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Feeling sad and alone, he sat on the doorstep, watching the other children play and laugh. Their fiery red hair glowed in the sun as they took turns kicking a bright-yellow ball with small bells attached to it, its beautiful chiming song filling the air. They never allowed him to join them on their games. They called him names, like dirty-head, and mud-boy, and if he didn’t ran fast enough, they’d beat him and kick him until he was really covered in dirt. This time even Ren-har had joined them, and so he had thought that maybe she, who had always been nicer to him, would allow him to play as well. But she had just stood to the side, looking miserably at him, while the others cruelly chased him away.

“And here is our Lor-her!” a voice boomed from his back, making him jump to his feet and quickly turn around. The bright smile that greeted him and the equally bright green eyes that looked down at him allowed him to relax. “Sulking again, I see,” the young man that had spoken noted, and he crossed his arms, averting his gaze with a pout.

“Am not! And I’ve told you not to call me that!”

“But you are a Lor-her, are you not? And besides, you’re clearly about to bawl your eyes out! Have they bullied our Lor-her again?” the young man asked in a mocking tone that only made him angrier.

“I am not!!”

“Sure you are! Are those tears I see gleaming in your eyes?”

Just to be sure he scrubbed his eyes hard before turning to face him.

“What tears?! You just wait and see! When I grow up I’ll make you cry a thousand times harder!!” he threatened and the young man laughed, his warm voice filling the air as he squatted down to stand closer to his height.

ZenTar was always like that. Always annoying to the point he wished he had the height and strength to beat him at least as hard as the other children beat him. But, somehow, even though he always made fun of him, he couldn’t bring himself to completely dislike him.

“I’ll hold you to that promise, then,” ZenTar stated and, with a wondering expression, fished something from inside his military coat, which immediately perked his attention. “Now, let’s see … where did I put it? Ah! Here it is!!” he exclaimed, happily producing a small paper bird. It was painted green and yellow, and the even smaller beak was bright red. “I heard someone say that our little Lor-her had learned to control his first wind daitai, and then saw this small thing selling at the market, and wondered if our Lor-her would like to have it …” Looking at the paper bird it was all he could do not to try and snatched it away from his hands. ZenTar also looked at the bird and scratched his chin pensively. “But now that I look at it, this is hardly a toy worthy of our Lor-her … I am sure you have other, much more beautiful toys to practice on.”

“No! No! I want it!” he quickly declared, eyes pleading, and ZenTar couldn’t help laugh, ruffling his dark hair.

“You really want it?”

“I do! I do! Please give it me!!”

With a smile, ZenTar placed the little bird on his hands and simply watched as the child in front of him looked at it with bright, delighted eyes.

“Aren’t you going to try it?”

“Hum … what if I can’t control it and it falls down? It will be ruined, then …” he replied with a sorrowful expression that made ZenTar ruffle his hair again.

“You know, birds are supposed to fly. If you keep it locked in your hands just because you’re afraid it might fall, won’t it be miserably sad? If you’re afraid it may fall, just make sure that won’t happen.”

The child looked doubtfully at the bird a bit longer, but suddenly his expression changed. Holding the small paper bird on the palm of his hand he fixed his gaze on it, focusing the best he could. The gentle breeze that surrounded him, blowing his dark hair, became stronger, and he frowned, pressing his lips together, doing his best to control the air flow. And then it caught the small bird’s wings and it flew straight out of his hand, shooting towards the sky, its bright colors glowing in the sun.

He played with it the entire afternoon, even long after ZenTar had left him, returning to his military practices. And, by evening time, he was already able to make the small bird turn left and right at his will. He was so focused in commanding it that he didn’t even notice when one of the other children approached him. Older and taller than him, he quickly snatched the little bird when he tried to make it safely return to his hand. Looking up, he was almost blinded by the way the setting-sun reflected on his fiery hair, and then his gaze fell on the paper bird, firmly locked in his hand.

“Give it back!” he immediately demanded, stretching his hand, but the other boy ignored him, turning the bird from one side to the other, studying it curiously.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a bird. And it’s mine. Give it back!”

“A bird?! This paper thing?”

“Give it back!!”

The boy looked at him, his clear-green eyes turning cold and evil, and held the paper bird just above his head.

“You want it? Come and get it. That is, if you can. Mud-boy!”

He stretched his arms and legs to his best, and jumped as high as he could, but every time it looked like he was about to grab it, the other boy would simply raise his arm a bit higher and place it out of his reach again.

“Please give it back!!”

“You’re so useless, playing with paper toys like some poor kid! So you managed to conjure some wind! What a stupid thing! You want to see what it means to control a real daitai?” he asked, holding the bird in his hand, and immediately a bright flame jumped from his palm, transforming the green paper bird into a pile of ash in a blink of an eye. “See? Now this is a useful daitai. You’re such a loser! Your stupid daitai is only good to blow off candles!”

For an instant he could only stare at the other boy’s now empty hand. And then rage took over him, and he launched himself onto the other boy, screaming, clawing and kicking as hard and as best as he could. Of course, with almost four years of age over him, the other boy simply pushed him back and he immediately fell on his butt. Still the burning anger inside him had yet to subside, and so he quickly scrambled to his feet, and jumped to attack him again.

“What’s going on here??” a loud, hard voice asked, and the two boys were immediately frozen in place, taking a step back and lowering their heads. “FeiWan?!” the voice persisted and the boy next to him shuddered.

“He started, mother! Attacking me for no reason at all!” he quickly replied, to his indignation.

“Not true! He burned my bird!” he accused back.

“Bird?! What bird?” the woman asked, a cold frown marking her otherwise perfect porcelain face.

“A paper bird, mother. It was flying around, so I grabbed it and burned it before it could dirty our garden,” FeiWan promptly replied.

“It wasn’t just flying around! And it wasn’t going to dirty the garden! It was my bird!”

“Enough!” the woman demanded, rising her voice, making both boys shudder again since, in the middle of their heated discussion, they’d completely forgotten in front of whom they were fighting. “FeiWan! Get inside, right now! I will deal with you later!” the woman commanded and the boy obeyed without even looking back. “You! You dirty thing! I’ll pay your mother a visit!”

And those were the worst words anyone could say to him.

He’d rather be beaten to a pulp than being dragged by that woman all the way to the isolated Pavilion where he lived with his mother and a few house servants. Even though he knew it would be of no use, he still apologized and pleaded with all his heart and soul, promising never to do whatever he had done wrong again. As expected nothing worked, and the firm, cold hand that squeezed his shoulder, forcing him to walk in front of her, didn’t released him until they reached the White Pavilion.

As the name said, all painted in white, without any of the usual riches and sumptuous decorations, the White Pavilion stood like a lonely white flower at the back of the Palace grounds. Presently lacking in servants, its small gardens were mostly wild, the path leading to the front doors unkempt. At the sight of them the servant girl guarding the plain, white entrance silently rushed inside and so, when they finally reached it, his mother was already waiting by the entrance to welcome them.

Dressed in a simply pale-pink gown, her black hair tied up in a bun of braids, she elegantly knelt down, bowing and touching her forehead to her pale, delicate hands.

“Greetings, noble Janwan-lar,” she humbly murmured and he couldn’t help feeling a weight crush his chest at the sight of his mother, prostrated like that, in front of that arrogant woman.

“Hum! Greetings, NimTar,” the woman replied in return, rudely using her birth name, despise dripping from every word out of her mouth.

“I came all the way here to return this filthy child to you!” she declared and NimTar bowed even deeper as if she wished her head could go through the white, stone floor, making his eyes burn with tears.

“The child is still young and ignorant of many of the formal proceedings. I ask that the noble Janwan-lar may be lenient and forgiving of any offense he might have caused you, or your family.”

“Offense?! I caught him viciously beating FeiWan-her!” she declared and his mother shuddered, her forehead still glued to the floor. “And all because of some insignificant paper bird! You clearly don’t put any effort in disciplining this wild child! Should I take this burden from your incompetent hands?”

“Janwan-lar, please rest assured. I will punish him accordingly. And he will recognize and apologize for his wrongdoings to the noble El’Gin.”

Snorting she finally released him, pushing him forward, making him stumble and almost fall on his knees.

“I will be waiting for an adequate apology,” she declared and, without another word, spun on her heels and climbed down the white stairs, her orange, fiery gown trimmed in gold glistening like a living flame with each step she took.

Finally rising her head, NimTar gestured the servant girl to close the door.

“I am sorry, mother,” he pleaded the minute they were alone and she grabbed his hand, her fingers as cold as the stone floor under his feet.

“Did he take the bird from you?” she asked and he simply nodded.

“And burned it. It was mine and he burned it,” he sobbed, still feeling sorry for the beautiful green and yellow bird, but the slap that heated his cheek cut off his sobbing midway.

“Stop crying! And how many times do I have to tell you that nothing in this place belongs to you?” she scolded him and he couldn’t help stare at her in angry indignation.

“But it was given to me! So it was mine!”

Another slap, this one harder, left him staring at the naked, white wall at his side.

“Get it through your thick head already! Nothing is yours! Repeat it!!” she demanded, grabbing his arms and shaking him as if that could force her words to sink deeper into his memory. “Nothing is yours! Not the clothes you wear! Not the air you breathe!! Do you understand me?? Say it!”

“Nothing is mine …” he obeyed, tears sliding down his face.

“That’s right! Not even your life is yours! Much less a stupid paper bird!! And tomorrow you will kneel to Wen FeiWan and apologize like I’ve taught you, do you understand?” he nodded. “Say it!”

“I understand, mother …”

The arms that surrounded and squeezed him almost stole his breath away.

“What am I going to do with you …? When will you learn …?” she whispered into his hair, kissing it and then holding him tight again, as if fearing that someone might barge in and tear him away from her arms.

“I’m sorry …”

She squeezed him some more and didn’t let go for a very long time.

The next morning he made his way to the Red Rose Pavilion, knelt down and bowed in front of the richly carved doors as primly and properly as he could until midday, as an apology for the capital offense of having assaulted the young El’Gin.

 

 

 

 

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A note from Sophia Carpersanti

Language:

Ren-har: Literally ren (river) + har suffix meaning girl child, or a child of the female sex and an endearing form to call a child.

Lor-her: Literally lor (lord) + her, suffix meaning boy child, or a child of the male sex and an endearing form to call a child..

ZenTar: Literally zen (silent) + tar (wind).

Daitai: Literally dai (light) + tai (mark), or Holly Markings, considered Heavenly Blessings. They’re the source of power.

FeiWan: Literally fei (raging / furious) + wan (fire)

Janwan-lar: Literally jan (flower) + wan (fire) + lar, suffix meaning lady. The male, lord, is -lor

NimTar: Literally nim (gentle) + tar (wind)

-her (in FeiWan-her): Suffix meaning boy child, or a child of the male sex and an endearing form to call a child.. The feminine, girl child, is -har

El’Gin: Literally el (supreme) + gin (silver). Name given to the male children of the Emperor. Could be translated into prince in the common language

Wen: Literally wen (sun)


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About the author

Sophia Carpersanti

Bio: Sophia CarPerSanti was born with her mind lost in another world. Not too strangely, writing is her only passion since childhood, and so there's not much one can do to correct what was weird right from the start. Once deprived of writing total mental breakdown follows and yeah, nothing good comes out of it. And so there are a lot of books and manuscripts inside boxes and drawers just waiting for an opportunity to see the light of day. I hope you enjoy my beloved ones as much as I enjoyed creating them ♥

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