Tick. . Tock. . Tick. . Tock. . .
The sound of the second hand on the black clock, robotically pushed forward for a mere second and froze, plucked at the silent atmosphere, accompanied with the low volume of human voices and shuffling footsteps as health professionals, bearing white tunics with forest green trimmings, hastened to the rooms that needed immediate attention. New patients and visitors alike lounged on the cold, wooden chairs, while the clerk worked behind the marble table, mindlessly scribbling ink words from her thin tipped pen on sheets of paper, which towered above the clerk's head in stacks.
One of the slate coloured doors pushed open, revealing another visitor: a tanned lady dressed with a green t-shirt and desert brown rugged pants. She strolled in silently, with neither a smile nor a frown plastered on her bold face. Her dark moccasins clicked as they kicked against the cleanly polished floor. The recent visitor briskly approached the clerk, with a few fire lilies cradled in her slender arms.
As the footsteps within earshot of the occupied woman got louder as they approached, she looked up from her paperwork, with an expression hard to read. "Good morning. How may I help you?"
"I'm here to see Lark Seagourd," was the reply from the visitor. Initially, the clerk's soil brown eyes tore their glance away for a moment as she locked her gaze with the flipping pages of what seemed like a book. After verifying that there were no one else that was currently signed in to visit the mentioned patient, the diligent looking lady pulled back her black front bangs behind her ear.
"You may see him. Please fill out this sign-in sheet."
Somewhat satisfied with the reply the visitor received, she emotionlessly picked up the slender, and scribbled her full name, Emm Firehorn, date, and sign-in time. Placing the pen down, she thanked the sophisticated woman, and speed walked down the stretched out halls, doors planted to each side. This time, Emm's footwear didn't kick at the tiled surface, unlike when she came in through the doors. Could she be this excited to see her best friend in a medical bed, with hopes that he hasn't suffered from anything yet?
It has been four days since Emm came to this place to check on her friend that she met two years ago. Even though the young adult knew that it isn't her fault that Lark has to get rushed here from miles away, she wasn't there at that time when Lark was in perilous danger; or he was in need of comfort. Mental comfort, anyway. If he wasn't brought here any later, the chances of him not surviving would obviously increase. Even the smallest increase could mean something bad in Wushin.
So far, Lark hasn't shared anything big during those four days of visits, this day being the fifth. Keeping a consistent pace as she strode, Emm pondered about, playing on the probability of Lark repeating the same thing as he did yesterday, the day before, two days before, three days before, and the chances that he will tell her something different, and interesting. . .
After turning a right, and walking down three more doors, the commoner froze in her tracks and glanced behind, as if she had suspected all along that someone may be following her. One of the warm, bold, red-orange petals swayed gently through the undisturbed air as it descended slowly to the tiled floor. Figuring it wasn't a threat, she breathed out a relieved sigh, and turned to face the door on her left. Emm glanced, from top to bottom, her caramel eyes skimmed past the room number, and the sea of white paint that coated the surface.
Her excitement gradually ceased at the dull, simple look of the door, the freshly selected flowers still cradled in her arms. She reached out to the door with a fist, and knocked several times.
Laying quietly in a simple, white bed, with thin, clear tubes nestled under a layer of white bandage, Lark Seagourd lazily turned his head, rolling his gaze from the opened window that captured a towering view over the tranquil village, over to the door, where the knocking came from. "Come in."
The brass doorknob turned, and entered a familiar Emm with a tousled bob hairstyle, with her gleaming eyes fixed on the window across from her, then darted to meet the patient's grey ones. "Hey, Lark," was the cheeful greeting.
Saying nothing, a smile curled on the corners of his pressed lips, his gaze steady, yet soft. Emm strolled past his bed, towards the brick windowsill, where stood a glass vase, filled with some water and held two different flowers: one was a velvet red rose, and the other being a white daisy. With much care, she picked the fire lilies, one by one, and threaded their lively green stems down the vase's mouth. With some interest, Lark observed the lady's doing, knowing already that she wasn't a careful person.
"You brought me fire lilies, huh," he whispered lowly, audible enough for the visitor to hear.
"Well, you did tell me they were your favourite flowers." After carefully arranging the flowers in the cylindrical vase in an eye-catching fashion, she pushed her front bangs behind her ears, and turned to see her friend. "Is everything alright? Did you have your operation yet?"
The man shook his head. "Not yet. The medical crew has to attend the ones before me." As both pairs of eyes locked, Emm's bright ones searched in Lark's, deeply in thought. Even if Lark was her best friend, she still found it difficult to put trust in him, especially from that one situation in the past. Thus, she became unsure whether or not she should trust him in the future.
With nothing else to say, "Oh," was what Emm managed to mutter, and hung her head, with those memories clinging onto her mind.
The patient that has yet to be operated on heaved out a small sigh. "I know what you're thinking. You still couldn't trust me; is that it?" He turned his head from Emm, diverting his gaze to the plain, white ceiling. "I don't see what's the point of even calling me a 'friend' if you think I'm not trustworthy." Emm quickly glanced at him to see his face as he made that comment. As if he didn't "feel" her gaze, Lark continued to stare at the empty space.
"It's no surprise that you still. . . Remember," Emm replied, glumly.
"Of course I do. I recognized the face you always made whenever you remembered 'that'." Slowly, Lark turned to face Emm in his bed. "You.. Probably don't know about the reason behind 'that' decision." Despite the rasping of his voice, it made Emm tilted her head in interest.
"What do you mean?" questioned Emm.
". . W-Well, you see. . ." Lark's words trailed off into silence, as he fixed his stare at Emm in thought. Internally, two options rested before him: tell his friend about his secretive life, or wait for another day. A short while after hiding his mental tug-of-war in his thoughts behind his hollow gaze, Lark sighed at his final decision. "Um... What I'm about to tell you is a summary of my job behind the scenes, as a citizen of Wushin." His emotionless face turned into a business-like look at his acquaintance. "Ready or not, I'll be telling you here, and now."
Satisfied with the answer on Emm's face (which he probably didn't care either way), Lark tore his gaze away from her, and took a deep breath to soothe his nerves that were energetically sprinting and jumping up and down, throughout his relaxed body. Assumably, this is probably too big for him to explain in brief detail.
"I don't work for the Emperor," began Lark, in a soft, quivering tone. "In fact, I work against him—"
Even from the simplicity of the explanation, so far, the young lady's mind already went awry. She made a face because of the sudden rise of confusion.
"—I work in an affiliation called Tiger Fang. There were three main figures of the group," he continued, his tone remained unchanged. "I don't know much about them, but one thing I knew was that they disliked the Emperor for his tactics and deeds as a ruler.
"Tiger Fang has the same number of representatives as the Eight Trigram nobles that dominated Wushin. The remaining five people in the group possessed an element, one from each of the Five Main Elements"—his fingers twitched—"Using the power of the Five Elements only existed in the family—or it used to. One day, a Trigram noble killed all five element users with Qi. From then on, Tiger Fang's leaders had to choose five people in Wushin, who were willing to give up their loyalty to the Emperor, take the job of being 'Dragon Masters', and work against him and the nobles." The patient huffed, as nervousness leaped out of his racing heart and mind, and the feeling of relief replaced the fleeing emotion.
Dumbfounded by the new knowledge that was shared, Emm's mouth was opened in awe. His words repeated like a broken CD, mentally replaying in a random order. Out of the Eight Trigram family, there's people out there who also have magic? she inquired in thought.
The puzzled look on Emm vanished, and what took its place was her uncertainty. Then, she summarized out loud, with a questioning tone. "You were chosen by this 'Tiger Fang' and worked to get revenge on the noble that killed off the very first Dragon Masters?"
"Shh! Not so loud!" the man hissed. Emm threw a hand over her mouth as she looked behind her, her widened eyes locked at the opened door. To both of their relief, nobody was standing in view of the doorway. Reluctantly, Lark proceeded onto his answer, minding the volume of his voice. "It's sort of like that. They don't want to kill only that certain noble, you know."
Emm was getting more confused by the minute that trickled past, unnoticed. To her, this is just too much to soak all of it into her wildly scrambling mind, as it struggles to get arrange snippets of information in an orderly manner. "And how is this related to you ending up in the medical centre?"
Lark was silent for a moment, choosing his words carefully to make this explanation more brief and understandable than his previous one. "Hmm... Recently, I was sent out by Tiger Fang, to deal with an incident that happened at Forestgate Village a month ago. One of the Eight Trigram nobles lived there. Our objective, as the five Dragon Masters, was to bring him to the tallest mountains of Wushin, in the northwest, and bound him in Qi forged steel shackles to ensure that he doesn't break free."
He paused. "It was a hard task, because none of us knew, or mastered, the art of telekinesis. Telekinesis was key to bring him to the mountains in a time efficient manner.
"The brawl itself forced me to use up most of my Qi. I lost too much of it; the Qi won't likely replenish. Ever." He place a dark hand without the injected tube over his forehead in stress. "That's how I got here."
The woman shot a queer, yet curious look. "What's Qi?"
"I'm not good at explaining things, am I?" Exhausted, Lark closed his eyes. He inhaled a deep breath, and held.
"No, it's not that," Emm quickly assured. She felt a little guilty after asking that question. "I just don't know what it is."
Before Lark opened his mouth to reply, several knocks were heard from the door. Emm spun around. A tall nurse with light brown short, wavy hair and glistening dark eyes, screened by oval spectacles, stood in the doorway, with her arms hugging a clipboard to her chest. "Sorry to interrupt," were her graceful words, "I'm here to notify you that the medical crew is about to operate on Mr. Seagourd." Emm inwardly groaned. She didn't like to be interrupted before getting an answer to her question.
Lark breathed out slowly, and watched as his visitor looked at him, with a frown. "Might as well get your answer tomorrow," he stated. In response, the lady in white was reluctant to speak, unsure of the reaction the the news she was about to tell would draw.
"Actually," she started, "the operation is going to take all of tomorrow. But"—the lady coughed—"Mr. Seagourd will have to be monitored for any side-effects resulted from the treatment. This will have to take several days." The nurse's eyes glanced at the front page of the clipboard, which was printed with Lark's health profile, then back at the two. "You may visit him next week." Without a word, Emm sweeped her glance from the hesitating nurse to Lark. She waved goodbye with a doubtful smile, and turned to strode out of the deafening silent room.
Emm looked at her feet as thoughts suddenly whirled around in her mind like a cyclone: in the blink of an eye—or less—a different thought flashed by, and then flies away at the back of the line, waiting for its turn to repeat. What is exactly going on in Lark's life? she thought to herself. Is it true?.. If it is, how am I supposed to find out when I don't know anyone in Tiger Fang, nor any of his family members?
Silence stretched as Lark and the nurse stared at the hallway outside of the patient's room. Both of them fell awkward as the usually loud visitor exited silently; very contradictory to her usual self.
"Ivy?" Lark called the woman.
"Ms. Pearlfeather," corrected the nurse, Ivy.
"Oh, sorry." He turned his head back to meet the ceiling once more. "If the operation is going to take all of tomorrow, what's going to happen today?" Ms. Pearfeather pushed the bridge of her glasses up her short nose.
"The crew will be setting up the equipment prior to the procedure," she answered, without moving her eyes away from the vacant space framed by the door. "They'll be here shortly."