161 A New Dawn Pt.3

    Surrounded by rows of shanty houses and dark alleys, Vernon frowned. Nothing in the street before him was familiar. He scratched his head as he surveyed his surroundings again.

    Well, this certainly settles it, he thought wryly. I am lost.

    After a productive but tiring, long meeting with the royal liaison at the palace, Vernon was finally returning to his tavern. There were only five days until the royal wedding; only five days until Saim reached the cusp of New Britannia's sphere of influence. Delighted by the turn of events, Vernon had decided to indulge himself. He would take a detour and enjoy a moment of peaceful solitude.

    "Are you not coming?" Brahms had asked from the carriage entrance. Vernon didn't remember the offhand response he'd given, only that Brahms had agreed and left him be.

    Now, upon encountering yet another unknown alley, Vernon scratched his head again.

    "I should have gone with him," he muttered begrudgingly as he retraced his steps. He peered at his pocket watch and groaned when he saw what the hour was. "Brahms will never let me hear the end of this."

    With the sun speedily setting and not a person in sight, Vernon grumbled to himself. He needed to find his way soon or else he would have to spend the night like a wayfarer. Vernon examined his surroundings closely. Shadows danced along the decrepit walls while the sound of gravel crunching beneath his feet filled the silence. Despite his precarious situation, something about wandering the streets alone was calming. As he stared at the dirt road, memories of a past he wanted to forget resurfaced.

    Vernon took a deep breath.

    By his side, half cloaked by shadow and tinged with ochre by the sun stood a young boy with odd eyes. Even without looking Vernon knew his rough hands were dirty and his bare feet were blistered. Vernon took a step forward and so did the young boy. In the twilight, Vernon's every movement was mirrored by the phantom of his past.

    "Nothing has changed," he said to his younger self, "even now they still fear us." The young boy nodded understandingly. An inquisitive look crossed his features in silent communication. "That is right," Vernon replied while nodding in agreement. He narrowed his eyes at the thought. "The only difference now is that we no longer fear them." The young boy stopped, and Vernon did the same. A frown tugged at the young boy's lips as he conveyed his scepticism. Vernon was bewildered. "You only think that now because you have not yet experienced what I-"

    "Stop! Give it back!"

    Vernon stumbled as a stranger knocked into him.

    "Watch where you're going-" the stranger started to say but upon meeting eyes with Vernon, abruptly stopped. Vernon watched as the cockiness in the stranger's features slowly morphed into fear. From the squeakiness of his voice and his scraggy stature, Vernon deduced the stranger was just a teenage boy. He slowly retreated away from Vernon. "A- a demon!"

    Vernon flinched.

    "Stop that thief!"

    Following the boy's gaze, Vernon was surprised to find a scruffy lad in pursuit. "Stop him!" he shouted while pointing to the teenage boy. "He stole my parcel!"

    Vernon and the teenage boy exchanged looks. Before Vernon could so much as move, the boy suddenly tossed the parcel at Vernon and fled.

    "Don't let him get away! He's got my-" The scruffy lad stopped when he spotted the bundle in Vernon's hands. "My parcel. You got it back!" Vernon returned the bundle to the scruffy lad and watched as he brought it close to his chest. "Thank you so much. I don't know what I would've done if I'd lost this-"

    The boy froze.

    Vernon observed a flicker of fear pass through the scruffy lad's eyes. Despite being at the brunt of others' prejudices, he never grew accustomed to the way others stared at him.

    "It's you, sir! What're you doing here?"

    Instead of recoiling with fear, disgust and hate, the lad had approached him with excitement. Vernon was taken aback.

    "It's me, Yujin. Don���t you remember me?"

    Memories of a boy leading the way to the sanatorium flashed before his eyes. Vernon let out a sound of enlightenment. "You're the boy who guided us earlier."

    "You remember!"

    Vernon inclined his head in greeting. "It is good to see you again, Yujin. I do not believe I have properly thanked you for assisting us."

    "You've done enough already, sir." The scruffy lad lifted his parcel cheerfully. "You helped me get this back." Taking note of their desolate surroundings, he curiously asked, "Sir, are you lost again by any chance?"

    Vernon reluctantly nodded. "Is it obvious?"

    The scruffy lad had a toothy grin. "Just a little." He gestured to the road he came from. "Shall I show you the way?"

    As Vernon followed Yujin's lead, an unfamiliar warmth bloomed in his chest. Is this what it feels like to be treated with kindness? he thought. The young boy's words echoed at the back of his mind in reply.

    "A new dawn is rising," Vernon agreed under his breath. He watched as Yujin walked ahead, unknowingly alongside his young self who once believed in the good of others. "Maybe there is hope for this kingdom after all."
Previous Index Next