Chapter 20: The Light of the World
After fleeing from an awkward dinner the previous day in the evening, the blind girl had remained inside her room for the whole night, while both Lydia and Annabelle had both kept their distance and didn’t come to see her, most likely because Eldrin had informed them about their little sister’s need for alone time.
Looking back on the words she had thrown at Anna’s for the childish reason that she was feeling slighted by the behaviour of her family, Nisha realized that she was ashamed for giving in to her feelings and lashing out on the innocent woman.
She knew that the frustration got the worst out of her, and that her tantrum – though relieving – was not justified in any way.
Hopefully they don’t hold it against me. I love them like siblings, and I don’t know what I’d do without Eldrin. Please don’t let them hate me.
Despite her astonishing intelligence, learning speed and maturity, the dragon was only twelve or thirteen years old, a child in any species around the world.
The Wilderness was forcing its inhabitants to quickly leave behind their gullibility, and rapidly develop a dog eat dog world mentality.
Living in an environment where she could be honestly concerned about someone else than the three lizards she had first been responsible for was a new experience for her, even more so as she was the little sister who’s being spoiled.
The old elf allowed her one more moment of laziness in the bed, before urging her to get up and dressed.
“Come on, we have to look after the animals. Mister Hayze will be staying for the rest of the day before heading back to Thurgau, it would be bad manners to avoid him. Please do it for one day, act like the young lady of a renowned house and I will reward you with one wish when he leaves.”
The slightly hidden humor in Eldrin’s voice put Nisha in a good mood, and she rolled off the bed, looking for one of her dresses.
The remark had inspired an idea in her mind.
“Am I one? A ‘young lady of a renowned house’? As far as I know, I’ve only ever been a hunter.”
One of the many words the dragon had learned from her conversations with the denizens of the civilized word had been the numerous names of the different occupations, and hunter had fit Nisha’s past perfectly, stealthily chasing big and small monsters, always chasing after the rush of adrenaline she got when she was sinking her fangs into the delicate neck of the chosen prey, and the term had gained another notion when the occupants of the cottage used it to describe their darling little sister.
“Of course you are! I am the current head of the noble elven house Dharnas, and I’ve adopted you as my own granddaughter. If anyone ever dares to disrespect you based on your appearance or manners, feel free to tell them that you are of the House Dharnas, and that you are proud of it!.”
Jesting about her heritage had been an empty joke, and Nisha would have never thought that the elf would officially confirm that he was recognizing the dragon girl as his own family, a reality everyone had tacitly acknowledged, but that had yet to be voiced out.
I knew he liked me, but to think he really thought of me as a granddaughter … I’m so happy, I can carry the same family name as his!
“Thank you …”
The low mutter of the overwhelmed girl was almost too shallow to be heard, Eldrin nonetheless caught the murmur. He still chose not to say anything and just pat her head, enjoying spending time with someone he saw as his own kin.
“Let’s go. This is your chance to show off all the social skills I’ve taught you.
Make me a proud grandfather, will you?”
The elf took the bashful young girl by the hand and she did her best to stride gracefully by Eldrin’s side instead of running around to her destination as usual, intending to fulfill the role he wished to see her in.
Only playing the role is not enough. I’ll be the most graceful young lady grandfather has ever seen, blind or not!
“What do you think of Mister Hayze, Eldrin? And who sent him here?”
The conflict between Nisha and Annabelle had prevented the two of them from talking about the events of the day.
Gripping her hand tighter, the elf kept his silence for a while, contemplating on something and feeling reluctant to tell her about that matter.
Even without her sight, the blind girl perceived the absentmindedness of the old man lost in his memories, and silently accompanied him without pressing him for answers anymore.
When they reached the stables to take care of the animals, Eldrin spoke up again.
“I told you about my time at the royal court of the late king once. After a great merit to the Leandar kingdom, the late king Giles Loewe suggested to create a house of my own.
Once it was firmly established, I was able to marry my wife and found a family of my own. Currently, the Dharnas house has five members I know of. There’s me, my son Luthais, his wife Eve and their son Henry.
And since the last quarter of a turn, there has been one addition to the family.
Nisha Dharnas, my adopted granddaughter.”
The crushing bliss added confidence in the blind girl’s walk, she enthusiastically pulled her friend by his hand behind her, almost bouncing around.
Originally, the elf did not have the intention to make a big deal out of it, he had no idea how much giving the orphan a family name meant to her.
Not willing to disturb her delight, he silently smiled and followed her, while Nisha was humming a happy melody as she was taking care of the livestock.
The transformed girl had had a hard time adjusting to the animals, since her smell did not change a lot compared to the time she was a dragon, a scent of power, of the Wilderness and of a sovereign, a natural born ruler, as well as a lingering feeling of black roses, thorny but pleasant at the same time, nice to look at but promising death to anyone that disrespects her thorns.
The [Sapphire Cows] associated her smell with that of the scary intruder that had invaded their grazing grounds, and held their distance from the blind girl even after she had changed to her new form, but they gradually warmed up to her after being fed by her and the elf – the two sisters didn’t have any problems with the cattle when it was their turn to milk the cows and gather the eggs after distributing the fodder.
In the last pen of the stable laid the brown horse that belonged to Hayze on a bed of hay, chewing on a stalk of sweet sugar leaf it had stolen from somewhere, and nudged Nisha with its nose when she passed by the large unfamiliar animal to pick up the eggs.
The heavy breathing and the small sounds of fur rustling allowed the blind girl to visualize in her mind the presence of the large animal quickly, even without being able to see its actual form.
Curious on how the animal looked like, Nisha entered his enclosure and patted down on the place she thought the horse was, an animal she had never seen before. Short, bristly fur, long and muscular limbs, two soft ears that twitched in excitement every time the scent of the dragon got close to it.
While it did not see her majestic dragon physique, the fragrance she naturally emitted was still repealing enough to warn any creature with keen senses of her true might.
Strangely, the horse did not panic or need time to get used to the small girl, and instead nuzzled its head on her shortly after being stroked, asking for more.
Even the [Ice Chickens] had required lot of time to tolerate the dragon girl’s proximity, and they were supposed to be very docile animals.
I wonder what the animal looks like. It feels like such a strong and regal creature.
Apparently the monster enjoyed the caress, as it rubbed its head against Nisha in return.
“Come on, don’t tarry, we have a long day ahead of us.”
Not delaying her chores any longer, the blind girl checked each of the chicken’s nests for eggs and picked them all up before going back to the house to grab some food that the older women had prepared.
“Good morning Sir Eldrin, Miss Nisha. The day has been very nice so far, the air out here in the mountains is so clear, unlike in the city. Truly relaxing.”
Hayze’s voice informed the blind girl of his proximity, which surprised her a bit.
Darkness had been surrounding her ever since the transformation, shrouding her in an ever present veil of black mist.
However this didn’t mean that she had no way to interact with her environment. By sensing the minute shifts of the air around her and the loud or low sounds all living beings gave off by walking or simply standing and breathing, coupled with an astounding memory of places and paths, the world of the little girl was built out of something else than colours and images, yet not being necessarily any less than such a bright world.
Hayze however did not appear in Nisha’s perception, and only through his voice was she able to locate him, an exploit the others would never manage to do.
“Going for some morning training, Mister Hayze? Admirable discipline. You train in the ways of aura I suppose?”
As far as the dragon knew, there was no need in the human society for the elf to remember a servant’s name or even treat him politely, nonetheless the experienced politician never looked down at Hayze in contempt or demonstrated his superior position as a noble on the coachman. In turn, Luthais’ servant also never complained or acted rudely towards anyone living in the cottage, behaving himself very well, and even revealing many of the capital servant’s gossips, giving the elf a good idea about the current political situation.
“I can hardly be called a warrior, Sir. I’m only keeping my body fit to do my work as a coachman and carrier, it requires a lot of physical strength after all.
But tell me, I’m surprised to see everyone rise with the first light, it’s definitely not something you see very often in the city.
I take it you were checking on the animals, seeing your cargo?”
Carrying a large bucket of milk and a basket of eggs, the two of them were the embodiment of a farm girl and her grandfather.
“Ah, you see, here on the countryside we do things a bit differently. To protect yourself from monster raids or shield the fields from small animals stealing your harvest, everyone has to team up together and it feels more like one big family.
It’s a wonderful thing to know that your back is covered, instead of wondering if someone is hiding a knife to stab you, like in the capital. Everyone is doing his job, and looks out for the others.”
A short burst of unconcealed anger and hatred slinked out of Eldrin’s speech when he mentioned the dangers associated to the capital Thurgau. It looked odd for the usually composed elf, and at the same time it uncovered more of the story he had avoided telling Nisha so far.
“Indeed, compared to the work with the other drivers in our trading house, this is much more peaceful. I envy that.
But if you will excuse me, Sir Eldrin, I’m going for a run in the forest now.”
Curiously enough, the blind girl was now able to perceive his steps on the ground and his being. Although she had probably just not been paying attention to him, engrossed as she was in her elation of being called granddaughter by the elf.
The remaining time of the guest’s stay happened to be uneventful for everyone, no incidents or other visitors showing up at the cottage, a trend that appeared at the same time as Little Flame’s in the elf’s life, but Eldrin knew better than to fault this on his now adopted granddaughter, he had jokingly told Lydia once that he was actually quite thankful for the successive arrivals that took the boredom out of his everyday life.
The parting with Hayze in the evening was not a tearful event or otherwise emotional one, the cheerful man with his large brown horse waved his hand towards the entrance of the cottage.
“Farewell Sir, the misses. I will make sure to deliver your letter to Lord Luthais and tell him that there’s nothing to worry about, he likes to make a fuss about you!”
With the cry of his cart animal, the carriage departed for the place they came from, returning a semblance of peace to the usual routine of the hunting grounds.
However one big issue remained towering over all four of them: the conversation with their youngest companion about her disability and the reactions the older three had had so far in that regard, Eldrin had after all promised the blind girl to speak about it once the visitor left them.
“Let’s go inside, I’ll make some tea, there have been a batch of very nice leaves in the shipment this time.”
The right way of brewing tea was one of the few remaining secrets that Nisha tried to learn from the old elf, whose skills and keenness in that domain almost bordered the realm of art.
“You can wait upstairs, you might start talking without me, but please don’t fight”
Fighting is the last thing I want to do. I just don’t want to be pitied.
Left alone without the intruder in their interaction, a heavy silence settled itself between the girls.
On the one hand, all of them still loved each other as dearly as sisters, they had played tricks on each other before their quarrel, danced with each other and had been having girl talk when the elf wasn’t around.
On the other side, the argument made Nisha feel insecure on how to treat the older women, wondering with dread if anything had changed between them, if she had ruined their relationship, and what would she do if the two of them didn’t want to be around her anymore.
Standing on edge the whole time of Hayze’s visit had worn out the dragon girl considerably, and the grave stillness among the three of them didn’t lift up as they went upstairs and sat down together in the armchairs.
Due to her blindness, Nisha couldn’t see the way Lydia and Annabelle were acting, but they closely mirrored her own appearance, fiddling with their fingers and twitching on their seats. Unable to bear the pressure anymore, the blind girl started crying bitterly, imagining how lonely she would be if they refused to talk to her.
Her outcry must have shocked the two former maids greatly, they thought of her as a strong-minded girl, capable of taking care of any chore though she couldn’t see without ever complaining, it was very unlike her to suddenly start weeping or throw a tantrum.
Rushing over to her side, the sisters tried to console her, hugging her and patting her head.
“What happened? Please don’t cry, we’re here. Tell us, what’s wrong?”
The frantic undertone in Anna’s voice betrayed her agitation, she clearly cared very much about her younger sister, and was also very tensed.
Please don’t hate me, please don’t hate me, please don’t hate me.
“I don’t want to fight with you. I know I was in the wrong, so please forgive me, I didn’t mean it. I was just angry … getting reminded about my blindness by Mister Hayze bothered me … I took it out on you.
Please don’t hate me.”
Forcing out short sentences in between her long sobs, she clutched tightly onto her two dear friends, crying on Lydia’s shoulder.
The two women exchanged a glance and tightened their embrace at the same time, a small smile appearing on their faces, their little sister was still a young girl with unstable emotions after all, even if she tried to appear stronger than she was.
“You’re so silly. We would never hate you because of a small quarrel, we were like you and just didn’t know how to approach the situation.
But I’m sorry for putting you through this, I should have come to talk to you earlier.
You are our younger sister, and we will always love you as such, no matter what you do. That’s what a family is for, isn’t it?”
Tearing up over her own declaration, Annabelle started bawling too, which also pushed Lydia over the edge.
When the old elf made his way up with the tray on which rested four sets of tea cups and some towels, he found a mess, three heaps covered in tears and mucus, clinging tightly together in one long group hug.
“Now, I see that I don’t need to mediate much after all. Here, take some of the clothes and wipe away that snot, it’s ruining your charming faces.”
Soothing the downcast teenagers, the elderly elf could not hide his smile as he looked at them huddling together, still holding hands and feeling reluctant to let go of each other, because they had just went through an emotional episode together.
“It is not a bad thing to fight from time to time, no one can agree with his friends all the time. It even happens that the closest people fight over a ridiculously small matter. But it’s important to know how to communicate with others properly, so a small fight doesn’t turn into something bigger, and I think it’s partly my fault for delaying this until the departure of our … company.
Nonetheless, from what I have seen Nisha has been unsatisfied with the way we were treating her regarding her injury, feeling worth less than she actually is.
Personally I feel like I am probably guilty of that, and I will try my best to not do it anymore in the future.
However, you could have also told us about it, instead of bottling up your feelings, dear. We are your family, and you can always talk about the things that bother you with us.
Now, Lydia and Anna.
I know the two of you went through some horrifying experiences, and it is right to be wary of strangers. Still, you treated Nisha and me with some degree of familiarity through the last moon, and if you are troubled by something, you are also free to talk about it, just avoiding the issues will only lead to tension.
Do not feel too bad about it, you are young and still unfamiliar with all of this, so it’s normal to make some mistakes and hit a slump sometimes.
Just learn from it, and try to do better in the future, alright?”
The long sermon had turned into an advice, and Nisha and her two older sisters took the guidance from their wise elder to heart.
The low mutter escaped all of them at the same time, inciting a bout of giggles as soon as they realized they had the same response.
“How about some tea now?”
Pouring each of them a cup, Eldrin enjoyed a scene of a lively family he had missed dearly.
After another long conversation, about each other’s insecurities and concerns, the three women agreed to discuss more openly in the future, both sides had held their opinions back in fear of hurting each other’s feelings yet it had only resulted in tears.
This included sharing their worries with Eldrin, who offered to listen to their problems, as a senior his life experience was a great help to resolve their quarrels and add some suggestions.
A long and touching day had tired them out, including the only one who hadn’t cried. He only watched with a bittersweet smile, inviting everyone to go to bed early.
The following week slowly allowed the cottage to catch up on their usual schedule of lessons and training, and the atmosphere became more friendly, Nisha really enjoyed sharing her feelings and insecurities with both Eldrin and the two sisters, and it provided her with a huge mental support.
During one of her meditations, the gathering of elements came so close to her skin that they were visible to a mortal eyes again, the dancing glows then retracting even further inside her.
As soon as the last speck of light was absorbed under her skin, the world suddenly went up in fire.
Her eternal darkness changed in a heartbeat, breaking into many small fragments, and veins of vivid colours appeared.
Every possible colour walzed around, lighting up Nisha’s world suddenly, and the abrupt stimulus knocked her out cold, the shock was too much for her to bear.
Awakening in the next morning, the dragon felt like something had evolved in her closed eyes, she was still clinging to Eldrin’s arm who didn’t notice the episode when she had drifted from meditation to sleep the previous day.
Still feeling a bit numb from the ordeal, the blind girl slowly sat up, rubbing her head and wondering why there was no headache accompanying the unexpected seizure.
Checking her condition, Nisha noticed the biggest difference very quickly.
She was no longer sitting in a black sea. Everything inside the room was outlined roughly around her, giving off soft hues in the shades of different elements.
I must be dreaming, this can’t be.
Her heart pounded violently, she couldn’t quite believe it. She was able to perceive something with her eyes. It wasn’t like before, when she had been able to see, the current picture lacked details and pigments, but compared to being alone in an everlasting night, this was incomparably better.
Continuing to search for the things that had been modified inside her, the dragon girl completely focused her attention on her inner self.
Another big transformation had occurred in her soul space. Three spheres of distinct glow hovered around four smaller orbs.
The major three shined in a fiery red, a shifting mix of black and white or maybe only grey, and a jet black darkness.
Green storms, blue streams, yellow shards and an angelic white tinged the smaller balls revolving inside the same cage as the three big ones, in a general chaotic movement pattern.
A third realization hit her almost as hard as the first one.
Nisha had access to her soul space again, causing a shiver to run through her spine.
“Eldrin, please lend me your guild ring once again, I want to test my rank.”
The elf was already getting dressed and looked with concern at the girl, she had not reacted when he had called out to her earlier, displaying an incredulous expression on her face.
“Sure, here you go. But I thought you didn’t like measuring -”
Unable to finish the remainder of his sentence, Eldrin gawked at the ring, like Nisha.
A single blue star, the smallest of them all, had started shining with a bright light, signifying the she had reached the first mana rank.
To other people this might not mean much, the beginning of the path to cultivation was widely recognized as the easiest step.
However, to the aged elf who knew how hard his granddaughter had been working, and for the girl in question, who dreaded falling behind her sisters and dragon siblings, this single star brought huge joy.
I did it. I finally did it.
“How did you know, Nisha?”
Speaking quietly to appreciate the moment, the elf only directed a single question at her.
“Because I can see the light of the world once again.”