Exalted: Northern Skies
Are you going to let me out, Hoshi?
Then the least you could do is mercifully end my life.
Not my division.
Are you just going to leave me here, then? What if they torture me, try to use me against others of our own kind like they do at-
They’re not going to do that.
There are LUNARS with them, Hoshi, don’t be stupid!
I am well aware of the Lunars.
Are you just going to watch, then, as they hold me captive? Watch uselessly like you did before?!
It was you who told me never to interfere again.
Ledaal Ren’s first ending was when she was eight years old. She decided to stop being a girl and become the son her mother had always wanted ever since the death of Ren’s father on the battlefield.
His second ending came when the family’s Sidereal advisers came for him at the age of nine and were holding his hand, leading him away to his destiny in Yu-Shan. His mother was sobbing violently behind them. Ren turned to watch just in time to see the woman stab herself in the stomach, committing seppeku rather than live with the loss of another beloved family member.
“What have you done to the library, child?”
Ren looked up from his pile of dissected books to see a vagrant with an umbrella standing in the doorway, looking very out of place against the rest of the Yu-Shan finery. He looked back down at the parchment page in his hand, the black ink still wet and staining his fingers.
“I didn’t like the endings to these stories, so I have rewritten them.”
The vagrant looked amused, and walked closer to inspect Ren’s work. Ren wrinkled his nose and it was his antisocial nature rather than manners that kept him from informing the stranger that he needed a bath.
“You’ve rewritten the endings to almost all the books in your pile,” the vagrant observed. “What was wrong with them?”
Ren looked down at the books, hesitant, but the stranger’s smile put him oddly at ease.
“I like it better when things end happily.”
Something flickered in the stranger’s gaze, a look of incredible sadness that the child would have missed if he were not being trained to look for such tells that betrayed an individual’s emotion. The vagrant then smiled and took a seat beside him.
“I travel across all the lands of Creation,” he said to Ren. “And I have many tales to share. Would you like to hear the ones that aren’t sad?”
“Yes,” Ren said.
The name was a constant cry on Ren’s lips more often than not. Though he had learned that the vagrant’s name was First Star of Morning, the Chosen of Journeys insisted that everyone simply call him Hoshi. Ren wondered when he would finally choose a more auspicious name for himself. To shed the name of his childhood was an ending he looked forward to.
For now they all teased that he may as well be named Hoshi’s Shadow, because he followed the other Sidereal around like a devoted puppy, and Hoshi never ran out of stories to tell.
“Creation is not the happy place that fool makes it to be,” his sifu warned. Violet Remembrance was a woman with no room for softer emotions. “If you expect the world he paints for you to be reality, then you will be sorely disappointing.”
“But don’t we have the power to change the world? To make it better?” Ren asked.
“Maybe once,” Violet Remembrance said. “But we are slowly losing the war and our power is dwindling.”
As he grew older he bound his chest, and wore loose robes to hide the soft curves that reminded him he had been physically born a female. Having lived as a male for so long, he saw no reason to change that despite the developments of his body.
Exaltation chose him at the same time that desire begin to torment him, an end to innocence. Yet as he wandered Creation with his sifu he found his people’s inability to remember him more difficult to bear than he had imagined, and could not bring himself to take mortals as lovers. The happy endings of others began to bring him misery as his own seemed more and more out of reach.
“I warned you,” Violet Remembrance said. “I told you he was filling your head with nonsense.”
It was the mention of Hoshi that drove him to the Sidereal’s window one night, to crawl inside of it and onto the Chosen of Journey’s bed. Although Hoshi protested quite vehemently at first, by morning he had discovered and explored every part of Ren that was a girl.
“Please,” Ren begged. “Please, Hoshi. You’re the only one that’s ever been in there and made it out again.”
Hoshi stared across the room. Ren sobbed into the folds of his robe.
“Please,” he said again.
“I have no wish to ever return to the Nameless Lair,” Hoshi didn’t meet Ren’s eyes as he spoke, his gaze somewhere far and distant.
“They’ll kill Violet Remembrance. They’ll kill them all. You know they will. How many more of us have to die there before you do something, Hoshi?!”
Hoshi’s sigh of defeat let Ren know that he’d won. In his joy he flung his arms around Hoshi’s neck and kissed him as passionately as the first night he’d crept into the Chosen of Journey’s room.
“It’s not just you I am doing this for,” Hoshi murmured.
“You should have died in there with her.”
It was only because they had been lovers that Ren was able to recognize the slight flinch of Hoshi’s shoulders. His bare back faced Ren as the medics tended to the worst of the wounds across his body, deep gashes left from claw marks that would have scarred had he been mortal.
There was nothing they could do for his eye, however. Those who had any power to fix such an injury were either dead, or felt he deserved it.
He waited until there was no one remaining in the room except himself and Ren before he spoke.
“Is this another ending, then?” he asked.
“She said there was a Solar in there,” Ren hissed, “Before she died.”
“There is no Solar in the Nameless Lair,” Hoshi said. It was a phrase he had repeated, quietly, over and over that day. “She was wrong.”
Ren was standing in front of him in an instant, slapping him harsh across the face.
“Ren…” he pleaded.
“The part of me that was Ren died with Violet Remembrance,” Ren said. “Just as the part of me that loved you died when you chose the agenda of the Gold Faction over me. I hope you and the rest of those fools will be happy when the Solars return to their Lunar mates and join them in the war against us. There’s so few of us left, now – it won’t take them very long.”
“Ren.” he said again, quietly.
“I won’t allow that ending,” Ren swore. “I’ll kill them all before I let that happen. And I will kill you if you try to interfere with that or my life ever again.”