Azhure: Happy new year, all of you. Took me a while, but Owen has finally reunited with his father.
Voice: Let’s go!
“Uhn?” Rin blinked as she and the Court Wizards followed the greater water spirit along the road. “Big sis Alicia, does Aqua look different to you?”
“Hm?” Alicia tilted her head at the little girl’s question. “Oh! I suppose you have not seen Aqua in that attire.”
Overhearing this, Owen took a more detailed look at the Fire Guardian in front of him as he and William were driving the carriage provided by the Bell Branch. As he recalled, Rin must have only seen Aqua in what could be described as a Roman toga which he remembered according to the internet was something male Romans wear. Details, he supposed.
“Oh!” Rin perked. “So spirits also have different clothes?”
“Of course,” Layla, floating outside the carriage, interjected from outside the window. “Once we get passes being wisps on the air, it’ll be boring if we’re stuck to the same looks every day. Here, I’ll show you!” As if she was morphing, the simple dress she wore transformed into a more regal one.
“Me too!” Neptune joined in by changing the adventurer’s cloak covering his body for a snazzy suit.
“Ooh!” Rin gasped in amazement.
“It is something they can do as pure souls,” Alicia explained. “It is just that you have coincidentally only seen Aqua in the same attire every time. She does wear that dress to the Court from time to time.”
As Alicia had said, right now the greater water spirit happened to be ‘wearing’ a Greek dress that complemented her figure elegantly. As always, it’s still glowing red.
Azhure: I was going to mention the clothing change in Aqua in the last chapter, but that would ruin the moment. Also, it wouldn’t make sense for Rin to catch the attention of that first.
Technically, they could have just transferred to the Court and back to the location Aqua was leading them to instead of making the long trek to the besieged capital. However, the greater water spirit had said the place they were going to was crowded making the double transfer method ill-advised for obvious reasons.
That too, further confirmed the obvious situation currently happening.
There were a lot of tents along with various wooden contraptions. Siege weapons. Especially when Owen saw a trebuchet. If it weren’t obvious already, the camp was littered with men dressed for battle, all of whom staring at them while giving them a wide berth no thanks to the greater water guardian leading the carriage.
Ever since Aqua erected the great sea separating the kingdom and empire, people naturally began to not take the spirits for granted, especially the greater spirits having witnessed what one of them who once fought the cursed dragons can do. In practice, it made men cower in fear when the red greater water spirit approach them as if they had offended her.
Now that I think about it, what the hell happened after Aqua turned red? Owen paused for a moment. With her ascension as Fire Guardian resulting in her skin becoming red, how did the people react to it? Mister Bell never told me anything about it.
“Big sis Alicia!” Rin gasped behind the white-haired boy, interrupting his line of thought. “The water is!”
To his left, Owen could see the walls of the Kirash capital situated on the island in the great pond with only three bridges connecting it to the mainland. True to the nature of being in a siege, those bridges were completely blocked off by the attackers. The walls of the capital itself were also visibly worse for wear. However, it was what was on the water below the bridges that caught the Court Wizards’ attention.
“Those are very thick sheets of ice these people are using to aid their siege, in the middle of summer,” Ronald said. “Owen,” he called him.
“Yeah, they’re from ice maneg,” Owen immediately confirmed. “I can feel it from a mile away.”
From the distance, he could see how the ice covered the water between the capital and the rest of Kirash and the water around said capital, surrounding it. If he squinted his eyes, he could see the lakeside ports effectively frozen along with its boats, preventing anyone from escaping through the water or bringing supplies in. There were also boats from the attackers by the edges of the melting ice for good measures.
“We are here,” Aqua said as she stopped in front of the most important-looking tent in the camp with its entrance flanked by guards.
“This signature,” Ronald muttered as he stepped off the carriage. “There’s no doubt about it, it’s Joshua.”
Owen tensed, his entire being seemingly implanting on the ground after getting off the reins. After all those years, he had found his father just inside the tent, and yet he found himself cold on his feet as he felt the imposing aura of maneg he didn’t recognize that must be his father’s.
He wondered why but quickly understood the reason. I guess I’m thinking the whole ‘what would my dad think seeing me after all those years,’ he thought considering all evidence pointed to his father not bothering to contact the Court. And the ‘what if-
“Owen, are you alright?” Alicia asked in concern behind him, interrupting his line of thought.
“Uhn… Are you okay, mister Ruze?” Rin joined it.
“Yeah! You good!?”
“I’m fine,” Owen reassured them. “It’s just that I haven’t seen my dad for years and now he’s right there.”
“I see, it is that kind of feeling,” Alicia nodded in understanding. “Do not worry, Owen. I am sure it will be fine, you just have to take the step forward.”
“Like she said,” William interjected, stepping down from the front seat. “Don’t back down now, not before giving your dad a piece of your mind.”
“…Right,” Owen nodded, his feet no longer tense. “I will.”
“Well then,” Ronald beckoned the kids. “Let us see what Joshua has to say.”
“Here he is,” Aqua presented.
Entering the tent, Owen found it to be almost devoid of people, likely having been dismissed. That left the wide table in the middle with maps and pieces on it rather lifeless without the top generals there to discuss tactics. However, that was not the main focus, but rather the sole occupant in this tent at the other side of the table.
He was tall, very tall. Standing over two meters in height he would definitely stick out like a sore thumb in any crowd – the cloak he was wearing looked like it didn’t go all the way down. His snow-white hair really needed a trip to the barbershop along with a shave of his beard and mustache. Nevertheless, Owen could never mistake the pair of ice-blue eyes for not being the same as his.
“…Dad?” Owen called him out.
The man exhaled, giving a sign of resignation before answering, “Yes Owen, it’s me, your dad.” Averting his gaze for a second, he continued while scratching the back of his head, “uh… sorry for not coming back even though I could have all those years ago.”
Contrary to what other Court Wizards say, Owen can talk to other people comfortably, but only with those he’s familiar with, like Alicia and William. As others say, he preferred to show and not tell, but if he has to explain things by word, he will do it. That said, after many years of not seeing his dad made his interactions with him an unfamiliar territory and the awkward feeling was mutual.
“…” Owen looked around to find everyone else was waiting to see what he does next. Sighing, he wordlessly went to the other side and hugged his father.
As others say, he preferred to show, not tell.
“Yeah, I miss you too, son,” Joshua softly whispered, patting Owen’s head as he hugged him back. “Boy, you’ve grown so much.”
Somewhere in the back of his head, Owen felt like Voice would have some snide remark to say with the last thing his father said. At least the pixie had tact – he still refuse to believe Amelia’s claim of what Voice truly was in relation to Alicia.
“I’m still mad though,” Owen then said, letting go.
“Yeah, I figured,” Joshua smiled wryly.
“You got old, Ronald,” Joshua said with a smirk, his arm resting on the table.
“I could say the same to you, Joshua,” Ronald cooly replied, his one leg bending up to rest on his other knee. “You also need a shave.”
After the heartfelt reunion, the Court Wizards got themselves seated around the table since it would be tiring to keep standing around. Once that’s done, they got back to talking. Presumably, the people outside were told not to interfere. The spirits meanwhile stood by and let the humans to it.
“Yeah, got no time for that,” the bearded man swatted before looking at Alicia. “Well, Alicia, you’ve certainly grown to be a fine lady just like your mother!”
“Thank you, mister Ruze,” Alicia, sitting beside her father nicely, voiced her gratitude.
“Thanks a lot, tall guy!”
“And who is this pixie?” Joshua then asked, pointing at the little red flying creature around Alicia’s head.
“I’m Voice!” the pixie said proudly. “Thirty percent of Alicia’s loyal maneg!”
“My daughter has a one hundred percent loyal maneg composition,” Ronald explained. “Voice here seems to be a result of having such Maneg Soul simply put.”
“…Okay, something new every day.” Joshua nodded in understanding. “But wouldn’t that mean she’s stuck to Vague Orders?” he asked to which Ronald nodded. “Wouldn’t that be dangerous?”
“That is true,” Ronald confirmed. “Which is why Alicia carries a Catalyst as a disloyal maneg battery,” he said as Alicia showed the necklace Catalyst Amelia made for her. “Furthermore, she is planning to support the Court from the backlines, focusing more on managing the Bell Branches than direct fieldwork.”
“I see, that’ll be much safer for her.” Joshua then turned to Rin. “Now who is this young lady?”
“Uhn! Nice to meet you, mister Ruze,” Rin greeted. “My name is Rin Fujiwara!”
“Fujiwara?” Joshua rubbed his beard. “Ah, are you Haruto’s sister he’s been talking about?” he asked to which the little girl nodded happily with her signature noise. “I see. How is he these days?” he then asked only to find awkward silence indicating something was wrong. “…What happened?”
“Haruto was taken by a Rupture,” Ronald answered with a sigh. “The same type that had taken you in some cruel coincidence.”
“He tried to save me from being sucked in. But as a result, he was taken instead,” Alicia confessed with her head down.
“I see,” Joshua nodded with a sigh. “Well, it does sound like him for the short time I’ve met him. He’s a very enthusiastic kid with his ideals.”
“Uhn! My big brother’s the best brother there is!” Rin exclaimed happily. “That’s why I’m not worried about him being missing because I will find him!”
“Is that so, kid?” Joshua chuckled. “Well, considering you guys found me, I’m sure Haruto will be found in no time.”
While all of that was good and all, Owen still felt irritated at what Haruto did that day. Not to make light of the situation, but Alicia could have been fine getting abducted into that Rupture as thanks to her hundred percent loyal maneg, she wouldn’t suffer the ill effects of it that made rescuing Rupture victims so time-consuming. While Owen was still grateful that Haruto saved Alicia back there, he still thought the Japanese boy was an idiot for pulling that stunt out of sheer stubbornness of keeping his promise to Rin.
“Anyway, how about you, kid?” Joshua finally looked at William. “What’s your story?”
“My name is William Trust, usually called Will,” William introduced himself in a rather dull fashion. “And I’m the current Air Guardian.”
“You’re the Air Guardian?” the man lost to the Rupture for several years blinked, letting that fact sink in. “…So the old man finally passed on, huh?” he rolled his eyes down, resting his chin on his hand which its arm was resting on the table.
“A lot has happened for the past eight years, Joshua,” Ronald said, putting his foot down. “A lot.”
Taking a deep breath and exhaling, Joshua sighed in resignation. “Alright, tell me what happened while I was missing.”
“For one, Edward died,” Ronald said bluntly. “Got caught in an epidemic in Osianicd and was too stubborn to have us cure him.”
“Well, that sounds like him,” Joshua sighed. “What of Jake?”
“He’s doing fine,” Ronald reassured. “He took over his father’s ship and quickly became an excellent captain.”
“I see,” Joshua nodded. “What’s next?”
“Melaine Fox died, killed in the penultimate of the War of Princes and Nobles in CoastLine, Qantasia,” Ronald then said with what he remembered reading from the archives, mission reports, and general Court news he kept tabs with since retirement.
“Melaine… She’s a very sweet half-fox,” Joshua muttered. “What of Jonathan?”
“He lost his arm in that chaos, as well as his friends. That war had changed him greatly,” Ronald said sadly. “Furthermore, not too long ago, we learned Melaine’s death was not caused by unfortunate circumstances, but by what we could call a secret cult hidden in the shadows presumably bent on orchestrating the demise of Qantasia for who knows how long.”
“Cultists, huh?” the Ice Court Wizard muttered. “And I’m assuming they knew about us?”
“Yes,” Ronald nodded. “And it caused quite a mess as they were able to get the jump on us. No one got hurt, fortunately.”
It looked like Ronald wasn’t going to reveal that Owen and Alicia were one of the Court Wizards caught up in that mess right now. It’s understandable to Owen, trying to explain all of that would become a long story.
“That’s good,” Joshua nodded in approval. “Anything else?”
“Many more, but we’ll be here all day if I have to list all of them off so I’ll cut to the most important.” Taking a deep breath, Ronald revealed, “Master Catherine is dead, sacrificed herself to save her daughter. Someway or another, that caused Alice to become the next Ice Guardian.”
“Catherine…” Joshua covered his mouth with his hand and broke eye contact. No doubt this hit hard for him since he mentored the former Guardian. “And Alice… I still remember carrying her as a baby… How is she?” he looked straight into Ronald with a serious gaze.
“Quite well as the new Ice Guardian… which is what I want to say,” Ronald said with lowered brows. “The Ice Mother Soul doesn’t recognize Alice’s status as Ice Guardian and as such, she does not have access to the abilities Guardians normally have. Also, the Ice Mother Soul has since been trying to… revoke her guardianship in a dangerous fashion like we’re Final Destination.”
“You’re kidding me…” Joshua muttered.
Contrary to popular belief, the Bells do watch movies and keep up with popular culture in general. They’re not that much of cheapskates that they would be living under a rock – Owen does see modern appliances and electricity inside the Bell mansion, just the more economical ones obviously.
As for the Court side of things, it’s customary to watch gory movies to get desensitized by them and leave the least shock value when seeing the real thing for the first time. Hell, it’s a fear tactic to brutalize one enemy to scare the rest that’s often used by Court Wizards.
“I exaggerate, but the accidents that happened really do look like death was after her,” Ronald continued with a grimace. “But don’t worry. So far, all of the accidents have yet to even put so much of a scratch on the young girl. All of us pitched in to look out for her until the day the Ice Mother Soul finally relents and recognizes her.”
“Well, let’s hope that happens soon,” Joshua sighed. “Anyway, I assume that’s all?”
“No,” Ronald shook his head. “There is still one more thing you should know.” Then he turned to him, “Owen, if you may?”
Owen took a deep breath, he was prepared for this. This was something that he needed to tell his father about. He faced his father who had a worried look on his face, going to break the news. “Hey, dad,” he called.
“What is it, son?” Joshua replied in concern.
Azhure: So, what do you all think of this sub-chapter? Is it good? Are there any problems with it? Any reviews or feedback is appreciated as long as they’re not plain insults meant to blow off your stress.
Voice: Don’t do that to people! Not even on the internet!
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