Chikara and Shirasu
The crackling of fire was what brought Jeron back to consciousness. A sizzling, burning feeling by his right ear. Bright, ever-changing, and powerful.
‘You’re awake,” said a hard voice shortly. “Three hours. That’s the shortest anyone’s ever recovered from my chikara. You’re special, Jeron.”
Jeron cracked open one eyelid, confused. Chikara? That sounded faintly familiar, as though Jeron had heard it somewhere before, but he couldn’t recall where that word came from. It sounded powerful, demanding, and violent. He didn’t like it.
Above him, tall mountains rose into the sky. It was nearing daybreak, and the clouds way above him were beginning to lighten up with the blue rays of dawn. The mountains. That meant that they couldn’t be too far from the village… the mountains… hell, he got carried here?
Jeron attempted to scramble to his feet. The emphasis being attempted. In other words, he tried to get to his feet, but failed miserably because his arms were pinned behind his back. Struggling, he failed to break through the coarse ropes bonds that rendered his hands helpless.
Next to him, a fire burned merrily between a circle of rocks, the orange light casting a yellowish glow onto the bare trees, rocks, and snow around them. Snow. That meant they were pretty high up already. Whoever this person was, he could move fast.
And he was pretty imposing. A wide travelling cloak spread around his shoulders. A loose shirt barely tucked into his trousers. Then an important-looking scabbard hanging from his left hip, an elaborately decorated hilt protruding past his delicate, outlined arm.
Jeron let his eyes roll slowly upward. The face was lined, set, but young. Fourteen, guessed Jeron. The same age as him. But behind those brown eyes, there was the clear burning fire that existed in the eyes of every thief. The flame of desperation, as Jeron’s father called it. The force that drove them to do what they did. Steal from others, only because they had no choice.
Black hair, sweaty from the heat of the fire, was tossed back easily. It was getting long, but Jeron could pry out the even cut of a blade along the ends. He was actually exceedingly handsome and powerful for a teenager — for a robber. But the forces of the society probably pushed against him. So much for equality. This thief would be so successful in doing something else.
But Jeron didn’t care. He was bound, stuck with a complete stranger, probably miles from the closest village — a situation which he viewed as adding up to a certain threat of death or bodily damage. And it wasn’t in his favour.
“Who are you?” he snarled.
“Skyler Lok,” said the thief lightly. “You might as well know my name. It’s not like you’re ever going to say it to anyone.”
“Skyler,” spat Jeron. “You are so dead.”
“Not likely,” said Skyler. “I take precautions, unlike you. Firstly, you won’t get out of the ropes. Secondly, I’m good with natural herbs and medicines. The poison rushing through your veins isn’t strong, but it’ll still kill you within seven days, and prevents you from running. Or any kind of strenuous movements, for that matter. I like that concoction. Shirasu, I call it.”
Jeron blinked a couple of times, taking in all this information. His father taught him that information was power. The more he could find out about Skyler, the better. It might give him an edge later on in a fight.
“There is, obviously, an antidote,” said Skyler, walking behind the fire and bending down. Jeron followed his movements closely. “I’ve got it. If you’re good for the next week, I’ll give you it. Otherwise, suffer a very painful death, Jeron.”
“How do you know my name?”
“It’s a gift. I know all names. Bread?”
Jeron saw an arm lift up a small loaf of bread above the fireplace.
“Was that stolen?” muttered Jeron, shuffling against the side of the slope. It was distinctly uncomfortable, leaning into a pile of cold, slushy snow, but still better than lying flat on the ground.
Skyler shuffled next to him and knelt down on one leg. “Actually, yes,” he said, tearing off a section with his hand and placing it next to Jeron’s lips.
“What?” demanded Jeron.
“Eat,” said Skyler. “You need it.”
Jeron shot Skyler a dark look, but his tongue dashed out and he swallowed the dry bread hungrily. It had been hours since he last ate, and, if what Skyler said was true, he was going to die anyway. Might as well enjoy himself.
Slowly, Skyler tore of small bits of the loaf at a time, putting it next to Jeron’s mouth until the latter ate it. Jeron made his way through the bread over time, and eventually, he swallowed down the last bit of bread and coughed, mouth exceeding dry.
“Need water?” asked Skyler, a note of concern in his voice. Jeron nodded.
Skyler moved behind the fireplace again and started meddling around. Jeron guessed that was where Skyler kept his pack — behind the now-dying flames, well away from Jeron. It made sense. Skyler probably had some sort of knife or something there, and Jeron would easily just cut through the ropes and free himself.
When Skyler bent down even more, Jeron tested the ropes. He turned them slowly, first one way, then other, and realised what Skyler said was right. He wasn’t going to get out of them.
“Oh, Jeron? Sorry. I lied. Forgive me.”
It’s got a point where I officially announce the name of this series as being “Skyler Lok”. Hope you all enjoy it! Tara~~