Chapter 1: The Niang Controversy
“I guess I will meet you and the others later?” Shien talked to Ritom on the phone.
“At Enshiron’s Kyyrhim Bistro!” Ritom responded.
“Alrighty, see you later. Just don’t gamble too much, please.”
“No promises! Don’t be late, shortie!”
“Hey! Don’t call me-” Shien narrowed his brown eyes as Ritom hung up before he could talk back.
The UICA’s Syanic Earth Year 3225 MMORPG made it easy for Shien and his friends to connect.
“You awake, mom?” Shien jumped up the stairs.
“Hmm?” Isrina opened her blue eyes. “It’s time?”
Dr. Isrina Niang rested. She will work at the UICA’s first Syanic Earth Year 3225 anniversary celebration later today.
“Heyo, mom!” Shien skipped to his mom’s room. “Want tea before you leave? I know you enjoy my tea.”
“Yes please, my little chickadee.”
The black-haired Shien whistled while preparing the tea in the spacious kitchen with walls tiled in yellow. Isrina yawned from her catnap, forcing herself to wake. She 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! We’re gonna hang out in the game later!” Shien placed tea bags into a teapot of boiling water mixed with crushed spices Nashura taught him.
“Goodness! What tea are you making this time, my little chickadee?” Isrina sniffed the aroma.
“It’s magic, Nashura told me,” Shien grinned. “She taught me and Enshiron tea tricks. I am trying to make authentic masala chai.”
“Sounds wonderful! And thanks for waking me.”
As Isrina sat on the small round table, the TV above was playing the news.
“How’s the news?” Isrina watched.
“Not much,” Shien poured the teapot’s elegant mixture into two cups. “Just the same politics.”
“I see. Are they still onto us, Niangs?”
“Yep, but President Forroway’s doing his best to defend us.”
“President Forroway holds Europe responsible for the split of the United Nations because of their appeasement towards the Kneapexist influence,” A blonde female reporter spoke from the screen.
“Oh no,” Shien placed the chai cups on the brown table. “Here we go again.”
“And he declares the Niang Controversy to be unjust!” An African male reporter added.
“He has stood against his own lawmakers to protect the Niangs, but Supreme Herald Fanghui of the Global Federation declares them guilty of starting the rebellion in the Middle East against his regime.”
“Fanghui is antagonizing America for defending the UICA! We have a live clip of the Supreme Herald’s speech!”
The screen transformed from the closed news reporting station to Fanghui’s metallic palace, the Arcane Phalange that replaced Tiananmen Square.
The outside gates shrouded with gritty titanium as the spiky palace blinked with a cybernetic orange in rhythm with its deep electronic groaning, a sleeping dragon breathing with tyrannical power.
Supreme Herald Fanghui appeared on the screen in front of a massive crowd. His bright yellow droid bodyguard, Jin Feilong, stood alongside the White Death and Reaper Squad guards.
“Fanghui,” Isrina frowned.
“I know,” Shien sat next to Isrina.
“Hail Fanghui! Hail Fanghui!” The crowd cheered.
“Thank you!” Fanghui saluted back. “Please! Let’s 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 know, 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, we could never accomplish peace within the Middle Eastern region 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 we will accomplish world stability, justice, and peace where the governments have failed!” Fanghui saluted.
“Hail Fanghui! Hail-”
The screen turned off. As Isrina wept, she saw her son holding the TV remote.
“Looking at the news more won’t make you feel better,” Shien gave 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, died 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 protect her son no matter what. Isrina taught him martial arts daily for over 15 years. She could never stop worrying about Shien’s safety and well-being.
“Mom,” Shien leaned his head onto hers. “It’s okay. I’m here. Everything is going to be okay. I am sure President Forroway will continue to help us.”
“My, my little chickadee,” Isrina replied. “I, I know. I am so sorry. Your, your mom shouldn’t cry.”
“Mom, it’s okay to cry. 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. While she blew her nose into the napkin, Shien ran downstairs. He 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 held the small, stuffed bird in his hand. “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 wonderful memories.
“You know, my little chickadee,” Isrina began. “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 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 those times you yakked at 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.
“What time is it?” Shien asked.
“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 unlocked her car. “Thank you for comforting me.”
“You’re very welcome!” Shien hugged his mom one more time.
“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 energy to speak at the assembly.
“Thanks, my little chickadee,” She remarked as she drove through the suburban streets.
Shien skipped back into the house, running back upstairs to get his chickadee. He placed it back in his room on his front desk full of other stuffed birds he and Isrina collected: Northern cardinals, ruby-crowned kinglets, tufted titmice, white-throated sparrows, and many more.
He opened a small blue book at the center of the table. There were many photos of birds he and Isrina observed together and journaled about. Shien smiled as he reread the entries about their birdwatching experiences.
Finally, he closed the book and 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.
“Alrighty, my goon squad,” Shien smiled. “Time to catch up!”
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 light-speed journey to the Syanic Earth, leaving his real-world self behind.