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So, the point of this whole exercise in reinc was that it was meant to be free form, out of order, in bits, drips and drabs, and however else it came out. I, however, have been trying to impose order and structure. The story has been rebelling. >.< Tav concedes. Have an out of order chunk, with a hella significant conversation.

It would help if you've read A Meeting of Kings first.


~*~*~

"Your retainer... Toril, was it?" King Skander began, when the others had all left the room.

Kougaiji nodded, trying not to frown thoughtfully. "Although he would not appreciate being called a retainer."

"Ah," the King murmured. "You have a rather informal court."

"I have an army," Kougaiji said, not as pointedly as Doku might have. "We have had no time for courtly manners for two decades now."

The King sighed softly. "My apologies. We cling to such things here, for fear of losing everything."

"That is entirely understandable," Kougaiji replied, softening his tone.

"He is... of mixed blood?" the King asked, after a moment.

Kougaiji nodded. "Such as he are considered children of taboo. Many believe the red hair and eyes to be proof and warning of that."

The King's eyes flickered over Kougaiji's hair. Their eyes met, and Skander didn't try to hide his question.

"My father is the Ox-king," Kougaiji said, unapologetically. "My mother is a fire mage."

"Ah, forgive my curiosity. Your people have never been common in this region."

The Prince smiled slightly. "You are hardly alone in it."

"I feel as though I have met you before," Skander said, studying Kougaiji with his head tilted ever so slightly to one side. "It is no excuse for my possibly excessive informality."

He hadn't been looking, earlier, at the threads of fate woven in the room. Hadn't wanted to look, with so many lives present, tangling and weaving. But now, with only the King here, he saw without meaning to and had to close his eyes for a moment.

"No, Your Majesty," Kougaiji said, unable to keep the weariness from his voice. "We have not met."

"You see beyond the visible world."

Opening his eyes, Kougaiji smoothed his expression. "I see connections. Threads. It is part of my heritage and inheritance."

The King's strange blue eyes narrowed slightly. "What did you see?"

"With all due respect, you have no right to ask."

"Ah." The King leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers before him. "No, I suppose I don't."

It was disconcerting to see such mannerisms in such a young man. He bit back the urge to ask about things better left unsaid and sighed again.

"And if I told you I dream of wings, of flight... that I feel more comfortable in Meiru's company than with my kin, would that sway you at all?"

"I cannot give you answers, Your Majesty," Kougaiji said, trying to put the edge of certainty back in his voice. "Such things are best forgotten."

"You speak of reincarnations, then?"

He blinked, realized too late that he'd been trapped, and pressed his lips together in a thin line.

"Kougaiji --"

He could only blink again, too startled by the sudden familiarity of his own name to summon a response. A deliberate attempt to throw him. Unfortunately, it worked.

"-- who and what I was may not matter, but who and what Toril was matter a great deal. You will not be able to defeat Gyumaoh without his help."

Surprise was going to become a permanent expression if he was not careful. "You know?"

"His mission is unfinished."

Kougaiji bit back a short bark of humourless laughter at that. "His mission was a complete and utter failure. There is no finishing that."

Skander's smile was baring of neat white teeth. "He cannot stop the resurrection, no, but the restoration of this world is still his duty."

"Why?" Kougaiji asked, leaning forward impatiently. "His life is not such... the weight of karma... how can you presume to know?"

"Can you not look at him and see it?" Skander asked, somewhat sadly.

Kougaiji had no answer for that. Rising to his feet, he paced restlessly before the King's desk.

"Has he found the others?" Skander asked quietly.

"You should not remember!" Kougaiji exclaimed, turning abruptly to face him.

"I have a dragon soul. We remember," the King answered evenly. "And even were that not so, the fabric of this world has been rent so greatly that arguments relying on the past and the proper order of things are rendered all but useless."

With an inarticulate growl, Kougaiji sank back down onto his chair. Leaning forward, he braced his elbows on his knees and stared down at his clasped hands. "Gojyo," he said, his tone weary with defeat. "Johar. He was appointed General in Doku's absence."

"I see," Skander murmured. Shifting his gaze to the near distance, the lines of his youthful face softened with a faint sadness. "Not what I expected."

Kougaiji raised his head and fixed a dour look on the King. "It is presumptuous to have expectations of reincarnations, Your Majesty."

The King snorted, turning his attention sharply back to Kougaiji. "And Heaven forfend I should presume against it?"

"Reincarnation is no business of Tenkai's," Kougaiji said slowly. "It is a far older process, not to be ruled by the whims of kami."

"Ah," Skander murmured. "Nor subject to the bodhisattva's intervention, I suppose?"

"Is that what happened to you?" Kougaiji asked despite himself.

"With all due respect," the King began.

Kougaiji chuckled and nodded. Leaning back in his chair, he studied the young king intently. "This alliance you propose, then... it is not military."

"We will never muster numbers enough to defeat him," Skander replied, inclining his head. "We must find another way."

Another way meant returning to Hotoujo, confronting the demons of his past, and his future. Kougaiji tried not to sigh. "And you believe you have found a way?"

"No," the young King replied. "I believe I have found a possibility. I have no plan as of yet. Only a hope, my intuition, and a few like-minded allies." He paused, meeting Kougaiji's gaze directly, and added, "May I count you among their numbers?"

"Yes," the prince replied, without hesitation.


~*~*~


Comments would be much appreciated. Anyone (besides Narsus ^_~) still reading? any thoughts? ^_^;
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