For the people on Reedsy who truly support me. Thank you. I wouldn’t have made it to twenty stories without you guys.
The tree’s leaves danced to the lovely breeze that blew through the spring air. I breathed in the scent of the flowers nearby, then wished I hadn’t. The smell of roses and cornflowers reminded me of what today was. Diestumendo. The day of picking destiny.
I stared down at the Artists as they worked on the Field of Destiny. The grass trimmed itself. The critters that made their homes there were cleared out. The flowers were watered.
The flowers. I detested them. Plants no bigger than my arm would be determining the rest of my life.
Half of them were ridiculously gorgeous red roses. Each petal was slightly wilted, but the roses were still holding onto their life. I supposed that accurately depicts the life of a warrior. It was filled with hardships, yet they still carried on.
Their thorns were unusually sharp, perhaps enough to draw blood with just a touch. Some of the more terrible Warriors were like that. Dangerous and unkind. You would have to be either brave or stupid to choose the roses as your destiny.
The other half were beautiful blue cornflowers. So many of the petals were imperfect, but there were so many of them that no one seemed to care. They were still beautiful. They represented how an Artist’s life was still filled with struggles, but they still could be successful. The Artists always got a happy ending.
But its petals and shape were sometimes too pretty. Some of the awful Artists were much like these cornflowers. They only paid attention to their own beauty. Choosing to have the destiny of an Artist would provide you a life free of dangers, but it would still choke you in the end.
I knew which one flower to pick. The rose. I was a warrior at heart. Like everyone else in the city, it was pretty clear which flower I should pick. Which destiny I should pick.
But still. The whole thing with the destinies felt wrong. We had been stuck with this flower-picking-destiny system for thousands of years. At least, that’s what our teachers had told us. But the system was messed up. It-
“Nainika?” a voice cut through my thoughts. I looked down at the ground and saw a guy with short brown hair.
“Luke?” I called down. I got a closer look and caught a better glimpse of his face. I knew it was him. His eyes were the only ones that made my heart dance.
“Yeah,” he said. “Thank goodness I found you. I thought I had lost you!”
I heard the worry and concern creeping into his voice. I blushed, which was quite unlike me. I didn’t say anything.
“Can you get back down here?” Luke asked. “We have to get ready for Diestumendo!”
“Don’t remind me,” I muttered. I jumped down the tree, easily landing on the ground from sixty feet above.
Luke widened his eyes, impressed. “Nice trick. Jumping from that height must not have been that easy. Did the Warriors teach you that?”
The Warriors actually did not. The city was always like this. If I do something creative or intelligent, people assume that I learned it from the Artists. If I do something that’s brave or requires strength, people assume that I learned it from the Warriors.
All because of the fact that I didn’t have a destiny yet. And when I do get a destiny, anything out of character would result in strange looks and perhaps even jail time. Why did every action I do have to be based on my destiny?
I knew I couldn’t lie about it, though. Most of the time, Luke could read me so well that it was almost inhumane.
Before I could say anything, I heard chatter on the streets in the village. Even from here, I could hear them. Laughter seemed to carry across the entire city. I smiled, recognizing some of the voices.
“We should go to the village,” I said, changing the subject. “Say goodbye to everyone before we get separated because of the destinies we pick.”
Luke nodded in agreement. “Yeah. But we won’t have to say goodbye to each other. We’ll pick the same destiny, right?”
I thought back to my thoughts from earlier, when I had confirmed that I was going to pick the rose. And Luke, with his intelligence and skill for writing, would definitely choose the cornflower.
Despite this, I smiled. “Of course.”
We walked toward the village, talking and laughing along the way.
“So, you know, a few years ago, I was just with my brother, who’s a Warrior Guard. Flint told me how he had gotten injured by some other Warriors in a training exercise. It was apparently very embarrassing, and he had complained to me that he would never live up to it.
“In response, I had told him that he would ROSE from the ashes of his shame and humiliation!” Fawn signed, stopping at last. She had been moving her hands in sign language so fast that I could barely keep track of what she had been signing. She stopped walking and looked at all of our faces, waiting for a reaction.
It took a few awkward seconds for us to get it. But soon, realization dawned on our faces.
“Really?” Ethan groaned. “Warrior? Rose?”
Fawn laughed, but no sound came out of her mouth. It was jarring to see someone laugh and not make a sound, but I had gotten used to having a mute friend. “Come on, I had to,” she signed.
Kaia giggled, amused by the pun. Her laughter was so infectious that I joined in. Even Ethan couldn’t help it. He squeezed Fawn’s hand, which made my heart ache. Nonetheless, I continued to smile, determined not to let their relationship ruin my day.
It was one of those days where anything could cause laughter. Diestumendo was a joyous day. For Nihilfatum, the borough containing the people with no destinies, it was a day where many of us got to pick our own destiny. For Bellafatum and Artifatum, the boroughs of the Warriors and Artists, it was the day where they could welcome new people into their parts of the city.
Even Mother Nature agreed that today was a special day. The warm glow of sunlight winked through the trees, and the birds whistled their melodies. The city almost seemed to bubble with anticipation and excitement.
As the five of us walked through the village, the five of us laughed and talked like we had known each other for years. Probably because we had. We had all been friends for years now, despite our differences.
Well, some of us were more than just friends. Kaia and Livia obviously liked each other. And don’t get me started on Ethan and Fawn. They had been dating for a while now. I was happy for them.
But my heart still burned for Ethan. It was chewing me up from the inside. Ethan...
“Celeste! Hey, earth to Celeste!” Livia said, waving her hand in front of my eyes.
I blinked, snapping out of my train of thought. “Sorry, what?”
“Which destiny are you going to pick?” Kaia piped up.
I thought about how I couldn’t wait to walk into the Field of Destiny and pick a flower. I knew which one I would pick. I had known it for most of my life.
“The cornflower,” I responded automatically. “The destiny of the Artist. You?”
Livia smiled. That didn’t happen very often, for she tended to not show much emotion. I smirked when I saw Kaia staring at Livia’s smile, her face flushed.
“I’m definitely going to pick cornflowers, too,” Livia said. She gestured at her notebook and pencil to prove her point.
“I’m going to pick the rose,” Kaia said quietly. “The destiny of the Warrior. I know it’s the right path for me.”
Livia’s face fell when she heard Kaia’s words. Her shoulders slumped, and her smile faded.
“Really?” she said quietly.
Kaia nodded, not saying a word. She stared down at her shoes.
I could see why they felt this way. Having different destinies meant living on different sides of the city. They would only get to see each other a few times a year. Not to mention that Bellafatum and Artifatum’s alliance was shaky at best. I didn’t have to be a Warrior to know that it won’t be long before the two boroughs erupted into a war.
I glanced behind me at Fawn and Ethan, who were unusually quiet. Even by Fawn’s standards. And she couldn’t talk at all.
“What about you two?” I asked them. “What destinies are you going to choose?”
The two of them stared at each other, holding hands, and a silent conversation seemed to pass between them. It seemed like they were arguing. Defiance and anger flashed in both of their eyes.
At last, they averted gazes, and Ethan spoke up. “We’re-”
Fawn’s hazel eyes widened. “We- we have to go.” She signed frantically. “See you during the ceremony.”
Half dragging Ethan, she walked down the streets, far away from us, until I couldn’t even see the wisps of her long brown hair.
I frowned. “What was that all about?”
Kaia shrugged. Livia looked clueless, too.
As the remaining three of us wandered through the streets, chatting, I wondered what had just happened with Fawn and Ethan. Suspicions started tickling me at the back of my mind, pestering me with its whispers.
“What was with you and Fawn earlier?” Celeste asked me, a frown etching her face.
I drummed my fingers on my legs, wishing that my hands were hovering over a keyboard, or clutching a pencil. I felt like running. Running far, far away from her. I wanted to take Fawn and get out of this park, out of this village, out of this borough, and maybe out of this city, too.
“I- I have to go,” I said hastily. I stood up and started to walk away, but a hand latched around my wrist.
“Not so fast,” said Celeste. My green and gold eyes locked on hers, which were blue with suspicion. For a second, they seemed to flash pink with love. I blinked, and it was gone. I shouldn’t be imagining things. No way Celeste loved me after-
“The breakup,” she said, eerily finishing my thought. “Ever since you dumped me, you’ve been acting strange. Like you and Fawn are hiding something.”
Her eyes flickered green with jealousy when she said my girlfriend’s name.
“I’m not hiding anything,” I lied. Panic raced through my veins. If Celeste found out about our secret…
“You’re lying,” Celeste accused me. I internally cursed my easy-to-read face. “It has to do with Diestumendo, doesn’t it? Picking destinies?”
“I thought you were better than this, Ethan,” Celeste said, her eyes turning red with anger. Sometimes, her mood-changing eyes were helpful for me to understand her. But right now, all I wanted to do was run. But my feet were rooted in place.
“I thought you wouldn’t lie to me after everything we’ve been through,” she whispered.
‘No,’ I thought. ‘I can’t tell you. If I did, you would turn me and Fawn over to the government. They would execute us if they knew.’
Celeste leaned in and kissed me. I pulled away as quick as I could, feeling my cheeks grow warm. I had missed those kisses. It wasn’t that long ago when they were the thing that kept me going.
No. I couldn’t think about that. I had a girlfriend, and it wasn’t Celeste.
My mouth felt sealed shut. I didn’t say a word as I ran away from her. I glanced back, and for a moment, her eyes met mine. They were filled with so many colors that I could barely see them all.
Regret. Heartbreak. Sadness. Longing.
She turned away from me. As I ran back home, I couldn’t shake the pang of guilt on my chest.
Ivy smiled in satisfaction, stepping back so she could admire us in the mirror.
“What do you think?” she asked. “Don’t we look great?”
I stared at our outfits. Given the fact that she was one of the best artists I knew, it really wasn’t a shock that Ivy had done a stunning job.
She had on a dusty pink dress that was decorated with amethyst jewels, which was the exact color as her eyes. Her strawberry blonde hair was braided down her back. By the end of today, like hundreds of girls in Nihilfatum, a pressed flower pendant, either a rose or a cornflower, would hang on her amethyst necklace.
My black dress went down to my knees and the grandidierite jewels adorned the neckline and sleeves. My black hair was pulled back in a ponytail to reveal the scar that sealed one of my teal colored eyes shut. I wore a necklace much like Ivy’s, except it was made of grandidierite.
I smiled half-heartedly. “Yeah. You did an excellent job.”
I felt worry and panic racing through my body. Today was the day. Diestumendo. I would have to walk into the Field of Destiny and pick how I wanted to live for the rest of my life.
I still didn’t know which one to choose. Cornflowers or roses? I was both a Warrior and an Artist, yet I was neither of them. I was something else.
What would I do when I stand in the Field of Destiny? I wanted to pick neither. I wanted to say that I didn’t want a destiny. I just wanted to live my life without being forced into it.
But then I would be killed for disobeying the rule that had stood in the city for thousands of years. Or worse. Perhaps I would get kicked out of the city. Just like my parents.
I shuddered at the thought. No one but the Adventurers knew about what was outside the city, and only a few of them returned after exploring. There were all sorts of rumors about the outside world.
I didn’t want to get banished. But I also couldn’t pick a destiny.
Do I live dissatisfied and unhappy for the rest of my life, stuck in a path that I never wanted? Or do I not live at all?
“Now enter the Field of Destiny and choose your path.”
Along with a hundred other people, I walked into the field. All around me, there were rows and rows of roses and cornflowers. People rushed to pick the flower they wanted, but I stood still, unable to choose.
I didn’t want to be a Warrior or an Artist. I’ve read dozens and dozens of stories about people who couldn’t choose a destiny. They would pick a random destiny and be unhappy for the rest of their life. And if the government discovered that they never wanted to have the destiny of either a Warrior or an Artist…
Well, they would get killed or get banished.
What an unfair rule. The government talks about how they let everyone choose their own path, but in reality, they’re forcing a path on you.
That’s what they had done to my parents. I remembered the way they stood together on the Field of Destiny. How they had refused to pick a flower, all because they knew that being a Warrior or an Artist wasn’t the path for them. And when the government found out…
I never saw my parents again. The government had told me they had disappeared underground. But I knew better.
I had always hated the destiny system, but now, anger suddenly boiled in my veins. I was so angry at the government, and so angry at myself. I couldn’t think. Red spots danced in my vision. I wanted power. I wanted to forge my own destiny. I wanted to avenge my parents.
If it was possible to angrily pick a flower, that’s exactly what I did. As soon as I picked a cornflower, the flower got to work, sensing what powers I needed. What path was right for me. Words flashed through my mind.
I had been chosen to be a speechwriter. My destiny was to persuade and inspire people with my words. My power was my words. I could persuade people into anything. Make them do anything just with the right words. Strength rushed through my body at the thought.
I felt like I could do anything.
In a flash, I appeared on a stage right outside the Field of Destiny, still clutching the cornflower. Thousands and thousands of people were in the audience, waiting for someone to officially become an Estfatum. With a shock, I realized that I was the last one to receive a tattoo or a necklace that marked someone as an Estfatum.
“Today,” a man announced. “We gather to celebrate Diestumendo. Angelyn has chosen the cornflower. She has the destiny of a speechwriter, and has the power to persuade people with her words! Let us anoint her to be an official Estfatum!”
No. This was all wrong.
“No,” I said.
“No.” I stood as tall as I could and gazed at the crowd. “My parents have been killed because of this unfair destiny system. I refuse to accept something that has killed my parents. This system forces you into two paths, whether you want it or not. It kills those who do not want it.”
I gazed at the shocked, yet hypnotized faces. My power washed over them.
“I plan to destroy this destiny system!” I yelled. “Who is with me?”