DIVA: A Break from Tradition Epilogue
deucexm at gmail.com
Wed Dec 30 11:42:33 PST 2020
The last bit, short but quite important.
I had fun writing this; the Gray Empire needed a story, and will need many more.
Too many places and people have yet to be spoken of - perhaps next year...
A Break from Tradition: A DiVerse Alpha Chronicle
The teacher sat in the back of a tea shop. It was nothing like the Imperial
palace; just a humble building of wood and stone, with no ornamentation, only
the necessities of water and fire and tea leaves - and a few other things. But
the tea /was/ very good here, and he visited whenever he could.
Of course, that wasn't the only reason he was here today.
The door squeaked open, and a slim silhouette slid into the tea shop, then
approached. As the door closed and the outside light faded, features appeared:
a headscarf, dusky skin, a layered wrap. And a package, held close to the
The figure set the package down on the table, opposite the teacher's cup; then
they bowed, fist in palm. "It has been a long time, Honored Teacher."
"I am honored by the achievements of my students - of which I hear a great deal.
But please, sit down, Nari."
The figure sat. "You have... news?" Their voice was delicate, but hard to
place; easily lost in a crowd, easily forgotten. Which was, after all, just as
both of them had planned.
The teacher took his cup and sipped quietly. "The next Empress will need your
assistance, my former pupil. For what She wants now, and for what She needs
without knowing it. You have been given an invitation, but you must prove your
worth - to Her and to those who fence Her in."
"Have you advice to provide me for those two pursuits, then?"
"Indeed I do." The teacher took another sip of the tea, then held the cup in
his hands and felt the warmth soak into his cold, tired fingers. "For the
Empress-to-be: do not lie to Her, for She can see through deception like an
arrow piercing new-fallen snow. She values truth and directness, for She has
had precious little of it. Be honest with Her, and She will treat you with
respect no matter your station." A wry smile slid onto his lips for a moment.
"As far as tradition allows, of course."
Nari bowed their head briefly in understanding. "And for the others?"
"For those surrounding the Empress-to-be..." The teacher paused, gazing into
the depths of his tea. "I regret to say that you must remain wary at all times.
How you act, how you look, what you say, what you remain silent about; at all
times you are being judged. And the closer you come to the Empress's personal
trust, the closer the knives come to your throat. Very few of those now in the
palace and its surrounds have any interest in the radical changes necessary to
give our people the hope, the opportunity, they rightfully deserve." He took a
sip. "Do not let them see your back; and if your presence becomes a stumbling
block to the Empress-"
"-you would have me leave Her, is that it?"
The teacher looked across the table calmly. "Is that not the rational
"Perhaps. But if I provide benefits to the Empress, of companionship or a
listening ear or anything else She deems important; is that not worth weighing
on its own merit, rather than acting purely upon political convenience? For our
opponents do the latter, and we abhor them for it."
He inclined his head, allowing himself another small smile. "You have learned
well indeed." In one motion he drained his cup, and rose. "I will trust your
judgment, my most excellent artist. But know that the task ahead of you is no
Nari rose as well, scooping up their package. "I never doubted you would set me
on such a harrowing path for anything less than the most worthy of pursuits,
And so it was that the next morning, Nari the Artist and their teacher
approached the outer gates of the Imperial Palace; there they parted ways, the
teacher vanishing into the mists of history, and Nari entering the service of
She who would become the Fifty-Seventh Empress of the Gray Empire.
But that is a tale to be told another time.
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