148 – Traps

“Let’s look around and see what we can find,”  As tempting as rushing over to the kitchen storage was, you rather explore the secret passages.  You are a Chosen of Secrets.  How could you not explore them?  You hold out your hand to Chiyoko.  She takes it and together you wander the secret passages.  For each new passage, Chiyoko tells you where it leads.

“This one leads to the kitchen gardens,” she whispers.  The scent of dirt saturates the air coming from that passage.

“Wait,”  You hear the clanging of metal.   The end of the passage glows with firelight.  Chiyoko drags you into a small alcove.  She closes her fist around the crystal and purges the passage into darkness.   The alcove is so small, you feel the rise and fall of Chiyoko’s breast as she breathes.

The light approaches and younger of the two groundskeepers appears.  His dirty blond hair is loose around his sun-tanned face.  He juggles metal rat traps in one hand and adjusts a stained leather pouch on his shoulder.   Torch held high, he walks past your hiding place without noticing you.  The stench of sour beer lingers after he passes.  The torchlight pauses and you hear him fiddle with the rat trap.   He leaves it in the intersection between two hallways.  After a few minutes, the torchlight fades as he walks away.

“I think he is gone,” Chiyoko whispers.   You don’t reply, more focused on the spicy scent of her hair.   You reach out and take the crystal from her hand and put it deep into your pocket.   You run your fingers through her shoulder length hair.

“Here?” she breathes on your neck.  “What if the groundskeeper comes back?”

“The groundskeeper is drunk.  He won’t notice us.”  You kiss her.   Chiyoko pulls your closer and you press her against the wall of the alcove.

“Wait,” Chiyoko breaks off and pushes you against the opposite wall of the alcove.  “What are we trying to do here?”

“What?”  You grow frustrated.  You thought it was obvious what you were trying to do here.

“Neither you nor I have any Maiden Tea.”  Chiyoko points out.

The words Maiden Tea clears your head.  You didn’t think things would get that far.  Actually, you did not think that far beyond Chiyoko and the scent of her hair and the feel of her….   You take a deep breath and attempt to think things though.

Danger!  The threads of fate vibrate in anticipation of violence.  You tense and listen to the empty hallway.  You hear nothing.

“What is it?” Chiyoko asks.  You cover her mouth with your hand and stick your head out of the alcove.

“Rowr.”  A black cat with glowing yellow eyes stares you down.   The air around Chiyoko’s body grows warmer as she observes the cat.

“Shoo!” you hiss.  Maidens, please let this be a normal cat. 

The cat’s tail poofs.   It turns away from you and confronts the hallway, growling.   The groundskeeper’s trap lies in wait.   A dark shapeless form creeps along the ceiling of the passage.  It flows down the wall and encircles the rat trap.

BANG BANG BANG!  The dark shadow beats the rat trap against the stone floor.  You look down to find the cat gone.

What do you do?

  • Attack the shadow
  • Creep away and look for the cat
  • Stay hidden until the shadow passes
  • Creep closer and get a better look at the shadow.
  • Other

 

 

((This whole situation is hysterical from the cat’s point of view.))

 

((Also, yet again, the fates have aligned to make this a seasonally appropriate post.))

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147 – Teenage Problems

You hold Chiyoko as she cries in your arms.  At first, you did not know what to do.  Fighting against destiny was against your very nature.  Your own destiny was to ensure everyone in Creation followed the plans of Heaven.

Yet seeing Chiyoko in pain was unbearable to you.  You wanted to help her, but telling her what little you knew would only make her feel worse.  You hold Chiyoko closer and rest your chin on her hair.  There had to be something you could say or do.

“I can investigate and figure out what is going on.”  You offer.  What you both needed was more information.  Why was Chiyoko chosen for Shogun out of all her cousins?

“You promised you wouldn’t tell anyone!”  Chiyoko scowls up at you.

“I won’t tell anyone about your dream, but we need more information.”  You reassure her.  “I need to ask some questions.”  You stroke her cheek and use your thumb to wipe away her tears.  “I’m good at asking questions.”  You point at your brow.  “It’s kind of what I am.”

Chiyoko frowns, but then sighs and nods her head in agreement.  “Just be careful.”

“Don’t worry.  I’ll figure out what is going on.”  You kiss her in the hopes of distracting her from her pain.  And to distract yourself from the fear you couldn’t help Chiyoko.

Chiyoko leans into your kiss, but then breaks off.   She puts a finger to your lips.  “There is something I want to show you.”

“Okay.”  You say in a small voice.  You would look at anything Chiyoko wanted to show you.  Your heart pounds in your chest as you consider the possibilities.  She takes your hand and leads you to the front playroom.   Along one wall, books and toys sit on a dusty bookshelf.   Green terrain and miniature Shogunate soldiers cover one table.  Chiyoko leads you pass all this to a brick wall.   She moves an armor covered manikin and pushes a brick in.   Part of the wall swings inward, revealing a lightless passage.

“The whole manse is filled with secret passages.  I found this one when I was a kid. ”  Chiyoko rummages around in a side table drawer and reveals a crystal the size of her palm.  She rubs it in her hands and it glows dull red – a good color not to affect your night vision.  “There is a secret door leading to your uncle’s room.  I was going to sneak over and visit you, but I didn’t know if your Uncle is a sound sleeper.”

“I doubt my uncle actually sleeps at all.”  You kneel down and examine the dust on the floor.  Bootprints.  Some Chiyoko’s size.  Some larger.  “How many people know about these passages?”

“I don’t know.  Aiko and I have never seen anyone else in them.”   She steps into the passage.

You are sure Elder Kejak knows about these passages.   You wish he would have told you, but then when did Elder Kejak tell anyone what they needed to know.  You did not see any footprints, but then Elder Kejak would not leave any thanks to Arcane Fate.

“I’m going to be myself for a while.”  Chiyoko takes a sharp intake of breath when you shuck your Resplendent Destiny.  Arcane Fate will take care of your footprints and may hide Chiyoko’s as well.  You can never tell what the Broken Mask would do to hide traces of your presence.  “Other people have been using the passages.”  You point at the boot prints.  “Recently.”

“Oh.:  Chiyoko looks disappointed.  “I was hoping we could find some place we could be alone and not have guards outside the door.”

Your cheeks burn at the implications of Chiyoko’s statement.  “We will find something.”  You study the passage in the dim red light.  The large grey stone blocks rise up to an arched ceiling.  “What over rooms do these passages lead to?”

“Aiko’s room is that way.”  Chiyoko points with the crystal.  “The opposite direction leads to a stair case.  Up will take us to your uncle’s room.  Down will take us to the kitchen on the first floor.”  Chiyoko thinks.  “There are storage rooms there.”

“Is there a way out of the manse?”  Maybe you can find a way to the Manse of Burning Enigmas.

“Yes, but it is a long walk.  We may not make it back here by morning.”

What do you do?

  • Head back to Elder Kejak’s room.
  • Head to the kitchen storage.
  • Leave the manse.
  • Explore the passages and see what else you can find.
  • Other

146 – Dreams and Prophecies

You retreat from the guards and head outside to the moonlit garden.  You pluck a Tiger Lily from a planter and spread the wing of your cloak.  Whisper soft owl wings lift you up to the balcony of Chiyoko’s room.   You touch down and your cloak drops around your shoulders.  The open double doors reveal sheer curtains fluttering in the night breeze. You peek in and find Chiyoko lying on her bed, facing away from the door.  You watch as she sighs and curls up in a tighter ball under her covers.  You step back into fate and tap on the glass pane.

Chiyoko rolls over, her face redden and blotchy with tears.   She reaches under her pillow and retrieves a jade dagger.

“It’s me.” you whisper.  You hold up your hands and step into the moonlight.

“Svante.”  Chiyoko says with relief.  She sets the dagger aside on her nightstand.  She sits up and looks away from you, furtively wiping at her wet cheeks.

You walk into the room and sit on her bed beside her.  “Is something wrong?”  You regret the words as soon as you said them.  Of course, something is wrong.  Her grandmother is dying.   You offer Chiyoko the tiger lily in penance.  “I got this for you.”

Chiyoko gives you a small smile and takes the lily.  She puts it to her nose and says nothing.

Maybe something else is wrong.  You remember the River Goddess’ words.   Akachi is good at drawing out what was bothering you.   What would he say right now?  “Chiyoko, you can always talk to me about anything.   I won’t tell anyone.”

Chiyoko sets the flower down and fingers a petal.   “It’s nothing important.  Don’t worry about me.”

“Chiyoko, if it bothers you, it bothers me, too.”  You place your hand on top of hers.  “Tell me.”

“I…”  She looks away.  “I failed all my classes at school…..except Athletics.”  She amends.

“Oh.”  You try to think of something to help her.  “Maybe I can help you study?  You were taking Old Realm, right?  I speak Old Realm.  It’s my native language.”  Plans form in your mind.  You could talk to Akachi to giving you an afternoon or two off to help Chiyoko study.   It will give you a legitimate excuse to spend more time with her.

Chiyoko shakes her head.  “It’s too late.  School is already over for the year.  My father doesn’t know, since the grades haven’t been sent yet.  Dragons, they may be delaying it because of my grandmother’s illness.”  She says this bitterly.

“Well, that’s a good thing, right?”

“No!”  She gets up and looks out the window.   “I’m sick of getting special attention because of my grandmother.  It’s not fair to everyone else.  “

You are not sure what to say, so you get up and take her into your arms.   Chiyoko rests her head on your shoulder.   Your heart skips and you tighten your arms around her.

“Did you ever think you weren’t worthy of Exaltation?”  She whispers so softly you could not be sure you heard her correctly.

“What?”

“Aiko is at the top of every class.  The teachers say Masaru could be up there too if he studied his books as much as his manga.”  She shivers.  “No one says anything like that to me.  Even if I do pass, they just give me this look.  Like they are disappointed.  They say ‘I expect more out of the Blood of the Shogun.’  Whatever I do is never enough, so why bother?”  Her voice grows thick with tears.

You stand there and hold her as she cries.  “And they are right.”  Chiyoko continues.   “I should be better.  But I am not.  I’m not worthy of being a Lung.  Sometimes I think I’m not worthy of being Dragonblooded.   And… I have so much power, but no choice about what to do with my own life. “

“You have choices.”   You try to think of some, but the warmth of Chiyoko’s body is distracting.  “You can choose what classes to take.”

“My father chooses those, not me.”

“Well, we are kids.  You can choose what you do after you get out of school.”

She pulls away from you and paces on the balcony.   You watch her, confused by her actions.   Before she was a sobbing mess.  Suddenly, Chiyoko seems to be weighing an important decision.   She grabs your hand, leads you back inside her room, and shuts the doors.   She leans against the shut doors and confronts you.  “You can tell no one I told you this.  Not your uncle.  Not Masaru.  Not Aiko.  No one.”   Chiyoko grips your arms so hard it hurts.   “Promise me.”

You study her tear stained face and wonder what she is going to reveal. “I promise.”

She closes her eyes and in a singsong voice, she starts.  “I had a dream once…  I dreamed of battle.   The Fair Folk were all around us.   We were trying to push them back from the shores of the Blessed Isle.   I think we were in Vanchow.  I could see the Manse of the Anathema from where I stood.  Dragonblooded, Mortal – everyone around me was dying.   Everyone, even my own mother, referred to me as Shogun.”  She pauses to let you digest this revelation.  “They all looked to me for leadership.  I raise my sword and….”  Chiyoko opens her eyes.    “And the dream ended.  I woke up and a woman was in my room watching me.  It was dark, so I couldn’t see her aspect markings, but she was Dragonblooded.  She told me ‘Lung Chiyoko.  Soon you will take your second breath.   And one day you will be Shogun.’”

You look down at your feet.  You keep your face blank, because you already knew.  Elder Kejak said it at dinner tonight.   “It was only a dream.” You reassure her.  “You probably dreamed the woman.”   Or she was your Sifu.  Yeva was the only other Sidereal with Dragonblooded Aspect Markings.

“It wasn’t a dream.  Aiko and Masaru were there by my side.   I didn’t know them at the time, but as soon as I met them at school I recognized them.  Dragons, Yi was there and I hadn’t met him until tonight!”  She takes a deep breath.  “I don’t want to be Shogun.   I feel like I’m just a puppet going through the motions of life.   I have no control over my destiny.“

What do you do?

  • Tell her everything you know. You do not want any secrets between you and Chiyoko.
  • Tell her you will investigate. You need more information before you reveal what you know.
  • Play dumb and tell her nothing. You will need to guide Chiyoko to accept her destiny.
  • Other

(I almost made this decision for Svante and moved on to the next part. Then I realized this is a big character defining moment.  I can’t take this decision away from you.)

(Also, I’m a cruel Storyteller.)

145 – Night at the Manse

You consider going to visit Chiyoko, yet you know Elder Kejak wants a report at breakfast tomorrow morning.   You doubt you could bullshit your way through breakfast and you did not have any farm animals to distract him with this time.   Not that the goat worked the first time.

You wrestle between your responsibilities and desires.   You decide to investigate the Manse first.  Elder Kejak’s new assignment is not busy work unlike his last assignment.  You give the Five Moons of Denial a disgusted look.   The fate of Creation depends on your success of this assignment.

You yawn.  Maybe after you find something useful to report to Elder Kejak, you can visit Chiyoko.  Maybe sneak in a nap before breakfast.

You give Mei Mei a scratch behind her ears and leave Elder Kejak’s room.  You shut the door quietly.  The hall is empty.  The manse is quiet at this late hour.  You step outside of fate.

You follow the first servant you see around for a few minutes until you realize this was dumb.  There is not enough time to follow every servant around.  Anyways Sunan proves that a Lunar could become Dragonblooded as easily as a mortal.  You will have to think like a Lunar and to learn how Lunars think….  Maiden’s Titties1, you are going to have to read the Five Moons!

Bah.  You decide to spend tonight memorizing the layout of the Manse.   You explore the top floor of the manse.  A hallway lined with guards ends with a red door with a fierce dragon carving.  Spirit Speech script lines the doorway.  Wards.  Powerful Wards.   This must be the Shogun’s residence.   You head downstairs, not wanting to brave the wards.

You come across the kitchens, spacious with large copper pans hanging above the cold stoves.   Two women in white uniforms stand in a storage room of Winter’s Breath Jars.   They discuss firing a long time employee for tardiness and poor performance.

“She’s burnt all the bread yesterday and today didn’t even show up.  Said she was sick.”  The dark haired woman crosses her arms.   “I don’t know what has gotten into that girl.”

“She’s been hanging around that strange trader who came by.”  The other blonde woman counts the jars and mark on a clipboard.

“Bah.  He hasn’t been around for weeks.  What does that have to do with burnt bread?”  The two woman leave the kitchen and do not discuss the topic further.

The double doors at the back of the kitchen open out a garden filled with fresh herbs, fruit trees and vegetables.   The moon washes out the plants in silver light.   A tall well-dressed man berates two groundskeepers about dead rats.

“Rats don’t vanish, boys.”   The man slaps a pair of white silk gloves in his hands as he lectures the two men.   “Two weeks ago, we had a serious rat problem.  So bad the rats got into the Shogun’s medicines.   I promised her doctor I’d take care of it.  You have to have something to show to prove the rats are gone.”

“The rats are gone.  All the traps are empty.”  The older groundskeeper explains.  The old man’s face tanned by the sun and creased with soil.

“Are they now?  Or maybe you are so incompetent you can’t bait a rat trap correctly.”    The man grabs his glove in the last slap and shakes the glove at the men.  “Get out there and find me those rats.”

The younger man stares after the well-dressed man with a worried, yet thoughtful expression on his face.   The older man scratches his hair under his hat.  “I told you he wouldn’t listen.  What do we do now?”

The younger man shrugs.  “I don’t got time to find rats that don’t exist.  You want a brew?”

The old man snorts.  “What the fuck?  Nothing we do makes that bastard happy anyways.”  The two men head back to the shed.

The sound of whining dogs brings you to the clean and well-kept kennels next to the garden.  A voice hushes the puppies.  You look though the bars for a closer look.  The moonlight shines off the shaved head of an Immaculate Monk.

“All gone!”  She says in a high pitches whisper.   She shakes an empty burlap sack.   The puppies wag their tails and she sits down and plays with them.  Rubbing their tummies and throwing toys to play fetch.   She hears the sound of the gardeners slamming the shed door.  She creeps over and sees if anyone is around.  The Monk stands up and brushes off his robes.  “Until next time, puppies.”  She sneaks out of the kennels and back into the manse.  You follow the monk into the area of the manse set aside for the Immaculate temple.  Hard wood pews face a jade lecture.   The walls are washed white and essence lights flicker above.  The young monk, you see now she is a wood aspect, goes to back to bed.

 

You walk through a hallway of offices, similar to the offices in the Bureau of Destiny in Yu-Shan.   One office doorway illuminates the hallway.

“It shouldn’t matter to the minister who is Shogun next.  Her people need food and our legions need Jade.  Tell them to get off their ass and sign the agreement before her people starve.”   A fire aspect with short clipped fire orange hair paces the office.  He pauses, looks out the window overlooking the garden.  “Perhaps we should word that better before putting it into the letter.”  The man gives his reflection a self-deprecating smile that reminds you of Chiyoko.  This is Chiyoko’s father, you realize.

Lung Guanyu spins around and looks in your direction.  You retreat behind the doorway in the hall.

“Is something wrong, Guanyu?”  His scribe asks.

“No,”  He turns back to the window.  “I just felt a chill.”

“With your mother’s illness, you’ve been working too many hours. Perhaps you should turn in for the night.”  The scribe suggests.

“No.  Let’s finish this letter and sign off on those Seventh Legion requisitions first. Then we will be done for the night.“

“Yes, Sir.”    The scribe sighs.  In a more energetic tone, he begins to read the letter as written thus far.

You feel a chill brush past you.  Someone else was in the hallway.  Elder Kejak turns a corner as if he is on an evening stroll.  His eyes search the hallway.  You step back into fate out of sight of the doorway.  Elder Kejak puts a finger to his lips.  Then he makes a shooing motion with his hand.  You nod and step back out of fate.   You hear the Secretary enter the room and greet Chiyoko’s father.

You walk past a dining hall holding a wild party.   A Nemoah plays a harp while a rainbow of Dragonblooded drink and lounge on long couches.   A naked water aspect man runs by the doorway, chased by a group of scantily clad mortal woman.   You consider investigating, but the night does not last forever.   After what you have seen in Yu-Shan, you doubt the Dragonblooded could do anything to shock you.

You head upstairs to Chiyoko’s Room and find her two guards outside.  One by Chiyoko’s door, another by Aiko’s.  You sigh.   Why could anything be easy?

What do you do?

  • Find a corner to hide and summon an Infallible messenger to have Chiyoko open the door
  • Go outside to the garden and climb up to Chiyoko’s room
  • Go to bed. You are tire.  You can sneak into Chiyoko’s room tomorrow night.
  • Other

 

1 Maiden’s Titties is the worse and most disrespectful curse you know.  If Akachi caught you saying it, you’d be in big trouble.  It’s also Haythem’s favorite curse.

 

((Yes, I am stealing SemiCasual’s footnotes.  At least for this post))

 

((Still not completely happy with this post.  I feel like I packed too much in it.  ))

144 – Secrets Shared

“I’m not going to let anything happen to Masaru or the others.  Actually, my current mission is to protect them.”  You leave out the part about preventing kidnapping.  Masaru and Aiko were only kidnapped for a few moments.  That should not count against you.

“What about future missions?”  Reva asks.  “As a Sidereal, you are often sent into the most dangerous missions.  Danger Masaru will encounter at your side.”

You grow frustrated talking about events which haven’t happened yet.   “Why do you care so much?  Masaru says you haven’t seen him in a while?”

“Are you questioning my love for my son?”

“No.”  you reply.  “Masaru is my friend and I have seen him more over the past year than you have.”  Reva’s eyes narrow and you quickly change to a safer subject.   “I don’t want to lose my friends.  If you know anything about Sidereals you know I don’t have many.”  How can you reassure Masaru’s mother he is safe with you?  “If it makes you feel any better, I promise I won’t let anything happen to Masaru when he is with me.”

Reva closes her eyes.  When she reopens them, you are surprise how… mortal her grey blue eyes look.   “You shouldn’t make promises you can’t hope to keep, Svante.”  She whispers.

You stare down at the crumbs on your plate, unsure what else you can say to convince Reva you mean Masaru and the other no harm.   What did those other Sidereals do to Admiral Mayim’s circle?  The Western Admirals seemed wary of Sidereals, but he did not question you like this.

“Lady Reva, do you plan on interrogating every officer Masaru serves under?”  the Secretary asks.  “It will not reflect well on his career as a Shogunate officer if his mother shadows his every move.”  Elder Kejak picks up his tea cup.  “Nor will Masaru thank you for your interference.”

Lady Reva takes a deep breath and regains her composure.  “You are right.  I shouldn’t be interrogating your nephew about things we have no control over.  It’s just Masaru is my youngest.”

“I understand completely.  Svante is not much older than Masaru.”  The Secretary smiles behind his teacup.  “The other Sidereals would coddle him if my brother allowed it.”  He sets his teacup aside and adds.  “Masaru will be safer with Svante, who is his friend, than some general who is willing to sacrifice his young officers for his own glory.”

Reva considers Elder Kejak’s words and nods.   She gives you a weak smile.  “Do you read Metal Gods, Svante?  Of course you do.  You were able to name Cora Nadia as the pilot of Blood in the Breeze.”  She gathers her robes and rises from the table.  “Follow me.  I have a surprise for you.”

“I am not sure this is a good idea….”  Elder Kejak objects, but follows you and Reva out of the dining room.

“Nonsense.  I have showed Masaru and the rest of my sons and nothing untoward has ever happened to it.”  She leans close to you and whispers, “You must only look, but not touch.”

“What are you talking about?”  you ask.  “Where are we going?”

“Shh….  We are almost there.”  She leads you to heavy red jade door.  She nods to the two guards and presses her hand against the panel.  The locks on the door clicks and she pushes the heavy doors open.  You walk into a well-stocked armory.  The aroma of leather and metal assault your nose.  Rows and rows of metal swords, spears, and shields hang from their racks.  Jade diaklaives in a rainbow of colors grace while jade walls.

“I am one of the few who have access to this room.”  Reva pauses before a small door, easily overlooked amidst the weaponry in the room.   “The Shogun showed it to me when I was around your age.”

You wish she would say what it was.   You follow Reva into the room.  The lights brighten as you approach a glass case in the center of the empty room.  In the case, sits a single copy of Metal Gods.

“This is one of the last copies penned by the original illustrator.  He never signed his work, so his name is lost to history.  I searched for information about the illustrator, but found nothing.  Not even what Gent he was born into.  All that remains of the man is this manga.”

What this manga really one of Akachi’s?  You glance towards Elder Kejak who frowns but makes no indication of one way or another.  You take a step closer and study the manga.

It was a work of art.  The Anathema, in all of his sunlight horror, crouches before five jade Warstriders.   He wears nothing but leather armor and wields with nothing but his bare hands, yet he is ready to take on the whole circle of Dragonblooded pilots.  Ornate etchings cover each Warstrider.  Everywhere you look, you notice more details.  The lake the warstriders stand in reflects the mountains and night sky.  Every star was in its correct position.  It must have taken hours to draw this one cover.

“Do you like it, Svante?”  Reva asks as you admire the manga.   You tear your eyes away from the manga and smile at her.  She smiles back and you realize your answer is very important to her.  This is her way of apologizing for her interrogation at dinner.

“It’s wonderful.”  You admire the manga again.  “Has anyone read it?”  You want to know how won the battle alluded to on the front cover.  Obviously, the Dragonblooded won, but the Solar must have some trick to explain his confidence.

“No.”  Reva holds her hand over the glass case just short of touching it.  “It seems a shame, but this manga has belonged to Gent Lung for generations.   It is rumored to have belonged the first Lung Shogun.”  She sighs and puts her hand down.  “Very few of the living Lungs read manga.   To them this is simply a family heirloom.”

“It’s getting late, Svante.”  Elder Kejak reminds you.  “We have a big day tomorrow.”

Reluctantly, you leave Reva and the manga behind and follow Elder Kejak back to his room.  A cot and sleeping bag sit in front of the door.  After thoroughly searching both, you and Elder Kejak bring them into the room.  Mei Mei leaps onto the bed, but a stern look from the Elder Sidereal causes her to jump back off.

“Akachi doesn’t know about the manga.”  You guess as you set up your cot and sleeping bag.

“No,”  Elder Kejak replies.  He has his Astrology desk spread out on the table and sorts though his prayer scrolls.  “Akachi has made peace with Arcane Fate’s effect on his work.   I decided it was best not to open up old wounds and give him false hope.”

You had so many questions but you didn’t want to second guess the older Sidereal.  “Why did Reva believe you were threatening Yi?”

“Yi is not the son of Admiral Mayim, but of Yeh Sujay.  Reva and Sujay have been lovers before Mayim Takeshi appeared.   As a young woman, Reva pleaded with her mother to allow her to marry Sujay.”  Elder Kejak shakes his head in remembrance.  “Yeh Sujay’s father was mortal and Indrani will not sully her own bloodlines with mortal blood. “  He returns to his prayer scrolls.  “It is ironic that Yi is Indrani’s favorite grandson.  Neither Yi nor his brothers know and you will not tell them.  ”

You sit down on your cot and watch the Elder Sidereal work.  “I thought we were supporting Akane.  Why did you tell Reva you were supporting Chiyoko’s father instead?  Are you going to betray Akane or Chiyoko’s father?  What about the other Sidereal’s missions? And why did you say all those things in front of Ling Ling?  If I was a Lunar, the dog would be first on my list.”

“The missions I handled out will support either candidate no matter which becomes Shogun.”  Kejak answers as he muses over a prayer scrolls.  “I would not worry about Ling Ling.   Indrani would notice the moment she laid eyes on the imposter.  Much like you would know if Mei Mei was replaced.”

“Wait.  Were you planning on supporting Chiyoko’s father all along?”   Elder Kejak says nothing.  “Did you lie to the entire Five Score Fellowship?”

Elder Kejak continues to write as if you did not accuse him of lying.  He finishes his corrections and sets down his brush.   “I did not lie to the others.  Of the options I was offered, I choose Akane.   I could not put Guanyu’s name forward.   The other Elders will not consider a Shogun younger than a century.  I would have been voted down and clue the other elders in on my plan.”

“So you lied to Akachi and the others.”

“I did not lie.   When I approached Reva and she suggested Guanyu, I had no choice but to accept her offer.  We cannot put any Dragonblooded on the throne without the support of the rest of the court.  “

“But Reva didn’t convince you of anything!  You were already planning to support Guanyu before you even talked to Reva.   You made Reva give you those concessions for your support even though you were already planning on giving it!”

“I always find it best to walk into negotiations with the other side prepared to argue for you.  Ever since Kimiko died, I have been preparing the way for Guanyu to take this manse.   Every argument Reva gave against all of the other candidates are ones I thought of myself.   Reva says I dislike Guanyu because he will be no one’s puppet.  Frankly, that is the main reason why I chose him.  We need a strong willed Dragonblooded as Shogun.   Someone who will not sway to the opinion of other Dragonblooded.”

“Other Dragonblooded, but not you.”

“Svante, I have been doing this for a very long time.   The Dragonblooded are infants compared to me.   When I move a piece on the board, I need the piece to stay on the course I set, not be swayed by other hands.   Remember this later, when you are older.”

“This is all a game to you.”  You accuse the elder Sidereal.

Elder Kejak holds your stare with emerald eyes a mirror of your own.  “Do not take my metaphor for anything more than a metaphor.   The fate of Creation is not a game, Svante.  I am deadly serious about every action I take.  And you should do the same.  Do you understand?“

You swallow and nod.

“Good.”  Elder Kejak looks down at his feet and removes his sandals.

“What are you doing?”

“I always find I attract less attention walking outside of fate in my bare feet.”   The Elder Sidereal wiggles his toes once free of the sandals.  “Of all the changes in fashion, I wish walking around barefoot would come back into style.   Perhaps it is something I could talk to Meraud about after things settle.”   He grabs his staff from the corner of the room.  “I’ll be back in the morning.  You have some investigations of your own to do.  I look forward to your report at breakfast.”  After Elder Kejak leaves the room, Mei Mei leaps onto the bed and makes herself comfortable.

What do you do?

  • Visit Chiyoko
  • Search Kejak’s Room
  • Explore the Manse
  • Other

((I don’t want you to be so paranoid about Lunars, you can’t scheme.  ))

 

 

143 – Schemes

After Indarni leave the room, everyone eats in silence.   You roll a coconut covered cream puff around your plate and wonder what the whole point of this dinner was.  You didn’t learn anything useful and barely avoided being betrothed to Aiko.

Reva refills her plate with fruit from the buffet.  “Yi, why don’t you take Masaru and Svante to see Akiko.  I don’t Masaru has had a chance to meet his niece yet.”

“Svante can stay here.  I rarely spend time with my nephew and am loathe to let him out of my sight.”  Elder Kejak has ignore the dessert table and contents himself with a cup of green tea.

Reva frowns and nods at Yi.   The two brothers leave the room, with Masaru looking back with a worried expression.

“Yi looks well.  Has he completed his trials yet?”

“No.”  Reva peels the leaves off of a strawberry.  “Takeshi will be taking Yi on his Trail of Water this summer.”

“How generous of the Admiral to take time out of his busy schedule to assist Yi with his sorcerous education.”  Elder Kejak swirls his tea around in his cup.  “You are very fortunate Yi takes after you.”

“And you are very fortunate I didn’t cut you down in front of your nephew.”  She puts her half eaten strawberry down and sighs.  “Must we go through this game every time we met?  You threaten my son.  I threaten your life.”  Why was Elder Kejak taking these threats from Raijin Reva?    As an Elder Sidereal, he could do any number of things to show Reva who was really in charge.  Unless Elder Kejak wishes Reva to believe she is in a position of power.     You consider this idea as Reva continues.  “In the interest of time, let’s skip ahead to the heart of the matter.   Why did you want to meet with my mother?  I’m sure it wasn’t to be married off in one of my mother’s breeding schemes.”

You frantically shake your head in disagreement.   “No.”  Elder Kejak sets his tea cup down.   “I have no desire for a wife nor to enlighten your mother in the complexity of Sidereal… demographics.  Rather, I was hoping to discuss her choice for the Shogun’s successor.  When will she announce her support for the next Shogun?”

“She is not.”  Reva finishes her strawberry.  “She cares for neither of the two front runners.   If only Kimiko wasn’t killed on the Solar Wyld Hunt….”

“Kimiko is gone.”  Elder Kejak declares.  “Both you and your mother must accept that.”

“Who do you support?”  Reva asks. “As both Secretary and Sidereal, you must have an opinion.”

“I follow the orders of my elders…”

“No.”  Reva interrupts.  “I am not asking what your elders think, Secretary.  I’ve noticed you in the shadows watching the court.   You have a brain in your head and thus you must have an opinion.   Who do you personally support for the next Shogun?”

“My tea has grown cold.”  The Secretary rises from the table and prepares himself a new cup.  Reva waits and takes a sip of wine.   You sit there and wish you had gone with Masaru.   Reva wants something from Elder Kejak…. or the secretary.   Why didn’t she just come out and say it?  This was worse than watching adults talk about sex.

The secretary comes back to the table with a fresh cup of tea.  “I support Akane.” He finally says.   “She has promised me a great many things.”

Reva snorts.  “You are more of a fool than I thought if you except Akane to remember her promises to a Sidereal.  Anyways, she will never get her legions to Meru in time.”

“She will if your husband offers her transportation.”

“You overestimate my influence over Mayim Takeshi.  I have seen the man twice since Masaru’s conception.”

“You still correspond.”

“About the welfare of our sons.”  Reva smiles and sets her still half full wine glass down.  “Admiral Mayim has no love for politics.  You Sidereals saw to that.  You groomed him to be the perfect admiral.  Cares nothing about his reputation.  His gent’s reputation.  His children’s reputation.” Reva’s voice drips with venom.  “All he cares about is defending the Pole of Water from the Raksha.  And surprise, surprise. Now you need him to play the game, he abstains.  ‘I support the Shogun and neither Akane nor Hayate are yet Shogun.’”  She picks up her wine glass again.  “I have given up on him years ago. “

“Yet you have discussed the succession with him.”  Elder Kejak points out.

“It’s funny, secretary.  You never asked me who I support for Shogun.”

“Who do you support for Shogun, Lady Reva?”

“Not Akane.”

The Secretary frowns, taken back by her answer.  “Don’t tell me you support Hayate.”

“I did not say that.”  Reva continues.  “The Shogun has six living children.”

“Neither of the twins are serious contenders.  They do not have the temperament for the position.  Also no one will allow a Sorcerer to attune to the Chrysanthemum manse.”

“No one respects Yin after he got a child on Hui Satomi.   He was sent North to quell a rebellion and ended up fucking its leader. “

“You are talking about Hui Aiko.”  You say.  Reva glances at you as if she forgot you were there.

“We do not hide the facts of basic biological functions from our children, Reva.”  Elder Kejak assures her.  “You may continue.”

Reva moves on.  “Hayate will purge us into war to please his ego.  He does not respect neither Fair Folk nor Anathema as true enemies.   Only other Dragonblooded.”  She swirls her wine in her glass.  “Though mother may complain about them, she has no wish to see the Northern Gents slaughtered.”  Reva leans closer.  “And I assure you, secretary, it will be a slaughter.   The North has no leadership since Hui Satomi died.”

“That leaves you with two children, Akane and Guanyu.   And you said you do not support Akane.”

“I do not.  She only wants the manse to prove something to her mother.  But the Shogun will be dead after she gains the throne.  Akane will never gain her mother’s approval.  And then what will she do?”  Reva purses her lips and muses on Akane.  “I suppose she would make a good puppet for you.”

“My elders will not agree to Guanyu.”  The secretary declares.  “He is barely forty years old.”

“Ah, yet you have been grooming his daughter to take the throne.”

What, what?  You miss the next bit of conversation as you digest the concept of Chiyoko as Shogun.  A Shogun must be stern.  A great general.  Chiyoko was none of these things.

“…when Saturn comes for Akane in a hundred years’ time, Lung Chiyoko will be ready for the responsibility.”

“When Akane dies, there will be a succession war.”

“A small one.  Chiyoko will need to prove her worth in battle.”  The secretary throws down his napkin.  “Really, Reva.  If everything goes according to plan, one of your grandchildren will be on the throne.”

“Secretary, nothing goes according to plan.  Why not skip the unpredictable war and put Chiyoko’s father on the throne?”

“Your student.”

“Yes.”

“Your puppet.”

“Lung Guanyu will be no one puppet.”  She smiles.  “Which I think is your true issue with the man.”

“The Shogun will never agree.”

“The Shogun will be dead.”

“She is your mother’s lover.”  The Secretary reminds her.

“Who is in great pain and desperately wishes for Saturn’s visit.”  Raijin Reva meets the Secretary’s eyes.  “She cannot meet Saturn until Akane’s army arrives.”

“And Akane is just going to step aside and let her little brother take the throne.”

“We will take care of Akane.”  You take a sharp breath.  Chiyoko’s mother was with Akane’s legion.

“Really, Reva.  You aren’t planning on assassinating her, are you?”  The Secretary lowers his voice.  “That would be treason.  I can’t be a party to that.”

“Of course not!   We will talk some sense into her.”  The Secretary looks uncertain of this plan.  “We will take care of Akane.  We need your people to support Guanyu.  Your doctor needs to keep the Shogun alive until her army gets here.  ”

The secretary sighs.  “My tea has grown cold again.”

“By all means.  Refresh your tea if it will help you make a decision.”  She crosses her arms and waits.  You fidget with a coconut flake, waiting for Elder Kejak to return to the table.   What will Reva do when Elder Kejak turns her down?   He won’t upset the entire Sidereal plan over a dinner, so you expect there to be trouble.   You consider the exits of the windowless room.   Out the way your came will be best.

Elder Kejak sits back down with his steaming cup of tea.  “I’ll need some assurances.”

You drop your fork.   Shit.  What about all the missions the other Sidereals were sent on?  Is Elder Kejak going to defy the entire Elder council?   He was one of the few Elders who voted to let you live!   You slide down in the chair as Reva discusses terms with Elder Kejak.

“The Wyld Hunts will continue and the Immaculate Monks will operate without interference.”

“Agreed.”

“The new Shogun will also need to support the Immaculate philosophy.”

“Yes, Guanyu understands the need to play lip service to your religion, Secretary.”

Elder Kejak considers his options.  “I have a few people I want moved into key positions.”

“We will look over your list and consider your suggestions.”  Reva holds up her hand to forestall any disagreement.  “That is all I can promise, secretary.  You will have to bring it up with Guanyu himself.”

“I continue as secretary.” Elder Kejak insists.

Reva rolls her eyes.  “What would we ever do without your guidance?”

“I will be put in charge of Lung Chiyoko and her circle’s education.”

“Absolutely not.”

“You do want my help…”

“And the children are too high of a price to pay.”

Elder Kejak frowns.  “Svante stays in the circle.”

“No,”  Reva disagrees.  What?  Out of all the outcomes of this conversation, you did not expect to lose your friends.  And you thought you won Masaru’s mother over with your knowledge of manga.

“Chiyoko’s circle will gain higher profile.  Heirs of key allies will around Creation will transfer to her school in an effort to join her circle.”

“Yet Aiko stays in her circle.”  Elder Kejak points out.

Reva traces the rim of her wine glass.  “We can spin Aiko’s presence as an olive branch to the Northern Gents.”

“There is no need to spin any story in Svante’s case.   As a Sidereal, no one will question his presence.”

“I question his presence.”

“But not for the reasons you state.”  Elder Kejak stares her down.  “Why do you want the boy to leave?”

You stare at your plate.  She knows, you realize.  She knows about you and Chiyoko.   Why else would she want you gone?

“I should have killed you in the ruins, secretary.”  Reva’s voice is barely a whisper.  “You threaten Yi, yet it is Masaru who is in danger.  Takeshi was in one of your special circles and he is the only one left.  Everyone else died. ”  She closes her eyes.  “Masaru is my youngest.  I’m not going to let you send him into danger.”

What do you say?

  • Say nothing. Let Elder Kejak take care of Reva’s fears.
  • Ask her why she cares. She hasn’t seen Masaru since his second breath.
  • Promise to protect Masaru as long as you are a member of his circle.
  • Remind Reva her son is Dragonblooded. Masaru’s duty is to be sent into danger, even if he not a member of your circle.
  • Other

 

((I miscounted the Shogun’s children the first time.  Stupid twins being two separate people.))

((This scene ended up much longer than I thought. ))

142 -Blowhards

You turn to Elder Kejak, silently pleading with him to get you out of this mess.  Now, if any time, would the perfect moment to break character and take charge of this discussion.   You have seen Elder Kejak end an argument with a single look.

The secretary clears his throat.  “Lady, Indarni, as I said earlier, I don’t have the authority to agree to any marriage contracts on Svante’s behalf.”

You groan and slam your head into the edge of the table.  Fucking adults are useless.

The Shogun’s secretary continues in that annoying reedy voice.  “I can bring your proposal back to my….”

“I’m not marrying anyone, you hag.”  Aiko glares down the table at the ancient Air Aspect, fork gripped in her hand like a spear.

The air cracks with static electricity, standing your hair on its end.  “Ungrateful child, if it wasn’t for Lady Chiyoko and her father, you would not be sitting at my table.  You are in no position to turn down any match.”

You open your mouth to say something, but Elder Kejak puts his hand on your arm.  He shakes his head no and watches the two Dragonblooded quarrel.  Mei Mei leaps upon your lap and shivers.

“I don’t care if you match me with the Immaculate Dragons themselves.”  Aiko declares.  “I will not be bred like a dog.”

“Blood always tells.  This ill breed child will end up just like her mother – a traitor.”   The breeze picks up, sending the crystal glassware tumbling down the table.  Masaru and Yi retreat to under the table.   Chiyoko grabs Aiko’s hand and whispers in her ear.

Aiko ignores Chiyoko and stands up, knocking her chair over.  “I am nothing like my mother.”

A red paper crane flutters though the brisk breeze surrounding Raijin Indarni.  Reva plucks it out the air and unfolds it.  “Mother, you have a message.”

“Hui and the rest of the northern gents have loose morals.  The next Shogun needs to go north and bring the Dragonblooded in the whole direction into line.   The lack of discipline among the legions there is an affront to the Immaculate….”

“Mother!” Reva interrupts.  “The Shogun has requested your presence.”

The winds falter.  Indarni closes her eyes.   “Tell her I will be there.”  She replies in a soft tone.   She picks up Ling Ling and heads for the door.

“Lady Indarni?”  Chiyoko approaches the ancient Air Aspect.  “May I come with you?”

Indarni nods.  “Zheng will be pleased to see you.”  Long robes swirling, she leaves the room.  Chiyoko and surprisingly Aiko, follow.

Masaru pops his head out from under the table.   Seeing his grandmother has left the room, he motions it is clear to his brother and sits back down at the table.

The secretary sighs and picks a piece of crystal out of his teacup.  “Who’s ready for dessert?”

What do you do?

  • Follow Chiyoko and Aiko to see the Shogun
  • Stay with Elder Kejak and talk to Reva
  • You have had enough “Politics” for one day. Excuse yourself and explore the manse.
  • Other