Chapter 4

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"We are the fallen, captains and close guardians of the deceased Evil Lord Mandarin." They spoke as one and I couldn't even summon enough strength to hide my shivers as the confusion of what was happening began to turn into fear. "We have served him in his life, carried out his deeds and still are bound even after his death." Five sets of flaming eyes then glowed in the dark and I finally realized that all this they said without having their eyes open. But it felt like they were reading it, I thought. And then a horrifying thought occurred to me. Did Mandarin burn this vow into their eyelids? So that they may never forget even if they tried to?

D'nimo could read my mind and probably felt all the strong emotions I was experiencing but he didn't falter as they continued as one. "The bonds of servitude still exist, successor of the Evil Lord, but that doesn't mean anything without a single grain of loyalty. We know you seek to bring him back. But we can't let that happen. We won't have him back. This is our only warning. Turn away from this path that will only bring sorrow. Or your world would end up torn apart."

Won't have him back? Only warning? Only bring sorrow? Torn apart? I wondered. What are they talking about? Before I could ask anything though, the four strangers closed their eyes and stepped back into the shadows. Even as I stared where they stepped back into the shadows, a feeling told me that they were gone. D'nimo and I were the only two left.  "Ahem." I turned away from where I had been stared to the remaining uninvited guest. "I can read that you have questions. Care to express them?" D'nimo said. It was a strangely guarded tone that made me feel like he was only preparing me for something really unpleasant.

"You already read my mind so you know what I want to know. But you still want to make me say them out loud. Why? There's no such thing as a privacy of thoughts when it comes to you. So, if you know what I want to ask, why don't you answer them all?" I remark and he doesn't move. I wait for a beat, and then another, but he doesn't respond. He just stays still. The silence is broken only when I am just about to call him out on it.

"These queries you ask Elisan," he begins in an evened-out voice, like he was considering his response during the silence,  "aren't meant to be answered by me. What I can tell, I will, but there are far too many things that you remain ignorant of the kingdom of Damian. And it is not my place to educate the king of its kingdom, especially not when I am still bound to the recently deceased. They are for you to discover."

With barely a pause, he continues. "You ask what the warning meant. What it meant by the phrase 'torn apart'? Look at the kingdom, or even the capital if you really are plagued by the lack of foresight, and really see what it is out there. There are people living out there who have lost everything. Their rules, their bonds, their fear… it all gave them uniformity and a purpose. It made the society, even if a terrible one, work and survive. But what did you do? You chased away the fear and broke their bonds. But in doing so, you also took away their pattern. The entire society structure has collapsed Elisan and the five of you have done nothing to replace it. Right now, this collapse is buried under the relief of the end of Mandarin's reign but it won't remain hidden for long. Already people feel lost and without a purpose, wondering how they will survive and feed their families." He paused long enough to exhale a long breath and then continued. "What did you do Elisan after taking the throne for yourself? You restored the palace and broke all the oppressive rules. But that's what anyone would do. What have you done that makes you worthy of the throne? How have you proved your worthiness for the throne?"

This time, the pause is longer and it takes me a few moments to realize he's waiting for an answer. "Nothing. I have done nothing." And just like that, the pieces fit in their places to form the large picture I hadn't been able to see yet. "This is what you meant, didn't you? Mandarin broke the people by suppressing them. I will break them by taking away the meaning to their existences. And when it is all over, I will be just as bad as him, if not worse." The dread that filled me as the scenes of riot-filled streets of the kingdom raged through my mind almost made me sick. D'nimo was right. I had to take control of this place. But how could I do this when I also had to begin the quest of reviving Mandarin?

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