1 Prologue

'I had always found it funny- these dreams of mine, where worlds catered to individuals with fame- Fame that garnered attention, respect, adoration, even worship in some cases. This version of stardom seemed so trivial to me, fame in its entirety was merely a material desire driven by the need to nurture one's ego to derive pleasure.

These worlds...these entities… they felt so deliriously distinct yet so tiringly close to me, so much so, that I no longer needed to pay them any attention. Fame is irrelevant to me, I seek strength, I seek power, I seek Immortality itself! Is something as trivial as fame even comparable to my ambitions?'

"Brother!! You're gonna become so popular now!! The School of Sentience sent you an offer letter! Here, quick, open it!!'" A petite girl dressed in an adorable skirt had barged into Kerian's room

"Aye… Could you please knock on the door next time, little one? Your brother got startled!" Kerian took a deep breath as he gently chided Tama.

"Ah, Sorry Brother" Tama smiled as Kerian gently patted her cheeks

"You were saying that I got an offer letter from the School of Sentience?"

"YES!!! The bald man just gave it to me, here, open it! Quick!!" Tama handed over a plain, brown, sealed envelope.

Kerian fixated his eyes on the seal, his thoughts calm at times, hurried at times, pained and happy at times only for the sea to regain its silence. ' A dragon in the skies, a sword stuck in between its brows and the silhouette of a man encompassing everything… isn't this…!' His thoughts dissipated as he heard a voice resound in his head.

'The beast of majesty and crashing thunder

A roar of time, and the lands asunder

A being of honour layeth down his sword

And the Dragon fell, a valley left scarred

We await, our sentience in need

Of you, if you still deem us worthy, we plead

Do unto us this act of grace

As our ancestors once sought you with nay malice nor greed

The School of Sentience shall forever be in your debts'

The room became silent for a while, Tama looked on impatiently, and just as she was about to speak, she saw her brother completely focused, his eyes slightly open, a dangerous shine to them, glaring at the envelope... Tama knew it was not the right time for her to be restless, She had seen these eyes of her brother's a few times before- when the old bald man had once come home to talk to him, when he looked up at the sky during that storm a few years ago, and most recently, he had looked at Tama with these eyes during her 9th Birthday.

She had never, ever been frightened of her Brother before, but that day, a sense of dread came over her nerves and she had fainted only to wake the next morning to find her brother's kind eyes and loving smile, he was back to his usual bearing.

There was still a slight discomfort in Tama's heart, every time her brother had these eyes, things would always be so... gloomy. It was as if his mood affected the nature around him- The air would become dry and sharp, the sounds would fade away into nothingness, Time itself seemed to go still. Tama was not sure, nor did she have it in her limited vocabulary to give this bizarre circumstance a word or definition. She only knew that her Brother was...different...special.

Growing up had always been difficult for this pair of siblings, according to her brother, Tama was just a fragile babe when their parents left them both in the care of a dear friend of theirs. At that time, Kerian was only 12, and he not only had the responsibility of taking care of his little sister but also had to pay 'rent' to their caretaker in their parents' steed. He worked on the fields, weeding it out every day, tilling the soil, feeding the goats and cows, cleaning the barn and the house, going to a night school. He barely had any energy left to sleep, much less tend to the needs of a newborn, but he took care of Tama with every nerve and sinew he could muster

He had worked so hard, it was only at the age of 16 that he finally had enough money to not just pay the accumulated 'rent', but also buy their freedom from their caretaker… At least, that's what Kerian had told little Tama

But she remembered bits and pieces, that night, the caretaker and her husband were down on their knees, sobbing, sweating, as her brother held her in his arms, the 4-year-old Tama half-asleep, yet awake enough to commit to memory a few words that were spoken by her Brother as he looked down on their caretaker, with these very eyes

"A river cares not of the rocks that lay in pretence"

She had always wondered what it meant, though she knew the words, the meaning was out of her reach.

"Tama? are you alright?" Kerian's voice broke her reverie

"Ah, I'm alright brother!! Was just thinking about mama and papa" Tama's voice grew frail

Kerian gently lifted her and sat her down on his lap, patting her head slowly "It is ok little one, I'm here"

"Mhmm, you are always with me! You are the best brother in the world!!" Tama hugged Kerian as a drop of tear escaped her eyes.

Kerian could only sigh, the void left behind by a mother and a father was not something he could ever hope to fill for Tama. He could only continue to do his best.

'But now… sigh… School of Sentience is it? This better be worth my while you old senile bastards' He clenched the envelope as it slowly disintegrated, atom by atom.

Far away, in the outskirts of Layan City where Kerian resided, A tiny shack atop a mountain stood the test of time. It could only be described as Bare and bizarre. Bare, for there was nothing in it, bizarre because one could see a humanoid figure sitting cross-legged in the centre of the shack- his beard outgrowing his entire length, his hands and legs so thin even a gentle breeze could break them, his chest caved in and his face full of lines and freckles.

Some would argue that this humanoid being had been meditating ever since the beginning of time itself. But those with power would know better. This was a sage, someone whose mere flick of the wrist could devastate entire cities, whose thoughts dictated the weather, whose eyes could see beyond the mortal coil.

And at that moment, his entire body trembled, his freckles faded away, his chest now resplendent with vitality, his hands and legs filled with the vigour of youth, all in but a mere moment. Many of those on seats of power would term this change as a miraculous opportunity, an advancement to a higher stage of consciousness. This was a phenomenon that would take aeons of practice and patience, The sage had now touched upon the boundaries of immortality.

He should have been exhilarated, anyone who could achieve what he had at that moment would be over the moon, but he wasn't. His eyes were filled with dread, his hands couldn't stop trembling, he tried standing up only to fall on his knees, perspiring strenuously. The skies above his humble abode roared and tremored as a pair of eyes seemed to look down upon him.

The Sage could only continue kneeling, his consciousness barely hanging on, the pressure he felt at that moment, the pressure those eyes looking down at him emanated, it was as if the entire world condensed to a single point on the back of his neck.

And in but a fraction of a second, the pressure vanished along with those overbearing eyes. It seemed to have happened instantly, but it was like a million years for the sage.

He slowly, albeit shakily, got to his feet, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. It was a warning.

"The heralder of change has descended!"

The Principal of the School of Sentience, Ludwin Adder's voice resonated across the world.

"Nihility arrives"