These ‘drones’ she had encountered in the human’s mind were some sort of new battle technology that were highly interesting. It almost seemed as if they came from an entirely different galaxy, with the mechanical appearance that still looked vaguely organic. The way these devices operated were most interesting as well. Instead of detonating on impact they would burn through the hull and then explode, wreaking all the more damage to the target ship.
Xing rubbed the sides of her temples remembering the dull ache the mental effect the human’s defenses in the devices had on her efforts to pry into his mind. The drones, the name she had picked up from the human, had forcibly ejected her from his mind. The mental break left a residual effect that was always amplified if the rejection was forced.
Shaking her head as if to clear the shadows from her vision, she set the tech squad onto reading and deciphering the information the human’s ship was displaying along the monitors. She would find the answers to this weapon, even if she had to tear this ship apart to find the plans.
Sensing her brother finish his fun with the other prisoner, she left her techs in charge. They knew that she did not accept failure; her presence was not needed for them to preform at their top efficiency. She sensed that she needed to talk with her brother about not only his impatient and violent nature, but a plan of action as well.
E’Ren floated downward, giving his great grandmother’s vessel a chance to spring to its feet. Fueled by agony and the Dark Side, the being beneath him lept nimbly to a combat stance.
Chi FengWei was gone. In his place stood a true sight to behold. Home to not one but three minds, none of which was truly asserting control over the body, his face had taken on an animalistic quality. He growled, flashing his fangs, with a wild look in his eyes as he dropped into a fighting crouch. His handless left arm was bent as though holding a fist or another weapon; perhaps Chi intended to batter his opponent with the stump. The sword, on the other hand, was now commanded fully by the elegance of the Sith Lady that fashioned it- a deadly weapon and nothing less than a force to be reckoned with.
E’Ren sneered at the animal growls facing him. It took all of his training and sophistication not to respond in kind, fueled by the Dark Side as he was. The Fabric flowed through him freely now, and he channeled it into a sharp point, driving it at the form in front of him.
Chi was hit in the chest by the attack, but rather than suffering serious damage, he howled and has pushed backward nearly two meters, carving his footprint into the floor the entire way. The protection the spirits in the Sith Sword offered him had no difficulty deflecting the Force strike. E’Ren took a tenth of a second to contemplate what would have gone differently if Chi had actually been powerful enough to control the spirits, and then thought was gone.
Like the mindless brute in front of him, Zhu E’Ren was completely given in to the Dark Side, to the battle. The difference between E’Ren and Chi, however, was that he had done so willingly. Years of hardened instincts and muscle memory guided his blade in patterns that had been used only on other Arians- including his sister- but were designed to take down anyone. His lightsaber hit every possible point in the two-dimensional plane where Chi stood, and only the graceful hand that effortlessly commanded the sword saved the traitor from a quick and violent death.
Flashing faster than the eye can see, fueling himself with not sweat and exertion, but anger and hate, E’Ren pushed FengWei back, and back. Even the impenitrable defense of the Sith sword, which prevented him from landing a telling blow despite the numerous minor scrapes, could not keep the Arian veteran from being backed up against the wall. His wings no longer mattered, and Chi’s subconscious knew that, even though his conscious mind had retreated. They were fighting on the battlefield on the Fabric- what use was three-dimensional travel to one who could see and strike in four, five dimensions? It was as though he was surrounded on all sides by one being, and he despaired.
Like a switch had been turned on, FengWei’s conscious mind returned to his body. The spark in his eyes that had once been blind rage became a very conscious terror. The fight was gone from him, and the power that boosted him abandoned him. He was unworthy. The full weight of the Sith sword was now upon him, and the heavy weapon dropped from his single hand just as the lightsaber came down upon him.
FLASH! Chi screamed as his right arm joined his left hand on the floor.
FLASH! The scream reached an unbearable level as E’Ren’s lightsaber slowly burned through the lens of FengWei’s eye. Moving millimeter by millimeter and rejuvenating himself with his victim’s pain, the Warlord stabbed just far enough to disintegrate every cell, every molecule of the eye, before he pulled his blade out. It was not yet time for the traitor to die, physically.
His body still had life, as a symbol.
But even broken, catatonic as he was when the searing heat stopped, Chi FengWei’s mind still lived. He still posessed conscious thought.
FLASH! E’Ren noted mildly that the older man did not scream when his tibia evaporated under the heat of his scarlet blade. While he was bent low, he retrieved his great grandmother’s blade from the ground. It still held power- the blood, rage and pain it had consumed today were still quite fresh in its memory- and he basked in the heat it radiated in the Force.
Standing up and swinging the alchemic metal blade, E’Ren inflicted his last act of physical dismemberment on the soon-to-be-executed veteran in front of him. Without the ability to fly, the being in front of him was barely a man. He was a creature, one to be pitied. He was a glorious creature, spraying a fountain of crimson fluid over both of them, but he was a creature nonetheless.
Looking through the red mist that had filled the air surrounding both of them, E’Ren glared contemtuously at FengWei. He raised his left hand, and broke the traitor’s jaw. There was a sickening crunch as the blade sliced through the side of FengWei’s jaw, followed by the pop of teeth falling to the ground. He brought up his knee, connecting with what remained of the jaw, and heard it crack again as the broken animal flew through the air and collapsed to the ground.
The creature was breathing, but it made no attempt to rise.
E’XingXin walked into a horror scene, with her brother and the traitor in the center of it. The walls were dented, the paint curling and bubbling from apparent electrical discharges and there were spatters of both blood and tissue embedded into the hull. It was as if some one had torn a being apart and grafted their innards to the walls in a sick attempt of decoration.
Looking from the blood soaked and mutilated Chi to her battered brother, she shook her head as she stepped over to E’Ren. It was when she came close that she understood why she had felt such pain; her brother’s shoulder had a gaping wound that was still dripping blood down his arm.
E’Ren was shaking, either from his body calming down from the rush of combat or from the loss of blood. Inspecting his wound she saw that it was not jagged as if from an arm spike and cast around for the source. Hearing a clatter from her brother’s side, she saw their grandmother’s sword within the traitor’s reach. E’XingXin quickly surmised what happened and fixed E’Ren with a steady, reproving glare.
“One of these days my brother, your blood lust will get you into more trouble than you will be able to handle.”
Reaching down to retrieve the ancient sword that E’Ren had dropped due to his injuries, Chi’s arm lifted out to her as he moaned something, a plea for mercy. Snarling, E’XingXin grabbed the wounded Arian, picked him up off the floor and physically threw him to slam into the bulk of the ship. Chi landed with a sickening thud against the wall and slid to the floor in a broken heap.
Taking the ancient sword of her grandmother’s and E’Ren’s lightsaber to holster them both on her belt, she put E’Ren’s good arm around her shoulders and stood tall to take some of his weight as she guided him out of the prison cells and into their personal quarters. Commanding the guard to bar all entry she helped her brother remove his now battered and damaged armor and settled him into his nest.
Settling to her brother’s side, E’XingXin called on the arts that her grandmother had taught her. Taking a deep breath to center herself, she gathered the Force and imaged her brother’s wound closing from the inside out. It was difficult, and there were times Xing had to stop to gather her own strength to continue, but after many hours she had succeeded in healing the most serious of the injuries.
After tending to her brother both with the Force and traditional medicine to heal his wounds she gave the order that a shuttle be made ready for her and her brother to return to Aria along with the prisoner and their ‘guest’. She also gave an order for the human’s ship to be transported to the planet surface for better examination.
Standing by her brother’s side, E’XingXin looked the human over. Still unresponsive to any attempt at questioning, the same stance he’d been holding for the past two days, the human had been surprisingly easy to handle as he was moved into the Arian castle’s cells. Chi, barely alive, was another matter, more in a living dead state than truly alive.
Turning her gaze back over to her brother she placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. E’Ren remained stoic on the outside, but E’XingXin knew better. The twinge of pain that sounded in her own muscles told her that the arm E’Ren held in a sling was healing well. She had been worried about nerve damage, but if she was feeling pain, so was her brother. Sending a comforting wave of reassurance to E’Ren she roughly kicked the human that had shown signs of coming around.
As the human curled defensively around his injured stomach E’XingXin bent low over him. The stench of Chi’s blood drying on the floor was next to overwhelming but Xing swallowed the bile rising to her throat as she picked the human up off the floor. Reminding herself again that humans are much heavier than her fellow being, E’XingXin raised the male into the air and then let him drop to the stone ground.
“Welcome to Aria, human.” She spat at him, “Although you won’t be around much longer to enjoy the sights.” E’XingXin strode over to Chi and lifted his head so the human couldn’t miss her brother’s craftsmanship. “Right now, though, it is his turn to face his sins.”
Two guards entered the cell to take Chi away into the arena. As they passed the Zhus and the human prisoner a door to the arena opened.
The light from the arena spilled into the cell, back lighting both E’Ren and E’XingXin into saintly demonic figures. Their quills glowed and the back light cast a halo around their wings. E’XingXin blotted out the sun, casting her shadow over the human’s figure as he drifted back into his trance.
Calling two more guards to take the human into the arena as well, E’Xing turned to walk past her brother and out into the sunlight. E’Ren stopped her before they reached the entry.
“What are you planning, my sister? What purpose is it to keep the human alive, much less bring him into the arena?” He snorted, “He is of no use to us.”
“You are wrong, DiDi.” Xing replied, “He holds the way to our victory. Remember what grandmother told us, about the galaxy and what we must do. The only way we can actually do that is to return Aria to the galaxy.”
E’Ren shook his head, “You know we are years away from meeting any of the technology the human has on his vessel.”
“Patience, my brother. Remember the Sith of old, how they gained their victory. Was it overnight? Or was it through years of careful arrangement? We will have our day, and believe me, it is soon.”
E’Ren cocked his head at his sister. “Aren’t you the confident one. At any rate, be quick about the execution. If our day is coming, I want to hasten it’s arrival. I want the power promised to us, XiXi, and I will not let it slip through our grasp just because we held back when we could have struck.”
E’XingXin sighed, “As you wish, my brother.”
Leaving E’Ren to address the nobles once again, E’XingXin circled the outer ring of the arena. This was to allow time for her brother to stir the crowds with his words, and also for her to touch the human’s mind. This time, she did not try to break him as before. Rather, this time she linked Chi’s mind to his by telepathy. Chi’s mind was gone, torn by her brother’s attack. But his body was still of some use.
Once the link to the human was open, E’XingXin dashed in for the attack. Making sure to draw out the screams of Chi’s body as long as possible, she concentrated on causing more pain. Taking a limb here, shattering an already broken bone there, she could sense the pain getting through to the human. ‘They are emotional creatures’, Katanra said to Xing, ‘their fellow feeling, their sense of community even with ones not of their species is something no other species really shares.’
E’Xing had taken her grandmother’s teachings to heart. Igniting the magenta lightsaber she seared flesh from bone and heard, not Chi scream, but the human. Pressing her attack on Chi with her body, she probed the human’s mind and smiled. Finding what she needed, she returned to her body and took the pleasure of denying herself the quick satisfaction of simply separating Chi’s head from its body. Instead, she started severing the body apart at its joints.
When it felt as if the dark rage within her would tear her apart if it was not released, E’XingXin, Sword of Aria, Commander of the High Fleet released the power in a concentrated blast that left nothing more than a charred corpse where the traitor was chained. Looking up at her brother through the silence of the crowd, she nodded to him. Patience does lead to power, DiDi. We have what we need.
Closing down her lightsaber, Zhu E’XingXin strode quickly out of the arena. It looked as if she was afire with the Fabric, but as soon as she returned to her quarters in the palace she collapsed into her nest. So exhausted was she that she didn’t even bother to remove her armor.
Unquestioned authority is rarely questioned by inferiors. They want to believe you are omnipotent- it gives them an excuse not to do anything. Give them one reason to believe this, and they will.
As they assembled before him, E’Ren began to address them. He gave them the basic outline of the truth. He told them how Chi FengWei was captured by the Mandalorians. He told them how he had been brainwashed without his knowledge, and upon being confronted by E’Ren, had tried to kill him and take his place.
Fear is a much more effective tool than force. With the slightest touch of their minds, either with a demonstration of potential Force, or the Force itself, and the weak will cower before you.
E’Ren went on, in excruciating detail, about the punishment he had dealt out to the being who dared to attempt to take the throne. Chi’s broken body was revealed, and E’Ren reveled in the fear he inspired in the listeners. Wrapping them and the sentenced in the Fabric, he pushed the broken image deep into their minds, where many of them still carried the image of the last execution E’XingXin had carried out.
The Force is a mystery to inferiors. Without actually touching it, they create myths about what they believe it to be. Take these myths, shape them; make the fools believe what you wish them to believe, and only you will know the truth.
E’Ren concluded with mysterious hints about more that happened. While his sister now knew exactly what had happened during their duel, no one outside the royal family knew what had truly transpired. E’Ren explained how FengWei had stolen the symbolic sword of his great-grandmother, and had stolen the late Sith Master’s powers, wielding them against the Regent, who triumphed on the strength of his will alone.
The weak were truly houjixes to be manipulated, and E’Ren was a true dejarik master. It was almost too easy.
E’XingXin shook her head and resumed pacing until her brother reached out and placed his hand on her shoulder. “Tell me, sister. What has you worried? I’ve not seen you like this before.”
Xing sighed and looked to her brother. “We’re so behind, DiDi. In everything.”
E’Ren raised an eyebrow as a question so she continued. “Tech, news, the Jedi, Mandos… all of it.” She shook her head. “We knew somethings bout the Mandolorians from out battles but after that… Oh E’Ren…”
Xing sighed heavily and let her wings sink in sorrow. “How can we lead Aria when we are so far behind the rest of the galaxy? We have the Force, yes, but what good is that when we could be so far outmatched? I have a sickening feeling that if something were to come in system that was more than one or two ships we would be at a loss.”
E’XingXin vented her worries to her brother, and was surprised to find herself facing a smile. Anybody else she would have slashed across the face, but with E’Ren, she hesitated. By the time she was halfway through hesitating, she had begun to sense something in his feelings. Confidence. He believed this was no impediment to them, but she couldn’t begin to understand why. Her brother had his flaws, but he was an Arian, and as such he was not prone to arrogance. He did not have unfounded beliefs in his own superiority, even if he did have an occasionally-distressing compulsion to prove it.
But no, this was… well, genuine confidence. Without any trace of doubt, E’Ren seemed certain that the two of them could overcome the problems she just listed. Xing could sense this, with all of her heart, but she couldn’t understand it.
Still, the feelings she picked up from her twin were comforting, and she had to stop herself to take a breath. It was as though the world had lost all of its color, and E’Ren was slowly helping her paint it back on. “My brother, why…” she stopped, unable to complete her sentence. Part of this was sheer incredulity; she couldn’t understand what could possibly make him so confident. The rest of this inability to continue was some of her normal personality being returned to her. Co-Regent Zhu E’XingXin projected confidence in others, and it was not in her nature to question a source of propoganda openly.
E’Ren waited a moment for his sister to take it in. She began to understand… but she still couldn’t really understand. He wasn’t disappointed. She was an operative, a warrior. XiXi was a level-headed being who could accomplish any task she had set her mind to- but she wasn’t a visionary. She tended to overfocus on the trees, struggling to halt a grove fire without paying attention to the patch of clear earth separating the burning grove from the next.
“My sister,” he said calmly. “We are Arians. We have the logic, the mental skills, required to overcome any technological or numerical disadvantages. If our people are for any reason lacking in these skills, we have been trained since birth to provide the exact sort of guidance this task requires.” He paused for a moment to let the implications cycle in her mind. In addition to leading and organizing the efforts to overcome, one of the Zhu twins’ great talents was pruning out those unfit. It would soon become a high priority to weed out any Arian in a position of responsibility that was incapable of performing their duty, and may the Fabric help any administrator unable to do their own weeding.
“Besides,” E’Ren continued. “The gui zu lun zhe with whom we spoke is still interested in a working relationship.” His expression intensified, the precursors of the Arian equivalent of a predatory grin spreading across his features. “Are you willing to train our allies in your arts in exchange for bearing the fruit of our zu xian’s efforts?” He asked the question, already feeling her answer through the bond the twins shared in the Fabric. The technology of the Yin Lan Fleet would soon be theirs.
The smile transformed again, this time into the confident smirk the twins had shared since they were hatchlings. “Now, Xing,” he asked. “What shall we do with the human?”
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