After leaving a stack of hay with an order to weave until not a straw was left, they left to visit dreamland while Agrias spent the entire night weaving hay into baskets, who had a little trouble sitting on the wooden stool. Though the pain made crying tempting, but Agrias was sure that knights, especially Sir Rantoul, do not shed tears so she held onto them and after peeking at the crest, the desire stopped altogether.
Night soon became daylight and the sleepy sun stretched its lazy rays across the land of Ivalice. Another start to a miserable and dull day but with a hopeful heart instead. Agrias stood up from the repetitive and boring task then stretched her numb limbs. After splashing her face with water and fully awake, she gathered the freshly woven baskets and brought them to the cart outside. Not wanting to face her mother's wrath so early in the morning, she left early while hiding the leftover straws in the bush on her way, taking extra care not to let the door creek as she closed it behind her.
As she walked through the forest to her usual destination, Agrias ran through her plan once again, which she formed that very night (and day) of monotonous weaving. She was going to make extra baskets to save gil. Combined with the two gold coins, she should have enough in another two to three years to travel to Gariland Academy, instead of the local one. If she was going to become a knight, might as well aim higher. It will be quite some time before that day will arrive but until then, Agrias had steadied her will to endure whatever that will stand in her way.
'I'll train hard and become a knight and kiss this hell goodbye. I'm going to fight wars, save princesses and help innocent people.'
Cleaning the land of bullies suddenly popped into her head so she added that to her to-do list as well.
'And I'm never going to marry and lean on a man for support. The soon-to-be bestest lady knight in Ivalice can take care of herself.'
Getting married and having kins simply wasn't in Agrias's agenda. Though this was common for almost all female commoners, she was determined to live a life totally different and break the trend. There was no way she'll follow the same footsteps as her mother. At that thought, she shivered and reminded herself that she had to keep in shape, never gossip or yell or be greedy or nosy or witchy or gamble or anything her parents were.
Counting the Plintal couple's flaws was more then enough to pass time and soon, Agrias was there, once again, at the entrance of the gates of Hell. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes as she recalled every word of Sir Rantoul; his teachings and especially the last sentence he said before leaving.
'Pride and honor...kick their sorry cowardly arses the next time I see them for Sir Rantoul.'
Taking out the crest, she planted a short kiss on it for luck, straightened her posture, raised her chest then marched with dignity into the village.
Since she had arrived early this time, Agrias was able to secure a good place which was known as "hot spots". The streets were still a little quiet so she decided to save her breath to yell later in the day and though the noble knight taught her not to abuse her powers, she couldn't help it but to feel a little excited for the bullies to arrive. Just a little though because a knight must never start a senseless fight. Unless their enemies start the fight of course.
"I can't believe you still have the guts to show your ugly face again, Agri-ASS."
The long awaited insult finally arrived.
"Of course I would show up. If a coward who pissed his pants dared to show his face, I don't see why I can't." She replied plainly.
One of the boys blushed and quickly yelled back to hide his embarrassment.
"I'm going to kick your arse for that, Ask-you-ass! and this time, there is no monster to save ya!"
"The only arses that are going to be kicked are yours!"
All three of them came running to Agrias, their punches ready, yelling a battle cry. Just as the knight had instructed, she moved to the left so she was at the side of the farthest boy. She diverted that boy's strength like she did to the thief using a rested hand on the stretched arm but as he fell forward, a knee awaited his guts and down he came, holding his stomach in pain. Reflectively, the boy next to her first victim sent another punch towards her face. Agrias quickly ducked the punch then sent an uppercut into an open chin. Without thinking, she bent down low and swept her leg at her remaining enemy's ankle; the same weak spot that her mentor taught her. The boy lost his balance and fell straight on his back as his head landed with a loud thud.
"My name is Agrias, pronounced Agree-US. Not Agri-ASS or Ask-your-ass. I could be beating you right now but a knight must have an open heart, so I will forgive you this time but the next I doubt."
Agrias calmly walked away to her cart, trying to sound indifferent though her heart was thumping with triumph and joy. Finally, for once, she walked away victorious without bruises or injuries.
The boys quickly scrambled to their feet, each yelling their share of I'll-get-you next-times and other various threats. The winner simply shrugged and started her usual lines of selling baskets but with real enthusiasm and liveliness. The more these baskets sell, the faster she gets out of here. The day soon ended and she returned home to do her chores; cleaning the house, washing dishes and clothes, weaving baskets, being scolded and beaten.
The next day, the bullies returned with reinforcements. She was outnumbered five to one with the other two unfamiliar faces much bigger and taller then the usual three stooges. They called themselves "The Manly Hellers". It was a mess. Hands, feet, punches, kicks were thrown ruthlessly in the crowd of fighting children and the chaos did not end until all were whimpering or crying on the ground, except one. Agrias got a black eye, a sprained wrist and ankle but of course, she made sure that each of them walked away with a good amount of damage as well. The extra spankings and scolding were inevitable but she still felt good inside. She stood up for her pride and did not back down.
Since Agrias was no longer the push-over she once were, the boys could only hurt inanimate objects and other unfortunate passing animals. They still called her names but nothing else which made business increase significantly. Life continued like always except the dream which she desperately kept close to her heart and everyday, her collection grew little by little and her dream came closer and closer.
One day, returning from town, a carriage was stationed outside of the little cottage on the countryside of Lionel. There were noises coming from the inside of the large metal box, pulled by four chocobos that sounded like crying and a bit of whimpering. Agrias got a little creeped out by the eerie sounds and decided to ignore it. She opened the door to her home, ready to do her usual chores but stopped when she saw two tall muscular men standing there, as if waiting for her.
"That's the little runt."
Her mother pointed a fat finger to the bewildered girl and one of the men walked over to Agrias. He started to examine her from every angle, poking her arms and legs, which made her feel really uncomfortable and after while he finally stopped.
"Sold." Replied her mother as a pouch was thrown on the table with the distinctive sound of coins clashing.
Agrias realized what was happening and tried to run but with a large stride, the man caught her then threw her lithe body over one of his hard shoulders.
"You're selling me? You can't...mother you can't!" Agrias pleaded desperately.
"Yes, I can!! I bore you, so I have every right to do whatever I want with you!"
Her still newborn dream was killed in an instant, ripped from her heart. Three months of saving and hard work became a total waste.
"Let me go! I still have to be a knight! You can't do this! Damn you! Damn you all!"
Agrias struggled but against the solid power of the man, it was entirely useless. They took her to the carriage and when the metal clasps were unlocked in the back, she realized what the strange sounds were; as the light hit into the box, a crowd of shaking children sat there with their knees tucked tightly to their chests. With a tug, Agrias was thrown into the group as well and she fell hard against the cold metal. The door closed with a loud thug and darkness engulfed her.
The carriage started to move and it felt really bumpy. The children's sad soft cries and the unknown fate which awaited her shook her entire being. Total darkness which disabled her vision scrambled her mind. This was fear.
Scared, Agrias started to bang against the metal, hoping that it'll open and set her free, free to find her dream, but to no avail.
"It's useless. Don't you think we would have all escaped if that had worked?"
The voice was young and a bit higher then her own. Agrias didn't bother to answer but acknowledged its meaning by stopping her throbbing fists and quietly took a seat in the cage as despair and reality sank in her mind.
A knight was making his way through the thick forest under the scorching sun with his faithful chocobo. According to one of the villagers, there was suppose to be a cottage within this green and he followed the given directions while being roasted alive by the weight and heat insulation of his armor.
'It would be hard for them to part with their kin but I still hope her parents would agree.'
Finally arriving at the door, Sir Lignel Rantoul was about to knock until he heard rackets coming from within the house. Some yelling, shouting, things being shattered. He also distinctively heard some really creative swearing.
'Then again, maybe not.'
Ignoring it, he knocked. And again and again and again, a little louder each time. After the fifth time, slamming his fist against the wood, the door finally opened. Sir Rantoul got a good look into the house, which looked nothing like a home, especially for a little girl. At the back was another man, obviously drunk, slumped on the ground. He caught himself staring at the mess so he immediately reverted his attention back to the women in front of him. He was a bit shocked because the large women and the man looked nothing like the petite girl.
"Good day, Ma'me. Is this the Plintal's home?"
"Yes, it is. What may I do for you, sir?"
"I'm looking for your daughter, Agrias Plintal."
"My god! Did that thing do something to offend you? Good lord, I swear I took no part of it. Blame the child! She's been reckless and stupid and foolish since the day she was born. Spare my husband and I. I knew that beast was good for nothing so I already sold her, which I should have done long ago. She does not belong in this family anymore. Go after her only and..."
The knight immediately stopped Mrs. Plintal's boisterous blabbering and interrupted with surprise.
"You sold her?!"
"Yes, I did. Ten days ago."
Selling could only mean one thing. Slavery; a life of torture, hard labour and death. Sir Rantoul stilled his himself from lashing out at the inhuman beast.
"Do you know where she is now?"
"No, I don't and I couldn't care less. She's cursed I tell ya. If you're going after her, I suggest you don't. Whatever it is that the demon had done to you, she's getting punished for it right now and... "
"How could you! She is your daughter! You sold such a wonderful child for a lousy bag of gil?!" exploded the knight with disbelief.
Though she was intimidated by the knight at first but his insult brought out her witch-like personality at full force, speaking shamelessly.
"And why should I keep that gil-wasting-cursed monster? Or were you going to support her for me?"
"Yes, I was. I was going to take her from this hell and demons like you. Good day, madame!"
He slammed the door in the mad women's face and quickly got on Pirotoss. With a kick on the side, the chocobo sped off into the forest once again.
'God, please help me find the little warrior.'
Rocking endlessly in the metal prison, Agrias had been sitting there stoically. For how long she wasn't sure but it must have been days by now. The continual darkness didn't allow her to distinguish night from day except the temperature change as the carriage moved. The rocking occasionally stopped and water would be sprinkled in along with bits of hard bread to feed all the starving stomachs.
As time went by, the stench increased but none matter. She might as well starve or die of thirst but somewhere deep in her heart, she still believed in Sir Rantoul with a faint hope of escaping and her dream coming true. That is why she tried to capture every drop of liquid that fell her way and stuff every bit of that stone hard bread down her stomach. She felt the need to survive. If she died here, it would be truly over.
The swaying stopped once again but this time, no water or bread was thrown in, except sounds of metal unclasping. A flash of light burst through the darkness and Agrias had to shield her eyes, unaccustomed to the sudden daylight.
"Get off." Came a gruff voice.
Knowing that in her weakened state she was no match for her captor, Agrias obeyed, followed by a few others. Metal collars were fastened around each of their necks and wrists which were extremely uncomfortable. Noticing that the number had significantly dropped, she turned around to look for the others and her stomach immediately turned upside down. The stench was not from body waste but rotting dead bodies scattered in the carriage. Some of those kids did not make the trip and she felt like vomiting after seeing the disgusting sight.
Before Agrias could digest the horror she just saw, a tug sent the line of weary prisoners into motion. Some were older then herself, some were younger but they were all just children.
After some walking on the hot blonde sand, the man lead them into a dark stone building that had a large circular bright structure beside it. There were cheering and roaring coming from there.
On both sides of the stone walls were prisons with metal framed doors that were checkered in pattern. Inside, sat large dirty gruff men who stared at the passing children.
Suddenly a scream turned all their heads in front. They each watched in horror as a square metal piece with a long rod was removed from a child's back and placed into hot coals. The boy's exposed back still had smoke floating into the air as he sobbed loudly. A large waterfall of tears flowed endlessly down his face. The man ignored his cries and simply threw him aside to a wall like a thing. All the other children started to cry and whimper in fear as another muffled cheer entered the gloomy dungeon. Agrias was too shocked to react, trembling and shaking.
One by one, the line shortened as the metal burned its mark into its victims' back. If a child had long hair, it would be cut.
Soon, it came to her. She was too scared to move forward so the man grabbed a handful of her hair and dragged her to the executing anvil. With a knife, he sliced the auburn locks then placed it neatly with the others. Capturing the collar at the back of her dress, the man pushed Agrias onto the anvil then ripped the thin material till the left side of her back was bare. Without a warning, the red hot torture pressed its burning claws into the delicate flesh. Agrias screamed. The pain seared through her body as she bucked and thrashed; anything that could get that thing off her.
"Hmm...what's this?" inquired her torturer as he returned the rod back into the coal.
He picked up the silver chain that hung at the small neck. With a jerk, the metal tore loose like nothing as the man examined the piece in his palm.
"Give that back! It's mine!" managed Agrias, even though she was exhausted from pain.
A slap was sent into the small face and with a push, she fell into the other sobbing, marked children.
"Well, it's mine now."
Agrias glared at him but kept her mouth shut nevertheless.
"It's the crest of Hokuten." Concluded the man.
He showed the crest to his companion beside him.
"The slave must have stolen it from a passing soldier."
"I'm not a thief! A knight gave it to me."
They laughed. Paying no heed to Agrias's claim, the collars and shackles were placed once again around the children's necks and limbs. With a tug, burdened feet started in motion, each of their backs throbbing with pain.
As they made their way through the dark hallways, the cheering became louder and louder from the neighboring building as the halls became a little better decorated.
"What's going to happen to us?" whispered Agrias to no one in particular.
It was the same voice from the carriage.
"We're all going to be slaves. They even left the mark on us. Some will do labor in mines, some will be sold for pleasure, others as preys for the nobles' hunting games."
"I don't want to be a slave! I want to be a knight!"
"Next life, maybe. Commoners can never be knights much less slaves."
"You're a fool but you'll find the truth soon enough for yourself."
As much as Agrias would like to deny it further but deep in her heart, she knew it was true and the march stopped.
There was a crowd in the front, each in colorful robes and rich accessories, chattering among themselves. A small group of the children was released from the restraints then pushed onto the wooden platform at the very front of the gathering. The little blonde boy on the farthest right was pushed forward.
"The bidding for this blonde slave will start at 1 000 gil."
The amount startled Agrias but it continued to rise as hands rose, yelling a higher amount every time. Finally, at 6 300, the boy came down and the leash to his collar was passed to the man in the blue robe. The line moved forward and soon, she'll be next, bid then sold. As she moved ahead, a spark of light hit her eyes in contrast to the dull torches that lit this room. A loud roar of cheers burst beside her ear as she turned her head to the open entrance beside her.
A man, in thin leather armor ran in fear, scrambling as the lion gained on him with ease. The beast jumped into the air and onto the man, pressing its weight into its prey. With a roar, large bloody teeth sank into the flesh. Rising his head, a big chunk of the man's shoulder was torn ruthlessly off like a tasty meal and the body became lifeless.
"No! Please, don't send me out there! Please, I beg you!"
Another victim was being pushed towards the opening where Agrias stared. Dressed in the same leather armor, the old man begged to be spared from the same fate. It was cruel, the man was barely big enough to fit the armor much less going against the large animal.
Where's justice? Where's fairness?
'A knight must fight for justice...'
"You can't send him to fight the beast. He's too old and feeble."
Agrias spoke with clarity. She simply cannot let the poor old man die, being pushed into death while she did nothing to help.
"Does that mean you're going to take his place then, little girl?"
She fell silent, intimidated by the beast herself.
"Then shut up and learn you place, slave."
The mention of slave caught her dignity and the pride that Sir Rantoul taught her. Impulsively, the fright for the lion left her mind.
"Indeed I will take his place."
The man laughed and shook his head in amusement.
"Yo, Maverick! Did you hear what the slave said?"
"Yes, but you can't, Tom. It doesn't belong to you. This slave have yet to be sold."
With a smirk, Tom jumped on the platform where the slaves were being displayed and in a loud clear tone, he shouted his suggestion.
"Sires and nobles! This slave had volunteered to die! I give 500 gil to watch its death if you, kind sires, would give up bidding on that slave so you too can share the view of this wonderful entertainment; a child slave against a hungry, blood thirty beast!"
"Child, don't take my place. I'm old, you're still young." Said the old slave.
"My conscience does not allow me to back down."
Everyone cheered their agreement, and the other man, Maverick, took the leather armor and sword from the old man and plopped it on Agrias.
"Don't regret it, slave. You shall pay dearly for your stupidity."
"A knight never backs out of battle." Replied Agrias with fierceness.
"You have guts, slave. If you survive this battle, I'll reward you with one thing except your freedom for your foolish pride."
Agrias smirked with confidence. She'll show them the power of pride and honor. That justice shall prevail; that's what Sir Rantoul taught her and she wasn't about to break her promise and shame her mentor's teachings.
She was shoved into the opening where the full blast of the cheer came from. All around her people surrounded her who sat high in a circular fashion. This was the stadium that she saw outside the dungeon.
Suddenly, a low growl caught her attention. Her opponent was now looking at her, with hunger and anger. Agrias lifted her sword, shifting the oversize leather armor on her shoulders.
'I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid.' She told herself, even though her legs were shaking and her heart was pounding into her chest, telling her to run.
Finally, the lion's patience worn down and it came running towards Agrias. With the same high pounce that it took its last victim, the beast leaped towards her. Agrias ran with the heavy weight of the sword and luckily, the attack narrowly missed her.
Furious with its miss, the lion turned to Agrias once again, sprinting towards her with its mouth wide open. She raised the sword just in time for the beast's bloody red teeth to smash into the metal but the sheer weight shifted her balance and she fell to the dusty ground with the lion following her fall. With another push, the sword broke from its cheap material and half of it flew into the air, landing on the ground. The lion bit into the broken end of the weapon and flung it out of Agrias's hands. Just as he was about to take a final bite into the tender flesh, Agrias ducked into the oversized leather and the lion only got the shoulder of the armor. Flinging its head into the air, the armor lifted Agrias along with it. She raised her arms and she fell out of the oversized protection.
The beast continued to bite and claw at the empty leather, shaking its head. Agrias took the chance and ran for the broken blade. Realizing the lack of blood, the lion stopped its torment on the armor as a figure ran past his eyes. Furious of being deceived, it ran towards Agrias who was just picking up the handle of the fractured weapon and as she turned her head, she stared in horror at the airborne animal, in the midst of its deadly leap.
"Remember, Agrias. When a sword is swung, many's instinct is to back up and allow it space. Instead, try running towards the blade. You'll be able to catch your opponent in their blind spot where their weapon can't touch you."
Instead of running away, Agrias ran towards the pouncing lion until she was right under it and as it fell, she pointed the broken sword to the belly. The lion's weight pressed into the sharp, ragged end which penetrated through the tough skin. The beast let out a loud cry and started to claw aimlessly on the ground. Under its bleeding body, Agrias started to plunged her weapon into the lion, again and again, and again until it stopped moving completely.
The crowd watched in silence, waiting for movement in the stillness. Suddenly, a red figure emerged from under the thick coat. The shock wore off and whispering began to twiddle in the mass of people.
"The slave had slain the beast..."
"It's a demon from hell!"
From within the dark entrance, Tom smirked greedily for it was he, who had bought this beast slaying slave and only for a mere 500 gils.
"Looks like I have bought myself a good investment."
Maverick simply leaned on the side as Tom emerged into the crowd to pave his path for gil.
"A spectacular and unexpected win! As shown, this slave has defeated our most ferocious beast at Hell's Heaven. This bet will be back again for the next round! Remember to bet!"
"What's the bet's name?" yelled the crowd, all eager to gamble. Tom thought for a while then came up with a name.
"Demon's Child!!" he announced.
'Demon's child. Is that who I am?'
The bitterness in her thoughts pierced her soul as she held the bleeding knife in her bloodied hands. The crowd cheered for the birth of Demon's Child.
"But I want to be a noble knight..." she whispered to herself.
To be continued...
I know Agrias is a commoner right now and someone mentioned that a Holy Knight is most likely a trained noble which she is not...for now. Bare with me, STUFF will happen.