The group traveled for days inside the Rose, Lale’s customary vessel. It occurred to the newly self-titled Sovereign that he and Lale’s exploration had not even scratched the surface of the sheer size of Tetcht. So much land, yet nothing to occupy it.
Mountains, valleys and various terrain, with only the occasional horde of animals and plethora of marine life. Finally, they reached an unspecified location. Green grass for a couple hundred miles. Fei kissed Lale.
“I won’t need extraction.” He said. Fei bent over to kiss the hand of Dara. “You’re Merciless.” He said before squeezing through the tight ship of people. The rear of the ship disappeared to reveal the lush green plains. Not a tree as far as the eye could see. Just plush pasture.
As he left the ship the Vanakan Sentry followed carrying supplies inside a metal container. After the last of the 19 had exited, Lale and Dara departed together. The Sentry set the supplies down and awaited Fei’s instructions.
Fei opened the container and reached inside to retrieve a vial. Many vials lay perfectly inside with a second layer underneath them containing multiple shards. A red liquid filled each vial, with a fitted seal to serve as a lid. The sun signaling a new day peering through the thick red substance. It appeared murky, just slightly thinner than blood.
Fei held up the red liquid for the Sentry to see. “What do you know of this?” He asked. None of the men or women responded. “Nothing? Vanakan did not share our deepest resource with you?” Fei asked surprised by their expressions. The Sentry remained silent.
“Well, what did he tell you?” Fei questioned the group. A dark-haired woman spoke up. “He told us he was from Pratham. Home to many evils of the universe and that the citizens are a powerful race of people.” Fei listened closely.
His senses focusing on her breathing and body language. “Tumakako had committed treason and wanted to destroy our world using her god like powers. Vanakan gave his life to save us from her tyranny.” Said another one of the 19.
Fei was confused from their lack of knowledge. Yet nothing about them appeared to be misleading. “Were there any witnesses to Tumakako’s crimes? Did anyone see her alleged treasonous actions?” Fei asked.
The Sentry again became silent, as their faces reflected their thoughts. “Careful are those who do not trust, foolish are their counterparts who trust easily.” Fei stated as if reciting a proverb. “Vanakan said nothing of this?” Fei asked presenting the red liquid again. “Or where we all are from?” He continued.
“With respect your Sovereign, besides Dara the Fearless, many of us were Dara the Merciless’s age or younger when they arrived. Only the elders may have answers to your questions. They would often spend time with Vanakan and the traitor.” One of the 19 answered honestly. Fei thought for a moment, storing away the information he just learned. He decided he would dig deeper upon his return to the city, but for now, would stay focused.
The Sentry remained silent. Fei accepting their ignorance continued. “This is Iku.” He said holding up the vial. “It is the source of our extraordinarily long lives. Even a native Prathaman does not know the true length of time the Iku possesses. Each person’s reaction to its power is very unique. War has robbed many the opportunity for the long life it permits.” Fei said as he opened the veil of the Iku.
“At random, Iku may afford the host extraordinary abilities. Some become more powerful than others, but true strength requires time and effort. As of my departure from the first planet, none have concluded why some receive these abilities and others do not. The only gift known to be consistent is granting everyone near immortality.” Fei said with a smirk.
“Let’s just say, I’m a lot older than I appear.” Fei approached one of the Sentry. “I offer the Iku to you all as a gift. As the true guard of Tetcht, you will be like royal blood. Iku courses through the veins of royal blood. And so, it will run through you.” Fei handed the vial to one of the Sentry.
He provided more until every Sentry held the Iku in their hands. The Sentry stood facing their Sovereign. “I will not lie to you. The change is unnatural. Your body will feel deep pain and distress. As I stated the reaction varies by person. If you receive any gifts, you will become fully aware.” Fei informed the group.
“Please. Drink. So, you might live one thousand lives.” The Sentry began to drink the Iku. One by one they visibly succumbed to the suffering. Falling, some gasping for air before passing out. Fei settled onto his knees and listened to their body’s internal struggles.
His senses taking on many of their pain. He felt their trials. He basked in their agony. Their crying out slowly became silent. Fei meditated on the words he heard earlier. Feeling it was his fault why he and Lale cost themselves a valuable resource of information by killing Dara the Fearless. He understood the elders of the small city would be their sole lead for what had transpired between the citizens, Vanakan and the unknown Tumakako.
Lale and Dara arrived at the foot of a mountain. Snow covering the steep highland with only small segments visible. The wind howling outside, but inside the safety of Rose, silence. Lale pulled the ship to level out harmlessly above the white sheet. Looking into the frightened child’s eyes she smiled.
“I will create you a unique armor fashioned after my own. Would you like that?” Lale asked, pulling two shards out of a metal container near her pilot seat. She placed them on a countertop that materialized from the floor of the ship toward its rear. “Rose, withdraw project Clandestine, authorize new code.” Lale paused for a moment, looking at Dara, the child’s eyes confused and afraid. “Our Secret.” Lale ordered.
The ship responded, exposing a metal crate in back of the ship before the exit. The hidden compartment lifted out of the lower level and rested next to the counter on the floor. Lale opened the crate and drew a vial containing a green murky liquid.
She held her hand out to Dara, presenting the emerald substance. Dara hesitant to trust her. Dara’s anger toying with her, but she was too smart to attack the very woman who killed her mother. Feeling hopeless, Dara tried to restrain her disguised emotions as not to provoke her enemy.
Finally, after Lale did not retract her hand, she took the vial. “Would you like to know a secret?” Lale asked. Dara nodded her head feeling she didn’t have a choice in the matter. “This is Iku. The source of our power. It grants long life and rarely, abilities.” Lale informed the girl.
Dara nodded again for understanding. “The secret is. In its purest state, it will kill us. Scientist found a way to allow us to take the liquid. Giving it, it’s altered red color. However, a very bad man found a way to reliably grant special abilities. The green Iku, is as close to its purest form as we have. Altered Iku is red, the raw version is green.” Lale informed her.
“You must remember, never drink Iku that is pure, you will know by the violet color. It will kill you.” Lale suggested firmly. “As the council would have it, I hunted down and killed the person responsible for creating the green Iku, before they could present their findings to my home planet’s enemies. In the wrong hands this would bring greater evils to the universe.” Lale continued.
Dara’s eyes began to water. Her body shaking. “Don’t cry. Fear is not in your blood. Eradicate the fear.” Lale encouraged, wiping Dara’s tears. Waving her hand in an upward motion, a small stool arose for Dara to be seated.
Lale stooped to her eye level. “Dara I am giving this to you. No one can know. Should something happen to me. It is your duty to prevent this from ever getting into the wrong hands. Only you will be able to open this compartment. Authorization code: Our Secret. Do you understand?” Lale asked.
Dara nodded in assurance. “Do not hesitate or show mercy to those who would destroy our world. Promise me.” Lale requested. Dara nodded again. “I promise.” Dara answered, unsure how to feel.
She hated Lale, but her efforts to connect with her was confusing. Lale opened the vial of the green Iku. “I am trusting you with the future of Tetcht. I will teach you everything I know. You will be vastly superior to everyone before you. You will be perfect.” Lale proclaimed.
Dara’s mind began to race. Her body advised her to run away. Find a place to hide until she could one day become strong enough to fight. Fight like her mother. Dara thought some more, perhaps this liquid would be the way to get her revenge.
Or at the very least runaway faster. Dara could feel the tears beginning to form again but fought back the emotions. Lale gave the liquid to Dara. Staring into her eyes, Lale nodded giving Dara the cue to drink. Dara slowly sipped the liquid. “ugh!” She groaned nearly spitting it out. “Drink.” Lale urged her.
Dara grudgingly emptied the vial into her mouth and swallowed. She became visibly woozy, stumbling into Lale’s arms. Lale waved her hand again, the stool extended into a long soft surface. Lale scooped up Dara’s unconscious body, gently setting her on the surface to rest. Lale kissed her forehead, before approaching the shards she set out for Dara to begin her work.
“Rose, run vital scans and keep me updated on her condition.” Lale ordered. She began to tinker with the shards, personally constructing Dara’s armor. Lale looked over to observe the child. “I’m really sorry, you know. I didn’t want to kill her.” Lale said, feeling secure enough to allow a tear to fall.
“But sometimes I don’t think I can help him. If I didn’t intervene.” She paused. Lale took a deep breath. “I know this won’t make up for what you lost. It’s the best I can do.” Lale said, as she continued her work.
Days passed. One by one the Sentry woke up, disoriented. A couple vomiting before coming to. Fei waited for each member to return to their senses. None of the Sentry had strength enough to stand. They sat or lay in the grass. Their bodies vacant of energy. “Stand.” Fei commanded.
No matter how hard they tried, no one could heed the call. Fei rounded to each member attaching shards to their wrist. The shards forming each Sentry’s bracelets. “Tap your bracelets together twice.” He instructed. The group slowly obeying orders.
As each member complied, their bodies became covered in a dense black crystal-like armor similar to Fei’s. Their helmets covering everything but their eyes. “The metal of your armor is not a simple element.
It is stronger than all known metals before its discovery. Your armor feeds you. It feeds from you. Your connection to it strengthens as you do. You have the will to fight harder? It will provide you the tools and strength to do so.” He informed them.
The Sentry sluggishly reached their feet. Fei dropped into a stance. His teeth lengthened, nails stretched and became thick. Fei grew three feet in height, settling at a daunting eight feet tall. His muscles increasing in mass.
Before the Sentry could recognize what was happening, Fei attacked. His ferocity was beyond their comprehension. Fei transformed into his Feral form. A hybrid of a lion and human, more beast than man.
Within seconds, all 19 members were back on the ground. Fei’s roar could be heard for miles. He pounded his chest in victory twice. “Get up! You’re warriors! Fight for Tetcht!” He shouted.
Fei’s voice much deeper, raspy and animalistic than before. His attacks did not let up. Throwing the Sentry members around at will. The longer he fought, the stronger Fei felt. Each punch and kick echoed a powerful thud. He grasped one member by the throat on the ground.
Effortlessly, Fei hoisted her into the air. The other members watched on in horror as they were in no shape to rescue their comrade. His hand clinching tighter. Her armor began to splinter at the neck. She could see the chaos in his eyes. He was unstable. He would surely kill her within the next moment.
Fei drew his hand back. Protruding his claws. He plunged his hand forward for the killing blow. Suddenly, a red shield materialized and blocked the killing attack. His nails wedged in the shield. Her armor began to revitalize.
Desperately she reached for Fei’s mane-like hair and thrusted his head down, crashing her knee into his chin. Fei stumbled back nearly stunned, releasing his grip in the process. His potential victim landing on her knees, she quickly rose to her feet.
She secured her red circular shield attached to her arm for protection. The others looked on in amazement. Fei gathered himself. His roar rattled their bones. The attack caught him off guard, although pleased at her will to fight, it awakened his anger.
Fei lashed out even more vicious than before. The Sentry woman held off his attacks with her shield successfully for a few seconds before Fei’s large foot landed on her breastplate launching her several yards.
Defeated and most likely a broken arm, she lay motionless. Fei approached her ready to render her unconscious. His senses lit up, firing information of potential threats. Fei examined his surroundings. The other 18 members were rushing into her aid.
Equipped with red axes, pikes, spears, swords and crescent blades. Fei smiled. Dodging all their attacks, the group pressured for a significant blow. Fei was unable to counterattack. Every opportunity to counter strike was foiled by another member’s perfectly timed swing.
Fei enjoyed the gravity of being outnumbered. He relished every chance to prove his might in battle. For it wasn’t enough for him to know how powerful he was, he wanted everyone capable of knowledge to understand.
The defeated Sentry member collected herself, encouraged by the efforts of her fellow members and rejoined the fray. Fei was in full defensive positioning. Dodging, blocking and parrying, he could not get free of the circle they had captured him in.
Their unity rose the longer they fought together. Almost as one mind. A large axe grazed Fei’s chest, producing a slight gash on his armor. Finally, the fun was over. Enraged, Fei systematically pummeled the entire Sentry.
One by one they were dismantled. Fei stood as the lone warrior. A strong gale following his powerful roar that boomed into the distance. Gradually, he allowed his body to return to its normal state.
“You fought well. But you’re not a cohesive unit yet. You lack communication and chemistry. Therefore, you were defeated. Not one of you chose a projectile weapon or firearm. A missed opportunity. Thus, allowing me to dictate the fight. And so, you fought under my rules and lost.” He said.
Fei made his way over to the container and pulled out a shard. He threw it into the air causing it to form into his personal black vessel, the Pride. His ship was a lot larger than Lale’s Rose, more bulky and rigid, shaped like a horizontal triangle. Designed for combat missions unlike Lale’s stealthier choice.
Fei turned to give final instructions. “Return to the city. Separate or fewer is not an option. You still have much training to do.” He commanded. Fei boarded his vessel and rocketed off into the distance. The Sentry supported one another, helping each other to raise to their feet.
“This is gonna be a long journey home.” One of them said through their collective link. “I think we should rest for a few days before we venture off.” Retorted another jokingly. “Do you think he knows we can communicate to each other via our armor?”
One questioned still gasping for air from the fight. “I would assume. He gifted the armor to us. Its plausible he understands its uses.” After a brief hearty but painful laugh, the Vanakan Sentry began their journey back to the city.
Lale sat beside Dara as she remained unconscious. Nearly, a month had passed on Tetcht, her communication with Fei had been minimal. Lale constantly assuring him, Dara and herself were fine. However, Dara’s body seemed to struggle with the Iku.
Lale stood, rummaging through the holographic information Rose had provided from Dara’s diagnostics. Lale had run them daily since their arrival mountain side. She meticulously poured through the charts, DNA, blood and other biological reports.
“It’s the blending. But how?” Lale questioned herself quietly. She wiped away the screens and returned to Dara’s side. Lale clasped her hands around the smaller hand of Dara’s. “Rose, erase Dara’s diagnostic the moment we set back to the city. Do not transmit any details to Fei or the Pride.” Lale ordered.
Lale sat for a moment, allowing the solace of the ship to envelop her. “I know peace won’t last long here. Harmony amidst leadership is a lie. Governing justly is the work of a God.” She smiled to herself.
Lale watched as the snow fell around her ship, covering the foot of the mountain like a coat of white fur. “We’re not Gods. At times, I don’t think we’re even human anymore.” She uttered to herself. Dara’s body laid unresponsive to her words. Lale kissed her hand before returning it to the surface.
“Fei will make a great leader. Peaceful?” She chuckled. “No. But A land void of intolerance, hate and poor? Precisely. But that’s just it. How can one achieve true peace without forcing its opposition into submission?” She questioned.
Lale softly stroked the child’s blond hair. “I would suggest a leaderless world. No Sovereign, no army, no God. Just people of compassion.” Lale leaned back in her seat, exhaling a sigh, complimentary to her stressful train of thought.
Her eyes closed. “Everyone influenced by our existing realities must be eradicated. Only then will a land of true peace be able to exist without a need for a ruler.” Lale checked her personal biological screens via her bracelet. Her frown returned.
It was moments like these where Fei was exactly what she needed. His calm and pragmatism often effectively combated her emotions. Lale missed him and at the same time wished for more space. She loved Fei for everything he was and is to her.
But sometimes disliked how much work it took just to be with him. Knowing the truth about herself, Lale understood there was no one she would rather deal with than him. He would gladly give his life for her. Which if someone could actually kill Fei, perhaps she didn’t stand a chance either.
Lale shook of the bottomless train of thought as she remembers a task, she had set for herself. “Rose, bring up schematics from the heat signature a month ago. Give me characteristics of the object.” Lale sat in her pilot’s chair and examined the results.
She easily defined the results much to her surprise. “Human? Vanakan perhaps? But how would that be possible if he died?” Lale asked rhetorically to herself. She began to dive into the information Rose could provide.
Fei had returned shortly after his first training exercise with the Sentry. For the better part of a month he interviewed each citizen about their role in the city, with specific time dedicated to the elders.
Fei observed their day to day tasks, their eating habits and critical thinking patterns. He decided today he would begin assisting with improving their small city, an easy way to earn their trust. Working collectively to reinforce structures such as the city walls and entrance gate, which had looked as if constructed by a truly ignorant engineer.
The small dome dissolved around Fei as he exited his hut to rejoin the citizens for another day’s work. A few kneeled after his presence greeting him with a meaningful “My Lord” as he strolled by. Most simply continued to work. Fei politely nodded to address those who acknowledged him.
Secretly their lack of respect annoyed him. Lale’s absence also beginning to take a toll on him. He felt unbalanced when she was not around. Lale’s tutelage in empathy had been missed. Fei was allowing the continuous lack of the respect he felt he deserved to get under his skin. Unfortunately, he wasn’t emotionally aware how to cope with these feelings properly.
Fei observed a young man providing instructions to a small group. Fei called the young man over. “Ton? Right?” He attempted to confirm with the young man. “Yes, my liege.” Ton responded with a respectful bow.
“What is to be the tasks for the day?” Fei asked realizing the others had already began working. “We’re rebuilding the Protector my liege.” Fei nodded in response, watching as the many people contributed in what he deemed pathetic ways. “Tell me the purpose of this development.” Fei requested. Ton pointed to the sky. “The Aella and Eira. They are annual storms and snow for this hemisphere.” Ton explained.
“Every year they completely obliterate our shelter and border walls. We spend months preparing for them and repairing the damage.” Ton continued as he pointed out the specifics to his Sovereign. Fei saw the careful attention to detail they were putting into their work.
Even the children were bringing in materials to aid in the process. After a bow, Ton returned to his work. “Why not move to a safer location?” Fei asked, following Ton to his station. “These storms stretch far and wide my liege. By the time we would make enough progress moving the stones from the city structures, one of the storms would already be upon us.” Ton answered.
Fei continued to observe for a while longer. The citizens were struggling. It was clear to him; they simply lacked the technology and knowledge base to increase their ingenuity. At first, he pitied them, before his pity transformed into disappointment.
If these were to be his people, they must exude the very same strength and will that he possessed to create a new world order. Meanwhile, as he contemplated his emotions and rationale, a group of citizens both men and women struggled to lift an enormous portion of stone.
They managed to maneuver it onto a pulley attached to the highest point of the Protector. The citizens argued and bickered as to the best plan of action. From atop the structure, multiple men and women were pulling to hoist it to their location. The commotion of their arguing began to cause confusion. As it reached higher heights, the pulley began to strain.
Everyone vying for attention to give orders on how to prevent further complications. The rock snapped the placeholder. It began to tumble down the structure creating immense damage to the Protector, which took them nearly all year to rebuild.
Fei’s body increased, and his muscles swelled. His body almost instantly changed into his feral form. With one leap he traversed the distance from his current location to the protector as the chunk of stone came plummeting down. Arms extended; Fei effortlessly caught the rock.
Exhaling a vicious roar, he dropped the heavy boulder beside him. The city was silent. Unsure what they had witnessed. The citizens of Tetcht backed away from their Sovereign. Fei’s feral form was quite daunting to behold, his power and strength even more frightening than before.
In this form Fei stood above the crowd, before shrinking back down to his normal size. “Fear not, my beloved citizens. I am the least of you. Together we will rebuild the Protector. Quarrels are not productive and are vehemently discouraged.” Fei consulted.
He pointed to Ton, who also stood watch at his Sovereigns’ amazing feat of strength. “Behold. Your Royal Architect. He will oversee the efforts both now and forever. Even I, your sovereign will heed his instruction.” Fei proclaimed. The citizens gave a haughty applause for the new appointment as well as celebrated collectively Fei’s astonishing powers.
After several minutes of celebration, the work on rebuilding the protector resumed along with Fei’s help. The day moved on but not as usual, the Protector’s rebuilding progress increased dramatically with a more structured approach. The citizens worked together cohesively under their new leadership.