Terra opened his eyes, his vision was blurry and his head was dizzy, his mind was in a total mess, but at the very least he knew, through the rough feeling of the wooden planks beneath him that he finally came back to the real world, back to the town hall inside his village.
His entire body never felt as tired or as painful as it did today, it felt as if he had walked his longest marathon yet or swung the sword 1000 times without a stop, his chest especially felt weird, it was as if a fireball was roasting the insides of his rib cage cooking his organs, the pain so insufferable that he wanted to scream his lungs out but couldn’t do so as he noticed his entire body had already been paralyzed to the smallest muscle including his vocal cords.
It was strange, but fortunately the pain didn’t last very long, it was strong at the beginning but it quickly started to weaken and stabilize over time, not entirely disappearing but keeping it at a acceptable level as it started to become weaker at a snails pace.
This small relief gave Terra a few moments of respite and time to think catching his breath, he wondered what happened, he still remembered that dream like place he visited, the mysterious forest, the little star that suddenly came out of the pond and went into his chest, how he was able to see the little star inside his chest through his mind and the 3 smaller stars surrounding his little star..
He tried to understand what was going on but ultimately failed as he had no clue of anything regarding that strange forest, the only thing he knew for certain was the fact that it had something to do with the evaluation by the summoner and that the summoner most probably held most of the answers to Terra’s questions.
And Terra was right his calm deduction did not fail him, not too far away Terra could see the blurry silhouette of a person standing next to his collapsed body, the long robe that went all the way down to that persons knee’s was enough for Terra to recognized who it was even if he didn’t have a clear image.
“Hmm, looks like both of you just woke up, magnificent, don’t worry you are fine, the reason you are tired is because of a small over usage of your soul power, it happens to all summoners when they awaken the first time…oh my mistake you wouldn’t know what soul power is, would you ? In that case, since I am in a good mood let me teach you, Just look at soul power as something similar to true power warriors use to strengthen their bodies and organs, soul power works similarly but compared to true power you don’t use it to strengthen your body but to strengthen your soul and mind, soul power is unique in the way that only summoners are able to use it, when the soul power of a summoner gets depleted the body gets quickly tired and stiff and at some cases just like yourself they collapse from the depletion of their soul and aren’t able to move for a time being, we summoners call this “Soul Burn” since it feels like your chest is burning up and your body is shackled to the ground. So remember in the future when you use your soul power to never go bellow 10 percent of your soul power, well that is if you don’t want to be at the mercy of your opponent”
There was silence, neither Terra nor Ignis were capable of talking at the moment and even if they were able to, neither would have said anything in response since the last sentence the summoner spoke was oddly laced with a cold intent which send shivers down their spines.
Terra had now a deeper understand of the situation, he felt slightly surprised by the fact that he actually became a summoner, he had his suspicions of course but those were merely suspicions since he knew next to nothing about summoners to really make his suspicions a fact, but now that he knew, the initial excitement he had quickly died down as he didn’t have a lot of expectations to begin with, the previous mentioned lesson about soul power and his soul was still fresh in his mind but that wasn’t what bothered Terra as he instead became fearful of the future that was about to come crashing down on him.
Yet while one person was worried the other one was ecstatic, that person was Ignis of course, she also went through the same ordeal as Terra did, though in comparison her soul space wasn’t a forest like his but instead it was the foot of a volcano, the raging hot wind and the spewing hot flames were everywhere in the place she visited, her reaction to her environment was not as calm as Terra’s was she panicked at first but quickly calmed down after a bit of a time, after calming down she looked at the head of the volcano and just like Terra felt a presence that was coming out of its mouth, the volcano erupted but Ignis didn’t run she also felt the star that was coming her way and also knew that the environment wouldn’t hurt her, the star also quickly found its way and entered Ignis’s chest.
But unlike Terra, Ignis wasn’t able to see the star inside her chest, or rather she didn’t even have the chance to try, the moment the star entered her chest she immediately felt a great shock and her conscious melt away until she finally woke up just like Terra.
Neither person knew what these stars meant but that essentially didn’t matter at the moment as each person was paralyzed and far more occupied with what the summoner had to say not noticing each others existence as of now.
The awakening had in some way influenced their mind, it didn’t increase their intelligence but rather increased their awareness of things around them, they were far more sensitive to information and signs, being one of the benefits of soul power even if they weren’t aware of it just yet.
Back to the summoner.
The summoner wasn’t kneeling or helping the two children as he simply stood straight, towering over them as if he was looking down on them with his cold eyes, and in some sense it was true that he was indeed looking down on them since they were simply beginners, to official summoners like him talking with people bellow their rank or strength was in a sense degrading to them since it implied that they were equal to the person they were talking to, most summoners were incredibly arrogant and prideful, the summoner that stood before them may seem very arrogant but in truth he was one of the more lenient summoners out there who were more flexible than the rest, it was the main reason why the organization the summoner came from chose this particular summoner to undergo this task to gather potential summoners.
And even though he was more easy going, the years of being surrounded by his teachers and fellow peers still had an enormous effect on him that made him naturally turn the way he was, in the mind of the summoner the way he acted was in now way rude or disrespectful, he even thought he was generous by teaching them something regarding summoners, by the logic of the summoner nobody deserved his respect if they weren’t equal or superior than him in terms of strength or knowledge, in a sense the summoners were far more cold hearted than the hot headed sword practitioners, one moved through instinct while the other was calculative, it was a direct difference between mind and might that made this attitude and temperament of both sides so different.
“Now don’t worry, the effects will soon subside, your soul is still weak its stabilizing at the moment but it should recover your soul power fast enough and you should be able to move again, until then you will listen to me and mark my words since I hate repeating myself understand ? Good”
The summoner smiled, even though neither of the children could see his smile the bad feeling of foreboding was still sensed by them making their skin crawl, the summoner also didn’t bother to waste anymore time as he simply started to explain what would happen from now on since they passed the awakening.
Both Terra and Ignis had a basic understanding of what happened to the children who passed the evaluation since it was one of the things most talked about throughout the entire empire and not just their village, the children who had passed would generally be taken away somewhere far away to be trained to become full-fledged summoners, while the parents and the village that the child came from would be compensated with a lot of money for accomplishing such high deed.
For a example the monetary gain from a single child with the potential to become a summoner is enough to keep a average family to live for 10 years without work and even have some spending money, the money the village and the parents gain are both separate too with the money that the village gains mostly used to finance the prosperity of the village and improve it to potentially transform it from a ordinary farming village to a trading town.
This was another big reason as to why people wanted a summoner to be born in their village, it wasn’t only good for the individual and his or her family but it was also beneficial for the entire village and its inhabitants that birthed such unique character.
Nobody had to worry about the money being stolen either.
Ever since the empire enacted this law they also heavily made sure it wasn’t taken advantage of by bandits and other thieves.
For example: at the beginning when the law was first enacted, there were a few daredevils thinking they could cheat the empire and the summoners to make easy money by robbing and killing the people who benefited from this law, meaning the parents and the village, those actions were extremely grotesque and scary to the world once it was made public.
Because of this people started to hide their children from the summoners when they visited every year giving the summoners a bad reputation amongst the general populace as bringers of death instead of prosperity.
Those daredevils weren’t nobodies either, they were a bunch of powerful swordsman that were famous throughout the empire, people that even the empire would welcome with open arms and the emperor would curry favors with, those individuals also knew the strength of the empire and were confident in their skills, even if they couldn’t defeat the empire together, they could still run away easily continuing their spree of robberies and murders, they weren’t scared of the summoners, after all, information regarding summoners was very scarce in the empire, limited to the legends everyone knew since summoners rarely ever made themselves public or even showed up in their empire, they figured it was just exaggeration brought by the passage of time caused by fear mongering of the people and even if a summoner would appear one day, they believed together that they would easily be able to take him out.
Unfortunately for them, they were wrong.
Ultimately once the empire couldn’t do anything against those rogue swordsman the summoners finally stepped in to settle the issue.
Getting their reputation tarnished and their pride trampled the summoners couldn’t just simply take it and leave the empire settle the issue by themselves.
It was only a single summoner that took care of the problem, who it was is unknown, one person against numerous expert swordsman, listening to it was unbelievable and maybe even impossible but the result was clear even to this day.
A great battle took place, people don’t really know how it went since nobody was present to see, but what everyone can agree on was the fact that it didn’t last long rather it ended instantly, the effect was fast but powerful, just like a casual snap of the finger, those numerous expert swordsman were defeated.
On that day the roar of a mighty beast was heard throughout the entire empire, engraving the might of what was a true summoner into the minds of the people.
Nobody dared to mess with the empire since then not even the high nobility, mostly because of the summoners who showed their might and backed them, which is why the nobility made sure that the parents of the potential summoner would be taken care of to the utmost, fearing that if the child grew up in the future and came back finding their parents either deceased or hurt, they would immediately vent their anger on them even if they weren’t at fault.
This reasoning wasn’t as paranoid as you would think, even though it was rare, some children that had been taken away by the summoners had reportedly come back for their parents, in most cases such reappearance was followed by a huge event that was caused by them, depending on how they found their parents or how they wanted to help their parents, gold would rain or blood would flow.
Either way, nobody could do anything against this law, if a potential summoner was found the child would be always taken away be it willingly or forcefully, the summoners had a deal with the empire, the empire wasn’t something a ordinary civilian could ignore much less the power of a summoner which was far more scarier than the empire itself.
The monetary support gave a lot of the children a peace of mind when they would be send away, knowing that their parents would be well even if they aren’t there to support them, Ignis especially felt that the monetary support alone was a huge relief, she worried a lot about her parents since her mother was from the black flame empire, and while she really wished to become a summoner and flap her wings, she also couldn’t help but think about her poor parents who were far more important than her dreams to her.
Terra on the other hand was different, he felt similar of course, though he wasn’t like Ignis who always worried about these things, he understood his parents and knew that his father Donovan was really strong, even if he wasn’t there anymore his father alone would be able to take care of his mother, the things he was concerned about stemmed from the fact that he didn’t have a desire to leave but at the same time he didn’t want to disappoint his parents nor give them any trouble by resisting and doing something stupid, he knew the stories and what happened that day when the summoners first stepped in, even his father donovan didn’t make light of them when he spoke about them.
Even though he believed his father to be strong, he didn’t actually think he was strong enough to go against the empire nor the summoners, being send away was the only way for this to end peacefully, Terra was unwilling of course but for the sake of not causing trouble to his parents he didn’t mind going.
Ultimately, the summoner gave them only a single day before they would departure from their village, he didn’t say where they were going and how they would get there, but the fact that they would leave was already a fate set in stone for those two.
Afterwards the summoner didn’t bother to elaborate anymore, he only said that everything would be explained in time and that they only had a single day to prepare and say goodbyes to their parents and friends, they could also bring whatever luggage they wanted, but it had to be small and something they could carry by themselves which wouldn’t slow them down too much.
At the end of his sentence both Terra and Ignis could also feel their muscles finally starting to recover, Terra especially recovered much faster than Ignis, even though his soul power didn’t recover entirely, he was still a sword practitioner, a seventh stage sword trainee who was able to instigate his true power which he used to heal his body so his muscles would recover quicker.
His chest was still in pain from the “Soul Burn” since his soul power didn’t recover enough, but he could move his body, this in fact didn’t go unnoticed by the summoner, his eyes even showed a small glimmer of appreciations and intrigue for how young Terra was to be able to use true power.
But that was the extend it would go, sword practitioners after all weren’t much in the eyes of a summoner, they were powerful yes, but compared to a summoner who could summon powerful souls beast to their sides to fight for them, a sword practitioner was only a slightly better foot soldier, soul beasts were generally stronger than sword practitioners within the same power bracket and with the help of the summoner a soul beast would generally be always more powerful than other soul beasts of the same rank too.
On top of that there was much that people didn’t know about summoners, summoning after all was only a single part of what made a summoner a summoner, what truly made summoners unique was just like the summoner said, their soul power, which could be used in all kinds of applications not just summoning.
The summoner grunted for a change, with his eyes narrowed, giving the two children one last look before heading towards the exit of the town hall with a arrogant stride, he didn’t say anything but it was clear to the two children that what he meant with his look was to follow him.
Terra was already on his feet, he momentarily froze in the presence of the summoner not sure how to respond or what to do, it was still all too shocking for him, but luckily the grunt the summoner gave off quickly dispelled his frozen state, he watched the summoner walk away with a cold temperament, he wanted to follow but quickly noticed someone else laying next to him making him stop, looking closer he realized that the person who was next to him the entire time was his best friend Ignis.
Ignis also finally noticed another existence other than the summoner but didn’t know who it was, she had recovered halfway through, enough for her to talk but not enough to put strength into her limbs to stand up, she didn’t have the advantage of true power like Terra did and even though she was also a sword trainee like Terra, she couldn’t compare to someone talented like Terra who was a seventh stage sword trainee at the age of 10.
In comparison Ignis was only a third stage sword trainee which was normal for a kid her age who had average talent in terms of the sword, to instigate true power one had to be a sixth stage sword trainee at the bare minimum, before that one could only train their body and form..
There was great amount of surprise the moment they saw and recognized each other, all kinds of emotions displayed inside their eyes ranging from joy, confusion and relief, neither imagining that this could be possible as they stared at one another.
There were many things Terra and Ignis wanted to say and express.
But in the end Terra forced himself to calm down and instead reached towards Ignis’s body trying to help her stand up, the image almost looking like a concerned older brother trying to help his younger sister and in a sense it was just like that.
“Ignis ? Are you alright ? Can you stand ?”
Terra’s gentle and concerned voice was like a hammer breaking a glass window waking Ignis out of her stupor, but Ignis was still slightly at loss for words her emotions as turbulent like never before, it took her another few moments to collect herself and rein her emotions before she stared back at Terra and replied to him with a calm reassured smile.
“I am alright, other then my chest hurting a bit, my body is just weak from exhaustion, I think I can stand up in a little while so you need not to be concerned about me Terra”
Ignis’s voice was a bit low with pain from her chests, but other than that Terra recognized that everything was fine and that she wasn’t in any mortal danger which made him feel relieved making him sigh.
Seeing him sigh like this Ignis couldn’t help but smile and feel her heart start to calm down again, on a second thought she only now realized how really worked up she was the entire time and how tense her feelings were at the moment, be it out of excitement or relief for the fact that she passed and had the talent, never could she imagine something like this would happen and looking back to how nervous and fearful she was before entering this town hall she couldn’t help but feel that she was being really silly which was further strengthened by the appearance of Terra who looked and acted just the same even after having passed the test just like her.
Staring at him Ignis’s recalled the conversation they had just before entering, a set of words naturally came to her as she got lost in her thoughts.
“But…but what if I won’t see you again ?”
Yes, these words pulled heavily on her heart, the burden far more crushing then the burning sensation in her chest as she pondered the meaning behind these that she spoke from heart, Ignis obviously knew what she meant when she said that, she had feelings for the kind and caring Terra who always supported her, she didn’t want to part with him because of these feelings but at the same time she recognized that her desire to not part was only a burden towards Terra and herself.
Ignis smiled, a clearly powerful resolution taking its form within her eyes, dazzling like a pair of stars, she looked at Terra a shred of unwillingness showing for a moment before being replaced with deep determination like never seen before.
Terra obviously noticed this sudden change, it was peculiar to see making curious as to what possibly could have happened for Ignis to express such strong will, he was about ask whether there was something wrong but before he could even get a word out Ignis had already spoken.
“Terra…I am not sure what will happen from now on but no matter what happens, I want to become strong, I want to become so strong that I won’t have to ever worry about never being able to see the people I love, I want to have the right to stand next to someone without having them protect me or me having to rely on them all the time, I want to be able to protect them and feel relied on instead and when I do achieve this goal…Terra I want you to tell me that I have become strong and that you can rely on me…”
Terra was momentarily speechless by Ignis’s passionated words, he could have never imagined to hear something like this from the timid and cheery girl he knew, it almost seemed like a complete shift in the air took place inside this small town hall, Terra could have easily attributed this behavior as a side=effect of the awakening and burden caused by the soul burn, but at the same time Terra didn’t dare to think like that, he understood that everything that happened today meant a lot to Ignis this was after all one of her lifelong dreams she spoke about ever so often, Terra understood that Ignis desired all of this and now that she had this opportunity, this chance, Terra didn’t want to say anything that would make her discouraged, he would continue to cheer for her and support just like always.
He smiled, not even sure to what say anymore as simply replied.
“Yes, when it happens I’ll be sure to tell you”
There was a moment of bliss between these two children, time almost seemed as if it stopped but even good things have to end someday.
“ARE YOU COMING ?! I DON”T THINK ITS WISE TO KEEP A SUMMONER WAITING YOU LITTLE BRATS !”
The icy cold tone of the summoner immediately snapped those two children back to reality, it was as if a cold blizzard swept through their bodies when they heard his voice.
Neither of the children dared to tarry any longer, Terra was still slightly worried about Ignis and her condition, fortunately his worry became unfounded as he saw Ignis finally standing back on her feet again, she was still struggling a bit since she only now recovered her muscles, but she could walk.
Terra offered help, but Ignis politely declined, not because she didn’t want Terra’s help but because she felt like she shouldn’t depend on Terra anymore then it was necessary.
Terra respected that he was still worried but he put up with it and kept a watch on her as they both walked towards the exit where the summoner stood with mild apprehension building inside both of their hearts seeing the cold man.
The summoners himself didn’t speak anymore then he was supposed to, he simply gave a light humph before turning his back on them and finally opening the door letting the light through the entrance almost blinding both of the children within that light.
“It will be okay right ?”
Those were Terra’s thoughts just before leaving the town hall and finally beginning of what would be a long journey through summoning.