A Bird That Drinks Tears - Cover

The Bird That Drinks Tears – Chapter 2 : Silver Tears (2)

Fortunately, Tinahan did not mention any characteristic flaw or cultural vice that he deplored about the Dokkaebis. There was one complaint Tinahan had about the Dokkaebis, which was the fact that the Dokkaebis never try to approach the skyfish. Bihyung asked why that was a problem and screamed in excitement when he heard the answer.

“You’re that person! Skyfish ruin excavator! Right?”

Tinahan, opening the lid of the cask the inn-owner brought, spoke depressingly.

“Yes. If you Dokkaebis helped, I would already be stepping on the back of a skyfish.”

“But what can we do when the beetles refuse to approach the skyfish. Among us, there are people that want to know what’s in the skyfish ruins. But the beetles just don’t listen. Even the most well-trained beetle runs away like mouse against cat when it sees a skyfish. Have you never heard of this before?”

“I have. I couldn’t believe it so I even experimented once. It really ran away. God dammit. If you can teach body language to beetles, why can’t you teach them that the skyfish are docile, huh?”

“If the skyfish are actually not aggressive, why would there be an expression ‘like an angry skyfish?’

“I’ve heard that silly expression until I got tired of it. But I’ve never seen an actual angry skyfish, ever. It’s probably not even true. Since skyfish are so gargantuan, some idiots who can’t think and got too scared probably…”

Then Kaygan who kept quiet suddenly opened his mouth.

“That’s not always the case.”

Tinahan and Bihyung looked back at Kaygan. Kaygan spoke without emotion.

“There was an angry skyfish. It’s not known why it was enraged. Because the kingdom that enraged it was wiped off the face of the earth.”

Tinahan tilted his head.

“Kingdom? Ah, is this from when there was this thing called ‘king?’ Fairy tale.”

“It’s a myth from the old age. But there was such an incident.”

“But how do you even believe that fairy tale? This story could be made up by some lowlife too.”

“You can probably confirm it when we get to the Hainsha Great Temple. Since in their library are the records the monks so obssessively. Speaking of the Great Temple, I would like to talk about our schedule now.”

Kaygan was relieved inside. Bihyung and Tinahan nodded in agreement. Kaygan soon laid down words he could best lay down, which were dead words.

“As far as I know, a beetle can be rode by two. And you, Tinahan, can run as fast as a beetle. So I want to sleep during the day tomorrow, and depart here at sunset. Bihyung and I will ride the beetle, and Tinahan will run. That’ll be enough to reach the southern end of the Punten desert by the morning of the next day. At that point, let’s return the beetle home and enter Keeboren.”

Bihyung and Tinahan was confused. They expected a discussion, but Kaygan’s words were more like commands. Of course his words were more of a request than commands, but for those who had no foundation of knowledge, they had nothing else to do but agree. Assuming that this situation will continue, Bihyung raised his hand to halt Kaygan’s speech.

“I’m sorry to cut you off, Kaygan, but I feel like we have nothing else to do but nod our heads. Honestly I don’t know much about Nagas other than the fact that they extract their hearts and do not talk, and I only know that there are horrifying numbers of trees in Keeboren. How about you, Tinahan?”

Tinahan twisted his beak a little and nodded. Bihyung looked back again at Kaygan.

“Since our state is such, I don’t think you need to ask our agreement for everything. Wouldn’t it be better if you gave us commands and we followed them? You’re the ‘guide,’ are you not?”

“But you need to know the necessary facts. What if I die in Keeboren?”

“That should never happen, but if it does, I’m going to set fire on everything around me and run north as quick as I can. If you do die, only two remain. Two cannot go against one. Only three can go against one, right?”

Kaygan sighed.

“You need to know some things. You performing your talent is not a good idea at all. Nagas, who see temperature, will recognize the fire before anyone else. It might repel the Naga scouts around you for a moment, but soon, you’ll be calling for all the Naga scouts within a three day radius. Those arbophiliacs will never forgive you who set fire on their trees. Against the countless Nagas that will assault you overdosed in Sodrak, even Tinahan’s iron spear will be futile.”

Leckorns feel insults against their weapons more disgraceful than insults against themselves, but unfortunately, Tinahan could not rage at this statement belittling his iron spear. He had too many words that he didn’t know the meaning of in Kaygan’s statement. So Tinahan asked what ‘see temperature,’ ‘Naga scouts,’ ‘arbophiliacs,’ and ‘Sodraks’ meant, and Bihyung also made a curious face.

Kaygan was shocked.

Only then Kaygan felt how long the north and the south of the Limit Border was disconnected. A few hundred years ago, when the storm-like march of the Nagas was stopped by the absolute limit of temperature and concluded the Great Expansion War, the world was split in two. The Naga’s world Keeboren and the world north of it. The latter, which has mountains, badlands, deserts, grasslands, forests, and glaciers, is the normal world.

But the former world only has rainforests. One and only rainforest named Keeboren, that covers half of the world. Kaygan found something comedic in this. Only one person, other than a human that prepared facilities and tools to butcher-process-cook Nagas in the southernmost part of Karabora, the closest city to the Limit Border, and eats Nagas for a living every day, everyone now conceived the Nagas and their domain Keeboren as beings of mythology. If Nagas were to find someone to attest for their existence other than themselves, they would have to find the one that hates them the most. The clever monks of the Great Temples knew this.  

Hatred is such.

“Why are you crying?”

At the worrying voice of Bihyung, Kaygan returned to reality. When Kaygan felt around his eyes, he realized that the tip of his fingers got wet. Tinahan, who dislikes crying, was glaring at Kaygan with an angry look. Kaygan wiped his eyes.

“I don’t know why I cried.”

“Did you remember something unpleasant?”

Kaygan ignored that question. And answered in a dry tone Tinahan’s question.

“Naga’s ears are mediocre but their eyes are extraordinary. Their eyes can see temperature, and because of that, even in the darkness of the night, they can see warm-blooded creatures like us. The old saying ‘Dokkaebis hunt Nagas’ derives from this. Back in time, some clever Dokkaebis made a person or animal-shaped will-o-wisp to deceive Naga’s eyes. With will-o-wisps as cold as body temperature.”

Bihyung completely forgot about Kaygan’s tears. Even from other Dokkaebis, he never heard this story.

“Wow, really? My will-o-wisp can trick Nagas?”

“Yes. If we enter Keeboren, you’re going to have to use that talent. I told you that you’ll be a conjurer, right? And you can probably guess what arbophilliacs mean. They consider trees their friends. It’s not completely wrong, since they plant trees everywhere in their domain. Therefore, they strongly dislike burning trees. They too burn trees out of necessity, but they give them a tree funeral in that case. Ah, and this is the second reason why Nagas dislike Dokkaebis. Because will-o-wisps can trick Nagas and burn down trees.”

Bihyung, astounded, kept on nodding his head. Kaygan turned to Tinahan and explained the rest.

“Naga scouts are scouts that wander around in Keeboren. Of course they’re all women, and mostly consists of adventurous Nagas or Nagas pushed away in the power game. Each Naga city has two to three scout parties. The area they scout usually is the southern part of the Limit Border. They watch out for the trespassing of unbelievers, or in other words, people like us. And they take care of the trees. They cure plagues among trees and restore forests struck with forestfire. Their duty most of the times is the latter, in reality. Since no one goes down to Keeboren. And Sodrak is a potent drug of the Nagas. As they near the Limit Border region, Nagas’ movement dramatically slows down because of the cold. But if they take that Sodrak, for a short time, they could move like they’re in the hottest region of Keeboren. So, Naga scouts that wander around the area near the Limit Border always carries Sodrak. It’s red. If, during a skirmish, they try to swallow a red pill, we must stop them. It gets difficult. If we can stop that, I’ll say that there won’t be any critical disadvantage fighting Nagas near the Limit Border.”

The knowledge Kaygan spat out like a waterfall made Bihyung and Tinahan breathe heavily. Tinahan and Bihyung both looked at Kaygan with a same stare, which was a stare that asked where he got all that knowledge. But Kaygan did not answer the stare. Instead, Kaygan got up from his seat.

“Where are you going?”

“I should go cry more. It might remind me why I started crying. I want you to not follow me.”

Then Kaygan picked up the twin-bladed sword that he leaned against the table and went outside. The left two looked at each other with a confused face. Then Bihyung realized that the inn-owner was peeping at them.

“Sir? Do you have anything to say?”

The Dokkaebi’s kind words encouraged the inn-owner. The inn-owner made up his mind and ran to the kitchen. Then came back with a pot. The inn-owner put down the pot on the table the two were sitting by and spoke, peeping outside.

“I’m sorry but I eavesdropped some of your words. You two seem to be meeting that man for the first time today, yes?”

“You’re right. Why?”

“Keep away from him! He’s insane!

Tinahan wondered for a moment whether to consider Kaygan as his companion. If he did, he would need to take care of this rude inn-owner for his companion so that he couldn’t even walk or crawl. But, realizing that it hasn’t even been one day since they’ve met, Tinahan decided he’ll let this one go. The inn-owner, not knowing that he almost got into terrible danger, desperately looked at the Dokkaebi. Bihyung tilted his head in confusion.

“I don’t know, He didn’t drool nor show the white of his eye nor claimed that he determines the law that governs everything. Why do you think so, sir?”

The inn-owner gravely grabbed the pot lid and opened it abruptly. Bihyung and Tinahan was deeply impressed by his action, so they couldn’t hide their disappointment at the content of the pot.

“Hm, looks very dangerous. Cold meat stew.”

Bihyung and Tinahan looked at the inn-owner dubiously and the inn-owner realized his mistake.

“This is Naga meat!”

The inn-owner was satisfied. Tinahan and Bihyung at last showed the reaction he expected. Bihyung retreated with his face pale, and Tinahan leaned forward into the pot and stared at its content.

“That man told me that he came into the desert through Keeboren. When I didn’t believe him, he showed me this and asked me to boil it! So that he could eat it! Oh, god! Is this even real life? But I couldn’t do anything because I was so scared. He stared at me with his eyes, and I’ve never seen such eyes before in my life! I would show you the rest of the meat but this is all it’s left. That man ate it all! He ate this!”

“Uh, hm. Was it an actual Naga? Not any other animal? Even if the Punten desert is so close to Keeboren, you probably never saw a Naga before.”

Tinahan spoke dubiously. The inn-owner shook his head.

“Yes, it was my first time! But I knew it the moment I saw it. What other animal has arms covered in scales? I thought I was going to faint when I took that arm out!”

Tinahan suddenly picked up a pair of chopsticks. While Bihyung and the inn-owner stared at him, Tinahan went through inside the pot and picked up each chunk of meat. And thoroughly examined the shape of the bone. Soon after, Tinahan put down a chunk of meat and stared it as if he was piercing a hole through it. Bihyung also saw the chunk, and as soon as he saw what was attached to it, leaned forward and vomitted. There was no doubt. It was a fingernail on the end of the vague trace of scales. A flat fingernail that animals do not have.

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Kaygan sat on the edge of the cliff, looking up at the dirty sky.

Watery stars saturating the black night sky, and a moon shining pale like the belly of a fish. The night sky of the desert was contemplating how filthy light actually was. Under the stains of light, the desert flowed in pure darkness.

In front of Kaygan’s eyes that stared into sky that looked like stirred-up sewer water appeared a huge hand.

Kaygan stared at that hand. On top of the huge palm, there was a small piece of meat. It was a piece with the fingernail.

“Dammit, it wasn’t a monkey, since it had scales. It was probably a Naga.”

Kaygan, slowly turning his head, looked at the distant Tinahan’s face, and Bihyung’s face to the side, which was much lower, and turned away again.

“If you want to talk, I would like you to sit. Too high for me.”

The two sat next to Kaygan. Even so, the heads of the two were much higher than that of Kaygan. Tinahan stared blankly at the piece of meat on his hand and threw it into the desert.

“Hm. Let us hear some explanation?”

“It was a piece of the Naga scout’s corpse that I met on the way to this inn. They would have regenerated if I just left them there, so I cut them to pieces and grabbed a few important parts. One of them must have been the hand.”

Kaygan’s speech was calm. Tinahan couldn’t raise his voice.

“They regenerate that well?”

“Only once, but I’ve seen a Naga that regenerated her head.”

Tinahan’s comb erected.

“H…head?”

“Yes. When I defeated her, I was very tired, and I couldn’t buy more time. So I cut her head off left the rest in the rainforest. I brought the head back and ate it. 2 years later, I met her again. She was delighted to see me. She was probably looking for me after regenerating her head over 2 years.”

“God damn… What happened?”

Kaygan looked back at Tinahan for moment and turned away again to the darkness.

“I don’t think I’ll ever see her again.”

Tinahan decided he won’t ask what was the result. Instead, he asked something else.

“So, for at least 2 years, you’ve been doing this silly thing?”

“I did it for longer than that.”

“You ambushed Nagas, and boiled their corpses?”

“I sometimes grilled them. What is it that you want?”

“What?”

Kaygan said monotonously.

“Be specific in what you want. Are you trying to reprimand? Do you want to eat Nagas too? If it’s neither, are you trying to pointlessly interfere with my life?”

Tinahan was perplexed. In reality, he didn’t know what he actually wanted. Then Bihyung, who kept his mouth shut until now, screamed.

“I will reprimand! I will reprimand and reprimand and reprimand. Do you get it?”

Kaygan looked back at Bihyung. Bihyung shouted, swinging his clenched fist in the air.

“Nagas are people! Like you! How can a person eat another person! Can you refute this?”

“I won’t.”

Bihyung was puzzled. He faltered momentarily, not knowing what to do with his hand, and spoke.

“Then you admit to the immorality of your act? Completely? Absolutely? Without question?”

“I admit if you want me to. It doesn’t really matter to me.”

“What? What do you mean by that?”

“To put it in the simplest words, it won’t matter what you say to me. If you want to revile me, revile me, and if you want to curse me, curse me.”

“That is not what I want! Admit what you’re doing is wrong and stop doing it! That is what I want. Do you understand?”

“I get it.”

“Then will you repent and stop your acts?”

“I will not repent, nor stop.”

Bihyung was frustrated.

“Then can you convince me? Try it! Why do you do such things?”

“I won’t explain.”

It was like screaming to a tree. Bihyung felt that way. What caused chaos in Bihyung was the fact that Kaygan did not look like a villain at all. Kaygan did not laugh like he was crazy nor showed a disturbing glare. He was speaking quietly dry words that weren’t rude. When Bihyung felt a ridiculous urge to scream, Kaygan spoke again.

“If my actions bother you so much, I am sorry to tell you that I have only one thing to give you. Bihyung, you can practice the right that all Nagas have for me.”

“Right? What right are you talking about?”

“The right to attempt to murder me.”

Bihyung flinched. Kaygan stood up slowly and looked at Bihyung. His eyes were pacific.

“That is the only way to stop the ‘act of a person eating another person’ that you abhor so much. Bihyung, kill me. But if you attempt, I cannot guarantee your safety.”

“Does that mean that if I try to kill you, you’ll kill me?”

“I will if I must.”

“Then that means you don’t want to die yourself! The Nagas will feel the same way too. They won’t want to die. Why are you doing to other people that you yourself don’t want?”

“Because I know they don’t want to die.”

“What?”

Kaygan slowly moved his right hand. Bihyung could only see the twin-bladed sword then. Kaygan had it in his hands until this moment, but it was hidden from Bihyung’s eyes because of  cunning body motion, shadow, and the darkness. Bihyung was surprised by the fact that such a great sword was hidden like it was a dagger. Kaygan, slowly raising the twin-bladed sword, spoke as he mounted it on the hook behind his shoulder.

“I do it because they don’t want it.”

Kaygan walked to the inn.

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Even though Nagas do not have much forms of art that could be shared with other races, it doesn’t mean they don’t have art. They don’t have painting because of their superior vision, and they don’t have music because of their inferior audition, but they too have a body that can move very well. Therefore they can dance.

The dance of Nagas, in term of the essense of dance in which one feels pleasure in moving one’s body, is not very different from the dance of other races, but difference happens in the appreciation of the dance. Other races also know toi enjoy the flow and beat created by the movement of the body, but Nagas, in addition to this, see the air flow around the dancer.

Often when Nagas dance, they hold a unique object in their hands, and if a human saw this object, which is a wooden handle attached to a long metal pole, they would think of it as a soldering iron. This object, called the dance stick, was derived from the soldering iron, and is heated in a brazier like a soldering iron. But in its usage, the dance stick has nothing to do with a soldering iron.

Naga dancers dance holding heated up dance sticks. They sometimes use torches when they don’t have dance sticks, but it is ineffective, as its temperature is to high. Heated iron rod, or two illuminating rays of light in the hands of the dancer, is most appropriate. The dancer, with those rods, harass, excite, and frenzy the air. Therefore, Nagas, and only Nagas, can see the carnival of light around the dancer that cannot be described with words.

The women of the Fei clan and the ten men currently staying at the Fei clan were all together dazed at the brilliant movements made by Samo Fei.

A set of motions that walk, crouch, leap, and spin. Riding the flesh of light that Samo lays out in the air, flows of air dance flamboyantly. During the moments in which the motions separate, Samo returns to being a Naga, but as the next motion start, she already turns into a creature made of light. The audience all together could not look away from Samo.

The dance finished.

The men dipped their hands in the water bowl in front of them and splash drops of water on the surface of the brazier. And because the dancer was Samo, the women too expressed their complimental praises without trying to hide it. Samo bowed lightly, and sticked the dance stick in the brazier, leaving the center. The women who didn’t want to be compared to Samo kept their place, and two men jumped out at the same time, then stared at each other awkwardly. While the two showed humility and concession, Samo left the circle of audience.

When Samo was passing by a pillar, a hand came out from behind the pillar.

Samo looked at the hand, surprised. The hand held a cup of water. Moments later, following the hand, Ryoon Fei appeared from behind the pillar. Samo awkwardedly accepted the cup of water.

[Great performance. Your brazier is cold.]

Samo smiled. Because the all the audience competitively threw water, the surface of the brazier was stone cold. When cold water drops are splashed on the hot brazier, the temperature change and the abrupt movement of air looks more intense than the shine of a comet. It is enough to be used as an expression of praise. Therefore, the Naga idiom ‘the brazier is cold’ means great praise given to astounding skill.

After Samo drank the water, neered as she returned the cup.

[You didn’t even splash water.]

[I didn’t want to go in front of them. I got tired of those neerms that are supposed to be jokes or even encouragements. Of course, I know well they are good-willed.]

Ryoon kept on neering, staring down.

[Instead, I clapped. Did you hear me?]

Samo tilted her head.

[What’s a clap? Hear you?]

[The unbelievers can hear very well. So when they want to praise something, they clap their hands to make a sound.]

Ryoon demonstrated it himself. Samo focused on her hearing and heard the sound coming from her brother’s hands, laughing out loud for a moment.

[That’s weird. I don’t get how that means an expression of praise. But how do you know this? Ah, did Hwareet tell you?]

[No. Another person did.]

[Another person?]

[Yes, another person.]

[Ah.]

Samo realized who Ryoon was neerming about. This kind of silent empathy brings brief silence to even Nagas, and so Samo and Ryoon closed their minds and stared at each other for a moment. Ryoon awkwardly looked around and neered.

[Would you like to get some air?]

Samo led the way. They opened the door and left the hall. The outside hallway in which the pillars stood in rows directed them to the garden. Samo walked to the center of the garden and Ryoon realized that they were headed to the pavilion.

The stone chair of the pavilion was heated up by the sunlight, and was very pleasant to sit on. Samo, as she sat down, suddenly neered.

[Sit, Ryoon.]

Already leaning his waist half-way, Ryoon stopped in an awkward posture and looked back at Samo. Samo laughed joyfully, and Ryoon also smiled in embarrassment, sitting on the other side of Samo. Samo neered teasingly.

[You’re such a polite man that you only sit when you’re told to.]

[I was so rude yesterday, Samo.]

[Oh, such a polite man. Your solemn apology makes me embarrassed.]

Ryoon Fei didn’t know what to do. Samo neered soothingly.

[I was so pitiful yesterday. I’m sorry. You seemed so baffled. I didn’t think I would cry like that.]

[I do not mind.]

[You neer that you minded it a lot.] Ryoon again was confused, and Samo leaned back a little to look up at the sky. [This might be too much to ask, but you can stop minding it.]

Ryoon was staring at the stone table, sitting without neerming. Samo looked down directly at Ryoon.

[Even if you can’t be my child, you’ll be my friend, right? All I want is simple. We can write letters to each other filled with insipid chatter, and once in a few years when you come near Haatengraju, we can meet and have a conversation. Sometimes, I could even go on a trip to meet with you. Would this be too uncomfortable?]

[Samo, I…]

Ryoon closed his mind without completing his sentence. Awaiting a moment, Samo neered as if she was making sure.

[I don’t deceive myself with some replacement. But if I was reflected to you in such a way, something in my actions or behavior may have suggested this. I will fix that. So from now on, take my neerm for a neerm that is closest to my heart. I want a friend, not a child.]

Ryoon shook his head.

[You already have so many friends.]

[In this world, such as good jokes and neerms of gratitude, are things that are better the more you have. Good friends are such things too.]

Ryoon did not neer in that sense. A woman like Samo Fei who is loved by everyone in her family cannot be hungering for a good friend. She is asking Ryoon to leave a little string. She is suggesting that she would be on the other side of that string.

Out of the blue, Ryoon realized how much he loved Samo Fei. Losing his heart meant losing his Fei name, and losing his Fei name was losing his string between Samo Fei. A relationship that was nothing, not her brother, nor a man that can sleep with her. But, when Ryoon thought all relationships will be gone, Samo newly connected a string called friend. Even after him inflicting such a great wound, and her shedding silver tears because of that.

Ryoon nodded. Samo smiled brightly.

[Thanks. Ah, would you like to dance inside?]

[I would stay here a little more.]

[Okay.]

Samo got up from her seat. Before she turned away, Samo stretched her arm across the stone table and tapped lightly on the back of Ryoon’s hand. And, she neered what Ryoon wanted to neer.

[Thank you, Ryoon.]

Ryoon let Samo leave without being able to neer anything.

Besides Ryoon who sat in inattentiveness, moments that could have meant a million things flowed away without becoming anything. The moment some object crossed Ryoon’s eyes, which wasn’t looking at anything, was after quite some time had passed.

Ryoon was looking at the heart tower.

From anywhere in the city, the 200 meter tall tower is seen with bare eyes. Looking at that beautiful tower, Ryoon surprised himself. Recently, whenever he looked at the heart tower, his sight was colored with anger. But right now, he was looking at the heart tower barely any anger. Ryoon thought about why he wasn’t feeling any anger.

The answer was simple. The heart tower is the place where his heart will be stolen away, and therefore, where the people that will take away his relationship with Samo Fei resides. But moments ago, Samo presented to Ryoon a relationship that they cannot take away.

Ryoon put his hands together and placed his forehead on them.

Suddenly a violent cry poured out.

His anger was gone, but fear that made him feel that his scales were ripped off assaulted him.

The fear that was always there but was clouded by anger arose from the deep abyss of his heart. Ryoon thanked Samo, but at the same time, resented her. When he was angry, he was able to glare at the heart tower. But now, Ryoon could not do anything besides wetting his face and hands with his silver tears. 11 years had passed, but a part of Ryoon was bound onto his 11-year-old-boy self, and Ryoon was crying as a 11-year-old boy.

11 years ago, when a certain hand inside the heart tower exercised death upon a man ever so easily, the scene of the man collapsing with blood spewing out from all his holes became Ryoon’s permanent nightmare.

The man’s name was Yosby.

Ryoon’s father.

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At last, Shanaga hid behind the moon. And Hwareet Makerow was saturated in utter hopelessness.

Karoo and Svachi could not find any definite evidence that Viias was forging a poison. However, this fact did not help at all, because even if Viias laid down a dozen bottles of poison in front of them, unless they were labeled ‘poison’, Karoo and Svachi wouldn’t know. Karoo and Svachi plainly admitted to this point. But Karoo, at the same time, indicated that Viias, who wants to become the matriarch, would not commit to something so risky, and Hwareet had to agree to that point.

[If someone died during the extraction ceremony, it would cause some serious commotion, Hwareet. Even if it was a man that died, there’ll be a great accusation for sure. For sure, there will be a thorough investigation about who is responsible, and Viias being a skillful medicinologist, she will be the first to be accused. Viias wouldn’t want to take that risk. Especially not for the sole reason that she hates you. Rationally, Viias has no reason to kill you. Viias is a rational Naga, right?]

Of course, Viias is is a rational Naga. Who could be more rational than Viias who is controlling herself perfectly after 12 years of infertility? Hwareet determined to take Karoo’s neerm.

But until he put on the cleanly washed clothes that the clan last gifts, Hwareet felt no joy.

For the son that will be leaving forever, the Makerow clan prepared presents that lived up to their name. Clean clothes for the next few days, a pile of gold and a sharp dagger. The fact that even a pair of dance sticks was prepared made Hwareet sneer. For Hwareet who has no talent in dancing, it is hard to say that preparing a pair of dance sticks is from thoughtful consideration. It was probably to show off that the preparation was flawless.

Hwareet shoved everything in a small backpack that the clan also prepared and left to salute the women of the clan.

Dusenna Makerow and Somero Makerow each showed superb demeanor. They gave him a few well-wishing remarks – ones such as to be always respectful and polite to others – and a little bit of ostentatious feeling of loss. Hwareet also showed gratitude for being raised for 22 years and answered their remarks with a neerm that promised them that he will never forget this favor. Of course, this neerm concerning favors is completely meaningless. As he steps out the door, there will be no relationship left over between Hwareet and the Makerow clan.

But, Karindol Makerow surprised Hwareet. Visiting Karindol expecting scary neerms, Hwareet almost fainted when Karindol suddenly hugged him.

[I’ll be left alone when you leave me.]

Hwareet thought he knew what she was neerming about. He and Karindol are both children of the matriarch Dusenna. But the one that is most likely to be the next matriarch is Somero Makerow, not Dusenna’s own children. Of course, Somero is of enough nobility to be deemed the next matriarch, but if she does become the matriarch, Karindol being the direct child of the matriarch, would feel some awkwardness. Merely a man, Hwareet wouldn’t be much of a support for Karindol, but seeing him leave completely like this, Karindol was overcome with emotion. Hwareet hesitated and gave her neerms of consolation.

[Dear sister, Sister Somero is a noble woman.]

Karindol glared with fierce eyes at Hwareet.

[You idiot. Yes. All Somero has is morality. If only she had some ambition and slyness…]

Hwareet was baffled as he did not know what Karindol was neerming about. When he realized what Karindol was neerming about was when he came near to Viias’s room.

Because of shock, Hwareet had to stop in the middle of the hallway.

Karindol was worried that Somero, because she has ‘no ambition nor slyness,’ will be stolen of her inheritance to be the matriarch by Viias, and feared the outcome that would bring. Somero is a Naga with morality and therefore will not cause more harm to Karindol other than a little discomfort. However, if Viias became the matriarch, the remaining days of Karindol will not just be discomforting.

‘Can Viias really become the matriarch before Somero? What evidence made Karindol think such a thing?’

Engulfed in his thought, Hwareet realized a long time later that there was a ‘keep-out’ sign in front of Viias’s door. She was probably conducting another dangerous medicinology experiment. Hwareet, not wanting to see her, thought all was well and turned away quickly. Karoo and Svachi waited at the front door, fully armed. Looking at their anxiety-ridden faces, Hwareet realized that they were worried about him. Hwareet shouted somewhat cheerfully.

[Now, let us go extract my heart!]

.

At the Fei clan, Ryoon Fei was getting readied for the extraction ceremony. Unlike his friend who received flawless but insincere gifts, Ryoon Fei received gifts that were more earnest. But Ryoon wasn’t joyful.

[A man needs a weapon, Ryoon. When you wander in the jungle alone, you never know what you’ll face.]

Ryoon was taken aback as he looked into Samo Fei’s armory. The talent of dance has its commonalities with the talent of martial arts, and so Samo Fei, a great dancer, was also a great martial artist. Her weapons were undoubtedly excellent. But their numbers were way too many, and Samo recommended that he weld all of them at least once.

Wandering the wall with insincerity, Ryoon’s eyes stopped on a Syker suspended on the wall.

The Syker is the traditional sword of the Nagas, and its sharpness is neermed that if a ‘Syker’ is unable to cut through ten layers of parchment, it is considered unworthy of its name. What Ryoon saw was of greater quality, even among the Sykers. But it wasn’t that Ryoon, who didn’t know much about swords, saw the excellence of the sword. Ryoon just liked the wave pattern inscription on its blade.

Ryoon picked up that Syker and swung it around a little. When Ryoon looked back at Samo, he was surprised at Samo’s weird expression.

[I’m sorry. It must be something precious to you.]

Ryoon tried to hang the Syker back. But Samo stopped him with her hand.

[No. It’s okay. It’s not something I use. I was just surprised that you picked that up right away.]

[Is it a special Syker?]

[Uh, yes. That Syker, was used by that person.]

Ryoon flinched. He looked at Samo and turned his eyes down to look at the Syker in his hand.

[That person?]

[Yes. That person.]

[Didn’t you… have to purge all of them? His belongings?]

[We have to.]

Samo smiled. Ryoon felt his hand tremble, and because he felt like he was going to drop the Syker, he grasped it with two hands. Ryoon thought the Syker writhe in his hands, and was surprised. Of course, it was because his hands trembled. Ryoon held the Syker up close to his eyes, and noticed a trace of something erased near the hilt. To neer more precisely, it wasn’t erased, but someone, with finesse, added a pattern onto the already existing letters, disappearing them into the pattern. Regular people wouldn’t have seen the hidden letters, but Ryoon was able to.

[How did you hide this?]

[I gave them one of my Sykers. Have that one. I don’t think that person would disagree.]

And Samo opened a box, took out a fitting sheath, and gave it to Ryoon. Ryoon awkwardly tied it around his waist. Just about to show his gratitude, Ryoon neered almost spastically.

[Because I thought none would be left, I gave up that hope long ago. But, I really wanted to have at least one. One of my father’s belongings.]

Samo was surprised a little by the word ‘father’ that Ryoon neered.

[Father?]

Ryoon’s face showed trouble.

[Uh, a father is…]

[No, I know what that neerm means. It’s a superstition of the unbelievers.]

[A superstition?]

Samo awkwardly laughed. Because she did not want to argue. But Ryoon did not seem to want to back off.

[Yes, a superstition. There is no such thing as a father.]

[Then why, dear sister, did you preserve this Syker? Wasn’t it because you are my father’s daughter too?]

Samo’s face again flashed emotions of amazement.

[You knew that too? Yes, you’re correct in that my mother’s mate was he. But I did not preserve that because of some weird superstition that he is my father. Yosby was my martial arts teacher. I preserved that because of the memories I had with my teacher.]

Samo’s cold-hearted response made Ryoon painful. Samo took a step forward and looked directly into Ryoon, neering.

[Ryoon, you and me alike, we are not made of only what that man gave. If you really want to use that silly word ‘father,’ you have to call all the animals that our mother ate and all the water our mother drank ‘father’ too. That doesn’t even make neerm, doesn’t it?]

[I know. I know very well.]

[I also believe that you know it very well. So, before you leave, take back that neerm.]

[What neerm do you want me to take back?]

[That neerm about a father. Take it back. Promise me that you will never use that word again. When you’re captured in such a silly idea, you can’t think straight.]

Ryoon bursted in laughter inside. ‘How she neerm about promising such things. Unless she can purge my memories from 11 years ago.’ But Ryoon nodded. He did not want to disappoint the only Fei he loved before he lost his Fei name.

[I will do so.]

After he addressed lightly the rest of his family members, Ryoon came outside. At the front door, the ten men currently staying over at the Fei clan was waiting.

Ryoon was lightly taken aback. They were all casually dressed.

In many instances, these escorts move onto another clan following the maidens that leave the heart tower after their extraction ceremony. But the fact that they were casually dressed indicated that after they escorted Ryoon, they will all return to the Fei clan. Ten, casually dressed men. Walking through Haatengraju escorted by these people meant that he would be a target of much praise and jealousy. Ryoon inquired a man close to him.

[Is everyone coming back?]

[Yes, Ryoon.]

The Fei was gone already. Ryoon carefully asked.

[You might see many maidens that became adults at the heart tower.]

The man smiled.

[I like this clan. The others do too. Those maidens can probably seduce you or others that will become adults today.]

Ryoon suddenly felt a turbulent sense of jealousy. These men can return, but Ryoon who was born and raised in this house, can never return to this house.


Translator : Imblygon

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