The Brotherhood of Virtue
The Battle of Resounding Bells
Memories Best Forgotten
I towed the barge into port and tied it down securely and let Ririka, dear friend of Shadow Edge, guide us through the city to get us in contact with the star jasmine rebellion. She led us to an old woman going by the name Grandmother Koi. She told us about what was going on, the sorceress who summoned the demon, or spirit as we later learned, was a woman called the Star Jasmine Princess, who claimed to be the rightful ruler of An Teng and had united the rebels under her banner. The princess was in hiding however and to meet her, we would have to convince one of her confidantes to arrange a meeting. We learned that a woman called Lady Fishhook was the newly appointed leader of the rebellion could arrange it, and to prove our sincerity, we decided to help free one of the rebellion’s captured fighters, Kena Wai Kei. She had been kept as a slave at a perfumery and Janira, always quick with coming up with schemes, approached the Perfumery’s guards in the guise of a new recruit, easily enthralling them with his stories. I meanwhile went around the back and tore the bars from the window and hoisting Wai Kei free. Shadow Edge lured one of the guards to us and with him quickly out of the way and disrobed, Wai Kei donned his clothes and with that, we managed to leave the place, the rescue operation a success.
Wai Kei led us to see her brother, Kena Song Sei, leader of the Floodgate Gang, who she said would pay the debt she owed us. She guided us through the crowded streets until we reached a bridge with a large gathering of people blocking our way. A newly exalted dragonblooded were crossing the river and the people had gathered to stare. Neither of us payed it much attention and focused on getting through. That was, until I saw her. It was Jaina from….my old life. How, WHY had she exalted? And why was she here. I knew of course, she had been the new recruit in the Wyld Hunt we had heard about and the one attacked by the spirit. But she was also one of the children who I had grown up with. I merely stood there staring for several seconds before forcing myself to look away and continue on.
Janira was quickly there to comfort me, putting a hand on my shoulder like she used to so long ago, but..I couldn’t, not after remembering my past. I flinched at her touch and had to stop myself from striking at him in reflex, unleashing the bottled up fear, anger and sorrow those memories represented. Instead I stayed quiet and hurried after with Wai Kei trying not to be swallowed up by my shame.
After what seemed like days, we finally reached the Floodgates. It was clear Wai Kei was known in the area though it was less obvious if it was respect, fear or anger she inspired in those around her. Regardless the way forward was uneventful until we reached a house made from what seemed to be the leftover of the barricade of the floodgate itself. There we met with Song Sei and we explained our position and purpose and he agreed to let us meet with Fishhook who was supposed to meet with him shortly. This was good, speaking to these people allowed me to focus on why we came here, on what was important, and not any..distractions. Soon Lady Fishhook arrived and as time was of the essence, I bluntly explained that myself and Shadow Edge had liberated Somchai and had come to continue the work here. I told her of Hanyun’s full name as well as that of his elephant, Raja and that seemed to earn some of her trust. I asked to see the princess to better know how to plan our attack as well as advise her in her sorcery. She still seemed wary but she realized that if nothing changed, the wyld hunt would simply slay their princess and it likely made her more open to our suggestions. Shadow Edge also volunteered to assist a barber in one of their plots to assassinate one of the Jade born and Lady Fishhook left to set everything in motion.
I meanwhile went in alone in to the house to rest and meditate, to clear my mind from distractions and doubt. And so I sent my mind delving in to the past, reminding myself of what I was fighting for.
2 solar +1
Memories Never To Be Forgotten
Prayers to the Unconquered Sun brought me back from my meditation as Lady Fishhook returned along with the barber, Lamek Kamui. They took us to a small temple dedicated to the Pale Mistress. There Shadow Edge planned the assassination along with Kamui and they decided that he would go along as Kamui’s assistant and strike down an earth aspect, Ragara Soras Rin. I warned them of the nature of his dragon’s blessings and they prepared accordingly. I could not aid them as there could only be one apprentice in attendance so I promised to stay close by to provide aid should they need it. Meanwhile I got directions to see the Star Jasmine Princess. I stayed briefly with Kamui and Shadow Edge as he memorized the various perfumes and utilities of a barber. I then left to wander into the jungle alone to meet the princess. I waited for her along an ancient milestone, on it written in Old Realm, Resounding Bell’s original name, Water Lily Manse.
She came as dusk settled, barefoot and entirely silent through the fauna. My instincts warned me, not of danger necessarily but to be cautious of her. She was clearly not a mortal, her grace and eerie beauty made that clear, not to mention her obvious control of the jungle around her. First I thought she might be a Raksha, somehow still staying this deep in Creation, but she named herself an Exigent, one of several chosen of the Pale Mistress and along with her sisters, rightful heiress to An Teng. That should not be, a god, even one of such power as The Pale Mistress should not have so many chosen, by all rights it should mean that The Pale Mistress has been weakened significantly, possibly to the extent that she cannot fulfill her duties. Much of what the Star Jasmine said made me question her and I was unsure how much of what she said was true.
She went on and explained how she had divine right to rule, and at that point I had enough of her arrogance. I flared my anima and warned her not to speak so carelessly about the will of the heavens. She was taken aback by my display and seemed to clearly know what my caste mark signified. She immediately seemed less trusting and far more wary, and I was unsure if it was due to fear of my might and the immaculate propaganda or if it was due to the inherent fear the wicked and creatures of darkness hold when faced with the bringers of light.
I did not trust her, nor was I sure I preferred her rule over that of the Dragonblooded, but for now we shared a common enemy and finally I decided to give her the aid she wanted. I followed her to her sanctuary, an unmarked, ancient mausoleum and gave her one of the names of Erymanthoi that my master taught me during my training. It was the most brutal of the demons I knew, but also the easiest to manage and track down should she fail to restrain it or if she should try and betray us. I watched over her summoning, to make sure that it was successful and eventually I realized that her accent, the way she spoke Old Realm was with a Malfaen accent. Even more reason to be watchful of her, was she taught Old Realm by a demon? Who and why? My questions aside, the summoning was a success and the Blood Ape was summoned and subsequently ordered to dematerialize until we had prepared for its time to attack.
She offered me to stay the night, and I agreed. We both seemed wary of the other, but we both got settled in on either side of the mausoleum and the night past and was otherwise uneventful. I awoke at dawn and had the princess take me back to Resounding Bells in time for me to help my friend. As I waited outside as she dressed I noticed…something. The mausoleum was linked to some massacre, somehow and as bits and pieces of…a memory? Began forming, I realized that this unmarked, anonymous yet impressive grave must have been the resting place of an Exalted, likely one of the Sidereals. I was shaken out of my thought process as the Princess came out and I decided to consult my teacher when I finally managed to meet up with her.
The monsoon had returned and the track back to the city was largely done in silence, but as we began closing in on the city we made plans on how to contact the other, and when and how we should strike. She told me of an enchanting she had done on the statues outside The Pale mistress’ temple and she promised not to send out the Erymanthoi before confirming it with me. I could only hope she keeps her end of the bargain.
I hurried back to the Floodgates and was updated on Shadow Edge’s plan. The monsoon had forced them to change location and so they had to perform the assassination within the Dragon’s Talons itself. I asked for the best place to wait in order to assist my friend, and the only logical place was next to a brothel. Once again, unwanted memories surged through me, but if it might aid my friend there was no reason to hesitate. Wai Kei showed me the place and waited alongside me. We both took on the look of those sleeping off the high out in the gutter. I desperately wanted to leave the place, but instead I calmed my breathing and waited in case Janira might need me.
And so the earth began to shake beneath us, muffled clashes and sounds of fighting began sounding from within the Forbidden City. Janira was in danger and so I had to go to him. I told Wai Kei to run back and warn her brother and so I leapt over the walls to get to my friend’s aid. I ran towards the noise, tearing the walls in front of me and threw myself at the Dragonblooded as soon as I could. Only afterwards did I see what was going on inside the room. Shadow Edge had been hurt, not badly but he wasn’t moving as well as he should have. The Dragonblood meanwhile had been clearly wounded badly by Shadow Edge’s first strike, but it seemed as though he was slowly gaining the advantage. It was a strange moment; so much of my life had been spent fearing his kind, doing everything not to displease them as doing so would invite more pain or possibly even death. But now, with the strength and knowledge I now had, he no longer looked like an immortal God-King, he was merely a man struggling to survive, to kill or be killed. There was a brief moment of hesitation as countless years of fear and obedience weighed down on me, but the realization that Shadow Edge might once again be taken away from me, for perhaps another 2000 years ended all hesitation, and along with it, the Dragonblooded’s life.
It was only a matter of time before more dragonblooded would descend upon us, so we ran; Shadow Edge carried brave Kamui along with us. Kamui, who had stayed behind against an opponent who could have swatted him down on a whim. We ran into the river and swam to a safe house that Shadow Edge knew about for some reason. Kamui made a prayer of thanks to the gods and then fell asleep exhausted. All was well, I thought, but then Shadow Edge turned to face me.
First he thanked me for likely saving his life, but there was an edge to the words that I didn’t understand. I tried to explain that it was nothing, risking my life for a friend I had known so long was something obvious and needed no thanks. This only seemed to make him angrier, saying that I risked the rebellion by selfishly risking both solars for someone I had barely known for three days. Again I tried to explain, but he lashed out against me, saying that he was not Janira and had no interest and didn’t care about an “old brotherhood” or of ”General Lao”. His words tore at my heart and my very soul, as his words kept washing over me. He accused me of not caring about or befriending Shadow Edge, only about the long dead Janira. I tried to explain, to stop him from spitting on our and our friend’s legacy, but I could find no words. As tears filled my eyes, I tried to explain that Janira, Shadow Edge, those were all labels, it was who and what those people are I will always view as my close friend. Yes, Janira was different from Shadow Edge, I have no delusions about that, but their core, the soul and essence that defined them are the same.
I don’t think I conveyed it very well, even to myself, I find it difficult to properly put to words the meaning and nature of our friendship, I suspect I would need to find Takeshi if I am to ever hope to make it justice. All the same, it seemed as though some of my meaning came across, or Shadow Edge merely took pity on me, as he said that while he was no friend of our old brotherhood, he did view me, Rakios as a friend. It is likely that his words were meant to be comforting, reassuring but again the pain of knowing that he did not feel the bond the way I did, or at least he was not aware of it. It hurt, not merely for my own loss, but much more so for my friend.
I only vaguely remember the conversation that followed. Shadow Edge confessed to being the bastard son of the local dragonblood, Ledaal Coram Iskaros. He also asked me about my strange reaction to Jaina. I did not want to tell him about it, I feared my past might change the way he viewed me, as it had so many others. Or perhaps I was just scared of admitting my origin to myself. I told him in short terms that I too was a bastard, likely from a dragonblooded and how me and Jaina were the result of overeager guests at the whore houses of Steel Lotus. I told him, that if possible, I wanted to try to convince Jaina not to take part in the fight. The Dragonblooded were not our enemies, they shouldn’t be our enemies, they were supposed to be our trusted lieutenants, and the only way for us to return order to Creation is to at least try to return to that. Starting, hopefully with Jaina.
We left the hideout and swam back to the city. As we came back we were greeted by the expected chaos and alarm, but their cries surprised us. A wyld hunt was called, a Lunar had appeared and fought the dragonblooded. Janir… Shadow Edge focused and honed in on Little Rainbow Claw, but the only trace of her he could find was her blood, blood coming off of Ledaal Coram Arackon, Shadow Edge’s Uncle. There was little we could do for Claw without knowing where she was, so first we decided to try and get a place where Kamui could hide, and where Claw eventually could go into hiding and recover.
The Star Jasmine Princess had mentioned the matriarch of house Jelang , Jelang Keemia who she thought might be persuaded to join our cause. She had no love for the Dragonblooded and would have storehouses we could use to hide in. Shadow Edge took Kamui with him to sneak into the storehouses, while I approached the Matriarch directly. I knocked on the door to her mansion and was almost immediately answered by the matriarch. She didn’t want to see anyone and didn’t have much time since she knew the dragonblooded were coming to try and force her men to join their hunt. Eventually she let me in, and hired me on the spot. She knew that would give me protection should the dragonblooded come for me. She was an impressively compassionate woman for being part of The Guild. She took me aside to have a private talk. I explained that I wanted her to aid the resistance, the people of Resounding Bells were in danger if the Wyld Hunt began searching for Claw.
She was wary, she did not want to risk the lives of her men, but at the same time she understood the danger. At that time the Dragonblooded came to see her. I along with two others, joined her as her bodyguard as she went out to greet them. Ledaal Coram Arackon and his son and Shadow Edge’s father Iskaros, had come and demanded that she offered her men to the Wyld Hunt. Arackon was wounded, and clearly furious and I prepared myself to intervene should I have to. But I didn’t, the matriarch held her own against the two dynasts and refused to yield. She used the protection the guild offered her and while Arackon seemed prepared to force her, his son seemed to be the calmer and wiser of the two and suggested they consolidate their own forces first. As they left I had the niggling suspicion that Iskaros was the more dangerous of the two men. Still, more than anything, Keemia had impressed me, few mortals had the courage to stand up to exalts such as they, but she had done so, not giving an inch. She had promised to protect her people and she kept her oaths. She really was an extraordinary mortal.
And the heavens agreed. No sooner had she gone back inside to continue our conversation before blinding light shone out from her, her Eclipse mark flaring on her forehead. I could barely believe what I was seeing but the voice of an old friend reassured me, much like Keemia, Takeshi too, always kept his oaths. “I keep my promises. I said I would come back, General Gao.”. Silent tears ran down my face. I had seen, not merely a miracle, I had seen my friend. As the echoes of Takeshi receded and I looked at Keemia, I knew she wasn’t just any Eclipse Caste, she was Takeshi the Poet, she was my brother.
4 solar +2
I could hardly believe it, I merely stood there basking at the miracle that had happened. I had found Takashi and he had remembered, he had remembered his promise… and he had remembered me. But, as Takeshi’s final oath had been upheld and his echo faded I realized that Keemia, did not. The look of wariness in her eyes had returned and the distance between us was once again reestablished.
This…hurt, yes. But Shadow Edge had prepared me for this and I knew that even if they did not remember me, they were still my lifelong friends.
Keemia seemed to be… distracted, by her exaltation and she did not have time to reflect on what it meant. She had much to do, we both did. She went to see to Shadow edge and Kamui who were staying in her warehouse while I prepared our attack with a man she referred to as Master Denpasar. He was an odd, effeminate man who at first…and second appearance looked like he had never seen combat in his life, but I had long since learned to trust in Takeshi’s judgement and there was something special about the man.
It quickly became evident that the man was indeed more than he seemed and we quickly tried to establish our best plan of attack. He like me had come to the conclusion that the dragonbloods were likely going to send for help from one of the nearby regions, likely the harbor down river. And the most likely messenger would be…Jaina.
I did not want to have to fight Jaina but stopping her before the real battle began would likely be my best chance to not have to kill her. With that it was decided that I would go to her while Master Denpasar began mobilizing the men to defend the bridges, that way keeping the wyld hunt’s soldiers from joining up with their masters.
As I was about to leave I noticed that Keemia and Shadow Edge had returned and with Little Rainbow Claw! Shadow Edge had found her during my meeting with Keemia. Arackon had wounded her quite badly, his sword had cut her almost in half, but she was still breathing. I let out a heavy sigh of relief and thanked the gods. The others looked at me as if almost offended, but I remembered the lunar resiliency and was certain my friend would still live. I helped Kamui and later Keemia with sewing up the wounds. I was about to tell Shadow Edge of my plan, but sometime during the procedure, he had left.
There was little time to reflect on that, or to remember the many times Janira had left the same way. Instead I jumped into the cold river and swam out to intercept Jaina’s boat. Shadow Edge did however meet me as I left the city. It was still strange speaking to him, there was a distance between us that felt unnatural to me, but there was little I could do to change it besides proving myself a worthy friend. He waited on a small island and I kept myself hidden, staying largely underwater, waiting for Jaina to come to us.
Finally, she was there, guiding her boat using her powers, and as the boat got close enough, I hurled myself on top of it, hitting and knocking out one of her four guards immediately. That was when I made a grave error.
After I had killed the dragonblood in the Dragon’s Talons, I had grown overconfident in my strength. There was no need to waste my energy, battling against mere mortals. I needed to save my strength for the fight against my real opponents. But I had forgotten my teacher’s warning, I had never learned to properly fight against multiple skilled opponents, mortals or otherwise. My arrogance cost me, they swarmed me and instead of saving my strength, I was forced to waste it merely to avoid getting overwhelmed by them. I learned much during that fight, about fighting, about the risk of underestimating mortals and about myself.
It was a desperate struggle, Jaina had left the vessel and charged across the water at Jani..Shadow Edge and I couldn’t get to them as her guard’s kept me from advancing. Slowly I began whittling my opponents down, as the sight of Shadow Edge and Jaina fighting one another made me all the more desperate. Finally however, Jaina disengaged from Shadow Edge to try and convince me to stand down. I pleaded with her to stop what she was doing, to stop aiding the Wyld Hunt in destroying Resounding Bells.
Slowly, she started to recognize me, some semblance of trust awakened in her eyes. We explained we were part of the rebellion but as she pushed for answers, asking what we were fighting for, I told her the truth and showed her who I truly was. The flicker in her eyes vanished.
She told us about the “monster” White Tusk, and what he did to the men that fought with her. Shadow Edge raged at her and I feared a new fight would break out. I challenged her on what right she had to call White Tusk a monster when he fought to protect the people of his village, his family. Shadow edge pushed her further and told her about what she hadn’t seen, the children, the elderly, the ones too weak to defend themselves.
Eventually she seemed to give in some, but asked what we would put in place instead of the Dragonblooded’s rule, and once again I answered her truthfully; ours. Once again I saw her trust fade, but she agreed that, for now, she would aid us as she knew better than any of us that the people of the city would die if the jade born were not stopped.
She promised to stay close to me, since she claimed to have learned much from her childhood, and knew that the best way to kill someone was to be close to them. I understood her threat and agreed to it. Either I would win her trust, or one of us would have to kill the other.
2 solar +1
A Costly Victory 4
There was a clear distance between myself and Jaina, but we made arrangements for how to proceed. I warned her that while I agreed to her terms, and accepted that she would come with us, she should know that I had friends and people I needed to protect in the city, and should she betray my trust, I would have to stop her. What I didn’t say, or at least didn’t articulate properly was that she was counted among those I wanted to protect, and so I asked her to stay in the back during the fight.
She took this as me wanting her out of the picture for good. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, The Immaculate order’s lies had taught her to view me as a monster incapable of caring for others. She decided then that she would go into hiding at the brothel, she would be safe there and she knew how to blend in. I asked her if she was sure, the question almost pleading her not to go there. Jaina and I might not have been the closest of friends back at that place, but I didn’t want her to have to experience going back to a place like that after finally putting that life behind her. She seemed to understand, and agreed to instead join us at Keemia’s mansion. To do so she had to disguise herself, so we went to borrow clothes from the Kena siblings.
Song Sei was readying his gang and although he was uneasy about helping Jaina, he gave us a spare peasant tunic for her to use. Jaina turned to me, pointing out that she would need help to get out of her armour and silk robes. It was a sentence that carried a lot of meaning; she knew what kind of memories doing so would bring back to me, but at the same time she was leaving herself completely vulnerable, (especially so, given her own memories) to what she had been taught her entire life to fear. Even though it was something done by necessity rather than choice, it was the closest thing to trust she had shown me since I showed her who and what I was.
Before I could answer her however, Shadow Edge stepped in. My friend must have understood the discomfort undressing her would cause me and declared that he would do it, leaving little room for Jaina to argue against it. While one part of me was grateful to my dear and thoughtful friend for his help, another part of me was somewhat disappointed. Jaina had opened up to me, if only a fraction, seemingly examining how much of the boy she once knew was still left inside of me. As my friend began disrobing her, she reassumed her mask of indifference and the opening she had given was swiftly closed. Once again the distance between us grew.
Shadow Edge led Jaina back to Keemia, using the shortcuts and alleyways he knew from his childhood while I returned to The Pale Mistress’ temple, relaying to its carved out demonic statues that the final confrontation with the Dragonblooded was approaching and to wait for my signal. I hoped that her magic would allow her to hear me and that she would obey.
Back at Keemia’s house, I together with all the others planned what to do next. We decided that we would need time to recuperate after our previous battles. Shadow Edge quickly went to sleep, Keemia coordinated with Master Denpasar, and Jaina went to find Shadow Edge’s friend, Ririka.
While the others rested, prepared and went about their business, I did something far more important. I gave my thanks to Ignis Divine. Sol Invictus, The Most High, The Once-Guarding Star, The Unconquered Sun himself, had smiled on us, on me. There was no other explanation for what had happened, no other explanation for how less than one week after leaving the mountain, I had been reunited with not only one, but two of my dearest friends. Neither of them seemed to remember me the way I remembered them, feel what I felt for them, but none of that truly mattered, they were with me once again, we were reunited. We were no longer alone.
So I gave thanks. It was neither a prayer nor a ritual. As He made his journey from Zenith to Twilight, I merely gave wordless thanks, hoping that my feelings would somehow reach Him. Perhaps, perhaps it would not be long until I was finally able to find my remaining friends as well. But I mustn’t be greedy, in time I would definitely find dear Galatea and Clear Sky, but it would be wrong to expect The Most High to aid me more then he already had.
As the others began to stir, I gave one final sigh of gratitude, inhaled and drew upon the fading sunlight to bolster my strength. I then joined the others, we decided that we should capitalize on the fact that the Dragonblooded were still split up. I would challenge the Immaculate Monk in single combat while Shadow Edge settled things with his father. I sent word to The Jasmine Princess to have the Erymanthoi attack Arackon to buy us time while Keemia followed me to the bridge outside of the city temple to The Golden Lord, where I called out the monk. She refused to face me, instead she warned us that Iskaros had taken the lords of the city hostage, and should anyone go against them, they would kill them, ensuring that without a leader, The Golden Lord’s blessing would fade and leave the city vulnerable to The Pale Mistress.
The Monk’s words shook the hearts of the people in the streets and Keemia tried to calm them the only way she knew how. She told them that there was another heir, another rightful ruler of Resounding Bells, The Star Jasmine Princess. At first I questioned my friend’s wisdom at this, saying that would cement the Princess’ claim and would make it difficult for us to oppose her rule later on. But I soon saw that Keemia, much like Takeshi, chose her words carefully.
Mentioning The Star Jasmine Princess caused an immediate reaction from the monk, and enraged by our association with a demon summoner charged at me. The battle was short, we clashed once, twice and finally, in the third and final confrontation my fist finally connected, and with all my strength behind it, sent her flying in to one of the temple bells, and in doing so began ringing in the evening prayers.
I did not take pleasure in killing her, but I did take pride in it. I had beaten and killed a dragonblooded, fairly, in single combat, not merely finishing off one already wounded after having been taken by surprise. Remembering The Brotherhood, remembering my old self; Gao, I often find myself questioning myself, and my worthiness and capability of continuing such a legacy. Defeating the Immaculate monk felt as the first small step towards proving myself. I had won.
That was when the screaming started. Screams from the panicked and dying rose from The Plum Leaf Palace, where Shadow Edge and Jaina had gone to face Iskaros, and where the monk had claimed they were holding the lord family hostage. I and Keemia ran towards the palace, I idly noticed the proof of my friend’s victory burning on the balcony as I crashed into the temple. Realm legionaries were slaughtering the people inside. We had won, but the ruling family of Resounding Bell, the symbol which The Golden Lord’s blessing was tied to, had fallen.
4 + 1
The Final Battle of Resounding Bells
The family had fallen, all, it would seem, save one. Noble friend Shadow Edge had saved him in the last second. I was ready to lay waste to the legionaries for what they had done, but Jaina leapt between us, ordering the legionaries to stand down. We did not have the luxury of wasting our strength on mere tools of The Realm. We had to go deal with the hand that wielded them.
Me and Shadow Edge hurried to the edge of the city to face Arackon and the Wood Aspect who rode with him. We had time to see a brief bout between the Blood Ape and Arackon before he hurled the demon away from him, focusing his attention on me. He was arrogant; he exemplified everything that was wrong with the Dragonblooded’s rule, proof of the degeneration of the once proud warriors who had fought beside me. But he was strong.
Both I and Shadow Edge threw everything we had at him and I had to give it my all simply to keep the man at bay while Shadow Edge shot at him from afar. Finally Shadow Edge managed to strike true, landing a grave wound on Arackon. I thought that would mark the beginning of the end for the Fire Aspect, but I was naïve. Arackon was old, and his essence was strong. He kept on fighting, barely noticing the arrow protruding from his neck. He and the Wood Aspect focused their attacks on me, I began being pushed back. And then, suddenly, before I had time to react, Arackon struck. I felt how my hardened skin began to crack and give way as I was hurled into a building. I had lost. I had failed my Circle in this life as well. As my power faded, I looked blankly up at my fading anima. A Samsara, now half full with the castes of my friends, still blazing fiercely within the wheel.
I was a fool. My friends were still alive, fighting. I would not be robbed of them so easily after finally being reunited with them. I would not let Arackon take them from me nor have him take me from them. And so I rose once more and hurled my defiance at him. As Dawn rose, Arackon fell, his enormous sword falling beside him.
But the battle was not yet over, The Wood Aspect, riding on a war elephant was still determined to finish what she and Arackon had started. I braced to meet them, only to find brave friend Keemia by my side, drawing the attention of the beast to her. She bought me the time I needed to gather myself and let me grab on to the elephant and hurl the Jade soul from the beast, where Shadow edge finished her as she fell towards the earth.
Then there was silence, I barely noticed Keemia calming the beast behind me, as I took in what had happened. We had won. In one day I had killed three of the dragonblooded with my own hands, borne witness to the death of two more and been given the aid of another, beings that not to long I had only known as invincible god-kings. We had freed Resounding Bells, and most importantly, I had been reunited with the dearest of friends; witnessed as Takeshi’s essence joined with that of Keemia as she drew her Second Breath.
I suddenly felt very tired; I noticed my skin had returned to normal and with it, the wounds it had kept shut sprang open. I knew I should be frightened, worried about the blood that was streaming from my wounds, but I felt Keemia supporting me by my side. My friends were there for me, The Brotherhood of Virtue had been reborn. What was there to fear?