What Lies Between…
Power & Bliss
Chapter 1: Belief & Truth
I awoke in a great deal of pain, laying within hay in what seemed to be a prison cell. Above me was a man with a moist cloth, cleaning blood away. I could not feel the trickle of blood. However, the cloth came away red so I must have still been wounded; but from what? I could not remember a fight nor how I got here. I wanted to move away from this stranger, despite his helpful actions. I did not know him. Was he cleaning me up because he wished to, or because he was told to? Who else was here? Who were my captors? I could not move much; tilting my head being the extent of what I could do without causing myself sharp stinging pain. So, I laid there, taking in what I could of my cell.
“You are awake, I see…” he said finally, as he dunked the cloth into a bucket of water, and rung it out.
“So I am…” I said, and even I was surprised at how hoarse my voice sounded. “Where am I awaking to?”
“I do not know these lands well, I am afraid. I was thrown in here, for what I do not know, and I have only been here a few days.”
“Well, you clearly pissed off someone in the Empire.”
“What Empire? Where are you from? Everyone on this blasted world knows the Empire.”
“There is no Empire where I come from.”
“Are you deaf? The empire controls the whole continent, even if the territory isn’t all theirs, they have so many shady deals running throughout this continent, it is a wonder they even put on a façade of trying to hunt down the criminal organizations in it.”
“I am not from this continent.”
This took me by surprise. My brow rose to show my confusion, and despite the pain that accompanied it, I forced myself to face this man and look at him. “There’s… only one continent on this world. Where are you from? Who are you?”
“My name is Li Shaoshen. I am from a small village called Hǎiguī Shěng, on the northern coast of a small continent called Uialond. My people have lived there for centuries.”
“Your people? What are you?”
“Uialondian? Hǎiguīn? I do not know what name to call us which would result in you understanding more clearly. Suffice to say, I am from another continent. One you seemingly did not know existed. What about this empire, why should they wish to imprison us?”
I tried to move —grunting while doing so— but resolved to remain still for a moment longer, propping myself up against the wall to do so. “Well, I can think of many reasons why they would want me, but I cannot speak for you.”
“As I said, I have only recently come to this land. What could I have done in a few days to warrant imprisonment without question? I hate to think of where my son has wound up, without me.”
“Yes, I came here with my son. He is only 8 years old. He has been doing quite well in his studies, and so I took him on this trip to reward him. I hope he is alright. But, though he may excel in his studies, he does not possess sufficient skills to survive in the wild without me; ever more the truth, here in a strange land.”
A man, a father, here before me, and he actually cared how his son was doing. It is hard to grasp. Can I believe him? Why would he lie to me? What would he have to gain by lying to me?
“To get on your good side, of course,” that voice intoned within my mind. It was Jinnzou, that other part of my life. A part I hated. He had been with me ever since I was a child, and was the reason I managed to survive against my own father and brothers. “No one cares about you, they are all just aiming to use you, to abuse you. You cannot trust anyone.” He was right, I could not trust anyone. How could I when every step of the way in life had been riddled with abuse, corruption, and pain on my behalf, as well as my sister’s.
What does he seek to gain, by passing this ruse? Did I actually believe him for a moment that some continent exists apart from Arvandor?
“Well, you are gullible.”
Shut up, Jinnzou. He did not like the name I had given him. When he first came into my life, he had no name. He was always talking to me, never allowing me to see him; always in hiding. So, since I could never verify his existence, save his voice, I named him Jinnzou Ningen : Artificial Human. He hated the name, but he has not once stopped following me, wherever I went. If he was imprisoned too, where was he now? How could he still hide from me here? Wherever he was now, he was at least quiet.
“I will not be able to escape any time soon, I am in too much pain.”
“Escape? Why would you try to escape? Would that not cement their ideas of your guilt?”
I looked at the man in the eye. Was he serious? Was this further attempts to sway my ideas of him? “I am guilty, Li. And I have no intention of sitting in a cell to rot.”
“You should pay penance for your wrongs, if you are guilty. I shall not escape. I shall sit here and wait, and when they see their mistake, I will walk out of here cleansed of their accusation.”
It hurt, but I laughed. I laughed hard. I laughed hard, I winced hard, and I rolled on the ground, clutching my sides out of literal side-splitting pain. This time, I felt a new trickle of blood. “I have no idea what sort of man you are back in your home, Li, but here in Arvandor, things work differently. Did you not hear me say the empire was corrupt and that their efforts to arrest criminals was nothing more than a façade? They do not care about right and wrong, they only imprison those who get in the way of their corrupt dealings.”
“How can you believe they would wrong their people so?”
“Look bud, I do not believe this to be the case. I know it is the case. I have grown up amidst their corrupt ways all my life. My own father beat me under the accusation that I killed my mother when I was born. My family abused me, and they are among the heads of the criminal world in this empire. Are they in prison? I am evidence of only some of their wrong doings for the past 28 years and not one of them was ever inprisoned. My grandmother has strongholds in the mountains of Nishi, and she still carries on her own tasks. Is she imprisoned? No, if anything, she’s cutting the Empire in on her deals, and thus avoiding arrest. Wake up, the world is fucked up. Decency does not exist.”
The man sat there in silence, as I spoke, as I blew up in his face. I was still pissed, and sure he would try to continue to use me for his own escape, but the look on his face put me to wonder. He had remained utterly calm throughout it all. He just sat there, and listened, and … he frowned. I refuse to believe he feels sympathy for me, I do not need his sympathy! Fuck sympathy!
“What are you staring at!?” I yelled.
“Torment,” he said, and nothing more. A simple statement, and so calmly made. It made me angrier. And my damned body would not move. I did not want to have to listen to that sickeningly calm man; so naïve and foolish. But I was grounded. I could not avoid it.
“What are you talking about?” I asked, as I turned my face away from him, and grumbled lowly.
“In your soul, there is a great conflict; I can see it etched on your face, plain in your eyes, as if you were a book to be read. You have been wronged. And when great men are wronged, their anger can lead them down a path towards great change; change that will better their surroundings and better the livelihood of those that come after him. Anger, however, is like fire. Kept in control, it is life giving, necessary, and can heal the body as well as the soul. However, handled without care, your blazing anger will simply bring destruction that will help no one. And I know what someone such as you would say. ‘I have a right to my anger. I do not want anybody telling me I should not be angry; that it is nice not to be, and that there is something wrong with me for being angry.’ This is true, you do have a right to it, and as I said, great change can come from someone’s anger, but before you embark on your angered journey, think well on how many graves will come of it.”
“You presume to know a lot about me, after having known me for less than an hour.”
“I do not presume to know you, sir. I do not even know your name. I presume to know anger.”
I paused, and thought on that. There were various implications to such a statement. What did he mean by it?
“He is simply seeking, once again, to impress upon your emotion, and get you looking at him in a favorable light under the pretense that you shall help him escape.”
He said he would not try to escape.
“So of course, you believe him. Pathetic fool…”
I bowed my head, and through a great deal of pain, pushed myself back up, to sit against the wall again. Holding my sides to the pain that radiated anew, I turned my gaze to him. He had a son, whom he worried about. Liam never worried about me. He knew the battle with anger, the struggle for control. I was clueless in that regard. Could this man be speaking truthfully, or was it as Jinnzou said; lies in attempt to get on my good side? Did I have a good side to get onto?
“My name is Dorian. Dorian Blackwood.”
“Your real name? Have you finally given in to the idea of suicide?”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Mister Dorian Blackwood.”
“You shall think differently in time.”
“Now, Mister Dorian. You should not put yourself down as such. Have some confidence in yourself. Do as best you can, and you shall succeed in all your goals.”
My lips curled down into a frown. His head tilted in confusion over this, but he did not question me. Likewise, I did not feel the desire to explain. Perhaps, it is more aptly described as not feeling the urge to explain right away as my mind was pulled into the chasm of memory.
A market place, with shattered wood, papers, and goods strewn over the ground; a young woman held with her arms behind her back over on one side of me, three men at her back. In front of me was the other one. Him. Liam Blackwood. The anger surged in me, in the memory, and as I sat there by Li. There was a fight; a fight that lasted into the night, and ended with me unconscious for a while. I awoke in the morning, with none of them around me. I could care less if the four men were gone, but the young woman, Raina. She, I needed to rescue. And that day was thirteen years past by now. Thirteen years with no information on where Raina was. Father and our brothers were dead, and more interaction with grandmother than I would ever care to have had, had taken place, and I knew nothing more of where Raina had disappeared to. Worry over Raina tempered my anger a bit with concern. It was hard to stay angry when worry weaved its way in. Not impossible, but difficult. After a moment, I pulled myself from those thoughts, and looked at Li once more.
“Your anger is deep,” he said, softly. “But you must not let it consume you, lest you cause more harm than good.”
“Ok, enough with the philosophical bend, please.”
“As you wish.”
“Tell me… about your son.”
“Hmm?” He seemed to find the question amusing, a smile painting his face now. “Hao is a very bright boy. He pays attention in his studies, and does well not just in learning his letters, math, history and sciences, but also practices diligently in the martial arts. Among students of his age group, he is marked within the top 5 in their practical performance.” Oh god, that smile was sickening. He… he was proud. He was glowing with it!
The door opened with a creak, disturbing the conversation, perhaps thankfully, as Li’s attention was drawn to the door while I was busy dry heaving over his bright display of fatherly pride.
“Ah, he’s avake,” one voice uttered.
“So it seems,” said another.
Talk about déjà vu. I looked up to see that the voices belonged to all of two people, two men, that walked in. Both men had dark tanned skin and had short, neat looking brown hair. They had taken pristine care in trimming their beards down to a point and had seemingly done the same to make their eye brows look pointed at the outer edge. They looked like twins, but what was more important; they looked the perfect image of someone clearly not from the city of Arvandor. I lofted a brow as they drew nearer. One kneeled down in front of me, tilting his body and his head, to get a better look at me. He clearly noticed the new blossom of crimson at my left side.
“Mmm, reopened the vound, ‘eh? Still in a great deal of pain, no?” His voice sounded brusque, and each word seemed sharply cut off at the ending. Where was this bugger from?
“Hah! Vell, ve did get the drop on ‘im ‘eh? Jumped out o’ the trees. Seems he’s never fought in the voods, ‘eh?”
I snarled deeply. I had fought many times in the Aldeon woods; in “Ever-Autumn.” I clenched my fists, because their arrogance, and stupid sounding accent, was starting to get on my nerves. “Who the fuck are you!?” I blurted out.
“Silence, tiny man. Ve ask the questions.” His hand struck the side of my head, shooting stars through my vision, and bringing blood from my nose. “Tiny little veakling he is, ya? Like little puppy.” He laughed.
It may sound stupid, but I absolutely hate it when people comment on my height. It pisses me off that they think height makes enough of a difference in a fight. At this point however, I could do nothing but prove them right as I was still feeling too weak to fight back. I was only just now starting to be able to move again with less pain, but it would never be enough to break free right now.
“Now,” he began again, and I pushed my anger into my eyes and gave him my best ‘I will tear you to shreds’ stare. “Vhat is name, little puppy man?” And just like that, my anger was gone. The stare was gone. My eyes were as wide as pearls.
“What!?” I exclaimed.
“You hard of hear, puppy man? Vhat name!?”
The anger was quickly back, and I snarled, almost as if I were becoming the dog they were calling me. My body writhed on the ground, and despite the pain, I found myself fighting to actually get to my feet.
“You fucking idiots arrested me, and you do not even know who I am!? What kind of dumb as shit thugs are you!?” I was on my feet at that moment, the anger boiling the blood within me, numbing the pain, and a fist struck at the man’s jaw. I felt new pain surge in my fist in that moment, but it was brief, and gone quickly. The man, however, lurched back from that punch, and fell in a heap against a bench along the far wall. Dorian Blackwood : 1; Weakness of short people stereotype : 0. The other man stood up quickly, and came towards me, ready to try and suppress my anger, but I evaded his own fist, and I was soon behind him, had him shoved down to his knees, and had one arm around his neck. He was grasping at my arm, trying to gain breathing room, but I pulled back as firmly as I could, and snarled into his face from above him.
“Who is looking down on who, now, ‘eh? Now you are going to tell me who hired you to get me, because if you dumb fucks do not know who I am, and had no one hire you, then I am just going to leave the both of you dead here today as a lesson for messing with the wrong person.”
“Ya!” He sucked in what air he could. “I tell, please ease up!”
I loosened my grip, barely, and stared down at him with even more intensity. “Who?”
“It was guy! Man vith svirly knots of ink on arm. He call himself… Black Mamba.”
I snarled, deeply.
“That all! He not give real name. He crazy man, but he offer lot of money. He offer Imperial Immunity!”
I jerked my arms into a circular motion, far beyond what his body would be able to handle. A loud crack echoed in the room, and a moment later, he slumped to the ground. The other guy wasn’t getting up either. His head had hit the bench itself, and with it up against the wall, it did not give. Crimson pooled around his head. I turned towards Li, and looked to him firmly. My anger slowly melted away, reigned in under what meager amount of control I had, but I breathed slowly now. The pain was returning, and I was starting to feel shaky.
“Do you believe me now? Imperial Immunity, just for capturing me and bringing me here. They were not going to give me a trial, they were going to let me die here. The empire is corrupt, and I will not be their sacrifice. I do not know who you wronged, whether it was the empire or not, but these guys were not going to give you a trial here either. I am leaving, but I need a companion till this pain fades. Are you going to come with me?”
Li nodded, and slowly rose from his place by the wall. He dusted off his pants. “I do not like running when I am innocent, but I also cannot just let Hao roam out there alone in the wild. Gods forbid he should come across something dangerous.”
I huffed. “Yea, let us leave the gods out of it too, shall we? Now give me your shoulder, and let us get out of here.”
“As you wish.”