Estelle

The Fangs of Heaven were camped along the river not far from the city. Missions for Oversight had led me into dozens of military encampments in the past and there was nothing particularly unique or impressive about Takamori Saito's little operation. I learned that the Talonlord who drug us in was called Ozai, and he seemed very intent on building a reputation for himself.

At very least, Ozai reacted poorly when he was informed that Dragonlord Saito was "too busy" to see him. He left the two of us under guard and stomped off in a huff. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a familiar silhouette and swallowed the stream of curse words that almost escaped me. Standing outside of Saito's command tent with his arms crossed and a particularly annoyed expression on his face was my former master, Tepet Genji.

Apparently Saito wasn't interested in playing nice with anyone.

I wished belatedly that I'd crafted a Resplendent Destiny that I could use, but the only mask I could reasonably don was that of "Kit Waylay" which wouldn't serve to get Munno or myself out of trouble. To make matters worse, Munno didn't know what Resplendent Destinies actually were and my orders from Oversight had not given me permission to explain to him exactly how I changed my face and ensured that I was "forgotten" so easily. It was unlikely that Genji would recognize me as Kit, but Munno could potentially alert him the truth. That would mean Paradox for certain.

"Munno, Tepet Genji has followed us." I informed him, pointing in the direction of the Dragonlord's tent.

He observed what I pointed out and raised an eyebrow in my direction but said nothing.

"He won't recognize me as Kit." I continued. "And you can't tell him that I'm the same person who was traveling with him before."

"I understand." Munno nodded slightly and I sighed in relief. He seemed to accept what I was asking of him without an explanation, and that was more than I'd hoped for.

Thirty minutes later, Genji was admitted to the Dragonlord's tent. They talked for a short while and he stomped out, looking very irritated. Talonlord Ozai was brought in, and then a soldier came for Munno and myself.

Dragonlord Saito was an Earth-Aspect with a face that looked like chiseled granite. He stood a head taller than everyone except Munno, and smiled slightly as the two of us were brought before him.

"Heaven-Sent Munno, I presume?" The Dragonlord observed.

Munno nodded quietly, a little irritated by the flowery title attached to his name.

Our hands were immediately untied.

"You're free to go. I'm sorry that you were treated so poorly by my men." The Dragonlord apologized. "From what I've heard, it seems that you were not willfully aiding the Anathema, but only trying to protect a woman you believed was in distress."

"Well..." Munno began.

I elbowed him in the ribs. Though I usually found Munno's honesty endearing, the last thing I needed was him confessing to Saito that he had guessed Windswept Rhapsody's real identity... and had intended to help her anyway. "Thank you for your understanding, Dragonlord." I bowed politely.

"Although there is something else I am curious about." The Dragonlord paused. "The city is full of whispers about you two. Are you really planning to reforge the Heaven-Sent Sword?"

"Yes. I have a piece of it here." Munno emptied his medicine pouch into the palm of his hand and held out the shard for the Dragonlord to see.

"May I?" He wondered.

Munno nodded. The Dragonlord picked up the shard and examined it for a moment. "Hm." He mused. "I've never seen anything like it. No maker's mark?"

"There never was one. The man who helped me forge this blade never gave his name." Munno explained. "These days I am afraid that I can barely remember what he looked like. He came in the middle of the night and he forbade me fro seeing his secret technique."

"Heh." The Dragonlord smiled slightly. "Sounds like Masamune and Murasame to me."

I'd never heard either name before.

Evidently Munno had. He rolled his eyes. "Masamune and Murasame are characters from a children's story." He explained. "You've never heard of them? The Smiths of Round-Top Mountain? They're known for making magical swords."

"You've heard about my childhood." I reminded him. "I think it's safe to say I missed out on a lot."

"Well, you may regard the Smiths as fictional, but someone actually does live up there. My patrols have noticed plumes of smoke rising from the trees on the eastern face of that mountain on more than one occasion." Saito informed us. "It's across the river and to the north if you want to make the trip. You could make it there and back in three or four days."

"I don't know." Munno admitted. "That's a lot of time to lose looking for someone who probably doesn't exist."

"Such a skeptic!" Genji laughed. Though he had not been invited in to Saito's tent, he'd obviously been listening in on our conversation for some time. "Being that you are a fictional character yourself, Munno... one would think that you might have a little more faith."

Munno looked somewhat embarrassed, and from the expression on Saito's face I could tell that he was about to order Genji out. But I was curious.

"I don't suppose you know anything about these "Smiths", stranger?" I put my hands on my hips.

"As a matter of fact, I'm an expert in folklore." Genji replied. "I find it fascinating, especially when it happens to be based in truth. And I think that Dragonlord Saito is right. If you want to reforge the Heaven-Sent sword, you'll need Masamune and Murasame. If they're real, they're supposed to be the best swordmakers in Creation. The trouble is, they don't deal in jade. They work for undisclosed favors."

"Sounds dangerous." I grimaced. What it sounded like to me was "politics as usual" in Yu-Shan and I wondered briefly if the legendary Smiths of Round-Top Mountain might Gods or Sidereals that I knew. It would certainly help our bargaining at any rate.

"I suppose you want to come with us then." Munno decided, before I could tell Genji to go away.

I swallowed my pride and let him take the lead.

"Why, yes, actually!" Genji smiled. "Although I must confess, I'm very curious as to what caused your change of heart. The last we spoke, I was under the impression that you weren't interested in re-forging the Heaven-Sent sword."

"I did not believe it was possible." Munno admitted. "After you left, my friend convinced me otherwise." He gestured to me. "This is Estelle. I've known her for five years."

As Munno said that, I noticed that it did not sound like a lie. While it was true that I had been spying on him for a long while, I'd only introduced myself to him days ago and I could not recall telling him how long I'd actually been watching him. A faint miasma of something in the air was beginning to worry me. It reminded me of the smell that always preceded a storm, and I knew right away what it meant.

"And I don't suppose either of you have any idea what became of my servant?" Genji pressed.

"No." Munno shook his head. I said nothing myself, feeling an all too familiar sharp pinch.

Paradox.

Genji was onto me!

Saito cleared his throat. "I don't suppose you would like a military escort?"

"No!" All of us shouted at the same time. The Dragonlord gave us a peculiar look and slowly held up his hands in a gesture of surrender.

"Don't trouble yourself, Dragonlord." I soothed. "It would be too much of an imposition." Just in case he didn't find my words convincing, I layered them with a very good Charm.

"Very well." He sighed, still looking a little put-off. "I was just trying to be helpful."

Without any further trouble, we returned to our accommodations in town, though I got a sinking feeling that the Dragonlord's men were still watching us. Genji evidentially felt the same and when I went to check on our animals, I caught him summoning up a little familiar spirit.

He ordered the creature to keep an eye on Saito's spies and it fluttered away.

Perhaps Genji would be useful after all. If I'd learned anything in the time I'd spent posing as his servant, it was that he was not easily discouraged.

"You're worried about Genji." Munno observed as I came back into the common room of the inn. The proprietor, the bartender, and several girls were working to pick up the wreckage of Rhapsody's interrupted revelry. If they thought poorly of the two of us for returning after we'd been involved in the whole mess earlier, they said nothing. I suspected that Saito had sent word ahead of us.

"He might be trouble." I admitted.

"He might also be helpful." Munno reminded me.

"Why do you have so much faith in everyone?" I demanded.

"Why do you always suspect the worst?" He retorted.

I sighed in defeat. "You're right, Munno. As usual."

In the morning, both Munno and Genji were dressed and ready to depart before I'd rolled my way out of bed. I ordered some coffee and nursed it at the bar, trying to ignore how my two traveling companions were suddenly carrying on like old friends. Apparently, back in his adventuring days, Munno had briefly traveled with a Dragonblooded sorceress called Hideyo Haya.

As obsessed as he was with the legend of the Heaven-Sent Sword, Genji was even more fixated on learning everything he could about Hideyo Haya. She was mother and he'd never met her. His mission re-tracing her footsteps across Creation had sent him into the depths of a fae-infested manse and had even gotten him captured by Nexus's infamous Solars. When I'd first met him myself, Genji had confessed to me that his entire entourage had abandoned him. They preferred to walk back to Lookshy and face the wrath of his father rather than continue to follow their master on his "wild goose chase".

But what if Genji was actually supposed to find what he was looking for? What if Fate was moving him in ways that I hadn't considered? I decided to have a good look at the stars as soon as I found an opportunity. If nothing else, it wound keep me from getting surprised so often.

The three of us rode all day up into the foothills of Round-Top Mountain. Around noon, Genji's familiar spirit reported to its master and he informed us that Dragonlord Saito's men were no longer watching us. Apparently, there'd been another sighting of Windswept Rhapsody and all of the Fangs of Heaven were being recalled to hunt down the Anathema.

Munno looked a little uneasy as Genji told us the "good news", but he said nothing. His eyes were fixed on the horizon. As Saito had promised, there was a plume of smoke rising from the eastern face of Round-Top Mountain.

"I bet it's a hermit living up there!" I joked, shoving Munno a little. "An old hermit with no teeth who hasn't bathed in twenty years!"

Genji looked annoyed with me, but he said nothing. I considered asking him to reiterate the legend of the Smiths so that I would have some better idea of what we were up against, Then I decided that even the comfort of being well-prepared wasn't worth the irritation of listening him talk for hours on end.

After the sun went down, we camped near a little creek. While Munno answered more of Genji's incessant questions about his mother and made some tea, I slipped off into the trees to have a "bath". As soon as I was certain that neither of them were watching me, I found a comfortable place to sit and began composing a letter to a friend of mine in The Division of Secrets.

As I'd confessed to Munno, my grasp of the written word was a little precarious. Worse still, I'd never been able to ink a single prayer strip without getting black all over my hands and my clothing. Because I knew that sloppy requests always landed right in someone's rubbish bin, I took my time and copied everything over and over until I was sure I'd rooted out most of my misspellings.

When I was finished describing my current situation in detail, I requested information on Masamune and Murasame and asked if someone would peek at what the Loom had to say about Munno and Genji. Normally, requesting access to the Loom of Fate was something that no one of my pay grade would dare to do, but I made sure to add that I was on a mission for Oversight, which gave me considerable flexibility.

My mailbox diligently appeared as I called for it. There were new orders for me tucked inside and I decided to take a look at them before I sent off the whole mess of questions I'd been stewing over.

The folded paper was marked, not with Oversight's ominous black seal, but with the familiar blue and gold insignia of the Cerulean Lute. I opened up the crisp cream paper and stared in disbelief at the message, which was written in exquisite calligraphy that made me even more painfully aware of my ineptitude with a brush. It was from the head of my Division, Yaogin The Fair.

There was a huge Audit taking place in Yu-Shan! Sidereals and Gods from every division had been implicated in some sort huge Celestial smuggling ring. The list of names included was absolutely mind-boggling. From the looks of things, whatever was going on involved half of the most powerful Gods in the Bureau of Destiny!

I took a few deep breaths and slowly removed my meticulously composed letter from my mailbox, tearing it into several pieces. There was no use in asking favors from anyone in The Forbidding Manse of Ivy if Nara-O himself was about to be mined for starmetal. I wondered briefly if my Oversight superior Whisper knew what was going on and I suspected that her name would probably appear on the Audit list soon enough.

What she was up to, only Jupiter ever knew.

Still, the news of the pending Audit wasn't the only black cloud that hung over me. I'd noticed as I considered the positions of the stars that the constellation of The Mask was not sitting where it should have been. A conspiracy powerful enough to move The Mask was something I didn't even want to imagine. The Paradox that would be created by willfully changing the Heavens in such a dramatic manner would be sure to draw the attention of the Incarnae themselves.

I must have looked uneasy when I made it back to Munno and Genji. They both gave me an odd look, but neither of them asked what I was thinking.

We continued up the mountain the following day. It was late afternoon when we reached the source of the smoke, a little thatch-roof cottage that sat in a clearing filled with wildflowers. A crystal clear creek filled with unusual-shaped glacial rocks ran through the trees, encircling the cottage on its little green island. Birds chirped, and two iridescent blue butterflies immediately landed on Genji's head.

Genji swatted at the butterflies and scowled, but not for very long. An albino raven was sitting on a tree branch very near to him. It made a horrible loud croak and Genji nearly fell off his horse. The raven landed on Munno's shoulder and pecked at his medicine pouch once very deliberatively before winging away.

"That was strange." Genji observed. Another butterfly landed on him.

"I think we've come to the right place." Munno replied. He certainly looked comfortable at any rate, not that I blamed him. I felt remarkably comfortable myself.

The little clearing was even more idyllic than Munno's beloved retreat if such a thing was possible and I noticed how he smiled when he heard the clang of a blacksmith's hammer. A small herd of dairy goats and and a flock of ruddy-colored chickens parted before us as we approached the smith's workshop, a very large circular barn with a pointed roof and a strange sign over the door.

Ten swords had been placed with their pommels touching and their blades pointed out. An eleventh sword had been made into a circle that held all the others. What it looked like was a radiant rising sun made out of steel. I dismounted from my horse and Genji did the same. Munno handed me the reins of his mule and slowly approached the barn.

"I don't believe it!" Genji exclaimed. "Why, it's just like the story!"

My right hand drifted towards the hilt of Memory. Though I didn't want to draw my swords if I didn't have to, a troubling thought had just occurred to me. In the time that I'd served the fae, I'd learned that some had an infatuation with stories, even going so far as to re-create fictitious places as a way of luring in their victims. Houses made of cake and poor captured princesses seemed to be common themes, but a fae lord of sufficient power could certainly convince the three of us that we were waltzing right into the setting of a folktale if he or she wished to.

The albino raven landed on the roof of the barn and croaked at us again. Then it flew inside through a hole in the thatch. The steady pounding stopped, and the doors to the barn slowly opened. I didn't get much of a glimpse inside, but I did notice that the walls were plastered with thousands of prayer strips.

Whatever the Smiths of Round-Top Mountain were doing in their barn, they were definitely worried that it might attract the attention of malevolent forces.

A woman stepped out to meet us. She was dressed in a leather apron and her hands were wrapped in bandages. Tall and thin as she was, with a pair of gold glasses perched on her nose and a sweat-stained silk scarf tying back her long white hair... she looked more like a librarian or a schoolteacher than a blacksmith. Her age was impossible to determine, but I would have guessed her to be forty or even older if her pale skin hadn't been so clear and her movements so graceful. Picking up a towel that hung on a hook inside of her barn, she wiped her face and slipped into a white hapi coat that bore the same circular sword design as her sign.

"Well now!" She observed, evaluating each of us in turn. "Travelers! You're a long way from the road! I hate to be the one to tell you this, but if you're headed to Great Forks you should have turned right when you passed that cherry orchard about four miles back!"

"Actually." Munno interrupted. "We've come to ask you something." He reached into his medicine pouch and produced the shard of the Heaven-Sent Sword. He passed it to the woman who evaluated it for a moment and then smiled.

"The Heaven-Sent Sword, eh?" She observed. "You must be Munno."

"How did you know?" Genji demanded.

"The alloy. It's unmistakable. Only been done once, and there's a good reason for that. My Murasame will be able to tell you more." She replied. "Let's go inside and have some tea!"

"So you are Masamune? The Masamune from the legends?" Genji wondered as we sat down inside the little cottage. A man with a very long nose came to sit with us. He looked young and old at the same time just as the woman did and he was dressed in a simple blue robe with distinctive silver embroidery that made me suspect that he was a sorcerer. I noticed that his eyes were pinkish-colored and that his hair was scattered with feathers, but I didn't say anything. If Genji or Munno hadn't noticed we were sitting with the same albino raven from earlier, there was no reason to let them know.

"Oh my, legends!" Masamune chuckled. "Is that what they call it now when your neighbors talk about you? In my day we called it "gossip"! But yes, if you must know, I am Masamune Chiasa. And this is my partner, Murasame Renji."

"I know you?" Munno eyed Murasame suspiciously. It wasn't really a question.

"We've met before... although it's been many, many years. To be honest, I didn't realize how many." Murasame laughed. "But yes, Munno. I helped you forge the Heaven-Sent Sword."

Genji didn't say the word "impossible", but I saw him thinking it. If Murasame had been an old man when Munno was a boy, he should have been long dead. I suspected that Genji guessed what I already had... that Murasame was a Lunar. Even still, he held his tongue, although I noticed that he was staring at Masamune in a particularly rude manner. Apparently, he'd also worked out what the curious sword sign on their barn and on the back of Masamune's coat actually meant.

The Smiths of Round-Top Mountain were Anathema.

"Can it be repaired?" Munno asked.

"From such a little piece?" Murasame shook his head. "Don't be absurd!"

Munno's face fell.

"We'll just have to make you a new one!" Murasame reassured him with a mischievous smirk.

"Looks like I'd better go fire up the plasma furnace!" Masamune clapped her hands together. "I'll be right back!"

"I do appreciate your help." Munno paused. "But... if you don't mind my asking, I was told there would be a price."

"There always is." Murasame nodded solemnly.

"May I have a moment, Munno?" Genji interrupted. Murasame nodded with a slight smile and the two of them stepped outside. I didn't have to guess what Genji was going to tell him, but I also knew how Munno would react.

Murasame poured me some more tea and I sipped it. "I see you carry a sword yourself. Two of them, in fact!" He remarked, gesturing to Thought and Memory. "May I see?"

I didn't see what harm it would do, and so I unsheathed my blades and set them on the table between us.

"Mm." Murasame observed. "Thousand Stars. High First Age. Exquisite craftsmanship! Masamune will be tickled to see these. She does so love the work of the old masters."

"You sure know your swords." I replied, though it sounded like an inane thing to say.

"Of course we do!" Murasame replied. "If you want to be the best..."

He didn't finish what he was about to say. Munno had stomped back into the cottage, throwing the door a little more forcefully than he probably should have. Genji followed him, looking thoroughly subdued. Though he could have easily hopped on his horse and rode back to Dragonlord Saito with news of the Anathema we'd discovered, Genji sat down and nursed his tea instead. I noticed, however, that he did not take his eyes off of Murasame for more than a heartbeat.

As she'd promised she would, Masamune soon returned. The forge was ready, she informed us, and it was best to get started as soon as possible. We followed the Smiths into their workshop. It was much bigger on the inside and I stared in bewilderment at all of the thousands of prayer strips. Some were so old that I could barely read them and they were inscribed to every God whose name I'd ever heard whispered. Unsurprisingly, an awful lot of them called for the aid of Luna or The Unconquered Sun. Genji cursed incoherently as his fingertips brushed a prayer strip near the door.

"I know this calligraphy!" He exclaimed. "My mother wrote this!"

"Hm. Ah!" Masamune studied the prayer he pointed to. "Hideyo Haya! Yes, I remember her! Your mother, eh? I think I can see the resemblance!"

"She was here?" Genji pressed.

"About twenty years ago, yes." Masamune nodded. "She wanted to know how to find The Scarlet Empress's sword."

"The Scarlet Empress's sword?" Genji echoed incredulously. "What did you tell her?"

"Mm. Rumors. I'm afraid that's all I knew at the time. It seemed odd to me that she was so eager to find it. It was forged by Fu Yan Win. Early Shogunate. Bad balance, I suspect. The jade's probably worth more than the blade is." Masamune explained.

"I do remember her lovely little daiklave." Murasame added. "About two-hundred and fifty years old at the time. Cathak Hoshi. Excellent work. All it really needed was an edge."

"Would you... would you put an edge on my blade?" Genji asked.

"Certainly!" Masamune agreed. "And don't worry, no charge. It's a mercy to the sword, that's what it is! I'd be glad to do it."

Genji was gone for a few moments and when he returned with his sword, he also carried a small calligraphy box. He opened it and Murasame ogled his brushes like a child looking through the window of a toy store. As Masamune took a look at Genji's sword, he picked up his brushes and inked a short prayer to Sextes Jylis, The Dragon of Wood in fine green ink.

Genji's calligraphy was everything mine could never hope to be and I smiled slightly. Though he would never guess it, one of his beautiful prayers was kept in a frame in the reception room of the main office of the Bureau of Seasons in Yu-Shan.

"Beautiful! Look at this, dear!" Murasame crowed. He seized the prayer strip and skipped over to Masamune, who was working Genji's blade on her grinding wheel. She observed the prayer with a slight smile and Murasame tacked it to the wall just below the prayer that Genji's mother had written twenty years ago.

"I am curious." Munno admitted. "What are all the prayer strips for?"

"Faith is very important." Murasame explained. "Forging swords is a delicate process. The heat and the cooling must be perfectly controlled! The steel and the other metals, perfectly folded! And perfection is not the preserve of mankind! We are all imperfect beings, even the best of us!"

"The Gods aren't perfect either." I remarked, realizing belatedly that I probably shouldn't have said something like that aloud.

"Most of them, no. But all of them together? From the littlest rice god all the way up to the Unconquered Sun?"

It did bear consideration. Even Genji didn't seem to have the heart to protest.

Humming to himself, Murasame began to toss stacks of wood, pieces of metal and all kinds of half-finished projects out the front doors of the barn. Munno and I helped him with the cleaning, and then Genji stepped in to lend a hand. When we'd all finished, I realized that there was a familiar design on the stone floor of the workshop, a prayer wheel! The whole building was a prayer wheel!

Finished with Genji's sword, Masamune handed him the blade wrapped in a length of white linen. He stared at it for a long while in silence. Then the two smiths moved to the center of their workshop and lifted up the middle portion of the floor. A cloud of steam poured out of the hole and there was a horrible mechanical grinding sound as a huge furnace rose up out of the ground.

The smell that it gave off was very distinctive, almost like incense mixed into raw metal.

"May I have the shard?" Masamune asked. She put on a beautiful pair of golden metal gloves set with hearthstones the color of molten steel.

Munno nodded and gave it to her. Taking up a smelting ladle, she held it into the furnace until it began to melt. The shard cast rainbows all around the room, like a piece of glass held up to the light of the sun.

Hours passed. All of us watched in awe. There was nothing else we could do. I'd seen some pretty impressive things living in Yu-Shan, but there was something about the way that Masamune and Murasame worked which simply defied everything I thought I knew about how swords were made.

After melting the shard of the Heaven-Sent Sword, Masamune poured it into a mold filled with molten starmetal. With her gloves still on, she ran her hands through the metal, shaping it. As the alloy began to solidify, she returned it to her furnace. When it was hot enough to be poured again, she put it into a larger mold with a quantity of moonsilver.

Murasame whispered a prayer, and Masamune passed the still-hot blade to him. The moonsilver whipped and thrashed like a living thing trying to escape. He plunged it into a trough of water, reciting familiar-sounding words under his breath. An invisible wind whipped up all around us and I realized that Murasame was working sorcery. The water froze across the surface, and the sword fell still.

Masamune broke the ice and returned the blade it to her furnace. She melted it down completely for the third time, pouring a small portion of the Heaven-Sent Sword, starmetal and moonsilver into yet another mold filled with liquid orichalcum.

"All right." Murasame turned to us. "This is the part that you can't watch."

Munno nodded solemnly. From the expression on his face, it was obvious that he'd been expecting to hear exactly that. The three of us obediently left the barn. Genji seemed relieved, I supposed because it was easier for him not to lash out against the Anathema if they hadn't actually proven that they were what he knew they had to be. I wondered if he'd caught Murasame working sorcery as I had, and then decided that watching Masamune work had probably kept him from noticing the Lunar's faintly flickering Caste Mark.

Munno paced as we waited for the Smiths to finish their work. It was nearly sundown, and I couldn't help but notice that the barn was beginning to glow very distinctly in the dark. The color of the light all around it was like the morning sun.

Then Munno stopped. He glanced at me once and the turned and started walking right back in the direction of the barn.

"Munno, stop!" Genji shouted.

Munno ignored him.

"Munno!" I protested.

He ignored me too.

I almost followed him right inside as he threw the doors open, but when they slammed shut in front of my face, I found that I didn't have the heart to push them.

His whole life, Munno had worked as a blacksmith without ever knowing how his famous sword had come into being. After forty years, I suspected that he had every right to be irritated about sitting outside as the blade was re-forged.

The sun went down and the stars came out. There was no moon, but the sky looked unusually bright.

It must have been midnight when Munno returned, carrying the Heaven-Sent Sword wrapped in a piece of white silk.

"Is it finished?" Genji wondered eagerly.

"Nearly." Munno nodded. "We have to take the blade to be consecrated."

"Well, the Abbey of Sextis Jylis isn't far away." Genji supplied. "Six days from Great Forks and we could be there."

Munno shook his head. "Masamune told me to go to a very specific temple in Nexus. She said that I would find the priest I needed sitting on the steps."

Although Nexus was still a long way off, I decided there was no sense in arguing with Munno. When he set his mind to something, it wasn't easy to dissuade him. I knew better than to ask him to explain what he'd seen inside Masamune's workshop, although it was obvious that it had changed him.

It occurred to me belatedly that I hadn't seen either of the swordmakers since before Munno had stormed in on their work. As I glanced back in the direction of their humble abode, I was not entirely surprised to discover that the house and everything around it was gone without a trace.

I sighed heavily in defeat. It was bad enough that Munno was still sympathetic towards Windswept Rhapsody, especially since she'd done nothing but get us into trouble. The last thing I needed was another Solar convincing him that Anathema were 'misunderstood', or worse yet, the saviors of all Creation.

"Did they say what the price of this work would be?" I asked Munno. His hand rested on the hilt of the Heaven-Sent Sword.

"Not exactly." He admitted.

"But you think you know?" I pressed.

"I think I know." He nodded.

"And it's a price you can pay?" Genji hazarded a guess. "I am a sorcerer, Munno. I know how these sorts of things go."

Munno hesitated. After a long moment of silence, he drew the sword from its wrappings and stared at blade which was glowing. Colors I'd never known steel to hold swam in its depths. It reminded me a little of starmetal, but it radiated warmth like sun-touched orichalcum.

"That is a very impressive sword." Genji admitted.

"I did not remember it being so heavy." Munno paused. "I don't think I'm strong enough to wield it."

"Then you'll have to get stronger." I informed him, gesturing to my own blades. "I'll train with you."

"I could use the exercise too." Genji added.

Munno didn't say anything at first, but the expression on his face told me he was thinking. When Genji went to check on his horse, he broke his silence.

"So... the sword is reforged now." Munno paused. "Does that mean your mission for Heaven is almost over?"

"Not a chance!" I informed him. "I'm with you until we kill that demon! And then I'm due for a vacation, so we'll celebrate together!"

He smiled slightly. "Sounds good."

A very strange feeling came over me. Traveling in Munno's company, it was so easy to let down my guard and simply assume that everything he said was honest and heartfelt because it always was.

But did Munno know more about what we were getting into than he was leading me to believe?