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Chapter 0: Revelation of the StarsChapter 0: Revelation of the Stars
The wind swept by under a sky brimming with stars. Amidst the raging winds, the Magician Leknaat stood atop her tall tower, gazing at the stars, both hands extended towards the heavens. Looking up at the night sky filled with countless shining stars, she took a deep breath. She calmed her mind and, listening intently, relinquished her consciousness to the flickering stars. Though an incident in the past had left both her eyes blinded, incapable of sensing light, whenever she faced the night sky she was always able to hear the whispers of the stars.
“O, stars grown so distant! O, shining stars!”
She performed the Star-Seer ritual as she always did. At least it appeared that way. But even while Leknaat spoke the ritual words, she sensed something different in the surrounding atmosphere…
The Magician’s Tower she stood upon was built on a small island at the mouth of the Tolna Canal which ran through a large continent. When she turned to the east, she could hear the swish of the ocean waves. When she turned to the west, she could sense the solemn weight of the Lorimar mountain range beyond Toran Lake. But now the noise of the ocean waves had ceased, silent under the heavy weight of the night. She just barely sensed the presence of the Lorimar mountain range, which seemed as if it was imprisoned behind a wall of deep darkness. At the same time she perceived the light of countless stars pouring down from the night sky above, she also sensed the depth of the night now sweeping the land. In astrology, it’s an ill omen when heaven and earth are clearly separated between light and dark. Exhaling deeply, quelling her feeling of premonition, Leknaat looked up to the stars once more.
“O, stars, ever harboring the truth of the world! Reveal to me the future of this world—oh?”
Suddenly feeling something was calling to her, Leknaat’s words died on her lips. Heeding the call, she turned her body, which had been facing east, inland towards the west. In the skies above the capital of the Scarlet Moon Empire, Gregminster, situated at the center of the Arlus region on the banks of the Tornal Canal, she sensed the existence of two brightly shining stars. Leknaat sensed a brilliant light emanating from one of the two stars. She perceived that that star shone a brilliant gold. And she sensed the other burned with an intense light. It was red, as red as if it were aflame.
She knew the shining golden star represented the emperor’s influence. But the star that shone red hadn’t even existed in the night sky yesterday. It had been concealed by the darkness, until it suddenly shone out. And that meant this star was…
“The Tenkai Star…”
At the very same moment she spoke, the red star let off a single bright flash of light. Immediately after, it began to flicker intermittently. Just as if it was sending a signal to other stars.
“It couldn’t be… it’s—”
Leknaat gasped involuntarily. Stars were appearing one after another in response to the red star. When they flickered into being near the red star, more also quietly appeared above the large forest to the south. From the west came a strong light, breaking the wall of darkness once again. So it was amid the darkness that these stars responded to the red star, shining as if to compete with the brightness of the two stars that had first appeared. These three phenomena could only mean one thing. Leknaat, processing the flickering of the stars with her entire being, murmured to no one in particular:
“I see… so the stars have finally begun to move…”
She looked up at the sky for a little while longer, but soon expressed her thanks to the stars for their revelations, and the Star-Seer ceremony was over. As if just waiting for the ceremony to end, a voice spoke to Leknaat from beyond the darkness…
“How did it go, Lady Leknaat?”
The voice, while young, also somehow managed to drip with prickly sarcasm. It was the voice of Luc, Leknaat’s apprentice. The heels of his high-laced boots clacking, Luc came climbing up to the top of the tower. Coming to stand next to Leknaat, he continued to speak in a way that held just the barest hint of contempt.
“If you were able to read something in the stars, couldn’t you please hurry and write up a report? The Empire keeps fretting on in the most tiresome way -‘the Astral Projections STILL aren’t ready?’ That arrogant pride of theirs has gotten so bad recently, I was sorely tempted to fling them to the ends of the ocean with my wind magic.“
“You must control your temper, Luc.”
Leknaat, who had gently admonished him so, faced her apprentice and for a brief moment silence fell. Although she had received the Astral Projections, time was necessary.
“Listen to me, Luc.”
As if she had decided something, Leknaat slowly opened her mouth to speak.
“A great struggle will cover this land. Due to the foolishness of humans, animals and even nature herself will be caught up in this strife.”
“That was what the stars foretold tonight, then?”, Luc asked calmly.
“Yes. A great struggle… a struggle that will swallow all is now brewing…”
After a short pause, Leknaat moved on to the main issue at hand. She took into account Luc’s tendency to avoid bothersome issues.
“By the way, haven’t you yourself changed recently?”
“Now that you mention it, I do feel like my rune is different than usual. How can I describe it… like it’s throbbing, I guess?”
Luc raised his right hand and gazed at the back of it in wonder. There shone the Wind Rune, one of the 27 True Runes that had been scattered across the world.
“That’s because the rune is reacting”, Leknaat said, while sensing the power of the large rune on Luc’s hand.
“Reacting? To what?”
“Reacting to that which is in the process of destroying the original balance that ought to exist, the entire system of True Runes… You, who bears the Wind Rune, as well as myself, who bears the Gate Rune, are in no small way involved in this struggle.”
“Does that mean there’s no avoiding it? I don’t want to get dragged into anything bothersome…”
To Luc’s complaints, Leknaat quietly declared, “it was never avoidable. The runes are a symbol of the larger forces that govern our world. When that power is awoken by war, there are none who can avoid it. And besides, Luc…”
And then Leknaat took Luc’s hand that bore the rune.
“Whatever the form, it is your destiny to participate in this battle. For you bear the Tenkan Star, one of the Stars of Destiny.”
Letting out a sigh, Luc turned to look towards Gregminster with a clack of his boot heels.
“So what do I tell the Empire? ‘A war about runes has broken out, Lord Luc’s reporting to the front for duty’, or what?”
Showing a small smile at Luc’s joke, Leknaat too turned once more to face Gregminster.
“That won’t be necessary. Even those fools who hold the power of the Empire cannot stop this war. To tell them would only invite chaos. We can watch over those caught up in the flow of fate, but only they themselves may choose their own path forward, among all the possible paths. No matter how hard that choice may be.”
“I understand. I’ll write up and prepare some unalarming report. But allow me one more question…”
Giving a small sigh, Luc looked up at Leknaat.
“What in the world are runes, anyway? Or Stars of Destiny? If that power is leading us to war, is it the runes who are making or allowing us do so?”
Leknaat was considerably surprised to hear Luc ask these questions. Knowing Luc’s personality, she had fully expected that Luc would continue to look at the world through disillusioned eyes until the bitter end, but his words just now had been filled with a serious tone she had never heard there before.
She didn’t know what had caused this change in him, but she wanted to answer his questions.
“To speak of the will of runes is to speak of the truth of this world… I’m sorry to say that even I don’t fully understand it all.“
“Is that so?”
Leknaat still holding his hand, Luc hung his head.
“But the one thing I can say is… as you well know, there are 27 True Runes in this world. Each rune represents either chaos or order and contributes to the balance of the whole.”
“The original, ideal balance?”
“That’s right. When that balance is upset, the world shifts from ‘peace’ to ‘chaos’. And so, the 108 Stars of Destiny exist to maintain that equilibrium. Look there.”
Leknaat let go of Luc’s hand and pointed at one of the glittering stars—the red star.
“Can you see that red star? It is the fate of all the Stars of Destiny to gather together and fight under that Tenkai Star. To change the world… to change the balance of runes from ‘chaos’ to ‘peace’.”
Luc and Leknaat looked up together at the night sky, at the Tenkai star. It still gave off a strong red light. However, as they watched, the other Stars of Destiny flickered out one by one. As the Star Seer ceremony was over, the stars were returning to their original positions.
Luc snickered when the final Star of Destiny winked out.
“Is something the matter?”
“It’s nothing. Just…”
Luc turned his back on Leknaat and began walking towards the stairs.
“I was just thinking how troublesome this all is.”
To Luc, disappearing into the darkness, Leknaat said:
“May you be guided to the correct path…”
Luc’s reply came from within the darkness.
“I’ll be fine. You don’t have to worry about me.”
Luc descended from the tower, leaving those words behind.
Between heaven and earth, now returned to calm serenity, Leknaat looked up to the sky again, once more offering her thanks for the revelations the stars had given her. Finally, she offered her usual wordless prayer to the heavens:
“Please lead everyone along the correct path…”
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