Hideomi pushed his way through just a bit more undergrowth, and stumbled into a clearing. For most of the day he had been trudging through trackless forest with no way of knowing that he was even going in the right direction, since the only thing he knew was that his goal was in this forest somewhere: that had been all Rishomen had been able to deduce from his stargazing. Hideomi, with his usual unassailable confidence, had assumed that he would find it with no problem. Well, there had been problems. He had had to abandon his horse many hours ago, when he realised that his destination wasn’t on any path at all, he had been attacked by various wild animals, and it had been so cloudy that he had been barely able to see three feet in front of him in the deeper parts of the wood. Now, though, as he reached his goal, the clouds parted, allowing the rays of the Undying Sun to bathe him in its warmth. He felt refreshed and blessed by it, a clear sign of his god’s favour. He looked about him, examining the clearing more closely. It was almost circular, and right in the centre was a small building of smooth, grey stone. It was clearly very old. Wind and rain had weathered it, and ivy was taking hold in places, but it was still possible to make out the ornate carvings, depicting the unconquered sun, men who walked as gods, great lands, armies and cities, slain monsters and, quite often, a very big sword. Hideomi grinned: he had come to the right place. He hadn’t been exalted long. He was still trying to get used to both learning and remembering at the same time. For example, he knew how to use a sword. Well. He always had, it had always been part of who he was. Now, though, he was inhumanly good with swords much bigger than he was used to. Six feet long? That was new. Except that it wasn’t as well. It was kind of strange. But he felt like he had been using the same weapons for centuries. It made his head spin. He pondered all this as he regarded the sight of his own burial, stroking his extremely impressive facial hair. Making up his mind, he marched over to the great doors of the mausoleum. Huge slabs of stone. Impossible for one mortal to budge. A piece of cake for a Dawn Caste Solar Exalted. They move reluctantly, unwilling to give way to the sudden intrusion of light and air where before there had been only dust and shadows. Hideomi stood, coughing violently at the release of foul air, and peered into the gloom. The inside of the vault was more or less the same as the outside, except without the eroding affects of the weather and with a lot more dirt. In the middle of the floor was a large, stone sarcophagus, engraved with the image of a man. A big man, about the size of Hideomi himself. Other than that, there was no real similarity apart from, he noticed, some extremely impressive facial hair. For some reason, he didn’t really want to see the remains of a Solar Exalted who had been dead for so long. He looked up, and found what he was looking for hanging above the door. It was a sword. A very, very big sword. Technically, it was a Grand Daiklave, since it was made of Orichalcum. Reverentially he lifted it down, holding it in his hands and gazing at the beautiful, gold-coloured metal. He knew this weapon, knew its weight and its grip, remembered it scything through the air like the first sunbeam of day, and remembered it red with blood from its gory work. It was his, a part of him. This was Heaven’s Light.
A couple of days later, Hideomi arrived back at the Manse that was his circle’s base of operations. He strode casually past the monks of the Sidereal cult, who were training (as always) and over to where his fellow Exalted were sitting talking. Takashi, the tall, silent ex-assassin who was one of the Night Caste was sharpening two Orichalcum hook swords, and Merick, the Twilight Caste sorcerer, looking as meticulous as ever thanks to his magical collar, was looking over some notes. Both looked up as he approached, and grinned as he drew Heaven’s Light. Although they had only just met, the circle had become friends, which was useful. With the whole world after their blood, they needed all the help they could get. The sunlight shone off the dazzling metal, just as it dappled gently on the grass at their feet. ‘So, just Serena to go.’ Takashi’s voice, deep and husky as ever, sounded amused. He was something of an enigma: his past, like any assassin’s, was not something you mentioned often. Merick nodded, looking vaguely towards the entrance to the wide clearing that was their Manse. Serena was the only female member of their circle but was also the nearest thing it had to a leader, since she had the experience of being a sergeant in the imperial army. Hideomi shrugged and threw himself onto the grass, determined to show his companions his prize. When Serena arrived she was a bit of a mess. Scratches covered her normally pretty face, her waist-length blond hair was lank, and Her expression was one of extreme frustration. Her familiar, a pigeon called Otto, flew rather agitatedly around her head. ‘You know, you’d think I’d remember something like putting a guardian in my own tomb, but oh no. I have a sense of humour,’ she said savagely as she all but collapsed on the ground. Hideomi and Takashi stifled laughs (they had learnt to fear Serena’s wrath), while Merick made soothing noises and found some ointment to put on Serena’s wounds. At that moment Rishomen appeared from his private glade. The circle’s Mentor, he was in fact a Sidereal Exalted, and a powerful one. He had found all four of them shortly after they had each Exalted. He was a strongly built man, and his age was un-guessable: he looked to be around fifty, but still alert and sharp. He surveyed his charges with an expression that was unfathomable. ‘I hope your all rested and feeling strong.’ Serena groaned slightly, but stood up with the others, ready for instructions. ‘Why, Rishomen?’ Merick asked in his polite voice. Rishomen cracked a slightly evil grin. ‘Because I’ve got a little job for you…’