“I want you to read this,” You slide a copy of current issue of Metal Gods across the table. The Fire Aspect War Strider pilot, Ka Hi, is kneeling in front of her damaged war strider, jade parts of it scattered around her. In the background is the behemoth, Itsumade – the current villain of Metal Gods. The Winged Snake behemoth is reared up above Ka Hi. Its wings are thrown back and its many vulture heads open in a toothy scream.
Elder Kejak stares at the manga and snorts. “Did Akachi put you up to this? In revenge for the puppy?”
“What?” What does this have to do about Akachi and Mei Mei?
“Never mind,” Elder Kejak picks up the manga and flips through it. You watch as he pauses every so often to study a page. “Well, it isn’t that long. Is this what you like to read instead of books?”
“My favorite manga is Kill Fire Sword, but I thought you would like this better.” Warming to the topic, you continue. “The Crimson Squad attacked Itsumade, but they were unprepared for her mighty wind attack. The Squad were forced to retreat and focus on evacuating the villagers. Ka Hi’s War Strider, The Flame of Hesiesh, was damaged in the battle. ”
“Hmmm… “ Kejak closes the manga and sets it on the desk. “Has Akachi ever told you about the history of Metal Gods?” You shake your head. You have never heard Akachi talk about Manga, though he seemed pleased in your interest in them. Each week, a neat stack of the newest manga were waiting for you on your desk. “He created it.” Kejak told you.
“What?!” You have never heard this before!
“Yes. Before the Lung Dynasty was founded, Creation was broken up into fiefdoms, each ruled by a Dragonblooded Warlord. Creation was constantly at war as each Shogun vied for supremacy and many artifacts from before the Usurpation were lost and destroyed. Akachi came up with the idea of instilling a reverence of artifacts in Dragonblooded when they were young.” Elder Kejak slides the manga back over to you. “Thus Metal Gods. The Manga ended up reaching further than its intended audience. I believe the first Lung Shogun was a fan. “
You pick up the manga and look at the Manga with new eyes. “Does he still draw it?”
“Not for the past century. He handed Metal Gods off to a Dragonblooded Artist. Akachi was already using a succession of Resplendent Destinies, so there wasn’t of a fuss with the transfer. I think there have been what… five different artists since then.”
“Why didn’t he tell me?” Sometimes you feel like you will never truly know your guardian.
“I suspect it was a painful subject for Akachi. When he quit said he wasn’t able to keep up with the demanding schedule, but I suspect it had more to do with the earlier issues being lost due to Arcane Fate. It is impossible to find any of the early copies of the Manga, something as a fan you must be aware of. “ You nod, having heard about Masaru complaining about the missing Metal Gods manga. Kejak leans forward. “I read an issue of Metal Gods, you read a chapter of the Five Moons of Denial. That seems like a fair trade. Do you agree?”
You didn’t expect Elder Kejak to actually agree to this trade. Elder Kejak bridges his fingers as he observers you and you get the idea that the elder enjoys watching you squirm.
No. That is not right at all. Something about Kejak’s manner reminds you of your Sifu, Yeva. Despite being a better Martial Arist than you, Yeva still enjoys sparing with you. Not because you are easy to defeat but because she enjoys challenging you. Watching you figure out how to beat her. Watching you become better.
Elder Kejak was sparing with you. But this was not a battle of arms but a battle of wits. Which means you can win this, if you figure out how.
Reading Metal Gods was not enough to deter the Elder Sidereal. “No. You’ve already read Metal Gods. You have to read something new.”
“Really, Svante.” Kejak begins his next argument as you dig through your bag for another manga. “Just because I may have glanced though an issue once, doesn’t mean I have read it.” You pull out Pretty Dragon Princess Meru. Princess Meru, a smudge of dirt marring her cheek, winks at you from the cover. Her sword is thrown casually across her shoulders, giving you a nice view of her cleavage. You present the manga to Elder Kejak.
He takes one look at the cover and says, “No.”
You try not to smile. “If you get to choose what I read, I get to choose what you read. “
“You misunderstand our relationship, Svante. I am the teacher, you are the student. You will read what I tell you to read. “
The Owl has said the same thing to you before and it hasn’t worked yet. “You can’t make me read that stupid book.”
“You haven’t even opened the Five Moons. Why not give it a chance?” Elder Kejak asks reasonably.
“You haven’t opened Pretty Dragon Princess Meru. Why not give it a chance?” You counter in the same tone.
“Is having me read a manga really that important to you?” You try to look away from Elder Kejak’s emerald eyes, but something holds your gaze. “Is that all you really want out of this exchange?”
You are about to say “no” but stop yourself. You suddenly realize that you will not walk out of this room without agreeing to read this book. Unless… You look at the book not as a burden but as currency. What can you get out of Elder Kejak in exchange for reading it?
You could get access to the truth.
“You said that the library is the greatest source of information to me, but that is wrong. The Loom of Fate is the greatest source of information to me or would be if I was allowed access to it.”
Elder Kejak smiles, pleased with you for some reason. “Technically I was right, since Akachi believes that you are not old enough to responsibly handle the information the Loom would give you.”
You make a face at this. “Akachi wants me to be a kid forever.”
“And you? What do you want to be, Svante? What do you want?” The elder’s emerald eyes watch you intently as he waits for your answer.
What do you want?
- “I want to be a hero of Creation. To protect and serve the people of Creation”
- “I want to be a sorcerer. To learn the secrets of Creation and know how to use them.”
- “I want to know the truth. How can I make good decisions if I don’t know everything I need to?”
- “I want to know about my past. How can I find out where I am going when I don’t know where I come from?“
((Pretty Dragon Princess Meru is famous (or infamous) for its fan service. ))
((I figured the best way to resolve the tie was to give the Metal Gods voters the background they wanted and the Princess Meru voters to confront Kejak with the idea of reading Magical Pretty Girl Manga. ))
(( Next week and hereafter, Hero will update on a Monday and Thursday schedule. Gives me more time to write. ))