2 Memory Shard
He opened his eyes. This time everything was quiet. Everything seemed peaceful, though there was something that made him feel as him he was suffocating. As he tried to raise his arms, he could feel it move slowly, yet it felt like it wasn't his own: heavy, strange, almost as if he was underwater.
He could tell that this was a memory. He was inside the past at the moment, seeing it through his eyes from the future.
Looking ahead, Bai Qi noticed small arched doors. Around him was a hall, old and decrepit, showing signs of wear from the small pieces of stone chipped away. Musty and dirty banners lined the walls. He couldn't turn to see what was behind him, rather as he tried, his head kept turning to face the small dark door at the end of the hall. It was worn out as well, the oak had long since lost its glory. With holes and indents, pieces of the door scraped away near the bottom, threatening to splinter anyone who ran their fingers along its surface.
One spot seemed brighter than the rest, a small corner in the bottom left that had a carved heart with the word "Dad." The writing was uneven, the heart crooked, letters written by a small child that emanated a sense of love tainted by the darkness of the corner it was located in.
Bai Qi could feel dread, mixed with familiarity. Digging deeper, he also felt love, though that felt worn and lost from many years of disappointment. He felt the same feeling come from the door. He knew that as he would walk through that door, as it shut behind him he would be hit with bad news, or something similar. Yet as much as he didn't want to face that he was helpless, he couldn't control his body.
He could feel his body moving. It was subtle, in a sense he felt it moving, and it felt as if he was moving it, but he had no control over it. His fingers which were balled in a fist, slowly opened up. His arm rose to push the door open. He hesitated, his arm in the air, and once again his hand curled into a fist. Bai Qi let out a preemptive knock, softly, though it echoed loudly due to the stillness of everything around him.
A weak voice responded to him. As Bai Qi entered he saw a man, hunched over a messy desk with books spread throughout. Books outlined the rest of the room as well, though Bai Qi couldn't make out any of the names. The focus seemed to be on this man who simply looked tired and fatigued, as if he hadn't gotten a good night's sleep in a long time.
"Father," Bai Qi stated, in a voice devoid of emotions. The voice fell flat to Bai Qi's ears, the words were not his own, rather he was just an observer to the whole situation.
"You need to throw the competition," The man responded, finally looking up.
"I've worked too hard for this to simply throw the competition, Father," Bai Qi esponded. "What happened to you telling me this was the only way for our family to be known? I thought I needed to win to make sure our family is recognized?" The voice was dull, Bai Qi could hear himself, as if he had already given up.
"You should know that the situation has changed." The man responded weakly. "I've always worked for the best of the family."
"That's not an excuse Father."
"The Wang family has offered to pay our taxes for the next year if you drop out. They did recognize you as a threat. Our clan has been in the decline for the last few years. We need a way to grow."
"Wasn't the competition to showcase my talents and get recognized? What happened to that, Father? What'll happen in the future once the competition is over? Do I remain as one of those two bit lackeys destined to die off? This was supposed to be the year where I could prove myself, to have a future."
"I know you're disappointed but I will not give any excuses. The clan comes first. We can't put all hopes on you," The man responded.
"So am I not good enough Father? Is that the problem here?"
"Enough!" The man yelled, finally snapping out of the tired voice. "I will not have you question my decisions. If you do not like the situation, know that the clan will not stand by your side." The man stood up. "You should know better than this, some sacrifices have to be made."
"Sacrifices? Don't speak to me about sacrifices." Bai Qi scoffed at his words. "So even my own clan can become a lackey for a bigger clan out of greed. Am I only worth this much?"
Bai Qi felt his body move again. He could feel the emotions in every word, words that felt foreign and not his own. Hot tears lined his eyes, though he felt as if this was a common thing that he experienced in the past. His body was tense, and as much as he wanted to run away to hide in a corner, he couldn't move. His body turned around, facing the doors once again.
"Don't worry Father. I'll be sure to try my best to lose. It's not like what happens to me matters."
With those words, Bai Qi felt his foreign body start to move back towards the door.
As Bai Qi walked towards the door, his surroundings faded away until he could no longer make out what was around him. He could only see a few feet away, the distance was obscured by the dark mist around his feet. His body was oddly illuminated in this darkness, being the only source of light. As he turned away from the doors to face the man, he saw that thing again. It was clear, a dark sphere made from burning smoke, floating at head height. It was visible in the darkness, and had no features except for a mouth, which curved into the ever so familiar grin.
'How was it,' It asked. 'Being sold for a years worth of taxes? Having the opportunity of your life snatched away for a monetary value? Having the chance to even have a future wrenched away from your own family?'
"Depressing," Bai Qi responded. "Knowing that money can sway even your own family. What happens next?"
'More depressing stuff.' The thing responded with a wider grin, this time showing all its pointed teeth. 'But that's a story for another time. You have more problems on your hand. Wakey Wakey, little boy'
'Wakey Wakey, Little Boy'
These words echoed in that dream space full of mist. The echos only got louder, and the temperature in that space got colder, the air got heavier.
'Wakey Wakey, Little Boy'
Bai Qi felt as if he was under water, as if he was drowning. He couldn't breathe and he started to panic. The space he was in felt like it was collapsing into itself, he felt trapped as everything around him got smaller and smaller. Like his skin was tightening, he was being squished, into a tiny ball. He couldn't feel pain, rather he was suffocating, when all of the sudden everything went back to normal, as Bai Qi woke up, his eyes leapt open, his lungs taking in huge gulps of air, gasping for breath. Sweat lined his forehead as the panic slowly dispelled.
He woke up in a bed. The early mornings sun was peeking through the windows, the birds were chirping. Besides him was a small desk, full of water, and clean bandages. Bai Qi noticed that his injuries had been cleaned and wrapped. He was wrapped in a few layers of blankets, leaving his body snug and warm. As he tried to get up, he noticed that his left hand was chained to the bed, a chain that was neither long enough that he could move around the room, nor short enough that it was uncomfortable. The chain itself was relatively loose, and if he concentrated he could forget it was there.
Looking around, he saw a filled bookshelf, with more books strewn here and there on the floor. The desk next to the bed was a night stand, a small desk where a few items are kept. Across that, next to the door was a larger desk, what looked to be a writing desk. It was filled with paper strewn here and there, the wastebasket next to it overflowing with crumpled sheets. On the table was a book of what looked to be diagrams, propped up at an angle. He decided to stay in bed for just a bit longer, soaking in the warm layers he was under, losing himself in the moment of peace. As he lay there, a few moments later the door started to creak open.