In the provincial military barracks, the Sun Wolf pored over a document detailing the accounts of the expenditure for the month. Despite his grandiose name, he was an unremarkable man.
His silvery white wolf ears and tail even made him look old before his time.
Average height, average musculature, average facial features, in a crowd, it would be very difficult to pick him out… if not for his eyes.
His brilliant white irises seemed to burn against the abyssal darkness of his sclera and his capillaries radiated out, giving them a reddish corona.
Even in the brightly lit office in the command building, their radiance seemed to contest against the light of the smokeless torches that were placed in sconces at the corners of the room.
Just as he made a few corrections on the current paper, set it aside and reached out for another, a knock resounded at the door of his office.
“Come in.” His voice too was average. In fact, it was strangely neutral making it very difficult to make out his gender solely from his voice, let alone his emotions.
The one who entered was his closest confidants and most competent subordinate, Xie, a stocky man with brown hair, ears and tail. The colour wasn’t natural. Once when asked the reason for the dye, he had replied, “It’s the same shade as dried blood. Makes me look cleaner.”
A competent, ruthless man who had never looked as flustered as he did today.
The tidings he brought weren’t likely to be pleasant.
Immediately upon entering, he kowtowed and repeatedly slammed his forehead against the ground as he spoke, “Lord, this one is guilty of the most heinous crime. This ones’ supervision of the Young Master was lacking and this one wasn’t able to prevent his death at the hands of Marquis Felidae. This one wishes to atone for his crimes with his life.”
The Sun Wolf’s eyes blazed to life and the fire stones in the torches seemed to resonate with his mood, shooting gouts of incandescent flame upwards, causing the temperature in the room to promote rapidly. Xie didn’t even dare to look up, continuing to knock his head against the ground with increased vigour, leaving bloodstains on the fissuring floor.
After a long moment which seemed to stretch into eternity, the temperature reduced back to normal levels as the flaming torches reverted to their steady glow. The Sun Wolf’s command rang out in the room.
“Get up. Your head is harder than the floor.”
Xie got up apprehensively and shot a glance at his Lord. His expression was the same as ever, complete apathy, without the trace of sorrow or anger. It was like the boy whose demise the tidings of death spoke of, wasn’t his son. Only the scorch marks above the torches spoke of his momentary loss of composure.
“Tell me. Tell me in detail how it came to be that the Marquis felt it necessary to give my boy the honour of dying at his hands.”
Xie didn’t dare to delay, describing the circumstances leading to the Sun Wolf’s son’s death with as much accuracy as he had managed to piece together from his personal experience and the accounts of the nobles who had been close enough to overhear the conversation between him and the Marquis.
At the end of the recounting, the Sun Wolf sighed and the flames in the room flickered along with his mood. “Always a troublemaker. Too infatuated with wine and women to have any bright prospects. And now, he has no prospects at all. Bring him in… I’ll send him off.”
Xie hurried out of the door, returning soon with a trolley with the enshrouded corpse of the Young Master.
Walking up to the body, the Sun Wolf gently raised the shroud and gazed upon the remains of his son.
Even though his facial expression didn’t change, his irises burnt a brighter white while his sclera darkened further. His eyes were like two embers in the depths of hell.
Xie stepped back as a frightening pressure began rolling off him. He stuttered, “L-lord, should this one send a letter of challenge to the Marquis?”
“A letter?” His voice was merely a whisper as he replaced the cover over his son’s mangled head and bent down to hug the body to his chest in a bridal carry.
Walking out of the office onto the adjoining balcony, he looked up at the night sky.
It was a cloudy, moonless night, the darkness unbroken except for the twinkle of a few stars through the gaps of the dense clouds. Spring was ending and Summer was on its way, bringing with it the monsoon.
It portended rain… maybe the world cried at his son’s passing?
But, the Sun Wolf didn’t need the sympathy of the world. The only rain that would appease him would be that of the blood of his son’s slayer.
He raised his head and howled, the resonant tone bouncing off the walls of the barracks, awakening his kin. Soon, roused by the call of their Lord, one by one the Heavenly Wolf Mercenaries currently in the barracks joined in, filling the air with their eerie wails.
The air around him vibrated as his mana rushed out of his body, covering his surroundings, coating them with a pale heatless flame.
The enshrouded corpse caught fire, levitating slowly from his arms, floating upwards as the flames grew brighter and burnt hotter.
By the time it had cleared the top of the buildings, the entire corpse was on fire, looking like a blazing white fireball, no, a miniature sun.
Birds chirped and men stirred in their beds as that night, the sun rose early.
Instead of the horizon, it rose from the military barracks. A blazing white sun that rose higher and higher, growing all the while, giving the people on the ground the misconception that it remained the same size.
It lit the province in a morbidly pale brilliance and made the undersides of the storm clouds shine a muted silver.
When it finally touched the clouds, it ruptured, setting the entire sky on fire.
Amplified by their wind mages, the entire capital heard the mournful refrain of the wolves before the first rains of the year came pouring down, dousing fire and sound alike.
Yet, if one were to look up at the sky, they would find one area in the gloom where the stars shone through. The same place where the sun had met the sky.
Emblazoned in the cloud layer was the word: