The Mystery of Time and the Castle

Graphic by Tejal Kawachi

The fire glows a bright red and warm air spreads with its embers in a little mud house. More splinters are added to make a raging fire as Yin Hua recounts distant memories with her grandson. The boy listens with stars in his green eyes that seemed to encompass only her, making her nostalgic of the past.

The houses were bigger than you have ever seen, taller than the tallest tree in the village. The roads were large, dark like the starless sky. It was greater than all the cities you have seen before. The city was sleepless, and we could talk to people from far away in just a moment with…” Lightning interrupts her sentence and trees that were struck down writhe in flames. Blood mars Yin Hua’s face as the frightened Tong Luo stares at her, petrified in place.

She gives him a wistful smile, “You cannot die too. You must live. Live for me, your father and your mother. Maybe one day you will find your grandfather. Heed. Take this book. Run. Run away.”

The look in her eyes alarms him more than her words. He feels abandoned but more immediate is his instinct to believe his grandmother. So, he ran. Through the cacophony of escaping villagers and logs of fire that blocked his way, he ran. He ran until he collapsed, clutching the book to his heart.

Tong Luo wakes up from the dream that haunted him since the day his grandmother died in the sea of flames. He could never rest. The book that has the words he could understand but whose meaning eluded him is the sole purpose of his life. He goes from place to place every year trying to find a semblance of the world his grandmother told him of but failing each time.

His only solace is the appearance of new pages, more clues that could help him and the picture of that building, that…castle. It has been a month since he had arrived in this forest that was the westernmost part of the Empire. He got by with the game he brought in every day. Arising from his Kang, he puts on his robes and ties his long hair into a top knot. He wears the hunting boots that lay in the corner of his bare room.

This morning was the same as any other and he lays down in wait for his prey when a sharp sting pierces his head and his vision blurs until it is black. He opens his eyes and adjusts to the darkness to see a structure that he has never seen before. It is unlike the Imperial Palace of the Han Emperor, nor is it like a Buddhist temple. It is even more unlikely to be like the houses in the village he grew up in. Yet, it is the most beautiful sight he has witnessed. Water surrounds the building. It is larger than the imperial palace, enclosed within countless walls that stretch to the sky, mimicking the Great Wall. Multiple watchtowers flanked the main structure; obsidian grey. Taller than the tallest tree in the village…

Tong Luo feels a wet trail go down his face. He discerns an emotion that he had not known — no, forgotten from a long time ago. Like the warm embrace of his grandmother, like the sun after a rainstorm. Trying to grasp it, he moves forward but is pushed back by an unknown force. He continues to probe it until he finds a chink in the force’s armour.

As he pushes forward, he perceives an allure that he has never sensed before, like fatal attraction. He sees his father and mother with their unknown faces and his grandmother’s genial smile. It is like a symphony that catered to him and him alone. And that is when he detects that it is nothing but a mirage. A plank of wood falls to make a path in the moat and his instincts compel him to move forward, leading his vision to go black once again.

Xiao Hua, please, this is not the truth. You must listen to me,” says a man who has short hair and clothes unfamiliar to Tong Luo. What caught Tong Luo’s attention is however the man’s blood-stricken green eyes that he has only seen on his person.

Tong Yi. Actions speak louder than words. I have seen all there is to see. I have nothing more to say to you,” a beautiful young lady says to the heartbroken man.

“Xiao Hua! Yin Hua! I would never do such a thing to you. I told you I would always be your biggest fan!” As the man says thus, the woman disappears on the spot.

It is as if the mist fades and Tong Luo wakes up. His hands and legs are tied to a metal chair that he is sitting on with pieces of slightly stretchy and sticky material…plastic. He squints through his eyes and sees a bright light — a LED.

He finally understands the book. The world his grandmother came from was the future and for some reason, she could not go back. The memory he saw was the last moment before her disappearance. His father and mother died because of the protection of the world — because the future must never mix with the past and they knew too much of the future. The man in the memory was… his grandfather. And he arrived in the future the very moment his grandmother left it.

“You! Who are you?” A young Tong Yi says.

Tong Luo, your grandson.

Two pairs of green eyes stare at each other.

Give this post a rating

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 1

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.