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With Love Comes Fear [FIN]

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The large hanger was quiet, and still for the most part, and considering the hour, it was hardly a surprise.

 

The Office of the Gijutsu-sha was the most varied among the Primary Shogunate, and this hanger was only one of many similar compounds located underneath the Palace Castle. This one, in particular, held only a small open space relative to its size - most of its room was dedicated to smaller, sectioned areas filled with workbenches and miniature arenas, built to allow members to design and test out their inventions. Other hangers were dedicated to the massive, gargantuan titans that were kept well functioning and maintained in the case of a national emergency, and - in all honesty - he would have much preferred working in one of those others, sitting underneath a silent colossus while he worked. 

 

Being overshadowed so thoroughly tended to give one a sense of perspective in this world. 

 

There were a few stragglers, working right up into the weekend, but they all afforded the Shogun of Neighpon a wide berth, and why shouldn't they? If not for his station, than for the stormy look that had remained an almost constant fixture on his face ever since the afternoon. An instance right outside the walls of the Palace Castle - some upstart, would-be fool of an assassin that had tried running through the gates with a convoy, only to be immediately apprehended just inside. A minor incident, startling but completely beneath his notice. 

 

If his younger sister hadn't been returning with her guard just around the same time. 

 

Koeda-san - otherwise affectionately known as Mr. Twig - lay unresponsive on the workbench, the source of his life and manufactured spirit laying dormant nearby. Ryuichi frowned as he studied the yellow petals on the construct, pliers held expertly in one hoof as he carefully began rearranging the golem's features. It wasn't often that he got the chance to indulge his love of golems in a hoof's on way - one would think that the Shogun of Neighpon could get more reprieve to play around with expensive toys every once in his ancestors-forsake while - but what might have been a time of relaxation and indulgence was instead tinged with slowly-simmering fury and determination, leaving the Ryuma's dark frown firmly in place as he bent closer over the construct. 

 

"Not enough input," the Shogun of Neighpon muttered to himself, hardly noticing the very last of the stragglers quietly making their exit. "The toxin needs to be resourced through the head...a complete rewiring...and some nerve-inhibiting properties too..." 

 

 

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"Ryu!"

 

.....

 

"Ryyyyuuuuuuuu...!!!"

 

.....

 

"Ryu, where are you!???"

 

It was rare to hear the sound of a child's shouting echo through the underground corridors beneath the Palace Castle. And why wouldn't it be? The National Tech Magency's work areas were no place for little scamps to run around in, no matter how much Kaze tried doing so in the past. And why wouldn't she try underground exploration? There were so many big rooms to search! The only reason Kaze wasn't being shooed off now was because the little filly managed to rope in Big Brother Ishi into "escorting" her down here.

 

A few hours had past since that... unfortunate incident earlier in the day. Since then, Kaze's other big brother had kept her confined to her chambers all afternoon! Who cares if some bad pony tried to fight the Shogun? The bad pony LOST, and being cooped up in the bedroom was SOOOO BOOOORING!!! Even worse, Ryuichi took Mr. Twig with him, leaving Kaze with nobody to play with! Dinnertime came around, and still no sign of Ryuichi or Mr. Twig... meaning no sign of freedom either!!!

 

...Kaze couldn't take it any longer.

 

She ended up having to beg a guard to bring Ishi to her room; not too long afterward, here was Ishi at Kaze's side checking the subterranean hangars. "Ishi," the young girl inquisitively glanced up at her brother; "Do you have any idea what Ryu's doing with Koeda-san?"

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Well, the qilin could certainly understand Ryu's reactions to the afternoon's disturbance, and actually agreed with them for the most part. Still though, he felt like Kaze had been cooped up in her room for much too long without her favorite playmate. 

 

That had been the reasoning behind him leaving to visit her room in the first place anyways, and he wasn't all that surprised she had convinced a guard to go fetch him. Now though...

 

He liked to think he had brought her along because it was her golem Ryu was working on, but that wasn't the only reason. He never could resist her when she really wanted her way... 

 

Anyways, the three of them now found themselves walking around in the underground hangers of the Gijutsu-sha, Kaze stuck in between Ishi and Shibō, the latter looking around idly as if seeing if there was some upgrade in sight he wanted. Ishi smiled at Kaze as she asked her question, chuckling a bit. 

 

"Well, you know how much we both care about you. I think he's making sure Koeda-san can protect you. Both him and Shibō were made with the intent of being guardians as well as companions." Ishi smiled again, looking around as they continued walking. "Now if only we could find him..."

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So focused was Ryuichi on the project currently cradled in his hooves, that it took him several long seconds to realize that the echoing was not simply a byproduct of the large chamber he was currently in. 

 

It wasn't...

 

"Ryyyyuuuuuuuu...!!!"

 

It was.

 

If Koeda-san had been activate at that moment, he might have chirped in distress at the tight hold suddenly encompassing him. As it was, the golem remained silent and stagnant in his grasp, allowing Ryuichi a moment to compose himself before his youngest sibling undoubtedly came wandering through the hanger doors. How she was out and wandering in search of him, he hadn't the slightest - oh, well, he could take a guess. Those large, sparkling eyes of hers weren't just for show - but if the three Vanguard that had been stationed around her room were not dutifully trailing after her...

 

Ancestors save them.

 

And, as if summoned by mere thought, the echoes of hooves began ricocheting off the tall ceiling of the hanger, and the Ryuma craned his neck over the workbench area. Kaze was too small to see, of course, but to some surprise, he was able to immediately identify Ishi's distinctive mane color in the entrance. When the attack had happen, he had been half-tempted to restrict Ishi to the same living conditions alongside their younger sibling. Ishi was, however, an official of the Primary Shogunate, and one did not simply take the day off because something distressing had happened. 

 

Even if that one was his own brother.

 

"Why aren't you in your room," the Shogun of Neighpon demanded as soon as the two rounded the corner and came in view of his workbench, and just as quickly rounded on his younger brother, "why isn't she in her room." He assumed it hadn't been very difficult to spot him, considering the sole light that had been illuminating the otherwise vast space, but that still didn't explained the complete lack of guards. "Where are the Vanguard that were assigned to her?" 

 

 

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A look of confusion on Kaze's face seemed to indicate that she didn't fully buy Ishi's answer. "But Mr. Tw... Koeda-san already protects me," the young filly pouted; "I think he's fine the way he is!" Ryuichi better not be doing anything bad to Mr. Twig! Now, where were they? Maybe past those big hangar doors-

 

.....*gasp* A familiar brotherly face over by the workbenches. "RYU!!!"

 

Kaze's natural impulse to excitedly spread out her wings and fly towards her Shogun Big Brother were dampened when he demanded to know why she was here. Why Kaze wasn't locked up in that confining room of hers! Almost instantly after being asked, the little girl replied with a fussy; "I got BOOOOORED!!!" Ryuichi's next set of questions were for Ishi. Kaze couldn't afford to pay attention to that back-and-forth however; she stood there and impatiently scanned the hangar for any sign of her golem companion.

 

...


Uggggh, it was no use! "Ryuuuuuu..." Kaze anxiously interjected, getting right to her point; "What have you done with Koeda-san?"

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"That's... I meant protect you better..." Ishi said, transitioning into mumbles as she called out at seeing Ryu at a workbench. He sighed then, enduring Ryu's questioning until he stopped before answering any of them. 

 

"Ah, hello to you too, Ryu. She's here because she was getting a bit stir-crazy in her room without her friend. As for the vanguard, I imagine they are guarding the entrance we just came through. They were trailing us as we searched." Ishi said calmly, giving his brother a smile in the hopes of calming him down some. 

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Years of practice and discipline had long beaten impulsiveness out of his system, and dealing with his youngest sibling made the Ryuma all the more glad for it. 

 

Because his first, initial instinct had been to snap at, and inform Jiyūna Soyokaze to kindly grow up and act like the Neighponese royalty she was for once in her life. That was how his mother had taught him, after all, any time he had acted out with foalish reasoning and demands. Boredom wasn't an excuse for skipping lessons and leaving the safety of his chambers. Loneliness wasn't an excuse for distracting the guards from their duties and incessantly inquiring after Sandā's whereabouts. He was going to be the future Shogun of Neighpon, wasn't he? A spoiled brat of a Shogun couldn't lead the nation, could he? Each time had made its cut, left him hurting at the chastisement and even, sometimes, had him stewing in bitterness and all the indignation of a young colt thinking he knew best. 

 

But time had proven his mother's love, with eyes wiser and matured enough to trace each wound back to its source, open to seeing the resolve and growth that had sprung up from each lesson. It was incredible, thinking back to all those times he had railed and cried and bemoaned the unfairness of it all, of being the Shogun's son, only to later find himself appreciating and cherishing those tiny lessons.

 

Wisdom, as with most things, came with age. 

 

And Kaze was young, and no Shogun in training besides. Which was why Ryuichi only closed his eyes for a brief moment, before turning in his seat slightly to better face Ishi and ignore his youngest sibling. "I believe that the last time I checked," the Shogun answered, and if his tone was a bit testy that was his own ancestors-cursed business, "'remainder of the day' meant the remainder of the day." Half expecting a cute answer about the sun already being below the horizon, Ryuichi didn't give either sibling a chance to protest as he waved off Ishi's words, already turning back to his project. "They should have been trailing and leading," the young Ryuma muttered, more to himself than to anyone else, "for the love of the ancestors, they are the Imperial Vanguard, not the Imperial I'll-just-follow-behind-you-at-your-leisure...guard." 

 

There. Another tweak of the rightmost petals, and the golem was..not nearly what he wished to be Kaze's last line of defense, but within the parameters his stubborn little sister had set, was at least closer to an agreeable compromise. Said sister was probably fit to bursting right about now, so with an aggrieved sigh, Ryuichi waved the inactive golem slightly through the air, enough for the young Ryuma to see it clutched in his grasp. "I've it right here, little sister," Ryuichi extrapolated, but made no move to hoof it over, instead returning the plant-like golem to its place atop the workbench, "I assure you, it's fine, and will be returned to you in fully functioning condition." 

 

Better yet, in fully, enhanced functioning condition. 

 

"Now," the Shogun said distractedly, the tone of his voice a clear dismissal of both siblings as he leaned over the dead-looking construct, "you've plenty of other activities to occupy yourself with. Ishi, return her to her rooms," he demanded, mind already trailing back onto the diagrams and pictures that had been running through his head. The petals needed to be more streamlined in order to ensure a more precise and effective dosage towards its intended target. 

 

Yes...that was...that was the answer.

 

 

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There he was; Mr. Twig! Kaze didn't have much time to smile at her golem though, for Ryuichi was already dictating that his kid sister go back to her room... without Mr. Twig. A seed of sadness started to take sprout inside Kaze; at least whenever she got in trouble for one of her escapades, the filly didn't have Mr. Twig taken away from her. But today Kaze had done nothing wrong, but she was expected to remain grounded in her room without so much as a mute companion to keep her company.

 

...It just wasn't fair.

 

"Awwww," a downcast Kaze cast her poor gaze upon the floor, her ears flopped to the side in dejection as she quietly pleaded; "But it's so lonely without Mr. Twig....."

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Oh, ancestors.

 

The despondence in his youngest sibling's voice was usually enough to move his heart even in its most unflappable moments, and this time was no exception as Ryuichi felt the stern sheen of the Shogun of Neighpon floundering under Ryuichi the elder brother. There was just something about seeing and hearing Kaze, free-spirited, winsome Kaze, lose the color and excitement and wonder in her voice that threatened to do him in time and time again, no matter how strict he attempted to be.

 

Still, he wasn't nearly finished with the golem in his grasp, and even his younger sister's pleading wasn't going to let him just forget the fact that she had stared an assassin in the face just this afternoon. 

 

"...You want Mr. Twig in tip-top shape so you can play with it tomorrow, don't you?" the Ryuma questioned, approaching the problem at an angle once it'd become clear a head-on approach wouldn't work. "You can hold out for one evening, and then in the morning things will be back to normal. See, look - " Ryuichi swiveled in his chair to pluck his youngest sibling from the floor, settling her in his lap as he faced the workbench again. From her new perspective, the deactivated golem was within clear reach and sight, although its crystal was higher up on the shelves. The various tools and seemingly indistinguishable golem parts scattered around the construct all spoke to exactly what he was doing with it - although he hadn't exactly kept it a secret, either - and Ryuichi could only hope the visual confirmation of her playmate's welfare would lift her spirits somewhat. "It's fine. Sometimes your toys need some tweaking to...make them better toys. That's all I'm doing." 

 

Toy, not pet. Despite the animal sentience that many smaller, companion golems inevitably grew once they became activated, Ryuichi never thought of golems as pets or creatures. He couldn't. Not when they were brought into being for the sole purpose of being used. Sometimes created as gigantic and colossal forces of imagination, simply for the entertainment value of seeing them torn apart by an equally large behemoth. Golems were creations that were made for selfish and greedy reasons - they were tools made for either purpose or amusement, and that was something Ryuichi could never overlook.

 

 

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Ishi sighed slightly at Ryu's responses, looking over at Kaze during her bemoaning. He was about to take her back as Ryu commanded, though he got a bit sidetracked as Ryu took their sister onto his lap. He smiled at the sight, despite his brother calling the golem a toy. Personally, he preferred to think of them as companions, but he could see where he was coming from. 

 

"Don't worry, Kaze. You can play with me and Shibō tonight." He said, approaching the two and patting the filly's head. 

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One nod of consent to letting Ryu continue working on Mr. Twig later, Kaze found herself surprised her big brother could still pick her up like that! Securely seated in Ryu's lap, the young filly let her eyes dart back and forth all around the cluttered work station. This was the first time Kaze had seen a golem — and Mr. Twig at that — deactivated in a state of repair. It certainly brought the little ryuma a new perspective on the nature of golems, but that didn't stop her from quietly whining out of attachment to her faithful wood companion; "I don't think Mr. Twig likes being called a toy..."

 

Ishi then offered to let Kaze play with his own golem. That was nice and all, but Kaze wasn't ready to leave Mr. Twig alone just yet. "Actually," she turned her inquisitive head upwards towards her Shogun Big Brother; "You think I can watch Ryu tweak Koeda-san? I prrrromisssse I'll be on my best behavior!" Cue the hopeful sparkling of eyes from the most adorably innocent filly in the Palace Castle.....

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Partitioning was all part and parcel of being a leader, filtering out the unimportant from the important, and the important from the Fix This This Very Instant Or Neighpon Will Implode important.

 

Which is why Ryuichi didn't bother trying to argue Kaze's mild protest at her companion construct being referred to as a toy, the same way he didn't argue when she called it a "he". A Shogun was always careful to pick and choose his battles, and as far as he was concerned, it was a pointless battle at this stage in Kaze's life. Maybe she would grow up like Ishi and continue viewing golems like pets - maybe she would take after her eldest brother and come to think of them as tools. Either way, the concept of "life" and "machine" was too vague and far a concept for a little Ryuma to undertake at this stage in her life, and Ryuichi was fine leaving it as is.

 

...He was less fine with allowing Kaze to stay and watch however, and in an instant the Shogun of Neighpon was all ready to shut her down and insist Ishi return her to her rooms.

 

Which is exactly when, of course, he made the fatal mistake of actually looking down and meeting his sister's eyes. 

 

...

 

"...Just a little while," the Ryuma conceded, and passed Kaze off to Ishi so he could keep his hooves free. "And you'll let me do my work in peace." The words were meant to be authoritative and factual, a statement of uncompromising truth, but there was no heat behind them as Ryuichi paused, reaching out to give his younger sibling a quick pat on the head, before turning back to his project. "Ishi, there's snacks and drinks in the cooler underneath Yuki's workbench to the left of us," he informed his younger brother, because there was no question that if Kaze was staying, Ishi was staying. There were too many stray tools and pieces laying around that an unwary filly could get her hooves on, and as engrossed as he could get in his work, Ryuichi was not trusting himself to be able to keep an eye on the adventurous Ryuma. "I'll have someone replace them in the morning." 

 

After all, it wasn't uncommon for the engineers and designers to keep food near their stations at all times. Even he could lose hours of time tinkering with golems, difficult though those hours were to come by, and having "brain" food laying around was definitely a boon to many. Grains, fruits, water, power drinks - most workers kept a good stock within hooves reach, and Ryuichi would probably be helping himself to Yuki's stash soon enough as well.

 

...Just as soon as he got this circuit right.

 

 

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"Thank you Ryu, you're the best!" Those words, along with leaning forward to plant sisterly peck on her big brother's cheek, was how Kaze expressed her gratitude while still in Ishi's grasp. Not long afterward, the little cutie of a ryuma made herself cozy on a spare chair as she watched the Shogun work on Mr. Twig. Yet Kaze failed to anticipate how tiring it could be to wait around patiently. Not wanting to leave her golem behind but also wanting to keep her promise to Ryu, there was only one thing for the girl to do: curl on the chair, yawn, and let her eyelids gently close. A significant amount of time had elapsed since dinner, after all. Assuming nobody tried waking Kaze, she'd be asleep in no time.....

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Ishi smiled slightly at Kaze's words and Ryu's response, watching his brother take her onto his lap to see the workbench. The qilin nodded a bit, moving over to the indicated cooler to grab the three of them drinks and a couple snacks just in case before settling in himself to keep Kaze and Ryu company. He really liked times like these, peaceful moments where the three siblings could simply be in the same room together and enjoy their presence.

 

Mmm... There he was filling his father's role again, but hey, he always felt he fell more on his father's side of the family tree anyways. When Kaze curled up and started to fall asleep, Ishi simply watched with a warm smile, glancing over at Ryu to see what he had to say about if she should be woken up. Not that he really waited for that answer...

 

"Hey, Kaze. Would you like a snack?" He said quietly, gently shaking her to wake her up.

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Ryuichi was already hooves deep - figuratively speaking - back in his work, but that didn't stop the secret little grin that spread across his face at Kaze's chirped words of praise. Harder to ignore the quick impression of lips on his cheek, there and gone before Ryuichi could even think to respond to them. Flighty and a tempest force, like the wind - such was his sister.

 

At least she was heeding his warning about leaving him to his work. Although, in all truth, Ryuichi probably needn't have bothered. He was mostly finished with the tweaking - just a few more connections to the uppermost tips of its petals, and the golem was completed. His biggest worry with the construct had always been, ironically, its defensive mechanism...specifically, the probability of Kaze herself getting a face fool of nauseating odor and being unable to escape from whatever danger threatened her. Now, the right petals released an antitoxin in a thinner, more streamlined process than the left ones, which were more widespread. Meaning that if Kaze ever got an accidental dosing of the effect, the golem could simply apply an antidote then and there, for Kaze and Kaze alone. No chance for the Ryuma to to fall prey to the constructs own defensive mechanisms.

 

A minor change, at least for the moment - there were at least four other features he wanted to add to Koeda-san, but he'd yet to figure out a way to add them without sacrificing thought process or resource power. It was a dilemma better suited to the actual engineering geniuses that used these hangers on a regular basis, truth be told. As it was, it would have to do for now.

 

...Although, perhaps Kaze would feel a bit better about the whole thing if she had some say in its reconstruction. Mayhaps a change of petal color? Something festive and exotic...rainbows to mimic an Equestrian feel. "Kaze," the Ryuma asked, turning in his seat to hold up the construct for his youngest sibling's inspection, "would you like to - " 

 

...Ah. He should have figured he'd have nothing to worry about.

 

Ryuichi sighed through his teeth, half-parts annoyed at Kaze's easily lapsed attention span, half-parts relieved that his troubled sister had finally managed to doze off. Whether it was the company of her brothers or the closeness of her golem construct, Ryuichi didn't know, but he wouldn't complain about it. "Leave her," the Shogun instructed Ishi as his brother approached with food, fondly shaking his head, "the day has probably only just now caught up to her. And I - " the Ryuma tried to continue, but a yawn took him by surprise midway, bringing everything to a halt.

 

Looks like Kaze wasn't the only one finally feeling the effects of the day.

 

There was still one matter left before he could finish up, however, and after a quick clean up of the workbench, Ryuichi grabbed Koeda-san's crystal and inserted it back into the golem's socket. The construct awoke back to life, took a few seconds to reassess itself, before immediately hopping onto Kaze's back and wrapping its limbs around the filly's neck. At any other time Ryuichi might have rolled his eyes at the familiar display.

 

But here in the darkened hanger, as Ryuichi gazed upon his brother holding snacks at the ready while Kaze curled in on herself on the chair, the golem wrapped protectively around her body...well.

 

There were worse sights, to be seen.

 

"C'mon," Ryuichi murmured, carefully scooping up the snoozing filly and grasping construct like an all inclusive bundle, "let's get out of here." With one last glance around the ensure nothing out of the ordinary, Ryuichi used his tail to flick out the light before heading towards the hanger entrance, his siblings right beside him.

 

[[ End ]]

 

 

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