Miko's Heart, Beyond Lawful Good (Part 9)

The dawn seems somehow hopeful, and I do not rise feeling cold or particularly troubled. I know that I can move forward now, although I take time not to think too hard about the path itself. Renewing my journey is easy, but the wondrous morning only lasts so long. Once more I have the sense of eyes watching me, different than before. I know that I am being watched by something that is not from Outside, but from home. In fact, I am reminded disturbingly of the throne room in Azure City, and of certain travels throughout the city proper.

I ensure that my blades are free to be drawn, and not a moment too soon! I recognize well the garb of hired assassins, having had the pleasure of purging their stain from this world more than once. Luck alone allows me to be free of my steed before it is taken to the ground by darts intended for my person, undoubtedly poisoned. I pray to the Twelve, even knowing how fleeting my prayers are to their ears now that I am no longer their blessed agent. I shout my defiance to the sun himself as I charge these honorless dogs!

Without the Twelve guiding my hand and my soul, the darts of these dogs still pierce my skin. I hardly notice at first, chasing down one and hamstringing another with swift strikes. Cowards that they are, the remainder waste no time in moving. Even as I try to focus on one and bring him to the ground they leap about and continue to peg me with their annoying…darts…of course…poison. My body falls to its knees despite my will to fight, and it takes all that I am to keep breathing steadily as the Coward’s Weapon courses through me. There must be something…I can do…must be…must…be… …

I awake without any sense of the time. I am in a room that is dimly lit and somewhat stuffy, bound by ropes without my armor. I can see somewhat through the tangled mass of my hair, but it is hard to understand what I am seeing. A voice breaks the confusion, one of cold confidence I know too well, “Ah, you are awake at last. For a moment I feared I would need to waste some restorative magic on you, and with everything going to relieving the population Hinjo might have pesky questions about my use of resources.”

I spit at the boots of this honorless dog, unable to raise my head enough to aim where he deserves, “Kubota. What in the name of the Twelve are you playing at?”

His arched eyebrow says volumes even as he elaborates, “An old resource of mine mentioned you had been brought back to the land of the living. I thought that finally I had found a warrior who could best Hinjo! My retrieval squad paid dearly for your capture, but no more than I have already paid thrice over to be thwarted by those blasted foreigners.”

I cannot hide my confusion, “You believe I would slay Hinjo for you?”

Kubota’s smile is as slimy as the serpent he truly is, “Of course not, my dear, I know you would never work for me. I have no intention of hiring you for anything. I just thought you might like to get back at those who have wronged you so.”

I blow my hair to the side, struggling to move my limbs as I question, “I do not understand…Shojo is dead. The city is gone.”

Kubota takes on a fatherly air, and even I cannot help but feel the effects of it, “Ah, my dear, if only it were that simple. I have heard witnesses tell of what transpired in that fateful room. Shojo was a cunning old schemer; did you really think his corruption ended with him?”

Anger rises as feeling and strength return to me. I am hogtied! On some geisha’s bed! I scowl as best I can, “I know my error now, dog. Hinjo will lead our people over your deceptions, honorably, into new life.”

Kubota’s laugh is harsh, his words direct, “Such naiveté still. And what on earth makes you believe Hinjo is any better than his uncle? He was as much a part of his uncle’s plans as the Order of the Stick. You do know that he is still trying to lead an assault against the lich since their initial plot failed to exterminate us all? That he works with the Order to lead us back against an entrenched multitude of goblins and undead, when we could easily settle and rebuild our lives unmolested elsewhere? His poor decisions and leadership have led to numerous ships of innocent civilians to be lost to assaults. Only led to more attacks on our survivors.”

I rage against him, “You lie! Hinjo would never do such a thing! He would make port and rebuild as soon as possible, to rebuild a full military expedition and reclaim our home!”

Kubota pushed a small table full of tactical charts and maps up beneath my nose. They were in Hinjo’s hand! His notes about all I had been unable to be there for…and Kubota used them to back his claim, “See for yourself, woman. This chronicles our journey since we left our port. Notice our circuitous route. How long we spend in dangerous waters and near enemy shores. His own notes on our losses. He has stubbornly resisted all attempts at reason, promoted commoners to the nobility to undermine our traditions, and consolidates power just like his uncle.”

I shake my head, trying to deny the proof before my eyes. Was all of that talk with Hinjo falsehood? Was I sent to his uncle after just to muddle my mind? That would mean even if handsome Roy didn’t know that he had been manipulated! I know not which I would have preferred, for either scorches my heart. I whisper through hot tears, “If there is a clearly better way, then he must follow it or abdicate. For the good of our people! How can this be true? HOW?!”

Kubota’s smile is dark, and his hair falls about him like a perfect curtain to match his silken robe. He caresses my cheek and a shiver runs through me. A shiver that makes me conscious of wearing less cloth than even Shojo’s dirty mind gave me! And bound so! Yet I cannot find objection to his touch, I cannot but think of his caressing me further…Twelve, this is not right. My attraction to Matsumo and others is my own, but this is not! And I am helpless before its pull. I cry out, “What do you want?!”

Kubota is commiserating, “My dear, I want only to help you. To enjoy your beauty, and all the more as you strike down your enemies. The enemies of our people. Surely you cannot begrudge me such selflessness for our people and such a minor indulgence for myself. I want only to help you, my dear.”

I cannot even protest as his soft lips caress my own, his hands smoothing my hair. Twelve, if ever I have needed aid it is now…

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