Chapter I : Preparations for the Journey I

Wake Up

Sunlight shone through the lone window in her tower. Its warmth woke her up. Finally.

“ General? “ was her first word after so many years, but there was no reply.

She stood up from her bed and felt the cold sea water on her feet. Her room was flooded and outside her window, there was no view of the Towns below. There was nothing but the sky and an endless expanse of water. She knew that her tower was the highest in the Citadel. That could only mean one thing…

Without a word, she walked out to the balcony and continued to walk away from her bed. She had nothing but her torn clothes and a tattered book. As she reached the end of the balcony where she should have fallen to the depths of the sea, a water lily grew beneath her feet. A path opened up for her and disappeared behind her as she walked forward.

No goal in sight in an unfamiliar age, she walked on.

~ ~ ~

Chapter I : Preparations for the Journey

“ Discovered at sunrise: Black Blood “

Town #27 was loud and busy that day. The streets were full of children who cried and screamed and yelled ‘ Black Blood discovered! ‘ at every corner. Despite being such a large Town, news spread like wild fire and before the wooly cows could blink their sleepiness away, every human in 27 knew about the discovery.

“ At the border… “

“ Is it true? Maybe it’s just grey blood, maybe a Gardener was injured. “

“ No, no! It was definitely black. I heard that the Captain saw it with his own eyes! “

“ And he’s in a meeting now, with the Keepers. “

But the townsfolk had to murmur amongst themselves until the sun was well above their heads, for the meeting went on for quite a while. When the Captain finally came out of the modest stone structure that was the Town Hall, almost everyone dropped what they were doing. They surrounded the Town Hall. Those who were of small stature gathered their wit and courage, and climbed atop wood and stone houses so that they could see the Captain.

“ You may have heard about a rumor about a sighting of Black Blood, “ Captain Xing cleared his throat and his voice bellowed through the Town, “ I am here to put an end to this rumor mongering. “

No one spoke or blinked, some even held their breath.

“ Black Blood was indeed discovered during sunrise, “ he said.

The townsfolk were so loud just then and some of the Guards had to shush them.

“ Old Man Ashen found it when he followed his growling lamb that ran away, “ the Captain stepped to his right side a bit so that a very frail man could step forward.

Old Man Ashen had his lamb in his arms. It growled deeply and hissed at the Captain. Despite being a baby, the creature was almost half the size of its owner.

“ See… I was chasing little… Missy here, “ the old man smacked his lips. He was drooling a bit, “ She… went… past the picket fence… you see… “

There was a long pause. Ashen forgot what he was about to say, therefore the Captain continued the story which he painstakingly listened to earlier.

“ This lamb was following a trail that went past the picket fence. Its owner caught up to it just a little way beyond the border, “ Xing pointed at the creature who hissed at him again, “ Old Man Ashen knew that the trail was something unusual, so he picked his lamb up and called the guards who were on duty. They, in turn, called me out to the site. “

The Captain held up a very small crystal container. It was a bit difficult to see inside it but those who were close by noticed the very dark liquid beyond the crystal.

“ This is most definitely Black Blood, as confirmed by our Keepers and elder historians, “ Xing said, “ There were some samples in the past which were well-documented due to… “

He glanced at some Gardeners.

“ –well, due to humans’ curiosity, “ he finished.

At that, one of the Keepers stepped forward.

“ Our ancestors made their mark by accepting children from another Town, to save those children’s lives, “ the hooded, squeaky-sounding little old lady Anise said, “ It is our turn to put 27 in history once again. By a two-to-one decision, and with the agreement of Captain Xing, the Keepers have decided to send out a group to follow the trail of Black Blood. “

At that point, it was apparent that there was more Black Blood to be discovered in the wilds.

“ Those who have the heart, and time to spare, step forward now, “ the Captain’s voice boomed through the Town once again, “ You will have one moment without sunlight to prepare. Your guide will arrive once the sun shows us its face, and your journey will begin. “

The young ones scurried about, unsure of their experience. The old ones were lost in thought, unsure of their strength. After much uneasiness in the crowd, a strong foot stepped forward and stomped on the ground in front of the Captain.

“ I’ll go, “ a tall, bulky farmer growled.

“ But aren’t we going to search for fertile land tomorrow? “ another farmer shouted to the volunteer.

“ I trust that you can lead them, “ came the reply.

“ … alright. Good luck then, Steel, “ sighed the other farmer.

Named after the ancient Earth alloy, Steel was a strong man but his age was showing. He had grey hair and some wrinkles on his face. Despite this, he was confident. He wanted to travel and, perhaps, meet the Overlord herself.

“ Very well. Anyone else? “ Captain Xing was visibly pleased that such a wise, experienced farmer joined the expedition.

The Captain’s pleasant feeling was short-lived. His face turned pale when a brown-haired, blue-eyed young man stepped forward.

“ I’m up for it, “ said a familiar voice.

The crowd murmured, muttered and sighed. It was Xing’s son, Hunter. Named Yue Li when he was born, the boy took on a new name ever since he became a tamer. He looked up to his mother, aptly named Huntress, who traveled far and wide when she was younger. Now, Huntress was content with taking care of wooly cows, and Hunter thought that it was time for him to continue his mother’s adventures.

“ Anyone else? “ Xing coldly said without rejecting his son’s offer. He knew that the boy was just as stubborn as his mother.

“ You really found Black Blood?! “ someone shouted and as the crowd let her pass, a historian stumbled to Hunter’s side.

“ Rina! You’re not… “ protested one of the Guards.

“ I want to go. I want to meet her! “ Rina excitedly spoke to the Captain. Her emerald eyes were wide and expectant, and Xing did nothing but sigh and nod.

“ Anyone else? “ was the Captain’s last call. After a few moments of waiting, the crowd was dispersed.

As the historian ran off to the Library to pack her belongings, the guard who protested earlier ran after her. He took one quick, sharp and accusing look at Hunter before he sped off after Rina. The Captain’s son, on the other hand, followed his father into the Town Hall. Steel turned towards the vegetable farm for one last soil check before his grand adventure.

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