Diadem

Chapter 1: Firefly

There were only two women in the room when he entered. The one sitting sipping her tea quietly was a honey-blond with her hair pulled back neatly in a ponytail. Her violet eyes were half-lidded, hidden behind long lashes. Every movement was delicate and langorous. She looked like the very picture of health, at least compared to the other woman who was standing. She looked worn and harried, her long red hair tinged with streaks of gray. There were puffy circles under her bright green eyes, and new wrinkles on her face that he had not seen before. He made a mental note to send the woman on a vacation; they could not afford to lose her. For now though, it was time to hear their reports.

“Have a seat, Valerie. Good afternoon, Aira. Valerie tells me you have something to report?” he took a seat across Aira while Valerie sat off to his right, forming a triangle. His tone was formal and his question was more of a request than an order.

“Yes, Master Kishan. I have received confirmation about the orders Lady Naoko requested me to investigate. They are being channeled to a house owned by someone who seems to call himself a bomoh,” Aira had pushed the tea set away, switching from the seductress to the businesswoman in a blink. “I have not been able to speak with him yet, but from what I have heard and seen of his effects, he seems to be nothing more than a charlatan. The only lasting effect he has on those he treats seem to be their wallet. Their changes seem to be more psychological rather than actually magical. I’ll only know this after I meet with him though. A patron of mine has arranged for me to be “examined” by him the day after tomorrow,” Aira continued.

“Is he the religious lifestyle type?” Valerie spoke up, her tired voice sounding far more watery than usual. He made a mental note to have Valerie examined. It would sound like her sore throat had not left her.

“Yes and no. He’s not actively seeking followers. From what I heard he was actually trying to dissuade them from following. His followers insist on the treatment though. He is called Pak Darai, but I do not think that is his real name. I’ll be able to give a better picture once I see him day after tomorrow,” Aira’s tone did not give anything away, but Kishan thought he detected a hint of respect from the younger woman to the older lady. In many ways, Aira’s admiration of Valerie was obvious, even if the younger woman often snapped at the older.

“Whose teaching does he follow?” Kishan spoke after a few moments’ thoughts.

“A mixture, but he seems primarily to lift things off Thanatos’ dead cult,” that made Valerie pay attention.

“Which cult are we talking about, Aira?” Kishan asked very gently.

“The one that the Goddess Celeste took over,” Aira’s reply made Kishan and Valerie turn to each other in alarm.

“Aira, I want you to take Valerie with you. She’ll be able to confirm the ties to the cult. Don’t inflitrate the cult though. That’s not what you’re supposed to do and I do not want you to take the risk. Valerie, confirm the cult’s ties if possible. I’ll need to know if we need to cull him,” with those words, he stood up and left the meeting room, leaving the two women to work the details out.

~~~~~

“Master Kishan? Lady Sukina will see you now,” the female secretary told him as he entered his sister’s office. Their offices were next to each other, separated by thick walls and each respective secretary. He recognised the subtle summons his sister had sent, and went inside, the folder from Aira’s briefing still in his hand.

Upon entering, he found his dark-haired younger sister sitting on the couch with Sukina, their youngest sister, her blond head resting on her sister’s lap. A tall young woman stood in front of Sukina’s table, waiting for him. With the sun at her back, he could not see her face, but he knew who she was immediately. He went down on one knee before her, head held low.

“I am yours to command, Lady Celeste,” he recited the words by rote.

“No, you are not mine to command, Kishan. You never were. Arise. Naoko, awaken your sister,” she commanded the brunette.