Chapter 106: The First Step of a Journey

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The first step of a journey is the hardest. Every step closer to the destination becomes easier, the wind becomes gentler, and the night and day become sweeter.

-The Necromancer's Notes, Proverbs, no. 11562


Seven Years Ago


Dai Lan threw a punch at his son. 

This time, he wasn't holding back. He didn't want to hurt his son, but he had to know. He needed to know how strong his son was, how capable he was to defend himself. He was venturing out into the world, and Dai Lan needed to know that his son would be able to survive. 

His son ducked the punch. It was harder to do, now that he was taller than Dai Lan, but he managed it. A kick that should have hit his head was blocked as Laidu shoved it out of the way. Dai Lan caught a kick in his arms. His plan was to twist it and throw his son off balance. However, it had a bit more... kick than Dai Lan was expecting. 

He ducked a wild swing from his son, and for a moment, that stunned Dai Lan. He was able to duck that blow because his son was taller than him, much taller. He was stronger too, though Dai Lan didn't know if he wasn't stronger because of the dragon flesh or stronger because of countless hours training. 

The frightening thing was... Laidu was beating him. Dai Lan was outmatched by his own son. He threw another punch, and instead of blocking, his son grabbed Dai Lan's arm and twisted. 

A stab of pain coursed up his arm, and Dai Lan grunted. "Sorry Dad," Laidu said, backing away. 

"No, I'm fine, I'm fine," Dai Lan assured him. "You're stronger, though. Faster. Just means you need to be a bit more careful." 

Laidu nodded."I will keep that in mind." 

"Unless you get attacked. In that case, don't bother. I don't care if you break his arm or anything. Just make sure you live." 

"I plan on living, yes," Laidu said. He may have been stronger, but even now, his chest was heaving with the strain of their sparring match. 

"Why?" Dai Lan asked. He sat down onto a cluster of rocks.

"Why do I plan on living?" Laidu asked. "What kind of question is that?" Dai Lan wiped his face with the corner of his robe. His son didn't sweat, mostly because he didn't have skin. Dai Lan had skin, and the effort he had just put in to trying to beat his son left him soaked in sweat. 

"Not that. Why do you want to leave?" Dai Lan asked. 

Laidu was silent for a while. "If you're worried that it was something you and Mom did,  it's not that. Don't worry about that." 

Dai Lan hadn't been worrying about that; however, Janyin had been fretting. No matter how many times Dai Lan tried to reassure her, she had been obsessed over it, over feeling like she had somehow failed her son. Well, now he could put her worries to rest. "Why, then?" 

"You know how Po and I used to go down and talk to the sailors and merchants down in the town?" Laidu asked. "I mean, how we still do that?" 

"Unfortunately," Dai Lan said. Most of the younger generation liked to sneak away into the towns below, and Dai Lan couldn't blame them. It could get boring up atop the mountain, and the port town, with trading ships full of exotic goods, was especially alluring. However, most of the visitors returned to the compound atop the mountain with a few new words that most parents wouldn't want their children hearing. The phrase 'swearing like a sailor' wasn't made up for no reason.

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