Adults are so dumb. You lay back against the pillow, energy snapped by the chimerical parasite. “Both of you stay.” You close your eyes in exhaustion. “Just get this thing out of me.”
You feel cool fingers on your forehead. You open your eyes to find Elder Kejak scrutinizing you. He nods as if he has come to a decision. “Just a moment longer, Svante.” He disappears into the washroom.
Chiyoko sits back into the chair and frowns at the bathroom door. She takes your hand. “Why don’t you trust him?” She whispers at the demon.
The Neomah settles on the bed beside you. “He believes I am too dangerous to live.”
Chiyoko cocks her head at the Neomah. Nimishema’s multi-jointed fingers end in blunt fingernails. Her long thin lavender arms do not compare to the powerful might of a Blood Ape’s. “You don’t seem dangerous to me.”
“Ah, Dragon Child. Claws and Muscles are only one type of danger.” Nimishema taps the temple of her forehead.
“You know something.” You mumble. “Something dangerous.”
“What do you know?” Chiyoko asks.
The Neomah’s spine goes rigid. “I am bound to silence.”
The sound of clinking glass emanate from the washroom. What was taking so long?
“Child,” Nimishema attracts your attention with a brush of her fingers along your cheek. “You must not drift off.”
“Don’t call me child.” You hated being called child. It reminded you of the age difference between you and the other Sidereals. “I have a name.”
The Neomah inclines her head. “I did not wish to be rude. What shall I call you?”
You close your eyes. Names had a different meaning among demons than humans. A demon could be summoned by their true name. Nimishema was a nickname. Only Akachi as the Neomah’s summoner knew her true name. You pull your mind back to the demon’s question. You saw no harm in allowing the demon to call you by name. “Svante.”
“Svante,” The demon repeats, tasting your name. She folds her hands in her lap. “You may call me Nimishema or Nimi, if you prefer.”
“You can call me Chiyoko,” She glances back at the washroom. “How much longer will this take?”
“Not much longer,” Elder Kejak emerges with an armful of supplies. He unrolls a towel and lays out various medical implements. “This will be easier if he was unconscious.” He sets the glass jar on the nightstand.
Nimi rests two fingers to your temple. “Sleep, Svante.” You feel a pressure and fall into darkness.
A turn of a page wakes you. You open your eyes and blink in the morning sun. Your arm feels stiff but whole. The tingling sensation is gone. A flexible paper bandage, reminiscent of a wasp’s nest, covers your arm from shoulder to elbow. You test your arm and find the bandage does not inhibit your range of motion.
“There is nothing in this book about Chimera. “ Aiko announces. She turns another page in disgust. “much less anything about the parasite.”
“The book dates to before the Usurpation. Chimera didn’t exist then.” Movement on the nightstand catches your eye. Inside the glass jar, a long pink smooth skinned worm crawls up the side. Its lower half is curled in the bottom of the jar. The worm is not pink, as you first thought, but scarlet blood pumps beneath its translucent white skin. As you observe its undulating motion, your arm tingles with phantom pain. This thing was crawling around inside your shoulder, heading Jupiter knows where. You avoid studying the worm and focus on Aiko.
She sits at the table, her long red braid hanging over her shoulder. “The Shogun died early this morning.” No emotion occupies this statement. As if Aiko’s grief was an unwelcome guest she did not wish to entertain.
“Shit.” You swing your legs out of bed. You pause for a moment until the room stops spinning. You stand up and find clothes laid out on your cot. Your bag was still where you left it from the night before. Did Elder Kejak ever sleep?
“Your uncle,” Aiko colors the word uncle with sarcasm. “said he will return after his meeting.”
“Where is everyone else?” You strip off your nightshirt and sort through the clothes left for you.
Aiko arches an eyebrow at your nakedness, but answers your question in a steady voice. “The Neomah went back to your guardian. Chiyoko and Masaru are with their families, preparing for this afternoon’s funeral. “
It does not take you long to get dressed. Your stomach growls in protest.
“There’s not going to be any food until the funeral feast tonight.”
“I know.” You brush dust off your boots and pause when you hear footsteps approach the door. Aiko slams the book shut. She hurries to chair next to the bed. You set your boots on the floor and begin lacing them.
Elder Kejak enters the room, Sasha close behind. You rise, one booted to meet your sister. You envelop her in a hug. She pulls away and examines you, testing the material of your bandage. Sasha seems lighter, more relaxed since you last saw her. “How do you feel?” she asks.
“I’m fine.” You rotate your shoulder to prove it. You frown in dismay when your stomach growls again.
Sasha laughs and digs though her bag. She reveals a wrapped hand sized package. “I bribed the kitchens for food.” You snatch the food out of her hand and unwrap it. Sandwich.
Elder Kejak offers Sasha the jar with the worm. Sasha’s face grows grim and nods. “This will lead you to the Chimera.” Sasha accepts the jar, holding it with two fingers. “We do not have much time,” Elder Kejak reminds her. ‘The funeral will be in two hours.”
“Where are you going?” you ask around mouthfuls of sandwich.
“Wyld Hunt.” Your sister explains. Elder Kejak answers a knock at the door. Sujay and other Dragonblooded wait outside. The Mercenaries – they were wearing the same uniforms as Chiyoko’s guards.
Aiko fidgets with the end of her braid as Sahsa leaves with the Wyld Hunt. Elder Kejak closes the door and sits in the chair Aiko vacated. “With luck, they will find the groundskeeper along with the Chimera.”
“The groundskeeper?” You remember a rough voice warn you to flare your anima against the light sensitive Chimera.
“Chiyoko saw him in the passages before the Chimera showed up. He hasn’t been seen since.” Elder Kejak crosses his arms. “Let’s hope he is dead instead of running around the manse in all fours.”
Elder Kejak rests his eyes on the Five Moons of Denial. Catching Aiko’s gaze, he adjusts the book two inches to the right. Aiko sucks in a breath. The Elder Sidereal crosses his arms and stares at you.
Your heart pounds in your chest. Elder Kejak did not forbid you from showing anyone the book. Though he did mention Dragonblooded read an abridged version of it. There must be a reason why. A reason you did not know because you never finished the book.
What do you do?
- Elder Kejak has no proof of your involvement. Let Aiko take the fall for this.
- Own up to letting Aiko read the Five Moons of Denial
- Change the subject. The Shogun is dead. Now is not the time to discuss homework.