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Exalted:End of an Era

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[ smile.gif Yay. All together again. And yes Dace is a good counter to evil people.]

 

Pheonix returned Hanzo's salute. That solved the issue of finding him. And she was saved from answering Hanzo's over-enthusiastic question by the arrival of Shaya.

 

Though she suspected that someone ought to remind him about being discreet about the Orbs. It wouldn't do to spread the knowledge of them around.

 

Web acknowledged Shaya's congratulations with a nod. The basic plan seemed to be going ahead - the Orbs were next on the list.

 

At the apology, Web said the same thing as she had said to Mia: That none were necessary, that the rest of her ilk did hold true to the unpleasant reputation.

 

"It is only a theory.... and no real proof to confirm or deny it." Web made sure to keep the specifics vague, in case of eavesdroppers.

 

[Hmmm as far as I'm aware, only Hanzo, Shaya and Pheonix know the theory.... I bet Tinker would find the possibility interesting, if a little scary considering its implications.]

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Hanzo saluted Shaya. "Commander. Congratulations on your promotion." Then he looked from Shaya to Web to Pheonix. "I would like to be present at the discussion of this theory, if that is allowed, Commander. But we probably should talk about it at the barracks. Not here."

 

His stomach growled, his hand tried to silence it but failed. "And I make a vicious bell pepper sushi. Or do you prefer Red Fish Curry? I am sure the Captain of the Bronze Tigers won't mind if I cooked up some healthy Lookshyan dishes. Shall we?"

 

[i don't think Tinker is able to consider it as true. Isn't that *their* curse?]

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[True.... but Tinker is part of a special circle tongue.gif One that nobody knows about, so its possible that he could consider the theory without out rightly rejecting it.]

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((I think the Circle of the Black Night is actually able to recognize the threat posed by creatures from beyond Creation so, yeah, they might be open to Web's story too.))

 

At the barracks.....

 

Settling down in the commanders room, Shaya began to remove her breastplate and arms. Pulling out her polishing kit, she sat down to clean her equipment. The white Jade was marred with streaks of red blood and black bile - a testament to the earlier confrontation with Lenco's demons.

 

"Let's start with food," she said. She was hungry after the fight and, of course, there was also the fact that she wasn't quite ready for Web's tale. "And then Web can explain why she believes what she believes."

 

She could see Mia sit up ten attentively - the Eclipse didn't know what was going on, but it was clearly important. That reminded her: "Mia, before we continue, I want to swear you in. I won't require you to bear arms, but you'll be considered part of the army's support system and bound by the same code of honor as the rest of us."

 

She hesitated for a moment, then spoke to Web. "If you're available to take an oath, I'd like to swear you in, too." Oddly enough, she realized she had come to trust Web more than Mia. For the latter, swearing her in was a way of ensuring secrecy. For the former, it was a reward for loyal duty.

Edited by Mistress of Whispers

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[it would still startle them - and all those implications.... oh my. Depends on whether anyone has thought of it before.

 

And that must be an odd feeling for Shaya... trusting an Abyssal more than another Solar.]

 

The plan of food before discussion was a very good idea. It would ensure that the adrenaline from the fight had a chance to leech away - and would hopefully allow a calmer reaction to the theory than the original one.

 

Of course, there was an additional matter that Shaya brought up. The matter of a military oath.

 

Web didn't take long to form an answer. She inclined her head in a respectful bow and replied:

 

"I would be honoured to be considered part of the unit."

 

Though the words were formal, it was plainly obvious they were true.

 

Pheonix wasn't surprised by the requests to the pair of Exalts. It made tactical sense to have them sworn in.

 

Of course, Pheonix had not been made aware of Web's change in status from temporary asylum seeker/prisoner to Ward of Lookshy under Shaya's supervision. Even if she knew of it - it would still make sense to have Web swear the oath.

 

Then her thoughts turned to Hanzo. As a survivor of Lookshy, he'd technically been drafted in to the unit - though his appointment hadn't been made official. Though his presence in the unit had been accepted a lot faster than the other females had....

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As Shaya started polishing her breastplate and preferred to eat soon, Hanzo saluted and went to the Bronze Tiger's kitchens. He knew that it was wel stocked and he hoped their supply of spices was up to Lookshyan standards. He greeted the chef working at the stove and after getting permission to use the store of food and the kitchen facilities, he set to work.

 

With a skill that belied his age, he chopped vegetables and prepared fish and squid, while rice was boiling. With a pestle and mortar, spices and oils, he made a sauce reminiscent of Lookshyan cuisine to marinade the meat and fish in.

 

While the rice had been cooled and everything was cut to the right length - the Lookshyan army even had regulations for that as well - he went to work constructing rolls after rolls of spicy sushi with all kinds of different fillings. Sharp knife flashing in the sunlight, he soon attracted attention from the kitchen staff.

 

Fully submerged into the preparation of food, he only had eyes for the frying vegetables, the baked rice with sauce and the pile of sushi forming on a very large tray.

 

When he was finanlly finished, he looked up to see the chef and his aides staring at him. " Ah, great. Could I borrow your people for a moment to transport this food to the Lookshyan guesthouse, please?" he asked the chef. The baffled cook stuttered a Yes and Hanzo commissioned three men and women to help him carry the plates of food back to the barracks where his commander was staying.

 

With a polite knock, he opened the door after recieving permission to enter. The smells of the food wafted in and it brought back memories of Lookshy's finer shops and bistro's. All that was missing now was a good glass of mulled rice wine, which Hanzo produced from a bucket of warm water dangling from his left arm, after he had set down the plates of food in front of Shaya and Pheonix.

 

He was rather proud of the result. The food was colourful and plated up in an attractive display. He hadn't realised just how hungry he himself was, until this moment. He hoped he would be invited to join the Commander and the Captain...

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Shaya popped a piece of sushi without even looking, though she clearly enjoyed the taste, but Mia took a moment to admire the plate. "You are a man of many talents," she complimented Hanzo. Then she turned to Shaya: "I am willing to be sworn in as long as no violence is required of me."

 

With that, Shaya rose and gestured for Web and Mia to do the same.

"As Commander of the Seventh Legion," she began reciting the ancient oath, "I call upon you to be faithful to the principles of justice and bravery the Seventh embodies, to stand against the forces of darkness and to be forever a beacon in the night. To break this oath is to forfeit your life. To keep it is to know true purpose."

 

Turning to first Web, then Mia, Shaya continued:

"Do you accept this oath, under your own volition and freedom?"

 

 

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When asked, Web gave her answer:

 

"I accept the oath of my own will, and understand the conditions and consequences of so doing."

 

 

With the food served, Pheonix stood silent witness to the oaths sworn by the two young Exalts.

 

It was really only a formality, as long as the ranking officer heard the oaths, then it was unlikely that anyone else would question it.

 

Then, assuming there was no objections from the rest of the gathered party, indicated to Hanzo to join their table.

 

 

[Going to assume the oath-taking goes as planned, and that there are no objections from Shaya about Hanzo's presence at this meeting. And feel free to have Tinker tag in - after all, he's not likely to be roaming the city like the other members of the unit.... *plays the weary old man card* xd.png]

 

 

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Mia likewise accepted the oath, adding the addendum not not committing to the path of violence.

 

Shaya was about to begin the next part of their impromptu meeting, when the door opened and Tinker came in.

 

"Ah," the old man explained when he saw the command unit collected inside, "I am done in the market -" he held up a bag containing food stuffs "and thought I'd have a lie-down after today's events." While technically Tinker's rank afforded him sleeping space with the other part of the unit, his age, role as unofficial advisor to Shaya and guide to Web, had him settle in the slightly more comfortable command barrack.

 

Shaya hesitated a moment, then gestured to Tinker's cot. "Actually, we were just about to discuss something and maybe you should be present for that."

 

After Tinker had settled on the edge of his bed, Shaya herself took up a position away from Web. Her daiklave and scabbard, which she had been cleaning earlier, conveniently lay out of the Solar's reach. After all, she was well aware she had a temper and she did not want Web to feel threatened anymore.

 

"Alright, Web," she began, "can you explain again what you believe about Solars and Abyssals and why you believe it?"

 

 

((Biologist and I will be afk this week, We'll have internet on our mobile phones, but those are awful to type long replies on. So expect our replies to be slow and/or short.))

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Silune had followed the solar and her retinue to the barracks of the Bronze Tigers. Getting in unseen had been relatively easy, but for the next part of her plan, she needed to be really inconspicuous. She hid in a dark corner and made sure no-one saw her when she changed shape and finally reached the quarters of the small band of Lookshyan soldiers. She settled in for a long wait in a position where she could overhear what was being said. When the mortal young man came in with food, her stomach twisted in a painfull knot, but she was determined and waited.

 

------------------------------

 

Hanzo was proud to witness the oath ceremony, sober as they may have been. When captain Pheonix invited him to join the table, he gratefully accepted, making sure to follow correct protocol, allowing senior officers to plate up first before he took his first bite of food.

 

For a moment he was lost in thought as the taste brought him back to his favorite cantina. Having this very dish served under the trees in the small courtyard had been the highlight of his day. He would have made them proud with this tribute.

 

Then he focussed again as Shaya repositioned herself and started the conversation. Tinker had joined them as well and he silently greeted the old soldier with great respect. Just to be sure that nothing violent would happen, he poured tea for everyone and subtly settled between Shaya and her weapons...

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While everyone settled into their places, Web organised her thoughts, absently noting Shaya's distance from her weapons and Hanzo's strategic positioning while tea pouring.

 

All too soon it came time for her to speak on the matter.

 

"I believe there to be a connection between the Exaltations of Solars and Abyssals. I'm not entirely certain about the nature of this connection, but there are too many similarities in the Caste Marks for it to be merely coincidence."

 

Taking a breath, and gaging the reactions of the others - mainly those that had not been aware of the original reaction to the suggestion, Web then continued.

 

"The shape of the symbols are identical. Of course, there are differences as well. Solar Caste Marks and Animas have a Golden light, while Abyssal ones are blood and black shadow."

 

"Abyssal Essence and Solar Essence are inimical to each other. Practically complete opposites that cancel each other out - if all other factors are equal."

 

"Like two sides of the same coin in a way."

 

[The pauses are where others could interrupt naturally. Hopefully this covers the 'Mirror Image' idea/truth nicely... and hopefully it covers the potential questions too....]

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Shaya, much to her own surprise, remained calm throughout Web's story. Patiently waiting until the Abyssal was done, she fielded her first question: "Can we know how the two types of Exalted are related? Perhaps your kind was designed to oppose the Solars, which makes sense considering the antagonism between the Unconquered Sun and the Neverborn. The relationship might simply be that of weapon and counter-weapon."

 

Mia has remained silent, too, but spoke up in response to Shaya."Creating Exalted isn't exactly done on the side and if the Neverborn knew how to, they would have done so much sooner. Also, according to some of what I have heard, the Abyssals emerged when the Solars returned. Perhaps something went wrong when the reincarnation cycle began working again?" Of course, she had no idea why the cycle has stopped in the first place or how it had begun again, but the timing of the Abyssal and Solar (re-)mergence seemed like too much of a coincidence.

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Hanzo looked thoughtful and waited for his turn to speak. "I agree with Mia. You do not just make an exaltation shard. The primordial who made them has disappeared. There is a reason there is a limited number of celestial exaltations. If anyone had figured out how it is done, we would have been in trouble a lot sooner."

 

He looked around at the people gathered at the meeting. "It almost sounds like the shard is tainted, like the shard of a Solar who has gone akuma. But different. Not so much demonic in nature, but necrotic. And far more profound than the akuma taint."

 

He looked around to see if he had made any sense. Oblivious to the fact that Tinker and Mia were still unaware of his own exalted status.

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Mia was quiet for a moment, then said thoughtfully: "That is a sensible hypothesis. How do you know all that?"

 

Oh. Right. So much had happened that it was getting hard to get track of who knew what. "Hanzo is an Exalted of the Setting Sun."

 

"Ah," Mia said, taking it all in stride. "Well, that explains a few things."

She paused for a moment and then continued: "Like I said, the Infernal taint theory makes sense. Is there a way for us to verify that?"

 

 

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Pheonix listened to the on-going discussion of Web's theory. There was little she could add of any value to it - but any potential information speculated on could prove useful in any future dealings with other Abyssals. So she was content to listen in silence - for now anyway.

 

Web considered the input of the other Exalts, glad that this re-telling had gone better than the first mention. The basic idea of weapon and counter-weapon had already occurred in her mind - but the similarities were just too strong to be merely that kind of coincidental relationship.

 

Hmmm a tainted Shard... how would one go about testing for such a thing? As far as Web knew, there was no way of separating Akuma from normal Exalts without some sort of intervention - like a trigger phrase.

 

"If there is a way of viewing the shards directly, without separating it from the host, we may be able to locate the source of the taint or at least see the differences with more clarity." Web spoke, then added somewhat hesitantly, "though that would require a comparison between a Solar and Abyssal shard of counterpart Castes to eliminate as much variation as possible."

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Hanzo shook his head at Web's words.

 

"The only way to view a shard is with highly specialized equipment. The only one who has access to that would be the God of Exaltation. In Yu Shan."

 

He looked at Web with some apology in his eyes.

 

"And whatever happens, I am *NOT* going to let you enter Yu Shan. If there is only an infinitesimally small chance of you being infected with the power of the Neverborn, that is a risk too great to take. And I do not mean that in a personal way. It is just, we fought them for a reason. I would like them to stay dead and defeated."

 

He had sounded more resolute than he had ever sounded. This obviously was important for Hanzo. Or maybe to the memories of the exaltations that he shared with his shard.

Edited by Biologist

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"Uhm, yes," Shaya tried to keep an even face, "visiting the gods is probably a bit much." She was about to declare the matter a hypothetical, when Mia spoke up.

 

"Couldn't we build a machine that reads souls?" the Eclipse asked. "Perhaps after we finish the current mission?" To the Eclipse and her fight against the Neverborn, Web's theory was interesting to say the least. If Abyssals were indeed tainted Solars, that implied there was a way to change them back - thus striking the Neverborn a heavy blow.

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"Couldn't we build a machine that reads souls..." Hanzo repeated with an incredulous laugh, until his mind kicked into high gear and he began to see the possibilities and requirements of such an endeavour.

 

"Well, theoretically, we could. After all, it has been done before. The materials needed will quite possibly be rather exotic, maybe even unobtainable. And to test whether it actually works would require a working knowledge of what shards look like and what they *should* look like."

 

His mind started to wander. "I would probably need a well stocked laboratory or a fully equipped first age smithy. We could try..."

 

Then he turned his attention back to the present company. "Wasn't there a factory city in the south east? I distinctly remember something like that..."

Edited by Biologist

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Web considered Mia's suggestion as well as Hanzo's subsequent musing.

 

"We may be able to do both - or at least make a start on gathering the needed materials and knowledge - while on our primary goal...." Web mentioned, as her own recent memory kicked in.

 

The objective, getting to the Orbs before her Deathlord did, wasn't mutually exclusive to the secondary mission.

 

Web turned towards Shaya, as she expanded on her statement.

 

"It is possible that the borderlands cache contains information on such an endeavour, or at least indicate where we may find such."

 

Perhaps there was a way to prove or disprove her theory after all....

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((I am currently swimming in deadlines and it'll be another week before I can type up a decent reply. Until then, just assume Shaya is thinking and Mia is listening.))

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[Just so Pheonix is doing something other than looking like a lemon.]

 

While Hanzo started speculating about the feasibility of Mia's suggestion, Pheonix's mind wandered to what information the Seventh had on Abyssal Exalts.

 

It was, she was embarrassed to admit - even to herself - not a lot at all. Especially as they were considered a threat. Intelligence gathering in that department hadn't got very far in the details - just enough of an overview to know they were considered highly dangerous.

 

Like most Dragon Bloods assume Solars are... with good reason. She glanced sideways at the still-thinking Shaya, Pheonix had seen enough of her CO's combat abilities to know the assumption wasn't without merit. Though the assumption of abominations was taking it a little too far.

 

Her attention went back to Web and Hanzo, noting that he'd asked a question at some point during her internal musing.

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"Yes." Hanzo replied to Web. "There might be enough material in the borderlands cache to start working on a viable Exaltation Detector."

 

He looked serious. "If I recall correctly from the Lookshy Vaults Archives, a Soulbreaker Orb contains a wealth of materials that are highly charged already. If we can obtain them from the enemy, I'm sure I could figure out a way to dismantle them and use whatever we are left with. Provided there are usable materials left, if we strip away the metal that radiates pure hatred."

 

He was actually looking forward to working on something as complex as world shattering artifacts. Then his face darkened as the memories of previous lives became more vivid.

 

"Mind you. It is an operation best performed in a well-stocked workplace, with precision equipment and speicalized training. I would be doing this in the field, going on memories of another lifetime... I strongly recommend dismantling the Orbs, but you would do well to stay clear of the blast radius just in case..."

 

The implications of what would happen if he made a mistake needed not be said out loud.

 

"I propose we make plans for the journey East and leave soon. Best be on our way now that we have succeeded in convincing the River Province and The Chumyo."

Edited by Biologist

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Shaya opened her mouth to protest harvesting a Soulbreaker Orb for parts, then closed it again. What the heck did she know about the mechanics of Soulbreaker Orbs, anyway. Maybe it was a piece a cake - even if she didn't think so.

 

"Yes," she replied to Hanzo's last suggestion, "we leave at first light."

 

((Iirc this is the afternoon after the fight/meeting and the unit has the rest of the day off.))

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((correct. The afternoon following at least 24 straight hours of negotiation smile.gif ))

Edited by Biologist

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[Yep. Wonder what our sneaky eavesdropper makes of all this? Not to mention Tinker about Web's theory. The reaction of his Circle should be interesting...]

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