On the night of the proposal, John is brooding over the mother's temperament. 'That you're willing to protect your son at all costs is admirable. But the future you seek for him...' he contemplates solemnly. Sighing his thoughts turn to the last days of his life.
A few months before the end the sects head summoned the branch chiefs to give them the bad news. As the leader of the gardening branch of the sect, John too was scheduled to attend. Normally he wouldn't be invited to important meetings but today was different.
The sect head was a graying old man whose skin seems to be melting off his bones. John thought the ancient man couldn't look any older then he did. But the recent events proved otherwise. The sect head was haggard and downtrodden as the branch chiefs file in.
The mood was dark as everyone had heard the rumors of Terry Lohkam deranged proclamation. Everyone took their seats at the ancient meeting table. The sect head stood and solemnly looked at the men and women around him. He'd seen many of them grow up and sacrifice to reach here.
With a voice that sounded like crackling leaves the sect head solemnly addressed the chiefs, "I'm sure you've heard the news... I'm afraid it's all true. It hasn't been too long since the Lamenters war and now this." He sighed, looking into the distance as if he could see all those he'd sent to their deaths.
The chief of the right a muscular man pounds his fist onto the table. "If that little bastard dares to come here we'll rip him apart!" he rages. "Yeah! That's right sect head don't look so down," some of the other chiefs cheer in confirmation.
The chief gestures for them to settle down. He then says, "I'm glad your all enthusiastic. Still, we shouldn't underestimate our enemy. Many of you are new to your positions. You should all make your own preparations. I trust you all to perform admirably."
After some planning and coordinating between the branch the heads started to file out. As John stood up to leave the discipline head remarked, "Why did you even bother to come? We might as well cut our own stomachs if we need help from you weaklings." As he walks by he rudely shoves John not Showing him any respect.
John sighs as he rubs his head. He then continues towards the door as the Chief finishes speaking to the head of the library. "Come here. I want to have a chat with you as well," the chief says while gesturing for John to come over. "Chief," John says while saluting. He then moves over while some of the other heads sneer at him.
As John nears the old chief eyes focus on him. "You shouldn't listen to them. While their talents may be beyond you, there are few that can match your accomplishments," the chief consoles John. John shakes his head and responds courteously, "Chief there is no need to flatter me. I know my abilities quite well."
The chief gives a rattling sigh. "I mean it. Just surviving the Lamenter wars is accomplishment enough. Also, you've stayed in the gardening division your whole time here. Most would have long left when they had the strength. Well, other may not appreciate it I do. To have someone who is knowledgeable and strong enough to be a head in this position is rare," the chief praises him.
"Thank you chief. Your words make all the trials worth it," John said with a slight smile. He isn't feeling very comfortable about this conversation. 'Is he trying to butter me up for some bullshit mission,' he wondered.
"I appreciate that you aren't a hot head too. I've told a few heads this already. But if you wish to leave you should take those below you and escape. I believe this is the end of this sect," the chief states as he wheezes.
John stared intently at the old man. This great chief was once so domineering that every disciple feared him. Now though he's nothing but a feeble old man waiting for death. John shakes his head and responds to the old chief, "I didn't desert during the Lamenter wars, and I won't be deserting now. I may be weak, but I have my own plans to set up for the coming battle. If you will give me leave chief?" As he ends he bows respectfully to the old chief, who had shouldered this sect for so long. The chief smiles happily and waives John away, "Go then."
As John returns to the gardens the disciples have already long heard the dire news. The gardening assistant ran over to him in a disheveled state from worry. "Gardener head what should we do?" The assistant asks.
John frowns and slaps the side of his assistants head. "Why are you panicking? At least pretend to be a good role model. Do you think I'm wheat that will be easily reaped? No, I've already prepared a plan," John lectures his assistant in a loud voice making sure everyone heard him. The disciples' eyes glowed with admiration. "That's our head for you!" some of the younger disciples exclaimed.
"Is that true?!" the assistant asked skeptically. Well, he knew the head was a good gardener, but he never seemed reliable to him. "haha, of course, first gather the strongest disciples and prepare for a journey. When they've been chosen report back to me with them," John told his assistant. "Right away head," the assistant says while saluting.
John returned to his personal garden and home. As he looks at the exotic plants, he began to feel depressed. He'd spent more than half his life to creating his collection. He slowly walked towards his prize possession. A bright water lily. He had found it on accident when he fell into a hidden cavern while on an exhibition. Even after all this time, John couldn't identify the flower.
As John neared the pool that housed the water lily, it floated towards him. He gently put his hand in the water to rub the leaves of the plant. He then examined the bright red petals that seemed to say 'look at me. I'm here!' The lily seemed to like him for some reason. When they first met it too floated over to him.
"Grow up strong, okay? There isn't much..." as he was confiding in the lily, he was cut off by his assistant returning. "Head!" they call as they salute. John looked over the five disciples. They are all at Provenance stage. Well, he knew it'd be this way. 'Being just above Foundation stage would normally be strong enough to travel safely. However, in these dangerous times where the sect couldn't protect them,' John worried.
"Thanks for quickly heeding my call," John stated casually with a smile. "It's our duty to come when called!" one of the disciples said enthusiastically. "There is no need to be tense. I just need you all to deliver this letter to my friend Felix Snow," the gardener head then produced a letter and handed it to his assistant. The assistant took the letter submissively and stored it away.
"You should find him in Peach Blossom city of Dark Cloud prefecture. Speed is important, but I fear it won't be a safe trip. So you should take this letter of introduction to the Jam clan. They owe me a favor..." John continues to explain before pausing. He then sighs and produced a large sack full of spirit stones. "Take this as well. Not everyone will honor favors. With this, you can pay them off. If they still won't give in. Use this in the city center!" John said pulling out a ball covered in runes. "At least we can have some petty victory over the bastards," he says with a mischievous smile.
John then hands the letter of introduction, spirit stones, and ball to his assistant. As John does he walks next to him and pats him on the shoulder. "If there is any left keep it. There's no need to force yourselves to come back after you finish," he stated solemnly.
"We would never," the disciples began to protest, but John waives them to silence. "Don't throw your lives away pointlessly here. Now head out!" he yells while pointing to the exit with a dramatic flair. The disciples bow deeply before leaving. The young men are barely able to contain their tears as they take one last look at their head.
Thanks for reading!
I love you guys. Thanks for all the support even when I'm in a rough way and not releasing like I should. I'm so honored!
I hope you all enjoy this back flash. I was going to put this later in the story but it works well here to show how John feels and give him more character development.
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