Ascension

**Winner of Replica writing Comp** In the city of Eto, the life of a noble is worth the live of ten commoners. In order to keep the world balanced, each time a noble comes of age at the age of 16, they select 10 commoners to kill.

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6. Raphael- 2

 

“Lin,” I hissed, shaking her shoulder. “Lin!”

I had found her unconscious in the Hall of Elements. That wasn’t good. I wasn’t sure what had happened, but she was hurt. I’d gotten her out of there before the other nobles found her. We were back in my own private chambers- I could only hope that no one had seen us coming up here. That would just give my enemies more ammunition to use against me.

Abruptly, she coughed, sitting up. “Wha… where am I…?”

“Still in the castle,” I replied quietly. “You’re lucky I found you, and not another noble. Commoners don’t leave the chamber alive.”

“What happened?” She blinked, eyes focusing on me.

“Oh no…”

“What?”

I didn’t answer. How had I not noticed?! Her eyes

“You need to get out of here,” I said hurriedly. “I’ll deliver your messages for you, and pay you for them… but you can’t stay in this castle. Not now.”

“Why?” She pushed herself to her feet, backing away from me with narrow eyes.

“Look in a mirror,” I replied.

She hesitated, before finding a mirror hanging on my wall. She studied herself in it, and then turned on me, expression murderous.

“What did you do?!” she demanded.

I took a step back, unnerved. “I didn’t do anything!”

“Don’t lie to me! What did you do to my eyes? They’re white!”

I nodded slowly. “I have a theory. But…” I hesitated, forcing myself to meet her pure white eyes. “You’re going to have to tell me everything that happened in that chamber.”

“Why exactly do I have to?” she demanded. Her bearing said angry, but I could hear fear in her voice. I tried to consider the best way to calm her, without inciting more anger from her.

“I’m only trying to help you. The other nobles won’t be as forgiving. Now explain.” I nearly winced at the harshness of my own voice, but I needed to know.

She gritted her teeth. “A lot of stuff happened. There were a whole ton of sound. Water, earth, fire, wind… and then it was quiet. I talked to something… and then I passed out.”

It’s just as I feared… I shook my head, my mind whirling with possibilities. “Alright. This is… this is really bad. What happened to you is something unnatural.”

Obviously!” she snapped. “Now tell me what happened to me you stupid noble boy or else I’ll-” she cut herself off.

Despite the circumstances, I nearly laughed. I loved commoners… And besides, it was entertaining to hear this girl insult me. It was probably no less than I deserved.

What are you laughing about?!

“No, finish that sentence. I want to know what you were about to say.”

“Nothing polite!” she snapped. “Is this just a game to you?! Why did you bring me back to your rooms? Why won’t you tell me what happened to me?! Are you just trying to play with my head, or are you actually trying to help.”

“If you’ll allow me to speak…” I hesitated, and when she said nothing I continued. “The experience you’re describing sounds incredibly similar to what occurs during a noble’s choosing- except for one detail. The elements don’t speak.”

“Are you suggesting that I was chosen by something? That’s impossible. Commoners can’t be chosen. It’s not possible. Any commoner that tries would die. That’s what we’ve been told since we were born. Commoners can’t handle the strain of retained elemental exposure.”

“That’s what we’ve always been told,” I reply. “But if there’s one thing I know for a fact as a noble it’s that nothing is guaranteed.”

She locked eyes with me, expression guarded. “You’re lying to me. You’re trying to trick me, and it’s not going to work!”

I sighed. I couldn’t ask for her trust. She hated me. She’d been raised to hate me and my kind. I couldn’t do anything to change that. It was hopeless. I shouldn’t have bothered. But… I had to get her out of here. I didn’t want this commoner to be harmed. There was too much of that as it was.

“Fine then,” I replied, my tone resigned. “But if the nobles find out you were in the Hall of Elements, then they’ll kill you. Unless you have an inclination towards death, I suggest you listen to me. You need to get out of here. I can get you out of the palace if you’ll allow me, and from there you can return to the village.” I gritted my teeth. “Please. If you want to leave this palace alive, you’re going to have to listen to me.”

She was debating whether or not it was worth it in her head. I could tell. I just had to convince her.

Finally, she looked back at me. “Swear on it.”

“What?” I asked, caught off guard.

“You nobles take your oaths very seriously,” she replied calmly. “I learned my lesson a long time ago. Once you take an oath, you can’t break it. You say you want to help me? Then fine. Prove it. Swear me an oath, then I’ll agree.”

I hesitated. She was right- nobles took oaths seriously. Maybe even more seriously than she knew.

“Do you… know what happens to an aspect if they break an oath? And I’m not just speaking of a promise- I mean a serious oath, like the one you wish me to make.”

“Enlighten me,” she growls.

I grit my teeth. “If we break that kind of oath, the spirits within us rebel against us, and will literally tear us apart. Breaking an oath as an aspect would be fatal.”

“Sounds good to me. You said you were trying to help me. So prove it. Show me. Swear an oath. If you’re not intending to lie to me, then you should have nothing to fear, am I right?”

I sigh. This is the only way to gain her trust? Fine.

As a rule, nobles are warned never ever to swear a serious oath. That only made me smile. Breaking the rules? That was something I was used to.

“I swear by the spirit of aether that I will safely guide you out of this castle.” I held out my hand, patiently waiting for her response.

She was surprised. I could tell that much. She hadn’t actually believed that I would follow through. I waited, and watched as she slowly held her hand out, taking mine.

“It’s a deal. Now get me out of here.”

The first thing I did was take two commoner jackets from my closet. I tossed one to her, and threw the other on over my shoulders. “Put that on.”

She obeyed without questioning me. That was good, at least. She had faith in my oath, then. As long as she didn’t deliberately put herself in danger, then I could follow through on this oath safely.

I opened the door to my chambers, poking my head out to make sure no one was watching, and then beckoned for her to join me. She followed, watching me with those bright, pure white eyes of hers. I tried to hide how much those eyes of hers unnerved me. Her intense stare reminded me of my brother’s, only touched with a wild side. It frightened me to imagine the rage that could fill those eyes if she became angry. I silently resolved not to provoke her rage.

We slipped through the castle without a word. I wasn’t sure who was more tense- her or me. Finally, we entered the kitchens, and I let out a soft breath of relief. I guided her to one of the side doors, and gestured for her to go first. She stepped out of the castle, and I felt myself relax as the spirit inside of me settled, pleased with the completion of the oath.

“Thank you,” she said softly. After a second she added, “your majesty.”

“Just call me Raphael,” I sighed. “I have enough people bowing to me as it is.”

“You’re a confusing noble,” she decided. “But thank you. I… I owe you one.”

“You owe me nothing,” I replied. “Stopping more meaningless bloodshed is enough for me. Now go.”

She wanted to say more. I could tell. But finally, she fell silent, then turned and fled without another word.

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