Kiyoshi stood at the edge of the precipice, the wind screaming in his ears. Below him, Dragon’s Heart Plain lay out flat and peaceful in the moonlight, blissfully ignorant of mankind’s woes. Kiyoshi looked over the plain sadly. Once, he, too, had been ignorant and at peace.
Two days ago, that had all changed. When she came into his life. Amaya, beautiful destroyer of his life.
They would be coming for him soon. The hunters could not risk him going free. He knew too much. He knew what they had done to her.
In the distance, Kiyoshi could sense the kami moving. They were excited. They could feel the presence of people moving. It was too much to hope that it wasn’t his pursuers. They had seen through his tricks, and he had only earned a brief respite. Their maho was more than enough to thwart his meager skills.
Quietly, insistently, Kiyoshi attempted to coax the earth kami to his will. They swirled around him, curious, playful, but unheeding his entreaties. Briefly he managed to convince a few to pay attention, and a portion of his trail disappeared. The kami went back to their games.
Sweating with exertion in the freezing air, Kiyoshi pleaded with the kami. The path weakened along the ridge, then stabilized as he lost control. He checked on his pursuers, seeing through the kami. Five of them. He knew them all, had grown up with them. Their leader…
Kiyoshi’s shoulders slumped. He had hoped Amaya had been wrong, even in the face of the evidence. But the kami showed him the truth. He could no longer cling to this, the last vestige of his innocence.
The hunters would be here within minutes. Kiyoshi was out of time. There was nothing left he could do. With that realization, his trepidation and fear vanished. His path was set – it was now beyond his control. Maybe it always had been.
A figure stepped out from the treeline onto the bare rock of the cliff edge. He advanced on Kiyoshi, leaving his four companions to lurk in the shadows of the forested slope. In the moonlight, Kiyoshi beheld with his own eyes the man he had seen through the kami. Quietly, his voice lost in the wind, he spoke.
Chuda Makoto looked at his son, a shadow of irritation crossing his normally placid face. “Kiyoshi. I tried to spare you this.”
“To spare me what Knowledge of your betrayal” Kiyoshi spat. “Were you ashamed for your son to see you for what you are”
“You can still join us,” the old man said. “This need not end badly.”
“And if I don’t” Kiyoshi asked. “Will you kill me, the way you killed Amaya The way you probably killed my mother”
“She was an imperial magistrate,” Makoto said calmly. “She would have revealed us. She did not understand.” He reached out one hand to his son.
“She understood, father,” Kiyoshi said. “She understood only too well.”
“This is our heritage!” Makoto shouted. “Isawa himself knew this!”
“Lord Isawa lived almost 400 years ago!” Kiyoshi was shouting as well. “Maho then was still pure, had not yet been corrupted by Fu Leng’s touch!”
The old man gazed at his son sorrowfully before speaking. “This is your last chance, my son. Will you join us”
“I’m sorry, father.” Tears ran down Kiyoshi’s cheeks as he took a step backwards over the cliff edge.
The air whistled past him as he fell. The last thing that passed through Kiyoshi’s mind was the sight of the moon, high in the sky, at peace.
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