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.
“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.
(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.)