The Brotherhood of Virtue
Battle of Resounding Bells
The City of Memories
Arriving in Resounding Bells was like trip down memory lane. Everything seemed to remind me of something… Something which did not fit perfectly in my life… Well, perhaps not this life. Rakios’ mere presence makes me think about the fact there are several lives persent in this exaltation of mine. Or at least one, Janira… Rakios’ old friend and confidant. That said, it could very well be my mind playing me tricks, as I see something that reminds me of the time that I went out to the market, bought some food and got tripped on the way, thus beaten as I got home for spoiling some of the food, but at the same time I see something that reminds me of stalking rooftops… Something I most certainly did not do in my, well, Song Fan’s younger years.
After meeting with Granny Koi… A name that seemed familiar, perhaps I heard it my father’s presence as someone suspected, or perhaps just someone who happened to serve really good fish that particular day. Either way, we found ourselves staging a prison break of sorts. And, naturally, the big bulky-born with a silver tongue-Rakios would stage the distraction, and I would sneak in and do my nightly right… But again, memories confuse me. For a second I feel that I am excellent at tricking people that I am their best friend, and I suggest that maybe I handle the distraction, while Rakios free the prisoner. I go in, with no plan. Somehow, however, this works perfectly. As if channelling, either, natural talent for lying blatantly in someone’s face, or a past life, I make them my best friends, if only for a short while.
After meeting back up with Rakios and Wai Kei we move to meet up with her brother, Song Sei. Again, like a trip through memory lane. The alleyways and streets we take are not exactly my old stomping grounds, but I remember the city. I also remember skulking through alleyways, again something I’m pretty sure lil’ Song Fan was not doing.
While moving through a particularly dense crowd, all spying on a very young, and newly exalted, looking Dragon blooded Rakios freezes for a second. At first I want glare at him… After all his words, after all his encouragement, after all his actions… Chickening out after seeing one young, most likely weak, dragon blooded? But, it was not fear that I sensed in him. And, to continue my metaphor of memory lane… I remembered seeing his face in such a state before, answered by my empathetic hand on his shoulder, which I recreated. He seemed startled, as if shuck from a dream. He picked up the pace after this.
I wanted to ask him about what happened there, giving him a chance to explain that he did not in fact chicken out. However, that seems to have to wait for a while, as we’re discussing important stuff regarding the resistance, and our involvement in it. As well as the meeting of the princess of An-Teng. Not only did we find out that she to blame for the demon, but we also found out that it was not a demon at all. It was a spirit, one of the spirits that serve the royal line of this area, as it turns out. All the more reason to meet, and to ally our purpose with hers. That, however, is Rakios’ duty. I on the other hand, is waiting to meet with Kamui, someone who has designed a suicidal assassination plan on one of the dragon blooded. I will see what I can do to make sure it is not a suicide.
The Dragon blooded Assassination
Fishhook finally returned with Kamui in tow. After some brief introductions, we made our way outside town to speak freely. A temple to whom one was not allowed prayer to today, according to the immaculate calendar, was a perfect place. Kamui presented his plan. It had merit. I suggested that I be the one to do the deed, as I may have a greater chance of success. To do so I would have to have a brief crash course in how to be a barber’s assistant. In the meantime Rakios was meeting with the princess. We returned to Kamui’s abode, where I was taught the names, and location, of all the tools we would require. Later we also set up a pair of scissors to be sharpened, and easy to split into its two separate blades. Getting sleep with all this going on was easier than I anticipated. I was killing a dragon blooded tomorrow… That was a frightening thought, but I was able to sleep peacefully none the less.
We rose early the next morning, because regardless of when the dragon blooded permitted us to see him, we would be ready when ever he was. Our plan had to change somewhat due to the monsoon that had resumed. We had to wait for some time outside of his house. Being inside the Dragon’s Talon awoke memories of my childhood. I had done a costume, both in clothes and face, to make sure that none who saw me would remember me. I heard mumbling through the heavy rain, and sharpened my ears. My father was speaking to his uncle. My blood boiled, but I calmed myself… His day will come, this day another dragon blooded will fall, that is enough. Sooner or later they should all fall. The uncle went out, and invited the siblings to join him to peruse the town’s exotic side. The sister joined before long. The brother, however, said he would join later. He was reminded of our appointment, and we were shown inside.
Kamui was freaking out, but my calm demure seemed to calm him. Either way, really… I broke the scissors apart, and stabbed him firmly in the neck. Only one scissor went in… I failed to break the elephant skin. I did manage to wound him grievously, however. He struggled to stay in the fight, but he was strong… Much stronger than I anticipated. Even so, he was on the ropes, and seemed to spend his resources very freely. It would not have been easy, but I would have taken him, I believe. Luckily, I never had to contend that far… As Rakios appeared… Through the wall, no less. And kicked him straight into the river. He was dead. We hurried out. I remembered an old building that we could hide in. We hid there, until the other dragon blooded was gathering up at the scene, then we followed the canal out of the town.
Ones we were safe, I preceded to yell at Rakios. Yes, it is true that I believed that his actions put the rebellion at risk to losing both their solars, and thus all of their chance for success, and yes it is true that I may have been able to handle it, either way… But I was angry because I knew he would come to help me… There was no doubt in my mind. But I was angry because he wouldn’t come to help because he cared for me in any way, but because he cared about this Janira. In my anger I said, while true, something that hurt him badly… I have no responsibility towards Janira, General Gao, or any of the people of our supposed old brotherhood. I have a responsibility towards the people here and now… But I also realised that I have a responsibility towards Rakios. He replied that he did not jump in there because of either Janira or Shadow Edge, but because of me… I am not entirely certain what he means by this, but I gather that now matter how much he is caught up in the past, he also sees the present… And that is enough, for now. I asked him about earlier, when he seemed to react to the young dragon blooded. He apparently knew her, prior to her exalting. I, instinctively, sighed and said “I see.” What I meant by this was that I would not let my friend fight someone he cared for, however little. But then Rakios told me that the dragon blooded themselves are not the enemy, they are our lieutenants. Because of this, considering how recently she exalted… Saving her may be possible, and highly advisable. That said, she participated in the Wyld Hunt that killed White Tusk. Even if we do save her, can I forgive her for that? Should I?
We returned to the village, that was in a state of panic. The bells were sounding, followed by shouts of gathering the wyld hunt, to hunt down a lunar exalted. I stopped to search for Rainbow… I could only sense her blood, on my father’s uncle. I wanted to go after her, but I had vowed to myself to keep the barber alive, and that was my first priority. Rakios went to speak to the head of the guild, while I went to hide in one of their warehouses. As soon as I felt that Kamui was sufficiently safe, I went after Rainbow. I still could not smell her, but I had an idea… I stuck my tongue in the water, and traced the salt in the water that came off her shark form. She was a bit outside of the town, so I went towards her.
The Calm Before the Storm
Little Rainbow Claw noticed me, and I called for her to not be afraid. When I saw her, my heart skipped a beat… She was dying. Lunars and Solars are sturdy, but she is dying. Of that, there can be no doubt. I tried to reassure her, give her at least some semblance of hope before she passes. I brought her back to Kamui, where he helped as he could to try to stop the bleeding. He too, believed she was dead. I asked if there anything he would need, he said he’d be fine with what was here. Keemia showed up, having been persuaded by Rakios to help, leading us inside. Where she proceeded to… Save Little Rainbow Claw. Rakios appeared from one of the back rooms, and as I saw his relieved smile saying that Good, you’re alive., I let out a heavy sigh… All the pent up stress and sadness I had shoved to the back of my mind was all relieved.
In that moment I was worried about Ririka, I snuck out and met with her. She had wisely remained with Granny Koi. She told me of the reason why she left Resounding Bell. She was banished because her mother, the midwife, helped deliver a baby that resulted in the mother’s death. My mother. My father had Ririka’s mother executed, and Ririka banished. Her sister seemed to be exempt from this, but I didn’t see this as the time to ask why. Undoubtedly, it had something to do with the animosity between them. She would stay with Granny Koi, for now. My mission was not done for the day, as we spotted Rakios speeding down the river. I followed him.
He had found out that the most likely way of communication was to send the youngest Dragon blooded, Jaina. We set up an ambush for the boat as it closed in. A lengthy and difficult brawl began. I, for one, was exhausted before we even began. Jaina was nowhere near the Dragon blooded I faced earlier. That said, she was Rakios’ friend, I would try to not hurt her if I could. It was difficult, even so I did get the advantage towards the end. She recognised Rakios, and we were able to convince her to assist us, if nothing else, with ridding the dragon blooded from Resounding Bell. The immaculate propaganda still holds a place in her, however. Not only that, but she did assist in the killing of White Tusk, and the things she said about him… Can I truly fight beside her? Without the temptation of vengeance? I will have to trust my self control, it has done me well thus far.
The Beginning of the End
We returned to the city with Jaina. We quickly realized that navigating the city with her dressed as she was would be difficult, if not impossible. Therefor we got a new set of clothes for her through Song Sei, and his gang. They were not very pleased with us allying with a jadeborn. I could sympathize, but this was not the time, nor the place. After we dressed her in more subtle clothing and wrapped her sword in cloth, we set off through the streets. We arrived at the back, and I, out of habit, attempted to sneak inside… Until I remembered that we are allied with these people. However, Jaina would have to leave her blade outside to be able to enter. We were shown inside by master Denpasar, and then met with Keemia. With the strategy mostly planned out, we required some rest before the final showdown was to begin. Jaina, on the other hand, offered to bring Ririka here, so she could be kept safe. I was weary of this, but ultimately accepted her offer.
I was awakened some time later by Ririka, who had indeed been brought here by Jaina. We spoke for a bit, before a noise from upstairs broke my concentration. I asked Ririka to check it out. In the meantime, I went to speak to Jaina. I don’t trust her, nor do I like her… But, she did indeed bring Ririka here, as she said she would. Thus far she has been true to her word. Our conversation was brief and awkward, but good, I think. Arackon and his elephants were closing in on the city. We had to act fast, only Iskaros and the monk remained in the city. We theorised taking down the monk, but as she was in the temple of the Golden Lord a direct confrontation would be ill advised, and sneak-attacking her after challenging her to single combat, would also not be a good idea. And as we were made aware of Iskaros’ location, in the palace, we decided to make a simultaneous assault. Rakios would challenge the monk to single combat. My and Jaina would assault the palace, taking down Iskaros. And Keemia would direct the public.
On the way to the palace, I took a brief look around, to see if there was a way to snipe him from afar, as he stood on the balcony. But, I found it to be a good place… Very difficult to snipe, without being seen before hand. So I elected to sneak past the guards. This, however, failed. The guard spotted me, and told me to lower the bow. At which point I hear the monk shout the reasoning behind Iskaros’ presence in the castle. My blood boiled over… I already hated my father, I was already angry with him… But this…I jumped up on a branch, screaming in anger at my father… I charged all my hate into the attack… All that was left was… What little respect I had for him. I see his sadness… He made me into this, he made me into the very thing he fought. He couldn’t save me… Save me from being a servant of the dragon blooded. In that moment I knew exactly what he tried to do, what he sacrificed for me. For my mother. He loved her, and me… And I repaid him by shooting him. My battle mentality kicked in, and I shut out the thoughts. I rushed into the building, in the hopes of saving the royal family. But I was too late… I was only in time to save the youngest, a baby…
Death, and what follows
A calm had entered the room. Jaina had managed to get control over the soldiers. But our night was not over. Myself and Rakios got ready and went towards the two left over dragon blooded. I snuck across the rooftops, to attempt a stealthy approach. Arackon was approaching Rakios, and his flaming sword swung… Still some meters away from Rakios. And a firestorm was flung towards Rakios, my heart skipped a beat “Are we fighting that?!”, I thought. I quenched my fears and let off and arrow towards him. I wanted to force him back, so Rakios could get into position to do some great damage, as I had seen him do before… But Arackon barely flinched. His gaze wasn’t even turned towards me, he was completely focused on Rakios, who leapt towards him. His fist hit true… But nothing seemed to happen. After a brief exchange between them, I see an opening in Arackon’s defense, and I place an arrow right in his neck, setting him on fire. This time it seemed to hurt at least… But he still keeps going, like a beast. Rakios follows up, but instead of forcing the arrow further in, it seems to break off Arackon. Arackon follows up with a strike with his sword… A strike that would kill most people. For a second I forget myself… Instead of using my senses to see if he’s alright, I shout and go for another killing shot. I hit true again, but he is still standing. Rakios, through sheer will I’m sure, gets up again. With his next movement he manages to finish Arackon off. He lies burning… I had almost forgot that we had another enemy in this battle. But I snap back into battle mentality, and engage the archer. She is nowhere near as strong as Arackon was, but she manages to get the elephant to trample Rakios… Or it would have, but Keemia appeared, and saved him. With her help, we were able to finish off the last dragon blooded. I was well impressed with Keemia. Only a mortal of extreme prowess could accomplish such feats. I begin moving towards my father’s uncle’s corpse, as it lays burning, when Keemia’s forehead lights up… She too? Rakios refers to her a good friend. Is that why his wheel now had an… Eclipse?… mark as well? A later conversation revealed that she was apparently someone we knew well in our previous lives. However, I approached the sword. I knew it well, the Stormreaver… My father had spoken of it, as it was an important family heirloom. I asked Rakios about it. He instructed me on how to attune to it. So I grabbed it, and relied on my right to its claim due to my lineage. It responded well.
We made our way back to Keemia’s estate. Keemia saw to Rakios’ wound. When she finished, I decided to go check on Jaina in the palace. She had slain some of the guards, when they stopped thinking of her as their commander, the rest had scattered. I told her that she not stay here, as the resistance would come here, and they would not recognise her as an ally. We brought the surviving members of the royal family with us, as well as their servants. They were allowed refuge in Keemia’s estate. We took our sleep in the living room.
I slept uneasily. Many of the people around me were restless, and terrified. That said, I slept and woke in the morning when I sensed that Rakios was rousing from sleep. I went to the kitchen, where he had been patched up. I went to check on him, and to prepare some breakfast for people. Jaina joined us and a heated discussion began, surrounding whether or not to keep Jaina alive. I understood Claw’s argument… I don’t know if I can ever forgive her for what she did. Rakios said that if she wanted to end him, that this would be a perfect opportunity. She walked up to him, and her hand closed his wound. For a split second my killer instinct was about to cut her… But as her water cleaned his wound, I sensed no killing instinct from her. While I will more than likely never be able to forgive her… I cannot blame her for what the Realm has caused. After this I went to check on Ririka. She was upstairs, taking care of Keemia’s child. I hadn’t let myself reflect on what happened until that moment… I killed my father. A man who cared for me, and my mother, so deeply that he made a plan to force me to exalt… As the last means to give me a life worth living. And in his last moments he saw his child, that he had sacrificed so much for, turn into what he considered the monster of monsters. I felt sadness… All the hate I felt for him was gone. I couldn’t even remember why I hated him to begin with… Something was wrong. Ririka spoke of things that seemed impossible… My father wouldn’t do those things? Then I remembered, she lost her mother, and her home, because of my father… And it seemed like a fog lifted from my mind… But I saw him in a new light from what I saw before. Yes, he was a monster. But, he and I were not so different… Both of us were prepared to do almost anything for the people we care for… But, his actions taught me that there must always be a limit… My actions will mean nothing, if I turn into the very thing I try to protect my friends from. I thanked Ririka, though I doubt she understood just how much that meant to me. And Keemia’s child, Nonia, looked out through the cover. We only had a brief conversation. She seemed very sweet, and smart. And while Keemia’s way of parenting strikes a certain heart string of mine… I know the purpose, and the necessity of it… That said, given recent discoveries, perhaps not so necessary anymore.
Keemia returned from her work during the evening, and we decided to go to the temple. Myself and Ririka to pray for my father. But also, we intended to pray to the Golden Lord to pass judgement on the city, and who should rule it.