"Hohoho, who would have thought that the new Soul King would come visit this old man," chuckled the big bellied man that came up from the stairs. He walked up to Sora and patted his shoulder before moving forward to the arctic eagle and the huge arctic eagle.
With a surprised look after hearing the man's words, Sora turned to look at him. Looking at the man who looks like Santa Claus warily, Sora smiled, "Are you sure I'm the new Soul King?"
"Of course I'm sure! Hohoho!" he chuckled. The man took out a piece of meat and tossed it into the mouth of the huge Arctic Eagle and watched it happily eat it.
"Who are you and how do you know that I'm the new Soul King?" frowned Sora. "As far as I know, there are only two people who know that. And I'm pretty sure they never told you that."
The old man patted the head of the huge bird before turning to look at the little arctic eagle. Right when he was about to pet it, he opened his eyes wide in surprise before causing his belly to jiggle from his chuckling, "Hohoho, I'm Nicholas. My friends call me Nick, and the believers call me St. Nicholas. My position in the North Branch granted me the title of [Santa Claus].
And I know you're the new Soul King because of an inherent ability I've had since I was just a little boy. Besides the ability to tell which kid is Naughty or Nice, there is another ability that allows me to know almost anything that affects the Human World and the Northern Branch. Especially when it concerns me, the ability holder."
'That kind of ability sounds pretty useful. If I had an ability like that, I could prevent some future disasters that could befall me and my family...' Sora looked at Nick with an intrigued look and a hand on his chin.
Still looking at the baby arctic eagle, Nick continued, as if he knew what Sora was thinking, "The only thing that bothers me about this ability, is that it gives me seizures when the information transmits to my head. Nothing bad happens to me, I only need to rest."
"How does the ability work?" asked Sora.
"No idea," smiled Nick. "The ability works randomly. As far as I know, it activates by itself at random intervals. So I have little control over this ability."
Looking at the man with an apathetic face, Sora decided to just ignore what he said and think of something else. However after a short while, Sora smelled something in the air and turned to look at Nick with a weird look and asked, "What are you?"
"What do you mean?" asked Nick with a smile as he turned to look at Sora.
"You smell like a Human, but you also have another smell that shows you're not just human," said Sora. His eyes narrowed as he looked at Nick closely and wondered what the fat man could possibly be hiding.
Looking at Sora with a somewhat surprised look, Nick couldn't believe that someone could smell what race he is. He has heard of weird stuff like that before, but he had never believed anything such as that. Even with his inherent ability, he couldn't easily believe something like that.
"Hoho, you must be joking," denied Nick.
Hearing Nick say that he was joking, Sora smiled, "Oh no, I hardly joke. I'm being serious here. Plus, joking isn't my forte."
Knowing that he can't get out of this, Nick could only give up as he turned to pat the head of the big arctic eagle. He knew that eventually his secret would be out, but he never expected it to come out this early, especially that the one to find out first is the new Soul King.
Seeing Sora waiting for his answer, Nick finally gave up and said, "I'm part human and part Polar."
"What's a Polar?" asked Sora with a curious gaze. He turned his gaze to the three races down in the city and then turned to look at Nick.
Seeing Sora's look, Nick nodded as he explained, "The Polar race is the people down there with blue skin and white hair. They are very resistant to the cold and they can freely control snow. The lucky ones would control small amounts of ice."
Nodding, Sora asked Nick, "Then you don't have blue skin because of your human half?"
"Yes," nodded Nick. With a sad expression, he looked down at the city and continued, "The Polar race can live for 8,000 years, and I, who is a half breed, can live for only 5-6,000 years. I already turned 4,064 this year. Even more sadly, I didn't gain any of the two abilities or Snow Control and Partial Ice Control. My father was disappointed in me up until he died of old age."
Sora glanced at Nick before turning back to the city and admiring the ice landscape. He himself never had his father be disappointed in him. The only time his father was ever disappointed in him, was when he denied wanting to learn Martial Arts. Only when his mother asked him to try it, did his father stop ignoring him.
"Huagh!" The arctic eagle chick waddled to Sora before rubbing its head on Sora's shoulders.
"Watch it, yah bird," Sora groaned as the bird pushed him forward closer to the edge of the platform. Turning to look at the bird fiercely, Sora whispered, "Keep doing that and I'll make a KFC in this world and rename it to Sora's Fried Eagle."
Seeing the arctic eagle on Sora, Nick couldn't help but let out a smile. With his spirit lifting up, he walked over to Sora and the arctic eagle, "Hohoho, I almost forgot to tell you, this bird will be following you."
"What? No, I don't accept that at all." Sora looked at the arctic eagle with a stink eye as he turned to Nick and denied letting the bird follow him.
"Hoho, I'm afraid that it won't be easily leaving the bird here. I don't know what you did to impress this Arctic Eagle, but once it marks you as its master, it will go to wherever you are."
Nick looked at Sora with a jolly expression before rubbing the chick's head and softening his expression.
"This bird is better off being with a pirate or being served as dinner," snickered Sora. He didn't feel like taking care of another animal, he still has to deal with Sparky, the tiger with a dog's name. Maybe he should change Sparky's name to something better.
Sora doesn't hate the bird at all, he just doesn't want to take care of the bird and waste his time. Maybe if he can get the bird to listen to his words, but that's a step he doesn't want to waste on.
"That would have been the case if you didn't shake it's wing. That's how they mark their masters," chuckled Nick as he looked at Sora regretting shaking the eagles wing.
Looking at the bird, Sora could only sigh and take the bird with him. With a defeated look, Sora talked with the bird, "If you're going to follow me, then you need to listen to me."
"Huagh!" screeching, the Arctic Eagle nodded at Sora.
"Well, seeing as how you just satisfied me with that, I will name you Ying," chuckled Sora. Looking at the Arctic Eagle flap its wings in delight, Sora inwardly laughed, 'Haha, Ying means Eagle in Chinese. Hahaha!'
After talking with Nick and making fun of Ying, Sora finally felt it was time to leave and go to the South Branch. There wasn't much to do in the Northern Branch besides taking a small tour around the city and receiving weird looks from the locals.
He even got the chance to ride on top of the huge Arctic Eagle and experience it's immense speed and amazing flight ability. The Eagle's speed was almost three times the speed of his Bullet Step. Now he couldn't wait to see the speed of Ying when it grows older.
"Well then, it's time for me to go now," said Sora as he shook Nick's hand. Leaving with nothing at all besides the fact that he now knows that Santa is real in this world.
"Safe travels Soul King," yelled Nick as he lightly waved his hand at Sora.
Getting on Ying's back, Sora let it take him out of the cave and out into the real world.
Before breaking through the snow covering the exit, Ying hovered high in the sky and screeched towards the huge Arctic Eagle. As if it was saying 'Goodbye' to the Arctic Eagle and saying some words before leaving.
"HUAGH!" screeched the Arctic Eagle as it flapped its wings and instantly appeared next to Ying.
Ying landed on top of the Arctic Eagle and pecked it lightly before flapping its wings again and breaking through the snow cover.
"You couldn't do that when we were down on the ground?" asked Sora as he looked back at the Arctic Eagle behind the snow cover that gradually fixed itself.
Seeing the snow cover, Sora thought it looked more like a door of a prison cell and that the Northern Branch was just a huge prison cell. Chuckling at such a thought, Sora turned to face forward and looked at the dark night and the starry sky. With a huge full moon hovering above the sky, Sora whistled before laying on Ying and singing.
Hearing Sora sing, Ying couldn't help but appreciate his soothing voice under the starry night and fly happily.
At Ying's speed, traveling from one side of the world to the other side, only took half a day.
They flew high above the clouds and watched the sun rise up and the night recede.
"Yes, you can glide down now," said Sora.
After traveling with Ying, Sora could barely understand the bird. At the rate he is understanding Ying, it will take Sora a year to fully comprehend what it is trying to say.
When they passed the clouds, Sora looked at the little village down in the snow. He was surprised to see that it was covered completely in snow and that there were no signs of life in the village.
Quickly motioning to Ying to drop him off to the side of the village, Sora scanned once more for signs of life.
Jumping off Ying after they touched ground, Sora walked slowly to the village going door through door. Surprised by the first house he saw when he passed by its door, was a family of three frozen next to a fireplace.
When he looked closer at the family of three, he noticed that they were just bones. They no longer held any meat or skin.
This puzzled Sora because he knew that in the cold, dead bodies don't decompose at all. So seeing this, he only has two theories about this scenario. One, they were originally skeletons already, and that's what the village consisted of. Or two, they were being eaten by some other animal.
Looking closely at the bodies, Sora noticed that one of them still held some frozen meat between its bones, proving Sora's second theory. Seeing some teeth and claw marks on the skull of one of the skeletons, Sora believed it to be more true.
Passing by the other houses, Sora noticed that they were all the same. All the skeletons, whether alone or in groups, were standing next to a type of fireplace and they still had some meat stuck to them and claw marks on their bones. Some of the skeletons were even broken apart and scattered in their own houses.
Looking around curiously, Sora noticed white strands of hair on a skeleton. Somehow, he knew that the strand of hair wasn't from any of the skeletons in the village. Using his heightened sense of smell, Sora went to where the smell came from.
Sora walked cautiously over to where the smell came from and eventually saw some scattered bones that led him into a cave.
Studying the cave from outside, Sora thought, 'So the Southern Branch died from being subjected to Absolute Zero and then a beast that survived the Absolute Zero walked into that village and ate everyone inside it. Sounds just about right..'
With Ying walking right behind him, Sora walked into the cave and jumped over a pile of bones that were placed inside the cave.
There was nothing inside the cave besides bones, bones and more bones. Sora felt bad about the Southern Branch having their bodies being eaten by an unknown beast. He traveled more into the cave and eventually heard some crunching.