I've been teasing you mercilessly with little quotes from The Shadow Soul -- and now I'm really bringing on the pain! Read the ENTIRE first chapter below.
It's told from the point of view of Jinji, the female protagonist. The second chapter (which I'll reveal in a few weeks!), is told from the POV of Rhen, the male protagonist!
I hope you love it! As always, any comments are appreciated!
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Without further ado... chapter one!!
For anyone who doesn't like Wattpad, it's also posted below! Enjoy :)
~ Northmore Forest ~
A shadow was just the absence of light, a spot the sun could not reach. It was empty. But floating below her, drifting and dancing along the landscape, her shadow seemed full—not a reflection, but an impostor.
She pumped her leathery wings. The shadow did too.
She dipped closer to the trees. The shadow condensed, its points sharpening to match the outline of her body.
She arched up, farther into the cloudless sky. The shadow expanded and lost focus, rippling over the pointed trees below.
Enough, she thought, gliding with the wind. Time for food. She focused on the horizon, spotting a deeper blue against the sky. Her mouth watered.
Keeping her eyes on the ground, she watched as forest gave way to rocks that cut deep into the sea, a molten sapphire speckled with white. She swerved left along the shore, focusing on the cerulean expanse of the reef, searching for movement.
The lazy undulation of a fin.
She dove, jaws widening.
A black shape flicked into her peripheral vision. She turned.
Bright white eyes opened in the darkness. Jaws clamped around her neck. She reached out with her claws, sinking razor-sharp nails into the invader's flesh.
They fell as one, smacking into the water, a mass of light and dark, plummeting below the surface. The jaws tightened. Her vision condensed. Air slowed.
They continued to descend deeper and deeper into the shadows, to the part of the world the sun could not penetrate, where the darkness gained a life of its own…
Jinji awoke with a start, gasping for air and clutching her aching chest. Her lungs screamed. Her mind fought to escape the daze. She blinked, but the darkness would not recede, even as her memory ignited.
It was the same dream. A dream she had only had once before but would never forget. A dream that was somehow more.
Another blink and a soft orange light leaked into her vision. She looked up through the smoke circle in the roof, toward the sky.
Jinji stood, throwing her furs to the side and stepping quietly past her mother and father. Soft dirt muted her steps, and her parents didn't stir as she crossed the small expanse of their home. Lifting the pelt aside, she stepped into the morning mist and began to run. Her feet followed the path along the longhouse, past the rest of her sleeping tribe and into the forest beyond. No thought was necessary—she had taken this path too many times before.
Besides, concentration was beyond her. Her thoughts had drifted out of the world and into her memories, all the way back to her brother.
Janu, her heart cried softly, remembering him.
The last time she dreamed that dream had been on the eve of his death—what did it mean that it had happened again, a decade later on the dawn of her joining?
She had reached the clearing, her sacred haven. A place shared only with her closest friend Leoa. Away from the game and too close to the outside world for anyone else in her tribe to discover—this place was their secret. The only place two girls could talk away from the attentive ears of the elders and the only place she could go to truly escape.
Jinji fell to her knees and opened her eyes wide, searching the air for something only she could find. She looked along the ground, over the flecks of dew spotting the grass, along the twining roots, up the rough bark and over her head toward the clouds.
A shimmer. A dull glow. And now that she saw it, the light brightened and Jinji smiled. The spirits were still there for her.
For as long as she could remember, Jinji could see them. Everywhere. In everything. Minute strands of green, red, yellow, and blue, twining together to create the world. Earth, air, water, and fire spirits hidden in plain sight for no one but Jinji to see, and sometimes they tried hiding even from her. But not today. Not when she needed them.
Jinji studied the weaving strands, looking through the intricate patterns she would never begin to understand. And there she saw what she had truly been searching for: the space between the elements, the pure white wisps binding the colorful strands together—the mother spirit, the source of everything.
That was the name her people gave it. Her brother and she were named for it. But as far as Jinji knew, she was the only one who could manipulate it.
Closing her eyes, Jinji cupped her hands into a ball, envisioning the pearly glow between the strands of air she had trapped.
Jinjiajanu, she thought. The image changed to that of a face that was stolen ten years before.
Jinjiajanu. Bring Janu back to me—bring my other half back.
She opened her hands, facing them out toward the open air, keeping her eyes closed, using her memory to draw a picture in the wind. His tanned skin, the color of freshly exposed bark. His deep brown irises set in wide eyes and framed with full lashes. His smile, always mischievous and often taking over the whole expanse of his face.
She imagined him taller and broader than he had been as a boy, with muscles hardened from long hunts. The frame of a sixteen-year-old man. The frame of her twin as he would be if he were standing with her today.
After a minute, Jinji dropped her hands and let her eyes ease open. No matter how many times she wove the illusion, her heart stopped at the sight and a lump caught in her throat.
Janu. How I miss you.
Jinji rose and standing next to her, vivid as a real man but unnaturally still, was her brother. Her fingers brushed his, passing through his hand, as she knew they would. He was, after all, an illusion made of spirits. But still, she always tried to touch him, hoping to meet resistance just once.
Jinji could manipulate jinjiajanu, but no one could bring the dead back to life.
"Janu," she said softly, pleading. "What are you trying to tell me?"
But there was no answer. She could make his lips move, could make it look as though he were alive, but this wasn't her brother.
Jinji let the illusion fall and, in the blink of an eye, it had disappeared. The elemental spirits snapped back into their proper place, and their subtle glow faded out. She was alone once more with only the trees to keep her company.
A knot hardened in her stomach, a sense of fear she couldn't dislodge.
The last time she dreamed of the shadow, she had woken in a fright and turned to rouse her brother only to find him missing from their shared pallet. Immediately, she shook her father awake. Using his authority as chief, he woke the hunters and charged into the woods. But the minute she had turned to see Janu missing, Jinji knew that he was gone forever. When the hunters returned holding the carcass of a great bear followed by her father cradling a pouch that dripped with blood, she had fallen to the ground—devastated but not surprised. She heard her mother wail and felt the ground rumble as she dropped, but Jinji's eyes saw only a great shadow waiting to swallow her whole.
And now it had returned. On the day she was meant to be joined with Maniuk, to be named the future leaders of their people, the Arpapajo tribe—the last remaining oldworlders.
Dread rippled down her limbs.
What did it all mean?
"Jinji? Are you there?"
She turned to see her dearest friend, Leoa, push a tree branch aside and step into the clearing.
"I thought maybe…" Leoa trailed off, shaking her head and glancing at the ground before meeting Jinji's eyes again. Her friend's face warmed, nervous creases smoothed out, and a grin lifted the left side of her lip. "What are you doing?"
Jinji took a deep breath, trying to relax. "Thinking of Janu."
Leoa nodded, understanding dawning in her eyes. She stepped closer, placing her warm palm on Jinji's shoulder. "He would want you to be happy. Maniuk was his friend."
Maybe that was it. Maybe she was just nervous, just wishing for her brother on such an important day in her life, just afraid that the joining would give her another man to lose.
She sighed and her shoulders slumped as she pushed the shadow from her mind and glanced at her friend again. The knot in her stomach still curled uncomfortably tight, but there was no use in trying to untie it now.
"Are you here to take me back to my mother?" Jinji asked, already thinking of all she needed to do before the ceremony began, especially of her braid.
Leoa shifted and it was then that Jinji noticed the stark white skins on her friend's arm, almost as pure as jinjiajanu in color.
The edges had been tied into hundreds of knots decorated with dried berries. Feathers of all hues were woven through the fabric, shimmering in the sun, changing colors with each minute move of Leoa's arm. Twine had been specially dyed just so the ancient ceremonial patterns could be woven in, patterns Jinji didn't even truly understand.
She had seen her mother painstakingly work on every inch of the garment, had watched as she laid it on the drying rack to bleach in the sun every day and brought it inside to clean and embroider every night.
Everyone in their tribe would eventually wear exquisite leathers to their joining, but none would ever be as fine as the one Jinji's mother had prepared. Yet the sight of it just made the knot in Jinji's stomach tighten.
She looked up just in time to catch the concern in Leoa's eyes.
"What's wrong, Jinji?"
"Is it Maniuk? Did something happen?" She stepped closer, but Jinji moved away. It was ridiculous to be so concerned with a dream, absolutely ridiculous.
"No, of course not. He's a friend. He'll be a great leader."
"And so will you."
Jinji nodded absently. She had been born to lead her people; it was the only thing she knew how to do. No, that was not the cause of her anxiety.
"I know what's wrong," Leoa said with a smirk and stepped toward the edge of the clearing to lay Jinji's dress neatly on the grass. She held out her hands and cleared her throat. "You're going to miss me. That's what this is all about."
Jinji smiled. "Yes, Leoa, this is all about you."
"I knew it." She straightened her hands again, urging Jinji to take them. "But I know just the thing to help." She impatiently shook her fingertips one more time. Knowing not to disobey her friend, Jinji obliged and held on.
The smirk on Leoa's face widened. From years of experience, Jinji knew exactly what that look meant.
"One," Leoa said.
"Two," Jinji laughed, her mood already lifting.
"Three," they said in unison, completing the routine. And they were off, spinning in circles like the center of a great storm. Jinji gripped Leoa's hands tighter and shuffled her feet to the left, trying not to fall. Their weight tried to pull them apart, but still they held on, straining to stay connected.
The world was a blur, rushing past Leoa's face in a daze of colors that Jinji couldn't unwind. Her smile widened, pushing against her cheeks, straining her muscles so that they hurt in a good way—a way they hadn't in a while. And suddenly, the joining seemed far off. She was a child with her best friend, feeling girlish and untouched. The pressure of growing up had fallen from her shoulders, thrown off by the force of her sudden glee.
And then it was over.
In a heartbeat, Jinji's fingers slipped free of Leoa's, and she was thrown to the side, landing on the ground with an oomph.
But giggles invaded her senses before the pain took any toll, and she rolled to her side, shaking uncontrollably with an innocent joy that pushed itself out into the world because there was simply no way to contain it. So she let it go and unknowingly let her fears go with it.
"That was fun," Leoa said when the silence returned.
"It was," Jinji said, glancing over her shoulder with a contented sigh. Like always, Leoa had known exactly what she had needed.
"Are you ready now?"
"I am," Jinji said and slowly sat up. She brought her hand to her hair, running her fingers through the long, ebony tresses, already missing them when she had reached the end. But before Jinji could make another move, her palm was slapped away.
"I'll do that," Leoa said, taking over the job of weeding out the knots, "just enjoy it. You're finally getting your braid." Her friend's voice was wistful, but to Jinji, this was the worst part of the joining.
She would miss the wind flowing through her hair, the way it moved with the spirits. She would miss the feel of it floating around her face when she dove deep down into a stream. But mostly, she would miss the feeling that it was hers alone, a part of her that belonged to no one else—not yet.
Her future belonged to her tribe. Her past belonged to her brother. Her essence belonged to the spirits. But her hair, as unimportant as it seemed, still belonged to her.
But soon it would belong to Maniuk, to their family, and to her people. No longer would it flow freely down her back, curling in soft tendrils down her spine. No, after sixteen years of freedom, it would be bound for the rest of her life. One strand for Maniuk, one strand for their future children, and one strand for the tribe—three parts braided together to show she had matured into adulthood and had left her carefree childhood behind. It would never be cut or undone, not unless it needed to be.
Jinji had only seen her mother unbraided once. When Janu passed, she had cut one strand of her braid off to be burned with his body, a symbol that their bond had been broken. She let her hair free until the cut strands had grown even with the other two portions and were ready to be braided again, a sign that her heart had healed.
Jinji touched the tips of her silky locks. No, if she was going to be braided, she hoped it would be forever.
"You're usually quiet," Leoa said, continuing to run her fingers through Jinji's untamable hair, "but usually I can tell what's going on in your head."
"I'm just thinking."
"I should be used to that by now. All this thinking you do, it always seems exhausting. More exhausting than all the talking I always do. I wonder what would happen if we changed places for once."
"I would grow hoarse, and you would grow bored."
Jinji was sure Leoa's pause was from rolling her eyes.
"Then I'll keep talking…" She tapped her fingers along Jinji's back, something Leoa always did when she was thinking, or more accurately, scheming.
"Hmm," she said after a minute—an idea had sparked to life, something Jinji probably wouldn't like. "Maniuk is so handsome, don't you think? Have you seen how far he can throw the spears? How easily he can wrestle the other men to the ground? So strong, a great warrior, and well," her voice dipped lower, "I'm sure a great lover, too."
"Leoa!" Jinji tried to turn, but her friend gripped her shoulders, keeping her straight so her hair remained still.
"Don't tell me you haven't thought about it, with the joining so close. I know he has. I've seen him watching you."
"We're friends," Jinji growled, her face burning.
"Well, soon you'll be a lot more than that, and I want to hear all about it, but for now, the braiding."
"Is my mother coming?" Jinji asked, surprised they were not returning to the village before beginning the preparations.
"She knew you wouldn't want everyone around to watch. That's why she sent me to find you."
Jinji smiled, sending her thank you to the spirits since her mother was not there to hear. The last thing she needed was the scrutiny of the elders, picking over her flaws, telling her how to sit and stand and walk and speak. No, it was much better this way.
"Me too. Now," Leoa started and then separated the first third of Jinji's hair, placing it gently over her right shoulder, "for your joined."
"Taikeno," Jinji whispered, repeating the word in their native language, the one that had been stolen from them hundreds of years ago when the newworlders had taken over the land. But still, there were some things that could only be said in Arpapajo words. Some things only the ancient words could really express.
Leoa took the next third and draped it over Jinji's left shoulder. "For your children."
"Ka'shasten," Jinji responded, closing her eyes and saying it like a prayer.
Leoa gathered the remaining locks, tugging gently on them while she said, "For your people."
"Arpapajona." Jinji bowed her head, bringing her palms together, trying to catch the words and fuse them into the spirits around her.
As she wove the three parts together, Leoa began to hum. Following the rhythm, Jinji let her hands dance, weaving the words and the spirits together in an invisible braid, copying her friend's movements in a personal prayer.
Jinji repeated the words again and again in her mind, turning them into a song. A song of hope for a future that was happier than her past.
And then it was done.
Leoa tightened the strands, tying a series of intricate knots at the base of Jinji's braid to keep it tight and strong.
Just like that, she was a woman.
Waiting one more breath, Jinji opened her eyes.
Jumping up and backing quickly away from the spot, she stumbled over Leoa's feet until they had both fallen to the ground again.
She had seen bright white eyes staring out of her shadow.
"We must go," Jinji urged, breathlessly struggling to stand on her feet. Was that a yell she heard off in the distance? Were cries riding on the wind? "Do you hear that?"
Leoa gripped her hands, keeping her steady. "What? There is nothing. You're scaring me."
Jinji paused, took a deep breath, and listened. She heard nothing. Leoa was right.
Looking down at her feet, Jinji let her eyes run over the edge of her shadow, looking deep into the depths for some sign of betrayal.
But it was all a dream. It must have been a trick of the light. An illusion she had woven without realizing it.
Everything was fine. Everything was as it should be.
Her breath slowed as she tried to relax. Everything will be all right. The past is the past—I will not let it determine my future.
She would not let the shadows drive her crazy—she had moved beyond that, past the craze that Janu's death had left her in. She was better now. Stronger.
"Come here," Leoa said, holding up the dress.
Jinji stepped closer, turning around and slipping off the furs that she currently wore. They were brown, covered in dirt and grass stains, blending into the spot where they fell.
She raised her arms up, letting the fresh dress slide down over her body. It was still rough and unworn, scratchy against her skin. But it was beautiful. And it made her copper skin glow.
Leoa tugged on the strap around Jinji's waist securing it tightly before stepping back. Jinji turned, meeting her friend's smile with a weak one of her own.
"Let's go—" Leoa began.
But she never got the chance to finish, because the imagined scream Jinji had heard on the wind turned into a real one, piercing both of their ears like a dagger.
Their eyes met. After years of friendship, of sisterhood, no words were needed. The fear in their gazes said it all, spoke more than words could, and they ran.
Another wail cut through the forest.
Then a growl and a grunt.
The howl of a warrior cry.
Leoa ran faster, her long legs carried her farther than Jinji's petite frame could match. Before long, her friend had become a phantom dashing farther and farther out of Jinji's sight.
The fringe on Jinji's dress pulled against branches, tangling her in the forest as if the trees themselves were trying to stop her. The wind pressed against her limbs, strong gusts that acted like a wall holding her body. Her feet dipped deep into soft mud that should have been hard and dry.
But Jinji pressed on, speeding through the small stream at the edge of their home until she spotted a figure in the distance, just beyond the entrance to the great longhouse.
She sighed, slowing her steps. It was Leoa.
If her friend had stopped running, then there was nothing to fear. Jinji had gotten them both worked up over nothing.
"Leoa?" She called.
Her friend turned just enough for Jinji to see a long stick protruding from her chest, a red spot seeping through her skins.
"Leoa!" Jinji screamed, her eyes widened in horror and her heart pounded, but she was stuck. Her feet felt too heavy to move, as if everything was happening in slow motion. Janu's face flashed before her eyes. This could not be happening. Not again. Her limbs were stiff, her mouth dry, her brain just repeated no, no, no unable to comprehend anything but agony.
And then a whisper filtered through the wind, "Jinji," and Leoa's arm reached out.
Her instincts kicked in. Jinji dashed to her friend, her sister, catching her just as her knees gave out and her body fell. They landed together, sliding slowly to the ground as Leoa's weight pulled them down. Jinji hugged Leoa to her chest, wishing that the beat of her heart would somehow spread to that of her friend's.
But she felt the body in her arms slacken, felt it drop an extra inch into her lap, heard one last gasp of desperate air, and knew.
Her arms lost their grip and Leoa tumbled onto Jinji's lap, lifeless and wide-eyed, shock written across her features.
"Ka'shasten," she whispered, ignoring the tears that blurred her vision. My family. "Pajora jinjiajanu." Be with the spirits.
Her voice cracked and she screamed.
And then her vision went red. She was not a little girl this time. She was a warrior. And she would find out who did this.
Jinji stood. Her eyes scanned the trees, searching for the bow that loosed the arrow, searching for any movement. But the village was still.
"Who are you?" She screamed.
A shuffling noise drew her attention. Just beyond the longhouse, someone was moving.
Jinji crept closer, pressing her body against the curved wood of the house, using it as a shield, hiding from the invader.
Heart pounding, she peered around the corner.
But it was a man she recognized.
"Maniuk," she hissed, trying to catch his attention. His spear was poised at the ready, a bow was slung over his shoulder, and the knife at his waist dripped red.
Part of her was proud. He was already a great warrior, and he would be a great leader when this fight was over.
But another part was afraid. Where was everyone else?
Maniuk didn’t turn to her call. All of his attention was focused on the trees opposite them. She followed the line of his head, unable to see his eyes, and scanned the woods.
There was nothing there.
"Maniuk," she called again. Chills ran along her limbs. It was not the time to be fighting alone.
Suddenly he jerked into action. His arm lashed out, releasing the spear in a low arc that sailed through the center of their small village until with a thud, it landed.
A body fell forward, scratching against bark as it dropped.
But it couldn’t be.
Jinji stepped back.
He would never…
But there was Kekohi, one of their own, an Arpapajo, facedown with the spear through his chest.
Jinji's trembling hands rose to cover her lips, holding in the cry.
And then Maniuk turned around.
His eyes were white, drained of all color, of all spirit, empty and somehow full at the same time.
The shadow had found her. It had come for her.
She stepped back again and again, moving away from the monster before her until her foot caught, and she stumbled.
Looking down, Jinji saw what she had missed earlier. The feathers along the arrow piercing Leoa's chest were raven black with red painted tips. They were Arpapajo, not newworlder. They were Maniuk's—Jinji had plucked those feathers herself.
He moved closer.
Jinji didn’t try to run. She had no weapons, no hope of outpacing him. She had nothing left to run for.
Three feet from her body, Maniuk stopped. He slipped the knife from his waist and held it before him, arm out, almost as if he were offering it her.
Her eyes narrowed, traced the bulging veins up his wrist to his shoulder, until she stared into those absent yet knowing eyes.
The knife rose higher, up and up, over the height of her head, until it rested at his throat.
"No," she reached forward.
But in one quick motion, it was over.
Jinji didn't look away. Instead, she searched those eyes, and the instant before Maniuk's life was gone, she saw what she had been looking for. The shadow disappeared and Maniuk, her taikeno, was back. A deep despair flashed in his irises, and they froze that way as death took him.
He dropped to her feet.
Jinji knelt down, put her palm to his cheek, and closed his eyelids. "We would have done great things together," she whispered, brushing her fingers up through his hair, "I'm sorry I brought the shadow to you. I'm so sorry, my taikeno."
Jinji lowered her head until her lips pressed softly against his. Their first kiss. The one they should have shared at their joining. The one that should have been the first of many, yet would be their last. The only kiss they would ever know.
Suddenly adrenaline punched through her veins. This couldn’t be the end, there had to be someone alive. Her mother. Her father. The children.
She jumped over his body and paused at the edge of her home.
To her left, the longhouse where her tribe slept each night. To her right, the longhouse where food was stored. Across from her, the smaller hut where she lived with her parents. And behind, the ceremonial grounds—today, the burial grounds.
It did not take long to decide where to check first, and before she realized she had moved, Jinji was pulling the furs of the longhouse aside.
The stench hit her like a punch in the gut, and she stumbled. Red splashed over the dirt floor, against the wooden slabs of the walls, dripping from the beams.
The only way to keep moving was to turn her mind off. She walked emotionless down the rows of bed pallets, checking each cut throat for a pulse, not caring as her hand stained maroon.
The children looked asleep, and she was happy for that, happy they had drifted away in ignorance, without experiencing the slow terror that was spreading along her nerves.
There were none alive. And barely any sign of a struggle.
It was too much.
Jinji burst from the door and gulped in fresh air, heaving and coughing until spit dribbled from the corner of her lips—spit and tears.
Lifelessly, she moved back to Leoa's body and lifted her by the arms, dragging her over to the longhouse.
Jinji did the same for the bodies of the warriors she found sprinkled through the trees. She did the same for Maniuk, because she knew in her heart it wasn't really his fault—it was her fault, her burden to bear.
And when all of the bodies were safely tucked inside, she turned to her family's hut, knowing without a doubt what she would find.
She saw her father first, face down in the dirt. She turned him over, hand trembling above the wound that had opened his chest, and threw his furs over his stomach before pulling him to the rest of their people.
And finally, her mother, hand tucked under her cheek—peaceful and unaware.
And then it was done.
Before she could think, Jinji moved to the great fire always burning in the center of their village. She pulled a stick free and placed it against the dried wood of the longhouse, watching it spark, flare, and spread wildly.
Jinji stepped back, letting it burn her eyes.
Better to blaze than to drown.
Everyone she knew. Everyone she loved. An entire people wiped out. An entire culture gone.
But no, not everyone.
She was still here.
Jinji looked down at the red stains covering her white dress, oozing wider with every second. Suffocating. The dress was suffocating her. It scratched her throat, sucked close to her body, constricting her breath, closing in on her lungs.
She screamed, ripping the dress down the seams, pulling the skins her mother had spent hours preparing apart, until she was standing completely bare in the sun.
Like a ghost, she turned around. Her eyes were vacant. Her arms hung lifelessly by her side. Her feet shuffled forward, barely lifting off the dirt.
Jinji went inside her home, reached for the box she always kept by her sleeping mat, and lifted the lid. Her brother's clothes. Tiny as she was, Jinji still fit in Janu's boyhood clothes. She still wore them sometimes, when she needed to feel like she was not alone. So she slipped them on, sliding her legs through the breeches and her arms through the leather shirt, both worn soft by time.
Reaching down again, Jinji gripped his hunting knife and grasped the end of her braid. Barely there an hour, and already all was lost. Her prayer had failed.
Slowly, she sliced through her thick hair, back and forth, back and forth, mechanically.
The braid dropped to the ground.
Her body shivered.
She reached back up again, eyes wide and wild, fighting the tears that were bound to come.
Crazed, Jinji kept cutting, grabbing any loose hairs she could, forcing herself as bald as she could go, as though cutting it all off could somehow bring them back, or at least bring them peace.
When it was done, she lay down, curled on her side with her legs pulled firm against her chest, so she could cry away from the world—whatever was left of it.
And deep in her heart, she wished for one thing, a wish she had longed for years ago—that she had died instead of Janu.
Before, it had been a selfless wish, a wish that her twin could live a long, happy life. She would have died to give him that chance. But now, she was acting selfishly. She was alone, and she wished beyond all things that she were the one with her people in the spirit world.
Her eyes closed and she cupped her hands, imagining the spirits and the jinjiajanu she had trapped in that small place.
And as she wished, she wove, tying the elemental spirits around her body in an intricate illusion, so for at least a little while she could pretend that she was the twin who had died, instead of the twin who was alone—the last remaining Arpapajo in this hopeless world.
Click here to start reading chapter two!