“Where is she, TsuYa?” KoGuRai’s familiar, haughty voice echoed down the corridor and made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
This was certainly the last person that TsuYa wanted to see in the halls that afternoon. In fact, the only reason he dared come to this part of the Spiral was because he thought that the Council was in session, which meant KoGuRai wouldn’t be on the prowl.
Just my luck.
TsuYa began walking just a touch faster, though not enough to give his rival the pleasure of seeing his discomfort. He decided the best course of action was to simply ignore it, and quickly turned a corner, hoping to dissuade KoGuRai from following. Unfortunately, he found himself face to face with XaNi, another of the more dubious members of the Council. Though she stood with her hands in her pockets, as if innocent of any plotting, she turned purposefully when she saw him. No doubt, she was standing there for a reason.
Great. What kind of mess are they trying to start now?
“Where is AsaHi?” KoGuRai’s voice demanded from behind.
“How should I know?” TsuYa snarled, his top lip curling as he shrugged past the woman who attempted to stand in his path. Being tall had its perks. This was one of those times.
Her voice rose to his ears, “We know you’ve been assisting her. You brought her back from the Host Gate.”
How did she know about that?
TsuYa did his best to curve his reaction, but it was difficult not to go a little pale. He didn’t trust himself to reply. TsuYa was a very poor liar, and he knew anything he said would give him away.
People might have seen me ride in with AsaHi, but how could they guess we were coming from the Host Gate? This doesn’t make sense.
Still, he kept walking, hoping to dissuade them off his heels by leading them to a more populated area. Unfortunately, the best he could do at this end of the Spire was walk into the Council room itself. The meeting hadn’t started yet, and chamber was large enough for him to keep walking, but there was only one main door to the room, and TsuYa had just walked through it.
“Don’t ignore my question,” KoGuRai’s voice was low with warning.
“Oh, I’m not,” TsuYa retorted over his shoulder. “I’m just ignoring you in general.”
A few random Council members stood, discussing things in hushed tones at the far end of the circular table. Their presence didn’t offer any support, especially the way their green eyes turned towards him, glittering with a knowing light. The prickles on TsuYa’s skin grew in intensity as he watched their shadows loom in strange, twisted shapes up towards the vaulted ceiling.
“You’re very amusing,” KoGuRai finally took advantage of the close quarters and stepped in front of him, blocking his way. His eyes stared with a frigid gaze from within his marred face.
TsuYa felt the overwhelming presence in the back of his mind and knew that he was not alone. It was the same feeling he had when the dragon had appeared in his fire. Tension locked the two, unmoving, as the shadows twisted and grew around their heels. The way the light cast over the large, scrawling scar on KoGuRai’s cheek made it seem as if the flesh of might crawl to life at any moment.
-He senses your power. The power that I promised to grant you.-
TsuYa squinted, trying to shake the fuzz out of his head. The shadows spread across his vision at the sound of the voice in his head, draping the room with subtle hints of darkness. The world seemed to shift with an unreal motion, drenching him in disorientation. For once, he willingly turned his gaze back to KoGuRai, trying to focus on something nearby to keep his balance.
This was apparently an invitation for KoGuRai to prod again, “We know you’ve been involved in this, TsuYa. If you tell us where the girl went, we’ll go easy on you and your brother.”
“I don’t know where she went,” he heard the words hiss from his mouth, a sound not quite his own voice. One hand gripped the railing at his back as TsuYa struggled to remain standing against the unruly motion of the chamber.
“We think you do,” KoGuRai took a step closer.
-Tell him what you think, TsuYa…-
The voice whispered next to his ear, though no one else seemed to hear it. It echoed across his mind like fragments of sound and shadow. Something about the feeling that rose within his chest gave him a sudden burst of crazy courage. What he was about to say was insane, especially in front of the Council. But it needed to be said.
“I think… you need to learn your place, Rai,” he bit down on the words harshly, palms sweating. Those were the words he had longed to say so many times in the past. How they came so easily at that moment, he didn’t know.
“Is that so?” came the mocking reply. “And what place is that?”
“I am the son of the High Guide, ZenToYa. Leadership of Nefol is in my line, not yours,” TsuYa’s eyes narrowed. His own shadow began to grow large and stretch behind him on the wall, looming in a shape that was did not fit his form.
KoGuRai argued and stepped forward. It was difficult to see the details of his face the way the light and shadows played through the room. “Who said that the leadership of this city belongs to the Ya Clan alone?”
-He questions your strength…-
“I say so!” TsuYa didn’t need further encouragement. The words simply rolled from between his lips with a satisfaction of a long-time itch finally scratched.
-It is time…-
“It’s time for you to step down KoGuRai… before I make you!” his teeth bared as he echoed the words that sounded within his mind.
“Admirable attempt, but I think you’re a little outnumbered here,” KoGuRai’s gaze reflected back with a dangerous light. “Right XaNi?”
-He doesn’t realize that this is not what it seems…-
“I don’t know what you mean, KoGuRai,” her voice was dull, gaze fixed on the floor.
“What?” KoGuRai turned to her with a perplexed scowl.
She said nothing more. Instead, her green eyes lifted, an eerie ghost-light glinting from within. The darkness churned around her form, almost like laughter. For the first time, TsuYa could tell that KoGuRai could see it, too.
“XaNi? What’s going on?” KoGuRai’s expression was one of sincere shock.
-You are not alone anymore TsuYa. Let me show you what I can give you… Let me start with KoGuRai.-
TsuYa’s thoughts became immediately consumed with rage and frustration against his rival, far more suppressed feelings than he ever realized he contained. He could see it now — the tables were turned. It was KoGuRai’s ambitions that were crumbling to dust, his unworthy grip on Nefol slipping.
It was TsuYa’s turn to rise to power.
The glint of dark metal shown from a spot on the wall behind him. His father’s old weapon, the huge black-bladed scythe, Drei’Llafn. It was a symbol of power that remained mounted on the stone, untouched since ZenToYa was proclaimed dead so many years ago.
The weight in his mind urged him forward. Pressed him to do the unimaginable.
TsuYa rarely touched his father’s weapon, even when his father was alive. It was legendary and enchanted, with a blade so large and heavy that only ZenToYa’s great magic allowed him to wield it.
-I can give you the power to use it…-
He felt his breath catch in his throat, eyes falling with resolve on the scythe. If this voice could do what it promised, this motion alone would be enough for TsuYa to prove his leadership over the Council and finally gain control of Nefol.
-Your city will belong to your family again… as it was meant to be…-
TsuYa reached one hand upwards for the weapon’s grip, the dim light reflecting from the cold sweat that beaded his skin. Uncertainty battled with determination in his heart. Finally as he reached, his fingers touched the cold, forbidding metal.
Instantly, Drei’Llafn broke away from its mounting. A crack resounded through the chamber and TsuYa felt himself moving forward, a motion that was almost not his own. His hand reached up, catching the scythe in both palms. Much to his surprise, the weight of the weapon did not carry him down as he expect. In fact, it felt quite easy to hold.
As if it was made for him.
A crackle of blue energy shimmered over the edge of the blade. He didn’t know if it was the weapon’s enchantment or a touch of his own magic merging with the scythe. He could see his face reflected dully in the polished onyx surface and the stricken expression of KoGuRai from somewhere not far behind.
TsuYa turned to face the council, bearing his father’s weapon. His eyes challenged any of them to breathe a word against him. He was shaking with pure exhilaration, mixed with pulsing rage. The edge of the blade leveled at KoGuRai.
“You’ve gone completely insane!” his rival’s voice almost squeaked as he stumbled back a step.
Maybe… but it feels so much better than shoveling your crap like I have been for the past umpteenth years.
“The Council no longer needs your input,” TsuYa informed him, eyes narrowing. “You are dismissed.”
“What? You can’t do that!” KoGuRai protested with outrage, seeming to ignore the weapon pointed in his face. As if daring him to do anything.
TsuYa reminded him very quickly where he stood – at the sharper end of the scythe. “I’ll only say this one more time. If you want to keep your head on your shoulders, you better get out of my face.”
KoGuRai drew in a sharp breath, eyes focusing on the wicked curved blade. Slowly he raised his hands in a coaxing motion and took another step backwards. “All right.”
“NOW!” TsuYa barked sharply.
Watching KoGuRai scrabble over himself to make it out the door was the best feeling in the world. The second best feeling was watching the Council turn to him, realizing they awaited his orders.