"If you fall pick yourself back up, yah, hold your stance, feet firmly on the ground, Ania I said feet firmly on the ground ", "you think he's gonna let up pretty soon"? I smiled at my best friend and aimed my sword at her throat, a move she dodged Expertly." there's more chance of master Joria actually smiling than that ever happening " I replied while dogding a move from her that could have very well taken my head off, she full on laughed in response
"Kiara, Tera, this is a training ground not your personal jesting house " master Joria said with one of his famous scowls. "sorry master " we both said bowing. " hands firmly on your swords" master Joria continued screaming making tera roll her eyes and steel her face in an attempt to copy him, I couldn't control the laugh that escaped then, "Kiara!" oh no "yes master?"
Tera and I walked back home after training, well training plus extra hours from master Joria for 'disrupting the lesson ' . Zethna was usually quiet by this time of the day, Tera took to humming a song as we walked which left me to my thoughts.
I had lived in Zethna all my life with my brother Azumi, it's the only home we've ever known, a small place which although hadn't been claimed by Peria, wasn't a stranger to the war and the loss that came with it. Zethna was a home of warriors, men and women both trained in the art of combat and self defense, the war started decades before I or my brother was born.
we grew up hearing stories of a time all was right in the world and a family wasn't lacking it's father, where war didn't take a man from his wife and a mother from her children. Zethna fought in the war, with every warrior that was of age going off to help our sister towns and cities, sometimes they returned, other times, they did not.
I was 6 and my brother 8, when our parents once again went out to war, but the difference this time being they both didn't make it back, the pang in my chest at the thought of my parents had dulled over time, but it wasn't any less painful. In this world where everyone was so impossibly alone, where you never know when you could lose a loved one, all I have is my brother, all he has is me.
"hey sis" Azumi greeted from his place on the gahma, I smiled at him and collapsed on the gahma "you guys took forever at training today " he said with his cheeks stuffed with rice balls ," master Joria" I said simply and he nodded making an ohhh sound of understanding , Azumi trained with him last year before he turned 20 and became eligible to go out to war, a fact I silently dread in my heart.
He offered his plate of rice balls to me with a cheeky grin, I rolled my eyes and accepted them from him. "how was training ", "you know same old, just me kicking warrior ass" Azumi said with this smug look on his face, I laughed and facepalmed but couldn't hide the hint of a smile on my face.
After we lost our parents, that night when the ship of zethnan warriors came back and Azumi and I stood by the bay, his hand holding my smaller one , watching warriors both male and female, some gravely injured come out from the ship to their loved ones, I watched the light and hope in his eyes get dimmer as the last passenger came off the ship, as the ship retreated from the harbor without our parents, we were so young, too young to let go, but we understood what it meant, our parents weren't coming back.
6 year old me broke out into sobs right there, but Azumi, my brother didn't cry, he had this look in his eyes which didn't match his age, he pulled me into an embrace and all I could do was scream and sob as he hugged me "I'll protect you Kiara okay, I'll always protect you" I'll never forget that day, the sadness we both felt, how we both had to grow up so fast, and the silent whisper of promises made by my brother.
"There's a bonfire tomorrow, wanna go? " Azumi asked suddenly, "you mean the event that's supposed to be the recounting of the towns history but ends up being over exaggerated tales of war experience from meathead warriors? I would love too", I said with this big fake grin on my face, he grinned back "that's the one".
As expected, the bonfire consisted of male warriors who were too old to go to war recounting glory days, and the younger ones who had been on the frontlines a few times singing praises of their own bravery.
Tera and I shared numerous eye rolls through the tales, but the children and some of the younger men listened with wrapped attention, the older women later on recounting tales of years before the war, peaceful times where mothers put their children to sleep at night and cities, kingdoms weren't at constant war with Peria at the forefront of it all.
Peria started the war decades ago, where the greed of the perian king at the time led him to expanding his powers by forcefully taking over independent cities and Nations. Unlike with zethna, Peria succeeded in taking over most nations, but not without blood and tears, and a never ending battle of war and loss. Something which ended up taking my parents from me, a war which had taken something from us all.
The stories became singing and the singing became dancing, I smiled as I watched my brother and his friends singing an offbeat tune at the top of their lungs, Tera had started dancing with the children, this happy grin on her face, the world wasn't perfect, but knowing I'm not alone made dark days brighter.
"you've gotten wayyy better at this " azumi commented, I grinned and aimed my arrow at the target "I have a good teacher ","an excellent one I must say " he said grinning cheekily, apart from the mandatory training, azumi had taken it upon himself to train with me at his free time.
"not bad Kiki, for a girl I mean " his friend zulon commented, "call me kiki one more time and this arrow will go through your mouth" I said, aiming my arrow at the poor target board that didn't deserve it half as much as the idiot my brother chooses to call friend.
My brother roared with laughter, I looked up in time to see the scowl aimed at me by his retreating friend, "you need to stop hanging out with that meathead azumi" I said to him while packing up my gear. " he's harmless kiki " he said and proceeded to laugh again, I shook my head and walked away, not before making him fall on his face though. "kiara!" he yelled as I bounced away smiling.
"she's aiming too low " Tera said as we watched two girls from our training group spar. "it's almost predictable "she continued, "no it's her eyes, she looks at where she intends to strike before she does, her opponent figured that out already, that's how she's able to block her before she can get a hit in" I replied with my eyes trained on the girl who had now been disarmed with her back on the floor. Tera made a sound of agreement.
" kiara you're up " master ana called, I stood up and bowed. " kiara " Lia greeted, "lia" I answered, we both got into sparring positions, "now remember girls, the most important lesson " master ana started,"the sword is an extension of the arm" Lia and I said in unison, "excellent, now.. " "dung" the sound cut through the air, silencing everyone , "dung" I was frozen, recognition settled on everyone's face, No, no, "war drums " someone whispered, "dung"
My feet moved on their own,and I ran, distantly I heard Tera calling out to me but my head was in one place "No","no", "dung" azumi, the war drums signified that warriors had to be sent out to the war front once more, things had been so quiet lately that I almost forgot the possibility, azumi was old enough now, he would have to go.
"No no no" the fact settled in my chest like ice as I ran into our house and saw the shocked but sure expression on my brothers face , he gave me a weak smile, almost like he was saying everything was going to be fine, but things were far from fine. Azumi was to leave for war.
"I'm coming with you " I said while azumi packed, the ship that would take them was to leave tomorrow and I couldn't get the feeling of dread out of my chest, he smiled at me "you're not old enough too kiara, and besides I wouldn't want you there, you're safer in zethna", "I don't care azumi, I'll talk to the elders, I'll.. " "no kiara, listen to me " he sighed and sat down, he looked so much older now, I knew he was stressed out by this just as much as I was and was trying not to show it for my sake. "I need to know you're safe kia, it'll be easier for me to come back in one piece that way " he joked, atleast he tried too, I frowned at him.
"azumi.. We lost our parents this way, I don't want to loose you too " I said trying to hold back tears, the day we lost our parents, I had cried so hard till I physically couldn't anymore, azumi had to be the strong one, he has always had to be the strong one, ever since then, I promised myself I wouldn't cry, atleast not in his presence.
He brought me into an embrace "what did I tell you all those years ago" he asked, "that you'll protect me "I said "with my life " he replied. "I'll make it back kia, I'm azumi remember,warrior extraordinaire " he said with that shit eating grin on his face which also made me smile "just trust me kia, I'll always make it back ".
"today once again we send out our own " the booming voice of master marak could be heard round the town square, I stood with Tera in the crowd, watching my brother and the other warriors who were to leave for war, the air was somber, it wasn't the first time the city would send warriors out to war, after all everyone present here is familiar with the feeling of loss, and the thought that not everyone would make it back, added to the chill in the air..
"these brave men and women will go out of the city once again, some for the first time, may they return safely " he concluded, my eyes were trained on my brother and I could barely hear anything past my heartbeat in my ears.
The warriors made their way to the bay and I felt the air leave my lungs, this is it, my brother was going to war, azumi might not make it back, before I could bury myself under all those thoughts, I looked up and found my brothers eyes on me, he was smiling please make it back I silently pleaded and begged through the bile in my throat, my brother kept smiling, as they boarded the ship, as the door closed and as the ship retreated from the harbor, I will.
this is nice right " tera said with this blissful look on her face as she sank back into the water "humm " I agreed, we were at the waterfall, the most beautiful place in zethna, it wasn't something we did frequently, only when one of us just needed to breathe, and I definitely needed to breathe. It had been 3 months since the warship left the zethnan harbor, 3 months since azumi left. I sighed and sank deeper into the water.
"sad we have to be back soon for training though " tera pouted, "humm " I heard her sigh "kiara, azumi will make it back " , "I hope so " I replied honestly, " and kiara ", she said suddenly holding unto my shoulders with a determined look on her face, I blinked "we're warriors kiara, it's just what it is, we're all going to have to go to war at some point eventually, and when azumi gets back, don't give me that look young lady he will get back okay, there's no guarantee he won't have to go again, that's just how our lives are now, hope that we'll always make it back to each other is what we have to hold on too, we'll be fine " she finished with a small smile on her face, her brown eyes,so different to my blue ones crinkled with it.
I surged forward and hugged her " you know I love you right ", she patted my back and I heard her laugh "of course you do " I rolled my eyes but couldn't hide the small smile on my face.
Everything she said was right, it's a fact that everyone in zethna had come to terms with, it was there at the back of the minds of mothers when they look at their children, of a man when he looks at his wife, it was the sad reality of the world we live in, this war one day coming to an end seemed like a distant dream, an impossible one. And not for the first time, I wondered how one nations greed did this to the world.
"yah!", I yelled as my best friend swam away laughing after splashing me with water, her high pitched giggle cut through the silent air of the waterfall, it came to an abrupt end though when I splashed at her also with a playful grin on my face, "ohhh it's on " she said and proceeded to chase me round the waterfall, well more like swim after me and try to get me even more wet than I was already, we had rare moments of fun like this from time to time, it was easy to forget that we were trained warriors and just act like normal 18 year olds.
"you would think the city was under siege " ania said to me as we sparred, now this was master arnoks lesson, he almost rivaled master joria on how strict and no nonsense he was, but the man always had a sadistic streak, that showing today in his decision to make us sparr when normal humans were asleep , and not just that, but in the rain. Wonderful. "watchwords girls? "he asked " defeat is not an option, you win or you die ",we echoed in unison, our master nodded once as he walked through the midst of sparring warriors in the unrelenting downpour.
Ania and I were neck and neck, "he just feeds off our suffering" I replied to her earlier question she nodded an affirmative and sighed. Ania was younger than me, her elder siblings had gone off to war, same as azumi, in a city as small as zethna, everyone practically knows everyone, so news got round quickly.
It had been 6 months since I last saw my brother, the first 2 weeks after he left was spent with my looking worse for wear because of sleepless nights spent worrying, Tera was with me through out that time, It got better later on, I slowly accepted the fact that it is what it is, and no matter how painful it was, I wasn't the only one going through this, everyone could loose a loved one, and I knew azumi was out there fighting for his life and those of innocent people, I was proud of my brother and I hoped everyday that he would make it back safely.
I hadn't run like this in a while, panting and out of breath,but I moved as fast as my feet would carry me, a sound had echoed through zethna moments ago, signifying the return of the warships, my heart was in my chest as I ran, thoughts of my brother in my head, I desperately held onto hope that he would be in that ship, desperately ignoring the negative voice in my head that was screaming otherwise,
The bay was filled with children, families waiting for their own, everyone hanging by a thread of hope for people who may or may not walk out that ship.
My legs came to an abrupt halt as I watched warriors descend from the ship, my heart beat wildly in my chest. Please please please ,I was frozen in place, shouts of joy and relief could be heard all round as people were reunited with their loved ones, my eyes were trained on the warriors still descending from the ship, desperately looking for my brother, the number of warriors got smaller by the minute, the mood was a mix of sorrow and relief as some zethnans came to the realization that they're kids, husband, weren't coming back.
I felt my legs give out and I collapsed on the floor, my vision began to blur and panic took over, I still hadn't found azumi, no no the back of my throat had begun to burn as I distantly heard the sound of the retreating ship. Every negative thought I had tried to ignore for 6 months took over and all I could do was try not to choke on my own sob.
"azumi, azumi oh please no " I whispered, my own voice sounded strange in my ears. "you're a little to old for ground play miss" I froze "tell me does your brother know his sister is still such a baby " the voice continued with the hint of a smile. My gaze shot up and the relief that flooded through me was immediate, my brother stood there, right infront of me, giving me one of the biggest smiles I've ever seen on him. "azumi "I whispered, "the one and only " he said with a grin, well he tried too but I had already tackled him to the ground in a fierce hug, he laughed and patted my back "I missed you too baby sis " I held unto him tighter and tried my hardest not to sob, for now atleast, life felt alittle more balanced.
Life in zethna has been easier, so to say, the masters for some reason had eased up on training, azumi had come back from the war a month ago bruised and with an injury on his arm, nothing too serious and I was forever grateful for that.
I had long ago come to terms with the idea that going out to war was never a one time thing but I hoped beyond hope that next time I would be old enough to go along also, atleast that way I would have his back.
The masters had more meetings than training sessions, in a small city like zethna, it was easy for rumors to begin due to the odd but welcomed change, talks of war within the borders among other things which were attempts by the people to guess at the reason for the masters being secretive.
The days after my brothers return were filled with sleepless nights from azumi, his hands, although never haven been scar free, had more pronounced marks and bruises, he was still the same azumi, if not a little more mature.
I had been looking for my best friend for the better part of today, we were meant to go to the waterfall together later today and later today was well, already in a few moments, in her defense we did make this plan a week ago, so it might have skipped her mind so I decided to go to the waterfall on my own.
"stop it" I paused as giggling and laughter erupted from behind the bushes that hid the waterfall from the pathway. I sighed deeply, what was anyone even doing here by this time anyway, Tera and I always made it a point to come by this time because it was always empty
I considered going back home cuz I definitely couldn't relax if other people were there, next time with company would be better, "I'm going to get all wet " I froze, that sounded so much like.. "azumi stop it " Azumi. My eyebrows rose sky high, my brother was here and he wasn't alone, I tried scanning my brain trying to figure out who the other person could possibly be, my brother as much of a social butterfly as he is, didn't date alot, azumi also wasn't a fan of the waterfall. "azumi! "the giggling erupted again from both of them and the voice was so familiar, it sounded so much like, "no way", my feet moved before my mind processed what I was doing, " no freaking way ", but there was no denying it, right there, in the center was my brother and Tera, my brother and Tera swimming, laughing, giggling.
My jaw dropped in shock, mind working two miles a minute, I tried not to jump to conclusions but she was literally in His arms and oh my azumi just kissed her, I was slack-jawed, I snapped out of it enough to recognize the moment was personal and I was intruding, my brother just kissed my best friend
I turned quietly and made my way back home, "Tera and azumi " my mind was still trying to process it all, " when did, how did they even", tera had been my best friend since I was 12 and azumi 14, but their interaction had always been minimal, they were friends but that was through me, and wow they were keeping this from me, for how long, a bigger part of me was still shocked by it all, but the other part of me was hurt that the two most important people in my life were seeing each other and keeping it from me.
That night azumi came home late, I gave him a bright smile as he walked in, he eyed me like I had grown a second head or something. "you good kiara?" he asked, "just peachy brother "I replied grinning widely "okayyy" he said, still with that suspicious look on his face.
"had fun today? " I asked as he sat on the gahma "just training and hanging out with the guys " he replied not looking me in the eye, "humm ", I had planned to drag the interrogation process out more but he looked so tired and, he looked happy. Ever since he came back from war, azumi has been his usual friendly, loud, chirpy self, but alittle more subdued, his eyes just as emerald as our mothers didn't shine so bright anymore
how hadn't I noticed how much brighter they had gotten since then?
"is my best friend one of the guys now? I said with a small smile. He froze and finally met my eyes, I could see the questions before he even asked "saw you both at the waterfall today "I said. "kiara " he started "why didn't you tell me " I asked trying to keep the hurt from my voice. " kia, I'm so sorry we didn't tell you "he said looking at me, there was guilt in his eyes and I couldn't find it in myself to be mad at him
"we didn't know how you would react, seeing she's your best friend and I'm your brother " I scoffed "azumi, I love both of you so much, of course I'd be happy for both of you, and I am very happy for both of you " I said laughing inbetween, "but keeping this from me was not cool, so not cool " I said feigning anger which was ruined by the pout on my face,
Azumi gave me a lopsided grin, he knew I wasn't mad anymore "are you really okay with it?" he asked "of course azumi "I said rolling my eyes "yes!I'm so sorry sweet wonderful amazing sister whom I love I promise I'll never keep anything from you ever again " he said in this high pitched voice, eyes wide and hands clasped tightly together. "you're an idiot " I said laughing
"so how long?" I asked my brother, "ever since I got back from war", he replied, I gasped, my best friend was so going to get it. He gave me an apologetic look "I also maybe kind of liked her way before I left for war " he said sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck. I stared at him slack-jawed
"I wasn't ever going to Say anything, but then I went to war all of a sudden and I promised myself I was going to try and make things work with her if I made it back, seeing everything and your life being in danger puts things more into perspective you know " he concluded, " that was beautiful azumi " I told him honestly, he smiled at me
"well you both have my blessings, not that you need it anyway " I said playfully. "it means the world " he replied seriously, I smiled back at him.
I stood up from my place on the gahma " now unto the best friend "I exclaimed and headed for the door, azumi laughed but stopped abruptly when he saw me get out of the door. "wait seriously??this night ??" he asked eyes wide, I grinned at him.
"yes dear brother "I said and proceeded to slam the door.
"you can't possibly be serious ", "I mater of factly am " Tera replied my brother with a blank look on her face "but baby " he started "no buts " she replied not meeting his eyes, my brother made this whining noise at the back of his throat as he shot googly eyes at his girlfriend, who is also my best friend. Tera tried and failed to hide her fond smile
Ever since I found them out and confronted both of them about it, they had become more open about their relationship, I wondered not for the first time how I never noticed the lovestruck gaze azumi always has for my best friend,
Tera had gone on and on about how her dating my brother had felt like she was breaking some code and she really didn't know how to bring it up to me, the conversation went like this "you're both idiots " I said looking at her blankly but then I hugged her and broke out into a wide grin, she laughed and hugged me back, I let go and held her by her shoulders "I know we always tell each other everything and promised it wouldn't be different if any of us decides to date, but I do not, want to hear about whatever you and my brother get up too " I said mostly serious but half teasing, she rolled her eyes but then proceeded to tackle me again with hugs
"okay fine " azumi grumbled, " I'll stop following you guys to training " , "and " tera said raising her eyebrows " and I'll stop sizing up every guy that so much as looks at you" he continued
she grinned at him and I rolled my eyes at their antics, " thank you " she said and kissed him on his cheeks which encouraged fake gagging noises from me. I sighed from my place on the gahma, I had gotten used to the idea of both of them being together, it was almost endearing to see, not that I would tell them that ofcourse. But seeing both of them so happy makes me happy.
A knock came from the door and we all looked at it oddly, as tightly knit has zethna is, most people kept to themselves at this time of the day. "I'll get it " azumi said, untangling himself from tera.
"greetings " I heard before the sound of whoevers voice it was behind the door reduced to mumurs, azumi came back into the room with a perplexed look on his face and some sort of paper in his hand, "it's from the elders " he started with raised eyebrows, both Tera and I paired at him curiously, "and it's for you kiara" he continued, the confusion on his face mirroring mine.
I stood up and took the piece of paper from him, why would the elders send me a letter, the elders only ever dealt with matters of trade and alliances outside the border, they were the heads somewhat rulers of the city. I stared down at the paper, azumi stood beside me with a worried look on his face, Tera watched us with an expression that mirrored azumis.
I opened the letter more out of confusion than curiosity, "what is it kiara?, what does it say? " azumi asked, " the elders azumi", I said facing him, "they've summoned me "
I replied still staring at the letter in bewilderment , what in the world did the elders want with me, " this is crazy " I said mostly to myself, azumi looked over the letter, his eyebrows crinkled in thought, there was a firm set to his jaw "we'll go together " he said,
"azumi, it's right there in the letter, they requested I come alone ". "we don't even know what you're walking into kiara" he argued, "you think the elders are going to kidnap me or something" I said playfully, azumi was only worried and being overprotective, but I could handle myself. "kia.. " he started, I smiled at him and turned towards the door " stay with Tera I'll be back before you know it " I said, he looked at me with a frown on his face
I was just as nervous but tried not to show it for all our sakes, the elders summoning me was odd and out of nowhere, I couldn't even begin to imagine what it's all about, but I couldn't not go either
"I smiled at both of them and shrugged "I can hold my own azumi remember, and I'm sure everything is fine " I said more for my sake than his. Azumi sighed and seemed to realize the fact that he really couldn't walk into the council of elders without being summoned "be careful okay "he started "and if you're not back soon I'm coming after you " he continued, " I wouldn't expect anything less " I said playfully before waving at my best friend who shot me a worried look and stepping out of my home.
The city was quiet and I couldn't shake off the feeling of Foreboding I had as I made my way through zethna. The council hall came into view, it wasn't the first time I had been there, but only in passing, it wasn't a place people were allowed to linger in or about, except they had business with the council. I took a deep breath as I stood outside the doors guarded by two men, they paid me no mind as I stepped in.
I realized I didn't even know where to go, but I kept on walking straight down the building, the walls were adorned with pictures of past councils and elders, the entire place sent a nervous chill down my spine.
"and what are you doing here " I turned to find a woman staring at me with a blank expression on her face she looked like she was in her 30s. She raised her eyebrows and I realized she asked a question I was yet to answer, I bowed " my name is kiara and I was summoned by the elders " I said holding out the piece of paper, she eyed it before taking from me
Her gaze swept through it before coming to rest on me again " follow me " she said and began to walk down in fast swift movements down the hall , I followed behind her quietly still wondering what in the world I was even doing here
"go through that door the elders are waiting for you", she said, eyeing me once more before making her way down the corridor. I sighed and looked towards the door, the sense of foreboding creeping in again, "let's get this over with " I said before stepping through the door.
The first thing I noticed about the room was how dark it was. The elders sat on a straight line, with master rena and master marak in the center. As much as I rarely concerned myself with information on who ruled zethna, I, same as everyone knew that master rena and marak had final say in every decision.
The now familiar sense of dread made my skin crawl as I bowed at the masters.
"darling, we hope this meeting is not in any way inconvenient for you" master rena said with a small smile on her face which put me at ease alittle, I hadn't had any previous encounter with the woman but she was known to be kind
"not at all master " I replied trying to not let my agitation by their stares show.
"as you know " master marak started, his voice booming in the small room " our city has managed to stay fairly sheltered from the war for decades now, but still we're no stranger to the loss that comes with it. But now we fear that the perian emperor, will one day lay siege to our city " I listened carefully, the thought of being invaded sending chills down my spine but couldn't help wondering why the masters were telling me all this.
"the attacks outside the borders and in our sister cities have gotten worse and we fear sending more zethnans out to war wouldn't be enough, neither would it make a difference, and we would continue to loose more of our own " he continued, his expression was blank and schooled even with the topic at hand, but his eyes were sad.
"most of the cities and bigger nations including zethna have formed an alliance against peria, to finally put an end to this war and finally stop anymore blood shed".
My eyes widened, the war coming to an end had always been just a dream, an impossible one, his eyes were bright with the possibility, all their eyes were. " the current emperor took the throne three years ago after his fathers passing, " master rena started " he's the sole heir, and our sources reported that the perian palace is taking recruits" she continued, with no trace of the earlier smile on her face.
"that is why young one, " master marak started, his eyes settled on me, his gaze was intense and the nerves kicked in, the question that had been at the back of my mind since I received that letter was slowly burning a hole in my chest, what did they want with me.. Surely.. " we the council of elders have chosen to send you kiara, daughter of Kayla and nile to peria " I froze, I was speechless, my brain was on overdrive, what?
"you are to infiltrate the palace through the elite barracks, and when you're placed close enough to the emperor, you are to put an end to him " he finished, his tone never wavered, and his eyes were cold but determined.
I unconsciously took a step back, my head was spinning and it took everything in me not to turn and bolt out of there, they couldn't be serious about this, why me, I didn't realize I had voiced out the question till master rena spoke
"you are an amazing warrior and have far surpassed your pairs " she said,her eyes held an apology but her face was void of emotions . My world felt like it had tipped on its axis
"and you came in highly recommended by joria " my eyes widened and found those of the said man, who along with the other masters in the room had stayed quiet throughout the exchange
"you haven't surpassed just your pairs kiara, but our male warriors also, we need to send out a person who hasn't been involved in the war one way or another to avoid any chance of recognition, you might have never been on the battle ground but you've always been able to hold your own, one of the best warriors zethna has ever produced " he said with so much finality.
Now on a normal day I would have been flattered to receive such praises from a master who made training hell and as only ever seen my mistakes, but this was all coming cuz they wanted to send me to Peria, to kill an emperor, they wanted me to end the ruler of the one place I have always viewed as the embodiment of evil.
I was silent, what could I possibly say, my head was spinning and all I could think about was going home to my brother and Tera, this had to be a dream
"you will go through 3 days of briefing on peria as a nation, you will learn all you need to know before your ship leaves in 3 days" master marak said, it took everything in me to speak past the bile quickly rising in my throat, I couldn't even reject this, I couldn't tell the masters no, refuse to help in something that could possibly end the war, something that would stop my brother from ever having to risk his life ever again, or anyone for that Matter.
My throat burned with the need to scream, it was clear to everyone in that room that I could very well not make it back, the possibility of everything going wrong settled in my stomach "that's too close " I managed to say through the heaviness in my throat
"we have to set this plan into motion as soon as possible darling, we don't know how long its going to take for you to do this, we are well aware that it's not going to be easy, but nothing will be put into action until we get the go ahead from you, we might not get a chance to infiltrate the palace ever again if we let this pass by" master rena said, her emotionless mask cracking somewhat, she almost looked sad as she looked at me. They all looked so sure, so happy with their plan and the prospects of peace
It wasn't the same for me, peace was something I craved, not having to send my brother out to war was an impossible dream till now, not having to loose anyone to war still seemed so impossible,but leaving zethna felt impossible , killing a man felt impossible, its something that would be become a necessity as a warrior if I ever had to go out to war, but it didn't mean I was okay with blood shed, but looking up at the masters
I knew I couldn't say no even if I wanted too, this was more or less an order, they the rulers and we the subjects, I have no choice. I was wrong when azumi came back, nothing is balanced, nothing in my world would probably ever be balanced again.
My legs gave out before I could take the few steps left to get home, my head was spinning, the back of my eyes burned with tears that I refuse to let drop, azumi rushed out, his eyes were frantic as he took in my state and the expression on my face. "kiara what happened? " he asked holding onto me, "kiara" he repeated shaking me slightly, there was a panicked edge to his voice. I looked up at him, "there's something I need to do."
My head was aching and azumis constant pacing wasn't helping matters. "this doesn't make any sense " he said more to himself, after returning from the masters, I had told azumi everything that happened and the mission the masters gave me, my hands were shaking but I hid them under my dress robes, I was playing it cool on the outside for the sake of my brother, but I was far from okay.
My best friend who had been hugging me since I got back noticed and hugged me tighter, I was grateful for it, it was the only thing keeping me grounded. She had burst into tears immediately she heard and has been quietly sobbing ever since, she knew as well as both I and azumi that I couldn't go against the masters.
"I'm going over there " azumi suddenly said, eyes strained and hands in his hair. I sighed "azumi no" I realized he was half way through the door when he didn't reply, I shot up and stopped him, "azumi you can't" I said my eyes begging, his eyes reflecting the same.
"I can't let you go, no, no I won't let you go " he said and continued his pacing " why does it have to be you, it doesn't have to be you Kia" he said frantically. I held his hand and smiled half heartedly, he frowned at me. "I don't have an option here azumi, you know as well as I do that we can't go against the masters "
"then what do you want me to do " he almost screamed, " you've never been to war kiara, you've never had to take a life, and they want to send you into the palace!! To kill the emperor?!!, I can't let you do this, I can't let you go ".
My heart hurt for my brother, he was taking this worse than I was "azumi please listen to me " I started, he breathed in harshly, then turned and left the house without a word, slamming the door after him, Tera got up to go after him but I stopped her "it's fine Tera, he just needs to breathe " I said to her with a small smile.
Her eyes were sad as she looked at me "I feel like I'm losing my best friend " she whispered, " you're not loosing me, I'll make it back " I replied more for myself than her, she looked like she was trying hard not to cry again, my heart broke for all of us "it's not fair " she said quietly.
It's almost midnight when azumi comes back, I stare at him from my place on the gahma, his eyes are bloodshot and he looks so tired, my heart breaks a little more looking at him, " I went to the elders " he starts and I sigh " wanted to offer going in your place " he continued, my eyes widened.
"they wouldn't even let me in " he says with a dark chuckle before he crumples on the floor, I'm by his side in seconds. "I don't know what to do kia, how can I let you do this, how am I supposed to protect you " he says hands in his hair and voice low.
"I love you azumi, but I haven't needed protecting since I turned 12" I said to him, eyes determined " I'm just as much a warrior as Every other person in this city, I can hold my own" I said looking him in the eye.
"you're my baby sister " he whispered "I'm supposed to protect you". Ever since we lost our parents, azumi became my mother, father and brother, he always put me first even though he was just a child himself, he was my hero, a fact I would probably never admit to him, but we weren't children anymore and I had to do this, I was scared, I was so so scared but how could I say no to the masters? How could I say no to something that could possibly end the war.
"I feel so helpless kia", he says and looks up at me. 18 years together and I rarely ever saw my brother cry, I knew he made it a point to not cry in my presence, something I was guilty of too, right now, watching him holding back sobs for my sake made me want to cry as well.
I surged forward and hugged him. " I'm strong azumi, I'll make it back "I whispered while holding him through the tears that were violently raking his body.
The days that follow are filled with lessons from master joria on Peria and it's political system, my head spinned with all the information and a part of me was still struggling to accept the situation even though I had come to terms with it, azumi became more quiet but he's gaze said alot and his eyes were distant.
He made it a point to train with me everyday since I last saw the elders, I could see worry bringing him down everyday but he kept his head high, and I knew it was for my sake.
I sat with my bestfriend by the waterfall, I was to leave for Peria tomorrow. I sighed "remember when we were younger and used to run around the entire city " tera started with a small smile on her face " we always ended up here even though I didn't know how to swim back then " I continued smiling a little "then azumi would get so angry when he found out " I laughed
"he has always been overprotective" I add, lost in thought of past days.
"since our parents died, azumi had to take on so much responsibility, smiling through everything for my sake even though we both knew it,
we only had each other " I say in a small voice gazing at the water. "but now he has you too "I say looking up at her with a smile on my face, which she returns.
"take care of my brother for me tera " I continue, she smiles sadly at me "you're going to make it back kiara" she says with so much hope that it tugs at my heart, I smile at her and look back at the water, "that's the plan ".
"remember when we used to go star gazingn" azumi started, we were sitted outside our house, both of us seemingly lost in thought, I was to leave for Peria tomorrow, azumi was still anxious about it all, but his reaction hasn't been as bad as it was the first time I told him.
His question cuts through the silent air and brings a small smile to my face " and then we would name the ones that shined brighter than the others after mum, the one closest to it after dad " I said smiling fondly at the memories
" and then the little ones surrounding both of them were us " my brother continued, the look on his face mirroring mine. " but we're not little anymore are we " he said looking at me with a sad smile on his face.
" I would give anything to stop you from getting on that ship tomorrow " he whispered, I watched him silently, head tucked ontop of my knees. "I feel like I'm failing our parents by letting you go " he continued " no you're not " I countered " they would be so proud of you azumi" I told him honestly.
He sighed and looked me in the eye, "I'm proud of you Kia, and I love you so much, please make it back to us " he said with this tortured but fond look on his face, I hugged him tight "always " I whispered.
I felt azumi move and something settle around my neck, I let go of him and looked down at the pendent on my neck, it was silver and it was so beautiful, shaped inform of a star. I looked up at my brother, "that was moms, I wanted to finally give you on your 20th birthday, but no day like the present right?" He said smiling fondly. I felt my eyes sting again and stiffled a sob, azumi hugged me, holding on like I would disappear if he let go.
I stood at the bay, staring at the ship that would take me away from the only home I've ever known, the masters along with my brother and best friend were present, the mission wasn't made public knowledge to the people.
I had been a bundle of nerves all day, the walk to the bay was spent in silence with azumi. I bowed at the masters, master rena gave me a small smile " go well child" she said holding unto my shoulders, master marak nodded at me and I wondered how he could be so calm and indifferent. Master joria also nodded at me and I concluded that it was a man thing rolling my eyes discreetly.
My brother looked at me with sad eyes, he absolutely refused to acknowledge the masters, stubborn.. "kia, " he started ,I smiled at him, he looked like he could barely breathe and I looked for his hands and held unto them tighter. I smiled at him reassuringly "take care of yourself okay, never get caught off guard" he continued and went on like that till I quietly let go of his hands and smiled at him " don't goof off and don't forget you actually need to eat at least once a day, you know for sustenance sake "I said teasingly, azumi did everything with passion, trained, loved with passion, he could get so lost in something and forget to take care of himself, it was endearing but also worrying, I trusted my best friend to keep him in check, I had never been more grateful that they found each other.
He rolled his eyes at me and pulled me into a hug
as I got on the ship and watched my home get smaller by the minute, i finally let myself feel fear for what was to come, I was to kill emperor orlan of peria.
hello everyone, thank you for reading up to here, the second chapter will be posted soon.