Chapter 212:

Homecoming: Rheba

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

It was easy for Rheba to tell she was almost home. She and her escorts had been sailing with the massive Oniith Forest on their side for several hours, and the trees of the mighty woods were getting taller the closer they got to the deepest section. After another hour, the land rose due to artificial means, and the true landmark came into view. The Great Tree, as it was called.

Towering above anything else, they believed the tree to be the most ancient in all of Resh. Its trunk was more extensive than some villages and towered higher than many buildings on Resh. The Bentulousians had been taking care of it for as long as they had been around, and the tree had lasted through many disasters brought on by both natural causes and warfare.

“You never tire of seeing it!” One of Rheba’s escorts, a white-furred warrior called Night, chimed in; she and her twin sister—a black-furred warrior called Day—had ridden with Rheba from Nun to Benlou.

“It is truly magnificent. A weak warrior such as I do not deserve to take it in,” Rheba replied.

“Don’t be that way!” Night tried to cheer her companion up, but Rheba left and headed to the wheel where Day was directing. The Bentulousian warrior was delighted to go through a doorway without having to duck.

“About an hour?” she asked Day.

“Probably a little over that,” the dark-furred warrior responded.

Rheba nodded and waited patiently in a calm meditation until the sounds of the boat being raised up funneled in. A few moments later, some mechanical hums and clicks indicated it had been secured. She nodded and exited to the shore. As her home came into plain view, it brought tears to the warrior's eyes.

Underneath the canopy of the magnificent tree was a series of smaller trees. Though smaller was relative, as the other trees still towered overhead. Around the trees, the Bentulousians had built buildings with the forest, taking care to only cut down what was needed and not disturb the larger landscape. Most houses were built around the trunks of the woods—resembling complex treehouses more than traditional buildings—and were connected with rope bridges, while the streets were laid out wide enough to let skinny vehakuls through. With how much metal and concrete Rheba had seen recently, it was true bliss.

She began walking down the messily laid out streets and waved to the other Bentulousians who recognized her.

“It’s Rheba! She went on a journey with the Nonpareil!” a kid shouted.

“That’s no big deal; my mommy could beat up the Nonpareil!” another jumped in.

She chuckled as she walked by. The warrior’s destination came into view as she approached the Great Tree. Closest to the giant tree, foliage did not grow as well. The Bentulousians took advantage to build several coliseums and other official buildings directly on the ground. Her destination was a military compound where all newer recruits who had less than five years of service were assigned to sleep.

A familiar warrior was waiting outside, and Rheba stiffened as her zebra-patterned fur came into view.

“Zenith, ma’am, how are you this day?” The junior warrior thundered while saluting.

“At ease Rheba; I’m glad you’re doing well,” Zenith replied. She was about a head taller than Rheba but looked down with gentleness in her eyes. Rheba remained stiff.

“I don’t deserve so much from you. I have failed your training.”

“I read your report; we all misunderstood what was going on; walk with me.”

Rheba matched Zenith’s pace as they walked into the barracks.


“We all thought Nun was behind Jolon’s assassination. If that were true, sending a combined force from the other nations would have been perfect for intimidation. It showed the unity of everyone, and with a Nonpareil to back up, well, Nun would have tried nothing serious if they were responsible. I expected your arrival might have some minor skirmishes, but ultimately they would give in out of fear of invasion on all fronts.” Zenith sighed and shook her head.

“But they weren’t responsible,” Rheba finished.

“Yes, they were as much a pawn as we were. Based on your report, I have already checked our entire military, and two Array agents have shown up. I suspect the others are too smart or too cunning to be caught so easily. We have a lot of work to do, Rheba.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“So, no watching beauideal matches in secret.”

Rheba froze in the hallway while Zenith kept walking. She gulped as her commander looked back. If anything, the warrior had hoped Zenith had forgotten what she said in Quenth.

“Of course, ma’am!” she said with difficulty, trying to cover up the worry in her voice.

“Very good.”

Rheba quickly went to her room, a plain space with a single metal frame bed, and fell into the rigid foam. Getting to sleep quickly was no problem.