|More from Typhoonmaster||Adventure||PG-13||See Comments||Weekly|
At first, everything around her was white, silent white. She examined her arms and legs; the blood and ash faded away, and her skin was flawless. Now that she thought about it, she felt relaxed, comfortable even. She no longer tasted the dryness of smoke in the back of her throat, and her eyes didn't sting in the heat. In fact, the air wasn't hot at all; it was actually quite refreshing. The overriding feeling of relief almost made her forget the fact she had no idea where she was. There was no difference between the ground, sky, or anything for that matter.
A cool sensation tingled on her arm, a droplet of something. Craning her neck towards the sky, she couldn't see anything. Everywhere she looked was infinite white, but then something landed on her nose, and the cool sensation washed over her again. Whatever it was fell in a heavier volume, invisible against the white. Cupping her hands, she caught a few and upon further examination realized they were snowflakes. She breathed a frosty breath in amazement.
Intricate black lines streaked the ground and sky like calligraphy. Far and wide, the black lines converged together and rose into the air like leafless trees until a snowy forest existed all around her. Blue and green droplets of ink pattered the white ground. As the snowflakes fell, they mixed like watercolors, spreading and expanding until they took the form of a small pond. The calligraphy trees rippled on its painted surface. Invisible brushstroke illustrated tiny waves.
Grace touched the bark of a painted tree, feeling the uneven roughness of the wood. The snow, trees, and pond, everything felt so real. She walked gingerly through the trees and stopped at the waters edge. Snow flurries fell noticeably against the calligraphy forest, and the temperature chilled. The shallow water of the painted pond froze over into stained ice, and everything in the portrait stood still.
She looked up. On the other side of the pond, a couple sat with their backs turned. The woman's long brown hair fell softly to the small of her back, and the man curled an arm around her shoulder. Neither of them spoke. They simply sat together amongst the snowflakes and painted trees.
"Mom? Dad?" Grace called out.
The words had no effect. They couldn't hear her.
Tears filled her eyes, and she smiled.
The snowfall increased, and the whiteness masked the trees. She tried to reach out, to run over to her parents, but her legs wouldn't move. The deafening noise of fear returned again, and the smile faded from her face.
"Mom, Dad! It's me, Grace!" she cried out.
"I made it!"
The couple remained with their backs turned. Snow swirled, and before long she could only see the outline of her parents through the icy wind. Tears mixed with snow streamed down her face as the trees and pond faded away. Finally the couple across the pond disappeared into the whiteness, too.
Once again, everything around her was white, but not a refreshing white, more like a blinding white. She squinted against the brightness as her eyes adjusted. In time, the light died down into a familiar grey color. She recognized the whitewash sky above.
"Shhh, I think she's waking up," whispered a voice.
"Spirits, give her some space bro!"
She heard a sound like the flapping of wings and felt a whoosh of air.
Rubbing her eyes, she sat up.
Directly in front of her, a tall skinny guy with a large white bird on his shoulder tended to a sail.
"Um...hi. I'm Wake, and this is Hunter."
He grinned sheepishly.
"Nice to have you on board."
Sikhi scrambled down the tree, plopped to the ground, and dusted himself off. Running back to the temple, his bare feet slapped the stone floor with each step. He flew past the gardens, past the main hall, and over the bridge connecting the center temple to the men's quarters. According to custom, women and men slept in separate dormitories on different mountains, mainly because the monastic lifestyle focused on simplicity and detachment from distractions. The center mountain served as a place for everybody to meet, socialize, and work. He spotted his friends hanging out on the lower balcony.
"Hey guys! Hey guys! Did you see the sky bison?" he tried to get their attention.
One of the younger boys noticed him and pointed, "Found him!"
"Jifu, everybody knows the game is clearly over. There comes a mutually understood time when all games of hide and seek must come to an end. You did not find me, rather I willingly appeared to you."
The little boy stood dumbfounded, trying to figure out the Sikhi's logic. Eventually, he gave up and trusted the older boy's judgment. Without any concrete reason, Sikhi considered himself to be the "leader by default" of the group. He was the only one of the four kids who advocated the necessity of having a leader. The others didn't really object, mainly because none of them felt like arguing, and also because they secretly laughed behind Sikhi's back about his "position of power." Totally oblivious, Sikhi reveled in his self-appointed responsibility.
"You wouldn't believe it. I climbed the highest tree in the temple and saw the entire herd of sky bison fly before anyone else."
Taishin, a boy about the same age as Sikhi, smirked.
"I completely believe you. Without a doubt you were the very first person to see the sky bison. I can't even think of anything that could possibly sway me from my belief in your honesty. The entire herd? The highest tree in the entire temple? You? - Of course."
"Yup, I saw the whole thing!"
"Hey wait a minute! Are you making fun of me?"
Taishin, Tai for short, loved getting under his friend's skin; Sikhi could never decipher his condescending tone.
"No way. What would make you think that?"
"I hate when you do that."
Sikhi groaned, "Never mind."
"We all saw it, dude. You don't need to fill us in on the details," said Daiden, Tai's identical twin brother.
Only their closest friends could tell them apart. People often confused their nicknames, Tai and Dai, for obvious reasons. Their appearances, voices, and expressions were almost exactly the same. Dai was a bit more laid back than his brother, though. Plus, he always bragged about being born three minutes earlier. Some identical twins like to wear different clothes to express their individuality; this was not the case with Taishin and Daiden. They liked to confuse and mess with people by talking in unison and wearing the same clothes. Even Sikhi found it difficult to tell them apart sometimes.
"You guys don't seem excited...at all. How could you not be at least a little affected by what just happened?"
"Everyone knows about the sky bison migration. Every few years, they fly from the West and settle here. Didn't you ever hear the stories when you were younger? They are the masters of the wind."
"I must've not paid attention..."
Tai laughed, "That is so you, Sik! Always with your head in the clouds."
"And stop calling me that! I'm not some kind of disease."
"You sure about that?"
"I'm positive. You know it's pronounced 'Seek-ee', not to mention the fact Sik isn't even a good nickname."
"Whatever you say, Sik."
"You know what? I like Jifu better than you two anyways. He's always just chilling, doing his own thing."
"Just look at him." Sikhi directed his attention to the younger boy.
Jifu stood motionless, rubbing his eyes with fierce determination.
Sikhi tapped him on the shoulder, "Um, what exactly are you doing?"
The force of the yell knocked him out of his eye-rubbing trance.
"Did something get in your eye?"
"Nope, but whenever I close my eyes and rub really hard all these colors swirl around in my head. I was just watching the colors."
The twins laughed hysterically, and Sikhi smacked his forehead, leaving a visible red mark, a symbol of his disappointment.
Dai shifted the subject.
"Well, you caught us at a bad time, we were supposed to go in for dinner fifteen minutes ago."
"Now that I think of it, I'm actually pretty hungry," Tai added.
"Wanna eat with us dude?"
"I wish I could, but Monk Sidd is forcing me to eat with him."
"How is that bad? Sidd is a wizard cook! His fruit pies are gifts from the gods!"
"This is true...but still, I'd rather eat with you guys. Oh well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow. We'll resume our game of hide and seek."
"See ya Sikhi," the twins answered in unison.
"Come along Jifu."
The little boy tagged along behind the twins, and the friends went their separate ways.
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