“Shh!” I hid the ember-chipmunk in a fire-berry bush.
“They can’t know you are here!”
The council of the clan neared closer.
“See? The berries are yummy!” I sighed, finding a way to keep him quiet.
“Berry”, I whispered softly to myself.
“I like that”.
Now they were close enough to see me. Their burgundy robes blew in the wind as they wandered towards me. On the robes, tucked under the belt were banners the colour of the sun with ancient writing across them. Now they were here. There were three of them, all wearing the same uniform with the same tall red hats. The middle one, Saymir, had glowing orange eyes matching his bright cyber-sword. He showed me a poster clearly saying “wanted” in large layers of bright letters. But underneath… Yeah, we were screwed. A picture of Berry. My Ember-chipmunk bond.
“Never seen him… I mean… it. Better check somewhere else”.
What? I did pretty good!
The council members eyed each other suspiciously.
“Tell us on behalf of all of the fire clan if you do. Very well,” The one with yellow eyes, Gaisen, said.
Saymir, Gaisen, and Korrey, the third member rushed away as I sighed in relief.
I took Berry out of the bush, fire-berry all over his fuzzy little snout. I looked at the moon.
It was supper time. As I walked home, I thought about how lucky I was to have found a bond, finally. I rested him in the little bed outside our house that Maa had made for my bond years ago. Though she had no idea what size Berry would be, so it’s actually really big. As I walked in, Baba cried.
“Why are you so LATE, Amber?”
I smiled warmly, and cried thinking he knew I found a bond.
“Y-you noticed?” I gently brushed my fingers through my hair.
“Of course I noticed! Now come have supper or it will go cold!”
The look on my face turned to stone. “Jeez, Baba, be happy for me!” is what I wanted to say.
But nothing came out because I was a little scared.
“So what happened today, Amber?”, Maa said. I was happy at least mom was being nice.
“Well,” I munched on my curry, “Berry was just in a tree, climbing around.” I had to pause again to chew my rice.
“Wait hold on,” Baba said. “Who’s Berry? One of your weird friends?”
My jaw dropped open. So he didn’t know?
“He’s my bond! A chipmunk!”
A smile grew from ear to ear on their faces, but they didn't go all embarrassing like they usually do, they just smiled.
. . .
A shake on my hips with warm familiar hands woke me immediately.
I smiled, thinking it was my birthday or something, I don’t know.
As my eyes opened, there was mom, with a serious look on her face.
“What’s going on?”, I ask, frozen in place.
Mom shook her head. “I’ll explain… When we get there.”
She started… crying? I’d never seen Maa cry before. “It's… too shocking.”
I was confused. I’d never seen her like this before. But I knew that I just had to stay quiet and wait for her to reveal why she was so serious.
“We’re leaving,” she said.
Maa took me by my orangey-red gi’s sleeve, sobbing.
She opened the door, and sighed in a somehow… deadly way?
We ran off through the village, awkwardly, and silently.
I looked at the houses, some big, some small.
We were heading off towards the stables by the gates.
I’ve always wanted to ride one of the elephants that they have there, but now was not the time to have fun.
We took the turn to… wait, we WERE going to the stables?
Mom throwed 9 nokai onto the table at the stand. 9!
As we climbed on the elephant, I couldn't help but smile. Whatever horrible place we were going to, I was happy to just be there, in that moment.
My Mahogany hair blew in the wind, and mom smiled too.
Wait, she was SMILING?
Mom looked at me with joy, but it turned sad.
She held my hand, as if she’d...
. . .
We got off the elephant, and walked to the gates of a…
“Wait, where’s Berry?”
“Um…”Maa says, “Well, I just kinda wanted to say but it was too much…”
I knew. I knew exactly what was going on.
Berry… is a thief.
My bond steals food all the time.
He was actually eating stolen mochi when I met him, but he was so cute in that tree and the mochi was so good, I couldn't deny I’d finally found someone special.
And that was Berry.
But my fate was decided, I was a criminal if Berry was.
I nodded, showing mom I knew already. We walked into the stone building, shaking in fear.
Mom opened up the door to the room with the officer in it, who was ready to be angry at me.
I sat on the interrogation chair reluctantly, nervously playing with my hair.
“Auroris, your daughter is the bond of the Ember-Chipmunk, correct?”, the officer said impatiently, as if this was unimportant and she had better things to do. Maa nodded, trying not to cry.
“Okay, so the ember-chipmunk is in jail at the moment, and now the child will too. Let’s get this over with.
Mom pretty much sobbed her beautiful black hair off as I was taken out to my cell, gazing back at her.
“..wait,”Mom said just before I left. That's the mother I know and love!
“Can I pay you 80 nokai and she doesn't go to prison?”
The officer sighed.
“How about 380?”
These were some high prices we were dealing with.
“I’ll pay you 80 now…”
Mom said, reaching in her pocket and grabbing the money,
“And you will never bother my daughter AGAIN!”
. . .
The interrogator planted her hand on her forehead.
That rage was just embarrassing.
“Okay-- Auroris…” She sighed , wishing she was out doing a more productive case,
“Let’s meet in the middle. What’s your name-- Amber, you pay 80 nokai now, for your own expenses--”
“Can I?”, Maa asked, pulling out the money.
“Sure. And later, Amber, pay us your 300, to get your chipmunk out of jail.”
I finally smiled.
The only problem, though, was how to get the money.
I walked out, holding mom’s hand.
“So! All you need to do is save up a lot of money,” She said as I laughed.
“Yup, just gotta save 300 nokai(3,000$ canadian) and my bond will be back. Easy. Just… 300 nokai.”
We both smiled bitterly on the ride home, knowing that would take a while.
Mom put a hand on my knee.
“You’d do that for your bond, right?”
I nodded simply.
“I’d do that, just what job do I even get? I’m only 12!”
Maa smiled. “Just follow your heart. You’re old enough to do that, obviously. What do you like to do, Amber?”She reassured me.
“Oh, if I could state it all. Writing, painting, riding elephants, exploring the forest… but what can I do with those skills?”, I asked.
“You can do anything, amber.”
This made me really feel like I could.
The sky was getting dark, and we hopped off the ride when we reached the stable.
“Thanks, Leera,”Maa thanked the elephant rental guy, and I did too.
“. . . thanks Leera!”
We laughed a little, just about life, and talked about our lives on the way home.
This was the closest I’ve ever been to Maa before.
When we walked in the door, Baba had a nice meal of pakoras and bok choy and banh mi-baguettes prepared.
That was probably the most amazing meal of my life.
It tasted like home, the feeling I didn’t have this morning.
Sadly dad wasn’t here to share the experience with us because he was out fighting in some little war with some of the thunder kingdom townspeople.
But it was still absolutely amazing nonetheless.
Dad makes amazing bread out of the yeast from our farms.
Mom and I talked about food, fashion, bonds and farms…
It really made me feel, well, not alone!
. . .
I woke up early this morning, as soon as the sun rose, excited to start my search.
“Good morning, Maa!”My words were muffled because of all the pastry Baba left for me that I stuffed in my mouth.
Dad was still away. His job as soldier must have been pretty excruciating.
Mom waved as I ran out the door, the pastry still stuffed neatly in my pie-hole.
I swallowed my breakfast, licking my lips as I walked through the village.
“Excuse me,” I pulled aside an old man. “Could I be of service to you?”
He shook his head ignorantly.
I sighed in dismay.
How could I ever find a job? I literally asked him if I could be of SERVICE to him.
I sat down, then someone in a red camo army suit sat down next to me.
Wait, was that Baba?
“Hi, Amber,” Dad said intently. “How’s it going?”
“I getcha. Are you looking for a job out here, silly?”
“Go to the army base just outside the gates. There's a job there that’s open.”
“But I don’t want to join the army!”
He patted me on the back, basically implying, “Just go.”
I sighed. I guess all dad wanted was for me to be in the army.
I had to follow his orders, though.
He was my Baba.
I walked through the village, then out by the canyon, the stables and the mountain, and then I got to the gate.
I gulped, then opened the humongous gates to the outside world.
I didn’t want to go too far or I’d end up in the warzone, but that’s where I’d be, later, anyway.
The army base was just on the brink of the warzone, not really “just outside the gates”.
Inside was like a large oven, somehow even hotter than the rest of our area.
There was a stall for some job, wait, it was journalism for the army? Yes!
Baba really did know me after all.
. . .
I scattered off with a piece of bamboo-paper in hand, as well as a chunk of charcoal.
I decided to sit down in a little part of the woods, on a hollow log thing that was somehow lying on the ground.
I started by looking.
The war grounds were right there, in front of me.
It seemed like someone was using their bond, a black bear, to smash the opposing gecko… ok, good material…
A teenager from the enemy army with a cheetah bond was using his bond to ram a rabbit, also good.
I wrote down those facts, but another important thing was who was winning the war. It seemed like our clan was winning (Go Baba!) and I was just about to write this important fact down for all of the fire clan, when…
It was Dad.
A thunder clan jaguar was tackling him, forcing him to fling away his spear, leaving him absolutely defenseless.
I got up off my seat, writing down all this information while still trying to anticipate what will happen next and watch the fight.
A lot more of our army’s fighters were being taken down, and Baba was one of the few left.
I scribbled it all down as fast as possible before I ran quickly to the army base journalism stall, delivering my paper to be rewritten in more copies and delivered across the nation.
I had no idea how intense things got in the warzone.
Baba never gave that much detail,
He always put it all simply and waved off his trauma and injuries, and I wished now that he would tell us the truth instead of hiding it.
I rushed back to the warzone.
Fire clan war status: losing terribly. Still.
Thunder clan war status: yeeeees! (for them)
Baba was not doing well.
He was pinned by the jaguar from before, whom I later found out was named Snowrei.
Snowrei clawed at Dad, and it seemed like all was lost, but then...
Sorry, I just had to write this all down, but then…
Baba got up, called his bond off Snowrei’s back, and speared at the general of the attacking thunder squad.
. . .
Dad stood on top of the general, who was not dead, but very badly injured.
That didn’t matter much, though, because as general you don’t need a well working body, really, just a good mind.
Dad smiled and cried, and the thunder soldiers and “shock troops” had nothing left to do because the thunder clan troop 3 was unable to tell them what to do.
I ran over to hug Baba, and he kissed me on the forehead.
I smiled and now understood how wonderful my own Baba was.
“Would you, as a fellow hard worker, accept this?”
He pulled out a coin of 100 nokai, for all my hard work.
“The job doesn't pay much, but today was a very important day. The army will pay you 200 nokai but that still won’t pay it off. I hope you can accept this extra payment for your service.”
“Wait… this pays off my debt!”I shouted.
I rushed home.
But first, I had to do something.
I had to visit that tree, where we first met.
With the mochi, you know?
I picked up a little piece of rice-cake, smiling.
I always loved mochi.
I let a single tear roll down my cheek, and decided to turn around.
But just as I was about to leave, a thunder clan jumped out of the tree, stopping me in my tracks.
“You’re not going anywhere,”He edged his blades toward my head.
“What do you want, shock guard,”I asked, shaking with fear.
“Oh, nothing. Just your blood.”
I gulped immediately as he put the edge of his blade on my forehead.
“Because they said you were the girl who told your entire clan in perfect detail about what the special troops of my clan were doing to yours.”
Heheh, yeah. The special troops. Well they deserved it, all we ever did to them was be in the war that they started.
All of a sudden, something small, cute and red scampered over.
It was Berry.
He tore the blades out of the shock-troop’s hand, and threw them out to somewhere far away.
Now we were even.
How did he escape?
. . .
I took Berry, toodloo’d the shock troop, and shook my head in disbelief.
Had he really escaped?
I walked to the prison, to pay that fine.
As I walked in the doors, a police person was already ushering me into the room where we would talk.
“I’m really sorry,”I said, “He just must have seen me being cornered by an assassin, and…”I didn’t even have time to finish my thought, when—
“I know,”he said. “I understand. You were cornered, and your bond knew you were in danger. It’s all normal. This is how you know you really have a deep spiritual connection to this animal. There will be no extra fees, Just the original fine.”
My face lit up like crazy.
Tears started bulging out of my eyes, rolling all over my face.
Berry was free!
I shifted around, carrying Berry with one hand while reaching for the coins in my pocket with the other.
I Put all the 300 nokai into his outstretched hand.
I held Berry close, smiling and sobbing uncontrollably.
But it finally stopped and it all felt calm.
This was my bond for forever, and the adventure was only beginning.