|24.| Swift winds with memories of One▪
I stood tall, staring down at the bustling town. Their red rooftops could be seen from miles. Even from the highest mountains, you could guess what city it was.
Old memories flashed as I recall once standing on a familiar cliff, looking down at what was once my home.
Now it was all in the past, a distant memory.
I crouch down, sitting on a fallen branch. My eyes lowered to the ground, where a few sticks and rocks lay scattered over the grass.
I picked a few pointy rocks, toyed with them, then threw them into the emptiness down below the cliff. A strong gust of wind blew by, while birds caw in the distance.
Something distracted my mind from everything. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but someone.
Clenching angrily, I throw a big rock down the cliff, hoping no one would be below and get knocked by it.
As I sigh loudly, a shuffling sound and laughter make me look over my shoulder. A few of the town’s kids ran along the forest path.
“Greetings, brother,” Noah said, standing by my side.
“Hi,” I mumbled, lowering my eyes back to the rocks I had gathered.
Noah stood staring at the beautiful scenery before he turned to look at the four kids. His eyes were full of calmness and happiness, something I lacked.
“The guards were panicking, you know,” Noah commented, to which I hummed. “Zion, you can’t be disappearing and worrying everyone else. You know we have protocols.”
“Protocols,” I scoffed annoyed.
Hearing Noah sigh, I throw my last rock, stand, then turn to him. A long scar crossed his left cheek, making me cringe with distaste.
Noah noticed my discomfort and chuckled.
“You still on that?” Noah asked, knowing perfectly well my answer.
All these years, seeing how I made my people and close ones suffer made me realize I had no way to pay my price. Atone for my sins, since someone decided what was best for me.
“Zion, it’s been so long,” Noah whispered as another gust of wind blew.
“I know,” I muttered, looking up at the mountain peak. “It’s been so long, but I can’t seem to forget.”
“It’s not about forgetting, but accepting,” Noah said. “Why Mila did, it is something we will never know the answer to. But it doesn’t mean you will punish yourself over it.”
“You don’t understand…,” I said, forcing my voice to remain steady. I didn’t need the kids to hear me cursing.
Balling my hands, I pray to the heavens for patience.
“Mila should have never done that!” I gritted. “It wasn’t her choice to decide, but mine. I had suffered and pay but she…”
“Mila did it because she loved you,” Noah smiled sadly. “We will never know what happened, but I can be sure she was happy in doing it.”
My eyes darted to my hands. No bruises, no scars remained on them. My entire body looked healthy, good, like it never knew what pain and suffering once were.
Shifting my eyes to my arm, I notice the small golden veins glowing faintly under the sunrays. Noah was staring at me well, his face full of unanswered questions that not even I knew of.
What had happened to me that day, I will never know. But I was sure Mila did something forbidden since I felt different in this new body, the new me.
“Why don’t you pay a visit to the temple?” Noah commented, distracting me.
“I had told you a million times I won’t. They are not to be trusted!” I growled. Noah muttered something before shouting at the kids.
Ordering everyone to return, I look behind before following the group.
A faint light glowed inside the opened window as I sat at the edge of the bed, staring at the glowing veins.
Bright moonlight shone down on me as it was protecting me from evil hidden under the shadows.
I felt different since waking up five years ago. The day my brother found me lying still in the middle of the mansion, with no bruises or scars and no soul.
Elios had strangely disappeared, though I knew the reason. And seeing that nothing from the old me remained in this body made me think Mila had made me feel like this.
To make me think I was no longer Zion the sinner, but Zion the saint. It was strange thinking like that, but it was the most perfect answer to all my questions.
Opening and closing the palm of my hands, I look up to see an owl hooting on the balcony rail.
I curiously watch it. Standing from my bed, I walked over quietly. Leaning on the door frame, I watched with arms crossed.
This animal has been visiting for the last three years. It was the same white owl with black bottomless eyes.
Strangely, I should feel some kind of ominous feeling, but it was the opposite. It felt like it belonged here with me.
“Are you thirsty?” I asked, as if he could answer.
Turning back in, I grabbed some water, turned, and pushed it closer to him.
The owl crooked his head, hooting. He didn’t move, just stared at me. Watching me with those round eyes.
I shook my head and turned on my heels.
“Goodnight,” I muttered with a wave. Shutting the curtains, I crawled to my bed, laid down, and close my eyes.
Tomorrow would be another day.
In the night’s silence, the owl stood staring back at Zion, who had finally fallen asleep.
His head was crooked with wonder as it hooted. Flapping his winds twice, it hooted and looked to the side.
It was only him and the silence of the night. No one could see him from where he was, just the one sleeping with no worry at all.
With another flapping sound, the owl shifted and white, pale feet landed on the cold marble floor.
A white dress slid across the floor as the person moved silently to the room. It stood motionless, watching the king sleep.
All you could see was the silhouette of it standing as the long curtains swayed along with the wind, dancing under the chilly night.
Pushing the curtain to the side, it stepped into the room. Its presence is hidden from everyone.
It appeared and disappeared as it moved from the shadows to the light that shone into the room. Once it was near the bed, it leaned on the bedpost.
No one knew it has been watching him for the last three years. Once every night, it would shift and watch the king sleep for a while before it returned to its original form.
Satisfaction played on its sad, pale face. Raising its hand, it moved closer to touch the king but halted its move as it was terrified he could wake up and see it.
“I’m sorry,” it whispered and instead slowly turned, walking away and flying into the night.
“We should move this to the training grounds. Make sure everyone has what they need,” I ordered to the guards, who listened intently.
Nodding their way, they bow and leave. I flipped the pages I held, checking my to-do list.
I was still missing two more things before having lunch. Heading to the office, I hear some argument down the hall.
My head snapped, making me frown as my brother’s voice reached my ears.
What was happening?
“Fucking leave!” Noah shouts, getting my attention.
Walking out to the stairs rail, I looked down to see a hooded figure standing in front of my brother. Who was that?
“I won’t repeat myself. Leave if you don’t wish to be thrown by the guards!” Noah hissed. His hands ball into fists.
“You heard my brother,” I said, making both men look my way. I walked to the stairs and slowly descended them, but halfway I halted when I saw who the person was.
For some reason, he seemed familiar, but from where?
“You…,” I mumbled. The hooded man looked at me, his eyes wide with something I couldn’t understand.
“Please, help me!” the man begged. “Please, I need to speak with you, King Zion!”
Both Noah and I looked at him, surprised. Few in the city knew who we were. The few who knew were close ones who once served and lived with us.
So how come this stranger knew?
“Please,” he continued. “You will want to hear what I got to say.”
“Nothing. There’s nothing we need to know!” Noah yelled, making a few servants look our way. He was causing a commotion.
Sighing, I rub my temple.
“Please, follow me,” I said, making Noah snap his head my way. “It’s all right, trust me.”
Noah seemed he wanted to argue but refrained since I wasn’t planning to budge.
“Please take a seat,” I offered the man as he stepped into my office. I signal the guards to close the doors. “Now speak. What is it you wish to tell me?”
The man stood nervously. His fingers toying with his hood.
I watched his hands tremble slightly. A few scars were visible from where I stood. Who was this man?
“If you don’t say a word, I will call the guards so they throw you out of my home,” I hissed. He whiffed his head and removed the cloak so I could see him.
My eyes squint as the man with long brown messy hair and dirty face met my eyes nervously.
He seemed so dirty and old, like he has been through so much.
“Do I know you?” I asked before I could stop myself.
“Yes, and no,” he answered. “I knew about you…, long ago we went to your place.”
He was confusing me.
“To my place?” I repeat, not understanding.
“King Zion, the loathed king,” he said, making my hands grip the wooden desk. “I know about you since I used to belong to the temple.”
“Belong?” I said, frowning. He nodded and cast his face down.
He was at it again, playing with his nervous fingers.
“The saint, we both went to your place to help you,” he suddenly blurted.
My eyes moved up as I looked at him, shocked.
“Mila wanted to save you, help you,” he continued. “My name is Bishop…, well Archer. I no longer belong to the temple,” his voice muttered.
I felt my entire body spin as he mentioned Mila’s name.
“Help me, please,” Archer begged. “I know this will sound strange, but I escaped from the clutches of evil.”
“Evil… do you mean?” I frowned.
“Yes, Mila’s father,” Archer said, gazing at me. He seemed distressed and nervous.
Sighing loudly, I massaged my temple. Taking a seat, I look up. Archer was looking around, biting his lip.
“Why don’t you take a seat and you tell me your story?” I suggested. Archer’s eyes widened before he nodded and did as I asked.
We talked for a while before I called for a servant.
“Thank you!” Archer said bowing in respect. I gave him a wry smile before I dismissed him with my servant.
Crossing my arms over my chest, I watch him turn on the corner.
“Come out,” I said as Noah appeared from behind a secret door. His hands-on is in his pocket as his face remains serious.
“Do you believe him?” Noah asked.
“Believe him, huh,” I muttered. “I wonder if I should believe someone who left Mila to my mercy.”
Turning, I walked back to my desk. Noah just moved to look at me.
“It is best if we investigate before making any conclusion,” Noah answered. My eyes moved from the papers I was holding to his sparkling eyes.
“I know, so don’t worry. I won’t make a hasting decision before not knowing why he came here,” I said and started working on my pending papers.
Though I was inclined to believe him, something told me I was missing something of importance, but what?
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