Upon opening my eyes, I find I am in a dense forest. I can’t remember anything. Where I am, who I am, where I’m from, etc. No memories at all. Feeling something atop my head, I raise my hand to find a pair of fluffy ears. I apparently don’t remember what I am. I shift around so that I am leaning against the tree that is behind me. What do I do from here and what happened to me? The sound of voices and footsteps coming towards me catches my attention.
“When we get back to the guild, let’s just celebrate a job well done. We completed our first subjugation job, found a lot of really rare medicinal herbs and Miu learned a new spell. Some good came out of today’s chaos,” said a man’s voice.
“We’re just so tired, Jax. Today has been a very long day. Can’t we just celebrate tomorrow?” that one is a girl’s voice.
“You guys, hold on a minute. There’s someone up ahead,” another girl’s voice said. So, it’s a man with two women with him.
The three people come into view and I’m stunned. While the man appears to be human, the two ladies with him are different. The taller woman has long, brown hair and bright blue eyes with pointed ears. She has a bow on her back and a sword on her hip. The other woman is shorter, has reddish hair and purple eyes, and has what look like bunny ears. She has a staff in her hand.
“Are you lost, sir?” bunny girl asks. I just shrug, not knowing how to answer. Something in me tells me to be weary, but I’m unsure why, so I choose to ignore it.
“I dont really know. I don’t know where I am or where I’m from,” I inform them.
“Miu, use your new spell on him. Let’s just start with making sure he’s uninjured,” the man says.
Bunny girl, Miu, comes over to where I’m resting and does something with her staff. I have to admit; I feel better. Not as tired, not as panicked. I look at her, confused about what she did.
“I cast magic on you. It’s a type of healing spell I just got today. It heals, as well as recovers a little of my target’s fatigue and is supposed to calm animals. Being a beastfolk like me, it may help relieve any panic you may have at your situation,” she explains to me.
“What’s your name?” the other girl asks me.
“I… I don’t know,” I answer her. It’s pretty terrifying to not have any memories of any kind. I only know that I’m 17-years-old. I don’t know when I was born.
Miu looks at me with an obviously worried expression. But I don’t know what else to say. I don’t even know how I’m supposed to react in this sort of situation.
“Do you know where you are?” The man, Jax, asks me.
I look around, taking in every detail. It’s fairly dark with the tree canopy. There are huge trees everywhere I look. I see strange looking bugs that are larger than I feel like I’ve seen. It’s less of a memory and more of a feeling. Looking back at Jax, I shake my head.
“What about where you’re from?” Miu asks me. Again, I shake my head.
Miu looks at Jax. I’m guessing he’s the leader of their group. He stands there for a few minutes thinking while the girls started attending to any needs I may have.
“Here, we have a bit of spare food and water. Also, it’s not much, but we have a bit of money that may help you get a few things in the city,” the pointy-eared girl said, pulling out some hard-looking bread and a pouch of water from her bag.
I munch a little on the bread and take a couple swigs of water; I don’t want to take much from them. I pass on the money, of course. It’s their hard-earned money and I don’t want to rely on them too much until I have some kind of plan.
“For now, I think we should get back to the city. The forest isn’t safe at night and we only have a few hours left until nightfall,” Jax says before facing a random direction and starts walking. I’m going to trust that he knows where this town is and that he isn’t just going in a random direction. “After that, we’ll go from there,” I hear him as I stand to follow them.
After a long time walking, we finally get out of the forest and I see the town in the distance. We stop to get on some horses they left by the entrance of the forest. Miu has me get on behind her. The horses take off towards the town. It feels like we’re racing against the setting sun. The horses run fast and before long; we make it to the entrance. Guards allow us to enter the town, but I am asked to stay by the gate while they speak with Jax. From my spot by the gate, I look around at what I can see of the town. There are strange stalls everywhere. The word ‘merchants’ comes to mind, but I don’t understand what that is.
There’s a huge fountain of a beautiful lady in the middle. She is pure white with her hair in a braided crown and flowers braided throughout the crown. Her hands are facing the forest, palm out, as though stopping something unseen. Her dress is long and flowy and she has gold around her wrists. Around the statue are some benches that have couples sitting. I can see a group of children kicking something round with their feet. There are some people walking around in robes and some in bulky metal armor. Some of them have odd looking animals walking with them, flying around them, and sitting on their shoulders. Overall, it’s a very lively town.
“Alright, we’ll start by sending out flyers to the areas surrounding the forest to see if there are any people missing. I will also inform my father of his current situation. A naming ceremony will have to be done so that he can get an I.D. card and find work. For now, take him to ‘The Lucky Dragon’ and let the innkeeper know what’s going on and what the plans are so that he can at least have some place to stay until the ceremony can be done,” I hear a guard say as they come back out.
I turn back to them to see a guard walking toward me with some kind of ball.
“This won’t tell us any of your personal info, so we can’t use it to help you. But it will let us know what your current title is. Towns and large cities use these orbs to check if a person is some kind of criminal or a slave. Just put your hand on it and it’ll show part of your ‘status’.” I follow the guard’s instruction and the orb glows white. His brows furrow, and he looks bewildered.
“The orb is showing his ‘status,’ but it’s blank. I’ve never seen this before. You just keep becoming more and more of a mystery,” the guard says, walking back into the room.
“Let’s head to the guild and get our reward, then we’ll bring him to the inn,” Jax said, moving away from the gate.
“Is there something wrong with my ‘status’ being blank?” I ask, not knowing who to ask.
“There’s nothing wrong with it being blank. It’s just strange. It’s the first time it’s happened that I know of,” the elf-girl said.
“Your ‘status’ window should always say something. For those who live within a village, it says ‘villager’, for those who travel, their ‘status’ window says traveler. Hell, if a person was kidnapped from somewhere, it will even say ‘kidnapped’ and where they were kidnapped from, but yours is just blank,” Miu explained. That sounds like an important detail.
“We’ll do what we can to help you figure everything out. If nothing can be discovered, then you can just live your life however you want. The guild has a way to see your skills, so that once you have a name and an I.D. card, the guild master can probably swing some jobs your way,” Jax said as we come to a large double door he pushes open.
“Ah, you’re back. I’m glad that you are all okay after your first subjugation,” a woman behind a counter says from across the big room. I follow behind them to the counter, hoping to stay out of sight.
“Hey, Shanna. Miu learned a new spell while we were out. It works well on beast folk,” Jax said to her with a smile.
“That’s amazing, Miu! Is it some sort of healing spell?” Miu nods in response.
Looking at the woman from behind Jax, I notice that she’s like me. I mean, she has ears and a slender tail like mine. The difference is, hers is a mix of different shades of brown while mine are all black, like my hair. She has brown hair and green eyes. When our eyes meet, I duck my head behind Jax.
“Oh? Who’s that with you?” At the woman’s words, Jax looks over his shoulder at me while Miu steps over to me and takes my hand in hers.
“I guess he doesn’t handle meeting people well. We found him in the woods on our way back. He’ll be staying at Ann’s inn for a while. He’ll be going through a naming ceremony at some point,” Jax told her.
“I’ll post something on the board to see if anyone recognizes him and knows anything,” after Jax agrees, she comes around him and looks at me. “If you’re okay with it, I’d like to find out what skills you have. Once you have a name, we could figure out what kinds of jobs you can do or what kind of training you’ll need.”
I think about it for a minute, feeling a little nervous about learning my skills. What if they are lame and useless?
“No skill is useless. There is a job for everyone. We’ll also learn if you have any protections, so it’ll be done in a private room.” Her words do little to calm me. But, despite my worry, I nod anyway.
It’s decided that it’ll just be me, Shanna, and Miu going into the room. Shanna brings a shiny, almost see-through tile into the room with her.
“This will record your skills and levels for you. Bring it with you for the ceremony, but after that, show as few people as possible. Some people will go to unspeakable lengths to obtain certain skills,” she said as she place the tile in the center of the glowing table.
Assuming it’s the same as the status orb from earlier, I place my hands on the tile and another status window appears in front of me and the girls stand on either side of me. At the very top of the tile, my age appears with my skills and levels below it.
Swordsmanship lvl. 80
Alchemy lvl. 50
Fire Magic lvl. 20
Earth Magic lvl. 20
Light magic lvl. 20
Bowmanship lvl. 60
Search lvl. 80
Tamer lvl. 10
Below that, it shows how high my mana, stamina, dexterity, and intelligence are.
Then, at the very bottom, it shows what protections I have.
Fire Protection, Earth Protection, Mental Protection, Instant Death Protection, and Poison Protection.
“Wow! I definitely recommend not showing it to anyone at all after your naming ceremony. You have some great skills you can use. Some are lower levels, but they can be raised with training and experience. But your stats and protections are absolutely insane. Normally, with three level 20 magic skills and level 10 taming skill, your mana would be around 20,000-70,000,” she explained to me. I skim over the tile a couple more times. It feels familiar to me, but I don’t know how.
“The guild can explain it all to you in greater detail after you recieve your name and I.D. card. This is just the quick rundown.” After that, I thanked her and ask Miu to put it somewhere safe for me. Instead, she taught me to use “Storage”, where I put my status tile.
“While we wait for you to get everything settled, I will speak with our guild master about getting some training prepared for you. It would be best to start as soon as we can. You’ll need help to control your skills and magic. As for you, Miu, are you okay with me putting up a notice for other beast folk to see? That spell of yours could be useful and it’ll be good for you to get some experience with using it,” the woman said as we walked out of the room.
“Yes, I think this spell could be very useful in many areas. I can heal animals and beast folk. It can also calm them down. If they are frightened, worried, or depressed. I’m not sure about anger, but I feel like I can as long as I get the person’s consent. I feel like calming an angry person or animal will be trickier. I’d also like to get some medical training.” Miu looks happy to help people.
After meeting back up with Jax and the elf-girl, we leave the guild and they guide me to the inn. Along the way, I decide to ask the questions that have been on my mind.
“What is this naming ceremony everyone keeps talking about?”
“We started having many people show up in similar situations as you in the last 5 years. Usually, their status would show that they were ‘stolen goods’ from far-away lands, or they were people who were kidnapped. After basically plastering their faces everywhere and sending word across the 5 countries, no one came to claim them. Because we had no name to call them, our Duke started up a ceremony in which the person will go to the castle, and depending upon gender, age, and appearance, will grant that person a name. Being named by him gives you a special position in the city. Some of those who came before you have since regained their memories, but kept the name given by the duke. He prefers to do it as soon as he hears about the person so that they can make a living for themselves and start living their new life. He’ll most likely want to get it done tomorrow morning so that you ca—”
“Halt! Duke Felix has sent us to escort this young man to the castle for his naming ceremony today. He’s been told that the young beast man has great potential by the guild and wishes to get him into training by tomorrow and grant him protection,” a guard interrupts Miu’s explanation. Her eyes widen at the man’s words.
“I guess this is where we part ways for now. General, he doesn’t handle meeting new people well. Let our Lord know of this. Having people there for the ceremony might not be a good idea for this one.” The general nods at Jax’s words. Miu steps forward.
“Sir, I need to inform you of something very important, but you’re tall and we can’t have others overhear,” Miu says, looking up at the man. He kneels down on one knee.
“I’m the only one in my group who knows what his status shows. He has some valuable skills, stats, and God Protections. If other noble’s see his status, it will put him in danger. With proper training, he could become a hero if he chooses to. Make sure Duke Felix knows about this before the naming ceremony begins, since we both know the heads of the noble family are usually allowed to witness the naming ceremony.” I hear her tell the ridiculously tall man.
“Thank you for tell me, little Miu. I will make sure he knows and I will take great care to protect him on the way to the castle.” The man patted her on the head and her tail twitched.
“Thank you, Pa—General Ironwill,” she says before turning to me. “We will see you tomorrow at the guild. With my warning to General Ironwill, you shouldn’t have to worry about people being there during the ceremony. But, if you still feel overwhelmed, remember to take slow, deep breaths. That should help you stay calm.” I smile at her concern.
“Thank you for everything today, Miu. To your whole group.” I wasn’t sure what else I should say to them.
As we walked to the castle, General Ironwill kept me at his side instead of with the rest of the guards that were with him.
“If things are as Miu said, it’s best to keep you away from most of the guards with us until after your naming ceremony. Many of them are tied to the nobles that she’s worried about. They report to them, even though Felix is our Duke and the nobles don’t really have official titles. They are just rich families with ties to the King. Luckily for us, the King doesn’t listen to anyone in his family. He listens to his Dukes and Barons. After I inform Felix what Miu has told me, he’ll do anything he needs to keep you safe. You’ll understand when you meet him.” He explained.
It was kind of reassuring to hear him talk as we are walking. I was worried it would be a tense and uncomfortable walk. Apparently, the castle wasn’t far from where he met us. As we enter the Duke’s castle, he ordered the guards to stay away from the ceremony room. Then, he escorted me somewhere deep in the castle. At one point, he sent a woman with purple hair and blue eyes wearing a black and white dress to let the Duke know he needed to speak with him privately before the ceremony can begin.
The room we entered was covered in shelves with books. There was a desk in the center made from some kind of dark wood and a comfortable-looking chair. While we waited, I looked at some books that were on the shelves. Some could help me learn things I have possibly forgotten.
“Ironwill, what could you have possibly needed to talk to me about that couldn’t wait till after the ceremony?” A voice yelled, sounding annoyed, as the door reopened behind me.
Startled, I turn around and press my back against the wall of shelves, quickly realizing I have nothing to hide behind.
“Felix, calm down. You’re scaring him. Besides, it’s very important.” General Ironwill said calmly, moving over to me.
At his words, I looked toward the door. The man that was there looked a little older than me. He had black hair and green eyes, and his clothes made me feel like I was naked.
“Hello! I’m guessing this has something to do with you. Come over here and tell me what’s wrong,” Duke Felix said.
General Ironwill and I move over to the desk in the middle of the room while the Duke sits down in the chair behind it.
“My Lord, before departing with the boy, Miu informed me it might not be a good idea to hold the ceremony in front of the noble families heads. She said that because of what his status shows, if they are made aware, he could be in danger. She is worried about him being targeted,” General Ironwill informed him, while placing his hand on my shoulder.
“Alright, thank you for telling me beforehand, Ironwill. I can’t outright decide to not involve them as witnesses unless I know more details. Normally, I wouldn’t look at your status board until the ceremony, but can you show it to me now?” The Duke’s attitude seems to have become serious and stern.
I use the spell Miu taught and pull the tile out of my storage. I guess it’s called a status board. I hold it out for the Duke to take. He takes the status board and looks over the information on it. His eyes widen just a little and a smile grows on his face.
“Miu was right to suggest a more private ceremony.” He says lowly before getting up and going to the door. “Bring Nicolete and Alder to the library. Tell them it’s urgent and make sure no one follows them.” He says to someone on the other side.
“I know that your family is a minor noble family, but would you be willing to be the second witness, Ironwill?” the Duke asked as he leaned against his desk.
“It would be an honor to be a witness, my Lord,” Ironwill answered as the library’s door opened again.
Looking to the door, a woman with fiery red hair and vibrant green eyes enters. She is wearing a black and red two-piece outfit. The top has two back tails on its bottom while the skirt went to mid-thigh, poofed out slightly and had white lace around the bottom hem. Behind her is a man with blonde hair and bright blue eyes. He’s wearing long blue and black robes. He has a small, silver, crisscross crown with golden wings on either side of it.
After the door closes behind them, and I feel a barrier go up, Duke Felix addresses the two people.
“Thank you for coming quickly. Alder, we will hold the ceremony in here, with just the 5 of us. Nicolete, you are the only high noble in that room that I trust in a sensitive situation. So, you and General Ironwill are going to be the two witnesses. Afterwards, I will send a letter to the king about my decision to use a minor noble for one of the two minimum witnesses.” As the Duke spoke with urgency, the woman’s expression filled with worry.
“My Lord, I will not argue with your decision. But I would like to know more about the situation with the young man.” I bow my head at her words.
I understand the precautions the Duke is taking are for my safety. I just don’t understand why my safety matters so much to him when he doesn’t know me.
“You will understand during the ceremony. You know that the person’s status gets projected to everyone in attendance. I want you to pay extra attention to his status this time and base your future decision on what you see,” he tells her. She just nods.
Duke Felix stands in front of his desk, with General Ironwill to his left and the noblewoman, Nicolete to his right. The other man, Alder, stands across from the Duke. They are standing in a circle. Duke Felix motions for me to stand in the middle, which I move to do.
Once I am inside the circle, Alder hands me a small silver and gold knife and tells me to make a cut in my palm. After making the cut, he takes the knife and holds a small silver cup under my now bleeding hand. After so much has dropped inside, he dresses the cut and hands me the cup. I face the Duke again and see that he already has a matching silver cup with blood in his hand.
Alder steps away from the circle, moving to grab a third silver cup and holding it between Duke Felix and me, equal distance apart.
“We will now combine your blood together for the blood bond that will activate Duke Felix’s skill,” he says.
Duke Felix and I pour our blood into the third cup. I feel something snapping into place as the blood combines within the cup.
“Sweetest Goddess of the Breath of LIfe, we beseech thee to name your newest lost child. He is without a home, without a name. Master Felix is ready and open to the young one’s new name.” As Alder speaks, I see my status board glow and a projection of it appears in the air in front of me. The projection is huge, visible to each of us.
“This Lost Child could become a hero, or a friend to all. His blackness will make him different, unique. His skills will make him powerful. This Lost Child has many blessings from your brothers and sisters. This Lost Child will be a gift to those who may need help, or to future lost children. This Lost Child will be a gift to your most blessed child, Felix, as family. Grant this Lost Child a name that best suits him so that he may begin his new life.” After Alder ends his prayer, the air around us feels electrified. I look to see Duke Felix glowing a faint blue light and is floating.
“I name thee Lost Child, Mavros, because your blackness is none seen in this world in a long time. I grant thee Lost Child my lost blessing, The Protection of Life. May you live a long and fulfilling new life.” After those words are spoken, Felix falls to the ground in a sweaty mess.
“The Goddess had much to say this time. I believe there will be many paths laid out before you. The skills you can be trained in will be great, but your stats are insane. If trained properly, you will be hard to be killed. You will one day have the choice to become the Hero of The World, if one is ever needed, or a friend to those who need one,” Alder said, helping Duke Felix to a couch in the corner.
“After you gain some skills to use, the adventurer’s guild can help you gain experience. Your life as Mavros, from now on, will be whatever you choose. There will be things that will be granted to you as a member of Felix’s family. A house will be prepared for you, but you can decide what types of rooms you want. If you are up to it, Ironwill here will give you a tour of the city and will take you to a few places to have your equipment paid for and prepared. You will be given money for necessities until you can comfortably provide for yourself. And you will be given a special pendent to wear, at all times, that will show who you are,” Nicolete explained to me.
“As the major noble of the witnesses, it will be Nicolete’s job to provide you with guards until you can adequately protect yourself. They are guards that only have ties to her family. They will go with you on your job requests, however, they will not impede your jobs and they won’t be taking part in your rewards. Their top priority will be your safety, but they will listen to your orders as well, as long as it will not put you in any danger. Ironwill’s duty will be to take part in your training. He will also evaluate your skills periodically to monitor your progress.” The sound of Duke Felix’s voice made me look at him on the couch.
“Why are you going through so much trouble to protect me and take care of me? You know nothing about me. My citizen status is blank, so you don’t know if I’m a criminal.” The words come out before I could stop them.
“You don’t either. Which means you have the chance to do good. As to why, during the ceremony, when our blood combines, the goddess creates a familial bond between us. So, now, you are my family. Being my family means it is my job to make sure you have all that you need. At least until you can stand on your own two feet.” His explanation still confuses me.
“As family, do it because you want to, not because you feel it is your job.” Why am I trying to argue with this man? Why do I feel courage now?