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.”
“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.
((Hero is a year old! How time flies!))
((This was a long one, but we finally made it back to the school))