114 – Misstep

“I’ll tell them.”  You offer.  Chiyoko would prefer to year the news of her Grandmother’s death from you rather than the Chuzei.

Chuzei Enki releases a held breath and nods.  You relax.  Tea with his daughter must have gone well.  Perhaps you can change his mind about letting you off campus during the upcoming rest days.   “I have a secondary mission that I need Chiyoko for.  We need to leave the school grounds during the rest day. ”

The Chuzei grimaces.  “I was not told about any secondary mission.”  He folds his hands over his stomach and waits for you to explain.

You hesitate before replying.   Explaining about the mission may mean that you would have to go alone.  You decide to play off your status as a Chosen of Secrets.  “I’m not allowed to share the details of this mission.  I’ll need some advice on security…”  You pause when the Chuzei starts to chuckle.

“Boy.  I’ve been teaching young Exalts for decades.”   The Chuzei stands up and looms over you.   “I know when one is lying to me. “

“I’m not lying!” You stand up and realize you are of equal height with the Chuzei now.  Before, during your first weeks at the school, the Earth Aspect was a towering mountain.  Now, you met the man eye to eye.   “I do have a mission. “  you declare.  “And I am telling you now.”

Chuzei Enki snorts at you.   “You don’t scare me, boy.   I might look old, but I can still take you.  Now either sit down or throw down.  I don’t got all day to put up with your bullshit.”

You clench your fist and consider the Chuzei’s words.  You believed you could take him.   He was an old Dragonblooded.  You are a Sidereal – a master of the martial arts.   The Orichalcum swords gleamed from over the old Chuzei’s shoulder.   You bet the Anathema who faced Chuzei Enki had the similar thoughts.  You sit down.

The Chuzei nods and takes a seat.  “You say you have a mission.  Prove it.  Do you have one of those red envelopes?  Let me see it.”

Your palms sweat and you resist wiping them on your pants.  You could not let the Chuzei see the details of the potato god mission.   It mentions nothing about bringing Chiyoko along.  “I left the mission briefing in Yu-Shan.”  You lie.

“How convenient.” Chuzei Enki smirks.  “You and the Lung Circle are not going anywhere….”

“You don’t have the authority to do that!”

“…You are staying on school grounds where it is safe.”  The Chuzei continues, ignoring your protests.  “You forget.  I’m in charge of this mission.  The safety of both you and the Lung Circle are my sole responsibility.  No other mission comes before that.  Do you understand?”

“No!  I don’t understand!”  you protest.  This is total bullshit!

“Do you understand?”  The Chuzei holds your gaze as he repeats his question.

You look away and give him the response he wants.  “Sir, yes, sir.”

“Good.  These are dangerous times, boy.  Now is not the time to play games.”  The old Chuzei picks up the next scroll to grade.  “Now get out.   I’ll be keeping my eye on you, Cuckoo.  Don’t try any of your tricks.”

You flee the office.

 

Back in the dorm, your hands shake as you dump your bag onto your bed.  Mei Mei comes up to you, but you push the puppy away.  You sort out the items you will need to cast Private Plaza of the Downcast Eyes. You pick up your copy of the White Treatise and stare at it.   In a fit of rage, you throw it against the wall.  The glued cover falls off and the book lands into two pieces on the floor.  Sitting on the bed, you hold your head in your hands.

You fucked up.  The Chuzei is not only aware of your mission; he will stop you from completing it.   This potato god mission is ending up being more trouble than it is worth.  You hear a whine beside you.  Mei Mei holds the inside pages of the White Treatise in her mouth.  She drops the book by your side.  You sigh and ruffle the puppy’s fur.   Mei Mei wags her tail.

You lock the door and prepare the room for the spell.  You pull furniture away from the walls and set Masaru’s black jade armor on his bed.   You sweep the dust off the floor with a broom borrowed from the janitor’s closet.  You clean the walls of the room with a concoction of frankincense, rosemary, and other herbs.   You study the spell in the White Treatise as you wait for the wall to dry. Once dry, you mark runes on the walls with grey chalk.    Casting this spell may be overkill, but you did not want to be overhear about the Shogun’s death.

After a while, Masaru unlocks the door and enters the room.  Mei Mei looks up from your bed and ruffs a greeting at the Water Aspect.  At this point in the spell, you were chanting and spreading glass dust around the room.

“What are you doing?”  Masaru frowns as he surveys the rearranged room.  All the bookshelves, chests of drawers, beds, and chests set away from the walls.  Arcane runes mark the walls.  You put a single finger to your lips as you continue chanting.

“Inspection tomorrow should be interesting.”  Masaru sighs.  He leaves the dorm room, locking the door behind him.

A few minutes later, Masaru returns with Aiko and Chiyoko.   They watch for a while and then Masaru and Chiyoko leave.  Aiko retrieves your copy of the Five Moons of Denial and read while you cast the spell.   Mei Mei lies beside her and rolls over, begging for a tummy rub.  Aiko smiles down at the dog and rubs her tummy.

Traitor.  You glare at the puppy, who happily ignores you for tummy rubs.

“Interesting…” Aiko comments as she reads though your book.  “Did you know a Lunar can sue someone for their form?”

You ignore Aiko.

“You missed a spot over in the corner.” Aiko points out.   You toss some glass dust on the annoying girl.  She shakes the dust out of her long red braid.   “I’m just trying to help.”

Aiko could help by shutting the fuck up.   Thankfully, Chiyoko and Masaru return with two napkin covered plates.  Your mouth waters at the smell of dinner.  You slept though lunch and missed dinner to cast this spell.   Mei Mei creeps over to where the plate sits on the nightstand.   Masaru pushes the plate further away and offers the puppy a piece of chicken.  You chant faster, wanting to finish the spell so you can eat.

“He should be finishing up, if he doesn’t fuck it up by rushing,” Aiko informs the others.  Everyone sits on the bed and waits.

Finally, you finish the spell.  You wipe your hands of the last of the glass dust.  You place both hands and your forehead against the wall and release the trapped essence of the runes.     The runes glow emerald as you redirect your anima into them.  Chiyoko gasps as the glass dust elevates into the air and refracts the glow of the runes around the room.   The runes extract the glass dust from the air and the runes vanish into the wall.

“Done.”  You announce.  You sit down on the bed cross-legged next to Chiyoko.  “As long as we keep the door closed, no one can overhear us.”   You pick up your plate and start eating.

“I told them already,” Aiko frowns at you.

“That was amazing!”  Chiyoko exclaims.  She turns to her cousin.  “Why don’t you know any cool spells like that?”

“I know plenty of cool spells.”   Aiko retorts.

Masaru tries not to seem impressed.  “At least we won’t have to sweep the floor.”

“I’ll move all the furniture back before I go to bed.”  You reassure Masaru.  “I don’t want to fail inspection tomorrow either.  Last thing we need is to give Chuzei Enki a reason to ban us from leaving the school grounds.”

Chiyoko exchanges looks with Masaru.  “He already did.”

“What?!”  The Chuzei was moving faster than you thought.

“You two were gone for an hour!”  Aiko asks.  “How much trouble could you get in?”

“There was an announcement at dinner.”  Masaru explains.   “Due to exams, no one is to leave school grounds.  Rest day has turned into study day.”

“Shit.  It’s my fault.  My meeting with the Chuzei didn’t go so well.” You admit.  “He was already talking about keeping us here. I figured I try to tell him about the mission and not give any details.”

“Svante!  You are an idiot!”  Chiyoko yells.

“He seemed so reasonable…” You try to explain.

Chiyoko smacks you with a pillow.  “Chuzei Enki is only reasonable so long as you go along with what he says!”

“Oh.”  You completely misread that situation.   You could see how Yeva, who is contrary by nature, would have issues with her father.

“My father used to serve under Enki Osamu,” Masaru adds in a quiet voice.  “He says that Enki is so stubborn, not even a Sun Anathema could change his mind.  Chuzei Enki has saved quite a few Wyld Hunts but he was an awful officer to serve under.”

“Why did you tell me!?”  You start pacing the room.

“We thought you already knew how stubborn the Chuzei is.  You went through basic training though with us.” Aiko says.

You run your hands though your hair.  You let the fact that Chuzei Enki was Yeva’s father color your perspective of the man.

“What is done is done.”  Chiyoko stands up in front of you and stops your pacing.  “We need to plan what to do next.”

You nod.  “There is something I need to tell you first.”  You look towards Aiko.  “Both of you.”  You hold Chiyoko’s hand.   You hesitate.  This is harder than you thought.   No wonder Chuzei Enki was relieved to pass the burden to you.  “Chiyoko, your grandmother is dying.”  You simply state.  You could not find the words to make what you had to say hurt less.  “She will be dead in less than two weeks.”

Chiyoko’s hand covers her mouth.  She turns away from you and looks out the window.

“What?”  Aiko whispers.   She stares up at you.   “Are you sure?”

“My sister is the Shogun’s physician.  I’m sure.”   You go to Chiyoko and put a hand on her shoulder.  “I’m sorry.”

“I didn’t realize she was sick.”  Masaru comments.

“Few people know.”  Aiko explains.

“Are you going to be okay?”   You ask Chiyoko.   Tears stream down her cheeks.   “Chiyoko?”

“I’m fine.”   She turns to you and wipes her cheeks.  “It’s just…  she’s always been there.   Grandmother taught me how to ride a horse.  She gave me my first sword.  She used to let me sit on her lap while she met with her War Council….”   Tears start to stream down her cheeks again.  You take Chiyoko into your arms.  “Someone once told me it was okay to cry.”

Chiyoko relaxes against your shoulder and sobs.   You hold her and look over your shoulder at Aiko.  The Earth Aspect girl stares back, eyes wide with fear but still dry.

Masaru sits on the bed and fidgets with his armor.   “What now?”

“We have to leave tonight.”  Aiko says.

“What?”  Masaru says.  “What about exams?”  You stare at Aiko as if she grew a second head.  Aiko never wants to skip school.

“Svante’s mission is more important than exams.   If we don’t leave tonight, Chuzei Enki will stop us from leaving at all.”

“But…”

Chiyoko moves away from you and wipes her tears away.  “Aiko’s right.  We need to leave tonight. “  Chiyoko meets Aiko’s eyes and gives her cousin a slight nod.   Chiyoko smiles at you and squeezes your hand.

“Just think, Masaru,”  Aiko says.  “If you get expelled, you can go to school with your pen pal.”

“If I get expelled, my mother will kill me first.”

“What pen pal?”  you ask.

“Masaru has a boyfriend!”  Aiko teases.

Masaru blushes.  “He’s not my boyfriend.  We just write letters and…”

“And send pictures to each other.”  Chiyoko adds.

“Manga!  We are drawing a manga!  Anyways, I’m not sure he feels the same way I feel about him.”

That explains why Masaru does not care you are with Chiyoko.  “You are writing a manga and didn’t tell me!”

“I’ll show you later, Svante.  We need to figure out what we are going to do about your mission.”

What do you do?

  • Leave tonight.
  • Leave the afternoon before rest day, as planned
  • Don’t leave. You don’t want your friends to get expelled.

((So you guys found a choice last post I didn’t consider.  Mostly because I knew things about the Chuzei that you and Svante didn’t.  😉  ))

Advertisements