135 – Arrest

“You should attune to the manse, Chiyoko.”  You have been an asshole over the past day especially to Chiyoko.   Perhaps this will make up for it.

Chiyoko bites her lower lip.  “I don’t speak Spirit Speech.”

“I can teach you,” you offer.

“I’ll teach you,” Aiko says less than a heartbeat later.

Chiyoko hugs yourself and turns away from the flame.  “You take it, Svante.”

“What am I going to do with a manse in Creation?”  You shrug.  “If I am in Creation, I’m with you.”

“Aiko?”

Aiko rolls her eyes.  “I’d love to claim it but let’s be honest.  You know no one is going to trust me with a manse.   If I attune to it, they are going to just take it away.”

“You don’t want it, Masaru?”  Chiyoko asks.  “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.”

Masaru’s response comes out in a rush.    “You mean, if I hadn’t crashed the skyship into manse, we wouldn’t have been forced into a dangerous situation where we would have died if the manse’s guardian wasn’t lonely.”

Chiyoko closes her eyes.  “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Oh.”  Masaru stares at the floor, cheeks burning.  “The manse is fire aspected.  You are a Fire Aspect.  Who better to attune to the manse?”

Chiyoko paces away from the others.  You slowly approach as she stares at the wall of the hearthstone room.

“I don’t deserve this.” She whispers to herself.

”Why?”  She jumps at your question.  You take her hand.  “You show an affinity for the lioness despite the language barrier.  You are an Fire Aspect.  You are the best person to claim this manse.”

Chiyoko looks up to you and for a moment, you see the empty darkness in her eyes.  The same darkness you saw at the bridge.   Then it is gone.   She gives you a weak smile and squeezes your hand.  Chiyoko takes a deep breath and turns towards the fire.  The lioness waits beyond the flame.

Chiyoko reaches out with a trembling hand and grips the hearthstone.  She screams out in anguish and falls to her knees as the flame engulfs her.

“Chiyoko!”

“Wait!”  The lioness stands between you and Chiyoko.   You peer around the lioness to see Chiyoko unharmed and in an attunement trance.

The ruby lioness stares off in the distance at what you cannot see.  “There is a disturbance outside the manse.   A group of Dragonblooded, led by an Air Aspect named Raijin Reva, is arresting a man.   “

“Oh no,”  Masaru closes his eyes.  “Of course, my mother is here.”

“What can you tell me about the man?” you ask.

“No name has been spoken.”  The lioness tilts her head, listening.   “The Air Aspect just referred to him as a secretary.”

Elder Kejak.  With Mei Mei at your heels, you race out of the hearthstone room.  You bound down the stairs.  When you reach the bottom of the stairs, you pause.  You glance down both sides of the hallway, unsure where to go.

“Svante, wait!”  Masaru storms down the stairs after you.  The lioness is right behind him.  “Please don’t piss off my mother.  She is a formidable sorcerer.   Maybe we should come up with an explanation about what happened with the crash.”

“The crash?”  You had forgotten about the crash.  “Why would your mother arrest the Shogun’s secretary?”

“I don’t know anything about the Shogun’s Secretary.  Maybe he pissed her off?  More likely, he pissed off my grandmother.”  Masaru grimaces. “Everyone pisses her off.”

The lioness leads you to the exit of the manse.   Masaru holds out a hand to stop you from opening the door.  “Be careful.  There are rumors that my mother has a second circle demon bound to her.”

“Rumors?  How could she have summoned a second circle demon?  Do you know which one?”

Masaru shrugs.  “That is what I heard from Shen”

“How could you not know for certain?  She’s your mother.”

“She….”  Masaru frowns.  “She’s not a bad mother, just busy.”

You nod and push the door of the manse open.   Night has fallen and the sky is overcast.  The evening breeze chills you after being in the warm manse.   Golden lights flutter and buzz within the glass bulbs of the streetlights.   The hair on the back of your neck stands up straight as the Air crackles with lightning.

“Lady Reva,”  Elder Kejak pleads.  “I only have the best interests of the Shogunate in mind.”

Elder Kejak…pleading?  Never in your life have you expected Elder Kejak to plead.  You take in the older oracle’s appearance.  A few dark hairs stray from his ponytail.   His hands held high, his fingers stained with ink.  His deep green robes are disheveled with a smudge of ink near his right pocket.   A measuring stick protrudes from his pocket.

The Key.   You are not seeing Elder Kejak. You are seeing the Shogunate’s Secretary.   The Secretary’s eyes dart to you and then return to the woman standing before him.

Raijin Reva is stocky Air Aspect, the rounded shape of her face reminding you of Masaru.  Her long pale blue hair is pinned on top of her head.   Her icy skin glows in the night darkness.  Concealed under a dark blue cloak, her pale silver robes are elegant and understated.   Raijin Reva carries no weapon, but as a sorcerer, she does not need one.

Two other Dragonblooded encircle Elder Kejak… the secretary.   A Wood Aspect carries a jade crossbow and wears well-worn leathers of green and brown.  His boots are clean of mud but the dried water stains show this is a recent occurrence.   The sun has baked his skin into a deep tanned leather.  His pine green hair bound into a tight braid.   His pine green eyes never leave the secretary.

The Fire Aspect smirks as the whole situation amuses her.  Her charcoal brown skin contrasts with her bright long braided orange-red hair.  She wears jade chain mail and her sword drawn and lit, illuminating the scene.  She is the one that notices you and Masaru.  “Reva.”  She nods in your direction.

What do you do? 

  • Speak up. Talk Masaru’s mother into letting Shogunate’s secretary go
  • Stay Silent. Elder Kejak must have some way out of this situation, right?
  • Let Masaru talk to his mother. Support him when needed.
  • Other

((This scene would have been really interesting if Masaru was attuning to the manse. ))

 

 

134 – Hearthstone

You consider the lioness’ riddles and smile.  “River, Mountain, Fire” you point at each of your friends in turn.  “Stars” you point at yourself.  “The Riddles are us.”   The lioness’ tail twitches eagerly as she watches you point.

Aiko shakes her head.  “It can’t be that easy.  The lioness said ‘riddle’, not ‘answers’.  Each Riddle has to do with a Maiden of Fate.  The River is Journeys.  The Fire Battles.  The Mountain Serenity.”

“There are five maidens,” you remind her.

“And only four riddles,”  Chiyoko adds.

“There are five riddles,” Aiko holds up her hand, fingers spread wide.  “The question of the theme is the last riddle.  The End of the Riddles.   Endings.”

“Don’t over think this.”  The lioness cautions in Spirit Speech.

“Wait,”  you confront the lioness.  “I thought you didn’t give hints.”

The lioness shifts her weight and says nothing.

Aiko scowls.  “Dragons!  This is the stupidest security system!  Once we attune to the manse, we are completely changing it!”

“Something else is going on.”  You met the lioness’ gaze, trying to figure out what is going on.   “You want us to attune to the manse.  Why?”

She stares back, her eyes burning with hope and…

“She is lonely.”  Chiyoko faces the lioness.  She raises a hand.  The lioness bows her head.   Chiyoko places her head over the lioness’ flicker heart.  “She has been here all these centuries waiting for someone to come.”  Chiyoko scratches the lioness behind the ear.   The lioness purrs.

You watch the lioness interact with Chiyoko.  “Are you lonely?”

The lioness pulls away from Chiyoko’s hand and paces in front of the Jade Door.  “No one has come since the lockdown.   All there is me and the builder bugs.”  She looks back at the group.  “They aren’t known for their conversational skills.”

“Why all the riddles then?”

The lioness sits tall in front of the door.  “I have to fulfill my purpose.”  She licks her lips.  “Though I am able to choose which riddles to ask.  I have assisted you as much as I can.”

You and Aiko exchange a look.  “The riddles relate to each of our aspects.   Fire for Chiyoko.  River for Masaru.  Mountain for Aiko.  And Stars for me….  though a riddle with the answer of ‘Secrets’ would work too.”

The Lioness chuckles.  “I had considered a riddle for secrets.   It is good the Maidens have now have Exalts.”   The Lioness’ mood sombers.  She raises a ruby paw to the Red Jade Door.  The carvings on it break out into brilliant orange light.   The door explodes out, a searing wind blowing your hair back.  “The manse is your, if you wish to claim it.”

The room beyond the door is bare, except for a flickering bonfire in the center of the room.   The lioness circles around the flame.  Her heart flickers in time with the bonfire.  Within the flame bobs a flat red disc.

You draw closer to the flame, to get a closer look at the hearthstone.   A burst of glowing light, orange like the dawning sun, radiates from the center of the stone.   You run a hand over the outside of the flame.  In spite of the sweat running down your face, the flame is cool to touch.

“What does the hearthstone do?”  Aiko asks.

“The Stone of the Light Sleeper bars sleep to addle the mind of its master.   You will instantly awake with no confusion. “  The lioness pauses to add.  “I am told the stone makes it difficult to sleep in noisy locations.”

“I assume we will all get keystones, but only one person can attune to the manse.”  Masaru points out.  “Who is going to claim the hearthstone?”

Who is going to attune to the manse?

  • You answered most of the questions.
  • Aiko can speak Spirit Speech and talk to the manse’s keeper.   She answered questions.
  • Chiyoko seems to have an affinity to the lioness.  Also, giving her the hearthstone may make up for being an ass earlier.
  • Masaru. Masaru is the most responsible of the group.  He should have control of the manse.
  • Let the adults decide. You are sure Elder Kejak is just outside.  He will know what to do about the manse.

133 – Riddles

Riddles?  You cannot answer riddles when no one knows you are there.  You crawl back into the skyship and step back into fate.  Tail flicking, the lioness observes you as you emerge from the airship.  Mei Mei dances circles around you as you stand next to Chiyoko.

Masaru stands tall and folds his hand behind his back.  “I’m a member of this circle too.”

Aiko rolls her eyes.  “Of course you are member of this circle, Masaru.”

“Why do you keep fucking ditching me?”  He takes a deep breath to calm himself.  “Whatever we decide, we should stay together. “

“What is your opinion, Svante?”  Chiyoko asks.

“We should try for the Hearthstone room.  If we can claim this manse, we may get in less trouble for crashing the ship.”  And it delays having to explain everything to Elder Kejak.  You imagine Elder Kejak waiting outside of the manse, his long face etched with disappointment.

“What do we do if we get a question wrong?”  Masaru counters.

Chiyoko draws her sword and ignites it.  “We deal with the lioness.”

“Three against one.  We go to the Hearthstone room”  Aiko relays the group’s decision to the lioness.  The Ruby Lioness rises and pads her way past the broken fountain.  She sits in front of a door on the far side of the courtyard.

“What always runs but never walks, has a bed but never sleeps, has a mouth but never eats?”

“River” you answer instantly.  You have heard this riddle.  You retrieved a memory of you and Sasha playing riddle games as children.

“Svante!”  Aiko hisses.  “We should discuss the riddle before we give an answer.”

“But I already knew the answer.”  You turn towards the lioness.  “River what the right answer, correct?”

The lioness inclines her head and leaps out of the way of the door.  The door pushes open at a touch.  “See?”

Aiko exchanges a look with Chiyoko.  Chiyoko sighs.  “Svante, back at the skyship you said you were in charge and we had to do what you say.”

“Um….”  You were an asshole back on the airship.  “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“In what way did you mean it?”  Aiko crosses her arms.

You scratch the back of your head.  “If it is my mission, I should be in charge.”

“Svante, you haven’t been in class with us.”  Masaru explains.  “You know more about Dragonblooded than most, but you don’t have enough tactical knowledge to be in charge.”

“Chuzei Enki was dying.   Only resistance charms were keeping him upright.”  Chiyoko adds.  You remember the pebble the Chuzei was running though his fingers.

“I was trying to save everyone.”  You counter.  “And I would have too if it wasn’t for Sunan.”

“You robbed him of an honorable death.”  Chiyoko replies.

You scowl.  “That’s stupid.  Death is never certain.  Why not try to save everyone?”

Chiyoko looks at Aiko for assistance.  “He doesn’t understand.  He’s not Dragonblooded.”

“Svante, this is what I am talking about,”  Masaru explains.  “We can’t work together if we aren’t on the same wavelength.”

You did not want anyone to die for you.   Not for such a stupid reason.  “What, I’m not going to let you commit suicide?  Because that is what an honorable death sounds like to me.”

“It not about dying, you idiot.”  Aiko starts.

“We talk about it later.”  Chiyoko interrupts.    “We discuss the riddles in a group, even if one of us knows the answer.”

“Because the answer you know could be wrong.”  Aiko adds with a smirk.

You snort at Aiko’s comment and follow Chiyoko and the others down the hallway.  The Ruby lioness leads you past a mural of…. You are not really sure of what.  The mural does not make any sense.  Trees, if you could call them trees, grow out of the sky…  They were made of bark, branches, and leaves but everything was put together wrong.  The veins in the leaves did not run down the middle….

“This mural was painted by the former master of this manse.”  The lioness’ voice breaks the spell of the painting.  “He invented the artistic style called Wyld-touched.  Each color of paint was ground by claw in the Bordermarshes.”

You avoid studying the mural as you walk past.  The lioness sits by another door and ask, “Feed me and I live, give me drink, and I die.  What am I?”

You remember this riddle too.  You stay quiet as Aiko translates.

“I don’t know,” Chiyoko admits.  Masaru shrugs.

Aiko thinks for a moment.  “It’s fire.  You feed fire wood and it grows.  If you pour water on it, it goes out.”

You nod.  “That makes sense to me.”   Aiko relays the group’s answer.

Beyond the door is a spiral staircase.   More traditional landscapes line the walls.  Akachi would love this manse.  Your guardian used to take you to various art exhibits around creation, until he realized your lack of interest.

You pause at a gap in the paintings.  “What was here?”

The lioness walks down past Masaru down stairs.   She stares at the blank spot on the wall as if this is the first time she noticed it.   “I have no record of any art in this spot.  The former master had not completed his collection before the lockdown.”  She continues up the stairs.

You stare at the spot and try to remember.

“Is something wrong?”  Chiyoko asks when you do not continue up the stairs.

You grasp at a wisp of a memory so old it was before Rikali.  “It was a village.  Laughing woman were stomping grapes.   The vineyard trekked back towards the mountains and the horizon….”  The memory fades.  “It’s gone.”

“How do you know what was here if you have never been to this manse before?” Aiko questions.

You ignore her and join the lioness at the top of the stairs.  The lioness recites the next riddle.  “What has roots nobody sees and is taller than the trees?  Up, up, up, it goes and yet it never grows?”

You translate the riddle and add, “I remember this riddle from when I was kid.  It’s a mountain.”

“Yes,” Aiko frowns.  “These riddles are too easy.”

“That’s good right?”  Masaru asks.

“These riddles are the security system.”  You explain.  “If you make the riddles too easy how do you keep anyone out?”

Chiyoko, flaming sword in hand, glances back down the staircase.   “We have no choice but to keep going.”

You continue down another long hallway of artwork.   You pass a couple more empty spots.  The lioness stops by another closed door.  “At night, they come without being brought.  By day, they are lost without being stolen.  What are they?”

“Dreams,” Aiko offers to the group.

“No,”  you disagree.  “it’s stars.”

Aiko shakes her head.   “Don’t let being a Sidereal color your perception.  It’s dreams.   You don’t remember dreams when you wake up.”

“But sometimes you do.  All stars are lost when the sun rises.”

“The stars are still there guiding fate.  We just can’t see them.”

“So they are lost to sight but not stolen.”

Masaru tentatively adds.  “I agree with Svante.   So far, no riddle has been about an abstract concept.”

“Maybe that is what the manse’s security system wants you to think,”  Aiko retorts.

“You don’t give hints, do you?”  You ask the lioness.

“No.”

You smack your forehead.  “This is stupid.  We can just ask my spider.”  You  pull your pattern spider out of your pocket and repeat the riddle to it.  A thread of fate hands down and the spider begins to climb.

Swat!  A ruby paw swats the spider down.  Your pattern spider attempts to flee, but the lioness catches the spider by the leg.  The Spider struggles against the lioness’ mouth.  Pop!  A leg detaches from the spider.  Your pattern spider limps back and curls up in your pocket.

The lioness swallows the starmetal leg and licks her lips.  “No cheating.”

A stunned silence follow.  You have never seen anything stop a pattern spider in its duty.

“What is star in Spirit Speech, Svante?”  Chiyoko prompts

“Sidu.”

Everyone waits.  The lioness considers your answer.  “Correct.”

The lioness pushes open the door with her nose and reveals the last hallway.  No artwork hangs in this hallway.  Blacken clay tiles cover the ceiling, walls, and floor.   The stench of burning soot burns your nose.   The lioness waits for you by a large set of ornate red jade doors.   Carvings of dancing people engulfed in flames decorate the door.  Wait.  The people are not dancing.  Their faces twist in agony as they burn.

Chiyoko studies the room and says, “Masaru, you are right.  This was a stupid idea.”

“Too late now,”  He replies in a small voice.

“We will be fine.”  Aiko stands before the lion.  “Ask the last riddle.”

“The past four riddles have had a common theme.  What is it?”

What is the common theme of the riddles asked by the Lioness?

 

 

132 – Crash

“Masaru.”  You lean over and grab his shoulder.   “Fly around and try the landing approach again.”

Masaru closes his eyes and swallows.   He nods and fidgets with a knob on the control panel.  His hands leave a sweaty stain on the leather wheel of the skyship.

You sit back in your seat and encircle your arms around Mei Mei.  You close your eyes and pray to Mercury you and your friends will land safely.

Masaru pulls the wheel back.   The skyship rises above the ruins of Meru.

“Masaru…”  Aiko warns.  You open your eyes to see two tall towers looming in the windshield.

“I see it.”  Masaru’s hair glows with a harsh turquoise glow.   The cabin air grows heavy and moist.

“Masaru!”  Aiko screams.   You are jarred as the skyship’s left wing clips one of the towers.   The ship tumbles down from the air.   Blood rushes to your head as the ship flips.  You curl in a ball around Mei Mei.   Metal groans.  Glass shatters.  The skyship comes to a full stop.

Mei Mei whines and struggles in your arms.   You keep a tight grip so she does not fall to the ceiling.

“Is everyone okay?”  Masaru winces and glances back at you.

“What the fuck, Masaru!”  Aiko’s long braid hangs down and shakes with fury.  “You crashed the ship into an Anathema Ruin!”

“Akachi is going to kill me.”  You groan and throw your head back into the seat.  This ship was a pre-Usurpation relic.  Your guardian has ranted about Dragonblooded destroying irreplaceable artifacts.

“At least we landed safe,”  Masaru points out.

“Safe? You call this safe?”  Aiko waves her hand at the broken windshield.   The head of a broken statue lies among the glass shards.

“It could always be worse!”  Masaru begins.  “We…”

Something jumps onto skyship and rushes across its exposed belly.

“What was that?” Chiyoko whispers.

“Never tempt fate by saying ‘it could always be worst,’” you warn.

“The Lunar followed us.”  Aiko declares.

Masaru shakes his head.  “No bird could fly as fast as a Manta-Class Skyship.”

“It must be the ruins defenses.”  Chiyoko unbuckles herself and drops down to the ceiling.  You follow, awkwardly carrying Mei Mei in your arms.

The skyship starts to shift.  “It’s not me!”  Masaru hisses.   He pokes at the control panel.  “No power, no defenses.”

Mei Mei barks.  A ruby paw claws at the broken windshield.

“I can hear you in there!”  A throaty alto voice calls out in Spirit Speech.  “Is anyone hurt in there?”

Everyone is silent, not sure how to answer the voice.   Chiyoko points at you and hides her eyes.  You nod and step outside of fate.  The Dragonblooded gather weapons and crawl out of the broken window.

Despite being a neglected ruin, the courtyard garden looks well-tended.  Trees hang heavy with exotic fruits you have never seen even in Yu-Shan’s markets.   The skyship scraped a long grove in the brick floor and scattered tables and chairs in its wake.   You look up and see the stained glass window you flew though.   Copper bugs the size of your hand climb up the wall in a straight line.   A few have already begun welding window back together.

A ruby lioness sits by a shattered fountain, her flame tipped tail curled around her front paw.   The remains of the fountain’s statue – a large burly man surrounded by lions- lie submerged in the clear fountain water.  Her fiery eyes glow with curiosity as she observers you friends emerge from the crashed skyship.

“Greetings.  Welcome to the Manse of Burning Enigmas.”  The lioness purrs.  “I’d ask the purpose of your visit, but it is obvious you didn’t plan this visit.”  She nods at the crashed skyship.

“We did not mean to intrude on your manse,”  Aiko replies in Spirit Speech.  “If you could lead us to the exit, we can be on our way.”

The fiery end of the lioness’ tail flicks.  “We have a dilemma here.   I would like to help you, but the manse is on lockdown.   Do you have a keystone that allows access to the rest of the manse?”

You walk around the perimeter of the courtyard and try a door handle.   It is locked.  Each door you find is locked.  You return to your friends and examine the lioness.   A flicker flame pulses deep in her chest.   This lioness is a constructed entity designed to serve the manse.

Aiko considers the lioness’ question.  “No,” she finally answers.  “How does one acquire a key stone?”

“The master of the manse can create keystones.”   The lioness looks down at the headless statue lying in the fountain.  “The last master hasn’t been seen since the lockdown was enacted centuries ago.  The hearthstone has reformed in the heart of the manse.”  She studies all three Dragonblooded.  “Would you like to enact the emergency access protocol?  Each room may be accessed by answering a riddle.”

“Riddles?  That’s it?”  Aiko wrinkles her nose.  “How many riddles do we need to answer to reach the exit?”

“Three.”

Aiko glances at Chiyoko and grins.  “How many riddles to the hearthstone room?”

“Five.”  The lioness flicks an ear.  “The hearthstone room is in the opposite direction of the exit.”

“What’s going on?”  Chiyoko asks in Earthspeak.

“It’s a puzzle manse.  This sphinx will ask us questions and for each one we answer correctly we gain access to another room.  We need three riddles to get out of here, but five riddles to access the hearthstone.”

“What happens if we answer incorrectly?” Masaru asks.  Aiko repeats the question.

The lioness flexes her claws.  “I rend the flesh from your bones.  I do not wish to harm Dragonblooded children, but the security protocols are clear in this matter.”

Chiyoko takes a deep breath.  “We should head to the hearthstone room.  If we claim an old Anathema Ruin we may get in less trouble for busting up the skyship.”

Masaru frowns.  “It’s too risky.   If we get a question wrong, the lion will attack.”

“If we get them right, we get a whole manse with a hearthstone!”  Aiko exclaims.

“In the abandoned part of Meru,” Masaru counters.

Aiko rolls her eyes.  “Masaru, you can head to the exit and get help while Chiyoko and I can head to the hearthstone room.”

What do you do?

  • Go with Masaru to the exit.
  • Go with Aiko and Chiyoko to the Hearthstone room
  • Use Force Decision to get everyone to go to the exit
  • Use Force Decision to get everyone to go to the hearthstone room
  • Other

((How confident are you in your riddle answers?  😀 ))

131 – Too Low

“Head to the Yu-Shan Gate.”  You sit at the navigation console and give Masaru the coordinates.  Afterwards, you sit and collect your thoughts.   Mei Mei settles in your lap.   You take a deep breath and rub the sweat off your face.  Then you summon an Infallible Messenger.

“Akachi,” you begin.  “Chuzei Enki is dead.   Lung Hayate is working with a Lunar named Lung Suri.  I think her tell is her buckteeth.  Lung Duri is dead.  I gifted her with the Broken Mask and the Lunar killed her.”  You send the spirit off.

The reply comes back almost instantly.  “Are you okay?”

No, you think.  You are not okay.  Two people died because of your actions.   Akachi’s voice is barely a whisper, but hearing it steadies you.   For once, you want to talk about the messed up jumble of feelings with Akachi.  Yet you do not know anything about his mission and if he is whispering, he must be where he can be overheard.

“We are fine.  We are on an airship headed to Yu-Shan.”   You close your eyes and remember the Lakehouse.   You will be going there soon.   It will be nice to relax and let the adults take care of Creation for a bit.  You can show Chiyoko and the others around the markets and the temples of Yu-Shan.

But first, you have to do what you can to help.  You ponder who else to tell about the Lunar.  Sasha most definitely.  She is with the Shogun.  Wanahton is with Admiral Mayim.  Yeva is with Akane’s legion.  Maidens, you dread talking to Yeva.   You lean back against the chair.   You are so tired.  Summoning another massager right now is beyond you.

“Svante,” Aiko swivels her chair around to face you.  “Was that woman another Sidereal?”

“No.”

Aiko asks another question.  “Who was she then?”

“I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

Aiko isn’t going to let it go.  “But…’

“I don’t want to talk about it!” you yell.  Mei Mei whines and stares at you.

The drone of the essence engines does little to fill the silence after your outburst.

“No, we are going to talk about it now.”  Chiyoko turns your chair around to face her.  She sits up, broken arm across her chest.  “We are going to talk about it now, because we can’t do our job if we don’t know what is going on.”

Do you have to do this now?  “Your job is to do what I say and I say leave me the fuck alone.”  You turn your chair back around and attempt to tune the others out.

Aiko barks out a laugh.   “No,” Chiyoko corrects.  “Our job is to protect you.”

What?  “I don’t need protection.”

“Please.”  Aiko says.  “Your anima doesn’t even burn and frankly…”  Aiko shuts up when Chiyoko stares her down.

“No, you are wrong.  It’s my job to protect you.”  You are a Sidereal.  Chosen of Jupiter herself.  “It’s my job to protect Creation and everyone in it safe.”

“Shit.  Chuzei Enki was right.”  Masaru mutters.

“What does that mean?”  You remember him saying that before.

“Svante, it is our job to protect Creation.  We are Dragonblooded.  It is your job to guide Creation.  To warn us about Creation’s dangers. To advise us on how to deal with them.”

“To tell us what the fuck is going on.”  Aiko interjects.  “I know you are a Chosen of Secrets, but gods, do you have to keep everything a secret?”

You think this over.  “That’s fine, but I don’t need protection.”

“It’s a numbers game, Svante.”  Masaru says.  “There are hundreds of thousands of Dragonblooded.   Only few hundred Sidereals.   You are harder to replace than we are.”

“I….”  you pause.  Logically, what they said made sense.   And it was worse than they thought.  There was only a hundred Sidereals at most and it could take up to fifty years for a new Sidereal to reincarnate.   “I don’t want you to die for me.”  You tell Chiyoko.

“Trust me.” Aiko crosses her arms.  “We don’t want to die for you either.   But when shit happens it’s your job to run your dim glow ass back to Heaven.  “

“Svante, look at me.”  Chiyoko rests her good hand on your cheek.  You stare in her warm orange eyes and remember the moment in the barn.  “Svante, you act like you carry Creation on your shoulders, but you aren’t alone.  You have us.”

“Let us help you.”   Masaru says.

“And we can’t help you if we don’t know what the fuck is going on.”  Aiko adds.   “Come on secret keeper.  Spill the beans.  Who was that bitch?”

“She’s not a bitch.” You start.  You make an effort to keep your voice steady.  “Her name was Lung Duri.  She was your cousin.  I shared my Arcane Fate with her and made her circle forget about her.”  Tears fall down your cheek.  “I killed her!  I wanted to save everyone, but I fucked everything up.”

“Dragons,”  Aiko curses.  “You are such an egotistical idiot.  You didn’t kill this Duri person.  The Anathema did.”

“Wait, what Anathema?!”  Masaru jerks the wheel as he looks back at you.  The Airship jerks with him.

“Masaru!”  Chiyoko clutches her broken arm.

“Sorry!”  He rights the ship and focuses on the sky ahead.

“You really need to learn Spirt Speech.  Svante just said there was a Lunar.  And that her tell was a buckteeth.  Sunan never had buckteeth.  So she was eaten by a Lunar ….or fucked a Lunar or…”

“We don’t need the whole list, Aiko.”  Mei Mei licks the tears off your chin.  Maidens, you hope Arcane Fate will make this conversation disappear.  “Just because I didn’t wield the sword doesn’t mean I cause her death.”

Aiko rolls her eyes.  “And maybe if Masaru hadn’t stopped for dumplings we wouldn’t have been captured. “

“You said you were hungry.”  Masaru retorts.

Aiko continues.  “As I said before.  Shit happens.  Stop wallowing in it like a pig.  You are no use to anyone sitting around mopping.”

You say nothing for a long while.  Aiko may be tactless, but she did have a point.   You have to pull yourself together.   You wipe your tears on your sleeve and run your fingers through your hair.

Aiko smiles as she watches you pull yourself together.  “See, you should listen to me more often.”

You grunt at red haired girl and notice that Chiyoko has been quiet during this exchange.   She looks lost in thought.   “Chiyoko, are you okay?”

“Can you really make Creation forget about people?”  Chiyoko asks.  There is an earnest, hungry look in her orange eyes when she asks this question.

“Yes, but there is always consequences to important people disappearing.”  You did not believe Elder Kejak when he told you this, but you do now.

She nods and hugs herself with her good arm.  You remember what the River Goddess said about Chiyoko.  You are about to ask if she is okay when Akachi’s reply returns.

“Do not go to Yu-Shan.  Land at the Lower Fields of Meru.  The Shogun’s Secretary will meet you there.  Forward all further messages to Elder Kejak.”  There is a pause in the message.  “I’m sorry, Svante.  I cannot risk my current Resplendent Destiny.  I have to go.  Stay safe.”

No Lakehouse then.   You sigh and tell Masaru to change course for Meru.

“What, we aren’t going to the city of gods?”  Aiko asks, disappointed.

“Meru is where the Lunar wanted to take us in the first place.”  Chiyoko points out.

“If we are needed in Meru, we should go to Meru,”  Masaru says.  He seems nervous and checks the weather report for the Mountain.

“Is everything okay?” you ask.

“It’s just that the winds are strong at Mount Meru.”

“Can you handle it?”

“Yeah…Sure.”   He fidgets with a knob on the control panel.  “It’s fine.”

You lean back in the chair and attempt to mediate.  If you are going to Meru instead of Yu-Shan you need to be in top condition.   Each time you clear your mind, images pop up.  Chuzei Enki lying dead in the mud.  Lung Duri spitting blood.

“Svante?  We are about to land.”   You shake your head.  You are unsure if you actually succeeded in mediating or just passed out from sear exhaustion.   You rub your eyes and see Mount Meru loom large in the window.   The skyship flies over the ruins of the city.

“There’s the field,” Chiyoko points out.

“That’s a field?”  Masaru squints at the patch of brown amongst all the gold and white.  “It doesn’t look very big.”

Mei Mei begins to bark.  You stare out the window, as the landing field grows closer.  A tall figure waits in the field.  “Svante, let your pilot know they are flying in too low.”  The messenger imitates Elder Kejak’s calm voice.

“We are coming in too low.” You say.

“I’m trying to pull up!”  Masaru says as he fights the wheel.

“The other pilot was able to land on the village street.”   Aiko says.

“The other pilot has years of experience!  I’ve never actually landed a Skyship before.”  Masaru admits.

“What?!”

“Masaru, you idiot!”

What do you do?

  • Bail! This ship has parachutes right?
  • Ask Elder Kejak for help. Maybe he knows of an easier field to land in.
  • Have Masaru retry the landing approach.
  • Other