The man's eyes were sharp and enigmatic, a deep contrast to his imprisonment. Unlike Mona, his cuffs were each connected to the wall three separate times. The cuffs were of a different form all together, made from what seemed to be a warped black metal. It left marks on the man's skin, both red from strain and several calluses.
And yet, the man seemed to be full of life. His hair had no sign of aging, his eyes made Mona think of sages, and his skin seemed smooth and soft. What little light that came down to this cell revealed the man's smile, with a gregarious touch.
"Yes, yes I am." Mona nodded, and he too sat into the lotus position. They were both about five feet away from each other.
Mona's gaze shifted across the cell. The chamber seemed like a hemisphere, with the bars, a smoldering brown color, curved to match the ceiling. The floor was cold and made of granite, and there was no area to use the bathroom. As for whether Mona would be feed, he doubted the guards would care.
The raspy voiced man never changed his gaze from Mona. He began to speak.
"If you want, Sir Aurum, I can tell you how long I have been here. Would you like to hear?" The man asked Mona, his speech distinct.
Mona nodded towards the old man, his mind settled. Maybe the senior in front of them knew something.
"My name is Jaspen Arkway. As you can tell from my name, I came from Rosalin." Although Jaspen's voice was hoarse, he kept his speech steady.
Rosalin? When the name came to mind, Mona remembered the beautiful city. The famed land of tranquility. The times he walked with his mother and sister in a carriage among the various streets and met innumerable people. So this man was from the capital.
"At Rosalin, I was a blacksmith. In fact, I was a blacksmith for the Royal Guard in Rosalin, second to Eegor and Master Rosault, the grand blacksmith at the rank of peak Saint." Jaspen's eyes flickered with happiness as he shortly reminisced about the past.
"On the day of Rosalin's fall, we received news of the assassination of the Royal family. The king and queen, along with several visiting members of nobility, had all died that night. Except for a few people who were missing, no one could tell what had occur." Jaspen began to recount the events that occurred.
"Eegor had awaken me from my sleep, sharing with me the news. I didn't know how that could happen under the surveillance of the Royal Guard and the secret defensive forces of the royal bloodline. It was announced that a funeral would be held in three days, and that closest surviving noble line of the royal family would inherit the throne."
Mona could imagine the outcome. On the surface, it may seem like a mournful event. But for the King and Queen to die while guarded heavily and with other nobles of society the last to see them, chances were there was a traitor. And without many leads, everyone was likely on guard against each other.
If you could die with security on the level of the royal family, who could guarantee seeing dawn with their own defense in Rosalin? The royal castle had traps of various forms, Creations for detection and elimination, and Creations for defense.
Unless you had designed the castle personally, it would be difficult to infiltrate, carry out such a gruesome mass murder without alerting the various mechanisms, and disappearing. Such a thing may be capable for those skilled in various Espionage Arts, but those were rare, and one's talent had to be on the level of at least moderate Saint rank.
Mona sighed. It must have been the Alberdan Army.
"While in this vast mixture of claims and counterclaims on what happened in the royal castle, the Alberdan Army had attacked. They came with the force of a million monsters, surrounding the city walls, breaking them, and marching towards the city."
"The citizens were divided up into those that had Aura talent, and those that didn't, and all of them were shipped off to various destinations. My own daughter, Anne..." A single tear fell from Jaspen's eye, as the grief came back to him in the form of sobs.
Mona steadied himself, controlling the urge to join Jaspen. Now was not the time to grieve.
"The Army attacked the castle walls, the majority of the city burning in a strange flame. It left no ash, no smell, no sensation, yet consumed everything down to the ground. Whoever remained in the castle, such as I, were sent a different direction from the mortals. Many of those attendants had been jammed into carts, their faces still trembling with fear."
"Finally I arrived here with Master Rosault and Eegor. We had been here for two weeks. Neither of us were successful for those tests. How do you test a blacksmith with a test that focused on hand-to-hand combat?" Frustration came from Jaspen's voice, audible between his hoarse words.
"Then one day, someone came. He claimed himself an Alberdan noble, and had come for the blacksmiths of Rosalin. We were the only three that came from there. But my talent was too lacking, so I was left behind. However, I was given a separate Auric technique. The man said that he would return and select guards, ten of them. Who ever had 'a noble disposition' and was 'talented' would be chosen." Jaspen scratched his head, a few lines visible on his brow.
"The problem was that he actually left many skilled nobles of Rosalin in this prison to die. So what he meant by noble disposition and talent, I cannot say. So I was placed here under the orders of that noble, and when that day comes if I had a Mortal level 10 rank Aura, me and the best among the rest could leave." Jaspen finished his speech. He looked towards Mona, gauging his reaction.
"Is what you say completely true?" Mona asked. This sounded too odd. A noble fetching slaves? I guess it makes sense, but it seems rare.
"Noble Aurum, I dare not lie. What I say is the truth." Jaspen reaffirmed himself.
Then...can I actually leave as a noble's slave? Based on what Jaspen said about his fellow blacksmiths, perhaps this man respects craftsmen. Then maybe...
"Jaspen, I wish to ask you something. Would you teach me this Auric technique?" Mona missed the chance to practice the technique being handed out by those Alberdan soldiers. But based on Jaspen's retelling, perhaps this Auric training technique was a higher rank. That would make it easier to advance.
As for the consequences, they were all the same for Mona in the end. Be he the slave of a noble or a merchant, unless he found a way to attain citizenship, he wouldn't be free at all.
"Why noble Aurum, this is precisely why I came to you. I wanted to ask you if you would like to train in it? Although the Mortal Curse is true, one never knows until one tempts fate. Is that not true?" Jaspen replied back.
Mona's admiration for this fellow grew by several levels. This snippet of wisdom was indeed true. One could not fail if one did not try. And one did not fail until one gave up. There was always a way.
Jaspen recited the Auric training technique to Mona, his voice still hoarse. Mona easily memorized it on the first recitation. His past studying of various orators his father had brought to educate him had aided him greatly.
"Jaspen...why is your voice hoarse?" Mona asked. He felt this man was close enough to feel sympathy for.
"Noble Aurum, there are a few reasons." He chuckled bitterly, his voice hoarser than before. "One, there are no meals here. No drink either. So one's voice naturally becomes hoarse. Two, the Alberdans have activated a Creation down here. It absorbed all the moisture from the air and our mouths. That way they don't have to hear any yelling prisoners. The third reason is this very Auric technique. I had to memorize the method by speaking from this parchment. I must have read it several hundreds of times." Jaspen revealed a aged sheet of paper from beneath his clothing, passing it to Mona.
It was rectangular and small, similar to a postcard. Along its longest side was written several lines in the language of Madragos, the continent's common language.
The technique didn't reveal its rank, but was called the Primal Fold technique. With Aura, one would focus attacks from various directions, charging one's Aura into the muscles and skin. It transformed the body part from human flesh and bone to become as hard as granite at the techniques completion.
The three sets of lines represented what were probably the three of the levels of the technique: simple, moderate, and grand completion. Peak completion required being able to activate all three portions simultaneously.
Although Mona didn't have an accompanying Art for the Primal Fold Auric technique, just the effects of training his Aura alone were comparable to a Mortal Art. Who knew how strong, and how rare this Auric technique was. Chances are some would covet it as a treasure. It was sad, however, that Jaspen only had this parchment. From reading the lines, Mona could tell this portion could only allow one to raise their Aura to the peak of the Mortal rank.
Jaspen had already moved back near his wall. He chanted the Auric technique, with Mona watching closely. Aura would flow from one's body to the portion of the body that needed training. It stressed that area, gradually improving its durability and strength.
Mona rose and moved back to his position as well. The parchment in hand, he checked to make sure he didn't miss anything from Jaspen's talk.
Putting it aside, Mona trained the first part of the technique, simple completion. To attain this one had to shape Aura meridians in their body, specifically in the skin and muscles.
As Mona took several deep breaths, he concentrated on sensing the natural Aura of the world. What faint amount he felt he absorbed into his body, channeling it within. The bit that he collected was very small, and had a dim glow. After several breathing sessions he had the proper amount of Aura inside to train the first line of the first set of the technique.
As the Aura drifted under his consciousness to his right hand, his body slumped hard to the floor.
He bled from the extreme pain he felt deep within body. It felt as if his skin was being roasted to a crisp.