34 – The Other Boy

You lay in bed and watch Akachi sleep.  The Joybringer seems older while at rest, as if sleeping he could no longer hide his four thousand years.    Akachi shifts in the chair and you quickly close your eyes, pretending to be asleep.   After a few moments of silence, you reopen your eyes and see that Akachi has not awaken.   You are relieved.  The last thing you want is to sort through your mixed feelings about your guardian right now.  Frankly, you don’t want to deal with anything.  You roll over and close your eyes.

A few moments later, you feel a cool hand on your forehead.   You open your eyes to find Sasha smiling down at you.   The sunlight in the window says that is late afternoon now.  You can smell food.

“Hey!  How are you feeling?”   She checks your pulse.

“Hungry,” Your stomach growls.

“You are always hungry.  I don’t know where you put it all, being so thin.”  Sasha sets up a tray on the bed.   She puts a bowl of soup down in front of you.   You immediately begin shoving udon noodles into your mouth.

Akachi rouses himself in the chair.  “Breakfast?” he asks groggily.

“Late Lunch.   I didn’t bring any for you.”  She then ignores the elder and begins putting the various medical supplies away.   Sutures, clean bandages, antibiotics.  You scratch at your forehead where the Lunar tried to bit your head off.   There are a few scabs remaining, though when you brush them with your fingers, they fall away, leaving healthy and unscarred skin.

You pause in your eating to ask, “How long was I out?”

“Two days,” Akachi pulls the blanket off of himself and folds it under his arms.

“Have you been here the whole time?”  You pick up a shrimp in your chopstick and pop it into your mouth.

“After what happened in the cave, I’m not letting you out of my sight.”

Great.  You focus emptying the bowl of soup.   You spill your soup all over yourself, when Sasha suddenly slams one of the steel trays down on the table.

“How could you send him to a school where there is Lunar?!”

“We didn’t know there was a Lunar here.”  Akachi hands you a towel.  “The headmaster was part of a Fair Folk Wyld Hunt during the holiday break.  She must have attracted the attention of the Lunar, who took the opportunity to steal her form.  Chejop and I noticed something off about the Headmaster’s thread while we were at the loom discussing whether Svante should continue shadowing Wanahton on his mission.  “

“You’d think that two individuals with over eight thousand years of experience would think to check the Loom for Anathema before sending someone on a mission.”

“I am fully aware of how close we came to losing both Svante and Wanahton. “  Akachi looks away.  “Being experienced does not make you immune from mistakes.  It just makes you more capable of fixing them.”   Sasha falls silent at this and continue putting away her supplies.

You pick udon noodles off of your chest and drop them into your bowl.  Now that the soup has taken the edge off of your hunger, you have a hundred questions to ask.

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way.  “How is Wanahton?”

“Wanahton is out of danger and is sleeping in the next room.  Rest is the best thing to help him heal.”  Sasha says.

“Will I be able to see my circle again?”

Akachi mutters “That bastard outwitted me again.”  He then smiles.  “That Shogunate Princess managed to really catch your eye, huh?”

“Wait?  No.  It’s not like that at all. “ you protest.  “The members of my circle are highly placed in the Shogunate.    I’m going to need connections like those when I grow up, right?”

“Svante, with Arcane Fate it is very difficult for us to form connections with non-Sidereals.   Many Sidereals find companionship among the Gods in the Bureau simply because they remember them.”

“But difficult does not mean impossible.”  You say unwilling to give up.

“Very true,” Akachi agrees.  “You have two options.   One is to continue your friendship as Cnead Svante.  While your Dragon blooded friends would have no trouble remembering you, when your Resplendent Destiny ends, they will slowly forget you.”

“But I only have a year on that identity.”  You remind Akachi.

“I know, which brings me to option number two.   You can forgo that identity and try to restart your friendship as yourself.   It will be hard work but eventually your dragon blooded friends may be able to over Arcane Fate to remember you.”

“You mean, I can tell them that I am a Sidereal?”  You twist your covers in your hands waiting for Akachi’s response.

“There is precedent for Dragon bloods of certain rank to be aware of our existence.   Chuzei Enki, for example, is a veteran of many Wyld Hunts.   Chiyoko and Aiko are familiar with one of Elder Kejak’s identities, though they are unaware of his true nature.  ”

“When can I see them?”  You sit up and set the tray aside.

Akachi get up out of his chair and lays the blanket over its back.  “Get dressed and we can see them now.”

 

On your way back to your dorm room, you stop by and see Wanahton.   He has been laid out on the bed, covered in bandages.  He is pale underneath all the bandages and is a deep sleep.

“He looks much better than when he was first brought here.”  Sasha reassures you.   She check on his bandages.

“Will he be okay?”

“Of course.   In a few days, he will be back to stinking up my office with tobacco smoke. “

“Technically, it’s his office too.”

“I was there first.” Sasha asserts.  “And it is rude to smoke indoors.”   You and Akachi leave Sasha in Wanahton’s room.  She settles down to read a book.

 

You nervously walk down the hallway with Akachi by your side.   You are wearing the Quiver, hopefully for the last time.   You stand before the closed door of your dorm and pause before knocking.   You can hear voices talking inside.

“You do realize that Adventures of the Immaculate Dragons! is an abridged version of the Immaculate Texts?  “  You hear Aiko say.

“Yes, but I don’t see any of the Maidens’ signs shown here with the rest of the Anathema.”  Masaru comments.

“I’ll be right outside if you need me,” Akachi says softly.  He moves to be out of sight of the door.

Masaru answer the door when you knock and his face breaks out in a grin.  “Hey!  You are alright!”   He drags you into the room.  “I can’t believe you fought an Anathema without me.”

“I did send Aiko to go get you, but she had to go summon a demon instead.”

“Well, next time I’ll let the Anathema gnaw your brain out.”  Aiko retorts.   “Anyways, I promised I wouldn’t leave you behind and I keep my promises.”

You sit down next to Chiyoko on your bed.   “I owe you guys an explanation.”   All three of your friends are silent when you start to explain what a Sidereal is and about how Arcane Fate and Resplendent Destinies work.

“I wanted to tell you the truth, but I wasn’t allowed to because I was on a mission and I could have blown Wanahton’s cover.”

“Wait,” Aiko starts, “Are you saying that you are a Secret Agent of Heaven?”

“Um…  I guess that is one way to put it.”

“That is so cool!”  Aiko exclaims.

“Forget that.”  Masaru says excitedly. “Svante, you do realize that you are a Pretty Dragon Princess?”

“Wait, what?”  Where the fuck did that come from?

“Hear me out!   Meru has a secret identity that no one can recognize her, though it should be quite obvious who she is.  Her anima doesn’t flux half the time.  “

“I’m not a Pretty Dragon Princess.”

Aiko taunts.  “Pretty Dragon Princess Svante.”  Masaru snickers.

“Can we…” Chiyoko starts.  “Can we see the other you?”  This is the first time she spoke since you enter the room.

You nod.   You close your eyes and shed your false identity.  All three of the Dragon bloods just stare at you.

“Guys… Say something…  Please?”   You beg.  This was a stupid idea that will never work.

“So…that’s it?”  Masaru says.

“Umm…. Yeah.”  You have no clue what he was expecting.

“No costume change?   No flashing anima?”  Masaru is unimpressed.

“Maybe Svante isn’t all that pretty of a Dragon Princess as you thought.” Aiko explains.

“Will you two shut up about that damn Manga?”  Chiyoko yells.   “If you aren’t going to take this seriously, then leave!”

“You can’t kick me out of my own dorm.”  Masaru argues.

“Get out!”  Chiyoko screams.  Aiko mumbles something to Masaru and they both leave the room.

You and Chiyoko sit in awkward silence for a bit.  “I didn’t want to lie to you,” you begin, “but…”

“It’s not that,” Chiyoko interrupts.   “I thought I knew Svante… you,”  she corrects herself.  “Now you tell me he doesn’t exist?”

“I do exist!”  You insist.  “I’m not a Wood Aspected Dragon blooded, but everything else is me. “  You noticed that Chiyoko is crying.  You take the edge of your sleeve and wipe away her tears.   Chiyoko looks away from you.

“You told me it was okay to cry.  Do you remember that?”  Her cheek feels warm under your hand.  She smiles weakly at you.   You remember the moment on the beach, but you hold back.  To her, that happened with a different boy.   You reluctantly pull your hand away.   Akachi warned you that this would be difficult.   “I should get going.”

Chiyoko wipes her eyes and nods.  “Can I walk you out?” she asks.  Before you leave the room, Chiyoko tentatively takes your hand.   You squeeze her hand reassuringly and walk out the door.

Chiyoko is surprised to see Akachi waiting by the door with Aiko and Masaru.  “This is my guardian, Akachi.”

“Hello, Chiyoko.  I’m pleased to meet you.”   Akachi smiles warmly at Chiyoko.  You feel her relax.

“Can Chiyoko and the others walk us to the gate?”

Akachi considers your request.  “I see no harm in it.”   You and Chiyoko walk hand in hand to the Yu-Shan gate.  Masaru and Aiko fall in step behind the two of you.

“I’ve always seen these arches, but never really pay attention to them.” Chiyoko says as you approach the gate.   “Do they really lead to Heaven?”

“Yes”

“And you live there?”

“Yes.”

Chiyoko is nervous.  “Will I see you again?”

“Of course.”

“There is a Martial Arts Tournament coming up   I’ll get some tickets.  That is if you want to go.”  Akachi offers.

Chiyoko nods.   “Okay.”

“I’ll see you then.” You say awkwardly.   Chiyoko lets go of your hand and you and Akachi start to enter the gate.

“Svante?”

You turn around.   Chiyoko is relieved that you answered to your name.  Before she loses the courage to, she walks up and kisses you.   This simple and light touch on your lips is electrifying.   Chiyoko breaks the kiss off quickly.   She looks at you and blushes.

“I’ll see you later.”  She grabs Aiko by the arm and runs off back to the school.

“Hey!  Wait!” Masaru races to catch up.

“Bye.”  You say belatedly.   You stand rooted to the spot you are standing until Chiyoko disappears from sight.   You turn and see Akachi watching you.

“It seems your first mission went well.”

“And that mission was?”  You and Akachi enter the gate and start walking the long tunnel back to Yu Shan.

“Besides keeping the focus off of Wanahton so he could complete his mission, you were to make friends with Chiyoko and the rest of her circle.”

“Why didn’t you tell me in the first place?”

“Considering how well it turned out when you were told to make friends with the God-Bloods, Elder Kejak and I decided it was best for you to be unaware of your secondary mission.  Though you have made quite an impression on Lung Chiyoko.”

“Do we really have to talk about this?”

“Wait… What happened to the boy that complains about adults not openly talking about romance?”

“How am I supposed to learn anything if adults don’t talk about it?”

“How am I supposed to help you when you don’t tell me anything?” Akachi counters.

“Maybe it would be best if you were unaware of your mission.”

(( OOC:  I had the “Stay in bed and see who else shows up” as an option, but I removed it for being too passive.    I guess I needed to keep that option.  😉  ))

 

((I am going to stop posting so much about the writing process and try to keep OOC knowledge to a minimum.   I think I have been relying too much on OOC to make up for my lack of description in my writing (which is something I need to work on.) ))

 

(( But I did promise you a peek at the man behind the curtain: ))
[spoiler]

Man, this chapter.   I’m glad I finished it, but it was hard.   This concept was one that predates the quest.   Basically, Svante shadows his Sifu at a Dragon blooded School for a mission.  They posed as a concerned Aunt who wants to enroll her disobedient nephew in the school.   They find out the Headmaster is a Lunar and Svante is sent to go get help.   He races to Yu Shan and has to convince the elders that his Sifu is in danger.

I wanted Svante to have a circle of Dragon bloods about his age, so I change the mission to a longer term mission (without considering the consequences of that) and tried to dumb down the lunar so Svante and his circle could kill it (A lunar bad ass enough to pass as a head master seemed out of his league).

And I couldn’t make the less powerful lunar work.  I considered many reasons why a young lunar would hang around the Blessed Isle at a school, but each of them seemed cliqued or stupid.   So I dropped the Lunar and went with the original idea of the Headmaster Lunar.

Everything turned out okay in the end, though I wish I foreshadowed the headmaster a bit more.

[/spoiler]

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33 – The Tiger’s Mouth

You close your eyes and focus on controlling your fear.   Chiyoko has no reason to lie to you.    The Lunar is using your fear of Blood Apes against you.  There are no Blood Apes in the cave.  Erymanthoi are just tools used by Sorcerers; the sorcerers themselves are the real threat.   Your hands stop trembling.

“Aiko, we need help, not unbound demons.   Go back to the school and get the Chuzei or Masaru, if you can’t find the Chuzei.   Get them to bring back help.”   You empower your words to encourage Aiko to go along with this plan.  You do not have time to argue with her right now.

Aiko nods and you let her go.   She races towards the cave entrance, but the Lunar, dripping in bloody claw and bite marks, blocks her way.  With a powerful blow of her paw, the Lunar knocks Aiko to the ground.

“No!” Chiyoko charges the Lunar with her flaming sword.

“Wait!” You focus on the Lunar’s thread and steal some of their martial ability.   When Chiyoko reaches the Lunar, the Lunar is slightly too slow to avoid Chiyoko’s blow.    Chiyoko’s blow connects and the tiger’s fur ignites in flames.   The tiger rolls on the wet floor to put the fire out and gets back up on her feet.

Where is Wanahton?  You look over at Wanahton and see that he is motionless on the ground.  His anima is still glowing yellow, so he is alive.   Next to Wanahton, you see the headmaster’s sword.  The Sky Blue Jade Sword is awkward and unwieldy as you pick it up.  It reminds you of the few times Sasha let you handle her sword.  Instead of your anima’s usual green, it erupts in a violent flush of scarlet essence.  Now the sword feels slightly less awkward.

You hold the headmaster’s sword defensively as you approach the tiger.  The Lunar attempts to attack Chiyoko, but she dashes away before the Lunar’s claws can reach her.  The Lunar is about to close in on Chiyoko again when you say, “Hey!  Ugly!”   The Lunar turns towards you.   You stand blazing red and raise the headmaster’s sword. “Come at me, bro!”

The Lunar cocks her head, confused.  Chiyoko cautiously approaches with her flaming sword and flanks the tiger.  Out of the corner of your eye, you see movement as Aiko gets up and checks on Wanahton. She gingerly approaching the man, in case his anima burns her.

You parry the tiger’s first attack and almost lose your footing on the slick cave floor from the tiger’s second blow.   As you recover, you see Chiyoko slash at the tiger again.  This time, the tiger’s wet fur does not set ablaze.

Both you and Chiyoko circle the tiger.   You can hear Aiko begin chanting, you glance back and see the Earth Aspect in the ritual circle.  “What are you doing?! Go get help!”  You yell at the girl.  Aiko ignores you, but the Lunar does not.  She takes advantage of your momentary distraction to tackle you to the ground.

The tiger leans down to rip your throat out, but you raise the headmaster’s sword blocks the death blow.   With her claws, the tiger rips the sword out of your hand.   You are almost deafened by the tiger’s roar of agony as Chiyoko blinds the Lunar with char from her sword.   You punch the tiger in the face and attempt to scurry out from under her.  The tiger blindly smacks you in the face with her paw, stunning you.   Then the Lunar puts her mouth around your skull and starts to squeeze.

You can feel the tiger’s saliva run down your forehead and hear the sickening sound of tooth grating against bone.    You try to turn to relieve the pressure, but the Lunar holds your head tight.  Suddenly the tension eases as the Lunar is violently torn off of you.  You agonizingly sit up and see the tiger wrestling a blood ape.

As the blood ape and the Lunar viciously fight, you retrieve the headmaster’s sword and check on Wanahton.  He is unconscious, but still alive.   You approach the fight as the blood ape pins the Lunar down.  Chiyoko stabs the Lunar though the heart, further immobilizing the Anathema.    You whack at the Lunar’s neck with all of your power.   The green glow of your normal anima over takes the red of the Battle Maiden’s.  After you make a bloody mess of her neck, you take a step back, breathing heavily.   You watch for the Lunar’s anima to fade in death.

Instead, the Lunar’s wounds glow with a silver light and close up.

“Dragons,” Chiyoko breaths.  She pulls her sword out of the tiger and retreats to your side.

“That’s not fair,” Aiko says, from the ritual circle.

“Shit.”  You watch the Lunar bite the blood ape in the shoulder and throw the demon off of her.   She turns to you and licks her bloody chops.   You sway on your feet as you raise your sword.   The Lunar might kill you, but will go down fighting.

As Lunar crouches to leap, you hear a new voice say “Here, Kitty Kitty Kitty.”

You see Akachi standing in the entrance of the cave.   The elder Sidereal rushes up to the Lunar and punches the tiger in the face with a fist wreathed in golden light.   The tiger slides across the slick floor, stunned.   Before the tiger can regain her footing, Elder Kejak steps back into fate and neatly takes her head.   The silver light of the Lunar’s anima abruptly snuffs out.

The blood ape stands up and sniffs in your direction.  Your arm is steady as you raise the headmaster’s sword.   You face the blood ape not in fear, but resignation.   You are worn out and wounded and do not want to fight the demon, but you will if you have to.

“Stand down! “  Aiko appears from behind you, her yellow and white anima shifting like desert sands.   The girl has a bruise forming down the side of her face.  “The Anathema has be killed.   Be grateful for what you have!”  The blood ape turns away from you and runs towards the Lunar’s corpse.   Chiyoko’s sword dissipates in a puff of smoke and she sits heavily down on the floor of the cave, her eyes are unfocused.

“I told you I could bind the blood ape.”  Aiko says proudly.  You try to ignore the slurping noises coming from the direction of the Lunar’s corpse.

“That’s nice.”  You reply half-heartedly.  The fight is over.   Blood drip down your forehead and into your eyes.   Your head is pounding.  You are beginning to feel lightheaded.   The headmaster’s sword slips from your hand and hits the floor with a clang.   The cave begins to spin around you.

“Whoa!”   Akachi catches you as you fall.   You notice a green glow reflect in his worried eyes.   You know that the glow is bad, but you cannot remember why.   You can hear voices in the cave, but cannot make out what they are saying.   Everything goes black.

 

You wake up in a bed, feeling sore but otherwise fine.  Looking around, you realize that you are still in the school, but not in your dorm room.  The morning sun shines through the window.  You see Akachi sleeping in a chair by your bedside, covered in a blanket.

What do you do?

  • Wake up Akachi, grateful that he saved your life
  • Wake up Akachi, angry that he left you as this shitty school
  • Let Akachi sleep and quietly get out of bed and leave the room

(( OOC:  So apparently, you don’t need to shed the Quiver in combat situations.  I read on the internet that Anima Flaring reduces the RD’s Endurance.   I found the forum post that gave me that idea, but couldn’t find any reference to this in the Sidereal book. ))

((I have rewritten this post so many times.  Very complicated fight scene.  I was planning on spreading the damage out more equality between Svante and Chiyoko. However when I wrote it out sequentially,   it made more sense for the Lunar to focus on one of them.    ))

((I didn’t forget Fist of the Daystar!   It just fit with another character’s background better than Svante’s .  😉 )

((Next post will finish the chapter.  ))

 

32 – Fear

“There is no point in killing us.  We already told our superiors what your secret is.   You are finished.   Anything you do from this point on will not help your case.”    You explain reasonably.   This worked on the lizard guards when Nanny was kidnapped.  You see no reason why it wouldn’t work here.

You meet the Headmaster’s eyes and begin to slip into her mind.  The headmaster’s mind is a wild and untamed place filled with rage and cunning.   Her surface thoughts almost tumble from your grasp, but you manage to hold on to them.  When you examine the headmaster’s secret, your heart skips a beat.

“An Anathama!”  You scream, backing away.   There will be no reasoning with the false headmaster.  “She’s a Lunar imposter!”   Wanahton’s eye widen and he throws his knife at the Lunar.   The Lunar quickly recovers from the confusion you caused in her mind and casually parries the knife with her sword.

“Run!” Wanahton shouts as he throws another knife at the Lunar.   “I’ll keep her busy.”  With a flick of his wrist, the parried Starmetal knife returns to his hand.

You race to the entrance of the cave, but the Lunar blocks your way.   “Stay put, Cnead.  I will deal with you after I’m done with your friend here.”   Something about the lunar draws your eye to them and you are rooted to the ground with terror.  The smell of rotten blood fills your nose.  Blood apes!  There are blood apes in the cave!   Where are they?

The Lunar and Wanahton circle each other.   “You didn’t know I was here.  You were just here for the Sorcery girl.” The Lunar muses.    “Not the kind of task I’d expect two agents of Fate to be send on.  Unless…”  She smiles, showing her teeth.  “Perhaps Karma really does exist.   Your people have killed so many of our young.   Now it is time for your elders to feel that same pain.”  The headmaster throws her sword at Wanahton.

Wanahton ducks the sword, but it was a distraction.  The Lunar leaps across the cave to Wanahton.   As she leaps, the glowing silver symbol of a No Moon caste mark blazes on her forehead and she transforms into a sleek orange striped tiger.    The tiger catches Wanahton off balance and knock him to the ground.  She digs her claws into Wanahton’s side.   Wanahton grabs hold of the tiger and attempts to throw her to the ground, but the lunar sinks her teeth into his shoulder.

While Wanahton is wrestling with the Lunar, Chiyoko and Aiko run back into the cave.   Chiyoko, her anima still flared, stands between you and the brawl.   Aiko goes to you and shakes you. “Svante?  Svante, snap out of it.”

“Watch out!  The Lunar summoned blood apes!   Can’t you smell them?  They must be dematerialized!”  You ignore the itching scar on your leg and mentally prepare for the blood apes to appear.

“What is a Lunar?” Aiko sniffs the air.  “I don’t smell anything.”

Chiyoko comes over to examine you.  “It’s the Anathema.  My father told me that Anathema are a capable of parading your greatest fears in your mind.”

“So he is useless.”  Aiko declares in disgust.

“I’m not useless!”  You counter.  Don’t they smell the blood apes in the cave?   Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

The two girls ignore you. “Should I even suggest we grab the idiot and run for help?”  Aiko asks Chiyoko.

Chiyoko turns to assess the battle.  Instead of a tiger, Wanahton seems to be fighting a fury of teeth and claws.  In spite of the Lunar attacks, Wanahton has few injuries.  Yet the tiger still has Wanahton on his back.    Wanahton tried to throw the Lunar off of him again, but cannot summon enough strength.   His caste mark appears on his forehead.  “I don’t think Svante’s friend can take on the Lunar alone.”  With a wave of her hand, Chiyoko summons a flaming sword.   “We can’t let the Anathema run free.”

“Of course not.”   Aiko’s mouth spreads into a fierce smile.  “I can still summon the blood ape.  With the battle, there will be plenty of blood to offer it.  It won’t fight the binding.”

“No!” you shout.  “No more blood apes!”   You grab a hold of Aiko and hold her in an arm lock.   “I won’t let you summon any more of those monsters.”

“Wait!  Don’t flare your anima, Aiko!  Svante!  Let Aiko go!  The Anathema is the real enemy here!”   Chiyoko walks over to face you.

“The Anathema is messing with your head, Svante,”  Chiyoko stands as close as she can get without her anima burning you.  “There are no blood apes in the cave.  If we are going to survive this Wyld Hunt, we are going to need every advantage we can get.”

“We don’t have time for this!”  Aiko cries out as she struggles in your grip.  You hear Wanahton scream in pain and out of the corner of your eye, you see the yellow glow of his anima.  Your terrorized mind processes Chiyoko’s words, but can you really take the risk of her being wrong?

“Svante, look at me. “  You meet Chiyoko’s gaze.  Her lovely scarlet eyes reminded of you of that moment back on the beach.  “I need you to trust me.”

What do you do?

  • Overcome your fear and fight the anathema as Cnead Svante with the headmaster’s sword.   It might be unwieldy, as you are not attuned to the Sword, but even now you cannot break your cover.
  • Overcome your fear and the Anametha as Svante Vissher.   Shed your False Identity, activate Blade of the Battle Maiden, and fight will full access to your power.
  • Stop Aiko from summoning the blood ape. If she fails to bind it, then you will have two enemies to fight.
  • Run and get help.   There is no way the four of you can take the Lunar down alone.
  • Other

((OOC:  Not Svante’s proudest moment, but welcome to the Station of Battles or as it is better known as the Trial of Fear.    The last two options aren’t particularly heroic, but they are options.   ))

(( When this chapter is done, I’ll do a “man behind the curtain” post.  ))

((Wanahton gets all the best fight scenes.   ))

31- Cave

“Aiko is up to something.” You say with absolute certainty.  “We will find her faster if we split up.  Masaru, head back to the school and see if she went back there.   Chiyoko you walk along the beach this way and I’ll go the other way.”  You point in the direction of where you saw Wanahton walk.   Masaru nods and heads towards the direction of school.

You start heading down the beach, looking for footprints.   “Wait,”  Chiyoko runs up behind you.   “Let me come with you.”    You take Chiyoko’s hand and you walk down the beach together.  Her hand is calloused from her sword, but it feels warm in yours.   You sneak a glance at Chiyoko and noticed that she seems distracted.

“You know where Aiko went,” you realize.  Chiyoko and Aiko are roommates.  They must tell each other things,  just like you and Masaru do.

It takes a while for Chiyoko to respond.  “Yes.”

“Aiko is up to something!”   Chiyoko lets go of your hand and starts to walk faster.   “You have to tell me what is going on!”

The orange haired girl stops walking and faces you.   “Aiko had a rough life before she came to live with us.   Her mother…  she and her gent would walk the edge of rebelling against the Shogun.   My uncle was often sent to negotiate with her.”   Chiyoko turns away and starts walking again.    “When Aiko was born, it was obvious that her husband wasn’t her father.   After Aiko’s mother died, her husband threw Aiko out.   She had to make her way to Meru on her own.   My father took her in in spite of the objections of the Shogun and her advisors.   They thought that Aiko would be a stain on the Shogun’s honor.“

“Aiko feels like she has to prove herself.”

“Yes.   When we got here, I told the Chuzei about her copy of the White Treatise.”  Chiyoko looks ashamed.  “I didn’t want to tattle on her but I was afraid that she was going to cast something out it.  Somehow she got her hands on another copy. “

Aiko got that book because of you.  “But she can’t cast anything out of the book.”  You insist.    “She’s too young to have been initiated to Sorcery.”

“Aiko isn’t going to let someone tell her what she can or can’t do.”  Chiyoko quietly adds, “I heard that sometimes you can go through the trials without someone guiding you.  “

You see footprints leading to one of the sea caves.  “This way.”   You sprint towards the cave.   It is dark and musky inside.

“Your anima or mine?’ Chiyoko asks.

“Yours gives off red light, so it won’t affect our night vision.” You say as an excuse.

Chiyoko quickly glances at you when you say this.  Did Aiko tell Chiyoko her suspicions about you?   Chiyoko shakes her head and flares her anima.   “Aiko mentioned these sea caves after we first got here.   She said it would be a good place to hide.”   Chiyoko takes the lead as you enter the dark cave.  Her anima casts flickering red light on the walls of the cave.  The floor of the cave is slick and you almost slip.  Chiyoko holds out her hand to help you, but quickly retracts it before you can grab it.   Her anima would burn you.  “Sorry,” she says, after you regain your balance.

“Aiko!” Chiyoko yells.   Her voice echoes for a while before fading.

For a moment there is silence, then you hear Aiko’s voice.   “I’m over here!”  You follow the sound to one of the caves near the back.   Aiko is standing near a ritual circle.   Chiyoko goes to her and stops short of embracing her.   Candles are lit around the circle, so you can clearly see the runes for Aiko’s spell.

“You were going to summon a blood ape?”    The scars on your leg start to itch.

“Not anymore,” Wanahton is standing against the cave wall with a light crystal glowing in his hand.

Aiko stares down at her feet, “I don’t have anything to offer the ape, so it would fight my binding.”

“You are young.   There will be plenty of battles to feed Blood Apes with.”  Wanahton seems pleased with himself.   His mission is over.  Both you and Wanahton will be leaving soon.  You sadly look over to Chiyoko.

“Chiyoko, I…”  You feel a chill that has nothing to do with the damp cave.   You are in danger!

“What is it?”  Chiyoko asks, watching you.  Wanahton notices you tense and looks towards the entrance of the cave.  You hear footsteps approach the cave.

“Someone is coming!”  You say.

Headmaster Raijin appears in the cave.    She is dressed in armor and has her sword drawn.  She surveys the cave and notices Wanahton.   “I knew they wouldn’t send the boy alone.”

“Svante, what is going on?” Chiyoko asks.

“Nothing you need to concern yourself with.” Headmaster Raijin answers.   “ Nitei Lung and Hui, head back to school.  We will discuss your actions here after I have a talk with Nitei Cnead and his friend.”

Neither Chiyoko nor Aiko move.   “I gave you an order.”  The headmaster yells, “Now, move.”

“It’s okay.  We will be fine.,”  you reassure Chiyoko.   The sense of dread grows stronger.   It would be better to get Chiyoko and Aiko out of the cave so you can focus on the headmaster.

Chiyoko looks like she is going to defy the Headmaster, when Aiko shakes her head no.   Both girls back out slowly out of the cave.   The light of Chiyoko’s Anima fades from the cave entrance.

“We were here investigating a disturbance of fate.   That girl was going to summon an unbound demon into Creation.   You should keep a better eye on your students.”  Wanahton has one of his throwing knives hidden in his hand.

“Your superiors should keep a better eye on their agents.  “   You feel threads of fate vibrate in response to the future conflict.   You know that the headmaster is about to strike Wanahton.

What do you do?

  • A student of the Violet Briers is never unarmed.  Shed your destiny and activate Blade of the Battle Maiden
  • Attract the Headmasters attention away from Wanahton.    Lead her out of the cave and then activate Walking behind Fate
  • Other

((OOC:   Feel free to come up with other tactics.   ))

(( I didn’t read the Summon First Circle Demon spell until I wrote this scene.  I would have set it later in the day if so.   It’s not the first time I got a charm/spell wrong and it won’t be the last.  ))

30 – The Beach

You fidget with the knob of the kitchen cabinet you are leaning against.   You don’t want to tattle on Aiko, but Wanahton is one of the few friends you have that you can be completely honest with.   It wasn’t until recently you realized how rare someone like that was for a Sidereal.   Though Aiko did help you inventory the wards as she promised, you still don’t really trust her.  Who knows what Aiko will do with the White Treatise?

“Hui Aiko, the Earth Aspect in my circle, blackmailed me into helping her steal a copy of the White Treatise from the Restricted Area of the school library.”

“She blackmailed you….”  Wanahton taps his pipe in his hand.

“She is the one that suspect that I’m not a Dragon blood.”

“Giving into her blackmail proved to her that you have something to hide.”  Wanahton shrugs.   “What is done is done.  Tell me about the White Treatise.  What can the girl do with it?”

“I don’t know.   I’ve never read it.”   You admit to Wanahton.   “I know you have to be initiated into the Terrestrial Circle of Sorcery to even cast any spells, much less summon demons. “

“The school wouldn’t bother to lock up the books unless there was something dangerous in it.”   Wanahton notes.

“When Aiko got her copy, I got one too.  I’ll read the book and figure out what she can do with it.”   You offer.   “What are you planning on doing tomorrow?  It is a rest day, so I am free to help with anything.”

“I thought you were going to the beach with your orange haired girl.  “

“What!? She’s not my girl.”  First Aiko and now Wanahton.   Are you really that obvious?  “I shouldn’t be wasting time at the beach.  The mission comes first.  “

“We have been working non-stop for the past month.  You are young.  Enjoy yourself.  Go to the beach.  Buy your girl one of those icy fruit cups.  “

“She’s not my girl.” You insist again.  You slam your head against the cabinet.  “She is engaged to Masaru.   And according to Aiko, there is some other boy she likes.   I haven’t figured out who that is yet. “

Wanahton waves off the topic of marriage as unimportant.  “That is a long way off for a twelve year old.  It is obvious you are the one that Chiyoko is interested in. “

“What?!”  You are speechless.  Chiyoko is pretty and graceful and the Shogun’s granddaughter.  You are just some nobody.  What would she see in someone like you?

Wanahton chuckles.   “I forget how young you are sometimes.  Come, let’s go outside.”  You follow the tall bronze man out the back door.   He leans against a wall and lights his pipe.   Wanahton puffs on his pipe, eyes closed.

“Who does Chiyoko sit next to all the time at lunch?” Wanahton asks.

You try to remember.  “I don’t know.  I really can’t see who sits on the other side of her.”

Wanahton snorts.  “That is because Chiyoko always sits next to you.   Or you sit next to her.   It really depends on who sits down first.”

You still have your doubts.   “What if you are wrong?   She’ll think I am an idiot!”

“Svante, let me give you advice on women.   Always take a chance.   She might say no.   But if you never ask, the answer will always be no.”

“But if I never ask, then how can she give me any answer, much less a no.   And what question am I asking anyways?”

“This is why I always had Nalani talk to the children about romance.”  Wanahton mutters.  He thinks for a moment, smoking his pipe.   “Ask her if she wants to go get a fruit cup.”
It can’t be that easy.   “What if she doesn’t like fruit cups?”

“Then figure out what she likes and ask her if she’d like one of those!  You are a smart boy.   You’ll figure it out. ” Wanahton taps the tobacco ash out of his pipe.

“But…”

“Good night, Svante.”  Wanahton saunters off, leaving you in the dark courtyard.

Back in your dorm room, you lay on the bed and idly flipping through the White Treatise.   Chiyoko might like you.   You flit between elation and terror as you consider what exactly you might say to her.

“Would you like to go get a fruit cup?”  You ask a sketch of a Neomah silently.   That question sounds… lame.   You can come up with something better than that.   You wish you could ask Akachi what to do.   He’s been a Chosen of Venus for over four thousand years, surely he would know the right thing to say to Chiyoko.   Does Chiyoko even like Fruit Cups?

“Spider,” you whisper, trying not to wake Masaru.   “Does Chiyoko like Icy Fruit Cups?”

“Lung Chiyoko likes Icy Fruit Cups…. and Tiger Lilies.”  the Pattern Spider murmurs into your ear.

Tiger Lilies?   Well girls do like flowers.   “Thanks, Spider.”   You flip back towards the beginning of the book when you come upon an illustration of an Erymanthoi.

The Blood Ape.    You stop and force yourself to read the passage.   The scar on your leg itches fiercely, but you control the urge to scratch.   Your hand shakes a bit when you turn to the next page.   You close the book and slide it under your pillow.  That is enough reading for tonight.

“I don’t know why we bother to come to the beach,” Aiko complains.   “It’s not like it is safe to go into the water with all the stupid water aspects around.”  You hear a lifeguard blowing her whistle at a group of blue-haired teenagers in the water with their animas flared.    She points at the sign depicting a crossed out figure with.

“What did you say? “  Masaru asks. He was looking wistfully at the rowdy group in the water.

You help Chiyoko lay out the blanket you brought from your dorm.    As you do, you noticed Wanahton in his trader destiny walk by.   The man unfolds his chair not far from where you are settled and sits down to watch the ocean.

Everyone settles on the blanket to eat lunch.   Masaru tells stories about the stupid water anima tricks he and his brothers use to do.

“So Noboru just ran around bow of the ship, when this huge wave swelled up and smacked my brother against the hull of the ship.  “

“Was he okay?” Chiyoko asks.

“Oh, he was fine!   Noboru’s whole left side was bruised for days, but it was his own stupid fault.  My father warned him that the sea was too rough to play on.”

“Those are great stories, Masaru.  Makes you wish you’d had a Water Aspect anima.  Doesn’t it, Svante?”  Aiko taunts as she eats a grape.

“Wood aspect has greater utility in combat situations,” you retort.   Will Aiko ever leave you alone?

Aiko smiles at you.  “Come on, Masaru.  I’m thirsty.  Let’s go get some drinks”

“But, we have drinks right here.”   Masaru protests.

“I don’t like those drinks.  We should go get other drinks.   Far away from here.”

“Oh!” Masaru glances at both you and Chiyoko and then gets up to follow Aiko.  Aiko winks at you before she leaves.  You and Chiyoko are now alone.   The two of you awkwardly sit on the blanket, unsure what to say to each other.

“You found out about my grandmother.”  Chiyoko says.

You nod.

“How did you find out?”

“Does it matter?”   you say.   It would be difficult to explain your pattern spider.

“I didn’t mean to hide it from you, but it was nice to be treated normally for once.   You hate me now, don’t you?”

“No.  I don’t hate you. “   You watch Chiyoko’s orange hair flail around in the breeze.   “Um….“  All of the clever things you thought to say flee from your mind.  “Do you want to go get a fruit cup?”

“Sure.”  Chiyoko smiles and offer you her hand.  You take it and together you walk towards the fruit cup stand.   After buying your fruit cups, you settle back down on the blanket.

“You really don’t care that my grandmother is the Shogun.”

“No,”  You take a bite of your fruit cup.  “Should I?”

“Most people do.”   Chiyoko looks down at her fruit cup.

You catch a loose strand of her pony tail and tuck it back behind her ear.   Reluctantly you pull back, but Chiyoko touches your hand to stop you.  Your hand cups her cheek and Chiyoko draws closer.  You tremble as you feel her breath…

“Hey!  Have you guys seen Aiko anywhere?”  You jump away from Chiyoko when you hear Masaru’s voice.

“No!” Chiyoko snaps at the Water aspect.   “We haven’t seen Aiko anywhere.”

Masaru ignores her glare.  “We were in the store, buying drinks and when I went to pay, I couldn’t find her.”

Fucking Aiko.  Of course she had to run off while you were …. distracted.  You glance back to where Wanahton was sitting and see that his chair is now empty.    Searching for the Chosen of Journeys, you find Wanahton walking purposefully away from the beach side store.

What do you do?

  • Stay with Chiyoko and Masaru. You trust Wanahton to handle the situation.
  • Tell Chiyoko and Masaru that you need to go find Aiko.
  • Sneak away and follow Wanahton.
  • Other

((  So close, Svante!   Maybe next time.  😉  ))

((OOC:  For the next couple of weeks the updates will post after 5 pm.   Stupid Work))

29 – Promises

You consider Aiko’s question. What did you want?

“I need you to do two favors for me.”

Aiko hesitates and then nods.

“One. I need you check the school for more wards. ” You couldn’t be caught running around looking for wards. The headmaster would that you are on to her.

“The wards?” Aiko considers your request. “I guess it would be good to know where all the wards are. You want me to inventory those strange Maiden wards too?”

“I want you to inventory all the wards. Ghost, demon, Dragon blooded, mortal. If it is warned, I want to know about it.”

Aiko agrees. “Okay. What else?”

“You need to promise not to abandon me again.” You remember your conversation with Masaru from this morning. “We are in the same circle and we need to trust each other.”

“Fine. I won’t ditch you anymore. I was only testing to see what you would do last night.”

“Say you promise. “ You hold out your hand. Aiko eyes it warily.

“What?”

“You never answered my question about what you are.” Aiko explains.

It dawns on you. “You …think I’m Anathema?” You are shocked by this. You haven’t done anything Evil. Have you?

“I think it would be stupid to rule out any options.”

“I’m the furthest from an Anathema you can be.” You assure the girl. Sidereals are the ones that kill Anathema after all.

“And that is?” Aiko looks at you expectantly.

“A dragonblood.” You say without missing a bit. You hold out your hand for Aiko.

Aiko rolls her eyes. “I suppose if you were Anathema, I’d be dead by now.” She takes your hand and shakes it. “I promise not to abandon you when we are in trouble.”

Aiko relaxes after nothing happens when you shake. You pull the book out of your bag and hand it to Aiko. She quickly takes the book and hugs it to her chest.

“I still don’t believe you are dragon blooded. “ She glances down at the book in her arms. “But you did help me get the book, so I won’t tell anyone. “

“You better not tell anyone. You’d look really stupid when you are wrong.” You say as you walk with Aiko out of the library. “Hey, I have one more question.”

Aiko tightens her grip on the book. “You already gave me the book. You can’t take it back.”

You shrug. The Sorcery book is no longer important to you. “Does Chiyoko actually like Masaru?

Aiko stops in the middle of the sunlit courtyard. “Masaru? No. They are friends, but she doesn’t like Masaru. He spends more than reading manga than with her. ” She lifts an eyebrow. “Is there any reason why you are asking?”

“No reason,” you quickly add. “Forget I asked.”

Aiko’s face breaks out into a grin. “Oh! You like my cousin!”

“No!” You deny.

Your face turns red as Aiko starts singing. “Svante and Chiyoko sitting in a….”

“I’m going to burn that book.” You reach out to snatch it away from Aiko.

The red headed girl pulls the book away from you. “If you burn the book, I’ll never tell you who Chiyoko really likes.”

You stop mid snatch. “Who… who does Chiyoko really like?” You can feel your heart thumping in your chest. There is someone else that Chiyoko likes?

Aiko continues walking towards the dorms. “I thought you were good at figuring out secrets.”

“I thought you were going to stop being a bitch.”

“The headmaster has hidden Sidereal Alarm wards though out the school.” You announce to Wanahton as you enter the kitchen later that night.

“Where?” Wanahton asks.

You start listing off the locations. “Her office. The Teacher’s Lounge. The restricted area of the library….”

“Hmmm…. Those sound like places that you shouldn’t be anyways.”

“But I know she’s hiding something!”

“Svante, answer me this. Are there wards for Dragon bloods alongside these Sidereal wards?”

“Yes, but…”

“You might be a Sidereal but you are still a student at her school. There are places that are restricted to students.”

“But how can I help you with the mission, if I can’t move around without setting off an alarm?”

“Keep your ears open for any sort of Yozi or Fair Folk activity. I’m keeping an eye on the staff. You are supposed to watch the students.”

“Have you found anything?” You are conflicted on what you want Wanahton’s answer to be. You are worried that you will blow your cover. Yet now that you are out of basic training, the school doesn’t seem to be so bad.

“Not yet. “ Wanahton scratches his head. “Sasha came by.”

“What? And she didn’t stop by and see me?” You are shocked by this.

“She told me she wasn’t allow.“ Wanahton sighs. “Sasha said that a Sidereal’s first mission is usually an endurance mission. A long mission that is short on details. It’s supposed to teach patience. Keep your eyes open for any possibility. ”

“So, how much longer do we have?”

“Sasha says that her first mission lasted for almost a year.”

“Almost a year?!” You are shocked. “I can’t pass for Dragon blooded for a year! One of my circle mates already noticed I haven’t flared my Anima. My roommate found my hidey hole of artifacts.” You slide down one of the cabinets. “I must be the worst Sidereal ever.”

“Don’t worry, kid.” Wanahton sit down next to you. “I don’t think we are on the same mission.”

“What?”

“That is why Sasha came by.” Wanahton pulls out his pipe. “It’s politics. Elder Kejak wants you here. Elder Akachi isn’t happy about the situation and yet he hasn’t come for you. Sasha hasn’t had time to figure out what is going on with her own mission. So she came by to see if I knew anything.“

You bang your head against the cabinet. “They set me up to fail.”

“I don’t think so. As I said, I don’t think we are on the same mission. “ The tall bronze man taps his pipe in his hand. “This is probably the safest place if are covers are blown. The dragon blooded students aren’t powerful enough yet to overcome the effects of arcane fate. And if your circle mate figures it out, what are they going to do? Go to the headmaster? The headmaster already knows about you. “

“So, if I am not here to help you, then why am I here?”

Wanahton looks up. “Maidens only know. Though, I do need someone to keep an eye on the students. You haven’t noticed any fair folk hiding among the students, have you? Any of them dabbling into any sorcery?”

What do you say?

  • Tell Wanahton all about you and Aiko breaking into the restricted area and stealing the Sorcery book.
  • Tell Wanahton that Aiko has the White Treatise. Don’t mention your part in getting the copy or that you have a copy yourself.
  • Say nothing at all about Aiko and the White Treatise.
  • Other

(((OOC: Not as polished as I like. Been working a lot of hours lately. ))

28 – Trust

You go to lock the door.   That should give you warning when Masaru comes back.  You sit cross-legged on the bed and pull the spider out of your pocket.  The emerald encrusted spider slowly unfolds itself on your pillow.   After stretching its legs, the pattern spider crawls closer to you.

“When did the headmaster ward the gate to the Restricted Section of the library?”   A line of silk falls from the stone ceiling of the dorm.   The spider swiftly ascends and disappears.   In a few seconds, it drops back down to your pillow.

“No results found.”  Hmm…  The headmaster is an Air Aspect.  It is possible that she warded the room herself.  The Headmaster must be hiding something in there!

“What is contained in the Restricted Area of the Library?”

“Fifty copies of the White Treatise.  Five Copies of …”  The Spider goes on to list various books.   Some of the books are out of print.  Others are manuals for the Immaculate Martial Arts.   Nothing else interesting besides the White Treatise.  If there is something else in the Restricted Section, then it isn’t widely known in Creation.   You’ll have to figure out a way past the wards to thoroughly search the library.

You decide to switch topics.  “What is Chiyoko hiding from me?”

“No results found.”   The Pattern Spider says on its return.

“Hmmm…. Not enough people must know.”   Something everyone in Creation can figure out, Aiko said.

You think about everything you know about Chiyoko.  Her name is Lung Chiyoko.  She is a fire aspected Dragon blooded.    Chiyoko has long fiery orange hair.   When she gracefully moves though her sword katas, her ponytail sways like a candle flickering in the breeze.

You take a deep breath to clear your head.  Chiyoko must have connections in the Shogunate to attend this school.  Her cousin’s name is Hui Aiko.   Chiyoko’s aunt died while on a Solar Wyld Hunt.

“Tell me about the Wyld Hunt that Chiyoko’s Aunt was on when she died.”

The spider returns with the following information.  “Three of Lung Chiyoko’s Aunts have died while on Wyld Hunt.   In what order would you like the records?”

“The most recent one only.”   Masaru would be back soon and you didn’t want him to catch you talking to your Pattern Spider.

“Four years ago, Jasara Qureshi exalted as a Solar of the Night Caste twenty nine miles outside of An-Teng.   Two Scales, under the command of Lung Saki, were ordered by the Shogun to track down the Solar.  After three weeks of searching the Wyld Hunt managed to locate and execute Qureshi.  Two Fangs of Dragonblooded were slain over the course of the Wyld Hunt, including Lung Saki.   Would you like to know more details or continue on to the next record?”

“How did Lung Saki die?”  Maybe her aunt’s death was important.

“She was assassinated in her tent.  Would you like to know more details?”

“No.   How many of Chiyoko’s family members have gone on Wyld Hunt?”  Perhaps a member of her family took down an infamous Anathema or were involved with a famous Fair Folk battle.
“Since the founding of the Lung Gent 487 years ago, 1358 members of the Lung Gent have been on Wyld Hunt.  56 of them have been extended family of Lung Chiyoko. ”  That… was a large number of people from Chiyoko’s gent.

“Whoa.   Why do so many members of Chiyoko’s family go on Wyld Hunt?”

“Shogun Lung Daiki declared that each of member of the Lung Gent will….”

“Wait….” You interrupt.  “Shogun Lung Daiki.”  Chiyoko couldn’t be related to the Shogun.   The current Shogun is….

What was the name of the current Shogun?

You search your memory for the name, but couldn’t remember.   But you are certain you knew the name at one point.  No wonder Aiko thinks you are stupid.   How could you not know the name of the Shogun?

The Shogun specifically requested you, you remember Elder Kejak telling Sasha.  You shake your head and continue to quiz the Pattern Spider.

“Who is the current Shogun?  And how is Chiyoko related to the Shogun?”

“Lung Haruka is current Shogun.  Lung Chiyoko is her second youngest granddaughter.”

Maidens!   Chiyoko is the Shogun’s granddaughter.  She must think you are such an idiot for not realizing this!   You groan and hide your head under your pillow.  How could you be so stupid?  You hear Masaru at the door.  Your spider crawls under the pillow with you and pokes your forehead with its leg.   You open your eyes and see a faint green glow.  Shit.  You must have asked too many questions.

Masaru unlocks the door and walks into the room.   “Hey!  It’s almost time for class.   Last day of class before rest day!”   He says cheerfully as he puts his toiletries away.   Masaru walks over to your bed.   “Are you okay?  Why are you hiding under the pillow?”

“I’m fine.  Go on to class without me.”

“Um…. Yeah.   I’m not leaving you here to hide under a pillow.  Is something wrong?”

You decide to tell him the truth.  At least some of it.   “I know about Chiyoko.”

“Shit!  I was hoping you wouldn’t find out.  Who told you?”  The Water Aspect sounds distressed that you found out Chiyoko’s secret.

“Does it matter?   Why did you tell me?!”  You voice sounds muffled under the pillow.

“It’s awkward to talk about.   But you know how it is, Svante.  It’s not like we get a choice on who we get betrothed to.”

“Betrothed?”  You start to lift your head towards Masaru but then realize that would reveal your caste mark.  You quickly put your head back down.

“What’s that green glow?”  Shit!  He must have seen the light from the mark.

“What green glow?”  Playing stupid might work, considering how stupid you have been recently.

“Are you hiding something under your pillow?”  Masaru starts tugging at your pillow.

“No!”   You grip the pillow tightly.  “Go away!”

“Come on!   I want to see!  I won’t tell anyone!”  Masaru almost rips the pillow out of your hands, but you hold on tight.   “You can’t hide under a pillow all day!”

“Yes, I can!  Leave me alone!”  You kick at the Water Aspect to keep him away.

Masaru easily dodges your kick.  He lets go of the pillow and sits on the edge of your bed.   “Dragons! I’ll leave you alone.  “  Masaru sighs.   “Chiyoko and I are betrothed.   It’s a political match.  Her grandmother is the Shogun.   My father is the Admiral of the Western Fleet.  All my other brothers are already married or spoken for.  And Chiyoko and I are about the same age, so I guess it works out.”  Masaru sounds about as excited to marry Chiyoko as he was to receive the The Adventures of the Immaculate Dragons in the mail last week.

“You don’t want to marry Chiyoko?”  You are surprised by this.  Who wouldn’t want to marry Chiyoko?

“Chiyoko is nice, but…  I don’t know.  It’s awkward.”   Masaru repositions himself on the bed.   “It’s good finally being able to tell you.   Chiyoko didn’t want you to know.   I don’t like keep secrets from circle mates.”

You clinch your pillow tighter over your Chosen of Secrets caste mark.   “Aiko is keeping secrets.   She had me break into the restricted area to steal a book.”

“Really?   When?”

“Last night.”

“Wait.  You went wandering around the school again after hours.   And you brought Aiko instead of me?   Dick move, Svante.”

“She didn’t give me any choice!  She…”   You stop.   Perhaps now is not a good time to reveal Aiko’s doubts about your dragon blooded status.

“She what?”

“Never mind.”

“You guys coming to class!”  You hear Aiko’s voice from outside the door.

“Tell her to go away!”  You hiss.

Masaru gets up from the bed. “Give us a minute!  We’ll meet you in the class room.”   He flips the lock on the door and sits back down on your bed.

“So, are you going to come out from under the pillow?  Or are we going to be late for class?”

“You go on.  I’ll wait here.”  There is no way you can wait for your caste mark to fade and make it to class on time.

“You do remember that if one of us gets in trouble, we all get in trouble.”

“Tell that to Aiko.  She ditched me in the library when Chuzei came to investigate.”

Masaru shifts on the bed.   “I know Aiko can be…”

“A bitch?”

“I was looking for a more diplomatic word.  She’s my fiancé’s cousin, remember.”  You are silent as you wait for Masaru to continue.    “Fine.  We’ll go with bitch.  Aiko can be a bitch, but when you stood up to those bastards with the goat…..  She was right behind you, just like the rest of us. “

Masaru continues.  “I don’t know what is going on, but we are all keeping secrets from each other.   Chiyoko and I about our betrothal.  You about those artifacts you keep hidden in the wall.   Aiko about who knows what.  ”

“Wait.  You know about my hidey hole?”  You must be the worse Sidereal ever.

“I’m a Water Aspect.  I know about all the hidey holes in this room.   I keep my Green Blaze Manga under a loose floorboard next to my bed.  Anyways, all these secrets can’t be good for our circle.   You know everything I was keeping secret now.”   Masaru leans closer to the pillow.    “I’m just asking you to trust me.”

You continue to hide under your pillow.   You still have a while before your caste sign completely fades.

“I do trust you, Masaru.  But there are some things I am not allowed to tell you.”  You hear Masaru sigh in disappointment.

“I wish I could tell you,” you quickly add.   “but I can’t.   I know I haven’t done anything to earn it, but I need you to trust me.”  A hollow sensation grows in the pit of your stomach.  You feel like you are betraying the dragonblood.   Masaru is a good guy, but you can’t compromise your cover.

An eternity passes before Masaru speaks.  “All right.   I trust you.”

“Thank you.”  You are relieved, but the sense of guilt does not fade.  Both Headmaster Raijin and Chuzei Enki know about Sidereals.  Perhaps one day you can tell Masaru the full truth.

“Um…  You dropped your spider figurine.”  Masaru slides your now lifeless pattern spider under your pillow.  It must have fallen off the bed during the struggle for the pillow.

“Thanks.”

“You aren’t going to tell anyone about my Green Blaze Manga?”  You’ve never seen a copy of Green Blaze, but you have heard about it.  Green Blaze was an adult manga involving sex, demons, and all sort of interesting things adults didn’t want kids to read about.

“No.  I’m not a tattle tale.  You aren’t going to tell anyone about my hidey hole or my artifacts?”   You need to be more careful if Masaru was able to find your hiding place.

“Of course not.”  Masaru gets up from the bed.   “I’m going to head to class.   If you need me to talk to Aiko, let me know. “

“All right.”  You hear Masaru leave the room.   He locks the door behind him.

You sigh and come out from under the pillow.  You look at yourself in the mirror, caste mark glittering on your brow.

“What the fuck am I doing?”   You bang your head against the bed in frustration.  Missions were harder than you thought.

“No Results Found.”  The Pattern Spider responds.

“No one was talking to you, Spider!”  The spider curls into a little ball, when you yell at it.

After class, you follow Aiko as she heads to the library.  You watch her as she collects a stool and goes to the shelf where she left the books.   She searches for them and her face grows anxious when she doesn’t find the books.

“They aren’t there.” You say, as you lean against the shelf.

“Did Headmaster Raijin find them?”

“I have them.”  One copy of the White Treatise was hiding in your book bag.

“Good.”  Aiko looks relieved.   “We can go back to your dorm…”

“No.”  You cross your arms.   “You left me here in the library.   Dragons, you probably had no intention of letting me have a copy of the book in the first place.”

“I was going to give you your copy.”  Aiko doesn’t met your gaze.   “I panicked.   I shouldn’t have left you behind.”

“That is total shit.   You didn’t look panicked to me.”   Aiko looked calm and collected as she abandoned you, hide the books, and crawled out of the library window.

She steps down from the stool and confronts you.   “Where did you go?   I was tracking you in the library and then you disappeared.   It was like you weren’t in the library anymore.  But you were still there.   You saw me hid the books.   There is no way you are powerful enough to wear the Dragon’s Shroud.   What are you?“

You ignore Aiko’s question.  “Maybe you just suck at tracking.”

“Fine.  Keep your secrets. ” Aiko sounds frustrated.  “I’m sorry I left you in the stupid library.  Can we go get the book now? ”

“Why do you want the book?”

“Why do you want the book?” she repeats.   “What else is the White Treatise used for?  We both are going to use them to learn Sorcery.“

“Aren’t there schools for that?”

“Yes, but you can’t go to them until you are sixteen.” Aiko smirks.  “You would know that if you were actually Dragon blooded.”

You roll your eyes at Aiko’s jab.  “Why should I give you the book?”

“I’ll tell you what Chiyoko is hiding from you.”

“I know Chiyoko is the Shogun’s granddaughter.”

Aiko frowns.  “That isn’t the only thing Chiyoko is hiding.   Masaru….”

“…is engaged to marry Chiyoko.   Already know that too.”  You can’t help but smirk at the girl’s surprise.  “I’m good at finding out secrets.”

“Shit.  Your stupidity was an act.   You aren’t going to give me the book.”  Aiko turns around to leave.

“I didn’t say that. ”   The Earth Aspect did help you get the White Treatise in the first place.   And you don’t really have room for in your hidey hole for two copies of the book.

Aiko spins back around.  “So what do you want?”

What do you want from Aiko?

  • “I want to know why you believe that I am not Dragon blooded?”   Use Thought Swiping Technique on Aiko.
  • “I want you go around the school looking for strange wards.”   As a Dragon blood, Aiko won’t set off the Sidereal wards.
  • “Does Chiyoko actually like Masaru?”
  • Other

(( OOC:  This post is really long.  I wanted to work the Masaru scene in the last post, but ran out of time.   ))

(( I am very tempted to personify the pattern spider.   Maybe it will grow more of a personality the longer the spider stays with Svante.   I don’t see Svante wanting to dismiss this spider just to have to throw up another one.  I imagine the first time wasn’t too pleasant.     ))

((I used a population estimate to figure out how many people were in the Lung Gent.   I hope my numbers sound alright.  ))

((Is there a way besides Emerald counterspell to get around wards?  ))