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Fight For Tomorrow, Part VIII

Daigotsu knelt before the altar of Fu Leng, the stern visage of the Fallen Kami looking down upon him. The Dark Lord prayed, his sword and mask set neatly on the temple floor beside him. He meditated upon the battle to come, gathered his strength for the confrontation that he knew was unavoidable, and the long road that would follow. Somewhere, in the shadows, he knew that Kyoden watched over him. The Obsidian Champion always sought to protect him, as he had since they were children among the Bloodspeakers. As close to brothers as they could be, the two had sworn loyalty to one another long ago.

Kyoden's loyalty would be tested greatly soon, Daigotsu thought. He knew that Kyoden would not be found wanting. The irony of that amused the Dark Lord. The Rokugani clung to their honor and spat upon the gifts Jigoku offered. The fools did not realize that honor and corruption were not mutually exclusive. Such shortsightedness would destroy the Empire one day.

"Dark Lord," said the smooth voice of Chuda Mishime, Daigotsu's hatamoto. The elegantly dressed shugenja stepped into the temple chamber and waited patiently for his master's recognition.

"Speak," Daigotsu replied, lifting his head from his prayers. His long white hair, a mark of magical power, spilled over his shoulders.

"The Four Winds gather at Kyuden Seppun," Mishime replied, "The Oracle of the Void advises them of your weaknesses, and they gird themselves for battle as you knew they would."

"As the Dark Oracle of the Void warned me they would," Daigotsu agreed in a resigned voice. "Destiny can be irritating in its punctuality. Inform Noekam. Our armies must be prepared for their arrival."

Mishime nodded. "I have already informed General Noekam, and he is unafraid. He has been studying the Empire's armies for the last decade, and believes that the Crab Clan's supplies of jade are too low to mount any significant attack upon the City of the Lost."

Daigotsu stood, turning to face Mishime. His face was cool and emotionless. "Inform General Noekam that he is wrong," Daigotsu replied. "The Winds will find a way to attack this city, and if we are unprepared, Fu Leng will fall. Ask him if he is prepared to risk our god's wrath upon that possibility."

"Yes, Dark Lord," Mishime replied.

"And we must see to it that Toguchi Shinden is well defended as well," Daigotsu replied.

"The Tsuno temple?" Mishime replied, confused.

"The Lion have made great leaps toward understanding Tsuno magic of late," Daigotsu replied. "The Tsuno are still our allies. We cannot afford to lose them. Kyoden, take a Mishime and a legion of your finest troops and march to Toguchi Shinden. Remain there until you hear word from me."

Kyoden appeared from the darkness and bowed. Though he showed now outward sign, Daigotsu knew his yojimbo was outraged to be sent from the battle. Yet, he would not question Daigotsu's command. Kyoden, of them all, never questioned. The ebon-armored samurai turned and left the chamber, Mishime following close behind. Daigotsu turned and knelt before the statue of Fu Leng again, cocked his head slightly, and smiled.

"Hello, Shahai," he said.

The darkness around the statue wavered like a silk curtain. A pretty young girl in a clean white dress appeared from nothing, lounging against the massive statue's feet. She smiled in return, her lips a bright, blood red.

"You should not show such disrespect to the Kami's statue," Daigotsu said in a chiding voice.

"I am his Dark Daughter," she replied in a bored voice. "He makes allowances. Why did you send Kyoden away?"

"Because Toguchi Shinden may be in danger, as I said," Daigotsu answered.

"You cannot lie to me, Daigotsu," she said, frowning. "The Rokugani do not even know the Tsuno temple exists, much less can they spare forces to attack it. Why did you send your finest warrior away?"

"It needed to be done," Daigotsu replied.

Shahai gave Daigotsu a studied look, then rose, smoothing her dress over her slim body. "This has to do with your visit to the Dark Oracle of the Void," she said. It was a statement, not a question. She already knew the truth.

"Yes," Daigotsu said, looking up at her intently.

"Why?" she asked, eyes narrowing in anger. "Are we to lose our battle here? Is the Shadowlands doomed to fail again? If so, tell me now, and we shall be gone from this place."

"No," Daigotsu replied, shaking his head. "We may yet have our victory. Should we repel the Four Winds from the Temple, the Shadowlands will devour the Plains Above Evil, and Fu Leng will reign in heaven for eternity."

Shahai looked at Daigotsu intently. "Tell me the rest," she demanded.

Daigotsu was silent for a long time. When he spoke again, his voice was thick. "I am going to die," he said. "The Dark Oracle has foreseen it. If I face the Four Winds, I may triumph, but I will not survive."

"So then flee from here," Shahai replied quickly. She stepped close to him, sitting beside him and looking up intently with her strange, lavender eyes. Her slim white hand grasped his own. "Leave us to fight the Four Winds. Mishime, Kyoden, the Onisu, even Omoni have the power to repel them from here. You must survive."

Daigotsu looked down at her sadly. "I am Fu Leng's chosen, his most faithful servant," he replied. "If I fail him, there can be no victory."

Shahai looked into his eyes, her gaze unflinching. In two years, the two had come to know one another and enjoy one another's presence. Perhaps they had come to love one another, if two so wicked could be capable of love. She shook her head slowly. "There must be another way. Death is not eternal."

"There is a path by which I might return," Daigotsu said. "I have paved the way, but you must be strong enough to walk it. Can you do this for me, Shahai?"

"I can," she said. "Tell me what I must do."




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