The twelfth year of the reign of Omatta Shiraso, fifteenth emperor of the Chuan-hau dynasty, was notable for five events. First, Shuu Rei Fuan, heir to the Fuan holdings, and seer of seven summers come the second month of the year, was moved into the Imperial Palace in Akusen, the capital city. As the oldest living male heir of the line of Sastsujinsha who hadn't been removed from the line of succession, he stood to inherit the whole of the Yeung EmpireŅor he would, if he survived his childhood.

In Ulttershire, Arch-Duke Kobasu, eldest son of King Taikai, was assassinated in front of his only son. Taken as a captive by his father's murderer for four harrowing months, the young Shin Mouri managed to escape relatively unharmed after poisoning his captor. Badly shaken by his trials, the newly appointed seven-year old Arch-Duke was sent to stay with his grandparents at Cochlin palace, the royal seat of the Nero Kingdom. Sadly, he began to exhibit the same signs of insanity that plagued the Nero line, the strange, and often times tragic, obsession with the sea that surrounded the island kingdom. Upon his return to Castle Mouri, young Shin would spend hours gazing at the ocean that raged and foamed far beneath his barred window.

A few months later, in the Jouchou Protectorate of the Kingdom of Odun, the rebellious, seven-year old heir to the Date estate was introduced to the ancient art of Meditation. His grandfather, Lord Date, demanded perfection of life, perfection in the world around him. A troublesome child was not to be tolerated in his ordered world. And so young Seiji learned how to behave, how to sit in stillness for hours on end, calm, sedate, emotionless; his spirit flew only when he danced with his sword. Though he was beautiful now, it would be some years yet before his skill with the blade, and the beauty of his face and form, attracted the attention of Emperor Shiraso, who would bring young Seiji to his court. In the art of death, he was a prodigy, and the Emperor of the greatest of the Three Kingdoms would value him highly. For now, however, his soul must still be killed yet, before it could find outlet in his blade. For he would not be perfect in Death while some strain of life still yet inhabited him.

The death of the Makani monarchs, which in turn signaled the end of a slowly dying kingdom, was barely registered among the Lords of the Empire or the Nobles of the Twin Kingdoms. The Landless Kingdom had grown weak in recent years; so weak that the other nobles regarded the entire kingdom with a barely veiled disgust. So poor was this kingdom that the royal holdings had to be pawned to pay for the burial of their king and queen. Nothing was left for the new rulerŅindeed, for any of the inhabitantsŅand young Touma Hashiba, King of a pawned throne, contemporary to Shin Mouri and Seiji Date, was sent to Okan: the orphanage for Nobles.

The final event occurred almost unnoticed. A child fell at the shores of the Black Sea, exhausted and afraid, and smelling of smoke and fear. He was far from home, far from anything that could be remotely called civilization, and the traveling merchant - attracted by the plumes of dark smoke that rose out of the forest - who found him wondered what so young a child could be doing in this remote place. But the boy knew only that his name was Ryo, and he had horrible nightmares of fire. The merchant took him to Akusen and then lost track of the child in the chaos of the city. For a while he was plagued with guilt and spent many nights wondering what happened to the small boy with the laughing blue-eyes; but eventually he overcame that guilt, and thought no more on the child who now earned his living by begging and stealing and stalking in the night.

the fics
Chapter One