“Arg!” You yank on your wavy red hair in frustration. “Is now the time to be discussing homework?”
Aiko agrees. “My grandmother died this morning. I’m sure the Shogun’s death may take higher priority than whether this idiot did his homework.”
You glare at Aiko, but she stares ahead, her entire focus on Elder Kejak.
“Svante,” Elder Kejak leans forward, resting his hands on thighs. “You and I have the potential to be working together for a very long time. We can spare five minutes to discuss the situation.”
Fuck. “Aiko hasn’t been doing my homework.” You defend yourself.
“Obviously, as you know little about the contents of the Five Moons.” Elder Kejak turns to Aiko. “How far have you gotten into the book?”
“About half way,” Aiko sits tall in her chair. “And I would have finished the book if I had my own copy.”
What the fuck was she doing? You stare at Aiko while she smirks at you.
Elder Kejak arches an eyebrow. “And what makes you think you deserve your own copy, young lady?”
“Because, unlike Svante, I am not going to squander the opportunity. “ Aiko explains. “You give him a copy of a rare pre-Usurpation text. And he sees it as busywork. “
“I’m not squandering anything!” you argue. “I could read that book in a week if I wanted to.”
“But you never do. You don’t appreciate what you have.” Aiko’s deep scarlet eyes never leave Elder Kejak’s. “I would kill to have the advantages he wastes.”
Elder Kejak stays silent for a few moments. “Lung Sunan and the rest of her circle have returned to Meru. Aiko, tell me the ways a Lunar acquires new forms.” You frown at Elder Kejak’s statement. His two sentences seem unrelated.
“The majority of Lunars participate in a scared ritual called the Wyld Hunt. They observe an animal or human whose form they wish to take. Once they learn their prey’s habits, they kill them and drink their hearts blood.”
Unless they were connected! You open your mouth to speak, but Elder Kejak holds up his hand to stop you. “Are there any other ways?”
“A Lunar may take an individual to court and sue for the individual’s form. I don’t many courts that would accept a lawsuit from an Anathema.”
“It was a different time.” Elder Kejak comments. You squirm with the desire to speak, but Elder Kejak shakes his head. “You may continue, Aiko.”
“A Lunar could also seduce a person and steal their form that way.” Aiko continues, eager to show off. “I don’t know why they bother with the heart’s blood if they could just…”
“Lung Sunan is still alive!” you blurt out, unable to wait any longer. “Hayate may be allied with the Lunars, but he isn’t going to sacrifice one of his own to them.”
“You mean Lung Sunan…shared a bed with an Anathema?” Aiko cringes and hugs her knees together.
“As you said, no court will accept a lawsuit from an Anathema. ” Elder Kejak leans back in his chair, stroking his beard. “Murder will not be necessary, Aiko. If we all survive the coming hours, you may join our Jupitersday sessions, Aiko.”
“What?!” You didn’t think it was possible for your sessions with Elder Kejak to get any worse. “She can’t come to Yu-Shan for our lessons.”
“We will meet in Creation from now on.” Elder Kejak gives you a rare smile. “If appeals from an authority figure won’t encourage you to learn, let’s see how you fare with competition from a peer.”
“Aiko isn’t my peer!”
“A valid point, Svante. She’s a half a book ahead of you.” Elder Kejak clasps his hands. “Now that is settled, I have a new mission for you, Svante. One that Aiko can assist you with.” He reaches into a pocket in his sleeve and reveals a talisman similar to the one Ayesha gave you. “I think you remember this.”
“Um… I…” You didn’t realize Elder Kejak knew you were at the meeting.
“Don’t worry. I am aware of many of Ayesha’s activities.” He hands you the talisman. “I suspect the real Sunan is hiding somewhere in Hayate’s apartments. They are warded, so you’ll need this to bypass them safely.” He removes the chain with his cache egg from around his neck and passes it to you. “I’ll need you to hold this for me until after this business is over.”
“I’m about to be arrested on suspicion of being a Sidereal.” Elder Kejak sorts though his books and tucks one into his sleeve pockets. “I’m curious on what trump up charges will be on the warrant.”
“You are going to let them arrest you?” Aiko asks the same question you had. What self-respecting Sidereal would let themselves be caught?
“Yes, if the Secretary goes missing, that will erase all doubt of his status.” Elder Kejak frowns at the Cache Egg. “Don’t lose that.”
You slip the chain around your neck and tuck it into your shirt.
Elder Kejak nods. “You have until the funeral feast to convince Sunan to testify against Hayate. I’ll try to be there, if only to argue the case of all the poor mortals who were arrested for treason. I’ll imagine it will be a crowded jail cell.” Elder Kejak leaves you and Aiko behind in his room.
“Is he fucking crazy?” Aiko asks.
You do not reply. You grip the talisman in your hand. “Let’s go get Chiyoko and Masaru.”
“And hand them to the man who’s been trying to kidnap them for the past few days?” Aiko shakes her head. “Today of all days, they will be missed by their families.”
And she won’t. You can hear Aiko’s unspoken phase. “How are going to get into Hayate’s apartments by yourself?”
“Lung Yin has been staying by Hayate’s side throughout this entire situation.” Aiko smiles, “I am going to go to his apartments and demand to see my father.”
You pull on your cloak. “I want to take a look at the wards first.”
Aiko leads you to Hayate’s apartments. While she waits for you, you step outside of Fate and investigate the wards. Carved in the wall around the door are the multi-colored runes forbidding entry for ghosts, demons, immaterial and fair folk. There were more wards around this door than the Shogun’s. Along with the rest of the wards, you spy a starmetal engraving with the signs of the Maidens. And some other more powerful runes. While the wards on the Sidereal conference room blocked you from entering the room, these were more offensive. Triggering these wards would be painful. They may even kill you.
You head back to Aiko. “It’s not good. There are specific wards for Sidereals and they are not nice wards like the ones on the library.”
“The Tailsman will protect you right?”
“Only keeps me safe from the wards. The wards themselves still go off.”
“So you are going to have problems with the Alarm wards. They are going to know a Sidereal went past the wards.” Aiko considers the situation. “That is easy to handle. I’ll pretend to be a Sidereal.”
“Your anima looks different” You point out. “And you don’t have a cast mark.”
“I’ll just say I am using a spell to pass as Dragonblooded.” Aiko shrugs. “For all anyone knows, Sidereals can pass as Dragonblooded.”
Someone should invent a spell that does that, you muse. “This is risky.”
Aiko rolls her eyes. “I can go by myself and find Sunan while you wait here in the hallway.”
What do you do?
- Let Aiko go alone, while you wait out here like a coward. Like that is going to happen.
- Go with Aiko and let her pretend to be Sidereal
- Aiko distract the guards and go in by yourself outside of Fate
- Find another way in. It was easy to climb up to Chiyoko’s room. Maybe the wards are less guarded.