I had never thought that life would be boring upon moving to Abinue, but I will testify that I had never expected it to come to something such as this. I had set myself up in comfort, on the arm of a relatively handsome man who kept me well off with trinkets and doting, and who I was not altogether bored by. Perhaps I was even becoming fond of Lord Primthorn, but dwelling on any blossoming feelings is pointless now.
Everything changed, and the Whispering Sakura is responsible for it, although not guilty of what occurred. I frequented the tea house because it was stylish to be there, even if it was a not so carefully concealed front for an upscale brothel. My lord enjoyed watching the women, and I, with my baser appetites, enjoyed the view of the rougher guardsmen and dock workers who passed through the street on a regular basis. A sunny day shortly after Calibration is the perfect time for things such as this.
Even I, with my whimsical fancies, could not have ignored the men who appeared across the street that day at The Boiling Pond, a noodle house where I have never eaten. I know how it is, to wish to conceal one’s identity, but I also admit to a large streak of curiosity, and so I paid some attention to them.
I’m not sure, now, how everything unfolded. The night’s events are so clear in my mind and yet… so muddled and distant. I do know that Still Sky took Shou and the street cleaner with him off to a warehouse after some suspicious activity running back and forth. Later, I discovered that they went to meet with Black Sand Symphony, an assassin who was once the master of Xia Wren, and was seeking her continued services. He was refused, of course, but insisted that the mistress of the Whispering Sakura attend the Queen’s birthday party at the palace. Not a coincidence, we were sure, and although I was at the Whispering Sakura simply awaiting the return of a rough and tumble dock worker who had caught my fancy, I somehow got wrapped up in the excitement of the events.
It seems that I am unable to avoid such scandal as this, nor would I have tried. I love it.
We informed my lord of our suspicions regarding Black Sand Symphony and he agreed to give them invitations to his grandmother’s party – I was already expected to be on his arm, of course.
Things were normal, at first. We arrived, we danced, and everyone – men and women alike – were atwitter over Lord Captain Professor Silver Trout’s return to Abinue. I admit, his stories of adventure and his travels with the Solar Exalted set my heart beating as it did all who heard him speak. There is something irresistable about the man, whether it is his handsome looks, his charming smile, or his captivating way of storytelling. Whatever it is, that plus the dancing and the drink were enough to keep the crowd entertained and their eyes away from the assassins crawling up the walls and towards the ceiling. Even I was oblivious, and did not know until Shou and Xia Wren were running towards the stairs with Silver Trout in tow.
In the end, we were too late. The Queen’s chambers had been breached, and as we stepped over the threshold, a woman looking to be Xia Wren’s twin – or the woman herself – was already drawing a moonsilver dagger across her Majesty’s throat. Instantly, my comrades went from street rabble to warriors, and they stormed into the room with weapons taken from the body’s of her Majesty’s own fallen guard. I was no warrior, however, but even bitches have teeth and claws, and I have never been one to stand back and allow such callous cruelty to befall any.
This creature – as we discovered shortly after, she was a disgusting chimera of a Lunar Exalted, twisted into multiple forms with limbs like an octopus and the legs of a horse – was not alone, either. At least half a dozen men filled the room, and with them was Black Sand Symphony, one of the children of the Dragons. We fought, with sword and arrow, with fist and feet, but what good were we against skilled men, let alone those chosen by gods?
I will never forget the feel of the blade sliding into my flesh, through my organs, out my back. I will never forget the pain and the darkness, the struggle to breathe, and the desperate will to cling to life. I will never forget the slackening of my limbs as I hung on that blade, and I will never forget the words etched into my mind, offering me a second chance at life. Would you not have taken it? Is anyone strong enough to not reach out for such a chance? I am not sure if it was a moment of strength, or a moment of weakness, but I knew there was no other choice. I took it.
The darkness extended out around me to encompass the beast and myself, even as my companions threw themselves at Black Sand Symphony, all of them required and failing at driving the great dragon’s child back. But even as the blackness surrounded and engulfed me, so were they surrounded by brilliant light. Yellow and white and blue and purple, beautiful spirals of the color of the noonday sun to the tinted displays of the sunset on the horizon. And the silver of Luna’s sweet rays.
As I am the darkness, they are the light. I know the truth now – there can be no light without dark, no dark without light. And as I shall be their sober reminder of the realities of this world, so shall they be my hope to overcome them.
-Aria Rising in Sober Triumph