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Book 1: Kisah
7 October 2012
The footsteps of Kisah's royal governor echoed through the dark, gloomy chamber only illuminated by crackling torches along the walls. The man's name was Zhang, and he had come to confront his father regarding an obscure object that had been brought to his attention. In the center of the peculiar room, in front of an impressive yet oddly-placed bookshelf, the King laid alone on a soft velvet sofa in the middle of a hard tile floor, enjoying some sort of exotic fruit and petting his cat. The bright green eyes of the fluffy creature pierced through the dark, giving even Zhang chills.
"Father," he began as he approached the notorious King Wang Chao. "I have come in hopes of gathering some intelligence." The man slowly got to his knees and bowed.
The aged monarch took his time to sit upright and place his fruit on the small table by his side, exchanging it for a golden chalice. At first he made a few strange faces, as if he was having difficulty thinking clearly, but he soon narrowed his eyes and leaned forward to indicate that his son had his full attention. "Yes?" he finally said.
"Do you- do you know about an object called the soul pendant?"
For a split second, Wang Chao winced. Then he rubbed his chin and shrugged. "I've never heard of such a thing? Why do you ask?"
Noticing his father's initial reaction, Zhang didn't buy his answer. Regardless, he chose not to challenge the man. "Just now, I overheard Kriyel discussing something. She was having some sort of conservation about the souls pendent or pendent of souls. The strange thing is, I never heard anyone respond. It was like she was talking to herself." He paused. "Are you sure you aren't aware of this?"
Wang Chao laughed, though it was more of a harsh scoff than a friendly chuckle. "Can you not confront your own wife about something that she said? I've never met a man so insecure that he spies on his spouse."
Zhang was visibly irritated. "Never mind then, Father."
A younger Tark gamboled playfully in a dense forest along side a boy no older than eight. He ran clutching a unique cage-like contraption with a metal claw attached to it. The boy laughed as he chased after him, yielding a puny wooden dagger in his right hand.
Suddenly, the man put one finger over his mouth, gesturing for the boy quiet down. "Hu Li," he whispered. "This is the perfect place to lay our trap." The boy nodded excitedly and watched as Tark put his invention on the ground beside him and carried a thin rope with a ring at the end, placing it strategically in between two sweet-smelling plants. Then, he and Hu Li ducked behind a tree and waited. In about fifteen minutes, a curious possum made it's way the plant, sniffing the leaves and sticking its tongue out to taste. It jumped back and shook, clearly disgusted by what it had just licked. The small rodent began to scamper away, but soon had its foot caught in the small ring attached to the rope. It was yanked back and dragged through the dirt until it reached the base of Tark's ingenious cage. The metal claw proceeded to snatch the animal and swing upwards on a hinge, bringing it above an opening at the top of the cage. The possum was released and fell into the trap, doomed to a most unlucky fate.
"Alright!" exclaimed a cheerful Hu Li. "We got it, Tark!"
The man was pleased. "Indeed we did. Way to go! With traps like that, I don't ever want to hear you complain about food prices when your older."
"Whatever you say."
"Good." Tark gave a nod of approval. "I'd like to see Wang Chao starve us now." He looked as though he was about to say something else, but he gasped in fright and threw his body in front of the child. "Hu Li! Get back!"
The two of them were suddenly facing an adult platypus-bear, another animal the Angkara Family had so brilliantly brought into their forest for "scientific purposes." Tark's entire body was shaking; he had neither the strength to defeat the beast nor the speed to flee. It looked like the end for him and his young friend. The man tried to comfort the terrified Hu Li when the animal let out an ear-piercing yelp. Somehow, it had been wounded- struck by fire! Hu Li spun to see his twin sister in a fighting stance.
"Maybe next time you'll think about inviting me on your little expeditions!" taunted Amber as the platypus-bear ran away.
"Wake up Hu Li! This is no time for daydreaming..." An excited Tark finished up some last-minute modifications to his latest invention. "You don't seem as thrilled as you usually are. Something wrong?"
Hu Li let out a long sigh. "Tark, I'd hate to be a Dasna Downer but-"
"Don't talk about Dasna that way."
"I'd hate to be so negative, and we've done some unbelievable things before, but this is... Do you really think this would work?"
"I know it would! And it will! Six Angkara Sentries taken out at once with no risk to ourselves!"
"But that's provided that they walk in three rows of two at the right time and at the exact right place."
"They always do. Every day at four."
"Tark, you're officially crazy."
There was an awkward pause, but the two partners burst out in a haughty laughter.'
"But seriously, you're insane."
"I'm glad to see that you're feeling much better." Ohk had gotten over his illness but was still lying in bed when Shen brought him breakfast.
"Knowing that you made it home safe gives me a feeling of joy that prevails over any sickness that can fall over me. I thought I might lose you forever."
It made Shen's stomach twist when Ohk talked like that. She wasn't just a little girl anymore, and he had no idea that she had been sneaking out to venture on perilous missions with the Iluna Rebels. "Ohk, I need to tell you something."
"I know, you ate the last fruit pie. It's okay... I guess... my fruit pie..."
Shen shook her head sadly, though she had eaten the delicious snack. "No it's not that. Look Ohk, I was right when I ran away. You have been sheltering me! You've made me hide when certain people come over, and you've kept my existence a secret to people outside the Monastery. I don't know why, and maybe I'll never find out, but I can't live my entire life this way. You can't control me forever."
Ohk shut his eyes and trembled on the inside. It killed him to hear this.
"The day I... escaped, I saw Zhang be attacked. He was almost assassinated by a group called the Iluna Rebels."
"The what? Who are these people?"
"Actually, they're my new friends! I've been on two missions with them now, and I'm an official member!"
Ohk leapt out of his bed. "What on Earth are you talking about?!"
"They're my new family!" shouted Shen. "And they're all like me, orphans!"
The monk was taken aback. "How did you know?"
"Save it, Ohk! Was I supposed to think you were my father?"
"Of course not but-"
"Then who is? And who's my mother? What happened to them? They're clearly not around anymore! That's another thing. I'm going to find answers! I'm going to find out who I really am and where I come from!"
"Enough! I forbid you to run around with these hooligans!"
"Try to stop me! I'm leaving the Monastery for good!" For moment, Shen simply stared into her caretaker's teary eyes, saying nothing. "Good bye, Ohk. I'll miss you." With that, she turned around and left forever.
Oh there you are Hu Li!" Tark spoke to a thirteen year old boy. "Are you ready to go fishing? Man, I've been waiting for this trip for months! I can't tell you how much paperwork I needed to fill out to get permission from the government to take a rental boat out to sea! Aaaand, I finally finished my new fish-catching gizmo. Talk about hard work!" The man gleamed into his pupil's eyes. He was a son to him.
Hu Li looked at the ground shyly. "Actually Tark, I made plans to hang out with Nindo instead. Sorry..."
Tark was crushed; his heart shattered into a million pieces. "Oh! How fun!" His voice shook as he forced a smile.
"Maybe we can go next time," Hu Li offered.
"Yeah maybe," muttered Tark knowing that it would take months to get another permit. "Well run along. Have fun..."
"This is so unexpected!" Dasna appeared shocked as she walked speedily through Kisah alongside Ohk. "The Iluna Rebels? How did she find them?"
"Like I said, she ran into them when they attacked Zhang. It's all a matter of coincidence."
"How can you say that? You know as well as I do that under no circumstances should she be around those troublemakers. That's why we're going to see Tark and tell him that Shen's gotten herself involved with his little group."
"They aren't his group technically."
"Are you on my side or not, Dasna?"
"I'm worried about Shen too, okay? I don't know what I would do if she got hurt. I remember when she was a toddler."
Ohk let out a frightened groan, catching Dasna's attention.
The woman sighed. "I'm sure she's safe. She's a tough girl."
"You're right," the monk nodded in agreement. "Well, we're here." The two stood in front Tark's haphazard home, and Ohk led his friend up the front stoop to knock on the door. They could here a man tumble down a flight of stairs on the inside, and soon enough, Tark swung the door open, out of breath.
"Oh, hello there! What brings you to my house?"
"It's Shen," said Ohk softly. "She's run off to join the Iluna Rebels!"
"That's right. She was here the other night to pick up some equipment.
Dasna gasped as Ohk's face turned bright red. "What? You knew! How could you not tell me?"
"Well I thought you would know too! Geez..."
"This is serious, Tark!"
"Is it? I don't really see it that way... Anywhoo, one of the other Rebels is here now. Would you like to meet him?"
Ohk simply gawked at his friend, flabbergasted beyond any words.
Tark shook his head. "Listen my friend. Shen can make her own decisions. You were a great caretaker, but it's time to loosen up. If you try to keep an iron fist over her, you might lose her forever."
The monk was clearly distraught. "I'm afraid my might have already."
"Nonsense," Dasna cut in. "You'll see her again, and when you do you must reach out to her and accept her."
The man nodded and pretended to cheer up. "Thank you, friends."
"I can't tell you how pumped I am for this little exercise of ours." Amber had caught up with her twin brother and Tark as they made their way through the city. Her appearance on the street was extremely different from the uniform she wore while serving Kriyel. Instead of being dressed in white with red lipstick on, and dyed brown hair that was worn up, she had applied no makeup, no dye to black her hair that she let fall past her shoulders, and she wore all black.
"Our exercise?" said Hu Li irritated. "You just tag along at the end. Tark and I have been working for days to build this. We're each carrying different parts under our tunics."
"I like to come for the fun parts," said Amber in her defense.
Tark was perplexed. "But the building part is the fun part!"
"Meh, just tell me what to do to set this thing up. By the way, Hu Li, where's your little girlfriend Shen?"
Amber's brother through his fists up in rage as Amber said, "Well you like her, don't you?" They could have dropped the gloves then and there, but Tark ordered the two to quit their bickering.
The man laughed and turned to Hu Li. "Alright boy, you go place yours in that shop right there. Amber, follow me to this one." Tark and Amber entered a small, abandoned store on the other side of the street than the one Hu Li went in to. There, he instructed the girl to assist him in erecting an odd series of thin metal sticks and rods. At the top he placed a trey with three holes, and told Amber to open a certain window while he filled holes with three different darts from his pocket. By then, it was clear what the purpose of the invention was; three darts were ready to be shot out into the street. Hu Li had duplicated the same steps in his shop, which happened to have a smashed window directly across from the one Amber opened. The trap was ready.
The three teammates reconvened once again at the center of the road, where Tark pulled out a small disc with an even thiner chain attached to it that ran all the way into the shop. The series of links had exactly the same color as the pavement and was practically to small to notice. Hu Li handed him another one that lead into his shop and the man connected it as well.
Tark smiled. "Well, let's go hide somewhere and wait for this beauty to do her job. He dropped the disc by his left foot and guided to twins to an outside cafe nearby so they could watch what happened next. In no longer than a half hour, six Angkara Sentries came marching down the street in two rows of three- three men on the left next to three men on their right. Tark bit his lip as they approached his device, the anxiety killing him on the inside. Luckily, the event happened just as he predicted. The front, left Sentry stepped on the disc just as he was supposed to, and without any warning six darts emerged from the left and right, striking each guard in the neck. They fell simultaneously, the unbearable poison coursing their veins. A few people gasped and a crowd formed around their dead bodies, providing the perfect moment for a sneaky escape. The three rebels slipped away, trying to hide their pleasure.
Night had fallen over the city of Kisah, and the woman known as Kriyel was tending to her pet dragon. The beast had a beautiful seafoam color with gold lines running dow her sides. "Now now, Shiva. I'm going to have Amber give you a nice bath tomorrow." The dragon winced and backed away, curling into a ball inside the ornate outside stall in which she slept.
Kriyel's pet almost never acted this way, and the woman knew exactly who was behind her. Reluctantly, she turned to see a hooded figure with a twisted, wooden staff standing across from her. It bore black robes with white cuffs and odd white patterns up its sleeves. Like always, Kriyel could not make out its face. She could only see a dark void under its hood.
"Why have you come here," she asked with her voice trembling.
The figure neither moved nor spoke, but Kriyel knew that it was responding. She never heard a voice, but merely knew that words were entering her mind. It was unexplainable, but she could sense a reply.
"Your husband is dabbling into our secrets. He must not advance any further with his knowledge."
"I'm so sorry, Master. I had no idea he was listening."
"It is time to accelerate our plans. The treasure we seek is coming closer to us. You must prepare to fulfill your side of the deal once the Pendant is in our hands."
"That's why I've sent the one to find it."
"Very smart of you. The one is the only thing standing in our path, but soon this world you call home shall be yours, and I will rule my world."
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