A Blooming Flower Acts as a Shameless Thief

It was two years ago, it seems. In one of the bastion’s rooms dedicated to my experiments, it occurred. Three had recently insisted yet again… no, Joker had insisted on the celebration of my birthday. I turned twenty-three that year and would have easily just forgotten had it not been for his persistence. The knights are anything but blank slates, and though their memories are largely wiped clean upon calling them to this realm, they always manifest the strong aspects of the personalities they had in their previous lives. Joker retained all of his outgoing demeanor and love for others. Perhaps I should make an effort to show gratitude to Joker for reminding me of my age; for it also serves to remind me of how long it has been since my family left that fateful day. His childish innocence, and eagerness to make one smile; another motivator for my research. I would surely see their smiles once again.

The short birthday gathering had just ended, and the knights had dispersed to resume their assigned duties. Who is now known as Duelist was assisting me with this experiment. When I met with Parviz for our annual trade at the start of the season, I had been given the usual supplies but also requested a specific item. The item itself had no outstanding or unique quality, as it was a simple yuminium bronze dagger crafted as practice by some apprentice from some workshop or some smithy somewhere. Parviz stated that he was glad to be rid of something of so little value, as it was just clogging space.

I handed the dagger to Duelist and began formulating the spell which was the centerpiece of my experiment. There was no documentation of a summoned being successfully utilizing a focus, and I had intended to change that. Halfway through my long incantation, Duelist began glowing with an otherworldly light. Noticing this, I ceased chanting as this outcome was not intended. He, however, remained alight. Unlike the afterglow a knight gives off when they successfully finish a performance and are applauded by a yusur, this was a strange form of incandescence. He opened his eyes, now glowing a bright and unrelenting white, and began to speak; though it was not Duelist who’s words escaped his mouth.

>In several years time, the catalyst for change which you seek will make itself visible to you. An unfortunate soul cast into that very same plane you reach into to call forth beings like this one. I HavEn’T QuiTE FiGuRed OuT WhO THe heLL i’M bRinGing OvER sO JuST SIt TIgHT FoR A yeAr oR TwO. oKaY???

“He” then coughed exaggeratedly before mumbling to himself.

>Uh, when the fuck should I… That works.

Again, he spoke in that foreboding tone as earlier, loud and confident.

>Once every thirty days starting this next morn, spread your net. Fish wide and deep in the aether; seek an anomalous spirit unlike any other. Grasp it and pull it forward; do not hesitate to draw it into this world. ThEY’ll PrOBaBLy bE A WorThLEsS sACK oF ShIt BuT jUst TrUSt mE, GoT iT?

Duelist ceased glowing and stood there looking at me as if nothing had changed. Not quite sure what to make of this event, I first inquired to him if he realized what just happened. Duelist shook his head. As a precaution, I cast a spell for detecting cursed objects on the dagger, but it yielded a negative response. The voice wanted me to search the spiritual plane every month for “an anomalous spirit unlike any other.” I deliberated long and hard but eventually settled on simply doing as asked. Merely scanning the plane itself was no difficult task, and consumed a meager amount of tention. If anything, I could just not bind what I found. The day after, I began a new monthly ritual.

__________________________________________________________________________________

I could scarcely believe what I was sensing that night. Around two years had passed since that day, and I could finally see a result. Something was in the spiritual plane, something I had never encountered before in my life. I’ve summoned all manner of things, but as the voice stated, this was truly an anomaly. Quickly, I went to work beginning the summoning process and sent all available knights to the reception room to await the spirit’s arrival. The spirit could have been anything, and it could have been hostile. Using as much tention as needed, I called our new visitor to this world, and after the knights telepathically informed me that whatever it was wasn’t thrashing about, I entered the room.

Initially, I wasn’t sure if what I was witnessing was some elaborate ruse. As I called for the knights to make way, a naked yusur man entered my sight. Taken aback, I demanded an explanation, and he began speaking in an alien tongue. My eyes went wide in shock. This is the catalyst promised to me? I thought. A yusur? As my mind began to race, I realized the predicament I found myself in. Time was running short. I had to decide whether or not to bind this man to my will in order to solidify his form or allow him to dissipate into nothingness. Not once in known history had a real yusur been called for a summoning. Their souls always took the form of a White Knight. Believing this man to be the key to my salvation, I made the choice to bind him; consequences be damned.

__________________________________________________________________________________

The man awoke several days later and managed to immediately befriend my White Knights. Undoubtedly they were ecstatic to perform for a real yusur face to face, as they had never had the chance before. He found his way to my workshop, escorted by the enthused knights. I could hear the clamor outside the door, and he made no effort to conceal himself as he approached.

Thus, we began exchanging information. I did not quite know what, exactly, he was, but I knew one thing… No matter what, I had to convince this man to assist me. Parviz and I maintained a business-like relationship, and it’s been over two decades since I’ve spoken to anyone but him or the knights. I needed this yusur. The past couple of days while he slept, I spent almost every waking moment in deep rumination. The eerie voice spoke of this man as my “catalyst for change,” and he was a real yusur. My available avenues of research were running thin, but I could not easily leave the bastion to expand my horizons. With this man as my representative… my shield, I could venture forth and finally carve a path to my goal.

He spoke of his situation with a large degree of confusion. As that voice stated, it needed about two years to find a suitable candidate. It’s likely this man was merely a victim of fate, torn from his life by that voice. I couldn’t reveal this information, for it would most surely shatter any semblance of trust this man might have for me. I managed to persuade him to assist me, on the provision that I help him return home. He mistakenly believes me to be his rescuer, his salvation… when I’ve been cast into the role of accomplice, kidnapper… perpetrator.

__________________________________________________________________________________

The binding was successful but had adverse effects. For one, he had forgotten his own name, and the names of every single person he had ever known; The difference between a White Knight binding and this unusual situation made apparent. Secondly, the amount of tention I expended in the process was massive. I did not have much time left. The fastest method of regaining my energy source available was to have my new retainer become a Bard so that I could have the knights legally perform.

We traveled to the training room in the bastion, where I would give an introductory course on spellcasting. I handed the man the yuminium dagger from that day, to act as his first focus. Perhaps the voice would appear once again? I thought… Yet, it did not. When questioned about his talents, the man woefully explained his lack thereof. This might prove more difficult an undertaking than I anticipated. I had thought. While I was thinking of a remedy, the man suddenly spoke. He had been contacted by an unknown being and was bestowed upon an unusual power. He held up the dagger, which I immediately noticed was fully charged. Instantaneously, with no audience or performance?! It took everything I had to resist exclaiming at this preposterous, world-changing ability. I understood that this was more than likely the machination of that voice. Caution was due if that same voice were to become an enemy.

I explained magic to the man and had him attempt to cast. Luckily, though he lacked artistic talent, he was a natural spell-slinger. Unfortunately, he reacted with extreme embarrassment at the act of spellcasting itself. I needed him to learn how to withstand that nonsensical shame, and fast. I explained our main goal from that point forward; having him become a bard. Introducing our main lineup, and going over our course of action, I realized that since his name was taken in the binding process, he needed a new one. He chose the name “Anon,” as it was a nickname of incredible importance to both him and his beloved companions back home; though he could not remember any of their names. I felt more self-disgust.

__________________________________________________________________________________

On the day of our journey to Boarding, we exited via the main fortress gate. Anon had taken it upon himself to name each and every one of my knights and apply a symbol upon their helmets. Perhaps it was a method of coping with the loss of his own name? I had thought. I might never know, but the knights having actual handles would definitely be a boon to us in greater society.

We began our trek down the mountain, and Anon managed to keep the conversation going as we walked. Somehow, the topic turned to plants, and then to the bastion’s vast gardens. I explained that the garden was the pride of my brother, but spoke no further despite the memories welling up. I could not accidentally reveal my primary goal then and there. It was not time; our priority at that moment was the trading post.

I asked Anon about his home, and he began to speak at length about magic in his world’s works of fiction. Without rest, he earnestly talked about the arcane. Perhaps he sensed my melancholy? I wondered at the time. We conversed for hours, and I found myself enjoying the chat thoroughly. The knights could only offer so much in the form of companionship, and I felt as if I wanted that hike to never end. Though, unfortunately, things don’t always execute in the fashion that we please. We were ambushed in the forest the next day.

The knights managed as best they could, but Anon was a man who lived a peaceful life. He stood there in a daze, and even though he eventually regained his senses, he fumbled all of his spells catastrophically, and was shot by a poisoned arrow. Cursing my luck, I burned an absurd amount of tention tending to his wounds after the battle. I managed to stabilize him, we had to transport his unconscious body the remainder of the way to Echo Bay.

__________________________________________________________________________________

>Jani… Jani… I understand your desire, but… they’re gone. You have to accept that.

Parviz twirled his curly mustache about, a sad countenance betraying the jubilance he was known for. He picked up a portrait on his desk and stared at it for a time before placing it back down.

>Parviz, you’ve known me all my life. “Not one to falter, even under the weight of the world.” That’s what you said yourself… about me.

>I know, lass… but it’s been twenty years. I swore to your father and mother on the day that they left that I would keep you out of trouble if anything were to happen, and just look at you! Getting into trouble.

Parviz chuckled softly to himself before continuing.

>I was under the impression you were content researching up in the bastion, but now you’re talking about heading to Boarding? Though the Accord protects drator by law, who knows what could happen in an alley or even on the streets themselves. They’ll stone you to death, Accord be damned! Your knights can only do so much against a mob. Why now?

In that office, I had to convince Parviz to offer me his support. I found difficulty in displaying mendacity in front of the man I affectionately called “uncle” as a child. Fighting back against my shame; To who amounted to the only family I had left, I spoke untruths for the first time.

>I… found a yusur who was willing to offer his assistance to me.

Parviz perked up upon hearing these words.

>Pardon?

>…In the forest near the bastion, my knights found him while they were hunting. He was unconscious. When they contacted me telepathically, I ordered them to give solace by bearing him to the fortress, where I healed his wounds. Unfortunately, he lacks the memory of his past; amnesia. He insisted that he repay his debt to me for saving him. I decided to accept and suggested that he become a bard on my behalf so that I might further my research and that he might regain his lost memories.

>Truly?

>Truly.

Parviz thought to himself for a spell, twirling his mustache all the while. Was I convincing enough? I thought at the time.

>I see that there are yet people of caliber in this country. I also see that there’s no stopping you. “Not one to falter” indeed. Very well. I will offer as much assistance as I can. What is the man’s name?

>Anon

>Anon? As in “soon?”

>No, he told me that it was short for “Anonymous.” Fitting for a man with no name, is it not?

>Ah, he forgot even his own name? A shame.

Parviz took out some parchment after saying this and began writing. He folded it neatly after finishing and placed it in an envelope before pushing it across the desk.

>This is a letter of recommendation for an “Anon.” Have him hand it to the bard’s guild upon your arrival. It states that he has the full backing of Echo Bay in all his endeavors. You two might find difficulty trying to have him become officially recognized without any memories, but this should help. Tomorrow, I have business in Boarding myself. You’re more than welcome to ride with me in my car the rest of the way… One more thing.

Parviz stood up from his chair and walked over to the wardrobe on his right. Opening it, he fetched a beige cloak. Handing it to me, he began to explain.

>You might recognize the emblem on the back from your studies.

Turning it over, I saw the distinct symbol of the Invisible Status faith.

>A cloak of the Invisible Status? How on Cyberia did you acquire this?

Parviz wagged his finger knowingly.

>I’m not just a mere collector. I’m the greatest collector. As you know this cloak will hide your existence as a drator. It’s the best gesture I could offer in protecting you; as I cannot be there personally… Unfortunately, you may be looked at as a loon.

I smiled and stowed the cloak away with my belongings. I spoke softly to myself.

>Thank you… Uncle Parviz.

Several knocks sounded out on the door. Parviz responded to the knocks.

>Yes, yes. Come in!

__________________________________________________________________________________

Anon and I had just gone over the events of the fight. Due to his comfortable life, the fight went poorly, but he exhibits the desire to improve. For this, I’m thankful, as Cyberia is fraught with peril outside of civilization. It would not do for him to perish needlessly. I revealed the effect the encounter had on my tention stores to him, to make known our urgency.

>I’m sorry I’ve put you in this situation. First, you save me from disappearing, then you save me a second time from dying.

Please, do not think of me so highly. Not bearing to look at him, I fashioned an excuse. But, was it an excuse for him, or for me?

>It is quite fine… I could not simply leave you to die after already saving you once. It’s not as if I revived you out of pure altruism, for if you had been killed in that forest, I would have been left without a means to recover any energy at all.

>But still, thank you for saving me.

The genuine gratitude he showed shamed me. Quiet soon followed but was just as quickly broken.

>…What if I charge your horns directly?

It took me a moment to process his suggestion.

>Pardon? Charge my horns?

>Yeah, when I bought the gauntlet I learned how syncing to a yumnium focus actually works. What if I sync to your horns, then use my power to give you tention?

>I…

That thought hadn’t occurred to me at the time, but with his outlandish power, it was indeed possible. Though there had been documentation of drator unsynching from their own horns for various reasons, the after-effects were mostly dreadful. There were cases of unwitting drator going unconscious for weeks, or even going comatose after unsuccessfully resynching.

>I’ll… have to unsynchronize with my own horns. I’ve never done that before. Unlike a regular yusur, when I sleep my connection to my focus remains intact… I don’t know what will happen. Only one person can be synced to a focus at a time.

Is there another option? I had thought. Though, I came to the conclusion that were we to fail in Boarding I had no other method of recharging prepared. I was willing to risk everything for my goal, and utilizing Anon’s power in this way would be a great boon to us.

>If you think it’s risky, we don’t have to try it. It’s just a thought I had. It’s possible we won’t need to do it and can finish the bardic exam in time to gather tention for you naturally with the knights.

>No, I believe it will work. I won’t die or anything outrageous, probably, but it might be discomforting.

I removed my cloak and took my place in the center of the room. Anon came up to me before speaking.

>Are you ready? Let’s give it a shot.

>I’ve resolved myself. As this might remedy our dilemma, it’s worth the attempt.

Shutting my eyes, I began figuring out how to unsynch with my horns. It really did amount to a taboo, after all. No drator in their right mind would do this. Half a minute went by, perhaps more. I was not counting. Combing the very recesses of my mind… probing with all that I had, I uncovered the link. I must struggle to stay conscious with all my being. I remember thinking. Then, I severed the thread.

>Ugh…

My sight and hearing went dim, and a pain I’d never experienced before thrashed about in my head. Unable to stand, I leaned forward. Something stopped me before I fell. I mumbled a little, but the words were strained. I briefly lost the feeling of standing but was soon placed on my back. The thoughts flew about as I endeavored with all my might to remain awake. Something touched one of my horns; it felt comforting… like he was there with me. I heard a voice. Brother…? I thought, deluding myself. Calmness spread, and the pain subsided. I began to reminisce about the past and the journey so far, before falling into slumber.

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