159 – Justice

“No,” you answer.  “I need to find Aiko.  Do you know where she went?”

Sasha closes her eyes in disappointment.  When she reopens them, you see the same bone weary tiredness echoed you feel in her eyes.  “Aiko said she was headed towards east entrance of the temple.”

“Thanks.”  You take a step away, but halt.  You need to spend more time with your sister.  Time outside of missions and work.  You turn back and grab Sasha in an embrace.

Sasha rests her head on your shoulder.  “Be safe, little brother.”  She whispers.

Yi and the other Dragonblooded watch, uncomfortable with the unexpected display of emotion.  You break away and leave without another word.

You find Aiko and Shamira arguing just out of sight of the temple.

“We can’t just barge in there.  We will be arrested before we get through the door.”  Aiko argues.  Shamira scrowls and crosses her arms.

“Here’s what we do,” you interrupt.  “I’ll go inside and hide.  When the opportune moment comes, I’ll send a messager for you and Shamira to enter.”

“How the fuck are you going to get past the guards, little boy?”  Shamira questions.

“Don’t worry about that.  I have my ways.”  You assure the Earth Aspect.  Shamira narrows her eyes and glances back at the guards.

“A dramatic entrance.  I like  it.” Aiko approves.  “Wait!”  Aiko reaches out to grab Shamira, but she is too fast for the younger Earth Aspect.

“What the fuck is she doing?”  you curse as Shamira knocks out two of the guards.  The other guards at the door hesitate as Shamira whirls her chain.

“I guess the opportune time is now.”  Aiko brushes her braid back and follows Shamira into the temple.

“Shit.”  You step out of Fate and slip into the temple behind the two Earth Aspects before the door closes.

The Immaculate Temple of Mount Meru is a marvel of Shogunate Architecture.  Built on the remains of a destroyed manse, the pentagon shaped building is made of fine-grained jade.  Stained glass windows are enchanted to shine the light of the five elements, giving the appearance of walking in anima.

Elder Kejak sits with a group of glum mortals waiting for an audience with the future Shogun.  The secretary sits slouched like a man whose whole life has been upturned.  You dare not approach the Elder Sidereal.  Their Dragonblooded guards keep their hands close to their swords as they watch them.  You find Akachi among the mortal notables in the rafters.   He leans forward and whispers to one of the other mortals, who stifles a laugh.

You step though the swirling sands of the Earth and trace Aiko and Shamira’s progress down the aisle of the temple.  All eyes are drawn to the two Earth Aspects.  Aiko is smug.  Shamira radiates with rage.  Her dishevel appearance contrasts with Dragonblooded nobles on the main floor.  You walk past Masaru, who is standing with his mother and brother.  Chiyoko and her father, with identical expressions of worry, sit with the rest of the Lung family.  Guanyu whispers a question to Chiyoko who shrugs in response.

Masaru’s grandmother stands by the cloth covered corpse, with Ling Ling in her arms.  Hayate kneels before his mother’s corpse, head bent in prayer.  The monk conducting the funeral frowns and attracts Hayate’s attention.  The monk nods at the approaching Shamira.

You do not see Tears the Grass in any of his forms, nor remaining members of Lung Duri’s circle.

Shamira stands before Hayate.  The guards approach, but with a raised hand, Hayate stops them.  Bam!  Shamira throws a punch at Hayate.  The Future Shogun’s head snaps to the right.  He rubs his jaw.  “What that really necessary, Shamira?”

Shamira ignores his question.  “I declare Lung Hayate a traitor to the Shogunate.  He is concluding with our Anathema enemies.  He had one conduct unspeakable acts to steal my form.  He ordered my circle to kidnap…”

Hayate is calm as Shamira lists off his crimes.  “Shamira, my daughter’s death has made you distraught.”  He motions the guards forward.  “Take her back to her room, so we can continue my mother’s funeral.”

“I rather die than go back to that pit you locked me up in.”  Shamira drags her chain along the jade floor.

Chiyoko’s father steps forward.  “These are dire accusations, brother.  My people will take this Earth Aspect into custody…”

“That will not be necessary, little brother.  She is a member of my daughter’s circle and I feel responsible for her.”  Hayate frowns “Unless of course, you don’t trust me, Guanyu.  You do trust me to do what is right.”

A rainbow of eyes watch Lung Guanyu for his response.  You watch Chiyoko, her lips whispering a prayer.

“No,”  Lung Guanyu declares.  “I do not trust you with the fate of any Dragonblooded, brother.”  Chiyoko’s father draws his sword.  “I challenge you for the right to rule the Shogunate.  For I do not believe you will rule it justly.”

Hayate smiles, revealing bucked teeth.  “It is for justice that I plan on ruling the Shogunate.”

What do you do?

  • Sneak around at stab Tears the Grass in the back.
  • Cry out that Lung Hayate is a Lunar imposter
  • Stay close to Chiyoko
  • Other

157 -Fed Up

“Shamira,” you draw her gaze. The sound of boot thumping on stone echo in the passage. “If you want to do the worst damage to those who hurt you, testifying is the best way. Let the whole Shogunate know what Hayate did.”

Shamira scowls and faces you. She was going to argue or even turn on you. “What are you going to do?” You stand tall and take a step closer. “Waste your life here or be smart and testify?” You give her a choice, but really she has no choice at all. You lace your words with essence and force her decision. She will testify. You are done with dealing with the idiotic decisions of others. You are done being a puppet.

Shamira curses and looks away from you. “Which way out of this stupid tunnel?”

“Follow me.” Aiko heads off in the opposite direction of the stomping. She pauses when she sees you turn in the opposite direction. “Where are you going?”

“I’m going to stall them. You will need time to get out of the passages.” You can’t leave though whatever way Aiko is using. You are sure it is warded. “I’ll see you at the funeral.”

Aiko knits her brows, but nods and leads Shamira away.

Once they are out of sight, you step out of fate. You approach the oncoming guards. Five mortals dressed in leather and chain mail, but no Dragonblooded. Where were the Dragonblooded?

The mortals draw their swords and advance towards the empty cell.

What do you do?

  • Flare your anima and caste sign and distract them. If they are looking for Sidereals, you are going to give them one.
  • Throw the guards off the scent with Avoiding the Truth Technique
  • Use Thought-Swiping Technique to cause confusing among the guards.
  • Lock the guards in the cell.
  • Other

156 – Rage

In a panic, you push a chest of drawers in front of the door.  You back away.  The chest shake as the guards beat down the door.

“That won’t hold them long,” Aiko comments.

“Out the window.”  You lean against the shuddering chest.

“What?”  Aiko looks up at the tiny window.  “I’m not going to be caught with my ass hanging out the window.”

“Just go out the window.”

“What about him?” Aiko points at the Lunar.

“Don’t worry about him.”  You say.  “I’ll take care of it.”

Aiko slides a crate under the window.  She heaves herself up and out the window.   The chest vibrates as the guards break down the door with an ax.  You ignore the sound of wood splintering on the other side of the door and study the Lunar.  You pull the stake out of the wall.  Glowing with silver moonlight, Ban repairs his wing and flutters in the corner of the room.  “I will remember.” You promise the Lunar.   You step into a dark corner and out of fate.

The chest slams to the floor and the guards barge into the room.  Tears the Grass follows them, still wearing Shimaria’s stolen form.    The guards search the room and check out the window.  “Nothing.”

Tears purses her lips and considers the situation.  “Go find that girl of Yi’s and make sure she hasn’t slipped away from her escort.”  The guards nod and leave the room.

“Ban?”  Tears asks after the guards leave the room.  “What happened?”

Ban lands on the crate and becomes human.  “An Earth Aspect girl came into the room and knocked over a crate leaving though the window.  “

“Why didn’t you stop her?”

“I didn’t want to reveal myself.  No one knows I’m here, remember?”   Ban reminds Tears.  “You told me to stop people from coming in, not out.”

“Ban…”  Tears sniffs.  “The girl may warn them.”

“Warn them of what?  The whole manse knows something is going to happen at the funeral.”  Ban runs his fingers though his hair.  “Look, whatever drama going on between Yi and his daughter is not our concern.  Don’t you have a funeral to attend?”

Tears frowns.  “Be at the funeral, Ban.”   The Lunar orders, as he leaves the room.

You follow Tears out the door.   The Lunar goes one way.  You go another.  You walk the halls of the apartment, looking for the entrance Ban described.  You are careful to avoid knocking into anyone, but it is more difficult than usual.  Soldiers march the halls, dressed in gleaming jade armor.  Servants carry crates of weapons.

Lung Hayate wasn’t preparing for a funeral.  He was preparing for war.

Finally, you find the statue of the Immaculate Monk.  You wait for the hall to clear and press in the monk’s left big toe nail.   The nail depresses.  A staircase appears in the floor next to the statue.  You dart down into the dark passage before the entrance closes.

“Svante?”  Aiko’s voice calls out in the darkness.

“I’m here.”  You reply.  “How did you get back in?”

“The windows aren’t warded against Dragonblooded.”  Aiko rubs a red crystal to light.   “This way.”  She points with the crystal.

“Have you seen any guards?”

“No,”  Aiko looks behind her.  “Do you think the Lunars left the Chimera to guard her?”

You consider this prospect.  “No, Ban didn’t know Quo was here.  I doubt Tears the Grass told Hayate or his people either.”

“Almost like Lunars don’t negotiate in good faith.”  Aiko’s voice drips with sarcasm.

“You should talk,” you snap back.  “We promised to let Ban go free and you attacked him.”

“The situation changed.”  Aiko defends herself.  “The Lunar knew too much.   If he let him go, he would go back to his elders.”  Aiko pauses in the passage.  “You did take care of the Lunar, right?”

“I let him go like we promised.  “

“You fucking idiot!”  Aiko rages.  “You believed him?  What if he goes and kills Chiyoko?”

You didn’t want to think about Chiyoko right now.  You swallow a lump in your thoat.  “He won’t hurt Chiyoko.  Ban is serious about peace.”

“Are you seriously thinking about running off to the Wylds to find this Anathema?  What are you going to do?  Run away from civilization and get yourself moonsilver tattoos?”

“Maybe.”  After the events of this past week, you are no longer sure Sidereals have the best interests of Creation in mind.  It seems like they are doing what they could to save their own asses.

“What about Chiyoko?”

Your chest tightens when Aiko asks this.   “I don’t know.”  Chiyoko would want to run away as much as you do.  “Take her with me?”

Aiko sighs and rubs her forehead.  “You think the Lunars are going to welcome you with open arms?  Ban himself said he wouldn’t remember you.  What are you going to say?  ‘I feel really bad about the centuries of genocide my people put you through.’   They are going to rip your throat out before you get a chance to speak.”

You slide down the wall and sit.  What the fuck are you going to do?  “Someone has to start somewhere.”  You finally say.

“Maybe you should find a less suicidal way?”  Aiko sits next to you.  “Svante, you are a Sidereal.  If you don’t like the way things are, you have the power to change them.  Remember the Usurpation?  That was Sidereals.  Your people.  I’ve read my history.  I know my people have their heads too far up their asses to pull something like that off by themselves.”  Aiko sighs.  “Running off to the edge of Creation is not the answer.  You need to play the game and play it well if you want to make a difference.”

You snort.  “You just want to use my just like my elders do.”

Aiko does not deny this.  “I want my people to be free to choice their own destiny.   And trading Lunars for Sidereals isn’t the answer.”  Aiko declares.  “You need to stop being the puppet and become the puppet master.”

“Chiyoko’s puppet master.”

“Better you than the old man.”  Aiko argues.  “Despite what that Lunar said, you care for my cousin.  If you do hurt her, it will be because of stupidity, not malice.”

“Thanks.”  You hold her head in your hands and say nothing for a long time.  “I just want what’s best for Creation.  I just want to be a hero.”

“Svante, look at me.”  You look up at Aiko.  The light of the crystal illuminates the highlights in her scarlet hair.  “There are no heroes, Svante.  Everyone is out for themselves. Anyone who thinks otherwise is lying to you or lying to themselves.  If you are going to be any use to me or Chiyoko, you need to understand this.”

You and Aiko walk in silence until you reach Samira’s cell.  Jade and Starmetal wards carvings flicker around the doorway.

“Dragons,” Aiko exclaims.  “Where did they get so much starmetal?”

You take a deep breath and blow away some dust.  Hidden wards reveal themselves.  “If I walk through this door, it will kill me.”

“So it’s a trap.”  Aiko declares.

“If Ban wanted to kill me, he would have done so in the storage room.”

“Or maybe he’s too squeamish to kill a kid with his bare hands.”  Aiko counters.   She holds her crystal up higher.  “I don’t see any Dragonblooded wards for death.  I bet the Tiger Lunar infiltrator from the beginning of the school year was the sorcerer of the group.”  Aiko opens the door and steps in.

“Wait!”  You call out belatedly.  The Jade alarm wards glow.     You curse and look into the room.   Samira hangs from the ceiling by Jade Chains.   Dirt covers her skin and homespun shift.  She looks up when Aiko enters.  Hope blossoms in her eyes and dies when she recognizes Aiko.  Samira did attempt to kidnap her.

Aiko climbs up the stone wall and ceiling and digs the chain out with her bare hands.  Samira falls to the floor.   She sways as she stands.   Chains drag on the floor as she removes her gag.  “Where is my armor and hammer?”

“I don’t know.” You call out.  Boots thump down the hallway.  “We need to get you out of here.”

“We also need you to testify against Hayate and the Lunars.” Aiko adds.

“Testify?”  Simara twists the chain part way around her hands and gives it an experimental whirl.  “I’m going to tear them apart.”  She stares down the passage, rage kindling in her stone grey eyes.

What do you do?

  • Let her work out her rage against the coming guards
  • Convince her to go.  She cannot testify if she is dead.
  • Convince her by any means necessary.  Force her decision.  You don’t’ have time to argue.
  • Other

155 – Remember

“No.  If you are serious about peace, you would not be defending the other Lunars.”  You declare.

Ban stares you in the eyes.  “I am not defending their actions.  What Tears did…”  The Lunar trails off.  “But Quo is innocent.  “

“You are her friend and she attacked you.”  You point out.  Ban has to understand his companions are not worth his life.

“She doesn’t know what she is doing.”

“How does this change the fact she is a monster and needs to be put down?” Aiko crosses her arms.  “The Wyld Hunt is searching the tunnels for her.  This Quo is already dead. ”

You frown at Aiko’s assessment, but she is right.   There is nothing human left in monster you met in the secret passage.  “Do you want to die in whatever foolhardy plan Tears has?”

Ban clenches his fist.  “I cannot betray my own people to the Wyld Hunt.  No one deserves to be hunted like an animal.  ”

“Don’t think of it that way.”  You say.  “Think of it as bring a rapist and murderer to justice.”

“If you assist Tears, you are no better than he is.”  Aiko adds.

“You took a risk revealing yourself to us.”  You say.  “No matter what you decide, you will be allowed to leave the room.” Aiko glares at you, but you ignore her.   There has been enough death.  You rather not turn Ban in to the Wyld Hunt if he was serious about peace.  “But we cannot let Tears go free to rape and murder someone else.”

“So your people will bring Tears the Grass to justice and he will be held as yet another example of how my people are monsters.”  Ban grimaces and opens the window.  “This was a waste of time.  I don’t need your permission to leave this room or this manse.”

“No, but you will not leave the Blessed Isle alive.”  Here in the center of Creation, Ban is furthest from the Wyld that conceals him from the Loom of Fate.   The other Sidereals will find him and hunt him down.  “Some of your people are monsters…. But some of my people are too.”  Elder Kejak is willing to use anything and anyone, including you, to achieve his goals.  “If you truly want peace, then you must live, Ban.  Sacrificing your life to save Tears will do no one good.”

Ban is silent as he considers your words.  “You said my people,” He points out quietly.  “Not our people.  One of you isn’t Dragonblooded.”

Your heart pounds at your unintentional slip.  Now would be a bad time for you to be revealed as a Sidereal.  You attempt to look confused.

“The question I have is”  Ban whispers.  “are you the puppet or the puppet master?”   He searches each of your faces trying to discern the hidden Sidereal.  He sighs.  “It doesn’t matter.   I wouldn’t remember who I was talking to anyway.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”  You shrug at Aiko.

Ban smiles.  “Of course you don’t, boy.  We’ve had young exalts before, why not the Sidereals too?  Perfect age to hide you among the Dragon children.  The illegitimate granddaughter of the Shogun who suddenly appears?  The foreign exchange student in the Shogun’s granddaughter’s circle?  Is your hair really scarlet?”  Ban runs his hands though his own hair.  “Shit.  It must be you, boy.  You were with the Shogun’s granddaughter.   Here we are playing at Shogun making and your elders are already looking to the Shogun after.  Hell, I was outside the window trimming the hedge when they were discussing the Mayim boys.  I thought the old bag choose the wrong one, cause Luna knows that kid isn’t interested in girls.  “

“What are you talking about?”  Now you are truly confused….and suspicious.  “Chiyoko doesn’t even want to become Shogun.”

“And why would her desires matter?”  Ban’s eyes dart around as ideas come to him.  “They said the youngest was closest in age to the girl, but they cleared the way for you.  “

You grip the handle of your sword.  “You don’t know what you are talking about.  You know nothing about Chiyoko and I.”  The threads of fate vibrate with impending of violence.

“Svante!”  Aiko glances back at the door of the storage room.   “Calm the fuck down or else we will all die here.”

The Lunar ignores you.  Words keep flowing as he makes the connections.  “Venus is the maiden of love.  Who better to bring lovers together?  Who better to be a puppet master of a Shogun than a Shogun’s lover?”

“Shut the fuck up!”  You draw your sword with the Speed of Mercury.  The Lunar dumps a stack of crates to block you.   He grabs your wrist and shoves you into a shelf.  Your sword clangs to the ground.

“Of course, we fight a lunar the week my blood ape is killed.”  Aiko curses as she retrieves your sword.

“I’m not going to hurt him.”  Ban reassures her.  “Unless you force me to.”

“Fuck what the old man said.”  Aiko mumbles under her breath.  “I knew I should have summoned another blood ape last night.”  She holds your sword and waits.

“Boy,”  The Lunar whispers in your ear.  “You are right.  I am sincere in my desire for peace.  I want no more Quos.  Remember I could have killed you in this moment.  Remember I decided not to tell my elders of your plans.  “

“Let me the fuck go.”  You spit.  You struggle against the Lunar’s grasp.

“But most of all, remember me when your lover comes to the throne.  Look for Ivory Ban in the Wylds where the waters meet the ice.   Hope I am in a good mood when we meet, for I will not remember you.”  Ban glances back at Aiko.  “The Earth Aspect is being held in a cell off the secrets tunnels behind the apartment’s kitchens. ”

A jade-clad fist pounds on the door.

“It’s the only cell in this area, so the guards should take you there.”   The Lunar releases you and turns into a dragonfly.  You reach out to snatch the insect out of the air, but the Lunar rises above your hand.  A stone bolt rips though the dragonfly’s wing and impales the Lunar to the wall.

“That has to be the stupid thing you have ever done.”  Aiko hands back your sword.  “’Let’s let the Lunar get away with all our secrets.’”  She mocks in a sing-song voice.

“Shut the fuck up.”  You hiss.  “I didn’t let the Lunar go anywhere.”

“You mean I didn’t let the Lunar go anywhere.”   The Dragonfly kicks in legs and struggles against the stone bolt.

“You just stood there like an idiot while the Lunar attacked me.”  You retort.

“What did you expect me to do?  He disarmed you and you are a much better swordsman than I.”

The heavy boots kick the door.  Bolts in the hinges shake but hold fast.   The guards will be in the room in moments.

What do you do?

  • Blame the Lunar. Point at the dragonfly on the wall and say it is the hidden Lunar.
  • Let them arrest you. Maybe the Lunar is right and will take you to the cell Shamira is held.
  • Step out of fate and have Aiko deal with the guards
  • Step out of fate and have Aiko hide on the window ledge
  • Other

(Back in Chapter three, I had Kejak run two different schemes on Svante and Akachi.  The first was Kejak working with Svante about sorcery.   The other was Kejak working with Akachi for setting Svante up as the new liaison for the Shogun.  )

(There may or may not be vampires kicking down the door.)

154 – Dealings

“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.
  • Other

 

 

 

 

153 – Study Buddies

“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.”

“Why?”

“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.
  • Other

152 – The Procedure

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.
  • Other

 

151 – Trust Issues

Akachi is undercover.  You remember his whispering caution when you warned him about the Lunar infiltrator.  You wipe your sweaty hands on your robes.  You want to go with him, but you presence would compromise his cover.  You do not want to make your guardian choose between your safety and the mission.  Akachi would choose you.  This feverish insight does not bring you calm.  You do not want to be the reason the Shogunate purges into civil war.

“Don’t touch me.”  You cringe from the strange mortal sorcerer that is Akachi’s resplendent destiny.  “I want my uncle.”

Akachi’s face is blank.  “Is that what you want, boy?”

Nimishema is less of an actor.  “Don’t let him do this.  He will be much safer with us than with him.”

“Nimi…”  Akachi warns.  He rises and instead of returning to the twins, he faces the two figures approaching the crowd.   “The boy is ill.”  The three words convey an accusation rather than information.  Akachi withdrawals to the twins.  Nimishema stays by your side, her pupil-less sapphire eyes on Elder Kejak.

Elder Kejak knees and with cold fingers, probes the skins around your wound.  His eyes grow distant as he reviews the possibilities.

Lung Guanyu takes in the state of his daughter.  He removes his outer cloak and throws it around her shoulders.  “Can the boy walk?”

“Little brother, I was on my way to see you.”  Hayate smiles.  “Have you heard the news? Akane is dead.”

Chiyoko eyes widen and she pulls her father’s cloak closer.   The secretary pauses in his examination and looks up at Hayate, mouth agape.   He knew, you realize.  You lean back against the wall.

“I heard.”  Guanyu replies.  He is more interested in your situation than with Hayate’s news.

Elder Kejak frowns when Chiyoko’s father reveals this.  The Elder Sidereal digs in his pocket for a metal flask.  He uncorks it.  The sweet fragrance of Celestial Wine makes you sigh.  It reminds you of happier times in the Celestial City.  You want to go home.

“Just a sip.”  You cough as the heavenly nectar evaporates on your tongue.   You lick your lips and feel weak but a bit livelier.  Elder Kejak tucks the flask back into his pocket.

“This is good news!” Hayate proclaims.  “We are averting war.”

Guanyu turns on his heel and confronts Hayate.  “I do not find the death of our sister to be good news.”

“Guanyu, don’t be so naïve.”  The fire aspect with the ash streaked hair cautions.  “We are Lung.  You will not live long if you let familial loyalty stand in the way of ambition.”

“Now, Yin,” Hayate puts an arm around Yin’s shoulder.  “let’s not shatter our little brother’s innocence.”

With a finger, Aiko’s father pushes Hayate’s arm off him.  “Do not touch me.”  To Guanyu, he says, “Something dangerous lurking in the passages.  What else can you tell me about it?”

“It’s a chimera.” You say.   There is no point in keeping this secret.   If Yin is going to hunt the monster down, he will need to be prepared.  “It moves like quicksilver and can break off into pieces.   We were hiding further down the hallway from its main body when it attacked us.”

“A chimera,” Yin smirks.  “I always wanted to face a chimera.”

“You should bring Sujay with you.  He has experience with hunting Lunars.” Guanyu advises.

Yin snorts at his little brother’s suggestion.  The sound of running feet echoes down the hall.  Aiko sprints down the hallway with Masaru and Yi not far behind.  All are dressed in full armor.  “No time like the present to start the hunt.”  Yin pushes his way through the crowd around Hayate.

Aiko stops halfway and watches her father retreat though the crowd, her expression unreadable.  Masaru and Yi approach.  “Chiyoko, we have been looking everywhere for you!  These secret passages are confusing!”

“My lord, I do not mean to interrupt, but the boy needs a doctor “  The secretary wrings his hands

“Go along, little brother.”  Hayate shoos him off.  “We can talk about coronation plans later.”

“Mother is still alive.”  Guanyu points out.

“Yes, but we must do everything we can to ensure a smooth transition.”

Guanyu clenches his fist.  You are afraid Chiyoko’s father wishes to discuss the coronation plans now.

“Lord Guanyu,”  Elder Kejak interrupts,  “I will appreciate your help getting him back to his room.”

Guanyu makes an effort to relax his fist.  He bends down to pick you up.  Your head spins and your stomach turns as Chiyoko’s father rotates on heel away from his older brother.  Even Elder Kejak, with his long legged strides, has trouble keeping up.

Finally, Guanyu slows down.  “Chiyoko, I find it interesting that your fiancé and the rest of your circle are in full armor, while you and your friend are not.”   Guanyu glances down at you when you tense at his words.

Chiyoko trails behind her father, keeping out of his sight.  “Armor is too noisy for the passages.”  She explains.

“You should be in the passages in the first place.”  Guanyu counters.   “Chiyoko, are you admitting to a lesser crime to cover up for a greater one?”

Chiyoko sighs.  “I was showing Svante the passages and we were attacked by a chimera.  We barely escaped with our lives.”

“A partial lie is still a lie, Chiyoko.”

“Are you using charms on me, father?” She rolls her eyes.  “I almost died tonight and you are using charms on me!”

“I can carry Svante from here.”  Elder Kejak offers.  He is ignored.

“I wouldn’t have to use charms if you would stop taking dangerous risks. “  Guanyu yells.  You really wish someone else besides Chiyoko’s father had carried you.

“Are they really going to argue in the middle of the hallway?”  Masaru asks.

“I’ve been in the passages thousands of times and nothing ever happened!”  Chiyoko shakes her fist to make her point.

“Looks like it,” Aiko replies to Masaru.

Elder Kejak speeds up his steps.  He unlocks his door and holds it open.  “We are here.”  His sentence puts an end to the conversation.  Mei Mei runs out of the room and shadows Guanyu’s steps as he puts you on the bed.   Mei Mei licks your face clean of sweat.  Elder Kejak heads to the bathroom to clean up.

“Chiyoko, we should go.”  Guanyu says in a calm voice.

“No,” Chiyoko disagrees.  “I’m staying here.”

“Lady Chiyoko, you should go.”  Elder Kejak emerges out of the bathroom, drying his hands.

“I am not leaving him alone.”  Chiyoko stares down the Elder Sidereal, the chimera’s blood splattered across her face.  You never loved her more than in this moment.

“We are all staying,”  Masaru says.  “Svante is a member of our circle.”

“The secretary can not do his work with all of you in the room.”  Guanyu thinks for a moment.  “One of you may stay at a time.  You can trade off in shifts.”

Elder Kejak does not look pleased at this compromise, but inclines his head in agreement.

Chiyoko pulls up a chair to the bed.  She holds your hand.  Her father glances at Masaru, who has no reaction to this.  Lung Guanyu shakes his head.  “Come along, children.”  They leave the room.

Elder Kejak moves a second chair closer to the bed.  He spins towards the closed shutters, expression wary.  The shutters separate to admit a fleshy appendage with a sapphire eye at the tip.  Chiyoko rises and draws her sword.   She stands by the Elder Sidereal.   He pushes her sword aside.  “You will not need that.”  He addresses the protruding flesh.  “Go back to your master, demon. You are not wanted here.”

Many tendrails of flesh emerge from the shuttered window.   It drops to the floor.  Bone crack and skin ripples as the Neomah reforms herself.  Nimishema rises naked and tucks a stray eyeball back into its socket.  She reshapes her skull as a woman styles her hair.  “I do not care what you want, Sidereal.  I am not bound to you.   You do not give me orders.”

“That can change, demon.”  Elder Kejak threatens.

Unperturbed by Elder Kejak’s threats, Nimishema smiles.  “Akachi believes you may need assistance with the boy.  I believe you cannot be trusted with the boy’s safety.”  Her fingers extend and form into various medical implements.  “I will extract the Wyld parasite from his body.  You will leave and repair the tattered remains of your schemes.”

Instead of offended, Elder Kejak studies the Neomah.  “Why, Nimishema?  You barely know the boy, yet you threaten me?”

The demon walks over to the bed.  Your caste mark burns on your forehead and you can barely keep your eyes open.   She plays with a wavy lock of your hair.  “They may not share blood, but this is a true child to Akachi.  He blames himself for what has happened.”  Nimi gives Chiyoko a small smile and removes her hand.  “Now leave, Sidereal.  Let me care for my master’s son.”

“No,”  Elder Kejak turns away from the demon and takes a glass jar out of his bag.  “You may stay and observe to reassure Akachi that Svante is safe.”

“Go.”  The demon orders.

What do you do?

  • Tell Kejak to leave
  • Tell Nimishema to leave
  • Have them both stay
  • Other

 

 

 

 

142 -Blowhards

You turn to Elder Kejak, silently pleading with him to get you out of this mess.  Now, if any time, would the perfect moment to break character and take charge of this discussion.   You have seen Elder Kejak end an argument with a single look.

The secretary clears his throat.  “Lady, Indarni, as I said earlier, I don’t have the authority to agree to any marriage contracts on Svante’s behalf.”

You groan and slam your head into the edge of the table.  Fucking adults are useless.

The Shogun’s secretary continues in that annoying reedy voice.  “I can bring your proposal back to my….”

“I’m not marrying anyone, you hag.”  Aiko glares down the table at the ancient Air Aspect, fork gripped in her hand like a spear.

The air cracks with static electricity, standing your hair on its end.  “Ungrateful child, if it wasn’t for Lady Chiyoko and her father, you would not be sitting at my table.  You are in no position to turn down any match.”

You open your mouth to say something, but Elder Kejak puts his hand on your arm.  He shakes his head no and watches the two Dragonblooded quarrel.  Mei Mei leaps upon your lap and shivers.

“I don’t care if you match me with the Immaculate Dragons themselves.”  Aiko declares.  “I will not be bred like a dog.”

“Blood always tells.  This ill breed child will end up just like her mother – a traitor.”   The breeze picks up, sending the crystal glassware tumbling down the table.  Masaru and Yi retreat to under the table.   Chiyoko grabs Aiko’s hand and whispers in her ear.

Aiko ignores Chiyoko and stands up, knocking her chair over.  “I am nothing like my mother.”

A red paper crane flutters though the brisk breeze surrounding Raijin Indarni.  Reva plucks it out the air and unfolds it.  “Mother, you have a message.”

“Hui and the rest of the northern gents have loose morals.  The next Shogun needs to go north and bring the Dragonblooded in the whole direction into line.   The lack of discipline among the legions there is an affront to the Immaculate….”

“Mother!” Reva interrupts.  “The Shogun has requested your presence.”

The winds falter.  Indarni closes her eyes.   “Tell her I will be there.”  She replies in a soft tone.   She picks up Ling Ling and heads for the door.

“Lady Indarni?”  Chiyoko approaches the ancient Air Aspect.  “May I come with you?”

Indarni nods.  “Zheng will be pleased to see you.”  Long robes swirling, she leaves the room.  Chiyoko and surprisingly Aiko, follow.

Masaru pops his head out from under the table.   Seeing his grandmother has left the room, he motions it is clear to his brother and sits back down at the table.

The secretary sighs and picks a piece of crystal out of his teacup.  “Who’s ready for dessert?”

What do you do?

  • Follow Chiyoko and Aiko to see the Shogun
  • Stay with Elder Kejak and talk to Reva
  • You have had enough “Politics” for one day. Excuse yourself and explore the manse.
  • Other

 

141 – Bloodlines

You glance at Elder Kejak and see the Secretary frowning in confusion.  Only his eyes betray his Resplendent Destiny as he observes Indrani .   Perhaps you only notice because you know the true man, not the false identity.  His eyes met yours and Elder Kejak gives you a slight nod.

You wipe your mouth with a napkin and clear your throat.   Best keep the conversation to cultural details.  Nothing mission related.   “I went tarantula hunting with the local children while I was there.   We cooked them over an open fire until all the hairs burn off.”

“Tarantulas….”  Indrani  pets Ling Ling and muses over the idea of eating spiders.  “I don’t think I have ever tried Tarantulas.  What do they taste like?  How did the children fare on such food?”

You remember the children starving, but you will not give mission details out.  “They looked okay.  The spiders taste like crab, though the taste isn’t as strong.”  Masaru kicks you under the table.   Out of the corner of your eye, you catch Chiyoko shaking her head at you.   You frown when you realize you might have condemned your friends into eating spiders.  “Not a lot of meat on them.  It wasn’t worth the effort to be honest.”

“I see.”   Indrani offers Ling Ling a tidbit of fish.   You think of something else to add, but your mind blanks.  Making conversation is hard.   The only thing you could think of was joking about tasting Alhat’s actual gems.   You doubt this is the appropriate audience for that joke.

“I heard a rumor the mortals hunt whales out in the far west islands.”  Masaru prompts you.  “Did you hear anything about that?”

You seize on the topic.  “Yes!  I participated in a coming of age ritual involving whale hunting.”

“With the Island Villagers?”   Indrani scoffs at the notion.  “No mortal can hunt a creature so large.”

“It’s true.”  You assure the Ancient Air Aspect.   “They have spears attached to their boats with long ropes.   You leap into the air off the boat and drive the spear into the whale’s flesh.  Other spear-carriers attack the whale.   The whale pulls the boat and tires out.”

“Clever!”  Reva approves.

“Did you come up with the idea?”  Indrani asks.

“No, ma’am.”   You replied confused.  “They have been hunting whales like that for generations.”

“Some Mayim must have taught them how.”   The old woman smiles at you.  “I’m sure the mortals were glad to have the support of an Exalt for their whale hunting.”

If it were not for the interference of gods and Exalts, the islanders would not have needed your help with the whale hunt.   You did not like the implication the islanders were incapable of hunting whales without an Exalt to show them how.   You look down at your plate.   You have lost the taste for your food and this conversation.

“Lady Indrani, you have barely let my nephew eat.”  Elder Kejak nods at you in approval.  You relax and try to finish your plate.   “I’m curious why you are paying him so much attention.”

Indrani chuckles.  “You got me, secretary.   Or rather I got you.”   She motions with a wizened hand to Yi, Masaru’s older brother.  “Bring me the Lung Bloodline scrolls.”  The air aspect nods and climbs a ladder to a large shelf of scrolls.   “I have done much work the Dragonblooded Bloodlines since the Shogun gave me domain over the marriage contracts.  No Dragonblooded marries without my approval.”

Aiko snorts at this.  Chiyoko plays with her food a small smile.   Masaru stares off at nothing.  He has obviously heard this speech many times before.  Reva watches her mother, her face carefully blank.

“No!  That’s Ling Ling’s Pedigree!  Two shelves down!”   Yi brings her the correct scroll- an ornate red jade container with orange tassels swinging from the tips.   Reva clears the dishes off the table to make room.

“Gent Lung.”   Indrani unrolls the scrolls to reveal a family tree going back centuries.   Indrani traces the line from the current Shogun to Lung Guanyu, a youngest son of the Shogun, who married a distant cousin, and finally to Lung Chiyoko.   “A bloodline of brutes and warlords.   Wasting their lives before bearing their heirs.  Wasting their seed on unworthy, treacherous partners. “   Aiko’s name branches off the oldest son, a Lung Yin, though her mother’s name is blank.   “When Zheng became Shogun, she put a stop to this.”

“Intelligence.  Beauty.  Fertility.  Purity of blood.  These are the characteristics I breed for.   Sometimes politics interferes, but it is how these three children here came to be.”   She smiles at that end of the table.   None of the children met her eyes.

“Hmmm….”  The secretary gives the scroll a polite look over.   “I don’t see how any of this has to do with Svante.  Gent Cnead isn’t known for its purity of blood.  Svante would be poor breeding material for your bloodlines.”

Indrani shakes her finger.  “Don’t play coy with me, Secretary.  I’ve heard you complain about not enough Sidereals to be everywhere needed in Creation.  I’ve had my people do a census on your people.”  You and Elder Kejak exchange a look.  A census?

“According to our calculations there are exactly 832 Sidereals.”  Indrani  states.

“Approximately 832 Sidereals.”  Reva corrects.

“Bah.”  Indrani  waves her daughter’s correction off.    “We found our way around that little Arcane Fate issue.  Our methods are sound.   ”  Reva frowns at her mother, but says nothing.

“My elders would be greatly interesting in your methodology.”  the Secretary says.   You are sure that Indrani’s methodology is destined to be filed in the incense burner.   832 Sidereals!    If only, there were that many!  “That still doesn’t explain your interest in Svante.”

“This boy is proof!  Do you know how many Sidereal children we have found in our research?”

Elder Kejak sighs.  “I’m sure you are about to enlighten me.”

“One.”  Indrani  points at you.   The whole table looks at you.   You squirm under their gaze.  “One child with Fire Aspect markings.  You have been experimenting with combining our Bloodlines with your own!”

What?  What the fuck is this old bat talking about?    You look at Elder Kejak in a panic.  He ignores you as he processes this new information.   Was this a situation not even he considered?  How could he?  A Sidereal Exalts reincarnate, they do not carry down though bloodlines.   Where did Indrani get this idea?

“Your bloodlines are failing.   You overprotect your children because your people have only managed to produce one this generation.   And you had to breed with the Blood of the Dragons to conceive this one.”

You remember a long boring lunch you shared with Akachi and Elder Kejak a few months ago.   The Immaculate texts mention Solars and Lunars but not Sidereals.  Yet, Akachi favored telling the Dragonblooded the truth about Sidereals.   He believed an open honest policy was best.  Elder Kejak disagreed.  He argued that the less the Dragonblooded knew about Sidereals the better.  Moreover, the rest of the Elder Council agreed with him.  You had a suspicion that Akachi let you be open with your friends because he wanted to test this hypothesis.

In the absence of information, Indrani would come to her own conclusions.   “I thank you for using Gent Cnead in your experiment and not interfering with my own work.  If you came to me, I could have helped you directly.  “

“While your offer is very generous, I do not have the authority to make any decisions without consulting my elders.”  The Secretary replies.  You could just imagine Akachi’s face when he hears about this.

“Do talk to your elders.   I’m getting old, Secretary.  I won’t be around much longer to help you.”  She hugs Ling Ling to her chest and sets the dog on his pillow.  “Secretary, you are a young man.   Are you married? ”

“Mother!”  Reva interrupts.  “Please stop discussing marriage contracts over dinner!”

You cover mouth to keep from laughing aloud at Elder Kejak’s predicament.  Elder Kejak’s stare kills your laughter.

“Grandmother?”  Masaru interrupts, looking at you.  “Have you considered a political marriage between a Sidereal and a Dragonblooded?”   You kick Masaru under the table.

Hope blossoms in Chiyoko’s eyes.  “Yes.  The Sidereals are some of Gent Lung’s strongest allies.  It makes political sense to bring them into the Gent.”

Are Masaru and Chiyoko trying to use you to break their engagement?  You consider the implications of this.  You like Chiyoko a lot, but thirteen is a bit young to be considering marriage.  Frankly, arranged marriages are stupid.   And breeding people like dogs gives you the creeps.

“Masaru, you are not getting out of your betrothal.”  Reva stresses.  Masaru slumps into his chair in defeat.

“No, of course not.   Chiyoko and Masaru are definitely getting married.  Zheng and I have waited a long time to bring our bloodlines together.”  Indrani returns to the nonexistent Sidereal bloodlines.   “While we know the Blood of the Dragons enhances the Sidereal bloodlines, we don’t know their effect on our bloodlines.”

“Now, Indrani …”  the Secretary objects.

“Don’t worry, Secretary.   We will not dishonor you with mortal blood.  We just need to find a suitable match.  Someone with pure blood, yet who is politically unmarriageable….”   She looks to Aiko has spent the entire conversation hiding her head in her arms.  She looks up with tears of laughter in her eyes.  Her amusement dies when she sees Indrani’s regarding her.

“Wait….”  The horror of what Indrani is implying dawns on you.    “You don’t mean Aiko and me?”

What do you do?

  • No no no no no no no
  • Reveal the truth about Sidereals. There are no bloodlines.  All of Indrani’s research is useless.
  • Let Elder Kejak handle it. Now would a good time for him to break character.
  • Explain how your views on arranged marriages and how stupid they are.
  • Other

((Great to be back!   ))