- Author: Arthur Stone
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A Mother’s Hands
The Financial Crisis
The Crow Clan’s Chi
After the Battle
A Look Within
Wonders of Medicine
Dead Man Walking
Like Water in a Sieve
Blackriver Trading Station
Knife with a Surprise
The Art of War, Carps and Catfish
Safari for the Unhinged
A Mountain of Riches
A Very Crucial Choice
Minus One to Life and a Bad Raft
Magical Skills and Sundries
Wild Tales of the Wild Wood
A Tale of Two Craftsmen
Old Friend, New Art
No Pain, No Gain
The Treasures of Blackriver
Stubs the Stern
Ash Warms Up
A Truly Terrible Man
On the Blackriver
Water, Water Everywhere
The Breath of Chaos
Talents of Chaos, Talents of ORDER
The Wisdom of Chaos
Wood and Water
Many thanks to my readers!
Chapter 1 A Mother’s Hands
Degrees of Enlightenment: Empty
Teshimi is a dead man. Teshimi may still be walking, talking and breathing, but he is already gone. Teshimi is among that variety of dead men that haven’t a clue that it is all over for them. Were I to tell him that he had been banished from the realm of the living, the poor bastard would assume that he’d misheard me or that I was mad. The walking corpse is certain that everything is just peachy. That all he has to do now is to suffer through the boring half-hour greeting ceremony of the Mistress and her heir, at the end of which he’d head back home to Nadeira, as plump and jolly as ever, along with his two children. His dear beloved children, for whom he would do anything.
Including stealing from the clan.
Children are a source of joys and worries. Only in this world, the worries far outweigh the joys. Unlike the world to which I had been born and where I had lived my first life. This one comes with a unique burden that weighs on all parents without exception, peasant and noble alike.
Being the inveterate recluse that I am, I rarely interact with vassal shudras, but Teshimi is an exception. He holds a privileged position in the clan’s hierarchy of servants on account of overseeing a lion’s share of production of one of our major resources. The very product that makes food edible in the eyes of every self-respecting aristocrat. So crucial is his role that he reports to the Mistress directly and regularly. And seeing as I am nearly always by her side, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to get to know the farmer.
Compared to others of his kind, he isn’t bad. Perhaps he is even the best of them. His role carries great responsibility, and he shoulders it well. I would go as far as consider him one of the keystone pieces in the foundation of the pint-sized kingdom headed by my unhinged mother.
And today, this already flimsy foundation is going to suffer another blow to its stability.
Because Teshimi is a dead man.
It was three months ago that I had found out that he wasn’t long for this world. A man in my position is starved for entertainment, clinging to whatever comes along. So whenever my mother would sit down next to me to review the ledgers, I would join her in studying their contents. Sure, I could have just as easily ignored all the data—none of it pertained to me directly in any case—but then how would I have occupied my inquisitive mind? By staring mindlessly at the wall?
No thanks, I’ve had enough of that over the past week and a half. That and praying to the higher powers to aid in Camai’s swift return.
I knew that upon returning this time, he would kill Teshimi. But Teshimi was a dead man anyway, and I very much dislike spending my days playing the role of a spineless vegetable.
Camai brings back something that would turn me into a vegetable capable of at least some movement. Have you ever seen a walking eggplant? Me neither—until the vicissitudes of my new life had turned me into precisely such a wretch.
The place where mother chose to settle could be described by a word that had several synonyms in my native tongue. I prefer to think of it as a homestead, because a knight’s castle it certainly is not, despite formally being the last stronghold of one of Areia’s most ancient clans. Not even the Imperial family could match ours in certain points of gentility.
Yet, gentility doesn’t necessarily translate into might. Alas, the clan’s best days are in the past, as is the clan itself. Only one-and-a-half pieces remain: myself and Treya Atweir, ruler of the Crow and the biological mother of the pitiful body that serves as the host for my consciousness.
I had to become a self-taught acting prodigy to be able to refer to her as mother with a straight face and an unbroken psyche. Indeed, I may well have managed changing a few things about