《Twisted Star》Chapter 3- Running From Our Problems


Frosty mist puffed from the green horned deer, its ears pointed, swivelling, scanning for danger. The sun was waking, just above the horizon, but it will soon be hidden by gray and freezing clouds, warned by the chill wind. It had to eat, it had to fatten up, it had to follow its whispering instincts to adapt. The panting deer trotted a beaten strip, a gentle stream lay parallel, followed by patches of dewey grass, which was promptly ripped from its base by the deer, chewing in cadence.

It froze in mid-chew; an instinct born of prey. It heard multiple figures bumbling through the weaves of branches and shrubbery. They were clumsy- but dangerous.

Energy surged in its legs as it pounced over the gentle stream, disappearing into the shedding valley of woven ash trees.

A few minutes later, three scraggly figures stumbled by, followed by a brown, sharp eared dog.

“Lei, I’m tired! Carry me like a princess or I won’t move anymore!” Mimi said, stamping her feet. Her once pirstine shoes were now laced with dirt, mud covered her pajamas, and soot browned her rosy cheeks.

Lei stretched, and squatted at the stream. “We’ll take an hour break and-”

“No, we need to keep moving! C’mon, c’mon.” Geordie said, his gaunt eyes darting around trees and open areas for danger. “Let’s follow the stream and find us a village to hide in. I know they are on our trail. I feel it.”

“Paranoia’s got you good, Geordie. Relax, we’re a few hours ahead of them. How are they going to find us in these woods, right?”

After they escaped the castle, and neared a village, the unfortunate howling of dogs alarmed everyone, so they hastened their speed. And when the sun peeked past the horizon, across the grassy hills and wheat fields, they tread past the bordering village. The journey was treacherous by Lei’s standard; he walked more in a day than he exercised in a school year. With his legs bruised, his arms sore, Lei missed his delightful carriage.

A drowsy sheep herder eyed them as they wandered across the valley trails and into the unknown woods.

Lei splashed his face with clear stream water. Scooping it, he gulped it down like it was nectar of the gods.

He saw his reflection. Long, thin blonde hair pasted on his waxy, bearded face. The difference was like night and day, and it felt like he was looking at a stranger. Was possible that… with his appearance, he could also seek a new life, a happy one without obligation, without pressure?

No. That’s ridiculous. Didn’t he enjoy the wealth and power of his family?

His hand slicked through his hair, catching dust and dirt.

He has a responsibility - to lead the Garuda business’ and ventures. His life was that purpose, just like Jurok’s was to serve under him. But… Did anyone else ask him what he wanted? Like Jurok, he could burn his contract with his family.


Jurok… That bastard! To dare lie about the death of his father, one of the most powerful man in the Eaz empire, he must be seeking death. That’s right, power and wealth was why he had the capital to be so arrogant among his peers!

“Brother, brother,” Mimi interrupted, tugging on Lei’s arm. “Let’s go see the Mooneye flowers! Please... Let’s go north. Now!”

“Let big brother rest a bit, ok?” Lei got up and walked over to Geordie, who slumped next to a gnarled tree. His hands covered his face. Mimi also followed, curious.

“What’s happening now? Cheer up man, we’re almost away!” Lei playfully punched Geordie in the shoulders.

“I killed a man, and now that I think about it… What have I been working for?” Geordie glanced at Lei, his eyes bloodshot.

“I worked so hard in the past ten years to study medicine. I sought to care for my wife so I joined the Mastrekian army to become a apothecary. Then I planned open up a medicine shop when I finish my duties. But now, I’m in the middle of the nowhere, stuck who knows how far from my home.”

Lei nodded, he thought it was a wasted effort. “Well, when you take me home, I’ll give you enough funds to open one, no, ten! Ten medical shops!” Lei stretched his arms, as if he could fulfill anyone’s endless desires.

He continued, ”Not just in any lousy town either, but in the Royal Capital! That’s how rich I am, and I can fulfill your every dreams… As long as I am back in my clan.”

Mimi nodded, agreeing with Lei. She knew he was telling the truth, yet Geordie remained skeptical, saying, “Didn’t that man say, back in the dungeon, your father was dead? He seemed quite sincere about it.”

“Nonsense!” Lei kicked a tree in anger, his mood fell like the leaves, his breathing turned erratic. Preposterous.

“Lei~, don’t be angry!”

Mimi’s childish voice was a dash of cold water on Lei, forcing him to control his breathing, as she tugged Lei’s arm. Her heart sank seeing her brother get angry so she would be the one to stop him from doing something rash.

“You see?” Geordie got up, arms wide, imitating Lei’s previous gesture. “Classic denial. To perform fantastic feats of cognitive dissonance. I’ve seen it in soldiers when they lost their arms. I’ve seen it when one of their sworn brothers die.”

He walked over with a stiff finger, and poked Lei’s chest, saying, “And I’ve seen it in you.”

Swatting the finger away, Lei stepped back, his voice shrill, a lack of confidence, shouting, ”Shut up! Shut up!”

Geordie ignored that, and closed in until Lei backed into a tree. The dog whimpered, tail swung nervously.


He continued, ”Are you so naive to believe all that wealth belongs to you? Take that away and you’ll have nothing. Nothing! No goals. No skills. No talent. You might possess a modicum of talent when you were younger, but you’ve lost it. You don’t rely on yourself, you rely on others.”

“Stop. Please stop,” Lei said weakly, his eyes shut, and his ears covered.

His hands were pried away by Geordie’s iron grip.

“Prince? More like the Prince of Toilets because you’re full of shit. It’s pathetic.”

Mimi kicked Geordie’s leg, but it was weak and left no damage. “Leave my brother alone!”

Geordie’s palm landed on her head, and slid her an arms length away, rendering her onslaught of punches futile.

“Then there’s your sister. If we went without her, nobody would have noticed. But no, you had to bring...” Stepping away from the pair, realization dawned on him.

“They’re not chasing me. I’m irrelevant. They’re after you people! I could be far away if I had left you.”

“Correct.” A gruff voice came from the woods. The dog, tense, let loose a guttural growl, knew the pursuers were here.

Under the snap of twigs and leaves, a shadow shot from behind the trees.

Geordie was prepared. He drew back, but also kicked Lei, knocking him from dangers path. The arrow missed its target, piercing a tree with a dull thud.

He took once glance at Lei, almost hesitating, then darted into the woods, leaving them behind. Sometimes, that was the only way to survive. But was it the right choice?

Lei grabbed Mimi, and stumbled near the stream. Right now, he wanted to run from all his problems.


The stream morphed into a river, slow to rapid, narrow to expansive; as it swam further along, it was a destructive serpent, twisting and turning, waves slamming into the mud riverbank, revealing jagged rocks.

Lei ran and he didn’t care where to. He followed the dog. His mind disoriented. He couldn’t think straight.

Lei’s breathing ragged the further down they moved. Bending, his hand clutched his chest, dry heaving, feeling the berzerk rhythm of his beating heart. He tasted blood.

They reached an impasse.

The river slithered ninety degrees.

Their escape was blocked.

A dull thrum suppressed his thinking, making him dizzy.

He glanced to his side. The tree branches interweaved each other, even extended over the river itself, and the trees themselves were so plentiful, they competed with each other, staunch, with spiked barks.

It would be impossible to climb or pass through.

“Um, I’m not good at swimming…” said Mimi. She gingerly dipped her toes into the rapid water. With teary eyes, she looked at Lei for support.

Lei picked up a smooth stone that fit his hand perfectly. He turned around.

“Why do you chase us?!”

He saw three men. The middle one was the leader that knocked him out. Because his nose was battered and oversized, Lei named him Junkface.

Hearing the silly, desperate question, Junkface laughed. He showed no sign of exhaustion, his overwhelming muscles stretched his leather outfit into a tight fit, jingling various attached daggers.

“Hear that, boys? He asked us why.”

The two men beside him chuckled nervously, as they glanced at him.

“Brat, we’ll take your little sister back. Be obedient and maybe, just maybe, I’ll chop off one leg and a half.”

Chop.. his legs off?

Lei peeked at the river. Perhaps it was worth a jump.

Calculating the stone’s mass, he thought it could be a thrown, just like a spell scroll.

Then... let it fly!

It was a simple attack, fast and heavy as it shot towards Junknose.

Dodging to the side, Junknose made his move, unsheathing two daggers, and closed in, jumping over wet rocks with graceful dexterity.

His opponent was just a kid without any spells, especially not earth magic. The kid has been on the run for a day, so he must be exhausted. The kid has been starved, so he must be weak. However, even a cornered rat would attack with all its might.

Suddenly, a thin figure burst out of the woods, charging like a bull at Junknose, ignoring the cuts from jagged stones. The other two men did not chase, but instead aimed their crossbows and shot.

Two arrows pierced the figure just as it leaped forth, tackling Junknose’s back. The figure, Geordie, let out a deep growl, and a pained chuckle. Partly wondering, why did is he doing this?

He shouted, ”LEI! LIVE FOR ME!”

Before Junknose could throw him off, Geordie laughed crazily, and said, ”Let this absolve my sins!”

Underneath his thin clothing, his emaciated body seemingly held boundless strength, a circular glow appeared on his shoulder, shined like a star.

Then… It exploded. Shockwave shot past everyone, blasting everyone back.

It swept Lei up, his back hurling towards the roaring river.


“Boy, you want this rat?” A thin man stared at the near unconscious youth on the ground. “What’re you in here for? They’ve beaten you black and blue. I doubt your mother would recognize you.”

When Lei didn’t respond, he shrugged, and said, “More rat for me, I guess.”


“Why do we fight to stay alive, Lei?”

“It’s purpose. So I live on.”

“So what’s your purpose?”


Memories sprung in his mind, of the pain they beared, of the stories they shared.

As he plunged into the river, underneath the billowing, blue cover, the current swept him away.

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