Sung Je Kyo

Shadowsmith

Chapter 1: Kaige's Dream

Jin.

Of course she still remembered the name. Time had worn at it, faded it from her memory like sunlight fades the written word, but not completely erased it.

Jin.

There he was, only a few feet away, after so long… how long had it been since Jin left? Nearly a year? It seemed like decades to Kaige, but none of that mattered now, he was here, in amongst the trees of Havenwood, looking back at her with wet black eyes that reflected the light of the butterfly flowers. They were everywhere, flying in and out and about and singing their song. Their glow illuminated Jin’s features, especially his eyes. She had missed those eyes. And there was his smile again; Kaige had almost forgotten that smile.

But there was something else in Jin’s face, too. Something was bothering him, something important. Kaige longed to speak to him, ask him where he’d been and what was wrong, but her tongue would not obey, and instead lay dead in her mouth. Jin seemed to be having the same trouble. His mouth moved, but no sound came out, and there was a growing anxiety in his eyes, though he still smiled. They were close enough to touch each other now, and Jin reached for Kaige’s hand.

Kaige blinked, and in a moment the whole scene swam away. The gentle glow of the butterfly flowers was replaced by utter darkness, and the sweet fresh smell of the Havenwood gave way to the stench of animals, mud, and rotting leaves. Kaige sighed. It had been a dream.

This was reality. She was home, in a slum outside the walls of Rosenteague.

“Saiyo.”

Kaige’s voice pierced the silence. A murmur came from the opposite end of the room in response, followed by a “Yes, yes, I’m here,” from Saiyo.

Saiyo was Kaige’s closest friend, and the two had shared the same flat ever since their village near Havenwood was razed by Imposter Hearts. The army of traitors had fled Jadelin and simply ran through Havenwood, hardly even causing destruction save what they trampled underfoot. When they finally reached the outskirts of the forest, however, and came to the tiny villages that dotted the valley, they laid siege to each and every one of them. The Imposter Hearts had met fiercer resistance than they thought from the villagers, who came at their attackers with everything from pitchforks to hunting spears and fought to the death. They managed to keep the Imposter Hearts occupied until royal forces from Jadelin caught up with them and subdued them, but not before many villagers had fallen and the village itself had been completely demolished. The surviving villagers were relocated to the abandoned buildings outside the Rosenteague walls until reconstruction could begin.

“Saiyo,” Kaige said again. “I can’t remember his face any longer. Jin’s face. It distorts, like water is washing over it.” She paused. “But in my dreams, I can. Clear as day, I can see him.”

There was a rustle of movement from Saiyo’s general area, and then a candle flame appeared in Saiyo’s hand, casting strange shadows over her face. Saiyo walked over to the place where Kaige slept and sat next to her. “Tell me everything,” she said, placing her hand over Kaige’s trembling one in a sisterly fashion.

Kaige told her. She relating everything to her friend, about the dreams she had been having prior to this one that were very vague and shadowy, and now this one that had shaken her heart.

“Saiyo, what if he’s trying to send me a message?” Kaige said, desperation in her voice. “This can’t be just a dream, not with the look on his face. Saiyo, your Master is a Seer, you can get permission to See for yourself if he’s alive and in peril-”

Kaige fell short. Even coming out of her mouth, the words seemed too ridiculous to believe. If Kaige’s own Master wouldn’t allow her to know whose lives she wove on the Lifeloom, surely Saiyo’s Master would never allow her to use her art outside of her own education.

Saiyo took a deep breath. “Kaige… Kaige, you know how I feel.”

Of course Kaige knew how Saiyo felt. Saiyo, like most others, thought Jin was dead. When Jin had simply vanished from Rosenteague after two years living in a flat and one year with Kaige, everyone who knew of his disappearance thought he had just left. Rumors circulated about Jin journeying up through Havenwood and to Jadelin in search of remaining Imposter Hearts, and his plan to avenge his former home. When months had passed, those who never really knew Jin decided he had simply left his home and left Kaige. Those who knew Jin knew he would never do such a thing, so they decided he was dead and mourned him for a month.

Except Kaige.

Kaige refused to believe he was dead, and she refused to believe he had left her. Her days were now spent weaving what her Master told her to weave, telling stories to the village children, and missing Jin. This routine only broke when she and Saiyo journeyed to the physician’s home every week or so. The physician had recently told Kaige that she was due to give birth to her child - Jin’s child - in the coming few weeks.

“Kaige, I know you miss Jin. In fact, I would be very worried if you didn’t. But I think it’s time to accept that, unless a miracle occurs, he’s not coming back to Rosenteague.” Saiyo spoke hesitantly. “I miss Jin too. No one could ask for a better person to come into their life, save if Arista herself came and lent us a hand in fixing our problems.” She paused a moment, musing, before going on. “Kaige, if you continue pining like this, your health will fail you. You can’t afford that, not with Etsumi due so soon.”

Kaige instinctively placed a hand over her stomach.

“If it will ease your mind any,” Saiyo went on. “I will ask my Master if I may See for myself, and if my Master allows it, I will tell you what I See.” She squeezed Kaige’s hand. “Now please get some rest. You need it, even if your work is not particularly taxing.” She stood and returned to her own mattress. “I’ll leave the candle burning, if you like…”

“No, no, put it out,” Kaige said. “With all the luck we have, we would end up burning down the whole flat.”

“Very well,” said Saiyo, and in a moment there was darkness again. “Get some rest, Kaige, please, promise me.”

“I promise,” Kaige replied. A moment later, she knew Saiyo was asleep.

Kaige laid back and folded her hands over her stomach where Etsumi was growing, and tried to relax. She stared into the darkness and listened to the silence. But it was a long time before sleep finally came.