Chapter 10 Confession
For once there was just peace and serenity. The victory, though only temporary, it still was a sign of good things yet to come. At least they were confident that they stood a chance against the enemies.
Battle-wearied, the team decided for an early retirement at the temple. They were escorted back to the holy abode, got washed, had a light meal, changed into robes and prepared for bed. They required all the rest they needed for the long journey ahead.
In his room, Keith sat solemnly at the windowsill by himself, musing. Many things he had been thinking of, and while the plot thickened, and no ends to the twists and turns of his life, he was feeling more muddled than ever. He was stuck in the middle of a horrific tale: to go on, there was no assurance of a bright future; to turn back, it was already too late. However still, all along, it was not that bad. He made new friends, and the voyages broadened his viewpoint of the world, which was something unachievable staying at home with families – a loving wife and children to care for – a simple life with lots of happiness. Both were just as fine, it was only that he longed for the latter.
However still, those were only part of his woes. The real troubling issue was how could he face himself. Many misgivings, many shadows unveiled. Keith Gunter was now just a name, not an identity anymore. There were times he doubted himself, his true self, whether if he was involved in some grand, sinister design.
Who am I?
For a long time Gerard had been at the door, but in silence he kept his presence from Keith’s knowledge. He stood there watching the Lieutenant, who was not just any superior, but a very close and special friend. In fact, it was his parents who adopted Keith from the orphanage, and raised them both with undivided love. They were good friends enough to be called brothers, and knew each other more than knowing themselves. Spending great times together, growing up together, and even joining the armed forces together, more than a best friend he now regard him as, if only there was a word for better than best.
“Is there anything bothering you?” Gerard approached Keith from behind, inquiring. There was no response. A while later, Keith finally broke from his empty gaze and turned to Gerard’s attention.
“Nothing,” said Keith. But Gerard seemed unconvinced, so he added, “even if you knew, you’d never understand my problems anyway.”
“Don’t ever underestimate out long term friendship, Keith. We’re pals since we’re still kids, and I understand you better than anyone, including yourself. I know it’s something personal, and it’s not that I’m meddling… it’s just that I want to share your worries, be a part of it, like any bosom friends would do.”
Keith remained reticent. However, Gerard knew all along his friend’s behaviour, that his silence gave consent. He walked nearer to the Lieutenant who turned back to the window gazing the stars, and continued the conversation.
“Gard’s words vexed you greatly,” Gerard opined.
Keith, caught by surprise, rolled his eyes towards his friend beside him. “You knew?”
“Well old friend. It’s never too hard to know what’s deep in your thoughts. You can hide your sorrow from the rest, but not from me.”
“You seem to know me very well, Gerard,” said Keith, “and even some things I’m not very sure myself. I can’t place this feeling; I don’t know why I’m in this deep misery. Perhaps you can tell me?
“Ah, my old friend. I know exactly how you feel when putting myself in your place and, I just can’t help feeling the same. The feeling of seclusion. You are lost, Keith. This journey has been harsh on you, when you start losing everything – your friends, your home, and Crystal. And in the midst of everything falling apart, you started losing yourself eventually, when you found out the bitter truth.”
Keith heaved heavily, shutting his eyes. “I am a clone, Gerard. I am a false creation. I’m not even supposed to be here.”
Gerard shook his head pitifully. “Your inferiority has driven you to your lowest, and I’m afraid any lower you go you won’t be able to rise up again. Cheer up, you certainly should look at things in a different way.”
“Perhaps there’s no place for me here… perhaps I have to return to them… perhaps we’re enemies…. No, I can’t go on like this!”
Gerard frowned at those dispiriting words, and for once he realised that Keith was not himself anymore. It happened before, when Crystal jumped off the cliff, he went practically insane, and could have been in broken limbs and bones if not for Zurho’s rescue. He might be a leader seasoned with hardship, unyielding to suppression, but there was still a weak state of mind in him, which often put him in melancholy. Nonetheless, Gerard always managed to talk him out of his depression, as he was a friend with good persuasion.
“Listen to me Keith. I want to help you.”
Keith did not respond. However, Gerard knew he was listening.
“Sometimes, don’t you ever wonder why living beings are born so differently?” Gerard posed his question, “some are born rich, some are born poor; some are born noble, others born disgraced; some are born healthy, others born with defection; some are born to be royalties, yet some are born to be kicked as slaves.
“I know it’s hard for you to accept that you are born as a clone, a defiance of nature, and you’ve sinned. But no one wants to be born as sinners. No, Keith, it’s not your fault to be clone, and it’s not a sin to be one. You are yourself, Keith. You’re special, just like anyone of us is special. Everyone, including clones, deserves a rightful place in this universe. Rather than despising yourself, why not live up to it? Remember, it does not matter who you are, it’s what you want to be that counts.”
All of a sudden, Keith, as if struck by enlightenment, turned around and stared at the sagacious friend. “Is that the truth?” Gerard nodded solemnly.
Keith threw his arms round his friend, hugging him, while tears flowed from the corner of his eyes. In sniffles, he said, “thank you, Gerard. I’m so glad to have you with me.”
“Same with me,” uttered Gerard, patting his back.
For Zurho, the place was all too familiar. Yonks ago, he stood as the fourth brother of the order, and learnt from Master Yuerloz the Shoku arts of defence. Ten years, and he left. Ten years later, he had not heard from any of his brothers since their parting. And another ten years, whoever knew he would end up back in the very same Thurexan temple, a reunion of master and disciple. He could remember clearly the teachings of master Yuerloz. The old sage once said: all courses in life we took had their purposes. If we let our hearts follow them, then the forces of nature would guide us through a journey to unfold our own futures, remaking our utopian dreams. This return, he reckoned, to be a significant event.
Zurho sat meditating with Master Yuerloz in the prayer hall. It was common practice when he was still in training with the master. Not a single word they had spoken since returning from Goum. But through a strange notion perhaps telepathy, Master Yuerloz told him to clear his mind of disturbing thoughts. Master Yuerloz always did that when he had some things or two to tell his disciples, and making sure they listened in heart.
A private conversation followed. Master Yuerloz arose from his composure but motioned Zurho to stay. Pacing three steps away, he sat again, this time face to face with Zurho.
“You’ve always been a good disciple, Bonj Zurho, and I foresee a glorious future in you. You’ll take the lead of your people after the passing of Glovarn Enjouro, because he left no heir. And as the new Glovarn, you’ll be able to build another glorious history of your race.”
“Thank you, Master Yuerloz, for the pleasant prophesy. Your prediction has always been accurate. I know what I have to do. I’ll serve my people well, and restore peace of our contingent. I know this is what master hoped in me.”
“I’ve faith in your words, young one. But still, there’re things I must warn you about.”
“Have I done wrong, Master? Tell me, and I’ll make amends.”
Master Yuerloz shook his head. “It’s not a matter of right and wrong, Zurho. It’s about our own perception, how we see things through our senses and how we vindicate the world. Truth is only in the eyes of the beholder, a definition set by the person in authority.”
“There’s no need for metaphors with me, master. Tell me directly what have I wronged?”
“I’ll ask you instead, what do you fight for all these while serving your countrymen? What have you been fighting for all those years?”
Zurho closed his eyes, gathering his recollections, and said, “When I returned to Raunoblean that time, the country’s major concern is to wipe out the hostile nation Tharac. I’ve performed my duties to the government. I defended the Raunobleanites from the uprising of the Amorphos. This bitter war had lasted for over the two thousand years and people have suffered. So, I’ll put an end to it, and defeat the Amorphos once and for all!”
“You speak with great passion, Zurho. And this is what I’m trying to warn you. There will never be peace if you continue to sow this deep hatred for the Amorphos in your heart.”
“What do you mean, master?”
“It’d be easier explained if you knew the history of your race very well, back to two millenniums ago.”
“I know my books well, master. Every military officer has to pass the examination before they’re given their ranks. Roughly, I know that before the Raunoblean government, there’re several kingdoms and dynasties like Lorayn, Sachyn and Kworon. Two thousand years ago, it was the Hiras Republic that ruled.”
“Hiras it is,” agreed Yuerloz, “and many major events happened in that era.”
“The Hirasians had given the Nyueks the pride and what has become of us today. It was the surge of modernisation that brought to the age of discovery. The Hirasians invented the space galleons, and started to explore the outside world. And in turn they brought back wealth, knowledge and fame, which marked the glory of the Nyueks.”
“If this is what your prelectors told you, then they’re far from telling the whole story. There’s a dark side of their history they’ve been hiding. Did they ever mention who built the cities for them, who laboured for their wealth but suffered in silence with no one to pity them or even hear their plight?”
“I don’t know master. Who are they?”
“They’re who you called your enemies, Zurho. They are the Amorphos, the ones who had been disrupting peace. However, not entirely is their fault, for the Nyueks are also part to blame for this demonstration of retaliation.”
“Tell me more, master,” Zurho begged.
“Two thousand years ago, the Hirasians had a major reshuffle in their political positions. Following that, the new government decided to revamp their whole political agenda, and started focusing on space travels. And thus, they had unleashed a big wave of space explorers, establishing relations with other civilisations of the universe. It was supposed to be a golden era of their time, yet there was still a dark side of the universification. Like any other race, the Hirasians became powerful, aggressive and dominant. While establishing good ties with strong civilisations, they invaded and colonised weaker nations, and one of them is the Amorphos. They took them as slaves, putting them in chains and forced them into hard labour to build the Hirasians’ cities. And even until today, the Amorphos were still oppressed by your people, even after all of that they had done to serve the Nyueks for past generations. They never received any respect, for the Nyueks still regard them as the minority, the lesser race. And this injustice hurt them much, and induced their yearning for a rebellion. The war between Raunoblean and Tharac served its purpose as a tool for a revolution, and a little too prolonged until today.”
At once, Zurho felt the whole world crashing down on him. “Do you mean, master, that all these two thousand years we’ve been fighting a war we created ourselves? What deception is this?” Enraged, he slammed his fist on the floor so powerful till fine lines cracked on the surface. “How come you know so much, master, even these agonizing truths that I don’t know myself?’
“I have lived longer than any life form has lived, and I observed the world since it was created by the Farum. These event are my own witnessing, and they are all facts you have to accept.”
“Must I stop this war, master? Must I give in to the Amorphos, since we’ve treated them so unfairly from the beginning?”
Yuerloz smiled slightly, but shook his head. “Fighting a war is already wrong, Zurho. But a war is a war, and there will be no compassion or mercy to be given to the hostility. Yet, Zurho, you shall lead your people to victory, and maintain your sovereignty over your nation. And by that time, you must change the mindset of the Nyueks, teach them how to accept and respect races other their own kind. Only this can ensure the everlasting harmony in the society and stability of the nation.”
Morning came silently that no one realised its arrival, because mornings in Callec were as dark as night and nights were no unlike to dawn. There was no sunrise to denote the passing of a day, or sunset at the approach of darkness, naturally. However, this difference from other planetary systems did not mean that time itself had stopped. They had already wasted enough of it, and must get moving without further delays.
The team gathered at the entrance of the temple with the kind, old friar, thanking him for the hospitality that could not have been better, and bidding him a nice farewell. Master Yuerloz expressed his warmest welcome and would never be too happy if they should pay a visit again.
“I know you’ve doubts of handling the Kashykan, because of its evil origins and tendency to spill blood in past history. Nevertheless, any weapon can be used for a good cause, because a weapon is only a tool for its master’s undertaking. I believe you can survive its corruption, Shjrous Keith,” assured Master Yuerloz.
It had been a while, and the team was prepared to leave. Trekker V had been long waiting to soar the skies and explore the vast space again. Eager as they all were to continue their journey, all except for Karl.
“Aren’t you coming with us?” asked Keith.
“No, Mr. Gunter. Too many things in the past present made my life miserable. I’ve decided to stay here with Master Yuerloz, living a life as a monk. Perhaps this way I can free myself from guilt and worries, all the better to spend my remaining days and forget about everything.”
“If that’s what you desire, then I won’t be forcing you. Anyway, thanks for helping me out in Goum. I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t saved my life, friend.”
“You call me a friend?” Karl suddenly burst into emotions, and with a cry, he said, “at last, in all my life finally I had someone to call me as his friend! Since we’re now friends, I cannot bear it more to keep secrets from you. Today, I’ll reveal who I am, and what I am. Only this way can I surmount my conscience, and moreover, I wouldn’t want to deceive a friend anymore.”
Karl closed his eyes and went into a deep concentration. And something amazing happened before their very eyes. From his body let off a shimmering light and dust that surrounded him, while his figure slowly melted away, dissolving into a watery liquid, and turned into a transparent crystalloid. Subsequently, a reconstitution took place, as the invisible body gradually showed a pigmentation of grey. From where the person stood he was no more, but replaced by a grey-skinned extraterrestrial.
“I am an Amorphos.”