Chapter 38 - Katsuryu
“So you don’t know about this?”
“I didn’t even know there was a Rei city,” Kazuki said, dumbfounded. “Anywhere.”
“Well…surprise?” Arata motioned at the city.
“Hah, that’s a whole lot o’ doll-houses, huh?” Sanpu commented, laughing inwardly.
Kazuki turned an evil gaze his way.
“Sanpu!” Pixa protested.
“What?” He shrugged, “it’s funny.”
“I’m going to find out what the hell’s going on here,” Kazuki voiced, marching to his left.
“No, wait, Kazuki,” Arata called, touching his shoulder. Kazuki halted and looked back at him, impatient. “We don’t know what this is about. For all we know, they’re part of…of whatever the guy we’re after is about. Whatever he has in store. For all we know, they’ll kill strangers on sight.”
“Oh, now you want to be cautious?” Kazuki asked, insulted. “When it’s any other place—“”
“C’mon, that was different. None of those places were the supposed hideouts for a conqueror bent on all-out war...”
“What kind of conqueror isn’t bent on all-out war?”
“That’s not the point, damn it,” Jomiko called out, equally impatient, “not being cautious has been our problem, and oh, we haven’t won one fight. We need to do differently here, especially because this time, I mean look, are we really getting out of here? If we lose? No guards coming to our rescue this time”
And with that, the ambient went tense. Indeed, unlike with all the other altercations, there would be no surrounding army of guards at the ready to interfere and save them if things went wrong. Especially if all the Rei were on the enemy side.
“One mistake and we’re dead. Probably.”
“You know, I gotta ask,” Sanpu raised a finger.
“No, you really don’t,” Jomiko looked at him in anger, to silence him.
“Well sheesh, fine,” he raised and waved his hands uncaringly, looking away.
Kazuki stood, looking at the city again, thinking.
“If we’re in the business of being cautious,” Kazuki said, “I say we backtrack and see where the other exits lead to before we go with one the whole way.”
“Cautious doesn’t mean slow,” Jomiko crossed her arms, “we’ve no time to waste.”
“Actually, it looks like a couple of miles down this ramp until we hit the city,” Arata pointed out, “I think it’s faster to see where the other exits lead.”
“Fine,” Jomiko said, stepping towards the cave exit, now entrance, “but that doesn’t mean we have to slowly walk there, right? C’mon, let’s step it up.”
She ran, and they followed. Pixa eyed Kazuki preoccupied as his eyes shifted from the city. She had never seen him truly caring for something so she wouldn’t know what he looked like. But still, she could bet that was what it looked like, for the few seconds it was apparent.
They went back and took the left turn. This one went around and around, slithered and zigged-zagged for quite a long time. They quickly stopped running, hanging back into a jog, as their boredom increased with each given step.
“Maybe we should’ve--”
“Don’t even say it, I…do-don’t,” Jomiko begged, her voice trembling in pent-up frustration, “just keep up and don’t say anything.”
“’Cause you never know who’s listening,” Arata pointed out, actually pointing his finger to attention.
“I’m listening,” Jomiko interjected, “and I don’t want to. So shut it.”
They continued to march, ignoring other intersections, caves that branched off or into the one they were traveling across. They individually told themselves they couldn’t possibly inspect all the paths if there were so many, but they held their judgment until they reached some kind of end, of the path they were taking.
“Hey guys,” Pixa called, “I…I don’t think all these are other tunnels.”
Persephonai stopped, raising an eyebrow, and turned his “flashlight” to his right, illuminating the inside of what he had assumed was a tunnel, to find out it was the tunnel entrance to an underground hole…with a bed, some furniture made out of mud, now rock-solid, and other bedroom particularities.
“This is a room,” Persephonai echoed everyone’s understanding.
“These are all rooms?”
“Guess they don’t all live in that city we saw?”
“Maybe they go there to work, though? It would explain their absence.”
“Maybe they’re built for people that are still coming,” Pixa suggested, generating silence.
After that momentary pause, they looked around, their heads making the math of it all.
“What the hell is going on here?” Jomiko again asked, a bit intimidated.
“Exactly what it looks like, Jomiko,” another voice surged from the end of the tunnel.
They all looked towards the origin of the voice, at complete attention, to land eyes on an adult male Rei.
He was tall, and probably muscular under his pitch black robe-like attire that contrasted again his skin, which was blindingly white. His clothes matched his dark eyes, as well as his long hair, that reached half-way down his back. He was visibly unarmed, though his hands were behind his back so it was hard to tell. He had a simple and casual, though serious, expression as he finished his remark:
“I’m building a Rei nation.”
They all flinched at the surprise of the notion, holding their tongue in perplexion. Except for the twins, they couldn’t help but snort at the idea.
They all looked at them, the man especially, seeing them containing grins. They raised their eyebrows, looking even more surprised.
“Wait,” Sanpu raised a hand, allowing Fuun’na to complete the sentence, “you’re serious?”
The man sighed.
“…bringing the Jun was a mistake, friends, but I will allow the benefit of the doubt. Apart from them, I see no reason why we must engage in hostility.”
The man opened his arms to show he was indeed harmless, though a lack of weapon was hardly enough proof, as Agathon had frequently demonstrated.
“My name is Katsuryu…soon to be Emperor of the new Kingdom of Reinuh.”
“Are you the guy we’re looking for?” Sanpu raised his voice, completely not taking his declaration seriously. “Are you the one bossing the scythe-wielding maniac around?”
“Please,” he turned a palm towards them, in a plea for respect, “refrain from insulting my acolytes. They have done us well, despite their more precarious behavior, and I would see none of them held in contempt or disrespect.”
Jomiko could smell the snob in him, and was thus immediately disgusted. She didn’t like royalty, she didn’t like authority, and she pretty much didn’t like the Jun…because she didn’t like big egos. People looking down on her really rattled her nerves.
“Pretty tongue you got there, doll-face,” she didn’t consider the fact that might be insulting Kazuki, “what’s to keep us from bringing you down right now?”
“Well, in the time you’ve been here, you have alerted us to your presence exactly twenty-two times, the first of which was when you opened the entrance to our small corner of the underworld. I showed you the courtesy of not unleashing the entirety of my people so they can bear down upon you and harvest your bodies for parts to create more Rei… so I would assume you would show the courtesy of responding in kind...which is to say, with dialog.”
“Remember that thing about caution, Jomiko?” Arata whispered, skipping a step to be as close to her as possible, hands in his chained swords.
“It’s just one guy, we can take ’im if we’re fast enough,” Jomiko commented.
“Or he might have the stones, and magic ability over the earth,” Arata pointed out, carefully. He saw Jomiko’s eyes looking up, and heard her breathing becoming more frustrated, which in that instance, was a good thing. “You really think he’d show like this if he thought for a second we had a lick of a chance to take him on? We’re caught here, let’s just wai--”
“Out of respect for Kazuki,” Jomiko interrupted, “we’ll hear you out.” She did her best pretending fear or intimidation wasn’t even a bit of a factor in that decision.
“Great, if you’ll follow me…” the man began to turn…
“I want to know where Danatcia is,” Persephonai demanded, in an authoritative tone.
The man glanced back at him, gauging Persephonai with clear and intimidating judgmental eyes.
“If you will follow me…”
Persephonai squinted his eyes, though, without a doubt in his mind that Katsuryu was evil. He crossed both his staffs and aimed them at him with all the menacing poise of a beautiful naïve child.
“Tell me where she is or I’m calling this stupid bluff you’re pulling.”
“Are you crazy?” Pixa asked, worried, stepping a bit back, looking around and thinking of what she could do, and where she could evade to if a fight disrupted in such close quarters.
“Little child of the Xia…” the man whispered, turning around with a cold murderous look…that quickly faded into a serious but less intimidating visage, as he said “calm yourself. All four of them will be there, so, please…follow me, we will talk more at my meeting hall.”
He turned and started walking, not waiting for Persephonai to lower his staffs. Which he did.
Jomiko gave Arata a mean look, but he shook his head, still convinced they had to wait for better odds…even if they were clearly about to get worse.