“Are we there now?” Takeshi asked, yawning. Isamu smiled, and nodded. They had been traveling for weeks now. The Kenji River was quite large, and took many days to reach the end.
“Alright, warriors! We are nearing the Jul palace, and we must be cautious. Izumi has many spies. We cannot afford to lose one of you,” declared Chinatsu, thrusting her sword up into the air. She paused. What was that noise?
“Is that…screaming?” Naoko had noticed it too.
“HELP! HELP!” A small voice screamed. Chinatsu glanced around, and found a little boy clinging onto a tree branch above the river.
“Chinatsu, use Xu to save him!” Naoko said, leading his horse out. Chinatsu gaped.
“But I don’t know how to fly him!” Chinatsu exclaimed. She was torn between a boy’s life and her own safety. Naoko stared at her, and she felt bravery fill up inside of her heart. “Okay, I’ll do it,” said she at last. The screams from the boy were getting louder. She mounted on Xu, and patted the horse’s strong back. “Come on, Xu, I know you can do it,” whispered Xu. For a moment, the boat was silent. Then, cheers erupted as Chinatsu and Xu were lifted up into the air. Xu’s black wings flapped rapidly as Chinatsu made her way towards the tree. The river was very deep, and crocodiles and dark trolls roamed the waters. Chinatsu glanced down at the water below the tree, and gaped. Already, trolls and crocodiles had made its own gathering point, ready to devour the poor boy. The boy spotted Chinatsu, and waved.
“Please, I can’t hold on any longer,” pleaded the young child. Chinatsu nodded, and nudged Xu to go to the boy. In a matter of seconds, they were between the river and the boy.
“Come on, jump!” Chinatsu ordered, but the boy was too afraid. She winced. “Xu and I will catch you, don’t worry! Hurry, the trolls are waiting!” At this, the boy jumped, and Chinatsu caught him in her arms. “Are you okay?” She asked, patting Xu again so that he could fly back to the boat, which he did.
“Thank you, thank you!” The boy said, hugging Chinatsu. At once, he spotted her locket, and gasped. “You’re Chinatsu!” He exclaimed, and he bowed before her. Chinatsu smiled, and curtsied.
“Yes, but who are you?” Naoko asked cautiously. The boy looked up, and blushed.
“I’m Itachi,” mumbled the child, hanging his head. Chinatsu smiled warmly at Itachi. “Are you off to the Jul palace? You’ll have no luck defeating Queen Izumi there,” warned the boy.
“Why, Itachi?” Chinatsu asked, confused.
“The queen has adopted a teenaged girl, and they’re celebrating at Kimiyumi,” explained Itachi. Kimiyumi was a city outside of the Jun Region, and in the Hana region. The mirror world had three regions: Jun, Hana and Jiro.
“She adopted another one?” Naoko asked, smirking. Chinatsu tilted her head in confusion. “She already adopted a child, and his name is Hisoka Kou. He’s twenty now,” added Naoko, and Chinatsu nodded slowly.
“They say her name is Amaya Izumi,” continued Itachi. “But her real name was Pamela!” Kagami gasped, and staggered over. Isamu caught Kagami, and her face was of shock as well. Even Chinatsu had gone stony faced and silent. Naoko was oblivious to what happened, and prodded Itachi to continue. “She is the daughter of a human, but she was summoned by Chokichi and Izumi, of course!”
“I don’t believe it…Pamela too?” Chinatsu bit her lip. “I wonder how Mom’s reacting to this…”
“Chinatsu, look over there!” Takeshi broke the tension as he pointed to a flying horse coming down onto the ship. “It’s a horse…” Isamu approached it, and read its marks.
“The number ‘1000’ and the happy symbol,” whispered Isamu. “It’s the meaning of Chinatsu,” added Isamu. “A thousand summers,” breathed she in wonder.
“Chinatsu, you’ve earned a horse!” Naoko beamed with happiness for his friend. Chinatsu’s face lit up.
“What is its name?” Itachi and Kagami asked in unison.
“I think I’m going to call it Kiyoshi,” breathed Chinatsu, wrapping her arms around her horse’s neck. “You’re going to be pals with Xu and Nishi!” She laughed, stroking the black mane of Kiyoshi.
“Um…Chinatsu-chan,” began Kagami. Chinatsu blushed, and laughed nervously.
“Sorry for that slight distraction!” Chinatsu apologized. “Now, let’s get moving, warriors! Naoko, steer us into the north bay of Hana,” started Chinatsu. “Isamu, take Kiyoshi and Xu back to the stables. Kagami-sensei, make Itachi a room! The boat was made out of wood and tar, but Kagami was gracious enough to provide magic to make the inside larger. Everyone scurried around the boat, as Chinatsu and the others stood guard out on deck.
It was night, and the only person awake now was Isamu. She could not sleep, as she never could. Isamu was cursed by Izumi. When she had been born, her parents took her into hiding. Her parents were the cousins of the queen, and Izumi ordered that no daughter should be born. Izumi soon found out, and not only sent Isamu’s parents to the land of darkness, but cursed Isamu of eternal wake. Of course, Naoko had been born before Isamu, so he was safe from Izumi’s clutch. But when their parents had been sent away, Naoko took the liberty of calling on Kagami, whom he knew was a warrior against the queen.
“Isamu, what are you doing this late at night?” A voice appeared. Isamu was startled, and fell over. She looked around, but it was pure darkness. The white ice moon hung hidden in the clouds. It was pitch black. Then, she saw him.
“What am I doing here this late at night? May I ask what you’re doing here?” That was Isamu’s reply. He grinned. Isamu did not crack a smile. She knew who this was, and she knew him well.
“The queen sent me,” replied the boy, stepping out of the shadows. A green fiery mark glowed on his cheek. Isamu didn’t flinch.
“I see you haven’t changed, Zenjiro-san,” murmured Isamu, trying not to wake the others. Zenjiro stood still and calm, like an oak tree in the quiet storm.
“Of course I haven’t, Isamu-chan,” said he, a flicker of amusement crossing his face. Isamu bit her lip, trying to be cautious. But it was difficult to be cautious of one who knew her well. Isamu and Zenjiro had been childhood friends. Zenjiro trained under Kagami before Isamu, and he helped her learn martial arts as children. But Zenjiro’s courage was envied by the infamous Chokichi, and he took Zenjiro away to Izumi. Izumi did not need to hypnotize this boy. He was poisoned quickly with Izumi’s praise and persuasion. Her white lies so sweet and alluring had Zenjiro trapped.
“Well, you are foolish to have come,” snapped Isamu. Zenjiro was taken aback.
“Isamu-chan, you wouldn’t hurt your good friend, your mentor,” hissed Zenjiro. Isamu’s eyes went cold, and he took a step back.
“You will and have never been my friend. Since the day you told me you were going to Izumi to the day I will die!” Isamu spat, and she screamed, “INTRUDER, INTRUDER!” Zenjiro gasped, and pulled out his sword to fight. At once, the warriors surrounded the boy. Naoko ran out and his eyes widened in shock.
“What is that traitor doing here?” He asked Isamu, who narrowed her eyes at Zenjiro.
“Naoko-kun,” breathed Zenjiro, laughing nervously. “I am nothing but a servant of the Queen Izumi. She kidnapped me,” added the boy. Isamu gasped, and lunged out to punch her former friend.
“HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT!” Isamu shouted, silencing everyone. Chinatsu stood beside her friend, and tried to hold her back. “You told me that you were going to serve under the queen! You liar!”
“Isamu-chan, I’d never say such a thing! Tell me when I said that,” scoffed Zenjiro. Chinatsu gasped, and released her grip on Isamu. This was a quick chance, and Isamu took advantage of it. She ran towards him, and began beating him with her fists.
“Wednesday, July 11th, I was five years old, you were seven,” cried she. “I was sitting out on the back of Kagami-sensei’s horse when you came out of nowhere. I screamed, and fell over. You caught me. I was so happy you came back, because I was worried you were dead. Then, you said, ‘Queen Izumi says I’m special enough to be her knight! I’m running away, okay, Isamu?’ How could I have been okay with that? The first words you say to me are the last words I heard from you! How could I have been okay?!” Isamu screamed, kicking Zenjiro. Chinatsu grabbed her arm, and Naoko grabbed the other, pulling her back. But Isamu would not give up. She screamed and shouted, kicking Chinatsu and Naoko. But the two carried her off into her room, where they locked her up. By the time dawn approached, Zenjiro had been tied up in a chair…in Isamu’s room.
“Chokichi, bring me a glass of wine, will you?” A poisonous but alluring voice drawled. The guard nodded, and walked off to the kitchen. Izumi sat on her bedside, and stared at her “daughter”, who sat by the window, reading a number of scrolls. She walked over to Amaya, and smiled sweetly. Amaya looked up, her eyes glazed, as they would be when Izumi was around.
“Mother, may I go out into the garden?” She asked morosely. Pamela was gone now, and a sweet, charming and obedient Amaya was in her place instead. All she had were memories of growing up at the Jul palace and knowing Chokichi for all her life.
“Oh, darling, you don’t need to ask,” replied the queen. Amaya nodded, and kissed her mother on the forehead, leaving her scrolls on the floor. Chokichi returned, and was dismayed at discovering that Amaya had gone out. He quickly turned to follow the girl. “Chokichi, hang on,” drawled Izumi. Chokichi had no resistance, and turned around to face his mistress. “Have you grown fond of my dear Amaya?”
“Y-yes, Your Majesty,” answered Chokichi. He had no other alternative than stating the truth. Izumi licked her lips as she thought. Now that Chokichi was getting older, should he marry? Amaya was young, and near his age, though. She turned to Chokichi, and brought him into a deeper trance. He forgot why he was such in a rush.
“Chokichi, the more you see Amaya, the more you will grow fond of her. You will try to protect her, and please her. But…” The queen smiled as she paused. “As you get to know her more, you will want to choose to marry her,” ordered the queen. “Forget her name was Pamela and forget you brought her here. She was my daughter to begin with, and you have known her all her life. Bring her to me,” commanded Izumi, snapping her fingers. Chokichi broke out of his trance, and found himself walking off to the garden again, seeking Princess Amaya. Izumi, on the other hand was wondering if making someone fall in love was harder than she thought.
There she lay, on the white, crystal grass. Her eyes were closed as she took the time to smell the sweet scents of the wildflowers surrounding her. Pamela would have been charmed by this as well, but Amaya was far more gentle and fragile. This was because Pamela was raised in the city, and with education of a man’s. But in the mirror world, only men were allowed to go to school, while women learned the martial arts and history of martial arts.
“Princess Amaya,” interrupted Chokichi. She opened her eyes, revealing them a shade of emerald green. “Queen Izumi wishes to see you for a brief moment,” said Chokichi. Amaya stared at him blankly, and then nodded in obedience.
“You don’t need to call me that, Chokichi-kun. It’s Amaya,” called out the princess as she ran off to meet her mother.
“Yes, Mother?” Again, Amaya’s eyes were glazed. The shiny emerald in them had faded. Izumi snapped, and Amaya was in a trance. She repeated her instructions for Chokichi, and Amaya was released.
It was late afternoon when they arrived at Asahiro, the neighboring city of Kimiyumi, and the place the queen and princess were staying at. Finally, Isamu and Zenjiro entered the deck. All was silent.
“I must be going now,” coughed Zenjiro as he snapped, summoning his dragon, Zenshiro. While warriors of the Looking Glass People were horseback riders, warriors of the dark side were dragon riders.
“Where are you going?” Chinatsu asked; dumbfounded. Zenjiro grinned, and winked at Isamu, who did not smile yet again.
“Good-bye,” whispered Isamu, her eyes filling up with tears. Zenjiro looked at her with sympathy, and flew off, leaving the warriors confused.
“Isamu, what happened?” Naoko and Chinatsu asked her time after time as they got off the boat. Isamu would simply shake her head, and the dreaded silence continued for the rest of the day.
As they snuck into the halls of the Asahiro palace, Isamu was deep in thought. How could Izumi DO such a thing?
“Becher, what are you doing here?” Zenjiro asked his older brother in horror. Who knows what Izumi might do?
“I came to bring you back to Isamu and the Looking Glass People!” His brother declared. Zenjiro bit his lip in thought.
“Well, too bad, because I’m staying with Izumi,” muttered Zenjiro. “Hurry, Becher, hurry!” He tried to shoo his brother away, but footsteps and voices were approaching the courtyard. “Hide, Becher!”
“Zenjiro, is something going on in there?” Izumi asked from a distance.
“No, Your Majesty, everything is fine!” Suddenly, Becher jumped and ran towards the queen, a sword in his hand. “Becher, NO!” But it was too late, and Izumi had cast a spell. A blinding light filled the skies, and then all was quiet.
“You have lied to me, Zenjiro. You must be punished,” growled the queen. Zenjiro glared at the queen, and lunged out for her. “Ah, ah, ah...”
“ARRGH!” Zenjiro and Becher screamed, and they hugged each other, fusing into one.
“What have you done?” A husky voice growled. Izumi laughed, and threw her head back.
“You two are brothers, and therefore are one,” drawled the queen cruelly. “At night, Zenjiro exists. At day, Becher exists. At noon, the two are one,” added Izumi icily.
“Chinatsu, what are you doing?” Isamu asked her friend, bewildered as Chinatsu stepped out of the shadowy trees. They hid in the bushes of the Asahiro gardens, watching the queen and her daughter.
“That’s my sister, Isamu! They have my sister! I’ve got to save Pamela,” whispered Chinatsu, her eyes never leaving Amaya. She began to stand, when Isamu pulled her down. “Stop it, Isamu! That’s Pamela, I told you that!”
“Pamela is gone,” hissed Isamu, glaring at Chinatsu, and silencing her friend. “Her name is Amaya now. Your sister is no longer in existence. Princess Amaya is who is in her place. Yes, she is still physically Pamela, but her days as Pamela, the headstrong girl, shall never return. I’m sorry that Izumi got to her,” explained Isamu softly, her eyes softening in kindness. Chinatsu bit her lip, her eyes filled with crystal tears.
“So, Pamela is really gone forever?” At last, Chinatsu asked. Isamu looked away, and nodded softly. Chinatsu’s tears flowed out silently, but she immediately wiped them away.
“We can go back, if you want,” whispered Isamu gently, patting Chinatsu’s shoulder. But Chinatsu whipped around, her eyes hard and strong.
“She’s taken away my father and my sister. I’m not letting her take away my mother too,” spat Chinatsu.
“Then, we have to hurry back to the Asahiro Palace,” said Isamu, taken aback by her friend’s sudden change of heart. Chinatsu nodded, and the two scurried off to their horses, Nishi and Kiyoshi.