It has been days since their parting. Days and nights passed slowly in the Tanjiian palace walls, and the new Empress was still being held in her awkward position. Ka'asume longed for a change, a b.reaking through. But her current state gave her very little freedom, even less than what she had in her princesshood. Yet hope remains when there is longing. This night, the moons were high, and the young Empress sneaked out of her palace walls. Will the gods answer her prayer? Will she find what she was hoping for? The answer was yes. Upon the mirror pool of the sacred floating garden, floated a small silver chest.
Ka'asume called upon the water to push the chest to land. She picked it up and found it quite light. And on its lid was a crest in the shape of a large bird, holding that alien moon on her wings! The young Empress opened the chest and picked a small mirror from inside. Buffed Ka’asume touched its surface, a beam of light projected the image of the black-haired princess above the device.
"Greetings Empress of Tanjia..." her voice came from the mirror. "I wish you well, and I hope this message finds its way to you. Please accept my gratitude for this short meeting, and good wills should not go unanswered. Empress Ka’asume of Tanjia, please receive this mumble invitation for a visit in my world, I shall await at the other side of the portal."
For a moment Ka'asume very much wanted to leap into this new world and never to return. So she will be free. But that cannot be. Then again, the young Empress was curious. She had but one glimpse of this strange land of the lone silver moon. And this princess, Ka'asume felt no malice nor treachery from her, though she did saw a flash of shadow in her soul but she is not evil.
"Oh Ki'konia, what should I do?" As if answering Ka'asume's prayer, a light gasp of wind shattered a rain of Ii’riaika blossoms on the surface of the mirror pool.
"So be it." Ka'asume took a deep b.reath. With a wave of her hand, the water tensed so the surface would hold her weight. The young Empress walked to where the moons met the water, then she let go of all control. She fell into the reflections of Tanjia’s celestial parents, and the world turned up side down.
Ka’asume emerged from another side of the world, from a pool similar to the one in her floating garden. A figure of dark hair and amber eyes was waiting on the bank.
“Welcome, Empress of the two moons.”
“Please, call me Ka’asume.” Said the Empress as she generated a wave to push her ashore.
“Make yourself comfortable.” The figure offered her a white towel, which Ka’asume gladly accepted.
“Thank you, princess of the lone silver moon.”
“Alinna will do.” And the two ladies exchanged a warm smile.
Ka'asume dried her body with the towel, the fab.ric was very soft and fluffy. But for her incredibly long hair, the Empress had to use her power to pull the water out.
“I am very happy the portal remains open, and you accept my invitation.” Alinna showed Ka’asume to a chair beside a round tea table, it was cushioned, and the back had patterns of intertwined vines. The princess had apparently arranged the lake side into a camping site.
Above them was an inky blue sky with a hue of purple, and around them were tall dark trees. Ka’asume found the flora of this land not much different from the native ones on Tanjia. But this planet certainly has a much darker colour scheme. The grasses underneath her feet were green, pure dark green without any tint of blue. They were soft as well, but not as soft as those in her secret garden, and Ka’asume felt them tickling her toes. The leaves weaved a heavy curtain of dark blue and jade above their heads. Neither the trees nor the grasses had flowers in them, perhaps their time had passed, for the chillness in the night wind whispered the changing of seasons. The lone silver moon was low and b.right that night, its white light drowned out the star lights. Ka’asume wondered if she could see Tanjia from here?
Alinna waited patiently and silently, while the Empress of Tanjia took her time to take in the scenery.
“Ka’asume, I hope this invitation is not too ab.rupt.” Alinna offered her guest a cup of tea, which the later gladly accepted. Tea is quite common on Tanjia as well.
“No, I am very happy to see you as well.” The Empress returned a smile.
“The same can be said here, Ka’asume.” Alinna paused and collected her thoughts.”Tonight is a good night, a full moon night, a night of reunion. I am planning on visiting someone in the human world. Would you like to join me?”
“Oh, who would that be?” Ka’asume raised her eyeb.rows in excitement, but was confused by the term ‘human world’.
“Someone very close to me.”
“Alinna, you are picking my interests.” Ka’asume savoured the tea, it was very refreshing, and has a certain herbal taste that leaves a cooling trace on the back of her throat. “But if they are your friends, I’d very much like to meet them.”
“Thank you Ka’asume. But there is one request, and I hope it does not offend you. This visit, it is a private and secretive one. And for that reason, we need a human make over of you.”
Ka’asume was more surprised than offended. Walking in her shoes, Ka’asume might do the same if she were to show Alinna around her people. But..
“Human...make over? How?” the Empress asked.
“Here, take this.” Alinna offered Ka’asume a flower, it has many petals, each one has a gradient from white to pink. “And, take a look.”
Ka’asume nearly screamed when she saw the strange girl looking back to her from the mirror. The girl’s height has been reduced to that of Alinna’s. Her skin was white, but instead of purple, gained a lovely peachy glow. Her eyes remained blue, but her hair changed to black and appeared waist length. Ka’asume gasped and reached backwards for her hair, it was still that long waterfall of midnight blue, and her hands still milky white.
The Empress blinked and shifted her gaze between her and her reflection.
“What is it?”
“A simple camouflage spell.”
“What is a spell?” It was the first time Ka’asume heard this word, though for some reason they communicate just fine, but this word, she cannot understand.
“It is...like an illusion." Alinna expalined. "You haven’t change physically, just how others see you. Try to think it like a mask.”
Ka’asume nodded, but was bit unnerved by this idea, a mask gives a feeling of being detached.
Alinna showed Ka’asume into a tent, inside was a variety of clothing tailored in human fashion. Ka’asume observed them with great interest. They were totally different from the style of her people. The clothing of this land seemed to be more fitting, and the fab.ric much heavier and opaque. After a moment of consideration, Ka’asume chose a white summer gown, made of light gossamer and lace. But the chilling wind called for a second thought, so Ka’asume decided an additional cloak, but could not find one, so she went for something close enough. A tighter fitting cape with two sleeves (I think Ka’asume means a cardigan). Ka'asume did have a first choice of a floral dress, this kind of dense pattern is very rare on Tanjia. But when she tried it on, the material was just too rough for her.
When Ka'asume had changed, she found her hostess had changed as well, into a much simpler fashion. She had only seen her twice, and each time a different style. Ka’asume vaguely remembered her wearings during their first meeting, something navy and velvety, silver-emb.roidered, covered and opaque. Her style tonight very much reflected that one, black and navy, but minus the emb.roidery, and jewelry, saving for a silver ring. “I want to wear your earrings, but I do not have ear-holes, and for...the nature of my body, they will never stay on me.” The princess apologised.
"Something's missing..." Ka’asume’s human make-over was perfect, and her fashion choice reflected a lady on a casual night out. But what kind of lady runs around without shoes? Alinna handed a pair of sandals to Ka’asume. The Empress took the foot wear, confused. Alinna bent over and put them on for her. Ka’asume had a strange feeling when the cold hard material touched her soles. Somehow she felt blindfolded, disconnected. For a moment Ka’asume had a feeling, that while her people are working on connections, people of this planet are busying with covering themselves in shells.
“Shall we?” Ka’asume hesitatingly took the hand offered to her, and was led into that tall dressing mirror.
Immediately, Ka’asume knew they were in a different place, maybe even a different planet? The atmosphere was just too different, the weather was warmed, and the air was filled with an unpleasant smell, the noise, and the rough and steel ground, Ka’asume began to understand the significance of the foot wear.
The Empress found herself in the middle of a crowed of alien people. Well that was an unfair comment, because the residents of this planet looked not much different from Tanjiians. The basic body structure, the head, torso and limbs, nothing more, nothing less. But they are smaller in size. Ka’asume herself was not considered tall among her people, but here, a good 7’3 is a giant. The people here has darker skin. Ka’asume b.rushed past a sweet looking young girl with hair the colour of gold, Ka’asume never knew one’s hair can take that colour. A few step a man as black as the night. How amazing that a city can host such variety of people!
Ah the city, Ka’asume was delighted that artifical lights also exist on this distant land. The architectures, perhaps due to the smaller size of their residents, Ka’asume found them bit clustered, and barren. Some of them were built with dark stony materials, some of them colourful wood. But all of the houses shape like boxes. Boxes, boxes... boxes on four wheels running along the streets. A loud bumming noise, Ka’asume had to cover her ears. A large silver bird glided over their head. She had never seen avian creatures that can reach such size and height.
It was in that moment that Ka'asume felt an overwhelming alienness. And the emphatic gift of her people told her that this alienness, came not only from herself, but also from her hostess in this world. Alinna Innunna, she does not belong to here either!
They turned around the corner of a long grey stone wall, and colours b.roke into sight. A small shop front, Ka’asume recognise it, the wall was blue, but a triangle area around the front door was painted yellow. On the top vertex of the yellow triangle, was a little lamp.
They were greeted by the shop owner, who was an amiable old man, Ka’asume thought he must be 88000 years old.
“Hello Lin, and welcome to you, honoured guest.”
Oddly the old man did not ask much about Ka’asume.
“Bob, will they be here tonight?”
The old man nodded and pointed to a corner. Ka’asume followed his finger and saw a dark-haired man across the shop, he must be at least 77000 years old (50 human year) Ka’asume reckoned. He was looking into a rectangle device, his hands touching its surface repetitively. Shortly after he was joined by a woman and a teenage girl. The man hugged and kissed the girl on her cheek, and helped the women get seated. They ordered drinks, chatted and laughed. Then the man took a bag of veggie and fruit from the woman, and they walked out.
“It’s ok, they left.” Bob placed a gentle hand on Alinna’s shoulder, which was shaking all these times.
“Thank you Bob.”
“Who...who are they?” The Empress asked with great caution, her eyes followed the human family until they have fade from sight. It was just an ordinary family, how come she fears them...but again, Ka’asume did not know it was fear or some thing else.
"My family, my parents, and my adoptive sister." Alinna regained her composure.
"Your...your family?!” Ka’asume gasped, then she realised something. The moment they set foot inside the shop, Alinna never looked at them, she had her back at them the whole time! “Are you hiding from them?"
The princess nodded.
"Alinna, you people intrigues me as they disturb me." Ka'asume’s b.rows locked into a frown. "You came all the way to see them, clearly you care about them, but why are you hiding from them?"
"Ka'asume, I don't know how to explain to you.."
"Then show me." Ka’asume opened her hands, palm facing upwards.
"I can’t..." Alinna shook her head, eyes widened in surprise.
“It’s alright, I want to know.” The princess took a long look into the blue eyes of the Empress, they were calm and deep, like the ocean. With a sigh, Alinna put her hands into Ka’asume’s.
Through her vision, Ka’asume saw the princess. But she looked different, younger and sweeter. Her hair and eyes were both b.rown. She stood there, as an ordinary girl. Behind her were a man and a woman, Ka’asume had seen them in the coffee shop. The man is tall and stern, the woman has gentle smile. Then the daughter was taken, by a shadowy flame, Ka’asume did not know what it was. Maybe it wasn’t a thing, just a metaphorical manifestation.
The mother fell on her knees, hands covering her face, crying. The father’s eyes were red with tears. But he comforted her. And little by little the mother calmed down, another girl came to their arms. They were not related by blood, but Ka’asume felt an immensity of love. The couple adopted a daughter. But then, the first daughter came back.
She had changed, black hair, amber eyes and pale face, as how Ka’asume saw her at the first place. The daughter watched them from the shadows, and with her gaze, the simple line imagines of the version gained colours and shapes. The scene shifted, into a living room, the one in almost every household Ka’asume had seen on this planet. The mother and the little daughter was watching a box with moving imagines. The daughter watched them quietly from the window. Her silhouette was part of the night, and her steps soundless as the bats gliding through the summer wind. But, Ka’asume heard a meow and a hiss, the daughter stepped on something. Being alerted, the mother looked to the window. Only one glimpse before the daughter dissolved into darkness.
The still of the night was no more. The reconnection of blood disturbed the darkness, it boiled, billowed, crushed onto the windows and doors like blackened waves. Outside, the daughter was leaning against the front door, holding back the waves of darkness. Inside, the mother was struggling for the door, and the father and the sister were pulling her back. As the daughter sent away the last wave of darkness, the mother b.roke free from the father’s arms, and she turned the doorknob...
They saw her.
The daughter had left her prints, and whatever lurks in the shadows will sniff them out. The family fell into a dreamless sleep. The daughter walked across the house, erasing every trace she once existed. When the morning light chased away the horrible night, the family woke up, never to remember they had an older daughter.
The princess has no place in their lives, hence no reason to harm the family. The daughter and her parents, their paths went untangled, so they could live on happily and quietly, and she is contented to watch over them from afar...
Ka’asume woke up, tears welling, hands shaking. “Why did you do this?”
The Empress took a deep b.reath, trying to digest what she had seen. The princess, this descendant of the Old Queens, whatever it means as Ka’asume felt in the vision, made her birth parents forget her existence...
“Ka'asume, judge me if you want, but I have to, I had no choice....” Red liquid gathered in the corners of the princess's eyes, Ka'asume did not know it is tear or blood. Alinna tried to shut them behind her eyelids, but they overflew, and left two wound-like marks on her face.
But how can she judge her? In that decision, Ka’asume felt no malice, not a single amount, but sadness, and love...
“You love them, do you not?” Ka’asume sighed.
“Yes, I do, and I will do everything to keep them safe.” The princess wept the red tears away, those amber stars returned to her eyes.
“Love...” Ka’asume muttered. She thought of her mother and b.rothers, who are being held under house-arrest back on Tanjia. How far will she go to protect them?
“Let it be your strength, Ka’asume.”
Ka’asume felt a tingle of coolness. She saw Alinna put a silver chain and a pendant in the palm her hands. The pendant was oval shape, framed by silver ivy, and on the surface was a magnificent bird, wings spreading, holding up two moons. “When you care about someone, you keep them close to your heart.” Alinna tapped the carved surface and the pendant opened up like a shell, inside was a cameo of an elderly Tanjiian woman, her features were vague but Ka’asume recognise her face, it was her grandmother!
“Thank you Alinna...” Ka’asume closed her fingers around the pendant and held it close to her heart.
“And you may want to take this.” The atmosphere took a lighter turn as Alinna handed Ka’asume a bottle all of ruby-coloured wine. “I am not a wine drinker, I have an uncle who is a connoisseur, but this the finest in my cellar, I hope it suits your taste.”
"I was saving it the night, but...you never know, it might come in handy if we do have a garden party some day."
And they both smiled.
Ka’asume emerged from the pool in her secret garden, a bottle of wine in her hand, a pendant on her chest, a flower in her hair, and the alien clothing on her body. A lot of souvenirs, and an answer, Ka’asume knew now what she must fight for. She did not know how long the portal would remain open, but she had this gut feeling, that one trip and one return, a secret for another, the gods are fair. But there are things that even gods cannot decide.
Alinna and Bob watched the ripples on the lake, thin mist gathered around, like a veil between worlds.
“Who is she?” Asked the old man.
“Wise and ancient Emrys, you have retired. Have some mercy, let the water has its secret.”