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Akata, Whispers of the Past
King Tammamori was staring thoughtfully out the window when we entered. He turned around and Ryukou and I bowed low in the doorway. Father let out a breath of air, as if relieved and worried about something “Your Majesty,” I greeted him. The King shook his head. “Stand up, both of you.” Ryukou rose, standing in the doorway, and I passed him a glance. “Izrekiel, come here please.” I obeyed, taking measured steps toward my father. It wasn’t that I feared him, not really. But I often didn’t know what to say or do in his presence. I had been taught what I couldn’t say in his presence, but never what I could. When your father is the leader of a great many people, you find that it’s difficult to drop formalities. This time was no different. The King regarded me curiously with his chin resting on his fist, taking in my appearance, no doubt. I was quite used to people staring at me by this point; I was a freak. I ducked my head under my father’s piercing blue gaze. Since I was born, I looked different. While all those around me were dark-haired and dark-eyed, I was fair, with bright reddish hair, and light blue eyes. My eyes could be explained by my royal blood. Both my father and brother had eyes like mine, deep blue and fierce, and we were all relatively tall and lighter complexioned than the common people. But nothing could explain the absurdity of my hair. As if that was not strange enough, I also had been born with deformed ears, pointed at the tips. In fact, when I was born, many of the castle occupants were afraid that I would go deaf. I was not deaf, and I was perfectly healthy as far as I could see, but that did not change the fact that I looked… confusing, in simple terms. After a moment, the King let his hand fall from his chin and smiled at me. “I’ve watched you from the day you were born until now. I never thought I’d see you stand before me as a man.” I was taken aback. For some reason, I had never expected my father to say this to me. At my shocked expression, the King continued. “It’s true, I am a proud father, to have two--not just one, but two--wise heirs that I can entrust this country to after I am long gone. That’s more than most fathers can ask for.” As he spoke, I noticed Ryukou in the corner, watching unblinking from where he stood. Father closed the gap between us and laid his hands gently on the my shoulders. I flinched at the touch, not sure why. “Izrekiel, the reason why I’ve brought you here today is because I think it is time. You have come to the age where you should learn more about the world and take your place at your father’s side.” He paused and looked me in the eye. I refused to look away. “Just like I did for Ryukou when he was young, I am going to take you with me into battle. You’ve learned your blade well, haven’t you?” I nodded. “Yes sir, quite well.” It was true. I had practiced nearly every day with the blademaster, and had even sparred against Ryukou, who was a far more accomplished swordsman than I was. The King smiled. “Good. Then tomorrow, you will depart with your brother and I. We will join with the troops outside the palace. I have faith that you’ll do well. It is your divine fate.” My divine fate. That was another anomaly of my birth. When I was born, as an explanation for my bizarre appearance, the Royal Priest declared that I was the reincarnation of a deity, Orato, and that made me special somehow. I hardly knew what he meant, but everyone else seemed to have bought the idea. And so, I had been labeled “divine.” I bowed to my father. “Yes, Your Majesty. I will do my best.” And I left without another word, mulling over the task I had been charged with.
14:33 07/06/16
Akata, Whispers of the Past
Sayari Palace was the center of the capital, Gō Ataru. Both literally and figuratively. It physically rested in the center of the city, and it was the infrastructure that held up the Aka culture in a tangible way. Most common people who lived in the city passed by the Palace everyday, so it quite understandably became a sort of symbol for the city. The Palace boasted of three floors in the main building, several gardens, and a concave shingled roof. It was a complicated piece of architecture, made up of a series of adjacent buildings arranged in a half-circle. Niu Miro, the main building, and also the largest, where my family lived, was located in the center of the palace buildings, atop a lifted platform. A large gated pathway led up to the steps to the entrance. As we neared the main building, it was apparent that someone was waiting for us. A tall young man in an ornate silk robe stood before us at the bottom of the stone steps, his black hair pinned up and fastened under a silver headpiece. He watched us approach with an unwavering blue gaze. My older brother, the Crown Prince Ryukou. “Your Royal Highness,” Bandal said, bowing low. “Brother.” I smiled. Ryukou stared at me, silent for a moment. He looked me up and down thoughtfully, taking in my sorry state: trousers covered in grass stains, shoes caked in mud, shirt wrinkled, with buttons undone at the neck, and of course, my bright copper hair falling messily from its bun. He let out a sigh. “So, Izka, I see you’ve somehow managed to make yourself appear as undignified as possible--again.” I looked down at my feet in embarrassment. “Speak for yourself,” I muttered under my breath. I started smiling despite myself, remembering an amusing image: Ryukou asleep at his desk that morning, and the dishonorable appearance, as Bandal might say, he exhibited, with his face sticking to the paper of some important document. I snickered at the memory. “What’s so funny?” Ryukou asked with an eyebrow raised. “Ah, nothing.” I started for the stairs, but Ryukou looped his arm over my shoulders as I tried to pass, trapping me in his death-hold. “You thought of something rude, didn’t you?” And then he poked my side. “No! H-hey! Stop it! That hurts!” But Ryukou was laughing while he tormented me. I could easily imagine Bandal shaking his graying head at the antics before him, the two princes under his charge acting like complete fools. Once we were inside, Ryukou released me and regarded me seriously for a second. “You didn’t have to be so rough…” I mumbled, rubbing my neck. “Izrekiel,” he began, “once you’ve changed clothing, come with me to Father’s study. He wants to speak with you about something.” He paused, as if something just occurred to him. “Ah yes, and it would be best to not take too long.” “I see,” I mumbled. I gave my older brother a quick bow—out of habit, I suppose—and nodded toward Bandal once before walking toward my room. Beautiful ink and paint murals illustrating historical scenes and mythical tales travelled across the walls of the hallways, and I glanced at them, already knowing the stories they told. I slipped inside the room through the papered doors. My room was on the western side of Niu Miro, overlooking the central courtyard. Looking out the slatted windows, I could see the stone pathways leading up to the steps of the separate buildings, and statues of past religious leaders and kings. It wasn’t a particularly beautiful scene, not like the cherry blossom trees and far off mountains outside of Ryukou’s study, but I didn’t spend a lot of time in my room to begin with. I quickly changed out of my riding attire and into a clean kimono before I returned to Ryukou in the main hall. When I arrived, he appraised my appearance. After a moment, he said, “Couldn’t you do anything with your hair?” I made a face. “I tried. But it kept falling down.” I blew a few strands out of my eyes, and as if to prove my point, they fell precariously over my face again. Ryukou sighed and shook his head. “I suppose it will have to do. Come, Father’s waiting.”
14:26 07/06/16
Akata, Whispers of the Past

14:21 07/06/16