I grew up in Zhong. I had no friends. But Zhong had its secrets. I would hide in the bamboo and find abandoned huts and elegant entrances. The rain was always so cool and calm, and I would find sheep grazing in the neat fields. It was the life I liked.
I had light brown hair, always done in plaits. I had some illusive freckles, and a perfectly shaped nose. But what I liked best about me were my violet eyes, with streaks of amber in them.
I quietly sat at the dinner table, eating the stew. Bits and bobs peeked out from the thick sea of it. It tasted the same as all the stews we had been eating for the past few months. But complaining only hurt the feelings of mother, who tried her very best. It was a hard life to be poor.
"The food prices are going up" mumbled father, who was tryng to spark some conversation.
"We don't buy food anymore anyway'' replied Mother. "We search for mushrooms in the wood and catch fish from the sea".
"Oh" answered father.
This was unusual for my parents. They were always talking, making jokes, singing, entertaining. But this was far from it.
"Mum, Dad, is there anything I need to know about?" I asked casually.
"It's just....well...." Mother gave a questioning glance at Father. He nodded and returned to eating.
"Tomorrow is the Nectar Ceremony" finished her mum. "Dear, I just want to ask, do you want to go?"
"It's the rules" I said.
"But if you do get a Spirit Animal we may never see you again, and you will need to fight".
"It's for a good cause" I assured her.
Waking up in the morning was like a firework had been released. I was going to the Nectar Ceremony today! Would I get a spirit animal? What would the nectar taste like?
I remembered the past few days at school. The Nectar Ceremony was the one thing everyone was talking about. I had no one to talk to about it. Except the sheep, who didn't really care.
The hard cobblestone ground was full of cracks. The arching entrances were adorned with colourful decorations. A gigantic crowd was circled around a stage. My stomach was full of butterflies.
I could see the whole crowd from my seat on the stage. I could recognise the parents from school, the merchants hoping to make some money from the event, and even some pickpockets weaved through the crowds. The pickpockets were small, poor children who were dressed in rags.
Children waited on the stage. Few sat quietly. Most were talking or playing with their clothes and fingers. I was wearing a thin, violet dress matching my eyes.
The crowd settled down and stop speaking as the ceremony started.
"Welcome, ladies and gentlemen" boomed a man over the loudspeaker. "On this special day, we are to find a child with a spirit animal".
A Greencloak had all the nectar, and goblets were lined up in a row on a table.
The first person in line was a boy. He had a bored, yet handsome look. He took the goblet and drank it. The crowd waited. Nothing happened. I was growing restless as everyone had their turn.
"It tasted so bitter"whispered one boy to his friends. "Mine had no taste at all" said another.
I was jerked out of my thoughts.
"Harmonie Greenphantom, please come up"
My parents smiled encouragingly as I walked forward. The nectar had a yellow-orange colour, and smelled like a cherry blossom. I took it to my mouth and drank it without hesitation. It tasted like a firework, throwing sweet tastes all over my taste buds.
I suddenly had a falling feeling, and I saw a a bright light jumping out of me. It was a scarlet colour. It flew around me and high into the sky, then it returned to the ground. It turned into a shape, and it grew fur. The bright light faded, and in it there was a fox. It was confused, yet calm because I was there.
Everyone pointed and whispered. I blushed as scarlet as that light had, for I didn't enjoy being the centre of attention. Children looked at me in envy, the merchants wondering if they could buy me and the pick-pockets longing to have such an opportunity. I stroked my fox. I would call her Scarlett.
The pale girl next to me, Joanna, walked up to the stage. She had silky black hair, unlike my light brown. She was dressed in light blue. Her eyes were a deep black, and she seemed to know more than you if she looked at you. She lifted the goblet up. She took a deep breath, as if she were plunging into water, and drank the nectar.
She put the goblet down. A wry smile was on her lips. She lifted up her hands. A blue colour was in her eyes for a second, then vanished. Suddenly, blue waves erupted from her fingertips. The waves made a small, plump shape. The water kept spinning around the shape. Then it all fell away like a gift from it's wrapping, and evaporated instantly. A penguin was inside this wrapping.
The girl walked back to her seat, the penguin waddling by her side. She seemed to talk to it through her deep, empty eyes.
I now looked with more attention when everyone had their turn. It looked like the magic was over until it was the turn of Jon & Ron, two brothers. Jon had red hair, and green eyes. Ron had blonde hair and hazel eyes. Both had a slight brownish skin, but Ron had much darker skin. They were both wearing purple suits decorated with gold. Talk about showing off. By the obvious grin on the face of one of the merchants, they were his sons.
Jon was up first. He took the goblet and held it tightly, as if something was pulling it.
When he had finshed drinking he let out a deafening roar. He grinned. Just as he had finished roaring, a bounding pale orange creature leaped across the crowd. People screamed and crouched down.
The orange creature stopped at the boy's feet, and spun around. It was no longer a ghost, but a living tiger. As he walked back, Jon high-fived to Ron.
"Nice show, eh?" he whispered.
"Yes, brother. But mine will be better!" laughed Ron.
They gave each other a playful push, then Ron walked on. You could see he was nervous. He picked up the goblet with one hand, had a little sip, then another, then he drank it all.
A strong wind blew all the surrounding grass seeds to the stage. Without any soil they sprung out of their seeds and grew. They grew so high they created a wall between Ron and the audience. A sound like lightning occurred and created a hole in the wall. Through the sunlight there was a rock, and on it was a Komodo Dragon. Then, without any warning, the wall collapsed. People rushed to grab a seed. Ron looked behind him at his brother and raised an eyebrow. Jon shrugged and grinned.
The remaining children had no luck. As dusk was not far away, everything was wrapped up. The man on the loudspeaker told the story of the Greencloaks, and the Conquerors. I was tired and hungry. I stood up to leave, and a hand fell on my shoulder. It was a Greencloak.
"Bid farewell to your parents, then we must set off".
I weaved through the crowd, trying to find my parents. Scarlett tried to keep up with me, nipping at anyone in the way.
Mother had a sad, faraway look. Father had a hard stony face.
"I-I-I'm sorry"I stuttered to Mother.
"Don't be"she said. "If you leave, you're not losing anything".
"I'll lose my parents!" I exclaimed.
"We're not your parents" interrupted my Father.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"You're parents are in hiding, fighting, or...dead. We took you here to Zhong, to safety"continued my foster-father.
"But...but you seem so much like parents" I said.
"Because we were" interrupted my foster-mum. "We had a son...Jeremy. He was a Greencloak too. Once he went on a quest and...didn't come back".
"I'm sorry" I whispered. "I'm sure he's alive, somewhere."
I looked at my foster-parents both in the eyes.
"I'll find my parents, and I promise I'll find Jeremy"
I hugged them each, gave them a farewell smile, and darted into the crowd.
I stepped into the carriage with the other Keepers, and then we were going to Greenhaven. I knew one thing as I saw the only home I knew left behind. I was going to bring back home happiness. And maybe I could solve my life, like piecing a jigsaw together.