Chapter 2 – A Difficult Start

“Hello little rat!”

Vision blurry. Breath burning. Something speaks.

“Aww, look at you… You’re all banged up! How did you end up like that?”

Something in throat. Blood. Hard to breathe. Death… soon.

“They said I shouldn’t use this, but if you don’t tell, I won’t either.”

Bright light. Soothing. Throat… clear? Breath, sweet breath. Life.

“That’s better… can you open your eyes?”

Blinking. Vision blurry, bright. Too much light.

“Oh, right. Uncle Stalton says your kind don’t like the light. Just a moment, I’ll grab my cloak… there, much better, isn’t it?”

Opening eyes. Golden eyes, golden hair. Young man-kin. Hunger. Bite… feed… eat!

“I thought you might be hungry — oh, my, you’ve got sharp teeth, don’t you?! You rascal, I almost lost my finger there. Here, eat this. I don’t like cheese that much, but I’ve heard your kind does.

Food… good, good food. Sated. Tired.

“Sleepy, huh? I guess I could take a nap too… It’s always tiring when uncle makes me train my riding.

Darkness. Awake. Golden eyes still there. Golden eyes closed, asleep. Man-kin… food… eat? No, no, gave life. Wait.

“You’re up! Alright, I should be getting back… Uncle is going to stew me for staying outside for so long. Oh, wait! Don’t go! I’ve got something for you.”

Man-kin’s hand… round stone. Mine?

“Yes, take it… take it! It’s a gift, from me to you. An offer of balance.”

Balance? Should eat… man-kin. Man-kin food.

“You see, my teacher has been trying to explain balance to me, and I think I understand. We’re opposites, you know that, right? You live in the dark, little rat, and I live in the light. But, because you exist, I exist — or something like that, you see? We need each other, so take this gift and remember me, little rat. Let’s create balance together, one day.”

Accept. Life for balance. Will make. One day.

[Desire for balance] conditions met. Integrating with soul.

What?

Halifax found himself surrounded by darkness. It had been a dream; a dream of an event so long ago, back when he had been a little ratling, bullied for being small and weak, left for dead. He had seen the dream before, it had often haunted him with its promise, but this time it had felt more real — as if he had actually gone back to that time.

Then he remembered what had happened. How he had died, how the saintess had died. The girl with the golden hair and golden eyes. The girl he had promised to create balance with. An overpowering sense of grief welled up from within, until he could no longer restrain it, but had to scream.

His voice rung out through the darkness and sounded… nothing like him. It was a weak scream, full of demands — nothing like the fear-inducing screams he had trained himself to perform. This was a ratling’s scream, no — worse: it was a man-kin’s scream.


“I don’t like how he looks,” the boy said.

“Don’t be like that, Heston, he’s your brother,” the woman said, rocking his world back and forth, “He’s just… different. Aren’t you, Hamelin?”

He garbled. That was all he could do… garble.

“His eyes are wrong,” the boy, Heston, continued, “Look, he’s glaring at me!”

“He’s not glaring; you’re imagining things. Come on, pick him up and show him around the room.”

“I don’t want to!”

“Then I’ll do it. Upsi-daisy… Oh, would you look at that. Someone has a dirty diaper~”

“Eww, gross!”

“Then don’t stick around, if it bothers you that much,” the woman sighed, while waving in the air, “Aris, dear, would you see to it?”

A woman with blank expression approached and curtsied to both the woman and the boy. “Of course, Milady, I’ll see to it straight away.

He was picked up by the maid and carried out of the room. On his way, he heard Heston, his brother, say, “And what’s with his hair? Why’s it got two colors?”

——

Hamelin, formerly Halifax, mighty regent of Scree, sat and looked out of the window with disbelief. Outside, the lands belonging to the manor stretched out as far as his eyes could see, which — even with man-kin, no… human eyes — was not very far.

And he was human. He had checked. He was a disgusting, contemptible, pathetic, weak human, and a human child at that. His powers were gone, his strength barely a memory at this point, nothing but shortcomings. Using one of the few mirrors he had been able to find, he had studied himself closely. He had hair as black as night, with a single lock of white hanging down his forehead, and a pair of strange yellow eyes. All if it framed by the chubby face of a weak little toddler.

How can this be? I was reborn? But why would it be as a human, of all things?

It was so utterly disgusting that he was considering jumping out of the window and just end it as soon as possible. There was just one thing stopping him. Looking down at his naked chest, Hamelin could see the dark marking of a teardrop-shape.

He still had the gift.

Somehow, the gift had stayed with him through whatever had happened. Furthermore, if it had stayed with him, and possibly caused the situation he was in, might it not have done the same for her?

Before he ended this terrible existence, he needed to know. In order to know, however, he needed to grow, and humans were notoriously slow at that.

“Hamelin, by the gods, don’t sit so close to the window!” The woman, his mother, flew into the room like a tempest and grabbed him, “And keep your clothes on, will you? You have to learn how to dress, the sooner the better, and to keep tidy. This is important.”

Hamelin could only look up at his mother and… garble. He was a master of mutagenic transmutation, creator of a hundred deadly diseases, master of three martial arts, and the engineering mind behind marvelous machines, but all he could accomplish with this feeble body was… garbling.

“Oh, how you titter, you,” his mother laughed and picked him up, raising him into the air, “I’m sure you’ll be the next little genius in the Whitter estate, just you wait.”

I’ll cut your eyes out with a dull knife if you don’t put me down this instant, woman!

“My, my… Heston is right, you do glare. How quaint.” The woman giggled and patted him on the head. “We’ll be sure to make you stop that, just you wait, you little rascal.

Hamelin could not even manage to roll his eyes, hating every minute of this feeble existence.