Chapter 9: Time Elapsed
After a night of sleep, the group arrived at their halfway point and it was the airship’s landing jerk that woke them from their slumber. Still groggy, they were led to the exit as a court soldier found them in their cabin, and had it not been for a pleading cry they would have left without issue.
“Stop please!” A young voice had called out as Sakuya looked down the ramp leading to the port where the ship had landed. She turned still half-awake and saw the young Jasmine running with two Irra soldiers chasing after her, making it halfway to the bodyguard before they stopped her and one kneeled down.
“Young lady please return to your quarters.” The woman said but Jasmine shook her head and shook free, as she finally ran to Sakuya where her large blue eyes looked up, and tossed Sakuya down.
“Please teach me how to fight!” She exclaimed and the two soldiers who chased her looked away.
“I’m sorry but I can’t…” Sakuya said and Jasmine’s brow furrowed.
“Why not?!” She exclaimed. “I heard your story yesterday… We’re supposed to be in the same boat. Why can't you teach me then?” She murmured, forcing back her tears so that she wouldn’t be seen as weak.
“Because you’re too young.” Sakuya replied.
“I’m twelve, how old were you when those people ruined your life?!” Jasmine shrieked and Sakuya didn’t dare mutter the tender age of ten.
“Well I’m on a mission; I can’t just take in a student.” She said and Jasmine forced back tears again.
“I’ll be silent. I won’t say anything or ask for any lessons till your mission is over!” She pleaded and Sakuya struggled to find words to convince her otherwise.
“Revenge isn’t a reason to learn how to fight.” Takeshi assisted. “Revenge isn’t a reason to live.” He went on and Jasmine shook her head.
“I don’t want revenge…” She murmured and both of the teen tortured by the past, looked into her eyes and found it harder to say no.
“It’s not easy.” Aeriane assisted. “You’ll definitely get hurt. Your arms and legs may even be broken more than once, sometimes right after they heal.” She closed her eyes as she spoke with adeptness, and could tell that the thought of broken bones was pushing Jasmine’s desire away.
“Please…” The girl still fought, ignoring the potential difficulty and pain.
“What about your relatives. This vessel was going to take you to them.” Sakuya said.
“I’d just be a burden on them; they already have their own kids, why would they need another.”
“But you don’t even know if I can be your guardian.” Sakuya said and Jasmine turned to the people who chased her.
“Tell her what you told me, please!” She exclaimed and the soldiers nodded in defeat.
“Since you possess an Irra badge, you could actually take her in with the intent to train her. It’s seen as a juvenile preparation regiment, used when actually Irra members stumble upon a youth who shows potential. It requires that the parents agree, or if there’s no parent to possibly agree, the child must do so themselves.” The male soldier said and Sakuya let out a defeated sigh.
“I’ll do it. I imagine that I would have been destroyed if my mentor decided not to take me in as a student when I was younger, even though I knew a slight degree beforehand.” Sakuya agreed, and with bright eyes, Jasmine smiled.
It didn’t take her long to retrieve her luggage and make it back to Sakuya, joining the group as they bid farewell to the Irra vessel. From there they headed into the large city, setting up in an inn as Lloyd hastily prepared to go to the university. Ever since his watch had rang the day before, it seemed that the scholar was in the throes of fleeting time, as each passing hour was met with a glance at the watch. During it all, in a moment when he had let his guard down, Sakuya had caught a glance at the watch herself, but couldn’t see the thing that left him so distraught. If she hadn’t taken in a student, she would have stayed by his side, but now, that could only be a preference as she and Jasmine headed to a weapons shop while Aeriane and Takeshi escorted him to the school. The next hour dawned as they arrived there, and it seemed that more than before Lloyd had become frantic, but when he was in the library, surrounded by nothing but the peace of the silence and the two who would guard his life, his mind calmed down. In this calm, with an efficiency that only Aeriane had seen before, he dived into a sea of text, and swam with no resistance as his eyes scrolled across the pages of a every tome he laid out, and his fingers sketched words into a notebook. Watching him work, one would never come to the realization, but as he checked each book and noted the things that were worth noting, the hour hand on his watch ticked away till finally the last book was closed at 14:00.
“I’m done!” He exclaimed, and ignored the shushing that he received soon after. “Quickly, we have to get out of –“He started, but the sudden ringing of his watch cut him off and made his eyes go wide.
Quickly he surveyed the room, looking for something that might stand out, and found with little difficulty, a glowing crack going down one shelf of books. Words failed him as he raised his hand and pointed, and as Aeriane and Takeshi turned to see, they watched the books explode toward them like a shattered pane, as a woman in white emerged from the wall, and set light blue eyes onto the scholar.
“Annalin…” Lloyd murmured as she smiled, and taking his apparent fear as a cue, Takeshi stood between them both.
“You made it far Lloyd, but you’re still a ways away from winning our little game.” She said and Takeshi’s fist tightened.
Waiting for no more cues, he charged the white-blue haired woman with his right fist pulled back, and when his foot stepped down at the halfway point, he felt his body get pulled into the air and thrown to the back of the room. With a loud thud, he crashed into the arch above the door, and fell to the floor, writhing in more pain than he knew he should be in. Meanwhile Aeriane looked onto the woman, half-worried for Lloyd’s life, while the other half stared with a bit of shock. With Takeshi down she knew it would be up to her to protect the client, but the only thing that could come to mind as she looked at her was a question that played repeatedly.
“Who is she?” She turned to Lloyd who had slowly began backing away, half-hoping he could make it to the doors, but knowing that before he got there, they’d slam shut.
“A member of that group that Sakuya detests. A member of The Sullied Hand…” He answered her, and more than before Aeriane wondered how she’d keep him safe…