All around me, people were restless, some of them were angry, some of them were excited, cheering and yelling because of my victory. Some of them had placed bets and a few were collecting, it was obvious to me that not many thought that I would win.
“What the hell happened here?” A man asked as he opened a path between the crowd to approach the area where the fight had taken place.
People around us stopped discussing and got into a respectful silence, some of them going to far as to bow to the man.
“Well, Fara thought she could humiliate my woman, and she got what she deserved.” Kimball explained.
“I don’t know how this happened Kimball, but you better control your woman, I won’t tolerate this kind of behavior.”
“Excuse me?” I asked in disbelieve. The fight with the woman had left me in a bad mood, the last thing I needed what that man patronizing attitude, all it was doing was getting me even angrier.
“You don’t have to apologize to me, is Fara you have to talk to, I don’t know what dirty trick you used to knock her out, but that won’t work here. Here we take honor seriously, and as long as you are here you will too.”
“Is he for real?” I asked Kimball, I was just about to teach him some manners.
“I’m afraid so, but don’t worry, I’ll talk to him and explain.” Kimball said.
“You just arrived, so I guess you don’t know who I am,” the man continued, oblivious to my anger. “I’m Paki, leader of the Shadows Clan and the person in charge of Mzansi’s special force’s training. The first thing you have to know is that in this place my word is law, you will have to learn to obey without question…”
“I’m sorry, but I’ve never been good at following orders.” He wasn’t happy at my interruption, I saw the anger in his face, even if he tried to keep it under control.
“… we will take care of your education. You have to learn to respect your superiors, for example, when one with a higher ranking than you enters a room, it’s only polite to bow to him.”
“Paki, right?” I wasn’t sure I was able to remember his name, I was so mad. “Let me clarify something for you,” my anger was like a bomb, literally, and I let it explode, sending waves of energy around me, pushing people back and even moving some of the equipment in the gym. “I bow to no one! And I don’t follow orders from those weaker than me.”
“I’m the leader of this Clan…” he started to protest, but I cut him off.
“And you think that impress me? I used to be the Empress of the Dark Empire. I have destroyed more Clans than you have lead.” Some of the people around were getting scared, I realized my powers were still hitting them, although they were no longer pushing so hard. “I don’t want to cause trouble. I will behave as long as you and your people treat me with the respect I deserve. I’m not here to fight, but if you think I will keep quiet while you and your people insult me, then you are gravely mistaken. I will make you pay for any offense you cause. I could be a valuable ally, but I can be a terrible enemy. Think carefully which one you want me to be.
“Kimball,” Paki turned to him, ignoring me, “you have to control her.”
“You have a few options, so choose carefully. You can treat her with care and respect, as she deserves, or you can antagonize her, which will cause her to get mad and kick your sorry ass. In that case we would have to leave, and you know that my uncle the King wants me to stay.”
“That’s enough!” Paki looked around, as if noticing for the first time we had an audience. “I don’t care who you think you are, you will have to learn how things work in here.” Before I could react, the man was by my side, grabbing my arm in a painful hold.
“Don’t you dare touch me!” It wasn’t the way I wanted to start my time with Kimball’s people, but I couldn’t help it. I was already mad because of my fight with Fara, but Paki’s attitude was the last drop.
I connected to the hand holding my arm, I tried to use my mind to force the hand open, but I soon realized that I didn’t have the strength to do that, I couldn’t break his bones either, for they were as strong as iron, so I looked for something easier to break, and I started to burst his ligaments and tendons until he couldn’t hold me anymore. He looked at his hand, now flaccid and deform and hissed, the only sound that betrayed his pain.
I heard someone laughing and clapping, I searched for the person and found a smiling woman moving closer to us. She was tall and slim, but what set her aside from the others was her fair skin and blond hair, moving in a sea of dark skinned people with black hair.
“That was amazing!” The woman stopped next to Kimball and hugged him. “That woman is terrifying! I’m so glad that you found someone like her.” With that Kimball joined her laughing and returned the hug.
“You are glad that my partner is terrifying. Why would you like that?” Kimball asked with a smile.
“You need someone to keep you on your toes.” The woman turned to face me, her arms still around Kimball. “And she is so beautiful, and more importantly, she makes you happy, I haven’t seen you smiling like that in a long time.” The woman wasn’t like the rest of the people there, for starters, I would see her thoughts, some of them were drifting, she was thinking about me, and Kimball, happy thoughts. Using my empathy I could see that she had warm, kind feelings for Kimball, but also for me, and I also caught a hint of admiration.
“Anyone would be smiling after watching someone put Paki in his place,” said a man that had moved closer to Kimball and the woman. “I have to admit, you got yourself a fine woman.” His feelings were a mirror of the woman’s. With those feelings washing over me, I felt my bad mood evaporate.
“Kaiserin, let me introduce you to my parents: Victoria and Makgatho.”
“It’s a real pleasure to finally meet you,” Victoria said, letting Kimball go and approaching me. “I hope you don’t mind if a give you a hug.” She wasn’t asking for permission, she was letting me know, and a second later I was enveloped in her arms. The woman looked fragile, but I could feel the strength in her. “I don’t know how to thank you for everything you have done for my son. You have no idea how desperate I was, watching him getting lost in his path of self-destruction. You put him back on the right path, and I can’t pay you back for that.”
“Mother…” Kimball’s tone was a warning, what about I wasn’t sure, but he looked a little uncomfortable with her words. I knew his history, but I never took credit for his change.
“This is not the place to talk,” Kimball’s father said. “Why don’t we move to a more private place?”
“That’s a good idea.” Victoria, without taking her arms off of me, started to guide me outside the gym.
“Mother, please, stop dragging Kaiserin with you.”
“It’s okay Kimball,” I wasn’t sure why, but being with the woman was comforting, I liked the happiness I felt from her touch, “I don’t mind. I like her.”
“Great,” Makgatho said with mock desperation, “just what we needed, more allies for your mother.” He looked around, a puzzled look on his face. “What happened to Paki?”
“I think he took off while mother was talking to Kaiserin. I guess he needed medical attention, his hand didn’t look well.” Kimball said.
“I can’t believe you broke his hand. That family has crazy strong bones, some said unbreakable.”
“They are, that’s why I severed the ligaments instead of breaking the bones.”
“If that’s true, then he will need an operation to repair the damage.” Kimball said. “I think I will have to go check on him.”
“Let him suffer,” Makgatho said, “it was time someone taught him a lesson. The problem with being so far away from Mzansi is that you get so focused on the military life, that you start forgetting basic values.”
“He was like that since before he became the Clan leader.” Victoria complained.
“I still don’t understand completely how this works,” I confessed, “it’s hard to understand that there are people above the leader.”
“Well, officially Paki is the General in charge of Mzansi’s Special Forces. Is just that being here, in contact with the Empire, changed the role a little bit. With so many encounters with the Clans trying to attack the island’s people, the soldiers here started to call themselves a Clan.” Makgatho tried to explain.
“That, and the training sessions in the Empire’s territory, that fueled the stories about a Clan capable of disappearing, the one they named the Shadows Clan. People liked the name, until they finally adopted it.” Victoria added.
During our talk we had reached the building where we had stayed the night before, there were some apartments there, assigned to high ranking people and visitors. Victoria took me to a different one that the one I had shared with Kimball and I guessed it was hers. She took her place in the bigger sofa, and I had to join her, because her arm was still around me. Makgatho took a smaller sofa and Kimball took a chair.
“So how have you been?” Kimball asked one we were all seated. “How are things back home?”
“Getting worse every day.” Makgatho said, with a grim face. “Emily and Fakhir have control of almost all of the continent already. As you know, some nations decided to surrender to them instead of risking fighting them. The nations that can call themselves independent are fewer and fewer.”
“As you know, our geographic position is both an advantage and disadvantage. So far we have been able to contain their attacks, but as more of our neighbors are taken, our borders become more vulnerable.” Victoria added. “Things right now have calmed down, but I worry that it’s just the calm before the storm.”
“It’s because of that that Kgosi wants you back.” Makgatho said. “You always had a gift for getting into the enemy’s mind and guessing what their plans could be. He thinks that with you on our side, we will be able to survive whatever they throw at us.”
“I’m not the only one capable of doing that. There is a lot of people capable of doing that work. He thinks that just because I’m part of his family I have abilities others don’t have, but he’s wrong.”
“No matter how it is, having you will help.”
“I’m surprised you came all the way here. We will be in Mzansi in just a couple of days.”
“Well, once you arrive at Mzansi King Kgosi will take over your time. We needed time with you, you have been away for too long, you can’t blame us for wanting to be with you.” Victoria said.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy you’re here, I’m just surprised you were willing to make the trip.”
“Well, it’s not just for you, we wanted to meet Kaiserin,” Victoria said, as she turned her attention back to me. “And what a great first impression we got! She certainly is a woman that takes no crap from no one. I loved to see someone putting Paki in his place.”
“I shouldn’t have acted like that, I know better than to let my temper get the best of me. I swear I’m usually better at controlling myself. It’s just that I was so angry at that woman, that when Paki arrived, I just couldn’t control myself.”
“How did you get into a fight with Fara?” Makgatho asked.
“Well, I think she wanted to get rid of me, I have a suspicion that she wants Kimball for her, and thought that if she could get me out of the picture she would get a chance with him. I’m not sure about it, it’s just that during our fight I could feel her jealousy and anger, and that the only reason I can think of for her feelings.”
“That’s ridiculous, even if you weren’t here, you are the only woman I love.” Kimball was angry and preoccupied, as if he was afraid I thought he would replace me so easily.
“I know that, it’s just that I was angry at her for thinking she was better than me for you, that I don’t deserve you. I guess I was thinking that after what happened with Sia and the others people would treat me different.”
“I’m afraid that what happened is kind of classified, not many people know about it. Paki is the one who should have remembered about it and acted better, is as if he thought that everything we said about the incident was false.”
“That sounds just like Paki, if he is not there to witness it or if is not something he planned, then it can’t be real. When Kimball told us about what happened, I was very impressed with the way you handled things, that’s just another reason I was so eager to know you, you are a very impressive person.” Victoria said.
“Kimball talked a little about you, but I never thought I would get to meet you.” I said.
“Why not? As soon as you marry Kimball we will be officially a family.” Makgatho said.
“What?” I wasn’t sure what he meant.
“For us, marriage is an important thing for couples,” Kimball explained, “but people from the Empire doesn’t practice marriage, at least not many,” Kimball added for his parents. “And that is something for me and Kaiserin to talk in private, so knock it off.”
“Ok, ok, I get it, no more talk about marriage.” Makgatho agreed, but his words were already circling my mind.”
We spent the rest of the day just talking, I got to learn more about Mzansi, the place I would be living. I also learned a lot about Kimball and his family. His parents weren’t involved in the war efforts, although I got the impressions that his mother wouldn’t mind being part of it if she was allowed to.
After a day of being with Kimball and his parents, I felt like I finally had a real family.