In another time, in another place is the land of the Four Kingdoms. A large landmass to the north is occupied by the Kikomort people. To the West is the nomadic deserts To the South and across an ocean are the Iskie People who occupy the richest lands for agriculture To the Far East of Iskie, on an island is the Cenrean Empire.
Each kingdom has its own way of government, and rulers. Each kingdom has their own sect of deities, but they all pool from the same belief. The Prophets: cosmic beings known to the people of the Four Kingdoms as Gods. The Prophets mark and imbue four chosen to act as Guardian's overseeing the safety of their kingdom's people and land. These Chosen are reincarnated every generation upon their death and are known as Great Mother's or Great Father's, and are granted a set of powers all their own. They are protected by their own set of marked warriors. These warriors, formally known as 'Seishi' come in varying ages and with different powers based on their kingdom. When assembled, the Great Mother or Father can use their collected energy to summon a Prophet to grant them a single wish for the betterment of their kingdom's people.
There are also those from across the Four Kingdoms who are gifted with the ability to commune with the Prophets. Every generation has at least one and they are known as Oracles.
Together they work as a collective to maintain peace and balance in the world. In Cenreo they have been unable to locate their Great Mother for nearly 18 years, and there are dark forces conspiring to break the balance and tip the scales, throwing the world into chaos. A Cenrean Princess has dispatched her most skilled Lieutenant to search for the Great Mother, and return her to the Capital so she may gather the Sheshi and take her place in maintaining the balance of the Four Kingdoms.
This story is set in the Island Kingdom of Cenreo and follows Asil Yamamotto. A young woman, and Seishi as she searches for the reincarnated Great Mother and her fellow Seishi to bring balance to the world.
It was early afternoon, the sun was bright and shining, and spring was in full swing. In the valley of a large mountain was a small city. The city was named Okana for the mountain that covered it in shadow. The mountain was not the only thing to shroud the city in darkness, like most cities, Okana had a criminal underground, and in Okana the crime scene was monopolized by a regional gang known as Hanszai. The Hanszai leader has recently fallen ill from his old age, and calls for his grandchildren to his bedside so he may name his successor.
The first to enter was his biological grandson, Mizu, who came and sat patiently beside his grandfather’s bedroll. He wasn’t the most handsome man, but he wasn’t terrible looking either. He was average height, with average build, and while he looked rather plain, there was a cold edge to his eyes, and he wasn’t as unassuming as he looked. Mizu was quite the fighter and Criminal mind, with his eyes on being the next head of the Hanszai. “Ogi-san, you do not look well. Onii-chan should be here soon, she is clearly running late as usual,” Mizu murmured glancing back at the door that was shut while it waited for the next member of their group. Already two others were in the room sitting on the other side of their dying leader. “Do not scold, Asil. She does things in her own way, and those ways are always in the name of The Hanszai.” “True, but she’s not your kin, I do not know why we have to wait for her arrival, Ogi-san,” Mizu mused with a sour tone. His grandfather only sighed, as breathing was getting harder for him. “What I have to say affects you both, and I must say it soon, but only once she is here.” Mizu scoffed at his grandfather and folded his arms over his chest.
They waited only another moment when the door finally slid open with a sharp clapping sound and there she stood. Mizu didn’t want to look at her, they had always been at odds with one another since youth. Mizu deep down was always jealous of how his grandfather had taken her in when her family died, raised her, and treated her often with greater compassion than he did with his own grandson… and now Mizu had another fear, but one he was fully prepared to deal with. Glancing over his shoulder he smirked at Asil. “Look who finally decided to show up,” he teased, but his grandfather only waved his hand and rested in in Asil’s own once she joined his side. “Now that you are both here, I want to tell you why I have called you. As you both know, I am dying, and I am not long for this world. So I must name my successor.” Ogi-san smiled tiredly at Asil and thumbed her knuckles lovingly. “Mizu, I am counting on you to help Asil, because I want her to be the Hanszai’s new leader…”
For the first time in a decade, Asil felt the onset of dread clutch her heart as she pushed her way though the crowd of men that hovered over a single closed door.There was a haze of constant smoke that filled the house from various drugs, evident by the different scents that they carried. The estate that she currently resided in was fairly large but, with so many members of the Hanszai occupying this one hallway, Asil restorted to the thing she was best at: Violence. She cocked her elbow back to land a blow to the ones in front of her but a hand firmly grabbed her forearm to stop her. The audacity! She squatted immediately and swung her leg out behind her to hook kick the perpetrator but quickly stopped when she caught sight of her right hand man. He stood there stoically, his arms crossed over his chest. Asil stood up and glared at him. Kishyo was always the one to hold her back from doing something stupid, her voice of reason as it is. "Your presence is more than enough, Asil." He said knowingly. Kishyo was so much more mature and level headed than most people his age. He was the same age as Asil but his icy blue eyes, at least the one that was visible and not behind an eye patch, held a sort of lifelessness. He was a good 6ft tall with shaggy blonde hair that seemed to stick out everywhere. The man carried many scars as well, the most prominent one down the side of his face. He was the complete opposite of his identical twin, Kisho, who chose that moment to cup his hands around his mouth, shouting "Move your asses! Asil's here!" There was a sudden hush in the crowd and the sea of men immediately parted. Asil looked at Kisho and he gave her a thumbs up with a stupid Cheshire grin on his face. If Kishyo was her right hand man, Kisho was her left. Unlike his brother, Kisho was always the brash loud idiot who always got himself in to trouble. He had a bandanna wrapped around his forehead that caused his golden locks to stand straight up. His eyes were just as blue as his twin but there was life reflected in it. Asil knew the reason for their different personalities but every now and then, she would forget that they were twins. Asil made her way through the parted crowd, ignoring the pitying looks and soft sobbing. She held her head high, her strides confident and powerful. She was taught at a young age to always have a presence that sent your enemies weary. Confidence was key. Her long obsidian hair was tied back into a pony tail, a similar bandanna to Kisho's, on top of her head. Her bangs were fairly long so they framed her petite face. She always held her callous composure in front of the men of the Hanszai, only a few have seen her have emotions, two behind her, and one was behind the door she was about to open. Her chest was tight and she felt as if her heart was breaking. She knew this day was coming soon but it still hurt when she got summoned. She closed her honey colored eyes and took a deep breath as her scared and roughly calloused hand turned the knob. 'Remember to never show your tears.' Her grandfathers words repeated in her head. She took a step in, her boot heel clacking on the wooden floor, signaling her presence. One of the twins, most likely Kioshyo, shut the door behind her to give them some privacy. She didn't even acknowledge Mizu, knowing how much he hated being ignored, and she enjoyed annoying him. It was the little things in life. Her eyes fell down to the feeble body that lied on an elaborate cherry wood bed. The pang in her heart caused her to flinch. He surely couldn't be the strong leader of one of the most reputable criminal organization in Okana. Asil remembered the first day she met him. He was strong and intimidating, his muscles well defined even for his older age. She remembered looking up to this towering man, his body shined off the sun due to sweat and blood that covered his body. Blood never bothered Asil, after all, she was used to it at the age of five, having lived in the streets of the most war hungry country on the planet. She looked up at him as he held his hand out to her as if he was a savior. But now, his snow white frail hand held out for her for a completely different reason. She sighed, placing her hand into his as she squatted down to be at eye level with him. She braced herself for whatever her grandfather had to say. She knew that there was going to be a shift in power and many members believed Asil would be the one to take over. She honestly didn't care about the power. She enjoyed the life she currently had. But her grandfather's will was law. Even if the dumbass next to her didn't like it, majority of the organization would stay loyal. Of course, she figured Mizu would probably stage a coup but he was as stupid as he was ugly. She would figure it out before danger came to her life. On the other hand, if Mizu was to be the successor, than she would just gracefully leave. She wouldn't go against her grandfather's wishes but she'd be damned if she had to reduce herself to the pig face's puppet. He would do everything he could to make her life miserable and she wasn't going to be bending her will to him in this lifetime. She held her grandfather's hand tight, the tension thick in the air. As her name left his mouth, part of her wanted to look at Mizu's face and smirk arrogantly but it wasn't the time or place. She looked up at her savior's glassed over eyes and her own widened. She knew all too well the look when the light goes out of a person's eyes. She closed her own, willing the tears from flowing as she placed the hand she held back to his side. He was gone and she, once again, felt like that lost little girl. What was she supposed to do now? She never not had her grandfather to give her guidance and now she never will. She quietly said a silent prayer to the Gods, kissed him on the forehead, and stood. She didn't even glance at Mizu, knowing that he was silently fuming but he was the least of her problems right now. She opened the door and looked out at the crowd in front of her. Her throat was tight and she was afraid if she said anything, she might break down. 'Never show weakness' another one of her grandfather's mantras rang in her head. Instead, she looked at Kishyo and shook her head, knowing he would understand. His eyes went wide for the smallest second and then softened with a sigh. He turned to the crowd, and in a strong loud voice, he announced "Our leader has passed." As everyone around went silent to process the news, Asil refused to remain. She swiftly made her way out of the room and out of the house. Oddly enough, the will to cry vanished and she felt drained. Kisho quickly caught up to her and placed his hands in his pocket as he easily matched her pace. "Sooo, now what?" He casually said, causing Kiyoshi to punch his arm. "Show some respect here!" He glanced a quick look at Asil, whose features hadn't change. "It's okay, Kiyoshi. For some reason, I just can't cry. Maybe it hasn't fully processed yet or I really am dead inside like everyone claims." She muttered. The twins gave each other a concerning look but carried on. "And as for what now? Now, we watch our backs."
Mizu was fuming. He hadn’t wanted to believe his grandfather would name Asil his successor. Yet it had happened and he was forced to accept he was never good enough for that old bastard. The seat of the Hanszai was rightfully his, and thankfully he had those which were loyal to him and agreed. They did not care for Asil, and regardless if they did, they would take orders from no woman.
Just as quickly as she had come, she left the room and announced to the hall that their beloved leader had passed. Mizu wondered if she’d tell the crowd about her new appointment, but no mention of it came as the doors shut behind her. He stayed a moment longer and looked to the others in the room. They too had advised against Asil being leader, and had served closely with Ogi-san. Mizu could see their dislike of Asil’s blatant show of disrespect for their positions in all of this. “Prepare his body for burning. Tonight we shall send him off, and then… we do what we have been preparing for.” “Yes Sir.” The others chimed together and bowed in agreement. Mizu finally stood up and looked out the window of the room. “Remember to try and keep the twins distracted. We have to make sure she’s completely alone for this to work. Gods willing she’ll drink herself near to death tonight, and make it easy on us.” Mizu ordered the group, they each gave a single bow of their heads.
Mizu left the room and allowed the advisors to prepare his grandfather’s body, and spoke to the group that waited for more information outside the doors. “Tonight we shall send him off, and feast in his honor,” Mizu informed to the reception of a raucous roar of shouting. They would not weep. Weeping was for the weak, not hardened criminals. No doubt Asil had wandered off to cry in her pillow in private.
The Manor became busy as everyone prepared to set up a chance to celebrate the life of their leader, it also meant learning who their new leader would be. There were speculations, even a running pool of bets over who would take the seat. Most votes were split between Mizu and Asil, but after the sunset everyone gathered to pay their respects.
Mizu wasn't surprised to see that Asil was not at supper. He sat at the high table with Ogi-san’s closest advisors. Mizu raised his glass calming the hall before they would begin their feast. “Thank you for coming. We lost a legend today, and tonight we shall pay our deepest respects to him, for tomorrow is a new day for the Hanszai. It will be the beginning of a new era for the Hanszai, one filled with prosperity, and respect!” The gang shouted their agreement in raucous applause. “Feast and drink your fill! Upon the midnight hour we will gather in the courtyard and send off our beloved leader!”
The hall settled into their food and Mizu took his seat and looked over at the doors, waiting for something. He had his own plans, and if they went off without a hitch, Asil would never make it to the Funeral Pyre, and Mizu would take the role as leader of the Hanszai.
“Shit…” Asil sighed as she rested the back of her head against the side of her bed. She sat on the hardwood floor of her quiet bedroom in front of a small table placed in front of her, a bottle of the strongest spirits on hand rested on it. Her eyes were red and puffy from the flood of tears she shed once she made it to her room. She placed a damp washcloth over her eyes to try to get the swelling to go down but to no avail. She had dismissed the twins once they escorted her to her room but she knew they were always going to be close by. She didn’t want to worry them so she covered her face with her pillow to dampen the cries of grief that anguished over her. She felt a bit silly doing everything she could to appear strong, she was human after all, but strength is everything to the Hanszai. One wrong turn could lead to death, especially now that she had just recently been announced as the new Head. Who was she kidding? She had a bounty on her head the moment her new title was announced. That idiot probably already had something in the works. It didn’t matter to her though. She always slept with one eye open and a hand on her sword. It was one of the first things her grandfather taught her when he took her in. Slowly, the memories of that fateful day flooded her mind. She closed her heavy eyes, allowing them to surface.
Dirty, cold, and alone, Asil was living on the streets of the worst area of the city. Her face was covered in soot, her clothes were nothing but rags, and her bones stuck out from her lack of weight. She never knew her father but her mother was a whore who kicked her only child to the side so “it” wouldn’t deter the men away from her “business”. One day her mother vanished without warning but Asil didn’t really care, she was a lone from the beginning. Starvation made her bold so she began pick pocketing and stealing from stalls when the vendor wasn’t looking. Fortunately for her, the day she was caught red handed was when her life turned around. A man slightly over middle age was walking with a small group of dangerous looking men. Asil remembered how astounded she was at his wealthy fancy clothing and the shiny metal cane he walked with. The cane was breathtaking to her. The metal was onyx and the handle was shaped as a snake wrapping around his hand, it’s eyes were brilliant rubies. Yes, the thought of stealing the cane for money briefly crossed her mind but in all honesty, she was enchanted by it’s beauty. It was if a spark ignited in her that she thought was never there in the first place. She needed that cane! So throughout the afternoon, Asil sneakily followed the group to try to find an opening but to no avail. It seemed the man was never alone and she wasn’t stupid enough to outright steal it in front of everyone. As the evening began to come to a close, Asil began to resign herself that the most alluring thing she has ever seen would always be out of her grasp, as everything else in her life. As she watched the group make their way into an inn for the night, she slid down her back in a nearby alley to bury her head in her arms. She had become so tired and didn’t even notice until the sight of the cane disappeared. As she yawned and stretched her arms upward, she heard a low chuckle to her right. She immediately jumped to her feet and raised her fists in defense, only to see the old man with the cane stand in front of her…alone. Oh, the temptation to grab it and run almost had her shifting her weight to the balls of her feet but a thought struck her; a group of dangerous men would not follow the orders of someone who isn’t important or isn’t equally as dangerous. Although she didn’t not lower her hands, she took a step back from him. “What do you want you old geezer?” She sneered, feeling that he was looking down at her. Probably because of her appearance; many drunk rich people would belittle her for their own amusement… until she gave them a right hook to the face before running off. Sometimes being small came in handy. She was able to see him much clearer with the light from the street lights illuminating the area. He must have been in his late 40’s or early 50’s. He was fairly tall and was fairly handsome for his age. His body seemed sturdy which made her wonder why he walked with a cane. His eyes her a brilliant shade of green but what confused her the most was that they seemed kind. He smiled gently and knelt down to meet her height. “You seemed very interested in me all day today.” His voice was deep and was a bit husky. It was oddly comforting. “I was curious as to why you were following us around” He tilted his head slightly to the side, her salt and pepper was styled so that not even a hair moved out of place as his head did. Asil clenched her fists but slowly lowered them. She sighed and shrugged her shoulders, there was no point in lying now. “Your cane… I want it.” She mumbled as she stuck her chin up, signaling her stubborn and brave attitude. His eyes widen at the sight of this and his thin lips curled upwards. He seemed almost impressed at her defiance. He stood back up to his full height and looked down at the object of her attention. “I see” he rubbed his stubbled chin in thought and amusement. “Well, unfortunately, this cane has been passed down from generation to generation in my family so I can not just give to some random strange child.” Asil knew he wasn’t going to just give it to her, he’d be stupid to do so and he didn’t strike her as an idiot. “But, if you would like, how about you come and stay with me and my… organization.” Asil looked up at him dumbfounded. Maybe he was an idiot. What sane person would invite a complete stranger who admittedly stated that they wanted to steal from them? Plus, the way her uttered “organization” had her raising a brow. At that moment, her stomach picked the perfect time to growl so loud, the sound echoed down the alleyway. Her cheeks became flushed from embarrassment and the chuckle he produced after hearing it. “Well, I can’t understand if you’re hesitant but I offer you this: You will not go hungry, you will not be alone, and you will be protected if you come with me, I guarantee that. I give you my word.”
Asil removed the wet cloth from her face and picked her bottle up from the table, taking the last drop. Normally, one bottle would be all she would drink but after the memory of the first time she met her grandfather, she needed another. She stood up and rang for a servant to bring her another bottle. It didn’t take long until another bottle appeared in front of her door and she did not hesitate to lift the bottle up ended and pour the burning liquid down her throat.
While Mizu entertained the majority of the gang, in the background his faithful lackeys, and coerced servants were quickly at work ensuring Mizu’s plans were successful. This had been a meticulously detailed plan that Mizu had crafted over the course of the past year. Knowing his grandfather was going to pass soon, and he began a plan to ensure he was the next leader of the Hanzai should his grandfather do as he feared. Act recklessly. Asil could never be the leader, she was like Grandfather, reckless. To lead the Hanzai into a new era, one had to be ambitious and clever. Asil was a brute. Sure she had strength and if he ever had to fight her hand to hand, he’d be a dead man. However, as far as Mizu was concerned, Asil was an idiot, and a hot head. She would destroy the Hanzai. He wouldn’t allow it.
So he sat back, and let his eyes survey the room awaiting the good news…
As expected Asil had not arrived for supper, and so if his predictions of her actions based on her behavior over the years were any indication; she was in her room drinking alone. Kisho and Kiyoshi were not at the party, but they were not around Asil’s room either. They were likely at a local brothel for all Mizu cared. Which he did. They were wildcards that he couldn’t predict, and in preparation for that, had hired a mercenary to follow them and attack when they tried to return to the compound, or try to rescue Asil.
As for Asil…
The servants bell left the boy’s hands to shake nervously. He’d been sold to the gang to pay off his father’s debts, and now he was standing at the door to the Dragon of the Hanzai. Asil Yamamotto wasn’t a woman… she was a monster. He trembled nervously and swallowed past the lump in his throat. He knew the liquor he held wasn’t clean… he knew it was laced with something. He had watched the gangster drop a powder into the alcohol and give it a swirl. The boy knew they waited right around the corner, and had threatened to cut him if he didn’t give it to her without warning her about it. He feared she might smell it the moment she opened the door and in her rage tear him to shreds. He trembled at the thought, yet some how he managed to raise a hand and knock on the door.
It flung open much to his surprise, and he nearly jumped out of his skin at how fast she moved. Her hand lashed out to whisk the bottle of liquor into her hand and chugged it down. The boy stumbled back to the far wall and watched her in dismay drink the entire bottle in one standing. Even the thugs around the corner were shocked at the display.
Slowly that shock gave way to sinister grins on their faces, all except the boy who quickly rushed off. He knew what he’d done was wrong… so how to fix it?! The TWINS!
Soon the effects of the drug would make Asil so drowsy she would collapse. Not that they needed it now, she’d drank the whole thing! Drugs or no drugs, she was about to fall over any moment now! Just as she was about to lose consciousness they moved in and quickly struck her behind her head to ensure she didn’t wake up anytime soon.
They hurried her out of the building and into the courtyard where they could drop her in a wagon and take her somewhere to dump her… and kill her. They could see the wagon they had prepared and so far everything was going perfectly…. Mizu’s plan was going to work!
The smell of the opioid smoke filled the air of the private room that was covered in red silk from floor to ceiling. Kishyo leaned against the opened door, his silhouette framed by the delicate moonlight. He ignored the coo’s of the women who shamelessly draped themselves over his drunk twin. Of course Kisho immediately chose his favorite brothel as soon as Asil dismissed them but it grated on Kishyo’s nerves how both of them could treat the situation as if they were merely having a bad day. He refused to believe that that bastard Mizu would just sit back and not act like a brat about Asil’s ascension to head of the house but surely he wouldn’t be stupid enough to do something so soon after his grandfather’s death. To go against his grandfather’s dying wish the night of his death was something a monster would do, not a low life scumbag. Kishyo breathed out a sigh and ruffled his golden hair. So why did he have this eire feeling on the back of his mind. “C’mon Kishyo! Have a drink! We have to celebrate the late master’s life and Asil’s promotion!” Kisho yelled from the bosom of a very high female while raising a glass. The ladies giggled at his stupidity, although they would probably have thought he was being silly. Kishyo turned back to the night view and placed his gaze on the Hanzai’s estates. An orange hue from the middle of the estates signaled that the bonfire was still going strong and the music could be heard from the brothel. He supposed, if it was too quiet, he would be even more concerned. Tired of hearing the giggling women and his brother’s slurred stupidity, he decided to leave the room and closed the door behind him. He leaned his forearms over a railing from across from him and began to think about everything that happened after they left the funeral, making sure he didn’t neglect any suspicious details. Asil and Kisho constantly teased him whenever he did this, saying he was too methodical but paying attention to details saved their asses more than those two would admit. He closed his eyes and thought back.
There wasn’t any avid gazes in Asil direction, most kept their head down or averted their eyes but that wasn’t out of the ordinary on any given day. Nothing new was placed in her room, it was the same alcohol she always drank, same serving boy, same glasses to drink out of. No new faces were around her and she would not allow anyone into her room, especially in her current condition. Both he and Kisho scouted the area for any suspicious activity before parting with Asil so why this lingering feeling of uneasiness? He squeezed his eyes harder and rubbed his temple together with his thumb and forefinger for a few more minutes and his eyes suddenly snapped open. The serving boy! He wasn’t new but his attitude seemed off! He was visibly shaking and kept glancing off in another direction as if… knowing he was being watched!
Kishyo ran to the room his brother occupied and swung the doors wide open only to find his twin standing in the middle of the room, shirtless, but with two passed out women lying on the ground. Kishyo looked up at his brother in confusion but Kisho just shrugged and dusted his hands. “Honestly, it was weird that they were giving me more attention than you. Even though were identical, the ladies always go for you. Either way, I could smell the drugs in those drinks from the beginning but whoever hired them, obviously didn’t do their research. Silly chits didn’t know drugs don’t work on me” He sighed and grabbed his shirt on his way to Kishyo, placing it his hand on his twin’s shoulder he muttered “I assume you picked up an odd scent?” That was one good thing about being a twin, one could always read the other’s emotions and sometimes mind. Kishyo nodded his head once and they bolted.
As Kisho and Kiyoshi tried to leave the brothel, two throwing knives came flying at them. Quick thinking the twins managed to dodge the knives and see the culprit. A shrouded assassin stood in the street waiting for them. Under the wide brim of his hat, his face hidden in shadow, the night managed to show his sinister smile, and his hands holding a knife between each finger. “I’ve been paid good money to kill you two. Tonight the Master’s plans will be the end of you, and your friend. I suspect they’ve taken care of her already… some Dragon…”
The assassin was mocking them, and with a flash moved quickly to attack them both. Not only were his knives dangerous because he was fast and precise, but the twins quickly realized the knives were coated with a paralysis poison. “You can’t escape! The only way you’re leaving here, is as a corpse!” He had thrown all his knives, so he moved in with a sword to attack them both head on.
Back at the Hanzai estate, Mizu’s men dropped Asil’s unconscious body into the back of a cart and climbed to the front to take the cart off property and into the forest. They kept glancing behind them to Asil’s bound and unconscious figure. “You think she’s really out? She could be fooling us.” “This bitch wouldn’t have let us bring her this far if that was the case. Let’s just get this over with.”
The forest path was rough terrain to cross, but they made it to the edge of a river, where the current was strong and fast. It led to rapids that led down the mountains and into the valley. They brought their horses to a halt and climbed down from the cart to grab Asil out of the back. The river was loud enough to cover the noises they made pulling Asil out and dropping her at the edge. They made sure the binds on her wrists and ankles were tight, and the one bandit took a knife out of his belt sheath and with his other hand smacked Asils face. She didn’t flinch, proving further she was truly out. He grinned darkly and looked up at his pal. “For the Hanzai.” His partner nodded his head, repeating the mantra, and the first plunged his knife into Asil’s side. Then they picked her up at the feet and hands and tossed her out towards the center of the river and watched her body tumble downstream….
[b Cenreo Capital, Tem. The imperial palace]
Tem is a bustling city in the center of Cenreo. It is the home of the Imperial Palace, the Temple of Ska’kem, Cenreo’s beast diety, and a hub for merchants traveling the continent. It is also the home of royal guard Lt. Shen Danshu. A decorated war hero, and the young Duke of Tem. Shen was a desired bachelor, and current rumors purported he was in talks to wed the Crown Empress Lyanna. That was of course just gossip. Today he was at the royal palace for a very different reason. He was about to begin his transition from soldier to Duke. His father had recently passed, but more than that his little sister had become a young woman, and with it a special rare gift. She was no Seshi, but something more coveted : and Oracle.
At 13 years old, Sachi stood with the dignified grace of a grown woman, and was destined to be an incredible beauty. She was known far and wide as the apple of her brother’s eye, for he loved no other more than his sweet little sister. It was Sachi who had requested this meeting with the crown Empress, and her first lieutenant. Lyanna was seated in an elegant chair, her long pink hair was pulled back into a high bun, fixed with a jeweled hair pin and wearing robes of pastel hues. Shen and Sachi were undeniably siblings. They both possessed brilliant blue slanted eyes, and pitch black hair. “Princess Lyanna, I wanted to come directly to you with this information. For reasons I do not wish to discuss, I did not want to share this with your superior.” Sachi of course meant Empress Tamika. Lyanna still had two more years before her 21st birthday when she’d be able to ascend the throne as the rightful blood ruler, so until then her step-mother ruled in her stead with the guidance of The Firm. A collection of elders and politicians who represented the other city states of Cenreo. Sachi was wise to avoid them, they were all corrupt, and Lyanna needed any and all advantages over her stepmother to keep her position. “What is it, Lady Sachi?” Lyanna asked kindly. Shen stood silently at the door, observing them both, and guarding the door from any unwanted guests. “I… I finally had my first bleeding last year as you know. What I have kept silent about out of fear, I now know I must share with you. I trust you Princess, and you have my loyalty.” Sachi bowed out of respect to Lyanna, who shared a look with Shen from across the room. He knew about Sachi’s powers, but had also ket them quiet. “Anyway, my lady, I have seen visions… visions of the Great mother.” Lyanna tensed, her jaw slackening at Sachi’s confession. She believed the young girl. Sachi was a good girl with a pure heart, innocent and true, she was not the type to lie about something as important as finding The Great Mother.
Lyanna was suddenly on her feet and standing before Sachi, hands on her slim shoulders. “You… you’re an Oracle…” it was made as more of a statement than a question. Sachi gave a demure nod of her head, as if disappointed with herself, but Lyanna was elated. “Did you see where she could be found?” Lyanna asked, but Sachi could only shake her head. “I only saw images. It’s a village in the valley, but I do not know which one. She travels and does not stay in one place long. I saw the clothes of a Miko, so I have surmised she is a traveling priestess, and she is close to a river.” “Shen!” Lyanna waved a hand towards Sachi’s brother and he stepped forward. “Yes princess? “ “Take Seshi Dogan with you to the valley villages. Check them all along the river to see if any of them have had a Miko visit them. Find her. She must be brought to the Capital. She’s the only one who will be able to remove my step-mother from power, and settle the tensions we’ve been having with Kikomourt. Without her we are defenseless against the other three kingdoms. Without her we don’t have magic.”
Shen knew all of this, of course. He would follow Lyanna’s orders without question, he just wished his sister wouldn’t look so put out by her confessions and their inevitable consequences. She had been looking forward to her brother returning home, with being done in the military, now he had to leave her again. “Sachi can stay here in the palace with me.” “Thank you princess, but I would rather return back home to Danshu. Mother has not been well since father’s passing. If I have any more visions, I will return immediately and report them to you.” Sachi gave another respectful bow and Lyanna was reluctant to tell her to stay. Instead the Princess’ gaze turned to Shen. “Go now, do not waste a moment, and tell no one but Dogan about your mission,” Lyanna instructed. Shen gave his own salute and bow, before he took his sister’s hand and led her away from Lyanna’s parlor.
“I wish you did not have to go, but you have too. I saw you with the Miko. She’ll be important to you, though I don’t know how or why…” Shen smiled warmly down at her and hugged her tightly. “I’ll be back soon. Take care of mother for me.” “Yes, brother.”
He had bid his sister farewell, and they had been the last words he share with his sister before leaving the capital…
“Bastard hired an assassin? So fucking lazy.” Kisho sighed in disappointment while evading the attacks from knife hands. It was stupid really. Yeah, the assassin was skilled and Kisho and Kiyoshi had only been able to dodge and evade so far but he was still a single man. Hell, if Asil was fighting him by herself, he’d already be crying for mercy. Kisho, who signaled Kiyoshi to continue on, had barely got his tunic over his head when a whizzing blade nearly kicked his ear. Blade throwers were so annoying, only cowering behind long range attacks, not to mention how unpredictable they were compared to close range fighters. And having a stroke of dumb luck himself, he was one of those close range fighters. Evade, dodge, evade, dodge, dear Gods would this fucker run out already?! Finally there was a lull in attacks! Wait… Is that a mother fucking sword?! Kisho cursed loudly and sighed. Well, at least he was close combat now and Kisho had the upper hand. He raised his fists up to a guard stance and placed a good amount of his weight to his back leg, a cat stance. His eyes narrowed as he focused on the assassin in front of him and noticed a small drip glisten in the moonlight from the sword he carried. Poison? Did no body fight fairly anymore? Oh who was he kidding, Mizu probably hired this guy and he had the moral compass akin to that of sewage. Poison wouldn’t kill him but depending on the type, it could slow him down and he was certain Kiyoshi wouldn’t be able to take on the whole gang if it came to that. Kiyoshi just happened to be one of the annoying long distance fighters as it were. So, all Kisho had to do was take out the poison blade wielding assassin with his bare hands, without getting a scratch, catch up to his brother, probably fight off a mafia clan (also with his bare hands), find his best friend, and run away… easy
“Princess, you’re going to pace a hole into the ground if you don’t stop.” A light hearted voice was heard above Lyanna. She sighed, not bothering to look up into the tree above her. Dogan always seemed to appear out of no where. It was true she was pacing back and forth in the royal garden but her mind was going a hundred paces a minute. The Great Mother had appeared, sweet hearted Sachi is an oracle, and learning all of this in one viewing was a bit overwhelming. She glanced above her to meet smoky grey eyes that looked down at her fusica ones in amusement. She had known Dogan since he had joined the knights of Cenreo, a little over six years ago, and he has become one, if not closest, friend she’s ever had. He was Shen’s best friend and second in command. He was tall and slender but had a stable build. His wavy dark grey hair was shaggy and as carefree as it’s owner. He always seemed to be light hearted but she had seen him become cold once and it still sent shivers down her spine at the recollection. Very few people knew that he was a Seshi which Lyanna found obvious as his personality and mood was as carefree as the wind he manipulated. “Has Shen already told you what’s going on?” She asked with a slight irritation in her tone. It seemed unfair that it felt as if the weight of the world rested on her shoulders yet Dogan acted uncaring of the situation. He smirked and flitted off of the tree branch he practically laid on to stand in front of her. She still had to crane her neck up to meet his eyes as he stood a good six foot four. If it was just the two of them and not have servants around, she would give his shin a good kick. He leaned against the tree’s base and crossed his arms across his chest. “But of course my dear princess. I’m just waiting for him to get back from escorting his sweet sister till we head out. Still, it’s shocking to hear about who we are looking for.” He dare not say out loud the details of everything due to wandering eyes and ears. Lyanna narrowed her eyes mumbled. “Shocking? Funny coming from someone who doesn’t seemed phased at all.” She usually wasn’t so testy but Dogan’s good mood was really starting to irritate her. Dogan raised an eyebrow and shrugged himself off of the tree just to stand a mere foot in front of her. He bent down slightly so that their faces were unarguably too close. “My dear princess, a knight should always show composure as to not let his enemy know what they are thinking.” He murmured. Was her cheeks burning from his closeness or the feel of his breath on her cheeks? No, of course not. Yes, Dogan was very attractive and often caught the eyes of many maidens but Lyanna knew him too well. He rarely took things seriously and often forgot his place as a knight… or her place as a princess. Still, her frazzled brain couldn’t take it anymore so she did as any other respectable crown princess would do: slam her foot onto his. She stepped back as he swore and grabbed his foot in pain, hoping on the other to try to maintain balance. “Stop lazying about and act like a proper knight then.” She said smartly, holding her head high and walking away. As soon as she was out of sight, Dogan smirked and placed his foot down as if nothing happened. Yes, she had some strength for such a delicate looking lady but he hardly felt the pain. His pain tolerance was higher than most since he was a legendary Seshi but he wanted to make her feel like she could inflict more pain than she did. He knew how fragile her ego could be and knew she was in a lot of stress. He placed his hands in pristine white uniform and began to walk towards the entrance of the palace, his meeting place for when Shen returned. As he walked, he amused himself by remembering Lyanna’s adorable flustered face as he was mere inches from her. He did so enjoy teasing her a little too much but he couldn’t help it, his heart was her’s since the day he met her. Although both were young, he can still recall his heart pounding loudly in his chest the first time he made her laugh. She had come to watch the new recruits with her father. Dogan was matched with Shen as a sparing partner, leading for him to fall on his backside and into the dirt. He felt shame creep up on him until the most melodical laugh entered his ears. He turned to see her and it seemed like his world stood still. Every time he was near her after, he craved that laugh like a strong drug. Yet, it was different now. She was a beautiful woman… and he was just a knight. He would take a sword through the heart for her but he didn’t know if he’d be able to watch her walk with another man by her side. Even imagining it brought a pang to his chest. He shook his head, trying to clear his mind. He couldn’t be thinking about things like this right before a mission this big. Right now, he needed to focus.
Shen came upon the main gate to the palace to see Dogan looking terribly distracted. Sure to everyone else the Imperial knight looked aloof and carefree. Shen had known him too long. He knew better. Dogan’s face may have been impassive, but both men had grown rather fluent in eye speak. With a look to Dogan’s stormy eyes, he knew it had everything to do with Lyanna. Shen fought the urge to roll his own eyes and instead brought a horse along side the one he rode. “I knew you would not be prepared.” Shen tossed Dogan a bag of clothes and gear. Shen was not dressed as a soldier or a duke. He was dressed as a commoner to draw as little attention as possible. His uniform was tucked safely away in the room he kept at the palace. “Go change quickly. We’ll speak on the road.”
It wasn’t the longest ten minutes Shen spent waiting for Dogan, but when his friend finally arrived and took his horse, their eyes met and they both took off down the road. Dust kicking up from under their horses, and their capes billowing out behind them. They looked like a rugged pair of mercenaries dressed as they were, and as their stubble grew they looked more the part and were able to slip around unnoticed in their travels.
Once clear of the city and certain they were alone on the road they led their horses down, Shen finally spoke. “You can’t share this information with anyone. I need to make this very clear up front. Give me your word.” Once Shen had it from Dogan he gave a slight sigh. “I’m sorry, it’s just… it’s Sachi. We’ve kept it a secret for the past year, but…She’s an Oracle.” He gave Dogan a moment to take that in, and he observed even the slightest change in his gaze. Oracles were second only to the Great Mother. “Sachi has been having visions. We’re going to the valley villages to look for a traveling Miko. Sachi believes this Miko is the Great Mother.” Nothing more needed to be said, and Shen gave Dogan a piercing gaze. His friend was a Seshi, though it was a fact not made public. Not that Dogan didn’t dare someone to ask everyday with how he fluttered around. “This mission is top secret, even if we are successful we won’t be able to reveal any details or discuss it afterward.” So went their line of work…
An Oracle? It took Dogan longer than he’d like to admit to let the information sink in. He had known Sachi since she was a toddler. She was incredibly sweet and overly forgiving, it was honestly a wonder how Shen was her brother, but to think of her as an Oracle was honestly more shocking than the Great Mother appearing. She was almost a little sister to him. His grey eyes slowly closed as he shook his head. No wonder Lyanna was in such a fit. Of course he would keep this information close to the vest, more for her sake than anything. That young girl had the purest soul he had ever known and would risk almost anything to keep her safe. He recalled how she refused to leave a injured sparrow alone after he had found it while climbing trees when they were younger. It took Shen and himself nearly two hours to console a weeping child and promise her that they would keep an eye out until it got better. Now, that same young girl could potentially carry the weight of the world in her small pale hands. Dogan didn’t know how to handle this information. For the first time since he could remember, he didn’t have some snarky comeback or witty response. All he could do was think, which would probably be welcoming for his best friend. After a moment of contemplation, he finally found words. “Dear Gods man, I-“ he swallowed his saliva and glanced down at his reins that he realized that he had held on too tightly, causing crescent marks into his palms. “How is she doing?” He asked softly. If anyone else saw this side of him, they’d think he’d gone mad but Shen was like a brother and knew that Dogan was sincerely concerned. “I mean, the poor girl must be testing her sanity at this point. Sorry to bring it up but loosing both parents, rarely seeing her only brother, and to all of a sudden to have visions and to discover that she is an Oracle? I can only imagine what she’s going through and at such a young age too… Plus, I’m sure you’re silently loosing your mind as well. How long has she been having these visions? She’s certain it’s the Great Mother? Why tell us now?” He started questioning his old friend until he realized that it might be too much. So instead he sighed and looked ahead. “Sorry, it’s just a lot to take in… I just feel so bad for not knowing and not being able to help is all.” He gave his friend a sideways glance. As usual, Shen was the embodiment of seriousness. If stoic had a visual representation, it would be him. His shiny long black hair was pulled back neatly into a high pony tail, his ice blue eyes were as focused as ever, and his strongly built frame was held in a perfect position as he rode his elegant steed. He was always the voice of reason and justice to the point where it made Dogan feel like a court jester. Still though, to find out your only living family member is one of the most sought out individuals living must be incredibly hard to handle. Especially since one of those individuals would be the current Empress and a conniving raging bitch. Empress Tamaki was Lyanna’s stepmother who showed up suspiciously short after the previous Empress lost her life. Tamaki always showed jealously and discontent for her stepdaughter and acted as if she was above everyone else. Dogan often wondered how Lyanna could keep her tongue to herself whenever her stepmother lashed out against her but he knew she was a better person than he was. One of the reasons he admired both Lyanna and Shen, they could enlist no emotions if the time called for it. Shen was far better at that skill than Lyanna but the poor bastard had a childhood built on not showing emotions. And to think that now they were off to find a being with such power and held the future over their world without letting a soul to know was a bit overwhelming.
Kiyoshi had been scouting the estate of the Hanzi while desperately trying to find information on what the hell was going on. He wasn’t worried so much about his twin handling the assassin as he was Asil. Normally, he wouldn’t be worrying at all since Asil could very damn well take care of herself, but she was in deep emotional pain and VERY drunk. There had only been one other time that he had witnessed his best friend hurting and drunk… lots of blood and shovels were involved. This time though, her grandfather was not around to comfort or console her, which made things even more concerning. He hid behind a bush at a good distance away, daring not to make a scene just yet. He was far more rational than his twin and knew that if he brazenly showed up demanding to find out what was going on, that would be the end of him and probably his brother. He had to keep a level head if he wanted everyone, or anyone, alive. So far, nothing seemed out of place. There were less people around but the night was winding down so there was no surprise there. The only thing that seemed suspicious was that Mizu was smug and happy… which raised multiple flags. The fucker shouldn’t be that happy after his grandfather died and he lost his spot as leader. Kiyoshi slowly pulled a blade from the hem of his pants when a rustle was heard behind him. He spun around, his dagger at the ready, only to find Kisho with bloody hands up in surrender. Kiyoshi lowered his guard and glared at his twin. “What the fuck happened to you?” He swore, his one good eye observing his brother’s appearance. There were a couple of tears in his tunic but nothing seemed too off. His brother was one of the best hand to hand fighters he knew so a single man defeating him would almost be embarrassing. Kisho rolled his eyes and signaled Kiyoshi to follow him quietly. He did as his brother suggested until they were a good distance away before Kisho pulled, who he assumed, was the assassin that was after them earlier, except this poor bastard was half dead. His face was half beaten in and his whole body was covered in blood from who knows where. Seemed like Kisho took it easy on him. “Wasn’t easy to get this fucker to talk,” Kisho spoke in a hushed voice “but eventually, he told me that Mizu and his brainless lackeys had knocked Asil out and drug her out somewhere. He didn’t tell me where before he passed out like a bitch.” Kisho shoved the half dead body away before wiping the blood off of his hands onto his pants in a disgusted motion. Kiyoshi opened his mouth to criticize his twin on his loss of control when a whimper was heard from behind them. Both swung their gaze around to see Asil’s serving boy visibly shaking and his eyes planted to the ground. “I-I-I’m s-sorry!” He near cried out. Kiyoshi quickly swept the area to make sure no one heard him before he ran to the boy and placed a hand over his mouth. “Listen here, you need to calm down and speak in a whisper before something like this,” he points to the assassin “happens to you.” It wasn’t really a threat but more of a warning. This trembling child obviously came to them for a reason and he’d be damned if their only lead to finding their friend was killed. The boy looked up at Kiyoshi with his large doe like black eyes and nodded, blinking away the tears. Kiyoshi scanned the area and was fairly certain it was safe before he slowly released his hand from the boy’s mouth. “Listen child, we’re not going to kill you. We just need to know what happened to the Dragon and where she is.” He spoke quietly but firmly. The boy took a second while looking into his one good eye before nodding in compliance. “I-I swear, I didn’t w-want t-t-to do it!” He said desperately but kept his tone hushed. “Th-they said t-to give her this-this drink instead of h-her usual and I-I wouldn’t get h-hurt!” He suddenly grabbed onto Kiyoshi’s tunic for desperation. “My s-sister is s-s-sick!” He began to raise his voice in desperation and Kiyoshi quickly hushed his voice. “Child, just tell me, where is she?” He honestly felt bad for this young man. There were many times when his family was threatened. The boy searched Kiyoshi’s good eye and must have felt some relief that he truly wasn’t being threatened. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I overheard them talking about dumping her body in the Han river.” He muttered but then looked straight into Kiyoshi’s eye. “…after tying her up and stabbing her” he said with remorse. Kiyoshi swiftly shot a look at his twin who noticeably tensed. He unclenched his hands from the boy’s robe and stood up straight. They knew that river well and knew exactly the direction that it flowed. Kisho dropped the unconscious assassin’s bloody body to the ground and, after gifting him a life ending kick, both of them shot in the direction of the river.
Dogan’s outburst and line of questioning wasn’t surprising to Shen. His apology actually brought a small grin to his otherwise stoic face. It was a fleeting thing and was gone as quickly as it came. He owed Dogan at least the truth, their history was too long and complex to continue to without information. “She’s handling it as well as can be expected. She’s been having the visions on an off for the past year, and yes: she’s quite certain it’s the Great Mother she keeps seeing.” Shen looked over to his friend, unaccustomed to seeing his brow furrowed with concern that way. It was part of the reason he hadn’t told him yet. Dogan was far too carefree to be burdened with such knowledge. In a way, Shen had been trying to protect him. However, if Lyanna was to know then so would Dogan.
“Let’s just work our way to the Han river villages and begin our search for the Miko. We will start from the center and go where we must,” Shen decided, keeping his horse in a quick trot. “If we make good time we can reach the first village in the next two days.” Shen was always the leader in al things. He was raised to be that way, it came naturally to him to lead. With Dogan in agreement, they rode for the next two days stopping only to let the horses rest and eat.
The mountains laid to the east of the small continent of Cenreo, and the Han river flowed from the top of the northern mountains, south and west before it collecting and finally branched out across the rest of the country. It was one of the major waterways of the Eastern Continent. It was treacherous to traverse in the mountains, but it slowed and calmed once it reached the valley. There it flowed steady feeding the valley and enriching the villages settled along its banks. Not all of it was settled, and some sections were rather hard to reach by foot.
Traveling from a remote village at the base of the mountain ridge walked a Miko. Their face shrouded under the large straw hat they wore. Dressed in blue and white robes, a small pack on their back, and a staff in hand, they made their way to a river village. This traveling Miko had been wandering the lands for the last two years, providing help where she could, and expanding her knowledge as well as her spiritual power.
Fall was settling in as the end of summer would be herald by the next full moon. There was a slight chill to the morning air, but that would dissipate once the sun reached its peak. She could hear the river nearby and felt a strange presence. Stopping in her tracks she looked with green eyes in the direction of the river. The day was still young and she’d only been traveling for half a day. It wasn’t like her to contemplate going off her desired path.
Above her a crow cawed at her, and so her gaze shifted up to the trees surrounding her, but her hand raised to also block out the sun shielding her face from view. “You warn of death… but not mine…” she murmured to the bird. It cawed once more and flew off. The Miko no longer hesitated and followed the crow towards the River.
Once she reached the river and broke through the trees, she saw the crow perched on a dead tree across the narrow cut of the river at this juncture. The Miko knew she’d been brought here for a reason, so her eyes searched out the banks of the river and into the tall grass lining it. It took her sometime, but she eventually found a body. It was a woman, her dark hair was plastered to her deathly pale skin. Even her lips had turned blue. The Miko reached down and plucked the woman half submerged in the water out. She had caught herself on a fallen tree, hanging over it and braced by a boulder. When the Miko finally had Asil on the grass she saw the dagger still jammed in her gut. The Miko knew it could not stay and the woman would need healing.
“This will hurt,” the Miko warned the unconscious woman, not that she would respond. She was too close to death. Grasping the blade the Miko removed it swiftly, and promptly applied pressure to the wound. The Miko pocketed the knife for the time being and pulled open Asil’s jacket to assess the wound. She had everything she needed in her bag. Out of a tin she removed a strange green paste and smashed it into Asil’s wound, then began to bind it with wrapping. This would have to do until the Miko could get her to a more secure space.
Before leaving the previous village the villagers had told her of an abandoned cabin down along the river banks. Once used by fisherman, but the wild animals and dark spirits had caused them to abandon it. Animals could be a problem, but spirits or demons did not phase the Miko. Her spiritual power was generally enough to keep most evil entities away. With great effort the Miko managed to find that cottage and moved asil there. She made a bed out of straw and laid Asil in it and removed her of her wet clothes. She started a small fire for warmth, and property tended to Asil’s wounds. “I have done all I can. Infection is our greatest threat at this point. I’ll have to go back into the village. I suppose it won’t hurt to delay my trip until this stranger is better,” The Miko mused out loud to herself.
The Miko stayed by Asil’s side for the entire day and through the night, but when morning came she was gone… back to the village for a few supplies and extra food. Even if the woman did wake up, she wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
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