Fantasy Sad Coming of Age

My last battle is on a field charred with ash, scars, blood, and regrets. Dust swirls in mini tornados at my ankles, rising to my knees. To glory. I heft my sword and stare off into the last standing regiment. They know nothing of me, and I know nothing of myself. 

Crack. Someone’s ax grinds the soil and we begin, me against them, the world’s pitfalls, my trampoline to bounce off of. I’ve stopped bothering with the blood against my sword, swiping here and there and everywhere. Bodies begin piling before me. But it’s too late to care. It’s time. 

I rise higher, higher, higher until my face meets the smoke-spun clouds mirrored by lost lives. He greets me there, his magic wisps of energy here and there and everywhere. 

“What’s your secret? Why have you come to fight when you know it’s too late, Nimari.” He spits like my name is a curse, and it’s probably going to be--his curse. 

For so long, my wings have remained tucked at my torso, hidden behind all the messages I never sent; to the universe. I hope she knows how long I waited, and now it’s too late like he said. Too late for you. 

“My secret...is me, Tygon.” 

His ships are already staining the air with their presence--not that there’s any air left for civilians. Courage, Nimari. Ten ships with an army, and me, with the strength I never unfurled. It’s a dead cliche rising. So I inhale, throw my arms apart as his energy curls. 

And I unfurl my wings, rolling out like rusted parchment paper, lit on  fire. I am fire. Today, they will watch the phoenix burn. The yugen is waiting; she calls to me like embers to ash, but first, I have a job to finish. 

═ ✪❂✪ ═

From the beginning, I was a handful. That much I’m sure of, even though sometimes I feel like I have the whole world conquered when really, it conquers me every single time. 

I would run, run, run to who knows where, pigtails flying, gap-toothed smile deeming me the pearl in my oyster. I’d like to think I was running from myself, or a past life I might’ve lived. But back then, I was a handful, and I was too busy battling sickness to think much. 

At least, that’s what my mother would tell me a long time ago when I was ten. We’d sit in front of a just-right TV, and scroll through all of my baby pictures to keep my mind off the burning. It always took forever to sort the tangles of wire and project the computer’s screen to the television. Now, you can do it with a snap of a finger.

Nobody who wants to live longer has magic, or wings, or anything like...us. 

Another night, another rant by a gas fireplace in the living room, flames darting back, forth, back, forth. You will choose to do whatever you want with your wings.

What have I done, with those fiery wings? I hid them from sight and never unfurled them again. I did it once, but those battles were fresh. And fresh wounds always stain red. 

“Leave a message for the universe and it’ll listen little minnow. Spiritual yugen.” 

A girl hugs her mother. “I don’t want war, and we can’t win it without her.” 

I stop in my tracks, ducking behind a tree lining the paved path. Little minnow. The daughter wears her purple and blue scales like a queen. My heart almost bursts open when I see her head swivel in my direction, but she doesn’t see me. 

She walks away with her mother into a cover of darkness settling around them like a blanket, and I clutch my black hoodie tightly around me. The stars are singing again. 

“Leave a message to the universe…spiritual yugen.” 

My breath catches on the words, exhaling in a cool string, a breath of collected fog. I haven’t heard those words in years; it can’t have been a coincidence. 

I stare into the stars, galaxies, gleaming dots waving hello. I didn’t want war, either. But they can win it without her.

═ ✪❂✪ ═

Morning brings mail; all of it is from the Service, except for the bills. My head is still spinning from last night’s encounter, but I manage to ignore its persistent tug at my chest for a full eleven minutes until I get dressed and the feeling winds around my lungs. 

“I’ll go get the mail, and then we’ll see about that novel. Then we’ll see about my project.” 

I speak to the walls and get up, pasting a smile for the mailman like I totally wasn’t just coaching myself to get out of bed. My hair is pulled up into a bun, my face done up with a little makeup to mask the tears, and I’m still wearing that black hoodie from yesterday. (It’s the only one which hides my wings) 

Outside, dew sticks to the overgrown grass, and the smile comes more naturally as I open the door a smidgen more, step out into the pleasant, early morning where my cottage lies behind me, secluded and safe. 

“Leave a message for the yugen out there.” 

A lump forms inside my throat. That couldn’t be--what did he say? 

“Hermmm?” I respond, half-choking at the mailman. 

“I said, Miss Nimari, that there are lots of nasty messages for you from out there. Sorry, but the fees are doubling for my silence on your location; war is everywhere now, and we need your help.” 

The lump somewhat dissipates, and I let out a strangled string of words. “Give me my mail and g-get out!” 

My tone is harsher than it needs to be, and the poor man flinches because that glow is back that glow I cannot  control anymore when someone brings up my--

“Your mother and I were good frie--” 

Slam! Orange, violet, crimson, blood. You can use your wings for whatever you want. I want to rip him to pieces. Instead, I wrap my arms around my muscular frame and sag against the padlocked door. Then, the sobs come and I let them ruin my makeup. 

═ ✪❂✪ ═

When I get up, I’m in a daze, fumbling for my car keys after going out to check on my vegetable garden. It’s perfectly fine, but I fantasize about getting new fertilizer from the city. Yes, that’s the reason I’m going to the city--for fertilizer. The drone can have it delivered, but the big war is coming, so there might not be much left…

“Gotta get them pesticides,” I slur, rubbing at my tears with the back of my palm. I sound like I’m drunk, but I don’t care. I drop the keys and inch along the sidewall of the cottage I grew up in like I’m a soldier like I’m ‘living my glory days. 

Whatever that means. 

I saw it in the first newspaper headline about me. Back then, they were actually good. 

“Listen to the universe honey; it’s calling you!” 

I whip around, searching for the sound, a ball of fire at my fingertips. I press up to the stone wall, remembering how the artillery boomed, laser guns flashed, clashing swords, magic blossoming over dead bodies. The wind whistled through my ears like a storm raging through, but this time, I couldn’t stop the memories of horror. 

Horrors of war. How many of my own soldiers had I buried? When I died, it would be under a mountain of regret. 

The last of my burns fizzle out as I remember the cleanse stations we were taken to after. Think of soft piano music, and each key is a wound you share with the world, mind, soul. Detach; feel the pain and embrace your facade as it falls away 

My feet find the Earth and I stagger and sigh, pick up the keys. Keys in ignition, shriveled up hair untied. War, fighting--that suffering didn’t break me. Her; she breaks me every day because she isn’t here to run a hand through my hair, stroke me softly, push me to be stronger, tell me everything is going to be okay. 

═ ✪❂✪ ═

I drive right past the city, past 3-eyed Blobs, humans, elves, trolls, mages and sorceresses. I don’t buy fertilizer, and nobody notices the last phoenix in her car, not on the front lines beating pulp out of the enemies. In fact, the whole city looks like a ghost’s remains. 

My hands are firm on the steering wheel as the headlines blare on tall fixtures embedded on skyscrapers. Fighting Tygon is a losing battle. Nimari’s Absence leaves the military vulnerable three Months after her mother’s death. 

I want to rip that display right off. They don’t know how much I want Tygon’s severed head in my hands; they’ll antagonize me, but it’s so true, what they say. Because my mother’s death wasn’t a sudden heart attack. It was murder. 

“Hey, you can’t park here! This is for--” 

What I hear is, “Daughter, your universe needs you. Yugen is what drives us, but you and I both know it also binds us. Energy from our yugen can either shape us well or whittle us down.” 

═ ✪❂✪ ═

“Mom, I don’t want to walk; I need actual, meaningful advice!” 

She’s smiling, rolling her eyes in mock playfulness. Her eyes are still sparkling with galaxies and unspoken words. “Yes, walks and advice. Both are well suited to one another, no? That’s why I’m taking you to a special hill.” 

She’s cheating--or being resourceful, rather--openly showcasing her wings for all the world to see, like golden spilling on each corner of a translucent Earth. I’ll begrudgingly follow her up to a hill overlooking the city, only a little ways past its border where the nature ferns begin. 

I won’t spread my wings like she does because I’m a handful, and each burn stings. Besides, I’ll think, the view of my mother is view enough. If I’ll need to fly, I’ll take my jet planes and hovercrafts. If I need to burn, I’ll make a fire out of stringy twigs and mother’s vials of potions, kept a secret in a cupboard under the sink. 

Sweat will plaster my shirt to my skin by the time I reach the top of the hill that’s my new world--too young for the world but burdened with wings speckled with flame. 

“Took you forever; I barely broke a sweat!” 

It’s so bright I can’t look at her straight, angling my face to her back where flesh and feathers conjoin, a long, jagged scar running down her back. I would trace it idly some summer afternoons, wondering which battle she got it from. They become marks of glory, part of the skin. 

“You know what yugen means? Look down, at the city. We wait until night, and then I give you the advice.” 

This will be one of her rhetorical questions, and I won’t have time to sit. “Mom, I--” 

“They take enlistments until evening tomorrow; I’m not stupid, you know. You left application in your pigsty room.” 

As the sun sets and the moon rises above candyfloss clouds, I’ll eventually tell her how the prospect of war means I’ll need to help. That I see the broken souls and littered fields and bloody conquest. Because blood is red, and so is my fire. 

I’ll tell her how I got the message from Service last week. I’m their best weapon. 

Then, the stars will twinkle and my mother will recede her wings back neatly, her legs crossed, hand on my shoulder like I’m ten again. 

“You are their best chance; you must register. The universe tells me.” 

“The universe? Are you speaking in prophetic tongues?” 

“No; I speak of energy, spirituality, and my advice. There are many things we don’t know; that’s energy. That’s yugen. Yugen is possibility, space, and the universe’s energy; it is you. You are my yugen phoenix--Nimi.” 

I’ll lean my head on her shoulder, offering wordless comfort. We’ll stare up at the skies together, maybe together for a Last Time. Tygon snatches souls, and war cracks families to dust; there will be a good chance I won’t return. 

“Promise me you’ll send me a message when you’re out there.” 

“Mom, we can’t send…”

My mother’s voice will be firm, but softer than it usually is. “A message to the universe. The universe will listen to you; you have good heart. I get the message when a star whispers into my ear that my powerful yugen daughter spread her wings.” 

We will sit on the hill for a while. This time, I’m rubbing her back, smoothing her hair, telling her everything will be alright. 

═ ✪❂✪ ═

Afternoon air stings my sweaty cheeks as I nestle in my old spot on the tall, weathered hill. I can almost feel how she felt, the closest memory I can grasp before the days I started sending her messages. 

The security personnel stop pestering me after I take off the hoodie, my wings still folded back. They run down, murmuring, but they’ll leave me alone when they see I’m not going anywhere. 

Two years have changed this city, this hill, the country. There is more rubble and abandoned buildings than I remember; it all just clumsily falls down the void. 

Mid-afternoon sunlight leaves a sheen of burn on my skin, but I don’t mind. The trees cover me with adequate shade. Now, all I have to do is wait. 

I doze off for a bit and wake up to evening birdsong, not nosy reporters chewing me out. Darkness blocks out the city lights, the first stars penetrating the atmosphere. Yugen. Memory makes me want to turn around and cry until the world ends in bombs dropping from the skies, but I’ve done enough of that. Been wrecked at shore, treading sand. 

I need to send a long-overdue message to the universe. 

═ ✪❂✪ ═

Bones snap, legs rise, splayed. Eyelashes gleam, fury sparks in-between irises. Hot magma. The sky explodes in a paintball fusion, painting the skies a creamy orange. 

Lastly, my wings slowly unfurl. They’ve been stabbed at, punctured, broken, stripped, mauled--but they still sparkle. Tomorrow, the phoenix will burn again. 

. . . 

My last battle is on a field charred with ash, scars, blood, and regrets.

July 20, 2021 13:44

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Cuppa Chae
21:27 Jul 23, 2021

I adore this line “they know nothing of me, and I know nothing of myself”. The empty feeling, and resonance, that I felt was seriously a hit to the emotions. Thank you for writing this, it was a great read 🍵


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Amaranthine Sky
13:50 Jul 20, 2021

A/n: Yugen means: "a profound awareness of the universe which evokes deep feelings that are inexplicably deep and too mysterious for words" ❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥


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