Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Shambala Sect 01


Everyone in the world was bound to the laws of nature, except a certain few—the ones at the top of the Martial Chain. Such was the belief rooted in a good deal of lands across the whole world, and nearly all if not every sensible soul under heaven dreamed to reach that level which, in their eyes, could be attained at best through the pursuit of martial arts.

Dreaming was one thing, but turning a dream into one’s destiny was another thing entirely. Countless members formed groups, divisions, legions, clades, clans, tribes, sects, kingdoms, empires and everything they could to survive and help themselves get close to the summit of the Martial Way which required overcoming the long and arduous path—the end of which, however, always appeared to have stretched to an infinite extent.
It was backbreaking enough for anyone to win over their little world. As for winning over the whole world one lived in, it was beyond the realm of reason. Nevertheless, most people still stated that both pursuits needed enough power; howbeit, when one asked those same people to define 'enough,' they all failed in a miserable way, for no one fitly knew what was enough to conquer themselves let alone the whole world.
So much of life was uncertain, so much in fact, that it made most people live in ways they had no sense of their lifestyles. Some lived for themselves while some others lived for their families, for their clans, their hometowns, or for their kingdoms. Happy one moment and sad the next—too many minds in the world were at a loss unable to make out their role in the world. Many had looked for answers only to fail at some point. In due course, it led the majority of people to stop caring about their purpose of living at all.
Without frills, they began to do whatever they wanted with no real purpose in their lives. These individuals eventually came to be known as hollows—entities belonging to the lower classes. The class that thrived above the rest was the martial class. Martials were the entities who set their souls on fire by pursuing the Martial Way—the aim of which was to become stronger in body, mind, and spirit and someday unveil all the secrets of the world, counting the maker of all. Just being alive was not enough for a martial, unlike it was for a hollow.
A certain purple-haired martial stated a crucial difference between the two classes which pretty much summed up both the parties in but a few words, “A martial gives more to the world than what a hollow takes from it.”
Hollows made a living through undertaking different laborious things from farming to working as slaves; however, to a great extent, they engineered it by breathing in and out. Living in itself was fighting for them who liked to reckon on the end of everything before they took part in it. Life was alright with the end in sight for them like it was for a mortal visiting the death's door as their age neared hundred.
Unlike hollows, martials primarily looked not for the end of things, but for the experience that the journey of life would bring by itself and bask in it to their best possible extent. Thanks to such a lifestyle, over time, martials managed to uncover untold secrets that lay dormant in the world. Knowingly or not, they believed all their collective efforts helped them become stronger and perhaps better beings.
Being healthy, rich, and powerful were the kind of goals that hollows bounded themselves with, whereas such goals were just a way of living for the martials.
Though the number of martials was quite high in the world, it wasn't much as compared to the number of hollows.
“Hollows only exist, and the world will act upon them. Martials just be themselves, and the world will associate with them,” A certain martial worded out his perspective in an attempt to enlighten those who were beneath him.
“Wake up and live without worries,” Martials informed this expression to hollows throughout history; however, sometimes, the easiest actions were the hardest to comprehend much less follow. Many hollows viewed 'awaking' as nothing more than getting up from one's bed and 'living without worries' as the money-making necessity, which included earning immeasurable wealth and gaining incomprehensible power and control.
“How you see the world is often how the world sees you. Worry not on where you belong in the world and what you can comprehend and can’t any more than you worry about waking up before going to a good night’s sleep. Just believe and be good in and out to get to God quick.” Martial Godrick had a few words with the hollows in the backwoods of the past.

Seeing how their efforts were failing, over time, the martials reduced their efforts on refining hollows by degrees; the latter of the two, on the surface, liked being stuck in the past, or maybe they were afraid that the Martial Way would only bring their death sooner thanks to all the onerous trails one would encounter. Leading an easy life seemed like a way better option for a hollow.
Many hollows formed groups, guilds, clans, clades, and whatnot to improve their lifestyles while depending on one another.
On the face of such similar ways, three families had formed a clan they had named themselves as Faceless. These three families were Basha, Basuvu, and Vesta. They held on to one another for many decades—through all struggles—and helped themselves from getting eradicated from the world.
In the year 4218 AD[1], on one auspicious morning, dozens of people were gathering at one of the open halls of the Faceless Clan. Three men, each past fifty years in age, occupied respective seats while everybody else stood and gazed at the two young ones standing on the circular, center stage of the hall. One was a seventeen-year-old red-haired girl, Sariyu of the Basuvu family who grabbed the attention of many eyes, and the other was a twenty-four-year-old purple-haired boy, Burton of the Vesta family who also got his share of attention from young girls in the crowd. The combination of warm, lucid purple hair and gorgeous green eyes made him hauntingly handsome.
"I wonder which sect granted permission for us to participate in..." Burton wore a complex smile on his face. "I'm going to become a Martial Child this year and will elevate our clan's status to a state better than it ever was." He glanced at Sariyu, who was holding a folded white umbrella—enriched with simple floral designs—in one of her hands. "Then you will have become mine. Am I correct?"
"I failed for three straight years, but you failed for ten straight years," Sariyu rested the umbrella against her leg and opened her ten fingers and flitted them at him, partially exposing a thin scar that ran across her left wrist. "Don't put too many hopes on yourself. At least this year, we must work together and pass."
"Sorry, cooperation is the last thing on my mind," Burton exposed his palms to the heavens. “I want to bring glory to our clan all by myself if possible.”
"A fame-hungry freak like you is never going to become even a Martial Child much less a clan leader at this rate," Sariyu said in a teasing manner, "I will team up with Lirzod if you don't change your ways."
"Pfft, you want to work with that good-for-nothing dumb-lord?" Burton didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
"I don't see much wrong with that," Her veracious voice pierced Burton's heart like an arrow shot from a bow, "You deem him as a worthless one, but I don't think you are much better. Ten straight failed years will be a hard thing to beat even for that dumb-lord."
"Hmph, don't compare me to him," Burton replied in an irked tone.
As the two young ones prattled, the clansmen in the crowd engaged themselves in heated discussions, too.
"This time, all the three main families are participating,” Syam of Yerram family adjusted his sleeves while seated in a sculpted seat. “Things will surely get heated this time, and we may finally get to decide whether it is good to stay in this clan or not in a few months." He was a stylish man every time except when he stood thanks to his habit of sticking his belly out.
"These coming months might just decide if this clan still deserves my merchant skills to be used for its well being," Allda of Pudota family lit a cigar using an end of a burning rope. His turned-up nose and humpbacked body made him look decades older than his actual age.
More than anyone, the three clan leaders could guess the weight of the event at hand without lending an ear to the words that winds wafted off the crowds.
"This term will decide our clan's very future," The one sitting in the middle, Picazo Basha—a gaunt old man with little black shades to his white hair—had a determined look as he made eye contact with the crowd. The unceremonious garb on him befitted neither his stature nor the current situation.
"Looks like it, but it's rare to see your son get positive attention from these many people," Sinario Vesta, a dark green-haired man, had a corner of his lips curl up. His sinewy physique gave away most of his physical capabilities, but those watching him for the first time, especially the children, got astonished when their eyes witnessed him sipping various wines with saucers in both hands.
"Well, it does seem to me that the end of our clan nearing," Kwame Basuvu's lips lightly curled down as he glanced at those in the crowd he thought was not trustworthy. "My concocting business will, for sure, take an unrecoverable dent if the clan weakens further. I must place all my trust in our children." He stroked his long red beard. Despite his old age, his muscle definition wouldn't lose to any young man in an exhibition.
The trilateral stage having three pillars with three intimidating sculptures of masked dragons curling from bottom to the top, and three sculpted figures of men with fractured lion-masks were at the top of the pillars as if they were crushing the dragons’ heads. The sculptures attracted attention quite like the three humans gracing the stage did.
"Where is Young Master Lirzod? How long will he take to come?"
"Someone, please go and check his room. I’m sure he’s probably still sleeping."
“How can young master be this irresponsible? Even on an important day like this…”
More and more members of the crowds got aggravated by the second.
Sariyu glanced at one of the maids blended in the crowd, and the blonde maid nodded and left to Lirzod's room without a wait. Just after reaching there and trying to push the door open, she became aware that the door that had the letters 'LOL' painted on it was locked from the inside. She peered through the gaps between the rods of the window and her eyes enlarged. Lirzod was still sleeping under a sheet that was colored red for one-third of it, green in the middle, and white for the last one-third of it. His snore reached her ears and made her twitch.
"When did he lock it from the inside? If anyone sees this, it will bring shame to the main families and will result in a loss of some more face!" Quick tapping sounds spread out from her rhythmic walk. Her mouth opened up for a quick shout but right away shut it even faster. If the neighboring housewives were to hear her, they wouldn't just guess on what happened but also try to anticipate quite many things as well. Standing like a pole for a couple of moments, she let her thoughts drift about in an attempt to find the solution.
A few seconds later, her face began to glow as she pulled out a tiny scent bottle from under her sleeves. Her hand slipped through the gap between the rods of the window and sprayed the scent into the room and waited as the scent diffused in the room. "Please, get up. Please get up."
The fragrance long filled the room. A few more seconds passed, but nothing changed.
When she was under the impression of failing in her previous attempt, a couple of whiffs came from within the room.
Lirzod lifted the sheet and jumped out of the bed while keeping his eyes shut. "This fragrance, it's definitely of Primera..." His nose sniffed out the source of the scent, and his footsteps traced all the way to the window. She narrowed her eyes and grabbed his nose with her fingers and pulled him closer.
"Wake up, Young Master!" Her voice was quick, yet so light that it was almost not audible.
Lirzod opened his eyes at his own dreamy pace and saw her face through his blurry vision. After a scant rubbing of his eyes, his lips curled up before they moved forward, trying to glue to her cheek, but eventually failed in reaching all the way up to her cheeks. "Who put these bars between us? I shall break them with my nine hearts and fall in your embrace right away."
"Young Master! Today is your coming of age ceremony, did you forget?" she spoke in an urgent and somewhat exacting tone. "It's also the day when you'll know of your participation in Sect Tests."
Lirzod's eyes slightly enlarged, and his breath paused, but then his eyes closed.
"Stop dozing like that,” she pulled his nose, forcing his eyes open, “and get to the Central Hall already! Everyone's waiting for you. If you don’t get there soon, many people will come looking for you."
"Yeah, sure. But..." He stepped back and rubbed his nose before lifting his chin a little. "Give me a kiss if you want me to come out."
"W-What?" Her head involuntarily moved back a bit. "You are..." She didn't have to think much before replying with a stomp on the ground, "I won't."
"There's no one around, and I won't tell anybody."
He furrowed his brows and puffed up his chest. “Are you trying to break our bond by bringing this battle between us? I don’t think Duera is behind this, but some dense chick probably spoiled your mind! If that’s the case, then I shall win this and every other battle that comes in the future.”
“Haha, I’d like to see you try.”
His chest shrank and shoulders slumped before he took a step forward, and his hands came out through the gaps in the bars of the window and caressed her chin. "Please, Primera. It’s been too long since you let me kiss you. If you don’t want that, then at least you can give me a kiss. You can do this much on a special morning like this."
"That's..." The outer side of her curled-in fingers rubbed against each other as conflicting thoughts whelmed her mind. Her eyes glanced all around but found no traces of the peeping shadows. Her heart pounded heavily at an increasing pace as her body leaned ahead half-heartedly. Her subtle movement prepared her pinkish lips for a kiss. Her shapely chest pressed to the bars on the windows as her lips went between the gaps of the bars straight toward Lirzod’s cheek. “No. I can’t do this.” She stopped. “You can try.”
“Okay,” Lirzod shut his eyes and moved his head ahead as well before sticking his lips out and maneuvered them like a madly-jerking snake's head. “Mm? Where’s the cheek?” A couple of seconds passed as his lips moved in every possible direction and covered all corners of the space they could, yet they touched nothing but the metal bars of the window which tasted nasty, thereby forcing him to open his eyes.
The figure that stood outside the window made his eyes almost pop out of their sockets. Howbeit, his lips still stuck out like a snake. Primera stood beside that figure as she contained herself from making an amused expression. That figure grabbed his lips and stretched them out as far as they could be before letting them go.
His lips turned pinker than they already were and redness gathered on and around them. "S-Sariyu!” he barked. “W-What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be in the Central Hall right now?"
“Stop spilling your saliva on me!” she stepped back and rubbed her chest.
Lizard's stare darted at her shining chest region, “Whoa, it’s shining today. Did you apply some cream?”
"Do you want a month of pain?" she narrowed her eyes.
"No," he replied right away and also moved his mouth away from the bars.
"Come out in five seconds, or..." Sariyu glanced at Lirzod's pants, and the bulge in it was as evident as day. "I'll chop someone’s morning wood."
Lirzod's heart skipped a beat as his instinct made his hands cover his private region. "You sawshin... You are the one girl I don't ever want to marry."
"Hmph, I've never asked you to marry me. Besides, I’ve seen you naked enough times that I have no interest in marrying you either," Sariyu glanced away as he stepped out. "Quickly, get to the Central Hall." Her palm slapped once on his butt, and while at it, her fingers pinched the skin—all of which made him bolt ahead, squealing like a cat.
Meanwhile, as everyone waited in the central hall, a grapes seller strolled along the street near the hall. A woman from the crowd called out for him. He promptly came to her. "How much is a kilo?"
"Three copper." His voice was weak in volume but not temper. After all, he was yet to sell anything on that day even though it hadn't been long since he hit the roads of the town.
"Three? That’s too high." Her pleasant expression turned into an objectionable one as she inspected the grapes. "These grapes don't even look fresh. Sell a kilo for one copper, and I'll take two kilos.”
"You don't look fresh either," whetted words whirled out of his mouth like a whirlwind, "but I'm still selling to you, am I not?"
Right away, her face turned short on looks. "You vermin!" she hurled the bunch of grapes at his face, startling him, but by God's grace, his head moved on its own and dodged his loving fruits. Still, his eyes glanced back out of worry that the grapes would get covered in the dirt much less get spoiled if they crash into the ground with such force.
But before the grapes touched the ground, a person who just happened to be coming from that direction jumped to the side to catch the grapes, and in that process, he fell to the ground. Howbeit, the grapes were safe in his hands, and the grapes seller joyously hurried to that person.
"You've got good reflexes, sir ... Whoever you are." When that person handed the grapes over, the seller gave back half of that bunch back. "Take that as thanks, please." Afterward, the seller was full of smiles as he walked away, teasing the woman with his weird eye movements and cocking of the head.
The woman was pissed off, and since the seller made himself scarce, her glare now directed toward the person who had helped the grapes seller, but when that person took just a single grape and handed her the remaining grapes, the anger on her face faded away like an arrow from a bow, and she showered a smile at full tilt. "Thank you, young master. He asked three copper for a bunch of grapes. Taking me for a fool…” she chewed on a couple of grapes and then smiled. “But you are really gracious to even help that outsider who didn’t show gratitude even though we sell goods at low prices for them. " She bowed, though not by much, her eyes slightly enlarged after her gaze met his crotch. Though the bulge wasn’t too pronounced, she was too close to miss that. She immediately screamed and moved away, attracting the attention of the crowd.
The person in front of her was a five-and-half-foot black-haired boy, dressed in sleeping attire, who smiled at her before walking past her and picking up his pace as he walked through the crowd while waving at everyone. His hair wasn't black to the core, and white strands were present here and there. The thin brownish scar across his face extended onto his collars and forearm as well. At first glance, it would look like a burnt scar to anybody, but different people chewed the fat about it at variance. And that person was Lirzod. It was painted all over his face that he had just woken up from sleep thanks to the dry crusting of liquids near his eyes and mouth.
"Today's the day when the clan heads decide on who gets to participate in the Sect Tests,” an adult man said, smirking, “but it looks like he slept a bit too well.”
“How can he have such wet dreams on the night before such a day?" a person from the crowd murmured.
Some girls covered their eyes but still watched his bulge through the gaps in their fingers. "Kya, what's hiding in his pants?" If not for the adults hinting out, they probably wouldn't have noticed anything.
"Someone’s hiding bananas in their pants, that’s all," An old crow sniggered. "Young master sure knows how to trick people."
"It's sure nice to be young," An old woman from the crowd mused to herself. “My helpmate long lost his ability to mushroom morning wood.”
"Why is he hiding such a thing in there?” a little girl glanced at the old woman who just spoke, “Does his pants have no pockets? I can't tell."
The old one choked on her own words. "Guh, don't mind these things, little one. Forget them."
"Mhm..." the little girl, though puzzled, nodded positively.
"Is he so careless or so courageous?" another person knitted his brows. "Does he not fear the Sect Tests?"
"What the heck are you waving at the kid for?" one member of the crowd shouted at the top of his lungs. "Get your butt onto the stage this instant!"
Lirzod could hear their words. I wish this thing would go down, but no amount of squeezing has helped it. What else can I do, huh? As he was pondering, he glanced over his shoulder at the man who just spoke. "Oh, groundnut-store geezer, you came here as well?" 
"My name is Fidelis!" an old man stood from his seat like a spring and made a fist out of his—to all appearances—what was a smaller hand. "Give some respect, or I won't sell you anything from my store."
"Haha, got it, but I will be leaving this place soon. What would I visit your store for?" Lirzod's laugh grew louder as his feet moved and stepped on the stage. And the waving of his arms continued while the smile that could light up a room took shape on his visage. After having enough of it, his stare set on Burton who stood right beside him. "Big Brother Burton, I don't want to be your nightmare, but I have no other choice, so don't be scared. Got it?"
"All you have is that big mouth. What's there to be scared of?" Burton turned his head away. "And, don't call me brother on purpose. No one likes getting called like that just once in a while. Either call me full-time or not at all."
"But where's the fun in that?" Lirzod giggled.
"If you want fun, why don't you try and be on the other end of my fists for once in public?"
"I don't think this is an appropriate time for that."
Sariyu just reached the place and stood in between them, making them go silent. She glanced at Burton first before turning to Lirzod who leaked out a short-lived yawn.
"What are you looking at me for?" Lirzod smiled. "You should look ahead."
"I will look wherever I want to look," Her eyes looked straight into his eyes, “but first, you better calm down the little thunder snake in your pants. There are some children gathered here."
"Thunder snake?" Burton snorted. "It's more like a thunderless snake."
"Someone's jealous here..." Fidelis covered his mouth as his shoulders jerked.
"That's the last thing I'd be jealous of,” Burton shoved aside Fidelis’ words, “especially against someone who can’t even control what’s in their pants. Someone like him is a hundred years too early to compare anything with me!"
“Yeah, right, stone-face included,” Lirzod squeezed out a couple of words in a jiffy.
Burton clenched his fist and raised it into the air but managed to control his urge to rap his knuckles on Lirzod's head, by a whisker. “Never mind. Giving you any amount of attention is useless.”
"Says someone who has interrupted our conversation," Lirzod said, but Burton didn't look irked anymore. "Who's–"
"Enough chattering, every mother's son and daughter," Kwame stood and spread his arms out, addressing everybody, and his simple action made everyone pay attention straight away. "To all of our Faceless clan members and to whoever that visited this town be it out of respect or out of curiosity, we are thankful for gracing us with your presence." After staring down at his golden-bracelet worn wrists, his eyes then scanned the ones in the crowd who also had similar wear. "Some of us here are rich enough to make sure our children and even grandchildren get to fill their stomachs without a worry in the world for as long as they live, but... the world we live in isn't so predictable, or is it?
"Wealth gives strength which can build or destroy wealth. There are myriad creatures in this world that are far too crooked than all of us. If we stay like our current selves, as the hollows that we are, we won't last longer than a couple of generations, unless we make someone from one of us—a Martial Child!" His attention shifted to the other two leaders beside him before he gestured with his hands, "We three took a big decision today."
"Big decision?" the entire crowd had their full attention turn toward the clan heads. "We've already managed to send our children to the Sect Tests for most of the years. As if that's not big enough, just what did they prepare for us this time?"
"As befits my coming of age ceremony." Lirzod grinned from ear to ear.
Picazo and Sinario stood from their seats. "We spent a great deal of effort to procure these three entry cards," Sinario pulled out three cards from his sleeves and looked at the names written on the covers of each of the cards.
"What sect did they manage to get cards for this time?" the entire crowd eyed at those cards, but the distance was too far away, and the cards themselves were small, so most of them wished they had the eyes of an eagle. Like excited apes, they strained their eyes and pulled each other’s collars, trying to get a closer look at those cards.
"Judging by their words, it shouldn't be any lower than three thousand in the whole of the continent!" Syam felt rather excited.
"Haha, that thought in itself makes me proud," Allda blew out smoke through his nostrils, that ended up being a noseful of a whiff for the ones around him. He later groomed the coats of the two red squirrels that were on both of his thighs and were munching on the hazelnuts. "We can advertise and sell many goods, whether they fail in the first round or not."
"Your father seemed to have prepared a nice gift for you," Sariyu sort of exposed her teeth as she glanced sideways at Lirzod.
"My father sure exceeded my imaginations this time," Lirzod placed his arms on his waist, and his eyes sparkled out a tinge of pride.
"Gift or... Curse?" Burton's words just reached only his ears. "The higher the rank of the sect we participate in, the more terrifying the experience will be. Given it's your first time, you are at a great disadvantage, but you are too thick-skinned to even understand that."
"What's wrong, Burton?" Lirzod raised his eyebrows as his lips stretched out. “Are you perhaps envying my father's love for me?”
"Never in a million years!" Burton pointed his fingers at his father. "Our bond is far stronger."
"The sect we managed to get the cards for this year is..." Picazo's hands were on his back as he spoke. The moment his mouth opened, the entire crowd fell silent and paid full attention to him. As the pulses of everyone quickened, Picazo's gaze swept over them for a few seconds, thereby further inflaming their hearts. A corner of Picazo's lips curled up before two words birthed out of his mouth, "Shambala Sect."
Silence inundated the entire hall that very instant and took over everyone's personal space like it always did with graveyards—places where silence ruled, and to further back it up the crowd wore frozen faces like corpses would. The clouds above them stopped drifting, turning the skies ever so silent.  People grasped that it wasn't a regular silence; it was everywhere, yet no one could get accustomed to it, for it offered them both despair and hope.
As that instance passed, Lirzod's lips straight away fell flat, followed by his mouth which opened in some measure. His stare locked on to the clan heads. It wasn't just him. The wonder in everyone's eyes was as palpable as the sun in the skies. For a moment, the revelation took everyone out of the conscious world and drifted their souls into daydreams. It was so unexpected because a declaration of such magnitude was not something they were used to hear, not even in their dreams. Still feeling surreal, they drifted back to the conscious world, all of which happened in a matter of a second or two.
"Did I catch it on the money?" Allda checked his ears. The squirrels on Allda's thighs looked up at him and the other people but couldn't understand why they all appeared frozen in their places.
The cigar in Syam's hand neared its end and burnt his finger for a split second before it fell out of his hand, and he rubbed his fingers at the burnt spot followed by the rubbing of the eyes. "Am I seeing things..?" After a couple of glances in every direction, he nodded to himself while frowning from the stinging pain in his finger. "No, this isn't one of those morning dreams."
"I repeat..." A smile, breaking through its restraints, leaked out of the corners of Picazo's lips, and the two other clan heads had similar guises. "We got the entry cards for the Sect Test of the Shambala Sect."
"S-Shambala Sect... It’s the sect considered as the number one sect on many continents!" Everyone's jaw dropped down lower than what an ape could yawn, and no words came out of the mouths of many. Most people still lived in the past moment when everybody had received a bolt from the blue. Even the crows flying in the vicinity of the hall hit houses and crashed down. The squirrels on Allda's thighs ran down his leg before blitzing to the nearby tree and climbed in an instant. Seeing the reactions of their people, the clan heads themselves were out of words. When one made the impossible happen, it was sure to shock everyone, including oneself.
"A real martial grows through all grounding. Is there a problem?" Picazo's words were heard all across the Central Hall, but they also managed to soak the hearts of everyone and further made their heartbeats heavier. Picazo raised his fist into the air.
"Eh..?" the crowd was all taken aback for a moment. The two other clan heads rose their fists into the air as well. As most people still stared in stupefaction, the three young ones on the stage raised their fists into the air. The sight of the six people in the Central Hall who spoke with their fists made the hairs on the skin of everyone in the crowd stand straight.
For any clan to tower above the rest, it first required to commence. In the eyes of martials, one could always find the end of anything in its beginning, and this day marked a humble beginning for the coming of great things to the Faceless Clan—a clan of hollows, seemingly, for the time being.


[1] AD: After Domainer.


Author’s Note:

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