04

a mountain of magicals

 

 

“I will go to the mountain,” I answered with a small grin. “I don’t know much about how the robots of Noman work, but I am confident I can figure out what went wrong with the Magicals.”

“It’s settled then.” The king stood. “You can all go now and once Saya returns I will summon you again to see what has come of her investigation.”

We all bowed as the king moved toward the exit with his guards following him until he stopped and turned. “And Saya, I’m putting my trust in you, don’t prove me wrong.”

I lowered my head in a respectful nod as my uncontrollable grin filled my face. It was the first time I felt the king was actually on my side and he wanted me to succeed.

Determination carved a path in my veins after hearing his words, And the moment he disappeared from the room, I straightened and moved quickly toward the exit until Kasim blocked my path.

“I see what you’re doing and it won’t work,” Kasim said.

I clenched my fist and tensed my arm to prevent myself from slapping the smirk off his face, only because I didn’t want to disrespect the king’s palace. I opened my mouth to reply, but before I could my jaw dropped with what happened at the same moment.

“Leave her alone!” Morian demanded, placing his body between the two of us.

“Or what?” Kasim said with a sneer in his voice.

Morian stood even taller than Kasim and wider than the two of us combined, with hair falling to the center of his back or to the level of my eyes.

“Or you will have no legs to carry you back to your Magicals.”

I didn’t see how Kasim reacted to Morian’s words as I was standing behind the latter, but as I heard his footsteps move away, Morian turned to face me.

“Thank you,” he said.

I raised my brows. “What for?”

“For not taking my section.”

“My section is calmer anyway, and it gives Afakan and me a lot of time to relax.”

“I see.” The corners of his mouth lifted. “Is this the only reason?”

“What else could it be?” I faked a smile. I wasn’t going to tell him that I still felt the need to get their approval even though I know I shouldn’t care about that.

“Well, if Kasim ever stands in your way again, you come to me.”

“Actually,” I said, scratching my forehead before my expression turned serious, “I wish you hadn’t done that. I was capable of taking care of myself.”

He smiled. “I do think that you could, but having allies is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of compassion and—” he tapped his forehead with his index finger, “—true strength.”

I narrowed my eyes, trying to understand what he wanted to say exactly but couldn’t.

“Anyway,” Morian continued with a pat on my shoulder, “good luck in the mountains, Rider.”

I smiled as he left, a smile that I felt deep inside my core. It was the first time any of them called me a rider, and I knew I was on the right path, but I couldn’t dwell on the moment for long. I had a mission to do.

I ran all the way to Afakan’s nest. I wished I could have used one of the public hovercrafts, but they were banned from leaving the city. When I reached the nest, Afakan was asleep. The sun had just passed the center of the sky, and Magicals slept till sunset. I felt bad to wake him up, but I needed to be at the top of the mountain as fast as possible.

I gently stroked Afakan’s chin until he opened his eyes.

“Sorry buddy, but we have a mission to do. We need to know what happened with these Magicals from last night causing them to attack as they did.”

Afakan understood my thoughts even as I spoke them out loud. He took to his feet and lowered his wing for me to climb on his back. We flew for over an hour, but before we reached the top of the mountain, Afakan roared and started flying in a circle. I kept ordering him to move forward, but for the second time, he disobeyed me.

I closed my eyes and listened to his constant roars until I felt a clutch in my heart. The more I focused on my feelings, the heavier my body felt, and pain began to spread to its every organ.

Eventually, I pulled Afakan to a slightly lower part of the mountain and landed him in an open space between the large trees covering the mountain. I patted his skin as his roars grew quieter. Once he settled down, I ordered him to stay and continued up the mountain on foot.

As I climbed, I tried to make sense of Afakan’s actions, but couldn’t. I didn’t even have a single theory as to what would cause Afakan to defy my orders, but my train of thought was quickly interrupted when I began hearing the roars of many more Magicals.

The sounds grew louder as I drew closer to the top. It was as if every Magical in the mountain cried at the same time.

I picked up my speed and ran toward the sounds, tracking them with my hearing until I saw them. It was the first time I had ever reached the top of the mountain. I am not sure if anyone else ever did before me, but I was now standing on the edge of what appeared to be a dead volcano.

It did make sense that the Magicals’ nest would be inside a hollow mountain, but I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it. As I glanced inside, watching all the different types of Magicals, screaming and struggling to stand still as they moved around the inside edges of the volcano, I heard a roar from behind me.

I glanced behind me and saw a ball of fire coming my way. I did a quick ground flip to avoid the attack before running back to the trees. Behind me, the roars of the Magical increased as it chased me.

The Magical resembled Afakan in that it had a similar face, neck, and body, only this one had two legs and no wings. It was also red.

I ran in a zigzag pattern to avoid the fire attacks, sliding down the mountain edges to gain distance, but the Magical was much larger than me and came up on me fast. During my last slide, the Magical jumped over me to block my path. Realizing there was no way out, I extracted the silver whip hanging from around my waist and prepared to fight the beast.

I ran toward the Magical as it turned to face me, jumping onto a tree branch the moment its gaze met mine. Once I reached the branch, I pushed with all my strength, leaping toward the Magical’s neck. My whip was long, and I managed to tie it around the beast’s neck, but even though the Magical couldn’t fly, it could jump extremely high. It dragged me with it, slapping my body into trees and sometimes the ground. Luckily, since it only had two legs, the Magical couldn’t also grab hold of my body while moving.

I seized a moment while the two of us were in the air and took advantage of the Magical not being able to change its momentum. I swung myself toward its chest, grabbing the silver dagger in my waist belt and plunged it into the Magical’s heart.

The two of us fell to the ground and rolled together for a moment, then the Magical fell further than I did as I came to an abrupt halt feeling the pain of my bruises and a dislocated shoulder, but I was no longer afraid, I had succeeded.

I knew that plunging the dagger in the Magical’s heart wouldn’t kill it, that instead, I had created the bond. I wanted to smile, knowing that I now had two Magicals under my command, but a loud siren grabbed my attention.

I turned my head to the top of the mountain and saw something I had never seen before. It looked like a large hovercraft—no—more like a flying ship above the opening of the volcano. The siren sounded again, and I heard my new Magical’s roar. I glanced back at the beast to see it was running again. I shifted my gaze back to the flying ship and was certain it resembled the way the Nomans built their giant robots.

At that moment I knew what happened the night before. They were somehow keeping the Magicals awake all day, so they became agitated and attacked us during the night. I quickly returned my gaze to the Magical still running away and realized it was too far to hear my thoughts. I would have to hunt it if I wanted to bring it back to my kingdom, but that could take all night or even more.

I didn’t have time to decide and had to take action quickly. I could either hunt my new Magical, go back to my kingdom and warn them of another dangerous night and about the Noman, or approach the ship and find a way to disable whatever they were doing to the wild beasts.

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