“And Death asked Life, 'Why do people hate me, but love you?' And Life responded: 'I am a beautiful lie...you are an ugly truth...”
From the Compendium of Knowledge, in the Yaoguai City of Shi-ki, Mona Continent, Haze.
“My love for you transcends the bounds of life and death...for we were meant to be in the previous world, and now this...I gave in again, I guess...my bastard heart...I couldn't keep refusing you any longer, your rights and mine stood as equals in the eyes of God, Mona and the Universe, so I gave him my heart, bared and true, but the sins are stained on your hands. So, to care, or plead utter silence, my weak, feeble hands can barely scrape my broken, wasted heart off the cold, somber ground...I came close enough, but you went too far...it won't change your empty stare when you look upon my crying eyes, or dry my empty tears. But, I can't seem to end these images parading through my tortured mind like an exhibition of macabre, disfigured beings crying out for the ones they love, knowing that they will never come back...they bear a haunting resemblance to the depictions of Hell...so take what is yours and I'll go on my way, just don't leave anything that might make me remember us, and all we used to be...I am but the shell of the Duchess I once was...a fallen angel, a broken dream...my crown has been shattered, shattered by the cruel touch of an unfaithful hand...so I must enter the foreign, face all my shame and hatred for myself, and may the past find its its grave at the foot of his bed and mine...for separating the divine from the worldly is what all Blue Aurelian Pantheon followers must do...and I am only mortal, not a God...so, care if you must, but I plead silence. I am the true Duchess of Li, a Sovereign of the Mona Empire, and commander of an armada that rules the known Universe from my throne on Haze...let my weak hands piece together my broken heart and make it whole again, for I have no need to be wed. My only loyalty is to my people and my Empire. They shall never betray me. Power shall never betray me...unlike the weak, soulless hearts of men. Now, let us end this catastrophic scene, for I am a stronger woman and ruler because of it...onward and upward, ad infinitum. Awaken and inhale...for I don't care.”
Journal of Duchess Rika Fuuro, on love.
In the week before their departure for Wolfe, the House of Li was abuzz with the coming of age of Miss Rika Fuuro, Duchess of Shi-ki, one of the richest noble cities of Haze, the planet of the dead. Those in the living realm referred to this planet as the Afterlife, but in reality, death was but a phase change in a human body, just as the Big Bang was a phase change in the universe. Human souls, whether virtuous or sinful, all came to live on Haze, where they simply lived a second life, but in an improved form. Rika Fuuro, a beautiful young woman who had been a model and an actress in her previous existence on Earth, according to her Death I.D., had been born into the rarefied world of the nobility on Haze, in the breathtaking Northern Empire of Mona. This Empire, the size of the Russian Empire on Earth, was controlled by the various nobility houses, each based in a grand Noble City hundreds of miles across. The Noble Cities were all unique, and each city made up a constituent Kingdom of the Empire, ruled from the capital Noble City, Wolfe. The Kingdom of Shi-ki, famous for its unique Nox Arcana architecture, was dominated by the Yaoguai-Myryrklos Sky Wraiths, these were beautiful, 10-foot tall, ethereal creatures with the ectomorph bodies of young humans, but elaborate, regal outfits that transformed into huge, white-feathered wings with crimson red plumes on their flight feathers. They lived for 1,000 years, soaring around on the winds of the Northern Plains of Mona, and were very shrewd politicians, they looked down upon all other races, both literally and figuratively, and never told anyone any more than they wanted them to know. Miss Fuuro was the 180-year old Duchess of Shi-ki, and she was approaching the age where she'd be considered full-grown. For her entire life, she had been taught by the best teachers in Mona, trained to fight by the best instructors, and raised to be the next Duchess of Shi-Ki, representing their Kingdom and the House of Li in the Imperial Pantheon. Her father, Duke Li Fuuro, was of middle-age, but very, very powerful and commanded respect with his deep, mighty voice, it was heard coming from down the hallway in Sylpheed Palace, the home of Duke Fuuro and his family as Rika brushed her huge, billowing head of black hair, she placed the usual ribbon in it, tied in a bow. The Rampus buzzed in the trees outside her window, the small, social thorn-bugs whose spines contained a powerful toxin called Een-ja, which was used to tip the blades of Hallucination Nano-Swords, the weapons of choice for Sky Wraith warriors, a weapon that Rika had trained with all her life. These swords, semi-sentient weapons made of trillions of nano-Animas, became one with the user by literally becoming a part of the wielder's body, were incredible feats of engineering...the art of fighting with one revolved around releasing one's inhibitions, and letting one's mind run wild. “Rika...” Duke Li walked into his daughter's bedroom and addressed her cordially, a content look on his face. “The Mother of Holy Radiance will see you now.” Rika's face suddenly grew nervous. The Radiant Mother was someone you did not want to keep waiting, but Rika had to look her absolute best for a member of the Monese Imperial clergy. She was dressed in her formal outfit, which looked like the ornate robes of a Qing Dynasty empress, the Yaoguai-Myryrklos royal robes, called Clow-Zhu, were the most elaborate formal costumes on Haze, along with the Empire of Baronia-Felix's Jungsturm-Nordsterne imperial robes, looking like a cross between Teutonic Order regalia and Clow-Zhu, with elements of Elegant Gothic Lolita-Elegant Gothic Aristocrat and ancient runic styles mixed in, and the Moonlight Sunbeam Consortium's Etherea Aeternum outfits, which were impressive, very intimidating outfits that were never what they appeared to be, or always more than they seemed. Rika finished brushing her hair and places the ribbon in it, over top of her headdress, and put the finishing touches on her makeup. It was time. Rika strode over to her father, as he escorted his daughter down the hallway, lined with sculptures and paintings of scenes from the Blue Aurelian Bible, one of the many holy books contained within the Compendium of Knowledge. Rika had three guards surrounding her, all armed with quad-shot slugthrowers, these were rapid-fire, cog-fired shotguns with four barrels, arranged in a horizontal pattern. Duke Li insisted on having Rika with guards everywhere, even though Master Ling Chao Xi, a Sky Wraith Weapon Master, had taught her as well as any other Weapon Master, Watchman, or Tao Master on Haze. He was a very protective father, to be certain, but no amount of protection would keep her from this day...the same ritual that all young Sky Wraiths must undergo to be considered adults: the Holy Writ of Yami. This ritual was administered by a clergyman with the family and all retainers, lords, magnates and officials in the given Noble City in attendance. Rika was nervous, no doubt, but she had trained for this day her whole life...180 years of studying the Blue Aurelian Bible, training, learning and becoming the woman she'd be for the rest of her life...now it was time to prove to the Radiant Mother that she really was ready. The doors to the main Council Chamber in Sylpheed Palace opened, and Rika walked into the room alone, her guards and her father were not permitted to enter the room. The doors shut behind her, leaving her standing in the center of the Council Chamber that she had been spending time in since birth, with hundreds of highborn citizens of the Mona Empire and elsewhere of multiple races; two diplomats from the Baronia-Felix Reich of Mankind were in attendance; Baron Olaf von Heckolocker and his 23-year old daughter, Helena, both wearing extraordinarily elaborate Jungsturm-Nordsterne imperial outfits, covered in hundreds of pagan rune drawings, with various sigils, signs, staves and runes granting them powers beyond even a sorcerer's comprehension, carrying pointed, Tyr Cross swords as scepters, with Helena's long, silky blonde hair let down to its full length, rather than its usual pigtails, stood and looked on, for it was customary in Yaoguai-Myryrklos culture to let one's hair down in the presence of a Clergy, except for the initiate in just such a situation as now, several Arch-Sages from the sorcerer Empire, the Tempelritter Order of Sorcery, led by Sage Lusankaya The Weird, a huge, animated purple, black and blue robe with a blue cape, and a 6-foot tall yellow pointed hat, with two glowing blue eyes peeking out from between the robe and the hat, two of the Vatrian Strigoi Cossacks from the Illusory Empire of Vatria, their massive, vampire-like forms occupying the darkest corner of the room to avoid direct sunlight, and three Sea Goddesses in their amazingly detailed, extremely elaborate, wire-framed ballroom gowns, called Hydromedusa style, they looked like EGA-EGL jellyfish ballroom-dresses. They came from the Empire of Oceanus, where they traveled around the seas of Haze, as graceful 2-D images gliding across the surface of the sea, like a neon sign, but could turn 3-D when on land, and always radiated an ethereal glow from their bodies. They were elegant, politically shrewd and beautiful, but occasionally really, really scary, as they were generally very short-tempered and had little patience for incompetence. With all of these eyes watching her, in addition to many of her own attendants and teachers, there was considerable pressure to get this initiation exactly right, especially for the Baronian diplomats; Olaf would be recording all of Rika's writs and recitations to present to the Blue Aurelian Church, under Supreme Pontifex Irtas Wyndroth, for evaluation, and Baronians were notoriously difficult to please, not to mention, their language sounded extremely sharp, declarative and aggressive, they could say that they loved you, and it would still sound like they were yelling at you. The Human Race was the dominant race in Baronia-Felix, and men were some of the greatest soldiers on Haze. Using their runic powers and more than 45 different weapons in the Baronian military, along with huge, nuclear-powered airships, fighters and bombers, as well as aircraft carriers, battleships and submarines at sea, the Reich of Baronia-Felix was feared and respected in equal measure. Their most recent triumph was on the Elohim Archipelago, a beautiful, tropical island chain that was held by the Empire of Oceanus and was occupied by the Siglyph Anarchists for a time, using Vatrian Strigoi weaponry; the Anarchists locked down the main island of Elohim Paradise, killing hundreds of the super-rich, upper-class civilians. Elohim Paradise was a very large, extensive, and extraordinarily rarefied, exotic culture, famous for their unique outfits and swimsuits worn by the super-rich young people that lived there, and they were often seen as arrogant, very attractive with very loose morals, and detached and snobbish, but the Anarchists had gone WAY too far in their Bolshevik-style uprising. The Sea Goddesses, having no military but vast magic powers over the ocean, tried to intervene with their katanas and ocean magic, but it wasn't enough, the Strigoi shield weaponry made the Siglyph Anarchists immune to the Sea Goddess magic. They sent a request for assistance from Baronia-Felix, who, under the direct orders of Kaiser Ludwig III, sent a fleet consisting of an aircraft carrier, two airships and their respective bomber squadrons, two attack submarines armed with SLCMs, three destroyers and 3,000 Reich Marines to Elohim Paradise, restoring law and order and ending the Siglyph Uprising after 72 days of war. One Sea Goddess, a stunning, red-haired beauty in a battle dress as beautiful as the clearest summer night in the Big Sky Country of the north, named Otohime Marunae, was inducted into the Oceanus Hall of Heroes as Sama-Otohime after assuming command of the Reich Marines for the operation, and having her own stained-glass window in the majestic Temple of the Sea, the Grand Palace of Oceanus, home of the Sea Goddesses and their Imperial headquarters. Olaf was also seen as a hero to the vast Reich of Mankind, it would take a lot to impress him, he wore the Order of St. Rudolph with pride. The Radiant Mother, an older Sky Wraith, her hair graying, but her aging face hiding the wisdom of 650 years of life, bowed before Rika, and Rika responded in kind, bowing a full five inches lower than the Radiant Mother, every detail counted. The traditional greeting was extremely important in Sky Wraith culture, as first impressions counted for everything for the nobility. “Welcome, young initiate, to the Initiation of Grand Palace of Mona, now, recite the Writ of Enlightenment, in its entirety.” the Radiant Mother commanded, getting straight to the event.
“Just as the Great God Athos presented fire to the Prophet Lao Chi, we grant knowledge to the unenlightened, and likewise, Him to me. In the days of yore, the days of three, we stood in ignorance, like an innocent child betwixt the trees. Athos granted fire, the Holy Light to the Sky Wraith Race, and with His might, we spread our wings, like birds taking flight, chasing along the Bird's-Road at a torrid pace, we showed the world our majesty and light, from the Sea Goddesses to the Human Race. No mountain is too high, no valley is too low, no river is too wide, for our race to cross, we fight for the experience of battle, win or loss. There is no victory, unless in knowledge.”
“Very good. Flawless, actually.” the Radiant Mother said. “Now, recite the 5 Pitfalls of Life.”
“The first Pitfall is that we exist to fulfill a prophecy. The Blue Aurelian Bible states that only chaos is certain.”
“Excellent, can you tell me why this belief is dangerous?” The Radiant Mother asked.
“In an era where everything is growing stronger, every generation assumes that it is the last one on Haze. There is no God, there is no Devil, there is only Haze.”
“Perfect. Second Pitfall, please.”
“The Second Pitfall is that there is a true essence. We are what we are, there is no absolute purity, and the reason for this is that the minds of men and other races alike are too afraid to face the truth, like a liar who continually justifies his lies, or a drunkard who blames his domestic violence on the alcohol, we believe that whatever we do does not touch our separate, inner purity. No such entity exists. There is no Ghost in the Machine, we are what we are.”
“Again, perfect...you seemed to know the question I was going to ask you before I even asked it, you told me why the belief was dangerous in your own words before I even asked you to. Very commendable.” Even the Radiant Mother was impressed by Rika so far. Rika could see Olaf writing fervently in his book about her performance, and he looked just as impressed as the Mother was. “Third Pitfall, please.”
“The third Pitfall is that evil can be destroyed by violence. Violence doesn't solve problems, it creates them. Far too often we think that if violence isn't solving problems, we just aren't using enough of it or we aren't killing the right people. Crime cannot be solved by more crime, evil is not a problem that can be solved by bullets and bombs, and an enemy that can only be destroyed by killing is a very weak, simple enemy indeed. Mankind needs these enemies to feel secure, the Blue Aurelian Bible describes this as a masochistic society, people like to be scared, because it gives them an excuse to be violent. The only real way to conquer evil is to stop the root of the problem, and not allow evil to develop in the first place through education and care for those in need. Proactive, not reactive justice should be made the order of the day.”
“The Initiate Rika is right, Oh Court of Monese Nobility and Diplomats!” The Radiant Mother stood, raising her blue, glowing orb-scepter into the air. “What gave the Kaiser the authority to intervene in the Siglyph Uprising!? To what authority was he answering to? The Third Pitfall! Evil only breeds greater evil! It cannot solve the larger problem!” “And what did you expect our Reich to do?! Sit there and twiddle our thumbs while hundreds of innocents were slaughtered by the Anarchists, armed with Strigoi weaponry stolen from an armory?! Are you suggesting that you don't believe in evil?! That all the foul, rotten creatures of this world need is a stein of beer and someone to talk to?! That is pure fantasy, like those pointless comics about 'The Immortal Retard' and 'Misogynistic Man,' the two politically incorrect superheroes that my daughter's classmates used to draw!! They shoot, we shoot!!” Baron Olaf von Heckolocker roared. “And you fall under the Egoist Crown once again, Baron, as does your entire Empire. The power of its military cannot protect you from the weight of its own egotism and selfish desires to exterminate evil. You are not justice. You are a group of violence-crazed mass-murderers!” Baron Olaf glared frighteningly at the Radiant Mother as if to scream with rage, but at his daughter's insistence, he calmed down. “Fine...if you doubt the power of the Reich's military, than do not expect any assistance from us if you befall the same fate as Elohim Paradise. We will, as you say, turn the other cheek.” Everyone in the room broke into quiet side conversations. Rika looked around the room, very confused and startled by Baron Olaf's outburst. “Indeed you are powerful, Rika. Your words have succeeded in deeply offending Baron Olaf, but he had it due to him. You have proven yourself wiser than any Baronian already. Now, continue with the Fourth Pitfall.
“The Fourth Pitfall is that most people are not people. We are all equal in ideals, and in birth. It is our actions that decide who we are. We tend to think in insular terms, that one race is better than another one, or that the rich are inherently superior to the poor, or that one person's needs are somehow superior to another person's needs. No such distinction exists. It is purely artificial, fabrications of society that are placed on a pedestal because of individual insularity, it is very difficult to see beyond the needs of our families and our own bodies. Everyone has an equal voice in the world.
“Perfect, once again. You have proven your worth so far to our Empire and the Blue Aurelian faith. Now, the final Pitfall?”
“The final Pitfall is that being intelligent means being faithless. This is the most dangerous belief of all, as it leads directly into the Egoist Crown Philosophy, which dooms all societies that have ever existed, on Earth or on Haze. Belief need not come from religion to be valid, it can come from anything that gives a person faith and happiness, and therefore is valid to them. When faithlessness is allowed to permeate the world's Ideology Fields, there is pain, misery and suffering, when there is belief, there is hope...it is a society's choice, whether it wants to fail or succeed, based on its own actions...for that is the only way to salvation...And so, like the Light of Athos, we are all like stars that shine up from the depths...”
“Congratualtions...that was perhaps the most fantastic recitation of the Pitfalls that I have ever heard, regardless of outside opinions. Listen to Initiate Rika's wisdom, Council of Nobility! Not since the Scramble for the Colonies have such wiser words been said!” The Radiant Mother spoke loudly, once again, this time, with two fearsome Yaoguai-Myryrklos warriors, with the Blue Aurelian Bevin Cross, the Imperial insignia of Mona, emblazoned proudly on their war uniforms, brandishing Skoadewhips, Time-Shields and Hallucination Nano-Swords, their huge wings folded behind their backs, standing in attendance. Her speech made reference to the five Great Powers dividing up the the rest of Haze to their liking, without any consent from the lesser nations. The Scramble left Wolfe and the Empire of Mona in charge of the principalities Arion, and Raul, and made the noble Kingdom of the Shining Lanterns a permanent protectorate under the Treaty of Sanctity, along with the Monese Royal Navy conquering the Kiakaddashweep Islands and bringing the Chivalric Knights of Wyndren under Monese control, whereas the Empire of Baronia-Felix made up for its “small” home territory, large by any standard at 990,000 square miles, but tiny compared to Mona, with a vast colonial Empire, with more than 68 colonial holdings on every one of Haze's 9 continents. The Vatrian Strigoi Empire had a similar amount of territory, with 53 colonies and deployed colonial forces as often as it did native Strigoi forces, the Tempelritters with 22 colonies, including the resource-rich Verda River Basin, and the Empire of Oceanus with 15 major island colonies and close to 400 smaller ones, as well as vast underwater cities. Rika's initiation was not done yet, however, but, as Rika and the Radiant Mother were discussing, there were forces on Haze that one could not control, and one of them was about to appear unannounced in Sylpheed Palace. Just then, a sinister presence entered the room, and took its full, 8' 3” form. She had long, black and burgundy hair, as fair as black silk, and a very pale face with a few freckles near her eyes, her eyes were dark green, as sharp and green as a Wodan Pine's laser-sharp, venomous needles, with a beautifully sinister, calm face, black and red kohl makeup decorated her cheeks and eyes, topped off by blood-red lipstick. Here eyelashes were black and seductive, and her eyebrows complemented her tranquil facial expressions perfectly. “Hello, my dearest barons, gentry and nobility...how goes it?” The woman spoke in her strong Slavic accent, hovering forward because her immensely-elaborate Maleficent Crown robes, cape, veil and dress were too large, complicated and elaborate for her to walk in. One could see her stilletto-style EGA-EGL platform shoes and her black and white striped stockings as she hovered forward, her hundreds of red rubies and black pearls on her dress glinting in the sunlight beaming into the room through the skylights, and the purple static orb on her scepter glowed eerily. Her imperial Krone, or crown, shone in the lights, a virtual sculpture behind her head. The two Strigoi diplomats walked forward and kneeled in respect. “Tsarina Erzevet Lucifera, I don't know what to make of you, you enter the ceremony unannounced. To what do we owe this interruption?” The Radiant Mother said, annoyed at the second interruption in the ceremony thus far. “There are not many that can comprehend my powers...I can be your best friend or your worst nightmare, depending on what you want me to be. I was listening to this young woman speak, and her wisdom is great, far beyond her years...but, my race and my Empire, Vatria, are of a different breed altogether. I am the Goddess of the Mind, all things and ideals within the Haze Realm and Earthly zeitgeist, I have control over. I agree with Rika on most things but disagree with one critical aspect of her philosophy, and all of Blue Aurelianism: the nature of society. Society is notoriously judgmental and cannot see past the lies it has created for itself. One of them being the lie of 'free will.' Allow me to demonstrate...Ehh, sey aaz grell nachi muno Kashka!!” Lucifera pointed her scepter at the Radiant Mother, and chanted an ancient Vatrian spell. Immediately, the wise, noble, ancient Radiant Mother dropped to the floor and began flopping around like a fish, gasping and choking, as the rest of the room looked on in horror. All except the Strigoi diplomats, who watched ominously. The two Strigoi walked menacingly towards their Tsarina, and spoke in Vatrian. “S nami Bogu, Miz Tsaritsaya. Krasnoi pash voi ter'aa?” “Noku shaka paka. Kiichi kuun, tresh noin, si sapesh.” After the brief dialogue between the two diplomats, also clad in Maleficent Crown outfits, and Tsarina Lucifera, Lucifera lifted the spell on the Radiant Mother, who stood up, her wings soiled and in need of preening, and her immensely complex Clow-Zhu outfit somewhat scattered, but the Radiant Mother quickly recovered, and angrily drew her spellcasting scepter, with the Monese guards drawing their Hallucination Nano-Swords and Skoadewhips. The Radiant Mother ruffled her feathers a bit, bringing them back to perfect form, and, without a word, advanced towards Tsarina Lucifera and her diplomats, who drew their Paganblut Reaper swords, which more resembled chainsaws with sword hilts than blades for battle. Tsarina Lucifera hissed loudly, her fangs flaring like a snake ready to strike, as she drew her spellcasting scepter. The six warriors stared each other down, weapons drawn, as Duke Li and his guards ran to assist the Radiant Mother. “Like I said, I can be your best friend, or your worst nightmare...do you know what I do to people that make the mistake of believing that they have free will? I've done things you couldn't even dream about in your worst nightmares...things you can't even see. Dreams are an expression of willpower, and a nightmare is a hideous homuculus of shattered dreams, putting themselves back together with a mind of their own. Nightmares are the Ghost in the Machine, and I am the Goddess of the Mind. I use nightmares, both real and imagined to accomplish my will. It appears that you are forgetting your place, people of Haze.” Lucifera raised her scepter and slammed the handle against the ground...a bizarre wave of distortion engulfed the room, making everyone dizzy, lose their balance and fall over, and then allowed Lucifera's thoughts to enter their shattered mental walls, broken by the distortion wave. She projected images of the things she had done to her enemies and images her own thoughts, such as forcing two children to watch their father be forced into a slow-motion “Blood Orgy,” at the climax of which, the man's penis was hit with a sledgehammer and masturbated until it ejaculated blood and semen, then severed with a saw blade and given to the two starving children to eat, after that, all the orgy participants, captured enemies, were sacrificed by the Strigoi in their blood-rituals, images of a necrophiliac autopsy surgeon having sex in the autopsy room after hours at a hospital on Earth, a fisherman cutting up his murder victims' bodies and using them for bait, images of slowly cooking a pregnant woman over a fire to cook her unborn fetus for a cannibal Strigoi Thanksgiving, performing forced abortions on pregnant women by forcing them to eat a berry that caused them to miscarry, and delivering the stillborn baby in a dark, pagan ceremony with the Strigoi high priests chanting as the baby was taken out from the mother by C-section on Yule, the pagan equivalent of Christmas for a human sacrifice, the story of a nymphomaniac-necromanitc and how she found out how to give a corpse an erection, and also how she had sex with 100 bodies, and collected their penises as souvenirs, a place known as the “Land of the Spooks,” with distorted monsters wandering everywhere and looking for blood, images of people dying from illnesses such as Ebola, images of rape, sodomy, sexual torture and just torture in general, hideously distorted, anguished faces and everything that could possibly fit under the phrase “disturbing.” The aristocrats writhed on the floor in torment as these images haunted their minds. Just as soon as the intense psychological torture test began, it ended. Only the Radiant Mother and Rika were unaffected by the spell, something that Lucifera found...rather surprising. “You see, my dearest gentry, that the walls protecting your mind, the walls known as “free will,” are easily shattered. This, I hope, states the one fatal flaw that I see in Blue Aurelianism and the Aurelian Pantheon Doctrine in general. Free will does not exist, only the will of the powerful. That is the pitfall of your beliefs.” The three Strigoi transformed into amorphous shadows again, and exited the room with a whisper. As the group of aristocrats came to, Rika stood in front of the Radiant Mother, and recited the last part of the ritual.
“The Four Pillars of the Aurelian Pantheon Doctrine are the Paradox of Self-Sufficiency, represented by a serpent consuming its own tail, the Ignorance Complex, for that nothing is certain thanks to the laws of chaos, the Seven Doctrines of Absurdity, for the definitions of sentience, and the Ideology Fields, everything is influenced by everything else, and the whole of the Zeitgeist is formed from the ideas' interactions with each other. Thus, Blue Aurelianism explains the world in all aspects...”
The Radiant Mother looked at Rika, and bowed honorably. Rika responded in kind. “Dear Rika, do you know why Tsarina Lucifera interrupted our ritual? The Radiant Mother asked, rather unexpectedly. Rika didn't know what to say. She had not been prepared for a question like this, because she did not expect the Tsarina of Vatria to interrupt the ritual so unexpectedly. How was she to know why Lucifera had suddenly chosen to appear...but then, she remembered what her father had told her, and her teachers' words, preparing her for this day her whole life. “Evil only exists to intimidate and control through fear. Do not fear evil, confront it head-on. Give it no quarter, and it will always shrink back to the shadows from whence it came.” “It is because Lucifera wants to control us. She feels that if she intimidates us with her immense powers, we will bow to her will and do whatever she wants us to. Evil only exists to intimidate and control through fear. If we do not fear it, it cannot control us...and thus, evil is rendered powerless.” “Excellent, excellent work, Rika. That was my final test...incredible...I sense such enishi radiating from you, more than I have ever sensed from any initiate in my entire existence on Haze...you are a truly gifted individual, and have done your Royal House pride today. Go forth into the world, Rika, for you are now a full-blooded member of the Blue Aurelian Pantheon. With our blessing, you will accomplish truly astounding things. The other aristocrats, all standing and observing the triumphant initiation of the young Duchess, applauded her success as the radiant blue Talisman of Weylan was placed around Rika's neck, to signify an exceptionally gifted member of the Blue Aurelian Pantheon...this was her token to keep forever, and would bring eternal honor and prestige to the House of Li. Rika's wisdom and knowledge reflected great credit upon herself, her father and the entire Empire of Mona. She truly was one of the finest kind.
It wasn't long until her father, Duke Li of the House of Shi-ki, walked in with his two guards to congratulate his daughter on her stunning success. “Come, Duchess of Shi-ki, my glorious and honored Daughter of the Blue Aurelian Pantheon, it is time for the Imperial Confirmation...you will join our place in Heaven, Earth and Haze as the Heir to the House of Li, the mightiest of the Monese Royal Houses. Come, the rest of the Sky Wraith nobility awaits you in the Hall of Sanctity, at the center of Sylpheed Palace, surrounding the Throne of Heaven's Bliss.” The nobility from each and every other Empire bowed in reverence to the young Duchess, her dress billowing into wings as she absorbed what this day meant. She was no longer a mere child, an initiate. She was full-fledged royal, and one that would play a prominent role in shaping the future of the Empire. She raised her hand high in the air, giving the Monese imperial salute, embracing her new role as a leader in the grandest Empire on Haze. “ALL HAIL GRAND DUCHESS RIKA FUURO, HOUSE OF LI, OF THE LORDLY EMPIRE OF MONA! LET IT BE HEARD IN HEAVEN, HELL, EARTH AND HAZE, THE RISE OF A TRUE DAUGHTER OF THE COSMOS!!! HAIL!! HAIL!!! HAIL!!!!!” Baron Heckolocker roared, acknowledging the rise of the new Sovereign. The remainder of the nobility did the same. Rika turned and faced her father, now as an equal, and announced her intentions.
“Father, take me to my throne. All embrace me, it's my time to rule at last. 180 years have I waited for this day, the day that I finally embrace my destiny as a leader of this Empire and this House. No allegiance, I swear no oath, drawn by God, not by the Church, for my power is divine.” Duke Li could only beam with delight, his long black, shoulder-length hair glinting in the sunlight, like all Sky Wraiths' perfectly-combed hair did. “Come, my daughter, my Duchess and my life...I shall grant you your request.” Li and Rika marched down the hallway to the Hall of Sanctity with the authority of true rulers, the way they carried themselves was nothing short of divine radiance. Down the Corridor of Heroes they walked, adorned with heraldry of all kinds, war trophies and statues of Rika's ancestors, the former leaders of the House of Li and bearers of a grand tradition that Rika was now inheriting. As father and daughter approached the huge, carved, wooden doors, the two Sky Wraith guards saluted to their new leader, as she walked in alone. The Radiant Mother was there, as were the rest of the Sky Wraith clergy and High Priest, Arteil Fyurine, one of Duke Li's closest advisors and like a second father to Rika. The denizens of Haze did not just rule over one planet, but were the maintainers of a Type-II society, a society that had truly trans-universal reach, but all maintained a fierce nationalistic loyalty to Haze, their homeworld, their paradise, their Heaven. Each of them had been a denizen of Earth in their past life, and only after one lifetime did they truly start living. The enormous congregation of Sky Wraith nobility all stood silently, all eyes were on Rika as she slowly approached her throne, walking slowly, her Clow-Tzu empress outfit glinting in the sunlight beaming in through the stained-glass windows...all in utter silence. Rika strode toward the gleaming white, marble Throne of Heaven's Bliss, illuminated by a radiant beam of sunlight, as if God Himself was showing Rika to her destiny. Rika sat upon her throne...it was at that moment that the choir began to sing. The Sky Wraith Imperial Voices, as it was known, quietly began to sing the Empire of Mona's Imperial Anthem, quietly at first, but then louder and louder, until an entire orchestra began a plagal tone of triumph and rejoicing in a new dawn. The nobility turned to face Rika, and bowed in reverence as the Radiant Mother took the Crystal Crown from its Sanctuary and carried it to Rika, anxiously awaiting the moment when she would give her coronation speech, which she had been rehearsing for the past 3 weeks in private. As the Choir finished the National Anthem, the Radiant Mother gave the invocation, holding the huge Crystal Crown over Rika's head. “Today, we celebrate the coming of age of a true Daughter of the Cosmos, and a Mistress of the Stars. Grand Duchess Rika Fuuro of the House of Li, Daughter of Duke Li, Sovereign of All Her Dominion and Light of Haze, is now, in the Eyes of God and Haze, a true Duchess. May she lead us to a brighter future for as long as she may live. All bask in the glory of the Days of the Sovereign...may they be blessed.” The Radiant Mother slowly placed the huge Crystal Crown, carved in the shape of a three-headed dancing crane, upon Rika's head, completing her extraordinarily elaborate coronation outfit.