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Gateways to Casselonia chapter 9
Fwoosh! The missile-like arrow cut through the air with ease and at an alarming speed, which created a noise loud enough for Sr. Bowen to notice, making him turn his head slightly in the direction of the sound.
And that's when the arrow plunged violently into his neck. His body stood there for a few motionless seconds, alarming amounts of blood pouring down his guard uniform, some of it even on the wall behind him. He dropped to his knees as he let go of the long spear in his right hand, and collapsed to the side. The ominous glow of the moon almost shone its brightest over him as if either mourning or welcoming him to an afterlife.
Not a scream or any sounds of pain were made the moment he was struck, only a faint grunt at the moment of impact. It was so fast, like lightening. He died instantly.
Three of the five criminals that had made their intentions clear by now, scurried to a window on the side of the manor and carefully removed it with sophisticated tools. Once inside, the three assailants stopped briefly in front of the majestic staircase lit up by candles that connected the two floors together. " You two find whatever valuables you can find down here, and don't split up. I'll go upstairs and look for the wind blade regalia. After that... revenge." Whatever he meant by "revenge", it could only entail further chaos.
They split up into two groups and went by the plan put forth by the leader. Still not a soul in the village or the manor had any idea of what was going on while they slept. Sr. Bowen's lifeless body continued laying only steps away from the entrance of the estate.The intruders were so swift and smooth, they didn't even let their heartbeats make a sound.
The duo that had stayed on the first floor headed straight for the great hall. They chose it first so they could steal the banners, flags, and other valuables as trophies. One of the two was on a ladder untying the drapes and already had a few of them thrown into a collective pile on the ground.
"How much do you think we'll get for these?"
"Meh, who knows. Probably a couple hundred shield for each. What I wanna know is how much the wind blade regalia is worth."
"Aren't those things supposed to be priceless? They're handed down from the monarchy, and only generals get to have those natural magic weapons."
"I know that dammit. I'm just curious as to how much they'd be worth if they were put up for sale. No doubt we'd be rich."
"Yeah, You can say that again."
While these two were chatting away in the great hall, lord Maxwell was getting up from his bed rubbing his weary eyes. "What happened Cedric?" Lady Endolyn asked him in a whisper, she was half asleep and neatly settled in bed.
"I think I may've forgotten to read and sign a document."
"Can't you just do that tomorrow? It's really late right now." She said while adjusting the blanket covering her.
"I won't be able to sleep if I know I left something without looking at it. Going to my office, I'll be right back." He put on a pair of slippers, a coat over his silk pajamas, lit a small candle and exited the room.
A few doors down the same hall in another room, the leader was searching for the so called "wind blade regalia" in haste. More than half of the books on a large shelf were scattered on the floor, papers and documents, and even a small mattress was turned over. At the moment, he was sitting in a desk looking inside shelves and anything he could to find a clue. "Shit... It's not in here either. This is the fifth room I've looked inside and nothing." His right hand turned into a fist from the anger building inside him. "Don't tell me he keeps it in his room, because that might ruin the entire plan." Running out of ideas, he got up from the chair and decided the best thing was to move on to the next room. "I have to keep searching... I can't give up so fast."
As he walked towards the door, the intruder accidentally bumped his hip on a large wooden table, sounding off a moderate thud loud enough for the half-asleep lady Endolyn to wake up. "Hmmm... Cedric, is that you?" Her tone very drowsy, but she began to wake up noticing that the noise had come from the opposite direction of lord Maxwell's office. "It can't be. Cedric went downstairs to his office and that noise came from down the hall. Is it one of the maids perhaps?" The mysterious noise troubled her, so she began to get out of bed.
Lord Maxwell closed the door on his office as he had now checked on the neglected documents. "Silly me. I did finish everything today. Must be because I'm getting old now-" A dim light coming from the great hall down the corridor suddenly caught his attention.
"What is?... Why would there be candles still lighting the great hall? The banners could catch fire if no one's around to put it out. I'll have to speak with Lola tomorrow first thing in the morning."
Lord Maxwell walked towards the great hall, candlestick in hand lighting the way for him in the darkness of night. To his surprise though, his ears were picking up on hazy voices coming from the interior of the great hall with each step as he came closer to the door.
"Hurry up so we can get out of here, it's been a half hour since we started this and we can't afford to stay much longer." The voice's tone felt rushed and pressed for time. Already lord Maxwell suspected something unlawful was going on inside his manor, so when he got to the door, he opened it slightly and peeked inside to see what he was dealing with.
"Blow out the candle already or someone'll see us."
"Just give me a minute, I'm almost done here."
Eyes fully widened and shaking with anger, lord Maxwell concluded that enough was enough, it was time to chase off these criminals!
He slammed the door open with all his might, emitting a roaring Bam that vibrated and echoed throughout the entire first floor of the manor. "Fools! Anyone unsoliciting in my manor will be cut down by me!!" The rage in his voice sunk deep into the intruders' skin, paralyzing them on the spot with pure fear.
"Shit! Wasn't lord Gragolon gonna take care of the geezer?!" The thief on top of the ladder asked out of reflex, not really expecting an answer in return.
"Gragolon you say?!" The name alone suddenly morphed confusion into lord Maxwell's furious expression. It's familiarity rang a discomfort in his ears. And then... "Endolyn... She's all by herself." He whispered under his breath with a hint of fear as if imagining his wife in danger.
The intruder on ground level instantly unsheathed the long sword at his side, and kicked back the ground, sprinting fiercely towards lord Maxwell. "In the name of lord Gragolon and the Koringian Empire! I will avenge our fallen heroes!!"
Lord Maxwell took one step back as the intruder charged in like a bullet, his face stretched and eyes wide open bracing his body.
Splat... splat, splat, splat...
Dyeing the floor in deep crimson blotches, sword jutting out also drenched in red, only heavy wheezing and groaning were heard in the great hall. Teeth were being flashed angrily like a beast, eyes peeled open covered in veins and eyebrows slanting forward at extreme angles. Fists clenched and bodies trembling, the blade began to pull out slowly and then yanked out with force, sending the blood that was on the sword flying in mid air. "My... E-Endolyn... my, Thea... I'm sorry... I... I-I couldn't-" Lord Maxwell had his hands pressed up against his chest where massive amounts of blood were gushing out. He fell on his knees staring at the ground with teary eyes. "I protected an entire nation... for decades... but I couldn't protect... my own... family..." With long sword still in hand, the intruder raised it up high above his head before finally bringing it down with a full swing, severing the noble's head clean off his body.
"We've made enough ruckus. Set fire to this place and let's get out of here now."
On the second floor of the manor, lady Endolyn made haste putting on her slippers after hearing faint sounds of yelling coming from downstairs. "Those noises I heard. Did something happen to Cedric? I have to hurry." Her inner voice showed signs of despair and anxiety from the adrenaline building up in her body. All signs pointed to something disastrous. She opened the door fast and it croaked annoyingly in the dark hallway only lit by two small enclosed candles outside the room. The lady of the manor only took four steps before a voice ordering a blunt "Halt!" behind her suddenly forced her to stop. Being under one of the lights, she turned her head the opposite way, remembering that only a few moments earlier she'd heard a strange noise in the same direction.
"Who... who are you?"
"Before I take your life, I want you to tell me something."Towering over lady Endolyn almost two meters tall, a nasty vertical scar stretching from the edge of the mouth to the left eye socket void of it's eye. Sporting dark garments and covered in a long black cloak, Lord Gragolon- leader of the intruders- stepped patiently into the light to show himself as he continued his murderous line.
"Where is the wind blade regalia?"
She swallowed a sharp gasp from seeing the terrifying man coming out of the shadows like a demon.
"Where is it!!"
A slick shine flickered between them for a millisecond, as lord Gragolon promptly unsheathed a hidden dagger from underneath his cloak and charged full speed at lady Endolyn, thrusting it deep into her abdomen.
Both stayed in the same position for a few seconds until lady Endolyn dropped to her knees and lord Gragolon following her lead with the dagger still inside, her blood dripping everywhere. She then fell onto her back as she placed her hands over the weapon, trying to mutter words under the thick blood flowing from her mouth while making eye contact with her assailant.
"Awwwh... you went and made me do something I didn't want to. Well, sooner or later I was going to do it anyway, but judging from the smoke traveling all the way over here, it seems my comrades have finished their business. There's no way Cedric could compete with my highly skilled men, Hahahahaha! My mission was only half a success. I wasn't able to take Cedric's head like I planned, but at least I got his pretty little daughter, and now his wife..."
A last revelation said with arrogance in all it's glory stabbed deeper into lady Endolyn's abdomen than the dagger already inside. On top of her was the same man who had assassinated their daughter over twenty years ago in cold blood. Two relevant facts remained untold however. First, this was an independent raid carried out without the Koringian empire's knowledge. Second, that he had surveyed the village twice already during the last month from a distance before this day. Meaning, he was also the same person on horseback Sorata saw just a few days after arriving to Casselonia, and hours earlier before the festival.
Lady Endolyn's quivering hands gradually weakened until they gave way and dropped to the ground in a puddle of her own blood. Everything in her field of view was now so hazy and dark, not even the candlelight above shone bright enough to reveal lord Gragolon's sinister smile. Her world faded into darkness gradually. And finally... nothing.
Several loud voices emerged from all directions in the manor, the employees had woken up due to the commotion and knew something wasn't right. "I killed her without finding the wind blade regalia. Should really learn to control my anger." From his dark cloak, two small rounded objects appeared in his hands and he raised them to one of the wall candles, taking off the glass covering. They were bombs and he had just ignited them.
"At least I got my revenge... at least... But I also really wanted Cedric's regalia. And now, it's gonna be destroyed... Goddamn."
His complacent tone mixed with regret as he realized he would leave empty-handed. He walked around the lady's body, opened the nearest door, and casually tossed the explosives in opposite directions into the hallway before jumping out of the room's window.
"What the hell was that?!"
Almost jumping out off his bed, heart racing and excessive breathing, Sorata half screamed his question seconds after being scared awake by the explosions.
"Can you hear them?" A dreadful voice whispered.
Sorata turned his head frantically over to his right, where he saw Mizuki sitting upright in her bed. She was looking up at the night sky from the open window of the room, letting herself bathe in the moonlight.
"The screaming voices outside... Can you hear them, Sorata?" Mizuki's words sounded more arduous this time around repeating herself. Sorata sat in a short silence just staring at her heavenly looking figure in the light of the moon, his hands shaking and gripping the blanket for some form of stress relief.
Equally stunned and afraid, Mizuki's eyes were as big as an owl's while she continued to hear panicking screams coming from beyond the stone walls.
Fully dressed now, Sorata and Mizuki burst out of their servant's quarters like escapees from a prison, only to tone down their running speed soon after to nearly zero as they saw Lola- the head maid of the manor and one of their closest friends- on the ground in front of the blazing estate, desperately hugging something while she cried the most painful weeps Sorata had ever heard in his life.
"Nooooooo!!! Why?! Why?! Mereck!!!...My Mereck!!" Sorata began to walk himself, almost unaware of his own actions, to Lola. His body swayed loosely from side to side a few centimeters with each step. Mizuki lost grip of his shirt in the process.
He stopped about two steps short in front of Lola, her face full of tears and yelling in emotional pain, and turned his attention to what it was she was holding on to. With his own eyes he saw a long bloody arrow lodged halfway through Sr. Bowen's neck. Sorata's body was immediately overtaken by a violent rush of fear that made him tremble without him even knowing it. For a second he saw nothing but Lola in pain holding onto Sr. Bowen's dead body, heard nothing but Lola's desperate cries, felt nothing but the painful beating of his heart against his chest. It was almost the same feeling he had in the streets of Casselonia, right after he was kicked out of the dealer's shop. This strange reality... what was it really? Was he dreaming? Was all of this some kind of nasty joke? Who was pulling the strings behind the curtains and forcing him to live in this artificial hell?
"What did I do... to deserve this?"
A mammoth scream built up deep within his throat, ready to be unleashed like a roaring avalanche.
"Sorata! Sorata!!" Mizuki lunged her body at him from behind, hugging him tight. "Sorata! Everybody's trying to put out the fire! Go help them out, please! I'll stay here with Lola!"
Even though she screamed this, Mizuki's voice still sounded so pure and beautiful. And it was all it took to instantly snap Sorata out of his mental breakdown. He looked over his shoulder and saw her face buried in his back. Something deep inside him clicked and soon he worked up enough courage to join the villagers in extinguishing the fire. Mizuki allowed herself to fall on her knees and then began her attempt in consoling Lola how ever she could.
Exterminating the fire became one of the most onerous tasks Sorata had to do in his entire life, and that was with the help of an entire village population too. The water sources used were the five wells and the small river on the edge of the village. Still, people had to walk back and forth from well to well, and river in order to transport the water. Some even came up with ideas to load a bunch of buckets in small wagon at the river and carry them by horse or whatever farm animal. The only issues it entailed was the sloping hill. Some animals became burdened with all the weight of the water on the carts, it prevented them from traveling uphill any further.
In total, extinguishing the fire took around four hours and a little help from scattered showers. The village could count themselves lucky for all they knew. And so when the blaze came to an end, most of the male villagers walked over the now charred manor house that was only piles of black wood, to see if they could find the bodies of the missing lord and lady, as well as any other live-in workers. Many of the maids and cooks perished during the explosions. Only Lola escaped with minor injuries and another maid with more severe burns. Lord and lady Maxwell were found in the end, but completely burned like charcoal. The only thing they weren't able to find was lord Maxwell's head, because most likely it had turned to ash after four long hours of being in the burning inferno.
Nonetheless, someone was able to find the doll pertaining to the long lost daughter of the Maxwell manor. The woman who found it also gave it to Mizuki shortly after, which incited her to drown in tears as she received it with only minor scrapes. A few of the village men, including Mr. Tybalt, took Sr. Bowen's body and wrapped it in white sheets given to them by the chapel, and nearly every woman in the village went to console Lola for her loss. That's how things had turned out after the disaster, and it was only four in the morning.
Slamming the door open nearly breaking the hinges off, Sorata walked clumsily into the bedroom once again feeling like his world was crashing down on him. Mizuki came in running soon after him, as if she had spotted Sorata going into the room from a distance and tried to catch up. Red bags under his eyes made his already bloodshot eyes look even redder. He was crying and sniffing to the extent that if you heard him, you'd probably think he was overdoing it. But at this point he could care less about everything.
Sorata kept on walking like a drunkard until he reached the wall at the far end of the room, where he stood looking aimlessly at it while his head rested against its cold and rough surface. Mizuki was behind him looking worried sick. Her hands were at chest level clasped together. At this point, she hesitated to say or ask anything in fear of disturbing Sorata, she couldn't leave him alone either, or so her conscious kept telling her not to. At the very least, having some form of company close by could encourage him to calm down... is what she thought.
"I wanna die. I wanna die dammit! I can't take this anymore!" In the midst of Sorata's breakdown, he began hitting the wall with his fists and cried even louder than before, adding in a few lines that sparked a flame inside Mizuki's heart. She ran and embraced him from behind using all her strength to restrain the hopeless boy from falling deeper into his depression.
"Don't say those things! Don't say that you wanna die Sorata, because I know you don't! If you're gone then what will I do?! You have me right here... we're both in this mess together!"
"Then what do you want me to do?! Pretend like this all fake?! Like it's just another bad dream?!" His voice then died down to that of a quiet weep. "I can't pretend to be as strong as you are... I... I don't have the strength. I can't do anyth-"
Cutting him off harshly, Mizuki argued, "Back then you said you'd protect me didn't you? Or was that a lie? Did you lie to me just so I could feel safe in this place?" At the end of her sentence, Sorata's breathing quickly turned back to normal. "That time... when you said you would protect me... I-I truly believed it, and I know you meant it because your voice was so pure and reliable. It still rings in my ears every time I feel like crying, and thanks to you I've been able to refrain from cutting myself again. Instead of dying I want to adapt and face this world with you!"
As she said, Mizuki's wrist had already felt the cold edge of a razor. A few years ago when her parents didn't let her go to their luxury townhouse condo in Seoul with her friends for new years, she starved herself for a couple days and then cut her wrist as a way to protest to her parents.
Sorata steadily dropped to his knees in silence, as did Mizuki who was sobbing all over his back and clinging on to him as if her life depended on it. They stayed in that familiar position for a while until Mizuki's sobs were no more than quiet sniffles. Thereafter, everything seemed to have quieted down to how things used to be, even the noise level outside was toned down to that of a normal early morning in the village.
Feeling completely relaxed now, Mizuki had loosened her grip on Sorata considerably. But without speaking a word to each other, as if they both knew what they were thinking, Mizuki scooted herself back a bit and sat with her legs folded and out to the side somewhat. Then Sorata crawled over to her and laid his head on her lap, using it as a pillow as she softly caressed his hair with her gentle fingers. He continued shedding tears, but quietly and without whimpering. Being in this position would have enthralled the old Sorata to the point of passing out from the excitement. He was after all, in a very intimate position with Mizuki- the girl he liked- but despite that, he was as motionless as ever, letting her play with his hair slowly just as he always pictured himself with her in his imagination. That wasn't to say he felt nothing at her touch. It was because of her caring that he was able to calm down to this extent.
The giant moon in the night sky with a ring decorating its exterior, gave way to the faint colors of a crisp twilight, bringing with it a new day after the fatal disaster that was only a few hours ago. Time-wise, it was around five or six in the morning.
Sorata and Mizuki stayed awake in their current lap-pillow position throughout the night, with Mizuki stretching her right arm and leaning her head onto the bed.
It was pretty amazing in its own way that they actually held on for so long without sleep. One would think about the physical state of their eyes. All the crying they'd done in such a short amount of time was massive strain piling up on the eyelids, including the entire body. But because of the unfortunate incident, they really paid no attention to their own health, every ounce of strength was put into taking out the fire.
Knowing that Mizuki was still awake, Sorata slowly got up from her lap and faced her with his body on all fours. Seeing this, Mizuki slanted herself backward somewhat and began to crawl away from him little by little. He followed after her crawling like an infant, until her back met with the wall, denying any further advancement. This allowed both of them to get terribly close to each other. So close, they could feel breathing land on their bodies, hear their hearts beating ever louder together, planting a big one was only a ridiculously short stretch of the lips away.
Mizuki caressed Sorata's chin lovingly, then he pulled away both her sleeves, revealing her shoulders and a bit of cleavage. She didn't mind it at all, rather, she wanted him to do that. And that's when Sorata dove into her neck, collarbone, and shoulders, kissing them tenderly multiple times, causing Mizuki to breathe a little harder and moan quietly. Her left hand found it's way to his head again and the inviting fingers brushed Sorata's shiny hair reflecting the light seeping in through the open window.
Things had turned out quite hot, in both figurative terms and literal terms. Both were sweating because of close proximity, body temperatures came together and made the atmosphere around them hotter than it was.
But they didn't care at this moment. Sorata and Mizuki were so into themselves, nothing existed outside this intimate moment they were sharing. To put it in a different way, they were unconsciously using this as a way to relieve stress. Whether they knew this fact or not, was a different story, so it was possible that all this had no romantic meaning behind it.
The only one's who knew if it was true or not, were Sorata and Mizuki.