Catalyst, part 1
James was twelve when he first became acutely aware of the events happening around him. It was the year that his grandfather died and his father was crowned King of Koliska. It wasn’t the death that shocked James into a new consciousness. He had experienced the pain of loss before when his mother had passed just after the birth of his sister Gwen seven years prior. No, this was different.
When the late King Geoffrey the III still held the throne, the then Crowned Prince Richard had done his work mostly behind closed doors. Now that he had become king, Richard didn’t bother with secrecy. His father had come out of hiding, and James did not like what he saw.
But he hadn’t been able to find his voice to question the awful suspicions brewing inside.
Living in the palace and having the status of “child,” James had been largely ignored by all but his doting Nanny Iris. He could have been in the same room, have wandered by an open door, or have entered in the middle of a conversation when he was younger, and they would go on talking as if he wasn’t there. As if he didn’t matter. Because he didn’t matter. He was a child, and King Richard had his eye on something much larger than raising his son. He had it on the world. He wanted the world.
Of course right now, Richard only had dominion over a small kingdom on a large continental island. It was the remains of a once vast kingdom that had been whittled away from Koliska by the 1705 Peace Treaty of Barisii. In James’s mind a peace treaty certainly seemed like a good thing, but his father described the country as having been castrated when the lands in the south were put under Yurdi rule, and the lands in the north were placed in Bayanese hands. Richard still ruled over all of central Koliska, but James quickly learned that it wasn’t good enough. The entire island belonged to Koliska. Its people were all fair skinned, green eyed Koliskians through and through, and they deserved to be ruled by one of their own. Not by foreigners. Besides that, having his kingdom divided was humiliating and emasculating, and when James stopped being such a child, he would understand.
Except James was not a child any longer, and he was no longer ignored. In fact, he was sought out. Included as much as possible so that he could learn what it took to be king. And James still felt the Treaty was warranted after the Great War; something which Richard was finally starting to notice.
Being included in everything was worse than being ignored, in James’s opinion. At least when he was being ignored, James would only hear a snippet of this or that. Now he had the full story, and knowing what he knew, James couldn’t stay silent for much longer. But he hadn’t found his voice yet either.
That was the hard part; finding his voice after having been voiceless for so long. But he was nineteen now, nearly twenty, and it was time. Maybe past time.
“Stop it now,” Richard was saying to his young and well-endowed Minister of Media, Brooke, no last name, when James arrived in the office. “I want only Koliskian produced news sources from now on. No more of this hogwash poisoning the minds of our people.”
She bowed slightly, hand over her heart, “Yes, Your Highness.” She tossed her long, dark hair over her shoulder when she straightened up. A steak of aqua shimmered in the under layer of her hair, and James caught a glimpse of pointed ears.
James tried to act like he hadn’t noticed, but Minister Brooke was yokai. She had been newly appointed to the position of Minister three days ago, shortly on the heels of the death of her predecessor from a quick hitting illness. Minister Hughes had been human. James resolved to find out if his father knew that his new minister was not.
“Make sure that the right people are put in charge,” Richard added. “I don’t want to see a single word of these lies ever again.”
This was in regards to an article in the Yurdi produced newspaper that came up from their southern border. The article criticized Richard for his aggressive isolationist policies, particularly against Yurdi people. It questioned his motives and warned that if Richard continued taking the country down this path, it would lead to retribution from the international community. James had read the article and agreed with its author. Yurdi people living in Koliska were in danger, as were Koliskians who held different political views than his father. But the article spoke nothing of the thousands of people already imprisoned in secretive, rural compounds as political dissenters. James had to think that they didn’t know, or they would have mentioned it.
“How is this poisoning peoples’ minds?” James questioned, lifting the newspaper from the waste can where it had been discarded. “It’s just a different point of view from your own.”
“And that is why it is poison,” Richard insisted. “My boy, you’ll see this is true with time. I’m certain of it.”
James hated that phrase. Hated the conviction that colored his father’s voice. When would he understand that James was his own person with his own thoughts?
“Leave us,” Richard dismissed the yokai Minister with a flip of his hand and turned it into a gesture towards one of the chairs, “Have a seat, my boy.”
“When did you get so stubborn?” he wondered with a sigh, taking a seat himself behind the large oak desk by the window. He pushed a hand back through his thick straw hair, “Your mother was the same way.”
“I called you here because the people of Southern Koliska are talking about rebelling against their Yurdi oppressors and reuniting with our glorious kingdom. We’ll be sending in troops to aid in their effort. Isn’t that wonderful news?”
It was certainly news, though wonderful wasn’t the word James would have used. “Is Minister Brooke a yokai?” He was learning to be more direct, but Richard would dismiss him if he trod too near a topic his father didn’t wish to discuss.
“Yes.” Richard answered with a matter of fact lift to his brow. “Don’t tell me you have a problem with that as well.”
“She’s not human.” James could see that he was edging dangerously close to being dismissed by the flare of his father’s nostrils. He kept his tone carefully neutral, “I’m merely wondering how a yokai obtained the position of Minister in your administration, when yokai cannot legally obtain a work permit anywhere else in Koliska.”
“Oh that old law,” Richard shrugged as if it had slipped his mind. “Sometimes you have to go with the person who is best for the job. You’ll understand that one day.”
James bit on his tongue until he had formed a calm, rational response, “And what of the new law you enacted last month that bars non-Koliskian people from holding jobs that a born Koliskian could hold? Is this not in violation of that same law?”
“I don’t see how. Minister Brooke was born and raised in Koliska.”
James had to bite his tongue again for a moment. “She isn’t human.”
“She is still Koliskian. The law only keeps non-Koliskians from stealing our jobs.”
“She isn’t human,” James could not stress that enough. “Yokai are demons.” He used the colloquial name rather than the proper term to stress his point.
“I’m sorry that you can’t see past that,” Richard tilted his head at his son. His lips were tightening. This conversation was about to be over. “Minister Brooke was born in Koliska. I say that makes her Koliskian and therefore eligible for work under the law.”
James knew there was nothing more he could say on the subject. “May I go?”
Richard waved his hand towards the door and turned his attention to the paper work mounting on his desk.
James left the office. As soon as he rounded the corner, he found Minister Brooke waiting for him. She stood in the center of the hallway. He could easily walk around her, but there was something in the way she cocked her well-rounded hips, hands planted on each side, elbows turned out that projected a presence, which filled the space surrounding her. James knew that if he tried to walk around her, she would stop him easily. So James stood his ground and held her weird aqua gaze.
“You got a problem with yokai?” she demanded. Her accent was from the Southern counties, currently occupied by Yurd.
“I’m merely questioning why it is legal for you as a yokai to work in a government position, while a Yurdi or a Bayanese human can’t find even part-time work under the new law.” James squared his chest when she approached. He would not be intimidated.
“You won’t think that way for long.” She worked her hips with each step and lifted a hand tipped in dark, pointed claws to caress his cheek.
James ducked out of the reach of her fingers, “I will not be magicked.”
She followed him as he tried to step around her, “Please, we’re already doing the dance, and you’re just a boy. No man can resist me.”
A sickly sweet, rosy smell assaulted his nose and made his teeth ache like he’d bitten into a candy made with too much sugar. He was right to guess that she was trying to magick him. “I’m not dancing.” James had gotten around her now and turned to walk away.
Minister Brooke moved to reappear in front of him in less than a blink of an eye, only to impress upon him the speeds at which she was capable of moving. “Everyone dances. Sooner or later.”
He stepped around her again, trying to hold his breath, and this time she let him go. And yes, “let him” was the correct turn of phrase for it. Yokai possessed magicks far beyond human capabilities. She could have stopped him before he could think about trying to fight back, if she had wanted to. James was not a mystic. He would have had only his fists to fight back with if she attacked. Perhaps he should consider activating his tama and becoming a magick user for his own protection.
“What’s with the sourpuss face?” Gwen asked when James returned to the palace school room. She was fourteen now and looked more like their mother every day; hair the color of dried straw, long neck, and eyes like emeralds. “You and Dad get into it again?”
“It’s not important.” James apologized to his tutor for his absence and returned to the comparative literature essay he had been writing for his university entrance examinations.
“Why can’t you see that Dad is just doing what is best for the glory of Koliska?” Gwen set aside the maths problem she had been working on. “That treaty was criminal, dividing up our country like that, occupying our lands. Any steps towards unifying with our brothers of the north and south should be greeted with praise.” She sighed audibly when her brother remained silent, “I should be Dad’s successor, instead of you. I’ll keep this country heading in the right direction.”
James stayed silent. Engaging Gwen only wound them in ideological circles. Nothing he said ever broke through her convictions, and nothing she said could break through his. In James’s mind, this was a matter of human right’s violations. Richard couldn’t control people’s thoughts, so instead he had imprisoned anyone suspected of being Kishinist. It was a new wave religion and political ideology that called for the abolition of all classes and races. Kishinists believed that all people were equal and should therefore have an equal share in all of life’s riches. The ultimate realization of Kishinism was the human race spiritually evolving until human consciousness was equal to that of the Gods; the proper name for the Gods, of course, being Kishin, hence the term Kishinist. If some people found the ideas of total equality comforting, then fine, let them have their belief. Why make it criminal? It was only an idea. So what if total equality meant no more ruling class? The Kishinists were also pacifists. They would never have attempted to overthrow Richard, which was the excuse his father had used to arrest all known followers of the faith.
Richard and Gwen could talk circles around James if they wanted, but the actions of his father’s administration were questionable at best and criminal at worst. And despite everything that James knew, he knew he still didn’t know the half of it. He lived secluded in the palace. He had heard but had never seen what it was like outside the palace gates. Surely it was much worse than what he imagined. Thank you for reading! This is a story blog. I will be updating every Sunday, publishing one chapter at a time, but if you can’t wait to read more, the full novel is going to be available for purchase on Amazon. Check back next Sunday for the link!
Originally published at thesagasofnakaba.blogspot.jp on August 19, 2015.