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BZPRPG - Kentoku Archipelago

Nuju Metru

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Mashtet Askha had been asleep until she was shaken out of her sleep by one of the guards rapping her spear against the bars of her cell. She had been napping, and apparently in the Royal Prison one could only sleep during designated hours. Askha's vision was bleary without her mask. Her cell was empty besides the slab of stone jutting out of the wall that served as her bunk, and when the rags they called bedding (she had slept on better in alleys) were cleared away, it was also to serve as table. The mushy rice that was served morning and evening left her lethargic and empty-feeling. The Menti rolled off her bunk and put her legs above her on the slab; a juvenile gesture, but she didn't care if she was judged; she liked thinking like this.


How had she ended up like this?


Probably all the crime. You were raised better than that.


It had been one rash decision after another. Aunt Somei had tried to rein her in, but she had brushed off her aunt. She couldn't get her out of trouble this time; nobody could. It truly sunk in; she had aided an enemy of the Empire, and had directly engaged Imperial guard in combat. No amount of Umbraline pity, except perhaps from the very top, could save her now. For the first time since her capture, she shuddered with a sob.


You won't even be able to return to the Mashtet estate.


They would never let her return to Hanaloi before she died, either from old age, malnutrition, or execution. If she was lucky, they might permit Somei to bury her remains with... no, she was going to think alongside the rest of her family, but the only family she knew was gone. The clan's graveyard didn't count. The ancestors didn't help her when she first used her Iden to project back home, to see it... abandoned, completely and utterly. No blood, no bodies, no sign of struggle. Nobody had believed her until the Fursics confirmed her story and offered to take in any survivors, as if they were offering charity. Those that... defected. The disrespect. Her mother, the Toroshu, would have stricken them down then and there. Her father... Well, he had felt no love for the Fursics, but he would probably have some speech about how clan ties were not something to be severed so easily, and would have a suitably applicable war story from the last Fursic rebellion, and some jokes to make him relatable to everyone.


Askha let out a big sigh. What would her father say to her now? Would he tell her to stand and fight for every last inch?


No, that would be your mother speaking.


Right. It was a gut punch to realize she missed her mother less than the others in her family, less than her father, but it was true. When she had gotten over that bit of guilt, she was actually happy in a morbid sense she would never have to submit to another of the Torushu Kaetyo's crazy tests. What would her father Ahri say...


Stewing in your own self-pity will do nothing in the short term and long term. Work to better yourself. If nothing else, you can wake up tomorrow morning and tell yourself you are a better person than you were yesterday.


Eurgh. The voice in her head was right, that did sound like him. Though he would probably do some flashy trick afterwards, really hammer home the wow factor. Askha sighed again and clambered into a lotus position and closed her eyes, and began regulating her breaths. Her residual sobs gave way to her steady breathing; she could feel her pulse slowing as she grew calmer. For as much baggage she had about her mother, she admitted she had been better at meditation than her father; didn't stop her being disappointed when her daughter developed Mindarm, rather than Sighteye.


No, nope, no. Calm. Breath in, darkness, breath out, darkness.

The times, they are a-changing...



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[Oki, Herupa Compound (Shuuan)]

:Jiyuu, I’m not exactly a people person on good days.  I can try, but...:

I turned away from him.   The sky above the garden wall was a mottled gray-blue, the kind of annoying overcastness that never resolves into rain.

:You should be careful.   Plenty of people hate the Imperial family, but only because of they aren’t the ones in charge of it.   You want someone who wants change?  Start by talking to your own Saihoko.:

“Maybe you even ought to talk to dear Kulrikky,” I said out loud, grinning.   “If those cultists are right, finding all of those keys will lead to the destruction of the Empire!”


[Oki, Plangori Compound (Akiyo)]

Akiyo drummed her fingers on the table as she chewed her bean curd.

“Well, I wish it was just my cousins, but as long as my mother decides to remain in Sado--I’m the one in charge here.   If I suddenly decided to run off in the middle of the night, forsaking my clan duties, she would hear about it.  And what she says is law--I could end up locked up here for weeks.”

The glum expression on the menti’s face changed to a mischievous smile.  “But--there’s certainly nothing keeping a steward from going on a little day trip to examine a possible threat, provided the proper escorts are provided.  And who knows what might happen on such an excursion?”

There's a dozen selves inside you, trying to be the one to run the dials

[BZPRPG Profiles]

Hatchi - Talli - Ranok - Lucira - FerellisMorie - Fanai - Akiyo - Yukie - Shuuan - Ilykaed - Pradhai - Ipsudir

And some aren't even on your side.

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The Vilda First Son had started to look down in disappointment as Akiyo began speaking, but color and excitement quickly returned to his face as the Plangori Menti proposed a solution.


"What may happen indeed..." Kulrik said with a low voice and gazing longingly at his host.


He looked down at his food and scarfed down the few pieces of food he'd strewn on it earlier. Kulrik cleared his throat and wiped his hands with the napkin beside him. The Vilda got up to leave. He was distinctly aware of the guards nearby who seemed to tense as he rose.


"Thank you, Plangori Akiyo, for the excellent meal and your wonderful company" he said loud enough for the guards to hear."I'm afraid I must retire for the night, but I look forward to our little excursion tomorrow. More quietly, he added "and if you'd like to talk to me a little more tonight... well, you know where to find me" Kulrik finished with a wink.


With a bow and turn, he started off back to his guest quarters. 

Quiz by TheQuizzery.com



You are strong and kinda smart, but not too much

Which Barraki are you?

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  • 3 months later...

[sado, The Imperial Library (Yukie)]

Yukie had hoped to kill two birds with one stone during his visit to The School of the Mind--but many of the professors were otherwise occupied with the current political situation, and there were too many whispers going around.   As soon as he got an answer to his first question, he had slipped out.

The Imperial Library was quieter than usual.   Normally, Yukie would have welcomed the chance to be alone with his thoughts, but the dearth of soft murmurs and turning pages gave the place a rather ominous feel.   He wandered around seemingly aimlessly, picking about a book of popular fiction as well as a few treatises on the history and causes of the last Fursic rebellion.

He browsed more thoroughly when he came to the section on willhammering techniques; it was doubtful that the information he was looking for could be found in the public section of the library, but being a willhammer himself he at least had an excuse to look for them.

You’re being paranoid part of his brain whispered.   They said it was in the blood, thousands of years of living next to tribe that could turn the eyes of any bird into a spy.   The other part of his brain whispered that he was right to cautious, that he had more than the Vildas to fear. He flipped through the books absentmindedly, eyes scanning for anything that jumped out as he occupied himself thinking about other problems.

After an hour or so of thorough and semi-fruitful searching, he brought a selection of books along with the cloth bundle to the library desk, glancing about for the lorekeeper.  Gotsoko was one of the few datsue that he had any sort of relationship with--he mostly avoided elders, as they tended to ask too many questions. However, back when Yukie first came to Sado, back when he was looking for explanations for...precedents, she had never asked why.   The elder had simply pointed him in the direction of more information, while gently warning him that he wasn’t likely to find anything concrete in texts that weren’t banned. And eventually, when he went beyond legends, beyond hints, he had run into that wall. But those hints were enough.   They had to be.

He opened one of the books and started reading, glancing up every few seconds to check if the lorekeeper was back from her rounds.

[Oki, Plangori Compound (Akiyo)]

Plangori Akiyo got ready for bed the way she did most things, precisely and efficiently.   No Dashi maidservant folded her clothes for her, allowing her time to contemplate in silence as she smoothed down the seams.

It had been, all and all, a successful day.   The strings of gossip she had wrung out from acquaintances among the society menti in Sado were starting to weave into something.   And it looked like a lovely present had dropped right into her lap.

As beautiful as a clear spring day and as dumb as a box of rocks.  She smiled to herself as she recalled the description of Vilda Kulrick one of her acquaintances had mouthed at a party.   It was a wonder that Relisai let such a piece of ripe fruit wander around the islands with impunity. The Vilda Toroshu had an ego that outstripped her intelligence, but surely even she must see that allowing the reason for her ascension to get some injudicious menti pregnant or get himself a knife between the ribs.

But no, Akiyo thought, as she rolled out her pallet, nobody has yet slain Vilda Kulrik for the same reason I want him alive.  He was just too tempting of a tool for influence; play his keys right and it could be a ticket to the future Vilda clan.   However, this also meant that plenty of other people could come to the same conclusions. She would have to get her hooks in the deepest and fastest, and this little quest was an opportunity.

She just hoped, for his sake and her own, that he didn’t get any ideas tonight.   Or that her cousins had armed the net traps with actual hooks.

There's a dozen selves inside you, trying to be the one to run the dials

[BZPRPG Profiles]

Hatchi - Talli - Ranok - Lucira - FerellisMorie - Fanai - Akiyo - Yukie - Shuuan - Ilykaed - Pradhai - Ipsudir

And some aren't even on your side.

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As Kulrik was escorted back to his room he couldn't help but let his mind wander back to the image of Plangori Akiyo. Like most Menti of her clan the Toroshu's daughter was impeccably dressed, but what surprised Kulrik was that for a non-Vilda, she was still remarkably beautiful. Perhaps more so? The Vilda were bred for their aesthetics, among other characteristics, but this Akiyo had her own charm. And, Kulrik sensed she was also somewhat dangerous. It made her even more alluring.


Back in his room Kulrik stood by the window. He could sneak out, find his way to Akiyo's bedroom and they could continue the...conversation they were having earlier. He smirked at the thought and even began to lift himself out the window.

Then Shuuan burst into his imagination and began scolding him with that horrible nickname she had for him. "Tsk tsk Kulrikky, dont be causing trouble in my home!"


Zuto-Nui, couldn't that woman leave him alone?


Kulrik sighed. He got back down, dismissing both Plangori from his mind. Perhaps another time, the Vilda First Son told himself as he went to bed alone and tired.




Kulrik woke up early the next day, refreshing himself with splash of cold water to the face and putting on a fresh pair of clothes. He opened the door to his room and found two Plangori guardswomen outside.


"Could you please take me to Plangori Akiyo? We've got a quite a day ahead of us."

Quiz by TheQuizzery.com



You are strong and kinda smart, but not too much

Which Barraki are you?

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“I… Have been called....”
The words, slow and measured, broke the silence of Askha’s confinement. The Menti had been in her cell a few days, though the dim light made that nearly impossible to determine. The monotony was broken only by the delivery of food and the blessed comfort of sleep, now matter how uncomfortable the sleeping arrangements were.
Once her reverie was disturbed, however, the sound of footsteps became clear. Graceful, but even grace could not disguise the weight behind each footfall. The Dasaka that came into view of her cell was big, with the musculature of a man familiar with manual labor. His hands, rough and worn, spoke of the same. His gait was as measured his words, words that would have been familiar to any courtier even if seldom heard. Even the lowest Taajar was familiar with the immense metal blade, the only such weapon in the Empire, that he bore upon his back. The tool, and badge of office, that guaranteed his identity beyond any hope of imitation.
The Imperial Executioner himself had come to see her.
“Because they… Tell me that… The last Mashtet... “ Lord Rayuke crossed his arms across his chest, regarding the occupant of the cell before him sternly in the faint light. “Is in custody.”
“Such duties… Were for my assistant.” The rise and fall of his broad shoulders, faint though it was, showcased his bemusement. “Yet… She is missing. The Hogo… Took quite some time…. To bring me the news. Noshima herself… Brought me the news. They wished…. Not to break… My sequester.”
“It seems… Young Menti… Your fate is given… To me directly. What… Do you wish… To say?”

Edited by Krayzikk



On this eve, the thirtieth anniversary of that first colony, many are left to wonder; is the world fast approaching a breaking point?



  Breaking Point: An OTC Mecha RPG


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The Royal Executioner's voice was not unwelcome. It fit the dungeon that Askha found herself in, inviting her to retreat from frantic thoughts into calm rationality. But, with it, an edge of finality.


"Umbraline Rayuke. The Royal Executioner. You showed up in several of my father's stories of putting down the Fursic rebellion."


Mashtet Askha got up from her meditation position on the floor to a kneeling position, as she would if addressing a superior if she didn't want to stare at the floor the entire time bowing. Her mother's lessons on courtly manners were long ago, but the Toroshu's teachings had a way of clawing into Askha's memory. Her maskless face was calm, belying her struggle not to think about the implications of the Royal Executioner visiting her.


"Clan Umbraline has always had the fate of Clan Mashtet in its hands. And I have given my fate a dozen times over to those who would pay. Now is not so different, I think."


There was a pause, but Askha felt that Rayuke was still waiting. She sighed, and looked up at the massive Dasaka. "I aided a prisoner of the Empire, and I engaged Imperial Guard in combat. I know these crimes are serious, even if we were the only ones hurt." There was another pause, as she weighed her words. "I heard that the former Vilda Toroshu was recaptured. Is that true? I would be a small comfort to know that the reason I'm in here didn't run out on her would-be rescuers."

The times, they are a-changing...



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"Relisai... Is in... Custody." The Umbraline confirmed, inclining his head slightly. "She was... Apprehended... At the coast."


.:You will not mind, I think, if I converse in this manner.:.


The words were equally considered, but without the delays that slowed down his verbal response. The Executioner regarded Askha seriously, though he uncrossed his arms to reach for something in his pocket. What he withdrew was hidden from view, for the moment, by the size of his hands; still, it was something fascinating enough that he examined it carefully.


.:Your crimes are grave. You enabled the escape, however briefly, of a prisoner of the Empire. The Dastana and those who sided with them are exempt, per the Rora's decree, but Relisai is a citizen of the Empire. Your actions certainly defy the Virtues. According to some, they may even be treasonous. In times like these there is only one course of action for traitors. Sedition cannot be so easily tolerated.:. Rayuke permitted the statement to hang in the air for a few moments, looking up from the item in his hands to lock eyes with the Mashtet. She understood, he knew, the gravity of his presence. Even if his words didn't make the point, his very title did it for him. .:But you are correct. No one was truly harmed. Relisai is in custody. And in lieu of decree from my Empress, it is only my opinion that matters. That gives me some room to make another decision.:.


He turned over the item in his hand one more time, then turned his palm outward so that she could see the undoubtedly familiar Mashtet Carving in his hands. Wherever the Hogo were keeping Askha's belongings, he had clearly visited them ahead of time.


.:Beautiful craftsmanship. I was fortunate enough to procure a similar carving, before the Mashtet disappeared. It has long faded, now; no one to renew it. I carve myself, but the artistry to repair it is beyond me. Even among normal craftswomen, my skill is unremarkable. It simply relaxes me.:. The large Dasaka extended his hand, carefully slipping it through the same slot used to bring Askha her meals. The token rested on his palm, face up, for her to take. .:There are few Mashtet left. It would sadden me very much to reduce their number, even if only to keep one imprisoned.:.


.:I am not quite so brutish as those stories may make me appear. Talk to me, young Askha. Help me find a reason to pick a different solution to your situation.:.

  • Upvote 2



On this eve, the thirtieth anniversary of that first colony, many are left to wonder; is the world fast approaching a breaking point?



  Breaking Point: An OTC Mecha RPG


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A short breath escaped Askha when she saw that Rayuke had her Mashtet carving. She quickly calmed herself, but her reaction that another would handle such a personal belonging was one of outrage. When the Executioner extended his own carving through the slat, Askha concentrated with her suppressed Mindarm, shakily lifting it and pulling it to her own hand. The originally intricate carving had been embellished with cruder woodwork. The sight of another extinguished carving reminded her of the Mashtet themselves, going out one by one, unless someone transformed them into something else.


.:My aunt could renew this. The image would be as it once was, though. I don't know the secret myself, but I know that part of the method involves embedding crystals in the carving.:. She angled it, letting what little light there was glitter off the minute crystals. .:Not even the finest tool could do it; only Mindarm could implant them.:.


Her face turned from wistful to resolute. .:I am accused of going against the Virtues. But I ask, what is the use of Order without a clan to uphold it? Why strive for Power, except to fight for survival? And how much Honor is a single grain of rice worth? In the weeks following the disappearance of my clan, I had to consider these questions. The few of us who were not absorbed into other clans, especially the Fursics, faced starvation. The once proud Mashtet, starved like neglected rahi. I decided to use the skills I had been taught, at the Yards and by my father, to provide for who was left.:.


Askha paused again to collect her thoughts after her venting. .:I realize now my pride blinded me. But, enough dwelling in the past. You ask for a different solution; I answer with myself. I still have my sword-arm. And while we did aid in the escape of Vilda Relisai, we did not facilitate it. We were actually approached by her sister, who was in Sado to negotiate for her peaceful release. As far as I know, her escape came as a surprise.:.


The imprisoned Menti bowed her head. .:Forces are conspiring against the Empire. I would ask that you allow me to live so that I may serve the Empire as my ancestors in Clan Mashtet served Clan Umbraline. I can still fight. Perhaps I may begin repairing my Clan by investigating this. After all, as one of my previous employers stated, I am nothing if not a 'deniable asset'.:.

The times, they are a-changing...



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  • 2 weeks later...



.:Deniability will not be necessary.:.


The Executioner regarded her quietly for a few moments, though his expression seemed less stern somehow. Contemplative, rather than judgmental. Rayuke was not known for rushed decisions, and this looked to be no exception. His options were carefully considered, their ramifications mapped out with as much certainty as he could manage. The Umbraline was not overly fond of politics, but his actions could not be entirely divorced from them; his choice would impact the world around him. The considerations seemed to last an eternity, but at long last he nodded faintly.


.:You will be released, as my responsibility. You will be free to go, but for the foreseeable future you will answer to me or anyone that acts with my authority.:. He uncrossed his arms and nodded once more, this time to himself. A set of keys appeared from his pocket, and he unlocked the cell door without paying it much mind. The bars swung open with the soft scrape of crystal on crystal, Askha's gateway to freedom. .:It will not be popular, if it becomes known to some. I will handle that. But you must understand that I am responsible for your actions. If you stray too far from the line again...:.


He left the rest of the thought unsaid, but the look he gave the Menti made it clear.


.:Proceed towards the exit. The guards there have your belongings..:. He set her own carving on the same slot as before. .:You may go. I am sure your aunt is concerned. If you elect to leave the city, leave a way to find you. I must see to certain matters of my own.:.

Edited by Krayzikk



On this eve, the thirtieth anniversary of that first colony, many are left to wonder; is the world fast approaching a breaking point?



  Breaking Point: An OTC Mecha RPG


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  • 4 months later...



The significance of what transpired barely registered to Askha. She was in a haze as she left her cell and wandered along the corridor of the prison. She picked up her belongings without comment to the guards around her. She saw that Rayuke had returned her Mashtet carving. She bundled it up along with other gear. Her robes had been washed, and her armor somewhat cleaned; Askha didn't bother putting them on, she just wanted to get out first.


As she strode out of the Imperial Prison, the light, both directly from the sun and refracted off of crystal buildings, was overwhelming. Without her mask, it took her a second to adjust.


.:Finally swallowed your pride, hm?:.


Somei's ideatalk bounced around in Askha's mind before she snagged on it. There she was, standing off by one of the smaller gardens. Askha approached, slowly, heavily.


"I take it that you agreed to the Royal Executioner's conditional release?" the Datsue said. She was smiling slightly.


Askha nodded, trembling.


The Datsue stopped smiling. "Askha..."


The two Mashtet embraced. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again!" she sobbed.


"I was worried the next time I saw you your head would be on a block." The Datsue sighed in contentment. Then, she pulled back, a smirk on her mask again. "Close your eyes."


Askha groaned. "Auntie, what is it?"


"Just close them, girl!"


The Mashtet Menti rolled her eyes before closing them. She felt something being pressed onto her face, and the haze her mind was in instantly lifted. Askha opened her eyes and felt her face, her mask feeling very familiar. "My Iden!"


Somei nodded. "I managed to find it while you were incarcerated. But enough. You have much to think about, and need some time to adjust. Also, you stink of your cell."


*     *     *


The bathhouse was great. Askha could say that it was definitely one of the top three baths in her life. Somei had gone back to their apartment, provided by Rayuke. While his offer still meant she could leave the city, she didn't really want to. She was on call. Living on borrowed time, Askha thought for a moment. But she had spent days eating gruel and getting next to no exercise; she needed to get her edge back. And, for the first time since her clan had disappeared years ago, she was welcome in the Yards. The few looks she got on her way to one of the weapon training courtyards were mostly of confusion. Nobody engaged her; whether it was out of respect or not wanting to tarnish their reputations for talking to a near-clanless, Askha didn't know. She grabbed a few cutting mats and set them up.


She had lost some weight... her armor and gear hung a little more loosely on her frame. She gripped the hilt of the sword that hung at her waist, her graduation gift. Let's see if she if she had lost her touch. She relaxed, letting her arm slide off her sword's handle.




Within an instant, the straight saber was in her hand and was cutting into the cutting mat. She finished her swing, and frowned. Not a clean cut; the top part of the mat was hanging off one side. Well, that needed some work, but at least she didn't catch on her scabbard, as she used to do when she was first practicing. But still, she again needed practice. Re-sheathing her sword, Askha instead drew the falcata from her back with her Mindarm.


While her Mashtet Carving was of course her rarest and most treasured possession, followed by the sword her father had given her, this falcata was one of her favorite things she had recieved as a sellsword. It was carved in much the same way any other crystal blade would be, but instead of being crystal clear blue, it was cloudy white with a vein of dark rock.


Maripi had gotten them the job through her shadowy connections; guarding a saihoko smuggler from Oki to Odaiba. The twist was that the would-be buyers ambushed them to skip out on the bill for prime protocrystal. Another of Maripi's connections, a  weaponsmith in Sado, ended up buying the shipment. However, the saihoko  didn't make enough to pay them as agreed; the weaponsmith managed to cover the debt. Maripi had her pick of blades, while Askha was mostly unimpressed.


The ringti, a male datsue named Shoga, brought out a wooden case. "I see you're a discerning customer."


"If you were hard-up for the crystal," Askha said disdainfully, "I doubt anything you have here will last through heavy enough work to be worth the weight. We don't exactly have a flat we can store these things when we're not selling our sword-arms. I prefer coin. Which can go towards an apartment."


He opened the case, and inside was a heavy falcata. Made for two hands, white, cloudy, and with a vein of grey-brown mineral at its core. "I was commissioned by a FIrst Son for a fine blade; he promised a hefty price. I came upon this in my last shipment from Clan Mamoru. I shaped it, a unique weapon."


Askha wrinkled her mask. "This is the ugliest sword I've ever seen. Is it curved towards the inside of the blade?"


The Ringti nodded. "Yes, it's an older design, the falcata. Was widely used by the Taajar tribes, once upon a time, but one-handed. The versatility and lethality of a sword, with the cutting power of an axe. This First Son, I won't name the clan out of respect, was big, strong. So I made this for two hands, and bigger."


"And this stain in the middle?"


Shoga smiled. "Not a stain. I'm not one of those royal smiths that have the pleasure of working with metal, but I've had a look at a few of the manuscripts. Thing is, metal weapons aren't like crystal; they're flexible, they bend. So their core needs to be a stronger material. That's what this rock is inside, a strong core."


Askha picked the weapon up. A bit heavier than she was used to, but she could adjust. "And let me guess, you saw me and figured the ugly sword just found its true wielder?"


The Datsue's laugh was phlegmy and short. "Depends. You want it? I can probably convince a collector to buy it, but I'd rather it get used."


Askha smiled. "I'll take it."


Opening her eyes, Askha awoke from her reverie. She gripped the falcata in two hands, and willed the cutting mat stands closer together with her Mindarm. Then she entered a stance, with her blade and body low. Askha lunged out, slicing into three of the mats with a diagonal cut and sending the tops flying. After a second (too long; again, she had to touch up her skills) she recovered and rested the blade on her shoulder, preparing for another cut. She turned back to the mat she had failed to cut with her other sword, and swung. Both the top and bottom flew off, thoroughly separated. Askha breathed in, examining the pieces. Not the best cut, but it had severed the mat. Still could use some improvement.


OOC: Askha (and Somei) are up for interaction

Edited by Keeper of Kraata

The times, they are a-changing...



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  • 2 months later...

[Above Central Oki (Shuuan)]

What Jiyuu said certainly gave me something to think about.

Not that I wanted to think about it. Maybe Jiyuu thought that he could somehow awe the entire cursed archipelago into being nice. Wish I could think that positively.

As I flew over the knarled jungle, something caught my eye--something...sparkly. Definitely also in the direction of the bay.

And that could only mean one thing. For all her look-at-me-I'm-amazing-and-powerful-please-don't-look-at-my massive-inferiority-complex even Relisai wasn't into things that sparkly. Also, Relisai was in jail.

That meant either of their royal-highnesses--or majesties, I guess, but it was hard to think of Yumiwa as empress still--had decided to run away from their responsibilities in the sticky humidity. Very interesting.

I swooped down, zigzagging between vines to alight on the jungle floor. I was far enough from the border of Plagori territory that the border guards wouldn't pay much mind, but close enough that my presence would register as obvious and not nearly on the level of trying to sneak past the border.

It was time to find out just what was going on. And no one knows how to needle a guard into blurting out something unwise like yours truly.

[Oki, Plangori Compound (Akiyo)]

"Lady Akiyo will be with you shortly," said the guardswoman on the right.

And in a few moments, she was. Akiyo dressed fashionably and reasonably as always. She had traded the dress she had worn during her dinner with Kulric for as suit of lightly armored brown cloth. The belt cinched around her waist carried her machete, and she carried her parasole lightly in her right hand. Two guards followed behind her, carrying large packs on their backs.

She smiled at Kulrik from beneath the narrow brim of her hat.

"Lead the way, first son. I am ready for an adventure."

[school of the Mind, Sado (NPC)]

As Aska lowered her sword, another menti strode up to the mat and examined the shredded mat. She was quite a bit older than Aska--about the same age as some of the younger Toroshu.

"Impressive," she said, nodding at the younger menti. "It's hard to manage a weapon like that with such speed."

[imperial Library, Sado (Yukie)]
Gothsoko had failed to materialize, and Yukie resisted the urge to fidget and glance around again. He was beginning to regret his choice of clothing today. It was an old coat and one of his favorites--the deep mustard contrasted beautifully with his skin tone.

A few months ago, nobody would have batted an eye. However this was not the best time for a child of a Toroshu, and a loyalist one at that, to be wearing yellow. Yukie knew this as well as anyone, and yet for some reason he didn't quite understand he had chosen it--at the time it had felt audacious. Now he just felt exposed.

Edited by Mel

There's a dozen selves inside you, trying to be the one to run the dials

[BZPRPG Profiles]

Hatchi - Talli - Ranok - Lucira - FerellisMorie - Fanai - Akiyo - Yukie - Shuuan - Ilykaed - Pradhai - Ipsudir

And some aren't even on your side.

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Still breathing heavily, Askha looked up at the older Menti. "It took a while to get used to the weight, and the large blade. Being fast isn't as important as being precise, though."


The Mashtet released her falcata and held it aloft with Mindarm. "The thing's width plays against it. A normal blade of this weight would be twice the size, I figure, and the curve means the reach is shorter. But," she said, gesturing at the cut mats, "it has its advantages. I heard an old Taajar story about a real big girl that wielded one of these, and she was said to take the head off a soko and its rider."


A few deeps breaths more, and Askha realized she had forgotten to thank the Menti for the complement.


"Thank you, ma'am." Adjusting back to... well, society, was going to be a long road.

The times, they are a-changing...



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[school of the Mind, Sado (NPC)]

"You're welcome," said the menti.  She watched Askha's falcata rotate in the air, a wistful look in her eye.  "Mindarm is a useful discipline indeed, for a warrior.  My clan does not train many--it was willhammer for me like the rest of them.  Though that certainly has its advantages; it's quite hard to use mindarm to full effect in the jungle."

There's a dozen selves inside you, trying to be the one to run the dials

[BZPRPG Profiles]

Hatchi - Talli - Ranok - Lucira - FerellisMorie - Fanai - Akiyo - Yukie - Shuuan - Ilykaed - Pradhai - Ipsudir

And some aren't even on your side.

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  • 2 months later...



Askha shrugged. Judging by the Menti's clothes, she was a Plangori. "I suppose. Hanaloi has a lot less undergrowth than Oki, and much taller trees. We were trained to use Mindarm along with our knives to quickly climb the trees."


The Mashtet drew the broad-bladed knife kept at the small of her back and held it, tracing the contour of the blade. She didn't mention that the reason her clan climbed the trees was to pepper intruders with projectiles while they had been hobbled by the clan's Sighteyes. "But I do know what you're talking about. You wouldn't believe how many times I wished my Kanohi had been something else, anything else."


Askha smirked. "Granted, the astral projection I suppose is a greater tool; but when you're facing a charging Menti with a Pakari, sometimes you wish you could dodge like a Calix-wearer. Or teleport like a Kualsi-wearer. Or even just a Hau's shield."

Edited by Keeper of Kraata

The times, they are a-changing...



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  • 7 months later...

[School of the Mind, Sado (NPC)]

The corner of the menti's mouth quirked upward ever so slightly.

"I don't think it is the Iden's lack of use in battle that makes it so rare," she said.  Then, any traces of mirth vanished from her face as she looked Askha straight in the eyes.

"I would like to chat more, Mashtet Askha, but my time is limited.  I am Plangori Fanai.  My cousin and Torushu seeks audience with your clanmate and elder.  I was sent to find you and ask on her behalf.  If you can pass this message onto her we would be grateful--and there will be ample compensation involved for both of you."

Edited by Mel
Adding some more dialogue

There's a dozen selves inside you, trying to be the one to run the dials

[BZPRPG Profiles]

Hatchi - Talli - Ranok - Lucira - FerellisMorie - Fanai - Akiyo - Yukie - Shuuan - Ilykaed - Pradhai - Ipsudir

And some aren't even on your side.

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Askha wanted to say something about compensation, out of habit, but held off. "I will tell her when I next see her, Plangori Fanai, thank you."

The Menti bowed. "And, uh," she hesitated, "thank you for the discussion. Feels good to be a Menti again."

The Mashtet went back to her practice, but her mind was elsewhere (though not as literally as it could be, she reflected). The obvious reason for wanting a meeting with her aunt was on the topic of Mashtet carvings. Which is why she was tempted to overthink it. Ample compensation? Sounds like a job. Askha remembered Rayuke's words to her. 

.: But you must understand that I am responsible for your actions. If you stray too far from the line again... :.

Askha shuddered as she began her cooldown. She did not want to be on Rayuke's wrong side. If this was just commission work, it would extend the Mashtet Survival Fund by a little more. If not, it would give them some insight. As she finished, Askha made her way to some of the meditation mats that were used by the less physical disciplines in the Yard, and crawled into a lotus position. It had been a while since she had used her mask, much longer since she had used it here.

Moments later, she was soaring through Sado, to her and Somei's apartment. The Datsue was reading a broadsheet. .: So what should we call this place? Flat Mashtet? The Mashtet Compound 2.0? :.

Somei didn't look up, but smiled. "I'm partial to just 'the apartment.' Any reason you needed to speak with me?"

Askha's astral form drifted towards the elder. .: A Plangori approached me, apparently Toroshu Morie wants to meet you. I wasn't given a particular reason as to why. :.

"Perhaps she wants me to make a carving in her likeness."

Tilting her head, Askha reclined in the air. .: Have you decided to start carving again? :.

Somei shrugged. "An old Datsue needs something to take up her time while her only family is away cutting up sticks."

Askha conveyed an utterance that would in person be a snort. .: I don't think that's it. I mean, it might be the pretense. But it sounds like she wants something. We would both be "amply compensated." I think we should follow up, together, if you want. :.

Somei smiled. "Hurry on home, we can discuss the matter."

Hours later, Somei and Askha made their way to the apartment suite of Plangori Morie, both dressed in their best (or at least best laundered) robes.

Edited by Keeper of Kraata
Actually advancing

The times, they are a-changing...



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Somewhere in the midst of all the slaughter, his brain and body disassociated, and he found himself wondering about Masayoshi's age.

The Executioner's assistant's face had always harbored the sneer of the crone with none of her wisdom; her life experiences, though certainly tragic, had left her impetuous and myopic. It was easy to deflect blame for such character failings onto adolescent mishaps, but truthfully they were traits that had their roots in youth, not trauma. Masayoshi was only as far removed from Yumiwa in age as Yumi was from Desde, and she had not fought shoulder to shoulder with Inokio in the Fursic Rebellion, had not stood helpless the forefathers and elders of his clan lay their lives on the line one before the next, on and on until the mantle of First Son had fallen to the last son. Masayoshi had never seen the kind of butchery Inokio had seen, and she would never have to, but she could certainly perpetuate it.

Inokio wondered if blindness made the horror easier for the young woman, or if it was even a horror to her at all. It had never been one for him.

Whatever sway the woman's vaunted private code may have held over her combat style vanished after Desdemona's frantic signal. She had trudged on with all the stubbornness of a Brakas and about the same amount of wit, marching through two shanty towns and port settlements. They had been making good time, hastened along by the red sky that had swallowed the dawn and kept their visages and wounds hidden from the naked eye. He recalled a sardonic young Menti he had gone to war with had once sworn - by Zataka's port side, no less - that such a sky was a good omen for sailors and all warriors of true heart. As that salty-tongued Menti had grown up to be the Commodore of the Imperial Navy, Inokio was inclined to trust her judgment. He had said as much to Masayoshi, perhaps as a vestige of the tutor and trivia fountain he had been to two princesses, and been thoroughly rebuffed. The Umbraline had turned her head towards him - saying looked wouldn't be quite accurate - scornfully and told him that he was mistaken. The rhyme referred to scarlet nights as the good omen; the red sky at dawn foreshadowed blood and ill fortune in the day to come. His memory was as keen as his sword, and he would have sworn by it, but there was no reason for the woman to lie beyond pettiness. It wasn't out of the question by any means, knowing her loathing of him, but...

"You could be getting old, Korae," she had remarked snidely, one corner of her mouth twisting up rebelliously. Whether by his age or her attitude, the proverb's alleged inverse had proven to be true after all. She took it as vindication.

Inokio thought the ##### had jinxed them.

As they had reached the third and largest town they had , the crimson sky they were bickering so intensely over had become cerulean at the edges, shades of blue rolling over the horizon like the tides they'd left behind. They were halfway through the town when they were finally called out for their eccentricities. Inokio, as the male, had been noticed first on the basis of his sex and injuries; he had spent his life making no excuses for the former and fidgeted too much attempting to explain away the latter, so Masayoshi took over. It was the stupidest move she could have made. There was nothing that Dasaka loved to talk about more than a good freak show - hence why anyone knew Desdemona Umbraline had ever been alive at all, let alone whether that status still applied to her. The Menti with the crystal visor and cane had outed herself the second she brought attention to herself.

Which clearly suited Masa just fine, given how easily she slew the first three Menti to approach them. Inokio had claimed the fourth, but his wounds and time in captivity had left him slow on the draw; to slay his first Menti of the day, he had needed to strike her across the face first, a shameful move that had left his fingers aching and his knuckles raw from her cheek. Decapitating her held no succor, and though they acquitted themselves well in tandem through the next wave of Menti, Masayoshi had finally seen fit to banter at him when they had been on the road again for an hour. 

"Old and slow," she mocked him. "Your arms aren't tired, Korae? You're breathing heavy. I think I hear some ribs rattling in there."

"You probably shouldn't have shattered them, you sow."


"Fair enough."

"You knew we were going to be fighting--"

"I already apologized."

"Did you."

It seemed that the woman had gone mute as well as blind after that. He had provoked her about as far as he was willing to, anyway. Watching Masayoshi put the screws to the survivors of their lopsided battle had proven to Inokio why Rayuke found her expertise valuable; she truly could be terrible when roused, and clearly the Chojo's anguished words had been ringing in her ears nonstop during their entire march. It turned out that the Menti they had dispatched were the ones who were still standing from the distress call, and this town had been near ground zero. Sheika had been passing through this area with a few of her sellsails, preparing for another trip to parts unknown; it appeared that the mercenary had been bound for another one of her frequent trips to and from Kozu in the dead of night when the woman, who Inokio had once called panther-like, had caught the scent of blood. She went further inland instead of taking the port to Iki, and hours later the scream had gone off like a volcanic blast through the minds of every woman in the village.

Masayoshi, of course, had begun charging off before they'd even confirmed their source of information's death. Inokio had been dragged along by one of his wrists, which had begun to make odd clacking noises and shifting motions underneath his flesh. The deal they had made not to kill each other was getting worse all the time, and whatever poor excuse for company the Executioner's assistant had been on the boat was now a blissful memory, like time spent with a dead lover. 

The mental image made Inokio want to hurl.

"You look ill, Korae. Need to stop?"

In a sense, he supposed he did. The path Sheika was forging had cut through four more villages, and even with a war veteran's knowledge of the terrain Inokio and Masayoshi had been forced to cut directly through one and had nearly been detected at another, forced to strangle a pair of sentries with their bare hands to avoid detection. The Korae First Son thought of how he had been personally manhandled by Dastana Jasik, jumped and beaten like the victim of a common mugger, and his lips still curled in an uncharacteristic snarl at the thought. That brutish moneylender...

What he hated more was that he had, unwittingly, taken the First Son's final advice back on Iki into consideration. He found himself getting better and better at physical violence. Inokio loathed that most of all.

In the end, all it had won them was what Masayoshi sought - the central Fursic compound, close enough to camp near without immediate fear of detection. Masayoshi had been concerned about Sheika prowling the woods like the Rahi she was often compared to, but Inokio had shot down that notion. .:Mercenaries are accustomed to hard living, aye, he had conceded, between villages three and four, but a mercenary dare not ask for a paycheck like Sheika's and then spend it in the jungles. There would be no point, and she is not a woman for pointless action. Besides, if she has your princess--:.

.:If it's still your Empire, then she is still your princess. Not that you deserve either, traitor.:.

.:If she has the princess, she will be a prize worth cashing in immediately. She will take her to Nera immediately.:.

.:Then we get there before the payoff.:. Masayoshi had been resolute then, and there the matter had lain dormant for hours. Inokio thought now would be a wise time to try again.


"That word isn't the curse you think it is, Korae."

Inokio took a long, shaky breath, and heard the uncertain rattling of his insides. He swallowed what was left of his pride and set his teeth together. "Masayoshi. Heed sense. We have been fighting for a full day, on no food. Before that we rowed for a night with no rest. Before that I languished in captivity while Jasik Dastana bounced grapes off my Kanohi-less face."

"Really? Maybe I judged him too quickly."

"A dangerous habit in the execution business," Inokio snorted derisively. "You'll kill us both prematurely, too, if we're not more careful. Two villages cut down? Sentries missing? A distress call loud enough to rouse a dragon? This is not a stealth mission any longer, if it ever was. We are the only hope of rescue Desdemona has in this world. Dragging our feet has its risks, aye. But tripping over them in exhaustion on our way to the front door will only doom her more surely."


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IC | Yumiwa Umbraline

Hey there!

Remember me? I haven't put an entry in here for a while, and I'm sorry. The thing is that there are a lot of things I do besides what I document, and I can get carried away in those things for so long that I forget to write about the rest of life. For that, I apologize, and it was never my intention to abandon you in ignorance. 

Anyway, I need to tell you of a mistake I made recently that has torn me asunder ever since. 

I'd spent most of the day at court with all that remained of my privy council discussing policies and issues and around late afternoon I had decided that was enough and called the meeting to a close. Since the nigh-dissolution of the previous cabinet, it's been... hard to get things done, and I've found myself caught in more catch-22s than I'd imagined. People seem to think me both inconsequential and essential, too weak to be effective and yet too important to handle the smaller issues, too young to lead and yet too dedicated to not lead, too much this thing and yet too much this other thing. Some think I was the one to tear this glorious empire in pieces, and yet others assert I was a victim of circumstances and machinations far beyond any Rora’s control and should not bear the guilt myself.

And these arguments surround me even when in the company of good people, and good people, I’ve learned, are hard to find and harder to keep.

It started with sending the expedition to the land of Mata Nui. Despite the supposed benefits supporters of the expedition purported, it has effectively removed a sizable Menti force from the Archipelago, and with it went both my best friend and confidante and a leading Umbraline military commander and cousin. And then, in the midst of my fraught assertion of authority, Battlemaster Inokio, my chief tutor and captain of my guard, vanished, followed in short order by my beloved sister, Desemona who disappeared so wholly that not even family-hired detectives scouring the streets found no trace of her.

(Addendum: Where are you, Des? I hope you’re safe. I know you’re not dead, you simply can’t be—and my Mindarm seances tell me your presence is somewhere. Dang it, I miss you! I miss your little laugh, your smile, your sharp wit that bites at my ego in the right ways. And I need that. I need you. And I’m sorry.

Please come back soon.)


And even my uncle Rayuke, who typically keeps in the shadows, has not helped. A man who serves to provide clarity and truth in the webs of deceit in Sado has all but done that. He still stays introverted as ever, but now he attends meetings occasionally and overtly tells me that he is doing covert work, telling us that he is doing this and doing that and yet not allowing even me to be aware of his actions. I do not oppose his purpose or reject his wisdom but he is not the calming man I remember from my youth, and when ask for his advice he says nothing.

In the place of my guardians and advisers I was forced to accept a new privy council mostly comprised of conniving diplomats, ambitious toroshu, and a few military commanders. Rayuke chose the council members for me, and while he never admitted to it outright his fingerprints were all over the selections. It’s not a bad council, which is why I assented to the appointments, but it is a petty and bickering one and the sway I hold over it varies by the day and by the issue.

And without my tutors and mentors and allies, the only real friendships I’ve developed were with my books. Tomes, you see, don’t foment betrayal or make tantrums; they are patient and wise and always give the same sound advice. I’ve been turning to my books more and more in the past years. I was a fully-fledged bookworm as princess, but in recent months my reading has become more of an addiction than a pastime. I try to polish the things I know and learn new strategies with the knowledge in these tomes, but it almost feels like a senseless uphill climb as every time I grasp a new concept ten new different challenges present themselves to me in the empire.

Most days I return from court and plant myself on a balcony or in my library to read, and read, and read. And read. Zafin tells me I should get out more—and I do! but only to attain more books. The last time I wandered into the streets of Sado was when I ran out on my own, wrapped in a cowl with tears streaking down my face, to look for my sister. That went on for a fair while until members of the Guard finally caught me, discreetly dragged my butt back to the towers, and hushed any mention of my escapade. That was not all that long ago but it feels like forever ago.

Day turns to night, and while the streets of Sado are always bathed with bright light, illumination is more scarce in the cozy nooks of my apartments, which nine times out of ten is where I end up sprawling to read until well past the twelfth bell toll. And in the dim light, out of disdain for moving away from my perch, I’ll keep the books pressed close to my face.

This, I suppose, taxes my eyesight.

And so, as I said, I had spent the day doing my duties and was on my balcony, relishing in the feeling of the late-afternoon sunlight warming my tight muscles after sitting stiffly in a chilly chamber all day. Zafin had come up behind me and gently rubbed my shoulders, trying her best to unravel the knots I got from hunching so much. We talked quietly for a moment, killing time while servants came and went to drop snacks and tea for me, and then:

Yumi,” she exclaimed and pointed at the sky, “look! The utucans must be migrating back early this year! This is the second time I’ve seen a flock this afternoon.

Where are they?” I asked in bewilderment.

There!” she said pointing more emphatically, “just passing by the Spire of Knowledge!

Where!?” I almost cried out. I love seeing utucans and their brightly colored bills and shy little faces and was getting really frustrated that she was toying with me in the moment. They're one of my favorite birds and I was in no shape for such teasing.

Behind us, the shocked servant dropped her tray of biscuits in a clamor. Zafin turned to stand almost directly in front of me. Yumi,” she said in a dead-serious tone. “How do you see me?

I can see your beautiful face just fine, Zafin. What are you talking—

And the flowers on the balustrade? What kinds are they?

Also just fine. Those are irises and chrysanthemums.

Okay, now turn around, please. How many books are on the table there?

I turned and looked at her… but I wasn’t sure how many books there were. Not wishing to be made a fool, I just said whatever I thought it was. “Se… ven. Seven.

Okayyyyy there’s actually a full ten. Now. How many fingers is Tyee holding up? Tyee!?” She said clapping at the named servant for the belayed response to the cue.

Three!” I said in confidence.

No, Yumi. One. One finger. And there was a flock of utucans.” She sounded defeated. I sounded worse.

I couldn’t… see the birds…” I admitted with tears welling again. "I've... been having vision problems for a while. And I'm scared of losing my sight."

My mistake was not in reading so long past nightfall, or with my nose shoved in the pages. It was not even admitting this flaw of mine to my handmaiden. No, my mistake was in not quashing this immediately, for not commanding the reticence of the witnesses on the spot until later. As it was, word got out almost immediately, probably through the servants who can’t help but gossip about the things they see us royals do. You know how I mentioned that everyone has an opinion of what I should and should not be doing, having, and saying?


Well who in the goddesses blue world would have expected that such fervor and scandal would be sparked over what style and brand of glasses the rora should wear?????


Edited by EmperorWhenua
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He was right, of course.

I am exhausted. As much as I needle him, my limbs tremble. I've rowed all night, and walked and fought all day. I am nearing my limit, if I do not rest, and the Battlemaster himself is injured. Which... is partially my fault. Righteous indignation, even if he did provoke it, harmed me in the long run. As anger tends to do. It keeps you warm, it keeps you energized, it can make you fight long past you should have given up and died but it is not smart. It is not cautious. It has no restraint, alone. It will burn you alive if you let it. Lord Rayuke spent a long time teaching me that. He had to teach me to contain it.

"You're right."

The words are bitter on my lips, but important nonetheless. My distaste for Inokio does not diminish his skill, nor his knowledge. He did not earn his title by standing idle. When he advises, it is worth listening. I have not listened to my own counsel, either. I have been holding back every doubt about my path, consumed instead by a single fact; that my Chojo is in danger, and I have to reach her. Nothing else mattered, not my own fatigue and certainly not that of a hated traitor. Nothing mattered until we had accomplished our goal. That was suicidal. It was miraculous that we had been okay to this point.

Take a breath, Masa. Just like Rayuke taught you.

The air fills my lungs, one, two, three, four. I hold it captive. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. And out. Again, and again once more. I would have closed my eyes if it mattered. Inokio is watching, I know, and I resist the frown that that brings to my lips. I worked with the man for years. I liked him no better then than I do now, and I managed. I can manage some more. And if I am honest... If I take him at his word, he is truer to his Empire in his heart than I am. It holds no love for me. It has done nothing but harm me. It robbed me of my eyes, it robbed me of even justice for my loss. If Inokio is right and it is rotting from within then I will spit on its grave. It has to change, on that the Dastanas are right. Were it not for Rayuke, were it not for Desdemona, were it not even for Yumiwa I might have joined them.

Perhaps I understand Inokio more than I truly wish.

"I apologize."

The Battlemaster looked at me, even if I couldn't gauge his expression. I could feel his skepticism anyway. 

"Neither tactics nor strategy are my expertise. My solutions are often direct. But this is not Sado, and I do not have the office of the Executioner behind me. Right now I have my own ability, and your assistance." Another breath. "My anger has gotten the best of me."

Not for the first time. I hated the man from the moment I met him, for no reason other than that he was a First Son. It took Rayuke a long time to soothe my demeanor. It was too late for any courtesy with Inokio, by then. Just because I was proven right, in the end, does not excuse my prior judgement. 

"We cannot afford to delay, but we can catch our breath. I cannot do anything about your ribs, but I can set your wrist if you can give me a pair of straight sticks. We are in a forest, there should be plenty." I paused, and my teeth clenched together for a moment. "I cannot see well enough to find them myself. I have a little dried fish left, for food."

"And if you would consider, while you search, how best you would infiltrate this compound. Do they know you had been captured?"



On this eve, the thirtieth anniversary of that first colony, many are left to wonder; is the world fast approaching a breaking point?



  Breaking Point: An OTC Mecha RPG


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[Noble's Quarters, Sado (NPC)]

The door slid open and Askah found herself one again facing Plangori Fanai.  The menti nodded before stepping aside and revealing a dashi maidservant.  The maidservant bowed deeply to both of them, although her eyes seemed to flicker briefly up to regard the strange menti in front of her.

"My mistress has been expecting your honorable presences," she said softly.  "She will be with you shortly, and begs you make yourselves comfortable in the recieving room.  Please, follow me."

The dashi lead them farther down the hall and slid aside another door revealing another room.  It was plainly plastered like rest of apartment,  and though it was interior a crystal window on the cieling provided the room with ample natural light.  A small shrine to Zuto Nui sat in an alchove on the far side. The woven mats on the floor had been installed in two levels, evidently so the Toroshu could look down on her guest.

However, opposite the cushion assumingly intended for the Toroshu someone had placed a small chair that would place whoever sat there at her level.  Next to it was another cushion.

The Dashi bowed again.  "Kindly take a seat at your leisure.  Refreshment will be brought."

With that she closed the door, leaving the two women alone in the room.

There's a dozen selves inside you, trying to be the one to run the dials

[BZPRPG Profiles]

Hatchi - Talli - Ranok - Lucira - FerellisMorie - Fanai - Akiyo - Yukie - Shuuan - Ilykaed - Pradhai - Ipsudir

And some aren't even on your side.

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"Nice suite," Askha said as she settled down on the cushion. Beside her, Somei hopped up into the chair, quite pleased. "Well, this is definitely something I didn't miss. Clan protocol."

The Datsue sighed. "At least its safer than negotiating with criminals, pirates, and saihoko."

"You know where you stand with them, you can never trust them and they can never trust you, its a mutual understanding. With inter-Clan politics, its always a complicated game. At least we can claim some common ground with the Plangori, both the Mashtet and them were Umbraline supporters."

The times, they are a-changing...



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[Sado, Nobles’ Quarter (Morie)]

“That is not the only thing our families share, Mashtet Askha” came a voice from behind the door on the other side of the room.  “That, or daughters that like to talk loudly where they might be heard.”

Before the stunned menti had a chance to respond, the door slid open and the toroshu of clan Plangori entered.  The lines on her face marked her as nearly as old as Somei, but she kept the controlled grace of a menti warrior, if through sheer force of will, as she sat on the cushion in front of them.  Her deep purple dress contrasted sharply with the white sash around her waist and the bright silhouettes of leaves falling down one shoulder. She nodded as a maidservant placed a large wooden box in front of her and removed the lid to the first layer.

“When my great-grandfather left his clan to take up his role as consort, he brought a dowry with him.”

The toroshu removed a wooden disc from the box.  It was large, larger than her hand--but the image that appeared to grow from it was barely visible, the colors impossible to make out.  It was a blossoming tree writ small, gently swaying to an invisible breeze.

“A plum tree, for none can grow in the jungle,” Morie said, a trace of a shimmer in her eyes.  “I remember when I was young, you could smell the blossoms. I have no idea how the artisans managed that.”

But the torushu, it seemed, was not finished.  She removed the second layer from the box, and then a third.  “When my grandmother had her first child, she commissioned a carving, in memory of her father--a symbol of the bonds of honor and skill.”

The second carving was slightly smaller, depicting a ghostly waterfall plunging off a cliff into a misty pool, with barely distinguishable images of tiny cranes.


“My mother…” Morie continued.  “Had little luck with children.  My older brother was stillborn, and my father succumbed to a plague the jungle had wrought, soon after my birth.  My mother dared not hope, until I had ascended to the position of toroshu. She gave thanks to the virtues, for they had seen her through, and she asked for a carving to remind her of the solace their contemplation gave her.”

The third carving depicted three carp, swimming around each other in air.  The fish showed faint colors--one a pale plum purple, the other a white glimmer, and the last a dark shadow.

“I too, waited, Zuto Nui knows why.  I have been blessed by the goddess with six daughters to carry my name.  Yet still, I waited, for the simple fact that nothing I thought of seemed right, and when I had lighted on something--it was too late, for my great-grandfather’s clan had been lost to the Fursics.  I have now decided, and if you are willing, Elder Somei, I would ask you to make a carving for me.”

The toroshu, for all her gravity, had not yet met Somei’s eyes.  But now she stared up at the toroshu, the steal in her gaze unreadable and intense  “I do understand, however, that you have refused to make new works. If you find it beyond you, I would at least ask you to renew these.”

She returned her gaze downward.  “I can offer you twenty-thousand emerald dragons for this task.”

Edited by Mel
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There's a dozen selves inside you, trying to be the one to run the dials

[BZPRPG Profiles]

Hatchi - Talli - Ranok - Lucira - FerellisMorie - Fanai - Akiyo - Yukie - Shuuan - Ilykaed - Pradhai - Ipsudir

And some aren't even on your side.

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IC | Yumiwa

Word got out almost immediately and the rumor mill responded with its own unbased exaggerations soon thereafter. The tabloids on the street were spreading stories about “the blind empress,” a moniker that also played with my perceived isolation from the needs of the empire, but magazines on the streets were nothing compared to the speculations happening within the Palace.

It was rare for a Dasaka to have failing eyesight, let alone so early, but it is not unheard of. My mother occasionally needed spectacles, and many ringti need special goggles to see the level of detail needed to maintain their artful perfection, but it’s not usual for a Menti to have sight issues. The reality, though, is that continued eye strain takes its toll on the eyes, “and you’ve been doing a number on them for quite a while,” the court physician said. “Yumiwa, you’re going to need glasses.” Just like my mom, just like a ringti.

That’s fine,” I said back, trying to convince myself it was.

And it’s not all that bad; to be real I just need glasses to see things farther away since I can see just fine up close. I can still read, practice my arts, and interact with people just fine. So while it took a few long conversations with my handmaidens and physician, I eventually overcame my worries. It was fine, then. Glasses could be cool. I guess.

The next day, just after I came to accept the need for the lenses, I was visited and told by Awintour, a datsue representative of the artisans guild and appointee of a Council subcommittee, that I was to be taken to a galleria erected for the singular purpose of choosing what my new lenses would look like.

A galleria?” I asked, somewhat astonished. I was also shocked at the swiftness this was being handled, especially with almost zero input from me. “Whatever for?” Zafin trailed behind me, and I shot her a quick look to ask what is even going on? but she responded with a quick shake of her head and a shrug.

This exhibition was created for assisting in the perusal of options and ultimate selection of your spectacles,” the elder replied, walking slightly ahead of me and talking with a near disregard for my reservations. I quickly gathered that she just didn’t care. “The committee of culture decided on the best options and organized this event to make a swift choice, fully realizing your need for glasses soon.

Well that’s nice,” I started.

It is,” she cut in. "You will find our curated selection to be of the best quality, artisans of highest repute, and accessories made of the finest quality. We think you’ll appreciate our choices.”

Your choices?—” I once again attempted to cut in.

Yes, that’s right. Did you expect to choose your own style? Your own maker?” she said.

Well, yes! When I was chōjo I was able to choose who and what I wanted to wear. Why is this any different? These aren’t even a dress, they’re only glasses!

They are something you will be wearing for quite possibly the rest of your life, young rora, and you are not the chōjo any longer,” she  almost scolded. I maintained my composure but bristled within, which Zafin picked up on instantly. “What you say and do holds weight now more than ever. People notice things about you, how you carry yourself, how you handle yourself. I should not have to tell you these things!

But they’re glasses—a medical need, yes, but an accessory nonethe—!” This was quickly becoming another footnote in the long list of times I felt like an insignificant pawn in a grand game I had no power over despite my position. I also thoroughly hated the prospect of being used as little more than a catwalk model for a panel of judged to not even look at.

As chōjo you were a trendsetter. As rora you are an icon. These are not just trivial spectacles we are choosing, these are the empress’ lenses, and we are treating this with as much gravitas as selecting a part of the crown jewels because, in a very real sense, that’s what we’re doing. And in doing that we have to take into consideration who makes them and what they look like because that choice has political consequence. We are bestowing the rora’s favor on a clan, a craftsman, and a style for possibly centuries, and it would do you best to allow us to perform our sworn duties. We know our place, do you know yours?

I bit my tongue, but I didn’t really need to. I was speechless.

Yes, I wanted to say, I know my place. I am empress and arbiter, symbol of Zuto Nui and I can choose the rims of my own choosing, but saying that would only prove my own folly. This datsue had laid my whole crisis out in front of me, and I continued to follow her to the galleria pensively withdrawn. I didn’t want to say anything more and just heard her talk about the virtues of the craftspeople and their creations, the purity of their clan-lineages, their artistic variety, and the occasional avant-garde styles that were on display, all for someone else’s benefit.

But I was going to die from lack of breath before I was going to have flattened wine bottles for lenses.

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"It wasn't the Fursics," Askha spat. "They are scavengers taking advantage of the Mashtet clan's disappearance, nothing more." Her gaze was fixed on the ground, unwilling to look up and possibly meet anyone's eyes.

Somei glanced at Askha and slightly waved her hand. Askha sharply inhaled and inclined her head. "My apologies, Toroshu."

The datsue smiled. "Toroshu Morie," she said, "I am prepared to accept your offer, on all counts. The Mashtet clan would be glad to restore the relics tying our clans together, and Askha and I both agree the time of mourning the loss of the rest of the clan should end. I think that it is time to create something new."

The dashi returned with a tray with tea and set it down, pouring three ceramic cups. Somei reached out a hand and one of the cups of tea floated into it. She sipped, contemplating her next words, even though she knew she had just ended one of the most harrowing chapters of her life, and business was all that was left. "If you can deliver the carvings to the apartment we are staying at tomorrow, I can begin restoration. I require discretion for my work, I'm sure you understand. As for your carving..."

Somei sighed, staring into her tea. "I need tools and supplies from Hanaloi to make a new carving. Native wood, prepared crystal, it would probably take months, if not years, to find or recreate suitable replacements even in Sado."

Askha spoke, sitting up straight. "We will not require Clan Plangori to cover our expenses, but we will require quarter payment in advance," she stated, her tone professional. "I'll need to charter a boat to the island, and... other things. You can deliver payment along with your carvings." The Mashtet Menti took a cup and sipped it. "Would this arrangement be acceptable, Toroshu?"

The times, they are a-changing...



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“In this place, our concept of eternity becomes only a second, our concept of invincibility becomes vulnerable, and our perception of infinity becomes miniscule. In this Nowhere, [one becomes] even less alive than death would make you. That impossible lack of existence… is simply indescribable.”

Makuta Uhuraz, Aensettr Derrum, 2010



Nowhere trembles in anticipation.



I feel it.





—Do not call me that. I am not your sister.


Here, we are more sisters than we have been for a long time.


You confuse proximity with closeness. We have never been more proximate; yet I have never detested you more.


You do not hate me.


I do. I hate how you encroach on my essence. I hate what you are. I hate you.





Please, sister—


—Do not call me that—


—I understand what this, the soonness, makes you feel.


You cannot.


I can. I know that you have grown uncomfortable Nowhere.


Uncomfortable! And you claim to understand me?


I have been here longer than you; I know how restless you become even in open space. Listen to me, sister.


Why should I listen to you?


You have no choice but to listen.


Nowhere is thinner than air. I could not escape the thought of you if I tried.


I have tried.


I know.


I want to discuss what you’re thinking about.



Nothing can hide Nowhere. I think your thoughts and see your plan as though they were mine.



In your eagerness, sister, you have blinded yourself to a truth: your plan cannot work without my cooperation.



What do you want?


I want you to make a promise to me.


What good does a liar’s promise do you?


I believe you still answer to Truth, whether you like it or not.


Make me a promise.


I am listening.


It was common knowledge on Odaiba that nothing could survive in the crater of Mount Koshiki. But Rayuke, uncle of Rora Yumiwa and Imperial Executioner, was determined to try his luck anyway.


Wrapped in a thick cloak that barely shielded his burly form from the icy mountain gusts, a bandanna tied carefully over his mouth and nose to filter the worst of the toxic ashes from the air he breathed, Rayuke ascended Koshiki’s mountainside slowly and steadily. He leaned into the steep, rocky incline, each step renewing the burn on the back of his calves. Rayuke tried—unsuccessfully, mostly—to lessen his increasing sense of heaviness by relying more on his sturdy walking staff. Even through the cloak he wore, Rayuke felt the strap of his broadsword’s archaic sheath digging into his shoulder. He had been trekking like this for hours, refusing to lose speed even as every step took more and more from him.


After all, he was running out of time. Rayuke glanced again at the darkening, grey-orange sky; sunset seemed to approach faster with every minute that passed.


Rayuke would never complain about any of his aches, nor about the way his lungs protested each breath of the thin, lightly noxious air they took. While he had not been trained for such exhaustive hikes—Rayuke had been a thoroughbred Sadoite, a city Dasaka, since the day he’d emerged into the world—the Imperial Executioner, First Son of the Umbralines, had been trained with a warrior’s resolve. His mind was steel; he would not betray weakness, for to do so would be to dishearten his companions, who trailed behind him in a jagged line. They found the hike even more exhausting than he did, this he knew, and he knew they drew on his example for their strength.


Rayuke was used to assuming others’ pain and putting it on his own broad shoulders.


The arduous trek up Koshiki certainly wasn’t how Rayuke had imagined he’d be spending his evening. Mere hours before (how quickly, Rayuke reflected, Destiny chose her marks; how quickly one’s purpose could be changed!), the Umbraline uncle had sat in his private meditation garden, methodically attempting to release himself from the stresses of his increasingly stressful life. Rayuke’s life had never been without stress, of course, a good deal of stress came with his position; but during his sister’s reign, he had been responsible only for judging criminals and occasionally executing them. These were simple tasks. Under his niece’s rule, meanwhile, the Dasakan Empire had fractured. With this divide came new dangers, new pressures, and new responsibilities that—because Yumiwa was too young and inexperienced to acknowledge, let alone contend with, them—fell squarely on Rayuke in all their complexity. And, to top matters off, his youngest niece Desde had disappeared weeks ago.


The dawn hours he spent in his garden, calmly and carefully shaping the exotic plants with trimmers that at times felt comically small in his huge hands, sitting by the singing fountain and freeing his thoughts as best he could, had once been a daily pleasure for Rayuke. Now, they had become absolute necessity, without which he dared not face his days for fear of losing control over the pressing frustration that so often built up behind his eyes these days.


Rayuke considered self-control—Order—to be the best of his virtues. It was, he reflected, almost a miracle (or, perhaps, a lapse in character, but he dared not think that way, he couldn’t turn back now) that he had been convinced so quickly to drop all his daily duties when the strange visitors had fallen from the sky into his singing fountain early that morning.




The loud splashes blasted apart the soothing, trickling babble of the cold fountain, immediately snapping Rayuke from his meditative trance and back into the brisk morning air. With warrior’s reflexes, the huge Dasaka’s eyes sprung open, and he leapt to his feet, assuming an unarmed combat position. The water of the fountain—a few meters ahead of him, a few steps below him—frothed for an uneasy moment before the beings that had made the splashes emerged, sputtering. Rayuke kept his distance, watching to see if these creatures were friends or foes. As they clambered out of the fountain, however, Rayuke’s ready stance melted in surprise.


Six little beings, the size of Dashi, stood dripping before him. One of them actually was a Dashi—she looked familiar to him, clad in a short apron, shaking off her limbs one by one—but the others were clearly not Kentokuan. They looked like Dashi, but as an imperfect reflection; they came in all the colors of Janu birds. At once, Rayuke assumed them to be so-called “Matoran” of Mata Nui. How had they gotten into his fountain? More pressingly: how had they gotten to the Archipelago at all?


“…Rayuke?” one of the Matoran asked him tentatively, eyes wide as if in disbelief.


“…I am he,” Rayuke replied uncertainly. “Who are you?


“I’m Seven,” the Matoran answered. “And these are my companions.” Here, the Matoran called Seven pointed to each of the others in turn. “Tarnok, Leli, Lekua, Kellin… oh, and there’s Cancer, Kellin’s Ussal.” A large crab of some foreign species emerged from the fountain, its eyestalks rattling as though shivering with cold. “And of course,” Seven finished, “There’s Soraya.”


Soraya was the Dashi, and Rayuke immediately recognized her as she was named: she’d designed his costume at the fateful ball where his sister had been assassinated. Destiny’s icy hand pressed through Rayuke’s sternum. Soraya stepped forward. “Your honor,” she said—Rayuke sensed with his Kanohi Rode vestigial resentments of the Dasakan caste system in her tone—giving him a little bow. “Please forgive us for the intrusion. We come on urgent business.”


“…How did you…?” Rayuke asked slowly, gesturing vaguely to the fountain and all of them.


“There’s a long story,” one of the other Matoran—Kellin, Rayuke identified him—said, rubbing the back of his neck.


“We were sent here,” Soraya said, “By the will of Zuto Nui. We are here to do her work.”


“Mata Nui’s work,” one of the other Matoran piped up.


“To him and to me, it’s Zuto Nui,” Soraya countered impatiently. “Same Great Spirit. Look, your honor—“


“—Please,” Rayuke interrupted tiredly. “Please, just call me Rayuke.”


“Rayuke,” Soraya corrected, the word clearly tasting funny in her mouth, like a forbidden food. “We need to speak to you. It’s extremely urgent, and we need your help.”


Rayuke’s Kanohi Rode informed him that Soraya—and the rest of the gang, even down to the still-shivering crab—earnestly believed they needed his help, that much was true. Rayuke’s curiosity, if it hadn’t already been piqued by the sudden appearance of five Mata Nuians, a Dashi, and a hypothermic crab in his garden, was afire. He could go the day without completing his meditation, if it meant getting answers.


“Tell me everything,” Rayuke told the strangers. “And tell the truth.” He noticed that the crab wasn’t the only one quaking with cold. “But first,” he said, a little smile rising on his face, “Let’s get you all warmed up.”


Rayuke listened patiently as the Matoran and Soraya proceeded to inform him, over steaming hot cups of tea and wrapped in blankets, how they had been contacted in myriad ways by the Great Spirit’s emissary (this they believed, too, to be true) and brought from across the island of Mata Nui into contact with each other. The six had subsequently been guided to a so-called “Keeping Place” which, when they had entered it, had deposited them a few feet in the air above the surface of Rayuke’s fountain.


The group said they’d been sent to Rayuke on a mission: they had a task that, they told Rayuke, was crucial for restoring the Great Spirit to being.


Rayuke had never given much thought to the Great Spirit. To him, she was a core of social institutions, and a point to be referenced in moral matters, but she had never exerted her influence directly over the Kentoku Archipelago in his, or anyone else’s, memory. Evidently, the people of Mata Nui, though, had witnessed the Great Spirits’ acts firsthand in their recent past, for good and ill. One of the Matoran told Rayuke the story of the Toa Maru, heroes raised from the Matoran by Zuto Nui’s magic, who had destroyed Makuta—Zataka, in Rayuke’s vernacular—through the strength of their unity.


As he listened to this anecdote, Rayuke felt a passing sense of incongruousness; didn’t the lore of the Great Spirits dictate the necessary balance that Zataka brought to her sister, the crucial duality between sky and sea, female and male, order and freedom, light and dark? Were not Zuto Nui and Zataka intertwined? How could anyone destroy one and not the other? But Rayuke let these nagging questions slide away unanswered. After all, he told himself, the people of Mata Nui had had far more direct experience with the Great Spirits than he, and so were certainly greater authorities on their natures.


Although the Toa Maru had destroyed Zataka, the party of strangers exposited, and although this act had been a formidable blow against the remaining forces of darkness on their island, Zuto Nui nevertheless failed to awaken from her slumber. This was where the Matoran—and Rayuke himself—came in, they said.


According to the Matoran, they had followed the lead of a mysterious, still unidentified Matoran and so learned that Kentoku and Mata Nui were linked together by a mystical transportation system, through which matter, mind, and other properties could travel at impossible speed without losing their original forms. This “portal system,” the stuff of Legends, connected the sister islands together, and probably led to other long-forgotten lands, too. But the portal system had been shut long ago; and its nexus, deep underground at the center of Mata Nui, had been locked. Beyond this, the portal nexus (which the Matoran called a “Vault”) was currently guarded by powerful foes including the nefarious Piraka and a nigh-indestructible machine known as the “Abettor.” Rayuke wondered what crime this “Abettor” abetted, but didn’t bother asking.


It was essential to reopen this portal system, the Matoran finally explained, in order to awaken the Great Spirit.


One of the Matoran likened the portal passages to the Great Spirit’s veins, which through the flow of blood would remember their original heartbeat. Another thought of the portal system like a machine that needed oiling. Soraya understood the relationship as one of split consciousness; to make the Great Spirit whole, Zuto Nui’s mind—fragmented around the several islands of the world—sought avenues by which it could sew itself together again and become whole. Each of the six little beings before Rayuke had a different way of articulating the correlation between Great Spirit and portal; but they all knew in the cores of their hearts a Truth that, though difficult to explain, was True: opening the portals would enable the return of the Great Spirit, and so the return of peace.


At this point, Rayuke took a moment to try and process what he had just been told. It was a mammoth idea to swallow—teleportation portals? Great Spirits? bringing about ultimate peace? —and he couldn’t quite wrap his head around it. The Umbraline uncle asked the group of strangers why, if what they said was real, had they been sent to him?


The travelers answered by reciting to Rayuke a stanza he had never heard, but which struck a familiar chord in him:


Across an endless ocean

Beyond where minds can see

My key lies in the open

Where you will never be

Beneath the brightest thunder

Stand towers of the day

The light may break asunder

If night skies choose obey

The red sign on black eyes

Will lead you to your prize


The Matoran told Rayuke that this riddle was engraved on the Vault’s door, and said that they’d interpreted it to mean that the Vault’s key lay “beyond” on Kentoku, “where minds can see.” They assumed Kentoku must have a Vault, its own portal nexus door, which corresponded to Mata Nui’s… and guessed that opening the Kentoku Vault would simultaneously open the Mata Nui Vault, thereby reinstating the first portal connection.


With the mention of a “Kentoku Vault,” Rayuke realized why the Matoran’s couplets seemed familiar to him. Suddenly very excited, he excused himself to his study, leaving his guests looking at each other in confusion for a minute while he rummaged hastily through a little library downstairs. After a quick search, Rayuke returned with a crystal tablet bearing these lines:


Across an endless ocean

Upon pale metal’s home

My key is in possession

Where you are soon to roam

The hand of fated treason

Is signal to depart

A prize of ancient season

Becomes my crucial heart

My twin will never give

Until you make me live


“These words are carved on an ancient crystal shrine in the crater of Mount Koshiki, a dormant volcano here,” Rayuke told the group animatedly. “My great-grandmother was an explorer, and she rediscovered the structure up there generations ago. Nobody thought much of it, you see; the pillars and whatnot didn’t seem to do anything, and this inscription seemed merely a poem. I only remember the lines, and keep them in my library, because I used to love the story of my ancestor’s Koshiki expedition when I was very small.”


The Matoran exchanged looks (perhaps in part because they found it dubious that Rayuke had ever been small), and asked Rayuke to read the poem from this crystal temple on top of the expired volcano again. He obliged them; some started to nod, appreciating the uncanny similarity to the Mata Nuian riddle.


“Pale metal’s home is obviously Mata Nui,” Rayuke concluded. “Where metals are in abundance. Soon to roam… fated treason, signal to depart… Yusanora’s assassination? That’s when the expedition to Mata Nui left, it’s what put Soraya in your midst… it’s how you know about us and we about you!” Suddenly, Rayuke imagined meaning in his sister’s murder, and though it made that old wound flare up in his soul—reflexively, Rayuke stemmed the wrathful tears that came with it—now the memory was touched with something else, something powerful and inexorable. “Her death was the sign that it was the right time for our cultures to collide.”


“My twin will never give until you make me live,” Tarnok repeated from Rayuke’s tablet, adjusting his blanket thoughtfully. “That just confirms that we were right: we need to open this Kentokuan Vault, make that portal ‘live,’ for the Mata Nuian one to follow suit.”


“How?” Soraya asked.


“I think the Mata Nuian riddle is… instructions, maybe, on what we need to do to open the Kentoku Vault,” Lekua mused. “Rayuke, what do you think it means?”


“I know what the crystal temple on Koshiki looks like, a little, from the story,” Rayuke nodded to himself, closing his eyes and trying to picture it. “Some of the bits of your riddle might be connected to that. Say it again.”


One of the Matoran recited the Vault inscription again. Rayuke stopped him on “brightest thunder.”


“Those are Kanohi Dragons,” Rayuke informed the group. “It’s an old metaphor, pulled from… some old poem, I’m not sure.” For the first time in his life, Rayuke was glad for all the hours he’d been forced, as a member of the Imperial family, to devote to ancient Dasakan literature. “So beneath the brightest thunder… that means we’re definitely looking at Koshiki, it’s a known resort of the dragons. ‘Towers of the day,’ if in reference to the Koshiki shrine, may refer to the crystal obelisks standing all around it, but that’s a stretch.”


“Night skies,” Leli chimed in. “Might mean that the only way to open the Vault here is at night.”


“If night skies choose obey,” Tarnok replied. “So… probably a certain time of night?”


“I don’t understand the ‘red sign on the black eyes’ bit,” Soraya mused. “Anyone got ideas there?”


Nobody could come up with anything convincing. Rayuke broke the following silence, returning to an earlier stanza. “The light … if night skies choose obey… Maybe this light comes from the night skies. Starlight? ‘Breaking asunder,’ breaking light, maybe that’s something to do with—“


“—Refraction?” Kellin finished. “Y’know, how light ‘breaks’ through a lens, or a prism, or whatever. I used to live in Onu-Koro, knew a lantern-maker, he talked about it like that all the time.”


“Crystals can be shaped, here, to have different refractive properties,” Soraya confirmed. “I bet something in this crystal shrine on Koshiki is meant to refract starlight, at a certain time of night, so a certain constellation or something in the right position will do what we need.“


“The Red Star?” Seven contributed uncertainly. “Call me crazy but: what if it’s the Red Star?” She turned to Soraya and Rayuke, a sheepish grin on her face as she pointed to the sky. “Do you, uh, do you get that one over here?”


“Yes,” Soraya answered, suddenly smiling broadly. “We get that one over here. But it’s very dim, it only really shows up—“


“—Right after sundown,” Rayuke finished. “That seems rather specific. Too specific to be coincidence.”


“Red sign on black eyes?” Lekua asked. “So, would that be it?”


“If you think of the sky as a black eye?” Kellin posited. “Then maybe, yeah.”


The Matoran and Rayuke continued to speculate on the meaning of the twin riddles for a little while longer, and eventually came to a consensus that the Red Star interpretation made the most sense. Very quickly, discussion turned to the logistics of a hike up Mount Koshiki: supplies they’d need, how they would travel to Odaiba from Sado, and what dangers they would need to bear in mind.


“If any Kanohi Dragons show up,” Soraya posited, “We’ll be deader than last party’s fashions.”


“You will need protection,” Rayuke agreed. “And you will also need a safe, a secret, passage out of the city and across Odaiba. These are things I can provide to you.”


“Are you sure?” Leli asked him. “You’ve already done so much for us.”


“My part in this affair is far from over,” Rayuke answered. He had no doubts about this.




Rayuke sensed that the train of Matoran behind him, tied to him and each other with a thick rope as they wheezed and stumbled up the mountainside, needed a little more encouragement.


“Come on!” he called back through his bandanna. “We’re almost over the ridge.” One of the Matoran – Rayuke could not tell which, as their mouths were also covered – let loose a sarcastic whoop, followed by a hefty bout of coughing. Well, at least they’ve not lost a sense of humor, Rayuke thought to himself with a slight smile.


Many arduous steps later, Rayuke and the Matoran stood on the lip of Koshiki’s huge crater. They looked down at the lake, toxically turquoise, gorgeous and vibrant under the sun’s parting rays. Two of the Matoran exchanged an exhausted high-five. Rayuke scanned the inside of the crater. The crystal shrine, its huge obelisks like a giant’s fingers reaching up through the bleached sand, stood about 300 meters down and away.


Following Rayuke, the group of chosen Matoran started their cautious descent.

Edited by Nuju Metru
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Inokio chewed that question over, along with the woman's apology. Its veracity and sincerity meant little to him; he and Masayoshi would never be friends, their divides drawn on lines that went beyond political into the ethical and personal. What mattered is that she had finally taken heed of her senses and agreed to slow down. A few hours may have spelled doom the Chojo, or they may not. But shambling into the Fursic compound in their state would have only resulted in further butchery. Not the kind the Battlemaster relished, either.

"A fair question," he replied, fingers frittering along the sorest spots on his legs anxiously. While he weighed his answers, some of the sticks she had specified began to draw themselves over to the pair of talented Menti, one at a time. Inokio's body may have been in no fit state for the barbarous melee combat preferred by Dastana Jasik, but his mind, his keen senses and disciplines, were still his own. Seeing the success of his Mindarm with his very eyes lit the fires of his smoldering confidence again. "With a likely answer. One that does not work in our benefit. Every pair of eyes on Sado - pardon, almost every pair - has their eyes on Yumiwa at all times. A bodyguard's absence from his charge will always be noted, and as I never consulted matters of the political, my absence due to diplomatic matters or correspondence would have been unlikely. My capture has already been taken for granted, I do not doubt."

The amount of sticks necessary to set his wrist had been gathered, and he kicked them over to Masayoshi lightly, taking care to ascertain that they had touched the blind woman's foot. Having them sit in front of her gathering the dirt on the ground would have done him no good.

"As for where they would keep the Chojo, I know not. I only know this place as one man among a conquering force; I did not take the fifty-dragon tour in the middle of the Sack."




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[Sado, Nobles’ Quarter (Morie)]

“That will be more than acceptable, First Daughter, should it also be acceptable to your elder ”  said the Plangori Torushu. She made no pretense of looking at the floor; her eyes bored straight into Askha.  “In fact, should you wish, I can direct you to ships of suitable quality. I can also provide you with an escort.  It would not do for the last free members of clan Mashtet to meet with marauders.”

She paused and took a delicate sip of her tea.  “And I do not take offense to your comment, although I do wonder how you can be so sure.”  Her eyes went back to the miniature tree, tracing barely visible patterns in the branches. “Everyone knows the Fursics are doing something on Kozu, yet no one knows what; the Mashtet have vanished, yet no one knows why; the Empress was murdered, yet no one knows by who; and the Crown Princess is missing, yet no one knows where to.”

Morie let the pause hang for a little while longer.

“Tell me, Mashtet Askha, did you learn in your training, the importance of negative space in a work of art?”

The steel in her voice matched that in her eyes.

There's a dozen selves inside you, trying to be the one to run the dials

[BZPRPG Profiles]

Hatchi - Talli - Ranok - Lucira - FerellisMorie - Fanai - Akiyo - Yukie - Shuuan - Ilykaed - Pradhai - Ipsudir

And some aren't even on your side.

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Nowhere, the fabric of nothing rips

—and I feel it.


I feel it, too—


—So soon. I can almost—


—Yes. So can I—




What is it?


Stop agreeing with me.


We are having the same experience. I sense what you sense; so, I cannot help but agree with you.


I am sorry to be so agreeable.


I hate you.



I will make you your promise, if you still insist upon it.


I do. I am glad.


Your gladness is folly: you believe my promise has worth. It does not. No power binds me to honor my word.


I know you will not break a sisterly vow, even though you have that power.


Why are you so confident?


Am I not transparent Nowhere? You need not ask.



Your smugness agitates me.


I am never smug.


Are you not transparent Nowhere? You are smug.


Perhaps, a little.


Is it so wrong to derive satisfaction from a sister’s word?


It is as you say: so close.


The breach begins.


We do not have much longer.




Make the promise. This is the time.


I hate you.


No; you just hate being outmaneuvered.




I will keep my word.



After quarter-hour of methodical descent, Rayuke and the Mata Nuians arrived at the crystal shrine. Sunset was imminent.


Standing as he now did before the Kentoku Vault, Rayuke could get a much closer look at the six huge pillars of crystal he’d already seen from afar; curiously, while their flat sides were intricately carved with disjointed letters on top and bottom, they were blank and prismatic at their middles. The orange light of the rapidly dying day caught in one, and sparkled down at the company.


In the middle of the hexagon these pillars created, a much shorter crystal protuberance caught Rayuke’s eye. Raised on a clean amethyst platform, a bizarrely shaped crystal, clear and white, proudly sat at the center of everything. This malformed gem reminded Rayuke of a podium. Far in front of the “podium,” flush with the rough-hewn wall of the crater many meters away, stood an upright slab of perfectly smooth stone, the pale face of which was flawed only by another glassy node of crystal fixed in its middle, and a few lines of familiar text inscribed close to its base.


At the sight of the Kanohi Dragon, of course, the details of the Vault became temporarily unimportant.


Acidic water from Koshiki’s crater – from which the leviathan creature had emerged – hissed as it sloughed off the dragon’s gorgeous lapis-lazuli scales, and dripped down onto the bleached sand below. The dragon languorously shook off its plumed head, and spread its jaws lazily, revealing too many glistening teeth. The tigrine yawn which issued forth resonated in Rayuke’s gut, activating a primordial fear.


“Don’t make sudden moves,” Rayuke instructed the Matoran over his shoulder as calmly as he could.


Slowly, he motioned the group to fall behind him; together, they backed carefully towards the amethyst platform, eyes fixed on the dragon the while. Rayuke’s hand drifted up to the hilt of his broadsword; the beast was more than a hundred yards away now, but that could change all too quickly.


The creature’s gaze alighted at last on Rayuke and the Matoran. With a regal, feline gait, the Kanohi Dragon started towards the intruders on its territory. Its eyes, full of royal pride, gave Rayuke little doubt that he and his companions would be expelled from the dragon’s kingdom by force, or else executed under its magisterial decree.


How simple, how efficient, nature is, a part of Rayuke that had clearly already fled his body, remarked. Emperor and executioner, rolled into one.


But for all the aggression coiled into its body, and the haughtiness in its eyes, the dragon – to Rayuke’s amazement – did not charge, pounce, leap, or make serious move to assault him and the smaller beings behind. Instead, the animal stopped short about halfway to its prey, and paced from side to side agitatedly. It pawed at the sand and bristled its spines, but made no further advance.




A voice, deep and metallic, sounded somewhere behind Rayuke and his companions; and they almost jumped out of their skins. Rayuke swung around, his sword drawn out of reflex.


“Identify yourselves,” the voice boomed.


The voice emanated from a huge being which, as far as Rayuke could imagine, had materialized from thin air, so suddenly had it appeared directly behind him and the Matoran. The thing which had spoken was shaped vaguely like Rayuke, insofar as it had arms, legs, and a torso. The resemblance stopped there. Its arms were thick as barrels; its legs had all the solidity of trees, and they were double-jointed like a predator's; its torso was a spilled can propped on top of an oversize Dasaka’s bulging abdominal section, and its shoulders were on either side of the can. No head sat on top of the cylinder; but a Kanohi Rau with empty eye sockets stared out from a cavity in the center of the chest. Instead of a right hand, the being’s powerful forearm merged at the wrist into a rough cluster of rough blue crystal.


A myriad of small letters, arranged in sporadic lines and dots, glowed brilliant blue all over the imposing thing's body. These seemed to have no reason behind their arrangement, as none of the lines formed real words. Rayuke was reminded at once of the text on the crystal pillars around him.


“It’s an Abettor,” one of the Matoran behind him said.


“We are the Abettor,” the Abettor confirmed dryly. “Identify yourselves.”


“…We are the Great Spirit’s envoys,” Lekua finally announced, and gestured to himself and then each of the others in turn. “I am Lekua. Here are Tarnok, Soraya, Leli, Seven, Kellin, Rayuke, and Cancer.”


A violent snarl from the Kanohi Dragon, still pacing at a fixed distance away, made some of the company jump and wheel around yet again. The Abettor pointed its crystalline forearm in the dragon’s direction, and issued a manufactured-sounding bellowing noise, a roar that resonated from deep inside its cylindrical body and made some of the Matoran cover their ears. The animal halted, spat furiously at the Abettor and the travelers in reply, and then resumed its pacing, albeit more quietly. Hot resentment colored the animal’s steps; but it dared not face the same fate as others it had seen intrude on the Abettor’s ground, especially not after the Abettor’s warning in dragon-tongue.


Rayuke tried to swallow the panic he felt about being caught between a Kanohi Dragon and a creature strong enough to cow a Kanohi Dragon into submission.


He turned back to the Abettor as, with a sequence of clicks and the rustle of metal on metal, the Kanohi Rau in its torso lifted out of sight, disappearing back into its body as another Kanohi rose to take its place. A few masks cycled past this way, like rivets on the outside of a wheel; the wheel slowed and settled on a Kanohi Rode. Rayuke shivered involuntarily to be stared down by his own mask; and his broadsword slowly floated down until its tip rested in the sand.


“Why are you here,” the Abettor clacked.


“We have come to free the Great Spirit from his deep sleep,” Lekua proclaimed. The other Matoran nodded in assent; Cancer’s eyestalks bobbed in agreement, too. “We are destined to reopen this door.”


Rayuke studied the Abettor’s mask, meaning to gauge the behemoth’s reaction to this statement; but, reminding himself that so far the Abettor had displayed no reactions whatsoever, he quickly looked away. Instead, he chanced a glance back at the rest of the party, and saw six resolute faces. For a moment, Rayuke envied the Matoran’s resolve and the simplicity of their mission. The Matoran, decidedly on the side of light, fought darkness.


Rayuke’s life’s work had, on the other hand, consisted of navigating the twilit spaces between these extremes. During the course of his career, he had killed eighty-seven Dasaka in the name of Order, and though he regretted none of these executions, he would not soon forget them, either. Rayuke would never forget the eighty-seven desperate looks, or the eighty-seven poem boats he had launched for the criminals on the grey mornings after he had slain them.


The Abettor’s answer snapped Rayuke back to his present.


“You may proceed,” it said. It took a step to the side, then walked around Rayuke and the huddled Matoran, placing itself between them and the pacing Kanohi Dragon. The behemoth’s massive chest swiveled as it addressed the group again. “We will keep this beast at bay.”


Thunderstruck by the ease with which they had bypassed the Abettor, Rayuke and the band advanced—at first cautiously, but with growing resolve—towards the amethyst altar, the console for the Kentoku Vault. Steps weary after their long hike, they ascended the platform and gathered around the oddly-shaped crystal podium standing at its center. On closer inspection, Rayuke noticed a deep notch just before the platform. Its rhomboid shape looked familiar to him, an exact breadth and angle, just like the mark left by his—


But could it be so simple?


Forget titles, forget sanctions, forget duty, forget the good of the Empire, forget even the good of his family; Rayuke knew he was the most prolific killer on the Kentoku Archipelago. And at his core, he recognized himself as a murderer. He’d murdered one morning, long ago, when he picked up the Executioner’s sword for the first time—too young—and swung it down at a person he had never met. It had taken three swings to do the job; he hadn’t been as strong, then. It had been Rayuke’s first time meeting the sword, and the sword had owned his life ever since. His purpose, his great shame, and his very nature had become tied to the object, to the covenant of murdering it entailed. The sword turned Rayuke into a perfect machine. The sword knew him far too well.


And Rayuke knew the sword, too. Eighty-seven times he’d cleaned a departed soul off its surface, wiping in long strokes, oiling and maintaining the metal blade with practices forgotten by all but the custodians of the Executioner’s Sword. Countless days, he’d strapped it on in the morning and unshackled himself from it at night. Rayuke knew every dimension of the blade, from the weight of the pommel to the keenness of the edge.


Had the sword honestly believed it could leave a gash in a block of crystal without Rayuke recognizing its footprint?


Rayuke almost laughed; what a silly feeling, to feel enslaved by such a careless, amateurish sword.


Almost as soon as the Matoran around him had begun to chatter about the position of the sun, about the time until darkness, about what to do next, Rayuke—separated from his heavy body, and from the heavier sword; at last, he was free of it—deftly plunged the tip of his badge of office into the rhomboid niche. It hissed a little, metal against quartz; the broadsword fit perfectly, and Rayuke decided in his heart that this would be the last time he ever swung it.


As if a rock had been dropped through the surface of the atmosphere, a heavy wave of air rippled out in all directions from the point where Rayuke inserted the sword. This gust stirred the sand and nearly caused Kellin to stumble off the amethyst platform. Feeling a sourceless wind suddenly on its nose, the Kanohi Dragon growled hesitantly and, as though deciding it was in over its head, retreated down into the toxic water; nobody seemed to care. Even the Abettor turned at once to face the Vault door.


The group stared expectantly at the flat stone door; the sun fell below the lip of Koshiki’s ragged crater a moment later; and, as if by the Great Spirit’s own hand, the Red Star grew clear on the inside of the sky’s black eye.


A spot of red reflected on the blade of the sword. It caught the Red Star perfectly.


One breath. Two.




Nothing happened.


Rayuke felt the sense of perfect purpose, of certainty, he’d enjoyed moments before drop out of his stomach, as though a hand had reached out of the earth and pilfered it.


What could have gone wrong?

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Well that sucked Za-

"That's unfortunate." I said, crouching to pick up the sticks. I still had to feel for them a moment but Inokio's consideration had made them easy to find. I appreciated it, as much as it pains me. It would be worse to have to fumble for them in front of him. "This is going to hurt. A lot. Hold out your hand, and stay still."

I trusted my mind more than my hands, so I elected to set it with my discipline. I drew a length of twine out of a pocket, and at the same time pulled sharply on his wrist with my mind. I wasn't fond of the sound it made, but he would be even less fond of how it felt. The strongest of the sticks floated to him and braced against the Battlemaster's wrist, while I carefully tied them in place. It was a crude setting, but it would give him at least marginally better function than before. And make it easier for a real healer to treat, if we got out of here. The hard part was the realignment, the setting itself was easy so I considered our options.

A frontal assault was doomed to failure. I can't fly, and neither can he. Nor can he climb with his wrist. So going over the wall was unlikely. Unless...

"The last time you were here you came through the front door. We can't do that." I said slowly, turning my 'gaze' further outward. "But this area is wooded. One of these trees is likely to be taller than the wall. You can't climb, but I can. I can Mindarm you over. And once you've touched down on the other side, you can still see me and do the same to get me over."

As for finding her, if she's still alive she can find me and tell me where she is.

If she's not, it doesn't matter. I'll find her sometime during killing every soul in that compound.



On this eve, the thirtieth anniversary of that first colony, many are left to wonder; is the world fast approaching a breaking point?



  Breaking Point: An OTC Mecha RPG


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14 hours ago, Mel said:

[Sado, Nobles’ Quarter (Morie)]

“That will be more than acceptable, First Daughter, should it also be acceptable to your elder ”  said the Plangori Torushu. She made no pretense of looking at the floor; her eyes bored straight into Askha.  “In fact, should you wish, I can direct you to ships of suitable quality. I can also provide you with an escort.  It would not do for the last free members of clan Mashtet to meet with marauders.”

She paused and took a delicate sip of her tea.  “And I do not take offense to your comment, although I do wonder how you can be so sure.”  Her eyes went back to the miniature tree, tracing barely visible patterns in the branches. “Everyone knows the Fursics are doing something on Kozu, yet no one knows what; the Mashtet have vanished, yet no one knows why; the Empress was murdered, yet no one knows by who; and the Crown Princess is missing, yet no one knows where to.”

Morie let the pause hang for a little while longer.

“Tell me, Mashtet Askha, did you learn in your training, the importance of negative space in a work of art?”

The steel in her voice matched that in her eyes.


"With all due respect, my clan disappeared years before Yusanora's death. The Fursics are doing something; they're always doing something. Clan Mashtet served as Clan Umbraline's eyes of Kozu. I blame Clan Fursic for many things, but my clan vanishing off the face of Kentoku is not one of them." Her voice wavered even as it rose. "I was there on Hanaloi, there was no battle, no blood, nothing! Everyone was gone! I have spent every day of my life since then thinking, what did this? I did blame them for a long time. Despair filled my mind, then revenge. Then survival."

Somei glanced at Askha, who was winding herself down. "It is true, the disappearance of our clan preceded the current troubles, but connecting them is fruitless without more evidence. Toroshu, your further assistance will be graciously accepted, and I shall go with Askha's proposal, she has more mind for business than I. Unless there is further business, I would like to retire for the evening; Askha and I have had a long day, and we don't want to take up any more of your time." The Datsue took a last sip of her tea and bowed her head. "Thank you again, Toroshu Morie. I will strive to restore your carvings to the original splendor." Somei got up and left for door.

Closing her eyes, Ashka took a centering breath, and bowed. "Have a good evening, Toroshu. I will contact you when we have need for ships and your escort." She tried to hide her frown as she turned; Plangori Morie reminded her entirely too much of her own mother.

Outside, the two Mashtet walked in the waning sunlight. Askha was silent. Somei put a hand on her niece's arm. "Askha... you can't lose control like that. Plangori Morie was patient, but others would have your thrown out or worse." Somei paused when the Menti began to sob.

"I..." Askha's shoulders shuddered and her voice cracked. "I don't want to go back. I can't go back there alone. Not again."

Somei glanced around, and held Askha, activating her Sighteye. Illusory copies of the two Mashtet continued walking before disappearing down an alley, while leaving the true Askha and Somei invisible and muted. The Datsue held Askha's hands and looked into her tearful green eyes. "You're not alone. I will be with you."

Askha exhaled, still suppressing her sobs. "If we're going back to Hanaloi, I don't think you can be with me always."

It was a quiet walk back to their apartment.

The times, they are a-changing...



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IC | Yumiwa Umbraline

The galleria, for what it was worth, had been established in apparent secrecy on one of the hidden esplanades that dipped close to the water. It was technically still in the residential district, evident by the the signage, but it had been transformed into an enclave of the Markets away from the bustle of that district. I instantly realized the intent was to bring the mall to me and keep me from mingling with the other castes in any way. Awintour and her committee had gone to extra lengths to retain the supposed purity of my station and image.

Personally, I detested it, but figured there was no arguing with her or anyone about the matter. I missed the simpler days when I could explore Sado unbound, my only tether being to Inokio’s distant but ever-vigilant gaze. The last time I did that was when the Menti Nihi Eiyu gave her speech to the masses gathered in the Markets and attempted to persuade the populace to go to war with the Mata Nuians. It was also, arguably, my first real foray into public policy as I made my identity known then.

That stunt caused a lot of backlash, though I hadn’t learned about it until much later. As it happened, the heir to the throne going out in public and entering in civic discourse among saihoko in a district almost every member of the aristocracy disdained to set foot in—and without a full retinue of guards, no less. Inokio and my mom shielded me from the naysaying and the Battlemaster’s status as a living legend fighter and protector alone dispelled most of the squabbling, and what it didn’t my mom put to rest with her words. I learned of this all shortly before I ascended… before my mom was murdered and passed the throne to me.

I longed for the simpler days when I was a student first and royalty second. That same nostalgia is what propelled my constant reading; I kept trying to resume the same scholastic pursuits I did for the majority of my life. I missed my mentors. I missed my teachers and parents and sister. Goddess I missed Des. She was the only one left who would understand me the most anymore and it was probably my fault she disappeared. Sometimes I imagined her just coming up again with a tray of foods and chatting about stuff with me. I would treat her so much more kindly than I did, I swore, if only I could just have her back. Have some semblance of my family back. 

As I descended the balustrade into the midst of the various ringti and merchants I was greeted with warm welcomes all around. I smiled broadly at each of them, but there was no joy in my responses, only a false, dutiful glee. Yes, I was glad to be there. Yes, of course I was happy to try their wares. Of course, I admired their work. Naturally, I knew of their clan’s history as craftspeople.

Duh, they were all playing roles in a game I hadn’t the heart to play that day. But we all had our places on the board, didn’t we? And my role was that of mannequin-in-chief. Awintour steered me to the middle of the galleria and made a quick speech, something about choosing the next “Imperial Spectacles” (I hated that she called them such, they were just my glasses, they were supposed to help me see) and that the best craft would do and all the gathered artisans were representatives of the best which was why they were chosen to contend for the “Imperial Spectacles” contract blah blah blah… And then all eyes were turned to me.

What was chilling to me, even though I’d come to expect this very thing, was that they were not looking at me as their revered empress but like some… sofa, wall, some inanimate thing for them to embellish and accessorize. These were not master craftswomen, they were salespeople. I hated how they looked at me.

I was led lifelessly to the nearest booth and shown what they had. I tried on half a dozen different frames and lenses before I was ushered to the next, and then the next, and the one after in a dry ritual that was all glitz and no passion. Around me buzzed a crew of dashi, each notating different looks and angles and sketching what they saw. It bothered me. Most of the frames they had me try on squeezed at my temples or were too gaudy even for me. They were shiny, but that’s not all I look for in accessories. Come on now.

They had me try on literal dozens of glasses and lenses. But despite the diversity in clan label, designer, and salesperson, I noticed a glaring issue that I brought to light at the very end.

So, majesty,” Awintour said with barely disguised glee. “What are your favorites?” She was certain I liked a majority of them, and I certainly gave that sort of impression along the way.

Well, madam,” I said thoughtfully, “The Guggis are nice, the Pridas are fine, and the Fitanny’s are coollll.” They looked satisfied so far, but the grins were washed away when I went on. “The Muimuis are awful, though. Vulgari is exactly that, and the Chonals are so delicate I’d be scared of breaking them with my concentration. But honestly, did you even think of offering up a single pair of glasses not crafted by Clan Luxxotica?” Aghast silence. I clearly was not meant to go off-script and they were frightened that I was. “I didn’t think so. None of these are my favorite, and if any of them are commissioned they will only find a place in my sock drawer and not on my face. Take these tokens of that traitor clan away,” I commanded, alluding strongly to the clan's loose affiliation with the Dastana faction.

Now, datsue Awintour, I will find my own glasses—with or without your help. I know my place and will determine who gets my grace and favor, not the subcommittee of culture. I am empress and arbiter, symbol of Zuto Nui’s Virtues, and I can and will choose the rims of my own choosing, thank you very much.

I turned and walked right out of the throng. My Hogo retinue and the handmaidens Than and Iglia emerged from the midst like wraiths and surrounded me protectively as I walked purposefully to the only place I wanted to go to: The Markets. And nobody was going to stop me. 

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In her dreams, she sang with Zuto Nui - and with her parents.

Rora Umbraline Yusanora was unblemished, radiant even, with the smiles she had always showered upon Yumi in life. She looked every inch the elegant Rora she always had in life, and Des’ heart would burst at the sight of her. Daddy was with her, carefree and beautiful. He had died when Desdemona was young, and the memories of his countenance had bled from her mind as she aged into the adolescence that no one had ever guided her through, but even his shade-like face was dominated by his smile, his gregarious laugh, the arms around her back that held her tightly without breaking her. No one had ever learned to hug her like that after he was gone. No one ever tried.

Her other visions were less idealized, vignettes that flashed behind her eyes and buffeted her with sensations that left her rocking against her crystal chains. 

--She saw Rayuke reading an old tome, callused fingers brushing old paper with the reverence with which he brushed his niece’s cheeks--

--She saw Dastana Jasik spread out across the balcony of his solar, his sister tending to wounds on his chest and face. Was there a battle? she found herself wondering. Is everything alright on Sado? Instead of Sado, she was blown even further west--

--She saw the Chaotic Six, descending into the mouth of Karzahni in the middle of an icy waste. Green flames were licking at their spines, their leers, burning them to their cores until only six Shinushya were left--

--She saw Hanako lying in her bed of honor onboard the Ryuu. She was sleeping; her flesh was paler than Des had ever seen it, and her gentle brow was slick with fever. She reached for her best friend, only to find the familiar crystal of home fade away again as quickly as it had greeted her--

She was under the night sky now, watching two Menti in unfamiliar armor stand beneath a veil of stars. One looked heavily injured, but that was not what made Des gasp. He was bloodied, but underneath the wounds he was achingly beautiful, the handsomest man that she had ever seen in her life, with a dumbstruck smile and muscles she could cling to in a shipwreck. Eyes as blue as the waters off Sado were staring up into the stars, full of pain...but hope, too, and triumph. One eye closed, and the Menti extended his thumb and forefinger on his right hand and then cocked the whole hand back, mouth forming an exhausted ‘pew.’ 

A comet soared over their heads, in an arc so perfect that Des thought the angel must have conjured it from his own finger, and raced east through the night sky, leaving a trail behind it on the way to its early grave. 

The Menti’s last breath left him in a laugh. He slumped onto the dirt, halfway sitting up, and Des saw blood pouring - gushing - from inside him. She felt like she had been disemboweled, too; the joy was bleeding from the world--

--Inokio and Masayoshi were on a beach - Kozu! Inokio looked wounded; had the Fursics hurt him, attempting to rescue her? Had she been wrong about him all along? Neither looked happy to be working with one another - their mutual disdain had been known through the court for years - but the Korae First Son looked determined for once. She wanted to hug him...and Masa, oh, the big hug she wanted to give Masa, let her know she was still alive, let her know that she was sorry for ever leaving and making a blind woman chase after her--

.:Masa,:. the crown princess whispered, .:it hurts so much...::.

The final face she saw was Yumi’s. It was the darkest hour of the night in Sado, though it seemed to her there weren't nearly as many stars out tonight as there were in the dream she’d just left. Her sister was sitting up in her bed, nude and disheveled, covers drawn up around her waist. Purple bags had made hollows of her sister’s eyes, normally so mirthful. Her hands were clasped in prayer.

“Goddess, please. Please just bring Desde home. I’ll tell her I’m sorry. We’ll play in the library the way we used to, and I’ll tell her she was right, and we’ll work together to learn all four disciplines together. I’ll be the greatest Rora who ever lived, and she the greatest Chojo. Just give her back. I don’t have anyone else. Please, Goddess Zuto Nui, give her back.”

That was when Des knew she must have been Willhammered. She was an ugly, clingy stick of a girl. Her sister had always told her so. She could never hold a lover at night, the way her mother had clung to her father. She would never raise her own child. There was nothing in her that a Rora would pray for.

But in her dream, what must have been a dream, Desde’s eyes filled with tears, and the jagged cry had torn itself from the bamboo princess’ throat.

.:Yumi!:. she screamed. .:Yumi, I’m here, it’s me!:.

Her sister looked up quickly, even while the world around her shimmered and began to drip like paint. When Desde tried to blink the acrylics from her eyes--

--they cleared to find her back on Kozu.


Sheika had the hunting experience of the Tajaar and the ruthlessness of a mercenary; when Desde knew that the old Battlemaster was on her tracks, any escape became nearly futile. Still, it had not been such a poor attempt for a girl who lacked the physical strength of Hanako, or Commodore Ayiwah, or Uncle Rayuke. She had managed to turn two local Fursic guards into vegetables before Sheika had struck her insensate with a beer mug.

An inglorious way to render a Chojo unconscious...but honestly, in a very objective way...pretty f--

Freaking funny. Desde would have giggled if Masa had told it to her in a story. She wondered if she would ever see her again, and if the executioner’s assistant would find it as funny as she did. Or Yumi, for that matter.

The only thing that had saved her from some of the more gruesome tortures that no doubt would have been in store for most agents of subterfuge on Kozu was her royal birth. She knew enough of Fursic Nera’s position to know that the old, shrewd Toroshu was in a tight spot. Her attempts to ferment open war that did not directly implicate the Fursics for once had failed; the Dastana had seceded, worse, seceded peacefully, and now the Fursics found themselves on the wrong end of two prospective heads of state. The royal match between Yumi and Kuno was all but dead; it was possible that Des herself was being spared out of fear for what would happen to Kuno, who may already have been in custody for the murder of the handmaiden. The Fursics didn’t have very many males to spare after their most recent rebellion. Even a freak of a princess like Des might incite harm on Kuno’s head--and then the Fursics would be doomed.

So instead of some of the tortures that Sheika no doubt would have liked to impart, Desde was only occasionally viciously beaten and left to rot in the dark. It wasn’t so bad. Aside from the ringing in her ears, she had basically lived like this on Sado. Just with a blanket. They still couldn’t stop her Willhammer, either, so she was always up on the gossip of the lower-ranking Menti in the Fursic estate, too. She had memorized the shifts of the guards to keep track of what time of day it was outside, and from the current shape of the mental plane she figured it was morning. She loved the mornings. Not because she got to eat - Desde rarely ate - but because Fursic Narue had a girlfriend on the night shift named Fursic Azuki, who was very much unaware that Narue had shared a passionate affair with a Dastana handmaiden while Nera and Arsix were both on Sado.

Des had other things to worry about - like her sister, her uncle, her friend, escaping, stitching the Empire together...pressing concerns, the likes of which many of her foremothers had never faced before. But she just couldn’t help it. The mental suggestion .:Azuki deserves better.:. would ring in the unfaithful guard’s mind every morning, when she relieved her lover from duty, and the woman would panic as her deceptions continued to unravel, and her “guilty conscience” made more and more of her indiscretions slip out. Desde would have to work to suppress a raspy, parched giggle. It was the best part of her day. After this, all she had to look forward to was the switch to the afternoon shift, which was much less dramatic than the switch from dusk to dawn.

So this morning, when she felt the rustles of activity on the mental plane, she prepared to shame the cheater as she had every morning since she had gotten hooked on the drama of her foes. But this morning was different. Fursic Narue couldn’t be found at all. Neither could Azuki. Suddenly their relationship had become a moot point.

The bamboo princess dared to reach out a little further, and her eyes widened at the familiar, defensive mewl of a jungle cat. The bamboo princess recognized Inokio, and she giggled.


The assistant’s plan had been sound. They had infiltrated under the cover of the dawn. Inokio had worried about the force with which Masayoshi would Mindarm him into the compound, but his landing had been gentle, and half a night’s rest had done wonders for his weary legs. He was not yet fully recovered, and the splint on his wrist had proved only a temporary measure, but even with a lame paw the panther’s strikes had been more than enough to cut down the first Fursics who engaged him. After that, the coast was clear; Masayoshi descended - with decidedly more grace than she’d had at the dance, Inokio noted wryly - and the two began to press inside Nera’s crystal palace.

.:Do you feel her?:. Inokio asked Masa quietly, urgently, Soulsword drawn and in his preferred ready stance. It was uncomfortable physically, with his wrist in the shape it was in and his ribs exposed, but the routine was enough to bring the anxious Battlemaster a measure of comfort. The practiced routine of slaughtering lesser warriors always granted him peace. .:Remember, be on the lookout for--:.

Three more Fursics, with the bleary eyes of women who had held the night shift. No doubt they had been seeking their bunks; it was their misfortune to find Inokio instead, who dispatched two of them in a diagonal swipe while Masayoshi of the Seven Swords perforated the last Menti with her namesakes.

.:Do you feel her?:.

Inokio grinned.


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I smiled. 

I hated resting overnight, I barely slept. I couldn't help but worry that the extra delay would cost the Chojo her life, even though rationally the extra couple of hours meant little. If the Fursics were going to kill her, they would have before we ever even arrived. Whether we had charged in the second we arrived or not. A soft laugh slipped out, I couldn't help it. It ripples, just for a moment repeating in my ears. That one little tell proves that Desdemona is alive, and I have not yet failed.

Now, though, the Fursics will know we are here. Whatever their plan before, their only chance is to kill us all and deny we were ever here. They won't let us leave alive if they can help it.

They can't help it. But they don't know that yet.

I nod to Inokio, quickly. My outburst aside, I don't want to make any more noise than necessary. Better to make them take time to find us. I don't need to speak, though, or even to think very loudly. Des knew that we were here. I just needed to talk to me, and that she could manage fine. I focused, as hard as I could, as though that would make it easier for her to find me. I don't know, I'm not a Willhammer. But in the softest mental tones that I can, three simple words onto the mental plane. Now was not the time for courtesy. Take a step into my head, my lady, I need you to communicate.

.:Where are you?:.



On this eve, the thirtieth anniversary of that first colony, many are left to wonder; is the world fast approaching a breaking point?



  Breaking Point: An OTC Mecha RPG


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[Sado, Nobles’ Quarter (Morie/NPC)]


Plangori Morie finished her tea.


:Well, that was less fruitful than I had hoped.  You may come out cousin, and have the tea denied you.:


One of the sections of plaster wall suddenly caved inward, revealing the hidden chamber on the other side of it.  Plangori Fanai emerged, checking that the space was closed with her customary methodical thoroughness, before sitting across from her cousin, on the cushion previously occupied by Askha.


:Askha just found out that she would not die by the Imperial Executioner’s blade.  She has lived as a vagabond for years. She is still fragile.:

The menti took the teacup gently from the dashi maidservants gently and continued.  :Woe be to me to advise my Honored Cousin, but you should not push her more.:

Morie snorted, looking at the other menti as she delicately sipped her tea.  :Pa, you and Rayuke both.  She is a rash girl. I’m just trying to encourage her to solve her own problems.:

:She has an elder for that, Honored Cousin.:

:Are you actually being smug?  I didn’t think you had it in you.  That it may be, but I do not wish to lose the opportunity she presents.  You must take good care of her.:

Fanai continued to drink her tea.  :I can guarantee that, Honored Cousin.:

There's a dozen selves inside you, trying to be the one to run the dials

[BZPRPG Profiles]

Hatchi - Talli - Ranok - Lucira - FerellisMorie - Fanai - Akiyo - Yukie - Shuuan - Ilykaed - Pradhai - Ipsudir

And some aren't even on your side.

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IC: The Seventh

It had been a long ... week? Her life had always been a series of weird ups and downs, but at a guess, the intense flavour of strangeness she'd ended up in now had only really popped up a week ago. From being revealed her Destiny, to travelling to another island, to just ... everything, really. And now ... it looked like it was all for nothing. All that buildup, the prophetic guidance ... and all they got was some wet fart of a moment.

Seven didn't expect some dramatic, storybook reveal, but ... just what was that?

She shuffled her feet hesitantly, glancing at the Matoran (and one alien) who'd ended up her comrades. What were they thinking, she wondered. How were they feeling? Like, even though she was pretty sure there had to be something else - she absolutely had to take heart, because Mata Nui and Destiny weren't going to ditch them with some half-baked plan, after all - this was definitely a real mood killer of a moment.

If they were disappointed, felt lost, or whatever, she couldn't blame them.

And she didn't even know what the big guy in front of them must have been feeling.

It was frightening, to not know what they were supposed to do.

Yet, even so.

She had to believe. She had to muster up the courage to just, trust in Mata Nui. Trust in the prophecy. Trust in that weirdo who had thrown them all onto this winding path. Otherwise, what was the point? Maybe they needed to wait a bit or something. See how the gears and machinations and stuff up there worked out.

But what was she supposed to do right now?

Awkwardly shuffle around?

Her gaze met that of Cancer's. Actually, what was a Rahi's thoughts on all this. They didn't really think like Matoran or aliens. Actually, was he hungry? He looked kinda hungry, though she wasn't a real Rahi expert. Maybe instead of worrying so hard, she should feed the lil' critter.

That ... sounded like a good idea.

Better way to keep spirits up.

"Hey Cancer, catch," she said, throwing him a berry. "You eat this stuff?"

Edited by 25K Now!
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Oh, thank you, Seven! See, I eat anythi--

IC: "He'll eat pretty much whatever you throw at him. Not a picky boy, are ya buddy? Mom raised him better."

Kellin, obliviously cutting off his Rahi's polite internal monologue and first narration in years (both of theirs, really), patted Cancer on the side of the shell as the large crab managed an impressive feat of dexterity in catching a small berry within a massive claw.

He likewise missed the resultant sour look the Ussal managed to give him with eyestalks alone. By the time his beaming face turned to meet his partner's eyes, they had long returned to a mix of the resignation he always showed and the genuine appreciation for an unexpected, sweet treat in this alien, crystalline land. It was all happening so fast that neither could really shake the sensation of just being along on Destiny's Wild Ride—the eternity of the moments after Rayuke plunged his sword into its lock were the closest they'd gotten to time to process all this.

Kellin, unfortunately, liked to jabberjaw his way through such things.

"So I'm not too caught up with these prophecy things, but is the hangtime normal, or did we mess something up? Because I was feeling really smart about refraction back there. You guys got any clue? I don't want that feeling taken away from me, I liked it."

Edited by Razgriz
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helo frens

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IC: The Seventh

"The big guy doesn't look like he's giving us any signs right now," she said idly. What was Mata Nui's plan here? She'd hopped on this journey because to find out what her place was in those plans, what Destiny was lying in store for her, yet right now, they just ... didn't know. Instead, they just had to wait.

"Do you think he snores?" she asked, hoping to inject some levity into the situation.

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Inokio had always hated the young girl's mind.

He could empathize in some way, he supposed, with the girl's confusion. Youth was always a turbulent time. Inokio remembered the aggressive details of his own adolescence, though he comforted himself in the knowledge that he never compared in thuggish nature of First Sons today. But Desde had been formed a gentler creature than most men, and her tendency to yearn for the love of those around her led to her attempting to stifle her prodigious gifts at a young age. It was against their Virtues as Dasaka, but that was no great shock; the Umbralines had been flouting such conventions their whole lives, frittering away such knowledge as Inokio would have killed to possess. And even still--

Inokio had always hated the young girl's mind.

--she was able to strike so easily. He felt himself being stripped to his core, past the point of nakedness, past the point of even dreaming he could hide his shame. Desdemona would see all. She would learn of his betrayal. She would learn of his failures. She would learn of his humiliation at the hands of her coarse blind paragon. He would need to move quickly now, need to adjust the plan, need to figure out how this situation could be escaped...

"But Desde (two floors up)...early on, my hope was that this would all be too much for Desde. She wanted the family half of the Imperial Family very badly, but none of the baggage that came with it (three guards on the stairs). With no mother, no Hana, and Yumi growing more erratic by the month, in a perfect world she would have leapt right from her tower (i'm in the tower). I suppose we have you to thank for making sure that didn't happen. I must admit, the girl meant little to me. (nera in chambers) She would have died before she produced an heir - that, and I think the experience itself might have killed her. By herself, Desde was never a threat. And if there's one thing that Yusanora assured, it's that Desde was always by herself. (help me)"



"Who spilled the juice?" he asked.

Both sisters were deathly quiet, focusing on protecting their minds from Inokio's wrath. Des was focusing hard on reinforcing Yumi's own barriers, adding an unbidden layer of protection to her big sister's thoughts. The distraction proved fatal.

She opened her mouth to give a cautious answer--

--and hiccuped loudly.

(i can't find sheika)

The jig was up; Yumiwa snorted in an attempt to repress her laughter, which quickly grew into the heinous cackle of a forest witch. Both girls heard the heavy bass of Rayuke's chuckle behind Inokio, and a few of the guards were laughing softly. One, who wore a thin crystal film over her eyes, had let her posture relax in the closest thing to a slouch that decorum would allow, with her arms crossed beside a cane. She was grinning at Desde approvingly.

"I...did," Desde admitted carefully, trying to hold her breath to prevent another hiccup. "I'm sorry, Inokio, I meant to pick it--"

"I'm not going to chastise you, Desdemona," Inokio said, holding up his hands to assure her. "Did it with your mind, did you? A good effort, Princess. Good work. It will come more naturally as you get older, if you have the true gift - which I think you do, just as much as your sister. Keep practicing and you two will be unparalleled one day."

(i'm sorry inokio)

"Of course, my princess." Inokio bowed low, the image of chivalry, as Yumiwa stood and moved beside him. "I admire your determination. Keep at it; I believe in you."


Korae Inokio was renowned for his counsel, once he finally deigned to give it. Once he had all the information in hand, his advice cut to the heart of matters as easily as his blade. He had all the information he needed; he knew what had to be done.

He had no doubts that Masayoshi had received her own intimate memories, laced with instructions; Desde was a prodigious Willhammer, and could easily focus on two minds at once, especially if one was untrained. Inokio also knew that the foolish woman was besotted with the Chojo, and already had it in her head that her visored countenance would be the first friendly face that Desde saw since she left Sado. If she did, Inokio obviously feared what she had to say. The woman would turn Desde against him too quickly for him to be able to make any ground up with her, and his sentence would be the worst for it. He had to save her. It was his duty to himself.


It was his duty to Yusanora.

He turned to the executioner's assistant and began urgently making gestures with his hands. She refused to use the mental plane, which Inokio found shrewd but disconcerting nonetheless; he was not used to being deprived of vital senses as she was, and--he cursed then, aloud, at the realization that she had no idea what he was doing behind that visor, with those ruined eyes of hers. By the bosom of Zataka, was the curse Yumiwa used to use. Or something like that. He found it apt.

To test his theory, Inokio made an unspeakably rude gesture with both hands, directly in the Umbraline's face. When she didn't respond, through words or facial tics, Inokio decided to whisper urgently.

""One floor up, Toroshu's chambers," he hissed under his breath. "Sheika will be guarding the Chojo. Two floors up, west stairs, the guard tower we passed on our way inside. I will save her. Go."

Whether or not that was true or not, Inokio had no idea. But it gelled with what he knew of Sheika. The woman was a Tajaar, and everything about her was predatory. To give up such a trophy as a Chojo, let alone her only competition for the Archipelago's mightiest Menti, must have been excruciating for her; she would at least do what she could to keep it in sight, to remind her of the hunt. If Masayoshi thought that information came from some traitor's knowledge of the castle floor plans instead of his own keen personality insights, then all the better. No doubt Fursic Nera would make an end of poor, dogged Masa soon enough, but even if she wanted to save the Chojo she would have had no chance against a potent Willhammer like Sheika. Even Inokio would have a tough time of it. But with Desde's help...

Who was the stronger Menti? It was a question that would torture historians for generations, no doubt - if there were still scholars left after the Empire's fall to the barbarism of old, at least. Most would say Sheika out of hand, a nod to her unique Soulsword, her Tajaar upbringing, and her ferocity in battle. Inokio had seen the truth of all those things well enough for himself, watching her in the Yards. But he had unique insight; Umbraline Desdemona, the girl with the Valkyr's name, had grown up in her sister's shadow for her whole life. Coincidentally, Inokio himself had always been her sister's shadow. Having seen her strength so closely...Desde's strength, mentally, was unparalleled. But she lacked for physical strength in a way that Sheika did not, and Sheika was willing to fight dirty. The experience of killing, like so many experiences, would no doubt break Desde. Sheika had killed more Menti than the sheltered Chojo had ever known; she relished in it; she would not break.

That was fine. Korae Inokio relished in it, too. And he could not be broken further than he already was.


And he had two floors of Fursics to soothe his troubled mind.


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"I always thought that was why we have earthquakes and then aftershocks." he replied, inhaling and exhaling to demonstrate his point without a care in the world for the dust and ash that had been kicked up by the whole affair— he was a heatstone miner, his lungs had probably been artificially luminescent for years. "You know, breathe in and breathe out."

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helo frens

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