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Only Time: The Sacred Power

Chapter Twenty

By J. Marie

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Warning!!! This is a lemon yaoi fanfiction starring Nakago and Tasuki from Fushigi Yugi. It is rated NC-17 (for the moment, but the rating is subject to change). Alrighty then. Here's the adventure of the Seiryu senshi. Just for your info, I will *not* be devoting a whole chapter to the Genbu and Byakko seishi, because I have so little data on them, and their countries. Their stories will be related to you when all the seishi meet up again, in much-condensed form. And since this story *is* starring Nakago and Tasuki (and by association, their entire senshi), it won't bother my plot at all. Hope you like what I've done with Kutou!!

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Who can say
where the road goes
where the day flows
- only time
And who can say
If your love grows
as your heart chose
- only time

Who can say
why your heart sighs
as your love flies
- only time
And who can say
why your heart cries
when your love lies
- only time

Who can say
when the roads meet
that love might be
in your heart
And who can say
when the day sleeps
If the night keeps
all your heart

Night keeps all your heart

And who can say
If your love grows
as your heart chose
- only time
Who can say
where the road goes
where the day flows
- only time

Who knows - only time

Who knows - only time

-- "Only Time" by Enya

 

He was drowning.

Nakago gasped for air, only to fill his lungs with ice cold water. If it wasn't the lack of air that would kill him, it would be the frigid temperature. He floundered, his body writhing in quickly-freezing water. His movement was quickly limited as the water froze over into ice.

He wanted to scream, but there was too much water in his lungs. Blackness quickly filled his vision as he desperately tried to draw breath from water. It was so cold, he felt like he was on fire, the burn only extreme cold can give you. But the pain was quickly numbed, and that's what scared Nakago the most.

His body froze solid, but he still struggled vainly in the block of ice he was dying in. The water in his body became ice, and the lack of air destroyed his ability to think. Blackness settled on him.

Only then was he allowed to awaken.

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Nakago woke up gasping, and felt Soi's arms around him. He opened his eyes to find Tomo peering into his face. Nakago closed his eyes and took a deep breath, relishing in the oxygen he found there. He tasted salt and sand.

Soi and Tomo helped Nakago to a sitting position, where he reopened his eyes, this time greeted by a barren landscape. It was familiar.

Nakago shook off his two fellow senshi, and stared at the bleak, blank horizon, almost comforted by a place he called home in another life. "What happened?" he finally asked.

"While we were coming here, the girl in the blue dress attacked you, engulfed you in icy water. It disappeared, but when we arrived, you were gasping and choking like you were underwater.... You scared the hell out of us...." Miboshi piped up, looking nervously at Nakago. His large eyes were wider than normal, and he appeared shaken, giving his feminine appearance a fragile flavor.

Nakago was silent for a moment, standing apart from his senshi, gazing at the charred landscape. "This is where the Hin tribe was slaughtered. This is where my mother died...." he said after a long time of heavy silence. His voice was cold.

It was Yui who put her hand on Nakago's shoulder, offering him maternal comfort. "Nakago.... We need to go to the Kutou capitol. You alone know where we are. Please lead us to the palace. We need to find two of the royal family to take us to Mt. Taikyoku," she said gently. Comfort from her would be meaningless to Nakago. She knew instinctively that only Tasuki's hand would bring Nakago comfort. Only Tasuki had pierced through Nakago's ice.

"It's this way," he said, staring at Yui thoughtfully as he pointed off to the north-east.

The group trudged along silently behind Nakago, each wrapped up in their own thoughts. Suboshi and Amiboshi quietly held hands. The sins of the Seiryu senshi's past lives weighed heavy on their hearts. Even Yui reflected on all the bad things she had allowed to happen in the past. None of them were innocent, and though it was easy to the lay the blame on Nakago, the manipulator, they knew they had to take responsibility for their own actions.

"Why is this place so barren? It's almost like a desert...." Yui asked after a few hours of troubled marching.

"I don't know. The Hin tribe was razed, but I don't understand why it's so far into Kutou...." Nakago answered.

And then they found the bodies.

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It was a group effort that buried the dead of what was left of the village.

It was odd, but only half of one building still stood. What was odd, was that there were no signs of battle. It seemed like most of the village had just upped and disappeared. Left to exposure, with no food, and no way to leave, the people had starved to death. In total, there was only a dozen. No one had any clue what happened to the others. The looks on the dead told of loss, and of defeat. Without friends, family, and loved ones, the people had just given up on life.

"What.... could have possibly done this...?" Miboshi asked sadly.

"It looks like it all just disappeared. Off the face of the earth. Literally," Tomo said quietly.

"We need to keep moving, or we're going to starve as well. Let's go," Nakago ordered. As always, when Nakago commanded, the Seiryu seishi obeyed.

The silence grew even more heavy. They kept on walking, with little rest, and no food and water. Nakago refused to stop. When Yui collapsed, however, he was forced to stop.

"Nakago! We can't keep doing this! We have to stop and rest! My mother can't take any more of this!" Suboshi cried sharply, as Amiboshi tended to their mother.

Nakago pursed his lips. "I have to see. I have to see what happened to Kutou," he said.

"And you would sacrifice all our lives to do it?" Soi asked.

Nakago turned to her, and swallowed. "I didn't mean..." he started.

"Please Nakago. Let's rest. You need it, too," Miboshi pleaded.

Nakago relented, and he went off with Ashitare to hunt for food. They found nothing other than some small rodents Ashitare caught and brought back to cook. No one commented on what they were eating. They were just grateful to have food.

As the group curled around a fire Ashitare started, Nakago sat off from his friends, facing the direction of Kutou. He felt lonely, and desperate.

Soi sat beside him after a while, bringing him some of the meat that they had cooked up. Nakago ate only a little.

"Do you miss him that much?" she asked after a while.

"Yes," Nakago said simply.

"That's why you're driving us so hard. You want to be with him," she said softly.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt any of you. Is Lady Yui well now?"

"She's better now that she's had food. But we need to find civilization soon. Lady Yui is not a young woman anymore," Soi answered him, noting how quickly Nakago changed the subject.

"You should rest, Soi," he said.

"We're your friends, Nakago. Talk to us. Any one of us. We all respect you. You know that. Don't shut yourself off," Soi sighed and kissed the top of Nakago's head before leaving.

"Soi?" he asked as she started to walk away.

"Yes?" Soi asked.

"Tamahome. Taka's son. You like him?" Nakago asked.

She was silent, and a fond smile crept across her face. "I think I do," she said.

"He likes you too," Nakago offered and turned back to staring off in Kutou's direction.

"Tasuki loves you," Soi said. Though she had never heard Tasuki's proclamations, she knew that she wasn't the only one who ever loved Nakago. Tasukiís feelings were proclaimed by every action, every look on his face.

"I know," was all Nakago responded with. Soi frowned in sympathy for Tasuki and left. She knew unrequited love quite well.

Woman's intuition told her that unrequited love was something Tasuki knew even better than herself.

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They managed to survive until they reached the capitol of Kutou. They were hungry, and a little weak, but relieved to find civilization.

To everyone's surprise, particularly Nakago's, there was no sign of the bloody civil war that ravaged the country during their past lives. The capitol was gleaming and beautiful, teeming with people. But the people seemed drawn, worried, and frightened. Something was wrong, and everyone in the country was flocking to the capitol.

Through a bit of trickery and illusion, Tomo was able to get them food, as the group discussed how best to approach the problem of dealing with the royal family. No one could come up with a solid plan, so they decided to sleep on it in a local inn. Once again, Tomo's trickery came in handy, as he produced illusory money for their stay.

Nakago, despite his exhaustion, could not sleep. He left his room at the inn, and began wandering the streets of the city. Over the course of a day, the Seiryu senshi were learning from the people that things, people, animal, everything was just starting to fade away. Like it never existed. Morale was low, and the people were scared. They needed heroes.

But would they be willing to accept those heroes, if those heroes were villains in the past?

Tomo had been asking people in the city questions, and discovered that it was fifty years since the defeat of Tenko, and the country was ruled by an Empress Nurong, who was considered a hero by the Kutou nation, as she was the one who had brought peace in her youth. Nakago was pleased to see remnants of the Hin tribe mixed in with the Kutou populace. Whatever prejudice there had been in the past, it was completely gone now. Kutou was so different now.

Women had equal rights in Kutou, and in truth, thanks to Nurong's influence, the country was almost matriarchal in nature. More women filled the city guard than men, and a woman was even more likely to be seen carrying a sword than a man. The attitude seemed to be that Nurong felt that battle was something that required temperance and wisdom, attributes more found in women than men. The Empress seemed to have a calming affect on her nation, because even as her people flocked to the capitol in fear, she soothed them with her impressive speeches, and open compassion to all.

Nakago found an open bar and went inside, ordering saki. Even though Nakago looked older than his mere seventeen years, he was pleased to note that even if he didn't, in this country he was already a man, and able to drink as he pleased. As soon as the saki arrived, Nakago raised the bowl to his lips, preparing to drown his loneliness in alcohol.

And that's when a girl was thrown into his lap.

The saki splashed over the pair of them, and Nakago found large green eyes staring up at him. She had bright red hair, not unlike Tasuki's, and she gave him a charming smile. A loud crash was heard to his right, and Nakago turned to see what was happening.

A tall, stately blonde young woman was bringing a barstool down upon some hapless fool's head. A rather large burly man approached her from behind, as sodden with saki as Nakago wanted to be, but the girl turned around and kicked his legs out. She was quite the bar room brawler.

The redheaded girl in Nakago's lap squirmed and giggled. She was about fifteen or sixteen, and quite pretty. Her elfin features revealed her to be of the Hin tribe, and Nakago found his attention drawn to the girl.

"My, my, not everyday a girl gets to fall in the lap of such a beautiful man," the girl giggled, hopping off Nakago's lap. She flounced her long red hair and grabbed a bottle of saki from behind the bar, rushing to the blonde's side and crashing the bottle down on another man's head. Nakago gaped at the pair of women who seemed to be the most expert bar brawlers he had seen outside of Tasuki and Ashitare.

One of the men grabbed the cute redhead from behind, pawing her as he squeezed her to death. The blonde was too involved in her own fight to help her, and Nakago felt compelled to leave his bar stool and approached the man who held the redhead in his grip.

"Excuse me, sir?" Nakago said calmly as he tapped the large man on his shoulder.

As the ugly man turned to Nakago, Nakago punched him in the jaw, flooring the man and freeing the redhead. "My hero," she crooned to Nakago, and kicked behind her, catching another man in the crotch.

Nakago found himself dragged into the bar fight, kicking and swinging, and biting and clawing, the same as everyone else. At least twenty men rushed the trio, but they were all downed, mostly due to the blonde female and Nakago.

"Thanks for your help!" the redhead cried when the fight was over, throwing her arms around Nakago excitedly. The corner of Nakago's mouth twitched a the girl's exuberance. Something about her reminded him of Tasuki.

The blonde woman turned to him. She possessed long golden hair, and deep blue eyes, eyes that reminded Nakago of Soi. She looked to be of the Hin tribe, but Nakago could see the Asian in her blood. She was extremely beautiful, and around eighteen. She was tall, and Nakago found her extremely familiar-looking.

Apparently, she felt the same way about Nakago.

"Who are you? You are Hin, I can tell!" the blonde cried. She had the bearing of a regal princess, and Nakago noted her clothes were far too fine for a simple bar wench.

"My name is Nakago. And yes, I am Hin. At least I was in my past life," he said calmly.

"Nakago!! Liangnai, isn't that your grandfather's name?" the redheaded girl asked.

The girl identified as Liangnai frowned. "Nakago is my grandfather's name... But it is also the name of one of the Seiryu seishi. How dare you imposter a Seiryu seishi!!" she cried, the pure arrogance of her voice identifying her as an aristocrat.

"Who said anything about an imposter? My name is Nakago Iwasaki. Make of that what you will, Lady Liangnai," Nakago said coolly.

The beautiful blonde stared at him. "Lord Nakago has been dead for fifty-two years. He was killed by the Suzaku seishi Tamahome. I am his granddaughter. You are younger than I am. How can you be Nakago?" she demanded. Nakago raised an eyebrow.

"I am the reincarnation of the foreign shogun who ruled the Kutou army. Believe me or don't believe me, it makes no difference. But I can tell you this. I had no children in my past life, so you couldn't possibly be my granddaughter," Nakago said calmly. The redheaded girl looked between Liangnai and Nakago in open confusion.

"Baoling, come beside me," Liangnai commanded. The redhead sauntered to the blonde's side, sliding her hips side to side, an action that caught Nakago's eye. The redhead was very pretty, possessing the same sort of sultry cuteness Tasuki possessed, only herís was very intentional.

"I am the royal Princess Liangnai, daughter of Nurong, Empress of Kutou. This is my handmaiden, Baoling. You will follow me to the Imperial Palace right away, and my mother shall determine the truth of your words," the princess commanded. Nakago actually smiled.

"Well, Princess, it seems fortune smiles on me, because that's exactly what I came here for," Nakago smiled coldly.

"Um, highness?" the redhead asked.

"Yes, Baoling?" Liangnai sighed.

"What are we going to tell your mother when she finds out you ran away from the palace again?" Baoling asked with a strained smile.

Liangnai sweatdropped. "Um, let's not get into that right now," she sighed.

"But when we bring back this here Nakago guy, she's gonna know you ran away again," Baoling pointed out.

Liangnai flounced her hair back, sniffing. "Well, if she wishes to punish me, so be it. I am tired of being stuck in that dreary palace. I am tired of being told what to do. I am tired of being told who to marry. Maybe now that I found someone important, she'll give me the respect I deserve," Liangnai said arrogantly.

"Respect is something earned, not given, Princess," Nakago said easily.

Liangnai narrowed her eyes, as Baoling giggled, eyeing Nakago. "Follow me, imposter," she said darkly and stomped away towards the Imperial Palace.

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The Kutou palace had changed greatly over the past fifty years. It had the obvious touch of a woman to it, and the colors were done in shades of blue. The art was tasteful, and the dark stench of evil Nakago always choked on in his past life had long since died with the past Kutou emperor.

Princess Liangnai led Nakago into the throne room, past all the guards that rushed up to her, demanding to know where she had been. Liangnai ignored them all, and strode up to the Empress of Kutou, looking rebellious.

Nakago's breath caught.

Empress Nurong was gorgeous, even at the age of fifty-three. Her hair was the soft magenta of Soi's, only bound up the style of a warrior. Her eyes were Nakago's true blue, and her features a blend of Hin and Asian. She wore armor in the style of a shogun, and Nakago recognized the dragon shoulder decoration he himself wore on her. She looked every inch the warrior, right down to a well-used and polished blade, Nakago's own.

Liangnai bowed before her mother, and whispered to her of Nakago. Baoling was on her knees respectfully before Nurong. Only Nakago remained standing. The Empress stared at him for a long time before speaking.

"You are Nakago," she finally said in a clear contralto. It was a statement, not a question. Liangnai gasped.

"The Seiryu seishi have returned to Kutou, your majesty. We are your humble servants, who beg of you to aid us in our quest for the Sacred Power," Nakago said eloquently.

Empress Nurong did not answer him, but approached him, peering into his face. "I never met my father. You are as handsome as they said you were," she finally said.

Nakago blinked. "I had no children," he said firmly.

Empress Nurong turned away from him. Gray was starting to take away the magenta of her hair. The profile of her face reminded Nakago of Soi. She was silent as she approached her throne, and then sat on it, staring at Nakago evenly. There was steel in this woman.

"My mother, the Lady Soi, became pregnant with your child a year before the Mikos came. If you recall your past life completely, you will remember a time when Soi requested a private sojourn away from the duties of a Seiryu seishi for a few months. She knew you wanted no children, much less one by herself, so she gave birth to me in secrecy. She left me in the care of the last of the Hin tribe, your kinsman in hiding, and returned to you. You never knew about me. When the Kutou Emperor was slain, the country torn apart by civil war, and the Seiryu seishi dead, I was trained to become a warrior as great as my father, so I could bring peace and strength to my country.

"At the age of ten, I took the throne, claiming the birthright of a daughter of two Seiryu seishi. No one opposed me, as the entire country was still lost without any leadership. With the help of your Hin kinsman, we rebuilt this country, making it strong, and peaceful. I have spent my entire life making sure that Kutou is not the corrupted hive of villainy it was under the former emperor's rule. I have spent my entire life making Kutou the country it should be, a country filled with honorable warriors.

"But now things are disappearing. People are disappearing. Animals, crops, entire villages. And there is nothing I can do about it. I have put forth my greatest sorcerers, and my greatest warriors, only to discover how helpless we are against this evil that destroys my country little by little. You want my help? If you're going to restore my country, young Nakago, then you shall have any help you require," Nurong finished evenly. Nakago saw wisdom in his daughter, as well as her strength.

"I shall do my best to save Kutou, your majesty," Nakago said firmly, realizing he had a daughter.

He had a daughter.

He had a granddaughter.

Nakago realized the reason he found Liangnai so familiar, was because she looked so much like himself. He stared at empress and princess, swallowing the fact that he had fathered a daughter in his past life.

"What is it that you need from me, Nakago of the Seiryu Senshi?" Nurong asked evenly.

"I need two members of the royal family to accompany us to the Mt. Taikyoku. Taiitsukun said that you have the ability to open one of the Four Gates there. We have to find the Sacred Power, and enter the Hidden Temple..." Nakago explained.

"Why are things disappearing? What is happening, Nakago-san?" Nurong pressed.

"Do you want the long or short version?" Nakago said wryly.

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After explanations were made, Nurong brought the rest of the Seiryu seishi to the Imperial Palace that night.

Soi burst into tears at the sight of her past life's daughter, and a happy reunion was made between the two, and Nakago felt left out. He noticed that Liangnai felt the same way, sitting with her handmaiden, Baoling, in the corner. As the rest of the Seiryu seishi were ushered off to their rooms for the night, and Soi and Nurong got to know each other, Nakago sat beside his granddaughter, ignoring Baoling's coy look.

"Baoling, please go prepare my nightly attire, so that I may rest," Liangnai commanded abruptly, which caused the redheaded girl to frown as she obeyed. Baoling made it a point to smile seductively at Nakago, sauntering away from him, and occasionally giving him coy looks.

"She is a vacuous slut. I hope you have better taste than to bed someone like her. She is new in my service, and I don't like her at all," Liangnai said evenly.

"I didn't come here to talk about your amorous handmaidens," Nakago said just as evenly.

"Then what did you come here for?" Liangnai asked.

"I wished to sit beside the granddaughter of my past life. Is that wrong?" Nakago asked.

"I heard stories about you from the man I am to marry. Here in Kutou, you are a hero who died honorably, but Prince Langrui said you were a filthy coward who tried to become a god, and killed anyone who opposed you," Liangnai countered.

"I see. He's right, except for the filthy coward part. I was afraid of nothing, if I may say one positive thing about myself," Nakago shrugged. He was beginning to find a kindred spirit in Liangnai. Nurong was imposing in her perfection, but Liangnai had enough short-comings to be likable. She was arrogant, and so was Nakago.

"So I suppose I shouldn't have kicked him in the balls for insulting your character then," Liangnai smirked.

"I see. So you are marrying... Who is this Prince Langrui?"

"The Crowned Prince of Konan. Grandson of Hotohori, Emperor of Konan, and Suzaku Warrior. We met once, when our parents arranged the marriage. At the time, I did not know he was my future husband. Otherwise, I would have kicked him harder, so he could never use his manhood against me," Liangnai spat.

"You're marrying the prince of Konan? A brilliant act of diplomacy. I'm sure no one consulted you, of course," Nakago sighed.

"Of course. My mother dictates my life to me as if I was one of her armies to command. I loathe the Konan prince. He is arrogant, prejudice, and full of spite. When he tries to bed me, I shall wrench his manhood off."

"Your mother is right, however. Marrying the Konan prince would ensure peace between the two countries. And he couldn't possibly be that bad."

"He is. He acts like I have no rights. And he doesn't want to marry me, either."

"If you kicked him in the balls, I can understand why."

"Perhaps if the two of you sat down and talked about your differences, and worked them out.... Maybe if you talk to him, instead of kicking him in the balls, he might be more receptive to your equality. You need to think about your country, not about your own personal desires," Nakago said gently.

"What do you mean?" Liangnai demanded.

"You are the Princess Royal of Kutou. Your life is not your own. It belongs to your people. By marrying this man, by keeping peace with him, you ensure peace for your country. It sounds like you both need a change of attitude," Nakago said wisely.

Liangnai digested that information. "I don't want him to bed me," she finally said.

"Necessary, in order to create heirs. If he's gentle, and understanding, then you might even find the act pleasurable."

"He is neither."

"Then, as I said, talk to him. No descendant of Hotohori could be cruel. I couldn't believe it. The man was very gentle, and very understanding to women. And if you only met Prince Langrui once, then how could you say what sort of man he is?"

"His own father says he is moody and temperamental. I overheard him talking to Mother. He spoke well of his concubine's son, Kuotian, but since he is only a concubine's son, he was not eligible for me to marry. Emperor Boushin seems to like his concubine's son better than his own heir," Liangnai commented.

Nakago looked thoughtful. "If the boy knows his father likes the other son better, don't you think playing second fiddle would make you bitter?" he said thoughtfully.

Liangnai blinked in the face of Nakago's wisdom. "I had not thought of that...." she admitted.

"When you see Prince Langrui again, try being polite and compassionate. Give him a chance. He might surprise you. I know someone I thought was just an irascible idiot at first, but I later found out he's a loving, compassionate, complex man, with more intelligence than most give him credit for," Nakago said thoughtfully. He was quiet after that, and a surprisingly soft expression crept across his face as he thought fondly of Tasuki.

Liangnai watched Nakago thoughtfully for awhile. "You speak fondly of this man," she said.

"Do I?" Nakago asked.

"He is your lover?" she asked bluntly.

"Yes."

"I see," she observed. "I had two pet dogs, both males. The bigger one liked to mount the smaller one."

Nakago blinked. "What the hell does that have to do with anything?" he asked, slightly irritated by the analogy.

"I never knew that two males could be together before then. My mother explained such things to me, and she said that the bigger dog was trying to dominate the smaller one. She said that is what they do, when there are no females around," Liangnai said simply.

"For humans, that's not-" Nakago began, until the princess cut him off.

"But I had female dogs, too. And the bigger dog never hurt the little one when he mounted him, they seemed to both enjoy it, if IĎm any judge. They always played together, hunted together, slept beside each other, and even shared their food. They were best friends. And when the bigger one died of old age, the little one stopped eating, and died soon after. I think he died of a broken heart," Liangnai finished.

Nakago stared at the princess. Liangnai offered him a smile, the first he had seen on the girl. "One day I should wish to find someone to love as much as those two dogs loved each other. I shall give Prince Langrui a second chance," she said and stood up.

Nakago blinked, finding himself stunned into silence.

"I shall go receive my punishment from my mother for running away now. But at least I enjoyed the bar fight. I always enjoy those," Liangnai grinned as she walked away.

Nakago couldn't help but smile after her.

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Nurong left her Consort, a Hin warrior named Kieron, in charge of the country while she and her daughter prepared to leave.

The Seiryu seishi found their holy items in a shrine to Seiryu. On a blue altar lay a gleaming blue earring, a shining shin clam, the deadly ryuuseisui, a polished flute, a cleaned set of broken manacles, a beautiful hair ribbon, and a sorcerer's spinning device. The Seiryu Seven all gleefully took them, pleased to find the items that parts of themselves were divested in.

As they exited the shrine, Nurong stood before Nakago, and offered him the sword she wore. "Your sword, Lord Nakago," she said.

"Keep it, your majesty. I rarely used it anyways. I have no need of it," Nakago bowed to her.

Nurong smiled and belted the sword back on. "Thank you. Liangnai seems to have come to her senses. I don't know what you said, but she is no longer fighting me as hard about everything," the Empress smiled.

"You are quite welcome. You must understand that you are quite an imposing role model for her. I think it intimidates her, and makes her wish to rebel, because she's afraid she won't measure up to you," Nakago told his daughter.

"I understand. But she does not see her own worth. Liangnai, though still young and impulsive, possesses an intelligence greater than even mine, and the skills of a warrior soon to surpass me. One day, she will make a fine Empress," Nurong smiled proudly, looking fondly at her daughter, who came out in a similar suit of armor to Nurong's, and carrying a sword as well.

Baoling, the redheaded handmaiden was apparently coming along as well, and had on a simple dagger. She offered Nakago a coy smile as they mounted their horses, and rode beside him as they began riding towards Mt. Taikyoku.

He paid the girl little mind, preferring to talk to Liangnai. Perhaps if he did pay her more attention, he would have noticed the cold calculating look Baoling gave him, studying his every move....

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