Part XVII – Family is Forever
Stone walls towered above the city of High Garden Clearing. On its northern border was the Ura forest. A vast expanse of pine, broad leaf, and red wood trees provided cover for the demonic creatures.
The party of five walked along the wide, concrete sidewalk that led out of Consonance and into the agricultural city of Melqart. Time seemed to pass with the speed of a drunk snail and the midday sun beat down. They continued to walk mostly in silence. Bringing up the rear of the straggling train were the twins, who periodically bickered amongst themselves. As the twin moons of the planet Threa shone above their heads, Monel stopped abruptly and let out an agonized groan.
“Why are we walking?” asked Monel.
“Why not,” Momotaru replied with a smile.
“My feet hurt and I’m tired,” said Monel. “Don’t tell me that you expect us to walk all the way to HGC.”
“Well why not,” said Momotaru.
Monel’s blue eyes narrowed to dangerous slants.
“Control yourself,” said Kya. “He’s our liege lord. If he wishes to walk then you’ll do as commanded.”
“Shut up,” said Monel. “You can’t tell me what to do anymore. Father’s no longer here and we’re no longer in the guild.”
“I’m still the oldest,” said Kya.
“Not by much,” said Monel.
The two sisters drew closer to each other with each step. Their eyes were locked on each other.
“Yeah. And we all know why that is,” said Kya. “You’re not really one of us.”
Monel let out a growl. She was about to lunge at her sister until Momotaru stepped between them. With his arms up, he held both sisters back.
“Calm down,” said Momotaru. “What’s all of this about?”
Both Kya and Monel turned their backs and folded their arms as they pouted. The twins walked up in front of Momotaru. They shared a look and then nodded their heads in unison.
“Our older sisters are rivals,” said Chyntel.
“They compete at everything… all the time,” said Cynia.
“Shut it you two,” said Kya peering dangerously over her shoulder. Her dark eyes smoldered.
The twins giggled to themselves.
“What makes them even more competitive is the fact that Monel is only our half-sister,” said Chyntel.
“Our father cheated on his wife with a highly skilled assassin that worked in the guild,” said Cynia.
“But mother took him back,” said Chyntel.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that she took him back,” said Cynia. “Or else we wouldn’t be here.”
They traded several blows, striking one another in the shoulders repeatedly. Momotaru let out an exasperated huff as he slowly shook his head.
“As far as I know,” said Momotaru, “I’m an only child. I can’t imagine what having a sibling is like. But while you all are acting as my bodyguards you will put this petty nonsense aside and function as one unit… think as one mind. I have big plans for this world. Now let’s get moving.”
“So I take it that means we still have to walk across two more states before reaching HGC,” said Monel.
“If I say yes to a cab then will you stop your whining,” said Momotaru.
“I don’t whine,” said Monel with narrowed eyes.
“Well whatever you call it,” said Momotaru, “you can cut it out. Let’s get to the nearest service station and order a hover transport.”
After calling for a hover van, which dropped the group off at the entrance to High Garden Clearing, Momotaru and his bodyguards arrived before the large, wooden double doors of the fortress-like city. They were shut tight. Stone walls circled the entire area. Directly to the north of the expansive and winding stone wall was a large clearing. A plain of tree stumps stretched from the walled city to the edge of the forest. Momotaru stood and marveled at the vast amount of trees.
“They keep the area in front of the wall clear of trees in order to make sure the sentries can see if the Ura try to attack the city,” said Kya.
“And what exactly are the Ura?” asked Momotaru.
“A race of wicked demons that inhabit this forest,” said Monel. “The Ura pray on the civilians and survive by drinking their blood.”
“Why are they allowed to even live here?” asked Momotaru. “Why doesn’t the Eioda government or military launch an assault to wipe them out?”
“Because most politicians think that it would use up too many resources to launch an all-out assault on the forest. It might not even work,” said Kya. “The Ura and extremely tough to kill.”
“Well let’s get inside and find an inn to sleep at,” said Momotaru. He walked over to the towering doors of the city and shouted up to the guards who were sentried on the ramparts of the wall.
The guard responded with a shake of his head.
“They won’t let anyone in after dark,” said Kya.
“Don’t you guys live here?” said Momotaru. “Can’t you force them to let you in?”
“We haven’t lived in this city for several years now,” said Kya. “The twins were still teenagers when we were forced to leave our home. Ever since then we’ve lived in the capital with your father.”
“Well fearless leader,” said Monel with hands on hips. “What now?”
“How about we explore a little bit of this forest in front of us,” said Momotaru with a sly grin on his face.
“Are you insane!” shouted Kya. The other three sisters responded with looks of shock and shouts of outrage.
“You guys are supposed to be skilled assassins right,” said Momotaru. “Well this will be a perfect chance to see what skills each of you possess.”
With that said, Momotaru did not look back as he sauntered toward the dark and gloomy forest.