Apologies and New Beginnings
Ketsueki had taken Arch, the Portalorium, to many different places in Yokaisekai, at least places that were considered safe for a human, which meant mostly the daimyo’s castles, Lord Seiryu’s, Lord Suzaku’s, and Lord Byakko’s. Of course the first place they went was to Kiryushiro to visit Takumi and his family. Ketsueki was glad to see that Takumi was doing well and enjoying being a father, and they had a long discussion about technology, Takumi being very interested in Lux and in what Arch had to say about their own technology and the living city. During the course of the conversation one of Takumi’s “bugs” crawled onto Lux and the robot began playing with it, making it do various stunts. When Takumi tried to recall the bug it wouldn’t respond or transmit to Takumi, but continued to follow Lux. Takumi studied the phenomenon as much as he could (deducing that something like that had happened to all of the devices that had gone near the Portalorium city and the Konstroda), but made sure that Lux kept away from the rest of his things. Takara took an interest in Lux too, who played a sort of keep away from the crawling baby. Takara was beginning to exhibit the nimbleness of a kitsune as crawled in chase of the little robot, who stayed out of his reach, as the little boy also had two new little teeth that he used often on his toys.
Early in the morning, the day of the feast at Genbushima for the beginning of Winter, Lien Hua and Conchobhar took a long bath and got ready. They had just gotten back from their long trip to Midtown (where they had saved everyone from the Konstroda.) Leaving Yutaka to her own devices, along with the new pokemon, Lien Hua and Conchobhar got into a coach with the twins, followed by Aunt De Zhen and Lord Seiryu, who had been visiting the elder dragon princess in her niece’s absence, and Takumi and his family. The other team members would be meeting them there as they had gone their separate ways to practice. Finally Lien Hua and Conchobhar would get to relax as the coach horses did the work of flying them to Lord Genbu’s house.
As the coach from the vampire castle carrying Lord Kyuketsuki's family and Arch entered the northern region’s land of perpetual winter, Arch was glad that he’d brought along the warm winter clothing that he had received in Jotunheimen in Aleriand. He didn’t have the resistance to heat and cold that the yokai had, and he really didn’t like the cold.
In the carriage from Kiryushiro Takumi wondered how he would be received in Lord Genbu’s house after what had taken place at Conchobhar’s wedding feast. It was said that the dark lord’s wrath was implacable. It was only because the team, and especially Conchobhar, expected him to come and because being with his team was the only condition under which he could enter Lord Genbu’s domain that he had come in the first place.
The carriages entered the great double doors of the carriage house and the reptilian lizard men of Lord Genbu quickly helped the guests to unload their baggage and show them to their rooms, while others tended to the horses and the carriages. A little while later the guests went out to enjoy the snow and some winter activities. Takumi introduced his son to the snow and made a little snow fort with Inori. Arch and the vampire boys did a little snow boarding and then ended up at the lake where some of the younger yokai were skating. He told Ketsueki about the sport of hockey and soon the boys had organized two teams and were playing with sticks cut from tree limbs and goals woven of thin branches from the evergreens that grew nearby. Arch’s team seemed to consistently win until a pack of wolf boys who had been watching the game intently challenged them. The superior team work of the wolf boys made for a very close game that the wolf boys ultimately won. In the meantime the older warriors and dark tournament competitors, remembering the snowball fight at the wedding feast, decided to organize another one. Takumi was drafted away from his family to be the strategist for one of the teams. Just as when Father Asa had participated in the snowball fight, it began to escalate on a massive scale when the battle phase began. The younger yokai flocked around the outskirts of the game to watch, and with the hockey games abandoned Arch went over to watch too, amazed at the incredible strength and speed of the yokai warriors. He was thrilled by the combat, with Ketsueki narrating the action that was too fast for his eyes to follow, that is until one of the mountain sized snowballs landed on top of him. By the time Ketsueki and the younger yokai dug him out he was nearly freezing. So the yokai boys quickly took him into Lord Genbu’s fortress and down to the baths to warm up.
The baths weren’t like what Arch was used to, not even in the barracks. Ketsueki explained how they were to leave their clothes on shelves, though he hung up Arch’s things to dry, and wash off in the shower stalls before going into a hot springs pool, and also showed him where the cotton robes were for when they finished. He felt a little uncomfortable with everyone running around with no clothes on. His people were used to a bit more privacy even in the barracks. They were all guys though, so it didn’t make any difference. When in Yokaisekai do as the yokai do, he figured. At this point he just wanted to get warm again. One of the wolf boys sniffed in Arch’s direction and drooled. The pack leader smacked the drooling wolf boy in the head and told him not to be an idiot, that they would get to eat soon enough and that Lord Genbu wouldn’t tolerate murder in his house. Soon the boys were in the pool, splashing around in the water as energetically as they had played in the snow, and finally Arch was beginning to warm up.
Just as the boys were settling down in the pool the older yokai finished their snowball fight and came in to the bath. Takumi stuck to just doing his business as he came in, trying to avert his eyes and keep his mind out of trouble, just sticking to normal conversation. It was a very noticeable difference from his past behavior, and it left some of the yokai wondering if he was really Takumi or not. “I hear you’re one of those God followers,” a red oni said rather snidely to Takumi as he came out of the shower wrapping a towel around his waist, another thing that Takumi had never done before.
“I am,” said Takumi briefly.
“Does that mean we don’t look good to you, that you aren’t into guys anymore?” said the oni displaying his body. “Don’t you lust after our bodies?”
“No one would lust after you!” sneered a handsome kitsune to the oni.
“Look,” said Takumi, “God didn’t take all that from me. He said I wouldn’t learn anything if he did, but I’m not going back to what I was. I nearly lost my life, more than once. I have a wife and a kid. I’m being faithful to them, and faithful to God. So yeah, some of you would probably look pretty good to me, but I’m not looking and definitely not soliciting.” Then Takumi walked past the oni to the pool.
“He really has changed!” said the kitsune in surprise. “The old Takumi would never have answered like that, without any innuendo or snide remarks. I wonder how he is going to battle at the tournament,” he said with narrowed eyes. “I’m sure there will be some new techniques and battle styles coming out of this.”
“He was certainly doing well in the snowball fight,” said a tanuki. “These God followers seem to change up pretty well, even if they are a bit odd.”
“He hasn’t changed,” growled the oni. “People don’t just change like that. It’s all just an act.”
“An act to fool whom?” retorted the kitsune. “I don’t see how it would benefit him to act like that when nothing serious happened to him before for his outrageous behavior. Who would he be putting on an act for?”
“Maybe for Lord Genbu, or to keep Chikara from getting revenge, or maybe to get access to that son of his,” the oni shot back.
“Lord Genbu is no fool, and Chikara is going to get revenge no matter what,” replied the kitsune, “and he would have a legal right to be with his son without a dog and pony show. Besides, the old Takumi would never do anything to appease anyone. He would just artfully dodge the accusation and go right on behaving the same way he always did.”
“I tell you I’ve seen it before,” said the tanuki. “A person becomes a God follower and you hardly recognize them afterwards. Granted, not all of them do, but some make very dramatic changes.”
The three yokai quieted and left for the pool as Conchobhar and the other four male members of his team entered the room to shower.
At the feast Lord Genbu sat at the head table with Enma, Morrigan, Lord Byakko, and Lord Suzaku on one side and Lien Hua, Conchobhar, her aunt the elder princess De Zhen, and Lord Seiryu on the other. Takumi and his family sat with the other team members at a nearby table of honored guests, including the vampire lord’s family and Arch. Takumi looked over at the dark lord sitting between Enma and Lien Hua, stone faced but elegant and refined, with the ebony charger bearing the plate of his traditional food for the ceremonial beginning of winter. He couldn’t help but remember what lay beneath the black robes of the darkly beautiful yokai lord, the hard smooth plastron on his chest, the dark hexagons of shell that patterned his well formed back, his long snake like... Takumi’s guts heaved in the memory. Unless there was a female of the same species, there was no female anywhere that could take Lord Genbu’s attentions without harm. The dark lord looked in the direction of Takumi and his wife and son. His eyes narrowed harshly and he looked away. Takumi remembered the menacing tone that Lord Genbu had used when he had said, “Unless you are with your team I don’t ever want to see you on my lands again, Takumi!” and remembered how he had so cavalierly cast the great lord aside after having gained access to his sanctuary, and not just his house and inner rooms but the more sensitive parts of his personal life. Like a turtle in its shell the dark lord’s implacable, cold, surface protected a more vulnerable person within. Regardless of the impropriety of the relationship he had done a great wrong to Lord Genbu, abusing the dark one’s generosity and kindness the way he had done. It was not the kind of thing one could make amends for, and the cold, menacing glances made him realize his guilt. What should he do about it?
Oh God, what should I do
, he thought, directing that thought to the great Being he had met in the Temple.
You must apologize,
came the stern reply to his mind, with all of the comforting strength and wisdom of that all-seeing One, but you must not sin in doing so.
After dinner... when the dark lord retired for the evening, he resolved to go to him in private and apologize.
The dinner passed pleasantly enough. Takumi was kept busy with feeding tidbits from the table to Takara and supervising his wanderings around the table hanging on to things to keep standing or crawling on all fours. At this point it was very clear that his son understood what he said, especially “No,” and his babblings were taking on word forms and meaning. The mood around them was light as the other yokai smiled at the little boy’s antics. The other little ones, Lien Hua’s twins and Morrigan’s daughter Aine, were not in the room but were being cared for elsewhere so Takara was somewhat of a sensation, especially to the Yokai that had known Takumi from before. Even the dark lord seemed to be enchanted by the boy at times, though his glances at the father were cold, and as soon as the main part of the meal was over he excused himself and retired to his rooms as his lizard men and the yukionna continued to serve the guests. Takumi saw him leave and whispered to Inori that he had to tend to something, and for her to take care of Takara. He would be back later, probably at their room, he told her and then he left, not being obvious about where he was going. Soon after that other yokai began to leave and Lord Kyuketsuki and Ketsueki took the opportunity to introduce Arch to Enma and Morrigan, who welcomed him to Yokaisekai. After answering questions about his people and talking about his travels he asked if he could learn how to use the spirit energy techniques that he had seen used in Yokaisekai.
“I once taught spirit energy techniques to Tejas and the DG 90,” said Morrigan. “What has happened to them I do not know, nor if what I have taught them has done any good. I can tell that you are also the kind of person who might just rise to the role of a hero under the right circumstances, Arch. If you come to my house I will train you.”
“Ketsueki,” she said to the vampires, “you and your brother Yorutsubasa should come too, if that will be all right with you, Lord Kyuketsuki. I have an interest in cultivating your sons’ skills. Your efforts to have him follow the right path have not gone unnoticed.”
“I am most grateful, your Majesty,” said Lord Kyuketsuki with a bow. “My sons are at your disposal.”
Outside of Lord Genbu’s rooms Takumi paused in the shadow before walking up to the reptilian guard at the door.
“You are not allowed here,” hissed the guard.
“I came to offer my apology to Lord Genbu,” he said loud enough that anyone inside could have heard him.
“You can not enter,” restated the guard.
“Then I will stand here until Lord Genbu comes out,” said Takumi loudly. “I must apologize to him!”
The door opened and a lizard man told the guard to let Takumi in. Both of the reptilians eyed him menacingly as Takumi entered the room. As the dark lord was not in the receiving room he went directly through the curtains and turned into the private inner room, knowing the way quite well. As he entered he saw Lord Genbu standing there, his elegant black robes loose around his shoulders, looking at him with a stone cold expression. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a naked lizard man. Great, he thought, he had interrupted the dark lord at just the wrong moment. Takumi stopped about four paces from Lord Genbu and went down on his knees.
“I have wronged you, my lord,” he began. “I did not understand until now how much I wronged you. You let me in to your private life and sheltered me, and I treated you scornfully. I never appreciated what you had done for me. Now I am truly sorry for how I treated you. You may not accept my apology. You may continue to hate me, it is only what I deserve, but I have to tell you how sorry I am. You deserved better treatment from me.” Takumi fell silent and looked up at the dark lord.
Lord Genbu turned slightly towards the lizard man. “You may leave us,” he said. The lizard man quickly collected his clothes and left the room. The dark lord paused for a moment. He ran his fingers along the hard smooth surface of his plastron as if he wished it was soft flesh.
“Have I been so hard on you, Takumi?” he said softly.
The question surprised him, and at the same time he didn’t know how to answer. He didn’t want to hurt Lord Genbu while telling the truth. He’d done enough of that already. “My lord...” he paused and began again, “It is difficult, physically, for any man to satisfy you, but you have always been very kind to me, even when you knew how I felt about Conchobhar. Even now you have shown kindness after I betrayed you and humiliated you after the War of Kiryushiro. No, you have not been hard on me, my lord.”
Lord Genbu strode over to Takumi and went down on his knees flinging his arms around him. Takumi’s heart beat fast as he felt the dark lord’s body against his and his cheek brush against the side of his face. “You always were my favorite lover, Takumi,” said the dark lord softly into his ear, “even more so now. You have become even more beautiful to me.” Then he pulled back a bit and looked into Takumi’s eyes and brushed a strand of hair out of his face. “I saw you with your wife and son. I have to admit I was jealous of her. Is there any way that you will come back to me?”
“No, my lord,” said Takumi. “I will remain faithful to them. I care very much about Inori and I will not hurt her again. I want to be a proper father for my son, but also... my lord... I have to follow the way that Aru has laid out for me... You have no idea what He is like.”
Lord Genbu saw the look on his face and sighed. Standing he held out his hand to Takumi and raised him up. “I heard that you went on pilgrimage. Perhaps I should go sometime and see what this is all about,” he said wryly. “What I said in Kiryushiro... I take it back. You are welcome here any time. I will let my people know that.” Lord Genbu released Takumi’s hand and straightened his robes neatly retying them. “I can not keep you with me, as much as I want to do so” said the dark lord. “Go and rejoin your wife and son.”
“Thank you, my lord,” said Takumi. “I shall never forget your kindness.” Then he turned and left Lord Genbu’s chambers, walking swiftly towards the room he shared with Inori and Takara. He entered their room and gave Inori a hug, clinging to her and breathing in the scent of her hair.
“After Inochi is born we should go somewhere alone, just the four of us, someplace where I can train and we can be alone,” sighed Takumi.
“Why? What happened?” said Inori.
“I apologized to Lord Genbu,” said Takumi smoothing her hair.
“And it went badly?” she questioned.
“No, it went very well, almost too well,” said Takumi. “He rescinded his edict... and he wanted me back as his lover.” Inori looked at Takumi with raised eyebrows. “Of course I didn’t accept!” he said. “But seriously, I need to get away from the temptation for a while and concentrate on my family and my training.”
“That sounds fine to me,” said Inori giving him a kiss.
Takumi was in his reclaimed work room sitting at the monitor viewing numerous screens as usual, when he suddenly got a message from his bugs that had ceased responding since the day they arrived in the Accipio River Valley. The messages were oddly coded, but after running them through a special filter he could hear the message loud and clear.
"This is Terra. Is anyone out there? Help me! We are under attack. The enemy is breaking in, and we haven't much time. Help me! Help me!"
As the message repeated itself over and over Takumi opened a line to both Kagekiba and Morrigan while simultaneously directing his now responsive bugs to give him a video feed. They showed the exercitian attack on the portalorium city, Terra. "Are you getting the feed?" he asked as both Morrigan and Kagekiba came on-line.
"Yes," said Morrigan, as Kagekiba nodded. "I have Enma on another line." She appeared to be listening for a moment then said, "It's decided. We intervene. The daimyo are being alerted and will be mobilizing immediately. Get your gear together and wait in the castle courtyard with Conchobhar's troops. We will be needing your coordination work as in the last war. Gather as much intelligence as you can in the mean time."
Takumi filled his screen with only the images from the Three Cities area as he gathered the equipment he would need for the battle field. He quickly ducked into the bedroom to change into a camouflage special ops suit. He hugged Inori and their son, quickly explaining the situation, and then stowing his gear he went down the castle stairs and into the courtyard. Already yokai were gathering as Conchobhar, in fay form, used his magic to inform those who were to fight of their need. Takumi kept up with what was going on in the Three Cities as the vampires flew in from Lord Kyuketsuki's castle, tengu from the mountains, and others came running on foot. Soon the courtyard was fairly full and Conchobhar was back in his usual yokai form with his sword, Giolla Lasair, on his back and Lien Hua beside him. At last, as a few stragglers entered the gates, Morrigan appeared telling everyone to make physical contact with the others, and taking hold of Conchobhar's arm while placing her fingers to her forehead she teleported the whole group to the Accipio Valley.
In the mountains west of the city ranks were quickly formed under their leaders and strategies made. In a last minute admonition to the troops Enma said, "Now, these boys might just not understand the seriousness of what they're doing. So I don't want any killing if you can help it. A good pounding should be enough to put them down and teach them better manners, but don't get yourselves killed in the process." The yokai king cracked his knuckles to emphasize his speech as the other yokai chuckled and grinned. Then he signaled the yokai to move out.
Those that could fly, either by wings or spirit energy, took to the air with the largest (like Lien Hua, Lord Suzaku, and Lord Seiryu) carrying others on their backs, while the rest ran at top speed towards the battle.
Matthias, the military leader of the portalorium, was deeply engaged in combat when the sunlight overhead was blocked out. He quickly glanced up and saw a multitude of oddly formed creatures, the largest of which was a tremendous golden serpentine creature with tufts of rosy colored fur, a similar blue creature, and a fiery colored bird. As this multitude began dropping down to the ground and aggressively attacking the exercitians, he realized that two of them (the great golden beast that turned into a girl and the ox legged, bird winged man with her) fit the description that Ben had given of the prince of Yokaisekai and his wife. These people must have come all the way from the country of Yokaisekai to help! But how? "Don't attack the newcomers. They've come to help!" he yelled to the portalorium warriors.
Arch portalled to the top of the wall next to the remaining golden guardian. "Boaz! Rise and defeat your enemies!" he said just like his brother Luke had, and Boaz rose and hefted his huge battle ax preparing to fight just like Jachin. "Go beat up your brother, prevent Jachin from fighting!" The golden warrior strode across the city's shield and dropped to the ground beside Jachin and struck a punishing blow on the other guardian. When Jachin recovered from the blow he turned and engaged Boaz in battle. Finding himself free from attack, Captain (the Cybertronian transformer, father of the Konstroda) began demolishing the heavy equipment that had renewed the assault on the city walls. Hearing a noise Arch turned to face Luke, who had left the combat below and portalled to the walls to stop his brother's interference.
"It would have been better if you hadn't come back!" said Luke menacingly as he drew his sword.
"Why are you doing this, Luke?" pleaded Arch. "Why are you trying to destroy everything we've worked so hard to build and defend? You're hurting our friends, our neighbors... Why?"
Luke laughed. His brother was so pathetic. "This may have been the city you wanted to build, maybe even what father wanted, but not me! A city of pathetic old men forcing a repressive religion from another world on its people! How many have died for that stupid religion? Sacrificed like sheep on a caelestis altar! The reason father died, the reason we had to leave our world, it was all because of this. We would have been better off without the 'god' of the Christians, happier, more successful. All he has ever done for us is keep us subjugated to his idiotic rules!"
"They're not 'idiotic'! He's real..." Arch began but Luke fired an energy bolt at him and Arch barely had time to block with Lux's power. Luke reached behind his back and pulled out a gun. As Arch prepared to block the shot, Luke fired the EMP burst at Lux then swung his own sword around to fire another burst of energy at his brother. For a split second Arch was at a loss with an unresponsive Lux frozen in place, but before the bolt struck his newly practiced abilities reflexively sprang into action. He quickly thanked God for the constant drilling that the kitsune Suigin had put him through to get him to protect himself with his spirit energy.
"What have you done to Lux!" he yelled at Luke, deeply concerned about his mechanical friend.
"I haven't hurt your precious bot, only put him to sleep," said Luke rather annoyed that his brother was not similarly unconscious. His blow against Arch, unlike the one he had aimed at Matthias, had been only to stun, not kill. As angry as his twin made him sometimes with his naive do-goodism and blind obedience to that hideous religion, it was still more than he could do to actually kill his only real friend in life. He didn't expect Arch to have some new tricks to show for his absence though. "How is it that you were able to block my attack?"
"A little something I picked up in Yokaisekai," said Arch trying to gather his spirit energy to throw at Luke, but the attempt was a failure. What little he managed to throw was easily blocked. So, it would be sword work, he thought to himself hefting the stiff and unresponsive form of his companion tool. As if reading his mind Luke began with a driving thrust which Arch parried and returned. The two drew back circling, testing each other. Then the fight began in earnest.
The Imperator, ruler of the exercitians, watched as his highly trained exercitian warriors abandoned strategy to go one on one in the battle against the newcomers, the temptation to prove their strength against the opponent overcoming their discipline. He saw the giant robot again demolishing his heavy weaponry as Luke's golden robot was engaged in combat with the other golden robot, and Luke himself was engaged in combat with another boy. He yelled orders for General Sentio to convey to their military forces, an attempt to bring the battle back under control. When General Sentio replied that communications had been cut off he snatched the communications device from Sentio and began yelling instructions himself, only to be met with dead silence.
As soon as they had entered the Valley, Takumi released a horde of bugs to survey the battle field. He relayed orders and gave directions using the communications equipment he had distributed to the leaders, and even though it looked like the yokai were just in a free for all they were actually deceptively organized in their chaos. Still, yokai are yokai and everyone was having enormous fun pounding on the rather strong exercitian opponents. Even Enma was gleefully slicing mechs in pieces and punching exercitians next to the huge transformer as they exchanged pleasantries. Takumi had quickly located the frequencies that the exercitians were using to communicate on and in a short time he had silenced them. He looked at his screen and located Queen Morrigan. Smiling wickedly he said softly, "Now you really loose!"
The Imperator flung the communications device to the ground. "What does that pig-scum Luke think he's doing out there! He should be commanding, winning the victory he promised!"
Suddenly he felt a chill run down his spine as a woman's hands encircled him from behind and pressed on his heart as she embraced him. His knees grew weak and his heart was filled with dread. The exercitian guard around him reached for their weapons but hesitated, waiting to see if he would order them to attack the strange red haired woman who had appeared from nowhere, or not. The Imperator wanted to shove her away but he barely had the strength to stand. It was as if his vitality was being sucked out of his body.
"So, you're the one who started this war against the innocent," she said in a sultry yet menacing voice, softly in the Imperator's ear. "But you shall not win. I have taken away your victory, you power, and your strength." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "Before the day is through you will be dead." She released the exercitian and laughed, a laugh like the light melody of silver chimes yet as chilling as the toll of a funeral bell. The Imperator sank to his knees panting as she raised her fingers to her forehead and vanished again.
General Sentio looked with contempt at his king kneeling on the floor like a decrepit old man. Drawing his sword he cut off the Imperator's head. Aghast the others drew their weapons. "Imperator Dominus was weak," he said with disgust. "I, Sentio, am Imperator now! Does anyone dare challenge me?!"
The others looked at each other, put their weapons away, saluted Sentio and said, "All hail Imperator Sentio! Lead us to victory!"
Both Luke and Arch were panting heavily, and bleeding from a number of cuts and slashes, but neither seemed to be able to get the upper hand. At this point even trying to speak was a chore. At this rate how was Arch going to persuade Luke to do anything? As they broke from the latest flurry of blows Arch sent up a prayer, "Lord, what am I going to do? If this goes on I'll loose my brother for sure. Help me!"
Suddenly Arch felt a strange rise in his spirit energy and a tingling ball of the stuff formed in his left hand. This was unlike anything Suigin had talked about happening (and it was something he could never reproduce afterwards). Taking this as an answer from God he threw the energy at Luke. Caught off guard the ball of energy slammed into Luke knocking him to the ground, where he lay twitching for a moment while bolts of static electricity played around him just inches from his body. Alarmed Arch ran over to see if Luke was alright. The miniature lightning died down and Luke feebly sat up as Arch knelt by his side. Luke was noticeably angry, but it seemed that he was having trouble articulating his anger with a slightly numb mouth. It was now or never, Arch thought. It was unlikely that his brother would give him a second opportunity to speak.
"Listen," he said, "I get that you're mad, that's pretty obvious, but what I don't get why you're mad at our friends, neighbors, or even the elders... mad enough to kill? No one has ever done anything to hurt you, and even if someone did it wouldn't justify hurting everyone! I can't believe that you'd hate everyone so much that you'd deliberately do this to them. It doesn't make sense! If it's just about religion then your argument isn't with them, it's with God. You've made it plain that you think Christianity is just a lie, but it isn't. I've talked to God face to face! So have some of the yokai, the people that came here with me to fight. There is a place here in this world that you can do that. If you're mad at God why not have it out with Him, tell Him face to face what's bugging you? Don't take your anger out on innocent people! So what are you going to do," Arch concluded, "go with me to see God, or keep on trying to kill me?"
Luke stared at Arch for a bit, as if thinking something over, then reached out his right hand for Arch to take. As Arch helped his brother to stand they took notice of the battle going on below.
"The exercitians are loosing," said Luke tersely.
"Yeah," said Arch. "It might not go too well for you either when this is over. You've upset a lot of people. We should probably go now before it comes to that."
"Why not," said Luke resigning himself to the inevitable. "This has been a colossal failure. I might as well take my fight to God himself." Then he shouted at the golden guardian battling it's brother, "Hey, Jachin! Cease your battle, return to your place!"
"Boaz! Cease your battle, return to your place!" said Arch, and the two great robots ceased battling each other. Turning they leaped up and grabbed a hold of the top of the wall scrambling up on top amongst their defunct and shattered smaller brethren. Then they strode back to their places and took up their resting positions shutting down. At one time in the past there had been four such robots, but that was before Luke and Arch had been born.
"Let's go," said Luke.
Arch formed a portal to Huang Jin An in Aleriand and the two stepped through, leaving the empty roof behind.
The new Imperator quickly surveyed the battle field. "If we are to have victory it will not be on this field," he said. "We know nothing about the powers we now face. The only way we will ever win is to sue for peace now and retreat. We play the part of good neighbors while gaining knowledge. We shall even be civil to our ancient enemies the caelestis," he said looking hard at the others. "If we are ever to win we must thoroughly understand those who would oppose us and be prepared. We lost today because we relied on the portalorium Luke to give us everything. Next time we prepare for ourselves!" As the others in the room nodded in agreement, Imperator Sentio again looked through the field glasses, seeing the red haired woman join a fierce looking man with a scythe. "Vigilo! Tertius!" He said to two of the imperial guards, "you and the aquilifer (standard bearer) come with me. The rest of you will go out to the troops and call them to stand down and retreat." Everyone quickly vacated the guard tower and headed for the battlefield. Sentio took the severed head of Dominus by one horn and carried it with him.
As the new Imperator flew over the battlefield, he surveyed the damage to his troops and the progress of his new command. On approaching the front gates of Terra, and the powerful couple defending them, a group of bird-like men with a serious warlike demeanor blocked his path with drawn weapons. Sentio had warned his men not to draw their weapons unless ordered so they waited at an impasse, until the bearded man with a scythe ordered them to let the exercitians pass. As he and his guard landed several paces from the rather imposing man and his beautiful but deadly red haired companion, Sentio tossed the head of Dominus at the man's feet. As he did so he noticed the imposing skulls hanging from the man's belt. Imperator Dominus had surely made a grave error in assuming everything the portalorium Luke had told them was the full truth. These people were formidable enemies and had caught them completely by surprise. Hopefully they could be appeased. At least that had been his assumption when observing the way they handled the combat. "I give you the head of the former Imperator, the 'one who started this war', as your gracious lady pointed out." The man chuckled as Sentio looked pointedly at the red haired woman. "I am Imperator now," he continued. "I wish to end this war and establish peaceful relations with our neighbors. What are your terms?"
"Since your men have ceased their hostilities," Enma began after getting an update from Takumi, "I think we can come to some kind of agreement."
"First you shall apologize to the city Terra, for wounding her and causing her distress!" demanded Captain.
Her? Imperator Sentio stared puzzled for a moment at the giant robot. Then he remembered Luke's description of the living mechanicals, the companion tools. While living machines made no sense to himself, it was possible that the portalorium city was also a thinking machine with feelings. He could see a blue liquid ooze coming from some of the worst gashes in the wall's surfaces, and with a bit of imagination it could resemble blood. An apology, though somewhat humiliating, was rather cheap... "Can her ladyship hear my apology from here, or is there some special place I must go to to speak with her?" he queried.
"The city is able to hear you from here," said Matthias grimly as he and a group of seasoned portalorium warriors approached the new Imperator at the city gate, "but she can only speak from certain areas inside."
"I might be able to emend that," said King Enma after listening to Takumi for a moment. He took the listening device out of his ear and held it in his open hand. "Speak away," he said to the exercitian.
Sentio composed himself. "I sincerely apologize to the Lady Terra, and to her inhabitants, for all of the distress and damage we have caused. From the beginning you were not our target, only the caelestis, our hereditary enemy. It was only because of the portalorium Luke's offer to us of the means to destroy our foe in exchange for help in obtaining dominion over his own people that we ever became involved with you, and I am sorry that we caused you grief because of it."
"What does it matter who your target was?!" said a distraught feminine voice with the same kind of timbre as the transformer Captain. "Your people are within my walls, threatening the elders. They have even killed Elder Eli! Not to mention the damage to those outside my walls, to the crops in the fields, or to me personally. What are you going to do about this, and how will you ever make amends for what your people have done?"
"I don't know what can be done," said Sentio rather taken aback at the city's angry speech. "If there is a way to communicate with the exercitians inside I will order them to surrender, if that will ease your burden some, and if you think of something else that I could do to make amends I will."
"I will connect you to the Elders' chamber..." said Terra, and after a moment of silence replied, "You may tell your men to surrender now. I believe they can also see you."
Inside the Elders' chambers a screen came to life showing Sentio, along with the imperial guards and royal standard that had accompanied him. Decanus Dolor snapped to attention, causing the chair he had been sitting on to crash to the floor, and saluted. "Sir, we have taken the elders hostage and are awaiting orders."
"Your orders are to release the hostages and surrender yourselves to the city's authority immediately!" Sentio barked at the officer.
"Sir? What of the Imperator's plans?" said Decanus Dolor. "We are in position now."
"The Imperator is dead! I am Imperator now. The plans have changed. You will surrender immediately!" ordered Sentio.
"Yes sir!" Decanus Dolor saluted again and turned to his men. "Release the elders and return their weapons!" he ordered.
The exercitians quickly untied the elderly men and returned their gloves and companion tools. In the meantime Terra cautiously lowered the barrier against portals and informed those left in charge of the city of the situation. A portal was formed to the Elders' chambers and portalorium warriors surrounded the exercitians, who held their hands upward in the traditional sign of surrender. Another portal was made to the outside and the exercitians were told to leave. As soon as they did the portalorium warriors outside began bringing their civilians and wounded back into the city, leaving the keeping of exercitian prisoners completely to the yokai.
As exercitians all over the battlefield were told to surrender they began to talk with the these strong newcomers about the people and land that they came from, and about their rulers. A story began circulating among the exercitians (partially encouraged by officers to alleviate the bitter sting of defeat) that the king and queen of the yokai were the living incarnations of their god and goddess, Bellum and Caedis, and that they among all of the exercitians had been blessed to come to this world where their gods dwelt.
The yokai in turn took a liking to the exercitians combative strength and readily made friends with them. With the victory complete many of the yokai's minds turned to celebration, and celebrating with their new "friends", but they were laking the means...
Takumi was surveying the now peaceful battlefield when a group of yokai came up to him. He recognized them both from the fact that they were from highly ranked teams in the Dark Tournaments, and that they were quite wealthy in their communities. "Hey, Takumi..." began one, Toge, the brawny son of a minor nobleman in the Higashichiku region, "we were hoping you could do us a favor."
Takumi raised an eyebrow. "And what kind of favor did you want?" he said.
"Well, we'd really like to celebrate, you know... our victory, but we need someone to fetch us some beer..." said Toge.
"Lots of beer!" chimed in the others.
"... and you're the only one we know of who can teleport like the queen," Toge finished with an irritating sort of smile to go along with the flattery.
"Look," said Takumi, "I can't teleport a whole army like she can. On a good day I might just be able to teleport one other person, besides myself, and that only one way, but no more than that."
"That's why we brought along this guy..." Toge reached behind the heavily muscled group and pulled out a fairly young portalorium warrior who was beginning to regret volunteering to help in the scheme. "You take him to where the beer is and he makes a portal back here. Then we go through the portal to get the beer and bring it back over here. No one will even know that we've been gone."
"Except for the beer!" chimed in another.
"What do you say, Takumi? We'll pay for everything. We'll even pay you for your trouble!" Again Toge smiled in that irritating way, as if his smile alone could persuade others to his point of view.
"We can't have a victory without a celebration!" said one of the others. "Besides the exercitians have never tasted beer before. You wouldn't deprive them of the experience, would you?"
Now that was an interesting thought, Takumi mused, and he wondered how the tactic of getting your enemy addicted to alcohol would sit with Enma and Morrigan. "All right, let's get this over with before someone notices I'm gone. You guys owe me big time!" he said taking hold of the portalorium. The other yokai were pledging their undying friendship as Takumi concentrated his energy. Reaching out with his spirit he selected the destination and transported to Yokaisekai.
Takumi was feeling a bit drained when he appeared, with the portalorium in tow, in front of one of the most prestigious breweries in the Nishichiku region. He told the boy to form a portal and pulled a specially formulated food bar from one of his many his pockets to help restore his energy. Soon the group of yokai came through, and with only a minimal amount of negotiating with the owner, came back. Each one carried a huge cask of beer on his shoulders. The portalorium reestablished the portal and everyone walked back through to the place they started from.
The yokai emerged from the portal, each with an enormous cask of beer, thanking Takumi profusely, as Takumi took up his position again on the mountain side. The portalorium ran off to rejoin his group, without getting the promised taste of beer and feeling a bit guilty in addition. Soon there was merrymaking all over the battlefield. Unaware of this the new Imperator was still engaged in negotiations with the city.
"Now," said Enma putting aside the communications device and picking up the old Imperator's head to casually toss it around as if it were just an oddly shaped ball, "We need to discuss the terms of your surrender. The city Terra has listed the grievances of personal damage, damage to crops, harm to the people of the city, and death of the Elder Eli..."
"Fortunately I have received word that although there were many wounded, only Elder Eli has died among my people today. May the Lord be praised for this small miracle," said the voice of the city through the device that Enma had laid aside. "The caelestis also have suffered no casualties, only the loss of their city and all of it's goods."
"Right," said Enma pausing for a moment with the old Imperator's head poised on one horn on the tip of his finger before he resumed. "There is also the matter of the caelestis... You will have to return all of the things you stole first and foremost. Now, considering the long enmity between your two peoples, I don't think they want your help rebuilding, but you will have to supply them with whatever raw materials they might require. The same will go for the needs of the portalorium city that you have also damaged."
"That's the least that can be done," said Conchobhar landing near his father and mother with Lien Hua in his arms. Imperator Sentio did a double take at seeing the young man who from the waist up bore an uncanny resemblance to his own people but from the waist down was more like some beast or mythical monster. As if he was a mind reader "Yeah, the caelestis thought so too. I had a hard time convincing them otherwise," said Conchobhar reading his look. "I am Conchobhar, Prince of Yokaisekai, son of King Enma and Queen Morrigan," he said putting his wife down and gesturing towards his father and mother. "And this is my wife, Princess Lien Hua, daughter of Emperor Chang An Fu the dragon king of Aleriand."
"Greetings, great lady," said Captain with a slight bow.
"Greetings, Captain," said Lien Hua. "I trust that things are well with your people."
"They have prospered greatly, and increased in number since your visit," Captain replied. "The new lifestyle suits them well, and Fatryshi is very happy. I was out flying when I got a distress signal from a fellow transformer so I came to help."
"Terra is from Cybertron too?" said Lien Hua in surprise.
"Either that or from one of the colonies," Captain said. "It was definitely an autobot distress signal that I picked up. I'm glad that your people came to the rescue though. It would have been difficult to defend her all by myself. But back to the surrender terms," he said turning his attention back to the exercitian Imperator.
Sentio was rather disturbed at the revelation that there were at least two other nations involved that he knew nothing about. It was not only the fearsome king toying with Dominus's severed head and his terrible wife that he had to deal with, but potentially the empire of the dark haired girl's father and more mechanical people like the giant robot in front of him. How many nations existed in this world, and what was their strength, not to mention their seeming ability to travel with tremendous speed and the portalorium ability to create portals compounding the matter? These were things Luke had not revealed, or perhaps had not even known, but were things he himself would have to deal with in his plans.
"Yes, well..." Enma began. "It is impossible to compensate for some things, the death of the elder, the destruction of crops..."
"I can do something about the crops, if permitted," said Lien Hua.
"I'm sure the portaloriums would enjoy your help," said Enma. "You shouldn't have to ask," he gently chided. The girl was still far too self-effacing for a dragon princess and a powerful daimyo. He always saw dragons as far more bold, even arrogant. Not her. "So," he said returning to the subject at hand as Lien Hua walked towards the damaged fields, "now we come to what can be done, and if all are agreed these are the terms: You will return with all of your armies to your underground city and never again come against your neighbors with weapons of warfare. Instead you will peacefully cultivate the lands around your mountain and lead your lives as openly as possible. I will even send someone to check on you from time to time and see if you are pursuing peace. As compensation for those you have attacked you will return any stolen goods and supply them with raw materials for rebuilding, whether metal or stone, cut wood, animal hides, or the labor of strong arms, what ever is demanded from you for one year. After the year is over what you produce is yours alone, but you shall still maintain peace with your neighbors. Is that sufficient?" he asked, and those around him nodded. "Do you agree to these terms?"
Sentio knew that his people would not be happy with the compensation part of the deal, and would be difficult to manage. He would have to be careful about maintaining his authority. Still, there was no alternative but to accept the terms. "I accept the terms and agree to abide by them," he said.
Just then rain fell from the sky and where ever it touched the earth green plants sprouted and grew. The farming fields grew at an enormous rate. Enma chuckled at the surprised faces around him. "My daughter-in-law has a great many talents. Anyway, you should be getting your people home, Imperator. Oh, and here," he said tossing the old Imperator's head back. "You might want to give him a burial or something. He was your Imperator."
Sentio saluted and turned away to gather his men. While Captain, Lien Hua, and Conchobhar talked to Terra about her possible ties to Cybertron, and Enma saw to it that things were set to rights; Sentio gathered his dead, wounded, and drunken men, returning the spoils they had collected and marched (since many couldn't fly) back to Inferus Civitas. It was a pitiful showing for their "glorious" war. It would take everything he had to live through this defeat.