“Nayla, I have done as much as I could possibly do for you,” whispered the Elf. “You will be safe here, away from your father. And for once, you shall have other children to play with. I promise you, it will not be that bad. You must give this new life a chance.”
Nayla’s heart was numbed by the very fact that he, the only person aside from her mother to ever show a grain of interest or concern for her well-being, was about to leave her in the company of strangers.
“Your mother was well loved and respected by the people of Anshen. Do her proud, Nayla; keep your chin up,” ordered Joval, his hand gently lifting her face so their eyes could meet. “Be mindful of Master Saibon, for he has much to show and teach you.”
“What can he teach me that you cannot?” asked Nayla.
“Did you not say you wished to become a Kagai Warrior?” queried the Elf.
Her eyes opened wide at the possibility.
“If you wish to learn the secrets of these great warriors, you would be wise to learn from the best. Do you not agree?”
Nayla nodded her head in understanding.
“Good,” said Joval, with an approving smile. “In time, Master Saibon can tell you stories about your mother that will make your hair stand on end! You will soon discover how much of your mother lives on through you, through your words and your actions.”
“Joval! We must be on our way,” urged Valtar, his hand shielding his eyes from the golden rays of the sun that now burst over the distant mountains.
“Perhaps one day, we shall meet again, Nayla,” said Joval, gathering his steed’s reins.
The child shook her head as she replied, “No. If I become a Kagai Warrior, I shall go through this world unseen and unheard. I will be nothing more than a shadow.”
Joval’s head cocked in bewilderment, uncertain if these were the words of a bitter child or one who truly wished to pursue this treacherous vocation.
“Listen to Master Saibon, or you shall have to answer to me,” cautioned the Elf, wheeling his stallion about.
Her shoulders slumped in dejection as she watched both Joval and Valtar charge off westward, disappearing into the early morning mist.
Chusai Saibon stood next to her, observing their departure. He gazed down at the girl as he spoke with a kind smile: “Today is the beginning of a new life for you, my child.”
“If I am to begin a new life, then I no longer wish to be the daughter of a high Elf,” decided Nayla. “I no longer wish to be cursed with the Treeborn name.”
“Very well then,” agreed the warrior priest. “What name do you wish?”
Nayla shrugged as she responded: “My father called me by many names, but none that is appropriate to repeat.”
“What name did your mother call you by?”
“My Taijin name is Takaro,” answered the child.
“Why do we not call you Takaro then?” suggested the old warrior, smiling down at his new charge. “It is a lovely name.”
“I have not been called by this name since my mother died,” she replied wistfully.
“Do you know what Takaro means in my people’s language?” he asked.
“My mother once told me, but I do not remember,” responded the girl, shaking her head in sadness.
“It means Noble Child and I do believe you have the character and fortitude to live up to the name,” said Saibon, with a knowing smile.
“Nobody’s Child would be more fitting. I am not destined for nobility or greatness. I am a nobody.”
“Well, Takaro, it is my understanding that you wish to become a Kagai Warrior. Now, that is a grand aspiration indeed, especially for a girl!”
“Grand, yes, but it is not impossible,” replied Chusai Saibon. “If that be the case, there is much work to be done, Takaro.”
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