Chapter 1: Renan
“Once Upon Another Time”
House of Sadeva
Celebecia. The Republic.
RENAN HAD JUST FINISHED CHANNELING HIS HOBBY. He hopes it reaching someone. He put down his earphones as someone said in a loud shrill voice.
“Um. You know the general doesn’t like it.”
“Oh, Guru!” Renan said slightly up from his chair. “I could have heart disease if you were constantly shocked.”
Renan’s yellow skin is matching with his coffee-brown T-shirt. Renan’s dark hair was covered in a white baseball cap. His brown eyes, round with lashes that were too long for the size of a boy, looked at Guru with thick, puckering eyebrows.
“If you’ve already increased your Indra—Senses, my sudden appearance won’t surprise you. And, giving up being a Radio announcer, won’t help you in the future. The world needs more real action.” Said, Guru. His body was too small and short for a man’s size in general, his skin was sagging and wrinkled, and his head was too big with thin, almost bald hair. His eyes, which were too big, had bleached due to cataracts. But the character emblazoned on his face gave a very intimidating impression. Renan always respected him. The teacher wore a brown robe that was associated with a bond to his waist. He stood with his hands resting firmly on a stone stick, which twisted intricately like a bronze-colored root.
“I only broadcast the news to those who need information. Those who don’t have the advanced technology like us.” Renan politely argued.
“Newland needs someone to protect them. Not an Announcer. The enemy is coming. That’s the priority right now.” Guru convinced Renan.
“I told you I couldn’t do it.” Renan is half-squealing.
“That’s not the word ancient prophecy of the Battalion. You are the chosen one.” Guru Said. Undeterred by Renan’s pleading look. “The thousand falling stars will shine red, slide the universe to bleed. Under the sign, the blood of Gods will bond their destiny as one. Bring the start to the end, as they play and do in the game of survival. But only the flame can spread his wings on fire, to prevent the wrath of the ocean.”
“How many times should I tell you...” Renan suddenly limped. “That can’t be me, Guru.”
“You are a warlock. The blood of the sun is flowing within you, it could be you.”
“Kiyo is better suited to that than me. He was the first child in the family. He’s more reliable than me.”
“Kiyo is not your big brother.” Guru replied slowly. Like covering up his impatience facing Renan. “No matter how much his qualities reflect Sadeva’s, still, he has the blood of Shinawatrah, a Monk. Like your mother.”
“Or it could be that prophecy for Navisa. Isn’t it? Garuda’s blood also flowed in his body, his ancestor was one of the oldest Bataveron clans.”
“Don’t be spoiled, Renan!” Guru knocked on the floor with his stick. Raising his voice, which Renan said didn’t make much of a change at all, because of the kind of voice that had already shrill from there. “Neotadiningrat is indeed the oldest. Unfortunately, Sunan was never female, no matter how big the girl’s talent was. His grandfather, I admit, was the greatest Sunan I’ve ever met. But he’s gone. And his older brother was killed in a mission a few years ago. After all, based on what is written in history, only the Warlock has ever tamed the flame. We don’t have much time. General Adipati wants significant development in your training.”
Renan let out a deep breath. “You never answered when I asked why didn’t you just use that weapon?”
“Okay. I’ll explain it to you. Later. In training.”
“My father is like a family dictator. Force me to do what I don’t want. I just want a normal life. Like teenagers in general.”
“He has good reason to do it. After all, if war were to happen, there would be no more normal life for all beings. Now, get ready...” Guru ended the conversation firmly. Renan nodded. Guru turned to leave the room.
Renan exhaled, giving up. Looking at his computer screen. Besides the computer, a variety of amateur broadcasting technology complements it, filling its study table. Only this equipment that Renan managed to keep to stay in his room, he could alone have a more sophisticated one, but his father, wouldn’t let Renan have it. Renan’s entire life had been designed by his father.
Renan grew up homeschooling since childhood, he never knew what it was like to go to school like other children. Although Kiyo and Navisa live the same life, Renan still feels it is unfair. Renan still remembers when he whined and sulked at his father to be able to attend a normal school like other children, but his father’s nature was too harsh to fight with tears. Renan was finally only able to obey his wishes. He never hung out or went to clubs like the children of other wealthy nobles did. Renan spends most of his life indoors, training with Kiyo and Navisa.
His childhood friends slowly disappeared from his life as they grew up. Some become busy taking care of family business, studying abroad, or disappearing because their families can’t survive natural selection in a power struggle in the Republic. Maybe killed, maybe escaped to a faraway place, I don’t know, Renan never knew.
Renan looked at his room. The room was large but messy and full of patches of tips from his training all along. One of them is written: Clear the mind by closing your eyes, but the body and mind in a breath, focus on your senses, channel slowly that deep energy into the palm. Then convert the inner energy into heat energy. Renan rolled his eyes. Teacher?
The ceiling of the room was filled with paintings of a peacock wrapped in fire, with two hands that were like lifting it. The symbol of House Sadeva. Renan went to the dressing room lazily, then he saw the poster, right next to the door. A beautiful girl is posing advertising the latest breakthrough technologically advanced outfit. Renan’s favorite actress. Those beautiful eyes stared at Renan, that smile encouraging.
Inevitably Renan smiled as well, justifying his baseball cap position, at least getting a glimmer of motivation. Before leaving the room, Renan turned out the window, the day was hot, the afternoon sun was at its peak. In the outer courtyard, Renan saw Guru walking slowly into the pendopo—a building made from wood and Renan’s training ground since he was ten years old.
Renan walked down the corridor to the stairs down. Renan’s house is big, of course. His father, General Adipati Sadeva, was the Prime Minister of State Defense in the Republic. Famous families always have luxurious residences, right? Although in Renan’s case, his house is not as modern as other noble families, it is full of traditional touches. Many beautiful tailed bird-shaped clay statues, as well as various other birds, heroes dressed strangely with various weapons in their hands, there are also some dwarf statues with hands holding flames, but the most Renan likes is the golden statue of a swordsman body like a wrestler, winged birds, wearing the ancient armor of The Mahapramba Kingdom, using a chain of fire shaped like a peacock tail pattern, The Garuda. It’s cool.
But that is precisely what makes Renan pessimistic that he is a descendant of the half-bird muscular man. The man is half a bird who is good at scorching the enemy when fighting. Renan knew very well he wasn’t great and sadistic like that. Anyway, bird wings? Come on, dude. Birds no longer even exist in The Republic. All are extinct and banned in the country.
Renan reached the ground floor of the three-story house. Before heading out he stopped to look at the golden statue of Garuda on display in the middle of the room, in front of the entrance. After filling her mind with a beautiful poster of Noelle Danishamia, then looked at the golden statue. His mind becomes more realistic in sorting out reality, which is fairy tales and which are real.
“No offense, man. It’s not that I don’t believe all the cool stories about you. But, you know. So cool, I get sanctioned if it’s all just a fairy tale.”
“It’s not a fairy tale, man.”
Renan recognized the heavy voice. He turned around, and there the young man stood while dropping his travel bag on the floor, against the backdrop of a large oak entrance. His body was tall and stocky layered in a tight black T-shirt, as well as gray jeans. Her hair is now cut short. His light brown skin glowed in the light of the sun.
“Kiyo!” Renan immediately hugged his brother. “I’m glad you came home!”
“Me too, bro,” Kiyo said back to the hug while laughing happily. Then a little frowned and held his left rib. “How’s your training?”
“Mm... Well, you know...” Renan confusedly replied, then decided to switch the conversation. “How are you on your own? Are you okay? Looks like you’re hurt.” Renan demanded honesty.
“Just a small wound.” Kiyo patted his ribs slowly, assuring Renan he was fine. “The mission just now was pretty heavy. You’ll understand when you enter the academy. Take it easy, you can do it, the Academy isn’t as bad as you might think.” Kiyo is seen trying to make Renan change his mind. “Is the general at home?”
“No,” Renan replied briefly. “I’m at the Capitol. I think the situation is getting worse. I heard him speak on the phone, he was overwhelmed to cover everything up so it wouldn’t get noticed by the media.”
“I understand,” Kiyo said, then his gaze was like looking far away. After that patted Renan on the shoulder, as he stepped towards his room. “Okay. I’ll take a break. Oh, yes. Someone’s waiting for you at the pendopo. He’s going to take your training today.”
“Who?” Renan slightly shouted at his brother who had already climbed through the stairs to the top floor. Kiyo just waved.
Renan was curious and decided to go to the pendopo immediately. He crossed the vast stone-floored courtyard. Pass a large fountain with a statue of a peacock whose tail spouts water. Renan almost reaches his goal when he finds his loyal servant, who is also his friend, waiting in front of the pendopo. Jaka, who prefers to be called Jack, is a short-bodied young man like Guru, even shorter, only as tall as Renan’s waist. But instead of being skinny, the midget Jack has a sturdy and densely contained body. He wears black jeans that are sewn himself and very tight on his feet, a white T-shirt that reads Your Ideal Little Man, and used sneakers belonging to Renan when Renan was eleven years old. Her short brown hair was neatly styled with the gel splitting to one side. Jack is the grandson of Guru, when his parents died Jack was taken to Renan’s house when he was eight years old when Renan was the same age. The orphaned Jack is already like a younger brother to Renan, plus the fact that Jack’s body is not enlarged, even his face does not age, makes Renan sympathize. Jack has the same growth disorder as Master.
“Don’t tell me you’re the one Kiyo meant to be training with me, Jaka.”
“Young master! I told you to call me Jack! Jaka is the name given by the old man.” Jack said protesting, putting on a sullen face and raising his thumb pointing in the pendopo. His voice became a whisper on the old man’s part.
“I told you a thousand times to call me Renan. And don’t tell the old master.” Renan said even though he agreed.
Jaka tiptoed with her hands covering her mouth on the side, “You know I should call you that if I’m within the antagonist’s grandfather’s hearing radius.” Whisper Jack. “He can scold me, bro.”
“Calling him the antagonistic grandfather shouldn’t either.” Renan forbids with an amused smile. “If not you, then who?”
“Who will join your training this time?” Jack repeated.
“Yes?” Renan asked, with raised eyebrows. Jack nodded pretentiously coolly, then made his facial expression change like he wanted to say, you want to know right? Jack pointed to a pile of suitcases not far from the entrance of the pendopo. Renan narrowed his eyes, focusing on the suitcase. One of them is abstract patterned but Renan recognizes the Wayang symbol in that motif. “No way!” Renan immediately ran into the pendopo. The room in the pendopo is spacious and wooden-floored, on the sides of the building that is raised by high pole posts, lined with ancient statues of ancient heroes, warrior soldiers, Salazar Bataveron. Right in the middle of that vast training room, stood Master with a girl.
“Navisa!” Renan shouted at the girl. Then he stretched out his arms hugging him.
“Ow!” Navisa said with both palms facing Renan, gesturing against the hug. Her cheerful face turned tense, her eyes slightly glancing at the teacher standing a few meters away from her. “Renan. You already know that in my family tradition, men and women should not make excessive physical contact freely.” Navisa’s view moved between Guru and Renan, like gesturing Hey, Guru is here and although he is blind, he will know, so I have to be an esteemed Neotadiningrat. Renan chuckled. Navisa continued, “As a child, there was no problem. But now we’re growing up. I have to apply my family’s traditional principles.” She said again with her usual feminine gestures, her soft voice unchanged despite having completed her education at the secretive Academy.
“Oh, come on, Navisa! Don’t be a sexist! We are like brothers!” Renan immediately hugged her without permission.
Navisa laughed, “You’re right.” Replying to Renan’s hug tightly. “I miss you.” She said again. Renan replied with a nod in agreement.
“Ehem.” Guru cleared his throat.
“Sorry.” Navisa took off the hug quickly and returned to her graceful position.
“Guru!” Renan protested. “It’s called a meeting!” Which the teacher replied by simply raising an eyebrow didn’t care. “How’s your training at the Academy?” Renan asked enthusiastically to Navisa.
“Ehem.” The teacher cleared his throat again.
“We’ll discuss that later,” Navisa said restrained herself, even though her eyes twinkled like She couldn’t wait to tell her much about her new experience. Her expression took a serious turn as She squeezed his watch, and her twinkling hologram shirt changed, from a cream-colored sleeveless knee-length dress to Renan’s martial arts training suit. Then She lowered his head to remove the white sneakers that lined her feet, stepping back a few meters away from Renan. Tying her dark brown ponytail, the girl said, “Now, we’re focused on your workout.”
“Right,” Guru spoke up. Step forward, positioning yourself between the two students. “Let’s start the real training.”
“Woo hoo!” Jack exclaimed encouragingly and clapped too much like he was going to watch a circus show. Renan gasped in shock at the stiffness of the joke. “Oops, sorry.” Jack immediately closed his mouth with both hands as Master raised his wand and pointed it right where Jack was standing. The teacher didn’t even need to look at his face because he was blind. Jack walked slowly towards the edge of the room with his face down like a gambling loser.
“Your weakness, Renan.” Guru said, “It is a lack of concentration in controlling your energy. Your Indra. That makes your true potential difficult to channel.” Guru made a circle on the floor with his staff, “Only with perfect sensory control can we increase our hearing, vision, and inner energy to a higher level, far above the level of the human being in general.” Guru pointed his stick at Renan. “That way, you will only succeed in scattering solar energy in your blood. You have to finish this stage first before you can activate your power as a warlock, or you won’t be able to control it and end up hurting yourself.” Guru stepped back, “Now attack me.”
“Guru, are you sure?” Renan stared at Guru’s cataract eyes, which didn’t help him at all believe whether Guru seriously wanted himself to attack with full force. Guru’s small, wrinkled body due to his old age could be injured or broken if Renan’s kick manages to hit him. Renan may not believe that he has magic or not, and he is quite worried about controlling his senses or inner energy. But about his martial skills? Renan was very confident about how he could fight empty-handed. The teacher may be the one who teaches the technique, but since growing up, it was Kiyo who has always been Renan’s balanced duel opponent. Even Navisa has never won against Renan in the past. Renan looked at Guru whose body was only a few inches taller than Jack’s, “You want me to attack you, Guru?”
“Yes.” Said, Guru. “At full power.” Said Grandpa Guru casually, not even in a fighting position. Both of his hands casually rested on his small stone stick.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” Renan repeated earnestly.
“What’s funny? I’m serious.” Renan turned to smile at Navisa. “You know what I mean?”
“No, Renan.” Navisa looked at Renan calmly, “You don’t know.”
“Fine.” Renan began to get irritated by this situation, “Don’t blame me.” He said again, sighed, and made the horses. Renan didn’t like Guru and Navisa’s attitude like this. It was as if they always knew something Renan didn’t know. Despite the fact, Navisa has always been the smartest of Renan and Kiyo. Kiyo is always the strongest. And Renan? Just the little brother of the two of them.
Renan’s expression hardened, his gaze sharp, as he advanced to attack Guru. Swinging his right leg towards Guru’s head. Missed. Only a few centimeters but his kick didn’t touch Guru, the blind old geezer managed to lower his head casually in the final seconds. Renan frowned. He attacked again with his left foot.
Granpa Guru dodged in the same way, just as he had never been blind at all. Renan attacked quickly, spun and lowered his head, then swept his right foot on Guru. The old man jumped casually stepping over Renan’s extremely fast kick.
Impossible, Renan’s mind. Then with both hands on the floor, he exerted all his energy, while shouting he launched his kick with his left foot on Guru’s stomach. A second later, Renan had already floated flung in the air, landing with a bruk sound a few feet from where he was.
“Arrgh!” Renan screamed.
“Uuuuuuhhhh...” Jack who was watching let out a voice like he is in pain, “It must be hurt.” He said as he sympathized with Renan. “Let’s get up, bro! Uh, I mean Young Master! Or Your Majesty! The most of it all!”
Navisa laughed politely again. “I told you, right.”
“But how...?“. Renan stood confused, “You’re blind.” Renan said again, then hurriedly continued, “Sorry. Again. Let’s do it again.” Renan asked for a second chance.”
“All right.” The teacher agreed with a smile. “Go ahead, son.”
And Renan went forward attacking. Trying from all directions. But Guru continued to avoid it. Jumping, spinning, shimmying, and looking down. All of Renan’s attacks were missed. It only takes one time, Renan thought. One of my successful attacks hit Guru, I must have won. Renan made a swivel kick at full strength, Guru dodged and quickly hit Renan’s knee using his stone stick.
“Arrrgh!” Renan bowed on the floor, whimpering in pain holding his knee. “Guru, you cheat,” Renan said with no acceptance. Jack makes a sound like a howling dog. Navisa held back the laughter.
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t use it.” Guru shakes his stick.
Renan stood up. “Again.” It is said. The teacher smiled and nodded.
Renan attacked again. But each time, Guru always managed to avoid an attack. Renan continues to end up floating in the air or being knocked with a stick. Every time, Jack made strange sounds annoying, sometimes encouraging, sometimes it sounded like enjoying. After his thirteenth attempt, Renan ended up with a stone stick hitting his stomach.
Renan made a sound like coughing. Curled up on the floor. Sweat flooded his body.
“It’s boring already, Sir bro,” Jack said from the edge of the room.
“Are you okay?” Navisa asked concernedly. Renan just nodded.
“Some people, Renan,” Guru said, returning to his usual position, both hands rested on the stick, “It doesn’t take a sense of sight to see.” Guru looked right at Renan. “But with their other senses.”
“What does Guru mean?”
“Inner sense, Renan,” Navisa replied. “Sixth sense.” The girl touched the middle of her chest with her hands, then moved her hand to touch the temples of her eyes. “Intuition. Maybe that’s what people call it. But what we mean here, much more than that. Your instincts tell you about the dangers that come, even when you don’t see them. Then guides your body with quick reflex movements to avoid it. Your mind and inner sense work as one, making you feel all the energy around you, no matter how much energy it has, as long as they are within the distance of your senses. Sort through those external energies, and sensing their existence as they approach or entering your private area, in the distance of your touch. Even though you know, it takes serious training to reach that level.”
“Right.” Said, Guru. “And you, Renan, have to finish it.”
“That’s not fair.” Renan protested, again shaking his head in disagreement. “I don’t even understand what you just said, Navisa. How can I do such an impossible thing?” Renan pointed at Guru, “Guru may be the only one who can. Guru has been blind since I was born. Eighteen years ago. Because of your condition, I think, so that your body adjusts to the existing conditions as a mechanism of self-defense. When we can’t see, our bodies try to develop other senses to become sharper. To help us survive.”
“You’re right about that.” The teacher said calmly. “But you’re also wrong, your opinion of only a blind man can do it.” Then Guru gave a pity to Navisa. Handed over a long cloth that he had taken from his robe pocket. “Give me an example, Navisa.”
Navisa nodded. Take the blindfold, then tie it to her head. With her eyes closed, Navisa stood calmly, sighed three times, then took a standby position.
“Oh, no.” Renan shook his head. “No way.”
“Prove me wrong.” Said, Guru.
“Sorry, Navisa. If I hurt you later.” And Renan starts the action. Moving around the girl slowly and without a sound.
Navisa still stood calmly, with her head as little moving as it responded to the sound of wind from Renan’s movements.
And when Renan is behind Navisa, he goes forward attacking, this time not with a kick, but with a punch. Renan points his fist at Navisa’s head, not at full strength, as Renan was worried about hurting the girl. But Navisa just spun around, and the blow missed. Renan then elbowing to get her, but Navisa spinning again while stepping back. Missed. Feeling confused, Renan attacks blindly, launching blows alternately with both of his hands. But unreasonably, without even looking, Navisa dodged all of Renan’s streaky blows. Navisa dodged the final blow by catching Renan’s hand, and a second later Renan had already landed on the floor. Navisa slammed him down firmly and steadily.
“Wow!” Jack clapped his hands enjoying Renan’s defeat. “You are the coolest girl in the world!”
“Damn!” Renan was lying in sweat. “How did you do that?” Renan asked Navisa. “You’ve never won against me before.” Renan looked at Navisa who had now removed the blindfold. “How? Did you learn that at the Academy? That one. That’s cool, sist.”
“You are right. They taught me in the academy.” Navisa said with a smile.
“Now you believe me?” Guru demanded recognition.
Renan nodded to admit to being wrong. “Please teach me.” He said again while sitting on the floor.
“No.” Answered Guru. Renan gasped in shock. He would only protest when the teacher continued, “It’s not me who’s going to teach you.”
Renan turned to Navisa, the girl smiled even wider. Navisa nodded justifies the questioning expression on Renan’s face. “Cool!” Renan did a five-fingered pat with the girl. Navisa then sat on the floor beside Renan.
“I thought,” Guru said, coughing several times. While holding his chest Guru continued. “Maybe my method of teaching you is too old-fashioned.” Renan only realized that the old man looks so tired now, “It seems like it’s time to leave this practice to someone who can better understand you, someone of the same generation. The development of Navisa and Kiyo, made me realize that the Academy and their modern teaching methods are making more progress.”
“Don’t talk like that, Guru,” Navisa said with a sad expression on her face. “The three of us can become what we are now, all thanks to Guru.”
“Stop that sad sentiment, whiny girl.” Guru commented sharply, although afterward, he smiled. “I’m just doing my job. You realized it, right, Raden Ayu?” Guru continued. “I know you can see it. I guess, my time is short.”
Guru did not answer. But he sat on the floor with his two students. Is this one of the reasons Guru wants Renan to quickly master his training? Renan turned his head back at Navisa, but the girl still avoided his gaze. Jack comes over with bottles of drink, but neither Renan nor Navisa drink them. Jack sat down with them. Although more often silly, Jack seemed to understand this time that he should not be joking.
“Let me tell you. A legend about ancient heroes and magical creatures,” Guru said with his stick-like drawing on the floor. “Hundreds of years ago, it goes back to the golden age of Bataveron. Long before the Jasean Dynasty ruined the glory of our nation before Dryland and Springland merged into The Republic. Bataveron is one of the respected nations in the eastern region of Newland. At that time, The Mighty Garuda had long since disappeared. Leaving his successors, his true descendants, to lead Bataveron. The story was in Dryland, in a place called Batakarta, centered on a kingdom called Mahapramba.”