It was tiring… living for so long.
Destruction, wars, famines…
He didn't want to see anymore.
It rained for days after Hikari's death. The icy water washed away all the snow, bringing forth the new season. Despite the change in scenery, it did not feel like spring. The vegetation was not as green as previous years and the sky was continually dark. As Wizard stared at the pale cherry blossoms on Hikari's farm during the third continuous day of rainfall, he wondered if the lack of vibrancy was caused by his depressed state or the Harvest King's grief.
Hikari's funeral was held on the fourth day. It was a small event with only a few residents attending. Wizard despondently reflected that Hikari had never been able to fully enjoy the home she helped restore. The townspeople on the other hand, were able to benefit from the product of Hikari's diligence without any worries. The thought made Wizard briefly despise the humans that had caused her so much pain. However, he also remembered how much she cared for many of them and let the tiresome anger fade away.
The Harvest King had appeared on Wizard's doorstep with a lively infant in his arms on the fifth day. While the child was smaller than most newborns, the deity stated that he would grow up to be as healthy and strong as the other children. Gazing down at the small child, Wizard knew he didn't have the ability to raise him into person Hikari would have wanted him to be. Hikari's son, Amatus, was placed in Julius and Candace's care by the end of the day.
On the seventh day, Wizard left Castanet.
Wizard spent his days wondering aimlessly. He avoided entering any villages unless it was necessary. Being able to apply the knowledge he had learned over the years distracted him temporarily from the thoughts that haunted him. While the lifestyle did not offer the stability he preferred, it was not entirely unpleasant.
Days blurred into weeks, weeks to months, and months to years.
As time passed, his experiences dulled. He found himself slowly growing bored with his travels. The world had much to offer, but at times, it felt as if he had observed all that there was to see. Nothing sparked any emotions within him. There was no passion or happiness –only forced progression.
There were also times where he couldn't force himself to move forwards. He was weary and had nothing to inspire him to continue moving. During times like these, he spent hours wondering what he was doing in the middle of nowhere.
He opened his eyes when he heard a sparrow chirp cheerfully on the tree branch above him. It seemed that spring had returned once again. Thundering taps of raindrops hitting the overhanging branches filtered through his dulled senses. Wizard hypnotically watched the individual drops decorate the muddy ground with small splashes and ripples. The continent was flooded with rain during the first week of spring every year for the past decade.
She still remained in the Harvest King's mind after all this time.
Raising his head Wizard quietly observed the sparrow, who was currently throwing raindrops off its sleek feathers. Wizard blinked when he noticed the warm, spring green aura hovering around the creature. Though there were millions of creatures, many with souls that were a similar shade of green, he felt drawn towards the sparrow.
An emotion he had not felt for a long time spread across his chest. It was a warm and pleasant sensation. Wizard's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of fluttering wings, indicating the sparrow's departure. Rising to his feet, he quickly ventured outside the shelter of tree and into the icy rain. Despite the poor visibility in the weather, he had no difficulty following the bird, using its unique aura to track it.
An hour later, he was soaked to the bone and losing the faint trail of the bird.
Slumping underneath a cherry tree, he wondered if this was for the best. The rain continued to pour and Wizard drew his legs to his chest. The small tree did not provide complete shelter from the rain. Dozens of droplets slipped through the branches, falling on Wizard's form. Though it took only a simple spell to dry his clothes, he found himself too weary to make the effort. Closing his eyes, he listened to the constant drizzle.
The drizzle eventually changed to loud echoing taps, making Wizard raise his head. He was greeted with the sight of a pink umbrella. His eyes travelled downwards to find a gloved holding the umbrella over his head.
"You're all wet," a saccharine voice noted.
Wizard turned his head slightly and met the innocent brown eyes of a young woman.
"What are you doing outside in the rain?" she inquired.
Wizard slowly turned away, wanting to be left alone.
"Hm, that's not very polite." Despite her words, the young woman didn't sound overly offended and remained by his side, patiently holding the umbrella over his head. "Aren't you cold?"
He remained silent.
"You know, you're going to catch a cold in this weather," she persisted cheerfully.
He continued to ignore her chatter.
"It doesn't look like the weather is going to change any time soon," she sighed, a hint of regret laced in her lively voice. She moved in front of him, tilting her head to the side as she searched his multicolored eyes. "Do you have a place to stay?"
She took his silence as a negative answer. Tapping her chin with a gloved finger, she said, "That's quite a problem."
After a moment, Wizard felt himself being tugged onto his feet and dragged down the path by the surprisingly strong brunette. Her pigtails bounced lightly as she moved forwards, oddly fitting her jovial personality. Wizard stared at the hand holding onto his, puzzling over the strange behavior of the woman.
It was not any of her concern if he had no shelter other than a tree.
The two soon approached a small, shabby house. Pushing the unlocked door open, the brunette closed her umbrella and hastily pulled Wizard inside.
"You'll really catch a cold," she said. "Why don't you take better care of your body?"
Wizard met her curious gaze indifferently. His body was superior to a human's, thus he was seldom subject to the illnesses the plagued their bodies. He knew that this was not the reason for his careless regard for his health though. At the moment, he merely didn't care.
"Oh, you should really dry yourself," the brunette exclaimed, stumbling over various tools and clothes scattered across the floor to retrieve a towel. "The washroom is over there."
Pushing him to the left, she shoved the towel into his hands and closed the washroom door. Wizard stared at the towel in his hands.
"What's your name?" the female asked through the door.
Wizard tiredly leaned against the bathtub.
After a moment of silence, she continued in a friendly manner as if he had responded to her question. "I'm Tina. You can stay here. It's not much, but it's better than staying out in the rain."
His eyes flickered towards the wooden door. He wondered why she cared so much. It would have been less troublesome for both of them if she had left him out in the rain. He didn't want anything to do with humans.
The woman continued to ramble. Wizard did not bother to try and decipher her words. He suddenly felt very exhausted. Shifting his body, he tried to find a more comfortable sitting position. A moment later, darkness filled his vision.
Smoke spiraled up from the houses that were scattered across the village. Despite the cold, many of the villagers were outside, hurrying to finish winter preparations before the first snow arrived. Even the children assisted with as much as they could by collecting firewood or helping salt meat. When winter arrived, the villagers would mostly be confined within the village.
A young boy self consciously flattened his hair over his right eye as a man carrying a stack of branches passed.
"You draw more attention to yourself by doing that."
"There will be plenty of attention if they see my eyes," Gale responded as he followed his master into the inn while continuing to rearrange his windswept hair. Though the belief that heterochromia was associated with witchcraft was complete nonsense, humans weren't receptive to arguments when so many believed it to be true.
The friendly innkeeper led them to a small, well-kept room. Sitting on the bed, Gale sighed and pulled a yellow aspen leaf from the top of the bag he carried. "I would have preferred continuing forwards."
"You may not mind the cold but I'm getting old," his master replied, placing his baggage down on a table. "Consider it as a break."
Knowing that it was pointless to argue, the young boy lay on the bed and listened to the trees comforting murmurs. Time passed by incredibly quickly when he listened to the organisms around him. The different sensations and the things he learned by piecing together the different pieces was fascinating. When the room darkened enough for his master to discreetly summon a glowing orb to light the room, Gale slid off the bed and peered out the window. The village was quiet: scarcely a shadow moved.
Feeling more comfortable exploring the area when there weren't any humans present, Gale told his master he would return shortly before slipping out the door. The cool night air brushed against his skin, though the chill did not bother the boy.
The village was larger than he imagined. Though it was not as populous as other the other villages he had visited, the houses were spread across vast distances. Arriving at a small pond by a farm, Gale sat down on a log and thoughtfully gazed down at the blurred reflection of the sky. The full moon bathed the entire area in a cool glow, allowing the villagers far better visibility than on other nights.
Gale raised his head when the sky began to darken. His eyes were filled with wonder as he saw the moon slowly being consumed by darkness.
"Oh, this isn't good."
Wizard frowned as he tried to identify the concerned voice. Mustering the strength to open his eyes, he realized he was on a straw bed with a wet cloth on his forehead.
"Oh, you're awake! I was so worried."
Wizard winced and moved to clutch his head.
"You have a fever," the brunette explained as she leaned forward to brush back locks of his sweat drenched hair. Her cool fingers rested on his forehead before drawing back once again.
Wizard furrowed his brow and wearily closed his eyes. His muscles ached and his limbs felt far too heavy to move. His body shouldn't be subject to such things.
His body was failing. The realization shouldn't have been so surprising. He had lived for so long that he had forgotten how old he was. Adding his neglect and lack of purpose…
"Hey, do you need anything? Maybe some water?"
A rough scratching sound shook the small house as the brunette pushed back her chair and scrambled away. She returned a moment later and slowly lifted him into a sitting position. As Wizard leaned against the bed frame, the woman pressed a glass of water to his lips. He slowly turned his head to find her brown eyes wide with worry.
The brunette had unusually compassionate eyes. She seemed like the type of person that would care for every injured being she came across, whether she was capable of providing aid or not. Now that he was examining her, he could see that the woman had a pure, loving aura that rivaled Akari and Hikari's. Wizard shoved the glass away, not wanting to become attached to any humans –especially those like her.
"You won't get better if you don't care for yourself," she insisted, offering him the cup once again. Though her eyes shimmered with trepidation, her lips were set in a determined frown. She wouldn't rest until she was satisfied with his condition.
Wearily pushing her aside, Wizard gathered his strength, slipped off the bed and stumbled towards the door. The rain pummeled the earth relentlessly. Ignoring the uncomfortable weather and the mild spinning of his head, he started down the muddy path in a painfully slow pace. Wizard hoped that the woman wouldn't follow him. Within seconds, he heard the splashing of water, followed by the tapping of raindrops as an umbrella was thrust over his head.
"Is there something important that you need to do?" the brunette inquired. She smoothly brushed her wet hair aside so she could look clearly at him. "Even so, you should wait until you're better to go out."
Wizard continued wordlessly forward, attempting to ignore how the young woman was slowly getting soaked as she focused solely on preventing him from getting wet. His headache was growing worse.
"Go home…" he rasped.
She stumbled and gaped at him with surprise. "You spoke!"
Wizard winced at the harshness of her exclamation. The girl floundered for a moment before catching up with him once again. "I'm really worried. Please listen to me and go back."
It was painful to speak, but he felt it was necessary to get his message across. "It's best for both of us… if you left me alone."
"I can't leave you in the rain like this! I won't be able to live with myself if I do"
"Forget… you ever saw me then."
"It doesn't work like that," she shouted, grabbing onto his arm. "The people you care for… what would they think if they saw you like this?"
"It doesn't matter what they think," he responded. The people that he cared for no longer had the ability to worry about him. His arm slipped out of her grasp.
"When I'm gone... I want you to be able to continue living on happily."
Whether he was happy or not did not actually matter to Akari at this point in time. Even if she was reborn onto this world, her memories of him were completely obliterated.
"I want all my friends to be happy, but around you, I feel like going the extra mile just to figure out what is bothering you."
Wizard's steps faltered.
"So she asked me to w-watch over you when I returned and h-help you rediscover your reason for living before you met her."
Wizard stopped by a cherry tree and leaned heavily against the trunk. Centuries after her death, her efforts of ensuring his happiness were still at work. He slowly pieced together the extent of her efforts and wondered at some of the more improbable ones. Whether or not Akari was responsible for Hikari's feelings towards him, it was impossible to deny how much effort Akari had exerted to ensure his happiness – most likely more so than he knew of. How much effort had he put in to do the same?
His head was spinning violently, making the world appear to sway beneath his feet. Wizard took in a deep breath, trying to clear his head.
Thinking back, he had merely focused on continuing forwards rather than finding happiness. Perhaps it had felt like betraying Akari by living happily without her, or perhaps he didn't believe it was possible to live happily after her death because it now seemed like he had never sincerely tried to seek out a reason to continue living besides having to keep the promise he made to his wife.
"Hey," Tina said softly. She placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled reassuringly. "I don't know what happened but… everything will turn out fine if you work at it. First, you'll need to recover though. Let's go back inside."
Wizard closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to the tree trunk. After a moment, he nodded.
Tina slung his arm over her shoulder while unsteadily holding up the umbrella. The brunette smiled brightly at him as she led him back to her house. "I'm guessing you're going to be cooperative now."
He nodded once again.
"Eh? Are you back to not talking again?" she asked. Grinning despite herself, the brunette turned to examine him. "You never told me your name."
Meeting her sparkling eyes, he softly replied, "Wizard."
"I thought that there was something magical about you," she smiled.
He arched an eyebrow. "You… are not suspicious of my answer?"
"If goddesses and sprites exist, then I don't see why wizards don't."
Wizard apprehensively examined the woman beside him. "Are you… a farmer?"
"Eh… how did you know?"
Her answer somehow didn't surprise him. Wizard shook his head, telling himself that her occupation was irrelevant. Even with the reminders of the people who had left him, he had to let go of his past and work towards rebuilding his life. Looking at the energetic brunette beside him, the task didn't seem so impossible.
"I'm keeping you at my house where I can keep an eye on you," the brunette stated firmly, meeting his gaze. "I don't want any deaths on my conscience."
When Tina wasn't caring for her crops and animals, she was making sure that Wizard's condition was improving. Wizard awoke when Tina walked into the room one evening, completely soaked and covered in mud. The farmer slumped tiredly onto the table.
"I can't believe that it's still raining."
Wizard gazed at the window. The sky was unchangingly gray, the dark rainclouds seeming to have been painted permanently onto the sky. He knew that this would eventually pass. Even without Hikari, the deity still had his duties to attend to. That alone, provided a solid reason for the Harvest King to continue forwards. Wizard's eyes flicked to the girl slumped tiredly on the kitchen table. "Allow me… to cook dinner tonight."
"No, you're still sick," Tina said to the table while waving his offer aside.
Wizard frowned. His body still felt weak. Even his senses were deteriorating. However, he couldn't allow his host to tend to his every need, even if she insisted upon it. The farmer grew wearier by the day, her movements slower and her face paler. "I feel that it would be my fault… if you were to fall ill."
"I'm fine," the farmer mumbled, peeling herself off the table and dragging herself towards the kitchen. A trail of water followed the soaked brunette. "It's usually like this around this time of year. There aren't any crops to harvest during the winter, so during the beginning of spring I'm unused to the workload."
Wizard unhappily watched the farmer force herself to work. Her movements were clumsy as she rummaged through the fridge and gathered the ingredients in her arms. Dinner ended up burning as Tina had almost fallen asleep while watching the stove. Wizard turned off the stove after smothering the fire. Placing a hand on the counter to steady his body, he fixed his eyes on the tired brunette in front of him.
"I'll sleep on the floor tonight…" he said softly.
"No, you're the guest," she protested, the sleepiness gone from her eyes. "I'm fine."
"And my answer is absolutely not," she replied with a wide smile. Oddly, such an expression did not weaken her argument. "Stop arguing with me. You really need more rest."
"Such effort… shouldn't be spent towards… someone you just met."
"Tina…" Wizard hesitated, his eyes resting on the dirt and scratches that littered her body. He wondered what kept her moving forwards with such strength. "Why…"
"Hm?" The farmer's determined expression was replaced with something softer upon hearing the weakness in his voice.
"Why… do you try so hard?"
"Why not?" she asked with a small smile. "I really want to do everything I can to make this world a kinder place. Even if it doesn't seem like much, I think every action makes a difference. Life is short -I want to have no regrets in the end."
Wizard carefully considered her statement. If he was not a wizard, would he feel the same way about life? He couldn't help but ask. "If you… were able to live indefinitely… would you still feel the same?"
Tina placed a finger on her chin. "I'm not sure since I would have no idea what that would be like, but… I still think it would be best to give it my all in achieving my dream of creating a kind world."
"What a beautiful… reason for living," Wizard commented, closing his eyes. Her wish of creating a kinder world reverberated inside him. It was a nice wish. He wanted to find something important to him as well… something just as beautiful. For now, he was determined to recover his strength. When he did, he would repay the brunette for her kindness. For tonight, he allowed her to win the argument.
As Wizard stared at the ceiling overhead that night, he replayed the conversation in his mind. The situation seemed oddly familiar. As the night passed by, Wizard thoughtfully examined the brunette sleeping on the floor while sifting through his many memories.
It continued to rain when Wizard awoke the next day. Finishing the food left for him by the farmer, Wizard picked up the umbrella on the floor and walked slowly towards the door. He attempted to search for her bright pink essence. While her aura was vivid when near him, with his weakened senses, he was unable to see anything at all. This frustrated him, but he had no choice but to try to work with his current state. After his fifth try, he was able to extend his senses far enough to know Tina's general location.
Moving towards the river, he found the brunette on a plot of land by the river. Despite it still being early, Tina was already covered in mud. In her arms were a variety of harvested crops. As the brunette tiredly moved towards the shipping bin, she tripped on a rock and tumbled to the ground. The vegetables flew from her arms, skidding across the ground and becoming covered in mud.
Wizard was reminded of Hikari as he watched the brunette. They both worked themselves to their limits for the sake of others. He blinked as Tina unsteadily stood onto her feet and proceeded to collect the vegetables. Wizard smiled sadly. While Hikari became discouraged when the world seemed to work against her, Tina's resolve never wavered. Approaching the farmer, he held the umbrella over her head.
"Huh?" she curiously gazed upwards at Wizard. Her eyes widened when she recognized his face. "What are you doing out here?"
"You're still not well! Get back inside right now!"
"Trust my judgment."
The brunette bit the inside of her cheek and calmly considered his words. "Fine. If you become lightheaded or anything, I'm sending you back."
"That sounds fair."
He quietly observed Tina as he followed her around the field. She was already out of breath, making Wizard wonder if he should take her aside for a break. As she was examining the turnips, Wizard turned to look distractedly at the path.
"What is it?"
He briefly considered brushing the distraction aside. There was no need to become involved. An uncomfortable feeling accompanied such a decision. Furrowing his brow, Wizard turned to look at Tina and knew that she wouldn't want to ignore the problem.
"There seems to be a dispute… between two villagers down the path."
Frowning, Tina rose to her feet and looked down the path. "I'll see if I can help."
Even after all the problems piled up on her, the brunette still was willing to help others. Wizard smiled despite himself. He admired her actions even if they weren't the wisest. They did not have to search for long as the loud shouts they eventually heard were easy to follow, even through the drizzling rain.
"Tell me where he is!" A young woman was glaring furiously at the indifferent villager standing in front of her. Her auburn curls bounced as she stamped her foot. While her pristine dress was dry under her black umbrella, the person beside her was soaked in water, with only a hat and wool poncho to protect him from the rain.
"You're wasting my time." Her opponent rolled his eyes and turned away.
"You're not leaving until you give him back!" growled the woman, grabbing onto the lavender haired villager's sleeve.
"Katie! Jamie!" shouted Tina as she approached the two. "What's wrong?"
"It's none of your business," the male replied. "Keep your nose out of this, idiot."
"He took my pet rabbit," the young woman answered, pointing an accusing finger at the man. "Just a few days ago, he had told me that I was a terrible owner and that Fuzzy deserved better."
"The rabbit was completely overweight," the other countered, distaste evident in his voice. "In your hands, he would have died an early death."
"He's still my pet! Give him back!" Katie yelled. Tina had to restrain the villager to prevent her from lunging at the man.
"I don't have him, idiot! How many times do I have to tell you to get it through your thick head?" Jamie flicked a strand of lavender hair away from his eyes and eyed the tight grip Katie had on his sleeve. "Now, if you would let go of me, I have better things to do than to waste my time conversing with idiots."
It didn't take a lot of effort to lay the blame on the male as he had a clear motive. His uncompassionate and condescending personality did not help his case either. However, Wizard had learned long ago not to judge others so quickly. His eyes flickered towards Tina, taking in her judgment of the situation. She was regarding the lavender haired male, who was stubbornly facing in the other direction.
"Jamie," Tina said softly. When his icy blue eyes met hers, Tina smiled reassuringly. A moment later, Tina turned to look at the girl she was holding back. "Katie, I know Jamie can be mean sometimes, but he isn't a liar."
"You're just helping him because he's a rancher like you!" the girl cried, stamping her foot.
"That's not it at all," Tina said kindly. "I'll help you look for Fuzzy. He couldn't have gone far."
"We can start by looking at Jamie's ranch," Katie responded stubbornly.
Wizard turned from the upset expression on Tina's face to the bitterness concealed in Jamie's eyes and knew that rancher wasn't the responsible for the pet's disappearance. The situation upset Wizard as well, weighing uncomfortably on his mind. Though the problem was not his own, he felt compelled to rectify it. Gale paused for a brief moment to analyze his option. He turned to look at Katie, noting the ribbons in her hair and her carefully applied makeup. "I think… I can solve your problem. Do you have a mirror with you?"
"What does a mirror have to do with this?" Despite her question, she reached into her pocket and drew out a small mirror.
"Tell me what your pet looks like." Taking the mirror in his hands, Wizard narrowed his eyes and gathered the faint, flickering magic inside him to search for the rabbit. The task took more time and energy than usual, putting great strain on his already weak body and making Wizard wonder about the repercussions of his actions. He tentatively pushed his worries into the back of his mind. This task felt oddly important. Despite the possible consequences, he was completely willing to continue through with his decision. He wondered if Tina's behavior was rubbing off on him.
"His fur is brown and he has a red ribbon tied around his neck. He's also kind of chubby, but that makes him so much cuter."
Wizard heard a small snort from beside him. Focusing on the mirror, he quickly searched for something matching the description. He tried to work quickly but thoroughly as he could feel his reserve of magic quickly fading. He finally managed to find a rabbit matching such a description. In the background of the picture in the mirror, he saw a large lake and numerous pine trees surrounding it.
"Is there… a large lake nearby?"
Tina nodded. "It's a little ways west of here."
The group followed Tina towards the area. Upon arriving, Katie easily spotted the vivid red ribbon belonging to her pet and dashed towards the tree the rabbit was huddled against. "Fuzzy! I was so worried about you!"
The young woman's face was flushed as she returned to Tina. "I guess I was wrong. I… I'm sorry for accusing you of lying."
Tina smiled. "Don't worry about it. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes."
Katie hesitantly turned to look at the unimpressed rancher beside Tina.
"Not only do you overfeed your pet, you apparently can't watch over him either," he said, appearing like he would very much like to take away the rabbit.
Katie's face reddened even further. "Though I still think you're the meanest person in the village, I have to admit I was wrong. I'm sorry."
"Hmph! I'm leaving." Before he left, the rancher met Tina and Wizard's eyes and nodded.
"Thank you for finding Fuzzy for me!" she said to Wizard. "You're pretty cool."
It had been a while since anyone had said something like that to him. Wizard couldn't help but smile. Despite feeling completely exhausted, Wizard was glad that he had been able to help the rancher. It was a satisfying feeling. As he walked back towards Tina's farm, his mind lingered on the memory that was slowly working its way out of the depths of his mind.
Gale frowned as he heard loud rapping on the door. Glancing out the window, he noticed that the sun was still up in the sky. Climbing out of bed, he crossed the room and opened the door. A group of villagers stood outside, with steely eyes, displeased expressions and a number of sharp tools.
The young wizard glanced back towards his meditating master and gently closed the door behind him. "Let's converse outside."
The innkeeper, who was hovering nervously behind the group, breathed an audible sigh of relief as Gale headed towards the exit. The young wizard masked his anxiety, exuding a calm and confident aura, despite the discomfort of having his back towards the upset and fearful villagers.
Stopping at the edge of the forest, Gale turned around. He tried to hide his distaste as he eyed the weapons in the villagers' hands. This was why he disliked stopping in villages for long periods of time. "What business do you have with me and my master?"
"We want you out of here!"
"The moon was swallowed by the darkness on the night you arrived –your stay here will bring bad luck to us all!"
"Lunar eclipses are natural occurrences," Gale reasoned quietly.
"That's another thing!" a woman from the back of the group exclaimed. "You look like a child but you don't speak like one at all! What are you?"
Gale bit his tongue. He was not able to answer that question honestly without mentioning magic or other unnatural and feared aspects into the conversation. "I was brought up well."
"We want you out of this village!"
"You're unwelcome here."
The young wizard bit his lip. "My master is unwell. Leaving the village now… would be detrimental to his health."
"We're not giving you a choice."
Wizard frowned. He did not wish to start any conflicts. At the same time, there weren't any villages nearby. Once again, he tried to reason with the humans. "It is illogical… to believe that we caused the lunar eclipse."
"It also doesn't make sense to allow suspicious people like you two to stay in our village! Winters are already very harsh in this region –we don't need to worry about the bad luck you two have brought here as well!"
Gale gritted his teeth. "Stop and think about what you're saying."
"We don't need something like you lecturing us!"
"You need to be lectured if you can't think for yourselves," Gale replied darkly.
"You need to learn your place," a man growled, lunging forwards.
Everything happened too quickly for Gale to react. He closed his eyes, bracing for the impact of the punch. He felt air rush past him and slowly opened his eyes when he did not feel any pain. His eyes widened when he saw a young man standing in front of him, having blocked the attack.
"What are you doing, siding with it, Jack?"
"It sounds like you're being unfair," the man said genially. "It wouldn't be good for others to hear that our villagers had attacked a defenseless child and forced an elderly man out to brave the winter."
"He's not a regular human!"
"He hasn't done anything to harm you, has he?" Jack countered.
"Not yet, but the eclipse was a sign that he will."
"It was a coincidence that an eclipse occurred on the day they arrived," Jack said. "You don't believe that these events are triggered by creatures as insignificant as us, do you?"
A few in the group hesitated, doubt flickering in their eyes.
"Back in town, we had people that could predict when these things occurred. I assure you that these two travelers are not going to bring bad luck to you or your families."
"You can't guarantee that!"
"I insist that these two stay," Jack said. "If there is more bad luck than usual, I will be willing to take responsibility for it."
The villagers quieted. Some still appeared dissatisfied, but it appeared that the young man had won the argument. Gale wondered what his position was to wield such influence over the people.
Only after the last villager had left, did the man turn to look at Gale. Kneeling down, he smiled gently. "Are you alright?"
"Why… did you help me?" Gale asked, his face flushed. No human had defended him in such a way before.
Jack's brown eyes softened. "I knew that the occurrence of the eclipse had nothing to do with you two. I couldn't stand aside quietly and watch you forced out of town while having that knowledge with me."
"It would be easier for you if you had," Gale noted quietly, staring at the leaf covered ground. "If anything goes wrong while we're here, they will blame you as well now."
"I don't regret it." The man patted Gale's head. "What is the point of me learning and knowing different things about the world if I don't put that knowledge to use?"
"To survive," Gale answered simply, though his answer wasn't as sure as it used to be.
"That feels like an empty lifestyle," Jack replied with a small smile. The man straightened and brushed off the dust on his pants. "But you're right. The villagers aren't going to rest easily, even with my words. You and your guardian can stay with me at my farm. I live fairly far from the rest of the villagers. Hopefully, it will lessen the tension. I'll show you where it is."
"I don't understand why you're doing so much for us," Gale said as he followed the farmer.
"Because I can."
The young wizard stared thoughtfully at the man. A world where people with the ability or knowledge to help others used their skills to do so… it sounded like a wonderful place. In such a world, he wouldn't have been chased out of his own village or accused of many of the things he now knew he was not responsible for. He wanted to live in such a world. He wanted to help create that world.
So he had immersed himself in his studies. The thought that he would be able to help others with his knowledge made him feel wanted. Though he remembered the humans that had despised him and scorned his presence, he did not wish to be like those hateful creatures, and desired to help anyone that required assistance. He made his living by offering fortune telling services, deciding that it was the best way to use his knowledge and offer advice.
Time passed by. While there was a period where his advice was sought after, humans were always changing. As humans gained more knowledge, they began to deny the existence of such unexplainable skills and deem them as lies. Still, Wizard continued to study, hoping he was closer to creating a world where people were not treated unjustly because of lack of knowledge. Centuries passed by and he amassed great volumes of knowledge. However the humans had cast him into a corner, not needing such skills. The world had forgotten him and along the way, he had forgotten the reason behind what he was doing. Studying became a mechanical action, with no meaning behind the desire to gain more knowledge.
Then he met Akari. When she asked for his help in reviving the Witch, for the first time in many centuries, he had felt a trace of what he had forgotten. She really had done a lot for him.
He paused for a moment, trying to regaining his bearings, before replying to Tina. "Yes?"
"You look like you've figured something out," she chirped cheerfully. Her doe eyes sparkled brightly. "I'm glad. You looked so lost when I first found you."
His expression softened. "Thank you… for helping me."
The young farmer smiled sadly and stared at her boots. Small splashes filled their silence as she stepped through the puddles. "Are you going to leave when you fully recover?"
"You don't need me here."
"I'll still miss you though."
Wizard's perfectly rhythmic steps wavered. "You… haven't known me... for that long."
"I enjoyed the time you spent with me. It was comfortable."
The two silently listened to the soft rustling of leaves as a gentle wind swept past. The rain had thinned to a small drizzle, creating a quieter environment.
Wizard regarded the young woman next to him. Now that he remembered his dream, he wanted to put his knowledge to use. Traveling sounded like a fairly appealing idea. Nonetheless, he also remembered the importance of keeping friends close. He recognized the brunette as a valuable friend. If it were not for people like her, he never would have found a reason to improve this world. "I'll visit."
Tina grinned brightly. "It's a promise then."
Many years later, Wizard found himself back in Castanet. No matter how many places he had visited, this still felt like home. He was glad. This land held many important memories.
He smiled as he shaded his eyes and took in his surroundings. New buildings were placed alongside the establishments that existed before. Castanet had changed, but was still the same in many ways.
The wizard carefully made his way through Fugue Forest, wondering how one of his oldest acquaintances was faring. When he opened the door, he was unable to find the Witch anywhere. Wizard worriedly wondered if she had left Castanet. Hearing a croak, he gazed down at his feet and found a pink frog wearing Witch's hat.
An exasperated smile found its way onto his face. "Again?"
Scooping the frog onto his hands, Wizard placed her on the table and dug through his bag for the required ingredients for the spell. It did not appear Witch had grown any wiser over the years. Fortunately, he had. Upon finishing the spell, the silver haired being glared angrily at the wizard.
"What the heck took you so long?" She yelled, stamping her feet.
Wizard could almost recite the next words that would leave her mouth, having heard the same speech two times already. I was stuck as a frog for forever! I had to eat flies! And it was all slimy! It was awful!
He was surprised then, when the Witch flipped her hair and turned around.
A big thanks to everyone who took the time to review the story! To the readers who didn't have the time to leave any reviews, I want to thank you for reading along. Writing this was a lot of fun. I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.