The city streets smelled like perfume and incense and humanity. We walked on thrown kau grain as the crowd showered us with half-frozen flower petals that never quite seemed to strike Deimo Akaiannyi or me.
Everything seemed more unreal than the kisses Sehutannyi and I shared beneath shedding trees. Unattached from the world, I thought of taking her to Menarka and standing beneath fall-mist, throwing blessings carved into fruit peels and photographing them as the torrent carried them towards the sea. I wanted to take her down the sacred stairs and rent a boat to one of the bottom islands.
Even if nothing happened at Karudesa and Nikara Intersection, even if they had called off the assassin because she may have compromised their plot, the breach must have ruined her credibility. Hatkranar’s husband stands with betrayed lovers. He lends physical violence to their threats and sucks the offenders down to death.
We fell silent in front of the senators’ amphitheater. Thousands of people had gathered, almost everyone in Galasu, for the city’s purification ceremony. Among the crowd, security officers had hidden themselves in plainclothes, unobserved unless someone did something wrong. If someone had smuggled in weapons, they would have taken care of it.
Karudesa Street is named after a sixteenth-century philosopher and statesman. In 1541, he raised an army of dissatisfied citizens to protest a court edict barring paternal families from disputing maternal families’ rights to orphaned children. Deimo Nikarannyi lashed out brutally against the rebels. She committed suicide after she realized that her madness had killed her son, Karudesa’s lover. Her daughter, Deimo Sehutannyi, set up a memorial for the dead near the Great Temple of Enahari and named the street after Karudesa.
Daybreak must have chosen this place for its political connotations. Anyone who read Akah Seholis’s And the Fountains Run Red, published just last year, would read their attempt as a protest. If the state decided to persecute Daybreak, the people would rise.
Out of the silence came a sound: chiming bells. Half a block from Karudesa and Nikara, the Hymn to Creation began, starting first with low notes from the priests and bursting into a full, harmonious cacophony.
When our universe began deep in timeless
pre-creation, the One existed,
yet did not; the discordant Many blossomed,
Some say that these gods came from One, and the One
from the Multitude’s perfect concord;
discord had not yet divided the heavens.
Without thought or conscious action,
they existed, first and last,
and the many in between.
Did Likua know that I had left a message in my journal completely for me? In those moments, reliant on only Adviser Sari and his faith in the Imperial Guard, I wished that I had left some indication of their plan beyond the target and date—something for Equilibrium Nexus to use. I wanted Deimo Akaiannyi to live.
One more came from the Many, our Afterthought,
divine Enahari. Time began.
She knew only an expanse of nothingness;
therein she dreamed the first good dreams.
Enahari created the worlds and vast
reaches of High Wilds, forcing darkness
to abate with her dream-vision’s strength.
Her task: to free light from its prison,
stretch the bounds of her canvas
to give them room to wander.
Sweat beaded on my brow beneath the clay, bloody from the breaking capillaries. Life went on. We continued, moving farther and farther from the rooftop where Sehutannyi’s papers said the assassin surely waited.
Out of primordial gases she ordered
nebulae and stars—forming, building
elements, components of heavy matter.
Everyone has seen what happens to bullets that impact a kidiptu. They show this happening all the time on investigative shows, usually after forty minutes of terrible plot buildup. The guns they use shoot blanks and the kidiptu effect is added in the final stages. None of the actors has ever really been shot at; they assume that the shielding takes care of everything. It doesn’t.
This is what really happens: The bullet falls to the ground, dissipated by a rippling force field of energy. The buffer vibrates the air both inside and outside the kidiptu shield. It sounds like a loud drum. The kinetic energy is transferred to the air, creating a standing wave that slams everything inside the shield back and forth, back and forth, along the impact axis.
It stunned me for a full six seconds before I pulled Deimo Akaiannyi to the ground. The crowd panicked. Thousands of people rushed out into the street, running from the source of the gunfire. Priests dropped their torches in the middle of the road and the young girls in white dresses screamed. They would have trampled us had the kidiptu not batted them away. She squeezed my hand and I slid off of her. My shoulder felt wet; I saw blood.
She didn’t want to stay there lying in the open. I put my right arm around her waist. Applying pressure could wait until we reached safety.
I know a place near here, she said.
We can wait there while they secure the area.
We will be less conspicuous if we avoid the guards, she said.