Rain… I’ve always hated the rain, but now I couldn’t been more grateful for the downpour we were experiencing.
Overhead the night sky was blanketed by dark storm clouds and rain drops bombarded the land, made it difficult to see more than a few feet in front of you. Though it wasn’t the bone chilling rain that preceded the winter season, my skin had gone numb by the time I exited the city. There was no doubt that rivers would flood and landslides would block the road.
A sane person would find shelter and wait for the storm to pass, but that wasn’t an option available to me. The only way to save my baby was to brave this storm and get as far away from this city as I could before he could send someone after me.
My baby was only a few days old, yet Erin had sentenced him to die.
How could he?! Were all his talk of love and wanting to start a family so flimsy that they couldn’t accept that our baby looked different. This child was suppose to be the proof of our love but Erin tossed him aside like a piece of trash!!!
I wouldn't allow him or the foundation to take my baby, so I ran. Once I regained enough strength to stand on own, I put together a small pack of necessities and fled into the night with my son in tow.
Exhaustion had started to set in by now and the forty addition pound my clothes seemed to weigh weren’t helping me in this regard. I long since lost track of how long I’ve been running or where I was heading. The rain, darkness, and the forest had started blending together the moment I made it beyond the city limits.
With no other option I continued to run in a straight line and hoped that the storm would cover my tracks. One foot in front of the other, inch by inch, the world around me faded to the background as every bit of energy I could muster was placed into achieving that simple goal.
Then I heard a sound, a sound so small and weak that it was barely audible over the thundering ran. My son was crying, perhaps he’d been crying for a while now, but I’d been so wrapped up in my own head I hadn’t even noticed.
It was then that I made the mistake of looking down at the bundle I’d been carrying till now. Just as I reached to unveil his face, my next step connected with nothing by air. As while as my son crying, I hadn’t noticed I’d been walking up a hill, and now we both were paying the price that oversight.
I’d been looking down at my son one moment and in the next the sky and the ground started swapping places with one another. With every switch I felt fallen branches and rocks bite into my skin.
While the tumble might have lasted a couple of seconds at most, relief flooded my senses once the world righted itself. Laying on my back, I had but a moment of rest before I realized I wasn’t holding my son anymore.
Leaping up to my feet I frantically looked around from my son.
It didn’t take long to find him.
The sky blue blanket he’d been wrapped in had come undone during the fall and the was covered in dirt and grim.
Tears started to block my already limited vision when I saw the red start to bleed into the fabric. Nearby the blanket was a jagged stone, also dyed red.
I mind didn’t want to accept with my eyes saw. I felt as if a stone had been dropped on stomach.
“No… No... “
His body laid there unmoving as a mix of blood and ran pooled around him.
I woke up from my nightmare in a cold sweat. The shabby furnishing I’d managed to acquire over the last couple of years were still there. But more importantly Gaisei was still here, comfortably sleeping right beside me, while the sound of raindrops hitting the roof could be head in the background.
Though he was small for his age, he was healthy and he was alive. However, the nightmare was still on the fringes of my mind. If I hadn’t grown used to them I probably couldn’t make it through the rainy seasons. Every time it rained, without fail, I would be racked with nightmares. Initially, I dreaded falling asleep, frightened that the nightmares would persist, but as soon as the storm passed my restful nights would return.
“Etingi emalf, tserus”
The half-melted candles on top of the dresser spracked the after my small chant. While I was never a very powerful magic user my precision was non-matched. It came in handle when Erin’s eyes lingered on another woman. Remember how he would run around trying to put out the fire on his backside brought a smile to my lips.
“No. Do what you have to. Trying to distract yourself won’t help”
After a rough head shake, I turned my eyes towards Gaisei. Even knowing what he was capable of simply looking at his sleeping figure only showed a small child in need of protection. As carefully as I could, I placed my hand over the back of his head and brushed his hair aside.
[It’d still there…]
My voice was barely a whisper whisper as I looked upon the faded vertical scar that covered the back of Gaisei’s head.
The night I ran away from my husband was the worst day of my life, but the morning after had brought about a degree of jubilation that I’ve never before experienced.
After our tumble down the hill I spent the rest of the night cradling Gaisei in my arms as I cried my eyes out. I’d thought I’d killed my son before my husband could even hand him over to the foundation. Whenever my throat became sore I just sat motionless and contemplated with to do before the weight of what I’d done caused my sobs to begin anew.
Through tear-filled eyes I looked down at what I thought was my son’s corpse, occasionally catching a flicker of a light in the corner of my eye. As the sun appeared along the horizon I’d made my decision.
I wrapped Gaisei’s body in his bloodstained blanket and laid him down next to me. After a moment of hesitation, I drew one of the knives I brought along and raised it to my neck.
The blade had just cut into my skin when a baby’s cry stopped me.
I thought I’d gone mad but a baby was crying. Tossing my my knife aside, I uncovered Gaisei’s face to find that he was alive. Somehow my baby was alive.
The moment all seemed lost a drop of hope fell into my lap, and since then I tried my damnedest to not let it go to waste.
Slowly raising from our bed as to not wake Gaisei, I made my way over to the shabby little dresser in the corner and opened the bottom drawer. There were a few miscellaneous tool in the drawer but the brownish stain on the blue cloth made it easy to pick out what I was after.
After moving a few Items off of it, I unwrapped Gaisei old blanket and held up the old jewelry box that it concealed. When I fled the capital the small wooden box had a fine polish to it and solid gold latch, now the wood had dulled and the latch had snapped off a while ago. The rings and bracelets that the box once contained had also been sold or traded over the years.
All but one.
Lifting the box’s lid revealed the emerald encrusted bracelet. The band was made of solid gold and the large emerald centerpiece was sit in a star-shaped golden frame. It was the engagement bracelet Erin presented me with two decades ago. Erin spared no expense in having it crafted and it might have sold for a fair amount of money, but fear of the item leading him to me kept me from selling it. That was my excuse anyway.
“I should stop holding on to the past.”
Despite knowing that he was going to kill our son some part of me still loved Erin. A part of me still held out hope that he’d welcome Gaisei and me back with open arms. A part just wanted us to be a happy family.
Drops of water suddenly started landing on the bracelet. I looked to search for the leak but the roof still held up.
When I touched my face, I realized that I’d started crying at some point. Maybe it was a foolish of me to long for the impossible, but everyone sought relief wherever they could find it.
Sometimes losing yourself in unachievable fantasies was the only way to get through the doldrums of an uncaring world. Simply forgeting about life’s challenges and be immersed was idealized life was one of the few escapes I had. It was only the matter of remaining tethered to reality that make such expeditions dangerous, as completely severing one’s self is the shortest route to death.
Luckily I had something important that always gave me the strength to come back and face the world.
My little Gaisei.
After a few minutes the rain finally stopped. I placed the bracelet back where it'd been and blow out the candles.
Tomorrow, I needed to prepare that list I promised Donovan and start sorting through the what we own for the essentials.
It’s been awhile since our last move and much preparation needed to be done. If everything pans out like I want, we should be able to leave right after my business with Donovan is settled. It might be a good idea to head south and without winter in a cave or tent.
Eventually I dozed off while thinking of my plans for the future.
In a certain house within Sinedo Village:
“Why do you have to be the one that goes? Aiyana’s birthday is coming up, are you just gonna miss it?!”
“It’ll be alright, I’ll only be gone for a couple of days at most. I wouldn’t miss my precious flowers birthday.”
“Ashin, you shouldn’t push yourself. It’s only been a few months you regained the ability to stand without assistance. Surely another guard ca─”
“Selina, you’re worrying too much. All I’m doing is showing a couple of rookies the ropes. Could you apply the salve to my back? ”
Ashin cut off his wife’s attempt to talk him out of the training excursion. He’d already put too much into his plans to be dissuaded now. He especially didn’t need to be reminded of that incident, as one was quite literally etched onto his flesh. Ashin laid face-down and shirtless on marital bed and did his best to ignore Selina’s worries.
Over his century and a half long life Ashin had managed to acquire quite a number of scars despite never venturing too far away from the village he was born in. Some had been from dealing with monsters and wild animals that wandered too close to the village, others were from dealing with bandits that started making trouble in the area.
While most of the scars were mementos of past victories, the newest one all but certainly spelled the end of his current lifestyle. A few months back a Giant Flame Viper had set up a burrow in the wheat field, so Ashin and a few other guards had been sent to kill it. Unfortunately, the monster snuck up behind them and stuck with its flame breath.
Though Ashin had managed to duck his head in time, flames burnt away his leather armor as if it were parchment. Then the flames reached his flesh. The pain of having fat and muscle seared off his back was enough to knock him unconscious.
He awoke to find his wife and daughter weeping over his body and an overall sense of numbness. From what he’d heard he’d been one of the lucky ones, the two that’d been standing next to him when the Viper attacked died from their injuries and another four fell before the monster was slain.
Even with the villager healers assistance, there’d been a high chance that of him not making it.
“Aah! That stings”
“Hold still, I’m almost done.”
Though he’d started down the road to recovery he knew that he was slower, that he was weaker, that he was less than what he had been. It would take decades to return to what he once was, but that was time he didn’t have.
Sinedo was in the midst of converting into a town. New faces were arriving every month and it wouldn’t be long before an injured guard would be rendered useless.
“Finished, now that wasn’t so bad was it?”
As Ashin stood up he could clearly see the worry on his wife’s face.
“Selina, everything’s gonna be fine. When I get back we’ll celebrate Aiyana’s birthday.”
Ashin embraced Selina and gave her a deep kiss before answering her with a wicked smell on his face..
“I promise. It’s getting late and I have to be up early tomorrow, so unless you want to try giving Aiyana a little brother or sister we should get to bed.”
“Why did I marry you again?”
“Because of my charm and roguish good looks.”
“Maybe, it's time to reevaluate my decisions”
“Haha, goodnight, my love.”
If Ashin let things stay as they were, his family would suffer in the coming years. There was little he could do besides fight and soon his diminished abilities won’t be enough to provide for them. He needed to cement his position in the village before the transition was complete. Being a local hero would offer them a bit of protection and open a few doors for him and his family.
As his drifted off one thought occupied Ashin’s mind: His plan had to succeed, no matter what.