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|Winter Breaks Through Fall Part 1|
One: Hushed Mystery
March 11, 2013
Previously in Tempests
After seducing Lord Saromi, Kanae discovers that Lady Saromi's betrayal would ruin Saromi, and through him Emperor Mashita. However, not all is as it seems: it turns out that Lady Saromi is not a supporter of Empress Ichihara, she is Ichihara. To make matters more scandalous, after Sohyon visited Madam Lao, he impregnated her while unconscious!
Events are shifting
- I've long since lost track of the days. I think I've been in Ishi Sentō for about six months; summer has long since passed, and winter is breaking through fall. A lot has happened since my last entry, and I'm beginning to think that I will have to return to the temple without solving the situation. Things have been steadily getting worse, and I can tell from the whispers that they're only bound to continue further downhill. Maybe you will be more successful as the Avatar—even if you're role will only be to stop a war. Neither side seems too keen to begin fighting, however, so I think there's a chance that the conflict will not have escalated by the time you're old enough to intervene.
- Now, I'm sure that you'll have heard about this by the time you read my journal. Speaking candidly, I was duped. It's rather awkward to admit, but the Empress put me into some sort of trance and I apparently impregnated her. Maybe it'll be a joke in a few years, but right now it is horrifying, to say the least. In the most disinterested terms I can think of, Empress Ichihara is a psychopath. She feigns kindness at first—and I believe she will do this with you as well—and then proceeds to stab you in the back. I think it is some sort of personality disorder, and she needs to be stopped. I never trusted her, and I can tell that this conflict is more connected to her than it is to Emperor Mashita.
- I am not sure whether Emperor Mashita can be trusted either. He came forward and expressed his own personal interests, particularly his plot to kill his son. Eiichi Mashita is not a trustworthy leader, but the Emperor's sneaking around and plotting to kill his own son is unsettling. Though he has this nefarious plan, I cannot ignore the fact that he came forward and out-and-out told me. I think, maybe, Emperor Mashita is a man of honor, and though he is a part of this dispute, he wants to win on honorable terms instead of weaseling his way through the conflict as Empress Ichihara seems to be. Further, Emperor Mashita explained a few things to me regarding further details regarding the situation.
- Earlier, I may have mentioned that there was an attempt on Empress Ichihara's life. I don't remember whether I did or not, and honestly I am too weary to go back and re-read my entries. Regardless, an assassin killed her sister and gave her a scar on her hand, and everyone presumed the culprit was Emperor Mashita. The Emperor explained that he had no desire to end the Empress's life (as it was a part of his plan), and further expressed that Lord Saromi seemed to have some sort of mission to make sure that Mashita won out in the conflict. It seems that my initial instincts towards Lord Saromi were correct.
- On the note of Lord Saromi, a few days ago Kanae pretended to be a prostitute to seduce information out of him. Here, I choose to go back to the subject of Lady Saromi. It happens that she learned that if Lady Saromi were disloyal, it would ruin him. Then, we had an encounter with Empress Ichihara; she explained everything, including how she had masqueraded as Lady Saromi—her sister—in order to ruin Lord Saromi and apparently to become pregnant with my child... It's all rather confusing to me, but Eizo and Kanae are taking it entirely differently than I.
- Something is off about them. I don't know if this would particularly pertain to you, Avatar, but neither of them is entirely normal. I know Eizo vanished when he was younger and doesn't want to talk about it, but Kanae has something she's hiding as well. A person doesn't react to Eizo the way she does if she has lived all her life in the temples—I know that I don't understand half of what he says, and we've been friends since we were kids. It's offsetting. But like I said, I don't think it particularly pertains to you. Or maybe it might. I have no idea what might happen, but it's looking like we might have to return to the temple sooner rather than later.
- Right now, Kanae and Eizo are out. According to what they've heard, word about Empress Ichihara has spread like wildfire. In all honesty, I don't know what would happen if I left the house. It's been a few weeks since I've left the house—as soon as rumor began to grow; I locked myself in here for the sake of avoiding the stares. Maybe staying isolated is making it worse, but I'm truthfully not prepared for this sort of situation. I'll have to leave this abode soon; I can feel it in my bones. It's that feeling that I'm going to have to leave, whether it's back to confront the crowds or back to the Air Temple with my tail between my legs.
- I should be writing more, but I just can't seem to remember. As strange as it might sound, you feel kind of like a daughter to me in that I'm writing all of this what-will-probably-be-kind-of-like-life-advice stuff that you may or may not actually end up reading. Even if Ichihara's coming child will be mine, I know for a fact that it will not feel like it. I guess... maybe I do want to be a father. You probably think I'm crazy.
- It's okay because I think I am, too.
A cool crisp air met the faces of the two Air Nomads as they walked the streets of the Earth Kingdom city. Stares and whispers followed them, but they intently continued forward as if the voices around them did not exist. Every now and again, they would stop at a market stall, pull out a few coins in exchange for some item, and proceed on their way while the merchant wondered what was going through the minds of these two whose social standing was quickly deteriorating. None would ever know what they were thinking, and quite honestly few would ever care to realize that the male was in fact not the one to whom their gossip is directed.
Between the two, only one seemed a little on edge; Eizo's expression was relaxed, maybe even a little detached, whereas Kanae continually followed the gazes of the bystanders. "Sohyon can't stay holed up forever," Kanae finally declared after they had been walking the streets of the city for about an hour. "The rumors will only escalate—he needs to confront them or run away from them, but he can't keep letting them beat against all of us like this."
Eizo shook his head, stopping at a stall for a moment and then proceeding. "That's for him to decide, not us. If he wants to stay in that house for the rest of his life, it's his choice. The fact of the matter is that Soh was sent on this mission..." After this statement, Eizo trailed off. "At this point, I'm not even sure the Air Nomads would have us back."
Though Kanae wanted to dispute this point, she knew it was true; leaving the temple against the will of the Elders would not put them in the highest favor. Sohyon might be accepted back despite failing in the mission, though Kanae knew that this might very well be the final straw for her and Eizo. "All the more reason he should confront the rumors and fix this problem once and for all—I know that's what I would do."
For a while, they were simply silent. In the last few months, their mood had shifted drastically; earlier they might have been exchanging coquettish remarks, but today they simply walked the streets in near silence. Something was egging at both of their minds, and each could see this in the other. Since Sohyon had begun to confine himself in the house, neither could be entirely at ease. It was the nervousness for a friend for whom they could really do little to nothing. Both Eizo and Kanae were problem solvers, and this above all else set them on edge.
Their journey through the street eventually brought them to the outskirts of town, where they had first entered the city. The barn which Lord Saromi had set ablaze was in sight, flooding both with all the memories of the past several weeks. Though they had only spent a small portion of their life in Ishi Sentō, both felt like the experiences were more than they would ever have felt back in the Air Temple. Experiencing the outside world was something most Air Nomads lacked, but neither could decide whether this made them a better person. With a sigh Eizo turned around to return to their temporary residence. Kanae, however, did not immediately follow. Her gaze locked on the barn, and she began to speak, "Eizo... I've been meaning to talk with you." Though Eizo did not continue walking, he did not turn around either, nor respond. "I... I mean... I know that there has to be something different about us—compared to the other Air Nomads at least. I haven't talked with anyone about what happened, but I think I need to get it off my chest..."
This statement made Eizo uneasy. Kanae could not see the drastic shift in his expression to one of discomfort, but it was one he could not really hide. "I don't mean to be rude, Kanae," Eizo pursed his lips, still not turning, "but I'm not really the sort who is good at listening to that sort of thing..."
"Of course," Kanae replied just a bit too quickly after Eizo finished. "You probably wouldn't care, either."
"It's not that—"
"We should head back." The female Air Nomad was clearly upset, and immediately Eizo knew that he had responded wrong. Truthfully, neither was fully used to interacting like this, and their social awkwardness was only heightened by their shared anxiety over everything that was happening around them. Things in the city were only getting progressively worse and worse, and both were desperately trying to cope.
Neither said anything as they made their way to the small house.
An abrupt banging against the door made Sohyon jump. He had been in the midst of meditation—something with which he had been occupying himself more recently—and knew for a fact that neither Eizo nor Kanae would have knocked. The Air Nomad's heightened sense of paranoia kicked in, and very tentatively he approached the door. Before opening it, he called in as cordial a voice as he could muster, "Who is it?"
"Um... I am a messenger of Emperor Mashita's, sir."
With this response, Sohyon opened the door ever so slightly. "It's been a while since the Emperor or Empress has contacted me. What does he have to say?" Sohyon's eyes narrowed and his brow furrowed, taking on his typical expression of thoughtfulness despite how greatly he seemed to have changed.
"The Emperor is hosting a parade and gala, sir." Immediately after saying this, the messenger added, "Nothing like any of Lord Saromi's parties, sir—the parade is planned to be during the day, with floats created by the best artisans and to be attended by both the Emperor and the Empress. After the parade there will be a nice mid-day party with exquisite food and nobility exclusively." The messenger was holding a piece of paper, which he uncomfortably fiddled with as he tried to explain the event to Sohyon.
"Is there any particular reason for this event?"
"Well, not really, sir..." Then, the messenger seemed to think of something, "the Emperor did say, however, that he wanted you to attend to show that you were still neutral and willing to hear both his side and the Empress's at the same time in an event unrelated to the politics and rumors."
Sohyon had opened the door completely now, and leaned against it wearily. "I suppose this is one of those 'optional' events?" He put an emphasis on the word "optional" to suggest his sarcasm.
The messenger laughed politely. "You are very funny, sir." He held out the letter tentatively, which Sohyon took.
"Thank you," Sohyon replied politely.
Right as the messenger turned to leave, he literally ran into someone. Eizo clutched his face—where the messenger's forehead had smacked into his nose—and reeled for a moment. "Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch..."
"Excuse me, sir!" With that, the messenger quickly went on his way.
"What was he here about?" Kanae asked, stepping into the house in front of Eizo.
Sohyon shook his head and sighed. "The Emperor is holding some sort of event..."
Subtly, Eizo and Kanae glanced at each other. Kanae seemed slightly dumbstruck at how quickly their concerns had been addressed—and how abruptly. Thus, Eizo was the one to inquire, "And you'll be attending...?"
With a slight sigh, Sohyon shrugged. "I suppose I will be."
OH SNAP! Character development tease!
For those of you who are slightly confused as to how the timeline is proceeding, there were several months of lull, which I think is rather fitting, between Sohyon meeting with Madam Lao and now between Empress Ichihara being a freak and the time of this chapter.
Finally, the next two chapters are shorter than most because... things.
For the collective works of the author, go here.