Chapter 8:

The Fighter for the Gold, Part II

Desert Company

Khoyor 15th. The noble sat at a fine dining table, decorated with white linen table cloth and an assortment of Azu delicacies. With a yunomi cup he sipped the Azu’s green Tsaa, which in his opinion tasted better than the one back home. On the table also lay the letter with the Al-Wa symbol. He looked out from the windowless view of the Battkan Kurotari Hôtel of Wakoku, the evening stars streaking across the skies in the darkened void. The waves could be heard, battering violently across the Azu shore. Kwazhak decided to reread the letter again.

To ‘Le Prince de Laoyuang’:

Al-Wa has managed to capture ten participants for the Dineh Kazaàd. To be honest, I hate seeing these children being sent off to that tournament for money. We’ve been playing along with Al-Wa year after year, but I think this year will be different. This batch is promising, and there is a chance that we can save them all. But I can’t do this alone. Come to the town of tea and secrets, and we will devise a plan with the captive participants.


“I asked him many times not to refer to me by that name,” Kwazhak rested his head on his hand. The letter wasn’t forged. L’s handwriting was a bit ‘unique’ when he wrote in the Dhaj script. Sometimes the young Kesat would forget to write a radical, or fail to remember an ideographic character, writing the character as mere zigzag lines and circles. Kiyomiya was also the only person in Yahmajô̗ Alą̧̄utl to refer to Kwazhak as ‘Le Prince de Laoyuang’. Knowing this, Kwazhak had taken the effort to travel to Wakoku ‘Basad by buggy, leaving As-Z̆onghu̐a for the Al-Diyu Sands, going westward reaching the Buhang explored Tier̃a Muęrta Dunes, and then taking a ferry across the Al-Heiwa Gulf into Azutami. Before he knew it, he had reached Wakoku in the evening, when the town was in the range of his ‘Dihu Chuansong’ spell.

He checked his coin pouch, only to find but two golden Yak coins. Although he was aware of Azu customs, Kwazhak treated every homeless person during his commute to a meal and tipped each service employee an enormous sum, regardless of how minimal they assisted him.

“Sorry, sorry!”


There was a commotion at the entrance of the hôtel, for Kwazhak could hear voices from the cafeteria. Curious, he left his seat to check the cause. He made sure his clothes were proper, and organized the cupperware and various bric-à-brac on his table. Walking down the curving flight of stairs, he saw at the entrance a young Azu girl and an older lady, with the hôtel busboys trying to urge them out.

“C’mon, all the food stalls are closed, can we eat here?” The girl kept on asking. Her weapon behind her back was most likely scaring the employees, Kwazhak thought.

“Saya, that’s enough, w-”

“It appears that you are in need of somewhere to eat?” Kwazhak approached them, as the Battkan employees backed off. The girl immediately turned towards him and shouted.

“Yeah, Obaa needs to eat or else!” She yelled, speaking with such audacity to him, “Wait, you’re a Z̆ongren?”

He turned his head towards the girl’s Obaa-san, who seemed to be tired and worn out. It looked as if they had traveled many, their clothes showing signs of tearing and wear, and the sand in their hairs. Without hesitation, he quickly pulled out his coin pouch, and offered them his last two coins in his hand.

“Take it. And enjoy a fine meal with your Obaa-san,” Kwazhak said calmly, as the girl’s eyes sparkled. She swiped the coins out of his hand and bowed.

“Thank you, Mr. Z̆ongren person!”

Interesting, he thought. This was the first time someone had used such casual speech in Azu with him. Normally, people would assume him to be a noble, and would switch to honorifics when speaking to him for the first time. It was natural etiquette to speak with such formalities to the elite while the elite used casual speech, but Kwazhak spoke with honorifics regardless of his known status. He was deep in thought until someone tried to get his attention.

“Sir. Would you like to join us?” It was the Obaa that called, with a slow gesture.

“I’m grateful for the offer, but I have already eaten,” He responded with a nervous smile.

“You can eat a second time, right? We will pay you back with the remaining money that we have.”

Kwazhak did not know whether it was the Obaa’s seniority or calm and wise personality, or even the fear of becoming broke, but he ended up sitting at his former table, with the exception of two extra guests of a girl and her grandmother. The Azu girl ordered an assortment of dishes that Kwazhak had never seen his entire life, for he had only eaten the local dishes that he grew up with. He sat de trop as the girl enthusiastically devoured everything while her grandmother ate a few portions of the various jasmine rice covered seafood, the vegetables and meat overflowing with sauces.

“Saya, manners,” The grandmother chastised her for eating too sloppily, and Kwazhak was glad that the Obaa said that. He noticed at their belongings that they were carrying, an Azu scimitar, a travel sack, and themselves. Kwazhak found that the name ‘Saya’ rang a bell from a scene long ago.

“So, what is your final destination of one’s travels?” He turned his head slightly, a perfect conversation starter. The girl stopped eating, which frightened Kwazhak internally, and looked up at him.

“Al-Wa,” She said, with food and meat in her mouth. It was then followed by a bonk on Saya’s head by her grandmother. His brain failed to process what she had just said. Al-Wa. Was she selected as one of the ten, Kwazhak thought. No child would ever have a reason to go to the Al-Wa Wakoku branch except for the business of the Dineh Kazaàd. There was not a chance in the world for someone to voluntarily participate unless they had a death wish.

“Look at yourself, don’t talk with your mouth full.”

“Obaa-san, I may have to inquire but, how old is one’s grandchild?” He asked nervously, uncertain due to the girl’s lack of mannerisms and way of speech.

“I would say born around the 1960s. Her parents never told me exactly what it is,” The Obaa sighed. “Mister, you look like you’ve traveled far from your country. Where are you heading?”

“As for me? I am also planning on departing to the Al-Wa Wakoku branch-”

“You’re going there too?” Saya put down her chopsticks and stood up, as Kwazhak put his hands up in defense. “You’re going to be one of the fighters then, right? A rich dude like you?”

“Not exactly,” He was slightly offended by her remark, which placed his logic back under control.

“Hmph, whatever. Why did you even give us money for food?” Saya questioned his reason for treating them, sitting back down. It was then followed by a brief moment of silence from him. His response was created a bit out of the spur of the moment of words from the past, but Kwazhak’s brain arranged it into a proper response.

“I don’t like seeing people suffer under the elite. It tends to frustrate me,” He replied, trying not to think about it too much.

“Thorough answer, here.”

She pushed a plate of what looked to be stir-fry noodles to his side, shiny and yellow. Kwazhak was confused as to what it was.

“Try it, it’s called yaksoba.”

“One can eat ‘this’?”

“Hey don’t treat it like it’s not food! Since you want to treat commoners to meals, then you gotta taste their food to see what it actually tastes like.”

“Very well, if you insist,” He coughed in hesitation, as he took his chopsticks and grabbed a small portion. Then with one mouthful, he placed it in his mouth, beginning to munch on it. He immediately felt nauseous as Kwazhak hid his feelings from the outside. It was sweet. Too sweet, as if his tongue had been dumped in five cups of sugar. He knew that commoner food was going to leave a bad impression on his taste buds, but he never expected it to be worse.

“Well, what do you think? Delicious right?” She smiled with pride with her hands on her hips. Kwazhak thought out his remarks on the dish.

“It is incredibly rich and flavorful. I never knew that one’s hand in the kitchen could make such a unique taste from buckwheat noodles, and the sweetness incurred in the oil has made quite the impression-”

“Delicious or not delicious!” Saya pounded on the table, annoyed. Kwazhak stopped his long exposition. He slyly grabbed the letter that was on the table, and tucked it into his robe.

“Not delicious.”

This ‘Saya’ came to be a stubborn girl to Kwazhak. She would end up blunt and straight-forward, but yet manages a happy side with a smile. While ignoring her rantings, her grandmother placed a gold coin on the table and slid it to him with her finger.

“Here’s the remaining money. Sorry for causing you trouble,” The grandmother said with care. It was one of his coins that he gave to them. He was reminded of his mother, as Saya’s Obaa was calm and collected, and he had already grown fond of her. Kwazhak took the last coin, and thanked her. They said their graces.

“I’ll be going. I appreciate you allowing me to try a piece of Azu gastronomy, ‘Saya’,” Kwazhak stood up from his seat, fixing his hair. “Goodnight, and may we see each other again someday.”

He walked away from the table, planning to head over to Al-Wa as soon as possible. There wasn’t any time to waste now, he thought. L and Kwazhak had to save as many fighters as possible from entering the Dineh Kazaàd, including ‘Saya’. They couldn’t save any of last year’s fighters, and he knew how deeply L was affected much more than him. They both had a common goal. Somehow, deep down, he felt a great sense of anger that boiled inside him.

“Mother, I will avenge you no matter what.”