161 – Another Way

Ignoring Kejak’s sword, you step up to Tears the Grass.  You know this man’s crimes.  If anyone deserved to die, it was Tears the Grass.  As Kejak said, Tears actions made your job easier.  You make the mistake of meeting the Lunar’s eyes.  The Lunar’s pupils were wide with fear.  Those dark pits pleaded with you.  Begged you for mercy.  You look away.

Judging a man to die is easier than carrying out the sentence.  You were responsible for Duri’s death, yet you could console yourself her was an accident.  With Tears the Grass, there will be no excuses.  Your hand will end his life.

Tears struggles again.  Haytham tightens his grip.  The dim emerald light of the Oracle’s arms break the moonlight of Tears’ anima.  Your eyes meet Haytham’s.  Now you are the one begging and pleading.  One swift motion and the older Sidereal could break Tears’ neck.  Haytham could save you from this task.  Instead Haytham breaks eye contact.  He stares straight ahead, as if you had stepped outside of fate.

You want this to be over.  You want to be back home in Yu-Shan where the most difficult thing you had to do was lie to the Owl about your homework.

Those days were over.  You place the tip of your sword on Tears’ chest.  You shift your weight and lean in.  There is a moment of resistance as the blade slides off a rib and into the Lunar’s heart.  You feel Tears the Grass’ thread of fate snap.  The Lunar slumps.  His anima fades.

You release the sword and leave it in the body.  Haytham drops the corpse to the floor.

“Pick up your sword, Svante.”  Kejak orders, as if you left dirty laundry on the floor.

You place your foot on the still warm body and withdraw the blade.  Blood drips onto the floor.

You drop the sword and bolt.

“Svante!” Sasha calls out.

You run.  You turn corner after corner.  Time loses all meaning.  Out of breath and lost, you stop.  You double over and puke.  You empty your stomach and continue dry heaving long after you run out of breakfast.

When you catch your breath and calm your stomach, you notice Sasha by your side.  She rubs your back, mummuring soothing sounds.  Because what could she say?  ‘It’s going to be okay?’ That would be a lie.  It won’t be.  It will never be okay.  You wipe your mouth with your sleeve and slide down the wall.

Sasha kneels beside you.  “I was nineteen.” She starts.  “It was my first mission.  I was assigned to assist a Wyld Hunt.  There was a Lunar hiding on one of the Western Islands.  I was to watch the islanders for any odd behavior and report to the Wyld Hunt Commander.  At first, I was lonely, but I made a friend at the restaurant I worked at.  Her name was Lina.  I never had a female friend my own age before.  Her life seemed so foreign to mine.  She talked about her mother.  Her fiancé.  Her hopes and dreams.  I told her about you.”  Sasha smiles.  “You were the only part of my life that was normal.  That I could talk about.”

“One day, Lina seemed distracted.  I asked what was wrong, but she said nothing.  We went about our day and I grew suspicious.  I…I sent a message to the Wyld Hunt Commander.  I hoped it would be nothing.  That she would say her mother was sick or something. “

“The Lunar, cornered, took me hostage.  Her plan was to escape on the next boat off the island.  Sasha’s voice escapes.  “I played the part of the frightened island girl well.”

“You killed her.”

“Yes, she didn’t realize I was the true threat until it was too late.  I stared as she bleed out, believing I had avenged my friend.”  Sasha shivers.  “But Lina was my quarry the whole time.  She played me and when the time came, she was willing to kill me.  I thought she was my friend, but instead she was a monster. “  Sasha hugged herself.  “If I wasn’t a Sidereal, I’d be dead.”

Footsteps approach.  Kejak appears, carrying your sword.   “We need to leave.  The Secretary will be needed for the Coronation and Chiyoko will be looking for Svante.”  Kejak hands back your sword, clean of blood.  You stare at it for a moment.  Then you take it and replace it in its scabbard.

“Sasha, I need you to help manage Admiral Mayim’s men.  Meru was not ready to handle not one, but two legions.  Hayate’s legions surrendered when he was revealed to be a Lunar imposter.”  Sasha hesitates, not wanting to leave you along.  “Go on, Sasha.  I need to talk to Svante before we go.”

After Sasha leaves, you and Kejak study each other in awkward silence.  The stench of your vomited breakfast saturates the passage.

“Svante, I know you are unhappy with me right now, but know you did the right thing.  If we are to preserve Creation, the Lunar had to die.”

You say nothing.  You know Tears the Grass had to die, but not for the reasons Kejak believes.  If it wasn’t for Akachi, Sasha, and the Owl, you would be long gone.

Kejak is unflustered by your silence.  He reveals a black memory stone in his hand.  “When we meet next Jupiterday, I have this to give you.  It’s the memory you requested.  I believe you are mature enough to understand what is going on now.  “

The Memory stone of the Elder vote on ending your life.  Apparently, killing Tears the Grass was a test.  A test you passed.  Finally, you have something to say.  “Aiko will be there.”

“You can stay late.  We still need to answer the question of your young Exaltation.  I doubt Aiko can assist us in this matter.”

“Or you can give it to me now.”  You hold out your hand.  You want to spend as little time as possible with this man.  Kejak hesitates.

“I did what you asked,” you remind him. “I know the Lunar needed to die.”  Kejak didn’t need to know your personal feelings on the matter. Not yet.  “I’m fucking pissed you made me kill him, but you are right.  It had to be done.”

Kejak weighs the stone in his hand, deciding.  You try a different approach.  “Look, if there is anyting in that memory that would make me angry, you might as well give it to me now.  Get everything over with all at once.”

Kejak considers this and drops the stone in your hand.  You can feel the edges of the memory.  The taste of green tea.  Akachi arguing.  “Do not show this to anyone.”  Kejak orders.

“I won’t.” You promise.  “I can watch it here and give it back to you now, if you’d like.”

“No, I trust you to keep your word.”  Kejak puts his hand on your shoulder.  “I’m proud of you, Svante.  Today, you proved to me you are a true hero of Creation.”

Despite yourself, you stand taller at the elder Sidereal’s complement.  “Thank you, sir.”

“Do not take too long.  There is much to be done.”  Kejak takes a deep breath of relief.  “It will be a long while before the Dragonblooded will trust a Lunar again.  We will have to alter the Immaculate Texts…”   Kejak muses.  “That will come later.  Clean up and find Chiyoko.”

You watch Kejak leave.  You squeeze the memory stone in your hand.   Part of you wants to throw it against the wall, but no.  This is your payment.  You bought this stone with Tears the Grass’ blood.  You focus your attention on the stone.

You stand by the window looking over downtown Yu-Shan.  A familiar merchant emerges though the Yatosin Gate.  You have not bought a bottle of wine since Ayesha left, yet you still make note of the merchant’s passing.  You take a sip of tea.

“I cannot believe this is even a discussion.”  Akachi raises his voice.  Akachi, ever the actor, could project loud enough to fill an auditorium.  Here in this small council room, the Joybringer’s talents are wasted. 

“I cannot believe you are willing to take such a risk.” Winona counters.  The Elder Chosen of Endings will not be swayed by any emotional appeal.  “This child has the power of Fate at his fingertips.  Who knows what chaos he could cause?”

“Svante is a good kid.”  Akachi reassures her.  “He only wants what is best for Creation.”

“I distrust a child’s judgement of what is best for Creation,” Meraud sits at the table, hands folded.  “No, Akachi, hear me out…”

“No, Meraud.  I can’t believe you of all people are considering this.  He’s a boy.”

“A boy.” Winona repeats.  “A little over a decade has been lost on this boy.  We can recycle his exaltation with little time lost.”

You consider bringing up the four decades before the boy’s birth.  And the decades you could spend waiting for the next incarnation.  Instead you wait.  Let the other argue it out first.

“I don’t like this any more than you do, Akachi, but we have all done things we regret for the good of Creation.”

“No,” Uilani finally speaks.  “This is different.  This is one of our own.  Our hands may be stained with the blood of countless children, but I draw the line here.  If we kill our own children, we are no different than the Solars we slayed.   I vote no.”

“Uilani,” Meraud tries to be reasonable.  “We haven’t finished our discussion….”

“I vote no.” Uilani repeats. 

“I also vote no.” Akachi says.  Wishing to keep up the momentum, Akachi turns to you.  “Chejop?”

You swirl the dregs of your now cold tea.  You walk over to the tea pot and refill your cup.

“Chejop…”  Akachi repeats.  You know you cannot delay the Joybringer any longer.

“I believe we should not make any decision in haste.”  You reply.

You feel the air of Akachi’s passing as he storms out of the room.   He slams the door behind him.

“He’s gone to hide the boy.”  Meraud observes.

“He will not go far.”  You assure her.  You know Akachi still has a few paintings he made for Tammiz at his lake house.  With the painting, Akachi could travel with the boy to the landscape depicted, leaving behind a blank canvas.  You are certain you could track Akachi and the boy if needed.  You have Tammiz’s notes on the spell.

“Has Jupiter said anything to you, Chejop?”  Uilani asks. 

“No, she has been silent on this matter thus far.”

“She has left the decision to us,” Winona declares.

You are certain Jupiter will let her wishes be known when it suits her.  “I wish to draw up the boy’s charts.”

“I’ve already done so.” Meraud says, hoping to bring the matter to a swift end.  “I didn’t see…”

“I trust you, Meraud, but another set of eyes never hurts.  I wish to explore all avenues before making my decision.”

“Why are you drawing this out, Chejop?”  Winona questions.  “The longer we wait, the more time Akachi has to hide the boy. 

“I have not voted yet.” You remind the Eldest Sidereal.  This discussion has gone far enough.  You leave the room.

Later in your office, you study the boy’s chart.  You run your long fingers along the onion skin thin paper, following the lines of the stars.

The Unconquered Sun ascends though the Mask at the boy’s birth.  Not the most auspicious placement, but unsurprising for a Chosen of Secrets.  The boy will shine light into the dark secrets of Creation. 

Surprisingly, Venus was also ascending though the Mask. 

Luna descends in the Guardians.  The boy shall have a knack for seeming more knowledgeable than he actually is. 

Jupiter ascends though the Gull.  The boy will learn, not from the wisdom of his elders, but from his own experience.   At least the boy’s Jupiter wasn’t descending though the Gull like Haytham’s. 

Saturn ascends though the Messenger.  The boy is persistent.  Not even death would drive him from his goal. 

Mars ascending though the Ewer.  Those with Mars in a house of Serenity tend to avoid conflict.  The boy must have a cause to rouse to fight.  This must be why Akachi encouraged the boy to think of himself as a hero. 

 Mercury was descending though the Corpse.  The boy was destined to travel though grief.  Perhaps an early death would be a kindness.

You can understand why Meraud voted the way she did.  This boy was driven by emotion.  Stubborn.   Not willing to accept the wisdom of his elders.   He will be difficult.  You will have to track Akachi down.  Make him see reason.  You throw the chart down on the pile of others you collected.   You are about to turn away to find your notes on Tammiz’s spell when the chart below Svante’s catches your eye.  

Though the translucent thin paper, you see the Venus of Svante’s chart is in conjunction with the Venus of the chart below it.  You slide the boy’s chart over to find Lung Chiyoko’s chart. 

Venus in the Mask.

A secret romance.

You are tempted to go ahead with your earlier decision.  Romance is volatile.  Love rarely steadfast. 

Yet the conjunction was strong.  You picture the boy.  You have seen him often in the marketplace, dragging Gatherer of Windborne Children by hand.  You remember his Fire Aspect Markings.   The markings will not deepen with age.  And if Svante had exalted Dragonblooded, this conversation would not be occurring.  Twelve was not an unusual age of Exaltation for a Dragonblooded. 

You retrieve the charts for the rest of the circle you are building for the Future Shogun.  Hui Aiko’s Jupiter is square with Svante’s Jupiter.  Not surprising.  That girl seems to be at odds with everyone.  Mayim Masaru’s Mars was also in the Ewer.  You added him to the circle to be a calming influence.

The Air Aspect you had chosen for Chiyoko’s fiancé will not do.  Politically the marriage makes sense, but half of Svante’s chart is in opposition to him.  You discard the chart.  Mayim Masaru may make a better Fiancé for Chiyoko.  Yes, the boy’s grandmother is difficult to deal with, but you know the woman has been striving to join her bloodline to the Shogun’s for decades. 

You stroke your beard, considering the options.  Blah.  You’ll let Akachi deal with that aspect.  You’ll have to let him in on your plans, if you are going to place the boy with Chiyoko’s circle.  Perhaps he can nudge the relationship from a romance…

A movement of Emerald cloth distracts you.  You look up to find Jupiter staring at you.

“The boy must live,” she declares with a smile.

You find Akachi in the empty Banquet room.  The spread of food for the Funeral Feast sits untouched.  Your guardian sits upon a window sill, looking out over Meru.  Legions of Dragonblooded march in the streets.  You sit across from him.

“How did the troops get to Meru so fast?”  You saw Admiral Mayim in the hallways on your way to the Banquet room.

“Haytham brought them though Yu-Shan.”

You digest this information.  “I didn’t know you could do that.”

“You couldn’t until I negotiated with the lions.  I wanted to bring Chiyoko and the others to Yu-Shan for your next birthday.  Haytham used the same procedure I created to bring in two legions worth of his ‘friends’. “  Akachi sighs.  “You’ll probably be a few centuries old before we can convince the lions to allow Dragonblooded to Yu-Shan.”

You smile weakly.  Akachi cocks his head, studying you.  “What happened?”

“Kejak…”  you pause.  He made me kill Tears the Grass you want to say. But saying it would make it too real.  Instead, you say, “He gave me the memory of the Elder Vote on my life.”

Akachi frowns. “How did you hear about that?”

You point at your forehead.  “I find things out.”

“I wouldn’t hold that vote against Winona and Meraud.  They don’t know you like I do.  Like Chejop does.”

“I know…”  You realize you don’t want to talk about the vote right now.  You need to watch the memory again.  Study it.  You changed the subject.  “What happened to you?”

Akachi stares out at Meru again.  “I killed the rabbit Lunar.”

“What?”  You are confused.  Then you realize he is talking about Tears the Grass.  But you killed Tears the Grass.  “You weren’t on the Wyld Hunt.”

“Might as well have been.”  Akachi explains.  “I convinced him it was a good idea to take Hayate’s place.  “

“You talked to him?”

“No.  I didn’t need to.  I just left pieces of the idea lying around.  A comment from one of the Twins.  A song from Nimi.  I’m good at implanting ideas for others to pick up and claim as their own.  It’s harder for an individual.  Much easier for an entire society.  Write a book.  Draw a manga.  In a few generations you got a cultural change.  “

“You didn’t kill Tears the Grass.  I did.”  You want to absolve your guardian.  You say it quickly, before you could think about the words coming out of your mouth.  You tell Akachi about what happened with Kejak.

Akachi continues to stare out the window.  “I’m sorry he did that to you.  He and the other elders do it to all my kids at some point.  Gives you a part in our stupid little war.”

“I know.  Sasha told me.”  You find Akachi… hopeless.  You expect anger from your guardian.  You expected an Elder Sidereal to be beyond doubt.  To have everything figured out.  Instead, Akachi was more lost than you were.

It frightened you.

Aiko’s words come back to you.  Are you a puppet or the puppetmaster?  You study your guardian and make a choice.

“I may have another way…” you start.

 

You find Chiyoko in her father’s office.  She watches him give orders, her face expressionless.   You watch her from outside of Fate.

“You did this,” you accused Akachi earlier. “You put us together.”

“We didn’t put you together.  Love doesn’t work like that.”  Akachi makes a forward motion with his hands.  “We just encouraged things.”

“So it’s fake.”

“No,” Akachi corrected.  “If someone sparks a fire, is the flame any less real?”  You consider this as Akachi continues.  “Chejop wanted to adjust your destinies to a less volatile relationship than romance.  Chejop is wary of love.  I told him to let events progress as fate intended.  I just smoothed things over.  You had less bumps at you both figured out love.”  Akachi leans closer.  “Do you want me to stop?”

Chiyoko’s eyes dart to the door each time someone walks in.  You approach her, slipping between the Dragonblooded in the crowded office.  “Come outside” you whisper in her ear.  She stands up and walks to the bookcase by the door.  When no one notices her movement, she sneaks out of the office.

You rush ahead and slip out of the door as she opens it.  You lean against the wall beside the door and step back into fate.  “Chiyoko,” you call her name.

She turns around.  “Svante.”  She breathes.  She takes a step forward and hugs you.  Chiyoko doesn’t cry.  She simply stands there.  She buries her face into your shoulder, breathing you in.

Chiyoko breaks away and grabs your hand.  “My Father is Shogun.”

“I know.”

She frowns.  “Where have you been?”  She scolds.  “I sent Masaru to look for you, but he couldn’t find you anywhere.  Aiko has been sitting with Shamira.   I’ve been stuck here all alone.  Some Eastern Air Aspect is trying to marry her son off to me.  My mother says I have to marry Masaru or one of his other brothers.  His father gathered as many men as he could pull from the Western Front to form a legion to bring here.  My mother’s legion had taken heavy losses….”  She stops.  “Are you okay?”

What do you say?

  • “No, but it is better now that you are here.” Tell her everything and you have a way to help her.
  • “Yes, everything is fine.” Tell her nothing.  You will need her for your plans and the less she knows the better.
  • “No, I think we need to break up.” Now that you know the truth about your relationship, you can’t be with Chiyoko anymore.
  • Other

 

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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

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

 

 

 

 

150 – Uncle

You run.

You follow the blaze of Chiyoko’s anima.   Your footsteps echo off the stonewalls of the passage.   You run until the moonlight glow behind you fades.

“Here!”  Chiyoko, anima fading, pushes the secret door open.   You emerge in an empty hallway.  You recognize where you are.  The roaring party you encountered earlier has settled into a somber murmur.

Adrenaline drains from your body and you waver.   You sword bounces to the carpet.  You reach for Chiyoko before you fall over.   She hisses when you grab her arm.  With her other arm, Chiyoko eases down to the floor.

“Your arm.”  You forgot she broke it earlier, her cast hidden by the long sleeves of her nightshirt.

“My arm is fine.”  She rips at your shirt, examines your wound, and frowns.  “Is there anything you can do about your shoulder?”

“My shoulder is fine.”  You rest your head against the wall.  “Actually, it doesn’t hurt at all.”  Your arm is still numb except for a strange tingling feeling.

“Svante, that isn’t a good thing.”

She’s right.  You concentrate on your numbness and push it away.  You cry out when the full pain of your wound hits you.

“Shhh…”  Chiyoko hushes you and glances over her shoulder in the direction of the ballroom.  “We need to get out of here.”

You focus on the pain and feel it drain away.  It took much more effort to duck away from your injuries than usual.  All that is left is the strange tingling feeling and a sense of unease.   You are still in danger, but from what?

“We need to go,” Chiyoko lifts you with her good arm.  “Aiko and Masaru are waiting by the staircase.”

“Elder Kejak.” You mumble.

“What?”

“My uncle.”  You correct yourself and continue in a stronger voice.  “He needs to be told about the Chimera, the Lunar, everything.”

“We will get into trouble.”  She whispers.

You grab the front of her nightshirt.  “We already are in trouble.”

Chiyoko nods.   She whispers a message to the Shogun’s Secretary, as she leads you down the hallway.  How long was it to the staircase?  It did not seem this long when you walked it earlier this evening.

“Chiyoko?” Chiyoko tenses at deep male voice calling behind you.   “What are you doing out so late?  Are you well?” The mocking tone wars with the words of concern.

“Let me handle this.”  Chiyoko turns around.   You lean against the wall.  A fire aspect in gleaming jade armor stands before you.  His orange hair shorn short and his skin glows red as an ember. Other Dragonblooded and their mortal entourage surround him.  Two silk clad fire aspect women, identical to the expressions of concern on their face, confer off to the side.  Another fire aspect, in battle worn armor, steps forward.  His expressionless face carries a scar from the top of his cheek continuing as a streak of ash though his garnet hair.   He loosens his sword and scans the hallway for threats.

“Uncle Hayate,” Chiyoko smiles in relief, though the tension does not leave her body.  “Svante and I got separated from our circle and we were attacked by something in the passages.”

Lung Hayate crosses his arms and stares down at Chiyoko.  “Chiyoko, what did I tell you about playing in the passages?  It’s dangerous down there.”

Chiyoko’s eyes do not leave her uncle’s.  “I’m sure my father will lecture me when he gets here.”

“My little brother has been too soft on you.  If you were my daughter…”  Hayate’s voice fades out as you focus on the other Dragonblooded.   One of the twins makes to go to you, but the red headed Dragonblooded shakes his head.   The twin frowns, but stays where she is.

Danger, danger, danger.   Too many people.  Too many things.  The Chimera did something to you.  Poison?   Perhaps, but that does not seem right.

You slide down the wall to the floor, but a hand stops you.  “My lord, this boy needs medical attention.”

“Akachi.”   You feel his cool hand on your forehead and look up at your guardian as you have never seen him.   Peacock feathers trail down his hair and his face painted with swirls.   Akachi wears little but a cloak over one shoulder, a silk cloth around his waist, and jewelry.

“Hush, child,“  says a voice as clear as a bell.  “Don’t waste your energy to speak.”  A Neomah kneels by your side and strokes your shoulder.  She extends her finger and shoves it into your wound.  You bite your lip from crying out again.   She removes her finger and watches your blood drip to the floor with a pensive look.  The Neomah licks it off the tip of her finger.   Everyone in the hallway is silent as she does this.

Chiyoko reacts first.  “What are you doing to him?”

“Mortal, get your demon away from the boy.”  Hayate orders.

“Mayura, come here.”  One of the twins holds out her hand as if Akachi was an errant child.

The Neomah ignores them all.  “There is something inside him that tastes of the Wyld.  It feeds off of his essence as a child feeds from its mother’s womb.”

Akachi brushes your hair over your forehead.  “How much time does he have, Nimi?”

“Sorcerer, I would not worry about the boy.  My doctors could see to him.”  Hayate nods to one of his entourage to pick you up.

“No!”  Chiyoko pushes the demon away and stands in front of you.  “My father will be here soon.  Thank you for your concern, uncle.   We will be fine. “

“Now, niece.  Don’t be obstinate.”  Hayate motions his fingers for Chiyoko to follow.  “Come along.  “

What do you do?

  • Go with Hayate and Akachi
  • Stay and wait for Guanyu and Elder Kejak
  • Other

((You found the hidden Akachi rabbit hole. ))

 

131 – Too Low

“Head to the Yu-Shan Gate.”  You sit at the navigation console and give Masaru the coordinates.  Afterwards, you sit and collect your thoughts.   Mei Mei settles in your lap.   You take a deep breath and rub the sweat off your face.  Then you summon an Infallible Messenger.

“Akachi,” you begin.  “Chuzei Enki is dead.   Lung Hayate is working with a Lunar named Lung Suri.  I think her tell is her buckteeth.  Lung Duri is dead.  I gifted her with the Broken Mask and the Lunar killed her.”  You send the spirit off.

The reply comes back almost instantly.  “Are you okay?”

No, you think.  You are not okay.  Two people died because of your actions.   Akachi’s voice is barely a whisper, but hearing it steadies you.   For once, you want to talk about the messed up jumble of feelings with Akachi.  Yet you do not know anything about his mission and if he is whispering, he must be where he can be overheard.

“We are fine.  We are on an airship headed to Yu-Shan.”   You close your eyes and remember the Lakehouse.   You will be going there soon.   It will be nice to relax and let the adults take care of Creation for a bit.  You can show Chiyoko and the others around the markets and the temples of Yu-Shan.

But first, you have to do what you can to help.  You ponder who else to tell about the Lunar.  Sasha most definitely.  She is with the Shogun.  Wanahton is with Admiral Mayim.  Yeva is with Akane’s legion.  Maidens, you dread talking to Yeva.   You lean back against the chair.   You are so tired.  Summoning another massager right now is beyond you.

“Svante,” Aiko swivels her chair around to face you.  “Was that woman another Sidereal?”

“No.”

Aiko asks another question.  “Who was she then?”

“I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

Aiko isn’t going to let it go.  “But…’

“I don’t want to talk about it!” you yell.  Mei Mei whines and stares at you.

The drone of the essence engines does little to fill the silence after your outburst.

“No, we are going to talk about it now.”  Chiyoko turns your chair around to face her.  She sits up, broken arm across her chest.  “We are going to talk about it now, because we can’t do our job if we don’t know what is going on.”

Do you have to do this now?  “Your job is to do what I say and I say leave me the fuck alone.”  You turn your chair back around and attempt to tune the others out.

Aiko barks out a laugh.   “No,” Chiyoko corrects.  “Our job is to protect you.”

What?  “I don’t need protection.”

“Please.”  Aiko says.  “Your anima doesn’t even burn and frankly…”  Aiko shuts up when Chiyoko stares her down.

“No, you are wrong.  It’s my job to protect you.”  You are a Sidereal.  Chosen of Jupiter herself.  “It’s my job to protect Creation and everyone in it safe.”

“Shit.  Chuzei Enki was right.”  Masaru mutters.

“What does that mean?”  You remember him saying that before.

“Svante, it is our job to protect Creation.  We are Dragonblooded.  It is your job to guide Creation.  To warn us about Creation’s dangers. To advise us on how to deal with them.”

“To tell us what the fuck is going on.”  Aiko interjects.  “I know you are a Chosen of Secrets, but gods, do you have to keep everything a secret?”

You think this over.  “That’s fine, but I don’t need protection.”

“It’s a numbers game, Svante.”  Masaru says.  “There are hundreds of thousands of Dragonblooded.   Only few hundred Sidereals.   You are harder to replace than we are.”

“I….”  you pause.  Logically, what they said made sense.   And it was worse than they thought.  There was only a hundred Sidereals at most and it could take up to fifty years for a new Sidereal to reincarnate.   “I don’t want you to die for me.”  You tell Chiyoko.

“Trust me.” Aiko crosses her arms.  “We don’t want to die for you either.   But when shit happens it’s your job to run your dim glow ass back to Heaven.  “

“Svante, look at me.”  Chiyoko rests her good hand on your cheek.  You stare in her warm orange eyes and remember the moment in the barn.  “Svante, you act like you carry Creation on your shoulders, but you aren’t alone.  You have us.”

“Let us help you.”   Masaru says.

“And we can’t help you if we don’t know what the fuck is going on.”  Aiko adds.   “Come on secret keeper.  Spill the beans.  Who was that bitch?”

“She’s not a bitch.” You start.  You make an effort to keep your voice steady.  “Her name was Lung Duri.  She was your cousin.  I shared my Arcane Fate with her and made her circle forget about her.”  Tears fall down your cheek.  “I killed her!  I wanted to save everyone, but I fucked everything up.”

“Dragons,”  Aiko curses.  “You are such an egotistical idiot.  You didn’t kill this Duri person.  The Anathema did.”

“Wait, what Anathema?!”  Masaru jerks the wheel as he looks back at you.  The Airship jerks with him.

“Masaru!”  Chiyoko clutches her broken arm.

“Sorry!”  He rights the ship and focuses on the sky ahead.

“You really need to learn Spirt Speech.  Svante just said there was a Lunar.  And that her tell was a buckteeth.  Sunan never had buckteeth.  So she was eaten by a Lunar ….or fucked a Lunar or…”

“We don’t need the whole list, Aiko.”  Mei Mei licks the tears off your chin.  Maidens, you hope Arcane Fate will make this conversation disappear.  “Just because I didn’t wield the sword doesn’t mean I cause her death.”

Aiko rolls her eyes.  “And maybe if Masaru hadn’t stopped for dumplings we wouldn’t have been captured. “

“You said you were hungry.”  Masaru retorts.

Aiko continues.  “As I said before.  Shit happens.  Stop wallowing in it like a pig.  You are no use to anyone sitting around mopping.”

You say nothing for a long while.  Aiko may be tactless, but she did have a point.   You have to pull yourself together.   You wipe your tears on your sleeve and run your fingers through your hair.

Aiko smiles as she watches you pull yourself together.  “See, you should listen to me more often.”

You grunt at red haired girl and notice that Chiyoko has been quiet during this exchange.   She looks lost in thought.   “Chiyoko, are you okay?”

“Can you really make Creation forget about people?”  Chiyoko asks.  There is an earnest, hungry look in her orange eyes when she asks this question.

“Yes, but there is always consequences to important people disappearing.”  You did not believe Elder Kejak when he told you this, but you do now.

She nods and hugs herself with her good arm.  You remember what the River Goddess said about Chiyoko.  You are about to ask if she is okay when Akachi’s reply returns.

“Do not go to Yu-Shan.  Land at the Lower Fields of Meru.  The Shogun’s Secretary will meet you there.  Forward all further messages to Elder Kejak.”  There is a pause in the message.  “I’m sorry, Svante.  I cannot risk my current Resplendent Destiny.  I have to go.  Stay safe.”

No Lakehouse then.   You sigh and tell Masaru to change course for Meru.

“What, we aren’t going to the city of gods?”  Aiko asks, disappointed.

“Meru is where the Lunar wanted to take us in the first place.”  Chiyoko points out.

“If we are needed in Meru, we should go to Meru,”  Masaru says.  He seems nervous and checks the weather report for the Mountain.

“Is everything okay?” you ask.

“It’s just that the winds are strong at Mount Meru.”

“Can you handle it?”

“Yeah…Sure.”   He fidgets with a knob on the control panel.  “It’s fine.”

You lean back in the chair and attempt to mediate.  If you are going to Meru instead of Yu-Shan you need to be in top condition.   Each time you clear your mind, images pop up.  Chuzei Enki lying dead in the mud.  Lung Duri spitting blood.

“Svante?  We are about to land.”   You shake your head.  You are unsure if you actually succeeded in mediating or just passed out from sear exhaustion.   You rub your eyes and see Mount Meru loom large in the window.   The skyship flies over the ruins of the city.

“There’s the field,” Chiyoko points out.

“That’s a field?”  Masaru squints at the patch of brown amongst all the gold and white.  “It doesn’t look very big.”

Mei Mei begins to bark.  You stare out the window, as the landing field grows closer.  A tall figure waits in the field.  “Svante, let your pilot know they are flying in too low.”  The messenger imitates Elder Kejak’s calm voice.

“We are coming in too low.” You say.

“I’m trying to pull up!”  Masaru says as he fights the wheel.

“The other pilot was able to land on the village street.”   Aiko says.

“The other pilot has years of experience!  I’ve never actually landed a Skyship before.”  Masaru admits.

“What?!”

“Masaru, you idiot!”

What do you do?

  • Bail! This ship has parachutes right?
  • Ask Elder Kejak for help. Maybe he knows of an easier field to land in.
  • Have Masaru retry the landing approach.
  • Other

109 – Shoes

You freeze when Idir offers you the sandwich.   You’ve been caught!  You imagine standing before Idir’s Sifu, the stern Winona.   There was no sympathy nor warmth in her cold gaze.  You are sure she voted for you to die.   You stay silent and pray to the Maidens that Idir goes away.

Idir holds up the sandwich only for a few moments.  He frowns.   “No wonder everyone thinks I’m crazy.  Talking to empty air.”   He tosses the sandwich into his bag.   Idir gathers up his belongings and leaves the room, locking the door behind him.

You wait for as long as you dare before you leave the room.   You poke your head out and search the hallway.  No one is there.  You lock the door behind you. You step out of fate and hurry home.

Through the window, you see Akachi and the Owl talking at the kitchen table.  You head around to the back of the manse.   With practiced efficiently, you climb the jasmine trellis to your room.   A few blossoms fall to the ground as you leap to the window ledge.   You open the window and find Mei Mei waiting for you.   Your shaggy black and white puppy prances around your feet as you step into your room.   You pick up your wild haired dog and set her on the bed.   Mei Mei enthusiastically licks your face as you hush her.   You empty your pockets of the blacken talisman, red envelope, pattern spider, and stray quintessence pieces.

Fully clothed you lay on the bed.  Mei Mei climbs onto your chest and makes herself comfortable.  You doze until you hear footsteps on the stairs.   You shake Mei Mei off, hurry under the covers, and close your eyes.  Mei Mei curls up next to your feet.

The door creaks open as Akachi checks on you.   Mei Mei lifts her head and wags her tail as Akachi enters the room.   Akachi scratches the puppy behind her ears and mutters. “Better let him get as much sleep as he can.”   Akachi turns to leave.   Then he stops just before the door to look back.  “Unless he isn’t asleep at all.”   The overhead light turns on, blinding you.  You groan and sit up in bed.

“I’m going to kill Keeper.”  Akachi mumbles.  “Where have you been?  Creation to see Chiyoko?  No, your shoes are too clean.”  You follow your guardian’s gaze to your shoe uncovered by the blanket.  Belatedly, you cover the offending shoe.   “Where were you?”  Akachi asks again.

“I went to the meeting about the Shogun.  The one I should have been invited to in the first place.”  You narrow your eyes, daring Akachi to be angry with you.   Your stomach grumbles.

Akachi bursts out laughing, pissing you off more.  “This isn’t funny!” You cross your arms.

“Come downstairs and I’ll make you something to eat.”   Akachi says as a peace offering.

You settle at the kitchen table as Akachi makes you a sandwich.  “Did anyone notice you?”  he asks.

“Idir thought there was someone behind him, but I stayed quiet and he went away.  Was there a reason why I wasn’t included in the meeting?”   You ask.

Akachi sets the sandwich down in front of you and sits down.  “A few.  This business with the Shogun has the potential to be very messy, but you have made it quite clear you rather know what is going on than not.”   Akachi smiles ruefully.  “I wanted you to be included, but I was overruled.   If I had known you were going to sneak in anyways, I would have brought you along in spite of what the other elders decided.”

“Oh.”   You swallow the bite of your sandwich.  “You aren’t mad at me?”

“I’m annoyed you tried something risky.  If you got caught, you would not be the only one with a lot of explaining to do.”   Akachi grimaces and sits back in his chair.  You get the impression Akachi does not want to tangle with Winona any more than you do.  “And I’m a little curious how you managed to get past the wards.  Wards aren’t part of Keeper’s domain, but for a god, he does have rather diverse interests.”

You fidget with your sandwich.  “I promised not to tell.”

“Hmm…”  Akachi is displeased by this response.  “You don’t owe anyone any favors, do you?”

“No, she offered me her assistance freely.”

Akachi rubs the bridge of his nose.  “Svante, even free help usually has a cost. ”

“I know I know!”   You push your plate away.   “Elder Kejak gave you a mission.  Are you going to be leaving like everyone else?”

“Yes, but the mission Chejop gave me wasn’t for me.”   Akachi pulls the red envelop and slides it over to you.   “It was for you.”

You stare at the envelope before you pick it up.  This was your third mission today.   You slide open the envelope and read the mission statement.

 

To: Svante Visscher, Chosen of Secrets

From: Chejop Kejak, Chosen of Secrets

You are to attend school with Lung Chiyoko’s Circle and protect them from harm.

Mission Profile: Lung Chiyoko, Mayim Masaru, and Hui Aiko are potentially valuable hostages against their parents and are at risk of kidnapping.  Attend school with them and make sure they do not come to harm.  Earth Aspect Enki Osamu will be your contact during this mission.  

Note:  This mission does not excuse you from your Denial of the Five Moons reading assignment. Please take this time to catch up on your reading. 

 

“What does it stay?” Akachi asks.

“I’m going back to school with Chiyoko.”  You hand over the mission.   “What are we going to do with Mei Mei?”   Mei Mei’s tail wags when you mention her name.

“Bring her with you.”  Akachi hands back your mission.  “Yeva can talk to Chuzei Enki to make an exception for you.”

“I don’t think that is going to work.”  Chuzei Enki was never the type to make an exception.

Akachi smiles.  “It will be fine.  Go pack.”

 

You march up the stairs to your Sifu’s apartment with Mei Mei in your arms and your gear packed on your back.   Akachi knocks on the door and when Yeva answers, her eyes brighten with pleasure.  She waves both you and Akachi in.

Clothing, weapons, and armor are scattered around Yeva’s Spartan apartment.   Sleek lines and soothing earth tones dominate the apartment except for a brightly colored abstract wall hanging above her couch.   Yeva leads you to her freshly cleaned kitchen – the tang of cleaning chemicals hangs in the air- and offers you and Akachi some juice.

“Will you have time to bring Svante to school?  I still have some things to do before I head to Meru.”

“Of course, but I’m pretty sure Svante already knows the way.”  Yeva winks at you.  “He doesn’t need me to escort him.”

Akachi takes a breath.  “I need you to talk to Osamu about Mei Mei.  Svante will be attending the school as a student for a while and need to bring the dog with him.”

Yeva grimaces.  “I doubt he remembers me.”

“He remembers you.”  Akachi assures her.   “He even asks about you.”

Yeva smirks behind her cup.  “This is a chance of tune, Akachi.  You used to suggest I not bother him.”

Akachi crosses his arms.  “Yeva, you wished to pursue a relationship with your father.   You can’t back out when things grow difficult.”

You choke on your juice when you hear that Chuzei Enki was Yeva’s father.

“Why?  People do it all the time.” Yeva counters.

Akachi crosses his arms.  “If Elder Kejak’s plan falls though, there will be war.   Your father is not young anymore, Yeva.   This may be the last chance you have to make peace with him.  If you don’t you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.  And Sidereals live a very long time.”  Yeva collects everyone’s cups and washes them in the sink.   “Osamu may be more receptive to you than you think.”  Akachi adds.

Yeva says nothing as she dries the cups and puts them in the cupboard.   “I’ll escort Svante to school.”

“And talk to your father?”

“Only because you’ll never let me hear the end of it if I don’t.”   Yeva smirks as she leads Akachi to the door.  “Now go.  Summon Nimi or whatever you have to do.”

That catches your attention.  “Who’s Nimi?  Is Nimi a demon?”

Akachi groans.  “I was hoping for Svante not to find out about Nimi.”

“Nimishema is Akachi’s Neomah.”  Yeva explains.

“You have a Neomah!”  You are shocked.  Akachi threatened to ground you for the next thousand years if you were caught summoning a demon, especially a Neomah.

“I inherited a Neomah.”  Akachi corrects.   “Nimi has been bound to too many Sidereals to let her go free.  And I have strictly professional relationship with Nimi.”

“And as Akachi is one of Heaven’s Courtesans, strictly professional can mean a great many things.”   Yeva snickers.

“You are giving Svante the wrong idea!” Akachi protests as he leaves the apartment.

 

“What happened between you and your father?” You ask Yeva as you walk through the streets of Vanchow in predawn light.  Mei Mei trots beside you, darting to and fro, sniffing around.

“I don’t know.  What happened between you and your birth family?”  Yeva retorts.

You bite your tongue to keep from saying something disrespectful to your Sifu.

“Sometimes I think I am a bad Sifu.  That was out of line.”  Yeva apologizes.  “I rather not talk about Enki Osamu.”

You nod and change the subject.  “What can you tell me about Akachi’s demon?”

“Nimi?  Akachi inherited her after the Usurpation.   Don’t get any ideas about summoning your own.”

“Ew.”  You have enough trouble with Aiko’s smelly Blood Ape.

Yeva pauses just outside of the gates of the school.  “Despite the teasing I gave Akachi about Nimi, he really does keep her on a short leash.   I remember one time….”

“Is there a reason why we are standing out here in the cold?” you ask.   In less than an hour, the Chuzei will be waking up the students.   You have passed a sleepless night and want to take a nap before morning.

“No, I suppose not.”   Yeva leads you to Chuzei Enki’s room.  You pick up Mei Mei and hold her in your arms.  She takes a deep breath and knocks on the door.

The Chuzei opens the door.   Enki Osamu, wide-awake and already dressed for the day, is built like a boulder.  He is a squat and wide mass of muscle.   His granite grey skin is a shade lighter than his iron black hair, which is pulled back in the traditional Shogunate knot.   His granite grey face is clean-shaven and is etched with lines of lighter skin instead of wrinkles.

“The Maidens have need of your, Chuzei Enki.”  Yeva announces, flaring the mark of Mars on her forehead.

The Chuzei stands a bit straighter and steps aside to let you and Yeva in.

“Svante will be attending school as a student again.   His dog needs to stay with him.”

Chuzei inspect you and the puppy.  Mei Mei wags her tail and gives a hopeful bark.

“The other students already know about the dog, so I see no harm in allowing her to stay with the boy.”

“Thank you, Chuzei.” You say.

“Don’t thank me yet, Cnead.   I expect you to keep your dog in top shape.   She looks more like a mop than a puppy.   You can take care of her grooming needs in the laundry room.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now take that mop of yours and head to Mayim’s room. “

“Yes, sir.”  You gather your bag.  Yeva also gets up to leave.

“If I may beg a moment of your time, ma’am,” Chuzei Enki says to Yeva.  “I was about to make some tea.”

Your Sifu begins to decline, so you say,  “She would love to stay for tea.”

“Was I talking to you, Cuckcoo?”  The Chuzei barks.

Why couldn’t you keep your mouth shut.  “Sir, No, sir!”

“Now run along.  You know your way to Mayim’s room.  After you sleep yourself out, come see me.”

You suppress a smile when you realize that Chuzei Enki just excused you from classes today.  “Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.”

You leave Yeva with her father and hesitate after closing the door.

What do you do?

  • Head to bed and sleep
  • Step out of fate and listen in on the conversation
  • Go to the laundry room and give Mei Mei a bath.
  • Other

((Hero is a year old!   How time flies!))

((This was a long one, but we finally made it back to the school))

101 – Uncle Jack

You clench your bag so tightly, your knuckles turn white and the bag’s handles bit into your skin.   The multi colored glass Essence Lights which line the walls of the Bureau of Destiny pass by much faster than you are used to.   Was Akachi walking faster than usual or was time moving faster due to your nerves?  You take a deep breath to calm yourself.   If everything goes according to plan, this may be your last weekly session with Elder Kejak.  After your Sorcerous Initiation, you tried to get out of the sessions, but Elder Kejak insisted you continue to attend.

“Ready for your lesson today?”  Akachi asks.

“Yeah.” you lie as you fiddle with the straps of your bag.  You didn’t get to finish your assigned reading this week.  Even with the help with Wanahton and Elder Kejak’s receptionists, it took some time to arrange your surprise for Elder Kejak.

Akachi pauses before the deep violet stained wood of Elder Kejak’s office.  “Svante, you can’t even get away with not doing your homework with Keeper.  What makes you think Chejop will be any more lenient?”

“I get away with not doing my homework with the Owl fine.” You boast.  “I mean….”  You fall silent before you incriminate yourself any more.  

Akachi crosses his arms and stares down at you.  “We will talk about this later.”    You enter Elder Kejak’s office to try to escape your guardian, but Akachi walks in right behind you.   You walk cross the wood floors of Elder Kejak’s cooly light reception area.   Elder Kejak’s receptionist warmly greet you and Akachi.   “Elder Kejak’s last meeting is running late, but he should be back momentarily.”   The Receptionist offers you a plate of Apricot Shortbread cookies and gives you a sly wink when Akachi wasn’t looking.   You smile at her in return.  Apparently everything is going according to plan.  

Akachi sits on the edge of the receptionist’s desk and chats with her about a new restaurant opening up in Yu Shan.  You munch on your cookies and wonder why Akachi was still here.  Since your trip North, Akachi has been less smothering of you and allowing you to go to places on your own.  Why did he escort you to this session in the first place?  

Before you could finish your first cookie, Elder Kejak sweeps into the reception area with purposeful steps.   He stops short when he notices Akachi chatting with Elder Kejak’s receptionist.  The Elder Oracle digs through his messenger bag and pulls out the newest issue of Pretty Dragon Princess Meru.   

“Akachi, have you seen the latest Princess Meru?”  Elder Kejak taps the manga in his hand.

“No, I don’t think Svante received his copy yet.”   Elder Kejak grunts at Akachi’s offhand reply.  “Is something wrong, Chejop?”

Elder Kejak points with the manga at your guardian.  “Really, Akachi.  Must we devolve to such juvenile tactics?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”   Akachi shoots you an inquiring look.  You shrug and try to seem innocent.  Did Elder Kejak know about your prank?  You glance over at the receptionist who slightly shakes her head no.

“This Uncle Jack character…  You obviously wrote him to mock me.”  Elder Kejak accuses.

“What?”  Akachi takes the offered manga and pages through it.  

“He’s introduced on page 6,”  the Receptionist helpfully points out.   The goddess ignores Elder Kejak’s probing regard and focuses intently on her filing.  

You stare at your shoes, trying not to draw Elder Kejak’s attention.  Akachi, his face intent, reads though the manga.  After a few minutes, Akachi begins to giggle.

“Akachi?” Elder Kejak calls out.   Akachi turns a page and ignores his name.  “Akachi!”

“Oh, sorry.”  The Joybringer smiles sheepishly.  “I got caught up in the story.  Was this character?”  Akachi holds open the manga and points out lanky bald man fleeing from Princess Meru, her fist raised in indignation.   “Uncle Jack looks nothing like you!  Yes, he’s tall.  Painfully thin. More Attractive.”   Elder Kejak rolls his eyes.  “And bald.  You aren’t going bald right?”

You snicker.  Ayesha Ura and a few other Sidereals saw an Elderly Chejop Kejak in the Loom of Fate a few months ago.  Ayesha quickly spread her description of the Elder’s soon to be receding hairline.   You have to get a copy of this manga.

Elder Kejak unconsciously raises his hand to run it through his long dark hair, but stops short.   He narrows his eyes and snatches the offending manga back from Akachi.  “Come along, Svante.  We wasted enough time here.”   The Elder Oracle leads you through the door to the back offices.  Akachi follows, continuing to harass Elder Kejak about the manga.

“I don’t know what your problem is, Chejop.  Uncle Jack seems like a great character.  He’s clever, funny…”

“Uncle Jake steals underwear from adolescent girls!”  Elder Kejak yells at Akachi.   The office bustle goes silent at this outburst.   Akachi grins as Elder Kejak orders everyone back to what they were doing.  The office staff returns to work with renewed industry.

“Ah… Uncle Jake is a panty thief.” Akachi shrugs.  “Pretty Dragon Princess Meru has never been one of my manga.  I have no control over the writers.”

Elder Kejak tosses the manga at you and takes a step closer to the Elder Joybringer.   “Akachi, you may not have written a single page in years, but I know you still have contacts in the Industry.   What sort of example are you setting for Svante…”   Elder Kejak trails off.

“What is it?” Akachi asks concerned.   

“Did you hear that noise?”  Both elders listen intently.  

“Meeeeh….” A muffled cry echoes ominously down the hallway.

“This way.”  Akachi strides down the hallway of identical doors.  You have been in Elder Kejak’s office many times over the past few months and you still couldn’t find your way around.

“Meeeeh….”  You trail behind the elders.  You press your fingernails into your palms to keep the smile off of your face.  

Elder Kejak pauses in front of one door.  “It’s coming from my study.”   Elder Kejak puts his hand on the door and counts down with his fingers.  When Elder Kejak gets to three, he opens the door and Akachi bursts into the study.

“Meeh!!!”  The goat bleats in shock and jumps off of Elder Kejak’s desk.   A piece of half chewed parchment flutters down in its wake.  The once well-organized desk is littered with torn books and shredded scrolls.   Akachi pauses just before he was going to punch the goat.  Your guardian cocks his head at the goat and bursts out laughing.

“Why is there a goat in my study?” Elder Kejak demands of the crowd gathering by the door.   You lean against the wall outside of the study and cover your mouth to keep from laughing.  The office was a mess!  This prank was so much better than you imagined!

“Akachi, do you know anything about this?”  Elder Kejak narrows his eyes.

It takes a moment for Akachi to catch his breath.  “No…. I didn’t do this….”

The goat jumps on the desk and retrieves its half finished meal.  Elder Kejak snatches the parchment away and attempts to smooth it out.   “Svante, do you know anything about this?”

You take a deep breath and poke your head into the study.  “No.”  Fortunately, the goat chooses this moment to drop a load of shit on Elder Kejak’s desk.  

Elder Kejak rubs the bridge of his nose.  “Nevermind.  Let’s met in the conference room today, Svante.”  You reluctantly follow Elder Kejak, leaving behind your giggling guardian and the rest of the crowd.   You are lead to a large conference room with twenty leather high-backed padded chairs.  You roll out a chair and gratefully sit down.  Why couldn’t Elder Kejak have these comfortable chairs in the rest of his office?  As Elder Kejak get settled at the head of the table, you pull out your copy of the Five Moons of Denial.

“I believe we last left off with the chapter on the Sacred Hunt.   In my opinion it was by far the most interesting chapter in the book.   What did you think, Svante?”  The Elder Sidereal glares at you and you avoid eye contact, instead fidgeting with a puppy gnawed corner of your book.  The past week has been packed with keeping with the Owl’s homework, going through manga with Akachi and Masaru,  and working with Wanahton and the Receptionist to get the goat into Elder Kejak’s office.  To be honest, the last thing you wanted to do was to read this boat anchor of a book.  The Five Moons of Denial was exactly what you feared it would be:  dry, dull, and dumb.

Between Akachi needling Elder Kejak about the magna and your goat prank, you are unsure you want to aggravate Elder Kejak anymore than he already was.

What do you do?

  • Tell the truth.  You didn’t do your reading because you busy arranging for the goat in the study.
  • Make up an Excuse.  The Owl gave you more homework than usual this week.
  • Give Elder Kejak a sob story.  You didn’t do the reading because you were in the Loom with Sasha reclaiming your memories of the childhood you and your sister shared.  
  • Bullshit your way through the lesson.  You skimmed a few pages of the chapter before you came here.  You believe you know enough about the Sacred Hunt to fumble through the session
  • Other

(Trying something different – writing on paper and then typing the post up for editing.   What do you guys think?)

(I really need to give Kejak’s receptionist a name. )