Legacy, Part Four: Ascendance

From the Story Arc: Legacy

Previous Story in the Arc: Legacy, Part Three: Death by Worker's Champion (Saturday, March 11, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Transitions by Belladonna Aura (Thursday, March 16, 2006)

(posted Saturday, March 11, 2006)




People’s Blade and Qing never slept. Nor ate. They hardly spoke, though the looks they shared seemed to suggest an unspoken communication. In the month that followed, Worker’s Champion’s metahuman constitution was pushed to the limit. Constant practice of sword forms, swings, strikes, parries, dodges, and enough acrobatics to last a circus for a decade. Despite his bulk, he mastered it all, thanks to the manipulations of Lysinko. Still, he craved sleep; he wasn’t sure if she deprived him of it as a training technique, or because she was losing touch with humanity more and more every day.

He began to initiate conversations with her to keep her language faculty in use. “Did you bid farewell to Natalya Nikolaevna?”

“Bu shi. I did not.”

“But you two were like sisters.”

“Goodbyes are a portion of human culture which I can no longer grasp.” She hesitated, something he had not seen before. “To the Celestial Dragon, humanity is a fabric woven of souls. Individual threads are indistinct.”

“And you are the Dragon.”

“He is within me.” Her confidence had returned. “When we leave this world, we’ll join his court in Heaven.”

“Hmph.” He repeated the sword strike she’d been drilling him on. “I can’t deny that you’ve undergone a transformation, but this talk of Heaven and Dragons strains my credulity.”

“That is of no concern.” Her tone hadn’t changed: she wasn’t angry or sad. She often spoke as though he were an inanimate object – an individual thread in a fabric.

Her preferred topic of conversation, when she chose to speak, was the ancient martial art that Shen Xue, the spirit who had lived within her initially, and still did in some arcane way, had helped to develop. Medvedev was a powerful warrior on his own, fighting with reflexes and speed; the new techniques brought him to a new level of prowess. It embarrassed him to think that all those decades he had not realized his full potential.

The sword bonded to him. It was alive, in some way he couldn’t fathom. When she bore it, the sword had been a size proportional to the tiny woman. In his hands it grew to twice that size and weight. Had there been stone to cleave in the vicinity, he could have cut through it as though preparing dinner. Bullets and flame could not pierce his skin; now they would never have the chance to try, so quickly could he move. Years of experience in combat were encapsulated by People’s Blade’s teachings.

One evening, they paused from their exercises to watch the aurora borealis. Fei Li and Qing sat together, hands clasped in the first indication of affection between the two women. The lights painted the ice around them in pastel colors.

“Grigori is in danger,” People’s Blade said suddenly. “His mother has many enemies who are aware of her weakness. I cannot remain to protect her. You are the Blade of the People now, a mantle you will pass on to him.” She waited for him to speak.

“Who is his mother?”

“You will forget nothing I have taught you. Teach him. When he’s ready, present him Jade Emperor’s Whisper.”

She stood, holding Qing’s hand. There was a disturbing finality in their movements that the darkness could not conceal.

“Surely you have not taught me everything.” The loneliness on the ice no longer appealed to him. “And I still do not know who Grigori is.”

“Will be.” They began to float off. The sense of dream logic returned, with all its recalcitrance.

“I accept your charge. Who is Grigori’s mother?”

“The Red Saviour.” The stars winked out on the flat ice plain.



#


Worker’s Champion searched the ice for days. He wanted closure. People’s Blade’s dissociation from humanity offered none. She must have floated into the sky with her companion, he thought. Yet he searched on, feeling that a circle had closed.

As the short, dim Arctic day ended, he found their still, naked bodies, curled up together in the crags of an iceberg. The cold had rendered their yellow skin gray. Their faces bore a serene expression as if they’d gone to sleep after a night of love. Qing had been beautiful, he saw now that the nightsky had left their skins forever.

A tear froze on his cheek. She’d shown him nothing like kindness, had essentially enslaved him to her own purposes, yet he knew this was a woman who found a way to give into the world as she committed herself to her duty. The shame he felt for his earlier resentment of her burned his face.

He burrowed a chamber into the iceberg and laid their bodies to rest in the same position he’d found them in. His sense of loss was his own – and would be echoed in Natalya Nikolaevna. Fei Li and Qing, however, dwelt in the court of the Celestial Dragon, whose existence he could no longer contest, and whose presence must be divine indeed. They, and their spirit passengers, had left the human world.

The time had come for him to return to it.