Darkness swam like a coagulated mass within the room. Everything was covered in darkness, and the single window that would’ve allowed the Daystar’s light was completely covered by an opaque, navy blue curtain. It had been Enchanted to increase its opacity with a Manipulate Matter Spell.
The overwhelming darkness of the room only brought to stark attention the wintry chill of the Nymph season. Frigidity crept up the fingers and toes of Sygmun, making him wake up to the false realization that it was in the Resplendent Days of the Nymph Season.
There was the sound of ruffled movements of skin against cloth.
A turquoise light exploded from the corner. It radiated outward, showering the darkness with a serene, digital glow. On a dark font, symbols flashed: “Seventh Hour of Ascending Morning”. A beat, before the accompanying ringing of the alarm reverberated throughout the walls of the room.
The coal-black haired boy shifted. Without opening his eyes, he reached for his palmnode. When his skin made contact with the flat piece of orasine glass, it shone a turquoise hue. This hue was dimmer than usual. Sygmun opened an eye, and realized he’d forgotten to recharge the palmnode.
Closing the eye again, Sygmun pulled the palmnode nearer to his lips. With a practiced, almost reflexive motion, he buzzed Oberen’s Frequency. When no one answered after thirty seconds, Sygmun wasn’t even surprised anymore. A dull aching where his chest was. He anticipated nothing.
He anticipated nothing.
Sygmun’s palmnode buzzed. He tapped the right side of the palmnode, answering the call. “Syg!”
It was Deriandre. Her voice was high, shrill. Never losing energy, never staying on one thing for too long. He groaned.
“Hey,” — she stretched out that word — “Syg, come on! We’re supposed to head over to that Cafe near the Woods today.”
“Sygmun. Come on. It’ll help you, I promise.”
Sygmun shook his head, even if he knew that nobody would actually see him shake his head. Still in the slow moving blob phase of thinking that one would get early in waking, he tried to think of the responsibilities he had for the day. If he remembered right, it was Burning Day. The only class he had was Advanced Particlemancy — the study of the smallest things that make up the bigger things. His thoughts eventually sam to the part where he remembered the time of the class — Third Hour of Descending. Afterzenith.
His pillow had fallen onto the floor, performing acts of debauchery. He writhed in his bed. His blanket was soft; his foot tapped his lapnode, nudging it off of his bed and onto the floor beside it. It thudded softly.
Sygmun didn’t mind. Orasine was a tough material — he’d paid for that stability.
A few more minutes of just darkness. His alarm clock had powered off, receding back into itself, and letting the mass of black fill the room once again. The only lights were the small pinpricks of light from the palmnode and the lapnode.
It wasn’t long before Sygmun decided he couldn’t just stay here all day. If he did, he’d be stuck thinking about Oberen. He didn’t need that right now. They haven’t even found the body yet; a cremation couldn’t be arranged.
A disgruntled grunt. A closing of eyes, and then a defeated sigh. Sygmun swung his feet off of the bed. Wearing nothing but a white shirt and red boxers, he sat there for a few more minutes. Every single thing he did needed a million years of rumination. He ran his fingers through his hair, and remembered how nice it felt when Oberen did it.
Now Oberen was…
Sygmun rose to his feet. He wobbled, just a bit. He walked over to the curtain and pulled it to the side. The orange glow of the Daystar had risen to full gold, but the dark nimbuses overshadowed it. There was the bright light that could only come from the Daystar, but the gold glow was gone, replaced with a humid, gray hue.
Sygmun turned and lumbered into the shower. He tore off his clothes and stepped in; pressed the metal knob with the interlocking rune that meant: “Water + Hot”.
Warm water cascaded down in little sprinkles. Sygmun stood there and closed his eyes, letting the scald wash himself away.
It had only been a day since the news from that immigrant Naphli detective. Sygmun shook as his thoughts lingered on the memory. There was a feeling of pitch emptiness where his chest would’ve been, and it felt like it sucked everything that he was into it.
He tried to let the warmth of the shower rinse away his thoughts… to not much avail. Yet every droplet burnt his skin, seeping through his pores and orificies, wafting and penetrating his soul like smoke in rain.
Before long, Sygmun had dressed into a simple getup — a buttoned shirt and some loose cloth joggers. Over the shirt he wore a larger windbreaker that had large pockets… They belonged to Oberen.
On his back, Sygmun slung his Martial Focus — a large, two handed greatsword. As he strapped it onto his back, the Symbols stitched onto the cloth of the makeshift scabbard (which he had fashioned out of an old sports bag) glowed. It was a Manipulate Matter Working that made the greatsword feel as light as a wooden stick.
He made his way out of his dormitory, which was a few blocks away from the North Gate of the Collegium. He turned the other way and walked away from the Collegium. At this time of the morning the golden gleam of the Daystar was buffeted by the wintry caress of the Nymph Season. He walked down the path passing various other humans in dark clothes over darker underclothes. He saw one of the other races — a lakerto — lumbering down the street, wearing an oversized coat and nothing else.
The path even farther North led him to a corner. On such corner was the ubiquitous convenience store of Throne — hell as Shen as a whole — the QuickShop. He walked in, past aisles, and grabbed a couple of JosKaf — canned coffee. Not as delicious as the ones hand made by baristas, but a lot cheaper.
There was no line to pay Sygmun placed the two JosKafs and gave the man behind the counter four coins — four eagles. The man picked up the two Joskafs and placed them on a glass rectangle that hovered slightly above the counter. The floating glass rectangle glowed a bright blue, and then turned red. The cashier placed the four eagles onto the rectangle, and the red turned back into blue, before vanishing completely and turning back into a simple transparent rectangle. The coins were gone, and Sygmun could feel the entanglement of Magick.
The cashier asked if Sygmun wanted it wrapped; Sygmun shook his head. He grabbed the JosKafs and was on his way to the Collegium, popping one of the cans open and chugging.
He was the only one among his circle of friends that had class in Particlemancy today. He sat there and listened to Professor Janith — a lanky woman that preferred to stick to the plan instead of improvising anything. Thus why he listened to Professor Janith speak about Particlemancy equations, for that was the lesson plan for the day.
Sygmun almost fell asleep.
Soon enough, Particlemancy was over. He walked out, made some small talk with the people he marginally knew, before walking out of the room and into the Central Park of the Collegium once again. He stood at a spot where there weren’t too many people, and popped open the second can of JosKaf. He drank, thinking if he should go back to his dorm and just fall back asleep.
He saw a boy throwing a spark of flame at a woman, laughing all the time. The woman laughed as well, and then frowned, made a gesture. The boy blinked, and then fell asleep.
The boy woke up to the girl kissing him. They laughed again, and he could hear the sounds of apologetic, well, apologies.
Sygmun was walking away, already knowing what he was going to do for the rest of the day.
The Bellanian Fields, far to the East of the Gymnasium, was empty. It was past the bugball fields as well, and was thought of as dangerous because the only thing that kept one from falling off from the island — for the Fields were on the edge of the islands — was a weak, chain-link fence.
Sygmun walked out onto the brown grass, his coal hair flailed in the high altitude breeze. The thunderclouds were loud, crackling lightning, but he didn’t care. Storms were common during this time of year. Either that or someone within Throne pissed of Storm Anitos.
There was a tense lightning in the air as Sygmun inhaled. He slid the sports bag off of his shoulders, and it fell onto the brown grass, bouncing a bit on the ground. Unzipping it, he called in his Will, and performed a Manipulate Matter Spell with his mind. Without touching the steel greatsword, with its long hilt made for two hands, he lifted it. It twirled into the air, spun so that its blade pointed upwards, and with another thought, spun it again and struck the ground. The steel of the sword pierced the soil.
Sygmun turned to the clay dummy on the far side. This one was modeled like a tall human. He focused his will onto that, and then guided the greatsword with his mind.
It spun into the air, kicking up soil behind Sygmun. Its blade turned and pointed at the clay human, and with Sygmun’s gesture, the blade shot towards it. In the next second the large blade had embedded itself within the clay human’s chest; it rattled.
Sygmun inhaled. A dull throbbing crept up the back of his neck. Martial Thaumaturgy was always such a hassle. Pulling off such quick Spells was integral in combat, and would usually shatter the mind of a normal Magicker. And there was also the threat of Dissonance…
The coal-haired boy pulled on the greatsword again with his Will. The sword pulled free from the clay human’s chest. The sigil upon which the clay human stood on the ground shone with a gray hue, and the gash on the human’s chest knit together and closed.
With a grunt, Sygmun moved his hands. Like a puppetmaster, he moved and directed the blade, each finger tied to a part of the greatsword. He turned, and the sword followed, swinging in a wide arc that could seriously hurt someone if there was anyone there in the Fields.
The sword sang through the air, its edge meeting wind resistance. “Ha!” The sword struck the clay human once again, slicing its entire upper torso off. With another grunt, Sygmun let go of the Spell, and the greatsword turned in midair and slapped onto the ground.
Sygmun sank to one knee, breathing heavily. He didn’t realize there were tears in his eyes.
No Dissonance either. Just a successful Working, and a decapitated clay human, which soon regrew its upper half. Despite the threat of a storm looming over them, and the howling winds only a testament to that, it seemed oddly silent. The only thing Sygmun could hear was a ringing in his ears.
Sighing, Sygmun fell backwards onto his butt. He used the fabric of his shirt to wipe away the tears. When he inhaled, his nose had turned runny. He cursed.
“Not doing so good, eh, Syg?”
Sygmun didn’t turn. He just shrugged. “Fighting was always good catharsis for me, Master Qamed.”
Qamed laughed from his belly. Sygmun felt his steps, heavy yet lean and light, until he could feel Qamed’s presence behind him. The Master laid a hand on the student. “Some people write for catharsis. Others shout. Others sing.”
“I inflict violence,” Sygmun said, shrugging. “Weird, I guess.”
Qamed snorted. “Not weird. Just different.” A spear impaled itself into the earth as Master Qamed took up the space beside Sygmun, sitting with his legs crossed. Qamed’s caramel skin was more visible now that he wasn’t wearing his Master’s Mantle. He wore a simple white shirt that hugged his figure tightly, so that one could see his well-toned body. “This is about-”
“Yeah.” Sygmun nodded. “It is.”
There was a silence once again. Qamed stared at the clay human. “Oberen was a good man.”
“What happened was a shame…”
The howling winds only provided a buffer to the silence, although it didn’t help at all.
“He died… because of the Warlock, didn’t he?”
“Back then, when I was still new in the Collegium,” continued Sygmun, “Oberen stuck with the Warlock all the time. Although I only really saw them together for a year, before the Warlock was expelled. They were good friends, I think.”
More silence. “Well,” Qamed continued. “Oberen was also faithful to the Dean. Remember the dead body in the middle of East Park?”
Sygmun shrugged. “Dead bodies are everywhere. Especially within the Field of Death. So what?”
“The one with the strange flowers growing out of it.”
Sygmun paused, and then with a slow movement, he nodded.
“Oberen was tasked by the Dean to investigate that. Oberen was an honors student, remember, and he’s worked with the Dean in the past, so the Dean could trust him.”
“And I’m guessing he went to the Warlock for help?”
“He did,” said Master Qamed. “That’s all I know of that story. I don’t know how he died, or why. Or when. There’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes, I assume.”
Sygmun sighed. It was lost to the winds, which now seemed to initiate the silence.
“He was murdered,” said Sygmun. “That’s what angers me.”
“Do you want to look for who did it?” Qamed asked.
Sygmun shrugged. “It would help me feel a lot better.”
Qamed looked up at the sky. The nimbuses were getting stronger. “I wonder if someone angered the Spirit Courts.”
“Or a Cabal of Storm Anito,” said Sygmun. “It’s been like that since yesterday, right?”
Qamed nodded. “There are powerful Transplanar Resonances, from the news I heard. But nothing’s happening yet.”
“An omen,” Sygmun said. “One that definitely doesn’t help ward away the cold of Nymph.”
Qamed chuckled, and ended that with a sigh. “Sygmun. I don’t think chasing after Oberen’s killer is going to help you. The Naphli are on the case.”
“Then what am I supposed to do?” Sygmun asked. He tried to follow that up with something, a witty quote, and angered lash, but instead he ended up falling onto his back, staring up at the clouds. His voice was quiet: “Then what am I supposed to do…?”
Qamed stared at the sky with him. “Live. I guess.”
Sygmun exhaled. “Fuck that.”
The two of them were silent for a moment. Just as Sygmun was about to say something else, Master Qamed rose to his feet. He pulled his spear from the earth. “Fighting is your catharsis, right?”
Sygmun closed his eyes and nodded. “I don’t–”
“Then don’t just live,” Qamed said. He turned to the greatsword lying on the fields. With a quick gesture, winds wrapped around it and flung it towards Sygmun. The student fidgeted, cursed, and performed a quick gesture of his own, Manipulating Matter and stopping the greatsword right in front of him. The winds dissipated. Qamed smiled. “Fight.”
Sygmun grabbed the greatsword with another spell, and turned it around to face Qamed. Qamed’s spear crackled with lightning.
The sky was gray, but the thunder was loud. It sounded like the thundering of hooves.