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Chapter 22.1: Gael

by Lightsong


‘Farava’s twin bracelet. The Life Giver. It all makes sense now,’ Gael whispered. His first thought after seeing Haka’s won artifact was to search for the other one in books about artifacts. But of course, the Goddess of Wisdom couldn’t help but to give him the answer.

Farava’s Life Taker, also known as Shadow Bracelet due to its colour, Serra said. That was what they experimented him with. Malicious, malicious priests.

Thanks for the answer, Gael replied.

What happened next was a series of unexpected turns he didn’t wish for. It turned out the Test this year was practically held to recruit two best students, one representing the Fighter students and the other the Scholar, to help to protect Estagrians from the Hollows. How, he didn’t know. They chose Haka and Aleveri. And then Aleveri talked about failing to stop the church, and during his own rage – they were taking Haka from him, after all! - Serra managed to speak through him.

The last part pissed him off enough for him to ignore what Veris said. It was after the award ceremony ended that he managed to control his emotions.

Later, he was with Ilami, Aleveri, and Felaris in his room. Felaris brought Seya and Veris too. They were all planning on how to enter the laboratory, get the answers they needed, and exit safely. This time, they would make sure no one died or nearly died. Ilami didn’t take his involvement happily, though.

‘I went to Felaris so that both of you –’ she looked at Haka and Aleveri – ‘didn’t have to get involved! I was trying to keep you safe. Why is that hard so hard to understand. Aleveri, you’re supposed to be with the priests after thirty minutes. You should focus on how to deal with them instead.’

This is how I deal with them,’ Aleveri said. She continued to stare at Ilami. ‘Look, I – I understand why you want me and Haka out of this, but – you can’t choose that for us. I want to help you as much as I could before I go.’

‘She’s right, Ilami,’ Gael said, but more gently. ‘We know what we put ourselves into this time. I’m more than willing to risk my life to save Haka.’ Ignoring Veris’s glance, he continued. ‘I appreciate what you did for us, but… friends help each other. Do you really think we don’t know you yourself is taking risk by getting into this?’ He paused. ‘Let us help you.’

Seya raised her hand. ‘Um, can someone tell me how solving the mystery is going to save Haka’s – and by extension, Aleveri’s – life? The best we could do is expose the church’s crimes,’ she said.

Veris massaged his temple. ‘To be honest, we can’t actually expose the church’s crimes.’

‘What?’ Ilami and Felaris said at the same time.

Veris shrugged. ‘Think about it. Perhaps Estagrians will side with us and turn against the church. But the church is aided by the king. That’s one enemy we don’t want to have if we treasure our lives.’

‘That’s a moot point,’ Gael said. ‘We can’t stop their illegal experimentation without revealing ourselves. Once the church deems us a threat enough to worry, it’ll definitely inform the king about this. Exposing its crimes won’t add any more of our enemies.’

Veris frowned. ‘Hmm. You’re right.’

‘I don’t care about what happen after we tell the world about the church,’ Felaris said, folding her arms. ‘Right now, we need to find solid evidence of their experimentation. Start planning on how or else we’re going anywhere with this.’

A firm leader, Serra said. Someone who does not allow herself to be distracted by currently irrelevant details is the person we need right now to guide us.

You sure you’re not talking about yourself? Gael asked. ‘Felaris is right,’ he said, not wanting to hear Serra’s response. ‘Veris, now you could tell us –’

Someone knocked the door. It couldn’t be Secca. Usually he had a class right now. Gael went to the door and opened it. It was Haka. Now that Gael had the chance to look at him up close, he saw the black circles around Haka’s eyes. What had happened to him?

‘I need to talk to you,’ Haka whispered. ‘It’s urgent.’

‘Um...’ Gael wanted to let him in, but how could he tell that the experimentation didn’t come with him being automatically loyal to the church? He wanted so much to trust him, but his mind told him to be careful while Serra urged him to be suspicious. ‘Get in.’

Haka wasn’t welcomed when he was inside. Seya hissed, Felaris took a combative stance, and Veris went rigid. Only Aleveri and Ilami were surprised to see him, but in a way someone reacted to their old friend showing up.

‘What is he doing here?’ Seya asked.

‘He wants to talk to me,’ Gael said. ‘In private. You guys have to leave.’

‘He goes inside while I go outside, huh?’ Veris asked softly.

Gael didn’t know how to reply to that, so he kept his silence and stood, waiting. Eventually, they all left, telling Gael they would be in Felaris’s room.

Once they were gone, Haka suddenly hugged Gael. Tightly. ‘I missed you so much,’ he said, his voice cracking. ‘All the time I was there, I kept hoping you would be beside me, helping me to get through with it. You don’t know how much it hurt knowing you weren’t there.’

This Haka hugging Gael was completely different to the one at the field. This wasn’t the cold Fighter student who could turn into a raging beast. This was his friend, Haka. The real Haka. Tears started to well in his eyes. He hugged Haka back just as tightly. ‘I missed you too. I was miserable when you were gone.’

Haka let out a weak chuckle. ‘Call me selfish, but I’m glad you did. But I’m a monster now. You saw me back there.’

Stop,’ Gael said. ‘You are not a monster. If anything else, you’re a victim. They took advantage of you. Aleveri and I will find a solution to fix you.’

Haka released the hug. He sighed and smiled. ‘I know you will. It’s just – it’s risky, Gael. I don’t want you to get hurt. They’ll take Aleveri soon.’

Gael rolled his eyes. ‘I have three vicious fighters with me and a resourceful scholar. I think the odds of success is higher this time.’ Instinctively, he grabbed Haka’s hands. ‘Don’t worry. I’m in good hands.’

Haka stared at Gael’s hands. ‘Back then, when Aleveri was healing me, you whispered something to me.’ He looked up. ‘You said you love me. What does that mean?’

Gael gulped. The sight of a loud man embodying the ideal masculinity went into his mind. ‘I – I did.’

There was no going back now. If there was something wrong that happened to him – Naturals forbid – he wouldn’t have the chance to make his feelings clear. At least he tried. He couldn’t care about the consequences right now.

He took a deep breath. ‘I love you in a romantic sense. The moment we became friends, I knew you were the perfect guy for me. It didn’t help that as the days went by, I liked you more and more. I couldn’t help it.’

‘I see,’ Haka said. To Gael’s disappointment, he took his hands off his. He gestured at the bed for them to sit. ‘I haven’t told you much about the people where I’m from. Well, here’s the deal. They’re the kind of people where you don’t need to be afraid of expressing yourself. If you see a two female friends holding each other’s hand, you would also see the same thing happens to male friends. We don’t have a strict rule about how you show your affection. But the elders do make it clear that same-sex relationship is forbidden.

‘When you confessed to me, I can see how the way I treat you as a friend might be seen as… more.’ Gael didn’t like the way this was going. ‘I don’t know. The rest of Estagrians are such prude people.’ Haka stopped.

The few seconds of silence felt like eternity to Gael. Just continue, for my sake, Serra said. I don’t have time for this trivial romance.

‘And?’ Gael asked. He swore he could hear his heart beating.

‘And I don’t care,’ Haka said, smiling. ‘I had a lot of time thinking, Gael. I thought I was being friendly to you, but the emptiness I felt after they brought to the – to whatever it was – was definitely not a mere friend could fill. What I’m trying to say is that your feeling is reciprocated.’

No way, Serra and Gael thought simultaneously. All this time, I thought he strictly desires on women. It seems like my perception has an error.

‘My – my feeling is reciprocated?’ Gael asked. Haka liked him? Was that even possible? Was this a dream? Could they actually live happily ever after? At the very least, he was relieved Haka didn’t treat him like the assassins treated Denizen. He cleared his throat. ‘Haka, be clear.’

Hearing that, Haka blushed. Haka. Just. Blushed. Gael thought he would never see the day. ‘I – I like you. Or love you. Whatever.’ He punched Gael in the shoulder. ‘Don’t force me to say it, for Natural’s sake!’

Gael let out a chuckle. ‘Don’t be a prude, Haka.’


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Thu Oct 18, 2018 3:59 am
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Mea wrote a review...



Hi Light! I'm super sorry it's taken me so long to review this. I kinda needed a break after RevMo, and then life things have been kicking my butt for a week or so. But I'm here now!

Let's talk about the first part of the chapter first! I thought the way you started back at the ceremony and then skimmed over all the stuff that happened in between until they got back to the dormitory felt odd, because we'd already seen all of that in other viewpoints. I think it'd be better to start this chapter in his room and have Serra tell him about the Life Taker while they're all back in his room, or have him just tell them the same thing Serra would have told him earlier.

I really like how united they are now as a team. It definitely feels like things have moved onto the next stage, where they're all on the same page and are going to work together because they're friends now. :)

I'm a little ambivalent about their plan. While I think it's good for them to get solid proof of the experimentation, like they talk about, what are they planning to do with that proof? They're kids, people won't listen to them. I feel like Gael would also be wanting to look for ways to reverse the experimentation, or to smuggle Aleveri away out of their grasp. What they're talking about, with gathering proof and such, is just so abstract, and the danger is immediate - Aleveri is going to be taken away like now. They should be thinking of immediate action, even if they decide not to do anything in the end.

Going back and reading the chapter more closely, I realized they kind of are planning immediate action - they're going to sneak back in, and I'd almost missed it the first time. I think you should make that decision more dramatic. It's just sort of slipped in there, but it should be a big deal. Gael or Felaris can insist they need to do something, get moving before the church has a chance to do anything else.

So wow, I can't say I was expecting Haka's admission here! I was actually expecting him to not be okay with it, I guess because of previous versions of this story that I've read. I agree with Pan's comments about how formal the response is - make it a little more lively! The ending really hit the right mark with the combination of emotion and embarrassment - that was my favorite part of the chapter. :)

From the dialogue between them, it seemed to me like you're implying that Gael isn't Estagrian? Or is it that Haka isn't Estagrian, since you mention he's from somewhere else? I wasn't always sure what society you were talking about when you were saying they were prudish or fine with holding hands but not same-sex relationships.

I think that's about all I've got! This was a bit disjointed, but I hope it gives you my thoughts on this chapter. Feel free to ask about anything I said that was confusing! Looking forward to the next. :)




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Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:24 pm
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Panikos wrote a review...



Hey, Lightsong! I'm getting in early on this one. I feel thoroughly tired out from RevMo but I want to make sure I keep up with this.

Small Comments

That was what they experimented him with. Malicious, malicious priests.


As I believe I've mentioned twice now, you experiment on someone, you don't just experiment them. The preposition has to be there.

What happened next was a series of unexpected turns he didn’t wish for. It turned out the Test this year was practically held to recruit two best students, one representing the Fighter students and the other the Scholar, to help to protect Estagrians from the Hollows. How, he didn’t know. They chose Haka and Aleveri.


Didn't we just learn this in the last chapter? Why repeat it?

And then Aleveri talked about failing to stop the church, and during his own rage – they were taking Haka from him, after all! - Serra managed to speak through him.

The last part pissed him off enough for him to ignore what Veris said. It was after the award ceremony ended that he managed to control his emotions.


This whole part really confused me. Maybe it's just because it's been a while since I read the last chapter, but it's hard to judge what is new info and what's just a repeat of what's already been said. I don't understand why you didn't start this chapter immediately where the last one left off, or just skipped ahead to a later scene. It feels weird that you're recapping things that only just happened.

Aleveri, you’re supposed to be with the priests after thirty minutes. You should focus on how to deal with them instead.’


I'm pretty surprised they let her go, actually, even if it is only for half an hour. Surely they know she's not happy to go with them? Aren't they afraid she'll bolt for it? I can see them letting her go and pack up her things, but I'd expect them to send a priest with her or something, to make sure she didn't try and run away.

Do you really think we don’t know you yourself are taking a risk by getting into this?’


Start planning on how or else we’re going nowhere with this.’


‘I missed you too. I was miserable when you were gone.’

Haka let out a weak chuckle. ‘Call me selfish, but I’m glad you did.


I get that he's intending to say he's glad Gael missed him, but given that you've got Gael's 'I was miserable' bit before his response, the auxiliaries don't really match up properly. It would read better if he said 'I'm glad you were', as in he was glad Gael was miserable.

‘You said you love me. What does that mean?’

Gael gulped. The sight of a loud man embodying the ideal masculinity went into his mind. ‘I – I did.’


What's the intonation supposed to be here? Is he supposed to be sheepish, not really remembering that he said that? You'd need a question mark for that interpretation, as in:

‘You said you love me. What does that mean?’

Gael gulped. "I - I did?"


But if he's just stating it as a flat fact...it feels out of place given that Haka just asked him a question. If you just had this:

"You said you love me."

Gael gulped. "I - I did, yes."


Then it would work. It's just a connectivity issue, a bit like the issue with using 'did' rather than 'were' in the previous nitpick. It needs to feel like the proper response to a question, but right now it doesn't.

(Note: as you might have guessed, I'm not that keen on the whole 'the sight of a loud man embodying the ideal masculinity went into his mind' sentence. It's a bit overlong and cumbersome and I don't think it's that necessary).

At least he tried. He couldn’t care about the consequences right now.


The sentence in bold is awkward because it suggests that he's already tried and failed. 'He at least had to try' would be much more preferable.

The few seconds of silence felt like eternity to Gael. Just continue, for my sake, Serra said. I don’t have time for this trivial romance.


*Throws a bottle at Serra* BE QUIET WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS MOMENT FOR TWENTY CHAPTERS

What I’m trying to say is that your feeling is reciprocated.’


On the one hand: eeek! Yay! I'm so happy for Gael!!

On the other hand: he could not have said this in a more formal and unromantic way. 'Your feeling is reciprocated'? Jeeeez, Haka, are you writing an essay? In all seriousness, it's just a cumbersome line. 'I feel the same' would sound way more natural.

Was that even possible? Was this a dream? Could they actually live happily ever after?


I'd delete the bold, personally. It's a bit too saccharine and I don't think you need it.

Gael let out a chuckle. ‘Don’t be a prude, Haka.’


Great end to the chapter!

Overall Thoughts

I wasn't expecting this! After the drama of the last chapter, I didn't think we'd end up honing in on Gael and Haka's romance. Romance! It's officially a romance now. I'm happy for them, but I'm also pretty terrified too, because I know you're evil and I know you have deaths planned and I would not put it past you to kill one of them the moment they've realised how they feel about each other. Especially considering that Haka is about to be torn away from him.

Being more nitpicky, I would've liked more foreshadowing for Haka's feelings prior to this conversation. Given that he's not one of your narrators, we know less about his internal thoughts than other characters - but that doesn't mean you can't imply stuff through his behaviour. Haka says that, in his culture, male friends are as physically affectionate as female ones, yet I've never actually seen him behave that way with Gael. He's always seemed fairly distant. If you showed him being more touchy-feely with Gael throughout the novel, the reader would be left to deliberate whether he's just behaving according to his culture or whether he actually does reciprocate Gael's feelings. That would make this revelation much smoother.

To clarify, though, I don't mind that Haka has only realised he feels this way recently. That's how it is sometimes. But at the same time, usually when it hits you that you like someone, you can look back and spot the signs in your own behaviour. So the signs should be there with Haka, even if he's not aware of them.

Moving onto more serious criticisms, I have two. The first I've already mentioned in the small comments: the beginning of the chapter is confusing and rather redundant, because you just repeat things that have literally just happened in the previous part. Yet you also don't address something crucial - the fact that Veris knows where the experimentation takes place. Nobody even asks him about that, at least not visibly. That's something the reader wants to know! It feels teasing to use it as a cliffhanger yet not tell us any more about it in this instalment.

Second is the characterisation of Haka in general. While it was nice to see him have a heart-to-heart to Gael, it sort of feels like you haven't...figured out how the experimentation affects him. In his last appearance, he was manic and bloodthirsty and arrogant and uncontrollable, threatening Felaris before the fight had properly got underway. Here, he's like his normal self. Because you haven't established how he's changed, it comes across like his savagery is something you can use and drop at your convenience. Which isn't good. From this, I'd guess that Haka's rage and mania hits him in frenzies, but he has periods of lucidity like in this chapter. That's not a bad idea providing you demonstrate how cripplingly horrible and dangerous it is for him to feel that way. I want to feel like Haka has actually changed, but this chapter has pretty much undone your hard work in the previous two, because it feels like the experimentation hasn't affected him all that much. If he broke down in his conversation with Gael because he didn't feel in control of himself, or at least showed more remorse or fear or anxiety, it wouldn't feel like the events of the last chapters had been forgotten. As it is, it does.

So, my advice? Commit to it. If you're going to do something dramatic, it needs to affect your characters all the time, not just when it suits you.

Nevertheless, I'm still really happy to find out that Haka feels the same way as Gael does, even if they are about to be wrenched apart. I can't wait to see how Ilami and co. go about proving the church's involvement in the experimentation, and I'm extra excited to see how it'll play out if the king ends up turning against them. The story is hotting up and I'm hungry for more.

Keep writing! :D
~Pan




Lightsong says...


I wasn notified for this. xD Thanks for the review! Haka did become touchy-feely after Gael was bullied, but I guess I have to make it more consistent. :D



Lightsong says...


I wasn notified for this. xD Thanks for the review! Haka did become touchy-feely after Gael was bullied, but I guess I have to make it more consistent. :D



Panikos says...


Yes, I'd say so. Also, given that Gael had been beaten up and was badly shaken, it didn't feel that notable that Haka was more gentle and touchy-feely with him - I put it down to protectiveness, not his culture. He needs to behave like that more often and in more contexts.




Perfection is lots of little things done well.
— Marco Pierre White