A bright light enveloped the entire city in a quick flash. So blinding that Yemen had no time to think before a thunderous boom followed by an earthshaking shockwave threw him across the street. His back slammed against the solid rock while a cloud of dust was blown against him with intense force. As soon as the cloud of dust dissipated, a burning crumbled castle can be seen in the distance. His eyes widened while his heart thumped, at that moment he thought the world had ended.
“Victor?!” Nobody responded.
“I’m here!” shouted from behind a beam. Kenn rose with a few cuts on his arm. Next to him, a group of shattered glass spread the street. He brushed a few pieces of glass off his clothes and walked toward Yemen with one eye closed.
“Bloody hell, this can't be happening.”
“Kiko?” shouted Kenn, but no response.
“I-I can’t see!” A faint feminine voice trembled from under a pile of rubble.
“Nona!” shouted Kenn as he searched the ground.
“I’m here!” cried Nona.
Kenn dug the shattered brick away then found Nona buried underneath. Her face was covered with thick filth while her breaths were short and desperate.
“Close your eyes. It’s okay. It’s just wet dirt.”
Kenn tore a piece of fabric from the bottom of his shirt and proceeded to wipe the filth away.
Able to see again, Nona calmed her breath and took hold of Kenn’s hand as Yemen removed the rest of the shattered bricks and rocks off her body. It didn't take long for them to help Nona stand up again. They looked around, shouting their friend’s name, but no one seemed to hear them. Until a volley of fire echoed out in the distance along with a cry of pain and fear caused them to take refuge in a half-collapse bar.
“Let me take a look. You stay here with her.”
Yemen vaulted over a broken bar and walked out through the hole in the side of what was left of the building. Peeking out from a nearby crate, Yemen’s eyes widened when he saw the forces of Ghadah marching down the street. Anyone who dares to appear before the soldiers were struck down without mercy.
“Yusof, what have you done?”
It was a long time ago. Too long to remember when the actual date that it happened. Yemen was still an adolescent child back then, he had a pretty hard, but fulfilling life. By the dock, the salty air, the crashing waves, and the hot sun. It called to him. The sea was his destiny, and Yemen knew it from the moment he fell into the sea years ago.
“Yemen! Stop scrubbing the deck. You’re done for today.”
“Aye, Captain.” Yemen turned his back and was about to leave when the Captain stopped him with a question.
“Tomorrow, the ship will set sail to Yakawa. Have you considered the proposition yet?”
“Can you give me some time to think, Captain?”
“Whatever your answer is, just bloody make sure you think it through.”
As Yemen walked down the board onto the dock below, his mind wandered. To leave everything he had known is irresponsible and leave his only brother behind is disloyal. Without giving a thought to the changing scenery, he had arrived at a small wooden shack.
A wooden shack: too small for an adult, but big enough for two adolescent children. It is a shabby build, mismatch planks, half-buried nails poking out of the sides, and a gapping roof. When it rained, the water would leak through the roof, and when the slightest strong breeze blew, Yemen could swear that this shack would collapse. However, no matter how tough the weather was, this shack would still hold it together somehow.
With a loud sigh, Yemen squatted down on a piece of brick.
“Why the long face, my partner in crime?”
Yosuf backflipped from the roof and landed in front of Yemen. The funny part was, despite executing a marvelous move flawlessly, he still stumbled a bit after landing. Yet, he still carved a big smile on his face.
After letting out a chuckle, Yemen stood up and slapped his hand against Yusof's back, “Nothing. As long as you are here, I will always be by your side.”
“As I said, it’s nothing.”
“You’ve been spending way too much time at the dock. Come on, I got a diabolical plan for us today.”
“Ho Ho, please go on.”
"Ta-dah!" Out of nowhere, Yusof pulled out a fishing rod.
"I don't get it."
"Then let me show you."
Without any explanation, Yusof marched away toward the market. After scratching his head, Yemen half-heartedly followed his twin. Arrived at the top of the roof, overlooking the crowded bazaar. Yemen took a seat right next to Yusof, he prepared the rod and attached the end of the string with a small hook.
“Did you steal that from the dock?”
“Bold of you to presume that. I did not steal it, I merely borrowed it.”
“Are you planning to return it after you’re done with it?”
“Please turn that ‘might’ into an ‘absolutely’.”
“I will consider that, but I promise you nothing.”
Yemen shook his head and sighed at Yusof's usual shenanigans. With a toothy smile, Yusof cast the line into the crowd below, and quickly pulled the line back in gusto. Yet, even with all that spirit, he failed to hook onto anything. However, a single failure won't stop him.
"What are you even aiming at?"
"That meat over there." Yusof cast the line again.
"You're not even close."
“Like you can do better than this.”
“Give me that, I’ll show you how it’s done.”
Yemen stood up and stretched his arms. Yusof handed him the rod and took a seat right next to him. The twins took a breather before Yemen took a stance beside Yusof.
"I'm pretty sure Aburah could do it."
"What is it with you and her? It's not like we were close to her. The only thing she had common with us is our dumbass dad."
"Not close to you, yeah, but I was. It's not surprising that Aburah meant a lot to me, but you already knew that."
"I can tell, still I don't get it. She’s no different from the other step-siblings. She tried to take the crown, so she must be greedy like the other. I heard a rumor that she—" Yemen caught a glare from Yusof from the corner of his eyes.
"If you have nothing good to say then don't. And she is different from the others, Aburah is trying to make the world a whole lot better."
"One woman can't change the world, don't be naive, or else you'll get yourself hurt."
"She can change the world, I have faith in her."
“Oh?!” The hook snagged onto the rotting meat, it was too heavy for one teen to reel. Yusof came closer and embraced Yemen from behind to weight his body onto the floor. They both reel it in together with all their strength.
The meat flew across the street, the stall owner screamed panic and caught the attention of the crowd in the market. Worse of all, the panic had alerted the guards, one of them was a familiar ill-mannered man.
“STOP!” shouted the ill-mannered man as he parted the crowd to reach the two teens.
Yusof quickly grabbed the meat for himself and took off into ran. Confused, Yemen quickly gathered his thoughts and turned to find his twin gone. Groaning out his displease, Yemen chased after his twin with furious anger. Yemen couldn’t believe that his twin would leave him behind like this.
However, Yemen didn’t feel abandoned when he was with Yusof, and when Yusof turned his joyous face at him while they both ran, he couldn't help but feel infatuated by it. Jumping onto another roof, the pursuer still was hot on their trail. On the many games of tags, schemes that bore insignificant results, criminal activities that put their lives in danger, but even after all of that, it still wasn't that bad. It was their life, their blissful lives. How could they choose otherwise when they were abandoned to the street without a penny to their name or even proper clothes. However, it wasn’t that bad, at least they got each other.
In front of them, a makeshift ram stoop between them and the freedom on the side of the canal. Both of them boosted their speed with all they got and were ready to launch themselves across the canal.
Yemen leaped across first from the wobbly ramp and it was a long leap, but all his effort came to fruition when he landed in the alley across the canal. However, Yusof turned his gaze at the ramp and it suddenly collapsed on itself after Yemen launched himself. His heart thumped, Yusof was too fast to stop so he gritted his teeth and leaped off the roof with unrivaled courage in his heart.
Neither did the god of luck or fate blessed Yusof that day, his momentum fell short causing him to crash into the body of water below. Before Yemen could jump in to save him, the guard leaped first into the canal. A big splash followed by raging waves. Suddenly, another burst of water exploded onto the mossy wall and surfaced two drenched human beings.
The guard pulled Yusof toward the ladder on Yemen's side of the canal. The drenched teen coughed a mouthful of water as he clung to the bars. With a sigh, the guard helped carry the soaked teen up the ladder and lay him gently on the ground.
“Thank you.” Yemen checked on his twin condition.
Yemen let out a sigh of relief when Yusof let out a hard cough. He took a deep breath before looking at the rugged-looking guard and nodded as a sign of gratitude.
The guard reached into his shirt and took out a damp envelope. Afterward, he handed it to Yusof as he lowered his gaze.
Yusof suddenly stiffened as he realized what this letter was. With a heavy heart, the teen tore the upper part of the envelope. He slid the letter out, carefully reading the content. Right there, right then, something broke inside Yusof. Shoulders dropped, but his fingers dug into the parchment, tearing a hole through his grip. With gritted teeth, he turned to the guard and stood up.
“Yusof?” Worried by his sudden shift of demeanors, Yemen called out to him.
“Who’s next on the throne?” He asked the rugged guard.
“You half brothers had just passed away before any of them could take the throne. So now, it is between you two. One of you can be the king, so which one?”
"I'll take it," said Yusof without a single ounce of hesitation.
A sense of coldness enveloped Yemen's body, his jaw slightly dropped while his eyebrows were lifted. Not even a shred of doubt, not even regret, nothing.
“I can't believe you.”
Yusof turned to face Yemen. His joyous twin had turned sour while a rising rage had engulfed inside him.
“You want the throne?”
“It’s not about the throne. I don't want anything to do with the bloody throne!”
“Calm yourself, if you don't want the throne then what’s the problem?”
“What’s the problem?! How dense can you be to ask me that?”
“Then tell me what’s wrong instead of flinging your anger at me.”
“You are not even going to think twice about it?”
“About us! This isn't complex alchemy Yusof. It has always been about us, we are brothers, bound by blood, or so I thought. Here you are, willing to leave me behind without a single shred of hesitation.”
Yusof turned his gaze away.
“I knew it. I'm second only to Aburah. All you care about is her. What is it about her? She’s not even blood related, wait, don't tell me--”
"That’s not it! She's more to me than you ever knew."
At that very instant, a distance that once never there appeared. For the first time, Yemen felt disconnected from his twin. Yusof was different, cold, inaccessible even.
“You get the throne then what? Start a war?”
“If I have to.”
“Are you mad? You're going to get yourself killed!” Yemen dug his finger against Yusof's chest, pushing him back with every doubt he attempted. Annoyed, Yusof fought back and pushed his twin hand away.
"Enough! Stop pretending you care about me. I know about the offer you received from the Captain you so admired. I know you only spend time with me because you feel bad about me. Well, I don't want your misplaced sympathy. I know you. Remember? I’m your twin."
Out of nowhere, Yemen slugged a fist at Yusof. His twin brother fell to the ground hard before he could react. Gritted teeth and a disappointing glare plagued Yemen’s mug.
“You know nothing about me... and I don't know enough about you. I was going to reject that offer because the thought of leaving my brother behind doesn't sit well with me. Sure, whatever, it’s not like it's about me. It's about her...and if you want to get yourself killed because of her. Then…fine!”
Yemen turned to face the other way and start walking. In a rage, Yusof stood up with a fistful of sand and tossed it at his twin. The ball of sand dissipated into dust even before it could reach his twin.
“Don't you dare look down on me! You would have done the same thing if it were me who died out there.”
Those words halted Yemen, he turned his head slightly.
“Maybe...but, it wasn't you who died out there and I'm trying to keep you safe. We only got each other Yusof, no, I only got you.”
The crackling fire in the fireplace brought them back to the present, Yemen tossed a piece of wood inside the fire and took a seat on the open stool near Victor.
“Those were the last words I ever spoke to Yusof. I joined the bloody sailors afterward, traveled to a lot of places, got myself in more trouble than I could count, eventually I found myself my crew and ran a pretty bloody business as a Pirate.”
In a glimpse of Victor's eyes, he could see Kenn attending to Kiko’s state alongside Nona while Joshua and Isaac peeked through the closed cabin’s windows. Keeping eye on any danger lurking or otherwise beyond the perimeter of their sights.
“A few good news and bad. The good news is that we managed to find this abandoned cabin as a shelter for the moment. Another good news is that Haruhi is still alive, we ask around and the other prisoners admit to seeing her. The bloody bad news, we still couldn't find Haruhi, I mean, we looked for her, desperately. But we still couldn't find a single trace of her. It was as if she disappeared into thin air.”
“Haruhi...tell me everything you know about the sultan’s army.”
“What about Haruhi? Isn't she supposed to be your priority?”
“Always, but I need to know what kind of enemy I'm dealing with.”
Victor glanced at his commander and he nodded. Joshua proceeded to take Isaac outside to scout the surrounding area.
“Victor...There’s something I want to ask of you.”
“What is it?”
“I begging you and your army to leave.”