Tales of Raetrethra Vol. 2

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Fantasy Realm


Roland and Jemma discuss his relationship problems. Dezmond returns from Ranger training. Norah gets a pick-me-up.

Chapter 8 (v.1) - Chapter 8 - Time

Submitted: December 17, 2018

Reads: 117

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 17, 2018

A A A

A A A

Of all living creatures, the human race was most particular when it came to timekeeping.

Such was the species’ obsession with time, every person had a unique schedule; some parts shared by the majority. For example, most rose in the morning, worked the day away and slept through the night. They even performed certain activities within a strict time frame, such as when to eat and when to maintain personal hygiene.

But other than that, each person’s schedule was distinct. Some kept theirs as flexible as possible, others planned to the nearest minute.

Jemma was one such individual who belonged to the latter group. Such was her dedication to timekeeping, she developed an uncannily accurate perception of time’s flow.

So when she looked up to check the clock ticking away on a pillar, she was mere seconds off the mark. She had no way of guessing the time since there were no windows within this section of the library.

“It’s time. We should get going, Roland.”

She bade and started packing her things. Opposite her, the young man with ruffled blond hair went ‘huh’ and ‘oh’ before joining her in tidying the desk they occupied. Like a true gentleman would, he carried the hefty stack of books while she returned each item to their rightful shelves.

“Thanks again, Jemma. I wouldn’t be able to finish tomorrow’s essay without your help.”

“That’s not strictly true. You would finish it, but its quality…”

Jemma left the jibe hanging with a knowing smirk. Her condescending attitude might offend anyone else, yet Roland smiled sheepishly.

“Still, I can’t you believe you left it till the absolute last minute.”

Jemma chastised.

“I know it’s none of my business… but you should focus more on your studies and less on, erm…”

Without turning to face Roland, she retrieved and slotted the last book in its rightful place. After which they returned to collect their things.

“Yeah, you’re right.”

Roland gave a weak sigh. Ever since he and Victoria became official, a significant amount of his schedule became ‘couple-time’. They ranged from short lunch breaks and walking to class, to lengthy study dates and social outings. And though called ‘study date’, its purpose was closer to ‘date’ than study’.

Victoria had completed basic training with flying colours and was earning her commission through officer training. In contrast, Roland still had three months of basic training in addition to officer training. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to claim he had more on his plate, but using that excuse to justify his lagging performance would be pathetic, to say the least.

A simple solution would be reducing their time together, but therein lies the problem. Needy wouldn’t be the right term, and neither would possessive. If Roland had to say, Victoria simply enjoyed his companionship, and he hadn’t the heart to refuse her.

“But I don’t know why me.”

His remark made Jemma turn with a scrutinizing frown. He used to be infatuated with her blue eyes. Though he’d since outgrown that puppy-love, her eyes still retained their potent edge.

“I-I mean, of all people, she chose me. I don’t even know what I did to deserve her-”

Roland was cut off when the edge of a wooden ruler rapped the back of his head. He turned, expecting to witness a scowling librarian. Instead, the wooden ruler hovered in the air as if hung on see-through strings. Realizing who was responsible, he turned to meet Jemma’s rebuking gaze.

“That’s for insulting Victoria’s feelings.”

The Atlantian brunette scolded, her tone far more severe than when she chided Roland for leaving his assignments till the last minute. The ruler returned to her hand like a faithful pet, and she stowed it.

“Girls’ emotions are complicated, so don’t speculate on things you have no clue about. We also take time to decide if we like someone, instead of falling for them head-over-heels at first sight. Do you disagree?”

Roland felt the blood surge up his neck and radiate from his cheeks. He became infatuated with Jemma the instant they met, which she had to deal with for a whole year. Though they’ve moved on as mature adults would, it still served as an embarrassing chapter in Roland’s memory.

“Well, come on. We’re going to be late.”

Apparently deciding to spare him there, Jemma ushered and led the way out. On the way out, she threw him a bone.

“You know how Victoria is the honour student of her cohort, right?”

Besides physical beauty, Victoria excelled both physically and academically. Besides being the leader of her team, her charisma and leadership skills outshone the other team leaders of her cohort. Furthermore, she possessed a virtuous personality befitting a member of the Chaser family, an old patrician lineage.

“What was your first impression of her?”

Jemma inquired as they departed from the library. Outside the tall glass-paned windows, a murky dark-blue sky greeted them. Roland took the time to consider his answer.

“She was… cool, inspirational. Smart and strong, and treated everyone fairly.”

“But at the same time, she didn’t have any close friends. Not even within her team, isn’t that so?”

Jemma’s precise remark caught Roland off-guard. Even he didn’t know that till after they started dating. By comparison, he considered every member of his team as a close friend.

“How did-”

“It’s not a secret. I’d say even her own team knew but did nothing about it simply because they felt inferior to her. Didn’t you feel the same way?”

Several moments passed before Roland conceded a mute nod.

“She must have been lonely for a long time; being kept at arms-length with all those expectations forced upon her, which kept growing the harder she worked to meet them.”

Jemma spoke softly, but not out of concern of being overheard since no one else was around.

“Yet she’s like a different person around you.”

Roland wasn’t the type to brag. Rather, the few interactions Jemma witnessed were enough for the sharp girl to reach her current deductions.

“Why exactly she chose you over others, only she would know. As to why she’s attached to you, I think it’s simple. She feels comfortable being her real self – whom she hides from everyone else – around you.”

Though none of Jemma’s statements were particularly insightful, they made sense. Having been born an Ironheart, a long-standing family of soldiers, Roland learned about courage, honour, and duty before he could walk. His father a war hero with the rank of general and his older brother a prodigy in all forms of military doctrines, many expected similar greatness from the younger Ironheart.

However, from a very young age, Roland proved to be mediocre at best. Mocked by his peers and repulsed by his own father, he was forced to join the Guardians as a final attempt of earning glory for the family name. Since then Roland had yet to be contacted by his father, though he kept close correspondence with his brother, with whom he shared a close bond.

So despite wishing for something more profound, Roland knew Jemma likely spoke the truth. In his contemplation, he failed to notice the Atlantian scrutinize him from the corner of her eyes.

How those two fell for him, I can never figure that out…

Suppressing a sigh, Jemma murmured to herself.

***

“Three! Two! One! Congratulations on your Ranger promotion, Dezmond!”

Thirty-or-so voices clamoured, raising their glasses and cups at the newly promoted Aszyrian ranger. It was the start of dinnertime and they were not the only ones occupying the plain mess hall dedicated for trainees. Even so, trainees from other cohorts added to the merriness by cheering and voicing congratulations of their own.

The one person who seemed out-of-place was the subject of this celebration, an awkward smile fixed on his face.

Less than three hours had passed since Dezmond’s sudden graduation from trainee to Ranger, during which he merely washed up, packed his belongings and bade the other Rangers-in-training goodbye before departing from their training camp. Ten minutes later, he was accosted by members of his cohort who dragged him here. Word of his achievement had obviously spread, and his peers wanted to celebrate.

Though Dezmond had nothing against celebrating, he was taken aback by their fervorous energy. It was as if he had won a prestigious medal.

But in a sense, he had. While the Ranger training programme lasted three months – of which he’d completed two – one could graduate at any time should they be deemed fit to do so. He was far from the first person to graduate early, but that was beside the point.

Furthermore, he hadn’t slept in the last forty hours. It took a great effort just to recognize individual faces. Thankfully, several very familiar faces were present: Roland, Jemma, and Irene. Once the toast was over and micro-groups formed, Dezmond sidled towards them, his awkward smile turning furtive.

“Congrats, Dezmond!”

Irene beamed, her youthful innocence threatening to blind him. Mental exhaustion compounded by physical exertion made Dezmond’s mind malleable like melted cheese; a perfect ground for conjuring illusions. Without thinking about it, he reached out and ruffled her brown hair.

“Thanks… Ah… Eh-”

Realizing his mistake, Dezmond withdrew. Thanking his Aszyrian ancestry for granting him earth-brown skin with which to hide blushes, he chuckled at his teammates’ confused looks.

“Sorry. I mistook you for Rashi…”

Rashi was one of seventeen orphans Dezmond cared for before joining the Guardians, and the reason why the team went AWOL. After the events in Aszyria, the orphans were granted asylum in Cambreford. During his days off, one would find Dezmond at the orphanage assisting the matrons.

“Ouch. Dezmond mistook you for an eight-year-old, Irene! Aren’t you upset?”

The only thing sympathetic about Jemma’s remark was the words. The coddling tone she used fitted that of addressing a child, so did her act of reaching over the table to prod Irene’s soft cheek.

To nobody’s surprise, Irene reacted with a humoured ‘ehehe’. They were certain her past life was a dog which never outgrew its puppy years.

 “Here, drinks are on us tonight.”

Roland passed Dezmond a glass of cider once the Aszyrian seated himself beside Irene.

“It’s a shame Aria and Elfred can’t take time off, but…”

While voicing her disappointment, Irene looked around.

“Where’s Norah and Nemo?”

“Nemo’s busy with work. Norah’s helping him.”

Roland casually answered.

One major responsibility of a team leader was to ensure every member was accounted for. While Roland needn’t bother keeping tabs on the Rangers-in-training, Nemo and Norah had to keep him updated with scheduled reports. Its purpose was to cultivate management skills while serving as a means of ensuring nobody went missing.

Of course, it became pointless should the entire team – leader and all – go AWOL.

“Norah… is?”

Dezmond inquired, caught off-guard by the news. The last time they spoke – several weeks ago – she mentioned applying for an internship in the Foreign Service department, the diplomatic arm of the Guardian Organization.

“Oh, that’s right, you haven’t heard. There’s been a string of kidnappings in the city. Nemo’s one of the detectives charged with solving the case. He got Norah to help him.”

Irene summarized. Jemma uttered a contemplative hum.

“She’s recently been going out late at night and returning early in the morning, just like how she used to all those months ago. At first, I mistakenly thought she was sneaking out to go on secret dates. Like a certain someone else.”

Jemma shot a teasing glance at Roland, who squirmed.

Of the four men within the team, only Nemo spoke about his prolific encounters as if it was the weather. Of the remaining three, two were tight as clams and the last boasted no interest in it.

“A-anyway, how are Aria and Elfred?

 Pretending to be unruffled, Roland asked Dezmond.

“Ah, they’re…”

Though glad at the change in topic, Dezmond hesitated before forcing the words through a bitter mouth.

“They’re fine. They send their regards.”

Jemma went ‘hmm’ with a wry smirk.

“Aria must be fuming for not being here. I bet when she comes back, she’s going to make us go clubbing again…”

From there, Dezmond lost track of the conversation. Though he hadn’t lied, it also wasn’t the truth, since only Aria had asked him to second her regards. He hadn’t seen Elfred since being promoted.

He had no evidence to indicate Elfred was avoiding him. More likely, the Aragonian had other things to do and could not take time to see him off. In fact, only a quarter of his training group was present when he departed. Even so, an unpleasant thing called intuition told him he was being avoided.

Despite their differing opinions, Dezmond knew the man did what he believed was right, and could not fault him for it. Moreover, they were friends; the fact they parted ways under such ambiguous terms left a bitter taste in his mouth.

“… lo… hello?”

Dezmond jolted when a small hand waved before his eyes, at the same time registering Jemma’s voice calling him.

“Are you alright? You don’t look well.”

“… Sleepy.”

He mumbled another half-truth.

“Oh. Maybe you should go to bed early before someone decides to throw an after party.”

Looking around, many of their peers were drinking heartily, none keen on retiring anytime soon. While all of them had lessons or training the next day, they were also hot-blooded young men and women.

“Hei, if you want… Irene or I could distort the light around you to make you near invisible, so you could leave without being seen?”

“Jemma… that’s a violation against the rules…”

Roland criticized with a concerned frown. It would be a different matter if they were full-fledged Guardians, but trainees were restricted from manipulating Shard Energy outside lessons. Using Shard Energy in public was also an offence, even for menial things like manipulating a ruler to rap another’s head.

“Don’t worry, we’ll do it for you too. Don’t you have a date with Victoria around now?”

Her prophetic remark made Roland’s face go through a series of conflicting changes. Anyone who spots him leaving during the middle of this celebration would undoubtedly guess where he was going, leading to snide rumours of him not caring about his own team. If he were a better man he would ignore them, but he wasn’t.

Before long, he slumped. He looked to Dezmond for a second opinion. The Aszyrian Ranger shrugged. Team leader and Ranger, both defeated by words.

“… If you please.”

After a few minutes of idle chatter between the four, Roland’s seat became unoccupied. It occurred so naturally, a person looking their way without paying attention could have blinked and not realized someone was missing. Twice as long later, Dezmond also vanished, leaving the two girls alone at their table.

Before long, opportunists approached like flies to fruits.

“Good evening, ladies. May we request your company?”

If one must insist on ranking all the women in the trainee cohort by physical attractiveness, both Irene and Jemma would belong to the better half; the latter’s chestnut-brown hair and piercing blue eyes scoring bonus points.

However, one girl considered romance to be an unnecessary distraction to her studies, while the other viewed it from the perspective of a pre-pubescent bookworm; in other words, fascinated to read about in novels, but uninterested in experiencing it herself.

So to spare the hot-blooded opportunists from needless embarrassment, all that should be said of Jemma’s response was plain and blunt. Nobody’s pride was hurt that night. Promise.

***

Shortly after exiting the mess hall, Dezmond re-materialized. His see-through body turned frosted, took on vague colours, and finally became corporeal. By luck or planning on the girls’ part, no one was around to witness his sudden reappearance.

“… So strange…”

Mumbling to himself, Dezmond curled his fingers to witness vague distortions in their physical appearance, which within seconds faded to normalcy.

While invisible, it felt like he had been encased in a full-body suit that had been left in a cold room. The sensation went away once he reappeared, but the chill lingered. Having no aptitude in manipulating Shard Energy, everything about it felt alien to his senses.

While rubbing his forearms in a futile attempt of kneading out the strange sensation, Dezmond made his way back to the team’s shared accommodation. Sleep deprivation, compounded with not returning in two months, made the journey less certain than usual. But as a bonus, he needn’t carry his belongings because his peers already did.

In time, he arrived at a familiar door. It had no number or nameplate and was identical in appearance to every other door on the floor. But, he knew it was the right one. Why? Because his rucksack leaned against it as if waiting impatiently for his return.

The key he inserted into the lock made an affirmative click, and the door opened without resistance. Within, an unlit hallway led straight to a joined living-space/kitchen/dining area, and two closed dormitory doors; men’s on the right and women’s on the left.

Lifting the rucksack with one hand, Dezmond stepped inside, closed and locked the front door, and entered the men’s dorm. Of the four sets of beds, storage trunks, and drawers, just one looked to be in use; Roland’s.

An instant after opening the door, a chilled draft wafted against Dezmond from the direction of the shared living space. Figuring someone had left a window unclosed, he laid the rucksack against the foot of his bed and went to investigate.

Unlike the dark hallway, the shared living space was illuminated by mild moonlight streaming through windows whose curtains were pulled back. On the right, two settees and a few chairs surrounded a low coffee table. On the left, a dining table with eight chairs tucked under, followed by a basic kitchen.

Since only Irene, Jemma, and Roland currently occupied the dorm, the shared living space was appropriately half as messy compared to before… not.

Only the dish-drying rack was half as messy. The dining table surface was occupied by heavy books and various stationeries, and numerous paperbacks lay on the coffee table. If anything, the place was messier than before!

“Jemma… Irene…”

Grumbling the names of the two responsible individuals, Dezmond added ‘cleaning up their mess’ to tomorrow’s morning schedule. As for the draft’s source: a window with its shutters left wide open.

Dezmond went to close the shutters, but paused to take in the sight afforded from the fourth-storey window facing the city.

At night, Cambreford was unlike any other city. In contrast to the yellow and orange glow of burning oil or gas lamps found everywhere else, electric lamps of white and blue dominated the technologically advanced city. And there were thousands upon thousands of them; lining the streets, illuminating homes, shops, and offices.

From afar, the flames of gas and oil lamps resembled fireflies. By contrast, the spherical glow of electric lamps resembled stars. For Dezmond, the former invoked nostalgia while the latter filled him with wonder; a pleasant sight either way.

As he reached for the shutter-

“Don’t.”

Called a familiar voice from outside.

Leaning out and turning towards the source, Dezmond witnessed a petite pair of bare feet dangling at head-height. Above the thin ankles, their slim calves and legs were covered in form-fitting trousers. They belonged to his fellow Aszyrian and lover, Norah, who sat on a ledge above the window.

“Welcome back.”

Norah bade, a faint smile on her otherwise impassive face. Due to the obtuse angle between them, she could barely bend her neck to look down at him while keeping her torso facing ahead. As a result, half her face remained obscured by neck-length black hair.

“Hei…”

Dezmond replied awkwardly, his heart palpitating for reasons other than surprise or joy at seeing her.

To get to where Norah was sitting on, she had to climb out, stand on the windowsill, reach for and pull herself up the ledge. The ledge was a mere foot wide and shaped like a shallow bowl to carry rainwater from the wall – the end. One mistake and she would splatter on the stone pavement four floors below.

But for Norah, given her delicate build and accomplished climbing skills, getting there would be an un-challenging affair. As such, Dezmond hadn’t asked how she got there, but rather-

“What are you doing there?”

Norah’s eyes glinted with mischief at Dezmond’s perplexed frown. Though mere seconds passed before she replied, it felt much longer.

“Just taking in the sights.”

Then, without warning, she turned her entire body, to the point a mere one-half of her left buttock remained on the ledge. Reaching over to grasp the ledge above the window with both hands, she looked down at her lover’s shocked face.

“Catch.”

She ordered before pushing herself off the ledge. For a brief moment, her sitting form lingered just beyond the ledge, presenting the illusion of holding herself up using ten mere fingers. However, she possessed no iron grip and gravity was God, so she fell.

‘W-whoa!”

The moment she voiced her intentions, Dezmond reacted. Thankfully, Norah’s heels were a breath’s width when she started falling, so by the time his arms flung out and closed around her descending body, he caught her around the waist and pulled her into a bear hug. At that point, her arms circled his neck and they held onto the other for dear life.

“Norah! What were you thinking!?”

Dezmond bellowed, not caring if his voice caused disturbance to their neighbours. A chill enveloped him, despite the warmth rushing through his body due to a pounding heartbeat. Without further ado, he pulled Norah through the window to safety.  He figured she would let go at that point, but her grip around his neck remained firm. She didn’t seem terrified, so why-

“Just stay like this.”

Beseeched, ordered, requested; all those terms didn’t fit the way Norah just spoke, which worried Dezmond more.

Under normal circumstances, her forehead barely reached his shoulder, but now her budding chest was pressed against his crown. Most men would swell at this fantasy-fulfilled development, but Dezmond knew her too well. Something was very wrong if she – who considered holding hands an excessive show of affection – clung to him as if they’d been separated for years. Even then, he wondered if she’d react with such passion.

Seeing no reason to refuse her, Dezmond maintained his grip. Not a difficult task, given her size and weight. Though objectively speaking, she was heavier compared to half a year ago.

Not knowing how long this would last, Dezmond sidestepped towards the dining table, nudged a chair out with one leg, and gently sat down. When his arms relaxed, Norah slid down and sat across his lap, at which point he embraced her around the shoulders.

With those simple motions, they went from an awkward cling into a warm and supportive embrace. They remained like that for some time, minutes at least. No words were spoken. When Norah’s grip gradually loosened, he asked.

“Did something happen?”

Despite asking, he wouldn’t be surprised if he received no response.

“Yeah…”

Timidly, the single word escaped Norah. After taking a breath to compose herself, she elaborated. Unlike her usual short sentences delivered with blunt simplicity, the words flowed from her like water from a mountain stream; a mere trickle at the beginning, but increasing in flow, speed, and intensity the further it went.

From meeting Nemo on a roof to her humiliation in a nightclub, she left nothing unsaid. Just minutes ago, Dezmond was tired enough to sleep standing. But now, he listened with rapt attention. If nothing else, her reckless stunt had wiped away any hint of drowsiness. He knew not how much time passed.

Finally, Norah reached the end of her plight. She leaned back, looked into his eyes, and asked.

“What should I do?”

If this were fiction, Dezmond would have spouted clichéd lines of reassurance. Something along the lines of trusting her heart and promising to support her no matter what. So when he spoke, it wasn’t what she wanted to hear.

“You should keep helping Nemo.”

Norah flinched as if she had been physically struck. Yet she didn’t pull away or retort in anger. Instead, she waited for an explanation.

“When you told Nemo to find someone else, it wasn’t just because you lacked confidence in yourself. You were trying to run away. Am I wrong?”

Like an honest child, Norah’s gaze fell.

“And that’s fine. You aren’t obligated to help Nemo. But even so…”

Before continuing, Dezmond freed one hand to brush back her loose strands of hair, coaxing Norah to look at him once more. Despite the distance, he could not tell where her irises ended and where her pupils began.

“You want to save those missing people, don’t you?”

As if his words chilled her, Norah shivered. However, her gaze remained fixed on him. She made slow, deliberate nods, and he rewarded her with a gentle smile.

“Then go for it. You can do it, you’re strong.”

“No, I’m not.”

Norah denied with a frown.

“Yes, you are. I could never climb out windows or up buildings.”

Dezmond’s quip earned a smirk from her. Not knowing what else to say, he gently embraced her again. This time, she relaxed and leaned into him. For a while they remained that way, enjoying each other’s company. Before long, he felt the Ranger badge pinned on his shirt being fiddled with.

“Congratulations.”

“Thanks.”

“… Welcome back.”

Despite repeating what she’d said before, its significance differed greatly. Before it sounded like a curt greeting, now it was full to the brim with emotion, threatening to overflow.

“I’m back…”

Pouring all his affection into the reply, Dezmond held Norah just a little tighter. Her body felt so fragile within his arms, her scent so tantalizing.

“Hei… too tight…”

Norah complained. Begrudgingly, Dezmond let go. He looked down to see her face less a hand’s width from his, staring at him nervously.

Without any sign or signal from either party, they closed the distance by an inch, and another. They could count the lashes on the other’s-

A solid thump resounded from below, and their foreheads collided.

“Ouch…!”

“….”

Both Dezmond and Norah leaned back, groaning, each nursing a throbbing brow.

“That guy…”

While holding her forehead, Norah hissed and glared at the floor as if intending on piercing through the carpet and wood.

“What?”

“The fellow underneath started lifting weights at night. It becomes impossible to sleep.”

As if on cue, another thunk resounded from below. Even so, Dezmond refused to allow the moment they developed to go to waste.

“Ah-hei, wait, what-!?”

While shifting his grip, Dezmond rose, lifted Norah like a bride, and proceeded to carry her into the hallway towards the dorms.

“W-wait, now…? Someone might come back…!”

Norah protested. Her skin tone was pale compared to most Aszyrians, meaning when she blushed, it was noticeable even in the dim light.

“Roland’s on a date, so we’ve got time. But I’ll lock the door just in case.”

Dezmond assured, keeping a firm hold on his quarry as they approached the half-open men’s dorm. In the meantime, another thunk resounded from below. Perhaps sleep deprivation made him frisky, for Dezmond added.

“Let’s not lose to him, alright?”

Norah’s blush spread to both ears and down her neck, and she struck his chest with all her might.

“Y-you… you beast!”

Dezmond chuckled at his lover’s fluster. That’s not to say her punch didn’t hurt, but a lover’s bite was supposed to anyway.

In hindsight, he should have walked faster. Because when they were several steps from their destination, a click resounded from their flat door.

Both Aszyrians froze.

“Put me down, now!”

Norah hissed, writhing in his arms like a wildcat. In spite of her frantic insistence, Dezmond could not simply drop and risk injuring his beloved. He only managed to lower her feet to the ground when the door swung open, revealing two girls who should still be at a party.

“Hei, the party finished once they realized you-”

Jemma’s blue eyes shone in the darkness, and they glanced between the two Aszyrians still holding one another. Beside her, Irene’s hands moved faster than lightning to cover the ‘O’ made by her gaping jaw.

“Irene. Let’s go for a walk.”

Clamping onto the other girl’s arm, Jemma spun, marched out and let the door close by momentum.

 Silence prevailed for several seconds.

“Let’s… Just… Another time.”

Norah mumbled. As if declaring victory, a loud thunk resounded from the floor below.

***

First of all, thank you very much for reading Tales of Raetrethra. This chapter marks the two-thirds point of this volume’s first story-arc.

Blazing summer and bipolar autumn have passed in Norwich, it is now well into winter. It’s only 4 pm as I write this, yet the sun had set half an hour ago. How depressing.

Truth be told, I don’t know where I am going to go with this series. Not in terms of plot development, I’ve by and large got the main events down. Rather, I don’t know whether I’m going to keep writing and posting them online.

Why? Well, the main reason is, I don’t make a single cent from it. Sure, it’s encouraging to watch the read statistics crawl up; it’s fun calculating when I’ll make it to 20k reads, 50k, 100k, etc. But unfortunately, the ends must justify the means. At least a thousand work-hours has been put into this project since its inception in 2016, and earning nothing from it is frankly disappointing.

Of course, in an ideal world, ‘personal satisfaction’ and ‘valuable learning experience’ would be enough, but sadly reality is less kind. I have neither the financial support nor the mental complacency to be satisfied with feelings alone.

So as a result, I’ve decided. I’ll keep writing at least until the second volume. After that, we’ll see. It would be a dream-come-true if it gets accepted for publishing. Or maybe I should start a crowdfunder.

Or perhaps after trying and failing, I’ll come crawling back like the prodigal son.

In any case, I hope you (the reader) would continue to support this work. I’ll do my best to keep this project alive while doing my Ph.D.

Let’s meet again in January. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

AJLKS


© Copyright 2020 AJLKS. All rights reserved.

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