Chiyoko ignites her sword. The flames deepen the shadows on her face. “Let’s go!”
“Wait!” You have to think this through. You have to find a way to get everyone out alive.
Danger! You duck. A chakram brushes by your head. A few red hairs fall through the air.
“We can’t wait.” Chiyoko deflects her own chakram. The Air Aspect smiles and readies another volley.
Bam! You hit the ground. The Water aspect kicks your legs out from under you. Panicked, you roll away. You have to get up. You know from sparring with Masaru you are at a disadvantage. You roll again in the mud to move out of the Water Aspect’s reach.
The Chuzei ordered you to take your friends away while leaving him behind. You could try to take him with you, but he will not go. Chuzei Enki was planning to sacrifice his life to buy you time to escape.
What if Chuzei Enki didn’t have to die?
What if you didn’t have to run away?
What if you could save everyone?
“Keep them busy!” you yell at Chiyoko. You have an idea.
“What?!” Chiyoko rushes forward and attacks the Air Aspect with her own volley of blows. He laughs as he dodges each blow.
You rejoin Chiyoko and stand back to back with her as the Water Aspect approaches. “I’m sorry.” You tell her. You sidestep the Water Aspect’s blow. Chiyoko is thrown off her feet. With a streak of flame, she recovers her footing. Both Dragonblooded now face her.
Thank the Maidens Chiyoko was able to recover so quickly. She will be pissed at you, but you are sure she will forgive you after you save everyone.
Forgotten and safely outside of Fate, you observe the fight. Chuzei Enki’s twin blades sign as he trades blows with Lung Duri. Yet each blow is slower than the next. Rivers of blood run down his armor. The old Chuzei did not have long.
Lung Sunan and the Earth aspect stand by Masaru and Aiko and do not engage anyone. Sunan keeps a close eye on the field of battle while the Earth Aspect keeps a close eye on Masaru and Aiko. What are they waiting for? A signal from Duri?
You advance towards Duri. She is breathing heavy. Sweat drips down her brow in spite of the cold. Careful to avoid her blows, you brush the back of her armor. You share the Gift of the Broken Mask, if one could call it a gift. You retreat. Without a leader, the older Dragonblooded will have trouble coordinating a pursuit.
Lung Sunan frowns as she observers Duri and Chuzei Enki fight. The old Chuzei’s face is pale and his anima has flared, yet Duri does not finish off her old teacher. The Fire Aspect walks away from Aiko and Masaru and towards the dueling Dragonblooded.
“Where are you going?” The Earth Aspect demands. Her hand reaches for the hammer by her side. You take advantage of her distraction and search for the shadow of Saturn in her soul. You slap her with the side of your sword. She falls to the ground. You take a moment to check for a pulse. She is still alive.
You kneel by Masaru and pick the lock on his jade cuffs. “Aiko, you need to summon mounts. We are leaving.” You hand the pick over to Masaru and pick up your sword. You need to help Chiyoko get away from the two Dragonblooded. Now that Masaru and Aiko are free, you can leave. You are going to save everyone! No one dies today!
You turn just in time to see Lung Sunan stab Duri.
The fighting stops. Duri looks down at the blade sticking out between the plates of her armor. “Why?”
The Water Aspect strips Chiyoko of her sword. It falls to the ground and is extinguished by the mud. The Water Aspect grabs her arm and with brutal and efficient movements, wrenches back in a hold. Chiyoko cries out when her arm snaps.
“Chiyoko!” You rush to help your girlfriend, but an earthen wall rises to block you. Another wall rises behind you. Soon, the walls trap you, Aiko and Masaru.
Chuzei Enki throws one of his swords at the Water Aspect. A chakram deflects it off course. The sword spins in the air and embeds itself in the mud.
With a roar, Chuzei Enki charges the Water Aspect. Sunan kicks him in the side. Blood gushes out of the Chuzei’s previous wound. The old man collapses to the ground. Digging his fingers into the muddy earth, he crawls towards Chiyoko.
“I can’t get out!” Aiko whispers. “My hand holds just crumble into nothing.”
Masaru begins to kick the earth walls, but more earth replaces the missing chunks. “Svante? What do we do?”
You do nothing. You watch the scene you created.
“No, Shikari,” The Fire Aspect refers to Enki Osamu’s old rank in the Wyld Hunt. “You aren’t going anywhere.” She kicks the old Earth Aspect in the face.
“What have you done?” the Air Aspect cries out, eyes wide.
“My mission.” Lung Sunan answers. She draws a knife and approaches Lung Duri.
“You treacherous bitch,” Lung Duri spits blood. “My father should have never allied…”
Sunan backhands Duri. The Wood Aspect falls to the ground. “Do you remember her?” She screams at her Dragonblooded companions. “Do you know her name?” Sunan kicks Duri again. “It’s like I told you. They can be anyone.”
Duri rises to one arm. “I…am…not…a…Sidereal.” She ignites her anima. Luscious deep green leaves of summer swirl around her. “Ru, you know me. We went to school together.”
The Air Aspect takes a step back. He shakes his head. “How could we not notice a stranger in our midst?” He asks Sunan.
Sunan grabs Duri by a loose pigtail. Her hand bleeds from Duri’s anima flux. “Your anima proves nothing. I’ve seen Sidereals wear a Dragon’s anima before.” Duri fights to scratch Sunan’s eyes out. Sunan draws a bloody line across Duri’s throat.
While Sunan and the others are distracted, Chuzei Enki begins to crawl again. Sunan drops Duri’s corpse. “Do you not know when to give up old man?” She squats by the old Chuzei and observes his painful progress. Facing away from you and the others, she leans over and whispers in his ear. The Chuzei, enraged by Sunan’s words, tries to tackle her. She barks a laugh and forces his face into the mud. She slits his throat and watches the old Chuzei gurgle his last muddy breath.
Sunan takes a deep breath and relaxes. She pulls out a think white cloth. She cleans her knife of blood.
She folds her cloth and ties it around her brow.
You hand involuntarily reaches for your own headband, which conceals your caste mark. The headband. Duri’s words. The Wyld Hunt. Your Heart stops.
Lung Sunan is a Lunar.
“Come,” the Lunar says to her Dragonblooded companions. “The Air Ship awaits. We have much to do before we can free your people from Sidereal tyranny.”
To be continue…
((I’ll admit, I took the suggestions with the worst outcomes. This is the moment where teenage arrogance runs smack into the wall of reality. We are playing in the adult leagues now! ))
Captured and his mission in shambles, Svante and his friends must escape and warn the other Sidereals about the Lunar Anathema in their mist.
Chapter 8, the last chapter of Hero, will begin next Monday, July 25, 2016.