Part four and five.
For as long as Urie could remember, he had waited patiently for this day. Looking forward to being able to handle magic. He would attend a few years at the city academy and finally be allowed to help his father out at the northern wall.
“Look! Isn't that the third son of the wall commander?”
“A child that wasn't blessed by a spirit... He hasn't awakened his mana roots, has he?”
“Circumstances were rare but to think it would happen to a child of the Loeth House...”
Parents who were coming over to fetch their children didn't make a fuss over the one child not being able to form his roots. Onlookers and officials, however, were baffled.
They started gathering towards Urie's direction, making their through the crowd, but suddenly stopped in their tracks. Displaying looks of hesitation, they decided not to continue once they saw the person heading towards him.
"My dear little Urie! It'll be alright, it'll be alright." His mother was here.
Urie could feel her arms holding him in embrace, working hard to reassure him, but he felt too despondent to respond.
"Urie dear, how about we go home? Alright? We'll figure out what to do when your brothers return." his mother spoke on the verge of tears.
“Older brothers?” Urie mumbled.
—Yes, eldest brother always has an answer for everything. Maybe he would have an idea.
In Urie's eyes, his oldest sibling held knowledge beyond compare. Or at least, out of everyone he knew. It was a longshot as his brother likely wouldn't be able to do anything, but he needed something, anything to give him courage.
Unfortunately, even that small hope he had tried to grasp... was dashed due to the arrival of a travel-worn young man. He was strapped with a shoulder bag, an eight-panel cap, and leather shoes that had seen excessive use. A messenger that had come from northern wall.
“Mistress, I was on my way to your household to deliver news of the wall.” he said to Urie's mother, then paused as he seemed to have felt his presence unwelcomed by the somber situation.
He then suggested, “Would you like me to come by the residence another time?”
Rivelle knew that the man was just doing his job, and judging by the state of him, he had just arrived in the city. She motioned for the tired man to just speak his words.
“I've come a letter from the wall commander, addressed to the mistress. As well as a message.” he continued.
“A letter from Gideon...!?” Rivelle softly exclaimed.
Urie let out a flinch almost imperceptible but within the arms of his mother, was easily caught. She knew he had noticed as well. A letter from his father at a timing like this meant his older brothers wouldn't be able to come home.
—They would deliver the letter to mother themselves if they could...
The following conversation no longer registered as Urie let the weight of his body fall into his mother's tightening embrace. Only after a short while later did his mother try to stand him up. It seemed the messenger had left.
“Mother...” Urie's voice struggled to emerge, “Can I stay here for a while..?”
Thinking that she would disagree— to his surprise, Rivelle's arms loosed and she gently caressed his cheek, “Mother has to head back first dear. You can stay out but be home before it gets dark, alright?”
“A-Alright, mother.” he replied.
Of the two maids beside them keeping their silence, Rivelle took Ersha with her as she left and instructed Patty to keep watch over Urie. Urie wanted some time alone so Patty tactfully did so on a bench a distance away.
Urie went by the fountain and knelt down in a comfortable position. He placed his left arm on the edge of the fountain's basin and rested his chin on his sleeve. He glanced listlessly at the middle of the fountain, at the stone statue releasing a stream of water from its mouth.
A fierce looking beast with wings— he always used to stare at it in wonder. Now, however, it couldn't rouse even the tiniest bit of curiosity as he was currently feeling nothing inside but dejection.
Along with the water that came from the beast's mouth, time trickled slowly. Urie couldn't tell how long he had lingered. A few minutes ago there were still people loitering around but a second later he was all alone, save for the maid who had fallen asleep on the bench.
—It's getting dark. I still don't want to go home...
His fingers dragged along the water's surface and blurred the image of the sky tinged with a mix of orange and red. The wave that had rippled across made its way and bounced off of a small spot of blue. To that particular spot, Urie's emotions had resonated, and a smaller, delicate wave rippled back.
Though rather than calling it a wave, a sigh would be more fitting. Empathy from a gentle spirit that had been watching Urie since the day before— maybe even from a time much farther back. The spirit, Undine, then let out another ripple. This time one of surprise as a sudden change had come about in the fountain.
Mirrored on the water was no longer the hue of the retreating sun. Instead, a blanket of darkness that would cover the night showed itself on the surface. Urie as well widened his eyes at the abnormal occurence.
—What's going on!? Why has the water suddenly gone dark?
The shade of the sky hadn't yet matched with the fountain's. He drew back and took a quick glance around him. Nothing much had changed except for the street lamps having been lit. The maid, Patty, was still on the bench, asleep in an awkward position.
Urie turned his head to Erden's Tower, then to the statue of the winged beast. He followed the stream emerging from its mouth back to the water below. And along the creases of the water in front of him, he made out a figure. A silhouette.
Urie saw a reflection looking back at him.
But oddly enough, it wasn't his.
—A red motif.
That was Urie's initial impression.
Long flowing red locks with a few strands falling right between the bridge of her nose, neatly tucked over her right ear. Wearing an elegant white dress and an ornate blue cardigan that hid pale skin, her eyes a shade of crimson complimenting her hair, met with his icy blue.
—I'm a boy, am I not?
For the first time in his life, such an absurd question popped up in his head. Urie was unsettled. It wasn't his appearance being mirrored on the water. He had neither red eyes nor red hair. He was even wearing a shirt and some loose pants.
“Uhm—“ his lips quivered as he hesitated to speak. Who would try to start a conversation with his own reflection? Inwardly, he mocked himself.
It was just that. A reflection. However— the young girl's face that appeared without emotion, for some reason, Urie could tell was but a fragile facade. He thought about it for a moment after regaining a bit of composure. How could he tell?
—I-I've been wearing the same expression, haven't I?
A solemn tear slid down the girl's cheek and at the same time, Urie felt two fall down on both of his. Soon after, like floodgates that had just burst open, the feelings that had felt so heavy began to cascade from his eyes.
—Why? Why now?
He had kept it together, repeating to himself that crying would change nothing. Yet, faced with an image of his own emotions, he buckled under his own frailty. But strangely enough, it felt like a welcomed release.
It seemed that crying with a companion served to ease the burden on his chest. And although the problem aching him wasn't solved, maybe tomorrow he could look at things with a brighter perspective.
—I could learn how to wield a weapon. A sword maybe? A spear? Even without magic, I'll convince mother to let me go to the wall!
Finally leaning onto positive thoughts, Urie noticed how dark it had gotten. Even during this odd event, his mother's instructions for him to go home before dark, slapped him on the back of his head.
—Ah! I need to go home quickly, lest I incur mother's wrath! But I wonder...
Freed from the haze of negativity, a tingling sensation began to trouble him. His attention was brought back to the red-haired girl's reflection on the fountain. The color red itself was striking, but it conflicted with her demeanor. Who was this timid-looking young girl?
No person nor family in Daerin, none that Urie had seen possessed red hair. Could that mean that she wasn't from the city? Then where was she from? Could there be a place other than Daerin that existed outside of the Erden walls?
Urie was eager to know. The tingling sensation grew stronger as he felt it—
“An itch I have to scratch!” he muttered.
He stretched out his arm to the reflection of the girl. The first thing he thought of was to make sure he was at least sane.
—She couldn't be me, so... what would happen if I touch her?
His eyes met with the young girl's and she appeared to reach for him the same. And at the moment that their fingertips had met, a single ripple formed on the water's surface but that was all there was.
—Ah... A hallucination, is it? Of course...
Urie uttered a hollow laugh. Nothing had happened.
—I guess it's time to wake up Patty...
He poised to leave but a faint gasp from a blue spot on the fountain reclaimed his attention.
Dipped in the fountain, the cool feeling wrapped around his fingertips slowly extended upwards. A splash of water then made it to his face, then a gurgle to his ears, and finally, silence as he fell into the water's cool embrace.
—Someone pulled me in!?
He panicked and flailed about.
—Was the fountain ever this deep!? My head should've hit the bottom by now! I can't breathe! Will I drown here!?
No longer able to hold his breath, the air from his lungs had inevitably escaped, but it seemed there was no need for him to panic as even underwater, he found that he could still breathe.
—I... I can breathe?
In fact, he even thought that the water was calming but only for a couple of seconds. Just until an impact from a hard surface hit his forehead, causing him to jerk his head back and out of the water.
“Hah!” he gasped, and a mouthful of air filled his lungs, “What happened...!?” he was able to prop himself up with his hands and knees as the waterline drew only up to his thigh.
“Hmm!?” Urie raised his head, and after a glance at the surroundings, he immediately noticed a strange discrepancy with the scenery he had long been familiar with.
The lamps on the streets were unlit when they had recently been kindled. The moon above his head raised doubts within his mind about its peculiar appearance. The night was deep, yet there were no stars to illuminate the sky. And the bench—the bench with an unconscious sprawled maid... had no maid.
“Patty, where are you!?” Urie called out.
While his mind cluttered over the bizarre events, beyond his notice, there appeared a shadow in front of the fountain. An unusual outline on the ground that, lacking an object to validate its being, appeared like a pitch-black puddle on the pavement.
—What is going on!? Is this still Daerin? Everything looks so weird.
Urie couldn't see it. Rather, to the current him, the being slowly rising up from the shadow was completely imperceptible. Unfortunately, what had ailed Urie— the lack of an awakened mana seed and roots, was just the thing needed to detect the creature drawing towards him.
—The buildings don't look right... But I should try to go home first.
As Urie climbed out of the fountain, the sinister shadow took its chance. A claw full of hostile intentions reached for his chest. There was nothing he could do, he couldn't defend himself. He wasn't even aware that he was in harm's way.
[Hah—! What a troublesome thing that Undine has done!]
But as luck would have it, he was in the presence of someone who could.