“Where am I? What am I doing here?” I could only see myself floating across the sky towards an unknown destination. I could see nothing, yet I felt content with it. It was like a strong feeling, nostalgia, something that felt oddly familiar but not at the same time.
The scenery immediately switched. Now it wasn’t a light sensation of floating, but a dreadful look at reality.
A massacre. That was the only way I could describe it. So many people, all of whom somehow felt very familiar to me. With a horror I realized that the people were on their knees, each awaiting an execution. Dozens of people were on the ground, like corpses that decorated the reality.
Now, it was time for somewhat elderly looking couple to be killed as well. Yet, for some reason they were smiling.
“Please remember us, son” the man said in kind voice.
“We will be always with you” the woman said, not paying attention at the blade that was coming towards her neck.
Slash! Both of their bodies now fell forward, motionless.
I wasn’t sure what to say or what to believe. But at that moment I realized that these two people who were just killed were my parents. I couldn’t see their faces, it was as though the shadows concealed them, but I could recognize their voices.
I trembled all over. My heart beating faster and faster as my mind struggled to comprehend reality. I felt broken. I found myself on my knees in front of my parent’s corpses.
Before I noticed anything, a knight jumped towards me with a sword, fully intending to kill me.
Before his sword reached me, he was repelled by a figure concealed in shadow. The figure proceeded to stab the knight in the heart with his hand and the knight faded into nothingness.
“Have you truly forgotten me?” the shadow figure said in a menacing voice.
“Have you forgotten who you are?”
‘No…’ I whispered.
“They all died because you were weak! Useless! Incapable!” the figure rambled on. I could only tremble as I realized at how right the figure was.
“That is not true!” I cried out with all my might.
“Don’t deny the reality. It is your fault everyone is dead.” The figure pointed with his hands around the place. “Your home burned away to nothingness, your family is butchered as sacrifices, and your loved ones have met the same fate, all the while you watched. You watched as you could do nothing. How pathetic!”
“And now you even forgot the face of your enemy, the one responsible for all this.” The figure said in rather quiet voice, almost as if it was not worth trading over.
“I tried! I tried! I wanted to save them!” I screamed.
“So much of a rescuer you are, failing to rescue your loved ones, failing to rescue your family, and failing to rescue yourself. Admit it, you have lost. And now all you have left to return to are the grave stones.” the scenery changed. Now instead of bodies covering the ground, there were countless tombstones sticking out of the ground.
“What do you know about me?”
“More than you know, that’s for sure.” The figure gave a sarcastic reply. “I know that you are a failure, a complete disappointment. Heck, every battle resulted in a loss for you. Don’t you see how absurdly pathetic you look? You fought so hard and for what? Everything that mattered is gone, there is nothing left to save. Even your own self is gone.”
“Just who are you?” I asked.
The figure took off the cloak concealing his face, revealing a face identical to my own. “You will know soon enough.”
Then, the reality warped. The scenery of tombs and the figure was replaced by a peaceful place, it was beautiful greenery.
There sat a person who seemed very familiar to me. For some reason when I looked at this person tears came to my eyes. I remembered this person.
It was my teacher. I was sure of it. I could not remember my teacher’s name, nor could I see the face concealed under the veil.
It seemed like a conversation long forgotten, something that was sealed away deep within my memories, something that was intangible until now. I just listened.
“World is large place. Everything exists within it for a purpose. But each one’s purpose is for each one to discover. But don’t lose sight of life in futile search for a purpose.” The teacher smiled. “The most important lesson I can teach you is perhaps this-don’t let anyone decide your fate, fate is your to take, don’t let anyone’s words stop you. But if you ever find yourself lost, seek what you consider the dearest and protect it. It is different for each one, for each one’s values are different, but the truth is that each one holds on to something that makes them able to keep going forward. Otherwise they will be broken. When you find what you consider dearest, protect it and cherish it, for it might be too late once you lose it.”
The scenery changed again. The beautiful fields of grass were set on fire.
My teacher was there, I was there as well, but I couldn’t move. It was as if I was sitting on top of something, some sort of a creature that had a life of its own.
“My dearest student, I am sorry we have to part like this.” There were three menacing looking figures coming our way.
“Why? Why can’t you come with me? We can escape together!” I found my voice saying this.
“We cannot both escape with our lives. I have lived a long life while you still have yours to look forward to.” The three figures were getting closer, there was less chance of escape now.
“But why? I want you to live! Why are you doing this?”
“It is because I want to protect what I cherish the most. Thank you for being my student, I daresay you have taught me instead. In many ways you have saved me.” My teacher chuckled. “I will ask this of you not as your teacher, but as a fellow living being, please don’t forget me. Look forward to you future with a bright smile, and no matter what happens don’t lose sight of what you hold closest to your heart. Now, goodbye, my precious student.”
The creature underneath me started to move, the distance between me and my teacher started to get bigger and bigger. I could see my teacher fearlessly facing off against three figures that were attacking simultaneously.
My teacher fended them off as long as possible, but three of them finally were victorious. My teacher was defeated.
The last image of my teacher I saw was –my teacher being impaled by three swords. But my teacher was smiling, as if the death did not matter. That smile seemed to be directed at me. It seemed to say “Keep going forward and don’t look back.”
The face of my teacher, that smile, it was heartbreaking.
The scenery changed again. Now I was by myself, crying, while in the middle of nowhere, sitting on top of thick snow. Everything seemed lost.
“Ren, Ren, Ren…” the voice kept calling to me, and I opened my eyes.
It was Akjan, my eyes were looking up at her face, while the back of my head was resting on something very soft.
“Ren! You’re awake!” Akjan said excitedly.
“I was asleep? How did that ….” I realized my position, or more accurately to say what I was laying my head upon. Akjan’s soft legs. I wasn’t sure whether to be embarrassed or excited, so I chose to just ignore it while blushing profusely.
“You passed out while trying to control my darkness element.” She told him how he ended up losing consciousness.
“Oh, I see. How pathetic of me, isn’t it?”
“Not at all!” She said with a furious expression. “You did something that I have never seen before. I never heard of controlling someone else’s element!”
“So much of a control, I passed out right after trying.”
“But you did control it!”
Still lying on Akjan’s lap, I covered my forehead with my palm in exasperation, with the message my dream sent me still on my mind.
“What good a control can be without being able to conjure a substance to control, admit it, I am rather useless in a real situation.” Perhaps that guy in my dream was right, maybe I am a lost cause.
“I can’t help but think that leading up to here; I was just an enormous failure.”
Akjan furrowed her brows in disagreement.
“Don’t say that! Why would you say that! Up until today, what you were doing is not a failure!”
My eyes filled with tears when I remembered the sight of my parents and teacher. “Easy for you to say.”
When she saw Ren’s tears on his face, she asked “Why are you crying?”
“I don’t know, I just don’t know, I …” I didn’t get to finish.
“You remember your past, don’t you?”
“How did you know?”
“It is written all over your face, dummy” She said with a sad smile.
“I see. I didn’t expect it to be so obvious.” I wiped my tears off my face.
“Ren, before coming here, to this place, who were you?” She asked out of curiosity.
“I don’t know, or rather I would like to not know.” I sighed. “All I know is that I couldn’t protect those who were important to me, now their likenesses haunt me in my dreams.” I knew how insensitive I could be if I said this but I just felt like telling the truth. “In my dream I saw the day my entire family was killed. One by one, each one fell, lifelessly upon the ground. I remember my teacher who taught me how to survive, even at the cost of teacher’s own life. My teacher saved me, me, an insignificant kid who couldn’t even fulfill her request!”
As she watched Ren telling his true heart out, Akjan felt some form of familiarity to him. She knew what he was talking of were his true feelings, she sensed that he shared pains similar to her own. She felt that she could understand the pain he felt in his heart better than anyone else.
“In the end, I was left alone, with everyone I wanted to protect gone, all alone…” I didn’t notice, but I no longer was lying on Akjan’s lap. Somehow she pulled me towards herself in a strong embrace. She was very soft.
With tears filling her eyes she whispered in my ear “You are not alone. You have your grandfather, you have your friends, and you have your Clan. And you have me.” She said the last part with more emphasis.
I looked at her in the eyes “Why? Why would you stick to no good like me?”
“Because I want to be with you, Ren, without you, I wouldn’t even be alive!” She looked at me in the eyes and said “Back then you told me that no matter what happens, you would be there for me, then let me say this then! No matter what happens I will be there for you!”
I felt rather touched by her gesture of goodwill. She indeed was someone who clearly understood me better than the others. I nodded.
Now we both were embracing each other. I whispered “Thank you”
“Hick, don’t mention it.” She said while crying as well.
Now, we both sat down watching the night sky. It was rather nice view moons; hand in hand we were observing how beautiful it was.
“Akjan, what I am doing… is it pointless?”
She looked at me in the eyes and said “It’s not pointless at all! By Great Ones! I think you’re wonderful!” She found herself saying that much to her embarrassment.
“Really? You mean it?”
“Of course.” She said while thinking ‘Kyaah, I called him wonderful, how embarrassing!’
“I will need help in the future.” I referred to training to control elements. “Can I please ask your help in my future endeavors?”
Still holding my hand, she pulled me towards herself, now our faces were very close to each other.
“Do you have to ask?” She said with a beautiful smile on her face.
Ren’s face was very close to Akjan’s, it was getting closer and closer…
“Wow, boss, you really don’t waste your time.”
Both Akjan and Ren cried out in surprise.
“Orin!!” Both of them said at once.
“Bad timing?” Orin scratched his head. “ He he. Sorry.”
“You got nothing to apologize for, with these lovebirds around.” Aijasyl said while looking somewhat menacing.
“Lovebirds?” Akjan put both of her hands to her face, while her horn turned completely red.
“These two are together? I didn’t know that.” Kizilkoz came out of the corner.
“How many of you are hiding there?!” I asked after it became painfully obvious that Akjan and I were nor alone at all.
“Well…” a crowd of Tengu clan members heads became visible. I could see Master Korgan, Shaula, and many others sneaking a peek at us.
“Aaaaaaaah aaaaa aaaaa” I had no word to describe this, how long were they watching us.
“Don’t worry boss! Master Korgan told us you might need our help with controlling elements, so you can count on us!”
“Yeah, we can aid you in any way you desire.” Shaula chimed in.
“As long as it is within my ability.” Aijasyl said while holding one arm with her other arm.
“We are allies, so it’s natural we help each other.”
“I see.” Ren’s right eye twitched slightly. “Thank you everyone. But did anyone of you ever heard of PRIVATE TIME!” how long were these guys watching us?
Everyone was just scratching their heads or pretending to not to hear by whistling. Even grandfather seemed to be laughing from seeing my embarrassed face.
Korgan thought “Does that mean Ren already chose his woman? Hm, I didn’t expect that he and Akjan would be together… but if that’s the case, I completely approve.”
“YOU GUYS ARE HOPELESS!” Ren screamed in exasperation at the nonchalant manner everyone just happened to be overhearing his private conversation.
Laughter filled the halls of the Karatengu territory like no other.
Now even Ren and Akjan joined in to the collective laughter. It was the happiest times personified, time when everyone could just laugh everything off.