“Brakierie!” Hanali threw his rapier around the area like a boomerang. It struck a couple of the monster’s gemstones, and he yanked it back with threads of light that came from his fingertips. The monsters imploded and burst into ashes.
Evalieh couldn’t tear his eyes away until every shaman beast had fallen. When Hanali motioned for him to get up, he rose to his feet feeling sick. Evalieh clenched his stomach and trembled. “Did you…kill them?” Evalieh felt sad and a grim frown crept across his face. He feared this was only the beginning of their troubles. He didn’t want to see things die because in his mind, he saw enough people die back home.
Hanali clenched his jaw, looked back at Evalieh, and sucked the air through his teeth. “It had to be done.” Hanali winced and grabbed his shoulder. His light dimmed, and his transformation faded away. “Mother said the shamans warp their mind and body beyond their original form, for power. So, while they might look like animals, they’re a wicked, contorted, skeletal evil, and we call them Darlurchs.” Hanali pointed at his forehead.” The only way to stop them is by piercing the gem on their head.”
“Is there no other way?” Evalieh moved closer to help, but Hanali kept his distance. “Hanali—let me help.” Hanali sighed and tore a piece off his pants. Evalieh helped cover his shoulder wounds. “These people—they’re outlanders too, aren’t they? Are you sure it’s not a misunderstanding between the clans?”
“A misunderstanding?!” Hanali rolled out of the way. “I can’t believe you’d say that after what they’ve done. You can’t side with the enemy, Evalieh!”
“I—I never said that!”
“You can feel it, can’t you? Something’s wrong with your body? It’s all their fault—they knew what they’re doing when they choose to oppose the island. They get no mercy.”
“Hey!” Evalieh’s eyes turned red, and he ruffled his hair. His body ached and felt heavy, but Hanali was right, it didn’t feel the same. “Don’t take your feud out on me…I don’t even know what’s going on and I don’t care! I’m just here. I just want to go home.”
Hanali scoffed and flopped onto the ground. He squished his face between his knees and wrapped his arms around his legs. “I’m afraid it won’t be that easy. You’re in a fragile state, and I must protect you.” He reached for Evalieh’s hand and was brushed away. “We must collect the sun tears as quickly as possible—along with you—I know we can set everything right. That’s why we must hurry to the Earth and Water Clan.”
With his hands behind his back, Evalieh paced along the parameter of the area. “You know, I wasn’t trained for all this uncertainty—it makes me uncomfortable.” He felt uneasy and expected something else to jump out at them. “I was trained for logic and results. If you say we’re short on time, then let’s go!”
Hanali nodded. “Wait—let’s try something.” Hanali grabbed ahold of the sun pendant around his necklace. “I wonder if this’ll work.” He held out his arms and instructed Evalieh to do the same.
Evalieh felt awkward. “What is this for?” He reluctantly raised his arms.
“Repeat after me—sunlight, adorn me.”
Evalieh repeated the phrase but to his surprise, nothing happened. He tried again, adding infliction and aggression with each attempt. With Hanali’s instructions, he took on weird poses that tried to channel his energy in different ways. Evalieh’s eyes began to bleed into a crimson glow, causing his breath to turn into little flames. He felt frustrated. “I can’t keep throwing my arms and legs around—it’s pointless, Hanali!”
“Calm down, it’s okay.”
Evalieh took a deep breath, and his eyes returned to their sapphire hue. “What were you trying to make me do?”
“It’s my secret—I call it my Light Warden ability. I thought you could do the same thing if we say the phrase and position your body correctly. I guess there’s more to it than I realize.”
Evalieh raised a brow and felt skeptical. Something about that made him want to laugh. “That would explain your…transformation?” He swallowed his laughter.
“Well—I guess that’s just a part of it.”
“So, what’s the point of this Light Warden?”
“I thought it might help stabilize your body and give you some control over that chaotic energy. I thought it’d give you a fighting chance—but it’s okay, I’ll protect you.”
“Hey, I can take care of myself.” Evalieh scoffed, looked away, and folded his arms. He felt his chest where the shaman had struck him during the ceremony. If it wasn’t for the scar, he wouldn’t believe any of this happened. The pain is too real to be a dream. Hanali leaned in and traced his fingertips across Evalieh’s scar, making him flinch. Without hesitating, Evalieh backed away. “I’m okay.”
Hanali sighed and looked up at the starry sky. “I wish you’d have come to the island during a more peaceful time. You’d have enjoyed being here—you could’ve joined any other clan.” He clenched his fist. “I wish I could do more. I’m a bad friend—I couldn’t even protect you, but now all I can do is try to make up it up to you. I must help you and the island.”
Evalieh remained silent.
“It might not be the ideal, but what’s better than traveling with your friends—right? We’ll make the most of this journey, I promise.”
Evalieh looked away, he felt as if Hanali was trying to kill him off. It made him feel uneasy about the journey ahead and reminded him of his time back home. Every day, people feared being caught for some mistake or failure. As watchful eyes pried into his life, it made every moment feel tense. He shook his head and assured himself this place would not be his tomb. Although his home wasn’t much to brag about, he felt determined to return and tell everyone about his experience.
Hanali rummaged through his pockets and pulled out a gold compass. It gave off a faint glow. “If we go northeast, it should lead us to the Earth Clan.” They turned around until they were pointed towards the northeast. “We can ask the Great BayoBayo Tree for help. I’m sure he can help your condition and send us towards the sun tear,” Hanali said. Together, they began to brave the jungle path.
“So, you don’t know how to find the sun tears?”
“No, each region holds a mystical tree that sometimes changes locations on its own. On its branches a little jewel grows—that’s the sun tear. It’s said to be powerful enough to purify the darkness. However, no one has ever been able to touch it—that’s why we’ve been waiting for you.”
“Doesn’t sound very reliable.”
“I know, that’s why I’m hoping the Great BayoBayo Tree can point us in the right direction. I’ve always heard his roots can see everything that goes on.”
The darkness surrounded the two, with only a few mushrooms and flowers glowing in the dark. They brushed up against the shaggy bushes and prickly palm trunks. Birds rustled and chirped in the leaves around them, making Evalieh shiver. He kept close to Hanali as he led the way. Evalieh couldn’t help but keep turning back and looking around. It felt as if something was creeping up behind them, making his body chill and tingle. Hanali managed to get a few steps ahead, causing Evalieh’s heart to sink with fear. In a panic, he scrambled through the dark, and slammed into the young man, knocking him over.
Hanali laughed and searched around the ground for the compass. “It’s alright. No need to be scared.” He found it beneath a group of glowing mushrooms.
Evalieh felt his fears and worries slowly rise. “I—I can’t do this for a year. Can I?” He didn’t know how he’d survive and didn’t know what waits beyond the jungle trees.
“You know, a lot can happen in a year’s time. With their technology and dark magic, the shamans could bring down the moon and enslave us all. They tried it once before.”
Evalieh looked up through the canopies at the stars. “What did they do before?” Surely, they couldn’t hurt the moon but where was it?
“We lost our god—you saw the sun statue.”
“Long before me and my mother, the shamans tried to break the island apart and sever our connection to the gods.”
“Are you saying you lost a statue?”
“No, we lost the sun god’s essence when it broke and could no longer communicate with them or use their powers.”
Evalieh snarled and thought Hanali’s devotion to the gods sounded like blind faith. Thunder echoed overhead and pulled him from his thoughts. They had traveled for quite some time and the path was no clearer than before. The stars faded behind the clouds and the glowing mushrooms and flowers danced in the raindrops. Although he was worried, Evalieh had this nagging feeling that the jungle was trying to calm him with the pitter-patter of the rain. He felt a chill of calmness sweep over him when a sweet floral smell rose into the air.
They soon approached a few shallow rivers. One, had them hopping across stones and paddling across on giant leaf canoes. Evalieh slipped on a rock and fell into a fishing net. He panicked and flailed around like a floundering fish. Hanali had to pull on the net and drag Evalieh out to the other side.
Despite the few annoyances, Evalieh found their travels growing more beautiful. Every now and then, he’d stop to take in the surroundings. Water trickled across mossy rocks and hibiscus petals sprinkled their pollen when he touched them. He was soaking wet but couldn’t understand why ADAM said that nature is a danger to humanity.
“Hurry, I think were almost at the Sun Palm gorge. We can rest there—I be they’ll be expecting us to travel in the daylight,” Hanali said. A bright light flashed through the jungle, startling them.
“Oh-ho-ho-ho, what primitive beauty!” came a woman’s voice.
Hanali and Evalieh dove behind the bushes. “What was that?” Evalieh said. Smooth jazz music played alongside the thunder and falling rain. Evalieh and Hanali looked perplexed and shrugged it off. A woman let out a howling cackle, and Evalieh peaked through the leaves.
On the other side, a tall woman with long orange hair tried to get her wimpy partner to dance. They wore a sleek white bodysuit like Evalieh, except their shoulders and hips were sharply squared with steel tassels hanging off. They had a barcode over their left breast and had five triangles imbedded above the code. Evalieh’s training evaluation came back to him, he was conditioned to be placed within one of ADAM’s five factions but failed. His name would have been replaced with the title of Adam and a following letter or number. Evalieh edged through the bushes and wondered why those two were here.
“Why can’t we rest? This place is so beautiful, just look at all the flowers, X,” she said.
“Adam Beve, y-you know we c-cannot do that. This is no v-vacation. We must fulfill our assignment and see what’s causing this disturbance,” said Adam Xam. He was a scrawny man with dark slicked back hair. He stood in Beve’s shadow and plucked a small crystal from a floating pedestal. The music stopped and Beve sighed with annoyance.
“Oh, X, don’t be such a stiff!” Adam Beve sniffed the flowers near her. “How often do we get to have this kind of freedom?”
Hanali nudged Evalieh and they shuffled through the bushes. They followed the light that came from behind Beve and Xam. It was a makeshift camp that consisted of plastic cubes that made up offices and sleeping pods. Further beyond the camp was an electrified blue barricade that blocked the bridge across the Sun Palm gorge.
“Why do they look like you?” Hanali asked.
Evalieh sulked his head and rubbed his scar. “I—I don’t know, but I think they’re ADAM’s exploratory enforcers. I can see the little blue triangle on their chest.” He looked down at his chest where the symbol would have appeared had he passed the trials. “That means they’re the ones who make sure people follow the rules. If people step too far out of line or nature tries to grow against ADAM’s will, they report to the white faction,” he said.
“Why do you think they’re here.”
Evalieh’s eyes began to turn purple, and his body tingled with excitement. “H-have you ever saw them here before?” Hanali reached for Evalieh, but he slipped away and crouched behind a cube. The boats were supposed to arrive next year, but this crew was already here. He crept closer with his heart pounding in his throat. They didn’t wear masks and he was eager to see what they’d say. He could only imagine how welcoming they might be to one of their own.
The woman let out a cackle. “I just wanna relax and spend time with you, X.”
“P-please r-refrain from calling me, X. Our t-title is Adam Xam and Adam Beve.”
Adam Beve sighed.
“Will the two of you stop—you do not see Adam Vam messing around, do you?” said a man. A tall man came out of an office cube wearing a long cape with blue lining. Beneath his silver locks, his face was sharp and unforgiving.
The two members straightened up and cupped their hands into a circular shape to salute the man. “Yes, Proton!” they said.
Hanali hurried beside Evalieh and tried to pull him away. “You’re going to get us caught,” Hanali said.
The muscly baby-faced Adam Vam came over to check the inventory cubes. He didn’t look like he fit his role. He clicked on his holographic checkboard and moved to the next cube. Evalieh’s heart raced, he was overrun with thoughts of returning home. He couldn’t believe his chance had finally come.
“Do not lose anything, we don’t want the locals knowing we were here,” Proton said.
Vam nodded and closed the cubes. “If I may be so bold, sir. What is so important about this place that the SOA needed us to return?”
Proton clicked his heels together, raised his nose, and glared back at Vam. “You do not ask those kinds of questions. We are here to do a job and that is all you need to know. The people here are no threat to us—we are here to keep order.” Proton flicked his cape around and walked away. “I can’t wait to leave this barbaric prison.”
Evalieh edged further around the cube and into the camp lights. He was full of excitement, but his body felt hot and prickly. An electrical current coursed throughout his veins. Hanali grab him but a purple bolt shocked them both. Evalieh yelped and ran out in front of Proton and Adam Vam.
“Hey, you shouldn’t be here—get him!” Proton said.
Evalieh’s body seized, and electrical thorns surrounded his body. He writhed in pain, twitching back and forth as his vision blurred. He couldn’t see Hanali.
Proton approached. “What is this mess? Is this why we were called here?”