"Bye! Remember to wait here for me. I'll be back tomorrow!"
A blond boy waved enthusiastically to his friend, who was by the side of the fountain. Said friend glanced down at her own hand and then raised it woodenly. She looked back and forth between her departing friend and her hand. With one last look at her hand, she gave it a tentative wave, as if she was not used to the action.
The boy hurried to where he was meeting his teacher. It wouldn't do to make someone as scary as his teacher wait.
Unfortunately for the boy, his teacher Neo was on time for once. As expected, he wasn't the least bit happy. He had his arms crossed and feet tapping. All that was missing was a scowl, which would have been present if he weren't the "benevolent' Sun Knight, who was always ready with a smile.
Truthfully, it was perhaps much scarier to see a fist coming your way while the person swinging the fist had on a wide smile. One had to wonder, with such actions and words, if there was even a need to keep smiling, as his "benevolent" image was definitely not intact.
"You're late, Grisia! You're the one who wanted to look for your big sister. Where the hell were you?"
Grisia winced and rubbed his head. He quickly cast a healing spell to chase away the pain, but promptly frowned and winced again when he touched his head. He had already cast the spell multiple times earlier in the day and would now have to suffer through the pain. He mumbled, "I was with a friend."
"A friend?" An elegant eyebrow arched upward. "A friend out here? Is he not part of the Church?"
Grisia shook his head. "I just met her today." When there was no response from his teacher, he added, "She's nice."
"A girl?" His teacher finally asked in disbelief.
"Yup, I saved her from some bullies!" Grisia said proudly, without any mention of how he'd ended up getting pummeled along with her until the bullies grew bored. That totally still counted as saving her. He even stood up taller at the thought, face beaming with a large smile.
Neo's arched eyebrow climbed even higher, nearly disappearing into his bangs. "You? Are you sure it's not the other way around?"
Grisia was no fighter, and he sucked at fighting off bullies. Neo still clearly remembered the state Grisia had been in when he'd gone to ask Grisia why he wanted to become the Sun Knight. Grisia had been in a sorry state then, and he'd gotten two other boys to fight off the bullies instead of winning the battle by himself.
"No way!" Grisia exclaimed and then muttered under his breath, "If I had been saved by a girl, I wouldn't even mention it..."
Grisia's teacher decided to ignore his student's mutterings—mumbling under his breath like that was such a bad habit—instead looking him over, noticing no injuries. However, that wasn't a good indication of whether or not his student had gotten into a scuffle. Although his student sucked at the swordplay part of being a holy knight, he definitely excelled at the holy spells part of being a holy knight. He could have healed all of his own injuries, leaving no evidence of getting beaten up.
There were smudges of dirt on his clothes though, and was that a rip in his sleeves?
While Neo found it difficult to believe, it was possible that Grisia had saved a girl from bullies this time, given that there was no one else around to do the work for him.
However, it irked Neo that Grisia was not even a teen yet and was already such a womanizer! That really wouldn't do. He wasn't raising a Storm Knight here, no matter his own womanizing ways. It wasn't like he needed a miniature version of himself. Neo quickly said, "So you saved a girl, Grisia? That is commendable. That leads perfectly into the next lesson."
"A lesson, Teacher? But I thought we're going to find my big sister now."
"Child, one must be ready to learn at all times," Neo made up on the spot. "Remember this well. The Sun Knight, as the spokesperson of the God of Light, is entirely devoted to the God of Light and must not show any interest in women."
"Um, okay?" Grisia answered.
Neo, noticing Grisia's confusion, realized that perhaps it was too early to teach Grisia about something like this. I'll shelve this conversation until later... maybe when he's fourteen. Wouldn't it be hilarious to teach him to look at girls through the corner of his eyes instead of directly at them? Neo nodded. Fourteen sounded just about right. Puberty and all. Ick.
The neighborhood where Grisia's big sister's house was located was average at best. Grisia had told Neo that his big sister dressed in pretty clothes and had pale skin, which hinted that perhaps she was a noble of some sort who didn't have to toil in the sun, or who had a great facial regimen, but her choice of residence sure didn't say the same.
Neo had stopped counting how many times Grisia had come to check the house, always finding no one there. Each visit saddened Grisia, but he never gave up on searching for his big sister. Neo had decided to come search with him this time. After all, he wasn't a kidnapper like Eller! He was going to find Grisia's big sister for him. She might even be a pretty one.
As luck would have it, this trip proved different from the previous ones, perhaps because of Neo's blinding presence, announcing to everyone around that he was someone of importance. Just the act of walking down the sparse streets of the neighborhood caused plenty of heads to turn their way. They hadn't even reached the house when they were "found."
But, it wasn't Grisia's big sister who found them. Not unless Grisia's big sister was a little girl.
Without any warning, something dark shot out at Neo, too quick for Neo to determine what it was. But that mattered little, as Neo had always been the type to "strike first and ask questions later." He did exactly that, sword pulled out to slash at the incoming threat, cleaving what was actually a magical attack down the middle. The dark energy, now deflected, instead hit the walls and left behind a black, charred surface.
It was fortunate for Neo's opponent that what had been thrown at him was a magical attack instead of the person herself, as whatever came in the path of Neo's sword would most definitely end up split in half.
"Give him back!" came the voice of a little girl, followed by another blast of dark element in the shape of blades. Her blades were precise, aimed only at Neo, but when he chopped at her attack again, the deflected blades nearly hit Grisia, causing the girl to gasp. The attacks stopped altogether. Neo narrowed his eyes at that.
He kept his sword pointed at her, his hand tingling. Little girl or not, and whether the attacks had stopped or not, she was not to be underestimated. The fact that she was a little girl and proficient at the dark element reminded Neo of Pink all too much, and that was a bad sign. He pushed Grisia behind him.
The girl growled at that, dark element rising around her, as if accentuating each of her words. "Give. Him. Back!"
"Is that all you know how to say?" Neo taunted. "I'm tired of hearing it!"
"Teacher!" Grisia gasped, peeking out from behind Neo's cape. Neo tried to push him back behind him again, but Grisia ducked out of the way, poking his head out on Neo's opposite side, much to his frustration. "I know her! She's little big sis!"
"Child, what in the world are you talking about? She's a necromancer!" Neo shouted and grabbed Grisia by the collar, picking him up and tossing him to the back like a stray kitten. Grisia even landed on his feet, but with one hand steadying himself on the ground, it was not quite a graceful landing. He still needed more practice in that department.
Truthfully, it wasn't like Neo knew for certain that the little girl was a necromancer, but knowing one such necromancer made it very easy for that leap of logic.
The little girl didn't deny it either. Either she was one, or she just didn't care about what Neo thought she was. All she did was shout, "Give him back to me!" Neo was really tired of hearing that, but this time, she demonstrated that she did have more to her vocabulary, as what she shouted next was, "You kidnapper!"
"Nonsense!" Neo snapped. He was not a kidnapper, thank you very much! That was Eller, who had totally kidnapped the bread delivery boy! Grisia had registered for and taken part in the Sun Knight selections. It wasn't Neo's fault that they were having so much trouble finding Grisia's big sister to inform her of Grisia's new status as the Sun Knight-in-training.
Suddenly, Grisia gasped again. Neo glanced down, only to see Grisia darting past him. He hurriedly reached out, trying to grab the boy, but he slipped out of his grasp, running straight at a woman who had just shown up behind the little girl. She wore a simple dress that Neo supposed could be considered "pretty," especially when it accented her shapely figure so well. Along with the pale skin she had, Neo figured that this had to be Grisia's so-called "big sister."
Although she was a pretty one, something didn't sit right with Neo. While Neo wasn't the best at magic and anything that even remotely had to do with magic, he was still the Sun Knight. As the Sun Knight, he had the finest blade he'd ever wielded at his disposal—the Divine Sun Sword. It was a holy blade whose affinity directly opposed the dark element, and thus the blade always felt somehow different in his hands in the presence of the dark element, undead creatures, and the like, as if the blade itself wished for Neo to start a bloodbath to eliminate all of that.
A tingling sensation ran up Neo's arms. The sword had reacted to the little girl. Now, it was reacting to the "big sister" as well. He narrowed his eyes again. Meanwhile, the little girl stood between them like a guard dog, hand held up to the sides to block Neo's way.
Grisia threw himself at the woman, happily shouting, "Big sister!"
She caught Grisia and said something that made Neo's eyebrows shoot up into his bangs. "My little king, where have you been?"
Little king? What in the world? It can't be that Grisia is royalty? Neo found it hard to believe. While Grisia did look the part, especially when he was clothed in the uniform of the young Sun Knight with his golden threads and blue silks, when all was said and done, he was just a snot-faced brat. Then again, all royals started off as snot-faced brats, and most never grew out of it, so Grisia wasn't all that different from them in that sense.
Neo eyed the girl and the woman. Then, he abruptly shouted, "Grisia, out of the way!"
Having been subject to Neo's brand of teaching made Grisia react right away to his teacher's command. He jumped out of the way, not a second too late, as Neo had shoved the little girl to the side, his sword flying straight at the woman. Grisia would not have come out of that unscathed.
However, Grisia's eyes widened at the sight, and he rushed forward in horror without a care for his own safety, shouting, "Big sister!"
The Divine Sun Sword pierced into a sudden black shield that had appeared before the woman, courtesy of the little girl. She was sprawled on the floor but had her hand held up. The shield was likely formed of the dark element, as the Divine Sun Sword cut through it like butter. The shield was only able to mitigate the force, slowing the blade's thrust. It did not actually block the sword. The woman gasped in pain and looked down. The tip of the blade had pierced her abdomen. Neo ruthlessly stabbed forward, but the little girl suddenly dispelled the shield outward, forcing him to withdraw his sword.
"Big sister!" Grisia shrieked and hurried to gather holy element. Before anyone present could stop him, Grisia had already cast his quickest healing spell ever... only to cause his big sister to scream in pain. She thrashed and doubled over, hugging herself.
Grisia's eyes widened. He snatched his hand back in horror. It hadn't even been a strong healing spell, given his depleted reserves. "W-what's going on?"
Neo's face was grim. "Grisia, come over here."
Unexpectedly, Grisia shook his head. "No... Teacher, you stabbed her! Why?"
Pale skin from not having to work in the sun? As if! Even if she works all her life out in the sun, she won't tan. But considering what she is, there was no chance from the start that she'd ever be out working in the sun. Neo simply said, "She's an undead creature."
"That can't be true!" Grisia claimed.
"Your healing spell clearly hurt her," Neo countered. "I don't know what kind of undead creature she is, but she definitely is one. She can't be your big sis—"
"Teacher!" Grisia cried out.
While they had been arguing, the little girl wasted no time to blast Neo with dark element. He swung the Divine Sun Sword to cut through the attack once again, but he had been too focused on Grisia that part of the attack slipped through, hitting him in the shoulder. Neo grunted in pain. Blood stained his ripped sleeve and slowly blossomed.
"Grisia, come over here," the little girl parroted Neo's words.
Grisia, stuck in the middle, simply didn't seem to understand what was going on. He shook his head and said, much like he had asked Neo not a moment earlier, "No, you hurt Teacher! Why?" He looked back and forth between Neo, the woman, and the little girl. He didn't take a single step toward any of them. He nibbled on his lips. Perhaps he did it a bit too hard, for a spot of blood appeared on his lips, and that was all it took to change everything.
All of a sudden, Grisia jerked his head, staring at the blood on Neo's arm. By now, some of it was even dripping on the ground.
Then, Grisia swiveled his head to stare at his big sister, who was injured as well, and it was no small injury either to get stabbed by the Divine Sun Sword. But, there was no blood in sight.
The little girl answered, "Why? It's because he stole you from me!"
Neo immediately growled, "I did not! It's official that Grisia is going to be the next Sun Knight!"
"The Sun Knight? How can that be?" the little girl said, incredulous. "My child can't be the Sun Knight! He's going to be the demon king!"
"Your child? The demon king? Just what fantasy are you dreaming up?" Neo looked at her snidely. "Just how old are you to call him a child? You..." Neo came to a sudden realization. "You're an undying lich, just like Pink, aren't you? You old hag! I won't let you harm Grisia!"
The little girl narrowed her eyes at Neo. "I would never harm him! You're more likely to hurt him, especially since you're in cahoots with Pink!"
"I am not!"
In the midst of their argument, in a life-changing moment, Grisia whispered, "Big sister, are you really an undead creature?"
The woman could barely speak or move. She jerked her head in a nod. "I am... a demoness... my little king..."
Grisia, mind made up, spun around and yelled at the top of his lungs, "Stop fighting already!"
Neo and the little girl both froze. When they turned, they were greeted by the sight of Grisia with his hands propped against his waist. To Neo, it was like seeing Grisia in the mantle of the Sun Knight. To the little girl, it was like seeing her child with the authority of the demon king. Both of them felt like chastised children and shut up obediently.
"Teacher, let me ask this again, why did you stab big sister?" Grisia questioned.
"She's an undead creature," Neo said, his answer still the same.
"I know that now. Big sister is a demoness. But that's no reason to stab her! Teacher, you may be the Sun Knight, but going around stabbing defenseless undead creatures is just bullying the weak!"
Neo gaped while the little girl snickered.
Grisia frowned at the little girl. "Little big sis, you too! Let me ask this again, why did you hurt Teacher?"
"He stole you from me," she answered.
Grisia shook his head. "Teacher told the truth. I'm the next Sun Knight. I entered myself into the Sun Knight selections, and I passed! I came back to look for you and big sister, but I couldn't find either of you to tell you."
The little girl gaped while Neo had an "I told you so" expression on his face.
"Child, you can't be the Sun Knight. You're destined to be the demon king," the little girl explained.
"He's not going to be the demon king or evil king or whatever nefarious position you have planned for him!" Neo snapped.
Grisia had told Neo that becoming the Sun Knight would mean that he would have eleven brothers, maybe even twelve. That was what becoming the Sun Knight meant to Grisia. He wouldn't have any of that as the demon king.
"I don't want to be the demon king," Grisia said, just like Neo thought. "I don't want to be evil. I don't want to be alone."
The little girl shook her head. "You are both wrong. I have no nefarious plans. The demon king is even more important than some stupid Sun Knight. The demon king is the savior of the world!"
Both Neo and Grisia looked at her as if she were out of her mind.
The little girl scoffed. "You and your prejudices. Without the demon king, the world would perish. Then, what use would there be for some silly Sun Knight?"
Neo bristled at that.
"I... I don't really understand all of that." Grisia finally said. "But tell me this. Could the demon king heal big sister's injury?"
The little girl blinked. She glanced at the demoness, as if she had only just remembered her now. "Of course, he can do that. You just have to use the dark element." The little girl raised her hand, calling the dark element to it. "Like this."
"Then, why haven't you healed her yet?!" Grisia demanded.
"She's just a demoness!" The little girl retorted. "I can summon another one if you want. No big deal."
"She's big sis! She can't be replaced!" Angry, Grisia stalked forward and held his hand out. He scrunched his face up. At first, nothing happened, perhaps because of how used to the holy element he was by now, but soon afterwards, dark element began gathering into a ball above his hand. "If you're not going to heal her, I will!"
Once again, the little girl gaped. Neo shook his head and came to stand beside her. He said, "You may have adopted him, but you really don't understand him, do you?" He sighed. "He treasures all of his bonds, so don't even think about replacing that demoness with another one. I hate to admit it, but that means I can't just cut the two of you down. So spill already. What in the world is this demon king business, and who the hell are you?"
The little girl said, while staring at her child "healing" the demoness with his first ever attempt at gathering the dark element, "I am Scarlet." Then, she turned to give Neo an unhappy look. "I am the guide to the future demon king." When Neo still didn't look like that told him anything, Scarlet pursed her lips and questioned, "Hasn't your royal family told you anything about the demon king?"
Compared to the current "royal" in power, perhaps Grisia, a snot-faced brat, according to Neo, would make a better king after all.
At the side of the fountain, a girl waited. She kicked her feet and stared at the shoes of all of the passersby. Behind her, the water of the fountain created a mist against her back as it splashed downward, and the setting sun that shone through it sometimes formed miniature rainbows. There was one such rainbow now that had found its place on a white boot, but the rainbow soon lost its place on it, as the boot wasn't stationary.
Oh, the boot was getting closer. It was a rather nice boot, and the owner must wipe it a lot, as it was rather clean despite being a white boot. The golden designs on it were a bit familiar, now that she was getting a closer look at it. Wait...
The girl blinked and looked up. A large smile immediately came over her face. "Grisia!"
"Hi, Charlotte!" the owner of the nice white boot said and beamed in return.
"Did you find your big sister?" she asked, since Grisia had run off to look for his big sister the last she had seen him.
Grisia nodded, though his expression changed for a moment, too quick for Charlotte to figure out what was going on in his head. In the end, he simply said, "I did!"
"That's awesome!" Charlotte said. "Do you have time to play now?"
Grisia nodded again. "I do! But only for an hour. I have to meet with some stuck up people later. Next week, more stuck up people are probably going to come too, so I won't have time then."
"Oh, that doesn't sound fun," Charlotte said and frowned, not liking the thought of not being able to see Grisia the following week.
Grisia made a face. "It's not fun at all. But forget about that. I brought some more money! Let's go get a lollipop!"
"I can't believe the king never told you anything about the demon king," Scarlet said and crossed her arms.
"I can't believe I'm actually believing you about this demon king business," Neo retorted and crossed his arms as well.
"Do your damn research already then. Grisia's future shouldn't be impaired because of your king's mess up," Scarlet snapped.
"That's exactly what I'm trying to do," Neo snapped back. "I care for Grisia too. Get that through your dead brain."
The two of them kept on arguing and were still arguing even by the time Grisia returned. He looked at them bemusedly and turned toward the demoness, who was sitting quietly behind them, doing embroidery on the ripped sleeves of Grisia's outfit from the day before, and asked, "Big sister, have they been squabbling this entire time?"
The demoness nodded. "They have, my little king."
Grisia turned to stare at them again. He tilted his head, placed a finger against his lips in thought, and said, "You know, I hear this is what they call 'arguing like an old married couple!'"
The arguing duo immediately fell silent. They turned to stare at Grisia. Then, they looked at each other in disgust.
"I'm not a cradle-robber!" they shouted at the same time.
Grisia couldn't help it. He burst out in laughter.
"My little king, what amuses you so?" the demoness asked.
Grisia beamed and told her, "I have the biggest and best family ever! I have eleven brothers, Teacher, little big sis, and you. Teacher even feels like a dad and little big sis like a mom. I'm so lucky!"
The demoness smiled. "You deserve the best, my little king." Then, she lifted the shirt she had been working on and asked, "What do you think of this design?"
On one of the sleeves were the words "my little king," and on the other sleeve were the words "my little sun knight."
Grisia protested, "I'm not going to be little forever!" But, he couldn't keep the smile off of his face.