World of Crystals > Enter the Red Lotus
Enter the Red Lotus
This was true even for one such as Liang Xiao Tian, beloved hero Samurai of the Empire, who seemed at his best--even thrived--in pandemonium. To Tian, there was chaos, and then there was chaos. There was the rush of battle, the adrenaline that filled his veins as his blade flashed quick as lightning to cut down a foe, anticipating enemy movements and then countering before they even struck, without even the knowledge of what hit them. And then there was the din of hushed whispers and intrigue, of banquets and meetings, men bought and sold in hidden chambers as if they were cattle; futures decided, destinies shaped, with the mere stroke of a brush.
At heart, Tian was a soldier, and much preferred the former to the latter, all things considered. He was a simple man, in that way.
The morning air in the dojo was still, despite the buzz of the Emperor's return and the ongoing deliberations of the Imperial Governors. And it was in the dojo that Xiao Tian would remain until summoned forth by the Son of Heaven. He resolutely refused to venture out on the palace grounds again so long as that circus went on--particularly after the armored swine No Cha's shameful spectacle of the previous day, cutting down mere prisoners for the amusement of bored nobles. The Red Lotus would never behave in such a fashion, certainly, and he wanted no part of it.
Long, satiny hair of the deepest sapphire blue spilled over his scarlet hakama as he leaned down to pour his morning oolong. There were serving girls, of course, but this was a ritual he preferred to perform himself. It was a way of grounding and centering himself after morning kata. And, this morning, he would surely need it. Few things surprised Tian of the Red Lotus, and it was not for naught that he happened to wear his formal hakama that morning. The summons would arrive at any moment. The question would be from whom they would arrive first: the Emperor, or Governor Liang. And Tian knew precisely which his preference was.
He raised the cup to his mouth with a silent prayer, letting the fragrant steam caress his lips before sipping. In the name of Heaven, let that man not--
Tian sighed at the gentle rap at the door, and rested his cup back on the table. "Yes, Hua Lan?" he answered in his usual, soft, even tone.
"An imperial messenger is here to see you."
As expected, Tian thought. He sighed a second time, and rose to his feet. At least he would get it over with. Perhaps he might even be happy to see the old man.
Perhaps No Cha, swine that he was, would grow wings and fly.
Emerging from his private chamber, the slight Samurai smiled at the messenger, in full imperial livery, who bowed deeply to him, handing him scroll tied in silk.
"Master Liang, it is my honor to inform you that His Magnificence, Kai Tsao Shou Lung Xsia Chin, Who Soars with Dragons and Rules All Under Heaven, has requested your presence before the Celestial Throne," the messenger said rapidly, in one breath. Tian was rather impressed. He carefully untied the ribbon and unfurled the scroll, which read:
"Master Liang Xiao Tian of the Celestial Red Lotus Brigade,
Attendant to your nobility, and in recognition of your great contributions to the Empire and that which rests Under Heaven, His Magnificence, Kai Tsao Shou Lung Xsia Chin, Who Soars with Dragons and Rules All Under Heaven has deemed fit to grant you a great boon. Please present yourself before the Celestial Throne at midday, that you might receive your gift."
Tian was astonished. A gift, from the Emperor himself? Now, that was indeed a surprise. Xiao Tian had certainly received accolades before; that was nothing new or unexpected. His feats of heroism against the Oni were nigh legendary, and he'd saved many lives. A present from the Emperor was something entirely different, however. He could not help but let a smile cross his lips. What a tremendous honor! It was a vain hope he held that the gift would be presented to him before the gathered lords, so that his father could bear witness. Tian would give him something to be proud of.
"Tell His Magnificence that I am not worthy of such distinction, but that I shall come before the throne nonetheless," Tian said politely, barely able to contain his excitement. The messenger bowed silently in acknowledgment, then left the dojo.
It was going to be a long day, Tian thought as he crossed the dojo to the armor cabinet to retrieve his banded red mail. Long, but good.
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