Aethernea

Previously:

While writing a letter to her fiance, Nelaira thinks about the events that led to her current predicament. She remembers how her squad of ten found a hidden entrance to a long staircase climbing through the mountain, first discovered by Zor Arite. There they find a green valley filled with wildlife and ruins of a village. Nelaira uses her day off to explore the ruins and finds a diary hidden inside a pillar. While picking herbs Luki finds a patch of land where a large quantity of ash is buried under the soil. He finds it suspicious but his comrades disagree. Nelaira stumbles onto a hidden cellar in the ruins of the village that contains food that is 16 years old. Nelaira gives their archaeologist the diary to translate. The writer of the diary is the village chief’s son and he talks about his life. It seems the diary was written after the mage wars, which makes everyone wonder what destroyed the village if not the wars.

Nelaira wanted to investigate the possibility of survivors but her superiors ordered her to proceed towards the Valley of Eternal Snow. The diary speaks of outsiders that came to the village one day from a utopia without Ink.

* * *

The archeologist was quick to nod his head approvingly. His nod froze midway when Nelaira turned to him with a questioning look: “When was this diary written?”

“I’m not sure when it was written.” The middle-aged man with the monocle admitted. “The dates are from the year 1430 A.O. However, I don’t know what A.O. stands for, thus I can’t calculate the year in A.W. (After Wars).”

“Can’t you use the agometer to measure how old the diary is?” Laica suggested.

Agometer was an arcane magical artifact enchanted to use a time spell fragment to sense the age of particles. It could accurately sense when that specific particle was created, however, it couldn’t tell what form that particle took through the ages.

Episode 128 – Disobedience


“It would show the age of the materials the diary was made out of, which in turn would show the age of the materials or creatures those materials were made from.” The archaeologist explained. “The shown age on the agometer could be decades or even several centuries off from the actual time the diary was used. The agometer won’t tell you how old the writing is, or even when the ink was made. It would calculate the age of the ink by the age of the oldest ingredient used to make it. Same with the leather, the age of the leather would include the age of the animal from which it was taken from. The paper would be as old as the tree that it was made from, which could have been centuries old before it was made into paper.” The archaeologist explained.

The two girls would have inquired about the matter further if Luki didn’t choose this time to interrupt everyone’s excitement with a bucket of cold water: “Don’t you think this whole ‘welcome’ business was strange?”

Nelaira resisted the urge to face palm herself and let out a tired sigh: “Do enlighten us…what was strange about it?”

“Who would welcome several dozen potentially Tainted individuals inside their sanctuary just like that? Don’t tell me they forgot to check them for the presence of Ink?” Luki rolled his eyes.

“I’m sure they checked them in some way during the welcome. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have welcomed them with open arms.” Nelaira frowned. “Just because the diary doesn’t mention them checking it, it doesn’t mean they didn’t check it.”

“Alright.” Luki raised his hands in the air in surrender. “Let’s say you’re right. What about the sister of the writer of the diary? How did she hear them coming and how was she sure they had no ill intentions?”

“She was an elibu. Elibu have long ears with very sharp hearing.” The archaeologist spoke slowly as if explaining it to a five-year-old child.

“She was probably coincidentally near the passage and heard them climbing the stairs.” Nelaira showed much more self-restraint than her archaeologist comrade, showing no impatience and annoyance through her own explanation.

“Peculiar.” Luki stroked his chin. “I was under the impression that the writer of the diary was an argel. Which one of the two do you think is adopted?”

His comrades stared at Luki dumbfounded:

“How is that relevant to the previous conversation?!”

“Does it even matter which one was adopted?!”

“The diary never clearly stated the race of the writer and his sister anyway!”

“Right! They could be of the same race but in possession of a mana purifying artifact.”

* * *

Father invited their four leaders for a private dinner with our family. Apparently, the four of them were from the same family which held a high status in their land. It definitely showed in their elegant eating manners and sweet words. I could totally see them as princes and princesses from the fairy tales, it made me feel rather awkward to have them show interest in our plebeian way of life.Apparently, we have many different customs they found interesting or strange. Like how father chose to marry an elibu. They were surprised at how many marriages of mixed races we have in the village. Apparently, in the place where they are from argel and elibu rarely marry. They also praised the strength of our familial bonds and how united all the villagers were.

There were several additional points they found fascinating, but to be honest, I wasn’t paying much attention to the conversation. I was more interested in Cammy’s strange behavior. She kept giving one of them strange looks…and I could feel some kind of fuzzy, warm feeling coming off of her. If I didn’t know her any better, I’d say she felt… shy?

Ok, alright, I admit, the guy she was looking at was very handsome. And in fact, I am also guilty of staring at that stunning goddess-like female more than was appropriate. But shy? When has my sister ever felt shy? I don’t remember ever seeing her blush either. I always used to tease her that she acts like a grandma instead of a young virgin.

When I brought the matter up later, she deflected the question and told me that I should give up on wooing the goddess I’ve been staring at. Apparently, she already has someone else in her heart…

It’s not like I’ve fallen for the girl just like that! I wasn’t really thinking about courting her… And even if I wanted to court her, I wouldn’t really care whether she has a previous lover or not. I’m nothing if not persistent.

Father, Cammy and I brought the visitors on tour around the village. They were really surprised by the spells used in our craftsmanship. They said we are blessed to have so many mana purification artifacts in our possession.

I’m not quite sure what a mana purification artifact is though? If they do what their name implies, why would we be very blessed to possess such things? I can see how they might have some use for children to play with but… other than that, aren’t they…redundant?

Well, whatever the case, the visitors invited us to go with them to this blessed land. They are talking about how advanced their own crafting is and how there are many academies of magic, warlock arenas, mage guilds and many other incredible things in their land.

I have to admit that their descriptions of the place do sound very enticing. At one point I even felt like asking father to let me go with them to this place of theirs. But then I remembered that I’ve been having this bad feeling ever since they arrived and my feelings are usually quite accurate.

My sister continued acting disturbingly unlike herself.  Instead of a wise older sister, she seemed like a normal, love-struck, teenage girl, although she is too old to be one.

I didn’t even need to see how that man and her kept blushing up to their ears, and giving each other sneak glances and gentle smiles, I could feel her emotions clearly dripping onto me. I did my best to shut her off and mind my own business, but it is only a temporary measure. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to continue with it.

I confronted Cammy about her sudden interest in that man and didn’t let her change the topic this time.

She admitted she likes him very much. She said he is different from the rest. He is very handsome, smart and capable, yet not arrogant or selfish. He treats everyone with kindness, thinking of his men like they were brothers. Always thinking about feelings and desires of others before his own.

She says that some of the visitors are looking down on us because we aren’t as advanced as them and their society, but not him. He respects our tradition and doesn’t look down on us in the slightest.

She said she noticed him at the celebration when she was dancing. He was stunned by the beauty of her dance but had no indecent thoughts or desires about her. It was an innocent admiration and respect without any impurities or ulterior motives.

I suppose that is rare among men. If she has to like someone, I suppose it’s best she likes someone who isn’t a chauvinistic pervert?

Cammy stayed up all night talking to him. I’ve never seen her so excited, so happy. I suppose I should be happy for her. He is a fine man, in fact, both of the cousins are fine men. Too fine actually. It makes me feel unsettled at how perfect they seem. Still, I trust Cammy’s judgment. If there was something wrong with them and their motives, my sister would be the first one to notice.

My love life is not going nearly as well as hers. After meeting that goddess, other women are even less attractive to me. Even though Cammy told me to not entertain any hopes, I think I involuntarily developed a crush. I wonder what she thinks about me? Does she even notice me at all? I should probably ask Cammy about it, but then, I’m afraid to find out.

I can’t believe Cammy actually encouraged the girl to pursue her love! She knew I liked her and she went and set her up with someone else!

Cammy tried to comfort me by saying that the bond between them ran too deep. It was just a matter of time before the two of them finally confessed their feelings to each other. She just helped speed it up. She says that she got tired of all the angst they felt. She says I have no idea how it feels to have to pretend to love another like a sibling while internally yearning for them in every way possible.

She spewed a bunch of romantic nonsense about wanting to hold each other and never let go.

I almost puked. This romance stuff is disgusting.

Those two now share heated gazes and hold hands whenever no one is looking. They also sneak out alone every night and return only at dawn.

And no, the two I’m talking about aren’t my sister and her new boyfriend, though the two of them have been getting more and more lovey-dovey. I should probably pity the fool. If my sister set her eye on him, he’d have no choice but to fall for her. It makes me wonder, is she being herself or is she being the person he hopes she was? Does he truly love her for who she is or for who she pretends to be?

* * *

Soon enough, even their only source of entertainment was taken away.

One day, after reporting the translated contents of the diary, Nelaira was issued an order to dispose of the diary without further translation.

To say that it took her by surprise would be an understatement. She stared at the command for hours, and then she proceeded to stare at the clear night sky for several more hours unable to fall asleep.

She was just a lieutenant within the Purge. She had to obey the commands of her superiors without question.

But she couldn’t do it. She was never the type to follow commands blindly. She was always the type of person who put a lot of thought into reasons and consequences.

And this time her conscience just didn’t let her put the matter to rest. A weak and quiet voice that sounded incredibly like Luki whispered at the back of her mind: Why? Why do they want it destroyed so badly? What is it that they wish to hide?

She shouldn’t question it. She should follow the order.

But she didn’t want to. She wanted to know what happened next. What made her superiors want to destroy this little booklet.

If she destroyed it just like this, the mystery would bother her for the rest of her life.

In the end, Nelaira decided to delay the execution of the command. She would read the diary till the end and then destroy it. It would make no difference if she knew of its contents. She would keep quiet and no one would know that she had read it till the end.

However, the command did forbid further translation, thus she had to explain to everyone the change. Their archaeologist should not continue to translate the diary and spread it around.

She chose to keep the order of destroying it a secret and instead told everyone that their superiors wanted to contain the spread of confidential information and didn’t want the diary translated among the squad.

They were devastated. Especially Luki, who couldn’t sleep at night not knowing what was inside that little booklet. (Imagine what scandalous stuff the big bosses wanted to hide!)

* * *

Coming up in the next episode:

I thought that someone was intentionally spreading false rumors, but Cammy confirmed that they were indeed the descendants of that man. But she claims that they are good people with good intentions that shouldn’t be condemned due to the sins of their predecessors.

Father is seriously considering sending the young towards their blessed land. They said that they could teleport us there, without us being in any danger from the Tainted.

They are more afraid of Ink than the prospect of being ambushed by an undying monster. They seem to think that even a little contact with Ink would taint them and doom them to a miserable fate of turning into a Tainted. How did they survive all this while if they don’t even know how to purify Ink?

We didn’t separate on good terms. I was too mad that I had to stay behind. Too mad that she was leaving me behind.

The last remaining entry in the diary she had yet to translate was short and hastily written, which made it more difficult to identify the runes used to write it.

I can feel Cammy running frantically back to help us. Yet, I fear it is too late.


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