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Thirteen walks into the Roseblack's study without knocking, carelessly brushing aside a startled lackey who attempts to bar the door. "It has been two weeks. A report is in order."

Tepet Ejava is carefully practicing sword katas in one side of the study while dictating orders that are copied down by a magical quill onto a thick sheaf of parchment on her desk. She finishes her sentence and sword motion -- both ending at the same point -- before turning to the new arrival.

Tepet Ejava?: "You will find it eight sheets down, in the stack on my desk. I believe you will find it entirely satisfactory," she says, drily.

Thirteen sniffs. "Your left elbow turns out on that last strike. No doubt your old arm injury is to blame. Perhaps you should have it seen to more thoroughly." Flipping through her papers, he finds the report and scans it with his fingers. "Hmm."

Thirteen: "Good work, Ejava. I expected no less from you."

Tepet Ejava?: "I should hope that you did not."

Thirteen :"What is your practical impression of these formations and advances?"

Tepet Ejava?: "Your unorthodox division of forces was canny. It produced greater mobility in the forces, along with an increased speed of communication internally. I also expect that such a plan of attack cannot be easily countered by an unprepared foe." She flips through some papers, reviewing the descriptions Thirteen provided. "However, I am concerned that upon reuse there are two potential weakpoints that could be taken advantage of."

Thirteen: "Explain."

Ejava moves to her planning table and begins a demonstration.

Tepet Ejava?: "Here, and here. An unprepared enemy is likely to confront this formation head-on, here" -- tiny magical soldiers dance to her commands -- "and be caught unaware by the unexpected mobility of the flanking troops here and here. However" -- the enemy troops change from red to yellow -- "a feint towards the center can disguise a larger held-back force that can strike our troops from behind, like so."

As the troops carry out her described maneuver, she continues. "Less importantly, response time in preparing a defense versus aerial projectiles is reduced due to the tightness of the formation here, and the drills do not include a specific formation for responding to a skybound threat."

Thirteen quietly reaches out and shifts half a unit into a wider formation, sliding a cavalry troop to one side to do so. As the enemy closes in on the back of the formation, the center bursts forward and the two sides about face, clapping a pincer about the ambushed ambusher.

Thirteen: "Be so good as to review page 35, halfway down the second column."

Thirteen: "Your observation as to air attacks is accurate. However, air defense has been provided for separately."

Thirteen snaps his fingers above the map, and sparks flicker from the contact, becoming buzzing agatae which circle the formation, occasionally diving to strike at a straggler or run off a routing enemy."You have not addressed my actual concern."

Tepet Ejava?: "Which is?"

Thirteen: "You are a willful, stubborn child, Roseblack. I would not concern myself with you if you did not have talent, but your pride is worthless, and makes you worthless to me."

Thirteen: "I gave you these trifles that you might recognize your master. Alas, it does not seem to have availed me."

Tepet Ejava?: "Hmpf."

Tepet Ejava?: "I have been asked to bow down before more powerful and insistent men than you."

Thirteen: "Yes, but there is a difference between them and I."

Thirteen: "You defied them and survived."

Thirteen is still, and he begins to burn from within with a golden radiance.

Thirteen: "If there are ablutions or shrivings that need to be performed, this may well be the appropriate time to do so, Tepet Ejava."

A wind of vicious thorns surrounds Ejava and without hesitation her sword strikes at Thirteen's neck.

Thirteen's spear spins in his hands, diverting Ejava's blow harmlessly into the wall, shearing her mahogany paneling.

Ejava uses the momentum to propel one heavily-armored leg up into a kick at Thirteen's midsection.

Thirteen sidesteps slightly, and the whirling spear catches her knee and suspends her leg for a moment as the weapon stops. Reversing its motion, he sweeps her other foot out from under her, dropping her heavily on the floor.

Thirteen: "Impetuous insect." He idly gestures with the spear, tapping her with the butt end as she attempts to roll away and flinging her into her bookshelf, which collapses under the impact.

Thirteen: "Keep in mind that those possessions of yours we do not destroy will be useful for your second-in-command. Try to concern yourself with the future of the army you lead."

Tepet Ejava? rolls to a stop and makes no effort to strike back. She attempts to pull herself up to a kneeling position.

Thirteen plants the butt of his spear on his chest, pinning her to the ground."You are a worm."

Thirteen: "Repeat after me."

Ejava continues to kneel before Thirteen, but does not speak. She clenches something quite small, tightly, in one fist.

Thirteen taps her wrist lightly, briefly paralyzing her hand, which opens nervelessly.

A tiny ball of paper falls from Ejava’s hand; as soon as the pressure is released from it, it springs into the shape of a delicately folded flower.

Thirteen: "Hm."

Thirteen brings the paper to his hand with a flick of his spear.

The paper has only one word upon it: "WAIT"

Thirteen can see that it bears the lingering traces of an Air-aspected enchantment upon it.

Thirteen: "What drives you, Tepet Ejava? Why do you fear so much to admit that you have something to learn?"

Tepet Ejava?: "The world is corrupt and vile. I cannot let it slide completely into degradation. It is my responsibility to halt it."

Thirteen: "And yet you place your pride above the fate of the world."

Thirteen: "You are useless as long as your first thought is to your own elevation, Roseblack. You should know that by now."

Thirteen: "Bend your neck, and you may rise to accomplish that which you desire. Refuse, and even should you leave here, you will never live to see your efforts bear fruit. I am Thirteen Blooming Flowers, and I tell you this in all truth: you must sacrifice your petty wants to achieve your grand goal."

Thirteen: "We all must undergo ordeals, and this is yours."

Tepet Ejava waits a long, long time... but finally, she inclines herself before 13.

Thirteen: "Let us try again."

Thirteen: "You are a worm."

Through heavily gritted teeth, Ejava forces the phrase out, one word at a time.

Thirteen: "Are you satisfied with your wormhood?"

Tepet Ejava?: "Yes."

Thirteen: "Do you wish to remain a worm forever?"

Tepet Ejava?: "No."

Thirteen: "Then let us exalt you." Kneeling, he lifts her to her feet.

Thirteen: "Prepare yourself. We leave for Gem in two hours. You may bring as many bodyguards as you deem necessary."

Tepet Ejava? nods.

Thirteen brushes a bit of dirt off her tunic.

Without hesitating, Ejava turns to begin preparations.

Thirteen: "I will expect you, Roseblack." He taps his spear butt lightly, and departs.

Tags: (:tags Roseblack :)

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