Twenty years passed after the event with which this story began, and the wife of the head of the Bell family became the mother of two new children - the children of the child whose father had been killed by escapees, and the first children born to be born to the Bells since that night.
The new babies were twins with white-blonde hair and pale blue eyes.
As usual, the wise-woman touched the stomach of the pregnant woman before the children were conceived, to assess how they must be trained.
They were both to be trained for war.
It was a common happening in Chinako-Rubi that children must be trained for war, but when it came to the Bell family, whose child had before caused trouble to the village - and as the curse had been called for-, there was panic in the streets, though subtle; The Bell family was well respected, and not a single bad word was to be spoken about them.
They were kind people, helpful - the village’s number one benefactors. Loyally working for and aiding in the survival of the village was in their blood, and so not often were children of the Bell family to be trained for war
As a result of this assessment, it was presumed that both children were male, as never-before had a female been trained in the art of weaponry and it’s use in war, and the wise-woman, Madelli, sent out word that there was no reason for panic -years before, in her worry, Madelli had predicted whilst looking into her scrying mirror that the child to be a slave of revenge would be female.
However, to say the birth was unusual was an understatement - the children were born in completely different forms: a baby boy, and a large, bluish, brown-speckled egg.
The other child was completely infatuated with the egg, crying if it was taken away from him, and so the parents left the egg to be warmed and protected by the baby, but within a week the egg had hatched - revealing a tiny baby girl with skin as white as snow.
Convinced and terrfied that this egg-born child was the new guardian, the wise-woman convinced the parents that she would take over the day-time care of the babies, in hope that daily training in more peaceful ways would help the child keep hold of her sanity.
She was also consumed by guilt for the unfortunate situation the child had been born to, for it was her daughter that had ran off and caused the child to be settled with the curse.
Wanting to keep the birth of the guardian secret to prevent her being treated differently, Madelli told the villagers that the new babies were not dangerous, trusting that they would believe the words of the wise-woman. Deep down, however, she knew that the villagers would already be aware.
When the children were named, they were named after storms, as Inabikari had been.
Jio was the name granted to the boy, after the wind - both fierce and gentle - and Yuki for the soft, but unforgiving snow.
Another young boy was also raised with them to make sure they were not friendless in their isolation. He was a child of a family that had for many generations been thought of as servants for the Bell family and who were now sworn to secrecy. His name was Fuuma- meaning immortality- and Jio and Yuki did not treat him as a servant, but as a very dear friend.
Despite Jio’s adoration and Fuuma’s loyalty to the young guardian, more often than not they spent more time together, sword-fighting with sticks from the forest that loomed over Madelli’s home and chasing one another. So Yuki often found herself alone with the wise-woman.
Yuki treated the wise-woman as a Grandmother, giving her complete respect and listening to everything she tried to teach. The wise-woman used magic to make her predictions, and she put much effort in her attempts to teach Yuki to use these skills as well.
However, she found Yuki very unskilled with magic and potions; she was near completely unable to do create potions successfully, and useless and short-lived was the magic she could do; even medicines were a hard task, and only poisonous substances were made from the girl’s attempts.
For years Yuki thought herself unskilled and un-needed; Madelli would often find her in the storage room, curled up and crying. When asked why she wept, she would sob:
‘I am a useless being. Why was I born? I cannot help anyone, as the rest of my family can. The villagers look at me weirdly. Not even Fuuma and Jio allow me to play with them. I must embarrass them with my presence.’
Madelli hated seeing such a sweet girl like this, and feared that she may become depressed, so discontinued the young girl’s lessons.
War training started at a young age in the village- Jio was only 3 years old when they started, Fuuma was held back 2 years so as he could train with his ‘master’ and thus was 5 years of age before he began to train, putting him at a slight advantage.
In the quiet of their room in the big house, after finding her playing with his sword, Jio quietly tried to teach Yuki what he had been taught in his classes.
However, unlike magic, fighting appeared to be something that Yuki found natural in herself, weaponry seemed almost familiar to her and she held it correctly even as Jio introduced it to her for the first time; she knew how to attack with it and knew countless different names for many single pieces of weaponry, as though each of the weapons were intoned deep within her DNA. She quickly found herself surpassing Jio, figuring out moves for herself. She started to grow impatient with how slowly Jio was teaching her.
One day, whilst the children helped Madelli make sandwiches in the wise woman’s kitchen, she noticed Jio and Yuki whispering excitedly to each other as they stood side by side peeling carrots. She noticed that the young boy was looking upon his sister with almost a kind of awe, and Yuki was looking proud of herself - a sight the wise woman had not seen before.
And so she enquired into the excitement, and twins eagerly shared with the stories of their late night lessons - Yuki with such a joy Madelli felt guilt at her growing panic - and asked her childishly to not tell their mother and father.
Despite her pleasure at knowing Yuki feeling so proud and happy, Madelli felt a deep and dire worry sprouting in her heart, her mind on the man who had come before- the Guardian of Weaponry- fearing that somehow his influence was on the young girl. She prayed that it was a natural effect of the curse, but was unable to shake the feeling that it was somehow the work of an even more supernatural force.
However, the more she worried, the more the young girl’s kindness seem to increase, always apologetic and helpful. Peace was part of her nature, due to her affinity with birds. She was a bird guardian and as she grew the trees became increasingly her favourite place to be, and more and more often was found wandering into or sitting in the forest playing with birds; Jio and Fuuma would find her chattering away to sparrows as they practiced sword fighting, copying their noises, or attempting to climb trees to caw with rooks, who would not fly away from her or attack as they did others.
Most of her time would be spent with Fuuma and Jio, but always was there a trail of chattering, cheeping sparrows bouncing along the path Yuki tread.
But it wasn’t long before the first warning sign came to light.
Not long before twins’ 5th birthday, Yuki led her brother and friend to a brook she had found deeper into the forest whilst playing with a raven.
She had told Madelli of this brook and how she had found it, and had been sternly warned that she should not go again- ravens were an omen of death, and only bad luck would come from going to the stream. More than the presence of the raven, there was no such brook within the borders of the village, and Madelli panicked that Yuki would not find her way back again.
Nevertheless, Yuki did not see the harm in the raven, who was her dear friend, or venturing to the brook, and decided it would be an excellent place to play.
Jio and Fuuma was delighted to hear of the brook, and faithfully followed Yuki. Being a smart child, Fuuma was aware that the brook way beyond the border, and made sure to remember exactly where they had exited.
As they stepped into the emerald glade, overhung by a canopy of jade-coloured leaves, Yuki froze, staring across the gentle flowing water.
On the other side of the brook, crouched by the water with a pad and pencil was a young man.
He was graceful in his movements, no older than 18, and his face was serene. Fuuma and Jio splashed joyfully through the river towards the older, laughing, asking him his name; they were ecstatic to meet someone was outside of the village, but they could barely make words in the common language of Petra, and their accents were still thick. The older boy just smiled and laughed at the curious children playing around him.
Yuki stood frozen, her eyes on the man, and her mind spinning like she had been struck with a rock. Her fingers twitched, longing to steady herself, but the more she panicked about the feeling the worse it became. For many reasons she found herself confused - Why was this man familiar? What was this feeling tugging her towards him, curling her fists? And why did she know the man’s name?
“Herinhart…?” She muttered, eyes clenched tightly, face scrunched in an attempt to focus.
The boy looked up at this. Yuki met his eyes.
Ah. There was focus.
“That is my surname.” He said, smiling peculiarly, seeming to wonder why a child he had never met before would know his last name.
Unaware of what he had said, Yuki tightly her fists and rushed forward through the water, scooping up dirt and wet stones in her tiny hands. She pointed and screamed his name, over and over, throwing clods of mud and stones at him.
“HERINHART!” She screeched, HERINHART! LEAVE! AWAY!”
She reached out to him, hands curled like claws, scratching at him, a snarl on her face. Horrified, Fuuma and Jio rushed to hold her back. Yuki was not a strong girl - untrained except for the short late-night sessions her brother provided- but the force she applied against the tug of Fuuma and Jio was surprising from such a small girl, especially to the boys who were so used to her peaceful nature.
The young boy left quickly, and Yuki’s anger faded, leaving her shaking and silent. She curled up and froze, wide eyed in horror at her actions and emotions, forcing the two boys to carry her.
Fuuma and Jio immediately took her back to Madelli and told her everything, tears pouring from Jio’s eyes. With a deep sigh, Madelli asked them all to sit down, and explained everything to them, though excluded her suspicions about the possible presence of Inabikari, and the potential bloodlust Yuki could one day attain. Yuki sat in a corner and listened soundlessly, upset at her actions.
She thought herself a monster, and promised herself with conviction at that time that she would never do anything of the sort ever again - she would avoid any violent ways, she would stop training to use weapons.
But her life wasn’t in her control, and she was very young, and very naïve, unaware of the truth of the curse within herself.
Later, Madelli spoke to Fuuma alone, and explained the full extent of the curse to him. She told him about Inabikari, and warned him that Yuki may fall into the same madness one day. With a heavy heart, she entrusted the young boy with her worries, and asked from him a promise to protect the young girl at all costs. Fuuma gladly agreed, his convictions assured due to what he had witnessed that day.
From that day forth Fuuma and Jio were very protective of the young guardian, especially as her guardian side began to develop into something more potent. She was spending more and more time in the forest, leaving early in the morning and coming back late at night. At first, Madelli had worried that Yuki was leaving to attempt to chase after the man she had seen, and accompanied Jio and Fuuma to find her; they had eventually discovered her sat on a low branch, peering around the trunk at a pair of sleek black ravens slowly creating a nest. Even when Madelli felt assured that the young girl was only going out to watch birds she sent Jio in the form of an escort. At night when the children returned home, Yuki would talk through dinner to her family, spouting intricate stories laced with words the girl should never have heard before. Finally, as they practiced sword motions in the dark one night, Jio asked Yuki where she found all the stories.
“You know I heard mother talking to father; she says that some of your stories are true. How do you know them? Did you read them in a book?”
“No. I heard them in the forest.” Yuki’s eyes twinkled and she beckoned her brother closer to her so that she could whisper in his ear, “The ravens tell me stories, Jio.”
This struck Jio - he adored his sister beyond all else, but he knew the implications of ravens: Omens of death, bad luck. Ravens destroyed the nests of other birds and pulled apart the dead to survive.
He placed his sword down and silently climbed into bed, leaving Yuki stood on her own, confused and staring after him.
“Jio?” She called quietly, and when he didn’t respond she put away the sword she had been using also, and found her way beneath her own covers. She smiled contentedly, “Soon, Jio, let’s have a real sword fight.”