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The night’s sky is so beautiful, Iruka thought to herself after finishing setting up camp for the night. In the forests of Paiurej, you had to be careful of the wild animals of the forest. She never had problems of dealing with things like beasts, but she could never be too careful around Humans. The last time she spent time with them, except for when she did with her master, was when she was little, at the orphanage she was raised in.
Saudin was already a poor enough country, but the brain freezing winters and the attitude of callousness from High Commander Gazuvius regarding the population made it so that the conditions in which she lived were, as her ‘friend’ put it ‘piss poor.’
There, Iruka and three others succeeded in making a two person room their home. Partially. There were three boys that knew her, two of them always picking on her and her friend, ripping their toys apart then blaming it on them. The carers were no better, looking after the kids enough so that they wouldn’t die. The food, that they ate only twice a day, tasted like cardboard. Mashed potatoes and Moore meat that were both probably not even cleaned properly. They used that type of meat because it was the cheapest available, but everyone knew that not cooked it could be dangerous. The ‘staff’ didn’t care.
One day, an incident that marked the beginning of her rage happened. Iruka was outside the door, eavesdropping on a conversation between the boys.
‘Give me back Krispy!’ Valcus shouted.
‘Your plush rabbit looks stupid. I’m going to rip it in front of you!’ Mac said, with Garew laughing behind him ‘Yeah yeah, do it!’
‘Why? Why do you do this?’
‘Stop hanging out with that weirdo and we’ll consider making you our…’ the two bullies looked at each other ‘friend.’
‘R-really?’ Valcus said holding back his tears.
‘Yeeeeah. Don’t worry about it. Just tell her that she sucks!’
After hearing this, Iruka was certain that her only friend wouldn’t accept this trade. Not for a plush toy. She walked in with her head held high. Valcus was always there for her, whenever the boys would rip her toys and having her back whenever she’d do the same to them and the carers would arrive. She put her hand on her friend’s back.
‘What’s going on?’ She asked with a smile.
Turning to face her, Valcus said ‘Iruka, you suck. I don’t wanna be your friend or talk to you anymore.’
It took about twenty minutes for the carers to stop Iruka from crying. She was crying so much that people walking by the orphanage started asking questions about the children’s treatment. Eventually, an old man knocked on the door. The carers gasped at the sight of the visitor. He wore glasses and had a long, blue cape behind him that resembled the night’s sky. His white, short beard flailed as he pretended to cough and say:
‘May I see where a girl named Iruka is?’
‘Yes, Your Highness, right this way.’
She was baffled. Why would someone called ‘Your Highness’ be looking for her? As she was making her way back into her room to make sure that she’d seem like a good, obeying child following the rules, she bumped into Valcus.
‘I am so sorry,’ he said. It didn’t matter to her as she brushed right past him, managing to get inside the room and close the door right as the adults were approaching. There was a knock at the door.
‘Iruka? Are you there? Do you mind opening the door for me?’
She waited a couple of seconds before she did so. The man was so tall that she couldn’t see anything above his neck, except for a purple pyramid shaped hat he was wearing. It had different symbols on it. On a closer look, his whole outfit, made out of red pants that went over his red shoes, with a blue long sleeved shirt, was covered with those weird writings.
‘Hello, dear,’ he smiled. Would you mind talking to me for a bit?’ the carers tried to enter but he stopped, turning around. ‘In private.’ They nodded, allowing him to enter the room and sit on a bed. He motioned with his hand for Iruka to join him.
Being at the same height as him on the bed, she could now see his face clearly. Wrinkled, dark circles under his bright blue eyes. After maintaining eye contact, she realized that his whole eyes were blue, but each iris had white spots on it, making her gasp in awe. He was a giant in height, but not so much in width. He was quite scrawny, even for his age. She wanted to ask how old he was, but the man spoke first.
‘So, I know life isn’t the greatest here.’
‘Yes,’ she said, lowering her head.
‘Have you thought of how life can be outside these walls?’
‘And what do you think about it? How do you envision yourself, so to speak?’
‘I am strong. So strong that no one can beat me. I would be on my own, I don’t need others.’
‘So I’m guessing you want to be strong so that no one rips open your toys in the future.’
‘But, you know, it is better to have companions. Whenever someone tries to break your toys, they help in repairing them or making you feel better if they can’t.’
After hearing it, she could only think about Valcus betraying her.
‘I know you don’t think this way, but in time you surely will. Oh my, I haven’t introduced myself. My name is…’
Mahen. Iruka repeated it after taking the time to remember her past. She enjoyed doing it, priding herself with how far she’s come. Being honest, though, she couldn’t have done it without his proposal, his training and his beloved gift.
‘Would you want to travel the world with me, Iruka? I’ll show you how you can be strong, even on your own.’
She lifted her head up with a big smile. ‘Would you really?’
His smile widened. ‘Yes. I see a promising student in you, a certain spark in your eyes.’
She blushed, both when she was young and now, remembering the old man’s face. Yawning, she decided it was time to sleep. Tomorrow, she is to go to the seasonal festival in the centre of Paiurej. If I wake up at two hours after sunrise, I might be able to make it in time. There’s only a six-hour travel there. Getting inside her tent, she remembered her master’s worse one last time. May we meet again. And hopefully, you’ll be right. I have yet to find a worthy opponent.