You rub your bloody nose on our shoulder sleeve and give Aiko a dirty look. Aiko gives a long-suffering sigh and rolls her eyes. She is trying to tell you something, but what? That she is a fucking bitch? You already knew that. You focus on Aiko and dip into her well-ordered mind. Aiko’s eyes become unfocused. She’s been talking to Chiyoko and Masaru! They want you to….
Ow! A pisssed off Aiko elbows you in the nose again. You jump up from the mode after the Earth Aspect girl. She headbutts you, but you easily dodge and knock her onto the muddy street.
“Cut that out!” Ru, the Water Aspect drags you away from Aiko. She dumps you on the other side of Chiyoko.
“She’s always like this!” you defend yourself. “You set a demon on my once!”
Aiko mutters curses in her gag, yet seems pleased with herself. Masaru sits quietly, watching the fight.
Distraction. Aiko wanted a distraction. You make a rude gesture at the girl and Aiko jumps up again. Ru grabs her long plaited red hair and throws her to the ground.
“Maybe we should let them fight it out?” the Lunar suggests.
“No,” Khalid approaches with a sullen Shamria trailing behind. “The skyship approaches.”
The sky rumbles and the grey storm clouds reveal a sleek manta class sky ship. The dark manta ray ship glides down and lands in the village street. Festival lanterns blow around their stalls and a table cloth flies down the street. Your heart pounds as the belly of the ship reveals three more Dragonblooded. Whatever slim prospects of escape you had just vanished.
The Water Aspect captain, flanked by her crew, slows as she approaches your group. She is tall with a regal bearing and well pressed uniform. Her bright blue hair is shaved and bound in the shogunate style. With deep blue eyes, she surveys the scene. You and Aiko bleeding and covered in mud. Chiyoko with her broken arm. Two corpses lying in the street. “We were ordered not to harm the children.”
“They have been fighting among themselves.” Khalid explains.
The Dragonblooded were fractured and without leadership. You could not let this Dragonblooded take charge. “Aiko did hit me,” you admit. Aiko grunts at this. “But she broke Chiyoko’s arm” You jerk your head at Ru.
The Skyship captain crosses her arms and stares at her fellow Water Aspect.
“Shit happens.” Ru drags Chiyoko to her feet. “Let’s get the fuck out of this shit hole.”
“They killed Chuzei Enki” You swallow a lump in your throat. “And they killed that woman.” You nod at Duri’s corpse.
The Captain studies the corpse with a frown. “Who is that woman?”
“No one you need to concern yourself with, Captain Abioye.” The Lunar interjects. She walks up to you and smacks the side of your head. “What did I say about talking, boy?”
“You said I couldn’t talk on the wind.” You stand tall and stare the Lunar in the eye. “You said nothing about the truth.”
The Lunar raises her fist. You back away and slip on the slick cobble stone road. You roll away from the approaching Lunar.
Shamira draws her hammer and stands between you and Sunan. “I warned you not to touch these children.”
“Stand aside.” The lunar orders.
“I don’t take orders from you filthy….”
“Shamira!” Khalid interrupts.
Captain Abioye’s frown grows as she observes the scene. Her crew stands behind her confused. “Is there anything I should be aware of, Dragons?”
The Captain does not know about the Lunar. Duri’s circle must know, but the airship circle does not. You circle does not either, but there is no way to warn them. You realize this is not the time to reveal this secret. The Lunar and Duri’s circle would have to kill everyone to keep the secret from getting out.
The Captain waits for someone to speak. The Lunar is silent. Duri’s circle is silent. You speak up.
“They kidnapped us. They hurt us. They killed our teacher.” Captain Abioye’s entire attention is on you. “Do you want to be associated with these people?” You lace your question with Essence. You need to get Chiyoko and the others away from these dangerous people. You need to gain the upper hand. You need allies.
“Get the children on the skyship.” Captain Abioye orders. The Captain’s expression never changed once after your plea. Did it not work?
Yet when Ru walks by with Chiyoko, the captain holds her hand out to stop the water aspect from boarding the ship.
“What are you doing?” Ru asks.
“You and your circle are staying here. My crew and I will see the children to their destination.”
“No,” the Lunar stares at you, gears turning in her head. “Where they go, I go.”
“Your circle has proven incapable of dealing with children without injuring them.” Captain Abioye points out. “You will not be accompanying them to Meru. I will bring them to the Shogun.” You wonder which Shogun the captain means. The dying one or the one she supports?
“What authority do you have to do this?” Khalid questions.
“What authority?” The captain cracks her knuckles. “My authority is basic human decency. You will not board my ship. You will not be accompanying these children to Meru.”
The Lunar screams and lunges for you. Shamira blocks with her hammer. “Run!”
“Retreat to the ship!” The captain orders. Ru and Khalid surround the airship crew. They may outnumber the remains of Duri’s circle, but they are unprepared for close combat in their ship uniforms.
Masaru, hands free of bounds, helps you off the ground. Mei Mei reveals herself from under a festival stall. She barks at you. “Come one, girl!” Together you race for the ship. After everyone is one, Aiko slams the door button.
“What did you do that for?” you yell. Masaru picks the locks on your cuffs and hand you the pick. He sits in the captain’s chair and studies the console.
You ungag Aiko to hear her answer. “We are safer with the door close!” She holds up her cuffs for you to unlock.
Chiyoko’s gag hangs around her neck. “Masaru, can you fly this thing?”
“My uncle taught me.” He tries to turn the wheel. “The captain is still attuned to the ship.”
Chiyoko closes her eyes and whispers on the wind. The ships console dims. “Start attuning to the ship.” She kicks open the weapons locker, picks up a steel sword with her unbroken left hand, and offers it to you. “In case they break in.”
“The Captain and her crew are still out there.”
“I won’t be used as a hostage against my father.”
“But they could die. “ You did not want any more lives on your conscious.
Chiyoko closes her eyes. “They made their choice.” She replies in a soft voice. She turns away and ignites the sword she offered you. She waits by the door, still as a stone. Only her trembling sword betrays her unease.
“Don’t make things worse.” Aiko hisses.
You recoil at her words. “I didn’t mean for anyone to die.”
Aiko studies you, unsure what to say next. “Look, just watch the door.” She sits in the copilot seat.
You pick a sword out of the weapons locker. No artifact swords, just plain steel. You call upon the Battle Maiden and the sword glows with a dim red light. Better.
You stand beside Chiyoko. Chiyoko nods in approval. Together you watch the door.
“I got it!” Masaru announces. The skyship rises. The belly of the manta scrapes the roof of the temple. “Opps.”
“Are you sure you can fly this thing?” Aiko asks.
“It’s fine! It’s fine! There’s nothing I can hit in the air.”
“Except the ground,” Aiko mutters.
Chiyoko sighs in relief. Her sword goes out and she slumps into a chair. Her bound arm rests over her chest.
You stare at the door and pray to the Maidens the Airship crew is okay.
“So…where are we going?” Masaru asks.
Where are you going?
- Yu-Shan Gate. That was your last orders.
- Ang-Tang. Akane, the future Shogun needs to be warned of the Anathema.
- The still living Shogun needs to be warned of the Anathema.