Yoko sat motionlessly in the growingly dark room. There was some discomfort in her heart but for what, she could not really determine. The days she had passed were hazy and she knew that there was something wrong, but Yoko found herself barely able to concentrate to figure what or why. Was it the heavy headdress? She tried to reach up to remove it and found herself unable to. All she could was to sit there motionlessly.
'Why?' She asked herself.
But as she asked herself that question, she began to forget what her question was. Yoko struggled to recall what she had been doing before she came here. It was night when she arrived at the building. It had been as though they had expected her. The door burst opened, breaking her thoughts and strode in was Jinhaku with a smile that stretched from ear to ear.
"That was marvelous!" He spun around happily, still full of excitement from the day's events. Outside, Yoko could hear joyous merrymaking as the door swung closed. "Look at me," he said.
Yoko found she could not resist his command. "My little heaven's will." He smiled. "Don't worry, you won't need to think of anything." He patted her face with a smug smile on his face.
The door swung open, the sounds of the singing could be heard again. "Jin! They're calling for you! Come on!"
"Oh yes!" he turned around. With Yoko in the listening to his every command, there was no need to worry whether she would try to escape. How will want escape if she could not even resist the sound of his voice literally. "Ready yourself for bed, tomorrow we'll have a big big day!" He commanded as he shut the door.
There was the faintest sigh of relief to be out of his presence. Yoko will have to find a way to resist him soon or her kingdom will crumble. Unable to resist the maids or his command, Yoko sat there while they undressed her and tucked her into bed.
She had to sleep now. He commanded it so. Maybe it was the sight of Shouryu or Shoukei and for the brief moment she was able to whisper. "Tell Shouryu."
Shoukei would not go quietly. As the guards dragged her into the dungeons, she screamed, kicking, biting. Behind her quietly following was Sekki. Head dipped forward, he had resigned himself to being caught and jailed the day Yoko had send him the letter. He had just finished his finals for his grade in Daigaku and found the letter stamped with a turquoise wax. Guessing who it was not difficult for those who knew her majesty personally, a sense of alarm and a slow creeping chill rose in him as he broke the seal.
He had worked through disabling ministers before they even knew her majesty had already turned to their actions. Together with the stealthy efforts of Rankei and him along with Yoko's unwavering trust in her inner circle, they had managed to put down many of the corrupt ministers with little suspicion. However they had least expected Shoukei to be the mastermind this time. Perhaps it was good that Yoko was not really herself. Even for Sekki who was not close to Shoukei, to find out the truth had shaken him. Or was there a clue that he had missed? Sekki reviewed the case again in his mind.
Her majesty had noticed an alarming amount of people carrying arms in Bu, out of which, she had determined more than half were tokis. The shirei reported that there were more tokis in the storage of a minister and with the assistance of Rou Hansei, they managed to plot several routes that moved the tokis. Rou then presented himself as one of the smugglers to infiltrate the route. That was when the actual amount of tokis became clearer. There were many suspects on who was the mastermind and without any better way, Sekki had infiltrated one of the main ministers. That was when things took for the worse.
Sekki sank cross-legged on the cold floor as the guards swung the metal door close. Tonight would be a cold and quiet night. Tomorrow that's when everything will go to hell.
Opposite him, he could still see Shoukei screaming and rattling the bars. Soon she would find out that it would be useless. His motionless body caught her attention.
"How can you just sit there? Aren't you worried?" Her voice was sharp and mildly hoarse from her screaming.
"Would screaming accomplish anything? Would worrying accomplish anything?" He turned from her, unwilling to see her. He would have to think about her position before he could decide anything.
Shouryu was forced to give up trying to stay in the castle. Everything had collapsed. He had come to Kei to track the strange movement of toki only to find out that there's some big conspiracy brewing in Kei. To stay would chance a possibility of breaking his heaven's mandate. Not to mention Yoko was not in any position to seek help from him. Where was Keiki? Shouldn't the kirin have known that his queen was in trouble? Shouryu sighed, wishing that he had not been so hardheaded in chasing Rokuta away and making him take his shirei away. How he wished that he had a shirei now.
The moon was high in the sky when he finally reached the tree that he had left Tama and that strange man he rescued. The man smirked at him.
"Did you find her?" the man asked with his throaty moans. He laughed with Shouryu decided not to reply. "She did not act the way you expected. Hehehe. I can tell you how to free her."
Shouryu whipped around to stare at the gaunt old man in shock. "But it comes with a price," the old man smiled.
"I suppose you were in this whole conspiracy right until they found someone better and decided to do off with you." Shouryu looked evenly into man's dark grey eyes. He had been wrong about that man the whole time. He was not an old man, not one bit. Perhaps forty with dark grey hair, perhaps with sunken eyes and an emaciated body, but he was not an old man. He looked like a man that had once been plump and overweight and suddenly put on an anorexic diet.
A flash of anger flicked in the man's eyes. He was used to getting his way and being in-charge and he must have found the new person in charge a threat to his comfort. Shouryu allowed himself to smile inwardly at the small revelation. That was why the man knew so much. "So I guess that you would have already have known that Shoukei, the small petite girl took over your glorious spot."
Press till it hurts and then he'll know where to start.
"That little girl came waltzing in with the grace of that silly empress. What will that silly taika empress know anything about ruling? I governed Kei for three empresses and not one of them was worth remembering." The man laughed.
"You're- Seikyou. Kei-ou mentioned you."
"I'm not surprised. I am the pillar that held the kingdom, right until that stupid girl decided to exile me." He burst out laughing. "Funny how a kingdom she helped the 'save'", he gestured with his fingers at that point, indicating his clear disdain for Yoko's heroics, "became an inspiration for us."
Helped to save?
Shouryu felt his blood run cold as he recognized what that meant. There was only one kingdom that Yoko had assisted in her short twenty years of reign.
The man oblivious to Shouryu's inner rage continued ranting about how great his rule had been. The man had been blind to his own faults and the suffering he had caused with the great corruption. Unable to accept facts even when Yoko had smashed his nose in, he had wondered how he had sat there for so long. The man had fallen silent upon realizing that his audience was no longer held captive by his great exploits.
"There is a way to bring her back." Seikyou's throaty voice broke into his thoughts. "I was the mastermind of the entire plan. I know its flaws too. If they're going to get rid of me, then I don't see why I can't sabotage them. It's a very small detail but hard to fulfill."
Seikyou pointed to his forehead. "A small detail."
Rankei flew in the darkness. The moon was high in the sky, but all he felt was the bleakness of the situation growing in him. She had never summoned him with such short notice or abrupt wording. Despite the short wording, he had managed to grasp the urgency, the fear that she did not mention. He knew that when they had embarked on this mission, there was a high chance that neither of them would survive. He understood the importance of the mission. Kei-ou was a smart lady, she would have noticed at some point or another. It was a gamble that they both took. The dark trees whizzed past him. Was he closer to the blue palace? By now, fueled by only the short nap he had managed to snatch after the long exhausting ride from Gyouten, Rankei wondered if he would even prove to be of any use.
It was a lurch as his kijyuu suddenly took a dive. Had he driven his mount too much? He didn't need to think hard for that answer. Even the most resilient mounts would have faltered.
"Not now-" he muttered, slapping the mount awake. "Land! LAND!"
The kijyuu mustering the last of its strength landed, tripping over its forepaws. Tumbling forward, Rankei tried to flip to an easy recovery position only to find he could not. He could feel the exhaustion deep in his bones as he rolled to a stop.
He heard a man's incredulous voice as his conscious faded to darkness.