Regulus: Afterword

Regulus was a short story series that I wrote mostly because I was facing a very strained moment in my personal life with my family. A lot of the concept and aesthetic I was going for was actually inspired by the indie horror game, “Dreaming Mary”.

When it came to the main concept of the story, I knew that I wanted it to take place in a secluded, Switzerland-inspired land, so that’s where I drew a lot of the influences for the landscape and setting. For the characters, I had already decided that the main character was going to be a young man who lived a sheltered life and did not know the difference between love and abuse. For the men in the family, I wanted there to be a theme of strong, lion-inspired names, hence why I opted for Leon for the father and Lionel for our main character. For the girls in the family, I went with Abertha for the mother, mostly because Abertha means to sacrifice in Welsh, and Lacey, which generally holds the meaning of being powerful, intelligent, and wonderful, which the sister who bears that name in the story is depicted as.

Lionel was going to be on a small adventure throughout the large property he lived on, trying to uncover these clues that Lacey so thoughtfully scattered throughout the mansion. That much, I knew was going to be the driving force of the story, was to find out what happened to her. I meant originally for the story to have a much more open ending, with there being no direct implications on whether or not Lacey lives or not, but I wound up writing in the mentioning that she survives, just to give the ending a less morbid note, and to leave the potential for a continuation (granted, I’m probably not going to write one, because I’m happy ending the story where it is right now).

Anywhoo, I hope you enjoyed reading Regulus, because it was a fun story to write and it was a radical departure from some of the much longer stories that I have been writing. Thank you for reading it and I hope you look forward to more stories in the near future!

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Regulus: Chapter 5

It was quiet. Not a single sound or light, with the sole exception being the small cracks of it slithering out from around the door. “Alright, here goes.” He sighed to himself, walking into the abyss. As he went further away from the light, he found his vision adjusting to the darkness, and he was able to make out the area he was in. It was a cavernous hallway, the ceiling and walls were occasionally embedded with pieces of uncut alexandrite. As he continued to wander into the darkness, he finally found a part of the hallway that was lined with several urns. Placing it down, the boy began to make his way back to the door. Only to find out, after the trek back, that the door had been locked. Banging on it, he was hoping his father would let him out. But he never did. It felt like ages of knocking the door, begging for it to be opened, but no response. Resigning to his fate, Lionel decided to go back to where the urns were. There was more past that area. If he was here, he might as well go as deep as he can inside of these catacombs. He normally was not allowed down here, so it was a rare opportunity to explore a new part of the estate. Wandering deeper and deeper into the the unknown, he readjusted his eyes to the darkness, allowing himself to better witness the depths of the basement. There was luckily just one linear path. And all he had to do was keeping delving deeper along it. He had no idea what was awaiting him on the other side. However, it would be better than the beatings and abuse that awaited him should he return to the house. At this point, it was all beginning to make sense to him, Lacey’s warnings. Anything would be better than living in these conditions. Even death, as his mother showed him.

Speak of the devil. There was a skeleton, sprawled on the floor before him. Somebody had actually died in these mines. At first, it was terrifying, but then Lionel remembered that he had just cremated his mother’s corpse and had to act as though nothing was wrong just a day ago. Or was it weeks ago? He had no concept of time in the darkness. He did not even remember how long he had been wandering in the catacombs for. However, he noticed something in the skeleton’s hand. It was a paper airplane. “No. This can’t be her.” He shuddered, pulling the airplane out of the corpse’s hand. It was hard to read, due to the cavern being only barely illuminated from the glow of the gemstones, but the boy could still make out what was written on that sheet of paper. “Lionel, in the darkest of places may just be your last hope. You might think that hope is lost, but you need to keep wandering on. They tried to lock me here, but they did not realize that they just set me free. I am free now. Free from this prison and free from them. Join me, Lionel. I will be waiting for you on the other side. Be brave, my little brother. -Lacey”. Taken aback, the boy tried his best to fight back the tears. That skeleton, it really must be her. She must have died here, locked up from their parents. But then he remembered what was written on that note. He could not stop here. He had to keep moving on. If he stayed here, his father would eventually find him and punish him in another twisted way. Either that or continue to leave him here to rot and die. Either way, he was not ready to succumb to such a fate. He needed to keep moving deeper into the darkness, and towards whatever hopes he still had for his freedom. If he gave up now, then he would have nothing left to live for. He had to keep living, for Lacey, and for his own freedom.

Wandering deeper into the depths of the catacombs, Lionel finally came to a dead end. It appeared to be a cave-in. Stones upon stones smothered any sight of the other side. “Oh no….” He sighed, leaning in to better inspect the rocks. He had not lost hope just yet. Even if he had to dig his way out, he would do it. Noticing that a roughly potato-sized rock, towards the top of the pile, was shifting to his touch, Lionel pulled it away, and darted back in caution. No avalanche. Much to his relief and slight disappointment. He was hoping that the rocks would give way to the exit. However, what come out of that hole was something else that he had sought after. Light. Not the glow of alexandrite. Natural sunlight. “Yes!” He gasped in relief, as the boy continued rummaging around for another loose rock to pull. He found it. Yanking another, then another, then another, Lionel smiled as more sunlight poured through as the hole grew larger. Wherever this cavern led to, he was determined to get away from Fangnis. “Finally!” He beamed. The hole was large enough for him to crawl through. Pulling himself out, he sighed in relief. It was a grassy green hill, much like the backyard of their estate. However, unlike his favorite viewpoint, this one was connected to a long slope of grass, leading downwards to a lot of smaller buildings. Buildings…. the town. He slowly realized, smiling. Lacey! She might have escaped after all. The boy realized. Turning around, he shuddered as he was faced with that cavernous mouth of darkness, tinged with a faint glow of alexandrite. Grabbing some rocks and dirt nearby, Lionel started to stuff that hole, trying his best to bury the darkness, the pain, the trauma behind him. He could not let him father believe for even a second that he escaped.

Satisfied with his handiwork, Lionel got up, and brushed the dirt off his hands. He managed to cover the entire hole with a combination of mud, rock, and sticks. There was no way that any light could slip through those cracks. Turning back around, he took a deep breath. This lifestyle that he was about to embark on, he had no idea what to expect. How long would his freedom and happiness last?  Shaking off all of his doubts, he started running down the hill. The village was drawing nearer. He could feel his heart beating out of his chest with anticipation. The hill, with Fangnis sitting on top of it, was vanishing into the distance. Putting a stop to his sprint, the boy finally made it to the base of the hill. “Oh, it’s rare that we have visitors to the village.” An elderly farmer looked at the panting boy. “What is your name, young man?” Pausing, Lionel took a second to catch his breath. “My name?” He didn’t want to state the name he was given. In the event his father ever catch wind of him being alive, he needed to be ready for that. He had to erase any trace of his old life. “Regulus.” He lied through his teeth. “I am a young traveler from a neighboring country in Regensberg, just passing by.” “Well, welcome to our fair village, young man. If you need a place to stay for the night, my wife and her sister own a hostel.” He offered. “Thank you, sir.” He smiled. “It’s not very often we get visitors. I think that the last time was years ago. A young lady, around the same age as you.” He noted, much to Regulus’s shock. “Do you remember what happened to her?” The boy asked, trying to mask his excitement. “She settled in the village for a few years, but left maybe a month of two ago. She said she wanted to explore the world.” He explained. This was Regulus’s only chance to reunite with Lacey. She was still alive. He had just overcome one of the hardest journeys of his life, escaping that hell, but another adventure was about to begin. He was going to reunite with his sister.

Regulus: Chapter 4

Walking into the foyer, Lionel gasped at the sight before him. Written in large, blood-red letters was the word “Ingrates”, across the balcony. And tied from the chandelier was a rope. But that was not was the boy was transfixed on. It was what was attached to it. His mother was dangling from the lamp, the rope tightly holding her by her neck. Visibly, there were several bruises that were blackening under her already purple skin. “Brat, you let dinner get cold.” His father approached him, slapping him in the face, knocking him off his feet. “I ate everything. Clean up this mess and go back to your room.” He grunted, storming back to the entrance of the house. Sighing to himself, Lionel went to grab a ladder. He needed to untie the rope from the chandelier, and also scrub the wall clean. Unsure of how to dispose of his mother’s body, Lionel decided that cremation would be the fastest way. Dragging the corpse to the fireplace, he carefully lifted it into the flames. “Goodnight, mom.” He whispered, walking away from her, one last time. As he continued to wipe the blood from the walls and floor, Lionel could not stop thinking about reading that note. However, he was still digesting the events of what was happening. His mother just killed herself, because she felt neglected by him. But was that really his fault? Shaking off any thoughts, he continued to mindlessly clean off any trace of what happened just now. After this, Lionel was going to read that note. He knew that if he did not prioritize what his father said, he would be in huge trouble. He did not want to even begin to know what terrors would await him should he defy his father.

Passing out on his bed, Lionel tried his best to drift off to sleep. “Sweetie, be sure to eat your vegetables.” He was sitting in the dining room, his mother standing before him, insisting that he finish the food she prepared for him. Looking around the dining room table, he noticed that there were settings for not just the three of them. There was a fourth set of silverware and food. “Mom, who is the extra plate for?” He questioned, knowing full well that this was not real. His mother was dead. He did not care, however. An answer from even a phantom from his dreams would be appreciated at this point. “That’s for Lacey, sweetie. You should call her down.” She suggested. “Lacey?!”He called, uncertain of what to expect. “I’m coming down right now!” A voice called back to them, as footsteps could be heard. “Sweetheart, your dinner is getting cold! Your brother has been waiting for quite a while now! He’s almost done!” Their mother chanted. “Okay, okay, I get it! I’m busy!” She shouted back. “Somebody has to clean up the house, right? I’m in the middle of sweeping up the hallway.” She was in charge of cleaning? The boy had assumed that it was always his mother who did that. “Mom, who does the chores in the house?” His mother gave him a puzzled look, but still gave him an explanation. “Sweetie, I do the cooking, and your sister handles cleaning the house. Your father and I take turns teaching you guys. I handle the geology and history of Regensberg, and he teaches you guys economics, mathematics, and literature.” She started. “You’re still too young, sweetie. I know you want to help Lacey with shores, but maybe when you’re older.” She smiled softly at him, before slowly fading away. “Mom, I’m here!” Turning around, Lionel frowned as he was met with an empty room. He never got to confirm what his sister looked like. Was this a dream, or was it a memory?

Sadly, Lionel’s vision did not last long. “Get up, you ungrateful brat. Now that that bitch Abertha is dead, you’re in charge of cooking me my meals and cleaning the house.” His father glared at him. The boy groggily got up, only for his father to grab him by the arm and forcibly drag him down to the kitchen. Throwing the boy into the room, he slammed the door and stormed off. Getting up, and massaging his pulled arm, Lionel decided to read the note first, before he forgot. “While the mansion may seem like the perfect home, there are many faults and secrets. He does not like how I have been rebelling. I think he wants to keep me silent. I might not be able to see your smile, and hear your laughter for much longer, Lionel. Our family harbors many dark secrets. But I found a way out. Hopefully, you will too. -Lacey”. A way out? Dark secrets? He could not even begin to think about what else his family was keeping from him, or where he could possibly run away to. Lacey escaped. But there was no way. Not with their father guarding the only exit to the building. Unless she escaped the same way their mother did. Shuddering to himself, he put away the note. The last thing he wanted for his father to find it. But at the same time, he could not bring himself to discard or dispose of them just yet. These were the only remnants he still had of his sister. He had to hold onto them, in honor of her memory and her clues to his escape. “Is breakfast ready yet?” His father burped. “Uh, I’m getting it started!” Lionel called back, frantically. “Hurry up! Your mother would have had it ready before I was even awake!” He growled. The boy began to frantically put anything together with the limited cooking experience he had; he could only make toast and milk. He knew that he was going to get beat for this. This was going to be the beginning of his new hell.

Staggering back to his bedroom, trying to ignore the stinging pain from the bruises and cuts that covered his entire body, Lionel had just one goal: safely hiding those notes. He did not think about how his father had just slapped, punched, kicked, and hit him throughout the day, and forced him to clean the house, prepare his meals, and handle all of the chores that his mother used to do. He was forced to shoulder this burden, because she was no longer there to do so. He expected this to happen. Lionel had known since a young age that should his mother pass away, he would be the one who had to take over her duties. Hell, or Fangnis, would have frozen over before his father even volunteered a second of his time to doing a single chore in this house. Hiding the papers inside of the floorboards, the boy quickly placed the board back over the hole as he heard a booming sound echoing in the hallway. His father was coming back up. “Brat, where did you hide your mother’s body?” He glared at him. “I cremated her in the fireplace.” The boy confessed. “Put out that fire. And put the ashes in this.” He threw a large metal urn at Lionel, who caught it before it hit him squarely in the chest. “Once you get the ashes into this, call for me. I’ll tell you where to put it.” He snorted, walking off. “And you better do it within the hour. Or else.” He stared at the boy angrily. “I don’t like having my time wasted. I have crystals to sell.” After putting out the fire, Lionel sighed to himself as he got ready to be blackened by the soot. Collecting freshly extinguished ashes was no easy task, but Lionel had only an hour to collect up all of the contents of the fireplace, whether or not they were once his mother, and put them into the urn. Trying to use the lid to scoop up the charcoal and not burn himself was a smart idea on paper, except that the metal would still get hot from the heat and create first degree burns and blisters on the boy’s hands. It was inevitable that he was going to continue bearing scars and wounds from this experience. He just had to bear with it.

“Alright. Don’t fall, brat.” Going through a door and down a flight of dimly lit wooden stairs later, Lionel and his father finally arrived in the basement of the manor. The walk was unnerving. Lionel was careful not to spill the ashes or drop the urn, especially knowing that if he made another mess, that would be another excuse for his father to beat him. The boy was also unfamiliar with their basement. This was where they mined their alexandrite. However, the only people allowed down here were his parents. “These are the catacombs.” He was referring to a dusty wooden door, bound with a large iron padlock.“You’re going to go inside, and place the urn inside of here. If you try to steal any of the alexandrite in here, I will make sure that you join your mother, you little ingrate.” He growled, undoing the lock and opening the door. “Go inside, brat.” Almost immediately after pushing the boy inside, Leon slammed the door shut and clicked the lock. “I’ll let you out once you put the urn away.” He fibbed, walking back upstairs. He could stand to leave the boy down there. Until he was hungry again, that is. In the mean time, the twerp could just wait in there. He hated that the brat had the same look that she had. He did not need to be reminded of her. She was going to be a distant memory, and hopefully, he would be too soon enough. All of these thieves, benefiting from his fortune. The alexandrite was the only thing he needed. Nothing else mattered. He was not going to have anyone else betray him. If you think that stealing the alexandrite was a smart idea, then you belonged with it. His daughter, his first wife, his second wife, and now his son, they could all rot down there together. They were not worthy of living under his roof anymore.

Regulus: Chapter 3

“Good morning, sweetie.” His mom smiled kindly at him as she placed his breakfast down on the table. “I hope you had a wonderful sleep.” She turned around, pouring a glass of milk for the boy. “Since you woke up late, you won’t be able to have your hour of play time. Only just twenty minutes. After that, you will need to come to the library for your usual schooling. Is that understood?” She stated in a stern tone. The boy sheepishly nodded, not knowing what else to say. He did not want to further upset her, given how she was acting the day before. “Perfect.” She smiled as she walked off to clean the house. “Please wash your dishes before you come to the library. I will be waiting.” Her footsteps echoed through the room as she drifted further and further down the grand hall, making her way to the library. Quietly eating his breakfast, the boy shuddered at the thought of his father coming in. He was probably at his usual post, watching the bridge, since it was already later in the morning than usual. The boy was just relieved to be let back into the house, where he had warmth and shelter. Looking at the note again, he decided it would be best to hide it in his room. Fortunately, there were a couple loose floorboards where he would normally hide snacks, but he could stash the note away in there for safe keeping. Rinsing off and setting his dishes onto the drying rack, he quickly darted off to his room to do just that. There was no way that he would allow his parents to find these notes. Wherever Lacey currently is, she was safer there than here. It would be for the best that any details on her whereabouts stay hidden. At least until they could finally meet. Or reunite? He still doubted whether or not he had actually met this girl. He could not even recall what her face looked like, or what her voice sounded like.

Pressing his foot against the end of the wooden floorboard, Lionel managed to pry open a small gap. Quickly putting the letter away inside of the gap, he quietly closed the boards, trying not to draw any attention or noise to his actions, before running back down to the library from his bedroom. He needed to act like nothing was out of the ordinary, or else his parents might suspect something. Knowing his parents, if he were to let them on to believe that he knew something he was not supposed to, it would mean the fountains and the backyard, again. Walking into the library, he saw his mother, waiting to teach him the lessons for the day. “Sweetie, grab a chair. We’ll begin our history lessons shortly.” She nodded, gesturing the the table she was sitting at. “Okay, mom.” The boy nodded, still thinking about the contents of the note. There was definitely another note hidden somewhere in this library. After they finished another day’s worth of studies, Lionel continued to think about where the note could have been hidden. As his mother got up to leave, he decided to take a chance. “Mom, I was wondering if I could learn more about the history of Fangnis?” “Oh, of course, sweetie. All of those books are in the second floor of the library.” She pointed out. “Anything about Fangnis and how we took over the land, it would be up there. Happy studies, sweetie!” She smiled, walking out of the library. Little did she realize, Lionel’s mother had just given him the necessary hint to finding another note. Rummaging through the books in the second floor history section, he finally found something. A family photo album. Inside, towards the back, there were multiple pictures of a young girl, whose face was burnt off with cigarette ash. As Lionel began to close the book, another piece of folded paper slid out from inside of the cover, landing on the floor. It was a paper airplane.

“Pages and pages turn, and hopefully you are starting to see what monsters they really are. There is no love in this house. Dad was born into wealth. He keeps heaps of alexandrite in his bedroom. It was how he was able to buy this prison, far, far away from everyone else. He keeps us locked up here so that he can have his way with us. Only greed. You’ll need to learn to wipe the tears away. -Lacey”. Rereading the note, the boy was feeling confounded yet again. The last note, the hint was a bit more obvious. Pages, as in books. Here, she mentioned something about wiping away tears. Walking back to his room, paper in his pockets, Lionel continued to think about what the notes have said thus far. His whole life has been a lie. A facade. But he apparently did not know any better. His parents, they were allegedly monsters. It just dawned on the boy that perhaps the way they have been treating him, it was not normal after all. But how would he know? This was the only form of love he was ever exposed to. Slipping the note into his floor, the boy continued to think about where the next note could be. He was hoping to find Lacey soon. He wanted to meet her. His long lost older sister. He wanted to know who she was and where she had been this entire time. Drifting to sleep on his bed, the boy allowed the afternoon to slip into dusk, as he continued to think through where the next note could have been hidden. Tears. Maybe the garden? He had fallen and tripped a lot in there, so he would naturally cry as a child. Or perhaps the fountains? The water streaming from them, it resembled tears. Or maybe it would be his father’s bedroom? Since that was mentioned in the note already. She might have hidden the note in his alexandrite stash. Shaking his head, he would not know for certain, unless he tried each and every place. But he would never dare go into his father’s bedroom. Even his mother is prohibited from entering.

A couple days had passed, but Lionel had been too preoccupied with his studies to think about where the note was. After another day of lessons, he decided to take a risk. “Mom, was I the only child you have ever had?” He looked at her, feigning innocence. “What do you mean, sweetie? Of course. You’re my one and only precious baby.” She smiled. “Are you sure? I feel like I have been having these dreams lately. I am recalling having an older sister.” He continued pressing, knowing that if she were to suspect that him knowing was because of anything beyond a dream, he would be in trouble. He was desperate to take that risk, if it meant getting more answers. “Oh, dear. You’re silly.” She started to sweat a little as her demeanor grew more frantic and erratic. “I have to go clean the house now. But please, you never bring up having a sister again. You do not have a sister. You do not have a brother. You are an only child.” She insisted, getting up and leaving in a hurry. Frowning to himself, Lionel sighed in disappointment. Doing that did not solve anything. If anything, the moment his mother tells his father about their exchange, he could probably expect to face another punishment. And most likely, it would be being held under the fountains again. The fountains. Thinking more about them, it would make sense that the note would be stashed there. He would often spend almost a fifth of his childhood being held under that water, sobbing as the numbing sensation took over. He had to wipe away his tears quite often in that area, which is why he tends to avoid playing there. It brought up bad memories that he tries very much so to blot out. It was a very strange way of coming to this conclusion, but Lionel smiled to himself. He was able to make some sense about where he needed to look next.

“Sweetie, dinner will be ready in 15 minutes!” Lionel’s mother chanted before withdrawing to the house. The boy was in the fountain area, trying to figure out where the note could have been hidden. Looking at the different fountains, and shuddering at the traumatic childhood events he was involved in with each of them, Lionel finally came across a statue of a mermaid with tears streaming from face, through her cupped fingers. He distinctly remembered the time he broke an alexandrite vase, and his dad forced him to undress and stand underneath this particular fountain for four hours in the dark. That sort of numbness enrobing his body as he heaved cold water, it was hard to forget about, no matter how much Lionel tried to erase that memory. He could never quite feel with his right pinkie again after that incident. But the thing about this particular fountain that did stand out was the fact that she had tears. The last airplane mentioned something about wiping away tears, and this matched that description. It was a convoluted method of deduction, but the boy had no other ideas on where else he could look at this time. Prying around the marble surface, he was trying to figure out where one would hide a paper note in a fountain without getting it wet. Towards the nape of the mermaid’s neck, he noticed something: a small compartment, where the switches to the valves were. Opening the door, he found what he was seeking: another paper airplane.

“Mom only married him for the money. She tried to love us, but she never even knew how to love herself or anybody else. She might seem like a selfless person, but she is a rose. Delicate at first, but full of thorns. She will do whatever she can to have the last laugh, as you will one day learn. I hope these letters continue to grow your curiosity, my dear brother. I intend to continue planting these seeds towards freedom with each and every letter. -Lacey”. Neatly folding up the letter, Lionel tucked the paper into his pockets. Thorns. He thought to himself. It seemed like a really obvious hint, compared to the previous one. Closing up the compartment door, and trying his best to cover all of his tracks, he quickly made his way to the rose garden. Walking around, peering through the shrubs, trying to avoid poking himself with the thorns, the boy was desperately looking for the letter. He felt like they were getting easier to find. With each one, he was getting closer to Lacey. “Lionel, dinner!” He could hear his mother call from the distance. “Lionel? Sweetie? Dinner!” She continued to shout, while the boy was too transfixed on finding the airplane. He chose to ignore her pleas. Finding the letter was his priority. He finally came to the clearing in the garden, where a wrought-iron gazebo, covered in roses stood. In the very center was a small marble bench. It had to be there. This is where the vast majority of the roses were. And to his relief, there it was, beneath the bench. An airplane, taped to the underside. Peeling the airplane out from beneath the white surface, he quickly unfolded the paper. But he could not read it right away. “I AM DONE WITH THIS! GOODBYE, LEON!” Hearing a bloodcurdling scream, he flinched. That was his mother’s voice. Stuffing the note into his pocket, Lionel quickly darted back to his house.

Regulus: Chapter 2

“Sweetie, don’t forget that you have to come back after an hour, okay?” Lionel’s mother warned him as the boy took off into the backyard once again. “I promise, mom!” He chirped, running through the fields excitedly. He loved spending time in the open, just enjoying the fresh air, and being away from responsibility. At the same time, he knew he had one major responsibility at this moment: coming back to the library within an hour. He recalled the last time he was late: Lionel had tripped while playing in the garden and twisted his ankle. That was still not a good enough reason to be late. His father was not pleased. That feeling of a cold stream of dirtied fountain water continuously pouring into his face, flooding his nostrils, drowning his eyes, as he could taste the flecks of metallic rust that lingered in the light-green liquid as it pushed through his lips. All senses of feeling went out the window as the water was numbing his entire body. He could not move either. His father’s hand made sure that he stayed directly in front of the spout, directly in front of the full force of the stream. Shuddering at that memory, and trying his best to forget about the incident, Lionel continued to play in garden, being careful not to trip over a hedge this time. He stared at the roses, and admired the delicate pink shade that tinged their petals. It was hard to believe that these were alive and breathing, just like him. They almost looked like jewels that sprouted up from the soil. The gradients of the roses, from white in the center, to pink in the edges, and the dark brown flecks, it reminded his of a rose quartz. In fact, that was why he thought roses were rocks to begin with. If rocks came from the ground, then wouldn’t all of these plants be rocks too? He wondered to himself, blissfully unaware of the world around him. Getting up, he decided it was time to head to the library. An hour of freedom does go by quickly, or at least it does in Fangnis.

It was later that day, and Lionel was subjected to another lunch of smoked trout. “Why aren’t you eating, brat?” His father snorted, chewing his meal loudly. “I can’t eat…” “Go on, sweetie. Eat up. You love your mother, don’t you?” His mom ushered, trying to avoid another argument. “Mom, I can’t eat crab. I’ll break out in hives.” The boy tried to start. “You ungrateful little brat! How dare you! I worked very hard to put food on your plate, and all you care about is yourself! You’re a selfish little brat!” She shrieked. “Now you’ve upset your mother, brat!” His father got up, almost pushing the entire table forward. In a quick motion, he grabbed his son’s arm and dragged him through the hallway and down another staircase into the basement. They reached a door, before his father paused for a moment. “No. Not today.” He stopped and turned around, pulling Lionel with him. Pushing open the door to the back of the house, his father threw the boy outside. “Augh!” He grunted, landing on his arms. “You’ll stay out here tonight. Don’t bother coming back in. You’re not going to get any more food for the rest of the day.” His father cackled, slamming the door shut. And with a preceding click, the door was shut. Locked tight. All of the windows began to close too. He was making sure that there was absolutely no way back inside of the house. Resigning to the fact that he could not get back in, Lionel decided it was better to just make the most of his time outside. He knew that he could take residence in the library when night fell, so he could use the daylight while it was still there to just enjoy the peace and solitude. Wandering over to the tree on the hill, he decided where he would spend his time.

Night was beginning to creep upon the horizon, and it was getting time for Lionel to walk into the library. He was really intrigued to see the every day lives of these villagers. People wandering around with these large, moving things with four legs, and carts filled with a variety of items. He still wondered what it would be like to be one of them. He asked his mother one time what a villager’s life was like, but she just told him that he needed to be grateful for what he had and that trying to swap lives is something a self-centered, unappreciative brat would do. He did not understand his mother’s idea of love. His father, Lionel already knew that the man despised him, for whatever reason. His mother, so long as he did what she said, she would be kind. But whenever he disagreed, she would become a shrieking monstrosity, spewing the most hurtful things a person could say to a heavily sheltered twelve year old boy. He expected that, however. The beatings, the lectures, the threats, they were normal. He knew that to appease their anger, he had to shed tears and act like he was hurt, whether he was or not, an entirely different story. Climbing along the tree, the young boy noticed something towards the base of the topmost branches: a small hollow. Was there always a hole in the tree? He never recalled noticing it in the daytime. Peering into the crack, he could see a faint, white object. It was a paper airplane. A little stained from the dirt and soil embedded in the bark, but still recognizable as a piece of neatly folded paper. “Huh. Who made this?” He wondered aloud, examining the toy. Unfolding the paper, Lionel noticed something scribbled inside of it.

“My dear brother, Lionel. You have not yet realized what a horrible world you have been born into. You may not realize it yet, but you are living a lie. You need to be brave and act like nothing is wrong, but deep down, realize the truth for yourself. Those people called your mother and father, they do not love you. Fangnis is a prison, and I will help you, one page at a time.

-Always here for you, Lacey”. Putting the paper down, he was shaking. There was a lot of questions he had. He knew his father did not love him, that was a given. But his mother always spewed entire rants of being a loving, caring person. Perhaps love was not defined the same for them as it was with Lacey. Lacey. The name did sound vaguely familiar. He was her dear brother? So that made him her sister? He had a sister. There was another person in his family, who he was unaware of. Lacey. He thought to himself as he crawled down the tree carefully. Making his way to the library for the night, Lionel wondered exactly what she meant. Realize the truth? What truth? And how exactly was she planning to help him, when they have never met before? Questions continued to run through his head as he opened the dusty door, made his way inside, and crawled underneath a desk. He was going to sleep there, against the faded wool carpet, using the table to shade him from when the blinding sunlight will inevitably flood the room. Tomorrow was just another new day. He felt like he could not waste any time thinking about a weird note from a fictional person. What use was there, pondering over who this Lacey person even was? She claimed to be his sister, but if she really did love him, wouldn’t she have found a way to contact him directly? There was no way that she was telling the truth. The more he tried to think about other topics, the more transfixed he was about learning more of who Lacey was. What kind of person was she? Did she look like him? Why was she not in Fangnis? Did she leave? And how did she manage to get that note inside of the property? When did she write the note? How long was it waiting for him to discover it?

“You’re safe now.” The voice of a young woman reassured him. Lionel looked around. He was on a grassy hill, looking down at a bunch of small huts. A female teen, maybe around the age of 16, was holding his hand, trembling. She was definitely nervous. “We just have to go down this hill, and then we’ll be free.” She smiled at the boy. Her features were soft and gentle. Her eyes were round and green, like the grass they were standing on. Her hair was a sandy blonde, which contrasted to his paler hair. “Look up there. That’s where we came from.” She pointed towards the sky. There was a tall mountain that split through the clouds, just right behind them. “We came all this way. But we can’t be free. It’s not that easy.” She sighed to herself, as she looked at the dark hole behind them. The pit was surrounded by jet black rocks of varying sizes, some were boulders, others were mere pebbles. It had a very ominous feeling to it. “Come on, Lionel. We have to go home. Before they realize that we’ve been missing for this long.” She sighed, as she started to climb back inside. Hesitant to join her, the young boy finally resigned to his fate, and made one step forward. Before he could even place his right foot on the grass again, a large hand with sausage-like fingers shot up from the darkness, and grabbed the girl, covering her mouth. The stout arm attached to it was coiled around her neck, like a noose. Her screams completely muffled, she started to fight against the grip around her head as her hands were pinned together by another fat hand. She was quickly dragged into the darkness, as her covered shrieks and pleas were slowly silenced. Startled and horrified, Lionel fell backwards, and started tumbling down the hill. The entire world around him was spinning in one chaotic twister, as he felt himself come to a sudden stop.

“Ugh.” Lionel stirred as he sat up. His right shoulder felt a little numb, since he was sleeping on it against the worn out carpet. Rubbing the dust away from his teary eyes, the boy got on his feet, stretching out his limbs. He was still in the library, after being forced to take refuge there from yesterday. His stomach was grumbling. He had not eaten anything since a day ago. But he was used to it. Typically, breakfast would be the only meal that Lionel could enjoy in full. Before he could think about getting any food, the boy pulled out the folded up piece of paper from yesterday again. “One page at a time?” He read to himself aloud. Thinking about that ending line, he started to think about what might have pages. Books. He was in the library. But there were a ton of books. There was no way that he could go through each and every single one, just to see if there was another clue or note like this one. Walking along the shelves, he started to notice the different subjects each book had. While there were dustier books that entailed something called “Mathematics,” and another labeled “Literature”, he came across the history section, which he was somewhat familiar with. History. He thought to himself, recalling the contents of that note again. Come to think of it, he had learned a lot about Regenstuhl’s history, but that much about his own family’s. He never knew how his parents met, or how they came upon their wealth. Looking around, the boy was trying to find anything that hinted to their family. But he could not, to any avail. Deciding to retire back to the manor, as his punishment was finally over, he was hoping that he could perhaps get a clue or possibly even an answer from his mother. Keeping the note in his pocket, Lionel opened the door and walked back into the main structure that comprised Fangnis.

Warrior Chef 5: Preliminary 2

Seniors:
Colt Horton: Tall red-head from Topeka, Kansas. A former quarterback turned aspiring model and pastry chef, he wants to win the title to increase his exposure and chances at following either of his dreams.

Juniors:
Kaitlin “Kaity” Belenger: Slim brunette with freckles from New York, New York. Is a very competitive rugby player who is currently captain of the varsity team at her high school. Learned to cook from her Italian-American mother.

Sophomores:
Patrick “Pat” Munson: Bulky blonde swimmer from Wilmington, Ohio. Loves to cook with his younger sister and brother, who both have dietary restrictions; his sister is gluten-intolerant, while his brother is diabetic. Wants to win for his family.

Fiona Kim-Hernandez: Half Hispanic, half Korean girl from Bear, Delaware. Is currently a dancer on her school’s Advanced Dance team and is a naturally outgoing and friendly person. Cooks Asian and Latin food. Wants to own her own restaurant group one day.


Freshmen:
Mary Ye: Slim Chinese girl, born in Hong Kong, but raised in Los Angeles, California. Loves taking Asian flavors and putting her own spin on them. Wants to win the competition to prove to her parents that she is cut out to be a chef.

Mike Kiligan: Upbeat brunette from Dallas, Texas. Loves to cook classic Southern food, but with a modern twist. Wants to win so that he can spend the money on the ranch he was raised on, and possibly convert a portion of the land into a restaurant.

Kaity: @I’m walking into the kitchen first, and I’m feeling really excited. @Being a competitive rugby player, I’m ready to throw down and let these guys know what I’m all about tonight.

Mary: @Being a freshman puts me at a significant disadvantage because everyone else here is so much older. @But I’m ready to prove to everyone why I am a better cook.

Mariko: Welcome to the second preliminary round. You have just 60 minutes in this creativity challenge to prepare your signature dish. The highest scoring dish will receive immunity, while the lowest will result in elimination. Your time starts now!

Colt: @I’m the only senior here, and I’m feeling like the pressure is on me to deliver. @I recently quit the varsity football team because I want to become either a pastry chef or a model. @For my dish, I’m going with candied bacon and ricotta fritters with brown butter apples and a caramel apple ice cream.

Kaity: @I’m preparing filet mignon with potato puree, fried-braised onions, and red wine-butter sauce. @I learned how to cook from my mother, who used to be a sous-chef for Mario Batali. @I think people will look at me and Colt as the two dumb, older jocks, but trust me, my competitiveness and knowledge of food will make me a real threat tonight.

Pat: @I’m going to prepare a roasted chicken thigh with spring pea polenta and an heirloom tomato confit. @I love my grits and I love roasted chicken, so combining the two into a new dish is going to be my edge. @I’m going to beat these guys because I know how to be innovative and not cook with gluten or sugar.

Fiona: @Being half Latina and half Korean gives me a wide array of ingredients to use. @I’m making mahi mahi tacos with a pineapple-mango slaw and chili-coconut sauce. @Being raised in Delaware is really boring. @If I get the money, I’ll use it for college, and apply for schools in New York or California. @Just get me out of here!

Mary: @I’m making glazed shrimp with congee, shiitakes, and steamed egg with soy sauce reduction. @I’m looking forward to making this dish, because it’s super classic Chinese, and I know it’ll appeal to my own personal roots.

Mike: @I’m making grilled flounder with corn succotash and a frisee-mustard slaw. @I think that the balance of flavors is going to be there for me tonight. @I know that Colt and Kaity are the upperclassmen, but that makes me want to beat them that much more. @I think the weakest link would be Pat. @He can’t really win if there’s a dessert challenge, so just pack your stuff and go already.

Mariko: Time’s up!

Kaity: @Mariko calls time, and I’m not feeling hot about the steak. @I know for a fact that I accidentally plated one of my overcooked steaks, rather than the one I had on my station. @This really stinks.

Mariko: Your judges are:

Miriam Adjanti

Chelia Van Buren

Frank Torres

Max Hudson

Vin Rugnetta

Lauren Wilson

Mariko: So let’s start with Mike’s flounder dish.

-Grilled flounder with corn succotash and frisee-mustard slaw

Max: The flounder was cooked really nicely. But the mustard was a tad harsh.

Vin: I feel like the mustard was just too strong. I’m a bit disappointed.

Mariko: Next, we have Mary’s Chinese dish!

-Glazed shrimp with congee, shiitakes, and steamed egg with soy sauce

Frank: Mary nailed her shrimp and the egg. She took risks, but it tasted good.
Lauren: I don’t think she failed per say, but the dish had a lot going on. Everything was delicious and well-executed, but too complicated.

Mariko: Fiona’s dish is up next.
-Mahi mahi tacos with pineapple-mango slaw and chili-coconut sauce

Miriam: The mahi mahi was cooked nicely and I liked her slaw. Didn’t like the almost slimy texture of the sauce, but the flavors were there.

Chelia: I think it was great that she prepared her own tortillas and the mahi mahi was excellent! But the sauce was really off for me too.

Mariko: And then we have Pat’s chicken dinner.

-Roasted chicken thigh with spring pea polenta and tomato confit

Lauren: This dish, the chicken was cooked nicely and the polenta was good. But this wasn’t something I’d remember the next day.

Vin: It was really solid in execution, but I agree with Lauren that this dish was really uninspired. I didn’t really think much of it.

Mariko: And then we have Kaity’s dish!

Miriam: Well my steak was medium, so that was a letdown. But the flavors of everything else were incredible. I really loved that sauce and the technique with the onions, braising them, then breading and frying them.

Max: I actually had a flawless steak. Her dish just blew me away. I’m really happy with what I received.
Mariko: And finally Colt’s dessert.

-Candied bacon and ricotta fritters, brown butter apples, caramel apple ice cream

Chelia: The fritters were cooked nicely and I loved the candied bacon on top. He rounded out the flavors nicely.

Frank: The bacon and caramel and apples and cheese, brilliant. I’m impressed by what he came up with. This was excellent cooking.

Mariko: So have we finalized our scores?

Chelia: We have.

In walks the six contestants.

Mariko: So one of you has just received immunity going into the main competition. And one of you is going home. Let’s start with Fiona’s score!

Miriam: I liked your tacos overall, but the sauce was a bit slimy. 8 stars.

Chelia: 8 stars.

Frank: 8 stars.

Max: I’ll give you a star more. 9 stars. You cooked that mahi really well.

Vin: 9 stars.

Lauren: 9 stars.

Fiona – 8 + 8 + 8 + 9 + 9 + 9 = 51/60

Mariko: And next we have Pat’s score!

Miriam: It was solid but not memorable. 8 stars.

Chelia: 9 stars.

Frank: 7 stars.

Max: 8 stars.

Vin: 8 stars.

Lauren: 8 stars.

Pat – 8 + 9 + 7 + 8 + 8 + 8 = 48/60

Pat: @I’m not feeling too scared, because it’s still a solid score. @I don’t think I played it safe by any means, so I’m frustrated.

Fiona: @Right now, I have a lead and it feels great. @And at the least, I’m not going home, so that makes me feel even better right now.

Mariko: Next is Mary’s score!

Miriam: You really pushed yourself here. 9 stars.

Chelia: 9 stars.

Frank: 9 stars.

Max: 9 stars.

Vin: 9 stars.

Lauren: You cooked everything well, but it was overcomplicated. 8 stars.

Mary – 9 + 9 + 9 + 9 + 9  + 8 = 53/60

Mary: @53/60 is still a solid score. @I’m feeling great because I secured a lead!

Mariko: And next we have Colt’s score!

Miriam: 9 stars for a delicious dessert.

Chelia: 9 stars.

Frank: 10 stars. I really loved it.

Max: 9 stars.

Vin: 10 stars.

Lauren: 9 stars.

Colt – 9 + 9 + 10 + 9 + 10 + 9 = 56/60 stars

Colt: Wow! @I’m stoked. @I’m in the lead, and I got the first perfect scores from the judges. @It feels great!

Pat: @Right now, I’m feeling really nervous. @It’s down to Kaity and Mike’s scores. @I just need somebody to get a 47. @Please, just anyone.

Mariko: And next is Kaity’s score! To gain the lead, you will need 57 stars.

Chelia: Your steak was delicious. 10 stars.

Frank: 10 stars.

Max: 9 stars.

Vin: 10 stars.

Lauren: 9 stars.

Kaity – 10 + 10 + 9 + 10 + 9 = 48/50

Mariko: Miriam, if you award Kaity at least a 9, she’ll take the lead.

Kaity: @I know that I’m not going to get that perfect score, and that just makes this whole situation suck that much more.

Miriam: Unfortunately, my steak was overcooked. 6 stars.

Kaity – 48 + 6 = 54/60 stars

Kaity: Crap. @I’m feeling so annoyed. @If I served up a perfect steak, it would have won me immunity. @That freaking overcooked steak. @Damn it.

Colt: @She got more 10’s than I did. @Even though I beat her, I know in my heart of heart that Kaity is my biggest competition.

Mariko: And finally’ Mike’s score! Mike, you need at least 57 to take the lead and at least 49 to remain safe. Judges?

Miriam: The mustard just overpowered a really good dish. 8 stars.

Chelia: 8 stars.

Frank: 7 stars.

Max: 8 stars.

Vin: 8 stars.

Lauren: 8 stars.

Mike – 8 + 8 + 7 + 8 + 8 + 8 = 47/60 stars

Mariko: Colt, for having the highest score in this round of 56/60, you will receive immunity for being on top for this round.

Colt: Thanks! @I won immunity! @It feels great to know that I’m not going home in the first round! @I’m feeling great about my chances at winning the title, just because I’ve already established to everyone here that I can cook.

Mariko: And Mike, unfortunately, you are on the bottom, with a score of 47/60, and will be leaving us. Please return to the kitchen and leave.

Mike: Thank you for letting me compete. @I’m pissed because at this point, Mary is the only freshman left. @I hope she goes far.

Mike leaves the kitchen.

Mariko: Please help me welcome back in the contestants from the first round.

In walks Kenny, Tiffany, Chloe, Julie, and Jacob.

Tiffany: @I see the other cooks, and I’m not feeling too threatened. @I can take them all down. @It’s on.

Mariko: We have tallied your scores, and here they are!

Cumulative scores:

Kenny – 58/60 – won immunity

Colt – 56/60 – won immunity

Tiffany – 55/60

Kaity – 54/60

Mary – 53/60

Fiona – 51/60

Chloe – 50/60

Julie – 49/50

Pat – 48/6

Jacob – 47/60

Mariko: Unfortunately, Julie, Pat, and Jacob, the three of you have the lowest scores and are in immediate danger. Please let me introduce three new faces!

In walks three people: a young man named Laguna, and two girls, Claudia and Jeanne.

Mariko: The six of you will be competing in the Eliminator Round. Unfortunately, one of you will be eliminated from that round, while the remaining five will join Kenny, Colt, Tiffany, Kaity, Mary, Fiona, and Chloe in the main competition!

Jeanne: @I’m eyeing the competition, and I know that I’m going to crush them. @Even though I’m a freshman, I’m not losing this.

Julie: @I’m scared for my life right now. @This is going to be a really intense round. @I don’t want to go home yet.

Regulus: Chapter 1

“Wake up, sweetie!” A scrawny, pale woman with thin, hay colored hair, dark green eyes, and a beak-like nose shook a small body laying in bed. “Good morning, mom.” The figure moved, getting up from the covers and letting out a hearty yawn. He had messy blonde hair, almost like a lion’s mane, and bright green eyes. “Lionel, dear. Get dressed for the day. I’ll be preparing breakfast shortly.” His mother stated before getting up and leaving his room. It was just another day. Nothing out of the ordinary. The boy got up, walking through the granite-covered, windowless room. He made his way to a smaller wooden dresser and grabbed his clothes for the day: a white button-up, a black tie, and dress pants. Pulling on his clothes, he let out another yawn as he stretched his arms. Pushing the oak door open, he walked down the dimly lit hallway, covered with ivory and marble. Ornate statues and crystal chandeliers garnished the large path which the boy made his way through. Eventually, he arrived at a corner, a white all next to where the spiral staircase leading down was. Each ivory step was embedded with diamonds, rubies, and other precious stones, finished with gold. He took a second to admire the chandelier, that was covered in the multicolored gemstones. Alexandrite, was it? It was a very sought-after mineral, according to his geology lessons with his mom. He never understood why he had to learn about these gemstones, but his father insisted that it was important. They purchased this property, and created this manor from the alexandrite his father had inherited. Their property, a large plot of land called the Fangnis. They were secluded from the rest of the world. Only a bridge connected the manor to a road, that spiraled down to the nearby village of Regensberg. Lionel often wondered what it was like to live with the villagers.

From a distance, Lionel could smell the waft of breakfast. Shredded potatoes, fried eggs, crispy bacon, just-melted gruyere cheese, and toasted croissants. Hearing his stomach rumble, He made his way down the steps, and through the manor’s inner atrium. Walking through one of the doors, he finally made it to a smaller room, garnished only with a small oven, a small stove, a pantry, and a wooden table with four chairs. “Breakfast is ready, sweetie.” His mom chimed loudly. Her voice echoed through the entire estate. “I can’t wait to eat!” Lionel beamed, crawling into his seat. “Well, you have to wait. Your father would not like it if you started without him.” She warned. Her hands tightly gripped his shoulder when she said that. “Okay, okay.” He nodded sheepishly, keeping his hands beneath the table. Footsteps boomed as they grew louder. The door to the kitchen bust open, and a large man with straw colored hair with a silvery-gray fringe and dull blue eyes entered. It was Lionel’s father. “I’m here. Where’s my food?” He growled, glaring at his flinching wife as he sat down across from his son. “Yes, dear. All of the food is here.” She turned back around, holding a tray of food. She placed it down in front of him. Greedily, he snatched up his food and starting inhaling everything. “Here, sweetie.” She placed the food down in front of him as well as Lionel began to eat. “She gave you too much.” His father looked at him, snatching away his potatoes and croissant. “You don’t need that much food. You’ll grow up to be a morbidly obese embarrassment.” He cackled, devouring the stolen provisions. “How is it dear?” His mom squeaked nervously. “It’s alright. Too much butter on the croissants though. Are you trying to kill me, lady?!” He barked at her, as she cowered. Getting up, the man stormed off.

“Remember, you have to come back to the library by no later than 9 o’clock, okay?” His mother looked at him. “Alright. Thanks, mom!” Lionel nodded, running out into the backyard of the mansion. More accurately, past the fountains and gardens, and to the outskirts of their land, where a single tree sitting on top of a large grassy hill overlooked all of Regensberg. Sitting at the base of the tree, he stared down at the cliff in front of his, and admiring the sight unfurling beneath the veil of clearing morning mist. From that point, you could see the faint outlines of buildings, and small specks that were presumably the townsfolk. Lionel has never been down to the village before. They almost never interacted with them. They hardly needed to. All of their produce was delivered in the morning, and picked up by his mother. Besides that, nobody else would ever bother to approach their estate. Lionel himself has never even met anyone outside of his parents. He does not remember a life outside of Fangnis. His earliest childhood memories were being in the fountain area, falling into the water. Seeing these different looking buildings, and the small figures frequenting them, it piqued his curiosity. But he did not know how he could even reach that village. The only way out of the property was through the front bridge, but his father would often sit there. He claimed it was to protect them from the outside. Lionel thought about trying to scale the cliffs, but he was a twelve year old boy. He was nowhere near physically capable of doing or handling that. “Lionel!” He could hear his mother calling out to him. “Coming!” He got up, and darted off. He could not keep her waiting. He has to attend to his daily five hours of education. The next stop for him was the library.

Off to the side of the gardens and fountains was a musty old building. Sitting about two stories tall, with dirty, cracked windows, covered with ivy, was the library. Compared to the mansion, it was evident that this building was not nearly as well-maintained. Opening the creaking wooden doors, Lionel made his way inside. There were thin rays of light from the windows, illuminating the dust-ridden interior. Book shelves lined the first floor, while a large wrought-iron ladder on wheels led up to the second floor. “Are you ready, sweetie?” His mother was seated at the furthest wall on the first floor, on a desk stacked with textbooks. “Yes.” He nodded, walking over. “So we’ll start where we left off on yesterday with history. We were reading about the establishment of alexandrite as a prime ore used in our land.” She started. Every day, they would spend two hours on the history of Regenstuhl, and three hours on geology. The reason why they focused so much on history and geology was because his father stressed its importance. He regulated all of the curriculum that his mother would teach, making sure to keep a strong focus on what made their family so wealthy to begin with. So far, between his history and geology classes, Lionel has learned about how they would farm alexandrite crystals from their property, and that was the reason why they were able to afford to build a mansion on such a faraway hill. Their ancestors just happened upon then land and since then, claimed it and farmed it for its riches. Alexandrite was the most valuable and sought-after mineral in the land, and was used to purify streams and create beautiful jewelry for royals in distant lands. For generations, their family has been selling these jewels and accumulating fortune. Even with the locals, they would barter for produce using the gemstone. However, the only person who would ever even knew how to harvest the gem was his father, and even then, he would only do it sparsely, just to keep it a secret from everyone else.

“Well, that’s it for your geology lessons, sweetie.” His mother closed the book, as they got up and left the library together. “You can go play now. Make sure to come back when the sun sets.” She warned him. “If you need me, I’ll be cleaning up the house.” “Thank you. mom!” Lionel waved as his mother left. It was now his free time until dinner time. “Where to today? Maybe the garden?” He muttered to himself, wandering off. Laying in the garden, he decided to soak in the foliage and flora. Besides the occasional bird, and his parents, plants were the only other living thing that Lionel was ever in contact with. He often wondered what other things, considered living, there were. He only ever heard about the idea of life when his mother accidentally mentioned it. She was not supposed to teach him about the idea of what was living and not, but that was before his father banned teaching him biology. There was no need for that, where they were. All he needed to know was that he needed food, water, and air to live. Nothing more, nothing less. Getting up, he wondered what make these fragile, verdant things alive. They do not move, they definitely do not seem to breathe, and what do plants eat anyways? From his point of view, nothing about plants being alive made sense. Then again, what did he really know about that? He only ever got one hour to life science. It did not matter, he supposed. He never really focused on living things. Just rocks. Rocks and history. Within Fangnis, nothing else mattered. Alexandrite was king.

“Dinner, sweetie!” His mother called. Lionel rushed back into the manor, and returned to the kitchen. The sun was setting, and the entire land was cast in a dusky hue. Purples and reds flooded the skies as the sun sank below the grassy, mountainous horizon. Dinner was smoked trout. It was the usual. Lionel had to be careful when eating them, because he was allergic to fish, but that did not matter to his parents. The alternative to not eating, he shuddered at the thought. “What’s wrong, sweetie? You haven’t touched your dinner.” His mother sounded as if he had just greatly offended her. “Eat the fish. It’s expensive, you brat.” His father snorted, inhaling his portion. “Your cooking is crap, wench. That’s why he’s not eating it!” He barked at his wife, who shrank in fear. “Eat up, dear. If you love your mother, you’ll do as she says.” She insisted frantically. Slowly, Lionel took a small bite out of the edge of a cake, trying his best to swallow it quickly. It did not matter how quickly or slowly he ate the crab though. The moment he consumed it, he could feel a warm numbing surrounding his arms as red spots started to form. Hives. “Good, good, dear. Keep eating. I want to see clean plates.” She smiled nervously. “He’s not eating it fast enough.” His father frowned, snatching up the two filets of fish off Lionel’s plate and proceeded to devour them. They would eat these almost every day for dinner, because they were his father’s favorite. It did not matter that he was allergic. He had learned to accept that for dinner, he would need to prepare not to eat. Going to sleep on an empty belly is hard, but breaking out in hives was worse, while the alternative when his father was in a bad mood, unspeakable. Leaving the dinner table, he readied himself for bed as his mother put away all of the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen.

New short story series: Regulus

Regulus is the story of a young man, Lionel, and his childhood in the fictional land of Regensberg. He lives with her mother, Abertha, and father, Leon, on their estate Fangnis, a large mansion that sits on a mountain that overlooks the neighboring village. He lives a simple life, learning about the history of his family, and how they came to wealth by harvesting and selling alexandrite crystals. However, not all is as it seems with this family. There are dark, horrendous secrets to be uncovered. Follow Lionel on his journey to uncover the truths to his family’s past, and the steps he takes to put that behind him.

The glass half-empty mentality: realization

I mentioned in my story, Sky Bird, that the main character Kendall was inspired by somebody who bullied me in high school. One of the biggest qualities behind Kendall’s character was his inability to see past certain aspects of another person’s upbringing or lifestyle. Passing off failure or the inability to match another’s performance for external reasons, such as the other person being richer or having access to more resources, it is a very defeatist attitude. While yes, those who are more fortunate are born with more opportunities, that does not mean in any way that somebody who is less fortunate cannot work towards those same experiences, if not greater ones. Potential is by no means defined by what you are born with. It is based on your perspective and ability to work towards your end goal in sight. You could be a waiter at a restaurant, and with the right attitude, become the general manager of the same establishment in a manner of years. Or you could be a waiter at a restaurant, and be, for a lack of better words, pissed off and grumpy, and never be promoted.

While people who come off as optimistic are often looked down upon, or written off as naive, having that positive attitude, especially an infectious one, it goes a long way. Nobody wants to stay around a pessimistic. They may relate to them better, because they tend to be more realistic, but that negativity is draining and it often times, causes an individual to be anchored down by one especially spite-filled fixation. I think about the person who Kendall was inspired by, and how even after all of these years, he has not come anywhere since high school. We both went to the same high school, and more or less started out on the same foot. The difference was that I refused to stay complacent: I took more APs and Honors classes, and I took risks, even though they did not pay off. He chose to stay in his comfort zone, or at least more so than I did. Yet, whenever I tasted success academically, he would write me off as being lucky that my parents could afford me tutors or external help. Yet, was I the smartest person at our school? Absolutely not.

While I was blessed to have the additional help, it did not, by any means, give me a completely unfair advantage over any of my other classmates. There were people who were around the same financial standing as him, but they were leaps and bounds smarter than I was. It was because they pushed themselves and tried even harder than I did. And I genuinely applaud them for that too; I think about a girl named Nicole, who comes from a five person family, and they all live in a modest-sized apartment. She went on to graduate from USC and become a CPA before she even graduated. If you are somehow reading this, Nicole, I don’t meant to embarrass you by mentioning you. You just are somebody who shows others how you can humbly achieve a lot despite not having the same kinds of advantages that I had. You are naturally smart, have a great attitude, and are a phenomenal worker, so everyone in the world can take a page from that. As for the person Kendall was inspired by, he is still pursuing his undergraduate degree in college, even though he should have graduated with my year, back in 2017. He is set to graduate from community college in 2020. And his only professional experience is working as a cashier at a Mitsuwa supermarket.

Now I am not saying that going to community college or working at a supermarket are bad things. I am, however, saying that being pessimistic and close-minded, it hurts you. He is too busy being bitter at the world, making excuses for why other people are more successful than he is, to make the most of the opportunities handed to him. I am more than certain that if he was told about Nicole’s success, all he would have to say about it was that if he went to USC, he could have become a CPA too. But in reality, that is not the case. He did not get into USC, nor is he nearly as persistent or quite frankly, hardworking as Nicole, so he would not have ever gotten as far as she did, even if he was accepted into the school. His inherent behavior and attitude, being a glass half-empty, that closes doors before they could even open. He gets defensive at the success of others, and shuts himself away from them and their accomplishments. Rather than feeling motivated by the accomplishments of others, he grows angry and resentful. While it all boils down to a sense of guilt, him feeling unaccomplished, the only way for him to use that energy in a productive way is to adopt a “I can do it too. I just need to work towards it”-sort of viewpoint, rather than a “if I had that, I could have done it too” mentality. Perspective is something I stress a lot about, because it really does make a difference. So rather than being a pessimist all the time, live a healthier blend of positive and negative. You can be realistic, but you can also be ambitious. Never forget that, so that you can live a feather-light life.

 

Uncertainty: realization

Not knowing what you want, that is a huge proponent to growing up. As you gain more experiences in life, you better understand what you do and don’t want to do with it. Honestly, looking back at when I was a high schooler, I have no idea why everyone suddenly seemed to know what they wanted to major in. Pre-med, computer science, pre-law, business, etc. I personally had an inkling of an idea that I wanted to do hospitality, solely because I liked to cook and for no other real reason. How is an 18 (or younger) year old supposed to know if what they are investing money and four years into is what they want to do for the rest of their lives?

While yes, you can argue that people can change majors (fun fact, I had a friend who changed her major five times and almost didn’t graduate on time), but there are people who can commit to a major for all four years and still not be certain that this is what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Admittedly, I fall under this category. My resume is perfectly fragmented between experiences in accounting and in food and beverage. Even now, at the time of writing this post, I am not sure which one I will be involved with in five years. Currently, I’m an accountant, but next year, who knows? I might be a pastry cook again.

That sort of uncertainty, while it is the beauty of being young, it causes a lot of stress and showcases an inability to commit and focus. Finding a career that you can do both to, it is difficult. For me, I find that I can tolerate accounting, while I am not particularly crazy or in love with it, because it enhances my life outside of work. I have a 9-5 office job, where I can sit behind a desk and stare at a screen. Considering my background is in Hospitality accounting and food and beverage with a business minor, that’s surprisingly stable.

If you find yourself in a situation you don’t like, and you don’t feel like, even after trying at it for an extended period of time, that you can’t see yourself becoming a leader in that field, then you should question your commitment to it. As I am right now, I do question whether or not I can become a director of finance. I continue working in accounting for the above mentioned benefits, but I do know one thing, and that is I need to determine whether or not I can grow and progress, and I can commit wholeheartedly. This is something we all need to do, whether we want to or not, so that we can become successful in life.