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Gone

By Orlha

Adventure / Action

Prologuish? Chapter 1

Prologue

It had been many long years for Yoko. To be honest, the first hundred breezed by. There were so many things that she needed to do: corrupted ministers to weed out, cities to rebuild, plans to draw out for different situations, rebellions to subdue and the list goes on. It was not only when she had hit a hundred and fifty before people stopped pining for Tatsu, a unique saying to the people of Kei often used to describe when the longing for the enlightened rule of a long-lived king. Her workload had too by then eased up. Her ministers were people she had placed there with trust and there had been few remnants from the short-lived rule of Yo-ou, her predecessor. Though there were a few times where a minister she had trusted went astray. She was always heart-broken to see such however few they were. It was times like that where she would retreat to the inner palace for many days and only Shoryu was permitted to enter; not even Keiki was allowed. People change he would say as he cradled her.

Kei shared a unique alliance with En due to the strange relationship between Yoko and Shoryu. Even though they were two separate countries, both Yoko and Shoryu seemed to co-rule En and Kei. They were unwavering in their path of the Way and made many solid decisions that the ministers found they had nothing to fault with. Their relationship was like the sun and moon. Without the sun, the moon would not shine; without the moon, the sun would not know how glaring it could be. Where Shoryu lacked in severity and sterness, Yoko made up for it and where Yoko was overly serious, Shoryu lightened her. However all that changed somewhere during her 400th year reign. The two countries that everyone thought were like rocks in a stormy sea changed.

Everything changed when Shoryu, Naotaka Komatsu, King of En or the Eternal King as they call him now disappeared with nothing but an apology letter to Rokuta and just like that the end of the 900 year rule of Shoryu was over. Things did not change overnight for the country En. The ministers who ruled the country were just. The kingdom had not been laid to waste by a king with a demon in his heart. There were no pieces to pick up for the interim rule, only the empty throne was a piercing reminder of what they had lost. When asked to search for a new king, Enki simply gave Nyosen a strange look. He vanished shortly after that and a new ranka was found on the Shashinboku – En's. Enki or rather Rokuta had merely said after Shoryu's death that he should have realized it much sooner and as Yoko did, he too blamed himself for Shoryu's death. They all felt the burden of time acutely as the ministers that had passed them by.

For Kei things were different. Yoko announced a change in the era name to Kukoshou; Black Esteem, they all silently breathed a sigh of relief and allowed it despite being such an ominous name. The name, they noted contained the Eternal King's name. A tribute to Eternal King it was, for the passing of a King that ruled nearly a thousand years was nothing but astounding. They worried about its effect on Yoko and despite their foreboding feelings, Yoko went on ruling the kingdom as she always had. However Yoko began to withdraw into herself, eventually she withdrew so much into herself that Suzu could even count the number of words she spoke a day. They passed it off with Shoryu's passing, knowing of Yoko's intimate relationship with Shoryu.

Then one day, someone realized that they could not remember when they had last seen Yoko. Yoko with her frequent trips down the mountain had been a routine. During her four hundred years of rule she had acquired a habit of reading the rumours and a nose for suspicious activities as she walked within the country. It held the ministers and provincial lords in check. They could never tell when she could disappear and where she would surface. So many of them either held their breaths or tucked their tails and resigned. However no matter how long she disappeared, there had always been at least one within her inner circle who knew exactly where she was and/or what she was up to. This time no one, not even Keiki knew.

This is where the story begins.


Kukoshou Year Seventy

"Yoko!" Shoukei yelled after her angrily. She pulled her shoe off and threw it at Yoko's retreating back. Nothing she said would change Yoko's decision. She gnashed her teeth as she hopped over to pick her shoe up.

"Shoukei." She looked up at the shadow that fell over her. Kantai had landed his mount in the middle of the busy street without a care for the pedestrians. Above the rumble of thunder and patter of rain echoed her thoughts.

"Where is her majesty? What did she say? Is she coming back?" He scanned the street fervently for Yoko but she had disappeared yet again. She was becoming extremely adept at hiding herself, even from Keiki and his sirei. Shoukei held her hand up at his flood of questions. She had been searching for Yoko for so long right to the city of Goto before she finally found Yoko waiting for her. Yoko knew the sirei had found her and had guessed that the person they would send after her would be Shoukei or Suzu after Keiki had come back empty-handed. Excluding her very somber way of dealing with everything, Shoukei liked Yoko. Yoko was very earnest in everything; she never did things on a whim or say things without meaning it. Yoko was full of drive to finish everything perfectly that sometimes Shoukei had to pull her down. However that Yoko she had just spoken to was not even a shadow of what she had been.

"She is –" Shoukei struggled for the words to describe Yoko now. She looked up and shrugged, "gone."

"Gone-? That doesn't explain anything!" Kantai said, his voice rising in level. He could not care less for the strange looks the pedestrians were giving him.

She sighed as she grabbed his hand to climb aboard. "Conversely, it explains everything. She is gone: not here, lost, hopeless, departed, passed away."

"Passed away!" Kantai exclaimed in shock at Shoukei's words. "How could-" he shook his head as though trying to erase a bad image. "What conversation could that have been for you to say that?" He asked despite not wanting to know the answer.

"I asked her what she was doing here and why had she not returned. It was as though there was nothing left in her. She did not remember how she got there or why, only that she had to stay. She wasn't even interested in the matters of affair or En. She looked like she had not eaten or drank for awhile and she was similarly disinterested in them. Her sword had not been cleaned for awhile though thankfully, she obviously had been taking baths. She didn't want to talk about Eternal King and when I said to return even just for while, she wouldn't hear the end of it." Shoukei sighed. "She simply said the kingdom could go to hell."

Kantai listened to this in silence as they circled around searching for Yoko's unmistakable presence in the pouring rain. His heart sinking as he took in the gravity of her words. He finally understood why the only word Shoukei could have used was gone.

What an ominous word.

"There!" Shoukei pointed at the red headed figure on the cliff. She rubbed her eyes perplexed. "Is that-?" Shoukei had seen that figure many times in court to recognize it on sight.

"En King?" Kantai said, his eyes narrowing to slits as they neared.

"That can't be-" She gasped, clutching tightly onto Kantai as they dove towards Yoko.

"Your majesty!" Kantai strove to place himself between his queen and the person who could only be dead. Slipping off, Shoukei pulled Yoko away from the figure as they looked on. The figure was indeed the Eternal King although it could hardly begin to describe him. Pale and almost see-through, neither Shoukei nor Kantai had seen anything like it.

"What are you?" Kantai demanded; his voice cutting through the pouring rain and growling thunder as clear as day. The figure merely pointed towards the void sea and they turned to look. Around them the storm brewed. The wind howled angrily that even Kantai had difficulty keeping his Kitsuryou aground. Turned back, he frowned saying, "that doesn't explain –"

"Yoko!" The ground beneath Yoko had crumbled. Shoukei clung desperately onto Yoko's arm but like had been she was previously, Yoko was utterly disinterested in Shoukei's effort to save her. "Please Yoko! Grab onto my arm!" Shoukei pleaded.

Yoko smiled a little as though suddenly realizing Shoukei was there. "I have to go," she whispered, wrestling Shoukei's hands off.

"Kantai!" Shoukei screamed somewhat hysterically. Kantai struggled to fly beneath Yoko to grab her, but the winds refused to permit him to go near or even land. They wailed and shrieked, even ripping him off his mount. He grasped frantically onto the saddle. If he had anything to say, it was that the storm hardly seemed normal. Then when he saw Yoko fly from Shoukei's hands and towards the curling abyss of winds, he made a mad drive towards her.

"Your majesty!" he hollered and for the first time in his life he prayed very hard that he would be able to reach Yoko. He smashed into Yoko, he could taste the blood in his mouth. Grabbing her waist tightly, they spun together into the abyss of wind. He could see Shoukei's forlorn figure on the cliff and her flying skirts as she watched them with anxious eyes. The winds were too hard for her to even stand. In a corner of his eye, he could see his mount struggle towards him but not reaching anywhere. It screeched in exasperation.

This must be a shoku.

Those were his last thoughts.

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