Chapter 38 can be read below the cut.
It took seven more days to reach the outskirts of Resuni. They arrived there in the morning. Lisel had her slate in her hands; she’d been communicating with Suli since the previous night and had been glued to it the whole time.
Haruyéng peered over Lisel’s shoulder, trying to read the words on the slate. Lisel noticed and, annoyed, moved it out of his line of sight. “So are they – hey!” protested Haruyéng.
“Don’t read over my shoulder like that!” said Lisel. She moved the slate back into a more comfortable position and rubbed her right shoulder. “They’re expecting us. You and your soldiers shouldn’t encounter any problems with the guards. Neither should you, Nüwa,” she said.
“Did you tell them that I am an Immortal?” Nüwa asked. “I would prefer if that knowledge did not spread.”
Lisel started to shake her head, then froze. “I told Suli to only tell Commander Kiyohu. I trust Suli to keep secrets. The Commander, maybe not,” she said. “I really hope Kiyohu didn’t tell anyone else.”
They continued walking and chatting among themselves. Lisel and Haruyéng remained in the front of the group, and for the most part, kept silent.
“So I know the situation here is pretty bad, but please tell me there’s gonna be somewhere for me to live,” said Haruyéng.
Lisel blinked. “I never thought about that,” she said. “Honestly, I have no idea.”
Haruyéng’s face fell. He then started looking annoyed. “What the hell do you mean by that, Tsensung? You don’t know? You have Rebel soldiers here. Do you seriously not know where they’re staying?”
Lisel shook her head. “No, I mean there isn’t any official housing for soldiers. There are a few makeshift barracks in the military headquarters, but it’s two rooms,” she said.
Haruyéng stared blankly at her. “Do you not have that many soldiers here?” he asked.
Lisel nodded. “That, and a lot of people are staying with civilians. Or they built their own houses. There are a lot of soldiers spread throughout East Meitsung, too.” She sighed. “Honestly, we don’t have much of a military force. We’re going to be relying on a lot of volunteers if something major happens.”
Haruyéng scoffed. “What? Were you expecting something better?” Lisel asked.
“Well, yeah,” said Haruyéng. “You’ve had two years, Tsensung! I expected better of you.”
“You are aware that Commander Kiyohu is in control of the Rebel military and not me, right?” said Lisel.
“And you expect me to believe that there weren’t people willing to sign up to become Rebels en masse after they heard what you did?” asked Haruyéng.
“Yes,” said Lisel.
Haruyéng rolled his eyes. “Unbelievable. This is so disappointing.”
“This all looks familiar,” said Sirilrhis as he looked around. They were in Resuni proper now, and quickly nearing the military headquarters.
“Familiar?” said Lisel. “Have you been to this part of Resuni before?”
Sirilrhis shrugged. “Maybe? I’ve been to quite a few parts of the city.”
“Maybe?” Lisel stressed. “I thought you dragons were like us elves. You don’t lose memories, do you?”
“No,” answered Sirilrhis.
There was no one at the back entrance of the military headquarters. Lisel moved to open the door, but when her fingers brushed the handle, it was yanked out of her grasp. She stepped back, startled, and stared into the face of Commander Kiyohu, who looked equally as startled.
“Tsensung! You’re finally back,” said Kiyohu. She looked past Lisel and saw Haruyéng. “Oh, Haruyéng! Nice seeing you after all this time.”
Haruyéng nodded. “I’d like to say the same, but I don’t remember who you are at all.”
Hayésu looked startled, and Kiyohu looked disappointed. “I’m Commander Remiya Kiyohu,” she said. “I’m the one running the Rebel military here.”
Sirilrhis stepped forward. “Commander, we brought a lot of books with us.”
“Do you have Yrrum Innué?” Kiyohu asked.
Sirilrhis nodded. “Yes, but where do you want us to put the others?” he asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Kiyohu. She stuck her hand out and motioned for the book. “Just put them down somewhere and we’ll deal with them later. Where’s Yrrum Innué?”
Sirilrhis pulled the book out of his pack and held it in his hand, looking apprehensive. “It’s right here, but-”
Kiyohu snatched the book out of his hand and looked over the group. “You, unfamiliar woman. You’re the Immortal, right?” she said.
“Yes, I am,” said Nüwa.
Kiyohu grabbed Nüwa’s arm and dragged her into the building. “We’re going to remove the immortality of the Heavenly Emperors right now,” said Kiyohu.
“Right now?” said Nüwa.
“Right now?” echoed Lisel. Kiyohu continued walking, leading them to the empty meeting room. “Can I at least talk to Suli before-”
Kiyohu set the book on the table. “You are capable of reading this language, right?” she said to Nüwa.
Nüwa rifled through the pages of the book. “Yes. I have looked through this book many times, and I am fairly sure I know which passages I have to read,” she said.
Kiyohu looked excited. “That’s great! This won’t take long at all!” she said.
Nüwa finally stopped on a page and looked up at everyone. “All of you must leave the room. Even you, Sirilrhis,” she said.
“Why is that?” Kiyohu asked.
“Spoken magic is painful to all non-Immortals, even dragons,” said Nüwa. “A spell of this magnitude should not be read where a non-Immortal can hear it. It may cause permanent damage.”
Kiyohu looked taken aback. “I had no idea. So, once we leave the room, how will we be able to tell that the spell was effective?” she asked.
“You will not,” said Nüwa. “It only affects the Heavenly Emperors. Sirilrhis will probably feel something, but you mortals will not.”
“We’ll all feel the pain from it, but I should be able to discern whether or not it was effective,” said Sirilrhis.
Everyone filtered out of the room. Kiyohu shut the door, leaving Nüwa in there alone with the book. A couple of minutes passed, and the door remained shut.
“I hope you’re prepared to do a lot of work, Haruyéng,” said Kiyohu. She had her arms crossed and looked bored.
“I was Commander of the Firearms Division for the past two years,” said Haruyéng. He laughed nervously. “I doubt organizing Rebels here is more work than that.”
“It’s not just that,” said Kiyohu. “It’s-”
Everyone was hit with a sharp jolt of pain and fell to the ground, with the exception of Sirilrhis. He merely fell to his knee and clutched his head. “It happened,” he said. “She did it.”
Lisel climbed to her feet. It was difficult; she was still in a lot of pain and her shoulder now hurt worse than it did before. She opened the door to the meeting room and stumbled in. Nüwa stood there with the book in front of her, looking exhausted. Evidently, reading the spell had been an effort for her as well.
Nüwa smiled. “It looks like the spells worked,” she said.
Kiyohu made a beeline for one of the chairs. She fell into it and leaned against the table, breathing heavily. “I never want to experience anything like that again,” she said breathlessly. She looked up at Nüwa. “I have to thank you, Immortal, but I don’t know your name.”
Nüwa smiled. “My name is Nüwa.”
“Nüwa, huh,” said Kiyohu. “You’re named after the goddess. Or maybe you are the goddess.”
Nüwa continued smiling. “I’m very old, so that is a possibility. Now, are there any other spells you wish for me to read? Any at all?”
“I don’t think I or anyone else can handle any more spells right now,” said Kiyohu. “But we do have a backlog of stuff that needs to get done. How long do you plan on staying here?”
The next day
The Tiger and Human Heavenly Emperors were likely dead, as they had surpassed the natural lifespans of their species long ago. Lisel supposed they’d receive official news soon. She doubted that the Empire would be able to suppress that knowledge for very long.
Lisel sat on a bench in front of Suli’s flower shop. She was finally able to wear her own civilian clothes again, which was an odd feeling after she had spent so many months in uniform. She had no idea where anyone else was – Kiyohu and Haruyéng included. It was nice to relax for once.
A man came out of the shop, holding a bundle of flowers in his hands. Suli followed him out. “Thank you for your business. I’m sure she’ll love them,” she said.
“Thank you?” said the man.
Suli walked up to the bench and set her cane against it before sitting down next to Lisel. “Do you want to look at the slate?” she asked.
“No,” said Lisel with a shake of her head. She sighed and looked up at the sky. “I don’t think Kiyohu is going to let me retire any time soon.”
“I think not,” said Suli. “We’re going to need everyone we can.”
“I seriously thought that when I got back here, I’d get to take a break. Now we might have an actual war on ours hands in the next few years,” she said.
Suli patted Lisel’s shoulder. “We do have some time before that happens,” she said.
Kiyaska ran up to Lisel, followed closely by Petkal and his spirit soul. Lisel made a miserable face, and Kiyaska frowned. “What’s with that?” she asked.
“I think you want something from me,” said Lisel.
Petkal nodded. “We’re here on Commander Kiyohu’s orders,” he said.
Lisel grimaced. “I really wanted to spend some time relaxing today,” she said.
“She called a meeting,” said Kiyaska. “I don’t know why, but it has to be important.”
Lisel stood up and rubbed her shoulder, then helped Suli to her feet. “Well, let’s get going,” she said.
The four of them walked for a minute in silence before Lisel turned to Kiyaska. “I’ve been thinking about what to do with you,” she said.
“Huh?” said Kiyaska.
“Well, you’re going to continue practicing with my rifle until you’re as good with it as you are with your bow,” said Lisel. “Maybe you could take my place later on.”
Kiyaska looked baffled. “You can’t be serious.”
Lisel laughed. “It’s just a suggestion.”
Kiyaska pouted. “But I’m gonna go back to Zarya Wa when this is over!” she said.
Lisel grinned. “I also plan on quitting the military when this is over. You can go back to Zarya Wa at the same time. What I’m talking about is what you’ll be doing in the meantime.”
Kiyaska still looked skeptical. “I don’t like the idea,” she said.
“You have a lot of time to think it over,” said Lisel. “Don’t get in a hurry about it.”
— END —