleven my entire family visited. The stayed on their side of the gate and did not risk crossing the gate into my garden. What few chairs I had sat out ready in case anyone wished to step inside, but they went unused. Everyone in my family traveled upon The Way so crossing past the threshold would risk their progress.

All five siblings glared at me from between lines of metal that day. This had been their first visit to me in months, out of obligation most likely, and they did not share the happiness I had at their presence. After minimal greetings my eleventh birthday ended.

Time continued its march. Another season passed and still my promise to father remained unfulfilled, though other studies filled the time.

That morning I woke up, shaking uncontrollably. Air hung heavily and weight pressed down upon my chest and stomach. Breath escaped yet eluded return while something hardly visible leaned over to stare downwards at me. The pressure was greater than Lower Master Song’s and almost passive in its attentions.

Eyes upon the half seen creature were ringed by bits of orange and yellow. Abdominal muscles started quivering rapidly as I struggled to take in fresh air. Blackness arrived at the edges of eyesight and I wondered if I was going to return to the wheel, perhaps to be a more fortunate person upon rebirth.

Then I woke up again, this time to the sound of birds chirping. Breathing came smoothly and naturally. I sat up like a gear driven doll then removed sweat heavy clothes. A single cloth was dipped into water then I proceeded to rinse off evidence of a night demon’s visit. Such creatures were said to exist by my second tutor, they often plagued people with visions which made no sense and inspired fear.

I did not know if they were real, but not one of my three teachers had lied to me. The sheets of my small bed were hung up outside one window along with unclean clothes. Today’s weather looked overcast but a sun could win through eventually.

That had been a visitation, by a creature beyond the veil that did not care about my powers. It showed no worry that touching me might disrupt its nature. The moment perplexed and I felt detached while trying to understand. At times the world around me made perfect sense yet during other moments it made none.

Both eyes blinked and three deep breathes allowed me to change thoughts to something more uplifting. Recently, martial arts instructor Captain Nagi had provided a positive assessment. His praise served to counter this morning’s mood. Morning meditation upon my rooftop allowed me to recall the words from a week ago.

“You’ve come a long way these past few years.” He smiled and I struggled to stay straight in his presence. “Would that my students showed half the diligence you do in practicing.”

“Teacher, I do not deserve such flattery.” I felt proud anyway. Much of each day was spent trying to follow the forms he taught me. Doing so for a thousand days could only lead to understanding. “I believe other students are more driven than I, they only lack a quiet spot to hone their craft.”

“Perhaps,” he stared at me. “Their mastery of all six stances is nowhere near yours. Still, their practical experience is far higher. This training unbalances you.” Captain Nagi nodded to himself and reached a conclusion of some sort.

“If any wish to trade places for a day, I would not be opposed.” I thought myself clever for expressing my desires in such a manner. “Perhaps we might exchange insights by experiencing new environments.”

The captain actually laughed with two loud booms of noise that startled birds on the wall nearby. I attempted a smile but found it expressing emotion harder as the years wore on.

“No. I’m sorry little sprout,” Captain Nagi used his nickname for me. I did not understand how it came about. “But perhaps I can find an appropriate partner for you to practice against.”

My head lifted too quickly and the older man laughed again.

“Do not be too hopeful, there are few who fit the bill. Your father was lucky to find even one teacher free with the right qualities to come into this garden, let alone three of value. Truly the heavens have sought to balance your misfortunes.”

I nodded and said, “I would welcome any assistance you have to further my training.”

Captain Nagi’s few lines were like a fire of hope. I passed the morning with practice, trying to drown out the rush of anticipation with routine. I fiercely wanted to be visited by anyone new, to talk to someone near me own age.

His hesitation to bring another student involved those upon The Way. Anyone who sought to conquer all the layers of reality and ascend to godhood could be considered upon The Way. The paths to an end were many.

Captain Nagi was not a practitioner, none of my three teachers were. This helped me, because people upon The Way found coming into my garden disquieting due to the absence of all energy. Doctor Lumin, my third teacher, specifically equated stepping into here like being asked to put on a blindfold then pouring wax into both ears, though he did not practice.

Today, unfortunately, was not the day for the Captain’s return. Today’s teacher would be Mistress Charity, the second of three who instructed me. She always arrived promptly at noon, never before or after. We ate a meal together while manners and rules for interacting with people from all walks were discussed.

Mistress Charity rang a bell twice then came through the gate without pause. Where General Nagi strode across the yard with rapid speeds, she walked slowly and with grace.

“Good day Mistress Charity.” I clasped both hands then bowed. Light rain wet my hair, while she used a large umbrella which funneled the water along tiny groves on either side.

“Young Lord Fell. You’re practicing hard this morning,” she said with a bright voice. Her eyes scanned once around the garden and settled briefly on the small dry space under my home’s root.

I walked quickly then pulled out chair inside as part of our routine. A proper host provided locations to sit. One day I might break through in understanding and be let into the world outside, and a son of the Asger clan could not be allowed ignorance.

“I am committed to working hard for the clan.” I was often unsure of how to respond to her. The questions were confusing at times, and we repeated many points. It could be said that she was the person I interacted with most and her speech had impacted my growth heavily over the years.

“Clan Lord Asger will be proud to hear of your dedication.” Her words caused me to flush briefly.

“I hope so,” I said while getting a second smaller cushion ready.

“Well, shall we see where our conversations traverse today?” She asked.

“As you wish Mistress Charity.” My legs were tucked under me, which allowed for a simple bow of the head.

Men bowed to those they respected or people who were above them in station. Women did not need to bow to a man, but had their own ways of interacting based on rank. Mistress Charity told me such teachings would not be for me to understand, at least not until I had gained my freedom and perhaps aged a few seasons.

Once I had seen my mother look to Mistress Charity with disapproval, but knew not why. Asking about the gaze had resulted in the one bout of sadness to cross the kind woman’s face. Mother’s lack of acceptance had upset my second teacher.

There were no good reasons for them to be at odds to my knowledge. The teacher was kind to me, and helpful in ways that Captain Nagi was not. Where he preferred the switch to discipline, Mistress Charity simply showed disapproval. Perhaps my mother disliked the ever changing array of clothes which certainly entertained the eye with their patterns. I understood the swirls and colors brought focus to certain parts of the body, but she told me there was more allure in what the clothing did to her form. That too, I did not understand.

“Do you recall our lessons from last week?” She asked. The woman was beautiful and distant. Her back sat straight but there was a twist to her body that made the pose look relaxed instead of rigid.

I nodded once then spoke, “When conversing with known element, it is best to start with a polite greeting, then mild praise. This will allow for positive relations between both parties.”

“And how did I greet you when we first met today?”

Memory flashed back to a moment ago and I struggled to put her words into context. I nodded once more. “You greeted me then mentioned my hard work.”

“Well said young lord. Please demonstrate this for me, so that I can report your clarity to the family leaders.” She was always polite and calm. Mistress Charity was said to serve many roles within the household by my other teachers, but I didn’t understand what they implied. I only knew that the woman remained kind to me, and answered any question I dared ask.

“You dress looks especially striking today.”

“Remember to smile with a compliment,” she said.

I tried to smile but failed. Mistress Charity took in a breath of air while her jaw clenched briefly. A heavy layer of air came in steadily before she nodded.

“If you find looking sincere difficult, perhaps practice might help. Work on your tone and face separately or together when you have time. Consider it another stance to master. Bright Dawn of a Clouded Face might be a good technique name.”

Perhaps her naming sense could be improved. I nodded while trying to take her words to heart. Treating smiling as a motion to practice sounded like a good idea.

“You may also choose to remark on a specific aspect of the dress, such as a design. Jewelry will work if you see a piece that is of note.”

I nodded.

“Alternately you could have compared me to a ray of sunshine in a dark day.”

“Or a bight dawn during a clouded day,” I said while trying hard to smile again. Mistress Charity laughed with a tinkle of quiet noise then became serious.

“However a proper gentleman only remarks on what is seen.” Mistress Charity gazed to one side while twirling her umbrella slowly. “There are some boys who feel the need to remark on hidden treasures as if they have earned the right to do so.”

I nodded but started to feel lost. Often she alluded to problems which were beyond me in both age and understanding. The failing was mine.

“In public it is best to keep such crude ideas, if you ever have them, to yourself,” she said.

“Of course Mistress Charity.”

Our lessons went on. She was one of five women I had seen since being confined to this cage. Her words spoke of subjects none of the other’s did. My sisters shared no courtroom facts or tips on talking to people. The maid who served food said nothing at all. Clan Mother Asger, my mother, chose not to speak within earshot.

As such, Mistress Charity was the best source of information on females that I had. She assured me that her knowledge would be enough to win all the favor I might seek, once a larger amount of freedom could be won.

“Did you have any questions to discuss today?” She smiled at me to show that our conversation caused no lingering displeasure.

I nodded then asked, “It is my sister’s birthday soon, yet I don’t know what to get her. Do you have suggestions of what I might be able to provide that she would value?”

“What do you recall of her?”

“Only her practicing, and the clothes she used to wear to allow for freedom.” I blinked rapidly and realized the commentary might be taken wrong. “When she kicked, there was a hint of red, like fire sparking into being.”

Mistress Charity lowered her eyebrows and twisted the umbrella around. Small droplets of rain still remained upon its surface. Despite our covered seating she still kept it above herself. The women worked hard to ensure pinned up hair suffered no marring from weather.

Finally, she nodded. “Do you remember the craft skills we have been working on these last three years?”

We had learned a few. My teacher knew many different artesian abilities. She threatened often to teach me cooking, but only once I made it into the world. In her words cooking was a fine art all men should learn to properly woo a lady.

“Yes, I remember Mistress Charity. This year you’ve had me focusing on sculpting animals from a book. You said it was an important skill to go with painting and drawing and fostered an imagination.”

“Perhaps with these skills you could craft a handmade gift. Something you believe captures the essence of your sister. Or better yet, something which demonstrates her captivating focus upon martial skills.”

I nodded. In order of birth, my sisters were second and third children, while I was sixth. They were both years ahead of me in all aspects, save perhaps, for art. Ideas ran through my mind, ways to craft or draw a present. The ease of applying such techniques to gift giving felt startling.

“Did you teach me crafting for this as well?” My tone took on a dumbfounded tone. Mistress Charity might be a prophet in disguise, or an Enlightened One. Such a status would not surprise for she often had incredible foresight. Or perhaps, despite my maturity of thought, I was still an inexperienced eleven year old boy.

“I taught you because no noble’s child should be ignorant with regards to art.” Her eyebrows went up and I wondered about the fine line on her face which accented ruby lipstick. “And, appreciation of fine work truly starts when one is exposed to the difficulty of crafting.”

“Perhaps once I am free, such appreciation might be truly valuable.” Even breathes assisted in keeping calm as I bowed once more. “Thank you teacher, for gifting me the key to this puzzle. I will attempt to craft a gift suitable for elder sister Eerika.”

“Do not give up. No matter what tribulations your efforts encounter, time and dedication will surely provide you a worthy result,” she said.

I nodded once more, and the day passed. Once Mistress Charity left my feet turned to the small abode. Inside hands sketched out pictures from distant memories. The urge to create a perfect gift drove me well into the night. Exhaustion eventually pulled me away from the burned out candle and pile of charcoal drawn figures. I stared at the finest piece under moonlight and for the first time in an age, felt loneliness chip away.

All five remaining siblings were penciled in a row. Blurry lines representing bars framed the scene of their arrival on my birthday. If I could not come to my family, and they dared not approach for fear of being hurt, then pictures of them would serve as proxy.

Time was one commodity given to me in droves. Each morning after still started the same. I greeted the sunrise after stargazing. Days went by while I honed my skill and worked upon the gift.  What started as a series of perspective drawings became a statue formed of sculpted earth.

There were two compounds Mistress Charity taught me to sculpt, and in the weeks that followed we revisited them many times. First was a darker material to be used for stiffer portions of the world. Surface and skins were done with lighter clay of sorts. The small sculpting tool allowed me to work fine lines and curves into the material as it dried. Getting them to form correctly took hours of practice.

My last batch of darker material had been used in learning to craft legs that balanced correctly. More was needed to form a replica of my sister’s thicker legs correctly. When I asked, Mistress Charity or Doctor Lumin would bring a small amount of the materials.

Each teacher operated on a schedule and would not be rushed. Captain Nagi arrived every other day like clockwork. Mistress Charity showed every fourth day, always at noon. My third instructor showed up with far less rhythm or reason, occasionally interrupting the other two. The only clue he had arrived was a rapid-fire knocking on the gateway to the garden.

Today I awaited the arrival of any teacher. Quick paced thudding hit my gate door. I walked steadily, already aware who awaited me. Only Doctor Lumin beat on my gate with such unstable ferocity.

“Hurry Fell. Hurry,” the man said through my gate. Captain Nagi’s voice ran sharper than most males. The person visiting now rasped from perpetual sickness in his lungs. Doctor Lumin’s words held a whine that Lower Master Song did not.

My third teacher carried many different objects, and always did. Were it not for father’s order this person might have filled the garden with devices to measure every sort of information available. Experiments were his life.

Personal grooming was not. One ill-timed visit set Mistress Charity against the Doctor. She tried to straighten his clothes and comb back unruly hair, as a result he rarely showed when she was around.

“Hurry. Hurry. Grab those, and come with me.” He stomped through the gate after pointing towards objects which lay on the wrong side of the threshold.

I stared at the box covered in silk. Hovering all about it were bits of energy. They felt safe over there because I had not stepped that way years. My few escapes were long behind me now.

“Come on!” Doctor Lumin shouted.

Feet stayed rooted on the spot while I marveled at the open door. A guard’s spear could be seen along with slightly green armor. They were my protectors, or jailors, and the men who wielded those weapons never spoke to me.

Footsteps charged up behind me. A hand brushed by as the Doctor leaned over for his goods. He slammed the gate shut and I cursed myself for not taking brief advantage of the freedom. One single step might have let me out, or set me shaking.

“Come on! We mustn’t tarry. I don’t know how long the specimen will last this time!” He coughed repeatedly and a thump behind me caused a jump.

I turned and briskly walked to his side, picking up the small box covered in silk. The object felt no heavier than a bucket of water. We made our way to a clear patch of ground. The Doctor rapidly gestured downwards with a finger.

“Open it, quickly! Pull back the scarf!” Doctor Lumin insisted.

I did as bid and revealed a small hairy creature attempting to climb one wall. The being was no taller than a finger. It slipped down the smooth surface, unable to find purchase.

My third teacher scrambled to bring out palm sized piece of glass. He rubbed a cloth against its surface then carefully placed his fingers upon the edges. Doctor Lumin’s hands shook with a demand for attention.

“Do you see it?!” The glass in his hands slid over to give a finer view of his creature trapped in a jade lined box.

I leaned over to use his magnifying glass. Under scrutiny the creature became more apparent. Parts resembled a bug with fur, extra arms, and long protruding bones which came out its mouth. This finger sized being had human eyes and hands.

“Yes teacher. This one is bigger than the last weeks,” I said.

Doctor Lumin started bringing such creatures into the garden after my eleventh birthday. They rarely lasted long, finding the absence of energy like poison. Even now the creature’s eyes were widening and growing less human. Fur turned to wiggles of black and green energy then threatened to unravel.

“Can you make it do anything? Try to focus your thoughts on walking, but don’t move your actual legs.”

Toes twitched as I tried to envision both moving and holding still. The merger of opposites sent a chill along back muscles. Neither I nor the small monster moved more than a foot.

“Ahh! Do you see? It responded!”

“I don’t believe so.” I shook my head. It looked to be huddled in a corner, perhaps whimpering. Such creatures were said to be beasts and could bedevil a human mind into unspeakable acts. This one simply seemed pathetic.

“Do you know what it is? Would familiarity help? Knowing might increase your ability to create a link.” He grew horse near the end then he could no longer suppress coughs.

The smaller creature was yipping now. A plaintive noise while multiple arms clawed against the box’s jade lining.

“Based only on the whine, I would call it a gibberling.”

“A very, very, very small one. Can you tell what energies made it?” Doctor Lumin nodded while wiping away his eyes.

My head shook back and forth. Doctor Lumin had pictures, but nothing amounted to real experience. As a sixth child, most of my requests went towards crafting supplies and not books.

“Maybe this one will be able to last?” He coughed once, which caused the miniscule creature to rear backwards and start chattering towards us. Doctor Lumin grew sick looking while shaking his head rapidly.

I reached down then snuffed out the tiny gibberling’s life with a touch. Energy popped then steamed through my hand. Black fell to pieces and crackled as if catching fire. Soon every trace of its existence had vanished which left me feeling dirty.

“Ah, gods be damned.” Doctor Lumin sighed then leaned backwards. Wrinkles pinched around both eyes while one hand rubbed at the bridge to his nose. “I thought we might learn more with a larger beast.”

“It finds my touch destructive, as did the other three,” I spoke slowly. A smile almost crept across my lips at the thought of having some unique talent which others did not. Save for the price of imprisonment.

“Size means nothing so far. I fear the only way we might know for sure is to bring a full Night Born, or something of similar complexity.”

I nodded, hoping such an experiment might be avoided.

The gibberling was one of many creatures created from the energy flowing around. A million possible combinations could happen. For instance, an avian twisted together with the right energy become a ravening monster, hungry constantly with wings of flame. Smaller creatures turn into smaller beings, like gibberling. Most such compositions were formed of bugs and nightmare energies which came off of dreamers.

“Are all such creatures made of energy and animal?”

“Yes. The reasons have plagued us for millennia.” Doctor Lumin took both palms and banged gently on the sides of his face. “We might know more, were it not for the constant destruction that followed in the greater beast’s wakes.”

I nodded. Over the years this topic had come up more than once. Every season at least one rural town became razed under bandits or cursed by wandering beasts. Each such monster had different effects, and not all of them left damage of a physical nature. Some, like the People of Idle Brook, went for months before anyone noticed them sacrificing of travelers.

“Captain Nagi says that even our greatest soldiers can barely scratch some of them, like demons of the world,” I said, trying once again to bring up the most dangerous of such creatures.

Doctor Lumin shook his head quickly then coughed. His messy hair stayed almost still despite the motion.

“Only a few can hurt them, and people upon The Way are sometimes counterproductive.” He stood up then went to the bags of stuff he had brought. Items were pulled out one after the other.

Many I recognized. One helped him take my pulse, the other allowed for hearing a heartbeat. A traveler of The Way could hear such items without the need for a device, once they reached high enough, or someone Piercing the Veil might do the same upon reaching the third layer. Doctor Lumin and I did not have those gifts.

“How are they counterproductive?” I asked. The word did not make complete sense to me.

“Travelers of The Way are powerful, more powerful than a standard human. Energy infuses their every move. Many use this to fight each other, in the name of a kingdom, or region, or for foolish notions like respect and honor.”

Still more items were placed in a half circle around him. In the growing collection was more putty for my statues. I reached for it slowly and got a nod from Doctor Lumin.

“The Way involves channeling energies from the other realms, and makes them more than human, so for us it is harder to fight. Yet between a beast and follower of The Way, their battles are quicker, more violent, and deadlier.” His head shook and a series of coughs hit him again. This time they were powerful enough to set the man onto his rear. There he dabbed at a sweating forehead and shook.

I gathered water from a small kettle then brought it forth.

“Teacher, this was boiled earlier today. I warmed it with a small sprig of Cold Clear from the rear wall.”

“Thank you,” he took the cup and drank it in three large sips. We sat for a minute while he slowly recovered. “I find it odd that such a plant dares grow in here. So little else of power does.”

My shoulders traveled up and down in a slow shrug. The Cold Cure would have fallen to nothing if I dared touch it directly. Instead one shirt and a small blade let me snip it without skin contact.

Doctor Lumin stared at me then rasped, “We exist in a strange world, you and I. A strange world. Our best defense against inhumane monsters may be our inability to be more than human.”

“For you perhaps teacher, but what of me?” The question rushed out. This topic had veered into new territory. “I can see through the first hand of veils, but am unable to channel the energies as my brothers. Am I more, or less than they?”

He gave me a pat on the head. Doctor Lumin was the only person to directly touch me in years. The contact made me freeze with heart stutters. I cautiously looked over to see what else the older man might do.

“I worry that your place in the world may be even more dangerous than simply traveling The Way. And make no mistake, such a unique path is already fraught with danger. But,” he gestured to the empty jade box. “Perhaps you are not so defenseless.”

“For all the good it does me Doctor Lumin. Such defenses do not allow me freedom however strong they might be.” I sighed.

“One day, young Lord fell, one day.”

I nodded once, but privately contemplated the value of such a strange in between. It would have been better if I were born like one of my siblings. Being different only risked young Colborn’s life and incurred isolation. At nine Colborn’s eyes carried accusation.

Doctor Lumin ran his tests all about my house and the garden home which kept me safe. I checked the sketches and tried to work with half formed pieces of putty. Legs to properly pose the statue provided most difficult.

“Most interesting,” the Doctor said upon approaching my small workbench. My house only had room for a foot deep table sitting under the window. “May I have some of these?” He pointed towards discarded attempts.

I nodded. They meant little to me because the material had hardened beyond workability. He picked one up with slack jaw and wavering eyes. The magnifying glass appeared out of a pouch, was polished then held up to the carving.

What he sought to learn I did not know. The doorway to my garden banged shut with a lingering screech. It wiggled in the outside breeze until someone locked it shut. Sometime later I took note of a figuring moving through the garden to confirm my presence. Once he came within sight the guard in green nodded then briskly walked back out.

Eventually I realized the Doctor had left. My third teacher did not perform greetings, or farewells. In this he was nothing like Mistress Charity. Still, he dared to touch me, and in that Mistress Charity was nothing like him. Each teacher was dear to me for a different reason. They were my connections into a wider world.

Perhaps I could make statues for them as well. I nodded and added their names to a growing list. Capturing their figures should be simple enough, but an essence like my sister’s statue likely held different challenges.

I engrossed myself in the project of replicated my stance from years ago. Drifting meditation helped bring a memory of her, moving slowly in motion, to the present. Fingers slowly shaped the base in yet another attempt to form precious material correctly. Eerika, would hopefully value the gift.

Minute corrections were made before a layer of softer material went on top of the hard base. Hours came and went as I struggled to capture every line correctly. Drawing practice helped me understand where the dips were, but turning a flat memory into fully three dimensional product ruined many attempts.

Finally, by bedtime I had a finished product at long last. The timing was fortunate since my eldest sister would be celebrating her birthday in a few days’ time. This felt like a valuable contribution to my family.

I slowly studied the statue, smoothing out places where fingerprint marred its surface. After a dozen such passes the piece looked nearly ready. Overnight the material would finish drying.

Sleep came slowly as I stared across at the statue. Perhaps this might be a better pastime than even the drawings. Family made physical, to represent the one which stayed distant.

Later the next day, slightly after high noon, my eldest sister sat at the threshold to my garden. She arrived shortly after hearing of a gift from me for her birthday. Twenty served as an important marker, and I had been told she would soon leave the household. Perhaps I might not succeed in my own endeavors by the time she left.

“What is this?” Eerika asked with a voice that sounded rougher than it used to.

“A gift for you, elder sister Eerika. A statue,” I bowed while speaking, but she did not.

Eldest sister wore a tight bit of clothing that curled up around the neck. Crimson coloring, which all three women in the household favored, ruled a flowering pattern that hugged her form until the legs. They were left in looser fabric to allow for defensive arts, which I remembered curling with red flames.

It had been years since seeing their practice first hand, and this meager offering tried hard to capture the essence of those movements. I did not know what else to provide them, trapped as I was.

“You’re giving me a gift,” she stated while tilting her head slightly.

I nodded slowly and tried to gauge her reaction. Rarely did any of us wear true emotions. My siblings were standoffish, with others of course, but especially among each other. It was part of how we were raised. We needed to be smarter than other children, more capable, stronger, faster, and learn The Way. We had been groomed to compete with rarely met enemies. Even isolation wouldn’t stop teachers from being sent at us to report on progress.

She opened the gate slowly, reached inside then grabbed the statue. My sister looked like timid young girl compared to Mistress Charity, who braved the garden without hesitation.

“Thank you, brother Fell,” Eerika said.

I bowed. By the time my head lifted she had gone, taking the statue with her. It was a small success. The emotion rode with me making the day easier, at least until a late afternoon meeting with father, much later.

He rang a bell at the gate, summoning me from distraction. For him I rushed to get into position. We both knelt then father asked his standard array of questions. Replies stayed the same as a thousand days before. I was well, and no progress had been made.

Only today’s conversation held a different tone. My father abandoned his kneeling pose, stood up then walked towards the gate. My breath hitched as the enormity of his presence truly hit me.

He swam with grey sword essence. Every motion radiated power and confidence. His dark gaze stared down at me until I felt very small indeed.

“Fell,” my father’s voice sounded serious and I went rigid with tension. The attempt to right myself did nothing to detract from his presence.

Perhaps my cleverly worded phrases and desire for freedom were pushing too far. I had only mentioned to my three teachers that experience with the outside world would allow for growth. It served as an excuse for the true goal of escaping me four walled prison.

“In four days the month shall turn, and a black day will be allowed,” his words made my mother’s head snap with a glare. The idea had barely begun being explained and already met with disapproval.

Father didn’t care.

“I see,” I lied.

Black days came once every three months and were said to allow all actions. At the turn of each season was a day said to be hidden from, or by, the gods. Every other day they watched the planes of reality below and judged those who traveled around. On this subject each of my teachers had something to say.

Captain Nagi believed them to be a dangerous time. People fought endlessly, citizens of the state did not attempt to keep the peace, and those family guards who roamed were extra aggressive in watching their guards. Thieves ran the streets and murders were allowed.

Mistress Charity called them hedonistic events which people used as excuses to engage in immoral trysts or other slanderous behavior. Her face betrayed a small amount of happiness while speaking of such events. Yet, as with many things Mistress Charity spoke of, I did not fully understand.

Doctor Lumin warned of one thing only, that creatures which preferred to remain unseen often arrived in droves. Creatures, I believed, which might be dangerous to more than the body of a human.

“If you truly wish freedom, even if only for a day, then I will provide two guards with a limited area.”

Mother’s body seized with a suppressed emotion but I took no heed. Both my eyes watered at the idea of venturing forth without punishment.

“Yes, father, such a gift would mean worlds.” My head bowed to the floor once more, and there it stayed until both parents started to leave.

I looked up only during their leaving to see a worried expression across my mother’s face. It meant little in the wake of joyous news. Eventually I would regret not paying heed.

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