Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chapter III: The Arrival

          News of the death of their respective Councilmen had reached both nations of Ozai and Syrow. It was almost as if the news had fell on deaf ears. No one did anything of value as a reaction. This outcome wasn’t exactly far from feasible. The world was still too busy worrying about what awaited them. They have already lost faith in the Council…the only leaders that the people knew. All requests (and downright cries for help, for that matter) of protection to the Thane Alystair, Maxwell Spiegel have been denied in some form or fashion. However, with all things considered, there are still some parts of the planet that seem to be unchanged by all of this. They still show up to work, still live out their lives.
          Most of all is the island sub-nation of Ozai, Japan, and the Imperial City of Lorelei IV. Japanese people of this age have always been revered as level headed in all situations and the seeming “end of the world” is no different. Lorelei IV has been internationally known as the “nation of the calm”. Though it does not always live up to the name, it has been a great symbol of neutrality over the past centuries. In the country’s history, it has seen the least amount of world war in comparison to the rest of the world, and Lorelei IV’s “savior”, Councilman Ephram has steadily worked on the reform of the country’s slums that were merely the fallout of the one war it participated in, back of the days of Lorelei II.
          It is no secret that the vast majority of the calmness and tranquility of Lorelei IV widely derives from the legalization of specific narcotics. This was a key factor of Ephram’s campaign to become Councilman. The Japanese reservation comes from a more disciplined practice. Being a mostly succeeded nation, their principles and teachings are truly all their own, and they rigorously instill their culture to every corner of their lands. Unlike Lorelei IV, Japan may have very well participated in each and every single world war throughout known history. Whether the conflict involved Japan’s country itself, or just involved the hiring of Japanese forces, they seem to make an appearance.
          Finding himself in yet another bar, the familiar long haired man sat by himself in a booth, glass of water in hand. Next to him, was a pitcher of water, with several ice cubes floating at the top. The man stares at the top of table…specifically at the sun rays that pierced through the window, and through the pitcher. He watches as the swirling pieces of ice make a swirling outline of light on the hardwood table. Taking another swig of water, he remembers once again, the name “Meilteif”. Thinking about it again, gives him another slight headache. Just as the man is about to place the glass back down, the bottom of it bursts apart, and the window next to him immediately gains a crack. Under normal circumstances, a person would be startled over such an event. This, however, was no ordinary circumstance. This was no ordinary man, as he was soon about to find out.
          “Angelis, is it?” a man says, while still aiming the smoking barrel of his pistol at the long hair man. Angelis? The long hair man had never heard of that name before. The long hair man ignores him. “Accountable for the slaughter of the Fidelity Excavation Research team, as well as the murder of one: Samir Rozen, Councilman of Syrow.” The armed man read from a piece of paper.
          A universal gasp could be heard in the bar at that time. Everyone had stopped moving, and everything was silent, save the TV and a small radio in the background. The surrounding people in the bar were shocked. Usually, a bounty hunter walking into a bar isn’t much out of the normal. Even a fight or two, and a bit of broken furniture and dishes can be common practice. But finding the killer of a Councilman? Everyone knew he was dead, but no one knew how, let alone that his killer would be in the same room as them.
          The long hair man had another flashback. He keeps seeing a crater with charred bodies in it. He looks all around to see that he is in the center of the crater. He knows it is he that did it.
          “Never seen a bounty so high. Full price if you bring him in…double the price if you bring him in alive.  :cocks pistol: It’s payday for me.”
          The long hair man is in a small state of confusion. He wasn’t sure of what the apparent bounty hunter was talking about, but it was clear that the hunter knew more than the long hair knew. Whatever this is, the long hair man wasn’t going to let this hunter disturb him for much longer. With the remaining top half of the glass, the long hair man flips it over, and gently places it on the table, ring down. He stands to look at the bounty hunter. “Coming quietly? Smart man.” the bounty hunter says. The long hair man walks toward the bounty hunter, and the hunter fires three shots at the man. The man falls back, and crashes on the ground. “Oh, no you don’t. Heard you were an alystair. Heard you were a pretty good one. I’m not letting you get any closer or any further than that.” the hunter says.
          Using this opportunity, the hunter holsters his gun, and reaches for his restraints. Just when he raises his head after getting things ready, the long hair is seen rising to his feet. Bullet holes were still in his clothes, and there was blood, but the bleeding seemed to have stopped.”Tck, should’ve expected this. Not gonna take any chances with you.” the hunter said as he drops the restraints in his hands, and simultaneously quick-drawing two pistols. “Dirt nap.” and he showers the long hair man with bullets. He makes one last single shot in the center of the man’s forehead, and the body drops to the ground. A pool of blood is quickly formed.
          The hunter blows off the smoke from his barrels, and smirks with esteemed satisfaction. “Guess I won’t be needing cuffs, shame. Would have loved to pick up that double.” The hunter goes to the suitcase behind him, and opens it. He then takes some sort of folded black cloth out of it, and fans it out. When he is done, the large zipper outlining the cloth was exposed. Then, everyone knew what this was…a body bag. The hunter had laid the bag over the floor and smoothed it out as best he can before he got up, and made his way toward the body. Thoroughly satisfied, the hunter arrogantly whistles on his way to the long hair man.
          About a foot’s distance from his prize, the hunter stops his pace in reaction to a cough from the long hair man’s body. “No fucking way.” the hunter says. The long hair man somehow manages to get to his knees, even after a clip and a half were dumped into him. Grunting his way into normality, the long hair man looks at the hunter as the bullet in his forehead is “pushed” free, and drops to the ground. The hunter looks at the round and notices that it is pressed in from the front, almost as if he shot…steel.  Immediately, the hunter grabbed the man by his top hair, and put a gun right under his chin. Just as the trigger was pulled, the man locked his eyes on the end of the barrel, grabbed it with his hand, and jammed his thumb into the barrel. When the weapon fired, the clog in the barrel caused enough pressure to blow the entire slide assembly off the gun.
          The hunter’s hand was crucially injured with this. After screaming, he took a step back, drawing his other gun with his free hand, and aiming at the man’s face. The man was faster than the hunter, however, and snatched the gun from his hand before he could fire. The man threw the gun behind him, crashing it through the window of the booth he just sat in. The hunter, scared for his life, turns to run away, but the man lunges forward to grab the tail of the hunter’s jacket. The man brought the jacket to the ground, but the hunter was sly enough to get out of the sleeves, and run away still by leaving the jacket there. A pity for the hunter. The hall he ran through to get away from the man was long, and narrow. Also, the jacket gave some cover, but now that he had his back exposed, the man knew exactly where to aim.
          The man stood up, grabbed the broken glass top, and hurled it at the running hunter. The broken side of the glass jammed right into the center of the hunter’s back. The hit made the hunter stammer for a bit, and then stumble to the ground. The man took this time to approach the hunter. With an indifferent suck of the teeth, the man promptly approached the grounded hunter. When the hunter turned for a moment to see the man ominously looming over him, he tried his best to scramble away from him. With an emotionless face, the man took his left foot, and stepped on the ankle of the hunter, halting him from escaping. The hunter tried to free his leg…no dice. The man took a step forward with is right foot (temporarily adding to the woes of the hunter by putting all his weight on the ankle), and put his right foot on the center of the hunter’s back, directly on top of the glass he just threw in his back. The pain made the hunter cringe in agony. The man slowly leant forward on his right foot, pressing the glass deeper into the flesh of the hunter. One could imagine the portrayals of discomfort that the hunter displayed from this, but the long hair man was not finished then. He stood straight up, and twisted his leg back and forth, grinding the glass nearly all the way in the hunter’s back. The surrounding people watched in silence as the man did his business, making short work of this lowly bounty hunter.
          After several moments of torture, the hunter manages to liberate his ankle. This in turn allowed him to wiggle enough to get free of the man standing on him. The hunter managed to only roll to his back, and begin crawling away from the man, with the man calmly following him on foot. “Angelis, please. Don’t kill me. I-I was sent here! I don’t want to die!” the hunter pleads. The man pays no attention to the hunter’s words, and leans toward him, bringing his face within inches of the hunter’s face. The hunter is completely terrified of the man closing on him, and stares in his eye, nearly petrified. The man has strong yet cold stare into the hunter’s eyes. The man has a large exhale through his nose, making a little grunt. This somehow scares the already horrified hunter even more. The hunter is reduced to whimpering as he cowers and turns his face away. The man looks at the hunter in evident disgust. He lifts his eyes to see the exit of the bar. He can also see all of the people staring at him, some frightened, others pleased, and others…not even paying attention. With one more suck of the teeth, the man stands up, slides his hands back in his pockets and walks to the door, leaving a sacred stiff, pathetic bounty hunter laying his own pool of sweat and blood.
          Once the man walked out of the door, he was greeted by more “company”. The man could count seven men waiting for him outside the bar. These men were some rather unsavory examples of the Earth dwellers, and they have no doubt come to collect the sum of money on his head. They all carried some type of weapon, but it made little difference. The man reduced them to worthless lumps of flesh before they even know what hit them. A few of the men managed to get some words out before they were brought down, but nothing important. “Angelis” was the word that the man heard the most. Made no difference to him. When he was done, he looked behind him to see that many people had walked out of the bar to watch him take care of the bounty hunting group. By this look, it was official. Whether the name was authentic or not, the man was called “Angelis”, and he had just made his name as an alystair. Not that this would matter much, the world is going to end.
          Little did Angelis know, there was someone watching his little exercise from a rooftop across the street. It was none other than Councilman Meilteif. Meilteif looked at Angelis for a few moments, smirked, and left the scene just as he showed up…without a sound.
          Angelis slides his hands in his pockets again, and walks away from the scene of seven incapacitated men. As he trots down the road, he thinks to himself of the hunter telling him that he was sent. Also, about how anyone would know what he did, and if it’s really true that all that death was his fault. And did he really kill Councilman Rozen? These last few days would give strong evidence that though he may not have precisely murdered those people, he is certainly capable of it. The recent beatings he has been serving up would suggest that there is a potential for murderous intent. But why can’t he remember doing it or not? And that isn’t all on his mind. Who placed a bounty on his head, and what is the price? Who knew enough about him to know his name, when he himself didn’t even know that name? Things are not adding up here. There are some holes that need filling.
          Back in Japan, the man in samurai-esque garb returns to his illustrious estate. All is in order, and as he left it. He walks through his home and arrives at the same garden he was stood in before leaving for Ettard. The expression on his face wasn’t a positive one. He didn’t seem to be pleased with his trip to Ettard. But before he can brood on his trip, he must first…investigate. Beyond the west wall of his garden patch, were tall bamboo stalks. The man could see rustling in the stalks. Someone is here. The man quickly moves to changes rooms. He passes by a stand with a crimson suit of traditional Japanese Imperial war armor, out the door and enters the greenery where the rustling is. Slowly approaching the source of the rustling, he can hear the sounds of frantic eating. Pulling some of the stalks back, he can plainly see what looks like a cat-woman devouring fruits and vegetables. For a while, she doesn’t even notice the man staring at her, as she is too focused on gorging herself. Soon enough, the man steps on a piece of bamboo and snaps it. The sound of the break caught the woman’s attention, and she immediately snapped her head in his direction.
          When she locked eyes on his, he merely raised an eyebrow at her. “Must be that rogue I keep hearing about. A ‘Katarel’, was it?” the man says. The woman only makes a roar at him, and chucks the remainder of her watermelon at him. The man tilts his head to the side just enough for him to narrowly evade the watermelon. Taking what she can fit in her arms, she runs off into the tall stalks. The man does nothing in protest, and watches the woman fade into the greenery. “Strange.” the man says to himself, turning back to walk to his home.
          Back in Ettard, General Kaiser is busy making his preparations. Having little more than 500 men at his disposal, they do what they can to prepare for the battle they will take part in. Commander Yammark is General Kaiser’s right hand man, and has a large part in the preparation. They have a few aircraft and tanks to work with, and enough ammunition to last them for days, what they don’t have, is enough men to use the ammunition. Commander Yammark reports to General Kaiser every hour, on the hour. Kaiser oversees what he can, but is mostly caught up in the logistics of it all. But the biggest worry wasn’t how to get things places. The biggest worry was the men. General Kaiser was about certain that he would lead these men to nothing but death…not that death would not come their way regardless. But Kaiser had been here before. He was not stranger to war, and knew full well the responsibility of each death on the battlefield. Kaiser has commanded several congregations of men into war, and thus, is somewhat responsible for their deaths. This is no exception. However, there is no one else willing to stand up and fight. This may be why Kaiser is the only commander who does this. Because he is the only one who can. Obviously, there is no one left brave to handle the burden of leadership in this battle. Kaiser was the only man, “man” enough to do accept the burden. But will it be prosperous? More than likely, none of them will survive. How does one lead a charge into certain death? If anyone can do it, it would be Rugale Horatio Kaiser, General of the Armies of Ettard.
          Lieutenant Katsuragi sits at her former Captain’s desk. She had been in this office for several days straight, but time finally caught up with her. Mentally drained, she reclines the chair and looks up at the ceiling in an almost hopeless fashion. Just as she closes her eyes, she is interrupted by the sound of something hitting her desk. Surea looks forward to see a fellow co-worker standing on the other side of her desk. She had just placed some kind of red drink in a glass on the table, and slides it to Surea. Surea barely manages to catch the drink before it fell off the side of the table. The co-worker pours herself a glass as well.
“How you holdin’ up?”
“I don’t know, Lisa. I guess I’m just tired.”
“Tale a sip of that. Should calm you down a bit.”
“What’s is it?”
“Called ‘Ambrosia.’ Picked it up when I dated Maxwell Spiegel a few years back.”
“Yeah, was his favorite. Could always find him with a glass of it. When I saw him, that is.”
“Hmm. :takes a swig: You ever think of just…not doing this anymore?”
“Mmm. All the time. In fact, I think all of us were thinking that until we saw you.”
“Motivated us a bit. We didn’t know what to do until you came in.”
“Me, motivating? Didn’t think I would hear that. But, here I am not knowing what to do. Sitting in a desk that isn’t mine, in an office that I don’t work in, doing something I never do.” :takes another swig:
“Still looking for Aoshi?”
“Of course. I’m really starting to think it’s hopeless, now. I don’t think he survived, Lisa.” :finishes the glass:
“Do yourself a favor. Don’t give up. The rest of the precinct doesn’t take you for someone that gives up. They look up to you. We all do.”
“But I’m the youngest one here. Surely there are better role models.”
“Not around here, there aren’t. Look, take some time to rest, and go back to work when you’re ready. No one is rushing you, and no one is forcing you, which means you can take all the time in world and work at your own pace…fast or slow.”
“Thanks Lisa.”
“No problem. I’m gonna get back to work. Want another one before I go?”
“Can you leave the bottle?”
“Sure. All yours.”
          A few days later, in Lal’Come, Thane Alystair Maxwell Spiegel sits in his chair looking out his window again. In his left hand, he has a glass of Ambrosia and holding a fresh cigar. He takes in a decent pull of the cigar, and slowly exhales a thick cloud of smoke in front of him. Stephanie walks in his office, just as he takes a swig of Ambrosia. She doesn’t say anything. They both knew the score. She takes a seat at Maxwell’s piano, lifts the wood casing over the keys, and begins a soft medley. Maxwell is just finishing another long exhale. “Haven’t heard this in a while.” he thinks to himself. He sits watching, doing little more. He enjoys the ballad that Stephanie plays.
          In Gnis Rupa’a, Councilman Meilteif is inspecting the nearly finished project. As if some sort of alarm went off, he stops and looks to the sky. He rolls up the blueprints in his hands, and walks smartly away from the construction without a single word. Meilteif is aware of something.
In Ettard, D is nowhere to be found in Euphoria. His personal office is empty.
          In Brukenhail, Father Seraph is also missing, along with his familiars Kanryuu and Tohryuu.
          In Japan, the red haired samurai-esque man was placing the helmet of his Imperial armor on his head. After the fit, a sharp heartbeat came over him, and his eyes quickly became black. Just underneath him, a magic seal appeared at his feet. The ground within the seal faded away, and the man fell into a mysterious hole that seemed to come out of nowhere.
          Maxwell is seeing what is happening. His eyes widened, and his jaw dropped. The sky had subtly changed colors. It has gone from a pale yellow, from a light grey. People in the Rapture had seen three arcs of light shoot off into the sky from behind Father Seraph’s chambers. Others saw a light coming from the basement at Euphoria. Something was going on now. Most people were not sure what was going on, but could probably guess. The whole world is looking at what’s going on. Surea Katsuragi is stuck looking at the window. Save Meilteif, the remaining Councilman sit and wait for the inevitable.
          Walking down a road of an already vacated city, Angelis, with his hands in his pockets, makes his way through the gentle wind. He looks up to see the activity of the sky. The clouds seem to slowly begin gathering towards each other at a central point. At that time, the very ground begins to rumble as well. Angelis places his hand on the ground to further inspect the activity. “Heat?” he thinks to himself. Just as Angelis thought to forget about the entire ordeal, Meilteif (from many miles away) cracks open a strange orb with sort of swirling purple substance inside. Immediately after the crack, Angelis feels a strong heart beat jerk his torso violently enough to stop him from walking. Angelis places his hand on his chest, and another strong heart beat comes, dropping him to his knee. Evidently in pain, Angelis begins to grip tightly his left pectoral. The veins in his body begin to bulge, and he quickly produces sweat all over. Heavy breathing and severe nervousness are also evident, almost mocking the effects of a heart attack. His eyes grew glossy, and veins grew also, reaching his crimson pupils. The pain is great, and it only grows in potency. Soon, a purple ring forms around Angelis, he doesn’t even acknowledge the bright ring, even as it catches on fire. Soon, the ring closes in on Angelis’ body, and the flames cover him, but do not burn him. But Angelis is in so much pain, he doesn’t realize this either, and stays hunched over on one knee, trying desperately to breathe. By the time the flames consume the top of Angelis’ head he passes out, and falls flat on his face.
“What’s this? I’m free? It must be time to work.”
“Work? What are you talking about?”
“Well, well. You’re here too. Funny, I don’t recall needing your help.”
“My help? What are you talking about? Who are you?”
“Doesn’t matter now. The time is near and we have some work to do.”
“We? I don’t even know what’s going on.”
“You’re sleeping.”
“But I’m talking to you.”
“When did I fall asleep?”
“Enough with the questions. You need to get up so we can work.”
“Fat chance. Some ‘thing’ is just going to talk to me in my head, and demand things of me? Don’t see that happening.”
“Well, I do.”
“Do you, now? Well, we’ll see how long it takes before I do your…work.
“Not mine, but ours. We have to solve your problem.”
“How do you figure I have a problem?”
“The destruction of your world isn’t a problem?”
“This world isn’t mine.”
“Not yet, no. Not if you don’t save it.”
“And if I don’t want to save it?”
“You assume you have a choice.”
“And you assume I don’t. Unless you’re telling me that you can make me.”
“Maybe I can.”
“Maybe is not an answer. Can you, or can’t you?”
“Would you like to find out?”
“Answering me like that? Now, I’m sure you’re lying.”
“Sure, just keep telling yourself that.”
“Well, if you’re quite finished, you can leave now.”
“Leave your head? You really don’t know how this works, do you?”
“’I really don’t care how this works’, is the sentence you should have used. And now that you know that, you can take your leave now.”
“Very well, but we shall meet again, and very soon. Besides, you have someone else to talk to right now.”
“Wait, what?”
          Angelis wakes to find that he is lying in a bed all alone, with his jacket and shirt undone, exposing his chest. This room is foreign to him. He had never been here before, and can’t piece together how he got there. It’s quiet, and brightened by candlelight. There were rugs all over the room, and was obvious he wasn’t in the home of anyone rich. There isn’t much light coming from the window next to him, but he can still see the amber sky, and that the swarming clouds seemed to be together now. He looked to see a pail of water with a cloth in it. He notices a scent. A familiar scent, and starts to smell his clothes. He looks at the pail, and pulls the cloth out of it. He smells the cloth, and it repulsed by it, casting it on the ground as fast as he can.
“That rag is full of your sweat. It’s gonna stink.”
“You’re the one that brought me here?”
“Figure that out all by yourself?”
“How did you get me here?”
“Well, after I found you passed out in a pool of your own sweat in the middle of the street, I didn’t think you deserved to die there. So, I brought you here to rest instead.”
“Your voice. It sounds familiar.”
“Does it? Doesn’t surprise me. I get that a lot.”
“Well, anyway, thanks for the care, but I think I should leave now.” :Angelis starts to sit up:
“Oh, no you don’t.” :a hand comes from beyond the shadow to push him back down: “You need some rest, and you still have a fever.”
Angelis notices the similarity of the hand. He knows he had seen it before. “You’re pretty strong, aren’t you?”
“So I have been told.”
“You’re the one I met outside the bar. The one with the light post.” :Angelis realized now, what familiar scent he picked up:
“Guilty as charged.” :emerges her head from the shadows: “I wanted to apologize for that. I didn’t know the story.”
“You were mad at me for some kids.”
“They worked for me. I didn’t know they started it. They do that sometimes. But usually they don’t end up like that.”
“Your eyes. They’re a bit glassy. Something happen?”
“Uh yeah, you smell weird.”
“Excuse me?”
“Maybe that came out wrong. I can smell pretty well. When I came to you, you were really warm. You were even steaming a bit. When I got close to you, I smelled something weird, and it made my eyes water. It was hard to carry you all the way here, since you kept sweating even though you were unconscious.”
          The woman begins wiping Angelis down with a fresh towel, and cooling his body of the sweat that covered him.
“And my sweat smelled weird?”
“Not the sweat, the steam. Some strange purple smoke was coming out of your pores. You’re a weird guy.”
“Can’t argue with that. Are those…children I hear back there?”
“Yeah. This place was once an orphanage, but once news of the prophecy came, people got scared, and left. When they left, the children were left behind, so I decided to do what I can for them.”
“And the guys I beat up? More lost children? “
“They were orphans once, too. I taught them how to defend themselves, and they never left my side.”
“And what exactly do they do for you?”
“Whatever I want. And what about you? Are you really the guy that killed Rozen?”
“Is that why you brought me here? To collect a bounty?”
“Oh, no. There isn’t much need for money here. Not now, anyways. I just heard that Rozen was pretty strong. They say he’s the guy that trained Maxwell Spiegel.”
“Maxwell Spiegel? Who’s that?”
“You really must be new here, huh? He’s the Thane Alystair. Not that it matters much more, anyway.”
“I’ve been called that twice now. I don’t know what that means.”
“Wow. Alystairs are usually tournament fighters. But there are so many fighters going on nowadays, that people just use the word to explain almost anyone who balls a fist. I heard what you did to the Gunslinger. Not too shabby.”
“And what about you? You an ‘Alystair’, too?”
“Oh, no. Well, I can be, but I don’t like to attract attention.”
“Well, you’ve gotta be something to tear a telephone pole out the ground.”
“What can I say, I’m a natural.”
          Just then, the ground shook beneath them, enough to move around most of the objects in the room. Angelis’ face shows great concern.
“It’s just another tremor. They have been going on all day today. You slept through them all.”
“And how long have I been sleeping?”
“Well, it took about an hour for me to get you here, and you have been in the bed for several hours. Who knows how long you were passed out when I found you.”
          Angelis looks out the window once more, inspecting the amber sky. Not that he knew what he was looking at, but he seemed to feel something toward it. He didn’t know what, but he knew something was happening…something that involves him.
“I…I need to go there.”
“Go where.”
“That cloud, I need to go there.”
“You’re…kidding, aren’t you?”
“No. No, I’m not. I need to get there.”
“And why is that?”
“I don’t know. I just…I need…”
“Hey, you ok?”
          Angelis’ eyes roll to the back of his head and his head droops all over. Eventually, he passes out and leaves the woman caring for him in confusion. She looks at the amber sky where the clouds have gathered, then back at Angelis. She sports a puzzled look for a few moments then shrugged her shoulders. “I know this is a bad idea.” she says as she throws the blanket over Angelis’ head.
          Back in Lal’Come, Maxwell leisurely sits in his chair with his cigar and drink. “Kaiser just left a message. Says he’s headed for the cloud. Says it’s your last chance. Anything you want to say back?” Steph asks him. “No, he knows better.” Maxwell answers. “He’ll die. You know that.” “So does he.” Maxwell closes his eyes for a long moment before taking a swig of his drink and a pull of his cigar. Steph continues to play her soft medley on the piano. “How many missions have you two done?” she asks. “Don’t get soft on me. He accepted this.” Maxwell answers. “Just answer.” “Haah…4,769.” “Awful lot to just throw away.” Maxwell says nothing in return with his cigar in his mouth. He isn’t pulling, nor is he even acknowledging the cigar. It’s just lodged in his open mouth in between the rows of teeth. Steph continues to play, slightly smirking.
          In Japan, the Hiryu’s defenses are prepared. The emperor, Mitsuomi Hiryu walks through his ranks, inspecting them with his right hand, his closest general, Enishi Takimi. The empress, Ayuri Hiryu sits on her throne also inspecting the soldiers. Both the emperor and empress are in their royal war garments. During the emperor’s pacing, General Enishi asks some last minute questions.
“You were told of the lights that arose into the sky, my lord?”
“I was. No doubt it was Seraph and the twins.”
“And what about Misturugi? Not only is he not here, but he is…one of them as well. What is the contingency for that?”
“True, it would be better that he was here on our side. But we have a plan for him. Avoid him, at all costs.”
“My lord that cannot possibly be the only thing we can do about him. Can we not deploy the Requiem Seal against him?”
“Not a good idea. He helped forge it generations ago. Besides, we don’t have anyone compatible enough for its use.”
“The Empress.”
“Out of the question!!! Do not forget that the Requiem Seal can take the life of the user. Ayuri and I have not yet produced an heir, nor, an alternative. We will just have to wait until the war is over.”
“But the war is going to kill us all. Maybe you should think of an alternative way to get an heir.”
“I don’t care for your tone, Takimi. You are well aware of the Hiryu way. I will not slip through the cracks. I don’t care what the world is going through. The Hiryu Dynasty will not be the weak link!”
“Of course, your grace. My humble apologies.”
“Prepare the final check of the warriors, and open the courtyard for Ayuri and me.”
“I will place the compound at your majesty’s disposal.”
“With haste, Takimi.”
“Your humble servant.”
          Takimi fades in the shadow, as befitting a ninja of his stature. Mitsuomi looks back up at Ayuri and nods. Ayuri nods back at him. She gets up from the chair, and makes toward the courtyard, followed by her select kunoichi maids.
          All the surviving Councilman have gone into hiding in wait for the eventuality to come. Well, all but Meilteif of course. They have not been in contact with each other for several days now, and maybe that is for the best. The best they can do is to hope to survive whatever comes.

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