86 – Stakes

You up end your bag on the bed, scattering its contents all over your unmade bed.  You sort the various school papers, books, and other random shit you have accumulated since the last time the Owl forced you to clean out your bag.   Besides a rotting old apple core, you find nothing out of the ordinary.  You doubt the old bird is telling you not to do your homework, so why would he tell you not to bring the bag?   Akachi gifted you the bag long ago when you first started school and since then you carry it everywhere you go.   Did he hid something in here?  You thoroughly check the pockets and seams for a hidden compartment or item.  Nothing.  Frustrated, you toss the bag on the bed with the rest of your school stuff.

You clear a spot on your bed to sit down and watch Mei Mei gnaw on the corner of the Five Moons of Denial.   Briefly you consider letting the puppy destroy the book.  Unfortunately, you don’t think “My dog ate my homework” would work on Elder Kejak.   You retrieve the book from Mei Mei and set it out of the puppy’s reach on your desk.   You sit back on your bed and rub your eyes.   You need to get out of here before Akachi comes back.  He will know something is wrong and you doubt you could face your guardian without punching him in the face.

You pick up your now empty bag and begin packing it with cold weather clothes.   You are sorting through your socks when you remember before your Exaltation, Akachi stopped you from selling the bag to the cloth merchant.  Could Akachi track you though the bag itself?

After searching your room, you don’t own any other bag besides this one.  More evidence that Akachi has done something to the bag.  You are loathe to leave the bag behind.  It was a rather nice bag.  The thick Yeddim leather and fine stitching has survived years of abuse at your hands.  You dump out your bag and angrily fling it in the closet.   You stuff your clothes and gear into your pillow case.  After lacing up your heavy boots, you pick up the puppy and your heavy coat and slip outside of fate.

You don’t feel secure in your escape until you hit the more crowded streets of Yu-Shan.  But really, were you ever free?  Akachi could just find you through the Loom of Fate.   Fortunately, your mother does not live too far from one of the Yu-Shan gates.  You need to head north as quickly as possible.  You think about meeting your mother as you wait by the docks for a boat to take you to the Threshold gates.   Even without Arcane Fate, you would be a stranger to her.   What would you say to her?   How would you explain who you were?

You watch the boat man float past the docks, but you do not flag him down.  You walk away from the dock and instead head to the Vanchow Gate.   You need someone to talk things over with.   Though it is winter in Creation, you are sweating in your heavy coat by the time you reach the school.   You find Chiyoko, her hair up in short candle flame pigtails, in the library working on a project.

“Chiyoko,” you touch her shoulder.

“Dragons!” Chiyoko jumps up out of her chair and faces you.  Her hand instinctively gropes for her missing sword.  She calms down once she realizes it was you.  “Svante! Don’t do that!”

You didn’t drop back into fate when you called her name.  You look around and see that no one else noticed Chiyoko jumping out of her chair.  “It’s been a long day.  I’m sorry.”  You thud your pillowcase down on the table and sit down.   Mei Mei struggles in your hands, but you keep a tight grip on her.

“Chiyoko, what happened?”  Masaru and Aiko appear from the library shelves, carrying books.

 

“Nothing.  Svante just appeared out of nowhere.  Why are you dressed like that?”  Chiyoko looks you over and grows worried.  “Is something wrong?”

Masaru sets down his stack of books.  “Are you going somewhere cold?”

“You are running away,” Aiko sits on the table in front of you.

“I’m not running away.  I’m going on a trip.”   You look around the library.  It’s not that busy, but you don’t want anyone to overhear.  “Can we go someplace where we can talk?”

Chiyoko and Aiko’s dorm room is deceptively neat.   The beds are made and their armor sits in their respective corners.  Yet the desks are covered with books and school papers and a shirt hangs over the edge of the hamper.   Their plant looks a bit wilted but greener than the last time you saw it.  If it wasn’t for the Chuzei, you are sure their dorm would be as messy as your room.   When everyone is in settled, you announce.  “My family is alive.”

“Alive?   I thought you said…”  Chiyoko trails off.   Mei Mei sniffs around the bed and sits down watching you.

“Yeah.   I thought they were dead.   They live not far from Whitewalls.”   You fidget with the opening of your pillowcase.

“You are going to go see them?”

“Yes.  I didn’t tell anyone back in Yu-Shan because I don’t to risk anyone stopping me.”   Mei Mei walks over and licks your hand.  “No one told me that they were alive.  I had to find out myself.”  You stand up and start pacing.    “They took me from my family and never told me if they were alive or dead. Why wouldn’t they tell me?”

Chiyoko stops your pacing and takes your hands.   “When adults lie….  They lie so you won’t be worried about things they can’t do anything about and they lie because they are ashamed of what they did and don’t want you to find out.”

“But Akachi didn’t lie to me.”  You don’t know why you are defending Akachi.  “Just didn’t tell me anything!”

“Isn’t that the same thing?  Either way the end result is the same.”  Aiko comments.  “Adults manipulate you.  They want you believe what they believe.   To mold you into a tool that they can use.“

“That’s not fair, Aiko.”  Masaru interjects.

“Your father isn’t manipulating you to fight Fair Folk?”  Aiko snaps at Masaru.  Masaru crosses his arms, but says nothing.  Aiko turns back to you.  “It’s called being raised.  They teach you to think like they think, so when they die in some stupid battle, you’ll pick up their sword and carry on their stupid cause.   “  Aiko motions around the school.  “That’s why we are here.  This is just a factory cathedral and we are being forged into diaklaives.”  Aiko walks up to you.  “You are different.  You aren’t even allowed to know your parents.   I wonder what weapon they are going to turn you into.”

“Shut up!”  You yell.  “I’m not being forged into a weapon.  Akachi wouldn’t do that!”

“Aiko, stop it.”  Chiyoko stands between you and her cousin.

Aiko doesn’t stop.  “Akachi totally would do that.  Why do you think they lied to you about Lunars?  Why do you think they lie to us about Lunars.   We are just soldiers in their little war.   What are they going to do when they find out you are running away?”

“I’m not running away.”  You deny.  “I’m just going to see my parents.”

“You think you can drop by and see mom and dad and come back like nothing happened?  No, there’s going to be consequences.”  Aiko smirk at you.  “You are just too stupid to figure it out. ”

You take a swing at Aiko.   Before you could connect, the smell of blood fills the room.   A blood ape grabs you with its ham-sized hands and throws you against the bed.  Before you can react, the demon is on top of you, pinning you to the bed.

“What the fuck are you doing?!”  Chiyoko picks up her jade sword sitting next to her armor in the corner.    Mei Mei barks at the blood ape.

“I’m helping him.”  Aiko says as a matter of fact.  She approaches and strokes the blood ape’s blood encrusted fur.

“How the fuck is this helping, Aiko?”  Masaru hisses.   “Let Svante up and get rid of the blood ape before someone checks on the noise!”

Chiyoko draws her sword and places it at the blood apes throat.  “Let Svante go or else I’m sending your blood ape back to hell.”

“I’m showing him what he has to gain.” Aiko kneels down next to you.

“Fuck off, Aiko.”  You struggle against the blood ape, but you can’t find purchase against the soft bed.

“You should have known that Blood Ape was coming.”  Aiko’s right, you should have had prior warning about the blood ape.  You weren’t paying attention.  “You need to start thinking clearly.  This is your trial of fire.  “

“What?”  You stop struggling.  Between the Lunar and your parent, you had forgotten about your sorcery trials.

“You wanted to be a sorcerer. “ Aiko motions the Blood Ape off of you.  “You have to pay the price.”

“Aiko, are you done with the creepy act?  Unsummon the blood ape.”  Chiyoko lowers her sword and watches her cousin.

“Fine.”  The blood ape disappears, leaving a lingering stench of rot.  There is a knock at the door and Masaru opens the door and slips out of the room.  You can hear him talk to someone outside.

Chiyoko holds out her hand to help you up.  “If Svante is going north, we are going to go with him.”

“No,” Aiko says.  “It’s better if we don’t go.”

“What?” Chiyoko looks at Aiko like she is crazy.  “I’m not being left behind again.”  You gather up Mei Mei and sit back down on the bed.   You attune yourself to the thread of fate.  Aiko will not be able to pull that trick on you again.

“It’s his trial of fire.” Aiko explains   “We don’t want to be around him when he goes through it.”

“We are his circle.  If he is going to go through a Trial, then we will go though it with him.”

“It doesn’t work like that, Chiyoko.”  Aiko looks away and fiddles with the hem of her shirt.  “I told you what happened during my trial.   Svante’s trial isn’t going to be any easier.”

Chiyoko sheaves her sword and starts gathering her armor.  “More the reason to go with him.”

“Chiyoko,”  Aiko catches Chiyoko by the arm.  “Svante is about to lose something very important to him.   If you go with him, there’s a good chance, it may be you.”

Chiyoko closes her eyes and says, “I can’t let him go through this alone.”

“There are some battles you can’t fight with a sword, cousin.”   Aiko closes her eyes.  “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

What do you do?

  • Bring your Dragonblooded circle with you
  • Bring only Chiyoko with you
  • Go alone.

((This whole “Update two days a week instead of three to produce better posts” would work better if I wasn’t working overtime this week.  It will get better when my coworkers come back from holiday vacation.  J   ))

((This scene was supposed to be “Aiko offers to do Svante’s homework while he is gone”.   But as I was writing, Aiko brings out the Blood Ape and decides to help Svante in a different way.  What the fuck, Aiko?!  What the Fuck?! ))

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