81 – Remembering

As you watch the Desert Fox creep away, you know you should cry out, draw your sword.  Do something.  This was a Lunar, an enemy of Creation.  Both Sidereals and Dragonblooded have fallen to Lunar claws and teeth.  You were almost killed by a Lunar a few months ago.  But instead of the terror of the tiger fight, you remember the Desert Fox’s despair when she found her Fae-Eaten son.   You let her pass by unmolested then.  But now you have Sasha with you.  Together you can stop her.  You SHOULD stop her.

But once again you do nothing.

The argument between Sasha and Wanahton fades to the background as you watch the Desert Fox crawl into the forest.   She disappears behind a tree, only the glow of her anima betraying her presence.   Suddenly, the moonlight disappears.

“Where did she go?!”  Sasha pushes past Wanahton and searches the forest floor.   “Where did she go?  Svante, did you see anything?”

“No.”   You feel awful lying to your sister.  The whole situation is awful.

“We need to find her!”

“No.  We don’t.   Let the Fox go, Sasha.  She is…”

“Wanahton, leave Sasha alone.”   Shen has returned from the group of Faire Folk, carrying Mei Mei.   He hands the puppy to you.

Rory kneels beside his Oath Mother, tears running down his cheeks.   He closes his mother’s eyes and stands before the Fair Folk gathered in the Mossy Court.  “We shall retreat back to the edge of Creation and rejoin our brothers and sisters in the Bordermarches.   No more shall we be denied our place in the greatest battle reality has ever seen!”  A cheer goes up among the Fair Folk.

Greatest battle….. “Rory?  What are you talking about?”  Mei Mei wiggles in your arms, but you keep a tight grip on her.

“Envoy! “  Rory grins brightly at you.  “Find out for yourself!  Come to the Bordermarshes with us.  If you enjoyed this field of battle, imagine one more glorious.   My Oath Father has countless soldiers wearing away at the Dragon’s forces. “

“He’s talking about the Blockade.” Shen explains.

“What?!”   These Fair Folk were joining the Blockade!   That wasn’t what you wanted at all!  “I thought your Oath was to not attack the Shogunate Navy!”

“What would be the point of that Oath?  No, my Oath Mother was bound to not chase after her Admiral….”  Rory waves away the Oath as inconsequential.   “But that is in the past.  Come with us, Envoy.  You can be our prisoner!    If you are clever enough, you can enact a daring escape and join the Dragon boats.  It would be fun!”

That sounds like the exact opposite of fun.   “No, thanks.”

“Are you certain?”  Rory stares at you with hungry eyes.  “You have no idea the opportunity you are wasting.  Perhaps you need some motivation.”  The Loathing Commander and the rest of the Starfish Soldiers approach menacingly.

You feel a chill behind you.  Shen.  “You swore that we could take my ancestor’s body and leave the float unharmed.”  Out of the corner of your eye, you see his hand glow with an elemental bolt.

“My apologies, Captain.  Long have we languished in boredom while my Oath Mother played her little games and I let zeal get the better of me.”   A group of Fair Folk carry the corpse down the water staircase.   Rory and the rest of the Faire Folk place a hand over their hearts.  “Friends, Enemies, Before you lies….”

“We can do without the Eulogy. Thank you.”   Sasha cuts Rory off.  Shen and Wanahton each grab one end of the shroud and begin to carry the corpse away.   You and Sasha follow behind.

You turn and look back at the crowd of Faire Folk.   With a flourish, Rory bows.  “Until we meet on the field of battle, Envoy.”  He looks up at you with his eager, hungry eyes and grins.   You shiver and continue walking.    With the Watcher of Many Eyes shadowing you, you make it back to the boats.

Once you return to the Valiant Hummingbird, you head to your bunk and pass out.  Last thing you remember is Mei Mei settling down next to you.   Only moments later, Sasha shakes you awake.   “We are docked at the Cobalt Atoll.”

When you hid under your pillow, Sasha asks.  “Are you mad at me, too?”

“Why would I be mad at you?”

“About the Lunar.”    You groan and roll away from Sasha.   You didn’t want to think about the Lunar.

“Wanahton isn’t talking to me.   He still thinks like a mortal.  He doesn’t understand that we are at war.   The Lunars work against everything we stand for.  They will kill us if they get the chance.”

“You are Anathema.  The last Anathema I met attacked me and my friends specifically because we were children.   “

“That wasn’t me.”

“I keep trying to think of a way to explain it to him.  “  Sasha continues.

You want Sasha to go away and let you sleep.  “Have Akachi talk to him.”

“If almost being killed by a Lunar isn’t enough, I don’t know if that will help.”

You sit up and rub your eyes.   “Can we talk about this later?”

“You need to get dressed and pack.  The Valiant Hummingbird received orders to join the Blockade. I can’t believe I’m looking forward to going back to the Chrysanthemum Manse.  I’ll take Mei Mei out. “

When Sasha and Mei Mei leave, you flop back on the bed.   You hear a knock on the door.  “Pack up.  The Airship will pick us up tomorrow morning. ”  Wanahton says though the door.

“I know!” you yell back.

Wanahton pauses.  “Are you mad about what happened on the float?”

Seriously?  Why does everyone ask that?  “No!  I’m mad because no one will leave me the fuck alone.”

“Is there anything wrong?’ you hear Nesha, Captain Shen’s first mate, ask.

“No,”  Wanahton replies.  “Svante is just being thirteen.”

You throw a shoe at the closed door.   Both men chuckle as they walk away and you decide that everyone’s an asshole.

 

Later, after you have calmed down, you walk through the village with Mei Mei.  The villagers are distantly respectful now, thinking that you are Dragonblooded.  You miss the companionship of Raharjo and Tri.  You tried to talk to them earlier, but the conversation was awkward and halting.

It is almost sunset now.  You make your way through the mangroves and see Shen and Sasha walking on the beach.   You begin to walk over to join them but stop when you notice them holding hands.   Mei Mei begins to run forward, but you grab her before she does.   You hide in the mangroves.

Sasha and Shen pause on the beach, just out of sight of the dock.   They face each other, but they are too far away to make out what they are saying.   Shen brushes a strand of hair off of Sasha’s forehead.   Then he leans down and kisses her.

You watch in shock as they break off the kiss and rest their foreheads together.  Shen then walks towards the dock in the darkening night.   Sasha watches him go and once he is out of sight, she sits down in the sand and watches the ocean.   You set Mei Mei down in the sand and head towards Sasha.  What happened in the weeks you were stuck on the Blue Lady’s Float?

As you approach Sasha, you notice another woman on the beach.   For a moment you think she is Rikali, but the sun finishes setting and the stars appear in the sky.    You feel foolish for not recognizing this woman.   You would know Jupiter anywhere.

Jupiter closes the distance and embraces you.  She rests her chin on your forehead and says “Tell me what happened.”

The events on the barge come pouring out of you.   You tell her about the Blue Lady, Rory, the Lunar, her son, the Loathing Commander, the blacksmith beating her customer, even the argument between Sasha and Wanahton about the Lunar.   Jupiter listens without interruption.   When you are finished, you ask, “The Desert Fox, was it wrong to let her go?”

Jupiter looks down at you and you are once again started at how similar her eyes look to your own.   “You have doubts.”

“I don’t mean…”

Jupiter puts a finger to your lips to silence you.   “You must find your own answer to that question.”

You nod and then ask another question.  “Why did you exalt me so young?”   That was the question that burned in you since the day you took second breath.

Jupiter smiles enigmatically, hands you something, and then turns to walk away.

“Svante?”  Sasha approaches with Mei Mei at her side.    “What did she say?”

You answer as you watch Jupiter fade from sight.   “Nothing.”   Jupiter did not give you a satisfying answer to any one of your questions.  You look down at what she did give you.   In your hands is a Red Envelope addressed in glowing white ink to Chejop Kejak.

 

When you return to Yu-Shan you place the Envelope on your desk and sit on your bed and stare at it.   Why would Jupiter have you deliver a mission to Elder Kejak, not use the usual channels or deliver it herself?

You flop back on your bed.  You have been avoiding Sasha because how do you ask about why she was kissing your friend’s older brother.   Wanahton has been trying to get you alone, but you are sure he just wants to talk about the Lunar.  Frankly you wanted some time to think about things before talking to him.

You walk outside of Fate and sneak past Akachi’s office.  Your guardian is working late on paperwork.  You consider stopping but what would you say to him?  “Sorry, I wasn’t strong enough to kill the Anathema?  And I let the Fair Folk join the Blockade?”   The last thing you wanted to do is disappoint Akachi.  You slip out of the manse without being seen.

In contrast to the sunny streets of Yu-Shan, Creation was well into night.  You tap on Chiyoko’s window, hoping that she is awake.  After waiting a few minutes, you give up.   You are about to head home when Aiko opens the window.  “Oh, it’s you.”

“Hi.”   You say awkwardly.   “Is Chiyoko awake?”

“One minute.”  Aiko disappears and you hear whispering in the dorm room.  “Chiyoko!”

“What?”  Chiyoko asks drowsily.   You groan.  Aiko didn’t have to go wake Chiyoko up!

“It’s Svante.  He’s back from his mission. “

“What?!”

“Shh…  He’s at the window.”  You hear some rustling inside the door.   “Ask him about his mission!”

“Go back to sleep, Aiko!”

“Fine.  Still ask him about his mission!”

Chiyoko appears at the window annoyed.  “Hi.”

“I didn’t mean for Aiko to wake you up.   I just needed someone to talk to.“

Chiyoko still crosses her arms.  “About that mission you went on without me?

“Yeah.  I’m sorry!  Next time… Wait, you remember that?”

“Of course I remembered that.   How could you go on a mission without your circle?!”

“You remember me!”  Only fear of getting caught on school grounds after dark keeps you from shouting with joy.

“Are you a fucking idiot?  Chiyoko is pissed off at you.  Why are you happy?”  Aiko comments from the darkness of the dorm room.

“She remembers me!”  You kiss a surprised Chiyoko and then realize what you have done.  “We’ve kissed before.   That wasn’t our first kiss.”

“I know.”  She leans out of the window and gives you another kiss.

“Dragons, what is the point of you dating a secret agent of Yu-Shan if you aren’t going to ask him about his mission!”  Aiko complains.

“Shut up, Aiko.”

((The end of Chapter Five!  This was the chapter I looked forward to the most.  I left a few loose ends, but I didn’t want to go on and on.  I try to keep the posts to less than four pages.    We might deal with Svante questioning the Elders in Chapter Six.))

((This chapter was the Frenemies chapter.   You could have allied with either the Desert Fox or Rory.   I’m really surprised the Desert Fox survived to the end of the chapter.   This chapter would have either represented the first cracks in Svante’s Bronze faction beliefs or a tempering of those beliefs into something stronger.  ))

Chapter Six will start on Wednesday, December 2nd.  Svante makes his first trip to the Loom of Fate and discovers something unexpected about his past.   The outcome of this chapter will have major impact on the rest of the quest and beyond.

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