Yes, I’m posting this at once. And I apologise for flooding the feeds. ^^; Sorry guys.
Chapter 2: Flowery Moon
She sat on the stairs leading up to the porch of her home, a cup of chai in her hands and the shawl around her. It was nearly winter, the trees were bare but there had been no snowfall yet. She could not wait for the snowfall to begin. It meant that the winter holidays were close and soon she would see her siblings again. Three months had passed since their last reunion. It had not been an eventful three months, but she was sure they would have plenty of stories to tell. She flipped her hair over her shoulder, the three braids on each side held back by a single rose petal
The wind rustled the leaves neatly piled in one corner. A few moved but they did not fly away. She took a last sip of the chai, draining it, and then stood up, putting the mug on the railing surrounding the porch. She kept her back to the yard, looking at the door. Looking almost relaxed, she stood with her back straight and her hands relaxed at her side. Her golden hair shone in the moonlight, while the rose was almost black, seeming to absorb the moon’s light instead of reflecting it. The three plaits could be seen clearly, shining like golden chain links. The white tee was almost blinding in its reflection, peeking through what it could of the shawl; it seemed to want to cover her body in an ethereal glow. Her pale skin shone in the moonlight as she stood there, not moving.
She shrugged the shawl off, and the tee-shirt glowed. As it fell to the ground, she moved. Or rather, blurred.
They came at her from outside, not giving any quarter. She expected none and would give them none either. Her movements were far too fast for them to follow. In fact, she had her eyes closed and was simply moving, or more accurately, dancing. She moved to a rhythm only she knew, but they were not really challenges. Their strategy seemed to be overwhelming her with numbers, but a good fighter knew how to dance if there were more than one dancer seeking to challenge her.
As she fought, she hummed a soft melody under her breath. Perhaps if she still remembered the tune after this, she would ask her brother to put it to music. He was quite good with tunes. Her thoughts though, were interrupted by someone screaming. A small child’s scream. She stopped while in the midst of a disabling another fighter by slicing at her opponent’s eyes. They had used their numbers to distract her while someone went for the children. As she was not yet legal and an orphan, her siblings had placed her in a halfway home. She had come to love her foster family and the children they kept; Mama Ikari was a rather good mother for a woman who had no real children of her own.
“Sukina obaa-san!!!” the child cried out at her, calling her auntie. She stopped, watching in horror as the man was holding the child up by her hair, and the child, to make matters even worse, had long hair, which meant the man was holding her above his head, lifting her feet above the ground. The child turned while being held by her own hair.
“Leave her be!” She shouted at them, even as she knew they would not. They were the type to kill everyone without asking. The silence in the house made her fear the worst; had they already killed the children?
“Stop fighting and come with us then, Ruminyana,” he used her Clan name, which meant that he knew who she was.
“Silence is not an answer, girl. What will it be?” his tone clearly said that he thought little of her.
“Retreat is not surrendering, but merely retreating and re-assessing what resources you have. Once you have stock of your options, you may return to the fight,” she stopped and let her hands rest at her sides, seemingly defeated. The little girl, as though having taken a cue from the older girl, stopped squirming and screaming, enduring the hair-pulling with an eerily calm air.
“Take her into custody,” the man said, but an answer came instead from the girl.
“I believe she asked you to release me,” the girl said, staring straight ahead. The man turned to look at her, and she lashed out at him. Turning herself quickly, her leg kicked him in the solar plexus. He doubled over and dropped her with a cry, but she kept on moving, landing and launching herself well towards the older girl. The house was suddenly filled with screams and the girls outside fought back with renewed vigour.
It took less than two minutes to get them all, and the ones who tried to escape found themselves spouting daggers at their backs. When the fight was over, Mama Ikari came out holding two toddlers in her arms. She was also looking very worried. The rest of the children followed her soon after, most dragging the other men out. With the exception of the ones she had disabled outside, the rest that they dragged were all corpses. The gender balance was almost equal, but the oddest thing was that none of them carried any markings. There was nothing really to show where they came from or who sent them. It would have been a disappointment if it were not that the young girl had managed to knock the man who was holding her hair out. That had been a lucky shot as he had been trying to escape and she was reminded not to kill all of them as they needed information on who was assaulting them.
“I’ve called Naoko-sama, Sukina. She says to move to the Safehouse and that she’s on her way,” Mama Ikari said, holding the children close to her. She had known that the children were special and so was their training, but it was brought home to her today in a very direct and perhaps terrifying manner today.
“Thanks, Mama Ikari, but I wished you could have waited. Ah well. We’ll take this one with us,” Sukina gave the order, while a young man of perhaps 15 spoke up. He was younger than her.
“Transport will be arriving soon, Lady Sukina,” not many gave her a title or even knew she had a few, “And they will be here in a few minutes,” he added.
“Let’s get packed then. This is not a safe place,” they left all the assault team, men, women, dead or alive, there in the yard except for the man who had pulled the girl’s hair. He they dragged with them to the safe house, knocking him out so that if by some he escaped, he would not know where they were.
Or even if the place was worth escaping.
When the car pulled up the driveway and the driver got out of the car without even making sure that the ignition was off, she had just been awake for a few minutes. They had reached the safe house a few hours before that, and while everyone was asleep, she had stayed awake making security preparations. It had seemed unneccessary at first, but the reports that were coming in brought more people to them and soon the house had been locked down tight. The mansion where they sought shelter belonged to her family, but she rarely used it, preferring for it to be used only in cases of extreme emergencies.
Like it looked like this night was becoming.
It was nearly dawn when the red Porsche pulled up and her sister got down from the car. They recognised her on sight and it did not take long for her to explain who she was. They had hurried to open the gate for her; she had burst from the driver’s seat once the car had stopped at the entrance to the mansion. When the door was opened, she stood there and hugged her sister wordlessly. The slightly older girl had grown her hair out, she noticed, and she smelled fresh, as though she had just bathed. It was a delightful smell.
“How many so far, Sukina?” their brother asked, getting down from the passenger’s side. He knew better than to drive when any of his sisters were agitated, and this was a perfect example of that.
“We’ve lost two families and half of a sept. And that’s just for the Kamigoroshi clan. Three septs reported losses just now, Onee-chan…” she referred to her sister, who broke the embrace and nodded.
“The Mistsutani have formally declared war. The other Clans are expected to follow shortly,” her sister said. “Even so, I estimate we’ve lost at least 15% of our able fighters and perhaps as high as half of our administrative staff who are either retired, working for us as Menalippe’s Children or those who have no connection whatsoever except they were unlucky enough to be normal staff,” she sounded like she was reading from a manual. “Whoever’s doing this doesn’t want us dead. They want us exterminated. I don’t think this is just a simple strike back. I think this is a declaration of war against Celeste’s Daughters.”
Sukina cursed. She knew the figures would be bad, but she had not expected it to be this bad. There had always been reprisals against what they did for a living, but she had not expected it to be this bad. Being attacked by mercenaries and people whom they had offended over the years was one thing, but fighting with another Order was something else entire. The other Divine Beings had their own orders, and there had been wars before this, but none like these. Most Orders would not go to such extremes unless they were members of a different clergy, but even they would have stopped at wanton slaughter and extermination. And no one would touch children, especially not when you could potentially bring them over to your side. The crimes committed by those slaughtering them were not those who would proclaim the greatness of their clergy, but rather someone who was intent on wiping them out completely.
“This is no ordinary war. Have you summoned Celeste?” their brother spoke.
“No, Aniki. She hasn’t answered my call. I suspect that this could be her week as a mortal,” she replied. “Let’s get ready for war. Whoever’s attacking us knows that the element of surprise will no longer work; it’s been hours since the attacks began.”
“They’ll be attacking us in other ways. Financially, emotionally… I’m pretty sure they know how to strike a crippling blow,” Sukina led the way inside and straight to the kitchen. She knew her siblings well.
There were other women in the kitchen, most of whom were preparing breakfast. The siblings sat themselves at the counter and someone gave them eggs, toast, beans and coffee. In quiet, low voices, the three of them got down to the business of running the war. The women did not give them a second look, but many were passing unusually close to them as they ate. The siblings knew this, and thus spoke in a cryptic manner and in different languages. Unless you were an expert at dead languages, what they spoke would seem like gibberish.
For them, noise worked better than silence when it came to secrets.