“You go inside and open a window.” You order. “I’ll fly through the window and together we will find Sunan.”
Aiko frowns, but agrees. She holds her head high and with confident steps, strides down the hallway. You step out of fate and follow her. Aiko stops in front of the two guards. They shift uncomfortably in their faceless jade armor, as Aiko stands before them. “I wish to see Lung Yin.” Aiko says.
One of the guards nods, “Go get him and tell him he has a visitor.”
“No,” Aiko stops the guard. “I want you to take me to him.” Aiko crosses her arms. “I’m not giving him a chance to slink off like a coward again.”
“Aiko, the family is in mourning.” The guard tries to reason with Aiko. “Come back after the funeral.”
“I am well aware the family is in mourning.” Aiko replies. “Though we pretend it isn’t so, Shogun was my grandmother too.” When the guards say nothing, Aiko closes her eyes. “Please, I’m not an acknowledged member of the family, so I can’t attend the funeral. My father’s acknowledgement is my only chance to pay respects to my grandmother.” Aiko stares at the guard, unshed tears shining in her eyes.
The other guard breaks his silence. “I’ll take you to him.” He takes Aiko around the shoulder and guides her into Hayate’s apartments.
You head outside, eyes blinking from the morning sun. You unfurl your cloak and rise up to the windows of Hayate’s apartments. You peek into the various windows. Most are curtained. You cannot find Aiko in any of the open windows. You land on the ledge and wait for a window to open.
And wait. How much longer is Aiko going to take? It should not be that much trouble to ditch the guard. She is not actually talking to her father, is she? Part of you sympathizes with her, but you are on a timetable here!
As you wait, you watch a squirrel climb up the jasmine trellis. The squirrel makes it way along the wall, leaping from one window ledge to another. It pauses at one window and scratches. Taika Shamira, the Earth aspect in Lung Duri’s circle, appears. She pulls aside the curtain and frowns at the squirrel. She opens the window.
“You shouldn’t be here, Ban.” She scolds.
The squirrel slips into the room before Shamira can close the window. You fly next to Shamira’s window and eavesdrop on their conversation.
“That is a new form,” the groundskeeper says in introduction. “What happened to Lung Sunan?”
“She will be attending the funeral with us.” Shamira groans as if stretching. “I find I enjoy being a woman. You should try it. I can teach you the knack for it.”
“No thank you. I am fine with my own face.” The groundskeeper parrots courtesy in his voice. “I’m surprise Hayate let you kill one of his own.”
“He didn’t. Would you like a strawberry?” Shamira attempts to change the subject. “Food grown on the Blessed Isle always tastes better than in the Threshold.”
“I doubt Shamira let a dirty rat like you into her own bed.”
“I’m not a rat,” The lunar wearing Shamira’s form snaps. “And she didn’t let me into her bed, as you so delicately put it.”
“You didn’t…” the Groundskeeper responds in disbelief.
You almost fall out of the air when the horror of what this lunar did hits you. You swallow and force yourself to listen to the rest of the conversation.
“Trimming the hedges for the Dragons all these years has made you soft, Ban. The Earth Aspect was being troublesome. Hayate threatened her with me. She still was not cooperative. And Hayate believes a Shogun should follow through with his threats. And as any good ally, I had to play along. Do not look so disgusted, Ban. It’s not like I enjoyed it. Her anima…”
“I don’t want to hear details!”
“Then why are you here, Ban? You should be guarding your post.”
“Why did you bring Quo here?”
Silence. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
Crash! Wood splinters and something soft thuds against the wall.
“Temper, Bran. Make too much noise, the guards will investigate.”
“Why did you bring Quo here?” The groundskeeper repeats though gritted teeth. “The Wyld Hunt is searching the tunnels for her. She will die and her blood will be on your hands, Tear.”
“No, Ban. Her blood will be on your hands. You should have let those kids die. Now both your cover is blown and Quo has been discovered.”
“They were just two stupid kids necking in the tunnels. They never did anything to us.”
“Little hatchings still grow up into Dragons, Ban. Those children you saved where students of Enki Osamu. I doubt diplomacy was among the lessons he taught them. ” Your chest tightens at the mention of your Sifu’s father.
“Having a Chimera rip apart the Shogun’s granddaughter would not help our plea for peace. Which is why I am confused why you brought Quo here. Unless….”
“There will be peace, Ban.” Tear assures the groundskeeper.
“You are going to betray them.” The groundskeeper hisses.
“Only before they betray us. No Dragonblooded would deal with us in good faith. Hayate already has plans to dispose of me after he takes the manse.”
“Do you have proof?”
“Proof? They are Dragonblooded. You have been among them for years. You know how they are. Hayate and his little wars. That bitch and her little dogs. The Twins and their ‘parties’. They are all scum and it’s time to clean house.”
“What are you planning, Tear?”
“Nothing you can stomach, Ban. Go back to your post and be in the room during the funeral. I will call you when I need you. Now let me go. I got a funeral to prepare for.”
“Shit, Tear. No matter what form you are, you are still a filthy rat.” A dragonfly flutters to the windowsill and takes flight.
“I’m not a rat, Ban.” The Lunar says to an empty room.
You shiver as you fly away from the Lunar’s window. They are planning something at the funeral. Or rather Tear was. You send a message to Elder Kejak. “The Lunars are planning something at the funeral. One lunar will be wearing the form of Taika Shamira. The other will hide in animal form or in the crowd.” You swallow. “I think the Lunar raped Shamira.”
Elder Kejak responds instantly. “That is good information, Svante. Akachi and I are aware the Lunars will be present at the funeral. Find Shamira. If what you say is true, you will find her more agreeable to testify against Hayate than Lung Sunan. Also, I believe now is the time for Creation to remember Lung Duri exists. Let me know if you discover any more information.”
Your fingernails bit into palms. Elder Kejak is once again profiting from someone else’s tragedy. You are about to speak a caustic reply when you notice Aiko’s head sticking out of a slender slip of a window. You close your eyes and release your hold on Lung Duri’s fate. It will take a while for people to encounter their memories of her.
You flap over to Aiko. “I’m here.” You whisper into her ear. She scowls, “I hate when you do that.” She ducks back inside. You grab onto the window ledge and unfurl your cloak. You grunt as you lift yourself up. You suck in breath and squeeze into the small window Aiko opened for you. You wince as you scrap your elbow on the ledge. You drop to the floor of a spare bedroom converted to a storage area. Shelves line the walls and the floor and bed are covered in wooden crates. “Couldn’t you find a larger window?” You rub your scraped elbow.
“It was the only window not warded.” Aiko points at the larger window, surrounded by wards. She sticks her head out once again and the closes the window.
You brief Aiko on what you overheard. “We need to find Shamira, not Sunan.”
Aiko’s eyes unfocus as she considers the situation. “The apartment is larger than I thought. There are people everywhere. It will take a while to search.”
“I doubt they will be keeping her in plain sight.”
“No, they wouldn’t.” a rough voice replies. The groundskeeper stares down at you from the top of a shelf. You draw your sword at point it at the Lunar. You verify there is no warning of danger. The threads of fate are silent. The groundskeeper must want to talk. “I can help you find the Earth Aspect.” The groundskeeper offers.
“How did you find us?” you reply.
“This is the only window left unwarded. If someone was going to break in, this is how they will enter.” The groundskeeper smiles. “You are good at sneaking, boy. I didn’t even hear you on the ledge. “
You ignore his comment. “Why are you helping us?”
“I want assurances.” The Lunar replies. “My companions and I will be allowed to leave Dragonblooded territory without being hunted. “
“No,” Aiko disagrees. “If you help us, only you will be free to go. But the Chimera and your companion will be put down.”
“I am not leaving without them.” The Lunar declares. “Either we all are allowed to leave or your Earth Aspect friend will rot in her cell.”
What do you do?
- No deal. You do not need the groundskeeper’s help to find Shimira.
- Agree to anything the Lunar wants. You aren’t planning on keeping the deal anyways
- Agree to the Lunar’s terms and try your best to fulfill them.
- Convince the Lunar to abandon both Tear and Quo.