Featured image “Emerald Dragon” by Arute (@ast05water)
Hello everyone, from far away across the oceans! My greetings from the British-ruled port colony of Victoria Town, on the Chinese island of Hong Kong.
I’ve had the craziest meeting with Lady Kam. She left an impression I won’t be in a hurry to forget: she’s a tall, willowy woman, whose jet-black hair is done up in an elegant ponytail. Her rich dark eyes sparkle with a thousand secrets, and her smile is at once warm and enigmatic. And she’s told me things that have shaken my very sense of place in the world. My mind is still processing the outrageous things she’s divulged to me. There was one particular secret, related to the elixir of life, that I’m reeling from.
But just as things were getting interesting, we were attacked by a group of terrifying fighters and assassins! Kam said that they’re from the Floodgate triads, who are employed by none other than – you guessed it – Will Harrison. I should’ve seen that scumbag coming, but what unnerved me even more was that just as Elsa moved to protect us all, Lady Kam struck back and subdued our intruders with her own group of hidden bodyguards! They were triads too, but part of the “Lotus and Crocus” – a triad group founded to protect Elsa and me! To protect Arendelle!
I’m still stunned that there are underworld, technically illegal societies that fight for our distant kingdom. What other secrets is Lady Kam hiding?
Want to know more about what I’m up to on the other side of the world? Just read on…
Lady Kam stood up from Peony’s sofa in the middle of the large living room of the Sinclair mansion, bowing before Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Colisa. They were amidst luxurious rugs, expensive oak and pine furniture, and a marble balcony that provided truly breathtaking views of the Hong Kong port, Victoria Harbour. “It’s very rare to be able to meet so many members of royalty in one go,” she said, her voice smooth and confident. “It’s truly my honour, Your Majesty Queen Anna.”
Anna felt visibly nervous. Lady Kam was so… beautiful, and so utterly comfortable on home ground. This was the woman that sustained Kristoff’s trade in Asia, in turn propelling Arendelle’s prosperity. In a fairly direct way, the Northern European kingdom’s economy needed her, because Kristoff depended on her to manage the company in Asia.
Peony gave a small smile, gesturing for her guests to introduce themselves to Lady Kam. “Though you need no introductions with Kam Chik-loei, Kristoff,” she said, “I believe this is the first time the rest of you have met the comprador of the Princely House. She and I communicate quite often to discuss the affairs of Arendelle and your kingdom’s presence in China.”
Her grey eyes glinted. “She knows about us Exalted, and the affairs of my lord, Yixin. Not that I was particularly open about it – she worked it out through her own informants.”
Kristoff shook hands with Kam, smiling down at her while she grinned up at him. “It’s good to see you again, tai-pan,” she offered.
“I don’t use that title, but everyone seems to insist on it. I’m glad you’re doing well,” said Kristoff, whose much larger hand enveloped hers, but in a nice, protective way.
“It’s because you are a tai-pan, at least when it comes to Bjorgman,” said Kam, “and even if Ihave my own fief here, Bjorgman’s your company. That’s the promise of a comprador: the tai-pan trusts her with near-complete control of all the finances of the company – as long as she works for the tai-pan. She’s gorgeous, by the way. You better not break her heart,” she added to Kristoff.
“You mean Anna?” said Kristoff, as the queen raised an eyebrow. “She’s perfect. But I still want your blessing, like I sought out Elsa’s.”
Kam looked at Anna, her authority dominating the room. “You have my blessing and more, darling,” she said, with the air of an aunt or big sister. “Rest assured that I’m treating the attack on the Bjorgman ice branch on Ice House Street as a top priority issue. And I have my targets in sight already.”
She greeted and exchanged pleasantries with Colisa, acknowledging her as queen of Chatho, before turning her attention to Elsa. She bowed deeply. “And how could I forget my respects to Arendelle’s elder stateswoman – so you’re Anna’s predecessor, the legendary Snow Queen herself. Guardian of the Northuldra forest, and the girl whose birth turned Yixin’s eyes toward Arendelle up till now.”
Elsa looked almost bashful as she urged Kam to desist in her deference. “Please, you’re too kind. I’m just a private citizen of my kingdom now, although I won’t pretend not to be intimately involved in royal affairs. That’s why I’m here, after all. I thought I knew Lord Yixin when I was queen, but evidently, there’s much more I’m ignorant about. Anna’s in the Celestial Empire to ratify formally her leadership of the Exalted, and she’s taking us all with her.”
“Kristoff, Peony, and I are members of Anna’s restructured society, which Yixin once presided over. In return, Anna has promised to search for a reputed elixir of life on his behalf,” said Colisa.
Relatively quiet up to now, Peony added: “Every Exalted member has sworn a vow to that cause, for the elixir of life has grand implications for humanity’s place in the world, and who deserves to consume it – and who doesn’t.” She looked at Anna. “It’s the ambrosia of all leaders throughout world history, and now Anna’s making history by being the first Arendellian ruler to pursue it. For her kingdom. For Elsa.”
Anna shifted uncomfortably as Elsa gazed at her little sister, eyes shining.
“Kristoff and Peony, you did a wonderful thing by bringing Their Majesties Anna, Colisa, and Elsa to me,” said Kam. “And I can prove my worth to you by directing you to the Forbidden City, to that dread centre of power that is but a façade for Yixin’s true objectives. It’s time to reveal what you need to know.” Kam pursed her lips. “Let’s start with that elixir of life. Remember that feeling when you first discovered the voice of the north wind calling you, Elsa. Anna, do you remember the first time you met the spirits of Northuldra?”
Anna and Elsa stared at each other. Kam knew.
“We do,” said Anna.
“I need you to recall that sense of awe, that feeling that the world was so much bigger than you ever thought possible. That sense of wondering trepidation. Because your world’s only started expanding.”
Kam’s smile faded away. She turned to look at the living room’s balcony and beyond to the harbour. “Let’s start with what might be the easiest to accept. You’ve seen how the lower half of Yixin’s countenance isn’t just deformed, but doesn’t look human at all. That’s because he really isn’t. He’s an immortal being from primordial times, having walked the earth long before he took on the garments of the ruling dynasty we know today. Indeed, he’s probably been around even before our civilization’s Shang Dynasty, which reigned about four thousand years ago. We call his kind the Moonborn – children of the moon. He’s the eldest and the most powerful. There are others scattered around the world and in hiding. Some, like him, have manipulated world history behind the scenes through many different identities. Others have chosen to remain untraceable. They were all the original partakers of the elixir of life, which Peony’s told you about.”
Kam’s words, fit for an outlandish fantasy novel, hit the new Exalted members like a thunderbolt. Kristoff barked in disbelieving laughter, and Colisa could only put a hand to her mouth as Elsa sank down onto the couch, eyes wide. But Peony and Kam weren’t mirthful at all, and Kristoff put his face in his hands. “Far out,” he muttered.
The Qing’s prince regent – immortal, and not even truly a prince regent? The Moonborn – immortal beings that have stood behind the shroud of history since time immemorial?
Anna herself was stupefied, and for a moment she wondered wildly how Kam could know, before rounding on Peony. “And you thought this little tidbit wasn’t important for me to know, alongside the elixir that Yixin’s hunting?” demanded Anna to the Qing agent, who was the only one who didn’t look unsettled. “I should’ve known that you were aware of Yixin’s true nature all along.”
“True nature? You haven’t heard the half of it. Trust me, the information you’re getting is best digested at separate settings,” sniffed Peony. “Now you know about the elixir, and about my master. There’s more that His Lordship will divulge to you and Elsa when we reach Peking.”
“You and Yixin promised. I lead the Exalted as the Emerald Dragon, and you help me to actually trust you. No dissembling. No keeping secrets from me.” Anna glared at Peony. “Don’t treat me like a child, Peony. I can handle it. Elixir of life? Moonborn? It seems China has always just been his playground, his means to an end. Just like the Exalted itself! So who am I working for, in my capacity as queen of Arendelle and that of the Exalted’s leader?” she cried, putting a hand on her chest. “An immortal being who’s lost the source of his power?”
“My master never possessed it to begin with,” said the Englishwoman, “but rather, it belonged to someone else – “
Suddenly, a great scream echoed through the Sinclair mansion, making everyone jump. The tension broken, Colisa wiped a hand on her sweating brow. “What’s going on?”
“Wasn’t that Tao, Lady Kam’s retainer?” said Elsa tersely.
“Hey, Chik-loei. Is Tao okay?” asked Kristoff in concern.
Kam clenched her jaw. “Evidently not, sadly. Can you hear that? The drawing of swords, the cutting of knives and daggers.”
Peony adjusted her frilled collar. Her voice was calm. “Someone doesn’t want Anna leaving my home and reaching Peking alive. We’re under attack.”
THE MYSTERIOUS MOONBORN… ANNA NOW KNOWS OF THEIR EXISTENCE.
NEXT: A BLOODY CONFRONTATION BETWEEN THE LOTUS AND CROCUS AND THE FLOODGATE TRIADS!