Chapter 39 - Check
“Your part in all of this is of great curiosity to me. Why did you get involved again?”
“Agathon,” Arata corrected.
“Yeah, that guy,” Jomiko nudged her head, “he hired us to kill a big bad monster and then didn’t pay up. On top of that, half our party really needed the money back then and forced us to pay them out of our pockets.”
He nodded in understanding.
“So if I would pay you this sum now, would you be satisfied?”
“It’s gotten bigger than that,” Pixa stated before anyone could even think about it. She felt the need to.
“Is it…some kind of grudge, then?” Katsuryu asked.
“Well yes, but not that personal. If you can pay us the agreed amount for the monster slaying, and cough up additional funds for everything else we’ve gone through, we can talk,” Jomiko told him.
“What?” Pixa was honestly appalled at that.
“Then talk, we will.”
Pixa tried to catch Arata’s eyes but he was simply looking forward, seemingly ignoring her stare.
“Well, we were sent to retrieve Fairgrifen’s stone, but our employer’s already been arrested…” Sanpu thought out loud, “so I guess we’re just along for the ride,” Fuun’na finished the thought.
“Of course you are,” Katsuryu commented, a bit spiteful, “and I know why the Xia is here.”
“She has told me,” Katsuryu casually told him, as the tunnel came to an end.
It once again led into a wide chamber, though not as large as the city. It was, though, still pretty large, and the fact it was outfitted with a make-shift throne, which sat at the top of some steps, just made it seem larger.
It had two other exits, one to the left of the throne, and one behind it. Agathon, Fiahra and Danactia were standing by the throne, like bodyguards, and they stayed there in silence as Katsuryu made his way there.
The group expectedly walked to where the steps began rising up to the throne and then stood there as Katsuryu climbed himself to reach the throne. He turned, and sat, and placed his hands on the arms of the throne.
There, he looked down on them respectfully but sincerely, with the dignity of a king.
“You have committed no crimes against the Rei, or myself. This is the only reason why you are still breathing.”
“Oh no, yeah, ‘cause sticking me like a piece o’ meat doesn’t count for anything,” Shinyaki complained, arriving from the left exit. Or entrance, in that case.
He was wearing a vest over his bare torso, which fashioned some bandages around the wounds he had suffered. He also had new trousers, a bit tight for him.
“Watch yourself, Shinyaki. You know how little patience I have for your… ’Junnish’ flair.”
“Bah,” he waved complaint as he stood next to Agathon.
Agathon was wearing a martial arts robe over his body, with pants fitted tightly to his legs, clearly an outfit to represent both his specializations. Danatcia, at the other side of the throne, was dressed in the same outfit as he had been, and Fiahra was sporting a silver robe over her whole body that pretty much betrayed very little of her features.
“As I was saying, you have done me no crime… yet. In fact, you have come a long way and surpassed insurmountable challenges. I have had the whole continent running about at my whim, but you have been headstrong, clever, and unrelenting in your pursuit to find me. And all while…well, how much do you know about our plan, exactly?”
They glanced around for an odd second, seeing who would speak out.
“That you’re going to fight Bellhall for territory for your own city.”
Katsuryu nodded, “indeed, but you did not know what kind of city, did you?”
“No,” Arata replied, his eyes attentive despite his spaced-out smile.
“Well, you have probably surmised what I mean to do,” Katsuryu said, raising his hands to grab them in front of his face, the elbows not leaving the throne arms “which is to lead the Rei into founding their own city.”
Again, Sanpu and Fuun’na couldn’t help but snort at the thought.
“I’m sorry,” Sanpu raised a hand in apology, “I don’t think that’s getting old soon.”
“How do you keep a straight face?” Fuun’na asked Shinyaki, but he just shook his head at their childish demeanor, holding a patronizing smirk.
“And that is very much the main reason,” Katsuryu said, his words laced with poison. “The Rei are created…mostly by Jun. We are hence considered to be a sub-species. So much so we do not have, nor are we allowed to have, a patriotic feeling towards our race. We are created from the assemblage of different parts, our original past being one best forgotten, and while others may think us less for this, I think us more…
“We, the Rei, are greater than the sum of our parts. We have the greater capacity for government, we have the greater capacity for war, we have the greater capacity for anything, really…for we are, within ourselves, many.”
“Many kinds of crazy, is what you are,” Sanpu insulted.
“Yeah, you’re talking like you inherit all the good things, but studies show you inherit mostly the faults. A side-effect, I suppose, of being unnatural,” Fuun’na stated, crossing her arms in a very judgmental pose, mimicking, of course, her brother.
Katsuryu punched the arm of his throne, damn right insulted.
“Studies done by the Jun! They already have socio-economical control over the Pan and their silly desert city! A clear superiority in the political climate! And now they wish to keep our superior race as slaves! As…lowly dolls!
“I have done my own studies. In fact, Shinyaki is only here because I bested him in a duel,” he said, waving at Shinyaki, who looked away uncomfortable and slightly ashamed.
“And I have bested everyone, intellectually. I manipulated that fool FairCloth into the situation that forced him to start a civil war. I manipulated a high-stakes Jun leader in Spellgate to facilitate the theft of the stone. And you know how I did that? By saying I only wanted Bellhall…which is the truth. And since all I want is to weaken an opponent to the Jun’s overall goal of dominance, they facilitated… I bribed Bellhall officials so they would vote against warning others of their stolen stone. And I did all this while keeping Aellea, and the rest of Spellgate’s higher society out of the loop… I am not, in any way, inferior!”
Katsuryu paused for effect.
He leaned back, using the pause to slow his breathing and calm down…and then continued.
“I planned for it all. It was my goal to have Aellea’s foreign military in Fairgrifen, so it can’t aid Bellhall as quickly. It was my goal for Spellgate to suffer casualties that would deter them from preemptively moving forces to Bellhall. I have kept Bellhall ripe for the taking…”
“But why, though?” Arata asked, “you guys seem well settled here, why look to war? Why not deal with things politically or something?”
“Well settled? You base this on your seconds-worth of observation? Regardless, no one would take us seriously at the talking table…and we are not some sub-race, to be living underground, in hiding. The Sen might be made for it, but we require the sun and we will have the respect of the world. We have contributed to many of the great achievements in history, and yet, there are no records of our contributions…because there are never any records of the tools that are used. We are just tools to the eyes of the others. But after I burn Bellhall to the ground, they will change their minds. They will want us on the talking table, just like they want each other. The Rei will have their city. The Rei, like every other race, will have their territory…their country…
It didn’t last long as Persephonai was most uninterested in the political dealings of dolls and doll makers. He looked at Danatcia.
“Why are you helping him, Dana?”
“Hmpf, typical of a Xia,” Katsuryu commented, “the matters of surfacers are just beneath you, aren’t they? Even if the matter at hand is the genocide of the capital city of the Fea…”
“Oh, shut up. Maniacs like you are a coin a dozen,” Persephonai argued, “why should I care how grandiose your plan is? It’s going to fail.”
“Going to fail, you say?”
Persephonai seemed to be annoyed.
“Bellhall already knows you’re down here, we told them before we stepped through the tree. Should be what? Ten minutes before they arrive? Not to mention that there’s like, seven of us right here. I’m just trying to avoid having to hurt her.”
Katsuryu just smiled patronizingly.
“That is just precious.”
“The way you think you actually put a dent in my plan, despite how I just explained I out-thought everyone in this. Everyone good enough to manipulate you into suicide, and their betters too… I have them all beat. But you think this little contingency of yours actually pulled through.”
“Hum,” Jomiko raised her hand, “I made the call myself, it totally went through to Leaf.”
“Yes it did, but only because I caught wind of your interference just after you scheduled the confirmation of the entrance with your friend, Leaf. But I assure you, the scouts they sent ahead have been thoroughly…dealt with.”
They all opened their eyes in surprise; Persephonai himself glanced over at Danatcia to see her looking away.
“Communikeiso is a simple enough spell to trace if you know where to sensor…”
“You’re bluffing,” Pixa accused, a bit intimidated.
“If that is what you feel like believing…you will be proved wrong,” he waved his hand in the air, and a thick white mist formed in the air. It made a smoky hologram in the middle of the air, showing the bodies of four Fea warriors around the hollow tree. One was still alive when a Rei, in dark covert clothes, shoved a rapier through his belly.
“Augh!” Pixa reacted, bringing her hands to her mouth.
“Of course, Bellhal will miss them, and send a more considerable force, at which point we will be found out.” He again waved his hand into a fist, dispelling the hologram.
“But that is irrelevant, really. You see, it is too late already. The plan has already succeeded. Fairgrifen and Aellea are too far, Spellgate is too late, my strengths are amassed and ready, and most importantly…” He rose up, throwing open his robes.
“The stones are mine!”
He had a tight black vest beneath the robe, light armored and strapped with the four glowing circular stones.
“And about that numeric advantage? I am guessing that is also not very accurate. You have two less than you think you have.”
“Kazuki!!!” Jomiko suddenly yelled.
They all turned, grabbing their weapons, too late to stop Kazuki from hugging Jomiko’s neck with his sword.
“Kazuki, what’re you doing?!” Pixa yelled, shocked and sad.
“Stopping you from doing anything you’ll regret,” he stated, his voice as cold and expressionless as ever.