The Mists of Paoru
Yuting - 19th day of the 12th month, 3458
Fire Day, 19th day of the Pig month, year 3458 of Heavenly Fire
The surgery on Raktim seemed to be a success, but of course things weren’t that simple. Yun and Sarjana started vulturing Raktim’s equipment until Bai asked that Raktim be turned back. I saw her point: If the surgery removed the void-attracting effect, then it should still be gone when he’s turned back into a mao. But no—Sarjana had neglected to tell us that the transformation was intended to be permanent and that his humanoid form would still have the unwanted aspect to it.
I finally tried to ask Raktim what he wanted, but he just babbled about food and jumped at my face. I instinctually punched at him, which scared him into running off. I shouted a command at him to sleep, which thankfully succeeded. Then before we knew what was happening, House had pulled us all inside, reconfigured itself, and planted itself in one spot.
If I suspected before, I finally had my proof: House is an awakened yokai—and it doesn’t like us fighting amongst each other. It plopped us all at a round table on the first floor, a bleary-eyed Vasan included. It also spoke as Sarjana and I were getting into it again: “You will not fight.” Then it showed us images of the last few days and our arguments. Yun dispelled Raktim’s transformation, but that didn’t satisfy it. “Family broken,” it said.
Then it let in Batukhan, who I think was both amused and disappointed with us. He started to say something when he noticed Sarjana, apparently for the first time. They had themselves a little eo moment, and it seemed like she had royally screwed our chances of working with the Forest King. Batukhan left to await the heads of his village’s families to decide her fate.
After he’d gone, I ordered Raktim to tell us what he’d been working on upstairs. He didn’t remember. I tried to sweet talk House into letting Sarjana upstairs to check, but it didn’t work. So we talked.
Bai thinks Yun, Sarjana, Raktim, and I aren’t patriotic enough, and she wants to take a sword to Yun and Sarjana. Sarjana reveals a treacherous plot on behalf of her prince on top of the Chancellor’s betrayal. To get back at her, she suggests “springing the trap”—i.e. going forward with the mission—and returning to our homelands successful. We’d be “politically untouchable,” she thinks. Well, she doesn’t know Imperial politics. Today’s hero is tomorrow’s gutter trash.
It was funny that Bai mentioned patriotism. Someone brought up her hoarding information, and she said if we wanted in on it, we’d have to swear fealty to the Emperor directly and join the secret police for the rest of our lives. I’m not sure if this is some kind of test, but I want in. I don’t care if she thinks me unpatriotic to Chenmo—the Chancellor’s shown his true colors, and I’m from Shiren Shi anyway.
Some time later, Batukhan pounded on the door, and House let him in. Most of the families had arrived, and it was time for her trial or whatever. She was a big baby about it, but we kicked her out the door and they got on with it. First they made introductions. I don’t think anybody liked her. Then they made her tell her life story in interpretive dance. She sucked. Even Batukhan said she sucked. Then she got to personally plead her case to each family head. She pretty much sucked.
But by some miracle, she wasn’t exiled (which was apparently the bad outcome?). Then Batukhan offered to adopt her as his daughter and let her go through the adulthood ceremony. She bawled, of course. First, though, she had to fight two of the elders she annoyed. The first fight was boring until she chucked him in the fire. That did him in. The second elder rescinded her challenge.
I was so happy—Sarjana was out of my hair for good, and House changed back! And then she put a condition on her own adoption—she wanted Batukhan to cure Raktim. He sent two runners off to retrieve some plant to make tea for Raktim out of. The tea put him to sleep and the void mark on him faded a bit.
Before we went to bed for the night, I made Sarjana identify what the oni had been making Raktim work on. It was basically the next level of whatever effect he’d cursed himself with.