For Kage, formerly of the Akodo family, the sight before him filled his heart with a satisfied glee.
Standing before a giant gem in the shape of an eye, the so called Oni’s Eye shined with the scintillating brilliance of light refracted.
With a thought it’s view could be shifted from one scene to another, one person to another.
As he watched he saw the Emperor weep on his bed, his emotions getting the best of him.
He saw the upstart Akodo who had dethroned him begin to organise his family, writing missives in preparation for the role he so craved.
A little more focus he heard the pronouncement of Ikoma Soto as temporary regent of the Lion Clan, much to her obvious shock. And Kage’s surprise too, all things considered.
Shifted focus again… he felt nothing but pain. An agony like liquid fire poured into him running through him searing him scarring him. Nothing had like this had ever happened before! If this were some hidden flaw…
“Dreamer,” he screamed at the other master standing nearby, “Summon the others. There is something wrong with the Eye!”
“Are you certain? Perhaps a flaw? What were you searching for?”
“Just do it!” He yelled at the pallid man, seeing dark sores on his skin oozing under the light, “Do not make me ask again!”
Even as the Dreamer scuttled off, he thought about what he had tried to find. Something that had angered him more than everything else. He had tried to see who Master Tiger was. And failed.
* * *
It was an hour later when the Masters assembled before the Eye. Well at least the Masters that were at the Temple at a time. The Dreamer, the Foreigner, the Shadow and Kage himself were here, the others arrayed as images easily identifiable on the surface of the Eye.
All except Tiger. Still he couldn’t be seen. Still sporting that ridiculous Tiger mask, it’s image seemed hazy and even harder to look at.
It this merely infuriated Kage further.
“Ah Kage-dono, such an unexpected call,” Tiger drawled contentedly, “I do hope you are keeping well?”
“Enough with the pleasantries Tiger. We demand to know how you are doing this!”
Laughter escaped its lips, “It is amazing what you can discover with a bit of effort Kage. I have found something that distorts those trying to find me. An unintended side effect is that it distorts the image on the eye. Fascinating really.”
“Take whatever it is off and let us see you again.”
“I don’t think so, Kage.” the Tiger intoned, “No. Instead I will not reveal myself to anyone, especially not to you.”
A muttered murmur escaped the lips of the other Masters.
“Explain yourself!” Came the voice of Ikoma Soto, bristling at the insult given her mentor.
“Ah, Soto, I am so glad you are here. Both of you have over reached yourselves. That Akodo knows too much! Too many samurai are becoming aware of our presence! You attempted to coerce a Crane samurai into giving you the prize only to have it fail spectacularly! Not only did the samurai escape you but the prize is in the custody of the Crane!”
Outrage began to spark from the other members, calls for punishment, of the idiocy, of retribution.
Kage couldn’t believe that this was happening! All his loyal years of service to the sect. The sacrifices he made. The pain he has endured. All being dismissed at the word of this treacherous Tiger.
Despite the murmurings, it was Master Tiger who spoke next.
“However, both of you still have your uses. Kage. your abilities are paramount as a sensei and we have need to teach young samurai the techniques needed to defend ourselves. You shall teach the guard at the Hidden Temple, your rank of master kept. For you Soto, you have been fortunate to have been provided with a second chance. As you have been declared interim leader of the Lion clan, your actions will prove very fruitful for us in the coming months.”
Soto, furious, began to retort when Kage raised a hand to silence her.
“You are right Tiger. We have overstepped ourselves. Your kindness is noted and your motion accepted. This Temple should be well guarded lest they come for us next.”
“On that note,” the soft voice of the Shadow began, “How are preparations for the group going to Tengoku to confront our enemy?”
“They are making final preparations,” Tiger answered, “The plans are set in motion, they will deal with the darkness or die trying. Either way the absurdity that began with the fall of the Kami will hopefully rectify itself.”
“We are placing a lot of our faith in you, Tiger.” the Dreamer intoned lazily, “Do not make the same mistakes as others have.”
Another laugh came from the form of Tiger.
“The difference between us, dear Dreamer, is that they do my bidding without understanding that they do it. Like all well thought out stratagems. They will succeed or they will die and the heavens with them. Either way we shall win.”
The images began fading out with the last sentence spoken.
“Because we are the Kolat.”