Along with the villagers, Adalina had assumed Kaidus was a mute, but that was no true. The child was now emanating an air of intelligence.
For his first few words to be a question inquiring about her sadness was beyond her expectations. She knew he was different due to his usual demeanor, but this was something else.
‘It’s a Demon!!’ – The voice of the midwife from a year ago resounded in her head.
Fear and surprise overtook her for an instant and her legs gave out. Kneeling on the floor, order returned to her mind and the fear quickly dissipated.
“Are you okay?” Kaidus asked as he walked up to Adalina.
Looking at the cute little face before her, she slowly began to speak.
“You know, mommy was afraid you were never going to be able to talk. Yet, here you are asking me about why I am crying all of a sudden. I feel like such an idiot for worrying about nothing.” Neglecting that fact that a toddler at his first birth cycle had clearly and proficiently spoken to her, she had replied as if normal.
“I’m sorry.” Was the reply she got in return. Not completely convinced that this was real and not a figment of her imagination, “And how long have you been able to understand?” Wavering, Adalina tried to make sense of the situation.
“Ever since I started crawling.”
‘Ever since then?! But he was barely six months old!’ Adalina could not believe it. Out of loneliness she had always talked to him ever since he was born, but to have been able to understand her since he was that young was extraordinary. Her fear grew stronger as no human child could have done such a thing.
“Why do you cry?”
Lost in thoughts, Kaidus’s question shattered her delusions and brought her back.
As if a dam had broken inside Adalina, all the reasons came out.
‘It was me. Because of me, the villagers are mistreating my family. Because of me, she suffers. Because of me, she blames herself and kept it all in all this time.’ Realization dawned on him.
“Let’s see, I think like this” Closing his eyes, Kaidus concentrated.
The gray on his hair slowly split into two different colors; a pitch black, and a pure white as if to start glowing any second. Then the white suddenly vanished and all that was left was a head full of black hair like Adalina’s.
Astounded, Adalina knelt silently while watching the event unfolded.
Opening his eyes, Kaidus spied a terrified mother who looked like she had lost her voice.
For a span of time, mother and child stared at each other, unsure of what to say.
“Are you a –” catching herself, Adalina tensed up at the question she had unknowingly blurted out.
“?” tilting his head to one side he wondered at her words
“I’m sorry, I mean, how did you do that with your hair?” Adalina asked unconvinced
“Some of my mana may have been leaking out without my notice, I just absorbed them back.” was the reply Adalina got.
“MANA?!” another shock of surprise escaped Adalina’s mouth. Being able to talk and converse at his age was unheard of. But for him to also have mana, know what it is, and be able to control it is something that is borderline out of this world. She quickly revisited her prior thoughts but refused to go further.
Mana was not rare ages ago, but eventually, those who could control mana had slowly diminished. Currently, the majority of those who have mana were Nobles – primarily nobles hailing from a distinct line of ancestors with overwhelming mana. She herself has no knowledge of either of her parents having mana nor theirs, Troyle’s ancestry from what he has told her also doesn’t go back far enough to tell if mana was in his line or not.
Although it was not strange for families from a line without mana to suddenly birth a child with abilities, it takes years before any such sign could be physically viewed, and developing it would also take years. Not to mention such situations were one in a million. Yet, here was a child, for all she knows, knew what mana was and could control it ever since he was born.
“Why did my hair estrange us from the village?” Kaidus questioned while Adalina was in her state of shock.
“You said it was because of my hair that we’re living in such a state, and I would like to know why” A prompt reply
A long dead religion, a long dead demon, a long dead legend.
Thousands of years ago, the world was prosperous because of mana.
One day, a powerful demon raised an army and overtook one of the seven continents, slaughtering the beloved Emperor and his subjects. The other six continents sent in reinforcements to stop this evil. For surely for if it was not stopped, it would swallow the entire world. The battle took seven days and seven nights, and on the dawn of the eighth day, Heroes emerged. The heroes, having fought to exhaustion sacrificed their lives to destroy and seal the demon.
Shortly after, the Church decreed an order: anyone born with white hair was to be denied life because they are demons.
After the order, a crusade swept through the seven continents.
Ages passed and such battles became legends. Legends became myth, and all that was left was a dark period in history.
Although the Church that made the decree was long dead and new religions have sprouted up to replace it, the idea sown into the mind of the public that; ‘white hair was unnatural and the only explanation is that it was a demon’ continued to prevail into modern-day.
Due to having grayish white hair, superstitions kicked in and caused the village to behave the way they do.
The majority of the reasons were contrived and unsophisticated superstitions, but Kaidus was able to question his way to some semblance of information from Adalina. While Adalina fancied all this as some sort of bedtime stories about heroes and demons kings, Kaidus knew all too well the truth. He lived it.
It seems, the church had known that their seal was not perfect and would not be able to completely destroy him. Thus, putting into motion a failsafe in case he is ever reincarnated.
‘Well, that explains that.’ Kaidus thought to himself, remembering the other 26 times he was sent back to the void. It was because of this ridiculous reasoning, and his lack of control at birth.
It would also appear that an enormous amount of time must have passed in this world for the Church of Hainl to have been dead for so long.
‘If it’s been that long, then what is my purpose here now?’ he wondered to himself.
Not wanting to make Adalina even more suspicious than she already is and not wanting to reveal himself, “Is having mana a bad thing?” Kaidus questioned innocently.
“No it is not. In fact people born with it are extremely rare, and those with talent are always sought after.”
“Then there should be no problems from now on?”
“I don’t know Kaidus… sometimes people’s minds are harder to change than their appearances. The villagers will probably never get over the fact that you were born with white hair despite knowing you also have mana.”
Attempting a solemn bow with his tiny body, “I am sorry for causing you trouble. It is because of me, that such unfortunate -” events befell you.
But before he could finish the sentence, he was in a tight embrace.
‘This is…’ warmth filled him.
“It’s going to be alright.” Adalina whispered.
Disposing of everything that she had just witnessed, Adalina held onto Kaidus. Whether he was a demon or not, did not matter. The sorrow in his tiny eyes when he tried to apologize practically killed her inside. A sorrow unfitting his age.
“You are just a little different from everyone else, you have nothing to apologize for. Everything will be fine.”
The next few days were uneventful as usual. The only thing that seemed to have changed were the number of stares. Seeing the once gray-haired child with black hair like his mother, the villagers were confused and bewildered.
‘Was it dyed? If it was, how was she able to afford such? How long would that facade last?’ The villagers whispered amongst themselves.
Cheap dyes were easy to come by, but they usually wash off or weren’t very good. Seeing the state of poverty the Paltos house was in, no one would believe they had enough money to afford good dyes that don’t wash off.
The idea of having a demon trying to fit in and become inconspicuous within the village rattled a lot of nerves with the villagers, and whispers quickly became outspoken disdain.
Even people who had sympathized with the Adalina’s situation eventually felt as if the whole thing was to trick them into forgetting she was not parent of a demon.
Troyle came home for his break to find a village full of disgruntled villagers.
“Get out of this village you liar!”
“Don’t think that this changes anything, just because he has a head full of black hair now, doesn’t mean we don’t know what he really is!”
Confused at the outcries filled with anxiety towards him, he quickly made his way home to find his wife and child.
Upon seeing his son with a head full of black hair sitting by Adalina, he finally understood.
The villagers had assumed the child’s hair was dyed as to fit in with the community, and because of such blatant attempts at hiding the unnaturalness of the child, the action angered a lot of people. They had assumed it was both Adalina and him downplaying the intelligence of the villagers, and so such words were also directed towards him.
“What is going on?” Troyle irritably asked.
Kaidus just started at him, while Adalina was trying to come up with words that would diffuse the situation.
“Adalina, what is going on here? What happened to his hair? What is wrong with everyone in this village?” Troyle questioned while staring at Adalina. He could see she was trying to come up with an explanation.
“My apologies. It was because of my selfishness that caused such a problem. Please do not blame mother.”
“?” The one who answered him was not his wife, but someone else entirely. A voice he had never heard before. A voice that carried itself through the room as if it were alive, coiling about. Meek but powerful, humble yet dignified. Looking around the room for a stranger or one of the villagers, Troyle failed to spy anyone. His eyes eventually rested on the small child sitting by Adalina’s side who was staring at him.
‘Mother’ the voice had said.
Willing himself to tear the gaze away from the child to Adalina, he saw her merely nodding as if to confirm his unspoken curiosity.
“W-What the hell is going on here?!” Troyle asked again. This time, stupefied.
‘This child was born with mana!’ Surprise, fear, relief, happiness, and a plethora of emotions came into play at once for Troyle.
After hearing about what happened a couple of days ago, the revelation that his child could understand and talk, in his body contained one of the rarest commodity in this world ‘mana’ which could work miracles, and that he might even know how to control it was unbelievable.
If it were anyone else explaining it to him, he would not have believed it. But in this situation where the party in question itself was explaining it to him, there was no denying it.
His son who has never made a single sound. The child who he thought a mute and addled in the head, was explaining everything that transpired over the past few days to him with crystal clarity.
‘So… the hair was because of his mana leaking, and by absorbing it, the hair returns back to their normal color. But that does not explain why he is able to talk already at that age… is it because of the mana? No one really knows what ‘mana’ is or where it comes from, just that some people are born with it. Could it also have the power to accelerate understanding in newborns? There has never been any such tales, but that’s not to say there couldn’t be one, seeing as how it’s happening right now.’
Lost in his thoughts, Troyle pondered endless questions about the mystery that had just been revealed to him. The only person he’s ever known to have been able to control mana was his old mercenary captain. But even then, the captain never really talked about it. The captain’s mana capacities were quite low, so he rarely used his abilities outside of jobs.
‘Could he be someone else’s kid? Where is his mana from? Is he the one in a million? What will happen to him? Could he possibly be a demon?!’ Troyle’s thoughts turned darker the more the thought about it. ‘No! I had already come to terms with such things.’ Casting the doubts aside, he resigned himself to figuring out what he was going to do.
After Kaidus had fallen asleep, Troyle and Adalina were quietly talking while in bed.
He asked her about the situation at home, and what has been happening while he is out on the outskirts. About their future and what is possibly in store for their son. About various things that he had never bothered to ask, or was too prideful and scared to talk about, and ultimately about Kaidus’s situation.
Trying to convince each other, they eventually settled upon the idea that it was due to being born with mana that their son was able to talk at such an age.
After their talk, Troyle got up from the bed and headed to his desk.
First, he will write a letter to his old captain. Though Troyle may no longer be a mercenary, after years of being a part of the company, he knew exactly where the captain would be stationed.
Second, with the next trade caravan that comes into town, they will leave this village. His injured shoulder will never be the same as it was in his mercenary days, be he can still fight, and he could help guard the caravan in exchange for his family’s travel fee.
Pulling out a sheet of light red Harkus paper from the desk along with some fine ground Dreevil ink, Troyle started to write.