82 – Afternoons with Kejak

Sunlight from the skylights above illuminate the pale wood cabinets and cheery green plants that line them.   Sheer white curtains sway in the breeze that swirls around the little kitchen.  Even though there are servants in the manse, Akachi does most of the cooking while he is not in Creation.    The servants use the large kitchen in the Manse for parties and other events leaving this little kitchen as Akachi’s domain.   Mei Mei, with well washed and unmated fur, stands by Akachi’s feet.  The puppy stares intently as Akachi’s knife effortless slices the vegetables, leaving them in neat cut piles.  While Akachi’s attempts to teach you how to cook have failed, you have alwasy enjoyed watching your guardian work in the kitchen.

“Svante!”  He flicks a cut zucchini off of his knife and over to you at the table where you and Akachi take most of your meals.   You catch the sliced vegetable in your mouth.  “Nice Catch!”   You point at your open mouth for another.

“Maidens!  You are as bad as the puppy!”  Akachi flips over a broccoli floret.  Mei Mei whines a little bit.  “No!  No food.  You got your own bowl.”  In spite of his stern voice, he smiles at the puppy.  The elder is wearing a white apron over his Yu-Shan working clothes.   His blue rose embroidered sleeves are rolled up in an attempt to keep them clean and his long dreadlocks are pulled back into a pony tail.   Akachi is in a cheerful mood, happy to have you back after your long trip.  It was only a few days for you but a few weeks for everyone else.

“I’m hungry.”  You say in a deep voice.   You stand up from the table and lean against the counter and steal a carrot.   Mei Mei dances in a circle to get your attention.  You slip her a zucchini slice.

Akachi grunts.  “I still can’t get use to that voice. ”

“Afraid I’m going to have a deeper voice than yours?”  You wince when your voice squeaks on that comment.

Akachi chuckles.  “Not likely.”   He sets a plate of fresh cut vegetables next to you and brings the rest to the stove.   The vegetables steam as he adds them to the hot pan.  “You are growing up too fast on me.  Soon you’ll be part of the rabble, scheming to get out of missions.”

Akachi’s mention of missions reminds you of your mission on the Western seas last week.  You eat some more vegetables and watch Akachi cook.   As he portions out your lunch you ask, “Akachi?   Why do we hunt down Lunars?”

“We have been at war with Lunars for centuries,”   Akachi says as he sets a noodle bowl in front of you.  You sit down at the table and Mei Mei takes up her usual spot by your side.   He takes his own noodle bowl and sits across from you.    “Even though it had to be done, Lunars have not forgiven us for killing the Solars.”

You slurp up some noodles.  “Has anyone tried to talk to them?”

“Many times.  And each time it ends in blood.”   Akachi watching you furtively as he adds some hot sauce to his noodles.  “Svante, did something happen during your mission? “

You look down at your noodle bowl and skew a scallion with your chopstick.  “The Desert Fox.   She had plenty of opportunities to kill me but she didn’t.  Why didn’t she?”

Akachi sets aside his chopsticks and crosses his arms.  “It’s hard to know.   Perhaps she was focused on her vendetta against the Blue Lady.   Or had a moment of guilt because you reminded her of her son.”

“But…”  you stir your noodles around in their bowl.

“But what…”  Akachi looks at you intently.  He was not going to let this go.

“That’s what people do.   Lunars are monsters, aren’t they?”  After your experience with the Desert Fox, you aren’t so sure anymore.

Akachi takes a deep breath and rubs his hand over his mouth.   “Don’t grow up on me so fast.”  You think you hear him mumble.   You can’t be sure.   In a normal tone of voice, Akachi explains.  “Lunars might have given in to their savage nature, but they still have feelings like you and I.  They still feel love, hate, guilt.   If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be at war with them.  They would have run into the Wyld and never come back to Creation to plague us or the Dragonblooded.”

“So, the stories you and Nanny told me…  The Lunar that ripped out the heart of the man and came back for his wife.  The chieftain who finds villages to turn against the Shogunate and leads them to their deaths.   Those are true?“

“Those are true.”  Akachi agrees desolately.   The elder picks up his chopsticks and continues eating.

“But….”  You are confused. “…only a monster would do that, not people.”

Akachi gets that pensive look when he remembers about the First Age.  “Before the Usurpation, Lunars were a proud group, who stood by the side of their Solar Mates.   There were quite a few that I counted as friends.”  Akachi rearranges the vegetables in his bowl.   “While the Solars fell to madness, the Lunars fell to savagery.  They would destroy everything that we worked to build and for what?  Vengeance?  The Lunar of all people should understand what we did.”  Akachi seems to be talking more to himself than you.  “Do they really want to go back to what it was before the Solars were locked away?  I’ve lived almost five thousand years and I just don’t understand.   “

“You had Lunar friends?”  Akachi never mentioned this before.

Akachi breaks out of his fugue and smiles. “Once.  Long ago in a different time.   Perhaps I will tell you when you are older.”

You groan.   “When will I be old enough?!”

“Sooner than I would like.   Hurry up and eat.  You don’t want to be late for your session with Chejop this afternoon.”  He picks up some noodles and continues to eat.

You eat and think about what Akachi has told you.   The fact that people did all those horrible things… did not sit right with you.  Can you really be considered a person if you acted like a monster?  Perhaps Sasha was right to try to kill the Lunar.

“Akachi?”

“Hmm?”   Akachi quickly slurps up the last of his noodles.

“Was I right to not help Sasha kill the Desert Fox?”

Akachi studies you for a moment before answering.  “Do you think what you did was right?”

“Wanahton thinks Sasha is wrong.”  The two Sidereals have been avoiding each other since you got back and in turn you have been ignoring both of them.  You did not want to pick sides between Wanahton and your sister.

“What do you think?”

You consider Akachi’s question.   “The Desert Fox didn’t have her son with her, so she couldn’t have taken him far.  If we had killed her, her son would die to or get recaptured by the Fair Folk.”  You shudder at memory of the “Larder” where the Fair Folk kept the children.

Akachi picks up your empty bowl.  “You saved the life of the Desert Fox to save her son.”

There was a bit more to it than that.  It didn’t feel right for you to kill someone that helped you and was injured.   It wasn’t fair.   “You won’t tell Sasha, right?”

“Already keeping secrets, are we?” Akachi rinses the bowls in the sink.   “I trust your judgement in this matter.   Sasha… had a bad experience on her first Wyld Hunt and after your encounter with the Tiger, she is less likely to give Lunars the benefit of the doubt.”

“She never told me that.”

Akachi seems surprised by this.  “Really?  I figured she would have talked about it with you of all people.  You should ask her about it some time.  Getting her to talk about it will be good for her.  “

 

You walk beside Akachi in the Bureau of Destiny, heading towards Elder Kejak’s office.   You left Mei Mei at Akachi’s manse as Elder Kejak asked for her not to come.  “I don’t know what exactly Chejop has planned for you.  According to the mission from Jupiter, you are to go to his office once a week for lessons.”  He hands you your bag and you slip it on your shoulders.  Akachi hesitates.  “You have any questions?”

“No.” you say.   To be honest, you are excited for this lesson.  Elder Kejak is the oldest of your caste.  He must know tons of secrets!   Why else would Jupiter tell Elder Kejak to meet with you weekly if not for him to tell you?   Hopefully, he will shed some light on this sorcery thing too.

“When you are done, come by my office.   We’ll get dinner in Creation.  Does that sound good?”

You realize that Akachi is stalling.   “I need to get going or else I’m going to be late.”

You are greeted by Elder Kejak’s receptionist, a goddess with creamy yellow skin and black and gold scales instead of hair, greets you.    “Elder Kejak’s last meeting is running a bit late.   Would you like some cookies while you wait?”  You nod, despite the fact you just had lunch.  While you wait for the goddess to bring back your cookies, you take a look around Elder Kejak’s office.  The Elder Oracle’s office is calm and quiet, like a library.   A few of the godly bureaucrats lower their voices as they enter the office and go though one of the side doors.

You sit in one of the padded chairs in the waiting area.   The chair’s cushioning is comfortable, but it forces you to sit up straight.   You are considering sitting on the floor when the receptionist returns, carrying a plate of dollop shaped shortbread cookies and a glass of milk.   You decide that sitting on the floor eating cookies would be undignified for a Chosen of the Maidens, so you stay in the straight backed chair and eat your cookies.   The cookies have a sweet apricot jam inside and are very tasty.

A plague god departs from one of the reception area doors.  The god is covered with spare black hair and pus-filled boils erupt from his sickly green-tinged skin.  You focus very intently on your glass of milk as the boil-covered god hurries past you.   You try to avoid plague gods when you could, even though mortal disease don’t bother you for more than a few hours now.  When the receptionist wishes the god a pleasant day, the god mumbles something unintelligible at her and flees from the office.

Not long after Elder Kejak enters the reception area.  The tall Elder is wearing a fine green silk robe with minimal decoration.  His long dark hair is pulled back, not a strand out of place.  “Ah, Svante.”  He greets you with a wide smile.  “I apologize for making you wait.   Are you done eating so we can get started?”

You finish your last cookie.   “What do I do with this?”  You hold up the now empty plate.

“I’ll take care of it.”   The receptionist comes forward to take your plate.

Elder Kejak leads you through a maze of doors and hallways, introducing you to his staff as you go.    Eventually, you make it to a mid-sized room with walls covered from tiled floor to tall ceiling with overflowing bookshelves.  Elder Kejak takes a seat at his clear and well-ordered desk.    Only a small stack of papers can be seen on it and you recognize the Owl’s broad handwriting.  You are too far away to see what they say, but you had some ideas.   Between the books and what you assume to be the Owl’s notes on you, your heart sinks.  “Lessons.”  Akachi said.   That means homework!   Instead of learning the secrets of Creation, you just got signed up for more school!

An empty chair similar to the ones found in the reception area sits in front of Kejak’s desk.  Elder Kejak motions for you to sit down.  You sit up straight in it and wait to see what the Elder Oracle does.  Elder Kejak quietly studies you for a long while.  You squirm under his gaze and decide to break the silence.  “Hi.  Jupiter told you to teach me.”

Elder Kejak smiles and leans back in his chair, crossing his arms.  “That is true.”

Annoyed, you cross your arms.  “What are you going to teach me then?”

“What would you like to learn?”  The Elder’s piercing green eyes have always unsettled you.  They are the same eyes you see in the mirror every day since your Exaltation.

You are surprised by this question.   Maybe these afternoons would be interesting after all.  “I’m a Chosen of Secrets, but I feel like don’t know anything.   Why are the Lunars at war with us?   Why are we cursed with Arcane Fate?”  Warming up to the topic, you continue listing of the mysteries of your life.   “Why was I exalted at twelve?   I don’t even know anything about my family!”

Elder Kejak’s smile grows wider.  “Is that why you think you are here?  To learn the secrets?”

Shit.  You hesitate before answering, sensing a trap.   Unable to come up with a better answer you say, “Yes?”

Elder Kejak gets up out of his chair and walks over to one of the bookcases.   “The Keeper of the Locks tells me that while you are a bright student, you are loathed to read.   “  The elder Oracle pulls out a thick silver lined tome with a midnight blue leather embossed cover and sits back down, setting the head bashing sized book on the table before you.   “You want to know the secrets of Creation, Svante, yet neglect the greatest source of information available to you.  The Library of Secrets is more than a place to hide in.”

You stare at the thick book in horror, ignoring the Elder’s comment about your tendency to disappear in the stacks when you don’t want to be found.  “You want me to read that?”

“Dragonblooded students begin to study The Five Moons of Denial when they are sixteen.  As a Celestial Exalt, you should be ready for it now.  “  You are certain you will never be ready for that book.   Seeing your hesitation, Elder Kejak adds.  “You did want to learn about why we are at war with the Lunar, correct?”

“Yeah….”  You are suddenly reconsidering just how badly you want to know about the Desert Fox and the other Lunars.  “Do I have to read it all at once?”

“Of course not, it is a rather large book,” Elder Kejak admits.  “You will read a chapter and we will discuss it at our weekly sessions.   “

You mind races for some way to get out of reading that monstrosity.   “What are you going to read?”

Kejak looks confused.  “What do you mean?”

“I have to read something, you have to read something.” You explain.

Kejak nods when he realizes what you meant.  “It is only fair that I read the Five Moons along with you.  It has been a while since I read the tome myself. ”

“No,”  Kejak’s eyes narrow when you contradict him, but in spite of this you continue.  You have to try something to get out of reading this boat anchor of a book.  “You have already read this book.   If I have to read something new, so do you.”   You begin to dig around your bag.

Which Manga do you pull out?

  • Kill Sword Fire
  • Pretty Dragon Princess Meru
  • Bone Hand
  • Metal Gods
  • Other

((I’m trying something new.  Writing the post and then writing descriptions in a separate document.  Then I edit the descriptions in where they are needed.   It’s a start. ))

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