The dining hall burns. Fires climb up the walls and tickle the clay roof tiles. Teachers scream out orders, but the words are noise to you. All you can hear is the thud of your heart pounding.
The prank! No way this was part of the prank! You should have asked Vogu what he was planning. You should have let Arizus have a few days to do his research. You should have entrusted this task to someone not stupid enough to play with Fire Dust!
Your eyes burn as the bellowing smoke rises yet you cannot look away from the fire. The Fire Chuzei races out of the dorms, barefoot and still in her nightclothes. Chuzei Enki screams that two students are still in the dining hall. She activates her anima and rushes into the burning building.
You wait. The Air Aspect teacher rouses the water elements sleeping around the building. They surge forth and cry out in agony when they evaporate into steam. Still the fire burns. Fire Dust burns hotter than a normal fire. Teachers begin to awaken the other water elements from the other buildings.
You wait. Blood trickles down your fist as you fingernails bite into your palm. The dining hall roof is ablaze and you hear a crash of timber. How much more time did they have?
Vogu and the Fire Aspect burst out of the blazing hall, carrying Arizus between them. Arizus is covered with burns, blood dripping from where the Fire Anima Flux scored him. Chuzei Enki takes the boy and the other two Dragonblooded fall away. Vogu collapses to the ground, coughing. The Fire Aspect Chuzei kneels to collect her breath.
The Doctor examines Arizus. He is still, too still. You dare not breathe while you wait.
“He’s alive. We need to get him to the infirmary.” The doctor declares. With the doctor’s words, a heavy weight lifts off your chest.
“Svante! Svante!” Chiyoko’s voice calls frantically in your ear. “Why don’t you answer me!?” You realize she has been calling you for a few minutes.
“Svante, we are already over the wall. We will met you at the Travel Shrine.” Aiko calmly tells you.
You watch the burning scene below you for a few more moments. With the building cleared, Air elementals deprive the fire of oxygen. Stretchers carry both Arizus and Vogu away. You rise up and fly away from the school.
Travel Shrines dot along the major causeways of Creation. Each major city has a travel shrine. Each Yu-Shan Gate has a travel shrine; most people consider those travel shrines in the middle of nowhere.
You land just outside the tranquil travel shrine. Your cloak reforms around your shoulders and drops to ankles. You walk past the dozing horses and the general store to the shrine itself. You step back into fate and enter the shrine. Incense offering burn at the altars of the local travel gods. Some Immaculate Monk try to discourage worship outside of the calendar. Others make offerings alongside their parishioners.
Mei Mei greets you at the door, tail wagging. She leads you to a back room where Chiyoko and Aiko read a map spread out over the table. Masaru talks to the weary monk of the shrine. Chiyoko rises from the table and hugs you.
“What happened? Why didn’t you tell us you were okay?” Chiyoko’s eyes narrow.
“I’m fine. “ you assure Chiyoko. Masaru joins Aiko at the table. “Did you get the horses?” you ask.
“Yes, but…” Masaru wants to talk about the fire.
“Good.” The last thing you wanted to do was talk about the fire. You just wanted to forget the whole situation happened. “We need to get going if we are going to get to the village before dawn.”
Chiyoko crosses her arms. “First, you…”
“No, Svante is right.” Aiko interrupts. “The Explosion doesn’t change anything.” She shrugs. “Actually, it makes our mission easier.”
Aiko agreeing with you? You are not sure how you feel about that. “Let’s go.” You step away from Chiyoko and pick up Mei Mei.
“Chuzei Enki was right about Sidereals,” you hear Masaru mutter to Chiyoko as he walks out the door. You pause at your horse, heart pounding. What did Masaru mean by that?
Chiyoko leaps on to her horse and takes the reins. She settles her mount with a touch. You could count the number of times you have ridden a live horse with one hand and have fingers left over. You awkwardly climb into the saddle.
Aiko holds out her hand and a small smoke dragon unwinds itself from her arm. The sorcerous contruct twists and turns in the air, waiting for orders.
“Take us to Wong Farm,” Aiko orders.
A few hours in to the ride, rain falls from the sky. You shiver. Before this trip, you have always liked rain. It never rained in Yu-Shan, so it was a novelty to you. Now rain soaks your clothes to the skin. Your ass is sore from the saddle. Never in your life have you been so miserable. Now, you prayed for this infernal ride to end.
But you never let on how miserable you are to your travel companions. Masaru’s word still burn in your ears. What did Masaru mean by that? Did he think you were weak? Did he notice how much the fire shook you?
Or did Chuzei Enki tell him how cold and heartless a Sidereal could be? The elder’s vote on your life still bothered you. You swore to Akachi during your Trial of Fire you would never be like that. Yet isn’t that what you just did? You did not care if Arizus or Vogu got in trouble for the prank. You just cared they distracted the teachers so you could leave.
You shiver. You are glad it is raining now. Maybe the rain will help put out the fires. Maybe the rain will hide your tears from the others.
In the early morning hours, you reach the village. The two story Immaculate temple rises above the red clay roof tiles of the Wong Village. Acres of potato fields surround the village. Empty festival stalls line the cobblestone streets.
Masaru halts his horse by the town well. He gingerly shifts in his saddle. “Let’s see if anyone is awake at the temple. They can give us shelter and information. And dry clothes.” Thank the Maidens you were not the only cold one.
“If we go to the temple, the monks will make a big production about our presence.” Chiyoko counters. “I don’t think we reveal ourselves yet. At least not to everyone. Let’s find a villager who can take us in.”
“No, the mission should be our first priority.” Aiko interjects. “We should start looking for this god right away.”
What do you do?
- Go at the temple
- Find a villager
- Start searching for the god