He opened his eyes, a ray of sunlight coming in directly from the shabby wooden window frame causing him to flinch and retreat to the safety of under his sheets.
“.., get up!”
“Come on! Get up!”
Angrily throwing his sheets to the ground besides him, the boy squinted as his eyes adjusted to the morning light.
“Ugh.. wait..” He rolled onto his side, arms dangling off the edge of his bed and swaying dangerously close to the wooden floorboards.
With a loud creak the door to his room opened, letting in a wave of cold refreshing ocean winds and with it the scent of the sea.
“For God’s sake, why is it such a hassle to get to your room?!”
“Just wait… five more minutes..” The boy covered himself with his pillow, shielding his eyes from the light.
“No! You have to get up now! It’s almost midday!”
“Okay, okay, I’m getting up, just wait..” He sat up in his bed, leaning on the wall besides him. Closing his eyes with a deep exhale, he contemplated getting back in bed.
He stood up and stretched his arms out with a long, slow groan, sighing as he let his arms fall by his side.
Grabbing one of the many canteens on the windowsill, the boy put the rim to his lips and let the water fall into his mouth until his cheeks began to bulge, separating it from his mouth with a loud pop as he set it back down onto the window.
He let it sit in his mouth for a while as he stared out to the sea through the open door, unaware of the water dripping out of his mouth and onto the floor.
A drop of cold water trailing down the boy’s chest woke him from his trance, sending a shiver through his body which was further amplified by the cold ocean winds creeping through the gaps in his shirt.
He leaned over the window next to the door and spit the water in his mouth out onto the grass, evaporating not long after due to the harsh summer sun.
“Alright, alright.” He took another canteen, this one filled with alcohol, presumably, and crudely stuffed it into his belt, tying it on with a small string.
He opened the door to the lounge room, and looked up to see a stern face looking down at him.
Strong brown hair slicked back with a few wild strands hanging over his right eye, clay skin and large green eyes, and a sharp nose all splayed out on a handsome face of a man in his mid-twenties, there was his mentor, towering over him.
“Hey, Jonathan.” The boy shot him a smug smirk, raising his brow.
He expected an amused answer, but all that came out of Jonathan’s mouth was an annoyed snarl.
“Get ready, you’re going out.” Jonathan turned and walked into another room, the kitchen.
“Oh, great.” The boy rolled his eyes and exhaled deeply, slouching his shoulders walking over to the mirror leaning on the wall.
He ran a hand through his snow white hair, long and relatively unkempt, the only attempt at tidying it being a shabby job at combing it to the side, just enough to keep it from covering his left eye.
He traced a finger along his lips, colourless and almost blending in with his pearl white skin, some visible cracks and cuts along his bottom lip.
And finally, the part he hated the most.
He moved his hair out of the way to free his second eye. What stared back at him at the mirror was a pair of glaring yellow eyes, almost blending in with his sclera, each cut through the middle by a ragged cat-slit for pupils.
He frowned at himself in the mirror, sighing. There was nothing he could do about it now, this was the way he was born, and the way he was going to stay for the rest of his life.
He turned and began to walk away, only to be stopped by Jonathan standing in front of him.
“Oh, hey.” He looked up at him, arms crossed.
Jonathan was holding a small pouch out to him, pinching it by the top as if it were some sort of garbage bag he’d rather avoid touching.
“What’s wrong, don’t want to get dirty?” The boy said in a mocking tone, sticking his tongue out.
“Would you rather your food be diseased?” Jonathan replied, sneering at him.
“Alright, alright..” He chuckled.
Taking the pouch from him, the boy reached two fingers inside and grabbed a bit of whatever was inside, taking it out.
He held a silver coin in his hand, extremely thin and with a square hole in the middle. Along the bottom, was an engraved message on the coin.
Though he couldn’t read, this was a message every citizen of the legion knew the meaning of. ‘Gloria Et Imperium’, glory to the empire.
He opened the bag and looked inside, surprised to see it filled to the brim with the same silver coin.
“Hey, Jonathan, this is enough to keep us going for a year, where’d you get these?!” He looked up at his mentor’s smirking face.
What the boy had in his hands was a bag of silver ‘Ero’, the currency of the legion. A single silver Ero could feed a poor family for a month, what he had was enough to buy a stable of horses and still have enough to keep going for a year.
“…i have my ways.” Jonathan replied, blowing a strand of hair from in front of his face. “Anyways..”
“Aw…” The boy whined before Jonathan could even begin to say his sentence.
“I need you to go to the capital and pick up some supplies for me, here, I have a list.” Jonathan dug into a kitchen cabinet and took out a rolled parchment, handing it to the boy.
“So you woke me up in the morning to do your grocery shopping for you?”
“It’s midday.” Jonathan replied. “Now go, lunch will be here when you’re back.” Jonathan shut the kitchen door on his face.
He hurriedly slid on his leather boots and opened a cupboard, taking one of the many coats out and slinging it over his shoulders for the sole purpose of looking good.
He opened the front door of his cabin and stepped out onto the sand, the sound it made as it shifted under his feet with each step satisfying him.
“Jeez, that much silver Ero…” He giggled to himself, excited as he clutched the pouch in his hand.
The small coastal town of Verandale was very active in this time of day with most of the population in the markets, groups of children running about and the elderly taking walks on the short beach which was a few throws from the town.
There was the occasional mamono mixed in with the crowds, and they were usually easy to spot.
The existence of mamono certainly wasn’t illegal by any means, but it might as well have been. They were condemned by an overwhelming majority of the population as well as heavily oppressed, receiving almost no support from either the military or the monarch, and usually lived in extremely bad conditions, even for the legion’s standard of living.
He passed by two Hellhounds,–– a mamono with night-black skin and doglike features, with black eyes and hellfire pupils –– A mother and daughter playing in the mud. They were obviously malnourished, wearing nothing but dirty, old rags.
As he passed by, the small pup stopped and stared up at him in awe.
“What’s wrong, never seen somebody like me before?” He smirked and kneeled down beside the hound. She flinched.
Must’ve had a bad past.
He reached into his pouch and took a single silver coin out, holding it out to the pup.
“Here, take this to momma.”
The Hellhound let out a gasp of shock before quickly snatching the coin, cupping it between her hands as she ran towards her mother.
He stood back up and dusted himself off, and continued his trip with heightened spirits.
By the time he had arrived to the city, the sun was beginning to set, covering the sky in a canvas of salmon-pinks and deep purples.
He walked through dark backstreets, having to navigate his way through based mostly on instinct and feel with the low light provided to him through the windows of the houses and light of the lanterns.
Despite taking the shortest route he could through the narrow and damp alleys, it took the boy what felt like hours to arrive at his destination, a small, run-down shop on an actual street, out in the light and the safety of the guards’ eyes.
“Here we are..” He muttered to himself, taking the dim light coming in from the single window on top of the door as indication that the store was still open.
He grabbed the wooden knob and twisted it with a creak, pushing the door open, though it felt more like straining against the hinges.
The small shop had an almost mystic atmosphere to it, a single large room with two shelves on the side containing a plethora of different contraptions, and a single wooden desk at the front.
Behind the desk stood a wry old man who wore an apron and always has his eyes closed and was scratching his scraggly beard. The sound it made relaxed the boy.
On the table was a row of intricately designed glass vials, each filled to the brim with differently coloured crystals. Red, blue, green, black.
The old man stopped scratching his beard and looked at him with slightly opened eyes.
“Ah.. hello there, kid..” he spoke, his voice hoarse. “What’ll it be today..?”
“Yeah, I just need.. Uhh..” he scratched his chin, looking around the shop.
“What did he want again…?” The boy fumbled around until he found the parchment Jonathan gave him, jammed roughly into his small leather pouch.
He opened it and squinted at the small, crumpled writing on the paper.
“Uhh.. Black… and.. A lesser catalyst..” He read out the small list on the oversized parchment. “What do those even mean..?” He put the parchment away.
“Hmmm..” The old man scratched his chin, staring at the ceiling as if he was trying to remember something.
“Oh!” He said as if he realised something, scurrying over to the other side of the large wooden table he was standing behind and reaching into an open vial filled to the brim with small black crystals.
The old man opened a drawer and took out a sack, as he scooped up a handful of the crystals and dropped them in, tieing the sack with a thick string.
He put it on the table with a heavy noise, the wood underneath creaking as the table swayed back and forth.
“Twelve silver, kid.”
An obvious shock of flash crossed the boy’s face as he recoiled, eyes wide.
“Jeez..” He took his pouch of coins out, counting twelve coins as he took them out and laid them on the counter.
The old man grunted as he took the pouch, turning around and heading for the door.
The sound of gravel under his boot was the only thing cutting through the silence of the night as he tread through the forest, the moon overhead illuminating the surrounding thick, overgrown trees with a calming blue light.
Though the light of the moon might as well have been useless, as the boy had practically memorised the position of every single thing in the forest, even the tiniest roots and branches.
He walked through the forest in a trance, appreciating the beauty of nature surrounding him, total peace and serenity.
As he approached the end of the forest, his trance was cut short by a piercing, foul smell cutting through the scent of the dewy air.
He stood still, sniffing the air with his eyes closed, trying to pinpoint exactly what it was.
The burning taste filled his mouth and lungs as he inhaled deeply through his mouth, a sense of panic overcoming him.
He threw all caution to the wind as he sprung off the overgrown root he was standing on, landing on his toes.
His weight shifted forward, causing him to stumble and almost fall as he ran, kicking up dirt and gravel from under his boots with every heavy, panicked step he took.
As the thick of trees gave way to the open road ahead, the overpowering smell of the sea, which he had grown so accustomed to wasn’t there, instead replaced by a foul, strong smell of smoke.
He tried to stop but instead lost balance and collapsed onto his knees, a sharp rock which was facing upwards ripping through his trousers and grazing his knee.
He hissed in pain through grit teeth, quickly gathering himself and stumbling to a tree, leaning his shoulder, and holding his knee.
“Shit!” He grumbled, an owl hooting as if taunting him.
As he slowly looked up, he saw a faint orange glow coming from where his village was, as thick clouds of black smoke rose up into the air, the moon faint behind them.
He was too late.