Alien Origins: Book Two - Chronicles of Akashi



Chapter Four - Ahn’kat I

The magenta bulbs of the tree vine snapped at him when he got too close. Tiny little spikes jutted from the mouth-like opening when it sensed his back rubbing against the trunk of their home, but he didn’t care if they bit him, he was already immune to their venom. Still their bite was unpleasant, fortunately, his had thickened his skin before the hunt. He tried camouflaging his body into the bark, but only managed to turn his skin chestnut brown. The fine black and brown silk robe and leggings helped with hiding under the tree’s shade.

He caught sight of her, his head ducked further into his shoulders. She prowled low on the grass, her skin blending with the emerald shades and her clothes of the same colour. He wouldn’t noticed if it weren’t for the gold bracelets and chunky earrings catching the sunlight. Her hand stretched out and paused. He hoped that she didn’t adapt her nose to his scent. The stench from his underarms certainly did no favours for his nose either. Her head turned; her glassy camouflaged eyes scanned over to the tree lines before turning ahead. She saw him but didn’t look like he registered as she continued the prowl.

The vines snapped at him again. He cursed his hand for instinctively slapping it away. She stopped and hopped up to her feet. “I see you, Ahn’kat!”

He groaned and rose from the roots. “You wouldn’t if it wasn’t the vines,”

She had morphed back. Her skin was deep green and her hair was plaited in several black strands that reached before her knees with gold rings wrapped around them. He envied the length but was grateful not to carry as many jewelleries in it, but the princess always had to look flawless. Ahn’kat also had to appear pristine as the noble’s son, however, coming back dirty and smelly from the palace gardens wasn’t too heavily frowned on as it was for her.

“Since I found you, you need to hide again. This time: make sure you try,” she said with a wink of her yellow eyes.

“Why did you put snapper-trees in the garden anyway?” Ahn’kat said as he stepped out to the lawn.

“To keep intruders away from the palace grounds, but they don’t care who goes near them. You should see the gardeners, my gods,” she said.

“I hope they remembered to put the poison in the dirt for spider-flies,” Ahn’kat said as he flicked bark form his sleeve.

“You think we’d be allowed to be out if they didn’t? So, where do you want to go this time?” she said.

Ahn’kat rolled his eyes as he smiled. “I can’t tell you where I’m going to hide next, Ramkes,”

She threw her head back and laughed. “I mean which other part of the gardens did you want to play?”

Ahn’kat skimmed over the massive palace pyramid the murky distance before landing to a pale gold and marble fountain in the centre. Several figures of ancient Zanashj emperors piled on top of each other, forever holding pans and bowls that continued the flow of water into the base. “There,” he pointed.

“The garden middle is bare; can you even hide there?” she said.

Ahn’kat shrugged. “Then you’ll find me easier!”

Ramkes smiled. She closed her eyes and melded the skin folds together to make sure she wasn’t looking. Ahn’kat dashed towards the fountain, he hoped that he didn’t hint the princess where he would be hiding. He came to the pure rippling surface, a quick glance over his shoulder to see that her eyes were still sealed, Ahn’kat carefully stepped on to stone edge and his other leg stretching over to the nearest deceased marble emperor. His arms shot up to keep his balance, making a splash would seal his hiding spot.

Ahn’kat eyed a forearm, he pulled his back and arms forwards, feeling his bones crack and pop as his muscles and ligaments grew to reach it. Falling water droplets fell on him, his grip around the arm was uncertain, but his balance had already begun giving away from the slippery surface. He felt his foot drop into the water, it slapped against the surface before he caught himself on the marble emperor.

Now, on the wet centre, Ahn’kat pressed his back into the marble statues. He looked up to Ramkes; he could feel that his hiding time was nearly up. His skin rippled as he watched his cheeks and nose transform from green to white, he focused on the shiny texture, even made him grow black veins to appear stone. Ahn’kat almost cracked into a smile until he realised his black robe didn’t transform with his flesh. He hadn’t learnt how to extend his skin over the material and pushing himself could damage his cells.

With a deep breath he quickly opened his robe and pulled off his loose leggings. Panic coursed through him as Ramkes had dropped to the grass again and began camouflaging in it, but it didn’t appear that she had seen him. Without a thought, he dropped his garments into the rushing water. It even disappeared from his sight as the ripples assimilated them to the fountain’s depths. To his fortune, he was still wearing his hip-hugging briefs, which he could bend his skin over them for camouflage.

His breaths were fast from the adrenaline coursing through his blood. He couldn’t believe he had stripped in the palace gardens with the emperor’s daughter searching for him. Ahn’kat feared being caught, perhaps more afraid from a guard than Ramkes. If he was caught, perhaps his family and the emperor would forbid the two from playing again or seeing each other. Would Ramkes he was perverted? Would the emperor have the guards whip him? All these questions that filled his mind and chest. The fear became a rush and the rush became pleasure. It was just a game, after all, they’ll understand – he hoped.

Ramkes’ form prowled to the centre. She glanced to the bushes; her fingers flicked the leaves as she continued pass them. He watched her wander among the manicured trees and flowers, she even started kicking at the foliage. Still and dead as stone, still and dead as stone, he repeated. His heart felt like it was going to explode from his chest as Ramkes crawled along the edge of the fountain. He could feel her eyes drifting over the still statues. She remained there, waiting, hoping that his body would betray his position. Water sprayed on his brow and cheeks, he could feel it coming into his eyes, desperately wanting to rub it away as it began making them sting. But he didn’t, he was still and dead as stone.

Ramkes looked over the edge into the water. Perhaps he had hid under the water and grew gills, assuming her thoughts. He was almost touched that she considered his body-bending abilities were that good. Her arm moved so quickly that he almost flinched at the rocks that flew at the statues. The pebbles clinked against the figures before plopping into the water. This wasn’t fair. Another pebble struck the emperor on top of the pile, another closest to him, then another closest to her, then another closest to him. She started grunting at every throw, the pebbles hitting harder against the marble. One pebble struck an inch from his foot, shattering everywhere.

He watched her playful face grow dark with frustration as she grabbed a fistful of stones and tossed them all over the fountain. Some had hit his chest and legs, but their force was barely noticeable. Ramkes rose to her feet, her hands sat on her hips as she surveyed the central garden. The princess kicked the pebbles, sending them all along the bushes before she dashed around the fountain, vanishing. He could hear the crunch of stones and grass growing fainter.

Ahn’kat took a deep breath, he tapped his skull against the marble slab, relieved that she didn’t catch him, yet. His brows furrowed when he thought about her face changing into a dark rage inside his best friend, something he had never seen in her for their whole thirteen years of living. They had played hide and hunt since they could walk, sometimes he would lose to her and Ramkes would lose to him, but it was all in fun. This was the first time seeing each other in a year, Ahn’kat had no siblings, yet the princess was the closest thing he had to one, and he knew she felt the same.

As his years grew, his parents would send him all over Uras to learn from the best political teachers in their empire, grooming him into becoming lord of the high Urbaz House. Second wealthiest family in the Zanashj Empire and had more members in the royal court than any other house. Ahn’kat was never really a child, he was taught responsibilities since the day he could walk, but being with Ramkes, his hidden childhood would peek from the doors of his mind. One day, the hide and hunt games would stop, and seeing her in such a state, would probably be the last time they ever played. His childhood crept back down into his mind and closed the door, perhaps for the last time too. Ahn’kat had only wondered if Ramkes had locked away hers sooner than him.

Ahn’kat investigated the water, he cursed himself for tossing his fine robes in the fountain, then he realised that he couldn’t pull them out to dry in the sun without someone noticing his…indiscretion. He could feel pangs of hunger crawling up from his stomach, he hadn’t eaten for nearly two hours. Forcing himself to one final option, he bent over and sunk his arm into the cool liquid. They were heavier than expected as he lifted them to his platform. He grabbed his soaking leggings, ready to slip his foot into the hole until a dark figure soared across the clouds, quickly coming down to the palace gardens.

Panicked, Ahn’kat tossed his clothes back into the fountain and pressed himself against the figure. The man’s green leathery wings transformed into arms as he stretched his back and cracked his neck. Ahn’kat hoped the man would start walking to palace, but he stayed on the grassy patches of the garden centre, his eyes twinkled as he admired the old emperors in the fountain. He strode over to the fount’s edge, his neck lengthened, and hands opened, as if he was posing to be one of them. He hoped that he wouldn’t hear Ahn’kat’s growling stomach.

“Gods greetings, Ismotaph,” a voice called bounding in from the side of the fountain. He was shorter and rounder than the flying man, his fingers were covered in ornate rings, his lips and brow were pierced gold slips, and his grey dreadlocks draped over his wide shoulders.

“Gods greetings, Seratet,” Ismotaph said giving a polite bow.

“Tell me a tale of birds,” Seratet said, his lower lip hung partially revealing his lower teeth and gums. Ahn’kat wondered if he could shift into a more attractive form.

“The desert hawks have seen their home and found the heat unbearable. The fires became alive and tried to consume them. They’ve returned to the jungles to nest,” Ismotaph said. Ahn’kat took a moment to translate the unusual story. He had learnt from his noble education that Zanashj spies were all over the galaxy were often referred to as ‘birds.’ Many different types of birds were placed on certain worlds that held unique traits. He knew the desert hawks watched over Xann and the empire’s once slaves, the Xannians. He had heard that the Xannians had fought the Zanashj by summoning strange extra-dimensional creatures to feed from the minds of Zanashj. The Xannians won their battles, but the Zanashj wouldn’t be so easily overcome.

Seratet’s stubby fingers tapped his flat squared chin. “And the forest robins?”

“They keep droning on how they ‘miss the forest.’ As if they were born there! Their minds are too damaged to be used again,” Ismotaph said with a roll of his eyes. Ahn’kat knew of one world where the robins were placed, Elzona. The denizens were laid back and unwarlike, ideal for conquest. However, every Zanashj that travelled there would always return saying they fell in love with the world, as if they had forgotten their senses and missions. As if a part of their souls were missing.

“Damned Ezoni. I’m glad they had returned, unlike all our sea gulls perching on that one island. Stupid, stupid move,” Seratet said. Ahn’kat remembered that tragic story of the sea gulls. He knew of one blue world where the gulls were placed, he forgot the name of the planet, but the denizens were too eager for their doom for any worthy conquest. The entire island, its white cities and every single person was annihilated in a matter of moments.

“Does this tale have a happy ending?” Seratet said.

“It has an ending. The wild eagles still reign over the skies; however, their meals grow smaller each passing day,” Ismotaph said. Ahn’kat remembered the wild eagles of Sye, at least they had some power over the augmented Ravansye into fierce Zanashj soldiers. However, their more savage cousins had a nasty habit of killing each other more than enemies of the empire. And the talk of food didn’t help Ahn’kat keep his camouflaged concentration. He clenched his gut, stifling some of the growls.

“Do you know how long they have?” Seratet said.

“Another few decades until the food becomes too old. Another century if the jungles begin to flourish again. Feathers say that the red beetles are biting back,” Ismotaph said.

“Hah! They can try, but they still need the hand that feeds them,” Seratet said.

Ismotaph sighed. “They started eating each other out of spite,”

“Damned, worthless-,” Seratet slapped his hand against his cheek and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Make this have a happy ending, Ismotaph,”

“There is an alternative ending,” his fingers found their way to his gold encrusted belt and pulled out a small murky peach crystal and popped it into Seratet’s hand. “the bird seraph said after returning from the desert one can speak to birds without using feathers. The grey desert beetles are too small for eating, but there is only one animal that will be plump enough for us. However, they cannot be tamed,”

Seratet chuckled as he looked to the crystal in his fingers. “There are no animals we can’t tame in time. Use the seraph to perch in their woods,”

Oh gods, the Arinu. Ahn’kat heard whispers the last time they had visited Uras, they teleported a man from a height that it shattered every bone in his body because of their dislike for Zanashj. Truly, these two couldn’t be this foolish.

“They won’t, especially if it’s against the high bird’s wishes,” Ismotaph said.

“Well, his egg will soon crack, and she will understand,” Seratet said.

Ismotaph shook his head as his eyes drifted over to the highest emperor statue. “Not that egg, the whole nest needs to be pushed out to the jungle bed for another to lay.”

Seratet frowned as he tapped his temples. He drew a ragged breath. “If you say so.”

Ahn’kat felt like his heart was going to explode. They were going to betray the emperor; they were going to annihilate Ramkes. He ached to tell her, he hoped that her psychic lessons could beam his thoughts into her head, but he only met with white noise.

The two men eventually parted ways, the sun was lowering to the horizon, Ahn’kat was beginning to shiver from the cold water on his body, but he was too afraid to move from the statue. He heard footsteps crunching against the grass, the sound of a massive body splashed into the water, he was terrified that the two men realised they weren’t alone, and he had heard them. Before he knew it, he felt a powerful arm grab his arm and yanked him in the air. The only thing he saw was a silver visor over the guard’s eyes and forehead, the kind that could detect auras. Ahn’kat opened his mouth but could only muster a squeak.

“There you are,” Ramkes said as she walked around from behind the guard with a grin on her lips. She looked at his thin body and frowned. “What’re yo-,”

The guard dropped Ahn’kat in the water, he scrambled to pick up his soaking clothes and wrap them around his waist as his skin rippled back into their green hue.

“That’s not part of the game, Ramkes! It’s not fair.” he cursed himself for those being the first words he said to her, but he didn’t trust the guard.

Ramkes tilted her head back and laughed. “It is fair, Ahn’kat,” she leaned in, her eyes blazing and her grin growing wider, “the crown must always win.”

~

He couldn’t tell her. He didn’t even get to say goodbye to Ramles before the guard whisked him away to the cleaning servants and chauffeured to his family’s estate. He hadn’t seen his parents when arriving to their pyramid mansion. They probably were informed about the hide and hunt going wrong in the palace gardens but hadn’t confronted him. Perhaps they didn’t care or perhaps they were too ashamed. Fourteen years of living with them, he hardly knew them personably. Maybe he received a life-long ban from the palace – he would never see Ramkes again. That would be a long wait since Zanashj could live for hundreds of years.

Ahn’kat leaned back in the padded rich chestnut study chair and looked to the high ceiling of the library. The multileveled hall was lined with shelves and gold gilded columns, with scrolls, tomes and computers tightly packed next to one another. His mind wandered to the two men. Ahn’kat itched to tell the princess, both out of loyalty to the throne and friendship, but the way she looked at him…the way she spoke to him…she seemed like a stranger. Would she even believe him? Would she assume that he was a conspirator? The longer he waited, the longer he and his house would look guilty.

“Ahn’kat!” his tutor called as she slammed her palm on the wide table.

His attention snapped to her; his heart raced as he focused on her sharp eyes. “Apologies, Emetasun,”

“What did I say?” she said resting her hand on her pointy hip.

Ahn’kat closed his eyes. Emetasun had been his tutor since his earliest memories, she was like a third parent. Every day he studied and when he was home, he would see her. She unremarkable to the eye, but her knowledge and wit would keep him enchanted every lesson – except this day.

“What’s troubling you, Ahn’kat?” she said as she leaned against the table.

He shook his head as he glanced to the window, the last of the sun rays sprayed in the sky. In the distance, he could see commoner children playing on the fringes of the estate boarders. He wondered why they weren’t worried about the spider-flies or had anywhere more important to be. They bent and twisted their bodies into new shapes, trying to mimic the trees, statues, animals, even each other. They looked so free.

“Emetasun, why am I not learning to bend like that?” he said.

Her eyes followed his stare. “Because that’s usually tasked for commoners. Noble children need not worry for that, they need to learn the higher intricacies of the empire and beyond,”

“It seems so natural,” he said.

“Quite natural, but primitive and outdated,” she said.

Ahn’kat looked to her. “How can it be outdated? That’ll always be part of us,”

Emestasun sighed as she pushed a small smile. “Since we met other species who had greater psionic power than us, the rules have changed. Body-bending to make better soldiers or spies holds little to a strong psychic,”

“But there’s always been some psychics among Zanashj,” he said.

“Not strong enough to pass it to their children. There are a few families that hold those genes, the royal family are certainly carriers and some noble families, like yours,” she said.

“If we can manipulate our genes, then why can’t we just make the sequences for psychics?” he said.

“Body-bending is mostly surface changes; it doesn’t change our genetic make-up while we’re morphed. If you want to be a psychic, then you’ll know what everyone will be thinking about you, Ahn’kat,” she said with a wink.

He stood and strode to the window. The sky had gone completely dark making the faraway ships shine in the black. He thought about Ramkes, maybe there was a way he could tell her. “Can you teach me about opening my psionic potential?”

“I’ve studied from Xannians, had a few even speak to me in such sessions, but it was hardly pleasant,” she said.

“Please, teach me everything you know about them,” he said looking back at her.

Emestasun sighed as she shook her head. “You need to get through the curriculum set for you, learning psionics is still some years away,”

“I can’t wait for that long,” he whispered.

Her tattooed brows furrowed. “Why the rush?”

“If Zanashj have off-worlder threats, then wouldn’t a noble’s son be worth training immediately?” he said.

She sucked in a breath. “I can’t disobey-,”

“Then you would be disobeying me,” Ahn’kat strobe back to the desk and pulled the chair close to his tutor, “please,”

Emestasun gave a woeful smile. Before she would utter a word, the grand doors slid aside as Lady Urbaz glided through followed by her personal meek maid. The thick gold rings jingled around her neck with every step until she reached the desk. Ahn’kat and Emestasun rose and bowed politely, waiting to be addressed.

“Excuse my sudden entrance, tutor, but I would have words with my son,” she said as her eyes glittered at Emestasun. She smiled and gave another small bow before rushing out of the library. Ahn’kat was tempted to roll his eyes, but the way Lady Urbaz’s eerily calm face paused him with concern.

“We need to discuss something that happened at the palace gardens,” she said.

Ahn’kat took a deep breath. “We were playing-,”

Her hand shot up, immediately cutting his voice and his breath. “That little indiscretion will be a temporary embarrassment, but nothing more. I’m talking about what you heard at the fountain,”

He felt like his throat had been choked by an unseen force. “Does the princess know?”

Lady Urbaz softened her face. “Not yet and it must remain that way for a small time,”

“Why? And how did you find out before the emperor?” Ahn’kat said as he scanned his mother’s face.

“Many of our people are in court and it wasn’t difficult to figure out where you and the princess were,” she said as she slipped her fine auburn gown from beneath her legs before settling into an open chair. “I understand that this information concerns you, but I need your silence for a time,”

“I don’t understand, mother,” he said.

“We have fought very hard to be in the position we’re in. Our family has a history of battles with external and internal threats, this is one of those times,” she said.

“Are you and father investigating these traitors? Are there more?” he said.

“Sadly, they will always be around, but we will keep pruning them. Please, sit with me,” she said gesturing him to the nearest chair, “you will be lord one day, Ahn’kat, are you ready for that responsibility?” she said.

“I am,” he said, hoping that he could mimic confidence.

His mother smirked. “There’s no shame in admitting that one isn’t. Many leaders share that anxiety, even in power, but do you know what wise leaders do when they’re uncertain?”

Ahn’kat slowly shook his head.

“They listen to those who’ve been around for longer!” Lady Urbaz smiled, it was so infectious that it made his lips crack. “Do you know what other responsibility befalls a leader, my son?”

“Having followers that trust you, having loyalties with other houses-,”

“Ah, and how do we assure those loyalties are cemented?” she said.

Ahn’kat breathed deep. “Marriage,”

“Marriage,” she repeated as she leant back in the chair. “Perhaps the least comfortable thing one must endure for a life-time, but one can make it work if there are agreements,”

“You and father seemed to have known love,” he said.

Her laugh was slick. “We made it work with having the right goals. Our priority has and will always be you, Ahn’kat. We’ve spoken with the emperor and he also shares our passion,”

His heart began racing, she didn’t mean…

“When time comes, I believe you and Ramkes would be an excellent and formidable pair,” she said.

“Absolutely not, she’s like my sister!” he said as he jumped to his feet.

“It would make it even easier since you’re so close, I didn’t even meet your father before the wedding,” she said.

Ahn’kat felt ill, he wanted to run to the kitchens and drown himself in all the liquor he could grab.

“What, did you think you would live on as a bachelor? This isn’t a request, Ahn’kat,” she said.

“I didn’t think we were high enough to be wed into the royal family,” he said.

“You’ve much to learn, but it’s of no shame. We’ve climbed high and still even higher, you’re the key for all those doors, my son,” she said.

“When’s the wedding?” he glumly said.

“Within a few months, depending on how fast you learn,” she said.

“What do you mean?” he said.

Lady Urbaz lifted from the chair. “You will be taking lessons from imperial professors, our contacts have agreed to teach you, although it will be away from this house and you will be fitted with a face-changer,”

“Professors from the Imperial Academy? They only teach upcoming monarchs,” he said.

“Yes, they do,” she said.

“But I would be only Ramkes’ consort. If she were gone without heirs, then-.” then it hit him.

His mother paused as her lips pursed. “Then you understand the secrecy.”

He barely noticed that his mother left the library, his stare hadn’t left the space she once occupied. The Urbaz House were also traitors and he was to be an accomplice. Ahn’kat wondered if his parents would ever have told him if he didn’t stumble on Ismotaph’s and Seratet’s conversation, their habits of secrecy were well known to him by now. He felt the last presence of his childhood lock that deep door inside his mind and walking away forever.

The faint floating lantern hovered silently above him. The night behind the window soaked most of the light as he stepped towards it. To the edge of the frame, flashes of light pulsed in the black. He thought it was some off-worlders playing with the stars, the longer he stared, Zanashj cruisers surrounded the area and flew towards it. Were some off-worlders fighting with each other? Or some rogue Zanashj creating havoc? He could feel his stomach hungering for food, but he remained frozen at the window.

A chill ran through his spine as he watched the strange lights. It felt like they were there for eons but in a blink, they vanished. He heard voices and footsteps in the outer hallway. Fear leaked into his flesh as he wondered if the empire was under attack. Ahn’kat sped out of the library to see servants rushing back and forth, and guards poured into the mansion. Emestasun stepped into the golden pyramid foyer, their eyes met with fear and relief when seeing each other.

“What’s going on?” Ahn’kat said as he ran towards her.

“I don’t know, but best return to your quarters, young lord,” she said as she guided him up the floating staircase. He wanted to ask if she knew of Lady Urbaz’s plans for him and Ramkes, but he was afraid to put her in danger from his family. They hurried through the wide ornate passages, he could see his parents standing beside Seratet inside their meeting room, but a guard slid the doors closed before he could see what they were doing.

“Stop, I need to go in there,” he said stopping them in their tracks.

“Ahn’kat, you need to go to your bedroom, your safety is paramount,” she said.

“I’m not making a request, Emestasun,” he said.

His tutor’s lips pursed as her eyes narrowed. She stepped aside before Ahn’kat strode to the lovely decorated wooden surface. His green knuckles stopped as he could hear Seratut’s deep scratchy voice behind it, he wanted to press his ears against the door, but they were designed to dampen sound and telepathic probes. He tapped the door and took a step back, expecting to be cast away back to his room, but when the guard swung it open, he could see Lord and Lady Urbaz’s face lighten with joy.

“Ahn’kat! Don’t linger, come in,” his father said as he ushered him in.

He eyed Sertut’s rough face, his stare seemed familiar, making Ahn’kat uneasy. “Are we under attack?”

“Quite the opposite, my son, the Zanashj have been requested for help,” his father said as looked to the holographic screen above the round table.

“It’s time we brought you into the fold,” his mother said leaning against the table.

Amber letterings flew around the spherical screen. He couldn’t make any sense of them before he looked between his parents. “Who’s asking us for help?”

“A race we only heard of in myth, Ahn’kat. The Roctarous have messaged us from deep within Neavensoros space, you know of the Neavensoros?” Lord Urbaz said.

The young lord nodded. “But who are the Roctarous?”

“Synthetic life-forms that somehow grew a soul and mind. They’ve been around when Uras was a barren rock, but we think they were made by these ‘Neavensoros,’” Seratet said.

“But why are they calling us for help? Wouldn’t their masters help them with whatever’s their problem?”

“Seems like the Neavensorors were preoccupied with something and just when their attention was turned, the Roctarous messaged us,” Seratet said.

“What do those machine-men want?” Ahn’kat said.

Seratet glanced to Lord Urbaz. “Go on, you can tell him,” his father said.

“Hard to say, our communicators are scrambling to decode the message, and this already caught the attention of the Arinu,” he said.

“That’s not good,” Ahn’kat said as he circled around the table to get a better view of the screen.

“That’s very good. The Arinu have been obsessing with the Roctarous for decades, it seems that a type of allegiance between the two, trying to be liberators from their masters. The Roctarous know a great deal about Arinu and particularly their psioncs,” Seratet said.

“Did you get this from your birds?” Ahn’kat said, he was delighted to see a small scowl curl on the old man’s lip.

“These exact details are of no concern to you. The Arinu have something this waning empire needs and the Roctarous are the doors to them. The emperor has made a peace treaty with Arinu, but this an opportunity to save who we are,” Lord Urbaz said.

“This is where you come in, Ahn’kat,” Lady Urbaz said with a soft smile.

“It’s possible for us to absorb Arinu genes and tap into their psionics but taking it from one or a few bodies won’t be enough. The treaty cannot be broken unless a new emperor chooses to overturn it, and it’s unlikely that the princess will-.”

“I will not hurt Ramkes!” Ahn’kat said, the air in the room thickened as his father’s eyes narrowed at him. “I could convince her.”


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