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Sapphire Veil (Prelude, Chapter 2)
You stand on a balcony, overlooking the deep sapphire blue of the sea. There is nothing but ocean for miles — nothing except your incredible ship, the Empyrean Treasure Undreamt Of, a massive ship crafted of rare white oak from the very furthest Easternmost edges of Creation, sleek black jade perfectly attuned to the water in which it sits, and gleaming orichalcum accents, marking you as one of the god-kings of the Solar Deliberative.

You are intrinsically aware of the door to your luxurious suite sliding silently open not because of something as crass as sound — your Air-Aspected major domo is far too skilled and self-aware to make any sound whatsoever — but because of the subtle shift in the room’s Essence. You turn, and find her kneeling in the middle of your cabin, hands in front of her face and bowed so low that the backs of her hands nearly brush the polished white floor. Her bow of submission is perfect; as it best had be. After all, she used to be one of the foremost trainers of your Perfected Academy of Veiled Delights.

“Rise, Unati. Speak.”

“As you wish, mistress,” she says, her voice modulated to the perfect timbre to suit your preferences. You smile – it took her a long time to learn to speak in a voice that did not grate on your senses. You look down momentarily at your perfectly manicured hands, and the beautiful gem-studded rings on them. It’s a pity that those rings left such marks on her during those lessons. “Suwarti has returned, my Queen. From her assignation to the prefect of the Serendipitous Bounty Prefecture. You wished to see her as soon as she returned.”

“Suwarti. She’s the one with demon-blood, isn’t she?” you inquire. Unati nods. “Bring her in.”

The Dragon-Blooded steps from the cabin, sliding the door closed behind her. You step to the middle of the room, focus your Essence for a mere moment, and then begin moving. Each posture is designed to achieve a very specific end, both in battle and in the emotions of those who witness it. You are perfectly aware of the sliding open of the door half-way through your routine, just as you perform the steps that invoke the Form of the martial art that they have named after you.

Of course, it makes sense – you did create it. Every step and gesture, yours.

You come closer and closer to it. With a small spin, your sleeves flow open, and you are suddenly surrounded by floating flower petals. With another thought, you dissolve into fragrant Essence and reform across the room. Then, with a slight pause to look upon the cowering demon-blooded courtesan kow-towing at the entrance to the room, you invoke the Chimera’s Coils.

The change flows over you, and you become something a little less real. Something that touches the state of dreaming. You hear the susurrus of echoing secrets, flowing off of the demon-blooded, her intentions, fears, hopes and lusts playing out like unwinding prayer strips around her.

In your strange form, you hover in midair, afloat in a sea of emotions, half-remembered dreams and buoyant secrets. Your thousand eyes gaze on the trembling courtesan, and you listen closely to everything she learned while she was in the arms of the Prefect of Serendipitous Bounty. You teach your women to be observant — indeed, to be supremely inquisitive, and she discovered much. You breathe it all in like a sweet perfume and then you speak, in a voice that she hears not in her ears, but in her mind, with a sensation of deja-vu, as though she were recalling the words from a dream.

“Rise, Suwarti. Your duty is complete. Remember your vow to reveal nothing you learned to anyone, including myself. I am pleased.” She stands, and then, biting her lip, glances up at you. In that moment, she falls in love with you, once again.

As have all of your courtesans. It’s part of their training, after all, to play at bedsports vigorously, but to love only you. She looks like she’s about to speak, but then catches herself. Her hands flash, using the secret hand sign that all your courtesans learn as both a means of communicating secretly with one another, and in order to speak to you without their voices disturbing your delicate senses.

Thank you mistress, she signs. I am made whole in service to you.

You cannot help but agree silently to yourself as she departs. You breathe out a cloud of pearlescent Essence, and unwind yourself from the coils of the Chimera. As you do so, Unati steps unexpectedly into the room, concern written across her brow.

“Mistress,” she says, a discordant tone of worry creeping into her voice, raking like claws across slate in your hearing. “Forgive me. There is a Heavenly envoy here. The Celestial Censor of the West awaits, with a fang of celestial lions. They say…they are here to investigate you, mistress.”

You purse your lips and narrow your eyes. So. You wondered how long it might be before certain things came to light. You gesture and pluck the twin orichalcum battle fans, Eternal Cycle of Daylight from Elsewhere. Let us see what they have to say, then.

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