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C6 Crows Come to Roost 4

The Overlord announced the end of the fight. All the warriors returned to the pavilion to a standing ovation. Healers immediately rushed to the injured to tend to their wounds. Mild refreshments were provided, and the Overlord spoke at length, about the role of the deputed preceptors in preparing the youngsters for the Legacy Trials. The battle with Yuuki Sensei was only symbolic of how treacherous and challenging the trials were to be, he said. The young Mikashita had learnt their lesson, and were charged to report at the training grounds the following morning, to Yuuki and Keiji Sensei. After a few words of patronage to the aspirants, and a brief prayer to the goddess, the Overlord dismissed the gathering.

Kento had his eyes peeled throughout the intense battle, and had unravelled every maneuver of Yuuki, and his cousins, in his mind. It was a gift he had, since he was quite young. He had trained for years for this day. But the day had come sooner than he had expected. He had just left his seat to return to the palace, when the Chief approached him.

Gotou: "Young master, the Overlord would like to see you now."

Kento looked around for his father in the retreating crowd, and saw him, treading the grounds alone. The young Mikashita caught up to the Overlord and bowed in courtesy. Senju beckoned his son to walk beside him.

Senju: "I was surprised when you did not participate in the demonstration, son. Are you feeling unwell?"

Kento had known his father long enough to surmise, that to escape his enquiry one had to speak the truth without any corruption. Senju valued honesty and sincerity; and he had instilled these virtues both in his family and his responsibilities as the leader of the village.

Kento: "I am confident of my combat abilities, father. But I am, after all, kitsu blind. It would be unwise to rush into the Legacy Trials and risk failure. But I assure you that I will yield to your wisdom."

Kitsu blindness was a common ailment, by vice of which, kin children failed to connect to raiki, from birth. Atleast four out of ten children were kitsu blind. Kento was one of them. His disability meant that he could never practice kitsu techniques. In the Legacy Trials, only two attempts were allowed. Failure in both attempts led to loss of eligibility for all future trials.

Senju squinted into the morning sun and held a hand to shield his eyes. A sudden breeze tousled the robes of both father and son.

Senju: "Tell me son- what makes a good Overlord?"

Kento: "Well, you have to be the strongest among the kin lords."

Senju sighed. They had reached the edge of the plateau. Metal railings ran all along the outer edge of the citadel. In the distance, the Youjin mountains were still shrouded in fog, although the sun shone bright and warm. It was fabled that snow sprites lived in the mountains, fed on snow, and breathed out fog.

Senju leaned on a railing and looked down the precipice, at the village of Karasuma.

Senju: "Come here and tell me what you see."

Kento approached the edge. The wind had picked up and was ruffling his brittle hair. He had to be careful as it was a steep, two hundred and fifty feet drop. Chojo hill had been cut into terraces to build the Karasuma village. The highest terrace housed the citadel. Every lower terrace jutted out more than the prior, and the faces plunged steeply. They were connected by roads hewn into the hill. A sentry stronghold was stationed at the entrance of the citadel terrace.

Now that the morning fog had started dissipating from the slopes of the hill, the lower terraces were visible from the edge of the Mikashita training grounds. The sub terrace was the toimaru, the Karasuma marketplace. It was primarily run by the merchant and craft guilds. Essential perishable items like grains, vegetables, fruits, flowers, and seeds were available in the northern zone, while the southern zone cooped the craft shops of spinners, smiths, tanners and carvers, among others. Towards the middle of the terrace, were a few sophisticated establishments of the bankers and lenders. From the citadel, the view was of atleast a thousand little people running around, like ants on an ant-hill. The cacophony of metals clanking, spins reeling and vendors calling, easily carried to the plateau. Children ran around from one shop to another, making their way through the ridiculous and colourful maze that was toimaru. The last and lowest terrace had civilian settlements. But, it was too far down from the citadel, to be surveyed with ease.

Kento: "I see a rowdy, noisy marketplace."

Senju: "Noisy and rowdy it is, son. But what you see below, is a panorama of peace. I had to work very hard with your mother, in order to bring this accord. When I was appointed as the Overlord, our village was reeling under a history of conflict between kin, and wars between villages. The picture was so ugly, the hostilities so deep, that nobody ever imagined that we would see peaceful times again. But here we are, listening to the commotion born from harmony. If I had demolished our enemies with strength, I would be staring at a graveyard right now. I fought some, and made peace with others. And hopefully, you will continue my vision after I am gone. I am inviting an ambassador from Karasuki village for a trade deal next year before the Shibai Matsuri begins. A new age is dawning on us, son. And we must be prepared to make the most of it. So, I ask you again, what makes a good Overlord?"

Kento: "Strength alone does not make a good Overlord. One needs a vision of peace and unity. Not only for the warrior kin, but also for the people of the village."

Senju: "Very good. Now, speaking on the matter at hand- you will succeed me one day and you need to pass the Legacy trials as a pre-requisite. That is a given. And certainly there is no hurry. But it would please your mother and me, if you meet Keiji sensei tomorrow. He is the strongest combat preceptor in the Daigaku and coincidentally, he is kitsu blind."

Kento was taken by surprise. He had learnt from Shigeo how Keiji was a victor of a hundred battles. How he had travelled to the farthest corners of Kinheni, on dangerous missions. Were such exploits possible while being unable to use kitsu? If they were, then it was also time for him to rethink his priorities, and lower his guard.

Kento: "I will, father. And I will train with the aspirants as well. But kindly leave the decision of being an entrant in the Legacy Trials with me."

Senju's face made the semblance of a smile.

Senju: "It sounds like- we are in agreement."

Senju patted his son on the shoulder and together they took in the offerings of toimaru- its vague colors, noises and smells. A few minutes later, an air elemental dove soared from the palace premises and headed down towards them. It swooped and perched lightly on Senju's shoulder.

Senju: "This is your mother summoning us for lunch. Let us hurry, before she sends us a flaming bird."

Kento giggled. Father and son left the training grounds while bonding, by sharing mutual fears of the temper of the lady of the household, Mitsu Mikashita.

The day had just begun, but it had been more eventful, than most others. And had been more eventful for some, than for others.

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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