Chapter 1: The Niang Controversy
“So, I guess I will see you and the others later?” Shien confirmed, closing a conversation with Ritom on the phone.
“You know it! At Enshiron’s Kyyrhim Bistro,” Ritom replied.
“Alrighty, I will see you all. Just don’t gamble too much, please.”
“No promises! Don’t be late, shortie!”
“Hey! You know I-” Ritom immediately hung up before he could talk back.
Shien took a deep breath as his hour-long ramble with his old friend came to a close. Ever since college, he couldn’t see his old friends like Ritom and Naivern as often as he hoped. However, thanks to the new Syanic Earth: Year 3225, connecting with them and his other college friends had become a piece of cake. Nothing like catching up with friends in a cybernetic world where fighting digital creatures and computer viruses are possible. Feeling energetic for the upcoming meeting in about a couple of hours, Shien walked out of his room.
“You awake, mom?” Shien spoke with a jolly tune as he walked up the stairs.
“Hmm?” Isrina grumbled. “It’s time already?”
Dr. Isrina Niang was taking a nap after she came home from the morning shift of proposing fascinating inventions to eager crowds. Luckily, she had a chance to rest before the UICA’s anniversary of Syanic Earth: Year 3225’s creation. The UICA was planning for an assembly for the public to join the celebration and receive important updates. She was going to be the first one to speak, introducing the crowd to the anniversary celebration.
“Heyo, mom!” Shien yelled in his happy, energetic voice as he skipped towards his mom’s room. “Want some tea before you leave? I know you enjoy my tea.”
“That, that would be nice, my little chickadee.”
As Shien began whistling like a northern cardinal while preparing the tea, Isrina yawned from her catnap, forcing herself to wake up. She quickly washed her face, straightened the chaos of her red hair, and changed her clothes.
“How are your friends?” She asked as she walked out of her room, wearing an orange blouse and beige skirt.
“They are fine! They’re doing their best to stay out of trouble!” Shien happily said as he placed tea bags into a teapot of vividly boiling water mixed with crushed spices Nashura told him about.
“Goodness! What kind of tea are you making this time, my little chickadee?” Isrina asked, sniffing the aroma.
“It’s a bit of magic Nashura told me about,” Shien responded with a cheery mood. “She told me and Enshiron some tea tricks. I am trying to make authentic masala chai.”
“Sounds wonderful! Also, thanks for waking me up.”
Meanwhile, she noticed their living room’s television was on, playing some news.
“Anything new, Shien?” Isrina asked.
“Well, not really,” Shien replied as he poured the teapot’s elegant mixture into two cups. “Just the same politics, you know.”
“I see. Still on about us, Niangs?”
“Yep, but at least President Forroway’s doing his best to defend us and the others.”
Isrina sat down at the dining table, watching the TV portray the political chaos.
“Forroway currently continues accusing the Federation of their coverup of the Middle Eastern Smite as a civil war instead of a genocide,” The blonde female reporter spoke. “Not only that, despite the intense disagreement within the White House, President Forroway continues to hold the European nations responsible for the split of the United Nations due to their appeasement towards the Kneapexist Federation’s influence.”
“Oh brother,” Shien said as he gently placed the chai cups on the table. “Here we go again.”
“Yes, it’s complete chaos!” An African male reporter replied to the blonde. “America has become a verbal battleground over the Niang Controversy for years as well! The decision to have the Niang family detained by the Federation still rests in President Forroway’s hands!”
“Indeed, Forroway continues to defend the small family’s right to be free in America as well as protecting the UICA while quarreling with the senators for years. Meanwhile, Supreme Herald Fanghui of the Global Federation continues to hold the Niangs responsible for sparking rebellion with the UICA and the mysterious Vultau Order in the Middle East against his regime.”
“Now, Fanghui has been antagonizing America, the land of Freedom, for supporting the Arabian Separatists! He first links the blame of the Niangs to the UICA, the Vultau Order, and then to America! It’s insane! We even have a live clip of the Supreme Herald’s speech coming up right now!”
The screen transformed from the closed news reporting station to the elegant background of Fanghui’s metallic palace, the Arcane Phalange, which replaced most of Tiananmen Square. The outside gates were shrouded with gritty titanium as the spiky palace ominously blinked with cybernetic orange in rhythm with its deep electronic groaning, a sleeping dragon breathing with tyrannical power. Supreme Herald Fanghui along with two White Death droid guards and two Reaper Squad commandos, his secret police, soon appeared on the screen in front of a massive crowd. Fanghui’s bright yellow droid bodyguard with eight red eyes, Jin Feilong, stood alongside the guards.
“Fanghui,” Isrina anxiously spoke.
“Unfortunately,” Shien replied, sitting close to his mother, noticing her concern.
“Hail Fanghui! Hail Fanghui!” The scrambled crowd engulfing Tiananmen Square as an amoeba shouted.
“Thank you all!” Fanghui saluted back. “Please! Let us begin!”
As the crowd became quiet, Shien and his mom observed Fanghui. He was a tall man wearing a long, red, elegant robe who had neat, red hair that contained a few spikes along with an intimidating scarred face. Fanghui’s eyes gleamed with different colors as he looked at the eager crowds. His right eye was red while his left eye was teal.
“As you all probably know already, the brain dead Americans still insist that the Middle Eastern Smite was a genocide,” Fanghui began. “However, the conflict was simply just another battle between us and the UICA along with their Arabian Separatist and Vultau allies. These dangerous organizations threaten world peace, and that’s why we continue to fight them. I tell you fellow people, peace within the Middle Eastern region could never have been accomplished without our interference.”
The crowd nodded with agreement.
“However, America still wishes to ally themselves with the UICA. I say it’s truly shameful of them to work with those agents of destruction. If America continues its twisted alliance with the UICA, we will have no choice but to prepare for a necessary invasion of America!”
The crowd’s praises became roars of thunder that shook Olympus.
“I promise you all that we will accomplish world stability, justice, and peace where all other governments have failed!” Fanghui saluted.
“Hail Fanghui! Hail-”
Suddenly, the screen was off. As Isrina found herself weeping, she saw her son holding the TV remote.
“Looking at the news more won’t make you feel better,” Shien said, quickly giving his mom a bear hug.
Isrina’s tears were unstoppable waterfalls as Shien held his hardworking mom close to him. Ever since her husband, Jinhai, was killed during the Middle Eastern Smite, she escaped to Europe with the survivors, hiding baby Shien in a backpack. Isrina possessed uncontrollable anger and sadness against the world. She hated Europe for allowing the Reaper Squad to roam about their countries to capture her and her only child. Isrina hated Fanghui and the Federation for the murder of her entire family. The Niangs were grandmasters of martial arts, the only ones capable of fighting Fanghui.
Shien is now the only family and everything Isrina has left. She swore to herself to never let any harm come to Shien. Isrina taught him martial arts daily for more than 15 years. She could never stop worrying about Shien’s safety and well-being.
“Mom,” Shien said as the two hugged each other intensely. “It’s okay. I’m here. Everything is going to be okay. I am sure President Forroway will continue to find ways to help us.”
“My, my little chickadee,” Isrina replied. “I, I know. I am so sorry. Your, your mom isn’t supposed to cry.”
“Mom, it’s okay to cry. I mean, we all do! When I cried every time I hurt myself, you were there for me. You did so much for me even when I was little. I want to be here for you too, mom. Okay? It saddens me to see you upset.”
Isrina nodded as Shien gave her a napkin to wipe the endless waterfalls. When she blew her nose onto the napkin, she noticed Shien getting something from his room downstairs. He then came back with a stuffed black-capped chickadee and squeezed the cute object.
Isrina cracked a smile.
“Mr. Chickadee doesn’t want you to be sad!” Shien spoke adorably. “He wants you to be happy! Drink some tea! Smile a bit!”
Shien then rubbed the chickadee on his mom’s face. Isrina chuckled as she held the stuffed bird. She examined the stuffed bird as it brought her back good memories.
“You know, my little chickadee,” Isrina said. “When you were still a baby, your dad and I tried to decide which stuffed bird to give you.”
“Seriously?” Shien asked. “Which ones?”
“We thought of either the black-capped chickadee or the black and white warbler.”
“Then, how did you all decide the chickadee?”
“Well, in a game of Mahjong.”
The two laughed out loud as they enjoyed tea together, forgetting the complicated mayhem of politics with the taste of the creamy sweetness along with the balanced dash of spiciness.
“I thought you hated gambling, mom.”
“Well, your dad couldn’t stop teaching me and everyone else. I was much younger back then. I am an old frog now.”
“No, you’re not! You are pretty! Remember how you have always told me to have confidence in myself for years? So, don’t put yourself down!”
“You’re not wrong there, my little chickadee.”
As the two finished their tea, Shien smiled and took the empty cups to the kitchen sink to wash them. Isrina was glad. Her little chickadee is all grown up with his brown eyes sparkling with happiness as his smile drives away negativity with positive energy. She felt happy how Shien became not just a burst of sunshine for her, but his friends as well. Shien has made many friends like Naivern and Ritom, impacting them all with his positivity and jolly attitude.
“What time is it?” Shien asked while he rinsed the cups.
“What time?” Isrina looked at the kitchen’s clock. “Time for me to go!”
Isrina squeezed the chickadee one last time before rushing to get her UICA coat. After Shien placed the cups in the dishwasher, he escorted his mom outside to her car. The sun was setting across the serene sky as Isrina unlocked her car.
“Shien,” Isrina said. “Thank you for comforting me.”
“You’re very welcome!” Shien said with his eyes closed and in a happy mood.
“Have a fun time with your friends. Just don’t hang out too long.”
“Don’t worry, we won’t!”
Isrina got in the car and started the engines. As she left the parking lot to turn left, she saw Shien waving to her again with his radiant smile. She honked her horn and waved in response before leaving for the anniversary. With the nap and quality tea time with her son, she felt like she had the awesome energy to speak at the assembly.
“Thanks, my little chickadee,” She said to herself.
Shien then skipped back into the house and went back upstairs to get his chickadee. He placed it back in his room on his front desk full of other stuffed birds. Shien opened a drawer to find his Syanic viewer. The gray and green cybernetic color scheme along with the blue visor shone as the sun’s rays went through the window curtains of Shien’s room.
“Alright, my goon squad,” Shien said with a smile. “Time to catch up with you all.”
He then lay on his bed comfortably and placed the viewer in front of his eyes. Shien then closed his eyes. It was time to enter the cybernetic domain. He then pressed a small switch on the visor’s right side, letting his mind take the lightspeed journey to the Syanic Earth, leaving his real-world self behind.