"We have no other choice, Mikleo. You are to marry General Sorey Ilorin. He will come for you within a fortnight. I am sorry, my precious grandson. I am at my wit's end."
The words were sharp against Mikleo's mind as his shoulders shook with suppressed sobs. He bowed his head, his untied hair covering all but the twin trail of tears sliding down his cheeks. He reached up and covered his mouth to muffle his sobs as the scratch of the pen continued, determined underneath his despair. The occupants of the room spared him no glance, their lips tight and their eyes dark with the task ahead of them-of the precious sacrifice they were tossing to literal wolves. It was their hope, however, that this precious one would be their last.
"Grandfather-" Mikleo lowered his hands and folded them across his waist to suppress the shivers that wracked his body-why couldn't he stop shaking? "Grandfather-"
"Be at ease, Mikleo." The rough rumble of the Earth Seraph Eizen forced him into silence. "You're going to make yourself sick-" he was cut off by another sudden harsh sob and it cracked even his hard heart. He turned, his blue eyes gleaming underneath the low light of the small home. "Zenrus."
The scratching of the pen stopped abruptly and Zenrus' aged face looked up and his eyes darkened as he took in the utter despair that was his grandson before he turned to back to the paper and the scratching of the pen resumed. "We must." Zenrus resumed, the pen almost breaking underneath Mikleo's harsh sobs as Lailah, the Prime Lord, and Fire Seraph, rose from her kneeled position and approached his grandson and pulled him into her arms, the limbs trembling at the sheer force of Mikleo's cries.
"You know we must, Lord Eizen." Zenrus raised his gaze and Eizen could hardly hold back his surprise when two tears slid down Zenrus' cheeks. "There is no other. Or," Zenrus turned to Edna who turned away. "Would you rather it be the Lady Edna? Or the Lady Lailah? Powerful Seraph's in their own right?"
Eizen said nothing, lowering his head and closing his eyes as the scratching of the pen resumed. His jaw clenched, and he barely moved when Edna's gloved hand reached over and placed itself on his tensed arm.
"We must," Edna intoned, repeated Zenrus' words with a dull causality. "We have lost enough and so have the humans. The sparks of war are emerging again, and this union must come to be. Even if breaks our hearts and shatters them among the skies, Eizen: We must."
"He's a child." Eizen murmured, lowering his now open gaze to Edna's who return it with the same solemnity. "Are we really giving him away to the humans? A babe among wolves."
"Mikleo is a smart one." Edna murmured, turning back to the growing set of papers – of the contract and conditions of the arranged marriage. "He will learn to blend in among the humans and what weapons to use when and if necessary. He will be fine."
Eizen's shoulders lowered in resignation, turning his gaze back to Mikleo, becoming quite relieved that the heart-shattering sobs had all but faded into a series of small hiccups that had Lilah reaching for a small cup of water, quietly urging the younger seraph to drink. It was times such as these that he wished that Velvet was still around. She would know what to do. How to solve the problem between Human and Seraph.
Human and Malakhim.
However, she was long gone. Asleep with Innominat. Sacrificing herself to break an eon cycle to see the world to a new era and as did Laphicet who watches the world as Maotelus. Watches a world become a bloodbath between both races. Watches as the world, once again, harms and misuse their people. Watches as they sacrifice an innocent seraph who wanted nothing more than to explore the world and read its past, present, and future.
The scratching of Zenrus' pen halted, descending the room into a deafening silence except for Mikleo's soft sniffing. Zenrus leans back, groaning when his back cracked before waving a hand over the contract to dry the ink. He lowered his and placed it on his knee before he turned to the older seraphs in the room.
"Leave us," Zenrus commanded in a low tone. "We will discuss the contents of the contract tomorrow morning. I am tired and wish to speak to my grandson alone."
Mikleo said nothing, watching as the Seraph Leaders rose and moved towards the door, shutting it firmly behind them and leaving them in a tense silence.
"I do not wish to hurt you." Zenrus murmured, his tone weary, speaking of the leader who had made countless decisions that were best for his people and not for him – never for him. "I wish for you to remain here within my gaze, but this war is a danger to both our races, Mikleo. I tire of the fighting and the loss that our people have endured." Zenrus moved closer and placed a hand on Mikleo's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "To enter into this contract would save both our races."
"How?" Mikleo uttered. "How would this prevent us from going to war again?"
"You entering an arranged marriage with the General Illorin will ensure our race's safety and him entering the marriage will ensure the safety of his race. With you two intertwined, our races will form a budding friendship. It will be the two of you at the forefront of this friendship and I pray that you will find happiness and eventually love within it."
"I am being sold and bartered." Mikleo uttered bitterly. "There will be no happiness that will stem from this, Grandfather."
Zenrus hummed but made no move to agree. "If you will not find love then perhaps kindness and friendship will find you instead. I have it on good word that General Illorin is a good and strong man."
"And on whose good word that you got that from?" Mikelo couldn't help but be curious. It wasn't often that his grandfather trusted humans let alone called them good and strong.
"Eizen has met the General a number of times and he is confident that you will be well taken care of in Ladylake."
"Ladylake? The Capital of Hyland?" Mikelo murmured. "I will not go to Rolance?"
"No," Zenrus responded with obvious relief. "Rolance offered no maiden or man in this alliance and it was General Illorin that offered himself when no one else would. He, too, longs for peace between human and seraph."
"That brings me no comfort, Grandfather," Mikleo whispered, once more, becoming shaken at the thought of leaving his home. "Was he not the one that struck down many of our people?"
"The Crimson General he was called once upon a time." Zenrus uttered, displeasure in his voice clear. "His sword was never without the blood of our people soaked on the steel."
"Yet, you send me to such a monster? You call him good and strong? Where was this goodness and kindness when he was slaughtering our people!"
"It was when he spared hundreds." Zenrus countered swiftly. "There was a number of seraphs who spoke of his mercy. He never killed if it wasn't necessary. He made sure his men did the same."
Mikleo scoffed at the statement. "He thinks that lowering his kill count makes him a decent person?"
Zenrus snorted, a bitter smile pulling at his lips. "It makes not a decent person, but an honorable one. One who swings his blade indiscriminately is a fool, but one who chooses when and where to swing it is a man of honor and discipline."
"It matters not." Mikelo rose, dusting off his clothing which, to his embarrassment, was only his night clothing. When one was being bartered like meat or vegetables in a market, it didn't matter what one was wearing. Then again, once he was married, it would matter what he wore, said, ate and the subjects that one spoke of. Everything would matter, and your feeble excuses wouldn't save you.
"Grandfather," Mikleo whispered, drawing Zenrus' attention back to him. "Was there no other? No Seraph-"
"No normal Seraph would have worked in this situation, Mikleo." Zenrus chided. "Your origins are unique, and you would blend in with humans more quickly than the others. Not to mention the fact that you are in the running to becoming the next Water Lord."
"A running in which I am no longer a part of?" Mikelo heart shuttered at the thought of no longer being considered a proposal. He longed to be part of the Water Trials. He had trained for six years and was finally considered just six months ago and thanks to this arranged marriage there was no way he would be considered. It would be unfair towards the other Water Seraph to have a Water Lord who lived among humans.
Zenrus said nothing, the smoke emerging from his pipe and drifting into the air was answer enough. No. He would no longer be considered for the title of Water Lord and he was excluded from the Trials.
"I will honor no man who has stripped everything from me, Grandfather." Mikleo's lips thinned as red, hot anger slid down his spine before settled down in the pit of his stomach. "I don't want this-"
"Enough." Zenrus rumbled, and in this distance a boom of thunder echoed, forcing Mikleo to still not in fright, but obedience. It was not the first time that Zenrus' thunder struck in anger and it wouldn't be the last.
"This is not about you." Zenrus began, a sad slump in his shoulders. "Our people along with the humans long for peace. Each of us has lost something precious and the hate that lingers from the war will destroy us all. Those with high resonance such as the King of Hyland and Princess Alisha are aware of the malevolence that continues to consume towns, villages, and cities that are below. Malevolence that are turning humans and Seraphs to wild beast that soldiers can barely contain. Our world is turning into a wasteland and we must act or there will be no need for Earth, Fire, Air or Water Lords. There will be no need for Queen or Kings nor Lord and Ladies. There will be nothing left but a land for the Lord of Calamity to consume and rule."
Mikelo said nothing, turning his eyes away and feeling a flush of shame rise to his cheeks. The shame, however, was quick to turn back to anger – an anger that he kept to himself. It wouldn't be his best option to anger Zenrus any further on the matter. It was settled. The contract was finished and due to be signed when this Lord Sorey arrived.
"You will forgive me." Zenrus uttered, a man at his wit's end with the situation placed before him. "In time you will understand."
It took all of Mikleo's will and strength not to scream in anguish. To make his grandfather feel the same desperate hopelessness that he was feeling, but he knew, deep down that Zenrus felt just as angry, and hopeless as he did. To give away his own grandson? To whom he watched prosper and grow into a proper Seraph? At the end of the day, Mikleo could scream to the rooftops and have an outright tantrum about how unfair his life was, but it was nothing compared how Zenrus was feeling and the actions he had to take to ensure that this treaty—how tentative it was-worked. So, what did Mikleo say instead?
"In time." He echoed with a soft, tight smile that he knew didn't reach his eyes and Zenrus bowed his head as if the weight of the situation finally became too much. And Mikleo, approached him, bowed and wrapped his arms around the smaller Seraph, ignoring the shuddering of the body in his arms, ignoring the tears that trailed down his cheeks. He pulled his grandfather closer and buried his face into the thin hair that he always loved and embraced the soft sobs that shook the elder man's body. In time, things would be better. In time, he would forgive his grandfather and the Lords for forcing such despair upon him.
In time, he would find forgiveness. In all its forms.