Music filled the air as images of light lit up the dark auditorium. A huge crystal tree hummed and vibrated as strings of light were plucked in harmonic succession. Suddenly a wrong note was struck and the images high above muddled into a disgusting blur of dark and smudgy colours.
"…Not again…" sighed Kusi as she waved her sunstone finger to dissipate the residual light.
It had been the fifth time she had played the self-written composition. She always managed to mess up at that particular point. It was the best part too. Kusi had written it a while ago when she was learning applied light basics back when she was in the orange order. It was a hobby that had become an obsession. As the years went by and events took place in the castle, Kusi had found her place in it through her music. She had a talent for it just as Tal had a talent for light magic. She now taught light music as a subject at the crystal tree auditorium on the orange level.
Snatching her musical score off the spiked rock in frustration, she hastily climbed off the music podium and took a seat in the empty and dark auditorium. She looked around and then flashed her sunstone. Light along the far wall flashed in answer and the whole room lit up in brilliance. The violet steady hue of sunstone light that lit the room signified that she was in the Violet tower. In the past, it was off limits to all except for the Empress but when Tal took the throne this room became obsolete. That is until Kusi discovered it on her infrequent visits to see her brother in the Violet tower.
Looking at her sunstone ring absently, Kusi wondered how the state of the castle was. Her brother had made great progress in breaking old rules and replacing arcane traditions that had become pointless. Kusi worried for her brother as the long years in the throne took a visible toll on him. He no longer laughed or expressed any emotions. He was simply unreadable and more rigid and stiff to all pleasures of life. Especially music… Kusi remembered all the things he had done before he became Emperor and found that his interest in music was gone, or worse, passed off as unnecessary.
A lot had changed in the past seven years. Tal was Emperor and the Saviour of the Castle. Her mother and father were his Viziers. Gref was now a Captain of the royal guard and even Ebbitt was Tal's unofficial advisor. Everyone seemed to have a roll in the royal family. Except her. What did she have to show for the seven years of reconstruction? Only three extra inches of height, waist length hair that she kept braided and a slim, well-matured physique.
As she sat there fussing over her robes and playing with the end of her braid, Kusi wondered if she was just another person in her family. Everyone else had important titles and proud duties, what could she offer to her family's prominence? Music and teaching music was the only thing she could possibly call her talents and calling. How could she find a place in the Emperor's family if she was just a music teacher?
Sighing aloud as she rapped fists to her head in frustration and mild despair, she didn't notice the doors open until she noticed a presence standing close by. Looking up in sudden surprise, she saw a man in Violet robes. Lifting her hand to give light reflexively, she stopped midway when she noticed that it was actually Tal. He had not noticed her yet. Smiling whimsically, she crept up behind him and quickly covered his eyes.
"Guess who?" she said brightly.
"Kusi?" Tal asked unsure.
Letting him go, she turned him around to face her. Tal's face broke into a strange smile and Kusi couldn't help but laugh. Tal was a brother to her and he had always made her happy when he was near but somehow that feeling that she felt seemed to lose it potency over the years.
"It's been a while since we last met," Tal said cupping a hand to her face "You've changed a lot,"
"So have you big brother. Last I heard, you were down in the red levels weeding out a group of renegades," Kusi said thinking back to the last time she met him.
"Renegades in the red levels? Why that was at least three months ago…" Tal said thinking back to the incident.
"I haven't seen you since," Kusi said sadly.
"Well I've been busy. When you're Emperor, you find little free time," Tal said tiredly.
"You must not find time to sleep either. You've got dark rings under your eyes," Kusi said inspecting his face.
"Well I find time for little naps during a session with the council," Tal said cracking another awkward smile.
Frowning disapprovingly, she spoke her objections.
"You'll ruin yourself if you push too hard. Honestly, Tal, if you don't have your health how can you run this castle properly. I can't see you going very far into this Emperor business the way you're treating yourself," Kusi ranted.
Tal looked at her with an odd and unreadable expression before he sat on a cushioned bench in the front row.
"You know. You're the second person to say that to me," he said.
"Well whoever said it first beat me to it. Tal you have to take a little time for yourself. Seven years of reconstruction is enough to deserve a vacation," Kusi said sitting by him.
"I wish it were that simple," Tal muttered.
"It can be silly. You're the Emperor. Just take a few days off, tell everyone you're ill." Kusi said rubbing Tal's back.
After a few moments of silence, Tal smiled, it wasn't the awkward smile that he displayed before, it was a genuine, albeit, reclusive smile. He gave her a side hug and turned the conversation around.
"Are you working on a new composition? Last, I heard, you were working on a masterpiece of some sort. How's that going?" Tal asked all ease and casual toned.
Kusi eyed him suspiciously but let the issue drop as she saw his tension ease a bit.
"Yes…I was actually practicing it before you arrived. It's not completely finished," Kusi lied.
"I would be very interested to see it when you do finish it. You have talent for it. It's probably the only decent talent in our family." Tal mused.
Kusi looked at the crystal tree and wondered whether Tal was reading her mind. She was just thinking about how useless she was when Tal just said otherwise. Curious as to how he came to this decision, she probed further.
"What makes you say that? Music is not really a skill that Emperors, advisors, captains, or the royal guard need. Compared to those skills mine is kind of silly…" Kusi said trying to keep her irresolution out of her tone.
Tal looked at her with gentle eyes but Kusi could see his mind's gears working as she stared back. Tal was always a very insightful person and Kusi could see that he was figuring out her ails rapidly. She looked away as if breaking eye contact would stop Tal from figuring out her woes.
Tal shuffled closer to her and drew her face towards his so that she gave him her full attention.
"Kusi can you keep a secret?" Tal started.
Surprised, Kusi nodded. She was expecting a pep talk of some sort.
"You are a better person than me. I may be the Emperor. Gref maybe the Captain of the guard but you have the most important role," Tal said to a confused looking Kusi.
"What are you getting at?" Kusi asked confused.
"You're music helps me more than you know. It helps to remind me why I exist as Emperor. Without purpose what does one exist for?" Tal asked.
Kusi paused for a second to absorb what she had just heard. Purpose was something she had not thought about. Was she that important to Tal? Did she really give him the sense of purpose he needed to continue to rule?
"So you say Tal but are you certain that what you say is true? Am I the one who gives you purpose to keep ruling?" Kusi asked.
"I know why I'm Emperor Kusi. I lead the people in the castle and I help to monitor the world outside the Castle. I only lead them so that harmony exists. That is my purpose. However, why do I do this? Any idiot with a brain could do what I do. The reason I do it is simple. To see the world flourish with the passion of life my leadership will provide. So far, I've been so caught up in my work to remember this. Therefore, that's why it is up to you and people like you to keep the world bright and purposeful,"
"I never thought of it that way," Kusi said suddenly cured of her strop of depression.
"Now that you do know I hope you're going to help me remember why I do what I do from time to time because even Emperor's forget," Tal said before getting up "I'll leave you to practice then. I'm really looking forward to that piece that you've worked on for so long."
"You can count on me!" Kusi said hugging her brother one last time before letting him leave.
Kusi now had a purpose and everything was so clear.