The wooden crate landed in front of Sol with a soft thump, the look on Ky's face over it suggesting it would have been dropped or, better yet, thrown at him had the weight and contents not demanded a more delicate approach.

"There's not going to be any ceremony. Lord knows that will be the one part of this entire debacle everyone should be glad of, including yourself. I don't want to think about what kind of spectacle you'd have made of it."

Sol looked from the item to Ky and back again, trying to catch up with whatever the blazes the boy was on about. The crate was over a metre long, though not nearly as wide or deep; had been left unlabeled and nailed shut until not long ago, but since then the nails around the top had been levered loose. Whatever was in there, Ky had wanted to make sure he knew it was in there before it was handed to anyone else.

"I'm not even going to start on how many strings I had to pull to get this far. This whole affair has had to go as far under the table as the UN ever goes. If it gets recognised or if anyone asks if it's the genuine article you're expected to deny it if you say anything at all, not that I expect you wouldn't have done that anyway. If the matter gets pressed, the official story will be that it's a prototype replica, and that's as much as anyone gets to know."

"What on earth are you blathering about, brat?" Sol snapped, losing patience even as a particular suspicion started to grow in the back of his mind.

"The contents of that crate, you insufferable dolt!" Ky hissed. "Two hours you spent arguing with me about it not a week ago, and already it's out of your mind?"

Ah. Really?

"Seem to recall that argument ending with you telling me to go fuck myself," said Sol, which may have been him needling Ky out of habit or just buying time to get used to this idea, but this – this was the last thing he'd come out of that yelling match expecting. Must have been past time to re-evaluate how much nerve the kid had again.

"If I were inclined to use that manner of language it very well might. No part of your demand was remotely reasonable."

"And something about me being a reckless, power-hungry bastard with the nerve to use the war for my own selfish gain?" It had been one almighty argument, even by their standards.

"Shall I remind you how you replied to that?" Ky tapped his foot impatiently, still not prepared to point out aloud what Sol should be doing by now – probably if the subject ever came up even the crate didn't officially exist either and would self destruct within thirty seconds of opening or some such nonsense, but Sol was only dragging this out at this point, enjoying the anticipation.

With the nails already loosened the lid came off with a single tug. The inside was wedged solid with packing straw, disturbed slightly by Ky's initial inspection. Someone had been very determined that the contents of this box wouldn't be shaken around in transit, or worse (ha! What did they think they were transporting, an ornamental teacup?) damaged before delivery. Underneath, the smooth, red and white form of the Fuuenken lay waiting to be unpacked; cold and solid and very much the real thing. It had been a while – a very long time – since Sol had laid hands on it. This was a moment well worth savouring – any ceremony Ky thought the bestowing of a Jinki should require could be found right here in the way he was drawing it out of its packing, taking his first proper look at the thing in however many decades. They'd taken good care of it – every curve and indentation exactly as he remembered.

He was grinning shamelessly when he caught Ky's eye again, the boy slightly flushed from all that near-yelling, but couldn't bring himself to care.

"I had to stick my neck out a long way to make this happen, Sol. Notice of your behaviour goes a lot higher than my head. If it's ever lost or damaged, if it ever falls into enemy hands, or if you ever think of pulling another stunt like last month in Versailles, it's going to be my head on the block as much as yours.

"You had better be able to make this worth my while, Sol." He sounded a little breathless now, and buried under all that temper, just a little bit desperate.

Sol took a step forward – no sense risking being remotely misunderstood here – to put himself right in Ky's face, and watched him make what he had to hope was the world's smallest swallow.

"It'll be well worth your while," he whispered. "Just you wait and see."