34 – The Other Boy

You lay in bed and watch Akachi sleep.  The Joybringer seems older while at rest, as if sleeping he could no longer hide his four thousand years.    Akachi shifts in the chair and you quickly close your eyes, pretending to be asleep.   After a few moments of silence, you reopen your eyes and see that Akachi has not awaken.   You are relieved.  The last thing you want is to sort through your mixed feelings about your guardian right now.  Frankly, you don’t want to deal with anything.  You roll over and close your eyes.

A few moments later, you feel a cool hand on your forehead.   You open your eyes to find Sasha smiling down at you.   The sunlight in the window says that is late afternoon now.  You can smell food.

“Hey!  How are you feeling?”   She checks your pulse.

“Hungry,” Your stomach growls.

“You are always hungry.  I don’t know where you put it all, being so thin.”  Sasha sets up a tray on the bed.   She puts a bowl of soup down in front of you.   You immediately begin shoving udon noodles into your mouth.

Akachi rouses himself in the chair.  “Breakfast?” he asks groggily.

“Late Lunch.   I didn’t bring any for you.”  She then ignores the elder and begins putting the various medical supplies away.   Sutures, clean bandages, antibiotics.  You scratch at your forehead where the Lunar tried to bit your head off.   There are a few scabs remaining, though when you brush them with your fingers, they fall away, leaving healthy and unscarred skin.

You pause in your eating to ask, “How long was I out?”

“Two days,” Akachi pulls the blanket off of himself and folds it under his arms.

“Have you been here the whole time?”  You pick up a shrimp in your chopstick and pop it into your mouth.

“After what happened in the cave, I’m not letting you out of my sight.”

Great.  You focus emptying the bowl of soup.   You spill your soup all over yourself, when Sasha suddenly slams one of the steel trays down on the table.

“How could you send him to a school where there is Lunar?!”

“We didn’t know there was a Lunar here.”  Akachi hands you a towel.  “The headmaster was part of a Fair Folk Wyld Hunt during the holiday break.  She must have attracted the attention of the Lunar, who took the opportunity to steal her form.  Chejop and I noticed something off about the Headmaster’s thread while we were at the loom discussing whether Svante should continue shadowing Wanahton on his mission.  “

“You’d think that two individuals with over eight thousand years of experience would think to check the Loom for Anathema before sending someone on a mission.”

“I am fully aware of how close we came to losing both Svante and Wanahton. “  Akachi looks away.  “Being experienced does not make you immune from mistakes.  It just makes you more capable of fixing them.”   Sasha falls silent at this and continue putting away her supplies.

You pick udon noodles off of your chest and drop them into your bowl.  Now that the soup has taken the edge off of your hunger, you have a hundred questions to ask.

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way.  “How is Wanahton?”

“Wanahton is out of danger and is sleeping in the next room.  Rest is the best thing to help him heal.”  Sasha says.

“Will I be able to see my circle again?”

Akachi mutters “That bastard outwitted me again.”  He then smiles.  “That Shogunate Princess managed to really catch your eye, huh?”

“Wait?  No.  It’s not like that at all. “ you protest.  “The members of my circle are highly placed in the Shogunate.    I’m going to need connections like those when I grow up, right?”

“Svante, with Arcane Fate it is very difficult for us to form connections with non-Sidereals.   Many Sidereals find companionship among the Gods in the Bureau simply because they remember them.”

“But difficult does not mean impossible.”  You say unwilling to give up.

“Very true,” Akachi agrees.  “You have two options.   One is to continue your friendship as Cnead Svante.  While your Dragon blooded friends would have no trouble remembering you, when your Resplendent Destiny ends, they will slowly forget you.”

“But I only have a year on that identity.”  You remind Akachi.

“I know, which brings me to option number two.   You can forgo that identity and try to restart your friendship as yourself.   It will be hard work but eventually your dragon blooded friends may be able to over Arcane Fate to remember you.”

“You mean, I can tell them that I am a Sidereal?”  You twist your covers in your hands waiting for Akachi’s response.

“There is precedent for Dragon bloods of certain rank to be aware of our existence.   Chuzei Enki, for example, is a veteran of many Wyld Hunts.   Chiyoko and Aiko are familiar with one of Elder Kejak’s identities, though they are unaware of his true nature.  ”

“When can I see them?”  You sit up and set the tray aside.

Akachi get up out of his chair and lays the blanket over its back.  “Get dressed and we can see them now.”

 

On your way back to your dorm room, you stop by and see Wanahton.   He has been laid out on the bed, covered in bandages.  He is pale underneath all the bandages and is a deep sleep.

“He looks much better than when he was first brought here.”  Sasha reassures you.   She check on his bandages.

“Will he be okay?”

“Of course.   In a few days, he will be back to stinking up my office with tobacco smoke. “

“Technically, it’s his office too.”

“I was there first.” Sasha asserts.  “And it is rude to smoke indoors.”   You and Akachi leave Sasha in Wanahton’s room.  She settles down to read a book.

 

You nervously walk down the hallway with Akachi by your side.   You are wearing the Quiver, hopefully for the last time.   You stand before the closed door of your dorm and pause before knocking.   You can hear voices talking inside.

“You do realize that Adventures of the Immaculate Dragons! is an abridged version of the Immaculate Texts?  “  You hear Aiko say.

“Yes, but I don’t see any of the Maidens’ signs shown here with the rest of the Anathema.”  Masaru comments.

“I’ll be right outside if you need me,” Akachi says softly.  He moves to be out of sight of the door.

Masaru answer the door when you knock and his face breaks out in a grin.  “Hey!  You are alright!”   He drags you into the room.  “I can’t believe you fought an Anathema without me.”

“I did send Aiko to go get you, but she had to go summon a demon instead.”

“Well, next time I’ll let the Anathema gnaw your brain out.”  Aiko retorts.   “Anyways, I promised I wouldn’t leave you behind and I keep my promises.”

You sit down next to Chiyoko on your bed.   “I owe you guys an explanation.”   All three of your friends are silent when you start to explain what a Sidereal is and about how Arcane Fate and Resplendent Destinies work.

“I wanted to tell you the truth, but I wasn’t allowed to because I was on a mission and I could have blown Wanahton’s cover.”

“Wait,” Aiko starts, “Are you saying that you are a Secret Agent of Heaven?”

“Um…  I guess that is one way to put it.”

“That is so cool!”  Aiko exclaims.

“Forget that.”  Masaru says excitedly. “Svante, you do realize that you are a Pretty Dragon Princess?”

“Wait, what?”  Where the fuck did that come from?

“Hear me out!   Meru has a secret identity that no one can recognize her, though it should be quite obvious who she is.  Her anima doesn’t flux half the time.  “

“I’m not a Pretty Dragon Princess.”

Aiko taunts.  “Pretty Dragon Princess Svante.”  Masaru snickers.

“Can we…” Chiyoko starts.  “Can we see the other you?”  This is the first time she spoke since you enter the room.

You nod.   You close your eyes and shed your false identity.  All three of the Dragon bloods just stare at you.

“Guys… Say something…  Please?”   You beg.  This was a stupid idea that will never work.

“So…that’s it?”  Masaru says.

“Umm…. Yeah.”  You have no clue what he was expecting.

“No costume change?   No flashing anima?”  Masaru is unimpressed.

“Maybe Svante isn’t all that pretty of a Dragon Princess as you thought.” Aiko explains.

“Will you two shut up about that damn Manga?”  Chiyoko yells.   “If you aren’t going to take this seriously, then leave!”

“You can’t kick me out of my own dorm.”  Masaru argues.

“Get out!”  Chiyoko screams.  Aiko mumbles something to Masaru and they both leave the room.

You and Chiyoko sit in awkward silence for a bit.  “I didn’t want to lie to you,” you begin, “but…”

“It’s not that,” Chiyoko interrupts.   “I thought I knew Svante… you,”  she corrects herself.  “Now you tell me he doesn’t exist?”

“I do exist!”  You insist.  “I’m not a Wood Aspected Dragon blooded, but everything else is me. “  You noticed that Chiyoko is crying.  You take the edge of your sleeve and wipe away her tears.   Chiyoko looks away from you.

“You told me it was okay to cry.  Do you remember that?”  Her cheek feels warm under your hand.  She smiles weakly at you.   You remember the moment on the beach, but you hold back.  To her, that happened with a different boy.   You reluctantly pull your hand away.   Akachi warned you that this would be difficult.   “I should get going.”

Chiyoko wipes her eyes and nods.  “Can I walk you out?” she asks.  Before you leave the room, Chiyoko tentatively takes your hand.   You squeeze her hand reassuringly and walk out the door.

Chiyoko is surprised to see Akachi waiting by the door with Aiko and Masaru.  “This is my guardian, Akachi.”

“Hello, Chiyoko.  I’m pleased to meet you.”   Akachi smiles warmly at Chiyoko.  You feel her relax.

“Can Chiyoko and the others walk us to the gate?”

Akachi considers your request.  “I see no harm in it.”   You and Chiyoko walk hand in hand to the Yu-Shan gate.  Masaru and Aiko fall in step behind the two of you.

“I’ve always seen these arches, but never really pay attention to them.” Chiyoko says as you approach the gate.   “Do they really lead to Heaven?”

“Yes”

“And you live there?”

“Yes.”

Chiyoko is nervous.  “Will I see you again?”

“Of course.”

“There is a Martial Arts Tournament coming up   I’ll get some tickets.  That is if you want to go.”  Akachi offers.

Chiyoko nods.   “Okay.”

“I’ll see you then.” You say awkwardly.   Chiyoko lets go of your hand and you and Akachi start to enter the gate.

“Svante?”

You turn around.   Chiyoko is relieved that you answered to your name.  Before she loses the courage to, she walks up and kisses you.   This simple and light touch on your lips is electrifying.   Chiyoko breaks the kiss off quickly.   She looks at you and blushes.

“I’ll see you later.”  She grabs Aiko by the arm and runs off back to the school.

“Hey!  Wait!” Masaru races to catch up.

“Bye.”  You say belatedly.   You stand rooted to the spot you are standing until Chiyoko disappears from sight.   You turn and see Akachi watching you.

“It seems your first mission went well.”

“And that mission was?”  You and Akachi enter the gate and start walking the long tunnel back to Yu Shan.

“Besides keeping the focus off of Wanahton so he could complete his mission, you were to make friends with Chiyoko and the rest of her circle.”

“Why didn’t you tell me in the first place?”

“Considering how well it turned out when you were told to make friends with the God-Bloods, Elder Kejak and I decided it was best for you to be unaware of your secondary mission.  Though you have made quite an impression on Lung Chiyoko.”

“Do we really have to talk about this?”

“Wait… What happened to the boy that complains about adults not openly talking about romance?”

“How am I supposed to learn anything if adults don’t talk about it?”

“How am I supposed to help you when you don’t tell me anything?” Akachi counters.

“Maybe it would be best if you were unaware of your mission.”

(( OOC:  I had the “Stay in bed and see who else shows up” as an option, but I removed it for being too passive.    I guess I needed to keep that option.  😉  ))

 

((I am going to stop posting so much about the writing process and try to keep OOC knowledge to a minimum.   I think I have been relying too much on OOC to make up for my lack of description in my writing (which is something I need to work on.) ))

 

(( But I did promise you a peek at the man behind the curtain: ))
[spoiler]

Man, this chapter.   I’m glad I finished it, but it was hard.   This concept was one that predates the quest.   Basically, Svante shadows his Sifu at a Dragon blooded School for a mission.  They posed as a concerned Aunt who wants to enroll her disobedient nephew in the school.   They find out the Headmaster is a Lunar and Svante is sent to go get help.   He races to Yu Shan and has to convince the elders that his Sifu is in danger.

I wanted Svante to have a circle of Dragon bloods about his age, so I change the mission to a longer term mission (without considering the consequences of that) and tried to dumb down the lunar so Svante and his circle could kill it (A lunar bad ass enough to pass as a head master seemed out of his league).

And I couldn’t make the less powerful lunar work.  I considered many reasons why a young lunar would hang around the Blessed Isle at a school, but each of them seemed cliqued or stupid.   So I dropped the Lunar and went with the original idea of the Headmaster Lunar.

Everything turned out okay in the end, though I wish I foreshadowed the headmaster a bit more.

[/spoiler]

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