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1732, 10th day of the first month of the cold period. Immortal Grand Court of the Mysselhøj Universe

 

Immortal Grand Court, the biggest joke there is. Housed in a pocket dimension the court is intended to be used for criminals that represent a universal threat. Today I’ve been called to explain myself, pompous bastards.

 

Calm yourself Nuwa, while they are old gits, the powerhouses that back them you can’t afford to offend. It would hurt my husband to be a widower, again. Let’s hope Johan received my message and presides; right after I sent a message to him, the council went into full lock down so there’s a chance it never made it.

 

Emblazoned in gilded letters on the archway in front of me are the words, “Ante Omnia • Supra Omnia” Before all, above all. The words rile my feelings of ire again, haughty idiots.

 

It takes me a few moments to smooth out my ten-layered kimono. It’s used to represent what political power I do have, but by the nines is it a pain to wear. My eyes stop for a moment on the pouch I’ve brought today. Johan, I’m counting on you. I cinch it up and hold it in my left hand by the strings.

 

Through the arch and to my right a broad shouldered guard stands beyond the entrance. His domain covers the hall to indicate that he’s the powerhouse that will wreck you if needed. He salutes me as I pass. Across from him at my left is the court herald.

 

“Nu Wa’ Kirzington von Addenal, artificer of the ages, free agent of the wind, and head wife of the Grand Emperor of Fire of the Mysselhøj universe,” the herald announces.

 

The urge to roll my eyes is severe but I resist. No witnesses are present today in the spectator area. If things go south for them it’ll be easy to cover up. This is the least used court and the five prior times I’ve been here, as a witness and a guard, the air has been stagnant. Today it’s as fresh as it can be which is nice I suppose.

 

I take a seat on the black pillow in front of the judges’ benches. To try and regain some form of comfort I gather the cloth of my kimono in my hands as I sit down.

 

With my eyes closed I hear a faint buzzing noise to my right. Anessa’s soul is lying there, covered in a white blanket. At least they had the decency to cover her.

 

Five tall vertical gold totems surround her, each adorned with a large pink crystal that shifts to a harlequin green and back. The totems are connected by a thick steel rope with sheets of bright blue hanging off them.

 

The Eye of the Supreme Beholder activates and I see a deep purple destruction barrier with harlequin green specks of death flitting about.

 

Yikes, that barrier would kill Yuna or I in a heartbeat. Destruction barriers delete whatever comes into contact with them, or try to. With the right equipment you can set them to not eat certain things, like oxygen.

 

That must be what cleared the air. None of us here need to breathe any longer, something we threw away eons ago, but we enjoy the sense of smell. My head dips to the floor a bit as I sense the grand elders entering the room.

 

With my mind’s eye, I see three ancient men totter in. Each take their place by their respective bench.

 

The herald proclaims behind me, “Chief Judge Clyde von Grithenson, grand elder of the Mysselhøj universe.”

 

Clyde takes the right bench, I’ve always wondered how he sees through all the wrinkles and his bushy eyebrows. His staff thumps the floor as he keeps himself stable.

 

“Chief Justice Tii, grand elder of the Mysselhøj universe,” the herald says.

 

Tii has a permanent scowl on his face caused by his thick sagging jowls. He and I butt heads due to his incessant pursuit of Yuna. She said she would never bed him and would kill herself if she was forced to.

 

Tii has given up his direct pursuit of Yuna in favor of trying to push his grandson toward her. If she ends up as a part of the family he controls, he can… no, I shake my head, I’m not going down that line of thinking.

 

He holds the highest position in this court as the Chief Justice. His word is law and while there are people who hold more power, they tend to keep out of the limelight.

 

“Shadow Chief Justice, Johan de Arlington,” the herald says.

 

The fight to keep the smile from my face is savage.

 

The herald continues, “grand elder of the Mysselhøj universe.”

 

He got my message. One of the few people that can counter Tii, whose interests line up with my own, is here. The ‘shadow’ part of his title indicates he’s retired. He can preside any time he wants, because he wants, without approval from anyone.

 

Their outfits are identical, without even looking I know they’re in purple robes with a gold inlay around their neck which traces the edge of the fabric to the ground. A second black robe sits underneath. They take their gavels and smack their sound blocks in unison.

 

A gruff voice crackles, “Nu Wa’ Kirzington von Addenal.” Tii pauses for me to look up to him. “Please clearly explain why you forbade Yuna from eliminating that spirit?”

 

Clyde interjects, his voice so horse it manages just above a whisper, “I must add, this put her at direct contradiction with our orders.”

 

I snap my fingers and project a cone of silence around us.

 

“That girl was sent by Xiāndǎo,” I say with a level voice.

 

All three faces turn grave and they take a moment to process my words.

 

“Do you have proof of this?” Tii says as he leans forward.

 

I nod and disperse the cone.

 

Tii turns to the guard and herald and waves his hand for them to leave.

 

The two look at one another before they shrug and exit.

 

Once I can no longer sense the two, I continue, “He is inside her.” I look to the girl and add, “even now. When I went to dig into her origins he showed me her past.

 

“I also scrubbed through the footage again and one of our drones spotted him before she jumped into Mysselhøj.” I pull the recording cube from my storage space and toss it to Tii.

 

 

In the recording, Xiāndǎo sits next to the barrier and points his tail at it.

 

Anessa touches the barrier and backs off, sucking her finger. A second later she leans forward and rubs her temples.

 

Xiāndǎo looks at the autonomous drone that patrols the barrier and vanishes.

 

 

“If that monster’s involved, we should just erase that girl immediately!” Clyde wails. He flails his gavel at me.

 

My eyes lock with Clyde’s and I state, “I advise us not to be rash. Every time Xiāndǎo sends someone our way, a calamity follows. They are…”

 

Tii interrupts me when he smacks his gavel against his sound block, he finishes my sentence, “part of the problem.

“The solution is simple,” Tii says and takes his glasses from his collar. A gesture later and the barrier around Anessa begins to contract.

 

“Need I remind you of our universe’s name, Chief Justice Tii? The last universe before us did that,” I say and stand to emphasize what authority I have.

 

Tii glowers at me.

 

“The entire universe was eliminated,” I state with vehemence as I spread my arms. The command diagram I wrote as I stood counteracts Tii’s action and blocks all access except my own.

 

A crisp clap comes from the left, Johan says with a stern voice, “I remember, I was there. Tii, I am taking over from here. You two can leave.”

 

“But…” Tii complains before being cut off.

 

“Go on now, shoo,” Johan mocks. He waves his hands at the two like Tii dismissed the guard and herald.

 

Those two won’t let this go later. I know because they grimace at me before they leave the room.

 

Am I making the right decision? My eyes return to my pouch. Will Johan back me? A sigh escapes as I ponder.

 

Johan walks over to the barrier and crooks his back toward it.

 

Anessa rolls over and her hand goes through the barrier, as if it weren’t even there. Her face scrunches and she withdraws her hand.

 

These totems are of the highest order. Universal death-destruction stones compressed a thousand times a piece. The rope has spirit suppression artifacts, each overlay their field onto the target area.

 

It would render me as weak as a newborn soul and my hand would vaporize upon contact with it.

 

“She’s not simple, this one,” Johan says.

 

“Until Xiāndǎo made his presence apparent, I thought the same. She was as ordinary as they come.” I take to Johan’s left side.

 

“This is bad, isn’t it?” Johan questions while he strokes his beard.

 

“I think so,” I say and nod in agreement. “Normally Xiāndǎo will hold onto a pawn’s soul and reinforce it for a few hundred years. At most.” My command diagram deactivates the barrier. From her movement in her sleep, it has no use against her.

 

“And this time?” Johan asks. He stops stroking his beard and looks at me.

 

“I lost count after a few million years,” I shrug. “It felt like the static period I scrubbed through was the tip of the iceberg.”

 

“Hmm,” Johan muses. He starts to stroke his beard again with greater fervor.

 

The coins in my pouch clink as I place the bag in my right hand. Don’t lose your nerve now. Two blue and two red coins spill out into my left hand and I hold them up toward Johan.

 

Johan holds his hand out to receive them with and his left eyebrow raises.

 

“What’s this?” Johan asks and takes a closer look.

 

“I wish to exercise my right to meddle through the act of complete descendance,” I say and prostrate before him. A few nervous minutes pass in silence.

 

Johan taps me on the shoulder. “I don’t think I can allow that,” he says in a soft voice and a hint of concern.

 

“I’m willing to contract my services to the Mysselhøj Army for remuneration,” I say and rise to look him in the eyes.

 

His eyebrows furrow and he shakes his head no. He holds out his hand to return the tokens.

 

My heart drops as I prepare to receive them.

 

Before they touch my hand Johan stops and remarks, “You just finished telling Clyde and Tii that meddling with Xiāndǎo’s pawn is tantamount to suicide.

 

“Although…” Johan withdraws his hand and looks at the tokens, then turns to me.

 

He says, “You and your husband are the best of the best.

 

“Further reinforcing his pawn can’t be too bad,” he remarks. He places the two blue coins on Anessa’s forehead.

Johan makes a few gestures with his hands and holds them out toward Anessa. The blue coins sink into her forehead and a flash of pain appears on her face. A second passes and her hair color shifts, she shrinks in height and her bust contracts substantially.

 

“A shame,” Johan sighs and shakes his head.

 

I send a glare in his direction and he clears his throat.

 

“Since she is Xiāndǎo’s pawn, you must find a surrogate to carry her. All of the pawns he has sent us in the past, have been handled the same way.” His voice gains a touch of concern, “He’s never buried himself in a pawn before.”

 

The red coins go back into the pouch and Johan grabs my wrist. He says, “This agreement doesn’t go beyond this room.”

 

“It would be a shame to lose you, is all,” he says and releases me.

 

“Another thing, you will be training two apprentices. Not negotiable,” Johan demands, his face breaks out into a grin.

 

Meddling with Xiāndǎo’s pawn is risky. This thought counters any plans I have of resisting Johan’s requirement for an apprentice. If this ends badly for me I hope someone can take my place.

 

“Why her?” Johan asks. “That was your only right to meddle through descendance. He adds, “She will face unheard of peril as Xiāndǎo’s pawn.” He leans against one of the barrier totems and holds out his hand toward Anessa.

 

“Before she died, she faced 81 sets of 81 hours of torture; nearly a year on her world. They used drugs, and vile cultivation methods to keep her alive and awake through it all,” I say and squeeze my pouch.

 

“I resonated with her and experienced all she did through the memories. Xiāndǎo stopped the pain and anguish so it wouldn’t drive me mad.”

 

I walk to Anessa and squat. My fingers trace her throat along where the false memory’s knife runs across. “I would like to hope,” I swallow and close my eyes, “Hope that most of the time she was with Xiāndǎo, it was so he could take away that experience.

 

“It broke her,” I say and look up at Johan. “So badly, so he replaced it with a memory of having her throat cut, and made it seem like a nightmare.”

 

My hand goes to my throat, “In a past life, mine wasn’t a nightmare.”

 

A crisp clap breaks my funk.

 

Johan remarks with a smile, “You’re past that now. Find her a good home so she can find you someday.

 

“Congratulations on your new daughter,” Johan says as he walks off, with a lazy wave of his right hand.

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Allen Clark Copeland, Jr.

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