Hero of Shenkuu: Part Two
Years and years passed. I spent the beginning of these years researching prophecies and records on Spotted Zafaras, and I sent out a group of trackers to find ones of proper age. None of the Zafaras they discovered were vicious enough to be the Chosen One from the prophecy, and none of them were raised by a Green Nimmo.
In a way, I surrendered. There was plenty of time. The prophecy clung to the back of my mind, always there but never dominating my other thoughts. The only thing it did was make me paranoid, and because of this I changed the people on my staff on almost a daily basis. I have never been lonelier in my life, and I have never been safer. I almost forget about the Chosen One.
That is, until they sight him.
"He's here in Shenkuu," a Brown Acara announces, but for the life of me I can't remember her name or her position in my staff. "We finally located him, Empress Rhi. There's no need to worry anymore."
Before she said that, I hadn't been worrying, but now I am. Withdrawing a fan from my pocket, I take a seat and cool down. It's hard to breathe with the thought of the Chosen One coming to steal Shenkuu from my grasp.
I clear my throat. "Send out the trackers. I want him gone."
The Brown Acara stiffens, her fur sticking up on end. "Y-yes, Empress, I'll see to it."
Under normal circumstances, I might dismiss her behavior as being such because she is conferring the Empress herself, but these are not normal circumstances. "You're nervous. Why?" I demand.
She shuffles her feet, which doesn't help her case. "I'm sorry, it's just..."
"Spit it out."
"The Chosen One is supposed to be very powerful, and sending mere trackers after him won't... end well for them." She winces when she finishes, because she knows she's said something wrong. And she has.
I narrow my eyes at her and lean forward in my chair, the fan fluttering in my hand rapidly. "Go after him right now. Accompany them to ensure nothing goes wrong."
She scurries to the doorway and pauses, and I know I've lost another member of my staff. Whatever position she had, it is open. Hopefully she would still send the trackers after him before quitting. The trackers are so well-paid that I've had some of them for over a month, and they will do nearly anything I ask of them.
Leaning back in my chair, I allow myself a smile. All my worries are about to vanish. It's a nice feeling.
Until a Starry Gelert wakes me from my slumber, I don't even realize I've fallen asleep. My eyes open lazily and flutter over him. I vaguely recall his name. Gilbert, or something. He might be one of my trackers.
His fur is disheveled, as though he's run a long distance to reach me. It's enough to make me sit straight in my seat and not reprimand him for ruining my nap. The floor is muddy with his paw prints and the marble floors are scratched from his paws, but I'm more concerned with what happened to him.
"W-is everything okay?" I ask. My hands tremble and I clasp them together on my lap. Best not to show him how unsteady I am.
"No," he says, panting heavily. "The Chosen One—we found out his name is Fyth—has been trained in the art of magic, probably by The Swamp Witch herself." He stops to catch his breath and then says in a quick burst of words, "As soon as trackers entered the perimeter of his neohome, they vanished. I don't know where they went, or what he's doing with them. I'm the last one."
In spite of my lack of confidence, I place a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "I won't send you back there, Gilbert," I say. "Your pay is tripled as of today, if you wish to continue working for me."
Doubt flickers across his face, but he nods solemnly. He needs the money. Those are the ones who stay with me the longest.
To my left are a pile of letters, stacked nearly to the armrest of the chair. The daily resignation letters, though usually there are a lot less. Rumor must have spread around about the disappearing trackers. I don't even look through the letters, because I won't recognize any of their names. All I have to do is send out a scout to pick out the poorest tourists and offer them jobs.
And I need a witch of some sort, a witch who can counter the Spotted Zafara—that is, Fyth—and his magic. I need a better group of advisers, ones who are paid extremely well and I can actually place my faith in, starting with Gilbert.
As I kindle the fireplace with unread letters, I'm confident that I can win. I'll even do it myself.
It doesn't take long to gather my new staff, and a wizard trained under Edna has agreed to come with me. I bring half of my newly appointed advisers, including Gilbert and the wizard, and we head out into Shenkuu to find the Chosen One.
The wizard is a Christmas Pteri named Wire. He seems to know where he's going, even without Gilbert's help. He must be very good, and my confidence grows every second walking with him.
I try my best to ignore the looks of disdain, fear, and disappointment on the faces of my people as they pass me in the street. It's different being outside the temple, which is why I don't leave much. The inhabitants of Shenkuu have a grudge against me, though I know I haven't done anything wrong. I remember, once upon a time, when I bothered to explain to them that I'm not as bad as they think, but I have long given up on this. With my head held high, I trudge with my new companions to victory.
Fyth's home is small. It's at the top of a hill, surrounded by beautiful green shrubbery and rivers on every side. I have grudging admiration for the architecture, which is in the traditional Shenkuu style of pagoda roofs and the usage of deep red, black, and yellow colouring of its structures. The place looks like a nice area for serene meditation.
"Halfway up the hill is where they started to disappear," Gilbert announces. We all stop in our tracks. Some of my advisers are joking around, knowing that they are financially secure for life and not worrying about much else, and some appear as frightened as though Jhudora had walked right into their front doors and cursed them.
Wire holds out his wings, with his eyes closed, and chants under his breath. The wizard's eyebrows furrow in frustration. My heart falters. The magic here is potent, which means that Fyth is nearly at his full potential for power, if not there already.
I should have gotten rid of him when he was small.
As Wire chants, the infamous Green Nimmo steps outside of his home and sits on a mat calmly, as though we aren't there. I can't see him well, but I swear he is smiling. My heart skips a beat. This is the right place. This is the home of the Chosen One. Before, it seemed like nothing, but now it overwhelms me.
That confidence I once had drains out of my body as though it was never there in the first place. I find myself wondering how I could ever be so stupid as to walk right to the home of the one who is prophesied to end me.
Drops of sweat form on Wire's forehead, and the Nimmo remains outside, meditating. Is he doing magic too? Is he actively countering Wire as Wire attempts to break through his wall of magic?
Just as I ponder these things, Wire steps back and opens his eyes. "It is done," he says.
For whatever reason, I don't trust the counter-magic. Something about the smug image of the Nimmo on his front lawn bothers me. "Ren, you first," I say.
The Blue Blumaroo, who previously chatted with one of his friends, turns pale. Most likely, he thought he was the least likely candidate for going first. Reluctantly, he steps forward.
And spontaneously turns into a flower.
A low chuckling noise erupts from the top of the mountain. I know, now, that the Nimmo is malicious. He mocks us from afar, safely at the top of his hill. Anger fills me. I hate cowards. The Nimmo begins to dance, a strange dance unlike any I have ever seen, and lightning crackles from the clear sky, hitting a patch of grass near us and setting it ablaze.
Instantly, Wire puts out the fire, but the damage is done. The morale of my advisers is down. Their lives are in danger and they'll never be the same again.
My motivation is gone, too. I don't want to die here. Nervously, I tap Wire on the shoulder. He nods.
Clouds close in on us—deep, dark storm clouds unlike Shenkuu has ever seen. They open up over us, and the Nimmo vanishes with a popping noise.
A few of my more valiant advisers rush forward all at once, and none of them disappear or turn into flowers, which is promising.
We charge the house together and tear it apart, opening closets and throwing things from drawers. We search up and down, but we can't find any sign that the Chosen One has ever lived here.
I scowl and stalk away from the tainted home with rage in my gut. We finally found him, and now we've lost him again.
I refuse to admit defeat.
To be continued...