-------------------Chapter Twenty-Three, As Told By Aiko Kaijitsu---------------------

The Ainu and the Mountain

By Aiko Kaijitsu

After we had set up camp, I looked down the mountain upon the army of Ainu warriors. Now that Ochir had garnered two-thousand troops, I asked Jiro if our combined armies would be enough to assail Kyoto.

“We don’t want the Ainu here! They are unkempt and uncouth,” Hirabashi Jiro said flatly. “We had Gangnum-Sum in our custody, and he escaped, remember?”

I had visions of Gangnum-sum’s men being burned alive as they tried to flee. I had wanted it to happen. I couldn’t believe I had been so terrible. I was as bad that day as any tyrant. Xia had atoned, but she had only done what I had wanted. I could not atone. If I could do nothing else, I could try to make sure nothing else unjust happened to Gangnum-sum or his people.

“Yes Jiro, I remember, but you should have been forging the alliance that Ochir did. Neither I nor my sister thought of it either. We failed. We can’t reject the Ainu because we don’t like the fact that Ochir rallied them or because it was Gangnum-Sum’s job to guard Seinaru Heikiko that day. If we are willing to invite Mongols here, we should have gotten the Ainu on our side. I don’t think I’m being naïve here. I think that if we let Ochir and Gangnum-Sum do their jobs without creating a row with them now they will help us. We need them. If we do accept their help, would we then have the troops we’d need to assail Kyoto? That is my question.”

They shook their heads sadly. “Ten thousand more would be more like it,” my sister said.

Jiro was unconvinced. “Go and bring Gangnum-Sum here so he can make the proper vows.”

“I can certainly go and ask him if he wants to meet. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t.”

“Then we’ll have our answer, won’t we,” Jiro said.

This was just the sort of thing I was afraid of. The river was running along just a smooth as glass and Jiro needed to create a ripple that could grow and grow and eventually disrupt the course of the river itself.


“I really don’t require a vow myself, but fine,” I said. “I’ll go and talk to Ochir.” I headed down the slope to their camp.


I saw Ochir examining his bow and making slight adjustments when I arrived at the bottom of the mountain. I went up to Ochir and bowed. “Lord Ochir, I congratulate you. I think you have proven yourself to be most resourceful in rallying the Ainu. I think it was a brilliant idea. I admonished Jiro for not doing so himself. Of course, my sister didn’t suggest it to him either, and admittedly, neither did I. Needless to say, your troops under your command make Hirabashi nervous, and he wants to see Gangnum-Sum and have him say vows if the Ainu intend to help.”

“Why?” Ochir asked.

“I don’t know, in my book they are basically just being foolish. On an actually important note, I need to tell you about a letter I just got from Wen and Chaka. It details another battle at sea with the Kamikaze, and tells of them arriving in Tianjin only to be cordoned off in the harbor and faced with the prospect of Hubidai boarding with ten thousand goblinoids and sailing here, one way or another.”

“Well hot damn!” Ochir cried. Although expected, Ochir's reaction wasn’t what I had been hoping for.

“I think we should repair to Tianjin at once so we can intervene,” I said. “Are you in?”

“Sure, I’ll come. I never told you this but I tried to contact Livikus a few months ago, to see if he’d be interested in getting in on the siege of Guangzhou. I couldn’t get a hold of him.”

“My thought is that this is all political, and Hubidai is vying for some sort of control. Your wife and my husband could get caught in the middle.”

“Here’s the deal with the Ainu,” Ochir said. “I made my own little deal with Gangnum-Sum, who I think is the leader of their group. If they help to fight the oni  and help your sister get the throne, they will receive full autonomy in return.”

“I’m fine with that,” I said.

“That means no bowing to any Emperor, they run their own affairs, no interference. They keep their own resources. They were here before the Japanese.”

“I know, I don’t have any problem with it,” I said. “I’ll convey that sentiment to my sister.”

“I think the Ainu prefer humans running the country. I gave my word to Gangnum-Sum that I would see to this.”

“It is agreed,” I said. “As great a help as the Ainu will be in the attack, I understand that their number will not yet tip the scale in our favor. Our numbers are still too few.”

“Well, I assume there are more of them, I hope two-thousand is only the beginning. I hope they have one hundred thousand. I think they are mostly on Hokkaido. I think these are the ones on Honshu. Now, I’m warning you, if they don’t get autonomy as promised, there will be a guerilla war waged as far as the eye can see. I will help them with that.”

“Obviously,” I said.

“They are my troops,” Ochir said.

“I know they are your troops.”

“Nobody gives them orders, only suggestions, and only Gangnum-Sum can directly order his own people.”

“Fine, but we now need to sit down with Ameiko and the rest of them to have this same conversation and have it end the same way.”

“No, Jiro is just going to have to suck it up. I see no need for Gangnum-Sum to speak with Jiro.”

“Unfortunately for Jiro, I agree,” I said.

“Let’s go,” Ochir said. I followed him and we walked into some trees and into a clearing. Gangnum-Sum was there with four great hairy Chieftains. The men had never bathed, and they smelled as such. I kept an utterly straight face in the midst of their odor. I went over and bowed low before Gangnum-Sum. “Hello Gangnum-Sum. I want to apologize officially for placing you in incarceration while we were at Seinaru Heikiko. Thank you for coming to help us.” I stood up from my bow. “It is not necessary for you to come and speak with Empress Ameiko Kaijitsu or Samurai General Hirabashi Jiro, but you are welcome to do so if you wish. We will take care of you,” I promised.

“I told Xiao Ping here that you are to get nothing less than full autonomy for your assistance.”

“Big island to the north! Ours! And a fortress, on the northern part of Honshu! I will go and tell the others!” Gangnum-Sum announced. He and his four guards turned to leave.

“Oh, and Gangnum-Sum, one more thing, your troops are to only follow your orders. I can order you from my side, but you make the ultimate decisions,” Ochir explained.

“Little Chieftain, I will kill who you tell me to kill!” the Ainu General promised.

“Excellent!” Ochir said. “Now, this amount of troops is great, but more are needed.”

“These troops are the only troops worth bringing! The others are lazy or whipped, and that’s why they didn’t come!” Gangnum-sum chortled.

“Ok. I also have warned Xiao Ping here what will happen if your autonomy is not properly granted. They are to expect never-ending war and death.”

Gangnum-sum smiled again. His teeth shone like fangs.


The Empress summoned Aki. He arrived straight away. “Akira, would you do me the honor of introducing me to Mt. Fuji?” my sister asked.

“I will see if the mountain wishes to speak with you,” Aki said. “He is a rather reclusive individual.”

“We shall scale the mountain together,” Ameiko said.

“Only you two girls can come,” Aki said to us.

We walked for a long time up and up and at last Aki cupped his hands and made a hooting sound and a shrub walked out of a bush and over to him. He was apparently the butler and personal messenger of Mt. Fuji. Aki spoke to him in a strange language, and then the shrub nodded and went back into the bush he’d come out of.

After a moment, the top of the mountain shook, and we felt the ground we were standing on begin to rise. A rather large section of the ground broke loose from its surroundings. I heard sod tearing and roots being ripped apart. The three of us were lifted a hundred feet into the air on top of a column of earth and rock. My sister and I were amazed. Aki’s face betrayed no wonder, but I thought it was tinged with a modicum of true pride for something truly deserving.

The column shook and across from us we saw a part of the mountain split open. It widened and revealed a colossal Kami, the spirit of Mt. Fuji itself. His hair was as white as the top of the mountain. His head was very broad, and resembled a snow capped peak. His body was squat, but proportionately smaller than his head. The Kami created an air shield on one side of our platform when we shivered in the thin mountain air. The “mountain” literally got down on one knee, and bowed low before Ameiko. Still he towered over the spire we stood upon.

“Oh, Great Lord of the Mountain,” Akira said, “I present you with the Empress of Japan. She seeks your audience and your blessing for the upcoming encounter with the false regent.”

The Greatest of Kami rose. His eyes were huge diamonds, and they seemed to peer right through the Empress. “It was I who sent this Monk to assist you!” he boomed slowly. “He has performed the tasks that I assigned his order, all save one: the Jade Throne must be reclaimed! You must defeat the four usurpers! Soto Takahiro, the Jade Regent! Giras Notori, the Raven Prince! Renshii Meida, female human oracle, lover to Jade Regent! The real power behind the throne is Anamurumon, the maddest Oni in all Japan! I am the most ancient Kami of all Japan! If it were not for the rules of Golden Perfection, I would crush them! You have my blessing, and my best and only Monk. The Jade Throne is an artifact, you must gain it’s acceptance. The only way to do that is to present yourself before the Throne. You must claim it!”

Ameiko rose from the platform and into the air of her own accord, and rose until she was level with the great diamond eyes of the mountain. “I embrace you as my protector and the personal Kami of my family, from this day forward." Amieko said, and hugged the mountain.

The shrub shed a shiny tear of sap. "This is the moment we've been waiting for,” it said.


We all gathered together to have a party meeting. Lo, Dipaka, Aki, Ochir, the Jade Archer, Jiro, and the Empress. I explained about how Gangnum-sum wasn't going to come and present himself. Jiro grunted and shook his head at me.

"I already know Ochir, I want to meet Gangnum-sum," Amieko said.

"I really don't think the meeting is necessary," Ochir said.

"We treated him badly at Seinaru Heikiko," I said.

"The Ainu will never trust you," Ochir said.

"You guys are taking this way too seriously, if he doesn't like me, it’s because he hasn't met me," my sister winked at Ochir.

"No, I know why he doesn't trust you, and I agree with him, so let's just leave it at that, and be glad you’ve got help."

"I agree with that," I said. My sister gave me the evil eye.

"Very well," she said, "if you don't want me to handle this Ainu affair personally, I trust you to take care of it. It will be under your supervision. There is also bad news to relate,” she said.

Amieko sadly told us that in the capital the Jade Regent was now taking more prisoners, and lockdown was in effect.  Onis were out actively oppressing people, and executing them. If they suspected that there was a family member sympathetic to the Empress, the entire family was drug out, stripped, chopped up with axes, and fed to the pigs and dogs. Onis openly wore their skulls as belt adornments. The army that had been chasing us up Mt. Fuji had found themselves unable to assail the mountain because of the Great Kami, and had returned to Kyoto, doubling the forces that were free to cause terror around the city. I felt sick.

The Jade Archer had been acting funny, more withdrawn. I didn’t care, and paid her no mind. I tried to scry on Wen, but I could see only darkness.

We were preparing to bamph when Ameiko said she needed to stay in Japan.

“No sister, you have to come with us! What happens if Prince Batsai-Khar decides he wants to bring over a bunch of goblins?”

“You handle it, I don’t want a goblinoid army coming over. Wen still needs to oversee the troop selection. No evil on Japan! I need to go introduce myself to Gangnum-sum.”

“Alright fine,” I said, “Let’s go.”


Battle of the Khans

By Aiko Kaijitsu

We bamphed to Tianjin to a pad atop a Mongolian Magistrate’s office. From the platform we could look down upon our ships in the cordoned off section of Bohai bay. A great sea-chain had been drawn taught between two towers to keep our ships from leaving. Seaweed clung to its massive rust red links. The Mongol guards there snapped to attention when they saw Ochir.


We saw a set of stout futuristic double doors there, with no locks or handles. Soon they opened by themselves and we were met with Livikus, Xeldar, Aju, Makhmut the Mustache, ten hobgoblin guards in the uniforms of the Elite Diplomatic Corps, and a huge hobgoblin leader type.

“General, welcome home,” Livikus said to Ochir.

“Well, thank you sir, I tried to contact you a few months ago,” Ochir said, sounding rather pleased.

“We have been expecting you and are prepared to meet your needs,” Livikus said.

“Well my first need is a little bit selfish. Do you happen to know where my wife might be?”

“Indeed I do, she is in the Forbidden City, that’s why she could be out of contact.”

“Is that fool General Wen with her?”

“Duke Wen did leave with her,” Livikus said, “as did Prince Batsai-Khar.”

“Have the troops been selected and loaded onto the ships? I see them down there in the harbor.”

“They have been selected, but your wife indicated that she needed to speak to Kublai Khan before we loaded and set sail. It’s not really necessary that we use the ships that arrived from Japan anyway, we have our own.”

“How many troops?” Ochir asked.


“Good,” Ochir said.

“This is of course Hubidai’s army, and he is not here right now. This is General Moretap, General of the Central Asian territory.” The huge, heavily armed, hobgoblin leader type stepped forward.

“When you arrive in Japan, before we do any combat, I want to have a private meeting with you,” Ochir said to Moretap.

“I will arrange a high-level officers meeting when we arrive,” the General said in a gravely monster’s voice.

“Lord Ochir, I do have one thing I could arrange for you, I can open a brief channel so you can have a brief dialog with your father, Ochir Khan,” Livikus said. “It’s a new piece of war technology. We have found that relying on Wu Jen can be a bit problematic.”

“Excellent. That would be very helpful, I’d appreciate that.”

Livikus pulled out a thick obsidian object the size of a book. “You have fifty-five words,” he said. He pressed a button on the object.

“It’s simple, I need at least two thousand troops from my army in Kyoto as soon as possible,” Ochir said.

The general pressed another button and suddenly, somehow, Ochir heard his father’s voice.

“The two thousand troops that you sent to Blue Silk village were utterly destroyed by the renegade Wu Jen bitch with the Staff of Five Rings! Tell that idiot Dipaka that his Mom has been killed and we need him here at once!”

Ochir’s mouth fell open. He was stunned. Livikus switched off the pad. “That’s all there is.”

Dipaka went up to Livikus. “May I have a word, sir?” he asked.

“I beg your pardon Minister, I apologize, I was busy with the General, how may I be of service?” Livikus smiled at Dipaka.

“Do you know anything more than what I’ve just heard about my mother?” Dipaka asked.

Livikus’ jaw tightened for second. “Guangzhou is outside of my sector, but  as  Blue Silk village is more northern I do know something of it. It would appear that she met her demise along with all of the Mongolian troops stationed at Blue Silk village. I believe she was struck blind and then blasted with fire, and then with acid, and then icy cold froze her, and then sonic vibrations blew her to tiny shards. Tragic.”

Ochir snapped out of it. “One last message you need to send to my father: This is what happens when my orders are not followed!”

“I’ll be with you in moment General—but, I can’t send another two-way-missive until the morrow.”

“Is there anything I can do to help around here? Do you have wounded, or hungry?” Dipaka asked.

“Hmmm, let’s see. One out of every five of my men have been stricken with a disease given to them by these dirty Chinese whores. Perhaps you could be of service there,” Livikus suggested.

“My service to them is to recommend abstinence,” Dipaka said quietly. “I will begin the six sermons required to be cured at three o’clock in the morning. Make sure anyone that wants cured attend,” Dipaka said.

Livikus frowned.

We prepared to teleport to Beijing. The Mustache came over to us. “I can be of service,” he said like a snake. “I can teleport you into the Forbidden City.”

“Thank you for your offer, but we’ll manage on our own,” Ochir said.

“I have a bad feeling about trying to bamph inside the walls myself,” I said. “We’ll teleport outside the city.”

We appeared alongside the road that led into the Forbidden City. We were in luck, there was a parade proceeding in through the open gates at just that moment. We fell right into step with the parade and became a part of it. The parade marked the continuing of one-hundred days of celebration after the fall of China. One-hundred girls danced in unison. One-hundred children performed with flags. One-hundred elite guards marched proudly. Everyone saw Ochir the mighty General, and Dipaka the Minster of Peace, and Lo the Mountain Champion and they all cheered.

I threw snapdragons and candies as I walked along. “Is that the Empress of Japan?” they asked of me. “She’s quite homely,” they admitted.

Lo stood behind me. “I will only trust Scions here,” Lo said. “I don’t see many of those.”

“Wen is here somewhere,” I said.

They looked at Aki and didn’t know quite what to make of him, but decided to show him all due respect.

“We’re here to retrieve Chaka and Wen,” Ochir said, grabbing someone in charge after we were inside. We waited for about an hour.

Surprisingly, we were shown in to see Kublai Khan. We were actually in a waiting area outside the Khan’s main audience chamber, but we could see under a broad arch. There were about forty people in the next room, ambassadors, generals, and Hubidai Khan as well. We saw Ochir Khan, and Batsai-Khar Khan. The Great Khan was spread out on his throne. He looked old to me. He was hearing the cases of the lesser Khans. My heart leapt when I saw Marco. He was an  ambassador from the Holy Roman Empire, and still well liked. Then I saw Wen, and my heart swelled.

Chaka ran out and jumped into Ochir’s arms, and Wen ran out and jumped into mine. Everyone was amazed when I caught him and held him up and kissed him, and after I set him down and bowed, they all smiled.

“Oh, she is truly the Wu Jen!” they said.

“Has he given you any trouble?” Ochir asked Chaka of Wen.

“He’s been a perfect gentleman,” Chaka said.

“I’ll take that as an insult,” Ochir said. “My wife is not attractive enough to elicit a pass from Wen?”

I looked at Ochir. “Now, I feel insulted,” I said. Everyone laughed.

Chaka waved and looked serious and cleared her throat. “Here’s the situation. Both Hubadai Khan and Batsai-Khar Khan want to send an expedition to Japan. They are presenting their cases to the Kublai-Khan as to which one of them should be in charge. Your Father wants to allocate all Empire resources to hunting down the fugitive Xia and taking the Scepter back. Obviously he claims the Scepter as the Khan that rules southern China. I don’t think Kublai Khan is going to buy anything like that. I can get you guys to say a few words, but he is weary of listening to his Khans bicker so you had better keep it brief. The Khan doesn’t like long windedness,” Chaka laughed.

“I assume you told him that we didn’t want goblinoids as our troops.”

“Sure, I’ve made it clear that our objective is to have Batsai-Khar remain assigned to the post of the Japanese campaign. We want to be able to choose the troops we take. He is going to officially ask his uncle for ten-thousand real troops.”

“Will Batsai-Khar fold early and just take the offered humanoids?” I asked.

“No, but we may be stuck. We could go and get the Scepter for the Khan, and so gain his favor.”

Ochir suddenly ignited. “I tried that! In fact, on the day the Song fell, Kublai Khan announced that he wanted the Scepter. I immediately followed this initiative and dispatched my troops to Blue Silk village to be an incentive for Xia to return the Scepter. I gave orders that if she had not appeared after fourteen days, the village be razed. Now I want to know who screwed this up and ignored my orders!”

Chaka, utterly derailed, turned to face Ochir. “If you’ll recall, I was the one that wanted to stay here and take care of all that, but you wouldn’t let me! So how would I know? I was with you in Japan the whole time!”

“Well, actually you’ve been here while I’ve been in Japan for quite some time now. Who changed my order?”

“Why don’t you think about it.”

“Somebody changed my order. Who changed the order?”

“Dipaka was the one that belayed the order.”

“Dipaka doesn’t have the authority!”

“Then it must have been Arsharwa-Sen!”

“She doesn’t have the authority either!”

“The hell she doesn’t! She’s the Khan’s wife!” Chaka cried.

“So the Khan? My father? Gave the order at the advice of his--wife?”

“I have not met a Mongol that would not have listened to Arsharwa-Sen! Have some respect for the dead, for pity’s sake!”

“She’s dead now? And two-thousand of my troops are dead now too? And the Scepter’s not retrieved? Right? So you know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna leave this in my Father’s lap! This is what happens when pussy gets in the way of brains! I see it happening with Batsai-Khar and I even suspect it’s happening at the very top of this Empire! I can’t be mad at Dipaka, because he only did what he always does,” Ochir fumed.

“Well it won’t be Ochir that addresses Kublai Khan on this one,” Chaka said to us with a smirk.

“The hell it won’t,” Ochir said. He suddenly got up and walked brashly into the Khan’s chamber and headed straight for the Khan.

“Uh, and with that, our deal of mutual husband protection is over,” I said to Chaka. “I can’t protect him from himself.”

Hubidai was still in the midst of petitioning the Great Khan. He was motioning emphatically with his hands. “My troops are already here, ready to go, armed with oni killing weapons! There has been no better time than the present! Strike! Before the matter of their throne is decided! We shall dictate who rules Japan!”

“Uh, Sir?” Aju yanked on Hubidai’s sleeve and the Khan turned and saw us and fell silent.

“A General wishes to be recognized,” Chaka hastily announced and Ochir went before the Khan and bowed. His eyes remained glued to the paving stones.

“I will hear your words, General,” the Great Khan said.

“It has been an honor to serve you, Great Khan, my life has been dedicated to serving this Empire. I must implore you sir, that the egos of Hubidai and Batsai-Khar are not what are important here. What is important is this Empire and the glory of this Empire. I have to agree with Hubadai. His forces are already here and at the ready. If left to Batsai-Khar, the troops will have to go through a delicate screening process, the like of which I‘ve never heard. I also have not experienced anybody in need and asking for assistance also expect to demand the form that such help takes. Make a decision based on what’s best for the Empire and not the egos of these two Khans. As for the Staff of Five Rings, if it be your priority over Japan, then I will dedicate all I have, all my troops to retrieving this artifact. That’s what I tried to do, but my orders were countermanded by a, shall we say, “feminine influence”. I am at your disposal, I am a tool. Use me as you will.”

I saw Lo grin when Ochir had said he was a tool.

The Khan pondered his words. Then he cleared his throat. “Who here will speak for Japan?”

Shit. The time had come. This was for all the marbles. I took a deep breath and came forward with my hands together and my eyes low. I shuffled forward like a Geisha. I knew Lo was behind me. I knew that even in that room, I was utterly safe. I bowed before the Khan. Chaka came to stand in Chabui’s old spot and whispered into Kublai Khan’s ear, “This is Princess Aiko Kaijitsu, the younger sister of the Empress to be. This one is the great Wu Jen of Japan.”

“Speak girl,” the Kublai Khan said to me.

“I come and represent my sister and her wishes here. We do wish an army to come to our land to help us defeat the oni because they are oppressing our people, and they are evil. However we cannot certainly hope to fight dishonorably with low and base troops. It is the wish of my sister that she be granted your best and finest men, and that my husband be able to determine their worth before they are sent. It is not necessarily a matter of logistics, for we have been oppressed by the oni for a long period of time, and we can stand yet a bit longer. We do beg of you to send us your best troops. And we hope that Prince Batsai-Khar will remain in control of such skilled and honorable troops.” I paused and looked at my sister’s fiancé.

Batsai-Khar smiled.

“And then, when we arrive in Japan we shall fight side by side and you shall unify Asia by honoring my sister’s rule of the Island. Only she can possibly take this throne, because it must accept its new ruler. We have already gained the blessings of the previous Emperor, and we must ourselves defeat the Jade Regent. I myself will be there in the final battle as we fight against him, as will be your nephew. We hope to make you proud by bringing down the Jade Regent cleanly, and allowing you to unify Asia without shedding blood on our Island.”

The Khan’s face bore a look of disbelief. “Did I hear you correctly? The Empress will rule Japan for us?”

“Something similar to this has always been my understanding, Great Khan. We will be in an alliance, as per your vision of a unified Asia described to me by your wife Chabui. There is no need for us to do battle over the resources of Japan. We will work together with a common goal for the good of all. Although we don’t wish to seem beggars and choosers, we do wish the troops that come to our land be honorable troops we can respect. Batsai-Khar, your fine nephew, has always shown that he has been honorable and respectable.”

The Khan eyed Batsai-Khar. “Have you bedded that girl yet?”

Batsai-Khar turned a deep shade of crimson. “Now uncle, one must not kiss and tell!” the Prince said, and the big grin on his face reminded me of a jack-o’-lantern’s.

“Oh, so this too is all about pussy!” the Khan raged.

I had to act fast. “No! It is about family, my Lord. We’ll all be family,” I said. “As you wish.”

“Hmm,” the Khan said.

Chaka piped up again. “Great Khan, this huge goliath is Lo, he tamed the Giants of the Ural Mountains on your behalf.”

“Hmmm, I do have room for new Champion,” the Khan said. We all thought about the tale of the horrible death of Bolo as told to us by Aki and shuddered.

“I will hear your words, warrior,” the Great Khan said to Lo.

“I am a Scion. My will is the will of Japan and her Empress. I will give my life if need be for this purpose,” Lo said, and stopped.

“Every Empire needs men like you,” the Khan said.

“This is Akira,” Chaka introduced Aki. “Last Monk of the Mountain clan. He has defeated countless enemies on your behalf. He was also instrumental in keeping your grandfather in the grave.”

“Ooh,” the Khan said. “I have a question for you Monk, which is better, Kung Fu or Karate?”

“Actually, that is a trick question. According to your Minister of Peace, power is to be found in abstinence of the use of force. I think we can unite Asia and have peace. Then you can focus on the West. There is a bigger invasion coming, and a united Asia is a much better choice. Now, Japan needs your help in this Great Time.”

“Does this Empress of Japan groan for my help?” the Khan asked loudly.

“Certainly she does,” I heard my own voice ring out. I knew of what Ochir had said of the Khan’s desire. I struggled with keeping a straight face for that one. I didn’t really even know if it was the truth or not.

“Japan would be honor bound to observe your leadership,” Aki said.

“It had always been Chabui’s dream. A united Asia,” the Khan said with a twinkle in his eye. He waved his hand to dismiss us all and retired to ponder. There was no timetable. We would be honored guests until the Khan announced his decision.

Dipaka walked over to Ochir Kahn. “Sir?”

“What is it Sonny?” the gnome looked up at Dipaka.

“I have heard that your wife was killed, and I want to know how I can help,” he said.

“Come, let us go and have our own meeting,” Ochir Khan said, sweating, now obviously anxious to leave the room.

Dipaka’s face showed that he was amazed that Ochir Khan would try to scurry off the instant he offered to help with Arsharwa-Sen.

“Hey, Ochir Khan, what’s wrong with your wife?” Hubidai asked with an air of hilarity in his voice.

Ochir Khan scowled, eyeballing Dipaka. “Which one?” he laughed back at Hubidai.

He whispered to Dipaka now. “Hey, keep that on the down low, Sonny, but, I do need you to resurrect her.”

“I apologize, I did not realize her death was not public knowledge,” Dipaka said.

“I can’t recommend resurrecting her, father,” Ochir suddenly said. “By the way, father, I want to ask you something. I was given an order by the Great Khan himself to recover the Scepter of Five Rings. Somebody altered my orders. And I want to know why my orders were not followed.”

“Look--” Ochir Khan began.

“Your wife had something to do with it, didn't she?” Ochir accused. “I sent you a letter, and I never got a response!”

“Yeah! She had just been killed, so I had more important things to worry about than your stupid letter!” he cried.

“No, no, don’t confuse the issue. I was trying to obtain the Scepter, so I sent the troops to Blue Silk village, and somebody stopped them from doing what I ordered them to do!” Ochir was hopping mad.

“That’s what they were sent there to do, get the Scepter of Five Rings!” Ochir Khan agreed. “They were commanded by my wife. I can’t help what happened. You set this up! Xia showed up fourteen days later! She killed them all, with help from her punk-ass Brotherhood!”

With that, Lo burst into laughter.



By Aiko Kaijitsu

"So you’re telling me that Arsharwa-Sen didn’t assure Dipaka that no one would attack the village despite my orders?" Ochir asked his father.

"If she did, that’s on her lying ass! Nobody told Dipaka to trust her! She was in command of that mission! I was in Guangzhou counting my money!" Ochir Khan cried.

Ochir was ready to press his ground. "I think due to her failure, her current punishment of death should stay. I don’t want you to resurrect her," he said. "She’s not worthy of it. She failed."

"I’ll be sure to tell her what your opinion was when she’s resurrected!" Ochir Khan cackled. He turned and looked up at Dipaka again.

"Alright now, how much is it going to cost me, priest?" I noticed that he didn’t say sonny this time. He must have really wanted his wife back.

"You shall donate twenty thousand Jin value in diamonds," Dipaka said.

We all watched Ochir Khan. His eyes rolled back in head, and we heard a low growl that seemed to come from nowhere. "Why does it have to be diamonds?" he cried. "Gugh, awwwwww!" he ground his fists into his hips and then reluctantly called for his purse. "I only have ten thousand in diamonds on me, will the rest in currency be sufficient?"

"Indeed," Dipaka said. He asked Ochir Khan to hand them to Lo. "Would you do me the honor sir?"

Lo chewed up the diamonds and spit them back out as dust. "Thank you," Dipaka said, "put the dust in a sack."

"Before my wife ever went anywhere she always left me with a vial of her blood," Ochir Khan said, and handed a tiny phial to Dipaka.

"Thank you," Dipaka said. "I will perform the resurrection tomorrow."

During that day, Dipaka directed that the bank notes be donated to the local chapter of the Ministry of Peace. Dipaka directed them to use it to help veterans with stress disorders and missing limbs, among a long list of other ailments.

The next day, when Dipaka prayed and called upon the universe to bring Arsharwa-Sen back to life, we saw through the thin veils of white light and ether that in truth her form was not as young and beautiful as we recalled her. She must have been nearer to seventy. She was old, drooping, and haggard, but her eyes lit up when she saw her son. She moved forward and embraced Dipaka, and hung on to him, her naked body awash in his halo. Her face bore the look of satisfaction of a task well done. She closed her eyes as she clung to him and her body sagged. Dipaka slowly lowered her to the floor and closed her eyes with his hand.

I shuddered as I realized what had happened. I felt a lump in my throat. It was a circle complete.

"What? What happened?" Ochir Khan cried. "What trickery is this?"

"She has reached the end of her natural lifespan and has died once and for all. It is time to mourn," Dipaka said. "You loved a human wife, and humans cannot live as long as gnomes. I have, as you have seen, brought her back to life, but her time here has come to its end. I'm terribly sorry. You have my deepest condolences."

Ochir Khan began to shake, and be began making silent curses with his mouth. Even in the midst of Dipaka’s famous calming aura, he was visibly angry. He was unable to speak aloud for a while. Finally, with great effort, he mastered himself. He looked up at Dipaka.

"I demand a full refund!" he cried.

"I don’t have any funds to refund you with," Dipaka calmly said. I thought I saw the slightest makings of a grin on Dipaka's face.

"What? I just gave you twenty thousand Jin!" Ochir Khan howled.

"I used those funds to raise your wife," Dipaka said. The makings of the grin were still there.

In utter disbelief, Ochir Khan turned and stomped wordlessly away.

"Perhaps my Mother has spoken!" Ochir said. "Maybe she kept her from coming back!"

"She wished to hug Dipaka before she truly died," Aki proffered. "In her mind, he was always her son."


Later I was talking to Wen and Lo in private. I needed to tell them that if this didn't go well, the jig was going to be up.

"We have to be prepared for the eventuality that the Khan will not rule in our favor, and order us to take all these goblin troops back to Japan. We need to be prepared, because we are either going to have to bampf out of here or give them some message that any force coming to Japan will be seen as an invasion fleet. Or, we'll have to fight."

"No, what you’ll do is lie to his face," Lo said.

"I can’t lie Lo, it’s one of my vows," I reminded him. "We’d surely be stuck here if I did, for I’d lose my powers. Fighting our way out could be the outcome here."

"If I have to go down fighting at least I’ll do as much damage as I can," Lo promised.

"That’s the answer I was I hoping for," I said. "What about you my husband? Do you have anything to add to this? You have been here for a little while."

"The fists of Bahamut are back!" he brightened. They were still way down in An-Nam, I suspected.

"Would the Fists of Bahamut like to come help us liberate Japan?" I asked Wen.

"Yeah, maybe, but how are we going to arrange that?" Wen asked.

"We better hope he doesn’t pick the goblinoids," I said. "What are we going to do if Hubadai is sent to Japan?"

"Oh that? That can’t happen," Wen said. "If they say we have to take the humanoids, then we will take the humanoids, but they will never make it to Japan. In the sea of Nippon, I will throw them into the waves."

I thought about smacking my forehead.

"Well, we're obviously not making any decisions like that until we leave the Forbidden City," Lo said.


Meanwhile, Ochir asked Chaka to requisition some explosive Mongol shells. She advised against it, saying they had no demonstrable cause, and such things were strictly cordoned, but she sent in the paperwork anyway when he pressed her a second time to provide the request form.

"I have a plan," Chaka said to Ochir as he signed it. "Chabui gave me one way to call her in our hour of need."

"Yeah?" Ochir said.

"If I call her, she can appear to Kublai Khan in a dream, and advise him to do what we need him to do."

"No, because women tend to give bad advice when it comes to war," Ochir said. "Women tend to be bad strategists. Chabui should stay where she is. This should be Kublai Khan's decision, not Chabui's decision. We should be talking to the ghost of Kublai Khan's grandfather, Genghis Khan, not the ghost of his wife. When somebody has an enemy force come brazenly into their territory and kill two thousand troops, I think this is a bit more of a priority than a bunch of ingrate, inbred bastards in Japan."

"Fine, you made your point." Chaka said, disgusted. "You are clearly not going to support me on this."

"You may have to go to Japan, and I may have to go back to Blue Silk village," Ochir said.


After two days of waiting for the Kublai Khan to make his decision, he called us to return to his audience chamber. We were all gathered together again in the anteroom outside of the throne room. Chaka was pouting because Ochir hadn't backed her plan.
An official messenger came in and walked up to Ochir. "What is it?" the General asked.

"This is for you sir, I hereby deliver notice of warning in the matter of the Ministry of Defense vs. General Ochir, for making an illegal request." He handed the stunned Ochir a sealed missive. After that, he walked away. Ochir opened and read the scroll and his mouth dropped open. "Who levied this fine on me? What individual person did this?" Ochir handed the scroll to Chaka.

"The Ministry of Ordinance sent the message," Chaka confirmed.

"I'm going to go down there to that Ministry, and find the pencil pushing mother-fucker that did this and beat the shit out of him!"

"Calm down, you can do that after the Khan announces his decision," Chaka reminded Ochir.

"Ok, but after that, there's gonna be hell to pay!" Ochir fumed.

I noticed now that as I looked into the Khan's chamber through the archway with my true sight up I saw secret doors and covered murder holes and arrow slits everywhere. The entire floor of the room was rigged to fall away. I noticed that specific chairs could be made to stay where they were when the floor dropped out. It was a highly engineered meeting hall befitting an Emperor. I also saw four invisible Mongol wizards in the room floating on carpets in the corners. There were four twelve foot tall fully armed statues of Mongolian heroes on pedestals that were actually iron golems remaining absolutely still.

The Khan was not yet there. I watched Hubidai Khan. He was middle-aged, and appeared confident and competent. He had his entourage with him, Livikus, Xeldar, Aju, and the Mustache. I remembered them seeing us off when we had originally left China for Japan. The Mustache had dared me to return. Lo had mooned him. He seemed to have forgotten about the incident. I guess some things were bygones between old wizards. I felt Aju's ear on the necklace I had around my neck, under my tunic. I saw that Aju wore the black mask I had seen so long ago while scrying on him.

We had all been feasting for an hour when the Great Khan arrived. We all got up and went to our assigned places in the throne hall.

Kublai Khan appeared from behind a curtain at the side of this throne and came forward to the edge of the dais and cleared his throat.

"There are still seventy-two days of feasting, and no warfare will be made during these seventy-two days. You will use these days to prepare for what you must do when the seventy-two days have passed. I will reveal what you Khans will do. But first, a toast to your Khan! Everyone drink up, and swear upon your lips that no others will hear the orders I'm about to give!"

We all drank; Dipaka drank water.

Kublai Khan looked at Ochir's father first.

"Ochir Khan, since I charged upon you and your kin the task of recovering the Scepter of Five Rings and you have failed, I pass this honor to another Khan. Hubidai Khan will now be in charge of recovering the Scepter, and he will spare no rebels. You, Ochir Khan, will now give half of your profits in support of this cause."

To his credit, before his Great Khan, Ochir Khan remained utterly motionless, but I knew he was smarting.

The Great Khan looked at Prince Batsai-Khar. "I will give you an army of my Imperial guards. They are from my own Olgoi-Khorkhoi, the elite corps in which the great Subitai got his start. They are also known as the Mongolian Death Worms."

Prince Batsai-Khar smiled from ear to ear.

"I do have one condition for your Empress," Kublai Khan said. "She she will be married in Beijing, and I will preside over the wedding ceremony."

"She would be honored," I said. Chaka's jaw dropped open. Lo shook his head.

Hubidai was steaming. Livikus whispered something into his ear, and he appeared to calm down a little bit. He stepped forward. "Great Khan! I will recover the scepter of Five Rings! I will destroy all rebels that are within a hundred miles of that Scepter! Woe be it to their pathetic little gang!" Hubidai looked next to Ochir Khan. "My factor will be in touch with your factor."

Ochir Khan frowned at Hubadai.

Thus did the two Khans receive their orders, and now they were to prepare to carry them out.

"That is all," Kublai Khan said.

We all filed out.

Lo went over to Wen as we walked apart from the others. "Why are we backing this guy Batsai-Khar again? He's evil, right?"

"I have gazed upon him more that I care to," Wen said, "but he is not evil."

"Could he be masking it somehow?" Lo asked.

"I don't believe so. He is slow to get into combat and uses a bow from the rear. All Mongols fight the same way apparently," Wen said, looking at Ochir.


Ochir sent orders to Guangzhou to double the taxes on Chinamen in order to pay for the reconstruction of the city. He was disgusted when the collected taxes were counted. "Nine thousand measly Jin! That's an insult!"

"Chaka, you are staying here in Beijing, I am taking the two boys, Guchugar and Guchuluk, to Guangzhou," Ochir said.

"No, they are staying right here with me," Chaka said.

"No, this is no longer a discussion, these are orders."

"They are my henchmen, and you're not taking them," Chaka said, matter-of-factly.

"Yes, I am. I'm taking them," Ochir countered. "I'm ordering it."

"They are not in your army! I'm a Princess of the Mongols, you don't order me what to do! Take my henchman? Are you mad? I trained them from first level! Screw you!"

"Shut up, and send them to me, otherwise, I'll sell our son to the goddamned Romans," Ochir threatened.

Chaka was aghast. She did a double take and was again aghast. "Like you even know where our son is," she cried.

"Where is he?"

"I will never tell you! You don't have son, and you don't have a wife! If I can help it, you won't have a Generalship either!"

"Oh yeah, ok, we'll see what happens," Ochir said flippantly.

"We will at that," Chaka said, and vanished.


The Report

By Chaka Khan Bayar Bayan Borjigin

Ministry of Imperial Records                                                                           April 1, 1274:3971, Apricot Blossoms 28                      
Report submitted by Imperial Diplomatic Corps (Princess Ambassador Chaka Khan)
Cc: Ministry of War, Ministry of Peace, Council of Khans, Ministry of the Navy, Ministry of Maritime Trade, Ministry of Propaganda and Ultimatum, Service of the Olgoi-Khorkhoi, Ministry of Ministers

Greetings and all obedience to the Great Khan, Emperor of China, Supreme Master of the Golden Horde and Head of the Borjigin House,

It is been my great honor and life’s purpose to serve the Empire. I, Chaka Khan Bayar Bayan Borjigin have been ordered to bring the Islands of Japan under the broad and loving arms of our benevolent Empire. This was impressed upon me by the Model Mother, Chabui the divine wife of the Great Khan and daughter of Heaven. Her departure wears heavily upon my brow and I share in our Khan’s grief. It was always her hope that all of Asia be brought to peace and order. I am responsible for the achievement of this goal with regards to Japan until my Khan orders otherwise.

It is with great regret and fear that I must report the loss of Batsai-Khar Khan at sea. 

As best as I understand it these are the events that led to this tragedy. 

On March 15, 1274, a great fleet of Japanese ships departed Tianjin. It carried a tumen of the Olgoi-Khorkhoi, ten thousand of our Khan’s finest troops. The Khorkhoi were under the command of General Ulek, the Death Worm. The fleet was commanded by Captain Sandru Vhiski, an Indian of many talents. Of course, the commander of the entire expedition was Prince Batsai-Khar.
It was my intention all along to bring experienced agents from the Imperial Diplomatic Corps to accompany every ship. They were to serve as morale officers for our troops. However, I had the misfortune to marry into the Bayan Clan. The failures of my husband General Ochir and his family have caused me great delay. 

Ochir has endlessly antagonized our allies, the noble Kaijitsu Clan of Japan. He has insulted their Empress and her servants countless times and undermined the efforts of the IDC for years. It was he that attacked the sorceress Xia unprovoked thus leading her down the woeful path of rebellion. He then made matters worse by ordering the destruction of her birth village. But worst of all, he threatened to sell our own son to slavery like he was some Korean and not a true born Prince of the Empire.
His stepmother, Aishwarya-Sen, led two thousand troops to their doom at the hands of the rebels. She at least had the good sense to pay the ultimate price for her failure.

Ochir's father, Ochir Khan, is greedy and corrupt. He must bear the primary responsibility for allowing the Staff of Five Rings to fall into the hands of the rebels. He was there in Guangzhou when the theft took place. His eyes were focused on shiny baubles instead of duty. He has run the city he was given to rule into the ground and I’m afraid he will not be able to support the Hubidai Khan as he was ordered to do. His financial situation has grown so desperate that he has filed a lawsuit against Dipaka, the Minister of Peace, for the sum of 20,000 Jin.

I had to see to all of these malfeasances. Regrettably, I did not accompany the fleet when it set sail for Japan. Occupied though I was, I did make time to magically observe the fleet daily. On March 22, the fleet reached the shores of Honshu. A battle took place in shallows and upon the beach. I made haste and gathered only a couple of gnomes and transported to the scene on the 23rd.

Previous to the 22nd the fleet had no mishaps. Captain Sandru remarked that Prince Tsuto Kaijitsu must have been successful on his mission to pacify Kamikaze by returning the sacrifice to him. The sacrifice was two flawless black pearls of fifty carats each. They had been stolen by the Sahaguins, a ruthless race of aquatic humanoids bent on domination. Allegro Polo calls them Shangri-Las. One could call them the Mongols of the sea. I discovered that they had the pearls adorn the statue of their shark goddess, Sekolah. The gems serve as her freakish eyes in their undersea temple. Tsuto went to recover and deliver them to Kamikaze, the dragon that guards the Sea of Japan.

The morning of the twenty-second was clear and cold. Prince Batsai-Khar had decided that the fleet was going to land on a stretch of deserted beach miles away from any town. He hoped that the landing would go unnoticed and thus his army would have the element of surprise.

General Ulek led the landing force and he was on the first launch that reached shore. The General is a veteran of fifteen campaigns. He was dark and rugged, and wore his salt and pepper hair in a top knot pinned by arrows. His eyes were keen and fierce, befitting his barbarian upbringing. He was also highly trained in all feats of bow craft and knife fighting. He was a skilled huntsman when I first met him at the siege of Vienna. He personally tracked down any messenger that tried to sneak out of that city. His equipment is the best, gathered from all the corners of the Empire. His command, the Olgoi-Khorkhoi, is arguably the best division of soldiers on earth.

The enemy waited until most of our troops were on land. They came for the ships in the shallows. Thousands of the Sahaguins attacked the fleet from below. They wielded tridents and nets but were equally adept with tooth and claw. Their officers rode on large sharks while smaller sharks followed, hoping for scraps. They climbed aboard, hissing and grunting. Each vessel was its own battlefield.

It was impossible for the mostly Japanese crew of each ship to support one another. The sea devils did not have this disadvantage. If they were repulsed by a particularly well prepared crew they would retreat into the water and regroup. They had reserves that would try to overwhelm any determined resistance. This was the case on the flagship, the Atagu Maru.

The Maru had the Prince and his bodyguard, a Samurai named Okimoto Ezumi on board. The Japanese heroes, Duke Wen and Captain Sandru were there as well. They routed the first wave of invaders. A second wave came and the battle was deadly and desperate. By all accounts, the Prince fought bravely and personally slew a dozen of them. Then a third wave came, this time led by a gigantic four-armed Sahaguin lord. He had an entourage of elite troops and priestesses. He challenged the Prince to a duel. 

“The true measure of power is not skill in battle but skill in command,” the Prince responded. With a nod from Batsai-Khar the Samurai Ezumi blurred into action. In seconds the four-armed fish had three arms. Again the battle resumed with all remaining hands fighting for their very lives.

General Ulek had observed the attack on the fleet from the shore. He ordered the Olgoi-Khorkhoi back to their launches and to row hard for the ships.  The tide was against them as well as the sea devils. The rescue was going to be painfully slow. The Death Worm took to air with his cloak of the bat and made for the flagship on his own.

As he approached the ship, storm clouds unnaturally gathered and lightning flashed down upon the Mongolian General. This did not stop him. High winds forced him to the sea but his helm of underwater action allowed him to continue.  A huge mega shark commanded by the high priestess of Sekolah gave him pause. But this did not stop him either. He climbed aboard the Atagu Maru with a bloodied knife clenched between his teeth.

What he saw was a deck bestrewn with the bodies of dead men and beasts. Blood flowed over the sides in continuous streams. Here and about the involuntary twitching of the dead flapped with a grotesque beat. He searched for survivors and found there were three. 

Captain Sandru was on the crow’s nest. The foes that followed him up there hung lifeless upon the rigging or lay broken on the deck. Some undoubtedly fell back into the sea and fed the frenzied sharks.

“I need another crew; do any of your men know how to sail?” he asked the General.

Duke Wen was underneath a pile of sea devils. His wounds were staunched by the faith of his god. He had killed so many of them that their bodies hid his own, and thus saved his life. He was unconscious. Sandru climbed down to feed him a healing potion.

Upon the main castle, Lady Ezumi stood weeping, staring into the red stained sea. Lying at her feet was a no-armed giant Sahaguin corpse.

“Where is my Khan and your Lord!?” the Death Worm demanded.

“He is gone,” she simply said.

“I’m afraid they got him. He was stabbed through the back by a trident. A net was thrown over him and he was dragged into the sea where sharks devoured him. She was busy with their leader as you can see. I saw it from the crow’s nest,” Sandru said, not too sadly.

“Then why are you still alive? Are you not a Samurai who has failed her Lord?”  the General still had his wicked knife.

“Leave her alone. When we are rejoined with Dipaka, the Prince will be made whole,” Wen said as Sandru helped him regain his footing. The holy warrior was still badly wounded.

“Like when that eunuch went to resurrect Temujin?” the Death Worm sneered. “Let the fop Khan have his good death. I command this army now! You Japs will know what it means to be ruled by your betters.”

By now the Mongol troops had reached the fleet. They began to climb up the sides of the Maru.

“You will not set foot again on my sacred homeland, you dirty ape!” Wen had that look he got whenever he saw evil. He drew his katana.

“Your homeland? We already conquered your homeland you Chinky bastard. The way you look now you couldn’t even bitch slap the ugly off your wife.”

“You have dishonored my Daimyo so soon after his death I insist you defend yourself General.” Ezumi challenged, then she added, “I am sorry Duke Wen, but he is mine.”

“But he called the Princess…my wife…homely,” Wen stammered.

In three quick strides the Death Worm closed the distance between him and the Samurai and cut her across her torso then three more strides brought him out of range of her great sword. He tossed his knife back and forth from hand to hand.

She staggered but kept her feet and assumed a cat stance with a high guard. With a look from her eyes she froze Wen and Sandru from coming to her aid.

Mongol troops were now aboard with weapons at the ready, but their General announced that she was his.

He came at her again with a feint to the right and a juke to the left and then switched knife hands and slashed her behind the knee where her armor was exposed. With a gasp, she sank down to one knee, yet her prepared swing caught him on his helm of underwater action and turned it slightly. This obscured his vision and he tripped upon a severed arm of the Sahaguin lord. He sprawled unceremoniously upon the deck a pace away from her. 

Against a master Samurai, your first mistake is your last. With all her might and honor she pinned him with her sword to the ship. The force of her blow pierced armor, flesh and bone. Her blade even went through the planks of the Atagu Maru and its hilt swayed from the violence of the blow.

The Olgoi Khorkhoi stared at the scene in disbelief. Their General had been killed by a woman.

Okimoto Ezumi slumped down to both knees and drew her wakizashi, a short sword.  She plunged it into her own bowels and then twisted the blade. She looked at Wen and said, “Do me this final honor.”

Duke Wen Tiang Xiang removed her head with his Hanzo blade.

I stared at the crystal ball in disbelief. I had to go to Japan before everything we worked for was lost. I immediately sought for the wu-jen on duty. There wasn’t one in Guangzhou. The reason for his absence was that he was of Han descent. My daft husband had chased him out of town as part of his anti-Chinese offensive.

So it was not until the next day, March 23rd, that I arrived on the Atagu Maru. 

I found Duke Wen and Captain Vhiski had been confined to their quarters. What was left of the fleet had been seized by the Olgoi-Khorkhoi. Apparently, Wen was recognized as a Chinese rebel and Sandru’s charm was lost on our officers. The army was waiting for new orders from HQ. Well, here I am.

It was a simple matter to establish my authority. Our troops are trained to obey when they have a clear chain of command. I placed Sandru in charge of the fleet and Wen in charge of the army. Then I began to compile this report.

That evening, a wind came from the north east. Flashes of lightning and the peals of thunder came with this wind. A ship appeared out of this weather. She was graceful and sleek with three tall masts and billowing crimson sails. Her banner had a black mace with crossed lightning bolts and bold Japanese characters proclaimed her as the Yakaze, or wake of the arrow’s path.

The Yakaze sailed through our fleet and right up to the Maru. Its aura was such that no one challenged her. A short but powerfully built man in red armor and armed with mace and bow bowed low on the prow. 

“I am Raiko, High Priest of Raiden, God of Thunder and Fletchers!” the man's voice was rumbling, filling all who heard it with awe. “Signs and omens, treachery and death, the fate of my country. These portents have filled my sails and sped me to this shore. Japan needs a savior. He will come from the sea.  He will know our ways as if born to them. It has been foretold.”  He began to chant and dance and the waters around us started to roil and churn.  A slow but wide vortex moved the two ships round and round.

Raiko then dove off his ship and into the sea. We leaned over the rails to watch the show. This man had a penchant for drama. I can respect that.

Under the waves lightning flashed and we felt the power through the hull of the ship. Rain splattered on everyone as the darkening skies hid the setting sun. Sea gulls and other marine life fled the vicinity of the whirlpool. The army and sailors that survived watch in fascination.

Raiko surfaced with his arms held high chanting a liturgy to his deity. He walked on the waves. A column of sea water surged upwards from the eye of the maelstrom. It rose like an uncoiling serpent fifty feet into the air.

“Behold! Your Khan returns to fulfill the prophecy!”

The column of water parted at its zenith forming a continuous dome of cascading liquid. Rising out of the sea was Batsai-Khar Khan in all his glory, shining like an angel.  He was resplendent in his armor and his bright smile pierced the gloom.
“I am reborn! I return to claim my bride and my kingdom! Kneel before your Khan!” 

The first knee that bent was that of Raiko of Raiden. Hesitantly at first, on each ship the men, Japanese and Mongols alike, went to their knees. Even as a Princess of the Empire, I gave him his moment and prostrated myself.  

I looked about and two men remained standing. Wen and Sandru defiantly looked at the Batsai-Khar liked he was a two headed toad, a mixture of horror and pity.

“Kneel you idiots,” I whispered.

A strong wind was summoned by Raiko and it lifted him and the Khan to the deck of the Maru. The four men locked eyes and a duel of wills between them threatened to make me swoon. Men are such insufferable fools.

“I have been to the other side,” the Khan said evenly. “My eyes have been opened. I have seen your betrayal Captain.”

“Tread carefully Prince, not all things can be forgiven between friends,” Sandru said.

“You have been in Ameiko’s bed after our engagement and have dishonored both our peoples!  There can only be one penalty,” the Prince gave him his best grin.

“Whoop, there it is,” Sandru smirked.

“If you want to kill him, you'll have to go through me, Mongol,” Wen stepped up beside Sandru.

“I was hoping you'd say that,” Batsai-Khar smiled.

The Khorkhoi made a ring around Wen and Sandru. Raiko made a ring of silence around them as well.

Blades were drawn and a display of swordsmanship followed. It wasn’t going to be quick. Wen and Sandru were highly skilled but they were vastly outnumbered.

“Chaka, I forbid you to intervene,” the Prince said unnecessarily. My bardic powers were useless as long as the combatants stayed in the silence.

“As ambassador, I strongly recommend that you order our men to stop fighting.  The Empress will not be pleased if you slay her subjects.”

“It is time that she considers what pleases me! I know what is best for Japan!! I’m a true Prince, not a spinster of tales and a glorified geisha!!!” Batsai-Khar was losing it. He grew angrier as each man fell to Wen or Sandru's flashing blade.

The priest called the power of the storm and lightning gathered. My hair was going through hell. Rain and wind, now it was going to be all frizzy from the electricity. I dispelled the god's lightning storm.

Sandru somehow tumbled through the ring of soldiers. He unslung his turban with a swift motion and said something that sounded like 'Yamatahooty'.  The turban flattened out and it became a carpet of flying taking the swashbuckling Captain into the air.

Raiko said, “You blasphemous twat! How dare you dismiss the power of Raiden!”  He cast a spell upon my mind. I was held fast, unable to speak. Talk about blasphemy.

Wen finally broke free from the melee and he headed for the priest. He suffered from a multitude of mostly superficial wounds, as he had a magical protection that make his skin hard as rock. He is married to the Wu-Jen of Japan, after all. Raiko did not fear him and came at him with his black mace. The blow shattered his stoneskin.

The holy warrior called upon the power of the platinum dragon and sent the dark priest reeling with three mighty blows. “Bahamut! Bahamut! Bahamut!”

The priest struck back with his mace and along with the bruising blow delivered a death spell as well. The bruise turned black and tendrils of decay spread from the wound. Wen yet remained alive.

A hail of arrows chased Sandru as he sped away on his carpet. The high winds made archery difficult at long ranges, so he was able to glance back and saw that Wen was all alone. 

“Enough! Cease fighting! I will give you one last chance at supplication,” the Prince offered. Very reasonably too, I might add.
Sandru turned his carpet around and shouted, “I will take Wen and we will part with you somewhat less than friends but not as enemies!”

“Fine. Go cry back to your Empress and tell her that I’m coming for her,” the Prince returned.

Sandru flew back to the Maru. Wen stood poised to smite Raiko. Raiko prepared to bring more death upon Wen. I managed to blink a few times and rolled my eyes. 

Sandru flew in to pick up Wen. As soon as Wen lowered his sword, Batsai-Khar fired his bow.  The arrow struck with the sound of thunder. It blasted a hole in Sandru’s back and sprouted out of his chest like a grotesque weed. 

“The Slaying Arrow of Raiden is ever true,” the Prince smiled. With a pop of magic he dimensioned door atop the carpet to claim the Captain’s corpse.

“Now to finish you off, Paladin,” Raiko turned his attention towards Wen. 

Seconds before, Guchugur, my gnomish henchman, snuck a charm out of my purse and threw it into the sea. Guchuluk sneak attacked Wen from invisibility and pushed him overboard. The charm turned into a bull walrus fully saddled and provisioned.

Duke Wen knew what to do from there. I hope he knew what to do anyway.

Guchuluk turned visible after he attacked Wen. Raiko figured out what happened straight away. I had hoped he wouldn't. Most priests aren’t geniuses. This priest seized my henchmen with his death grip. The destruction spell meant for Wen was used on poor Luk. He crumbled into dust and blew away in the wind. The priest came over to me and unclenched his death hand and blew the few crumbs that remained of my henchman in my face. Then he released the hold spell that made me immobile.
I stifled my rage and tears. “My husband will make you pay for what you've done.”

“Perhaps I will make your husband pay for what you’ve done…my lady,” Prince Batsai-Khar Khan smiled. 


Forecast for tonight: Dark.

By Aiko Kaijitsu

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Hubidai left the Forbidden City with his goblinoid army immediately. My heart sank for I knew they were hoping  to capture and kill my beloved Xia, and they didn't have to wait through the rest of the Khan's prescribed time before leaving. I hoped her friends in the Legendary Brotherhood were able to protect her. I worried but I reminded myself that she was a big girl now. I had my own part of the mission to worry about.

We spent our time in the Forbidden City as wisely as we could. I bought a rod of maximize and a bottle of air. The bottle was made of blue-green hand blown glass, and had a cork stopper with a reed through it. The bottle's wondrous property was that if one sucked the air out of it, it would be replenished, and one could survive if trapped underwater or in a cave without air. I figured it would be great for the bag of holding prison, just in case it was possible to run out of air in there. The Rokurokubi had been doing well enough, I guess.

It was the year of the Watercock, so we, of course, got pregnant again. I won't bore the reader with how it happened. Wen and I were overjoyed. I was hoping for a girl for our second baby. I couldn't wait to be able to spend time with our son, too. I really missed Yoshi. I envisioned being quite pregnant as we marched against the Jade Regent with our Mongol troops. I was hoping we would be able to make short work of the Jade Regent and his cronies and stomp out the onis on the battlefield once and for all. I wanted to give my children a war free and prosperous Asia to grow up in.

I had to take a look down at myself to verify what I had become. I actually looked the same, but I knew I wasn't the girl that waited tables back in Silk's End anymore. I thought about Chabui and her comment she made to me about being like her someday.

While we were on ice, Lo purchased a pair of boots of speed, and Aki bought a golem-bane charm that would make him effective against golems. Dipaka held fundraisers (none for Ochir Khan, by the way), hosted luncheons, and proverbed profusely on peace in our time.

Ochir sat down and with the help of a long suffering scribe wrote up some orders for taxing the shit out of his people in Guangzhou (unfold and see copy of letter glued to the back of this journal page). A few revolted and even burned down their own buildings before they fled. Ochir spent twenty-thousand Jin on the planning and construction of a new stone pier, and thirty-thousand Jin on raising a constabulary force of three hundred soldiers for collecting his new taxes. He said it was to drive out the rich locals and make the port a haven for foreign trade. Foreign conglomerates were charged no taxes in Ochir's town. A priest from the Church in Rome arrived and Ochir shucked out another twenty-five thousand more to build a consulate.

In later weeks, the reports that came in were grim. From the sea, Sandru told us that it was feared the Kamikaze dragon had grown an age category in size, classifying it as what I remembered to be as "gigantic" on a dragon sizing chart oft cited by experts. I recalled the glistening scales of the enormous beast. I couldn't imagine him getting any bigger. There had been no sign of the Shangri-Las that Tsuto had gone to supplicate, and there had been no word of Tsuto either.

Here in Mongolia, away down south, Hubidai was not able to find Xia, and the rebellion was growing. This was the natural reaction to Hubidai's iron fisted techniques. Hubidai burned a village. The Ranger of An Nam joined the Fists of Bahamut, and Hubidai burned another village. Then Father Wong threw his weight into the rebellion, and the Khan burned yet another village. The Legendary Brotherhood was inadvertently getting back together for the good of the people. They had a long history with Hubidai Khan, and it appeared now that it would have a few more annals. I forced myself to put that group out of my mind.

I was hoping for a long sea voyage with Wen, but Aki didn't think it was a good idea to leave my sister alone back in Japan. My plan was to stay with the ships full of death worms. So far, no voyage across the sea had not met with either the Kamikaze, the Shangri-La's, or both, and I wanted to make sure the group made it to Japan intact.

"We really need to get back to the Empress in Japan," Aki insisted. "We don't want something to happen to her because we weren't there," he said. "I worry about her, not this army," he said. With this I was forced to agree. I sure didn't hold an army of Mongol troops as near and dear as I did my sister. We bamphed back to Japan, and I kissed and left Wen on the deck of the Atagu-Maru.

When we arrived in Japan, we told the Empress of all that had transpired.

"I think we should make a hit on the Imperial Palace, to distract them while the fleet is crossing the sea," Ameiko said.

"Ok, we can rescue the hostages while we are at it," I said.

In the following days we made ready to raid the Imperial Palace. One bright morning at the assigned hour we put up our defensive spells. Two needed to go in the bag of holding. Dipaka volunteered to go in there with the Rokurokubi as did Aki. Dipaka soothed and tried to turn the Rokurokubi from her dark ways. I was hoping to turn her loose on the Jade Regent.

When we were ready, we stood in a ring, I took a deep breath, and we bamphed.

We appeared on the path at the front door of the Jade Regent's Imperial Palace. There were four guards high up in the tower adjacent to the front doors. I opened the bag of holding and after Aki leapt out, I helped Dipaka climb out too. Ameiko's melodic voice inspired courage in us all. Lo began climbing right up the side of the guardtower to engage the four onis.

"Enemy of our kind! Your Goliath race will be extinct in the New World Order!" one oni shouted down at him. Ochir fired a tri-shot that struck that guard in the throat, and he fell backward. I winged a fireball up there and bathed the lot of them in flames. When Lo made it over the side of the railing and drew Suishen, there was no hope for them. I saw parts of flaming onis flying off all four sides of the tower. Next a whole oni came down in halves.

I dashed up to the doors and placed my hand on the cold metal. I used a knock spell to get them to unlock themselves and swing open. We rushed inside.

The four clockwork golems we had avoided last time were there to greet us. Our old copper welcoming committee members were still every bit of ten feet tall and ready to grind us up. Aki snorted and sprang into action. Ochir flew in and began jamming the golems up with his arrows, as did the Jade Archer.

It turned out to be none too easy. The two golems in front leapt past Aki and seized Ochir. Each one had a leg and they were preparing to toss him into the other two golems, who had leapt forward and changed shape and became a horrible wall of gnashing gears and whirling mechanisms. Aki assailed the wall golems from the rear. Despite the incredible danger, Dipaka immediately rushed in to help Ochir, and the golems gnashed at him, but he bobbed and weaved and slipped through and successfully imbued Ochir with a freedom of movement prayer. Ochir got free and shot straight up and put his back to the ceiling. His bow was already in his hand, so he fired and a golem burst into shards, covering us all with cuts and scrapes.

The Jade Archer stepped back a pace and got clowned by a golem. She returned the favor with four arrows and another golem burst into a cloud of deadly metal gears we all tried to dodge, but slashed us nonetheless.

Dipaka threw a healing blast at Ochir, embattled on the ceiling.

"Watch out!" I cried. I noticed a contingent of Typhoon Guards heading our way from the outside, so I used my telekinesis to close the door and lock it behind us. Lo thundered down the stairs inside the guard tower to join the fray. He burst into the entry hall and headed for the wall shaped golems. They transformed back into bipeds and attacked. One stumbled and fell as Aki's leg caught it. "Hah!" Aki cried. Lo hacked down a golem with Suishen, while Aki, the Jade Archer, and Ochir finished off the last one. We all shielded ourselves from the gear explosions.

The room was clear. Dipaka healed us up and picked out shrapnel and we waited. "Is there anyone in that side gallery?" I asked Aki. He shook his head negative. "It's empty," he said.

We moved on through the room and past the stairs on either side. Suddenly, there was a deep snack and the back door opened. A horde of Typhoon Guards and Ghost Monks streamed into the room behind us. Aki went to intercept them. A leader type Monk appeared before them.

"I am Sudoshi Sento! I serve the Five Storms! This is not personal, but I'm afraid I must remove your holy man from your group," he said, and directly attacked Dipaka. He leapt forward and launched a flurry of blows with his fists that bloodied and stunned Dipaka and then leapt back to his original position.

"After I dispatch your Holy Man, and you have dispatched my black belts, then we will fight," the Monk said to Aki.

"Aki, it looks like he won't be fighting you for quite a long time," Dipaka taunted, shaking off the stun.

All the Typhoons moved in to kill us.

Four oni's had surrounded Ochir in melee at the ceiling and were jabbing him with their spears. He suddenly dropped straight through them and shot for an alcove. Even with his displacement, he was taking a beating.

I bamphed into the side gallery to safety. I saw a way to catch a bunch of them in a line with a lightning bolt. As soon as I eyed the tapestries in the gallery though, the majestic tigers emblazoned upon the cloths came to life and charged me. My protection from evil blocked them from mauling me. The line of onis dispersed in that split second.

I saw that Ameiko and the Jade Archer were running into the gallery after me. "No don't!" I cried. Ameiko smirked at me and dispelled the dire tigers and we took refuge in the gallery. Suddenly four Onis were caught in a field of writhing black tentacles the Jade Archer had thrown out there. Lo hacked down two Onis in one handful of seconds. Aki whirled and four onis were down. Others tumbled into melee with Aki and a massive battle ensued. Aki was making a mockery of the Ghost Monks.

"I think Kublai Khan's question regarding the martial arts has been answered," Ochir said.

Dipaka was again stunned by the leaping Sento. Dipaka was ashen, and blood was everywhere.

Three fanatical Typhoon Guards attacked Lo. Then four more. It was starting to look bad.

Suddenly, the four main enemies showed up.

There was a big puff and a cloud of red smoke, and then Soto Takahiro, the Jade Regent, Giras Notori, the crow man and Raven Prince, Renshii Meida, the female human oracle, and Anamurumon the oni menace appeared.

"Empress, I prophesied the exact time and date of your arrival," Renshii Meida said, and dashed into the gallery and over to my sister and took her by the arm. "I'm afraid that I must insist that you accompany me."

My sister looked at me as they both vanished.


The Jade Regent smiled and spoke not a word.

"We shall await you in the Throne room," Anamurumon said, and then he bamphed away with the Jade Regent, leaving only the crow man and the mad Monk Sudoshi behind.

Another wave of Typhoon guards was pouring into the room from the open door behind us, and sirens were wailing throughout the Palace.

We had to get out of there.  "Bring Ameiko back now!" I screamed at the crow man. I knew it was hopeless.

The crow man ignored me and looked at Dipaka and said, "Interesting…" he moved to attack Dipaka but he could not, for Dipaka's aura of peace prevented it, so he looked at me and said, "I suggest you take stock of your party, Wu Jen. Some are not what they seem. Especially your elf."

My elf? The crow man vanished with Sudoshi Sento.

They had taken my sister!

A bunch of Typhoons had cornered Ochir in the alcove and were jabbing him. He was bleeding profusely. He was separated from us, and he flew up to the ceiling and across to get over to our position. Another squad poured in through the outer door. "Xiao Ping! We've got too much company in here! Let's get a big fireball in here! Just go ahead and center it on me!" Ochir called out.

"With pleasure!" I cried. I threw the biggest fireball I could into the room full of Typhoon guards and burned quite a few of them of them to a crisp. "Flee from my power or your room will again be bathed in fire!" I shouted.

Ochir made it into the room after dodging the huge fireball and flew down behind Dipaka.

"Dipaka! Come get in the bag so we can teleport!" I screamed. He was busy healing himself and Ochir.

The Jade Archer looked at me funny and spoke up. "Don't worry, you take everyone else, and I'll get Dipaka back to the rendezvous point." It struck me at that moment that I didn't recall the Jade Archer ever having any teleportational ability, but I was thankful at that moment because we so desperately needed to get out of there. I shall have to learn to trust my instincts. I watched her seize and bamph away with Dipaka. The rest of the crew gathered around and we bamphed too.

When we arrived at the rendezvous, Dipaka was not there, and neither was his kidnapper, the Jade Archer.

That bitch.

"Looks like I was right about her all along," Ochir said, "and it looks like you will be the Empress now."

I wanted to cry but I was so mad I could have grown a beard. I got my scrying mirror out of the bag of holding and laid it on the ground and scried on Dipaka, but I saw him only through the obscuring flames of what could only be the pits of Hell.

Our friend Dipaka Bhasa was a guest in the lower planes, and my sister was gone, taken by the Jade Regent. 


Further Missives

By Order of General Munkh-Ochir Batbayar, Commanding General of the Great Kublai Khan’s Southern Army, the following Decree has been Issued for Immediate Implementation:


The Following Assessments on Individuals and Business Enterprises within the City Walls of Guangzhou will be as follows:

Annual Assessments for Reconstruction and Reparations shall be Levied on ALL Han Chinese domiciled within the City Walls of Guangzhou. Assessments shall amount to:

A Levy of 0% on all Real Estate, Tangible Property, and Financial Assets for Han Chinese Individuals with Net Assets of 1000 jin or less,

A Levy of 90% on all Real Estate, Tangible Property, and Financial Assets for Han Chinese Individuals with Net Assets over 1000 jin.

All assets held by Han Chinese-owned Banks, Jewelers, Precious Metals Assayers or Dealers, Weaponsmiths, Shipbuilders, Trading Companies, or any Han Chinese-owned Business Enterprise of Any Kind, operating within the City will be IMMEDIATELY SEIZED by the Tax Compliance Authority of Guangzhou.

Petitions for Determination and Dispensation of all seized Han Chinese-owned Business Assets will be Considered, with Final Judgments made on a case-by-case basis after Review by General Munkh-Ochir Batbayar.

Assets held by Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises, Non-Han Chinese Enterprises, and Business Enterprises JOINTLY-OWNED by Han Chinese and Foreign/Non-Han Partners WILL NOT will be Seized.

Annual Assessments for Reconstruction and Reparations shall be Levied on Religious Institutions operating within the city walls of Guangzhou. Assessments will be a Levy of 90% on all Tangible and Financial Assets Held by ALL Religious Institutions, Schools, Temples, or Charities.

EXCEPTIONS to this Levy on Religious Institutions and Charities are as follows:

A Levy of 10% on all Tangible Property and Financial Assets Held by Buddhist Temples
A Levy of 10% on all Tangible Property and Financial Assets Held by Islamic Mosques
A Levy of 10% on all Tangible Property and Financial Assets Held by Jewish Synagogues
A Levy of 0% on all Tangible Property and Financial Assets Held by Roman Catholic Churches or Missions
A Levy of 0% on all Tangible Property and Financial Assets Held by Hospitals and Feeding Centers Established by His Holiness Dipaka Bhasa


Tax Compliance Authority of Guangzhou – Decree 001 

By Order of General Munkh-Ochir Batbayar, Commanding General of the Great Kublai Khan’s Southern Army, the following Decree has been Issued for Immediate Implementation:


The Following Assessments on Foreign Individuals and Business Enterprises within the City Walls of Guangzhou will be as follows:

All Individuals of Non-Han Chinese Descent born Outside of the Asian Continent are Immediately Classified as a FOREIGN INDIVIDUALS. Annual Assessments on Foreign Individuals shall amount to:

A Levy of 5% on all Personal Real Estate, Personal Tangible Property, and Personal Financial Assets. 

Any Enterprise engaged in Business within the City Walls of Guangzhou that are Entirely Owned by a Foreign Individual (or Representatives of a Foreign State) are Immediately Classified as WHOLLY FOREIGN-OWNED ENTERPRISES. Annual Assessments on Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises shall amount to:

A Levy of 15% on all Business Real Estate, Business Tangible Property, and Business Financial Assets. 

A Duty of 10% will be Levied on ALL Tangible Goods or Financial Instruments Entering or Transiting the City of Guangzhou that Originate from a Foreign Nation or Territory.

A Duty of 20% will be Levied on ALL Tangible Goods or Financial Instruments Exiting or Transiting the City of Guangzhou that are en-route to a Foreign Destination. 

All FOREIGN INDIVIDUALS or WHOLLY FOREIGN-OWNED ENTERPRISES who directly Invests 100,000 jin with the TAX COMPLIANCE AUTHORITY OF GUANGZHOU will be Granted the following Incentives:

(A) An immediate 10-year Waiver of the 5% Annual Levy on Foreign Individuals.
(B) An immediate 10-year Waiver of the 15% Annual Levy on Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises.
(C) An immediate 10-year Waiver on ALL Import and Export Duties for the Foreign Investor.
(D) An immediate 10-year Waiver on Port and Harbor Fees for the Foreign Investor.
(E) The immediate 10-year assignment of 10 Mongolian Security Troops for use by the Foreign Investor.
(F) The immediate 10-year assignment of an Office in the former Ministry of Maritime Trade Building.
(G) Preferential Rates on ALL other Fees, Duties, Levies, and Taxes within the Mongolian Empire.

Tax Compliance Authority of Guangzhou – Decree 002


A Missive from Ochir to Kublai Khan

Great Khan,
It is with Deep Humility and Great Trepidation that I write this Letter of Concern to The Great Khan. Your Servant is well-aware that The Great Khan is not to be Troubled with Trivial Matters. But alas, Your Servant would be Derelict in his Duty to not Sound an Alert of an Immanent and Insidious Threat to The Great Khan’s Empire.

Your Servant’s wife, The Great Khan’s adopted Daughter Chakka, has revealed to Your Servant that she possesses the capacity to Secretly Influence and Unwittingly Alter the Great Khan’s Mind and Decision-Making Process.

Chakka has informed Your Servant that she could Invoke and Communicate with the Spirit of The Great Khan’s Wife Chabui, and have Her Charm The Great Khan in His Dreams. Your Servant’s wife Chakka has Disclosed that such an Action could Manipulate and Influence The Great Khan’s Decisions and Thoughts without His Knowledge or Consent. This is Traitorous and Seditious.

As Your Servant, I find even the Mere Possibility of such an Insidious Influence upon the Great Khan’s Mind a Direct and Immediate Threat to His Sovereign Power.

Your Servant may be married to Chakka, but the Empire is of Paramount Importance to Your Servant. Your Servant will not stand idly by to see it Threatened by Anyone, no matter Who it may be.

May The Great Khan Reign Forever!
General Munkh-Ochir Batbayar
Commanding General of The Great Khan’s Southern Army




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